Kate Flora: This summer I’m facing down another birthday and struggling with a massive nonfiction writing project. To counterbalance my seemingly infinite “to do” list and the sense that I never get my homework done, I’m also exploring the question of what makes me happy. When I described the project to a friend, she suggested that I should explore what makes me Unhappy, too, so I’m also doing that.
What have I discovered so far?
Swimming. I think somewhere back in our family tree there must have been a mermaid. On my mother’s side, I believe, because until she was well into her eighties, she went swimming in the pond every day from early June until late September or early October. I don’t have a pond—I have Mackerel Cove—and the ocean has been fiercely cold until recently. But whenever I can, I plunge into that refreshing (some would say frigid) clear ocean water and paddle about. I look at the sky and the green trees and the sun glinting off Bailey Island’s amazing tilted rocks and feel so alive and lucky.
Gardening. My gardens may always be on the verge of getting away from me, but I love the wild, jungle quality they take on by mid-summer. Right now, the daylilies are a riot of color. In the shade, the hosta are blooming a dozen shades of purple, the purple and white balloon flower that looks like it was painted with watercolors is strutting its stuff, and the reluctant hydrangeas have finally deigned to bloom a stunning china blue, while the mopheads are bowing down like royalty is passing by. The roses are being coy and acting like one bloom at a time is all I deserve, while the daisies are doing their clean, cheerful thing, and the mallows descended from the ones on the farm where I grew up are like a series of pink, ruffled petticoats climbing up slim green stems.
Farmer’s Markets. I love to stroll along the common in Brunswick on Friday morning, filling a bag with fresh greens, pickling cukes, tomatoes, and whatever else catches my eye. This week, I expect it will be a feast of summer squash and zucchini and eggplants to roast with red onions and little balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and soy sauce. Maybe there will be some red, yellow, and orange peppers to mix in. I always end up buying a new flowering plant, as well. Once, recently, I found cheese and beer rolls so good my husband hopes I’ll find those again sometime soon. There’s always delicious goat cheese. There’s the guy playing the banjo and children admiring bunnies and kittens. And the true confession here? Once I’ve snagged all the healthy food I can carry, I queue up at Danny’s for a couple of their great cheeseburgers. If you haven’t tried a Danny’s burger, you are missing out.
Treasure hunting. Another true confession—I am a second-hand store junkie. I don’t go often. My house is full, and I really don’t need anything. But little pleases me more, when I have a bit of time on my hands, like scoring a pair of arche shoes or the perfect L.L. Bean tee-shirt or a butter soft blue leather jacket at Goodwill. Or maybe the perfect little cast iron frying pan? A wonderful photograph for the wall? Or the pillowcase that matches my Laura Ashley sheets?
Taking silly pictures.
Oh dear. I’m having so much fun thinking about what makes me happy that I believe I’ll save what makes me unhappy for another day. Or maybe I’ll skip it entirely.
So, dear readers, what makes you happy during a summer in Maine? Berry picking? Paddleboarding? Cooking for friends? Hiking? I’d love to know.