This weekend I took some time away. I’ve finished my taxes. I submitted one set of financial aid forms on Thursday, the other on Friday. Saturday afternoon I bought a multitasking machine to help me send the tax returns to the colleges which require them, long johns for my kids’ winter camping trip, and cross-country skis for myself. Sunday I cross-country skied with a friend. Yeah!

In between, there were other things. Last night while we cooked, we listened to Johnny Cash Unearthed, and I was, again, unearthed. The way Johnny sings those songs makes me listen. His life comes through in the lyrics he writes or chooses, in the emotions in his voice.

Later, we watched Downton Abby, my new favorite tv show. The characters struggle with their lives, with change they want to make and change forced upon them, with love in many forms, with work and what it means and says about them, with all sorts of things that make me want to watch.

After one episode, we stop, in spite of Netflix’s offer to click for the next episode. Which means I am able to finish Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which Joan would probably like to know, was perhaps one of two books my ex-husband and I bought for each other for Christmas, that and Cold Mountain, I think, though Joan’s was the last, neither of which we read together, neither of which he read, as far as I know, in spite of the synchronicity. I loved Cold Mountain. I loved Joan Didion, too, but at the time I first started it, several years ago, it was too sad for me to read, too difficult in some way I can only guess to remember. It didn’t make enough sense. My daughter found the book in the bedside table cupboard in Ashfield last weekend, bookmark still in it, as Joan would also want to know, showing where I had left off. As I read this time around, I kept that bookmark in it, from 2005, I believe, which seems so long ago, I wonder if it came with the book, or was just a bookmark floating around the house which I picked up and used to mark the book.  Each time I came to a new stopping place this time, I folded the bookmark down to mark it without losing the original place. This time the book made perfect sense, the emotions and experiences Joan Didion describes were quite real to me. First time I read it I was married, though I imagine things were coming apart. I think I tried reading it again when I was going through the separation and divorce, though that memory is “mudgy” as Joan Didion and her daughter would say. I didn’t manage to finish then, either. This time I had not only enough distance from my own raw emotions to hear hers, I had a bit of my own story figured out, could line the two up against one another in my mind, make some further adjustments to my understanding of my own life while seeking to understand hers.

Joan Didion’s writing struck me as beautiful this time. Last time I had not been reading poetry. This time I had. I also have heard and seen her speak in real life, heard her say she reads mainly poetry, which I then heard in Blue Nights, the book about her daughter I read awhile back after the reading in Harvard Square, around the holidays, when I was aching for my children. The two books go together, Blue Nights about losing her daughter, The Year of Magical Thinking about losing her husband. In her case, her family has died. In my case, we have come apart. Parallel stories, much in common, meaning to be made from closer reading of the two.

I woke this morning to vivid dreams. One was about home and the other about day care, adjusting in the first, I now remember, to making a home for a family, of which I may have been a part, in the home of an elderly man, a tiny room, with beds and closet space enough after his own few possessions were stored and needs met, for a parent and two children, to make due til something better came along. The second was about adapting to changes in the day care, first some renovations, then a visiting day, first by spending time at the library, where Macky had told us the story hour couldn’t be beat, then by shifting the kids around at nap time to places in the day care where the visitors wouldn’t be.

I woke up to messages in my inbox about a sick child, wrote to a parent who had written last night looking for an opening for her son, offered her the sick child’s space, to two messages about tonight’s charter school personnel meeting,which I’m hosting, and for which my friend and I made soup with Johnny Cash. The week is back. I’m in it. Life goes on, stories continue when the book or the episode or the song or the marriage or the weekend ends.

Enjoy a little Johnny Cash singing Cat Stevens Father and Son, the song my friend and I shared while we tested the soup for our dinner last night. I loved Cat Stevens singing it when I was twenty and living abroad as a student in London. I loved Johnny Cash singing it when I was newly separated and needed help understanding what that meant, to make such a big change at midlife, fatherless, husbandless girl/woman on my own for the first time since London. I love it now, sending my boy off to school. No matter what the critics say, I think Johnny makes good on this one.