"I think this is the best one you've made," he said, gently scraping his fork against the white dessert plate. He gathers the crumbs in a pile and presses the fork against them—the cake is so moist that the last bits stick together and he scoops up the last bite. "The best cake?" "The best apple cake."
Truth be told, I do make a lot of apple cakes, so this judgement carries a lot of weight. A few years ago, we spent a crisp, sunny Sunday in October picking apples north of Manhattan in a little town in the Hudson Valley. Our kitchen was overflowing with apples: they filled up both crisper drawers, and spilled from a bulging canvas bag on the counter.
My lemon tree hasn't shown any signs of bearing fruit yet. I could worry, but I think instead I'll have faith that somewhere beneath those glossy green leaves, it's biding its time. There will be citrus: bright and cheerful. There will be Meyer lemon cake, and ribbons of tart lemon curd folded into whipped cream and frozen until cold and creamy. There will be lemon vodka cocktails. I'm letting myself be patient. I'm learning to sit with the in-between times, to let go of all or nothing all the time.
I'll keep this brief, because it's cold outside. The window of the living room is ajar and the gusts of air are icy. My wool blanket is helping. (So is the glass of prosecco.) But my bed upstairs is no doubt warmer, and I'll cozily tuck the edges of the comforter around my sock-clad feet.
WHAT I'M DOING
- Booking a ferry trip for Sunday afternoon. Orient Point --> New London. I'll drive the winding roads up past Hartford, then cross into Massachusetts. My heart will constrict when I pass the Vermont state line, then slowly settle into calm contentedness with each mile that brings me closer to Norwich and its tiny general store and quiet roads and New England style.
Life is always happening. There is no pause button, no daily translation of pausing on a run for quick breather while you stretch your quads, and certainly no real-life version of holding onto the side of the pool wall when you can't tread water any longer. Or need a sip of your sunbathing friend's strawberry daiquiri. Oh wait! There is essentially a real-life version of that and it is called wine and it is currently in my left hand while I type this with my right.
And to think that here I was, wishing the year would just turn to autumn already. Maybe it's because I haven't made my monthly work trip to Vermont (I know, I know, my life is tough!) since August. I've been dreaming about the resplendent foliage that turns the rolling hills a blazing red and vivid orange. I've been remembering the heavy, sultry smell of wood smoke, and how it hangs in the air, promising cozy scenes of porch-wrapped white houses: a golden retriever snoozing by the hearth on a soft rug and families sprawled on the couch after dinner eating cake and laughing.
When I was younger, I considered museums and poetry to be in the same category: things I should appreciate but have to really fake enthusiasm for. One summer in high school, I spent a month living in Spain with a group of other American students. We lived for 2 weeks all together in a gorgeous rococo-style apartment just off the park near the Arc de Triomf, discovering the joys of Nutella-smeared bread and ogling cute European boys and giggling at the topless, gorgeous Spanish women who confidently sunbathed on every beach. You know, being seventeen.
It’s cold outside again. I forgot how this feels; no number of layers is enough to combat the winds that whip through the city streets. This morning I woke to a persistent drizzle of cold rain. I love how cozy it feels to walk swiftly through the rain--the wet streets, the cold breeze--to get to the coffee shop where I open the door to a gust of warm, espresso-scented air. I stand still for a moment, breathing in the smell of bagels toasting and coffee. I listen to the chatter of customers. I order and chat with the baristas (yes, we are on friendly first-name terms, this is how I roll).
Tonight feels somewhere between summer and fall. The past few days have been glorious, weather-wise. I went home to the farm in Maryland and it was like a postcard advertising autumn: The tips of the trees are tinged in russet red and vermillion and orange. The hills are covered in green grass, but the fields of corn and soybeans are slowly turning a dusty tan, like they've been baked too long in the hot summer sun.
A crowd of people stand waiting at the corner of West Houston Street for the light to turn green. I've just emerged from the subway. It's only 6:30 but the evening sky is already quickly turning inky and black. I walked a block in the cold air to the Citibike station and inserted my key, waiting for the welcome ping! as the light turns green and the bike unlocks, releasing the front tire. I hop on and cycle slowly to the edge of the street, pausing with the throngs of commuters.