For about a day I decided to make this blog private. For all kinds of reasons I felt protective of my story. The problem is I’ve been writing here so long. I don’t think it’s time yet to let it go. So, after a day, I’m back. I’ve got more questions than answers abour why and for whom and where I’m headed.

When I started writing I was confused. I wanted to find direction for my ideas about schooling. For many years I struggled with that, with articulating what I believed and with how to make it real.

I barely got started writing my ideas about how to make a place for children and work I believed in when my marriage, and in many ways, my life fell apart. I began writing about how we learn in a broader sense. Divorce is a sort of rebirth. I had so, so much to learn.

For the last ten years I’ve been writing here. For the first many years it was a lifeline. Some days I wrote more than once a day. Then things tapered off.

Now I wonder who I’m writing for and who reads what I write. Every so often someone lets me know they’re reading, but mostly, I write into the air.

For about two years I was part of a writing group. I worked with a writing teacher who had first been a parent in the day care, then my friend, and who held writing classes in her beautiful home near mine. When I realized I could work less, after leaving my year of working too much at Sudbury Valley and WFDC, I gave myself to writing in her group. After awhile, that no longer felt right and I stopped.

Since then I’ve written very little. I went through yet another break up. The third of my long term partnerships ended in hurt and loss last October. I didn’t want to write about it so much as learn to live my life again in community and in peace.

It’s coming up on a year since Richard left. I’ve got a new partner. Our relationship has built more slowly, and steadily, and has weathered a day care closure, a neglect charge, and the loss of my day care partner to family crisis for me, and a job loss, a shift to retirement, and other struggles for him. We’ve somehow managed to negotiate all that while having a ton of fun and being kind to one another and our respective kids and friends. We’ve also taken on projects around my house that have been building up for years, many of them currently in process.

For a year I’ve written less, done less yoga and meditation than I’d done the previous two or three, practices that had grounded me and connected me with my inner voice.

Maybe I’m grounded and connected!

Still, I miss writing. I miss words on a page. I miss seeing what comes as it spills out, miss the shape my thoughts take when I put them into words, into sentences, into paragraphs, into pages.

I’ve written over a thousand entries here. Sometimes I think of closing it down. I wonder how I’d ever transfer all the content to a place I could keep it safe until and in case I ever want to read it.

Most of the entries I’ve written and left behind. Some get read by others, by whom I don’t know, again and again, and so I read them again and again. There are a few of those about my dad, a few about my children, some with poems I fell in love with and wrote about in connection with my life, some about thinkers or books I’ve loved and how they’ve shaped me.

I can’t say what this blog is about, other than living, who its for, other than myself and anyone who cares to read.

When I was in the writing group my teacher and others were interested in publishing. I was not, though I would have liked to be. For me, putting thoughts here has been enough. Then for awhile I wasn’t even interested in that. I wrote in a journal, then on blank paper I stapled together and stacked in a drawer, following the Proprioceptive Writing practice that grew out of a yoga, meditation, and writing practice before that. Maybe someday I’ll find a way to put words together and to polish them and send them off to a publisher. For now, I’m not.

While I haven’t been writing, I’ve been doing other things, falling in love again, swimming (I got a new wet suit so I can swim into October!), making and listening to music, returning to the community of family child care to fight again for what our children need, fighting for WFDC and it’s future, fighting the neglect charges, raising and being with my kids, getting to know the children and friends of my new guy, becoming a more active Quaker, contemplating becoming a member of Cambridge Friends Meeting, feeling loved, reconnecting with my home, my friends, my local community, not spending all my time thinking of closing this life down and starting another in Western Mass, cooking, eating, exploring the Union Square Farmer’s market, visiting quite a few museums, watching tv, seeing movies, caring for my home and business, thinking about a future learning to become a financial support person to others, sharing my home with a family as well as a housemate, drumming, continuing with Sharing Circle, traveling and seeing friends and family in places I can get to by car, not traveling to exotic places, nor missing that so much.

Lots has been happening. I’ve been in my body more in some ways, in my senses, less in my head. My guy has taught me some tai chi, some tui na massage. We’ve been to a chiropractor. In the day care I’m caring for a baby and many toddlers. I carry and hold and dress and lift and push a lot of children in a carriage or a wagon, wash a lot of dishes, wipe a lot of noses, change a lot of diapers, smile a lot at little people who smile back at me.

