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.

Advertisements

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.

It’s taken me years to appreciate a quiet night in my own home. Finally, I’m in sync with my friends who didn’t experience divorce. Instead of imagining other parents with children at home, doing homework, sharing dinner, watching tv while I imagine the life my children are living with their father nights they aren’t with me, I’m in a new place, feeling like my life is mostly just right.

My friends are also without kids most of the time, or without some of their kids some of the time. My kids are mostly living life away from me. My daughter is in a boarding school I didn’t expect her to be in this time last year, is as happy as she’s been, here only every other weekend at best, sometimes an additional Sunday overnight weekends she’s with her dad and I drive her back to school early Monday morning. My middle guy lives at home, and has a life of his own, is hardly here when I am. We joke about ships crossing in the night as we come and go. My older son lives happily in New York, so happily he plans to continue with the life he’s living rather than change it up. And my new guy lives across town, not across the state or in another state, meaning we can see each other throughout the week, so nights we aren’t together aren’t so bad.

I have three house mates sharing our place and a tenant sharing the day care. Which means nights no one is home are kind of glorious.

Tonight I’m sitting on the couch, all the windows and the back porch door open, sun low in the sky still gracing the walls of my living and dining room and lighting up the maple outside where birds chirp and sing. The cars outside are going somewhere I’m not.

My drum teacher got a summer job in Maine, so for the first Thursday in many months, I am home, not drumming in the Meeting House with my Drum Circle. When I heard the news on Tuesday night, I was sad. I love drumming and will miss it. Turns out I also love a quiet night at home alone.

I don’t even need dinner. After my fingerprinting session this afternoon on Drydock Avenue in downtown Boston the fish coming from the Drydock Cafe in the first floor of the same building drew me in. I ordered a take out fish sandwich for myself and fish and chips for my son and his gal who were at home, ate mine on the porch and visited with my house mate a few minutes when I got home, then in the day care while kids settled in for nap, left the fries for a snack later.

My time is my own. For an hour or two, the house is my own, only the little housemate here with me, napping behind closed doors while his parents run an errand and I keep watch.

The breeze coming in the window is gentle. The colors in my house shift with the light. The leaf shadows on the walls dance as the breeze rustles the tree out front. The birds cheep. The keys of my computer click as I type. My guy texts every so often. I’m not alone in the world. Just alone in the house, almost. A fine feeling at last, at 51. Welcome home, middle aged lady. Its all yours and you’re here.

Last night I was home a few minutes between work and Sharing Circle. It’s my window with my son, who is living a young adult life of his own while I figure out a middle aged life of my own. Several days a week, we cross paths briefly in the five to seven hour, when I come upstairs from day care and often prepare to head out for the evening, and he is at home, working on his projects or hanging out with his gal friend, preparing for a rehearsal, show, or work.

Last night, as I do many Wednesday nights, I offered my son a salad while I prepared one for the Sharing Circle, lettuce, cucumbers, pea pods, grated carrots, chick peas, tomatoes, roasted sunflower seeds with tamari, feta cheese, homemade maple dressing with Ashfield maple syrup I made the night before so as not to run so, so late. I put the ingredients for the Sharing Circle salad into a new bowl I found at my friend’s open studio, a tidy round bowl with matte green glazing and ridges on the outside, shiny jade glazing on the inside, just the right size to hold salad for the members of the Circle. Next to that I made a salad, dinner sized, for my son, in a nice green vintage bowl I got at the Spruce Corner yard sale in Ashfield last year from my favorite purveyor of vintage crockery and Waldorf inspired day care materials and vintage clothes. A nice old black cashmere cardigan and a sweet red flowered skirt now in my bedroom showed up the same day as the green bowl.

My son and I visit briefly. He plays a song he’s been working on, using his sample pad to rework a Brian Wilson bootleg piece, and then the original so I can compare. No surprise, this mom likes her son’s work best. He offers me a second iced coffee, and I accept, knowing I slept poorly the night before and wanting to be alert for the circle. I pack my things, remember my car full of Sunday treasure, my newly repaired bike and a load of art materials and puzzles gifted to me from Macky and Michael in preparation for their retirement. I unload the art supplies and my son puts the bike away, thinks about riding it to Davis Square on his way to Central for the show that night. We still share, not full meals at the table so much, or shared bike rides, but food, a kitchen, occasional conversation, help around the house, a bike. I offered lunch out today, something we enjoyed last year and last fall and this winter, but this time, my son is busy with his gal, a change that makes him happy and me, too.

