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.

Monday is my day out of day care. Normally I spend those days with Richard, either in Northampton or here. Many Mondays I do some combination of errands, desk work, and fun. This week we started off the morning at 7:30 shoveling, then rather than head back inside I suggested we go for a walk. Instead of coming home and doing desk work, we stayed out till 2:30. We walked to Arlington for breakfast, back down Mass Ave to go by the park and see if it was doable for the kids, then on to Harvard Square because we didn’t want to go home. It was sunny and we were walking and there was nothing we had to do.

In Harvard Square we turned towards Union, and walked all the way there, stopped for a coffee at Bloc 11, then headed home down Somerville Ave. We missed two or three buses, one not too far from Porter, one in Davis Square, and thus we made it home on foot, 8 miles and seven hours later, just in time for lunch.

Tuesday was my first day back in day care this week. I suggested we take a walk to the park, since I believed the coast was clear. We dressed the kids, dragged the carriages out from under the porch, and headed down the street, our first time leaving the yard in what felt like weeks, other than one desperate day of February School Vacation week when I conducted a forced march around the block.

Arriving at the park was adventure. We parked the carriages on the sidewalk as there was no way to get them into the park, then walked the high snowy path to the slightly opened gate and wiggled in. The park had been well-traveled by Sue’s day care group, as well as shoveled a bit by her son and his friend, so that there were mounds and paths and footprints welcoming us in.  The toddlers found it tricky. The preschoolers did not. They ran and climbed and slided and teeter tottered. Even the toddlers could climb onto what is normally a high climber platform accessing the curvy slide and get themselves onto the teeter totter that normally requires a lift.

Today we went back to the park. This time we found another gate which would open wider. A neighbor was there with her kids, the first time we’ve encountered others in a long while. Our friends showed up partway into our time. We hugged and visited as we haven’t done since January, maybe. Their kids ran and climbed and laughed, even more at ease than ours.

Now our kids are mostly sleeping. The fresh air and walk and running did us good. Wish us more trips to the park, eventually a wide open gate. Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy the days we make it, and remember them on the days we don’t.

Several years ago I met with one of my best friends from high school to talk about midlife.  We had each recently ended long marriages and we hadn’t seen one another in ages. We met at a coffee shop in the hotel outside Boston where she was attending a swing dance event. What I remember is the joy of that evening, at reconnecting and sharing stories in the midst of a hotel full of dancers. My friend had found a new life, new friends, and eventually a new love as she learned to dance. Everyone there was smiling. I left near eleven, just as the ball room was filling with dancers about to start the night.

Richard and I love to dance together, whether to reggae in Northampton, blues at Johnny D’s, or classic rock at a wedding. Neither one of us knows how to partner dance, but we’ve been curious to try. This winter for the holidays I bought Richard a gift card to a dance studio in Northampton where we could take swing dance lessons every other Monday night.

Since the holidays there has been too much snow for me to dance. It’s been shoveling for me in Somerville on Monday nights.

Last night we found our way to Dance Northampton. It was scary and just fine, fun for us in our beginner East Coast Swing lesson and for the room full of experienced folks nearby, dancing the two step in preparation for a Saturday night performance. Today as I shoveled and tended kids in Somerville I remembered my hand on Richard’s shoulder, placed just as the teacher had taught us. I remembered my feet moving in the rhythm of East Coast Swing, and I smiled.

It’s a fine thing to go dancing on a Monday night, fun to learn something new at middle age, even nicer with my guy. After weeks of shoveling and bracing for more snow and storms, I’m happy to start this week dancing. Amen.

We are going on our third major snow dump in three weeks. Today is the first one I have to manage on my own. I dread it, come home last night to six inches of it after being away twenty four hours, don’t even shovel, just pull the car in, lay on the couch, eat leftover stew for dinner after nine, tuck myself into bed, and wait.

This morning I am full of dread, but also of a need to face my fears. I suit up after seeing my neighbors’ trash and recycling bins beside the snow banks and realizing I forgot to put mine out.  At least I can put the bins out, shovel the stairs, and walk to the top of the hill to fill the gas can before the snowblower runs out of gas.

Turns out my neighbor Gary is out already, blowing snow for several neighbors. He did my walk the first snow. Now we are partners in snowblower bliss, he passes me by for others who don’t have machines. I do, and after I drag out the bins, I go under the porch to see about the status of the gas, end up dragging the machine out, remember Liana telling me Steve wanted me to know his machine needs the extension cord to start the first few runs of the season, then starts with the pull cord and see if I can start it that way now, which I can!! For the first time, I pull start the machine. The primer button, the choke, the gas lever, the key, make sense to me now. The parts of the machine are familiar, I know how they work, and I can work them.

I blow snow at the back of my driveway first, a new technique, so I can move the car to the back as I clear the heavy snow up front. This goes so well, I finish the drive and walks before going to get gas. At the gas station, I find the attendant inside on his phone. He fills the gas can for me, and I tell him I wouldn’t have come looking for him except I thought perhaps they were closed. He tells me he is there to clean up, business is dead today, he will soon close up. I feel lucky to have gotten there when I did, before 10, unusual for me on such a snowy day.

When I get back to my house, Gary sees me with the can, reminds me to get dry gas so the spark plugs don’t freeze up, or something, more words that don’t make a lot of sense to me. I tell him I have gas stabilizer, which I hope is what he means, and I feel proud. Richard and Dave have taught me this, first Dave showed me how to run the riding mower in Ashfield, then Richard taught me to run the snowblower at my home, now Gary is inviting me into the club of those who maintain small machines. I feel almost like a man.

Except that when I go inside, I am wearing leggings, a purple cashmere sweater, and girly socks under my nearly thirty year old men’s Eddie Bauer coat, to which I’ve attached a key ring so I can pull the zipper up and down, zipper pull long gone, as well as several of the snaps, but not the down, which is warm and thick, nor the hood, which keeps the snow off my head, and because the coat is so old, I don’t mind that it smells of gasoline after I’ve blown the snow.

Today was supposed to be my first writing class. Instead I blew snow and now I’m writing here, alone in my kitchen, in the form I know best. Poetry would be a stretch for me, maybe a stretch I need. Writing here is as much like coming home as I am likely to find.

Time for tea and breakfast, maybe more beef stew, made in the last storm for my kids, nearly expired in the fridge that could feed me for months, no worries about getting out for groceries or running out of food, or preparing any for anyone. The snow is still falling, but some of it is blown, so I have time now, will attack the tax organizer, maybe fall contracts, find time for a walk if I have energy enough for that and the second round of clearing snow. It’s very quiet here without my loves, buried in deep snow, another day in the life of this single mom with shared custody and a boyfriend in western Mass.

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