Life is not, as my friend Ruthann reminded us at a recent women’s potluck at my former writing teacher and still friend’s home, as we expected. As Ruthann and I are learning, much of the fifties is understanding that, and learning to stop expecting things to go as we expect. It’s no longer “what to expect when you’re expecting” the title of a book I read too thoroughly when pregnant for my first child, but “what not to expect that you might have been expecting.” No more babies, no more cookie cutter living. Midlife and beyond, I’m making it up as I go, taking it as it comes. Wish me a whole lot of luck (and love and strength and power and happiness). I’m going to need it all.

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Today I woke up with Liana here with me. She decided to visit after another day in the hospital. She brought her dinner, leftover mac and cheese made by a friend I’ve known since her daughter was in Macky’s day care. Her daughter interned with us two summers ago and is as lovely as a teen as she was as a young girl. To the mac and cheese I added steamed broccoli, tea my son had given me made in a pot my mother had given me, a candle from my housemate Maeve, and cookies I had made last week which I had shared with my son’s ultimate frisbee team of young men. I had eaten dinner earlier with my son and his gal, but I had broccoli and cookies and tea and we talked.

After our late dinner and conversation Liana was so tired she fell asleep in my daughter’s bed. I cleaned the kitchen and fell asleep in mine. This morning we both woke early. Liana dressed and left for a series of appointments and time with her son at the hospital. I showered and ate and left for the Appeal Hearing of our case at DCF.

While we were away, Anne, our third teacher, Alice, our retired teacher/volunteer/sub, and Michael, our retired colleague, friend, and now sub, cared for the children of WFDC, and Macky, Michael’s wife and our colleague and my close friend, accompanied me and Brook, our day care mom and pro bono lawyer, and Mike, our paid lawyer, to the hearing. At the hearing I had the privilege of hearing Brook question Macky, of Macky recounting her life in family child care, and our collegial relationship of twenty three years. Her description of her lifelong work and commitment to young children and their families and to providers of early education and care, and of the life of our park community, brought me to tears in the stark offices of DCF, across from the DCF investigator who supported the charges of neglect against Liana and me, beside the fair hearing officer who was hearing our case. I also had the privilege of telling my story and of being supported by a very experienced lawyer who is a very caring human, and who allowed me to once again reflect on our program, on our relationships with children and families and each other, and on the professional competence and care we have brought to our work for many years, as well as on the events of the day we left our little guy at the park that have lead to the closure and reopening of our program and all the legal work and activism that has required and inspired.

At home, I was exhausted, took a rest and nap, woke to try to get Akira’s application for subbing in the day care to be finalized at last, though we are as yet unsure. I am sitting at my dining room table in a quiet apartment with muffled sounds of children’s and teachers’ voices below. I have a little time to write, to do a load of laundry, to pay some bills and prepare some checks for deposit, before two evening parties, one with a group of friends from the Charter School days to express gratitude to those who supported one of our sons through a very hard time, the other with a group of women brought together by a former day care mom, who is also my writing and yoga teacher and friend, some of whom are learning what it means to watch our children leave home and to make life without them by our sides.

There are so many ways of honoring the lives we’re living.

Later this evening I’ll watch my son perform at Improv Boston, in a skit that may involve the clarinet I played in elementary, junior high and high school and the trumpet his brother played in middle school. Tomorrow I’ll attend memorial services for my sister’s close friend’s mother, who was part of many of our family’s holiday celebrations and died in the spring of cancer. Sunday we’ll roast a chicken and vegetables for dinner for friends. My daughter will be here for the weekend. Early Monday morning I’ll do the two hour round trip in traffic to take her back to school, then start another full week with children, covering Liana’s hours as well as my own.

It’s been years since I worked five full days with children in the day care. It’s been years since we’ve cared for an infant, since we’ve had so many young ones in the group. I’m fifty one and my fellow caregivers are not young. We are wise, and experienced. We love the children and enjoy our days. The work is also exhausting. This week I cancelled all my outside commitments in order to have the energy I needed for the children. I may do the same next week. I’ll see what it’s like and take it day by day.

Why name this piece This is the Day the Lord has Made, let us rejoice and be glad in it? It’s a day like any other. And it’s unique. Life just got lifier as an old friend used to say. One new crisis overlaps the last. One period of immersion in deep suffering follows another period of lightness and grace. And yet..all of it feels holy on some level, holier than it used to perhaps, as I get older, as the layers stack up, as the past loves and lives live in memory and the new experiences feel somehow richer and the future more unknown, more uncertain. Mystery beyond mystery. Only god, or the universe, or no one, knows what lies ahead. Only faith and hope and love can lead us on. A day like today, surrounded by friends, full of small and large moments of significance and insignificance, can remind us we are surrounded, held, not alone, here. I am, according to my recent love, DW Winnicott, is an assertion, not just a passive statement, which we feel in certain moments, which we know in others. Today, now, is one of those. I’m alive. I’m living. I’m here. I’m held and surrounded and loved, through it all. I have no doubt for now, though doubt is sure to return.

Today my son focussed all his visible energy on a task I’ve never attempted. He sat at the dining room table with a turntable his sister found on the curb, the laptop he and his dad pitched in to buy last Christmas, complete with music and film editing software, the sample pad he bought earlier this year to make a new for him kind of music, and a device I brought home from Akira’s today on my son’s request, which could connect the turntable to the computer for recording purposes. He worked on a piece of music from the time I arrived this afternoon until he left for his coaching job, and from the time he got back from that until I went to bed near midnight. My guess is he is down there working on it now.

My daughter returned earlier than I’d expected to boarding school, heading back with her dad last night rather than with me this morning. This year she’s in a debate class, hopes to build sets and create costumes for the school theater productions, take two math classes, maybe do roller derby and rock climbing, and change a bunch of things about the school she believes need changing, as well as earn money towards a spring trip to Europe with a group from school.

My son is living in East Harlem, playing club Ultimate frisbee, and dating a woman a couple of years older, working at a computer consulting company writing software and consulting, traveling to Atlanta one week out of every three, and earning enough money to live comfortably, pay off his student loans, and save towards retirement in his early twenties.

I have done none of these things! My children have surpassed me, each in many ways, each in ways unlike the others, as well as in some ways they have in common.

I long ago learned that my children were their own people, that they have gifts I don’t, that much of who they are and what they do is theirs, not mine, came from them, not me.

Still, there is something about this time in life, as I move beyond fifty towards sixty, and my children move out of their teen years into their young adulthood, that the surpassing stands out as a pattern that will only grow and continue over time. My daughter will continue to be more fashionable, more cool, more athletic, more self-organized than I will likely ever be. My middle son will continue to be more devoted to creative pursuits, to music, to writing , to performing, to radical politics, to solving the New York Times crossword puzzle, to absorbing and retaining information than I will ever be. My older son will continue to be more athletic, to understand the mathematical world, and computers, and hard problems i might never even be able to talk with him about in ways I can understand. He has already lived in New York longer than I did, even though when I was his age I had wished to make a life there.  He’s hiked more, traveled more on his own, than I have in my lifetime, and I’m well over twice his age.

There is a humility in this. As I accept that my career is likely going to become a smaller and smaller part of my life as I move through my fifties and into my sixties, I can see my children will be building their professional and lives as I let mine go. As I give up on a phd or a major career change, I may watch my older son approach a doctorate and my children make their way into careers that satisfy  and challenge them and bring meaning to their lives. I’ll watch my daughter bring her sense of style and design to larger stages, to more expansive personal and maybe public spaces. I’ll watch my middle child do things on stage i couldn’t have dreamed, more less pulled off.

This gives me hope. If my three children can surpass me in so many ways, what about all the children I’ve cared for and taught in my lifetime? What about all the children I’ve watched grow up and take on the world as adults? How many of them are surpassing me in how many ways? The world is lucky to have these young people and their energy to carry on. We middle and old agers are lucky to be able to begin to let go, to let those who follow consider and tackle and in many cases solve the problems of the world, to admire the ingenuity and creativity of the work the younger generation does and the art they make, the magic and beauty they bring to the world.

Tonight I’m up too late, having puttered on my computer, cleaned the kitchen, talked with my mother, and made my first fierce fall batch of stew. “My children have surpassed me” echoed in my head as I went about my evening, watching my son in his world of music and electonics, missing my daughter who I didn’t see this week for the first time in many, since she was at her dad’s for the weekend and didn’t get a ride back from me, and thinking about my older son, who I called earlier today but who I couldn’t leave a message because his voicemail box is full, cell phone message boxes not his technology. In honor of the artful lives my children are leading as they surpass me, I wanted to do my bit to hold up the model of a creative mom, so I finished the stew, cleaned the kitchen, and just after midnight, took my last half hour of wakefulness to write. We middle agers have life left to live and things to say. In my case a good deal of it still revolves around thinking about and admiring our children.

