A Summer Afternoon

On the heels of a 3-day migraine, toddler finally over the cranky rash-virus, no plans with friends, no additional children to care for, no essay due, no freelance project, just emails to answer. A blank white calendar square. The to-do list, half on paper, half in my head, is forgotten. Struggling to wean, big fat milk ducts bulging and achey. She naps briefly, then we head to the playground, where she races to the swings, cherub-cheeked smile under the brim of her hat, whooshing through the air. I capture the swing and say “1-2-3 blast off!” before releasing it. She laughs and laughs. Running, sliding, exploring. Her legs, longer now, climb with greater ease. My wobbly baby is suddenly surefooted. Suddenly, suddenly, that’s how they evolve. She scrambles up some steps and has her face in what appears to be poison ivy or sumac before I can reach her, so that decides it. We head home where I sit her on the counter and rub the last of the Tecnu soap all over her cheeks and arms while she says, “It’s okay, mommy, don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” And then for good measure, I put her in the bath. And after the bath I squirt breastmilk, cure-all, on her face and she laughs, “milk sprinkler!” We take a long walk in the hot sun with her new trike and she practices pedaling. Eventually, eventually, we arrive at the ice cream shop. I get chocolate and she gets vanilla and we share. The day’s delicious sweet spot. Both of us covered in sticky ice cream drips. When it’s time to go, she’d like to stay. Coaxing doesn’t work. I carry her a bit as she wails, then set her back down on the trike, where she continues to wail under the bright sun for the entire 30 or 40 minutes it takes to slowly walk home. And then it’s okay. We drink water. Her big brown eyes, they kill me. Her wispy hair. I kiss her cheeks and her neck, smell of baby and sweet sweat and ice cream. So in love, so in love with my girl.

That was the afternoon, lovely and exhausting. I wonder, does it sound like nothing? And then I think, who cares? I know if I read this three years from now, I’ll be grateful to my younger self for trying to the find the words, for taking the time to describe it, for capturing a slice of day in all its tiny glory.

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Mandala

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This is the closest I get to making visual art these days, arranging rocks from the ever-growing pile on the deck. My husband and daughter are arrowhead hunters and rock collectors. We have rocks in the garden beds, in pails, in pockets, on the front porch, in the stroller, on dressers and bookcases, on the fireplace mantle, in the washer and the dryer. They are always bringing the beach home with them.

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Fireflies

It’s hectic around here, unlike last week’s staycation mode. But the day’s end is quiet.

Tonight, after I buried the woodchuck who’d been hit by a car, after I watered a section of garden, after I bathed Isabella and got her to sleep, I went outside to call in the cats. As I headed down the yard, I noticed a young deer in the neighbor’s yard. We locked eyes for a few beats, and then I turned away, wanting her to understand I wouldn’t disturb her. I stood in the middle of the yard watching the fireflies, tiny licks of flame everywhere, glowing and fading, glowing and fading.

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Egret


Because I didn’t finish the long post I began this morning. Because I let the summer day take me where it wished. To the water. Big waves churning and breaking. My little girl running straight in. I chased her down the sandy shore and twirled her in the air. While her dad took pictures of birds and pictures of us. Eventually we drifted up from the beach and found ourselves at dinner at my dad and stepmom’s. Swirls of conversation while she ran joyfully in the grass. I’ve kept away from the news. I’ve blanketed us in the humid air. We look up at the egret gliding toward Charles Island. The curved neck and long feet, white wings stretched soundless with intention.

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Ordinary Moments

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These ordinary moments. My toddler lets in the cat. Downpour washes out the humid air. Thunder sends her running with glee, announcing, “Fireworks, mama! Come see!”

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Let It Go

The long weekend was an ongoing gathering that paused only while we slept. Everyone arrived early to the beach, staking umbrellas, lying on blankets, passing out strawberries and cherries while the kids played and swam.

The toddler who won’t wean settled her sandy body into my lap and tugged at my bathing suit. I nursed her to sleep, which bought me an uninterrupted stretch of time to talk with my cousin Kathy, writer, teacher and all-around incredible person. We are kin and we are kindred. Conversation flows the same way it did when we were kids, walking the double cul-de-sac near her house, talking endlessly.

Beneath the shade of the umbrella, we spoke of family dynamics and the bittersweetness of returning home, where the loss of her mom is felt more acutely. We talked about writing, about being brave and being vulnerable, about navigating boundaries, about all that’s left unsaid.

Later we gathered for the annual barbecue at my dad and stepmom’s house, once my grandparents’ house. This summer marks the 70th year. I’ve lost count of the little cousins running wild in the grass.

During dinner, my cousin Eileen came over to chat and I noticed her bracelet, a leather band with a silver plate engraved with the words “Let It Go.” I touched it and said, “Everyone should have those words tacked on their body.” She smiled and unsnapped the bracelet from her wrist. I began to protest, but she stopped me, saying, “This is how it works. You wear this as long as you need to. And when you feel like you no longer need it, pass it on.”

The bracelet hasn’t left my wrist since. There is so much I hold onto. So much outside of my control. Big and small. I hold on tight. The last two days, when I look down at my wrist, I feel myself exhale. My jaw relaxes, my shoulders drop, my palms open. And I just let go.

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The Work of Happiness

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My inspiring writer friend Rachel turned my attention to May Sarton this morning and started this first day of summer on the perfect note.

A poem to keep like a prayer, rote, repeated, known.

The Work of Happiness
By May Sarton

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall—
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

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Summer Solstice

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7:00 pm sunlight on the solstice

Sweet Summer Solstice. I went down to the water alone tonight to take in the warm breeze and late light. Listened to the grass whisper and the birds call. A birder shared his telescope with me and I watched a baby tree swallow waiting open-mouthed for his mama, who returned without food, and the baby’s brow furrowed in frustration. Oystercatchers were perched in the distance.

Later, Chris and I went outside to look for the Strawberry Moon and found the first fireflies glowing in the backyard.

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