The end of summer. Early this morning a sunrise of golden flame, spectacular, shining through a glittering shower of rain. I’ve never seen anything like it. Trick of cloud light, I assume. The house and garden, the roads and fields, the trees and mountains enveloped in a golden radiance and quickness, shimmering and on fire.
“When you have lived as long as I, you will see that every human being has his shell, and that you must take the shell into account. By the shell I mean the whole envelope of circumstances. There is no such thing as an isolated man or woman; we are each of us made up of a cluster of appurtenances. What do you call one’s self? Where does it begin? Where does it end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us—and then flows back again. One’s self—for other people—is one’s expression of one’s self; and one’s house, one’s clothes, the books one reads, the company one keeps – these things are all expressive.”
— Henry James
Now it is raining, steamy summer rain drenching the garden ( a friend has just brought me some aloes to plant out and I must get muddy and dig holes but not until the rain stops pounding down). The bored housebound dogs are sitting at the back door staring at the falling rain, each yawning in turn. Standing at the counter I have finished stoning and cutting up peaches for a dessert of peach crumble or peach cobbler.
From a letter to a friend:
Childhood memories again. In Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Charles Dickens, he writes about the prodigious and vital nature of childhood recollections and then gives one of Dickens’ earliest memories (Dickens was born in 1812, just more than 200 hundred years ago for us as we enter 2013). He recalled the family home in Portsmouth, that bustling sea port, and himself at two years old, carried downstairs to a ground-floor room where he saw ‘a very long row of of ladies and gentlemen sitting against a wall, all drinking at once out of little glass cups with handles, like custard cups…‘ and Ackroyd seizes on this detail, the strangeness of this silent row of people all drinking with heads thrown back, perched in a row with their backs against the wall, their bewigged heads and buckled shoes, offering a rare glimpse into the lived world that stretched back into the 18th century that those ladies and gentlemen had known, a world now lost to us, the reality of men and women who had grown up in the 1700s.
Thinking how once as a child I mentioned the ‘big battles of World War II’ to an elderly retired naval commander seated on a bench in the park, a bleached straw boater set straight back from his forehead.
‘No. no,’ he said to me. ‘The big war was the Great War. That changed everything for us, that is the war nobody could ever forget.’ Then he put his hand up over his eyes and I could see the wetness on his cheeks, this very old man of 85. History stepping up out of the past, still alive.
Back to the peaches simmering away in a cup of water with two cloves and a little organic sugar added, a splash of fresh lemon juice; the fragrance of peaches filling the house. I’m going to use the crisp topping I found at 101 Cookbooks and won’t cook the peaches for too long because I don’t want a sweet mush. Heidi Swanson’s recipes never fail.
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
big pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup yogurt
To make the topping combine the oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Stir in the butter, and then the yogurt and mix until everything comes together in a dough-like texture. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the peach mixture.
Place the baking dish in the oven, middle rack, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is golden. Sprinkle a bit more sugar on top as it comes out of the ovens, and if you have a lemon on hand, grate a bit of zest on top (optional). Enjoy warm or at room temperature.