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.

(Post 203 of 365)

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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.

(Post 171 of 365)

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!”

(Post 170 of 365)

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.

(Post 154 of 365)

The Salt Marsh Smells Like Home: 14/365

I grew up next to a salt marsh. Tall grass and cattails, a muddy bottom estuary that filled and receded with the tide, meandering toward the town harbor. Low tide on summer nights, the breeze kicks up briny and strong. Good salt air. That is the smell of home.

As a girl I’d play behind the neighbor’s house, where the woods met the edge of the marsh. The trees made a canopy, dappled sunlight falling on a shallow pool of water surrounded by skunk cabbage and rocks. A small wood plank stretched between rocks allowing passage over the water. I’d hop from rock to rock, balance across the plank, poke the mud with a long stick, and make up stories out loud. I didn’t like to share that place. I preferred to be there alone, dreaming my words out loud to myself, Sarah, Queen of the Skunk Cabbage.