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Two Lovers

At the tip of Hull the other day, Boston skyline in the distance, a gust of cold wind blew and I got a flash of longing for deep winter and beef stew.
Don’t ask.
I can’t believe it either.
All winter, I long so for the warm months that it seems crazy to miss it when summer and its foods are in full swing: tomatoes warm off the vine, basil thick in my garden, green bean salads, baby cukes, sautéed zucchini with new garlic and olive oil, watermelon and feta salad!
Summer food is light like the weather.
June, July, and August on the North Atlantic are so rich with life – so lush and green and growing — most people thrill to each sunrise. It’s day after day of easy living, with little between you and your makes but a thin film of cloth and strip of leather.
Houses — airtight through winter – dress down, too. We sleep with all the windows up in our house (on the Weir River estuary) and sea smells fill the air equally inside and out. I hear small animals rustling in the night. When the moon is full, it’s light in the house, and I get up sometimes and watch the river, unafraid in the friendly night.
I couldn’t cherish summer more.
Winter is so radically different it takes a powerful imagination to even conjure it up in the heat we’ve been having. Old home videos help. Where everything was green — there’s nothing. Night falls at 5 p.m., or earlier. No wall of vegetables and colored plants tower above the garden beds. It’s frozen hard and serious: you know you can’t survive in a tent eating tomatoes.
Still, sometimes, I get feelings like I did the other day.
They’re quick — triggered by a cool breeze or the smell of the fireplace ash I spread in the garden. They’re flashes of longing for winter and the secure feeling of being all tucked in and warm at home: socks and sweaters on; a hot soup or stew cooking; the quilt from our bed dragged down to the couch — a good book late into the night. The house shut down and locked up tight; everyone safe from the storm.
And this missing of winter hits at other times, too: spying frozen entrees in a local food shop the other day I had an impulse to stock up on supplies — as though I were one of the squirrels whose nuts I once found in my bike bag in the garage.
I sometimes feel it on rainy days, too: a longing for something deep and quiet — even if cold and bleak.
It’s like having two lovers, summer and winter, and not being able to understand how you could possibly be in love with two such totally different people. I want to deny winter and be unreservedly pro-summer: I don’t want my tomatoes to die, I don’t want the river to ice over, I don’t want the trees to lose their leaves — and then again, I do.
Talking food with a friend recently, I was happy to realize that I’m not alone.

“I got such a craving for cabbage and bean soup the other day,” she said. “You know the one I make with the rosemary? I’ve got the stock frozen and ready, but it’s too hot for a soup like that. I’ll have to wait and make it in the fall.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’ll be good.”