Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Our pot of tomatoes on the deck is showing off early thanks to the heat. 

One tomato was perfectly ripe when we came back from a few days in the country.

Dragging in laundry to wash, and the additional bags of paraphernalia you gather on even short stays out of town, we were predisposed to an easy supper as the vacation clothing went directly to the washer.

Maybe it was the tomato, noticed when we first got home, that made us think of ordering in pizza.

The tomato looked too pretty on the vine to pick when first exclaimed over. Then we forgot about it in the throes of unpacking. 

We ate the pizza unadorned except for the cheese and bacon toppings with which it arrived. 

The tomato, fixed with some basil, could have been an excellent pizza garnish. Instead the juicy red globe gained some extra minutes in the sun. 

It was eaten later with a shake of salt. Tomatoes taste best fresh and on the spot.

We sweltered the whole time we were away. One assumes it’ll be cooler leaving behind the asphalt and diesel fumes of the city. That's not always so.

The hot air dome is a tight cap over the Midwest. Whether it's skyscrapers or silos out your back door broiling temperatures this month are pretty much the case.

Most of us can deal with the heat. It’s harder with sticky hot. If you’re outside any length of time you’re dripping wet. Dew points are the points of reference picking away at our summer enthusiasm.

We aren’t letting the inconvenience of major perspiration outbreaks get in the way of our planned activities. Summer is over too soon to get reliant on central air and stale TV reruns.

It feels good to be on the move outside even in dew point country. We go slower, find shade and drink plenty of water.

This was our strategy at a recent outdoor art festival, which has the good fortune to be set  along one of our cool flowing Minnesota rivers.

The white tents arranged under the trees gave the aspect of a medieval fair. It looked jaunty as viewed on approach.

I expected to hear the clank of armor or see the flowing gowns of fair ladies of the castle with wide baskets strolling through the archaic lanes.

It was only a dream, however. The brisk business of buying and selling materialized with the opening of the admission gate.

My method with any outdoor emporium is to cover the grounds swiftly, get a feel for what’s there and zero in on what attracts me. Familiarity with the general layout helps me scope out my interests and saves time with the rest.

Many depend on the map handouts for orientation. For me nothing takes the place of scouting with your own set of eyes. Eventually the handout is referred to but it's held in reserve as used by me.

An abundance of merchandise with an up North theme was immediately noted. Possibly the pieces stand out because they fit so well with the distinctly bucolic setting.

If you don’t own a cabin or lake home these items make you want to acquire lakeshore property pronto.

It’s hard to resist the breezy banners, cute plaques, carvings, Man Cave objects, stained glass suncatchers, wind chimes and assortment of wooden furniture from tiny benches on up.

They’re so suited for lake décor you can almost hear the waves as you walk by.  You can justify the cabin purchase on this basis alone. The artsy choices call for a relaxed second home they can spiff up.

You’re struck by the industry behind all these wares. You picture the studios or workshops or simple kitchen tables where these examples of skill and labors of love are conceived, prepared, completed and packed to bring.

Displays of handcrafted jewelry, meanwhile, take you in a different direction. They play on your dress-up whims which begin with your mother’s multi-strand pearls fastened around your neck when you're small.  

You admire the delicate designs or the bold workings of metal and stone or intricate beaded fabrications. 

You want to put on a raft of necklaces, or maybe just one perfect pendant, and slip into a caftan and sashay to a place that serves wine and outdoor poetry readings if you only knew where such a place might be.

With this same unique jewelry, but with towel and swimsuit tossed into one of the commodious carryalls also for sale (and which I virtuously resisted, my tote bag shelf being full), you might opt instead to a game of volleyball on the beach.

A large component of art fairs is the creativity that it causes to circulate. It begins in the mind, eye, heart and hands of the artist. It travels to those inspired by their work, each with the various influences derived from it.

A few tents offered books with the authors not exactly hiding behind the piles of their copies but likely trying to read interest on your face as the title makes contact with you.

Authors must come to book-signings with tight throats. They recognize their work is being sized up. The value of their product is established by the willingness of the public to buy.

The food tents and music and entertainment venues draw their crowds. Many of us were in the queues for drinks and refreshments as the steamy afternoon pressed on.

Certain members of my group were intent on one specific thing. They were here for the pork chops.

The cooked pork chops are possibly the festival’s biggest attraction. They’re cooked on location with a great deal of smoke and the smell of the meat to mark their territory.

Champing at the bit for pork chops my group managed to rein in their appetites until we could all be together. They made it longer than one determined gal.

Perhaps she’d waited all year for pork chops in the park. She was oblivious to all things as she sat over her pork chop, enjoying every bite of her forenoon chew.

We sat at the picnic table by the river with our pork chops. The smoke from the cooking area hung in the heavy air. It was in our hair and on our clothes and in our eyes. 

At the moment it didn’t matter. To avoid the smoke was to be absent from the festival. Having allergies or sensitivities can rule out many things. Smoke very much bothers me but here I was nevertheless.

Nearby was the music and we ate and enjoyed. And then someone thought of ice cream cones for dessert. Maybe an art festival is really the art of enjoyment practiced on a large scale.

Now for some summer fun nearer to home. We’re in the midst of the Minneapolis Aquatennial and it puts July in the city in lights.

Called the best days of summer the annual event has something for everyone. For us it’s the milk carton races on Lake Calhoun and also the fireworks that stream and blaze and arc high above the Mississippi River on the final night.

Summer rightfully is a succession of community celebrations and events planned to take us out and about in the embrace of nature at her best.

There’s no need to refer to the calendar for weeks on end. We cross off each event as it comes along and mark the next one we aim to attend.

 It’s a lovely way to do summer. Dratted dew points and all.

Ro Giencke – July 17, 2012


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