Whiplash

09.11.20

I had planned to write about the wild whiplash weather we had last week-end. About how we drove to Billings on Saturday in 104 degree temperatures with forest fire plumes exploding along I-90 and smoke blowing across the highway, and how on Monday’s drive home, it was raining and snowing and the mountains were dusted by the time we got back. The wild weather so added to the nervousness and anxiety of our time. And, I had also planned to talk about the stunningly clear and beautiful days we’ve had at the lake this week, in which “you just want to cry,” as Don said, and the quiet and gentle sunsets we’ve watched from the dock, now well before 8 pm. But, with California’s smoke so dense that the sun can’t get through, and one out of every ten persons in Oregon is preparing to evacuate, and smoke is settling in here today…and, then–today–it’s 9/11. I can’t find the words I was going to write.

Except, that I loved visiting our Billings family, finally, and seeing where they now live, and talking with Joy about decorating ideas, should they buy the house they are renting. And, watching Duncan do back flips in the backyard, and Anna sparkling as she introduced us to her very tall boyfriend. Chatting with Fletcher about his final days of work, and how he and his roommates will stay in our quarantine cabin next week on their drive back to Bellingham. And sleeping at the Millers’ empty home, which holds decades of memories of our friendship, and watering their tomatoes in the garden, under tall trees swaying in the breeze.

These are trying times we live in and it’s exhausting to have the weight of climate crisis, political distress, and pandemic, all at the same time, bearing heavily down upon us. Wouldn’t it be nice to hide in a corner until it’s safe to come out.

I recently finished her newest collection of poems, The Ledger, by Jane Hirshfield. In talking about her book last March, on Sciencefriday.com, she said:

“I would rather grieve than be numb and I’d rather face into the wind than hide in a corner and not be part of the largest questions we all are facing,” she says.

“I see no way for human beings to change course that doesn’t begin with awareness and doesn’t begin to see with your eyes open and to feel with a vulnerable heart so to a great extent this is a book filled with grief  and trying to scry the darkness that’s coming. But it also is a book trying to, in some way, account for the unaccountable and try to at least take measure of what is the right way to live in these times. The answer is, of course, the only answer — you live as if what you do could make a difference.”

In any year, at my age, there is always grief lingering underneath the lengthening shadows of September, as the sun gets low and and we begin preparations for the long dark and silent winter on the horizon. It’s much harder, in these troublesome, apocalyptic days. Yet, what is there to do but awaken to each new day, doing the best we can–despite our vulnerable heart–and be aware of what is beautiful, in spite of it. Things will change, no matter what we do or don’t. Just yesterday, I heard the returning loons out on the lake, preparing for their journey south, and doing what they know to do every year, year after year, forever. The disruption of our lives, and the distortion of Time, makes it easy to forget–and take vital comfort in–the dependable seasonality of this short life we’ve been given.

Although the Wind…by Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

Suddenly it’s September

09.01.20

August finished off in fine style. Sitting in a sling chair on the stones at water’s edge, there were a couple of evenings in which it was tears-in-your-eyes perfect. The temperature, the dappled shadows of the paper birch tree, the clear sun and soft breeze made it feel like all was right in the world. Yesterday–August’s finale–we awakened to a soft rain which rinsed away any lingering fire scent brought in by the big winds. I wore a wool sweater, the furnace came on, and I made my first pot of soup. Suddenly, overnight, it became Fall. As I read the tea leaves in the NOAA weather forecast for the weeks ahead, we might get a bit of Indian Summer, or we are just as likely to be subject to a series of cold Alberta Clippers. Anyway you look at it, Summer is closing her door.

Back in March, when the coronavirus began to terrorize us, I remember thinking how if we could just make it through to summer, things would be better. We could see one another outside on walks and hikes, and gather together–six feet apart–in lawn chairs in the yard. It would feel pretty normal. Well, it never has felt normal, of course. There’s nothing normal about not hugging one another or not sharing food, or keeping guests out of your home. There’s nothing normal about being afraid to be near someone you love. How lucky we were to have the California family join our bubble and be with us for most of the summer.

