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.