Summer is undeniably gone, having been swept away from Virginia over the course of a single rain-drenched week. One day, commuters at the nearby Metro suddenly appeared wrapped in coats, like someone had flicked on a light switch; I stride into work now with knit tights tucked into tall leather boots. For the first time in six months, my morning routine includes stovetop oatmeal. And on Saturday, a dear friend brought over pumpkin cupcakes to share. Pumpkin! Now that’s a harbinger of autumn if I’ve ever tasted one. The next afternoon, I warmed my first pot of spiced cider on the stove, throwing the heady scents of orange zest, cinnamon, and cloves into the air. (Air, by the way, which is no longer air-conditioned; I finally switched the thermostat to “heat,” and it kicked into gear with the faint smell of burning. It’s a little out of practice, I guess.)
As much as these wonderful developments should encourage me to embrace the here and now, I finally feel able to let in the first twinges of summer nostalgia. To be honest, I like the idea of summer more than the sweaty reality of it (although, granted, I seriously miss the incredible produce). So it’s now—when my alarm clock begins blaring in the pitch-black—that the memory of Hvar’s beaches brings out an especially daydreamy quality in me, even as others are staring out their windows, waiting for the leaves to change.
There was something about seeing these vessels docked in their island harbors, bobbing gently on the waves, and if you’ve ever been on a sailboat or a motorboat, you know why. The freedom of the open water makes possibilities seem limitless, and your troubles feel like tiny atomic particles, like pinpricks. I get that feeling of impossible smallness when I’m driving cross-country, and I got it looking out at the sea from Hvar; it’s the Mediterranean version of the open road.
And now, even as the air smells crisp with cold and rain, I remember how Hvar smelled: like the fields of lavender that grow there. I brought back a satchel of the stuff for my mother, along with a few pieces of crocheted lace I bought from a sweet old woman working by the bell tower in Hvar Town. The ground of the main piazza there was well-worn and heated gently by the sun.
On Hvar, the only thing that can make you leave your napping-spot on the pebble beach is the promise of a castle hidden in the hills above town, the view from the winding steps that lead you there, and the six o’clock ferry that you can’t keep waiting. It’s your ride back to the mainland, and it has no patience for stragglers.