“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Never has there been an August in my life quite so exactly as this one. "Strange, breathless days, dog days" they are indeed. We've all been led to do things we are are sure sorry for after, and sometimes I think I've been transported to a different world, unfamiliar and bare. But there have been these days in my life this year when we have traveled away. Far away. Where the summers are cool and green and the people there live.
Larkrise and Candleford.
Many has been the day my sisters and I, with Mama, have sat down to fly away to these real places, seeking refuge from the hot days of August and listening to life as it should be listened to. For the people in these towns turn us from discouragement, make us see a beauty in life again. Make all the more real the hope in our God we love. Lately, we were in sore need of it! So we decided to have a tea party. A Larkrise and Candleford tea party. You didn't need to dress up, but I wanted to dearly. So I did. I looked more like a Candleford girl, but I think I'd be from Larkrise, a hamlet girl, more. Sad to say, I had nothing which even resembled the peasant girls' dresses. That, however, will soon be remedied completely!
So we took a day, when we were all home. At twelve it began and lasted till nearly four o'clock! Aren't long tea parties heavenly?
Biscuits! I'm always reminded of Winnie the Pooh and the Heffalump Story when Lumpy says, "Do you have any Rumpledoodles?" And Roo says, "What's that?" "They're like biscuits. They go rather well with honey!" Well, these lovely things go rather well with our tea, and cinnamon and sugar on top, too!
I always love the preparation of delightful goings on before a party when, scattered about the kitchen, you find the odds and ends that make a party beautiful. The tea cups here, the unwashed strawberries there, and the tea pots, sitting blithely on the counter, waiting for the whistle meaning their job is come!
These cucumber sandwiches . . . I could eat these cucumber sandwiches . . . all day long. True, I would get fat. True, I would probably keel over or drop dead when I had eaten them all, but! Cucumber sandwiches are "my one weakness"! You must watch Larkrise to find the true meaning of this sentence!
I have decided to call these Rumpledoodles all the time. They are not really biscuits, nor are the tarts, or really even scones, though I'm sure they could be if we wanted them to. But they are, most decidedly, Rumpledoodles. No other name fits them in my mind.
Ah, the tea! a la HOT! Sugar and cream, Minnie! We must have sugar and cream!
With the falling, rising violin of the Larkrise theme song singing to us, calling to us, we gather round the beauty! Can you believe, this was our lunch that day. Tea, Rumpledoodles, more tea, lots of cucumber sandwiches, tea, sugar cubes, strawberries, apples, tea, and more tea.
Strawberries and cream! The cream made a delightful plop into your bowl as you scooped it up! Second helpings were definitely in order after hearing that sound. And thirds. Plus the fourths, of course, that came afterward when you surely couldn't help yourself.
Don't forget a spoon for your tea! Stir it clockwise, and for heaven's sake, do NOT clink it on the sides of your cup. Indeed, it shouldn't even touch the bottom! . . . though I'm not sure how you'd get all the sugar up, for it has surely melted from the cubes and is resting at the bottom. And what's the joy in having tea when you can't even taste the sugar?
Mama bought us all tea cups. And when it's not in use it gives my bookshelves such atmosphere!
No, I am certain now. My one weakness IS the cucumber sandwiches!
Off we fled! To the wild, beautiful lands of England. Is England wild? I don't know. I've never actually been there, though I have sometimes. Anyway, from Larkrise to Laura in the Candleford post office, we fall, completely away from the dry summer to those green fields, and harvest time.
We stop for a bit of Raspberry/Blueberry Ice with Lavender. So delicious! And can you guess what we sang? "Now, then what would nice? We'll start with Raspberry Ice, and then some cakes and tea."
Well, we really had cakes and tea first at our party. But we "ordered what we willed", and there was no bill! . . . except we had to finish laundry for the day and wash the dishes, dry them, and put them away. But I think that was the least we could. Otherwise, we might have left them for Minnie to do, but we "persisterenced" and did them anyway. For Minnie is a dear, dear girl and we all love her.
And such was our party. Come from nowhere, decided on a whim, because we love whims, they make fond memories. But all too soon, thrust we were back into August. The second week of August, to "strange, breathless days" surrounding us . . .
"Dying is easy," he said, "it's living that's hard." But with these "dog days" and "sunsets smeared too much with color", though the living be hard, you find them. They're the shadows on the window sills. The leaves covering a cluster of strawberries bright under a blanket of green. They're the in betweens, the train whistles howling. The Larkrisers. The Milky Way being deeper, and brighter, and so more full of stars than before . . .