Summer in Laramie can be so perfect that you cling to every day, knowing that it doesn't last long. Tonight, I sat on our back patio, a light breeze adding just enough cool to the warm air to make it exceptionally nice. I looked around, realizing that from my vantage point, without moving from my chair, I could photograph a collection of objects that epitomize summer and home life.
Adirondack chair: My Dad made this for us out of cypress wood from the southeastern U.S. He lives in Virginia, and I don’t even remember how the chair made its way to Wyoming. Now, years later, it’s finally falling apart, but it’s hard to part with. I still use it to set things on—mostly plates of food to be grilled. And I can’t quite bring myself to throw it away, even as it becomes more unsittable.
Plastic patio chair: Like the one I’m sitting on. We bought four of these some years ago; I can’t remember how many. This year I hauled their cushions to the dump. They were too decrepit to use and had been stored in the garage and covered with dust, but the chairs still work. They aren’t as elegant as a handmade cypress Adirondack chair, but I sit in them anyway. We have four. For guests. Sometimes, when the clothesline is full, I hang socks over the backs of them to dry.
OldWeber grill: I live in a household of near-vegetarians. Ellen and Bei eat chicken if it is organic and stripped clean of skin and bones and chicken fat. Ellen also eats fish if it is absolutely fresh. I relish red meat, and lovingly grill 0.81 pound Safeway rib eye steaks when I can’t go without for one more minute. The grill is no longer air tight, so after I grill, all the charcoal burns up even when I put the lid back on. It would probably be cheaper to buy a new grill than to keep buying charcoal, but I haven’t gotten around to it.
Charcoal: A bag of charcoal with hickory somehow embedded, stored in the garage. It seems like a good idea to use charcoal that has hickory in it, even though I don’t really know what hickory tastes like.
Grill brush: This was a gift from my near-vegetarian family. I heard on NPR that a clean grate is the key to good grilling. Before I cook a rib eye, I scrape off the remains of the last one. And Ellen and Bei feel better that before I grill vegetables I make an effort to remove the beef.
Tomatoes: Ellen grows these every year, despite the short Laramie growing season. They taste way better than the ones at the store, but when the green ones start to appear on the plants, it means that summer is almost over. We move the plants into the laundry room before the tomatoes are ripe to save them from the first freeze, and we are usually well into winter snow before we finish eating the last fresh tomato.
Hose paraphernalia: Ellen is the gardener in the family, and we have lots of this kind of shit in the garage and house, attached to the hose bib, and scattered around the lawn. It’s complicated—valves and timers and couplings. I’m never sure which of it works and which has failed, so I don’t throw it away. Instead, it gets put into piles that then get moved out of the way, and we buy some more at the Ace Hardware up the street.
Rocks: These are rocks that we’ve collected when camping. We usually find good ones…too good to just leave laying on the ground. So we bring them home and store them on the fence. The winter wind in Laramie is strong enough to blow them off the fence, but we pick them up in the spring and put them back where they belong. Then we go look for more.
Hanging flower baskets: The idea is to have lovely hanging flowers around the house. We have some, but some we don’t get around to planting, and then winter comes again.
Woodpile: When we bought our house, I had a lot more energy for remodeling, so I bought a cord of wood and a stove to keep the garage warm when I was milling trim and upgrading the kitchen. Now I don’t want to work on the house ever again, so the woodpile is rotting away, sheltering rabbits and mice. Sometimes I take some for campfires if I remember to pack it into a plastic milk crate before I hit the road.
Clothesline: In the summer in Laramie, clothes dry faster on the line than they do in the dryer. This is true in the dry air of day and even by moonlight. It seems good to air dry clothes instead of burning natural gas in the dryer, but we don’t have quite enough clothes pins.
Cat platform: Our current cats (Henry and Psymon) are indoor cats (prisoners). Our last generation of cats (Ernie and Zopie) could come and go as they pleased, which may have contributed to their demise. I built this platform to provide them with a place to assess the backyard after they exited their cat door.
Tile mosaic (art): Bei made this tile mosaic during an art camp in Boulder, Colorado. We display it in the backyard, behind one of our patio chairs.
Last light: The last light of day on our neighbor’s tree. It’s surprising how often the light at the end of the day in Laramie in the summer is perfectly golden and warm, and it’s surprising how little time the trees have leaves on them to take advantage of it. When I see the golden light, I feel vaguely guilty that I’m sitting in the backyard instead of driving around to make more dramatic and meaningful photographs.
Cold margarita: A nice cold margarita (the ice melted) on our patio table. Just enough of a cocktail to encourage me to blog about stuff on our back patio.