I was cleaning and decluttering the kitchen the other day, and came across the spiral steno pad we keep on the Irish sideboard. In it were the messages we wrote to one another: “We are out on a walk and back about 10:30.” “Out on a bike ride and back at noon.” “I couldn’t resist going for a kayak on this beautiful morning–I went south if you are looking for me. Signed Mama. PS. Eamon you can wake up Cormac if you need him.” There were pages of weekly menus in Valerie’s handwriting. Eamon had written down his chores with a tally of how long they took, and how much money he had earned. And, there was a score sheet from back in April, in Joy’s handwriting, of the Pass the Pigs game we played in our living room one night, after she and her family had to abruptly leave Finland and return to the U.S. Anna had been to the hospital there, quite ill, just before they had to make what felt like a perilous journey to Seattle. Then the 14 day isolation in an airbnb near us, before they finally came to stay with us, until they could find housing back in Billings. I remember that night how we listened to each other’s music on Spotify as we played Pass the Pigs.

Did I already say how lucky we’ve been? In spite of the fear, the loss and the sadness, we have not been alone at our house.

Sometimes, by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all, 
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail, 
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war; 
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you. 

Late August 2020

crazy - 1

08.26.20

The iPhoto program on my computer occasionally displays a photo from some file saying, “on this date…”. My iPhone actually comes up with a little movie of photos from some distant year, set to random music. I usually find these annoying as I would prefer to remember what I want to remember, when I want to remember it. But, this photo which I took last August, captures how surreal, spooky almost, that life feels right now. We were in Spokane–probably for one of Don’s bike races–and had a lovely walk one morning around the newly refurbished Riverside Park downtown. I remember thinking how strange it felt to see the old carousel now behind glass, and how the horses looked trapped in an endless loop, round and round, cut off from the world.

Of course, here we humans are, a year later, trapped by a virus. I miss our loved ones, fear for our teachers and grandkids back in school, and worry if one of us so much as sneezes at our house. Add the suffocating wildfire smoke blanketing the western states, and now Hurricane Laura today in the Gulf Coast–threatening to have an “unsustainable storm surge”–it’s no wonder so many of us are on edge, grumpy and irritable. And, I’m not even talking about the overarching despair about this president, or our fears about the upcoming election, let alone Black Men shot in the back, and armed “citizens” in the streets fighting protestors.

I try and just focus on the weather. I was reading a novel the other day in which two of the characters had endless discussions about the weather, so they wouldn’t have to have a real conversation. Some people click on the headlines every hour, but I check the NOAA site and Accuweather and the Weather Channel. If I see a shift in the waves on the lake, I go back to the computer and try and understand the winds aloft, or the closed low pressure system up north, or how the California smoke can reach us. And, of course, this late in August, there are now so many signs of Fall, which always lifts my spirits. I walked up our road a few days ago to cut some lavender thistle for a vase in the dining room, and every time I stepped into a shadow, I could feel that distinct coolness which reads autumn. There are long golden shadows in the afternoons, and different flocks of birds seem to be gathering together in bushes and trees, getting ready for their big flight south. The leaves on the trees are making a new clacking sound when they blow in the wind, and Canada Geese are gathering into V’s over the yellow stubble in the wheat fields. The mornings are darkening fast–maybe too fast–it brings such melancholy and sadness to bid farewell to our short summer. But, there is peace in noticing that the earth is, indeed, faithfully turning on her axis, that the quarter moon is high in the night sky, and we will keep going round and round, just like always.

Blackberry-Picking

BY Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

Mornings

mornings - 1 (1)08.18.20

After a week of chilly and very windy days, it’s summertime hot again.  Although we complain, it feels to me like the weather gods have given us more time.  Time to cling to ancient summer memories when life felt golden.  Time to remember life before Covid.  Time to just sit in the shade on the porch and read a new novel.  Maybe, I just have more time now, with family returned to their homes and vacationing friends back on the road.

