Gladys begins her summer chapter thinking about friendships, and ponders how they have changed in recent times. Her book was publshed in 1974, which was wrought with divisive politics.
You may remember when I wrote about Susan Hill's spring, I talked about how we can't even talk about the weather now without it being polarizing well, in Gladys' summer she says that weather is about the only "safe" topic people can talk about!
The Vietnam war has been blamed for many things ... for we now tend to keep conversation superficial in case that other person does not agree with our policy. We keep our cool, as we say, by talking about the weather, and sometimes I imagine all of us in some balmy climate where it never changes. What would we find to discuss? Would we sink into a tropical silence?She proceeds to talk about how this situation isn't true with our true friends.
This has nothing to do with real friendship, of course. A close, warm friendship is as rugged as a fishing boat going out to the wild sea on a dark day when the tide is high. My own dearest friends do not agree with me on many things, but we can talk about anything and argue and argue, and there is benefit for both sides. For at the core of this relationship is a community of feeling which is basic and has nothing to do with disagreements about politics, going to the moon, or whether we need a new development in the middle of town.
We love and trust a true friend for what he or she is, and living is more enriched by the relationship than words can express. There is in each of us, I think, a deep loneliness, and friendship eases it immeasurably. How sad to think it is growing so scarce nowadays when we need it most.Wow! She could have written that yesterday. I've heard of friendships breaking up in our current times. I've actually heard people say they could not be friends with someone of a different political persuasion. I told someone recently that our best friends are completely opposite to us in their politics but that matters not a whit. We don't talk about politics because we don't need to. We have way more important things to discuss like our lives and our families. These are the people whom we love, and they love us for who we are, period. We are so lucky and so thankful.
She ends her writings about friendship with these words.
I hope deep friendships will become less rare in our time, especailly since this world has become so impersonal, so much a matter of computers and ratings and machinery. We are not Social Security numbers; we are all individuals, no two alike, every one a whole being needing to experience real relationships and to have the blessing of mutual trust and friendship as we make our common journey through life.Just a few years after this was written, Bob Seger sang, "I Feel Like A Number". There was this young man singing her thoughts. Gladys is ageless and timeless.
I expect at least a few of you just must hear the song now that I've put it into your heads, so here it is:
Then without skipping a beat, Gladys begins talking about preserving the flowers of summer with potpourri.
It was used in the very early sixteenth century by queens and princesses - partly, we have to admit, because with the lack of sanitation and plumbing the ancient castles were anything but sweet-smelling.She describes how to make it, and how her eleven year old granddaughter "invents her own combinations". And then Gladys reminded me of something I've done only once, but am encouraged to try again this year!
Simply take a good orange (or lemon) and stick cloves in it all over, as many as you can possibly poke in. Then tie a ribbon around the whole fruit and hang it from a hanger in the closet. The spicy odor is a treat. As the fruit dries, it becomes more fragrant, and it lasts a long time.She writes of the wonder of fresh corn.
Once you have picked your own corn and rushed to the house with it and shucked it and dropped it in already boiling water, something new has come into your life.So very true! This summer has been glorious with fresh corn for many suppers.
New Englanders are used to tourists, then and now, and it was interesting reading what Gladys had to say. I have written about the kind of love/hate relationship all of us have with tourists. We love them, they support the local economy, and in some cases keep it going. We love seeing and meeting new people. But we hate the traffic, the crowds, and the occasional not-so-kind encounters. Not much of which has anything to do with me. I don't work. I'm mostly home. But I do have some young friends who work in the service industries that have had some difficult times with tourists. And I've occasionally heard about some of the trash left behind in our pristine areas. But I've heard nothing as bad as what Gladys writes! She begins by saying that most are "thoughtful, gentle people we are proud to meet".
... they appreciate everything about New England that is different. (I remember one man who said to me with awe, "I never saw an old house before.")
My own horizon is widened as I hear about their home places and just what the weather is like in January.
It is a sad commentary that the vast numbers of these visitors we enjoy so much are not counted, whereas the small number who are obnoxious are made the main topic of conversation. Unfortunately, it is bad news that makes headlines because it is more dramatic.Same as it ever was! But then she gives examples which horrified me.
What we notice in midsummer tourist season is that all the roads are suddenly strewn with garbage tossed from departing cars and that kittens and puppies wander crying along the highways, dropped off en route. [I am sure this was as hard for her to notice and write about as it was for me to read] Raw holes appear where someone has dug up a treasure to take home. Roadside signs are torn up; lawn furniture left near the roadside vanishes. Mailboxes are knocked over.
Our first sad experience was when the wrought-iron Stillmeadow sign by the picket fence disappeared. It had come from a special place in Maine and had a really beautiful wrought-iron cocker in the middle of it. I've often wondered just where the thief could put it or whether it was finally thrown away.
I have done a lot of wondering about many things, but I have decided as far as summer tourists go that the explanation is simple. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. You pack your suitcases, close the house, arrange with the neighbors to pick up the papers and the mail, cancel the milk delivery, and so on. Then you drive off down the road. ... There is no solution to this problem for those of us who live with a summer season. After Labor Day we can get the community to clean up the roadsides, take the trash to the dump, put up new road signs, fill in the holes, and so on.Here is a picture of the sign.
Gladys goes on to write of August's heat, and dreaming of snow and icicles. And then she writes of a subject dear to my heart.
There are two theories in my valley about defeating the heat. One is to keep all the windows shut all day, open them at night, and shut them at sunrise. The other is to leave every window in the house open and let whatever breeze there may be drift lazily in. I prefer this, for I love open windows.Well, I have always, always been the latter. I'm an open window girl. But I am the living example that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks! As I wrote here, we got some window air-conditioners, and they have really changed my life. Even if they are not used every day, those hot, hot days are now bearable to me. I can continue with my life instead of feeling limp and half dead. And really, I must thank my daughter and her husband for the example. Matt is a keep-all-the-windows closed kind of fellow, and I had to admit that their house was a lot cooler than ours on the stifling days. And then they put in a couple window ACs, and man, the difference was even more marked, so I gave in, and am so happy I did!
And because of this new way of living, for the first time in ages I could feel the words of Shakespeare which Gladys quotes. "Summer's lease hath all too short a date." I loved this summer.
I was pleased when she wrote
I am happy to say a good many experts now feel even dieters should eat some potatoes, because they have something no other vegetable has. And they also do something to raise the spirits in a special way.An interesting side note is I was watching an episode of the 1990s British television show, Pie in the Sky, when a man who had been two years sober tells a friend that he is having a bit of a hard time, and so he eats pototoes! They somehow give him a bit of the feeling he got from alcohol.
You may know that Gladys' house was built in 1690! It has a "coffin door" in the cellar. It was so coffins could be carried downstairs and out to the waiting wagons.
I believe a very old house holds its memories of all the lives that have been spent there. Some of them must have been sorrowful and some happy, some difficult, some easy. But there is an overtone of happiness in this house which most people feel as they come in. ... Houses all have personalities, at least to me, quite apart from the furnishings and décor and style, but this sturdy, ancient farmhouse has a special gentleness built into it. It is one reason we never felt restless. I said traveling is all very well if you can get home at night. I would be willing to go around the world if I came back in time to light the candles and set the table for supper.That could be me talking. This woman who lived from 1899 to 1980 is as alive to me as can be.