August 2018


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.

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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.