I’ve been taking my final cup of coffee down to the beach in the mornings to sit on one of the big flat rocks.  Chatpeau always bounds down the lawn after me, and jumps on my lap, covering my white terry cloth robe in her black hairs.  We feel the sunlight come up over the mountains at our backs, illuminating the tip of the sailboat and slowly making its way down the mast, to the water.  As the boat gently bobs,  the shine sometimes gets dim and sometimes there is no reflection at all.  It feels very much like the swing of emotions all day long, as we go between dark and light.

My grandchildren are now returning to school in its various hybrids between online and in-person classes.  Both Joy and Rich are required to stand in front of their classrooms this week, in front of masked students who maybe stay far enough apart, who, hopefully, are not silently shedding a viral load, in a state that has now run out of testing capacity.  After restless nights, and the early dawn reading of bad news, these peaceful mornings at water’s edge are a balm to the soul, and remind me that every morning is a new beginning, a new chance, and the possibility for renewed hope.

Meditation for the Silence of Morning by Adam Clay

I wake myself imagining the shape
of the day and where I will find

myself within it. Language is not often
in that shape,

but sentences survive somehow
through the islands of dark matter,

the negative space often more important
than the positive.

Imagine finding you look at the world
completely different upon waking one day.

You do not know if this is permanent.
Anything can change, after all,

for how else would you find yourself
in this predicament or this opportunity,

depending on the frame? A single thought
can make loneliness seem frighteningly new.

We destroy the paths of rivers to make room for the sea.

High Summer

High summer - 108.10.20

“Oh, the summer night,
Has a smile of light,
And she sits on a sapphire throne.”
–  Barry Cornwall

The sunsets always get more grand in August.  If you happen to be inside the house, that flood of unique golden light with its long shadows–evidence of high summer– draws you quickly outdoors, and already you see that the sun is slowly sliding south.  Sunsets feel more precious now.  After several weeks of hot days and nights, a cold front came through with a bit of rain and blustery winds, and temperatures for the upcoming week look to be a pleasant mid 70’s.  I know I’ll soon be talking about the hint of coolness behind even the warmest days.  I’m already talking about how dark it is at 6 a.m.

But, I’m letting August just be August, which is often filled with nostalgia and a touch of melancholy, with summer’s end just around the corner.  Both Sarah and Joy were born in the month of August, and as Joy turns 48 tomorrow, I wonder where the years went, and miss what seemed to be such an innocent time.   I remember those summers as slow, carefree and full of hope, finished off by back to school shopping, and the sweet smell of new pencils.  I know I sound like a ” in the good old days” grandmother, but there is no denying the tempo of life was much different before the digital age, and going back to school in the fall did not threaten the lives of teachers and students.  Covid-19 accentuates all of the losses we’ve ever had.

In his book Consolations, David Whyte writes that “Nostalgia is not indulgence…but is 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 wanting to be lived again, at the depth to which it first invited us…”

Happiness

by Joyce Sutphen

This was when my daughters were just children
playing on the rocky shore of the lake,

their hair in braids, their bright-colored jackets
tied around their waists. It was afternoon,

the shadows falling away, their faces
glowing with light. Whatever we said then

(and it must have been happy; it must have
been hopeful) is lost as I am now lost

from that life I lived. This was when nothing
that I wanted mattered, though all I wanted

was happiness, pure happiness, simple
as strawberries and cream in a saucer,

as curtains floating from a window sill,
as small pairs of shoes arranged in a row.

A quiet house

Quiet house - 108.02.20

Our house is now empty and quiet.  Val and the boys drove home to Berkeley on Thursday.  After seven weeks, I found myself just staring at the curtain gently moving in the cool early morning breeze, realizing I had absolutely nothing I needed to do today.  I could just sit at the window, staring, all day, if I wanted to.  It was nearly six months ago when we drove to Seattle for the flight to Finland to visit Joy and her family.  Seattle had just recorded their first death from Covid-19 on that day.  Now, it is August and half a year has gone by.

