Setting the table

We end up with each others' dishes. This cut-glass bowl, that oval casserole, the plain white plate that no one has ever claimed. All summer they pass from supper to supper along the shore. Ours are blue and white, bits of formerly matched sets, the ones that have not yet slid from our fingers to crack apart during washing-up in the wee hours, the ones that are not stacked at the back of a neighbour's cupboard from that time we brought over a plate piled with smoked mackerel and forgot to retrieve it.

I love to set the table, circling it and considering, picking plates from our stacks and balancing the different patterns, this one's airy traceries of navy on white, that one's tiny blooms on a cobalt ground.


We gave up on wine glasses years ago so there is a heavy tumbler at each place; knives and forks from lawn sales, and, when needed, some proper lobster picks (thank you, David.) The silver fish knives I use to slice pie, the fruit-patterned dish for wedges of lemon.

There have to be wildflowers -- I can chop a handful of whatever is outside the back door. Tea lights in blue glass (thank you, Aus.)

And someone always brings something lovely, asked-for or not. Fruit crisp dark with berries (thank you, Miranda), hot-smoked salmon from the gas station, the good stuff (thank you, Josh and Phil), pork buns (thank you, Maisie.)

We share the things we have grown (thank you, Charlie) and caught (thank you, Steve) and preserved and baked and barbecued, and the things we can be frank about — how the winter has been wherever we were. What kind of shape we are in, in our hearts and minds and legs. We end up with each other's confidences.

The table can handle a crowd. Tucked away in its middle are a clockwork of gears and four leaves. To lengthen it I pull it wide, then lift and open the leaves, sliding them on their clever array of gears and hinges. And my heart lifts and opens with them every time.