Two years ago I visited Northampton for the weekend with a new friend from Spain. We stayed with Richard, a friend of her friend who agreed to show us around.

Tomorrow morning we’ll board a plane to Ecuador, Richard, Jonah, Isabel, and I. When we land we’ll be met by Marita and Ricardo, my friend from an exchange program we did at age fifteen and her husband, who I don’t yet know.

We’ll spend eleven days visiting with Marita and Ricardo and exploring their home country by plane and automobile, maybe a raft or a rapeling line or a bike, depending on our adventurous spirits.

One day this winter, in the midst of the heaviest snow, my daughter and I dreamed up this April vacation. I wished to travel again with my kids. She wished for New Orleans. The plane tickets to Quito cost less. I wanted to go more. Tomorrow we will.

That day in between shoveling, we started to make a longtime dream come true, returning to a place I’ve until now been too afraid to go, traveling with my teens and my guy. That weekend in Northampton I didn’t know I’d be here with Richard. We took a chance, stepped right out of our comfort zone.

The last two years I’ve done more traveling with Richard and the kids than I’ve done since my early twenties, California the first summer we were together, The Netherlands with the kids and our friends last April break, Spain last fall, now Ecuador, with many weekends and weeks away in closer places, Rhode Island, Western Mass, Maine, Martha’s Vineyard, Vermont. I couldn’t predict this happiness when I escaped a weekend without my kids two years ago, when they were off to Texas with their dad and I was feeling all alone.

Life surprises. Often when we least expect it a person or an adventure crosses our path. If we extend a hand we can catch him or her or it and go for a lovely ride.

Wish us luck on this leg of the journey. We have our shots, our medicines, our travel guide, our reservations, our place with friends, our itinerary, our passports, our tickets, our suitcases, and our wallets. The cat will be fed, the roofers will come, the day care will run, then close, then reopen. In two weeks I’ll be back, hopefully reminded to keep stepping a little outside my comfort zone.

its fifty cents an each. 

Not today. Once a day a week. 

That’s a long time ago. 

I don’t think so. 

Today’s breakfast conversation. Time fascinates. So does money. So do units of measurement. So do children. 

This morning I tidy up from last night’s tea party. I wash the tea pot and the small creamers which are too delicate for the dish washer, wipe the crumbs on the dining room table, leave the cushions on the living room floor to remind me of the circle here last night of people who came together to be together, memory of those we’ve lost in the room in my china cabinet and in the mother who needed to sit down.

It was a fine evening in my home, a place I’ve shared these last twenty some years with many. My favorite gatherings have often included tea in china cups.

This morning I remember my grandmother saying she drank tea out of fancy cups because for so many years she worked so hard she didn’t have time for a cup of tea.

This morning I make tea and sit at the table to eat my granola before heading downstairs, a rare day I don’t eat on the run, in honor of my grandmother and myself.

On Monday I return to poetry class, third one for me, and this time I am eager. Last group was in our teacher’s living room, another circle of people gathering with intention to learn and to remember. The last week and a half I’ve thought of my teacher’s question, what do I wish to gain from turning my words to poems, rather than prose? I still don’t know, but the images have been gathering like clouds in my head, and I’m hoping somehow this weekend to turn a few into a poem.

Drip, drop, the rain outside keeps falling. The kids and Anne and I will have another day of raincoats at the park. Wish us well on this cool April morning. It’s been a week of sick kids and parents, last night Liana fell, and I’m hoping I’m not next.

I learned late morning of a terrible loss in one of the day care families. I had spent the early morning setting up medical appointments for my kids and myself, sorting out things with my guy and with their dad and stepmom, and when I got the news, all my own minor things fell back.

The family is one of the loveliest we’ve encountered. Another reminder in this world that most of the bad isn’t deserved, it just is. Still, it’s hard to understand when there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves and each other.

