Of dreams and time warps

For years, I’ve had a recurring teacher-anxiety dream in the late spring or early summer. It goes like this:

In the dream, it is somehow, improbably, late August. There is only a week or two left of summer break, and I am bewildered and a little panicked: Wasn’t it just June? I’d think. Where did the summer go? I can’t remember any of it. How, I’d think, can it possibly be late August already?

Then I would wake up, and it would still be late spring or early summer, and I would feel relief wash over me. The season was still just beginning. It was all still ahead of me.

After a week back home, I feel a little bit like this dream has finally come true. How is it late mid-August? I keep thinking. As I see the obvious signs of a summer winding down, it’s all felt very Rip Van Winkleish to me, like my time in Louisiana was a dream, some time out of time that wasn’t real for me, but was for everyone and everything else. While I was sleeping/away, the rest of the world kept spinning. Now, I’m awake again and hardly recognize where I am. Hardly recognizing where I am might stem, in large part, from our garden; when I came home, most things were either overgrown or dried up remnants of the plants they once were.

And so, like Melanie, I will not be rushing to fall. I am not yet ready to get cozy inside with sweaters and candles. I need some time with dirt on my hands and sun on my face. For sure, I lived fully while I was away. I had a memorable and in many ways rewarding 6 weeks. It just wasn’t what “summer” means to me. There were very few unstructured days, and even less time outside (because it just wasn’t safe to be outside, especially for me.) It wasn’t summer at home, which I have a whole new appreciation for.

In a NYT newsletter Saturday, Melisa Kirsch wrote about how time away from home can help you see your home’s absurdities. For her, time away makes her question everything about home and realize how much of what she has there is unneeded.

Boy, that’s not me.

Time away–in a place where it was too hot to go outside, where we didn’t have any furniture to sit on, where we lived out of a suitcase for weeks and weeks–has made me realize how much I appreciate what I have here. How much I appreciate a comfortable, functional home and being able to live the summer months in it.

So, I am busy cramming as much summer as I can into these last weeks of it. I was home for only one day before my daughter and I got in the car and drove north to visit my parents in the place that I really think of as home. Every cell of my being was craving big water and cool, marine air. It was actually pretty warm there, too, but low 80’s felt like such a relief after weeks of temperatures above 100.

While there, we picked blackberries in my parents’ yard, and then I had to buy a new book:


And then we came home and I made pie! (Excitement because it is much more common for me to get jazzed up about a creative domestic endeavor and read about it and then not actually do it.)

This book has unlocked the mysteries of pie crust for me. Lebow is a literary writer as well as a renowned pie-maker, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Not many dessert cookbook writers quote Richard Hugo or aspire to write “a tart book about sweet things” or craft such sentences as, “Pie can be critiqued as nationalist shorthand.” Come for the pie instruction and recipes and stay for the writing/ideas.

Once home, I spent every morning out in the yard, watering, pruning, and (sometimes) pulling up. This resulted in some bare planters I couldn’t stand to leave bare, so I went to the nursery.

The pickings were slim, and about half of the things I brought home were pretty severely root-bound. I mean, will that basil really grow? Is it too late for it? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I had to tear out our entire herb garden, and I just really wanted to put something back in it.

Even though we have only one more week until Cane goes back to school, I’m planning to eke out as much summer as I can in the days that remain of it. I’m going to savor what’s still growing, and maybe make another pie, and sit outside as much as possible. Things are still blooming here, and the sun is still shining.

8 thoughts on “Of dreams and time warps

  1. Kate says:

    1) I’m always impressed with pie makers. I have known three people in my life who have done it really well and it’s really amazing – especially with fresh picked berries.

    2) These pictures (especially of the visit to your parents) looks so idyllic.

    3) Hope you enjoy some late summer/fall garden success and I hope you can eek out a little bit of that summer feeling even after Cane returns to work.

    • Rita says:

      1) My pie was not amazing, but it was the best one I’ve ever made. I’m motivated to try again!
      2) I love where my parents live. It’s not where I grew up, but it’s the only place of theirs that my children know, and it feels like home. I feel so lucky to be able to go there.
      3) The summer feeling is fleeting! When we go back to setting an alarm, it just isn’t the same. But I’m going to stretch it out as long as I can!

      Hope you are having a good beginning-of-the-end of the season, too.

  2. Kari says:

    I love that you came home, visited your parents, made pie, and bought flowers. Rita, you’re my type of human. I’m happy that you’re home. πŸ˜˜πŸ’•

  3. Ally Bean says:

    With you on: How much I appreciate a comfortable, functional home and being able to live the summer months in it. That’s what makes me happy, too. I like your spunk about making a pie and the flowers are beautiful. Small things, but worth noting, imo. Glad you’re back safe and sound.

  4. Autumn says:

    The luxury of furniture and being able to go outside is forever underrated! I’m a fall person myself, but you’ve convinced me you deserve second summer (which is almost as good as second breakfast). The heat and humidity of the Deep South is like a physical weight.

    • Rita says:

      Hi Autumn,
      I’m normally a fall (and spring) person, too–so these feelings have surprised me. It’s good to get surprised every once in awhile, I think. And you’re so right about that heat and humidity. I truly did gasp almost every time I stepped outside; must’ve been that weight settling on my chest and forcing the air out!

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