Summer is at full. The sun is hot and bright and illuminates vibrant and strong greens of leaves and grass. Smells are acute, sweet smells of summer flowers and putrid smells of rotting things. Thunderstorms are frequent and often dramatic. The air before a storm feels close, draws tight. Insects make a small and dulcet sound throughout the night.
Tomorrow (August 1) Pagans celebrate Lammas, the ancient celebration of the fecundity of middle summer. I will celebrate this weekend by making a salad of lettuces with a light vinaigrette dressing and a soup of fresh summer vegetables, buying a nice Merlot and a loaf of artisan bread, cutting a watermelon, and inviting friends to share.
I had not encountered a dog at a house I pass on one of my walks. I heard the barks from the backyard as I approached the house. A beautiful young German shepherd trotted into the front yard in appropriate guard demeanor. He stopped barking when I greeted him, “Hey, Bowser,” and began to walk slower. He wagged his tail and ventured into the street. I help out my hand. He came close but shied back into the yard. I bent slightly at the knees and patted my upper legs, gestures which indicate to dogs, “Let’s play!” He accepted the invitation. We ran on the street up and down the length of his yard several times. His owner started calling him. I called to the unseen voice, “Do you want me to walk toward you? The dog will come with me.” Her answer: “Stupid name, come here.” I don’t remember the name, but I would not have answered to it either. She called once more and the dog gave me one more playful lunge, and in the same motion turned to run to the back yard. I, perhaps more than the dog, wanted to stay and play, not go.
A cousin I did not know died this past weekend from cirrhosis of the liver. A long-time alcoholic, he sought medical treatment about a year ago. The doctor explained that he must stop drinking. He did not. As he continued to get worse, he visited the doctor again and said, “I hear that the liver can regenerate. Can mine?” The response: “If you had stopped drinking when I told you to, there may have been a chance. It’s too late. You have just a few months to live.” I am incensed by the hubris behind the arrogance, self-righteousness, and meanness of that statement. God save me from such doctors.
This past week I finished reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. It is a magnificent work. It’s a historical novel, a political novel, written in modernistic style. Chapters giving perspectives in economics, history, sociology, and psychology intersperse the story of the plight of the migrant family to give objectivity and scope. I don’t know another work in the literature of the United States that presents a time and its people with such power. Perhaps Moby-Dick. I would not want to teach it, but what a pleasure it would be to participate in a month’s seminar on aspects of this great book. It’s a great novel.
I hope you are enjoying the summer. As always, I appreciate comments.