Thanks Giving

Ode to Summer (Happy Thanksgiving!)

After dinner, I thought about my good fortune at being born in the right place at the right time.

The temperature peaked at 67° on Thursday, too hot for baking but I ran the oven anyway because it isn’t Thanksgiving unless we eat Nana’s signature chestnut sausage dressing. It paired nicely with the Quorn roast, the sweet potatoes and carrots, the mashed potatoes and gravy, the cranberry sauce, and the peas and mushrooms.

Nana’s Chestnut Sausage Dressing

After dinner, I thought about my good fortune at being born in the right place at the right time. I rubbed my full belly and thought about how grateful I am for all those wonderful childhood Thanksgiving dinners, for my brothers and their wives, for my beau-buddy, Bob, and our continued good health, for the 2023 Tesla Y headed our way, and for how nicely the North Carolina climate suits me.

I penned the following ode to summer back in August, sitting in my back porch rocker, barefoot and scantily clad.

Back porch rocker

Before breakfast, before yoga, and sometimes before tea, I flip flop across the yard in a black cotton shift. The woods echo with random calls: roosters, frogs, dogs, the undertone of 3-M rock crushers grumbling beneath the occasional swish of tires on the dew-dampened asphalt of the Moncure Pittsboro Road.

I check the garden fences for sign of deer entry, check the birdbath, the ripening cantaloupe, and the cucumbers. I pull a few brown turkey figs—red and drooping on their tethers, barely past plump—and pop them into my mouth. Grass clippings collect on my feet and soon I look as if I’m padding across the lawn in fuzzy slippers.

On some days I’ll bring in a few roses, or eat some sun gold tomatoes, or snip a bucket of red peppers. The bugs don’t bother me, nor does the heat to come. I like the way the skin on my arms will shine, glistening like bronze, so much more alive then in the dead of winter after they’ve turned pale.

I dip water from our blue rain barrel, sluicing grass from my ankles, pouring it down over my legs. I slip out of my shoes and get the sturdy bottoms of my feet, the water warm as a lover’s kiss. Sometimes I plunge my arms into the barrel up to my elbows or shoulders, hanging over the curved lip like a spider monkey, smiling like an idiot.

“I love this so much,” I tell Bob. “It’s our swimming pool.”

I think of a picture I saw recently of adults hoisting cocktails, enjoying a waist-high soak in a $10,000, 10’ x 20’ mini pool and it occurs to me we could have one of these if we wanted one. But then I think about the chemicals, the filters, and the pumps and decide to stick with the rain barrel which only needs tipped and drained a couple of times a year. Even that chore—me with my torso inside, dabbing at the bottom sludge with a long-handled dish brush—gives me a certain kind of pleasure.

In the afternoon, I dodge the outdoor heat to play in the kitchen. I make summer salads and roasted pimento sauce to serve over pasta, boil sweet corn to go with sloppy joes, and caramelize onions, garlic, and summer squash, then smother them in molten parmesan.

It’s all spectacular and comforting: the bright gold finches bathing in their clean water bath, the warring hummers, and the cicada chorus. I enjoy visiting with friends on the porch, barefoot with a cold glass of ginger ale, our stories flowing languid and easy. I relish Sunday dinners eaten on our front porch. The road is quiet because the truckers are at home with their families. And I love the way afternoon clouds billow blindingly white, then turn into buttered popcorn after the sun slips behind the Leyland cypress.

I hope it never gets cold. I wouldn’t mind if the lawn stays green all year round, or the rain barrel never ices over. I don’t care if I never again have to zip up a jacket to take out the compost after dinner, or wear socks to bed.

Thanksgiving day walk at Jordan Lake

And now here we are, we made it to Thanksgiving weekend and we’re hiking at Jordan Lake Dam in the sun, mostly unzipped, ogling blue herons, cormorants, and bald eagles. Lapping up the warmth. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to have each other.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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