Submerged

My in-laws are in town for a visit and today we took Isabella to the aquarium. The place was teeming with families and summer campers. We made our way in, past the hoopla of a play area with a giant blow-up shark.

As we walked through the rooms of tanks, I felt submerged. It was dark and cool and somehow quiet, even with so many children everywhere. Peaceful and dream-like. Jellyfish and sharks and giant sea turtles.

Eventually we returned to the bright light, sea lions diving and then popping up, little snouts sniffing the air, to which Isabella said, “God bless you, sea lion!” Outside in the thick heat, we entered the butterfly exhibit. She was overwhelmed by the myriad wings fluttering all around us. Butterflies alighting on my arms and shoulders.

We made one more round through the dark and dreamy tanks before we left. Even on this day spent indoors, I am writing about water. It seems to reappear and repeat. So too, with my daughter. This project is supposed to be about me, but here she is again, always with me. If I was looking for a delineation of the border between us, I haven’t found it. I look for me, and I find us.

And I find happiness.

FullSizeRender-3 Yesterday I took this picture of myself. Every once in awhile, when I’m feeling invisible, submerged, I’ll snap a selfie. I never post it; it just sits in the vast archive on my phone. A record of me, visible. Toddler behind me in her car seat wondering why the heck I’m delayed in unbuckling her.

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Family Reunion

Hot, sticky August. A family reunion on my mom’s side, up north on a lake lined with pines, rocky outcroppings with rope swings. My mother’s people are genuine and kind. It’s all easy conversation and laughter.

Today everyone was in the water, splashing, playing games, paddle boarding, jumping off the dock. I swam with my little fish, and then swam way out by myself, and then again with my cousin Grace. Later we went out on the boat. Early evening sun beating low and strong. Music playing. Wind whipping our hair. My beautiful sisters sitting across from me. Pure happiness. We jumped off the boat into the deep water. I was in heaven.

And now I’m dead tired in that wonderful waterlogged way. My favorite day of summer so far.

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Outdoor Shower

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If I tell you I am sleepy, children on the beach past 6:00pm, then huddled in the outdoor shower, slick hair, pale torsos, patting at each other’s brown shoulders and arms, round bellied and round cheeked, toes curled into cracks between slate slabs. Little bodies sluiced with water.

If I tell you I am sleepy, and this image is the day’s offering.

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Cape Cod Weather

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Oh this Cape Cod weather… crisp salt air, clean blue sky, conjures the carefree days of my early twenties with my best friends in Provincetown. I can feel us waking in the same room, bleary and laughing, splashing cold water on our faces and heading out for iced coffee. Wandering Commercial Street in the too-bright sun. Packing up for the beach, or heading out to the point on the boat. Diving into icy waves, lying on the warm sand. Evening of oysters and soft-shelled crabs and too many vodka sodas, dancing to jukebox music, wandering to the sandy alleyway down to the bayside beach or jumping in someone’s Jeep with an oversand pass and heading out to the dunes in the fog to find the water lit up phosphorescent as if all the stars had fallen into the ocean. Someone’s playing guitar. The damp air curls our hair as we wade through the dark into the bright water.

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Blessed

It’s been a long week, but we made it through. Yesterday we discovered Chris has Lyme disease, which explains why he’s been so sick. A relief to have a diagnosis, and to have him on the mend. It’s easy to take our good health for granted. Today I felt especially grateful.

Grateful, too, that it’s June, the weather showed up spectacular, and that we live in such a beautiful place.


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Believer: 87/365

I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Even my college was Catholic-affiliated.

Today I think of Catholicism as an old family tradition.

If asked whether I identify with a particular religion or philosophy, I would say I’m a secular humanist. A secular humanist who believes in miracles.

Or maybe I am closer to Lakota, believer in the Great Spirit that animates us all. Tree and wind, earth and sun, bird and buffalo.

When I was waiting for my daughter, I called on every one of them: ancestors, saints, trees, wind, water, animals, poetry, song.

Yellow Rain Slicker: 84/365

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It’s taken me nearly forty years to realize that God invented yellow rain slickers not least of all so that we may create our own sunshine on rainy days.

Reverence: 37/365

 

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A storm rolled in at midnight, lighting up the bedroom. Big cracks of thunder. The wind coming off the water gusted over the roof like it might tear it off. It was enough to wake Isabella, but she wasn’t bothered by it.

