This morning, after three weeks away, my gal is home. My guy was here last night and we had breakfast before he headed off to work this morning. He has work. A good thing. Which means weekends his daughter is with her mother he works Saturdays and I am on my own.

My close friend is suffering. I spent much of last weekend with her, visiting with her and/or thinking about her.

My sister had hoped I would spend this weekend with her and my mom and her sons at the graduation of my oldest nephew, staying together in Ashfield, attending ceremonies at UMass Amherst. I realized when the time got closer it was more than I could do, that I wasn’t up for a graduation for my nephew with his dad in the mix as he and my sister are going through a divorce, on a weekend my daughter would be home and not up for traveling, on a weekend my middle child, six weeks older than his cousin, might have been graduating, too, had things not changed so drastically for him.

Instead, I’m listening to Adrianne Lenker, singer songwriter, member of Big Thief, first introduced to me by my oldest son. Last time I had time to myself, maybe the last Saturday I was home alone while my guy was at work, I listened to her all day, and then sent my son a text wondering if he had heard of her, as she reminded me of Julie Byrne who I love thanks to my son recommending her to me, and as he had sent me a Big Thief song on a birthday playlist a few years back when I was new to Spotify. Yesterday he wrote back letting me know he had not only heard of her, he listens to her and likes her a lot. It makes me happy to know even though we see one another infrequently we can share music, share art, share common sensibilities.

So, today I think of Ben, think of Jonah, think of my friend, think of my sister and my mom and my nephews and their day, think of of my daughter upstairs asleep and wonder what will happen.

Maybe I’ll bake cookies and bring them to my friend. I’ve laid the chocolate chips on my counter, remembering my guy loved the last batch I made and my friend loved another batch I had made awhile back when she had spent the night and been here for dinner, something she isn’t up for now.

I’m on the cusp of more big change. My daughter is looking at colleges, preparing to go even further away after her senior year at boarding school nearby. After next year, there won’t be many weekends she’ll visit. The house will be even quieter.

My kids have left unpredictably ever since their dad and I split up ten years ago with the ever changing plans for sharing time between his house and mine. They each left public school for Sudbury Valley suddenly and in their own ways. Then there was early college for Ben, late college, then leaving college, then moving into his own place for Jonah, and an extra year of high school, then boarding school for Isabel.

None of it was what I had expected when I had my babies at the end of December and beginning of January, when I had calculated their entry into school and predicted their leaving home, their graduating from college, their moving on into the worlds of work as though it would all unfold predictably and on a schedule of thirteen years of public school, four years of residential college not too far from home, and starting independent lives after that, coming home for holidays and some vacations, assuming they chose not to live nearby.

I suppose I thought they would do what I had done, what their father had done, that they would follow our footsteps in that way, that I could know in advance how and when to prepare for their leaving.

Which is not, in fact, how life unfolds. It unfolds unpredictably. Fathers, at least mine, disappear sometimes, unexpectedly, as do children, into worlds of their own, on timelines of their own, and we are left, as children, and as parents, and as partners, in my case three times so far, plus one if you count my day care partner as well as my husband and long term boyfriends, again and again and again, most often in ways we cannot predict or prepare for or manage as gracefully as we might like. At all.

Sometimes the best we can do is lay on the couch and read Tuesdays with Morrie, or bake cookies in the kitchen while listening to Adrianne Lenker, or wake up alone in the house and read or listen to On Being, all to remind ourselves again and again and again, we are not alone. We are alive in a sea of humanity all there for the reaching out, the touching, the listening to, and the reading about it.

Adrianne Lenker’s song Indiana https://youtu.be/3mATEy0Avc4 captured my attention as it played on a Spotify ramble awhile back, and catches me every time I listen. I don’t understand it really, except for what I imagine and have read is its reference to her leaving Indiana, a childhood, Midwestern home as I left my Midwestern, Western New York home, as we all leave our childhood homes behind in one form or another, to become who we are meant to be, to leave behind who we might have become. It probably helped that in the lyrics she says she was six years old when she left, which resonated with my dad dying when I was six years old and so much of who I was might have become was lost, and so much of who I was to become began to take shape.

Tuesdays with Morrie was on my book shelf, gifted to me or collected by me, I can’t remember, when I looked up Thursday morning from my breakfast and found it there waiting for me, a gift from the universe in the midst of a hard week and hard time. I’ve been reading it ever since, in stolen moments to rejuvenate my soul. It’s that kind of book, a recording by a student of the end of life thoughts of a beloved professor. The process of capturing and reflecting and recording, as well as of reconnecting with his teacher is changing the life of the student as I read, causing him to rethink the direction his life has taken, his priorities, and who he is meant to be. As I read I find myself, as I imagine many readers have, wanting to do the same, to focus on what matters, love, family, good work, rest, beauty, nature, conversation, touch, food, caring for others and being cared for, caring for ourselves with compassion and kindness.

So, today, when my guy headed off to work, I made a cup of tea and read my e-mail, where I found another On Being e-mail that resonated, which I shared with friends, with my mom and sister, will reread before I start the next part of my day, which shared ways some of those Krista Tippet has interviewed and I have listened to over the years have talked about centering themselves in times of upheavals large and small. I read about favorite poems, favorite books, an hour a day to read, phrases, practices that bring each one of the wise ones back to ground, back from fear and panic into love and kindness and into a place of centering which allows them to go on.

After that it felt right to write here, the place I’ve so often turned the last ten and a half years to center myself, to follow my own thoughts, to share my story and my inner and outer worlds with whoever comes across my blog and reads my posts.

The indulgence of a Saturday morning with a guy off to work, a gal upstairs asleep, a house in decent order, if not clean and tidy, bills mostly paid, mail mostly opened, is a cup of cherry tea from Jonah, in a mug from the pottery open studios in Western Mass a few springs ago, at a table my daughter and I chose from the Davis Square flea, at my two year old computer, bought one of my last weekends in Northampton with Richard, (by Richard?), is to sit and write, here for you and me, about loss, about centering, about the gifts the world offers us again and again and again, which assuage our loneliness, which magnify and dull the suffering, whether our own or our friend’s or family’s, which bring us down to earth, to the place we live, to the kitchen table, the back porch, the desk, wherever it is we write, reflect, regroup, recenter, relive, re-imagine all that life is now and was and could be.

Gracias, universe, beloveds near and far, here and gone, gracias for all you’ve done and been and will be, on track, off track, sad and lost, energized and loving, hopeful, hopeless, lost and found.

To close out, I’ll share the piece of the Pablo Neruda poem I read in the On Being e-mail this morning, as shared by Sylvia Boorstein in her interview with Krista Tippet, which I began earlier in the week and hope to finish soon. Enjoy.

Many years ago when I first discovered Parker Palmer he talked about third things, songs, poems, pieces of writing, images in art and nature, that can connect us to deeper parts of ourselves and one another. These three things are doing it for me today. Maybe one or more will be a Third Thing for you, too. Enjoy.

At the end of this week’s On Being, Sylvia Boorstein reads “Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda, a poem she keeps with her at all times. It begins:

“Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment,
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness …”

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