I decide to make granola, comfort food for my family since the holidays, a large batch I can share with my kids and Richard when they return tomorrow, and the family experiencing the hard time. I listen to music, wash the dishes in my kitchen, make a batch of soup, too, just in case that feels right to deliver to the girl when she goes home tomorrow with her grandparents. Granola can be left on the stoop at home. Soup is only good if folks are there, and right now, the hospital is home, and grandma and grandpa’s house.

Tomorrow it may be day care for our little gal. I write with the day care parents and and caregivers and colleagues, read online about grief and loss and comfort and healing, talk with my guy, stir the pot, listen to music, even talk with the dad, so I understand his gal’s and family’s experience, hoping to create a place of shelter in the storm.

Its an honor to know children and families well enough to be the one they tell when things go so terribly wrong and to provide care trustworthy enough it feels like home to a child going through a very hard time. As my friend Macky has reminded me, there isn’t one right way to behave in tough times. I’m hoping we can be good enough, and get this little gal and family through to the other side of unfathomable loss.

This weekend Richard and I visited his son Lilly at his place in Maine, where he is on spring break from his job there as a math teacher at Chewonki, a semester boarding school for high school juniors. I took pictures of the place, as I love to observe and take photos of places of learning that feel special. I also took photos of Richard and Lilly doing barn chores. We had meals with Lilly’s friends, two of whom are the farm manager and assistant farm manager, one of whom, along with Lilly, was once a farm intern. I was struck as we collected eggs, milked cows, admired ewes and newborn lambs, and watched the young farmers move a log in the woods with the help of Sal the draft horse, how much we depend upon the females of the world for our food and drink and how remarkable of these young people to be doing this traditional work with the gratitude and intention they bring to it today.

Enjoy a few of the photos of Chewonki and the farm and woods and school and workshops there. It is a remarkable place. I hope to return before long. A weekend by a wood stove, amidst people and animals living close to the land, open to sharing their experience with us was restorative on lots of levels.

Here is a link to a blog post by the Chewonki farm manager Meg, who is one of the women in the photos I’ve shared: http://blogs.chewonki.org/farmandfood/2015/02/winter-woodlot-work-at-chewonki-the-production-of-firewood-and-humility/#comment-24458.  This post is about twitching, which is the word for dragging logs out of the woods with a draft horse, and the trickiness off it twitching winter. I was humbled to watch these gals at work, horse and woodswomen. l’ll carry the image of their work with me next winter when I’m managing the city snows in Somerville with my snowblower and shovels and the human team here that sometimes helps out.

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Yesterday at lunch my three was singing a song. In the song a Sabur was looking after the sheep, counting them in the meadow and in the pasture and putting them to sleep.

While she sang, two other threes were covering their ears and exclaiming about being irritated by the song. The back and forth of singing versus ear covering and exclaiming was building.

I found the singing quite lovely, a lullaby I had never heard, sung in tune by a girl about to welcome a new baby into her home. I also wanted us to get back to lunch and conversation and peace. I wondered aloud if the children knew what about shepherds.

My singing three reminded us it wasn’t a shepherd in her song, but a Sabur. Still I wondered if the children knew about a shepherd. When one of the ear covering threes said she did not, I let her know a a shepherd’s job is to take care of sheep. I explained how a shepherd goes out to look after the sheep in the field and counts them when it’s time to move along, just like we look after the children at the park and count them to make sure we are all together before returning home. In that way, I pointed out, a shepherd could be anyone who looks after other things, even the earth.

Like the aliens’ job is to take care of the planet, added my singing three.

Connect the dots of thoughts never fails to delight.

 

 

I started writing here over six years ago, in October 2008. At the time, I was married. My first son had just left the Somerville Public Schools to start at SVS. My world had been rocked. My other two were ok, youngest was struggling. Both visited SVS with Ben, neither was ready to go. I was running the day care, just over forty, wondering where to go myself.

Six and a half years later I’m still writing. Hardly anything else feels the same. Shortly after I started writing, my marriage fell apart. Separated and divorced and living on my own now five and a half years, I’ve undone and learned a lot. Career wise, I’ve contemplated and begun lots of changes, found myself back at WFDC full time, wondering still how the rest of my career will go.