As I think back over all these months, I know I’ve been an anxious Mother Hen, scratching and clucking, nervously hovering and herding my chicks in search of safety.  I was terrified for Anna when she went to the hospital in Finland, and fretted over how Joy could get back to this country, and when they made it, and quarantined nearby,  I left food and supplies on their doorstep for two weeks and waved at Joy through the picture window.   I regularly talked with Valerie to see how Fletcher was doing, how was he managing, after he suddenly left his college campus when they shut down, and moved in with his Berkeley relatives.  The calming balm of each week, back then, was the week end Zoom calls which Sarah organized with us so we could  play silly games together, see one another, just talk about it all.  And, then, in early June, Valerie’s family of five fled the city to stay with us here at the lake for the summer, taking the risk that Mark and Norah might need to return if Norah’s camp counselor job came to fruition.  It did, they left after two weeks, and until Thursday, we were our own family of five with Val and the two boys.  It feels today like Part One, of a long novel, has come to a close.  There are several more parts yet to go, and the ending is not clear, but in the interim, I’m taking a rest.

In the quiet of this moment, I feel like I’ve come so far already in this story.  I’ve shedded any expectations for a known future, and let go of “normal”.  I’ve learned to cook without constant trips to the grocery store, and I don’t even think about going to a restaurant anymore, nor do I expect a trip west to the sea (but, I do wistfully think about it).  We’ve managed to get by with a malfunctioning smoke alarm system which awakens us regularly in the middle of the night, for months now.  We’ve had two refrigerators fail us and one freezer, right after a $600 Costco food stock up.  We’ve learned to ration toilet paper.  Fletcher contracted Covid-19, with mild symptoms, but the rest of his family was spared.  It’s been quite awhile since I cried myself to sleep, mourning the losses my grandchildren do, and will experience.  We’re making it through.  And, in my best moments, I remember to be profoundly grateful for the blessed and privileged life I am lucky to live.

HOT weather, finally, arrived, with a vengeance.  It was a record 83.5 degrees a few nights ago, when we went to bed at 10:30 p.m.!  It’s felt like the dog-days of summer from my childhood days in Ohio, where you slept with just a sheet and tried not to move.  Rather than closing all the windows at night to keep the furnace from coming on, we are opening them up throughout the house for relief.  By Wednesday, things are expected to be back at seasonal levels, and long-range forecasts for the month indicate it may even be cooler than normal.  Already, it’s a hazy and bleached August sky, and the trees are paused as they slowly begin to send sap back down to their roots far below.  Crispy golden shrubs are beginning to line the highway.

But, I do not intend to rush Autumn–I have many books and naps in the hammock stretching out before me.  And, one of these days, I’ll go upstairs, change the sheets in the dormitory room and wash their towels.  Already, I am discovering the notes we adults left for one another: “I’m out for a walk/I’m on a bike ride/I’m in a Zoom meeting/I’m doing yoga.”  There are menus and grocery lists sitting on the table in the breakfast nook, and a list Eamon made of the chores he did and how much money he earned.  The badminton net is still up, beach towels are draped over the porch railing, and nerf footballs are scattered across the yard.  I really need to rest a bit before I give in to the sweet heartache of this privilege.

…We find that having people knock on our door is as a much a privilege as it is a burden; that being seen, being recognized and being wanted by the world and having a place in which to receive everyone and everything, is infinitely preferable to its opposite.  From “Besieged” by David White in Consolations

 

Starshine

starshine - 1 (2)07.15.20

I’d like a cup of starshine please
mixed with milk and honey
and when it comes to soup
can I please
have some that’s sunny?
By Romesh Gunesekera