Today is a vacation/home day. This morning we woke up in Hull, in a third floor lookout over the water, with boats down below. We had breakfast in a diner across from the beach where we had spent the day before drifting on a boat/raft my guy keeps folded up in his JP basement, not the motor boat I grew up with in the Finger Lakes of Western New York, but offering a familiar sensation of being held by the waves that soothes me into a calmer place.

Summer this year has been especially full for me of all kinds of drifting and shifting, geographically, spiritually, relationally, internally, and externally. I’ve been away every week or weekend since mid-June, have visited with friends and family old and new, in gatherings, in pairs, in new arrangements simulating family. My household has included my own two children, two semi-new partners here pretty regularly, my son’s and mine, the family of three who moved here in April expecting to stay through June, now here somewhat indefinitely until their next plan becomes clear, and our downstairs housemate, who’s been on the road as much as she’s been here this summer, and her occasional visitors. Even the day care has been in constant flux, with more alumni visitors and new children with us this summer and more new children on the way this fall than we’ve had in many years.

I’ve done lots of house projects, some with lots of help, some on my own, from cleaning out the basement, to adding a third fridge and a second washer and dryer to make life in larger groups less stressful, to trimming sky high hedges with a team of day care volunteers, to painting two rooms and the hallway of the second floor with my new guy, to supporting my daughter in packing up her doll house and playmobil worlds, to helping my son move from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to East Harlem. I’ve paid others to help, to kill the mildew and repaint the third floor bath, to sand and refinish the table and railings on the back porch, to reglaze and paint the living room windows, to plane the many doors that have quit fitting in their frames, to move the fridges and washers and dryers, to do the plumbing required for the new washer/dryer set up, to repair and upgrade the electrical, to clean and tidy.

Something inside is shifting..Life is now here, not on the way there, to Western Mass, to a new career, to an early retirement, to saying good-bye to my children and community. I’m settling in as I’m drifting and shifting.

In the midst of it, I’ve seen my college friends, my mom and sister and my father’s extended family, a group of friends who’ve gathered at Woolman Hill fifteen years, my son and my new guy’s friends in New York, Quakers from around New England, the Ashfield housemates, and Western Mass friends. I’ve been to New York three times this summer, once to Ithaca, once to my home in Western New York, once to Manhattan, to Vermont twice, once to Ludlow and once to Castleton, to Western Mass a few times, to my home places there in Northampton and Ashfield, to Plum Island and Crane’s Beaches on the North Shore and to Nantasket and Hull on the South Shore several times, and this weekend my daughter and I will go to Maine for an overnight of camping with her Sudbury Valley friends.

It’s been a summer of dot-to-dot living, finding ways to connect with many people and places, most of which are a version of home.

While at the beach yesterday I read old issues of the Sun my daughter nearly recycled on one of her days at home tidying our space. Two of my favorite pieces were interviews with those whose home is the earth, who have a relationship to it I was curious to understand, one a Native American woman biologist seeking to integrate her traditional ways of knowing with her orientation as a scientist, the other an explorer of wilderness. Both communicated through their interviews a timelessness in their world views and a connection to spirit and the universe and to the land and it’s inhabitants I could admire. Traveling, being in nature, on the water, in the woods, experiencing the warmth of closeness with family and friends, housemates and co-workers, and community in many places is grounding this summer, in ways similar to what the interviewees described. I feel I belong in the universe again at last, that I am not adrift even as I’m drifting and life is shifting. I’ve got a handle for the moment on the fact that life is change, that we are all evolving, that there is as much to be gained in places of not knowing as in the certainty we sometimes think we need.

Off to the movies, more inspiration, tonight by Spike Lee and a true story, Black Klansman, with my daughter and my guy, staycation style. Time to get ready so I can hope to be on time.

Last night I dreamed a dream of being in a far off land on my own, or with a friend or two, trying to gather childhood memorabilia that was disintegrating into a few mismatched and themselves deteriorating bags to take home with me on what felt like unreliable transportation. Earlier in the dream, I seemed to have been afloat in a risky bit of water, far from home on what didn’t seem like a vacation.

