In half an hour the morning birds will start their song but now it it still dark and quiet but for the sound of the dog's feet padding across the wooden floor to my bed.
The 4th of July weekend is here; an enormous US holiday -- families travel to see loved ones, fling themselves into cars hurtling toward the beach, pack picnics to have under a shady tree in a park. Children reveal secreted boxes containing paper twists of firecrackers in anticipation of the fireworks which will come on Sunday as night falls, all over Southern California, and all over the country. From some vantage points above the Pacific Ocean you can see three, four, five, even six different fireworks shows, exploding simultaneously, making you giddy with childhood nostalgia.
The air is warm. Summer has firmly arrived. We get up earlier, walk before most people are up, avoiding cars, the glare of the sun. There is mist in the morning -- my favorite time of the day -- when the world is new and impossible optimism floods into your brain with the endorphins of climbing hills. There are apple trees and roses now, and euphorbia -- which may as well be named euphoria for its jolly yellow/green visage -- and the farmers markets are full of peaches, spring onions, butter lettuce, and lately, figs.
It is the season of the fig. At seven I'm off to the La Canada/Flintridge farmers market to find figs for my salad. The fruits mark the season.
Contemplating the nature of friendship, as one does infrequently and at inopportune times -- I was stuck in traffic on Crescent Heights, late again. I happened to be sitting on a very comfortable sofa in Santa Monica reading Christopher Hitchens' memoir Hitch22 and there was a melon, a lovely cold melon which had been sitting in the ice box. She was cutting it in the kitchen into pale orange squares. "You must have some melon" she said. There were cold grapes too. And thus, this is how friends celebrate summer. Quietly, with cold melon, surrounded by children's puppets and a garden filled with birds nests. Or walking in the Laurel Hills with a dog that resembles a Tibetan Temple Dragon, hearing about Donna's recipe for pesto. Or sitting on a warm night with four women, glasses of icy rose, trying to deconstruct the Mexican macho culture which replaces neutered dogs' testicles with neuticles, for the sake of appearances (it must be true: I heard it on NPR). With a big moon, a honey moon. And one has a new house with a silver-lined mirror-balled rave room. We laugh politely. And one has had a shitty day at the office. We comiserate. And one had a disastrous blind date. We offer alternatives.
And then you find yourself out for supper, and there are artichokes and marble-topped tables. Men wear pink shirts, their hair still wet from the shower. Women in summer dresses, peach-colored shawls, order glasses of wine, bottles of fizzy water. The waitress is hurried. And the girl/woman will endure eight hours of chemo in the morning. A beautiful girl in her 30s. Just married. Both blissfully in love. And he looks at her as if the bottom has dropped out of his world. "How do you deal with this stuff here?" she says "When there is this oversharing? I don't want everyone to know. I don't want to tell everyone in my yoga class why I'm here, why now. Why do I have to?" And you swap platitudes and remind her of her youth, her strength, her vitality. "You can pull through this" you say. And later in the night you think, how do you deal with the shock of such a diagnosis? And the advice thrown at you from everyone. Do chemo. Don't do chemo. Do this chemo. See the water guy in Burbank -- he'll heal you with his special distillates. Eat only vegetables. Take vitamins. Go to Sedona. Meditate. Pray. Avoid soy products.
Friends listen. They sit across the table from you and they let you talk without trying to compete. Or they wait for you to stop panting from running up that hill so that you can speak. And they don't laugh when you can't. Or they give you melon and let you read. Or they sit outside under the moon and laugh with you. Or they say "Come see I am Love. And I've bought your ticket."