My peonies are in their glory, bursting from tight round knobs to fluffy, frilly fullness. For days before they burst forth, I peeked in on them. Not yet. But the knobs swelled, the ants got active. And then one day last week, I watched the first unfurl. As I went back and forth pulling weeds, getting compost, hustling to get the ends of the vegetable garden planted, I saw it loosen and spread its petals.
Since then I’ve barely had time to glance at them. I cut a few to bring in with their showy color and scent. But it’s been a whirlwind of end of year school activities and appointments and work deadlines.
I want to slow it all down.
I want to enjoy the peonies while they are here, before they make way for morning glory and sunflower and lily. Before them lilac and forsythia seemed to rush by this year. Or was it me rushing. Or was it time speeded up again.
Yesterday was the last preschool pick up I’ll do. Ever. I’ve been so focused on all the things that needed to be done—the field trip permission slip to sign, remembering to pack a lunch, helping out at field day, special snacks, teacher’s gifts (not done yet)—I lost sight of this transition.
Four years ago, I brought my big girl to preschool and my little one tagged along, so eager for her turn. She washed hands, created her own sign in on the board, burst into an activity. She couldn’t wait for her turn to stay.
Two years ago, I hugged her goodbye in her classroom. Her turn finally. The past four years did not feel that fast, but I look up surprised that we are here, ready to say goodbye to her preschool for good.
She’s moving just next door to kindergarten. We will see her teacher’s still. But I won’t see them each morning and hear how things are going. I won’t watch as my little girl washes hands, hangs up her bag, rushes to the board to sign in. I won’t chat with her or watch her with her friends as she starts her day.
She can’t wait for kindergarten. I’m excited too. The long swaths of the day from the morning bus stop to the afternoon squeak of bus breaks is alluring. What will you do? Work. Write. Run, maybe. Yoga. Take care of the errands that never seemed to fit between preschool pick up and bus time. It can fill so quickly. Right now I’m trying to breathe into it, not let it get filled to fast with any old thing. Right now, I’m realizing what we are done with.
No more preschool or preschool payments. No more drop offs and pick ups. No more playing in the park at noon or lunches together. No more naps.
But she is riding a bike and picking out words she knows. She is going on her first overnight with my parents next week.
Each ending a beginning. Last year my big girl was devastated by the end of the year. Little girl doesn’t seem to care about this ending. She’s already looking ahead, wanting to keep up with her big sister, wanting to do the things she can’t do yet.
She raced through these years like the forsythia and lilacs and peonies this year. We’ll come back to this space again next June, transitioning again. We’ll say goodbye again next year, closing the door on kindergarten. The peonies will bloom again. I’ll wait for them. I’ll savor them, be sad when they go. And I’ll love the lilies that bloom and the curving garlic scapes and the tall sunflowers towering over me. Can we just slow it all down a little?
The close of the year is an opening to a new one. The recently passed solstice, the turn of the calendar both call us to shift our cycles. What can you let go of? What will you embrace?
I intended to write about the light-dark / ending-beginning of this month last week on solstice, but I felt called instead to make space. I stepped away from the computer a lot. I read. I brought my hands into a warm ball of dough and baked bread. I breathed deep in the twinkling light of the tree and the flicker of the fire. I read some more.
With all the to-dos of this month behind me, but a little more celebration and family time to go, I’m sinking into the open space I deliberately created—no work in this interholiday week of school vacation.
2015 Year in Review
Back in January, I set open as my word of the year. Aside from this open space here at the end of the year, how else did I open?
I opened to new ideas about my work and ended up with this. I don’t know why I resisted change for so long, but I’m loving the ghostblogging/content management world I’m thriving in.
I opened my door each morning and stepped outside. I looked up at the trees and the sky. I counted crows, black spots against the blue. I found the lingering moon and noticed pink-gold streaks. I felt the ground firm but yielding beneath my feet. I opened my eyes to notice.
I opened up space in my schedule for writing that I felt called to do. I was consistent with it for a while. I need to step back and re-open that space.
I opened to hope, as I do each spring, and to being in the moment with my kids.