Here we are, mid-July, moving into the backside of summer.  It’s been bright and sunny, though still quite chilly.  I hear the furnace come on as I write this morning.  Not quite one month past the summer solstice, sunsets are already earlier and the dawn’s light arrives a bit later.  While we’re not really talking aloud about it, our time together with the California family, is moving towards its inevitable end.  We’re starting to tick off the list of things on our to-do lists.  Valerie is going into the office, which Mark rented during his short stint here, for a day of zoom meetings, then turning in the keys.  Tomorrow, Don and I and the boys are spending the day in Missoula, Cormac’s dream town.  He’s not been there before, but has a list of Zillow homes for sale he wants to drive by, as well as the various schools he’s been researching.  In his nearly 13-year old mind, all the woes of living in the time of Covid-19 will be gone, if only he lived in Missoula, where he imagines wide open spaces for playing with friends, and schools that somehow have escaped the virus, and riding his bike anywhere, just feeling free.  Eamon said last night that there has not been a single day in which Cormac didn’t mention Missoula.  It’s a lovely drive along the 30 mile long shoreline of Flathead Lake, through broad green valleys, and the towering peaks of the Mission Mountains, still showing their snowpack.  Even with summer tourists, it will be wide and open compared to the highways in his Bay Area home.  We’ll drive by the schools and the houses for sale, and have a walk along the Clark Fork River trail in the University District, and a picnic lunch. Then we’ll drive home, having checked this off his list.

A few nights ago at dinner, Cormac talked about how he would now be at Mountain Camp, in the northern California mountains, had the pandemic not changed everything.  He had gone for the first time last year, and said it was the best time of his entire life. He wistfully described days jam-packed with activities, the fun of living with new friends in a dorm, and the most wonderful food ever.  Valerie said that when he returned home and got off the bus, he seemed transformed and was positively glowing.  Eamon replied, “He looked like starshine.”

In this time of loss which hovers low over our house, we are blessed to have nine-year old Eamon, who sees starshine.   He doesn’t talk about what he’s lost, and spends much of the day reading his books, in bed in the mornings, then the chair in the living room at the French doors after breakfast, into the hammock in the warmth of the afternoons.  He makes a daily schedule of when and where he’ll read, broken up by games of badminton, a sailboat ride here and there, watering my geraniums and beach cleanup.  Cheerful and chipper in every single moment.  I am tearful when I think of the Billy Collins poem, On Turning Ten:

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
I think they will be gone before it’s time to pick raspberries at the farm, and definitely before the cucumbers are ready for the salad I make which they love so much.  But, according to the Amazon shipping notice, our new badminton rackets are set to arrive this afternoon.  And, Friday pizza night is a few days away, and then the week-end, when Mom doesn’t have to work, and we pretend we are all on vacation together down at the dock, in the beautiful days of mid-summer.

 

“Invitation”

July - 107.07.20

It’s cold and rainy this morning and the winds are blowing in a passing low pressure system, but that’s all right.  We’ve had a string of gorgeous warm days with endless blue skies and sunshine, arriving just in time for the 4th of July, as is the tradition.  We toured the lake on the motor boat, sailed, sat by the water in the bright sunlight with our books, and ate late meals on the terrace under the red umbrella.  Don put the badminton net up across the yard.  It felt like happiness again.

We had thunder and lightning in the wee hours this morning that lasted to daybreak.  It’s always an otherworldly experience to sense there are flashes of light behind closed eyelids, and feel the vibration of thunder, and wonder what has bolted you out of deep sleep.  In this ‘broken world’ we live in, I was frightened, imagining that I would succumb to COVID-19, and I made lists in my head of all the things I need to get in order at my house.  By counting the seconds between flashes of lightning and booms of thunder, I finally fell back into sleep at some point.  Lying in bed at dawn, it felt particularly hard to get up, get moving.  In my version of the emotional roller coaster of our time, mornings these days are always the low point for me.  I’m a great sleeper and love the adventures of night-time dreaming and watching the stars out my window, moving in and out of consciousness.  It is so effortless, but then you wake up, and must get on with it.  You must find your way into the gift of another day, even if it wasn’t the day you were looking for.

Mary Oliver reminds us to see the new day as an invitation–“It is a serious thing/just to be alive/on this fresh morning/in the broken world.”  After having coffee and a walk in the rain, my plan for this day is to make one of my delicious soups for simmering on the stove, and go from there.

