The sweetness of summer | ParkRecord.com

The sweetness of summer

By Teri Orr
Park Record columnist

It is the corn, the Bear Lake raspberries, the peaches, the anything on the barbecue. It is the perfume of the lavender blooming in the yard and the mint and oregano. It is the nights cooling down and mornings being crisp… for a minute. The squeals of young children on bikes and in pools and chasing one another barefoot on the grass. Outdoor music and dinner parties al fresco.

This piece of summer is tender. We see the trees with the one yellow leaf and we delude ourselves and say they are stressed from the heat. And the geese starting to fly in formation must be a coincidence, too. The fullness of summer has the boys on the football field practicing twice a day now. We know exactly where we are and what is coming and we start to grab all the minutes outside possible.

This week has allowed me dinners on restaurant patios and in Rotary Park and my favorite young neighbor's elegant pig and pinot party, where so many great conversations were being had about so many things — walruses and kings — conversations that transcended and ignored politics, which was a vacation of civility if only for a few hours.

A good friend showed up on a fine restaurant patio the other night for dinner and pulled from a brown paper sack a gift without measure. A perfectly sun-ripened red/chocolate tomato, slightly misshapen and deeply colored and bursting with flavor that said, this is summer. Don't miss it.

And the hollyhocks. Oh dear lord, this year those hollyhocks. I see them everywhere and they are tall and pink and purple and did I say tall, taller than me? You pinch the flowers off, Sister Margo taught me years ago, and you turn them upside down and you have a lady in a ball gown. After years of having hollyhocks bloom that were given to me as seeds by a friend no longer with us, mine just didn't come up again. I don't know if they gave up or if the man who helps me with my yard dug them up as a weed. I was lamenting this to a friend two years ago, maybe three, and she brought me at the end of that summer a batch of seeds from her own garden. And I planted them and waited. And this year they are here….by the corner of the garage and back in the flower bed and over in a corner of the side yard. They aren't giant and tall but they are flowering and pink so far and something about them — their independence and gangly height and huge, bold flowers — well, they always make me laugh. And tear up just a little. The most spectacular row of them right now is the wall of color next to Windy Ridge Cafe. Tall and full-flowered and vibrant. My neighbor has some by her mailbox and down the street there are more against a white-washed fence.

The farmer stands and markets display an abundance of short-seasoned, locally-grown veggies and fruits. I try to stop at each one I see. The satisfaction of buying directly from a grower just feels good.

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My book stack (real hardback books in a real, not virtual stack, mostly purchased locally at Dolly's bookstore) is morphing from what I thought I should read in the winter to all kinds of treats in the summer. Like new works by Louise Erdrich (first "The Round House," now "LaRose") who is a member of , and writes about, the Ojibwa tribe that lives in the upper lakes area. A writer whose work I have followed and loved, long before she won National book awards and was nominated for the Pulitzer prize. Back in the days when she was known to take to the waters in Chico Hot Springs in Montana and write there in the dining room, where I once saw her but did not approach. I start reading on lazy Sundays (or days I pretend are lazy Sundays) on the back porch in a wicker chair under a porch umbrella. When light finally leaves the sky altogether I head upstairs where all the doors and windows are open to the sounds of the creatures of the night and I read until my eyes finally insist on closing.

The bird chatter in the mornings reminds me to fill the feeders to keep the songs coming. We, the birds and I, have become dependent upon one another for our shared existence. I have found the musical notes in the mornings the very best way to start to wake up.

Yesterday I was thinking the fresh peach gelato at Cafe Terigo may be the best way to end the day. But when I opened the front door, after a perfect dinner with friends so dear they are a kind of family, I saw something on the stairs. My sweetest of neighbors who think I did them some kind of favor, left a very lovely bottle of wine for me with the perfect complement food to enjoy it. One of God's perfect foods, which I may have mentioned to the them, on more than one occasion. Not one but two bags of Cheetos. One baked, one, well, regular. It was the perfect gift and a great laugh at the end of a perfect evening, in a perfect season in a pretty damn near perfect little town.

I know there are days ahead where politics of all stripes will commandeer the conversations. Where rains will spoil weekend plans. Where the gardens will be dried and fallow. But right now, this very week, might just be the apex of summer perfection. And I don't want to miss a minute of it, not on a weekday and certainly not a single Sunday in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.