Bumpy Landing

geese4 - 1

09.21.18

It was a bumpy landing into home, as I brought back a nasty virus I collected along the way, during my journey to Ireland.  While I was still bedridden, Don caught the bug and joined me in misery during these six days I’ve been back.  Beautiful sunny days went by out my window, and I was morose not to participate.  But, now that I’m back to health, I’m wondering if it wasn’t so bad to have this time-out, this being forced to stay still.  Re-entry from any trip can be hard, but, in the cross-over from Ireland back to home, a bridge of some sort would be useful.  It’s like it feels sometimes, when you finish an enchanting story, and you put down the book, and just walk around your living room, looking out the windows, trying to find your way back into your own home.  To the Irish, there are ‘thin places’– mystical places–“where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin”.  It’s easy to lose your bearings for a while in Ireland, as you walk across the windswept Burren, and consider that new cardinal directions may be coming into your view.   Perhaps, that’s what a journey is ultimately all about.

At last, I was able to leave the house yesterday morning, and I took a lovely walk at the head of the lake, which has always been a thin place for me.  Everything was golden.  The air was cool and clean, the blue sky was dotted with cotton ball clouds, and a pair of Bald Eagles watched me from high up on a tree branch.  The Vernal Equinox is upon us and the full Harvest Moon is coming into all her luminous glory.  It’s the official start of Autumn, a season so beautiful it always breaks one’s heart.   I am home in time for it all.  As I sat by the water on driftwood, and watched a jet fly overhead, I thought of all the individual journeys which were crisscrossing the big blue sky overhead, and how when we think we are leaving, perhaps, we are really arriving.

The Journey, by David Whyte

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

September

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09.04.18

SEPTEMBER

By Dorothy Lawrenson

This far north, the harvest happens late.

Rooks go clattering over the sycamores

whose shadows yawn after them, down to the river.

Uncut wheat staggers under its own weight.

Summer is leaving too, exchanging its gold

for brass and copper. It is not so strange

to feel nostalgia for the present; already

this September evening is as old

as a photograph of itself. The light, the shadows

on the field, are sepia, as if this were

some other evening in September, some other

harvest that went ungathered years ago.

I’ve always wanted to sleep up in our guest cabin, where so many friends and family have been over the years.  When I’m cleaning it after someone’s left, I like how the light rising in the east fills the room, and how the sounds of the lake are amplified somehow.   Sarah and Nick were here for the Labor Day week-end, and since she is hobbled on crutches, we wanted them to stay in our master bedroom, the only room on the main floor of the house.  Today, I’ve moved us back into the house, and put the guest cabin to bed for the summer.  It was nice up there, incredibly quiet and dark.  In the middle of one night, I saw the waning gibbous moon out the bathroom window.  It illuminated the long driveway and the trees cast long shadows across it.   I could even make out the shadows of cherry trees in the meadow next door.  I would have liked to just sit in the chair at the window, forever, and watch what happens under the moon of early September.

The end of summer has been painfully abrupt, in my opinion.  The lake has been inhospitable for days with wind and whitecaps, and the temps have been ten degrees below normal.  Burger Town posted their CLOSED FOR THE SEASON sign, just after lunchtime on Labor Day.   Between the all-caps, and closing up even before the day was done, it was as if they had drawn a line in the sand, rudely announcing that summer is gone–just get over it.

The wind gets on my nerves, makes me jumpy when it’s gone on too long.  Maybe, I’m anxious about leaving home, for the long journey to Ireland.  In the rush of summer, I’ve not had the space, the stillness, in which to see the doe’s eyes in the moonlight.  And, all the people we love, who’ve stayed with us this summer, have left long shadows in their wake.  Late in the afternoon today, after I’d cleaned house and hung sheets on the clothesline, the wind finally stopped and the sun was warm.  I went out on my kayak and except for the Bald Eagle up in a tree, and seagulls bobbing in the water, I was all alone as I glided along the shoreline in green-blue clear water.  I could feel in the stillness that I was floating into Fall, and “already this September evening is as old as a photograph of itself”, and it felt like home.

 

 

 

New weather

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08.27.18

With snow falling in the high country, Joy posted this quote on her Facebook page:

A Montana summer:  “Why isn’t it warm yet?”/”Yay it’s finally warm!”.  Then, the whole state catches on fire…and then it’s winter again.

