Saturday, June 22, 2013

The two most beautiful words in the English language

Henry James said they are "summer afternoon" and Dorothy Parker riposted "cheque enclosed." On the day after the solstice I'm going to claim "summer evening."

It could have been the perfect one, last evening. (It wasn't quite, for reasons you'll see.) The air was cool and dry, the ocean that interesting mix of placid surface and smooth rolling waves breaking white on the rocks. Evening, of course, begins in the late afternoon around here, 5:00 (4:45 if you're desperate) with drinks on the deck, a book, crossword puzzle, or just gazing. There ought to be a word for a gaze that's deep and satisfying.

The birds as usual were the main attraction. Gulls and ducks in abundance, the occasional cormorant and osprey, goldfinches bursting out of the balsam fir like a shower of sparks, a bald eagle in imagination, and the flock of crows that calls this shore home: one of them sat on top of a nearby spruce and did his exuberant triplet - CAW! CAW! CAW! - at least 10 times, in a voice as loud as a lawn mower. Maybe it thought me unseemly for looking so idle.

In honor of the longest evening of the year, I had planned to stay out until dark, some 4 hours away, eating and drinking and reading and watching, but it got too cool and a little buggy, and I brought my celebration behind glass. It would be light again soon enough.

It wasn't the perfect evening to celebrate, after all, not yet. That happens later in the summer, in August, the season of change in the north country, the season for changing those two words back to "love you," or even better, "my family" when they join me on the deck, in memory or in fact.

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