Tomorrow is the official beginning of fall, but the new season changed for me with my book club’s “last hurrah of summer” weekend trip to Cape Cod. It was like a last gasp. We walked down to the beach on Saturday, and the early September air made sitting in the sand in your bathing suit just a little too cold. We braved the water anyway, and swam far out past the kelp to discuss our book in a water-treading circle. Some of us turned back after that, to get a closer look at the seersucker-and-boat-shoe wedding happening back on shore, but a few of us swam out to a sandbar. The swim warmed us up, and the shallow felt warmer. I could have sat in the sun on there all afternoon: fingers and toes in the sand, hair whipping dry in the wind, talking with my dear friend. And had she not spotted the tiny, translucent jellyfish surrounding us, we might have. We had tingly fingers later, but we survived, and it’s still one of my favorite memories of the summer.
The whole weekend felt a little like that: wonderfully fun, but a little bittersweet. And isn’t that always the way when summer ends? The air was just a little too crisp, the sunlight just a little too soft. We all knew the seasons were changing, and that work waited for us at the end of our six-hour drive back home. And until Sunday, I was almost convinced of charade, dancing into the wee hours, and having a beach picnic (champagne + pepper jelly and cream cheese = heaven), breaking into big, gorgeous lobsters at dinner and drinking rosé like it was still humid July. But morning Sunday broke and the jig was up.
Once I got over my initial resistance––and that is always my way––fall felt good. Women broke out their tall boots, my coffee went from iced to hot, apples had new appeal, and I saw a little boy on a street corner wearing plaid and holding a football. Suddenly, that soft light seemed downright enchanting.
A year ago this fall, my life felt very different. I had so much free time, and I used it to write, to cook, to make playlists, to go to the library and buy dahlias. It was a very, very nice way to live, and it gave me lots of lovely things to share here. But as the year drew to a close and we started talking about what we wanted in the new one, I knew what I needed next: fullness. I had spent the past two years living quietly, and it seemed high time to turn up the volume. I was used to the breathing room of free hours, but I wanted to fill my life right up to the edges.
That saying about being careful with your wishing? Yeah, it’s cliché for a reason.
Why did I think it was important to press on the accelerator instead of tooling along and enjoying the scenery and the local radio stations? Truthfully, it was because I was feeling a little lonely and a little under-stimulated. And partly it was just to know that I could.
And this is all my very long, rambling way at trying to get at this: my life feels so different than it did a year ago, but I’ve been trying to blog here as if it’s exactly the same. That’s meant fewer posts, and phoning it in sometimes, and that’s felt disingenuous. It’s been causing me a lot of grief. I would love to cook every night and share the recipes here; master a headstand in the middle of the room and think grand thoughts while I’m doing it; host relaxed, joyous parties and report back here about why they matter so much. But that’s not where I am right now. Instead, I’m trying to figure out the best way to manage stress; to find something to eat because it’s 9PM and I’m starving; to figure out when I can squeeze in a workout; to find time for myself, my friends, and for…nothing.
My favorite part of being unexpectedly stuck in Seattle for a week was calling up Molly and asking if she wanted to get dinner. I felt nervous (everything she does is so right, so admirable), but I needn’t have been. Over wine and beer, two salads, three pizzas, the best chocolate chip cookie ever, and our husbands saying funny things––I asked for a bit of advice. Her answer was smart and just what I needed to hear: blogs have to evolve in step with the people who write them or they stop serving their purpose. They stop being real and they start being a chore.
Instead of feeling guilty about not cooking and not giving you recipes, not going to yoga and not telling you my latest thought about living well, I’m going to try a more honest tactic. I don’t even know what that might look like, exactly, but I do know it feels like a huge weight has been lifted.
And I also know that you don’t have to make dinner every night to live a lovely life. It’s one of the pieces––just like having friends over is, and creating something that delights you, or finding the perfect fall coat––but it’s not the whole piece.
So let’s begin here: my biggest “cooking” breakthrough this summer was the deli counter at the fancy grocery store up the street (where I saw Michael Showalter last night). I can buy a rotisserie chicken there or turkey meatballs, some Israeli couscous and some roasted cauliflower. And then back home we unpack the boxes and arrange it on plates like we made it ourselves. It feels more wholesome than ordering in, and I get to sit down for a nice dinner with my husband. I didn’t make it, but it doesn’t matter.
And that, all of that, is what I really wanted to tell you.