Category Archives: Book of Days Calendar

Love Calls Us to the Things of this World, or Your August Book of Days

And so with this first day of August we welcome Lammas, the old festival of the first harvest. Summer’s bounty is ripening all around us, and even here in Florida, where we grow things at a schedule mostly topsy-turvy from the rest of the country (our vegetable growing season begins next month, in September) there are usually figs ripening on the trees about now. When I was much younger than I am now, one of our neighbors had a fig tree. They also happened to be snowbirds: they spent the winters in Lighthouse Point, where we lived year round, but they went to New York for the summers. Which meant their figs would be left for the birds if we didn’t gather them ourselves, and so we ate many figs in Augusts gone by.

Now we get them at the market, and that’s good, too. I love them quartered or halved and drizzled with honey, a taste the very essence of late summer. We got our first ones just this week, and so it seemed right that our cover star for your Convivio Book of Days calendar for August should be that humble and delicious fig. These are Brown Turkey figs, though I am waiting patiently for my favorites, the white varieties: Kadota and Calimyrna. Perhaps this year I’ll finally poach fresh figs in wine, one of the recipes I’ve been pondering for many summers now.

As for the calendar, it is printable on standard US Letter size paper, and is a nice companion to the blog. If all goes well, I will write in the blog about most of these August red letter days. But my goal this month is also to complete the proposal for what I hope will be the “real book” version of the Convivio Book of Days. A blog is good, but I am an ink-and-paper person, a man who loves books. I realized that a few weeks back when I found an old 19th century book I had remembered reading years ago: Observations on Popular Antiquities by John Brand. I found it in the university library, and I checked it out. It was the first library book I’ve checked out in a long while, and it felt good to do so. The librarian handed me the book and told me when it was due, and I left with this wonderful gift and got some lunch and sat to eat and opened my book and traveled to 19th century England.

The figs drizzled in honey and the old book borrowed from a library both called to mind for me the words that Richard Wilbur used to title a poem: “Love calls us to the things of this world.” As summer begins its certain transition to autumn this Lammastide, this is what I think of. I wish you these good things, too, and everything else that means much to you this late summertime.

 

Hello Sunshine: Your July Book of Days

It’s the First of July: Canada Day and my birthday, and maybe this explains why folks often think I’m from there. (I’m not, but I was a speech therapy kid when I was in elementary school, and I wonder if my attempts at good diction make me sound Canadian.) We’re also on the cusp of the Dog Days of Summer, those days ruled by Sirius, the dog star, traditionally considered the hottest part of the year.

On this First of July I come with our monthly gift to you… and so here is your Convivio Book of Days calendar for July. Sol, or sun: this is our cover star for the month, for it is hot as blazes here in Lake Worth these days and the sun is strong. This sun image hangs on our back yard fence, hidden by the guava tree for the most part. But every now and then I’ll bump into it, like I did yesterday, and I remember that Arthur Jaffe gave us this sun image when he moved from his home to a smaller place. It’s nice to run into reminders of old friends, no? So maybe this is what July should be about, for all of us. Reconnecting, in one way or another.

 

Circle of Days, or Your June Book of Days

It’s summer, so maybe I’ve begun to take things slow. Forgive me, then, for the slow-as-molasses posting of your June Convivio Book of Days calendar. The month, as Book of Days ceremonies go, has a slow start, with nothing much going on until the 13th. Once things get rolling, though, they do get pretty exciting. We start with the feast of St. Anthony, progress to Flag Day and Father’s Day. There are a couple of literary holidays in there, too: Bloomsday on the 16th honors James Joyce and his novel Ulysses, while St. John’s Eve on the 23rd is the night that William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes place. It is the month of the solstice, and it is St. John’s Day on the 24th that is that Old Midsummer Day.

Midsummer? When summer’s has just begun? Yes, the almanac tells us that summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere with the solstice, but if that is the longest day, wouldn’t that day be the height of summer? Anyway, our ancestors thought so, hence that traditional monicker of Midsummer. There is some sense to their way of thinking, and we will explore that world view as the solstice gets closer.

Cover star on this month’s calendar: another of our native Florida plants, the Coontie, also known as Florida Arrowroot. Coontie is more the more common Seminole name. The leaves are just coming in as June arrives, bright green.

Even the coontie plants we thought were long dead in our yard (like the one beneath the bamboo, near the outdoor shower) have new growth. The plant is the source of an edible starch called arrowroot (as in arrowroot cookies) and is of supreme importance to the atala butterfly, for the atala lays its eggs on the coontie, and when the caterpillars hatch, the coontie leaves are what they eat. The plants get decimated by the caterpillars each year, but then they spin their cocoons on the same plants, and before you know it, atala butterflies are everywhere in the yard. The atala, a small black butterfly with irredescent blue spots and an orange tail, was thought extinct until not all that long ago, and I love that all of this goes on right here under our noses in our sandy Lake Worth yard. Circle of days, circle of life. That’s what this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar is all about.

 

Top image: the lovely prehistoric looking seed cones of the coontie. Middle image: new growth on the plant. By the way, if you, too, have coontie plants in your yard, don’t go harvesting the roots to make arrowroot cookies; coontie is one of those plants that is poisonous until the extracted starch is prepared just right. It’s a complex process and an old Florida industry perhaps better left in the past. My advice? Buy your arrowroot cookies at the supermarket. Enjoy the coontie for what it is: lovely plant and host of the atala.

 

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