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Sunday in the Park

The light is different. The morning starts later, the day ends sooner. The temperature fluctuates from needing a jacket to rolling up your sleeves in a matter of hours. The local peaches are perfect. And the trees put on a show of colors that give one pause.

We live a town that is unmistakably a resort town but, when September comes, there are few guests left or here yet. So we linger a bit at the market and the post office. There is decidedly less hustle to our bustle. And folks we have missed connecting with for months, due to everyone’s hectic schedules, now seem to have time to sit a spell and have a conversation about the blessed minutiae of their lives.

I have always found September somewhat sacred.

At the start of the month I left town for a few days and went to another resort community on an island in the Pacific Northwest I have been visiting for almost 20 years now. I have grown to know parts of the island well, since I spent a summer up there a long time ago. I know when September rolls around where to find wild blackberries growing on paths in old-growth forests. I know where little inlets are marshy and where to expect to all nature of creatures from harbor seals to bald eagles to minke and Orca whales. I can walk for hours, and do, on paths that have changed little over the years. And I know my way into and around town where I have my favorite spots.

I have probably bought more sweaters in a tiny store on the Main Street there than any other single store I know. They are hand knit and snug and sensibly priced and yet still fashionable enough, all at once. There is a tea store that sells lavender chocolate-chip shortbread cookies that I haven’t figured out how to successfully duplicate here in the mountains. And they have an independent bookstore that was just off Main Street for years and moved last year around the corner to a slightly larger space to accommodate more books, of course, but also cards and music and work from local artists.

Island life has a rhythm all its own and an appreciation of how things come to the island, like books, and leave the island, like trash. You become aware. And when staying on a boat you understand the need to take on only what you need and remove those things that are no longer needed. It is a simplified life with few drawers or closets or extra space to squirrel things away.

So the day after my annual trip to town I am aware of being a consumer. Though I bought canvas bags to recycle, I managed to fill them first. The cookies, the sweater, they didn’t take up so much space, but then there were the books. Turns out I was starved and didn’t know it. I am a regular at Dolly’s here in town, of course, but not so much this summer. My life was running at such a hectic pace I couldn’t imagine sitting and reading. On island time, it seemed like that was the mission. Sit on the back of the boat, pay my respects to all manner of wildlife, and read. Take a break and a walk and come back and read some more. In a little over three days I finished two books.

If you are a fan of Louise Erdrich, don’t miss her latest, "The Plague of Doves." She winds the customs of the Ojibwa tribe over the border with the French Canadians, all of whom intermarried with the Upper Peninsula folks, and creates families even stranger than my own. She is, as always, laugh-out-loud funny, and tragic and magical. I traveled in time and place and culture, all the while eating fresh-caught crab.

Alice Hoffman has a new novel too, "The Third Angel," a story where a funky hotel in London is every bit as much a character as the blue heron and the ghost and the drunk at the bar. the time I returned home I was ready to see with new eyes.

My actual house was ready, probably, for a makeover or facelift or both, but out of my reach. But I had committed months ago to at least a paint job. It had been about seven years, I think, since I had decided my house needed to go from gray to soft lavender. Over the years, the lavender had faded so softly it was almost gray again. For weeks now, between rainstorms, John has been prepping and nailing and priming to ready the house for the paint and this week there has been a transformation noticeable. The house looks happy again. Not so tired. It took years off the visual age. And it made me look inside.

Each room, after nearly 30 years of my being here, in the same place and space, have grown a bit stuck in their look and placement of beds and footstools. In the spirit of being shipshape, I started in my bedroom, moving things, taking things to the garage or a charity, or just plain throwing stuff out. The summer T-shirts have been packed up to make room for the sweaters. The books long-ago read have moved off those shelves and into the study, making room for new books yet to be read. Waiting for slow fall evenings, after the last light has left and the chill slips in and the comforter is a comfort.

I have always felt much more kinship with thinking of the fall as the start of a new year than that frigid, all-white, seamless season that the calendar proclaims is new. So I wandered up to Dolly’s on Saturday and found some new books for the clean shelves, a couple of novels, a gardening book to plan for next spring, a book of self portraits. I also grabbed a box of colored pencils and markers so, should I feel inspired, I can at least doodle with a flair.

By Sunday there was a new rhythm. I moved easily in my room to sit on the tiny upstairs porch in the glow of the new paint, all wrapped up in my robe. Later I read and puttered and talked to the neighbors. By suppertime I savored the chicken that had slow roasted for hours. And when the light faded, I crawled under the comforter and traveled to another country and another time but grateful and aware that there is something new and comforting about these precious September Sundays in the Park

Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.


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