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23 July 2005

the bounties of summer

red peppers
Originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

Sun on my skin smells like freedom to me. Especially now that my skin is healthy brown after months of being ashy grey. I adore the summer. Sometimes people outside of teaching like to tease us that we have extra-long vacations, and therefore have no right to complain about our jobs. But it's not a vacation. It's a second life. I'm a second self in summer: more expansive, more forgiving, more creative. It's the life I like.

Especially this summer, when I'm finally healthy.

Summer goes so slow and fast at the same time. Most days feel languid--I wake at 9, read The New York Times, go to Hydrofit at 11, then plan the day from there. Usually, like tonight, I'm up until midnight, writing, the clarity of the day within me. I like this schedule better than 6 am bleating alarm clock, ride the bus to school in the dark, spend the day behind because there are so many tasks to fulfill by the end of the day, then have half an hour to write. No one can be creative on demand. At least I can't. So it's only in summer that I fully feel like a writer.

Especially this summer, when I finally have mental clarity after years of fumbling through brain fog.

During the summer, we all eat better. The farmers' markets in Seattle are a bounty of berries and goat cheese, apricots so juicy that they drip over your hand as you bite them, fat bouquets of sun-warmed dahlias for $10, and pungent arugula with dirt still clinging to the roots. The salmon was caught last week instead of being frozen, the eggs are bigger in their cartons, and the sun is out until late so we pretend we live in the Mediterranean and eat late into the evening. During summer, I can live on a half-pound of spinach sauteed in sea salt. Raspberries out of the carton that stain my fingers red. A smidgen of real blue cheese, made from goat's milk, on a farm fifty miles away from this city center.

(And this one, made by Les Fromages D'Anne Marie, is made without any bread or gluten at all. I asked. Repeatedly. And they knew what gluten was. So far, this is the only blue cheese I have been able to find that is gluten-free. And oh, oh, my--you want some. Go to the Ballard Farmer's Market next Sunday.)

This is enough. It doesn't take much to make food explode, then drip in slow tastes when I pop it into my mouth. Yesterday, coming home from the Magnolia Farmers' market, I couldn't resist the lure of the flat of raspberries on the seat next to me as I drove. I popped one in, expecting sweetness. What arrived instead was a tart sweetness, liquid, filling my mouth so completely that for one second I was completely overwhelmed by the taste of it. The taste filled me so entirely that I started to cry. I nearly had to pull over to the curb.

Winter never tastes like this. Summer is grace, in food form.

And especially this summer, when I'm glorying in all the foods that are naturally gluten-free, instead of feeling deprived. Sockeye salmon sauteed in Meyer lemon grapeseed oil and chunks of garlic. Lamb's ear lettuce salads, with arugula and dill, doused in shallot vinaigrette. Dagoba organic chocolates, this time cherry flavored, with gluten-free stamped right on the back. Homemade coleslaw, the cabbage thickly cut, with wasabi mayonnaise. The possibilities are endless. And every day, I feel filled with joy at the thought of eating, knowing that I'll no longer be sick, haggard, exhausted, cranky, or ready to slump over and give up on my body.

This summer, I'm alive.


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