Anticipating Fall and Looking for Constants

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Welcome. Sam’s off for a couple weeks, so I’ll be keeping you company at home for a spell.

It’s mid-August, the time of the season when the days start to cool a bit, at least here in the northeast, when those people who love the fall start to anticipate the brisk days, and those who prefer summer begin to worry about daylight saving time ending and it getting dark before dinner.

I’m in the latter crew, and while it’s a stretch to say that this summer has been anything like the endless, sun-baked, beach-and-cookout idylls of past years, I’m clinging to the warm weather even more steadfastly than usual this August. Spending leisure hours outside, even when the mosquitoes make a meal of me as they did during a walk last night, has been a balm in a stressful time. (Margaret Roach’s In the Garden column has taught me a lot about appreciating nature this summer.)

One constant has been music. I noticed recently that the music I was listening to when quarantine began in March is the music I still listen to every day, the music that has formed my soundtrack to these months. No matter what I’m doing — cooking dinner, showering, staring into space, walking to meet friends for a socially distant stoop hang — I’m listening to and getting comfort from the same albums. My relationship to and dependence on them feels profound, akin to the way I listened to and sang along with and identified with albums as a teenager. I’m grateful for the music. The changing of the season brings with it a lot of uncertainty. Having small constants to lean on helps.

On my soundtrack: Emily King, “Scenery”; Waxahatchee, “Saint Cloud”; Nadia Reid, “Out of My Province.”

What’s on your soundtrack? Write and let us know: [email protected]. And tell us what you think, what you’re wondering, how we can help. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. As always, more ideas for living a good life at home and near it appear below.

ImageMarcus Bridgewater, known to his TikTok followers as Garden Marcus, has built a following for his soothing videos about plant care.
Credit…Antonio Chicaia for The New York Times
  • Winter is coming, whether we’re ready or not, so why not take a moment now to think about your outdoor space, if you’re lucky enough to have some, and what you’ll need to make it usable when colder weather arrives? It may feel a little early to browse outdoor heaters and fire pits when it’s not even Labor Day, but online retailers are already reporting big upticks in searches for such items, so the sooner you start planning your patio the better.

  • If you’ve fared well during the pandemic, you may be feeling bad about feeling good. This kind of guilt is common, and there are ways to manage it productively. “Talking about it with people around you would be a very practical move because shame dies when you bring it into the light,” suggests the clinical psychologist Ryan Howes.

  • And Marcus Bridgewater, known on TikTok as Garden Marcus, sees parallels between tending to plants and taking care of ourselves. Of replanting a sweet potato vine, he said to his followers, “It can be difficult to re-root, establish new relationships, grow beyond the old form, but it can also be what’s needed to create new and healthier roots in our future.”

Credit…Brett Carlsen for The New York Times
  • When it comes to chaat, a genre of South Asian snacks, “a single bite can be jolting, pucker-inducing and refreshing all at once, balancing sweet with salty, tangy with spicy, crunchy with creamy, demanding you come back for more,” writes Priya Krishna. She spoke with the Nashville chef Maneet Chauhan about chaat, the subject of Ms. Chauhan’s forthcoming cookbook.

  • Salad is the natural choice for an August dinner, when so much produce is in season, but it can get repetitive. Tiring of big bowls of leafy greens, Melissa Clark created a “sort-of salad,” combining lamb chops with romaine. The crispy lettuce contrasts with the char of the chops, and a ranch dressing pulls it all together.

  • You could crack open a cold one, or, for a change of pace, you could use that beer as the foundation on which to build a cocktail. “However they’re mixed,” writes Rebekah Peppler, “beer-based drinks tend to be low in alcohol, high in flavor and are often relatively easy and inexpensive.”

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times
  • The musician Parker Ramsay had always been dissatisfied with classic keyboard recordings of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations. Desiring “the raw pluckiness of the harpsichord, but with the expressive qualities of the piano,” he arranged the composition for his first instrument, the modern pedal harp, and wrote about that process for The Times.

  • Congress passed the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote, in June of 1919. But it wasn’t until August of 1920 that the amendment was ratified. Our game, “Votes for Women,” lets you follow the long road to ratification, with all its victories and setbacks.

  • On Thursday, August 20 at 5:30 p.m., Eastern time, Tichina Arnold (Pamela James on “Martin”) and Beth Behrs (Caroline Channing on “2 Broke Girls”) of the series “The Neighborhood” sit down with the Metro editor Dodai Stewart to discuss the actresses’s experiences in Hollywood, the vital importance of community and their advocacy for women’s empowerment — in professional and personal life. RSVP here.

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