I open the front door at dusk and the heat of the day is beginning to lift. A breeze stirs through the scorched and shriveled roses. I see a tawny rabbit, who turns to me and then comes a bit closer, only to take shelter from a hawk under a parked car. I know better than to get any closer, unless it should dart into the predator’s view.
For now the bird is sitting in the branches of an oak, screeching. Such an ugly sound from something that soars so beautifully. I’ve seen them arcing in the sky, I’ve seen them diving to earth. I’ve seen them chased by crows, and dancing through the air in pairs. I’ve seen them with some unfortunate creature’s wing in their beak. I’ve seen animals they’ve dropped, headless and broken on the sidewalk.
A week ago a hawk staked out a backyard BBQ from the telephone wires. I think it wanted to eat a toy terrier that went by the name of Harley Jane. Eventually it got tired of its vigil and flew away.
Something about the summer makes you notice these things. Something about watching for the sun to dip takes you back to being young. The long stretches of light, the nights that encompass dreams of forever.
I remember being up in bed when I was twelve, reading while the sky had turned the deep indigo of evening and scraps of conversation floating up from my parents’ conversation in the garden beneath the window.
Maybe that’s why books still enchant me, that feeling of traveling far, far, away while still being safe at home.
One summer it was all Will Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams.
Another it was Collette and Alexandre Dumas.
Or Dorothy Parker and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
There was the summer of Muriel Spark and Barbara Pym.
Old New York held me in its sway for months with Edith Wharton and Louis Auchincloss.
Then, when I was much, much, older a wise and honorable man would publish his summer reading list. This year he didn’t disappoint, listing such books as the “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela, and “The World As It Is” by Ben Rhodes.
What book has been beguiling me these warm nights? It’s an autobiography, and it starts like this:
1st of January 1820
When someone writes a book, it is generally with the intention that it shall be read either before or after their death. But I am not writing a book, and as you may wonder what this is, I must explain that it is simply a journal of my life. If I set down events alone, a few sheets of paper will suffice for the relatively uninteresting record; if it is to be an account of my opinions and emotions, a sentimental journal, the task will be more difficult, for to describe oneself requires self-knowledge, and fifty years would not be the age at which to begin. Perhaps I will write of the past and tell the story of my early years, a few episodes only, without any attempt at continuity. I do not intend this to be a confession, but, distasteful as I would find it to reveal my faults, I do nonetheless wish to give a faithful picture of myself as I am and as I have been.
Memoirs of Madame de La Tour du Pin, translated by Felice Harcourt
As soon as Madame tipped her hat to fifty, I was hooked. And if you’ve been remarking on my unnatural shade of blonde in the portrait, check out the roots, pure gray. It’s my “grow out” color, and I am trying very hard not to lop it all off and go pixie for the summer. Okay. A somewhat crepe-necked pixie, but you get the drift. As to the morning glory wreath? I was bedecked at the BBQ by my 60 year-old girlfriend. You never really do stop being twelve, poppets.
Have a wonderful weekend.