Monday, July 12, 2010

A Chronicle of a summer visit:

We had a wonderfully full house this weekend.  It's not like the house had been lacking in life, with the four of us and Alberto, not to mention two cats, a guinea pig and a cornsnake, but my sister Cathie (8 months pregnant) and Eric and 2-year old Bridget, with their little dachshund, Portia arrived on Thursday.

We gave them cold beer and juice and ice water, but piled them back into their car for an outdoor concert at the Jonathan Edwards winery.  The good-natured crowds with their kids and their picnics were beginning to fill the lawns in front of the players.  We laid our quilts down on the grass, and opened Spanish olives and a cold bottle of Pinot Grigio.  The breeze across the vines was breaking the heat and the music was good and chilled wine even better.  We'd moved on to the winery's chaotic Stone Table Red before Jiri and Sharka showed up with Jacob and Filip.  Now the four boys disappeared and Bridget, drawn by the triple energies of music and air and other children, began to roam and find friends and dance to the music.  There was another bottle of wine.  We stayed into the dark.

On Friday, Monica and Nico headed off to camp early in the morning.  Nico was going to hunt mud puppies at Avery Preserve and Monica was taking her lot to the Beardsley zoo.  I was working at home, doing phone interviews with people around the country on agricultural nitrogen pollution -- trying to get at the conceptual models people are using to understand what the heck I am talking about.  Alberto was looking after the house.  Porter opted to skip camp and play guide for our visitors at the Mystic Seaport.  The snake slept quietly, forgotten behind the Zane Grey novels on the bookshelf.

In the evening, Monica and the boys went off to the movies with Patty and her girls -- to see The Last Airbender.  Cathie, having toured all day with a 2-year old, napped.  And I made margaritas for Eric and myself.  We talked and read and played with Bridget.  Portia and the black cat, Wilbur, negotiated a co-existence.

Cathie, Eric and Bridget are not early risers, but we got them rousted in time to cook up some French toast and still make it to Stonington Borough's Saturday morning farmers' market.  Peaches and raspberries, blueberries and little red plums.  Lemon Italian ice.  And vegetables to last the week.  I tucked it all away into a cooler in the car and we walked the old sea-town out past the stone lighthouse to the jetty.  Bridget was in the backpack and Eric's shirt was soon translucent with sweat.  In the seaweedy water, pebbles clicked as ten thousand little crabs shifted them around in their incessant foraging.  Cormorants flew by and a lone Herring Gull sat watchfully upon a barnacle-encrusted boulder.  Napatree beach was golden in the clear light.  We ate lunch at Milagro - cactus salad, shrimp, carne asada, complex salsas.  I took Bridget on a walk to the green while the others finished up.  She held my hand and took a moment to sit on every bench and ledge.

I had to return the Mystic Seaport pass to the library in Westerly, and Eric, Nico and I took the opportunity to go for a walk around the town.  The library, park, bookstore, merchant strip and so on.  Westerly manages to convey a civic vitality -- staid and traditional maybe, but so unlike most old towns (if they have neither a college nor tourists) who have lost their hearts.  We got home in time to watch the Germany Uruguay consolation match -- possibly the best game of the 2010 World Cup.

At 4:30 Monica, Eric, Cathie, Bridget and I headed down to East Beach, three miles of pines and dunes.  The sun had lost some of its brutality by then, but the ocean was stirred up and the tide coming in.  Bridget didn't like the rough, pounding surf, though Eric and I both braved it.  As I swam, shredded seaweed tickled and clung and I felt like I should look like Swamp Thing when I skipped back up out of the turgid waves onto the beach.

We'd thought of going to Wakefield for Greek food, but instead Monica made us a dish of onions, green beans, tomatoes and finger potatoes for dinner -- from the farmers' market, of course.  And we moved deeper into the fridge's beer supply.

Chloe, the gray cat had greeted Cathie and Eric when they arrived, but after noting the dog and the toddler she then disappeared, not to be seen again.  Porter had followed suit, heading off with Jake off into the woods with hatchets, hammocks, a skillet and a day's supply of hot dogs, bacon and s'mores makings.  He'd return the next morning with tales of angry nocturnal deer and meddlesome raccoons.

Late Sunday morning Alberto went to mass and Cathie and Monica went off to Watch Hill to stroll the town and beach and have lunch at the Olympia Tea Room.  Eric, Nico and I looked after Bridget and fed on fruits and rice and beans.  He did some desultory packing and worked at a book review in opportunistic snatches.  Nico mostly read the book that Eric had bought him at the Other Tiger in Westerly.  In the afternoon, before they left for Pennsylvania, most of us gathered for the World Cup final between Holland and Spain.  We had to watch it on Unavision's slightly jerky webcast, since ABC was broadcasting it on TV and for some reason doesn't want a web audience.  (Why?)  On the bright side, I could more easily tune out the blather of the announcers since it was all in Spanish.  Nico and I were the only ones rooting for the Dutch, (though by the end I was rooting for neither team).

And then it was time for the Pennsylvanians to head off into the setting sun.