I've always had sort of an issue with the time-space continuum.
Not everywhere. I'm fairly good with indoor time. I can usually guess-timate what the morning hour is, give or take a half, by the slant of the sun. Cookies only sometimes get the timer treatment; a sniff and sixth sense are often all it takes for me to know they're caramelized at the edges, still soft at the center. And when school's in session (nine more days, eep!), I know I'll re-grow that weird phantom limb that starts pinging, twelve minutes before the day's-end bell rings.
But outside? I'm toast. At sea. Out of sync, completely. In my third decade, I've finally come around to the whole season system. There are four. Every year! With start and end dates, even. Which is very convenient for folks like me. Soon, I hope to have them memorized. In the meantime, I'm playing catch-up.
Ohio has been a huge help to me in this regard. It's not that Seattle doesn't have seasons; it does. We keep a postcard on our fridge door, in fact, picturing them all. It's quartered, like a window, each pane showing the Emerald City at its seasonal prime. The Winter quadrant is gray, of course, with rain streaming down. Spring is, well, identical. Summer, too. Ditto fall. Hardy har. Sort of. Everyday rain is a myth, not a constant. But the temperature sort of is. Seattle's seasons are subtle, whispery things, one blending more or less seamlessly into the next, summerfallwinterspringsum... I'm not pointing fingers. Just saying it doesn't help those who are innately obtuse.
And layered, like so many chapters in a book, each with its own bloom to tell the tale. See, for the longest time, I noticed Summer had Flower, much the way I knew the Northwest had Tree. I never really noticed what bloomed where. Or when. Or whether. There's a reason I admire Mary Oliver. My powers of observation are M.I.A.
This, incidentally, is why I've always stuck to a strict
watering schedule. Memorial and Labor
Day, whether the garden needs it or not.
I've had countless exasperated conversations with my plants, lambasting
them for withering when I've watered them, already. May, September, why so needy? (See 'time-space continuum' and 'trouble', above). But that's another story. This one's simply about dialing down the oblivious.
Or, perhaps, tuning in to the obvious. Everything’s amplified, exaggerated
here. Oliver's from Ohio, which I consider no small coincidence, as I can't imagine a better boot camp for the senses. I get the impression it might actually be impossible to
miss the ebb and flow of flowers in these parts. They stun you silly, smack you upside the head. Which is apparently what it takes for me to grasp this outdoor calendar business.
I get it, now, how bulbs lead the parade. How the tulips’ last gasp means the real party’s begun. How the next chapter’s all small, eager buds, bashful anemone and Pasque bobble-heads. I'm learning to expect that first installment of lush, the extravagant Iris and peonies, all gussied up in beards and petticoats. I know these arrived kindly for Mother's Day, and that Father's Day means the hydrangea’s turn is come.
And I now know July's the height of it all, a crazy quilt of color and pattern and pizzaz. Daisies and lavender and coreopsis and clematis and poppies and astilbe and Echinacea and and and... They're long gone now, of course, and we're a little complicit, having blown, tossed and trampled our fair share of blooms.
But I understand now that the cherry blossoms wouldn't have lasted, that August always elbows in with flaming petals and vegetables galore. And I'm reminding myself, as we approach the onslaught portion of the produce program, that this, too, is temporary. And that panic never helps.
I'm not saying I don't love it. Or that hyperventilation was involved. Only that there was, what shall we say, a moment last week. A moment when the world's most prolific cucumber bush kept producing, and our second bush began showing signs of coming on. When I'd made and eaten soup, several more times, and then found 30 (!) cucumbers in our CSA box. When I considered, ever so briefly, moving to Novia Scotia.
And then I remembered. The abundance chapter's begun, and this is a very, very good sort of problem to have. And although two wrongs might not make a right, two gluts might just yield the best thing you've eaten all month.
On a lark, I whipped up a Greek Salad the other night, and to be painfully honest, didn't expect much. Indeed, all my hopes were pinned on a sleek potato number, dressed in pesto and polka-dotted with peas. It was nice. I ate my share. Then went back to my afterthought salad for seconds. And thirds. And so many stealth snitches I'd have to call fourths.
It knocked my socks off. Or would have, had I been wearing any. Revelation sort of hints at it. Gobsmacked gets a little closer. Ridiculously delicious came to mind between lip-smacks. On the one hand, it's a simple toss-up of crunchy cuke and sweet tomato, plus a smattering of sweet onion and green pepper, slivered fine. Add to this the briny smack of kalamatas, plus the creamy twang of a nice sheep's milk feta. You might be imagining how these play well together, salty-sweet, sharp-and-mild, crisp-and-tender. You'd be right.
But what seals the deal, what surprised me utterly, was the wicked-wonderful alchemy of dried oregano. Rubbed and crumbled to bring back its spark, tossed over all in giant, generous pinches, it brought the entire hodge-podge to life. My fresh-herb bias took a serious dressing down. I drowned out its whimper with another crunchy bite.
And I realized, somewhere between bite 37 and 49, that my every other Greek Salad encounter went down in a restaurant. And that the difference between an order-up! made with tired cucumbers and storage tomatoes, and a late-August, mind-the-glut D.I.Y is vast. Just, ginormous. Big as the gap between a deli-counter BLT and the real summer deal. Big as the gap between now and then. So big and so grand I made it twice in two days. And plan to repeat, as often as needed. Or as often as possible, until the bounty's long gone.
Inspired by Saveur
I nearly skipped the green pepper, as I mostly think they taste like the unripe vegetable they are, the sort of thing foisted off on you in salad bars and bad combo pizzas. But it was magic here, like some unfamiliar herb, crisp and bright and exactly right. If you have one on hand, or can get one, do try it. Ditto the raw onion: normally I loathe it, but it's pitch-perfect here. Needless to say, this is late summer fare, good eating when everything is days out of the ground.
Leftovers (or originals) are lovely tucked into a hummus-lined pita.
2 full size or 6 small cucumbers
2 medium tomatoes (or 30 cherry tomatoes)
1/2 green pepper
1 small, sweet onion (or 1/4 standard, sweet onion)
4 ounces feta
20 kalamata olives (smashed with knife to remove pits)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper
Prepare cucumbers by topping and tailing, peeling, seeding with a spoon (if large; don't bother if small), and slicing in 1/2" wide half-moons. Core tomatoes, and slice in wedges. Slice pepper in narrow slivers, then stack the slivers and slice in thirds for bite-size ribbons. Ditto the onions.
Pile vegetables on platter, shred olives into large bits and scatter, and crumble feta over all. Sprinkle with vinegar and drizzle with oil, scatter a good pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, and finish off with 2-3 generous pinches of oregano, pinching and smooshing between your thumb and forefinger as you sprinkle, to wake up all those lovely essential oils. Dig in.