These last few months have been a busy time, full of joy and sadness, celebration and grief, and experiences that run the full gamut of living. I learned of the tragic death of a good friend I had lost touch with. I watched from afar as a friend and professional colleague made her last stand against cancer as her struggle finally came to an end. I participated in the joining of two good friends in marriage and contributed to their simple yet elegant and very personal, intimate wedding. I rallied my family to scatter my father's ashes some three years after his death after the UW Medical School had completed their study his body. I helped my mother mark the 50th anniversary of her marriage to him. I welcomed an old friend from high school into the area and attended my first military function as I witnessed her husband take command of a nearby military base. I saw my niece off to her new life in San Francisco, holding my breath as she lept out of the proverbial nest and spread her wings to really fly. And she is soaring.
And now it is summer, and life feels so good. The heat of the season feels invigorating this year. I am motivated, energized, renewed. I look forward to the transition of the hearth from the kitchen to the yard as we begin cooking on the charcoal grill. Cooking over burning wood alters the character of food in many ways, and I imagine the meat picks up some attributes of the wood as it smokes.
My counterpart has been lighting the charcoal in a separate smoker attachment and then adding it to the grill after the lighter fluid has burned off. He adds some of the good hard beech wood scattered throughout our yard, and sometimes a little fresh rosemary, to the grill as well, which add to the flavor of the meat. A small compartment of water just under the meat keeps everything moist and tender.
Sauces and gravies give way to marinades and glazes. Vegetable medleys are replaced by fresh greens and tomatoes and avocado. This summer, I have been getting berries in my salad as well, a culinary endeavor that we have typically shied away from until we experienced the successful execution at the dinner following the aforementioned wedding.
The seasonal flavors and textures of summer leave me feeling light, hopeful, optimistic. The days are long and hot. The air at work is restless as we are unable to escape the conditioning of our K-12 education and the knowledge that the last day of school has passed marking the beginning of summer vacation. We move outside and enjoy the increased daylight, knowing that all too soon, the days will shorten, the shadows will lengthen, and we will be forced back indoors.
But for now, I embrace the sunshine with a smile.