Last night, about 11 o’clock, the Chef and I were laying on the grassy hillside across from his restaurant. It was the longest day of the year, so light still lingered in the sky to the west, twilight blue beneath glowering clouds. It had been a day of disappointment, and some small stresses that felt enormous in that moment. I needed him beside me.
All winter, I long for summer. As much as I try to enjoy what each season brings, in the back of my mind, summer light plays in my mind. Liquid and forgiving, strong and insistent, and yet gentle — the light of Seattle summers is like no other. And of course, in spite of my newfound love for celeriac and lacinato kale, after a time, I just long for strawberries. One single strawberry, perfectly ripe.
And now, here they are. In every market I have visited in the last two weeks, green cartons filled with plump strawberries sit in enticing formations, luring me near them. For weeks, I have eaten strawberries. I have been bringing them home and eating them in the afternoon, leaving little green crowns on the saucer sitting next to the computer. I have gobbled them all up.
But somehow, in all this luscious sustenance of early summer — the pliable bite between the lips, the dotted seeds caught between my teeth, the sweet intoxication of red strawberries eaten one after the other — I have forgotten to slow down and really taste each one.
That’s what my life feels like right now.
We moved into our lovely home nearly three weeks ago, and boxes still sit on all the floors, some of them opened, most of them not. Only a week after we moved in, I traveled to New York, and Richmond, and met my editors and gave talks. After I returned home, grateful to be in the arms of the Chef again, we only had one day off before he returned to a grueling week of work. And I taught cooking classes and traveled around the city visiting farmers’ markets for a piece in a magazine and visited every butcher shop in Seattle for another piece and worked on the next column for the magazine in which I appear every three months. I want to update this site more regularly, but I rarely have a free hour in front of the computer to just wander through the words the way I like to do here. There were emails to answer and articles to write and pieces to edit and marvelous surprises beyond that. And every one of them — all of them, each and every one — was a tremendous joy.
But when you eat without breathing between each bite, you lose your sense of taste.
Oh, and there is this wedding thing.
You see, the Chef and I are getting married, in three weeks, and three days.
Our wedding will be a blissful bout of silliness, a wonderfully relaxed day (with three days of events with family and friends before it). We are having a gluten-free potluck, with food-allergy-sensitive cards for all the guests. Friends are playing music, taking photographs, doing the flowers, and bringing the speakers to play all our favorite songs. I’ll be wearing my red cowboy boots, and a beautiful white wedding dress. We’ll dance all day. We will eat well. Mostly, we will laugh.
And finally, thank goodness, I will be married to the Chef.
I hate the word fiancé now. It sounds so pretentious, that word. So waiting in limbo.
But that’s what I feel like — waiting in limbo.
We have known we will be married for nearly a year. We have lived together, laughed together, and eaten together for over a year. We feel married.
Can’t we just be married already?
Don’t misunderstand. Our wedding planning has been so fluid and easy that we feel as though we are lucky. We are skipping the vast behemoth that is the American wedding. The wedding industrial complex — that’s what I have been calling it lately. When people hear that I am getting married soon, they look at me and take in a sharp breath. “Oh, the bride!” they say to me, as though I should be a neurotic mess, tearing my hair, stomping my feet, and breaking into tears. It’s as though I have the right to demand that the world lift me on its shoulders, so my feet don’t have to touch the ground for the next three weeks.
“Pshaw,” I say. “I’m not like that.”
But the fact is, I have been eating too many strawberries, too fast. If all I had to do right now was complete the last-minute details for our wedding? I’d be fine. It’s the articles and emails and editing and proofreading the manuscript of my book and unpacking the house and changing the addresses with every company and worrying about getting passports in time for Italy and trying to find that red shirt in a box I know it must be somewhere and.…
I lay next to the Chef in the grass, crying because I was damned stressed. “Maybe I should just admit it. I’m overwhelmed.”
He rolled over in the grass, and turned his face toward mine. He had been laying beside me, holding my hand, just letting me send my words and worries to the sky. He had been listening. But after I stopped talking, he rolled toward me and looked me in the eyes. “I love you. I always will. And I love you more, now that you’ve just been vulnerable with me like this.” He leaned his face into mine, and I saw the last light of the sky in his eyes.
I remembered, again. That sky, it’s always there. Clouds may cover it, squalls may arise, and storms can seem to last for an awfully long time. But behind it, through it, always there — that vast, blue sky.
That’s what my love for the Chef feels like.
He leaned in and kissed me, just a simple small kiss on the lips.
That’s all I needed.
Sometimes, the taste of a single strawberry feels as big as that vast blue sky.