It's June 21, and two and a half months of summer stretch ahead. I see it in freeze frames: snapshots of picnics and hot, sweaty runs and iced coffee and cases of grapefruit La Croix seltzer water. Can you picture it? What's the perfect day?
You’re driving in the car on a narrow spit of land that stretches out into the Atlantic, dotted with small towns. The beach curves in a sweeping arc to your right. The afternoon sun is starting to fade slowly. In minutes, the bright blue of the sky will soften and then edge towards pink, pouring dusky, warm evening light over everything. Music seeps from your speakers to match the shimmering quality of the changing light: "Breathe" by EMBRZ, then ayokay with Quinn XCII singing summer nights / love ‘em how they take so long.
Here and there you glance at objects as you pass: Baskets of pink geraniums hanging at a farm stand. A sign, painted white, scrawled with the words BERRY PIES! and ASPARAGUS. The neat, precise lines of grapes that stretch in front of the dozens of vineyard that line the coast.
The next song plays: every fire, well it starts with a spark / and we'd go skinny dipping in the pool after dark / if I'm downtown it's probably half past three / thinking about if you think about me.
I probably am.
Nights like this, I want to swim in the ocean right at the hour when the sun has dipped below the horizon. Do you like that sensation? The surface of the water is still warm, until you wade deeper and slip in past your shoulders. It’s deliciously chilly in the depths, running shivers up your spine. You wander back to the car, shake out the towel, and brush the sand from your feet which is useless because in a few days you’ll find it everywhere: on the floor of your car, in your beach bag, stuck inside the pages of your books.
Then I want to take an outdoor shower. (If something feels better than an outdoor shower in the summer, I almost don’t want to know about it.) I like it cold enough to make you hurry, water sluicing against your sunburned skin. I use soap that smells like mango and papaya, beach-appropriate, making me think of frozen drinks spiked with rum and platters of juicy pink fruit and the feeling of sunscreen.
Every night has the same rhythm.
It will go something like this: In bare feet and a soft striped cotton dress, I'll walk into the kitchen. Someone is grilling, and it smells like smoke and something savory and a hint of cumin. Instead of recipes this summer, I want to cook by flavor.
(I spent yesterday in a tiny little shop in Manhattan that’s packed with jars of spices. They don’t sell single spices, but they craft blends of them with wild sounding names like No. 34 Orchidea (Sichuan pepper, lime, orchid root) and No. 23 Tangier (rose petals, cumin, cardamom).
I couldn't stop opening them and smelling each one. Overwhelmed, I chose a few jars, and all summer I’ll let them inspire dinner. Za’atar (sesame, sumac, thyme, oregano) will mean ground lamb and grilled zucchini and warm homemade pita slicked with olive oil. Hawaij (cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric) will go on lamb too, this time a burger stuffed with a ball of smoked mozzarella that pulls apart in gooey strands when you take a bite.)
From the kitchen I'll hear the low murmur of voices outside. A few people will be clustered around the grill and others stand on the lawn, drinking gin and tonics.
On the other side of the screen door, I'll reach for the stereo and put on "Gun Song" by The Lumineers. I'll sing under my breath, opening a bottle of sparkling rose that pops with a satisfying, celebratory, look-what’s-coming noise. I like the melody so much that I'll start it from the beginning, twice: I don’t own a single gun / but if I did you’d be the one / to hold it, aim it, make all of the bad men run.
And if all nights ahead have pink wine and good music and suntanned skin, we'll be good. We'll be more than good.