I spent the evening on my couch and in my bed, too tired to do the desk and house chores I had planned earlier in the day when I hoped my two good nights of sleep would carry me through a productive evening to a later bedtime. Instead of depositing checks and paying bills and sweeping floors and doing laundry, I looked at photos and commentary on social media and at photos on my phone, and sent a bunch of them to folks I’ve known, remembering when we all were younger, when my kids were kids, when I was a most often in the photos happy self, celebrating, marking, traveling, trying to preserve meaningful memories for the future.

As I was doing all this, I found a message on this blog reminding me the storage space is full and I can either delete media or pay for a more expensive subscription. For years, I’ve ignored these messages, and posted no more photos on this blog, so you haven’t seen, but only heard the changes in my life, as my kids have gone from children to teens to young adults.

This morning I’ll take my daughter to a doctor’s appointment where she’ll get a shot required for boarding school and we’ll collect the medical forms she’ll need to return for year two, plus summer one of living away from home for high school. She is seventeen and would have been graduating this year had she not had such a nontraditional education and needed an extra year to complete her high school requirements. I don’t expect there will be many more doctors appointments where she’ll want my company.

On Monday I met my oldest in New York to help him move from the Upper East Side to East Harlem, a very big shift in neighborhoods and apartments, from mostly white to mostly brown, from small, expensive, basic studio to what felt like a luxury apartment for NYC low rent in the midst of a lot of poverty. We worked all day together and I felt a lot, happy/scared/proud mother son time that in my life with my son is very, very rare.

My middle son continues to weave the texture of his life. He’s been away a bit more of late, sharing an airbnb with his gal and her visiting family last week, and I’ve been away a lot, working all week and away every weekend this summer, but on Tuesday and Wednesday night after I got home from work and before he left for the evening, he was at the kitchen table taking apart and repairing an old boom box with double cassettes, and he was in his element, and I was in mine.

These are the moments I get with my kids at 17, 23, and 21. Now I’m dating someone with his own set of three, I am learning to find time with them, too, beach day with the twelve on Saturday, dinner with the twelve and twenty one that night, NYC trip with the twelve Sunday and Monday, including working together cleaning out my twenty three’s apartment, part of vacation in Ashfield with my seventeen and his twelve, maybe two days in a Hull Airbnb if my seventeen is eager..

All of which is to say, my children are making their lives apart from me and we are learning every day how to love as we grow up and grow older, how to remain connected even as we part ways.

My sister was in Western New York with my mom and her thirteen this past week, and sent me photos of me and my dad and mom and sister in our early lives before my father died. She took my mom to the doctor and visited for awhile. At the same time my seventeen and twenty three were with their dad in Texas visiting their grandad and helping him on the ranch, visiting their grandma in her new assisted living digs, along with aunts and uncles and cousins. Richard wrote yesterday to let me know his mother in law, an elder we helped care for when we were together who I loved, had died in the morning, and there would be no funeral. I wrote back with my sadness that she would not be remembered and honored in that way, but that I would hold her in the light, as Quakers do and he let me know know he’s holding me and mine in that light, too.

All we can do sometimes, is hold one another in the light, allowing the glow to infuse our lives as best we can.

 

This weekend I’m in Ashfield on my own. Two kids are visiting their Texas family with their dad. One kid is working and performing in the city, as he does most every weekend. New guy needed a weekend at home. I decided too late to invite a friend, also imagined the time alone would do me good.

I left early, awake in the 6’s and ready to go, stopped in Northampton for breakfast at my favorite spot, the farmer’s market, coffee at Western Mass prices, a walk around town with Richard and a visit with his daughter, all reminders of the life I’ve left behind, the life here, one of many lives, now part of my past more than my future.