Several years ago I had a similar window with my older son. He worked at Lincoln Labs the summer after his junior year of college. I was working in the day care. We’d get up in the morning together, my son in his work clothes for the first time, khaki pants, button down shirt, belt, shoes, freshly showered and shaven, and I’d be in my day care garb, shorts, t-shirt or blouse, sandals, and we’d commune in the kitchen a few minutes. He’d make us freshly ground and brewed coffee using the fancy beans I’d buy and the fancy burr grinder he liked to use and had brought home from college, and I’d unload the dishwasher, admire my grown guy, talk with him while he fried eggs or emptied cartons of yogurt into his bowl, my son of enormous appetite.

I basked in the sunshine of those mornings, will remember them in old age, as I’ll remember the Thursday Tamper lunches with my second son, and the Wednesday night salad making in two bowls, as I’ll remember the toast with almond butter and cherry preserves and chai tea in Karma travel mugs I share with my daughter at 6 on Monday morning when I drive her back to boarding school, as I’ll remember the kale and peppers and garlic and onions with eggs and half caf coffee with shaken soy milk I shared this morning in JP, as I’ll remember the little trays of almond butter and cherry jam on Hungry Ghost bread with pieces of fruit and a mug of tea with milk and a bit of sugar Richard used to make me in the early days when I left Northampton in the dark on Tuesday mornings to return to day care in Somerville, as I’ve remembered all my life the plate of fried potatoes and eggs my dad would enjoy before work, cooked by my mom and sometimes shared with me.

Food is my love language. As my kids get older, I take it where I can, quick salad left for a working performer, coffee and conversation over dishwasher unloading and egg frying with my tech intern the last summer he was home, toast and tea in the car for my gal and me as we part each week I send her back to boarding school.

I’m also finding ways to share meals with folks when my kids aren’t around, something I’ve been learning the last nine years since their dad and I parted ways and we’ve shared custody and the kids have grown up and away. I’ve been a single mom, with kids at home part time, most often with a partner who lives elsewhere, so dependable meal partners haven’t been my blessing or my curse. I haven’t worn out on too much meal prep or too many dishes for endless family meals. These days I make my salad on Wednesday and share it with the Circle and my son. I cook weekends my daughter is home, and now sometimes Tuesdays for my guy, sometimes weekends if we are together. Other nights its often catch as catch can, sometimes leftovers from the weekend, one night last week I just slept through dinner, one night this week it was yogurt and berries near ten, sometimes in the past it was ice cream and potato chips, very rarely it’s a meal with friends.

Daily, though, when I’m working, I eat with my small friends. We serve food family style, with small bowls and serving utensils and pitchers to pour, glass plates, real silverware, and lots of conversation and talking about the food. That is a part of the day care I evaluate and decide to continue over and over. Getting and storing groceries for ten kids and two adults a day is a lot. Preparing and cleaning up from two meals and one snack a day takes time and juggling. But, my love language is food, so it doesn’t really feel negotiable.

I love it when my two sits in the Trip Trap chair beside the counter and visits while I cook. I love to see the children enjoy the food. It makes me happy when parents ask years later how I made this or that food that their child came to love. My own children still find foods they had in day care to be their comfort foods, pasta with cottage cheese and sauce for my second son, cous cous with corn and chick peas for my daughter, rice and beans for all three. One six thinks I should serve quesadillas every Friday, or long pasta. Some kids take as much pleasure in telling me which foods they don’t like, again and again and again, often until they become beloved. That, too, is a love language, giving children and people foods they can choose to eat or refuse, a luxury of modern life to be lead by our preferences, rather than to be told what we must eat or to be eating out of desperation or hunger as so many have and do.

One older friend of Liana’s lost her husband a few years ago. In order to keep her sense of connection she aimed to share at least one meal a day with another person. Sometimes members of the Sharing Circle have said our Wednesday dinner is the only meal they share all week. We all value the community and companionship we find there, over food at the table and around the candles in the circle. What better way to be restored, to be reminded of our shared humanity, to connect, to love, than by sharing a meal with those we love and care for? Thank you, universe, for continuing to help me find ways to share meals as those around me change and as my life and routines shift and take new shape.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below: