Friday, September 6, 2013

On Bristol Pond

Change is in the air in Vermont. Hot, hazy days of summer have given way to crystalline skies and breezes that feel like cool silk on your skin. The color palette in the meadows and mountains has started to shift from vibrant greens to deeper, muted tones. In my extended family, a lot of change has happened recently as well: a wedding, a funeral, and my oldest daughter Isabel headed off to college for the first time.

Although there’s nothing more gratifying for a parent than watching your child move out into the world with confidence and enthusiasm for the next chapter of her life, I still catch myself at dinnertime pulling four napkins out for the table. And I have to confess that when I bought our train tickets (we took her down to Columbia by train), I mistakenly booked a return ticket for her also.

In the midst of all the transitions these past few weeks, Chris and I found some time to go for a kayak on Bristol Pond. About three miles north of our house, this pond is really more of a lake and is one of the best places around for a quiet paddle and an up close view of the front range of the Green Mountains. Some of the trees on Hogback Mountain are just starting to show a hint of the brilliant foliage they’ll display in a few weeks.

Bristol Pond is also a great place for birdwatching. Not that Chris and I are very knowledgeable birdwatchers, but it’s hard to miss a diving Osprey,

or a Great Blue Heron standing watch

or taking off. 

We also regularly pick out Kingfishers, Red-winged Blackbirds, and even a Bald Eagle, perched high on the top of a tree, its white head unmistakable.

The shoreline is home to turtles and snakes (Bristol Pond is legendary for its snakes, but fortunately they’ve always stayed a good distance from us), pretty plants like swamp azaleas and lily pads, 

and the occasional interesting piece of tree art. 

The pond can sometimes be smooth as glass, with happy water striders skating across its surface. But other times it’s choppy enough to make for a rough and nerve-wracking ride back to the launch. When the girls were little, all four of us would go out on the pond in our canoe. One time, when Faye was around two, she almost went overboard, not because of rough waters, but because she was reaching for lily pad. We can’t all fit in the canoe at one time anymore, and mostly now anyway it’s just Chris and I going out in the kayaks.

Oddly, this seasonal shift has long been my favorite time of year, even though it marks the end of summer and the days are getting noticeably shorter. I think it has to do with my own school-age associations with back-to-school and the energy, excitement, and renewal it would bring. I just wish it would last longer; that these brief few weeks would stretch out over the next few months, staving off the bare trees and the sharper breezes to come. 

Another reason I love this time of year is because of tomatoes—vine ripe tomatoes that are so plentiful we can hardly keep up with them. 

We pop them in our mouths right out of the garden, toss them with pasta, and slice them into salads, like this one made with watermelon and snipped herbs. 

 Before Isabel left, she helped me gather a batch, 

and I made gazpacho—the smooth kind like I had for the first time this past spring in Spain

It tastes like a garlicky tomato smoothie, and has a luscious, creamy consistency, but without any added cream. 

Unlike cooked tomato soup, which I make every September and freeze in batches, this soup is best eaten fresh and in the moment, at this singular time of year. 

Andalucian Gazpacho
I created this recipe based on other recipes for classic gazpacho, but I increased the garlic and decreased the vinegar so it tastes like the best one I had in Granada. The more olive oil you add, the richer and creamier it will taste.

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 T vinegar (preferably sherry, but balsamic works fine)
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine everything in a blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then enjoy!


  1. What a wonderful blog! Best wishes to Isabel, and may your family have a fantastic autumn!

    1. Thanks, Gail. I'm guessing you know the feeling well having watched Laura move out into the world. I hope you have a fantastic autumn too!