In a dream, my daughter drives along an interstate and rounds a curve. A semi spreads across the road, its back-end across our lane. In a fraction of a moment, I predict we’ll hit the truck. Before I can speak, my daughter steers to the right, and I have a sickening foreboding that she’ll hit the truck and I, on the right, will emerge unscathed. I’m not afraid really; it’s grief that nails me.
She steers us around the truck, over the grass, back onto the road, and keeps driving. My heart hammers.
In the dark, I lay awake. There’s a lesson here, I counsel myself.
On this rainy October morning, here’s a few lines about parenting from Anne Lamott and an excerpt of my book in The Fix.
…one of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one’s secret insanity and brokenness and rage.”
― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
Council Bluffs, Iowa, comes up randomly in conversation at work, and I remark idly that I’ve been there. A coworker asks why, and I answer vaguely that my family was passing through.
I haven’t driven around the country since I was in my twenties, and the country seems even larger and more unknown these days. In Vermont, again this summer, we see plenty of license plates from distant places — Tennessee, Missouri, Oregon — people on the move, for all kinds of reasons. There’s plenty of jobs, but nowhere to live.
Swimming at dusk, the water ripples before me, fracturing the raspberry sherbet sky into broken curves. August is the month when the peas are finished, and the rudbeckia blooms wildly.
Friday afternoon, I wash the screens and leave the windows open. The cicada sings, and my youngest teases me, You know what that sound means…. Our neighbor’s little boy pushes his toy mower across their grass, back and forth, serious about his work, in his own private world. Sunlight falls through the maple leaves fall above his head, the green fading toward gold, even this early in August.
On her way out last night, my daughter calls back into the house, Come see the moon!
A full moon rises behind our barn — the July Buck Moon. The night is so luminescent I can easily see the lilies along the barn.
I suppose the moon reflects the faraway sun, but the moonlight glows so vibrantly, like living molten gold, that the moon this night seems particularly alive, so close I imagine reaching out and dipping my hands into the round bucket of its beauty.
I know, theoretically, our house on this planet is spinning, too, but from our patch of grass and stone walkway and garden and house, it appears the lovely moon will rise and sail over our house and us sleeping in our bedrooms all night along. A magical thought — one I take comfort from.
“And The Moon and the Stars and the World”
Long walks at night– that’s what good for the soul: peeking into windows watching tired housewives
My friend and I spent many hours drinking coffee and watching our (then) little kids play at the edge of Caspian Lake, on colder summer days moving our coffee to the front seat of the car while my daughter’s hair blew over her eyes and lips in the wind. Those little kids are all grown up now, busily figuring out their own lives.
This Saturday, while we’re swimming, my daughters have dressed in heels and dresses and gone to a wedding. Late that night, after a long drive, they return with stories not about the dress or the Inn or the cake, but with stories of people and families and whose lives have gone awry and who is kind. An aunt and uncle of the bride have traded in family participation for a cult. Another family member is wandering out west, immersed in her own story, having cut herself free from any family obligation.
In the midst of this are the young adults, all working hard, scrambling in the severe shortage of housing in Vermont, trading advice about colleges and education. Brushing our teeth, we laugh and laugh. My daughters are no longer young in the way of using sand toys at the beach, but very young at heart, ready to make the world new in their own lives and hearts.
Family, we agree, using this word as both a noun and a verb.
Midsummer. Rain. Snails in the cabbage. Blooming calendula. I wouldn’t trade these obligations for the world.
“I am so far from being a pessimist…on the contrary, in spite of my scars, I am tickled to death at life.”
A 13-year-old or so boy is fishing at the edge of the pond when my friend and I walk down in the evening to swim. He nicely shuffles to one side, and then we’re off.
The evening sky this summer has been especially enchanting — muted in color, pale peach sky with gentle blue.When we’re finished swimming and laughing, we stand for a moment on the weedy shore, and I point out a luna moth dipping and rising — part of the evening charm, like an Impressionist painting. Suddenly, a bird pursues the moth, then swallows it. A ragged wing falls.
I had dinner in someone else’s house. Big deal? It’s been a very, very long, a pre-pandemic time.
At the end of an afternoon of a school board retreat, we kept sitting around the table, eating and refiling our plates, and drinking seltzer and beer. Our talking wound through laughter, through gossip, and musings.
Someone relayed the story of a long ocean voyage on a container shipping vessel, how the weeks at sea eroded any sense of time, until his life was simply water and ship and sky. We listened, in no rush at all.
Then, when we had talked ourselves out, we still sat there, unwilling to move, to break this quiet spell.
Rain fell; the sun shone. None of us ran outside to look for the rainbow. We simply sat.