Summertime perfection with strawberries In June

© Mekt |

Sometimes, when you least exect, a season catches you unaware, and even though the solstice is a few days away, it felt like summer last Sunday. Friends came into town, old comfortable friends, and when they asked, want to meet us at a strawberry festival, how could I not? I planted up the tomatoes and basil today, even though we’re far from the second quarter of the moon. First I attacked the crabgrass. It was deeply satisfying to sit on the ground over an old compost bag and dig out the grass I’d been eying for weeks, wondering, seed or weed? But crabgrass is unmistakable, and so far, I don’t think anyone cooks with it. It is however, an extraordinarily bright shade of green, the color of, oh, say, aphids, and I questioned my tugs, hoping it wasn’t tiny lupines or alyssum I was pulling.

More than anything else in this life, I am a novelist, and I weed like I write, chapter by chapter, diligently applying the weeding tool, or sometimes just using my hands, adding to a pile of castoffs until I tire.

Tomatoes, then stakes, then basil. Stakes to support the plants not for vampires.

Then off to eat strawberry shortcake, made we were told by many hands from one single recipe, piled high with fruit and whipped cream. Children gamboled about, spun cartwheels. In one hour, they ran out of cake. But, oh, we hadn’t quite run out of spring readying to summer.

Photo: Yury Shirokov/

In February: As Sweet as Honey by Indira Ganesan – Random House

As Sweet as Honey by Indira Ganesan – Random House.

Another Island

Indira Ganesan, View Through the Trees, 2012
Indira Ganesan, The View through the Trees, Yoga Barn, Martha’s Vineyard, 2012

Sometimes you need to get away from your private island and go to an actual island. If I thought of Martha’s Vineyard at all, I pictured rows of Adirondack chairs, painted chalk-white, a kind of David Hockney painting, or a still-life of boats. I didn”t think of grapes or farms or even jam. I love to be proven wrong, and on visiting there this past weekend, I was, delightfully. Invited by a friend, I discovered an island full of eco-farmers, lush gardens, book lovers and food-knowledgable, but mostly I discovered fun in good company.

I also had a chance to walk by myself down a wooded path, and I only did so knowing houses were nearby. There, I thought hard about what it is I envisioned for myself, if I really had the courage to write, if I had the courage to combine it with a teaching job I could treasure.

Having once frozen at an important job interview, unable to utter one thing in being asked to describe my ideal class, I find I can describe it now. I imagine a living room, with nicely upholstered chairs in stripes of gold and maroon, with a plate of brownies nearby. I imagine myself beginning each class with a poem read aloud. I imagine being well-read, prepared, and eager to impart knowledge and guide creativity into the minds of university students. I imagine looking forward to each class because I have already written or will write, and will every day, on a novel or on non-fiction that absorbs me. I will become the woman whose heart expands to include both her writing and teaching profession. I will find my own teaching voice and style with some grace, and remain interested.

Being engaged, being interested, being encouraged, and writing and teaching writing takes enormous discipline and patience. There are days like today when I just want to rest. I have been both a good and poor teacher. Writing is at the heart of it, as it will be in some of the students I might one day teach if they too want to pursue that path. It’s a fun path, really. It’s invigorating, and it’s difficult, and prompts self-doubt, but when work goes well, it’s like being transported to an island where the french toast and rhubarb and ricotta are good, where herbs are fresh, and coffee ground, where there are cows who I prefer to imagine are to provide milk than slaughtered.

Rain-Streaked Windows of Promise

Princeton University garden-1
Princeton University garden-1 (Photo credit: musical photo man)

I never know what awaits when I draw the curtains open each morning.  Today, the windows were streaked with rain, a thrilling sight.  The wind is from the north, and all weekend, it has been sounding through the trees, (but a bird chirps now, through it).  The ferries were cancelled, maybe flights, but I bet the surf was good.  Now the fine mist pour is being shifted around in all directions.  The radio tells me that astrologically there was a lunar eclipse,and maybe we should go back to sleep.  I’m awake, it’s morning, and TOMORROW JUNE 5 at 6:03 pm ET, Venus begins its transit across the sun.  Before that, a dear friend’s daughter will graduate from the music department at Princeton, continuing her trajectory into a universe that is both measured and immeasurable.