round here, Labor Day Weekend is the unofficial goodbye to summer, three days filled with picnics and clam bakes (unless it rains!) as the summer people shake the sand out of their beach towels, pack up their flip flops, and head back to real life. (The island population is about 12,000 people year-round, but it goes to around 115,000 in the summer!) In mass exodus, they board the ferry boats with their cars, bicycles, dogs, and children, and disappear, leaving behind the singing cicadas, sun swept beaches, and empty parking spaces. Like any guests, we love to see them come, but aren't completely miserable when they go.
love my neighborhood on Martha's Vineyard, especially this time of year, but mainly because two of my very best friends live in it! Martha lives out my back driveway and across the street, Lowely lives two doors up. I'm in the middle; the perfect place, since they both walk through my yard, past my studio window, to get to each other's houses! I see all.
have sort of the same thing my mom did when I was growing up; she had lots of friends in our neighborhood and would run into them, usually still wearing her apron (out searching for a child or borrowing sugar); she'd stop to visit, often in the middle of the street. I know about these impromptu meetings because while she visited, I liked to stand on her feet and hang off her arms, rocking (I was five), and listen to the girl-talk. Just me and my mom and the girls in the hood.
owely, Martha, and I pop over all the time, looking at each other's gardens, meeting to walk downtown for lunch, checking out new curtains, bringing over little tastes of things we made, or grew too much of. Lately it's jam jam jam. Nectarine Jam. Peach jam. Blackberry jam.
have this wild, weedy, brambly out-of-the-way corner in the garden behind the barn; no matter what I do to this little plot of earth, and I have done a lot, it always goes wild again when I'm not looking. I've given up trying to tame it, because this wildness has a bright spot, a thorny, tangled thicket of sweet blackberries that come back every year, taking over everything, sort of like what the Prince had to go through to get to Sleeping Beauty. Not pretty, even a bit painful, but worth it in the end!
he girls came for tea this week; tea is our code word for talk. Come for tea sounds better than come for talk, even though talk is what it truly is. We had one of those surprising early days of fall weather; sweater weather, a cold, blustery, rainy day... I lit a candle on the kitchen table; and used the good cups and saucers that make that nice chinky sound; I brewed a big pot of my favorite lavender tea, made an angel food cake and guess what, blackberry jam.
e took our tea in front of the fire, and sweetened it with the latest gossip, but our big discussion was all about Eat, Pray, Love. With the movie out recently, everyone seems to be taking sides on the book...in fact, Joe and I went out last night and people were talking about it again! After we analyzed the life out of Eat, Pray, Love, our discussion turned to Bridges of Madison County which we dissected (for probably the eighteenth time) within a hair of its life. We all have opinions, good, bad, but never indifferent. When we're together, we solve all the dilemmas of the world (which does no one any good since we have not yet figured out how to become King).(Be grateful for small favors.)
he conversation continued and Julie & Julia got thrown in for good measure. Did we like the book? Did we like the movie? Three thumbs up on the movie. Do we like Julie? (Lots of talk here.) There was no question how everyone felt about Julia Child, love love love. In the movie, when Julia pulled up in front of her Parisian apartment in that big old 1940's station wagon, we were so there. In all cases, the big conundrum was ...were the books better than the movies? Or were the movies better? Or were they both varying degrees of good and bad? Differences of opinion ensued. Under the Tuscan Sun entered the conversation.
hat we really 100% agreed on is that Love Actually and Bridget Jones Diary are both perfect chick flicks and Bridget Jones Diary was equally good as movie and book and sets the standard for a concisely structured lighthearted love story that we could all totally relate to: "Sunday 26 February: 126 lbs., alcohol units 5 (drowning sorrows), cigarettes 23 (fumigating sorrows), calories 3856 (smothering sorrows in fat duvet)." What's not to love? Been there, done that, have the "fat duvet" to prove it.
ife has it's ups and downs for everyone and there are cloudy days when we think we'll never see the sun again. And what saves us through it all? Girlfriends. And girlfriends in my own neighborhood is the blackberry jam on the angel food cake. So here's to us my fine feathered friends...to the eternal quest for beauty in our lives, to kind hearts that read directly into our souls, to the wisdom and inspiration given freely and lovingly, to loyalty and forgiveness, and to falling down laughing and having someone fall down right next to us. We are the lucky ones!
hat else is new?
nd now, for the rest of it, short and sweet 'cause I already talked too much:
nd, besides all the other new seasonal stuff, there are new CANNING LABELS, good for all kinds of food gifts, like tea breads and cookies for the holidays and perfect for our darling red-lidded JARS, because there's nothing like lining up your jars of homemade goodies and whisking your hands together and saying, I did that. Thank you very much.
nd one last thing, if you have a secret place for wild blackberries, or can find them at your Farmers Market, here's my tried-and-true BLACKBERRY JAM recipe. If you've never made jam before, get a box of jars at your supermarket, instructions for canning comes with them, it's so easy you will be surprised! Once you get started and watch your talented self putting essence of summer in jewel-colored jars with all the different fruit combinations, like Plum or Cherry Preserves, Apricot or Peach, or maybe some spiced Apple Butter, or Pink Grapefruit Marmalade, the sky is the limit!
nd that, Girlfriends, is the who what why of it....the xyz of it, and the 123 of it, at least as far as I know! Happy September!