I’ve lost more friends, more family, more financial security, more companionship, more physical and emotional and psychological support, more time with my children than I had really understood I would. Divorce is big. I suppose deep down I knew that, but the reality is stark.

Through it all, I’ve written here. Six and a half years later, I have a few semi-regular readers known to me, perhaps some regulars I don’t know, too. The numbers are steady, if small, and I wonder how many are generated by random searches, how many are real readers, and how many are just hits where folks click and move on.

It’s an odd thing to write into a void, and compelling.

Sorting out thoughts in writing does something for me that draws me on. Probably there is or will be research on that. Folks have been journalling and writing letters about their days for years and years and years. Blogging, while relatively new, adds the twist of the larger, mysterious audience.

I’ve read poetry almost every day since early in the writing of this blog, after over forty years of rarely appreciating a poem. I’ve taken over 36,000 photos, since halfway into my first year of writing, some of them posted here, though not so many of late. I’ve dated and tried again. I’ve spent more time alone than I ever thought I could. I’ve joined the Quakers in their silence and community, found new home there. I’ve missed my kids until its no use talking about it. This is what it is, divorce with shared custody and teens gradually leaving the nest.

I’ve rediscovered swimming and biking and cross country skiing, found readings and museums, listened to loads of music, recorded and live. I’ve learned to cook again, bought one or two pieces of furniture, taken a few off the street, mostly cleared things out, bag and box and piece by piece by piece. I’ve contemplated sharing my home with others, stepped back each time the opportunity fell through, contemplated trying again, decided to wait.

I’ve repaired the house as its fallen down, new wood, new paint, new plumbing and electrical, new windows and storms, stopping short of a remodel, contemplating moving on, tight finances, one income, simplicity, companionship the draws.

The money has covered the bills, and gradually, the extras I worried I’d not be able to do, some new clothes, an occasional movie, concert, play or meal out, trips the last few years, my share of camp and lessons, sporting equipment, college and private school tuition for the kids, semi-weekly cleaning of the house and day care, medical expenses that some years seem big, retirement savings in hopes of someday stopping work. The kids and caregivers and I are careful, and we do our best to have fun.

Wednesdays I try to be with the Sharing Circle at Cambridge Friends, a weekly get together for those who’ve been incarcerated and those who care. I’m learning there to value the things money can’t buy, to see life through different eyes, to share a meal and conversation, to listen attentively, to be sensitive to all I’ve got and to what others may not. I read the paper differently as a result. The news of violence against prisoners at Rikers Island jail and Attica prison reported by the New York Times the last two weeks feels personal. I wonder what the men I’ve met have experienced in their years behind bars, look to them with deeper compassion, wonder where this experience of sharing our lives might lead.

I find inspiration in the Circle to cultivate an inner life. One man struggles mightily, and he writes, reading novels from the library to feed his mind, constructing stories he loves to share, making novels he hopes others might one day read. One man fights a legal battle, acting as his own lawyer. One woman studies self-improvement. Another sings. One man is in love with the data base. Another woman writes from her life experience, as well as fiction reinterpreting her spiritual understandings. Another man looks after relatives who depend upon him for their daily care. Some shovel and help out at Meeting. Some look out for others who were formerly incarcerated. One woman teaches in prison, studies criminal justice as a college professor. Another paints houses and hires folks needing work to be on his crew, makes social justice the core of who his is. All those in the Circle seem to care and to value the coming together. Occasionally we have visitors who come one night or two. This stretch of my kids being away three weeks I may attend three weeks in a row. After missing weeks and weeks due to holidays, mixed up schedules and snow, I’m happy to be counted amongst the regulars.

All this is to say, I’m still here. I’m still writing. Still thinking. Still changing, if more slowly than I once was. My thoughts and life feel less inspiring and inspired than they once did. I’m still hoping that by following them in writing they’ll take a shape I can better understand. Good day to you and thank you for reading, whether as a regular, occasional, or passerby.

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