I opened to possibility, to figuring out how instead of saying I can’t. In the past, friends would post about trips they had taken and I’d wonder how they managed. Who watched their kids? How did they afford it? How did they find time in a schedule that seems always too full? But when an old college friend asked a small group of us to get together, I was open to making it happen—and I ended up soaking up the quiet and the deep conversations in Tucson.
I opened to adventure, the kind I haven’t had in years.
I opened to the fullness of my experience in December as I do each year—and got surprised.
I didn’t open my body with yoga like I intended (though I have a plan for next September when I have two kids in school full time).
I didn’t open up more space in my house the way I wanted to. Clearing out clutter has been a molasses slow process, and the open space I create seems to fill in almost immediately. I’m still working on that one. It’s a good goal for a new year.
The year is closing, but a new one opens. I’m thinking about what I want that year to feel like and staying open possibility.
What openings did you create last year? What openings do you see coming in the new year?
This morning when I stepped out early, the grass was crispy with frost. I could see the squirrel’s nest in the tree down the driveway. A single crow perched at the top of the dying tree that threatens our car. My eyes find squirrels in the trees, movement more than color or shape in the skeletons of the stripped down trees.
It’s a month of paring back. Simplifying. Stripping down.
Apparently I’ve stripped away words. While one of my friends tries to write a novel for NaNoWriMo and another blogs daily for NaBloPoMo, I’ve been absent here, writing less, not more.
It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I’ve finished an essay and, just this morning, an article. Both have been lingering in half-forgotten folders on my computer and dusty corners of my mind. But in the mornings when I’m up, I find myself just sitting. I crave stillness and quiet. I wrap my hands around a mug of ginger tea for warmth. I slowly breath in the steam rising from the cup. It is the closest I come to meditation.
I find myself standing outside feeling the sun on my back, watching the clouds scuttle across the sky or peering down at the bees crawling all over the pale pink mums with their yellowed centers, still working. Like the squirrels in the trees, it’s the motion first that catches my eye. And I watch.
There are leaves to get up, wood to move, flower pots to tuck away in the barn. There are stories to tell, words to get out, but right now, I’ve pared back. I get still. I watch. Getting quiet, noticing. This is my work too.
The words will come back, like the leaves, but right now is a time to find out how much there is to see when everything is stripped down.
I don’t know where to start, so I’ll start here, with this cool morning that made me pull a sweater over my pjs, at least outside on the porch. I curl my hand around the smooth glaze of my coffee mug, the curved walls fit my hand perfectly. I feel the warmth, watch the steam rise up.
I take a bit of bagel, crisp then chewy and taste the sweet then bitter peach marmalade. More coffee. My eyes are still grainy with tiredness. I know more coffee isn’t the answer, but it’s warm and says wake up if only by routine.
There is a high, vibrating noise in the distance. I think alternately coyotes and a swarm of bees, but now it has settled into music, closer. And then again, far away, the high pitched yelp, and above me, “Caw, caw, caw!”
I’m distracted by cold feet, but I won’t go get socks, not until the kids wake up. I want this quiet time, but still, that vibrating hum far away, and within me. I’m restless, feeling the change in the air, school starting, new routines. I’m ready to settle in, get back to writing, back to running or walking, back to knowing when my work time is. And I’ll miss the lazy mornings, when we stayed in pajamas and read book after book and wandered out in the dewy garden.
I look up from my journal. The paint on the porch is peeling, white chips fallen or waiting to fall, patches where it’s been scraped already. It’s supposed to be painted this summer, one more thing of the endless to do list. Over the railing, the garden waits to be weeded. I see the last zucchini plant, shrived and brown taken down by powdery mildew.
And then motion. A bit of red. Hummingbird. I watch it hover, wings abuzz. Does it ever get tired of so much motion?
I hear the feet on the steps before the, “Mom?” at the screen door. And then it opens and a new part of the day begins.
I’ve been reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet, and she talks about five-finger exercises and how even the pages that you throw away have purpose. This idea that writing is like running or playing the piano or any thing you do that you need to practice and keep up with isn’t something new. It’s something I know, something I’ve said, and sometimes I still need that reminder.
