A Labor Day Barbecue with Heavenly Accompaniment

It is the Labor Day weekend. Hurricane Hermine, as it churns up the Atlantic coast, is promising to put a big damper on the festivities. But, how can I resist the charms of a Labor Day barbecue? So I tune into the weather channel and its incessant, up to the hour updates from a reporter standing on a beach holding a microphone in one hand. It is hard to hear above the howling winds. A roiling ocean with crashing waves is in the background. A stray thought crosses my mind: Why do premier TV channels put their reporters in harm’s way. For ratings? But I digress.

I lift a moist finger testing the winds. I observe the clouds and their speed and direction, put on a thoughtful face and try and predict what it would be like two days from now, on Labor Day (September 5). Too risky for an outdoor barbecue, I conclude. But, why not have a barbecue today, September 3? There is no law against it and the weather is positively balmy.

Our son is home for the long weekend. Both my wife and son are good cooks and enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating, I guess some folks are just lucky!

They get the chicken marinating. The ingredients for a guacamole dip are laid out (picture above) and they soon start working on it. I select the wine, uncork it and let it breathe.

We sit out on the patio with the dip, nachos and wine. We fire up the gas grill and put the chicken pieces on it to cook slowly. We watch the sun set and paint the sky with flaming orange. A little later, Venus shows herself, low on the horizon in the west. It is clearly visible to the naked eye and beautiful to behold.

Venus, visible in the west after sunset. Photo: Ranjan Mukherjee

Venus, visible in the west after sunset. Photo: Ranjan Mukherjee

The guacamole dip, tangy and spicy with lime, chopped green chilies, coriander and sage makes a wonderful appetizer. We eat the chicken and drink the wine while observing the other heavenly bodies slowly appear as dusk deepens. In the southern sky, Saturn and Mars appear along with the star Antares, forming a clear triangle. These planets are the heavenly accompaniment to our outdoor barbecue. I have been following these planets for a few days and have become familiar with their trajectories. The crescent moon peeking through the trees looks lovely, casting a shimmering glow against the dark sky. I take photos of Venus and the moon listening to the chirping of the crickets and the rustling of the leaves. It is so quiet and peaceful.

The crescent moon peeking through the trees. Photo: Ranjan Mukherjee

The crescent moon peeking through the trees. Photo: Ranjan Mukherjee

Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer vacation. On Tuesday, schools reopen and we will see kids standing in line for the school bus exchanging stories of their exploits over summer. It is also a reminder that summer is almost over and the chill winds are around the corner. But Fall is my favorite season with the leaves changing color from deep green to bright red, yellow and orange.

Seasons change with the passage of time. I look forward to these changes: The tender green sprouting, the vigorous growth, the colorful slowdown, the cold white shroud followed again by the sprouting. Cyclical, always something to look forward to. It is the same with life. There is much we can learn by observing the seasons.

O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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