I had accepted a summer internship--a ministry role with a local camp, providing much-needed practical experience in my chosen field of Youth Ministry, and earning the credits I was awaiting as I worked my way toward graduation. Somewhere early in that summer my mother crafted a list for what we called "A Very Vineyard Summer," posting it on the refrigerator and checking off the activities as we experienced them. Whether picking strawberries from a local farm (my mother always insisted the high prices presumed a certain amount of field consumption), visiting a favorite beach for an evening sunset, or eating breakfast at the famed Black Dog, we dove into that summer and devoured each and every day. Somewhere along the way there was a wonderful newspaper editorial naming every season of Vineyard life a satisfying meal, but declaring summer "the banquet." We ate ourselves into a stupor that summer, figuratively and literally--capping off the three months together with a James Taylor concert at then Great Woods in Mansfield, MA. It was a very Vineyard summer indeed.
Eight months later my mother was gone, dead of pancreatic cancer that crept into her body long before it crept into our vocabulary. We knew of her cancer for only a month prior to her death, but there are days when I know that our very Vineyard summer sprung out of a place of deep knowing--a recognition that defies conscious awareness, but guides and leads our actions nevertheless. That summer was a fine, fine gift, and I treasure it still.
Perhaps because of these summer memories, I've approached summer as the banquet ever since. In our new Connecticut home, we have what I call "an embarrassment of riches"--our napkins are tucked in at our necks, our silverware raised, and we're eating course after course after course of a life of beauty and delight. The summer's treasures thus far....
- Basketball, bikes and tennis in our expansive driveway and yard--some evenings we bounce the tennis ball off the kids' helmets as they circle us full-speed on their bikes.
- The July 3rd (it rained on the 4th!) concert at Hartford Symphony's summer home in Simsbury, followed by fireworks worthy of a far larger community than this.
- Experimental vegetable gardening--no harvest yet due to late planting, but the fun of watching edible life springing out of the ground from seeds as small as the eye can behold.
- More concert pleasures....two Lori McKenna concerts, one with Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
- Fruit, fruit and more fruit purchased from local farm stands and our many area grocery stores--the juice literally drips down our chins and necks as we suck down these delights.
- Evening drives to the many destinations near our new home--the large sycamore tree along the Farmington River is a favorite.
- And what would a list of summer pleasures be without another mention of our trip to New Hampshire's Storyland, many days visiting Auntie in Boston and Grandma and Grandpa in upstate New York, and two blissful days with my niece from Oregon visiting us in CT. Heaven on earth in many different forms!
Our dear friends have just packed their car and pulled away from an overnight visit of laughter, loud shouts from children playing happily together, and countless hours sitting on the screen porch watching the sun move across the sky in yet another perfect arc. From this weekend banquet I feel filled to capacity--as though I couldn't eat another bite. The tents are up in the yard, though, and a summer storm is rolling in--let the next course begin....