I thought of the eagles in their nest in the patch of woods a block away. How they must be hunkered deep protecting their new eggs. The sway of those high branches, the rain pelting tucked wings. What a night to endure high up in a tree. I thought of the three squirrels who dwell in the thick hollowed out branch of our backyard maple. And the small birds, the woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays and robins, who frequent our feeder. I lay listening to the storm wishing them all safe refuge. I think about us all being made of the same life force embodied in different physical forms. I think about it as a family value, unspoken but understood among the three of us, a deep respect, a reverence for all life. I think less about instilling this value in my daughter and more about the way she instilled this in me with her birth, her very existence.

In the course of writing this post this morning, alternately doing dishes and sitting slumped at the computer indian-style, breastfeeding the two-year old in my lap while my hands fly across the keyboard, I see the eagle swooping, soaring from the window. I scoop up Isabella and run barefoot and jacketless in pajamas out the back door onto the wet deck to get a better look. There she is, soaring against the new blue sky. I call to Chris who’s upstairs, “Get the camera, they’re putting on a show!” He dresses and rushes out, walks up to the woods with the camera.

He returns a half hour later with the news that the nest is gone, and with it their two new eggs. The spectacular swoop and soar from the woods to our house and back again is one of distress. Chris says, “She’s screeching. She’s beside herself.” Isabella is in my lap, our cheeks pressed together as we watch the eagle fly low and straight over us. “Do you see that?” I say. “The mama eagle is flying.” And she says, “Eagle! We have to give her food!” She has the right idea, wanting to help in some way. But as with so much of life, all we can do is watch, pay attention, and with reverence, bear witness.

Photo credit goes to my nature-loving husband, Chris Bousquet, who can name all the birds and plants and trees. 

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Camping: 19/365

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I love camping. Sleeping under the stars. Waking with the dawn and the dew. My guy can pitch a tent with one hand tied behind his back and start a fire without a match. I can cook anything over an open fire, even an apple pie.

This photo is from four or five years back, our anniversary. September in Acadia, camped out on the fjord.

My Childhood Neighborhood: 15/365

The street I grew up on was U-shaped and quiet, half of it edged by salt marsh, cattails coming all the way to the street.  Across from our house lived an elderly woman named Judy who resembled a kind, round apple doll. When we rang Judy’s doorbell, she would appear with a bag of marshmallows, and we’d say hello and stand there, polite and expectant. If my sister and and I came alone, without other neighborhood children, we’d usually receive two marshmallows each. We would say our thank-yous and skip off with our sweet squishy treats. This was a coveted ritual as we were’t allowed sugar and I had a terrible sweet tooth.

At the top of the street, close to my school bus stop, was Trudy and Ray’s house. Ray had turned their entire yard into a tall, thick, overgrown garden. He’d wear head-to-toe khaki and giant noise-canceling headphones and disappear like a groundhog into that garden. After getting off the school bus, we would knock on their back door and Trudy would invite us in and we’d sit at the small kitchen table, where she would chat and smoke cigarettes and offer us hard candy from a dish. I enjoyed talking to adults, but I was there for the hard candy.

Next door to Trudy and Ray lived a family from the Bronx. The mom, Lorraine, was brash and snarky and teased us whenever we wore dresses. Once my sister rode by on her bike and Lorraine yelled, “Hey, Kate, ya gettin’ tits?” Lorraine had boys (and eventually a girl) and must have found us reserved and kempt by comparison. Her boys would come to our house and dare each other to eat worms or the mushrooms growing around our maple tree, which resulted in more than one phone call to Poison Control.

Next door was my best friend, Thayer. It sounds made up, a best friend right next door. There’s a picture of us at age 4, naked in the middle of the street, dancing in the rain, jumping in puddles. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but looking back, all I can think is, it must have been the best day ever. We loved to run through all the neighbors’ backyards, make potions from flowers and swamp water, play dollhouse, and ride bikes endlessly up and down the street. Whenever one of us fell and skinned a knee, Thayer’s older brother would give us a piggy-back ride to one of our houses where one of our mothers would sit us on the closed toilet seat and squirt Bactine all over the wound. It was Thayer’s mom who cut holes in her brothers’ old baseball caps so our pigtails would fit through. We’d run across the street, up the big hill to Barb and Mart’s house and tramp around their backyard to the honeysuckle bushes, where we’d fill our baseball caps with flowers and then sit and suck the nectar out of each one.