I think this may be the game changer.  There are frost warnings in the valleys tonight, and, at least for now, the smoke is gone.  It looks like a day in Autumn when your heart hurts with melancholy for what’s been lost.  I’ve been going through the photos I took in July, when the house was buzzing with the energy of grandkids for a whole month, and it seems so long ago.  And, I started reading–for the third time–George Colt’s book, The Big House–A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home.  If you really want to wallow in the sadness of summer’s end, this beautifully written memoir, with lines such as, “A summer house in winter is a forlorn thing.  In its proper season, every door is unlocked, every window wide open…people, too, are more open in summer, moving through the house and each other’s lives as freely as the wind…”, then I highly recommend this lovely story of a family’s beloved summer home, and the tender loves and losses in their lives across generations.

It was raining when I woke up this morning, in the dark, dark house.  The coffee smelled so good back in the butler’s pantry.  And, when I went out for a run, the green leaves were rain-washed and low-lying clouds clung to the hillsides and the air was fresh and clean.  It reminded me of Ireland, where I’m headed in just two weeks.  But, there are lingering days of summer before I go.  My brother–a genuine Old Salt– is visiting from Hawaii, and we’ll be taking the sailboat out on our high seas in the next day or two.  Sarah and Nick are coming over Labor Day week-end, and we’re going to figure out how to get her and her leg cast into a boat somehow.  But, I am thinking I’ve probably had my last swim of summer, now with the water so cold.  The days are clipped short by darkness, and the chilly, damp weather has abruptly announced the end of a season.  Feeling the loss in this changing weather, I’m wondering if I paid enough attention when ‘the light was like lemonade on the shores of June’?

The Last Swim of Summer, by Faith Shearin

Our pool is still blue but a few leaves
have fallen, floating on the surface

of summer. The other swimmers
went home last week, tossed

their faded bathing suits aside,
so my daughter and I are alone

in the water which has grown colder
like a man’s hand at the end of

a romance. The lifeguard is under
her umbrella but her bags are packed

for college. We are swimming against
change, remembering the endless

shores of June: the light like lemonade,
fireflies inside our cupped hands,

watermelon night. We are swimming
towards the darkness of what

is next, walking away from the sounds
of laughter and splashing, towels

wrapped around the dampness of our loss.

Making it through

rays of light - 1

08.22.18

Lost, by Carl Sandburg

Desolate and lone
All night long on the lake
Where fog trails and mist creeps,
The whistle of a boat
Calls and cries unendingly,
Like some lost child
In tears and trouble
Hunting the harbor’s breast
And the harbor’s eyes.

 

This was the last photograph I took before we left Montana.  We are deep into fire season now and smoke from Canada, Washington, Oregon, California has filled our valley, as well as smoke of our own from nearby dangerous fires.  Once again, Glacier National Park has closed down the west side, historic structures have burned to the ground, and the Going to the Sun Road is at risk.  As we drove away, there was a “there’s an east wind coming, Watson” weather alert, and we watched the offshore wind create whitecaps and strange swirls in the water, as we drove down the east shore to Missoula, for our flight to California.  We hoped our boats were secure and that we’d left the property well-watered.  I always leave home with that feeling of being a snail pulled off my rock, but it’s even worse in fire season.

Now, we are in Oakland, helping Sarah hobble around with her broken ankle, and keeping on eye on the air quality alerts here at the coast.  A major attraction for the Berkeley grandkids, with our visit, has been the string of Oakland A’s games while we are in town.  Ten-year old Cormac was with his Dad in British Columbia, and ended up going to the hospital there with a smoke-induced asthma attack.  They arrived home in the wee hours last night, and we are hoping the air quality will improve enough for him to take in some of this afternoon’s game.  My brother and sister-in-law, who live in Hawaii, are scheduled to meet us back in Montana for a little holiday on our lake at the end of this week.   And, here comes Hurricane Lane, bearing down on the islands over the next few days.

The Earth&Sky blog today talked about how scientists have discovered, in the geologic record of rocks,  a “fast flip in the Earth’s magnetic fields”, and the implications the next one would present for our globally interconnected world of satellites and electrical grids.  All around the globe, there are earthquakes, floods, brutal civil wars, and the suffering and destitution of millions of people.  Add on the scandals and crimes, lies and deceit in the backyard of our own government, in the sanctuary of our churches, and it’s enough to make me wish I could crawl inside my snail’s shell to hide–“Like some lost child in tears and trouble…”

Instead, while the able-bodied family members went to another A’s winning game last night, I made Sarah a new recipe from The New York Times– a comforting pasta dish made with jalapeños and orecchiette.   The house filled with that rich smell of roasting pepper, and how can you not find joy in those little tiny ears, which soak up the creamy feta cheese and fresh basil.  Sarah sat on the chaise side of her sectional sofa, with an ice pack on her ankle, and we eat our delicious dinner, drank a bottle of wine, and watched “So you think you can dance” on TV.   This morning, we are given a new day.  We are now ten days from the start of September and the glorious prospect of Autumn, and the rains, and snow-dusting over the wildfires.   AND, we have so much pasta left for the next few days.  We are making in through…