In Ashfield, I made my rounds, farmer’s market, library, hardware store, Elmer’s, a local open house, cooler down the road for eggs. Between Northampton and Ashfield errands my car slowly filled with treasure, potatoes and peppers and green beans from the blind woman whose stall is at one end of the Northampton farmer’s market, greens from the small organic farm half way down the hill, blueberries from the no nonsense farmer on the other end, corn from the grumpy woman at the next stall heading back up the hill, three bags of coffee from Tart before heading back to my car, two caff, one decaf to share with my new guy and my at home son, two cups of free iced coffee, one for me for the road, one for Richard for later with no ice, a tearful hug, a short surprise visit with his daughter and her new guy’s friend, drive to Ashfield listening to Blues Run the Game, treasure for my eyes and ears and nose as I cruise a favorite route into the country, then in Ashfield, summer squash, bantam eggs, cucumbers, and asian eggplants from my favorite Ashfield farmer, whose got a new hair style and the same old smile, parsley, basil, kale, and scallions from the young and earthy guy in the middle of the ever shrinking market, ground pork for 6 dollars a pound from a new farmer I don’t recognize, raspberries, second to last pint, from a tiny woman who also sells local meat, then on to the Hardware store for the second dozen eggs and Skinny oatmeal molasses bread and a “welcome home” from the owner, our neighbor down the road in the Spruce Corner end of Ashfield, a pile of books and a renewed card at the Belding Memorial Library, where I find Isa’s vegan cookbook and take a photo for my gal, self-named Isa this past year, vegan for two years, another cookbook about the pleasures of cooking for one, a third, Barefoot Contessa I remember enjoying several summers ago, a pile of books of essays by Marilynne Robinson, Maya Angelous, and Mary Oliver, all wise women writing about the inner life, from a later life perspective, Sidehill Farms yogurt and a conversation with a familiar face in Elmer’s, remembering aloud getting Sidehill yogurt in the early days from the shed in the woods in Baptist Corner, wondering aloud and thinking not about getting yogurt at the new farm up on the hill in Hawley. Car fully loaded, I send a photo to my guy in the city, letting him know I’m fine, get one back of a Trader Joe’s shopping cart and an offer of a nice meal when I get back to the city tomorrow night.

At the house on Willis-Howes Road, the cows are home. Otherwise the place is quiet. The quiet is both welcome after a hard and emotionally intense stretch at home and work in the city, and hard, as in it I can imagine all the lives I’ve left behind, all those who are together while I am not, Richard preparing for his dinner party with old friends and a new woman friend, new guy who chose to be home and do chores and see a movie alone rather than come to the country with me, daughter and son visiting my used to be in-laws in Texas where I used to go with them and their dad and before they were born, with their dad, Ashfield housemates who were just visiting the place together, friends of mine since college, married to each other twenty five years or more, and all the friends I imagine spending the weekend with friends and partners. Does anyone at 51 go to a country house alone?

As I dropped off my daughter at her dad’s last night, after an evening together wondering if Mars Retrograde was messing with our moods, each of us in our separate funks all week, me on the verge of tears much of every day as I made my way through week two of dealing with the DEEC legal documents that arrived via e-mail two weekends ago, and imagined each moment in the day care to be the moment when we mess up again, when things again, this time irrevocably, fall apart, my daughter in a funk she didn’t talk about much with me, but the sharing of the funks and the wondering about the astrological origins brought us together and allowed me to ask if she thinks I’m weird to go to Ashfield alone, and to hear from her an answer I might have expected, that I am not.

The place was calling me through the week. I imagine that call to be the inner voice I read about on the web site for the New England Yearly Meeting Sessions we are going to in August, a voice calling me to my better self, to a place of renewal and refreshment, away from the DCF and the DEEC, away from my old house of housemates, away from the worry of making another mistake, of losing all I’ve got, to a field of sunshine, to woods and water, to farms and farmer’s markets, to fresh baked bread, eggs in a cooler down the road, greens wet from washing by the farmer’s hands, cucumbers and summer squash bursting their skins, berries so tender and flavorful I don’t need other sweets, and Ashfield Lake, my home in the water, where I find myself at last, spend the first half hour reading Mary Oliver Upstream, where she tells me about things I need to know, hardness of life, escape into books and nature, redemption in making a creative life, living for oneself in spite of and sometimes apart from the world.

