There is a time in mid-July when summer is at its apogee, before cicadas and crickets make their end-of-season racket. Usually there is a day or two that set the tone for the entire three month period that begins, no matter what the lunar cycle dictates, on or about June 5 and ends on the very last day of August.
"It's all downhill after the Fourth of July," people in Wisconsin are fond of saying, and they may be spot on. But perhaps because I was a July baby, I think mid summer comes a bit farther into the month.
At any rate, the flavors that live on in my memory are usually captured around the middle of July: the balmy summer Nan, Candy, Sue and I rode our bikes to the beach daily, peddling through the old East Side and the little squatters' village to Seagull Point; the next summer when we rode those same bikes to the marina across town to watch boys and their sailboats. That was the summer I met the man I was to later marry.
There was also the summer I painted my bedroom, the summer I got my canopy bed, the summer I landed my first reporting job, the summer I moved to Madison. Iced tea, blueberries, bologna and cheese sandwiches and falafel are the respective flavors of those summers.
One summer in my early 20s I was between jobs, caught between yearning for a city that teamed with life and a village that brought me peace. That year I discovered a dusty little bookstore tucked between a TV repair shop and the back door of a beauty salon on a side street downtown. I recall buying a copy of "Diet for a Small Planet" and several packets of herb seeds. I planted the seeds in my parents yard: Dill, fennel and marjoram. It was the names that drew me, and in time the flavors.
Nothing draws me as fresh basil does. The basil in the photo above was purchased at a local farm market the summer I started this blog. That summer of discovery tasted so good!
High summer is slipping away, and soon we will hear the song of crickets and sense that subtle change in the sun's angle that spells August.
"July," I wrote in high school "is a sultry harlot doing her dance on the summer lawns, with ribbons unfurling and tambourines clacking against the heat of summer. I welcome her passing for the cooler tempers of August."
Not so much these days as the Julys grower fewer and fly by with such alacrity.