 

Go jump in the lake!

swimming - 1

08.13.18

Well, we survived the “Excessive Heat Wave”.  Maybe, that’s as hot as it’s going to get this summer.  However, there is really nothing to complain about when you are lucky enough to live on this cold lake.  I put the new percale swimming sheets on our bed, which I’d recently purchased from one of the end-of-summer sales which are now flooding my inbox, and sleeping felt instantly cooler.  And, there was plenty of jumping in the lake.  The water feels like cool velvet, and your core body temperature drops down for hours afterwards.  On one of the evenings, when the air was thick with hot haze and not a ripple on the lake, we took out the old aluminum motor boat and puttered along the shoreline south of us, and made a spin around Wood’s Bay.  Everybody’s docks and Adirondack chairs were full of people, and colorful inner tubes and rafts bobbed along the shoreline, its inhabitants partially submerged in the cold water.  It always makes me happy to see people out enjoying their lake houses–just like it does when people decorate their homes at Christmas time.  I get this all’s-right-in-the-world feeling, as if time has paused for an instant, and nobody is in pain, the world is at peace, and there is nothing but beauty and light.  The air turned blue in lovely winds yesterday, and I could barely read my book on the porch, so enchanted by the sound of the waves and wind in the trees, and the smell of clean air.  The heat crisis had passed.

It’s a new day, still coolish, but I can’t see across the lake because of smoke.   Fires have started in Glacier National Park, Going to the Sun Road is closed on the west side, and Lake MacDonald Lodge has been evacuated.  Deja vu all over again, when Glacier was ablaze this time last year, and Sperry Chalet perished in the inferno.  Our new normal, is what we all mutter.  But, oh, it is difficult to adjust, when summers are already so short.  We are nearing the mid-point of August, and about to pass over summer’s apex.  I love the image of being on the highest seat of a Ferris wheel, when it pauses, before its gentle swing back down.

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn…”
― Natalie Babbitt from Tuck Everlasting

It’s dark now at bedtime, and I am already lighting the lamps.  When I look through the slats of my window shutters, as I go to sleep, I like watching the occasional boat when it motors past our house, lights on, making its way back to port.  It’s time to start thinking about coming into home again, as soon enough, there will be that chill of autumn.  But, not just yet.  Not yet.

 

 

 

Cat days of summer

cat days of summer - 1

08.09.18

The next couple of days are predicted to be the hottest days of summer–they say 100 degrees.  It’s never that hot here at the lake, but in the hour or so before dinner, if you’re out in the smoke-hazy sun and away from the water, you’d best find some shade.  Don’s been frequently turning on the sprinkler system to keep the grass and bushes from drying out, and the kitties are often off sleeping in the coolness of the wet grasses.  One of my favorite things in the morning, when I drive into town for yoga, is entering into the shady tunnel of trees on First Avenue East, in the residential section of the street.  In this heat, everyone is watering their lawns, using a variety of sprinkling systems.  There are the ones with crossed arms which spray out crossing arcs of water, and the little round ones which become vertical fountains, and the rectangular ones which slowly oscillate a line of holes spouting water, moving from one side to the other on its axis.  It was always easy to be lazy with this oscillating one, thinking you could keep the hose turned on while you moved it, but misjudging the angle when you set it down, and soaking yourself.  I admire the energy of the pulsating ones which make that staccato punctuated (ttttttttttt) sound, when it reaches the lever, which sends it back to the starting point.  And, those traveling ones, crawling along, always look like they know how to take it slow on hot summer days.

There are nothing but in-ground sprinkler systems in the golf course neighborhood, where I go for my morning walks and runs.  There is nothing to see here.  In fact, at some of the newly sodded lawns, I’ve walked across the precious grass to see if I could even find the hidden sprinkler heads buried in the ground.  I miss the old sprinkler contraptions, and am irrationally nostalgic for all the years I had to drag hoses around lawns.  There was a certain comforting rhythm, on a slow dog-day of summer, in which the most pressing thing of the day was to remember to keep moving the sprinkler.