When I have had enough of her wisdom, I get up from my butterfly blanket, leave the young mother wrapping her and her chilled child in a rainbow towel beside me, and find my way to the water. I take my time to enter, adjusting to the coolness on my skin, find myself remembering the last time I swam there, with Richard taking each step beside me, telling me as he did each time we went swimming, we aren’t here for the fun of it, as his dad used to tell him, and I let that bit of life go, cry my way across the lake, until I can catch my breath, remembering my new guy coaching me in breath, tai chi style, find my  bearings in the water, relax, close my eyes, glide until I realize no one is stopping me from going across. My children are grown and aren’t waiting at the shore. Richard is hosting a dinner party and going to a play with another woman and our former friends. New guy is taking a nap at home in the city and headed to a super hero movie I wouldn’t want to see. I swim for myself and for the far shore, wonder if I should worry about being alone in deep water, decide it is now or never, no reason to believe I will give out, that I’ll collapse, lose strength. And so I swim and relax until I meet tangles of water plants that thicken and close off access to the last of the water, allow myself not to reach the far shore, but to turn back, return trip shorter somehow, and choppier, wind pushing the waves into my mouth unless I hold my head up high. When I reach shore, the sky is clouding over, rain forecast to start around midnight and last through tomorrow. I’m chilled and I get out, dry off, dress in the parking lot, find my way to the pizza shop, find a table, type, switch tables to one near enough to an extension cord to plug in my computer, write this blog post here, return to writing again about being alone, making me wonder what life holds, a partner or more solitude. The hand ahead of me in the water was naked, no ring for nearly ten years. For awhile after I took off my wedding ring, I remember wearing a turquoise Navajo ring of my grandmother’s. Then a piece of turquoise fell out and I went bare. Until the return trip in the water, I hadn’t thought much about it. I remember now asking Richard for a ring, and not getting one, bracelet, necklace, earrings, no ring. A ring is for commitment. For now, I’m free.

 

 

My daughter has a summer reading list, a first for her, I believe. When she was putting it together, she texted me for suggestions. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for, she wrote, and she was right, it was.

I suggested many of my favorite books, Plainsong, A Member of the Wedding, books by favorite authors, books I thought she’d like. I described some of them to her when she came home, and she chose The Summer Book, which made me happy, because it is poetic, playful, and deep, and because something about it reminds me of her, and because I hoped she’d love it.

I don’t know if she’s reading it, but I am. I brought it with me to Vermont, where I’m staying in a Groupon motel and mostly laying low, town shut down for the holiday, heat making activity oppressive.

I’m nearly done. It’s 11:24 and I’m wide awake from a late afternoon coffee, not enough exercise, and a wish to write, a wish that hasn’t been coming as regularly as I’d like. I’m on the sofa typing, wondering what will come if I keep on clicking keys.

My daughter is home with her father, out to the 4th of July fireworks in Boston. I played frisbee on a tennis court, where the to and fro of the tosses began at last to find a rhythm. When I get up out of bed to write, I remembered the to and fro of late night summer tennis when I was a girl and met my friends at the court between their two houses, and we hit balls on the tennis courts while the boys we admired played basketball on the court beside us.

The Summer Book kept me company when I couldn’t sleep last night, made me laugh out loud in the dark, and today in the room when the AC kept us cool, and by the pool, where it was so hot only shade and regular dips would do. I love it and it’s new. That’s the thing about me and my favorite books, Plainsong, Gilead, The Member of the Wedding, The Summer Book, Stuart Little. I can read them again and again and each time they’re new.

This time I read the introduction, perhaps because my daughter asked me from the couch as she contemplated starting her summer reading as I sat at the dining room table doing desk work, if it was important to read the introduction. Yes, it can be, I let her know.  I learned from reading it myself this time that the dreamy book I’ve loved is in fact about the girl’s mother having just died. As I read the book this time, I arrived at the line the writer of the introduction has quoted to illustrate this point, which I must have read right over in the past, and then I knew, the book is about a six year old girl whose mother has died. I was once a six year old girl whose father had died. I wonder after learning this what part of me was drawn to and may keep returning to the Summer Book because the author captures an experience I’ve spent my life trying to understand and if my daughter, who didn’t lose a parent to death, but lost a family, or had a family change dramatically through divorce, will relate or not.

But whatever happens, it’s the first book we’ll both have read in ages, maybe since she was small and I read to her at bedtime, and I hope she love The Summer Book as I do.

For now, no more. Time for bed. No fireworks here, no child, but a connection to summer and to childhood that is magical and travels wherever I go, first reading in Ashfield one August vacation, another reading on retreat at Gilchrist in Michigan, third reading in a Vermont motel, fourth by my daughter, wherever she may be, a reader, too, like me.