Henry James thought “summer afternoon” were the two most beautiful words in the English language. Shakespeare found a “summer’s day” the benchmark of all things lovely and temperate. If I may join this illustrious company for a moment, I think “summer morning” evokes the sweetest feeling.
It’s an early summer morning as I write, sitting on a bench in the shade by my little pond. The air is full of birdsong, and fragrant with iris and ferns. The goldfish are splashing, a frog just ribbeted, a breeze is rustling the leaves of the trees as fluffy clouds drift across the blue sky — it’s one delicious summer cliché after another. Even the plane droning overhead has a lazy, summery sound. All would be tranquil if it weren’t for our neighbor’s trio of guinea hens, who wander around screeching in alarm at who-knows-what.
Perhaps they’ve just heard the latest bad news. We’re battered by it day after day — but at least we can take refuge in our homes. Although a European vacation (or even a domestic one) may be beyond reach just now, it’s never been easier to transform your own backyard into a retreat. You can find garden furniture that’s so beautifully crafted you could use it indoors (see some locally made pieces on page h6). Full-blown alfresco kitchens are a hot trend (and building one can add to your home’s value — as can adding a pool house if you’re lucky enough to have a pool).
But all you really need is a picnic table, some sturdy chairs, and a simple grill to take part in one of the season’s most sublime pleasures — eating fresh food in the fresh air. Some of my happiest memories of summer are of outdoor dinner parties — at friends’ homes, or in our own garden on the patio. (You’ll find some recipes for easy entertaining on page h34.) However you spend it, here’s wishing you a season full of every delicious summer cliché.
Finally, an apology to the one-time owners of Windswept Farm, which we featured in the spring Makeover issue. The farm, in its pre-makeover incarnation, was apparently much loved and not in such disrepair as we implied. We regret any distress we may have unwittingly caused.