At my age, I know I am more and more inclined to be washed over by that bittersweet feeling of nostalgia, and in summer, it’s at its prime.  Take baseball, for instance.  On hot hazy summer nights, as a little girl in Ohio, we sat in aluminum folding chairs in Uncle Dean’s pristine garage, with the door wide open and an oscillating fan moving the humid air.  The grown-ups drank beer with their popcorn, and we cousins drank Coke, as we listened to the Cleveland Indians game on the transistor radio.  The kids followed along, making the marks on those old scorecards.   Just whiling away the time–like it seems nobody does anymore, unless you count looking down at your phone.  Fast-forward sixty years, and on one of the nights last month, when just Valerie, her three kids, and Don and I were here, the Oakland A’s (our family’s team, vis-a-vis that Don grew up in Oakland, and has loved them ever since, and now two of my three daughters live in the East Bay) were playing the SF Giants.  Mark had flown home for business, and actually scored a ticket, and was with the record-setting crowd in the Oakland Coliseum.  While Don went up to Burger Town to get burgers, fries and milkshakes, Valerie found a live stream of the game from a radio station in Sacramento, and the six of us sat out on the porch, ate our supper, and listened play-by-play to the game, while occasionally texting with Dad, out in California.   When things were going our way, we jumped up in unison to chant, “let’s go Oakland, let’s go Oakland, clap, clap, clap, clap,clap!”  At the top of the ninth, the Giants tied the game, and when Don threw up his hands in frustration, and left the building, we weary remaining fans went off to bed.  The lucky Californians, who were sleeping upstairs, got a late text from their Dad that Oakland had gone on to win in the bottom of the eleventh inning.  They all had a night of sweet dreams in their beds above us.  Fortunately, as an early riser, Don received the good news before we all had to face him come morning.

David Whyte writes, in Consolations, “Nostalgia is not indulgence.”  He goes on to say, “…something we thought we understood but that we are now about to fully understand, something already lived but not fully lived, issuing not from our future but from something already experienced; something that was important, but something to which we did not grant importance enough, something now waiting to be lived again…Nostalgia is not an immersion in the past, nostalgia is the first annunciation that the past as we know it is coming to an end.”  Often, nostalgia for me is a chance to relive the past with new meaning and much richness, and it is truly a treasure to share a childhood memory with our grandchildren.  Who knows what memories they may have from their days at the lake, and what nostalgia may wash over them when they grow old?  Such a beautiful circle of life it is.

Memory is a child walking along a seashore.  You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.”
–  Pierce Harris

 

Babies

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08.05.18

Do we ever stop fretting over our babies–even when all three of them are in their forties?  August 3rd, the eve of Sarah’s fortieth birthday, she called to say she was in a hospital in Peru, having sustained a double fracture of her ankle while hiking.  The next day, her birthday, she posted photos of the X-rays on Facebook, and lamented the abrupt ending of her fortieth celebration, which was to culminate by hiking legendary Machu Picchu.  In the wonder of being connected across the globe, she was able to talk to her surgeon-father, and send photos of the X-rays to the family’s long time friend, and orthopedist.  The decision was made to make the long and arduous journey back to California and have the surgery performed at home.

After talking to my other two daughters, and crying plenty of tears, they both reassured me, as only daughters can do.  When I finally went to bed, and thought of Sarah in a hospital bed far away, I remembered–as I always do on August 3rd–being in a hospital bed in Boston, with a Caesarian section scheduled early the next morning.  So afraid, in the middle of the night, about what would happen to my two children at home if I were to die in this childbirth, and what would become of this new baby.  What mother has not been awakened by such nightmares.  A mama deer and her two babies have been hanging out in our yard, assuming that I’ve grown geraniums and flowers in window boxes, just for them.  I startled her from the porch the other day, and was aghast when she scurried up the hill, leaving her Bambi behind.  Of course, this is the nature of things, and she is teaching her baby how to take care of herself.  But, it is easy to forget the nature of things, when you know your babies are in pain–even if they are forty-somethings.  With Nick at her side the whole time, Sarah is now safely back in California, welcomed home by her nearby sister, Valerie, who had left llama-shaped balloons, champagne and flowers at their house, as a day-after birthday celebration.  The kids are all right, the kids are all right.

So, where was I before this ordeal?  Well, a coolish weather front blew in this week-end, bringing a lovely break from the hot white days.  It’s hazy from the California fires, but not much smoke smell.  I went for a little walk with a dear friend yesterday, out in the waterfowl refuge at the head of the lake.  The clouds softly draped the rising sun and shafts of light crisscrossed the sky.  The reeds and cat-tails were verdant green and the water barely made a ripple at the shoreline.  My favorite old weeping willow tree looked strong and healthy.  When I first started walking out there, years ago, there was a sagging, dilapidated old farmhouse falling into the ground, just behind the tree.  Especially in the quiet of early mornings, when the wind was blowing and the tree creaked and the branches swayed, the house felt haunted in its forlornness and lost history.  They tore it down when the refuge was opened up to the public, and then I wondered if the tree, now all alone in the meadow, might be weeping sad tears.  But, I can see, after life’s storms, the tree has hung tough, deeply rooted, and yet still enough to hear the rustling of her own leaves.

Soak up the sun
Affirm life’s magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.”
–   Karen Shragg, Think Like a Tree