_Anatomy of a pretty good day (and Monica's 45 birthday).
Everyone was up early for a Saturday morning. So there was mango smoothie and expresso of freshly-ground Costa Rican coffee.
A little after 8:30 Nico and I drove toward Mystic to his friend Trey's house, where a half dozen kids were gathering around their chess teacher. The forest of Eastern Connecticut is right now endlessly yellow, spattered with orange and broken by hayfields that are shorn and spring-like green. The gaudy scarlet of the maples has been mostly stolen by the wind, but the oaks are bleeding out new red to the hills and roadsides. We found Trey's house down a gravelly cul de sac above Cove Road and I left Nico there to test his skills against the teacher.
I drove down onto Route One, and in the inlets there were cormorants drying their wings out upon each white-stained rock. I wound my way out onto Stonington borough for the farmers market. It was cold enough to see your breath if you were in shade. I bought a cabbage and some big white radishes to make kimchi; some Sweet Tolman apples for applesauce; cauliflower and broccoli; leeks for a soup; late, strong-flavored arugula; a small bag of Copra onions; some stone ground flint corn - and got an old man's phone number for buying seed this winter if I decide to plant.
After more coffee at the Mystic Market, I rejoined the chess players. Nico was playing black and fighting a determined defense, but couldn't salvage a draw in the end. "Chess is tiring!" he said to me as he collapsed onto my shoulder for a moment. A couple of the other parents had arrived as well. Penny, Trey's mother, was cleaning out the kitchen junk drawer and told us a story of how she'd been traumatized by finishing 7th in the state tournament when she was nine years old . . .
We got back to the house where Monica was eating vanilla ice cream from a teacup and taking birthday wishes from her family on the phone. We had a lunch of bread and butter and honey, and tested out the quince jam I made the other day . . .
And drove to Charles and Patti's to gather them and their girls for a hike. Waiting for Patti to return with Anya from a violin lesson, Charles and Monica had a beer and we sat on the floor catching up and complaining about the toll that busy-ness takes on everything we try to do. Patti and the girls showed up, and Patti was looking drawn from her two-weeks business trek in China and Japan. We loaded up on water-bottles, got the kids shoed and jacketed, and piled all eight of us into the school's suburban. Then, with the Talking Heads playing on the speakers, we drove again through the beautiful, autumn landscape.
We strolled the trails of Teftweald. The kids ran on ahead. The laurel and the youngest of the beech trees are still green leaved - and of course, the hemlock, as always seemed darkly indifferent to the season. There's a cleft in the woods where the stream gathers into a pool that is black, but also golden with floating leaves of beech and hickory. On the shelf of rock that Monica calls the poet's bench we played predator-and-prey. The predator counts to 30 while the others go into hiding. The predator scans from the rock and the prey have to keep their eyes on the predator from cover without being sighted themselves.
When we dragged the kids from the woods, it wasn't even 5 yet, but everyone was hungry. So we splurged for dinner at the Pita Spot, a Lebanese restaurant in Mystic. While they got the kids settled in, I went across the street to buy a couple of bottles of wine -- a St. Francis cab to start with and a Gnarley Head old vine zin to coast on through. The waitress tied bangled sashes around the girls waists and brought us appetizers.
There was hummus and tabouli, baba ghannouj, moudardara and loubieh. And Monica and I split a lamb kabob that was just too good to drizzle the garlicky sauces on . . .