Invitation by Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

 

 

 

Moving along in June

Late June-2 - 106.28.20

The Californians have been here two weeks now.  Our bubble has shrunk by two as Mark and Norah started their journey back home this morning, after picking up a rental car at the airport yesterday. We hoped it would be different, with Mark settled into his rented office in downtown Bigfork for summer’s duration, but it turns out that Norah’s counselor job at a day camp in Berkeley is happening after all.  We suspect it will have to shutdown–as with so many other things in this time of coronavirus–and the two of them will need to go back into quarantine in their own home.  So be it, it is what it is.  Despite lots of cool and rainy weather during these two weeks, there were days and evenings, like yesterday, when it felt like summer.  Norah took her final frigid swim out to the sailboat and back last night.  We’d had a couple of sailboat rides, read our books in the sunshine by the water, kayaked, painted with Carol, and enjoyed some lovely conversations–a light touch of summer together, in spite of it all.

I was sad to see them go.  I’ve been sad a lot this past week with the virus on a menacing rise, and our disastrous president who wears no clothes.  I’ve been sad to see how the pall of Covid-19 shrouds our young teens.  They’ve not left their home or seen friends in four months, and they do not believe Berkeley schools will open for in-person classes this coming fall.  They retreat into their screens.  Cormac, nearly 13, used to spend much of his California days in endless hours of baseball practice and games.  Now, he told Don, who keeps asking him to play catch, “What’s the point?  There isn’t even any baseball anymore.”  On my morning walks, I find that a certain smell can make me so melancholy for days that felt halcyon in my youth and I built hideouts, alone, in the Ohio woods, or when I once felt strong and powerful and my hips didn’t ache.  I keep remembering that article which passed around on Facebook a couple of months ago– “That uncomfortable feeling you’re having is grief.”

Well, we move on, do our bit, and, here it is, almost July.   The Fourth of July is always the traditional start of summer weather and we’re looking forward to more time in the water, s’more campfires, and some hikes in the mountains.  Val has announced that the transition period is over and there’s going to be a change in the pattern of  the boys’ days.  I believe that today includes a family house-cleaning session.  For me, I plan to buck myself up, and just keep showing up I guess, like we all must do.  And, I’ll be on the watch/the gods will offer you chances.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

— by Charles Bukowski

Long summer days

long days - 106.13.20

“Though it was past ten o’clock at night, the sky still clung to and retained some lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the sullen heats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer night.”  –-The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

We have not had “torrid afternoons”–in fact, we are something like 258% over normal for moisture so far in June and temperatures have been 10+ degrees below normal.  But, when the clouds do part at bedtime, and the sun begins to set over the northern edge of the lake, there is a peaceful release–even if just momentarily– from all the anxiety and fear I may have suffered throughout the day.  And, when I sat at the shore and watched the Canada Goose family, with seven new goslings, glide by in quiet silver-blue water, my saddest spirits were lifted from another coronavirus roller coaster day.   I count my blessings.  “Who could be so lucky?  Who comes to a lake for water and sees the reflection of moon.” -Rumi

Big changes are coming here to the lake on Monday.  We are expanding our shelter in place bubble to include Valerie and family from California, for who knows how long.  After all these solitary months hunkered down, the life and energy of grandchildren filling the house is such a happy thought.  We were talking the other evening about how it’s time to clean out the fireplace and bid farewell to all those evenings we cozily spent by the fire, with the remains of winter out our windows.  We do that quite well together.  But, just as the light has returned to the sky, and the trees have leafed out, and the flowers are in bloom, we are ready for summer’s arrival of warm and long days.  The sailboat is tethered to her mooring ball and the old motor boat is on the ramp, and weather or not, now it is time.

Why I Am Happy

Now has come, an easy time. I let it

roll. There is a lake somewhere

so blue and far nobody owns it.

A wind comes by and a willow listens

gracefully.

I hear all this, every summer. I laugh

and cry for every turn of the world,

its terribly cold, innocent spin.

That lake stays blue and free; it goes

on and on.

And I know where it is.


— William Stafford