From the summer of 2006 until the early spring of 2011, we lived in a nondescript duplex on 8th Avenue that shared the block with some other nondescript duplexes and one notably terrifying exception that we referred to as Boo Radley’s house. I didn’t love the neighborhood, but it was mostly fine, and after we adopted Jack, I got to know it well, because Jack, being a terrier, needed a lot of walking. We found our habits. If the sun was out, we’d walk up to the P-Patch at 60th and 3rd and ogle people’s tomatoes and dahlias; if it was raining, I’d drag him for a quick loop around the block; and if it was evening, dark already but not too cold, we’d walk a big rectangle through east Ballard so that I could look through the lit-up windows of the bungalows we passed as families cooked and sat down to dinner. I often dreaded walking the dog, especially in the fall and winter, when it gets dark so early, but once we were out and in a rhythm, the glowing squares of those windows would keep me going – we’ll turn for home after we pass the next house, or, wait, the next one – and so would the smells that filtered out to the street. I remember one night when I caught what was surely the scent of banana bread baking, another when someone was clearly burning garlic, and another when a whole block of 7th Avenue smelled like ripe apples. Or maybe it was applesauce cooking? Maybe I’d passed under an apple tree? It was too dark to tell.
We live closer to the water now, about a quarter mile from Puget Sound, and if the air smells like anything, it smells like saltwater. I imagine that will always feel novel to me, having grown up in a city where the nearest beach was, I don’t know, 500 miles away. I don’t walk much after dark now, because Brandon is working and June is asleep in her crib and Jack is an old man. I’m usually doing something like I’m doing tonight: sitting on the sofa with Alice, avoiding the dirty laundry by drinking a Negroni and reading, listening to Jack snore down the hall.
But late this afternoon, June and I took a sunny bike ride around the neighborhood, and somewhere between an impromptu stop at Uncle Sam’s house and a quick trip into the grocery store, June started screeching that she couldn’t get into her Tupperware of crackers, so I pulled over, reached into the bike trailer to help her, and that’s when I noticed it: the air smelled exactly like summer in Colorado, like the camp I went to for two summers 25 years ago, like dry pine needles in the heat. It’s something we almost never smell here, living as we do in what is essentially a rainforest, where everything is damp and green green green, always. But there it was. My memory of the scent was immediate, below language, just boom, Colorado summer. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A couple of blocks later, blissed out in the grocery store parking lot, I misjudged a turn and fell off my bike into a trash can. But that smell! I’m so glad I found it again.
I was going through my hard drive last night and came upon some photos I took on my old digital camera six years ago, the summer that we got Jack, in that janky duplex. I was surprised by how nostalgic I felt for those windows and that white table, which we still have somewhere but don’t have a proper place for. All of these photos were in a folder called “Lunches.” Lunches! I’ve let my lunch game slip. Oh well.
There’s a lot of good stuff going on out there lately:
What Writers Can Learn from Goodnight Moon. (Goodnight nobody!!!!)
Ashley English’s newest, Quench, won’t be out until late October, but I got an early peek. Rose and Cardamom Soda! Homemade Throat Soother Tea! Hard Cider! I’m in.
Betsy Andrews, executive editor of Saveur, is teaching a master class on food memoir and poetry at Hedgebrook.
My friend David Huffman has just launched a Kickstarter for his film Fork, and I’m backing it.
Last but not least, it’s pledge drive time at Spilled Milk. Right. I know. Nobody likes pledge drives. But I speak for both myself and Matthew when I say that making Spilled Milk is our favorite job. And we give it away for free. Your contribution helps us pay for ingredients, equipment, audio hosting, and production assistance, so that we can bring you regrettable jokes every week. (Thank you!)
I hope you’re having a great weekend.