Tag Archive: summer


If I practiced this much all the time…

Tuesday 3 July 2012

I’m playing a Fourth of July (i.e., Independence Day) organ recital at First Baptist Church in Hamilton, NY, tomorrow, and though I’ve been preparing for weeks, I’m scrambling to get ready. Ironically, it’s the simple music that is giving me the biggest headaches, and the reason for that goes back to my piano studies in high school. I was a good sight-reader (at least by standards in my small town), and I got away with quite a lot of inadequate preparedness with skin-of-my-teeth sight-reading. It was a thrill, and fun, to learn an entire broadway musical score in just the first few days as rehearsal accompanist.

What passed for good playing back then doesn’t cut the mustard as an adult professional, and I’m spending way too much time today cleaning up “bonbons”, simple ditties with their repeating patterns that just aren’t intuitive enough to be dashed off with the limited love I’ve lavished on them while digging into the meat of the program. I’m sweatin’ up here at the organ console, two-and-a-half stories above the Village Green without benefit of air-conditioning, and not just because it’s a little warmer than I think Hamilton ever gets.

I’m sure my weather memory will get more selective with age and senility, but it’s worth reminding myself today as the temperature drifts upward into the 80s (high of 84º, quiver quiver quake quake sweat sweat swear swear) that I baked in the summer of 1987 when I leaned against the house in direct sunlight and temperatures up to 96º with a heat gun blowing Satan’s breath as I burned double-digit layers of old paint off our faded-yellow Victorian. The exactly three hour loop of bad music on the crystal set (okay, boom box) confirmed my fear that willfulness in my youth had consigned me to hell.

Or in the summer of 1991 when, having broken free of The Other Place and landed a Real Summer Job in Periodicals and Circulation at the Colgate University Library, I sweated in the stagnant, stifling heat of that unairconditioned knowledge boutique (The University of Rochester had a MUCH larger library.), becoming ever more selective about which carts I would take for reshelving (Basement stacks? Check. LC Classification? Check. [Some of those Dewey Decimal System call numbers had eight decimal places!] Close to the art section where the browsing titillated? As often as possible.) while temperatures soared into the mid-90ºs again.

“And the heat, my God, the heat!”

I’ll get my revenge tomorrow when I’ll play a secret tribute (It’s not really called “Variations on ‘America'” wink wink) to Her Majesty, Queen of Canada, where I’m sure temperatures NEVER exceed 82ºF.

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…and about 10% black bear

21 August 2011

I walked down Shore Road from Bayside toward Lincolnville on the shore side, and divided my visual stimuli pretty equally between views of Penobscot Bay and of the interesting assortment of cottages along its shore. “I could live there. Or there. I could spend the summer there.” Some of them are pretty drool-worthy.

I walked about two miles, and after making a brief stop in the woods where there were neither cottages nor people to be seen, I turn back northward toward Bayside. Walking on the inland side of the road now, I am intrigued by my instinctive behavior. Despite the presence of ocean and cottages to delight the eyes, I can’t stop scanning the roadside for berries. Walking along at a brisk pace, my antennae are attuned to that deep-as-black purple of blackberries and the wine red of red raspberries. If I look across the road at the ocean, within seconds, I am, without thinking, again scanning the shoulder for berries.

When I go for bicycle rides in the summer near my hometown of Hamilton, NY, my pace is adversely affected by the same obsessive quest. Few things in life, it would seem, can bring me greater satisfaction than finding and eating wild berries. I can’t remember if I heard it or made it up, but I say of Putney (and, generally, all dogs) that found food is the best food. In my case, it’s specifically found berries.

I’ve also thought since I visited Norway in 1998 (when I read that Scandinavians are big berry-lovers) that I must be a closet Norwegian. If you ever find me drunk on a park bench, look around to see if there’s an empty bottle of Chambord nearby.

I know that I’m one quarter Italian, from my maternal grandmother. From my maternal grandfather, I’m a quarter mix of Irish, French and Canadian (mostly). My paternal grandmother brings a generous helping of German into the gene pool. My paternal grandfather was mostly English and Scottish, with some native Canadian. We used to say Canadian Indian, but for reasons of cultural sensitivity, I think now we’d say First Nation. That probably makes up about 10% of me.

I think they got that tenth wrong, though. Based on the berry thing, I think I’m about 10% black bear.

Labor Day

Look across the vast spiritual chasm of Labor Day to tomorrow, to the death of summer, the birth of the working year.

Students and teachers return to school. Politicians pour back into capitals from hometown politicking. Choirs and conductors take up octavos again.

The year’s greatest bounty tumbles forth from baskets and bins, seeking open mouths for fatal refuge before a surprise chill kills the fruit on vine, tree, bush.

In my “northern days”, there were hints that Labor Day was lurking beyond the horizon with its quiverful of frost-tipped arrows: the sugar maple across the street from my bedroom window turned red-orange on August 20th, and I knew that, that night, I would pull up Grandma Piccolino’s espresso-and-latte afghan for the first time since May.

But the windows remained open for many nights to come, so the pleasure of chirping bugs and crisp, cool, fresh air filled the darkened room and sweetened my dreams of carefree summers even as a whiff of chill raised goosebumps of anticipation for autumn, for dry, sunny days dizzied by a swirling gold-yellow-red spectrum of fallen leaves, of soft sweaters donned in the shade, then shed in the still-strong sun. The bipolar days of fall, festooned with gourds and cornstalks, pumpkins and apples, the grape harvest – the end of New York’s ingathering before gauzy winter skies scrimmed the black outlines of bare limbs, shrouded by swirling snowflakes.

Turn, and look back at summer before the last crimson sunbeams depart and plunge the hills into lonely darkness. A few more romantic hours. Youth, love, life. Then, Labor Day. Limbo. The deep, wide chasm of dread and regret. Of anticipation and longing. Of grief and hope. Life’s great liminal day.