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.
At lunch, her face crumpled, or flattened out rather, chin pulled down, eyes wide and blinking. She was trying not to cry.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
Her mouth tightened from its frown, and she took a minute before she answered.
“I’m going to miss Mrs. Foley,” she said, the last word rising into a near wail. “I’m sad she isn’t going to be my teacher anymore.”
Then my big girl sighed and took another bite of her pizza.
Last Thursday night, as I put teacher gifts together and sat down to write notes, my mind flashed back to the first day of school:
Mrs. Foley read The Kissing Hand. When she asked a question, my big girl’s hand shot up and she answered in a loud clear voice. I wondered where my shy preschooler had gone.
Now I wonder where this year has gone. Weren’t we just chasing the bus up to school on that first day?
In the last few months, my big girl has started reading and writing. She’s riding a bike without training wheels “on the pavement!” and I let her go to the end of the street and back by herself. She lost her first tooth.
The images of her year ran through my mind as we wrap up this year, moving at fast-forward speed as they seemed to have done. Friday at the picnic, I smiled as my big girl took her certificate and squealed with her friends under the water in the spray park, and I felt the sadness of an ending too.
Yesterday I came downstairs after quiet time, and as I opened the fridge to get the iced coffee, I saw the note stuck up with a magnet:
I am sad.
As I set the coffee on the counter, another paper fluttered to the floor. I stooped to pick it up.
I am sad.
I saw her trying not to cry face again. I felt my own end of the year, my baby’s growing up so fast happy-sadness. I remembered the feeling of “this will never be again” even as a kid.
I found I am sad sprinkled all over the house. I gave my big girl a hug and looked her in the eye. “You really are sad, aren’t you?”
She nodded, eyes big with tears that didn’t fall again.
“It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to miss your teacher. I’m so glad you loved her and had such a good year in kindergarten.”
She nodded again and snuggled into my hug. We sat for a moment, paused in that ending place.
After she squirmed out of my arms and went off to play, I looked again at the note, amazed because it wasn’t so long ago that she couldn’t write. It wasn’t so long ago she didn’t know how to say I am sad. Those days of thrashing tantrums as she learnedon the floor seem so long ago and not.
I am not sad to have said good-bye to tantrums, but I feel the tug of what was, what is passing, even as I embrace what comes.
It’s the first day of summer vacation. Yesterday’s rain has passed. My big girl came down this morning smile wide and bright. The summer stretches before us. with beach and camping and picking blueberries to look forward to. At breakfast, her face clouded, “I’m still a little sad,” she said. And then she noticed the squash flowers in the garden and the log with a hole that would make a special fairy house. She’s holding what’s passing and what is and what’s coming in this ending-beginning time of year.
Write with Me Wednesday
Write about an ending today, either one you are experiencing or anticipating or one from your past.
Were you sad? happy? relieved?
Choose one moment from that time of end. Put yourself in that moment. Start writing there.
My garden is a mess. The kind of mess where you can hardly find the things you planted. I spent the better part of Sunday working out there.
I turned over new beds and planted chard and more carrots. I tied up peas and tomatoes. I weeded and weeded and weeded. Spending time in my garden was a perfect way to spend my birthday. My back would tell you I worked outside all day, but it’s not really work.
I love gardening for the fresh cilantro I pick, wet with dew, for my breakfast burrito and for the golden cherry tomatoes warm from the sun (it’ll be a while, but they’re coming).
I love when my big girls says, “Can I make a salad for dinner?” and then collects and spins and chops (and eats!) it.
I love my peonies, heavy headed and drooping after the rain, and the feathery cosmos that settled in on their own and are starting to announce themselves.
But it’s not just what comes out of my garden. There’s something about the the planting and weeding and tying and checking, something about the process, that soothes me and refreshes me.
I came in Sunday, feet and hands black, face smeared with dirt. My back was tight, but my shoulders were loose. My garden is still a mess, but I wasn’t.
That evening my friend threw me an impromptu party with ribs and margaritas and for dessert the simple version of this cake and this ice cream, both of which I made because I love the rhythm of the kitchen (when it isn’t grumbly get dinner on the table time) as much as I love the rhythm of the garden.
Sunday I found more strawberries hanging like jewels under green leaves. I ate one and shared the rest with my girls. There’s spinach almost ready to pick again and the first tomatoes forming. And, I noticed with surprise and glee my garlic is beginning to get scapes, so I’m dreaming of pesto and pizza and lazy summer dinners. The garden is a lot of work, but it feels more like rhythm and dreams and rewards and hope.
What do you love doing so much it doesn’t feel like work?
I read this poem recently and loved the imagery and sensory details, the full sense of spring and life and death.
This line stuck with me:
New life heals lost life
Does it? I could argue both ways.
I could tell you about how having a baby one year after my first baby died broke me open to joy again. Or how the everyday life things—diapers and feeding and soothing—took the place of life and death issues. How even as I continued to grieve deeply and fully and actively, I had to focus on life, the new little life that needed me.
I could tell you that now, almost eight years since I became a mother, seven and a half since I became a grieving one, that I am healed—and not.
Here’s the thing: there is great joy in my life. I love my girls fully and deeply. And I miss their brother. I wonder who he would have been. I wonder who I would have been as his mother if he were here. I’m not stuck in what would have been, but sometimes something within me is stuck. And then I break open again. Things move. Life happens.
New life heals lost life.
This line at another time would have filled me with anger. One life does not replace another. But new life does bring its own wonder and joy and energy. It doesn’t replace, but yes, maybe it heals.
This time of year is full of new life: the yellow spills down the forsythia bush, the hops and rhubarb expand daily, my garlic has turned from single small spikes to little green v’s. I water where I’ve laid down seeds and count the days until I cut spinach and lettuce for a salad. Its a time of growth. It’s a time of possibility and potential.
This time of year, I mark the growth—the violet plants greening my garden, the tulips swelling before bloom, the little girl who once chatted with me in the garden today a teenager, the baby I brought to story hour at the library in her car seat now walking there with her preschool class—and hold the potential of the seeds and once baby turned preschooler with time racing her toward teenager.
Late April, early May I am so aware of the potential around me and I remember the potential that was in me. Even having that potential cut short, I believe in life. I believe that the seeds I sow will sprout and grow. I believe that the baby turned preschooler will grow to be a teenager like the one I walked down the driveway to say happy birthday to this morning. I believe that they will keep going, keep growing.
This time of potential, this time of new life, this time of hope. It keeps coming, keeps growing, and I watch it unfold. I keep growing and hoping and opening to that potential.
New life heals lost life. What do you think?
High-pitched gull calls came out of no where, lost in the salty fog. I stood in the grayness, the sea and sky blending so there was no horizon.
I love the ocean on a clear day, stretching far as my eye can see, but I’m not really here for the view. I stand on the beach, now all rounded stones. Flies swarm around piles of seaweed, buzz up around my face for a minute, and then I’m away from them.
The waves roar-crash followed by the clatter rumble of rocks shifting, then the hiss and quiet of the foam sliding back along the stones again. I close my eyes to listen and soak in the rhythm of the waves, the rolling push pull push pull. Roar-crash, rumble, hiss. Roar-crash, rumble, hiss. I breathe in deeply. Breathe out.
I come in the summer for the beach—long days of sun and sand and salty breezes, but it’s not just about the beach. I miss the salt air and the afternoon breezes. I miss the changing colors and moods of the water. I miss the ocean’s energy. I grew up with this energy, flowing around me, running through my veins. I don’t live with ocean everyday any more, and I need a dose of it sometimes to refuel, re-balance, reset.
What’s your reset?