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September 5, 2006
A quiet little picnic yesterday, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. We hoped to see a lot of Ethel -- she loves picnics, and usually shows off for everyone. But she was not around, although Cheri lurked with her camera for a long time -- even What's-Her-Name consented to a photo session -- but no Ethel Merman. Only I caught one fleeting glimpse of her, and I am not sure anyone else believed me when I reported it. Maybe it wasn't even Ethel; it was clear across the back yard, and I couldn't see it very well. Maybe it was someone else. Maybe Ethel's gone south.

We feel that summer is over now, although its official end isn't for another three weeks. The consensus is that it has flown by with unseemly haste. New York City schools opened today; ours will open in a day or two. People are starting to return the calls that piled up in their voice mail during the summer and, reluctantly, to schedule meetings. Q and I had a calendar session this morning, always a sobering procedure. The fringes of Hurricane Ernesto brought down some big trees in town, including one on my elder daughter's house, so there will be some insurance work and repair work in her future. And the anniversary of the World Trade Center attack is just a week away, five unbelievable years.

I am a bit of a slowpoke these days, and I am working hard on summoning my usual excitement about the autumn. I have always loved it: the brisking of the night air, the carpet of fallen leaves, the dusty blend of colors as the flowers fade. I even love their sudden collapse into limp images of their former selves on the morning after the first frost -- there they lie, ready to reenter the cycle of life that brought them to their summer glory. They manage to live and die. They do it without weeping over how short their lives are. If they can do it, I can do it.

How lovely it has been! How hot and how bright! How good it has smelled, and how we have loved it! Let summer settle quietly into the browns and golds of its autumn bed, and let us head inside where the people are, where the fire is, where soup is cooking on the stove and the radio plays the music we love. Let us read and write and draw; let us learn to knit.

I am excited already.

On Long Island or in the City? Come to St. John's Cold Spring Harbor Brown Bag Lunch this Thursday! A lovely old church, a beautiful pond with turtles and beavers, and Barbara Crafton is coming to help us kick off our new season of luncheons. Please join us with your brown bag lunch and hopefully a friend or two. For information and directions, call 631-549-0547 or visit
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