It’s been a busy summer and I’ve fallen out of practice with many things, writing among them. So I’m here, doing my finger exercises, getting back into the habit of sitting down and putting words on the page. I almost didn’t come here today. I thought, “Next week, when both kids are in school,” but I’m tired of waiting. I’m doing an exercise challenge with my sister, and this morning I can feel in my legs handful of lunges I did last night. I need to feel my writing muscles again too. So I’m here, and I’m writing.
What are you warming up to do again?
Four tomatoes hung in a small cluster, orange-red, with a bit of yellow on the shoulders. The other plants hold hard only green stones or tiny yellow flowers. I picked the first, held it warm from the sun. Every year when I pick the first tomato, I want to hold it up reverently, slice it ceremoniously, share it in the celebration of the first tomato.
Every year I remember that my kids don’t like tomatoes and my husband would think the first tomato celebration silly and a bit much. So I savor it myself, slicing it and sprinkling the ribbons of basil, drizzling the olive oil, sitting at the picnic table to eat because that burst of summer should be eaten outside. Or I stand in the garden, sun-warm tomato in my hand and eat it, slowly, juice dripping down my chin. Either way, a celebration.
I walk through my garden regularly, seeing what’s ready to be picked, what needs some attention, what’s going to be ready to pick. (Keep an eye on those zucchinis.) I enjoy all the foods that come out of my garden, but I don’t look forward to many of them the same way I look forward to tomatoes.
This year, four came ripe together and I bit into one in the garden, bursting its skin, the juice coming out with almost a pop. I ate the others under the pear tree, ignoring bickering at the dinner table and licking a bit of juice-flecked oil from my thumb.
More tomatoes will come and I’ll enjoy them fresh and slow-roasted with garlic. I’ll make sauce and simmer them into salsa. I’m looking forward to tomato bounty (fingers crossed against late blight, a problem I haven’t had yet, and septoria spot, which I have), but I celebrate that first tomato.
What part of summer are you celebrating right now?
Celebrating tomatoes is really about slowing down and savoring. It’s about finding and holding joy in small things.
What can you celebrate today? What can you notice? Think small and focus on your senses. Enjoy!
It was quiet, except for the exuberant calls of birds I can’t name. I sipped my coffee, tried to settle back into a writing rhythm after a busy week way. It lasted about 20 minutes before a little face peeked over the railing.
“Hi, Mom! Morning story!”
My little girl’s red head nestled against me as she snuggled in, smiling behind the thumb in her mouth. I smiled back and started reading the Ladybug magazine she had handed me. When the last story mentioned morning glories, I suggested we go see if ours were blooming.
She dropped blankie. I picked up my coffee mug, and we stepped out into the dew-wet grass. We walked up the hill together, hand-in-hand. I showed her the vine climbing the red pole and the faded flower from two days ago. I pointed out the twists that would soon open their faces and throats to the sun.
Not impressed, she called “I’m going on the trapeze bar” as she ran down that path between the gardens. I pulled some weeds, surveyed the mess, sipped my coffee. I stopped to watch the bees hovering over the poppies and buzz-loving the cilantro gone to flower.
Then I followed her back to the house to make breakfast to eat on the porch. This is what I want from summer.
We have a list of things we want to do—a visit to Story Land, a camping trip—and little things to do spur of the moment some day—local hiking, the swimming hole, soft serve ice cream. I want to do these things, many of them things that make summer summer, but more than that I want the feel of yesterday morning when we moved slow and let the morning unfold, reading, snuggling, pulling weeds in our pjs.
Today my kids were turning themselves into superheros with masks and play silks and capes from the dress up box. My nails were black; my feet speckled with dirt. I wasn’t worried about the next thing on my list or what was for lunch or catching up after vacation.
As I rounded the corner with a wheelbarrow full of weeds, the bright blue trumpet of a morning glory stopped me. The sun was trying to burn through the haze leaving a gray, hot stickiness. My garden was so overrun with weeds I didn’t know where to start. And this one flower stopped me, reminded me.
Part of me still expects summer to be the wide-open stretch of time it was when I was a kid, though it’s been years and years since I’ve had a summer off. But I still try to find pockets of lazy, unscheduled time.
What does summer mean to you? What does the reality of summer look like. Tell me about your summer morning and something that made you stop and notice today.