Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Last Cosmos of Summer

Although we are well into September, summer still dallies on the Upper West Side; sunlight and blue sky have smiled continuously upon the brownstones this weekend. Yet an undeniable hint of a chill is in the air, and I haven't turned the air conditioning on for days. When I rode out to Piermont yesterday with JSH, ZH, and SS, I almost wished I had stuffed a pair of arm warmers into my jersey pockets; each time we stopped on our three hour loop I became cold within minutes. Still, I like the anticipation of Fall, and I particularly like it in New York City. The season evokes a kaleidoscope of experiences and memories for me: cyclocross races and the Apple Festival in Ithaca; jack o' lanterns and fiery leaves resting on the brownstone stoops in my New York City neighborhood; cold late afternoon runs in brilliant sunshine through Golden Gate Park with my old cross-country team. 

With the beginning of a new school year and business quarter--bear in mind that this is only the third Fall since I was two that hasn't seen me marching off to school--Fall also signifies a time to re-assess my current habits and practices. And so, unable to face the post-Rosh Hashanah/pre-Yom Kippur crush at Fairway this afternoon, I decided to embrace the seasonal spirit of new beginnings and place my first order at Fresh Direct. One would think that oatmeal, tea, potatoes, and one giant fillet of wild Pacific halibut--among a few other sundries--would not necessitate an online grocery order, but one would need to understand not only how little I desired to force myself through the crowded aisles with a heavy basket and then lug my grocery bags eight blocks home, but also how much Fall makes me miss shopping at the Ithaca Wegman's.

Yes, you read that right. I LOVE the Ithaca Wegman's, and I especially love it at the beginning of September, when its thousands of square feet would burst with mountains of local apples and jugs of apple cider. I loved the wide open aisles and the huge organic produce section, and the fact that I was always able to find every single thing on my list. And I loved how familiar Wegman's was to me, in spite of the delectable surprises that often awaited inside. I loved that I knew the fish guy at the fish counter, that I knew the man who sliced my turkey at the deli and the woman who picked out my favorite Pont-l'Évêque at the cheese counter, that I knew where to pluck Yorkshire Gold off the shelves in the enormous Imported Foods aisle, and that I knew where to find the chocolate-covered macadamia nuts in the model train-ringed bulk foods alcove. I even loved searching for my Subaru in a sea of Subarus in the gigantic Wegman's parking lot. I loved that I could take my time and think while I looked--for anything.

But since I no longer live in Ithaca, just as it's now no longer summer, it's time to find some new things to love. Clicking through the Fresh Direct links, I quickly liked that I could easily review and reject things in my cart, that I didn't have to engage in basket-to-basket combat with any other shoppers, and, most importantly, that I could go back (a swiftly jettisoned tactic in any assault on the Fairway battlefield). Still, the whole experience was a little too sterile for my liking, so after scheduling my delivery, I headed out to my absolute favorite grocery shopping experience in Manhattan--the 77th Street Greenmarket. There stood my favorite peach purveyor and crates of wax beans, the farmer with the cider doughnuts and the beekeeper from the Berkshires. And as I walked back home with a heavy bag of apples and haricots verts, I noticed, standing prettily in a giant tin canister, the last cosmos of summer, a parting gift from the sun and the blue sky before Autumn's first frost. Just as they've brightened the Spanish mission gardens on the West Coast for hundreds of years, the cosmos now brighten my living room desk, and serve as both a reminder of all the things I love that won't return for a few more seasons, as well as a portent of all the new things to come.

Cosmos: the harmonious, well-ordered whole of the floral world


  1. Ooo! Wegman's :) You might not be in school this fall but you just earned an "A+" from me for capturing the wonder of the Ithaca Wegman's. Thank you.

  2. Welcome to the dark side, Caitlin. I'll take sterility over combat shopping any day.