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glad tidings

July is a month I don’t recommend. Things happen in a life, not all of them so objectively splendid, and the body starts to organize its expectations around information like weather, or the sound of a car driving too fast, or the rhythms of the calendar. It’s not the body’s fault. It has to orient somehow. But I have not enjoyed a July now for years, due to my own good reasons.

I’m not here to bash the month, but I’m glad it’s over. I know because I saw the discreet flag of autumn waving in the light, with its subtle angle change, its slightly different tone. There will still be plenty of intense heat to endure, but the coast is clear. We’re in August. People are coming home from Europe, not everyone but some people. The arrival of fall used to make me sad. Or maybe it still does but it’s that, as an adult, I’ve experienced a rainbow of sadnesses, so many kinds, such diversity of flavor, that I have acquired a taste for a handful. Don’t know for sure. I can affirm that the depressing effect of going back to school and shortening days is gone and I find the dying leaves soothing.

We are opening another restaurant. A cookbook is coming. There is much to do and say! But these projects themselves, though while in motion, are not entirely ready, not fully tangible, and so too abstract and slippery to be the great big headlines. This kind of news is reportable but I can’t get it centered as the story just yet. Time feels roomy, the city feels emptier than usual. I like this feeling. I keep looking for a signal, like how a colorful umbrella indicates fresh fruit. I don’t want any fruit, but I like seeing the umbrellas around town. I’m not sure what the signal would convey, or why I want one, but it’s no matter because I don’t see one specifically. Only all of these other, smaller, not-news things; they are dazzling me. I am excited like I’m withholding a fun secret, and even though I am not, there will be much to share and discuss and show off at some near point in time. But not right now.

Right now I feel connected to the way the light is moving through the window, how its color is slightly different than last week. I feel a somersault in my stomach every few thoughts and don’t know why. The blueberries from the freezer stained my fingers purple so that my hands look bruised and brutalized. I have always hated raw scallops but enjoyed two of them as recently as last night. My heels are very dry, so dry that my teenage self is criticizing me from within, demanding I get a pedicure. I agree with myself, but I also don’t really like getting pedicures. I get into bed tired in a good way and then a chemical reaction occurs as I make contact with the pillow, it’s time to start churning out big ideas! Fax me some halibut. I like watching the leaves move in what feels like a breezeless heat. I like watching Hudson’s eyelids twitch while he naps in the sun at high noon. I like to listen to our neighbor Jamila talk about all she has to do, life at 80, looking no more than 55 in a strapless dress in the middle of the street on a balmy Wednesday evening. She randomly offers to watch Hudson but only in an emergency. She repeats the word emergency twice in the one sentence. I like to watch the drool drip down slow from Hudson’s pout while he plots a way to fleece me for cheese. In the mornings, I do my best to pick up his poop, but the grass is clingy like an insecure high schooler and the bag only allows for three attempts. We are all just doing our best. I’m grateful to be walking him. I’m grateful to be walking.

These kinds of things. They are not newsworthy, but they feel trustworthy. When I have enough of time to make something of it, all I can do is watch the dragonflies and hear the sound of my lungs doing their job. The hummingbirds are so busy! I am not moving like them, but I am not bored. July was also rich. Full of experiences. I got hit by a car, my foot run over, and I had a slow ambulance ride, but thankfully, no sirens. I declined the morphine offered. That meant I was mostly ok. I then I flew to Mexico City to retrieve Tyler from the hospital, unrelated to my pedestrian (as in walking, not mundane) accident or his being in Mexico. I changed my bandages in the Four Seasons with bottled water. I watched a thunderstorm each day. I shared a wonderful beet salad with my husband, wonderful because the beets were very cold but also because he was eating without oxygen tubes or fear. I drank ginger ale on a plane for the first time in decades. I wore slippers for six weeks. I sat on the sidelines but didn’t feel left out of the game too badly. I am still watching the margins of skin on my ankle and foot grow inward, the wounds closing in on themselves like a lizard’s tail regenerates. I recognize the shock value of some of these mentionables (we are all totally ok!). But they’re not meant to be the subjects, only the contrast. I am moving differently. I’m moving less. All I can pay attention to is how I feel so deeply touched by the sight of an empty chair, or my emotions around mosquitoes. I scratch and scratch. I’m bitten up everywhere except internally. The bugs are relentless. I hate them. They have cracked the code on time, looking suspended in it. Contained by a ray of sun like a hazy bubble, they move frantically in there. It’s chaos to me but they probably march to some invisible order, and even though I wish they would all drop dead, I’m hypnotized by their afternoon dance. It looks important to them.

I read a few old newsletters after some people recently told me they missed receiving these things. Well, only two people said that, one was my friend Ruth, and the other is a made up person to justify the plural use of the word, people. I read them and I missed myself as though I was better then than I am now. I wasn’t better or worse, then or now, it’s just that the feeling of time is vibrating around me. I saw my college pal and we remembered the things we made into stories and we retold them and she said she loves her kids but still, in general, dislikes kids. We laughed because we were the same but we laughed differently, too. I am here, but I once was there, and it’s the same, except it moved. I miss myself like that sometimes. Lately. I don’t know what it is exactly that I miss, except all of it and nothing. I miss my mom and I miss a pair of cutoff shorts I haven’t seen since 2001. I miss sno cones with ice cream in the bottom at Mission Beach and getting to stay home from middle school when I would stick a thermometer up the skirt of the closest table lamp. I had to stay home, I had a fever of 134 F! I don’t miss being young if I really think about it, but I walked Hudson around the block and returned to our home older than I was when I had left, like in that E.B. White essay about the circus. This awareness imprinted on me a great feeling, great as in large, full of wonder, though not wonderful, per se. Time is sticking, skipping, creeping, melting through my fingers.

I am feeling alive, and grateful to be so, and sad in that very adult in flavor of sadness that I mentioned, which I can identify as such because it contains a smirk and a wink in it. It amuses me. The universe seems to be winking at me about a hundred times a day, even when I am thinking about death.

These are the not news items I’ve clipped from the local paper of my mind (circulation in decline), stuffed them in an envelope and mailed them out. As I did it, I said to myself, this, this is not news. This is not a letter. But still I went on, snip snip send! Perhaps you were expecting an email with a fantastic wine story in it, or big spoiler on The Cookbook of All Time (there’s a quesadilla recipe). I don’t begrudge you, if so. I like to think every “news” letter goes out to an audience of one. And if Francesca is too busy on a yacht in Cap Ferret, and Uncle Randall is very upset that I have not called and therefore does not read, and everyone else who opens does so just to unsubscribe, then I guess it must be for you.

More “news” to come.

Too long, didn’t read? Maybe you’re a cliffsnotes fella, a CNF’er? You’re smart, I always bury the lede:

What I’m reading: The Border Trilogy, Cormack McCarthy; A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin; Essays of E.B. White, E.B. White

What we’re drinking: Lots and lots of new wines on the list, which rolls out new version week; by the glass fire includes the return of skin contact Bouysselet, the incomparable Roc des Anges, and other gems we should never for economic reasons be pouring by the glass but cannot, will not, resist. The garden remains open for unhappy (2.5) hour, 30% off glass pours from 230-5p for SAG / WGA card-holding members.

What’s coming soon: Mondays in the wine room, back the way you remember it with records spinning and Comte and the redwood walls breathing and living and containing. To be announced officially before the end of the month.