Summer Dining Al Fresco
“This is June, the month of grass and leaves . . . already the aspens are trembling again, and a new summer is offered me.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, Journal, June 6, 1857
Saturday evening. Party cloudy and very warm.
Thunder storms rolled through here last night, which gave us a break from the oppressing humidity that has been choking the area lately. I spent a few hours floating around the pool and playing ball with Tillie and Shakes. Then Corey and I gave the Jack Russells baths outside so that we could put flea medicine on. We’re trying the new flea medicine that Wal Mart and Sam’s club has that’s supposed to be the same formula as Frontline but for half the cost.
We’ll see how that works.
I have these two strange marks on my left knee that look like someone tasered me. I don’t believe that anyone tasered me as that would tend to be something that one would remember. But the marks are strange nonetheless. I noticed them yesterday when I was riding with Ann in her minivan on the way home from visiting her dad in the hospital.
Brett went with us, and as usual, he said nothing. His grandfather actually didn’t look half bad. He’s having breathing troubles because of his emphysema (more proof that smoking sucks), but he seemed to be in relatively good spirits. His nurse came in while we were there and said something about him going home. Ann didn’t know anything about it, which is not surprising as her dad’s wife doesn’t tend to share information.
It would be good though if he could go home and spend his remaining days with his dog and his roses. I remember when my father was dying in the hospital he kept asking to come home. My mother wouldn’t hear of it even though I offered to stay and take care of him. It’s but one more thing that I regret about his final days.
“A breeze blew over the garden, dropping dew and dropping petals, shivered over the drenched paddocks, and was lost in the sombre bush.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, Prelude
Corey has to work tonight. Once again, he only has three shifts scheduled for the coming week. He is quite depressed over the situation, and I really don’t have any answers. It seems that he’s stuck again, and that’s such a helpless way to be.
He wasn’t able to enroll in summer classes, mostly because the financial aid didn’t come through in time, but plans are still on for him to start classes this fall. I think that once he does that it will help him to feel more grounded. College will be a real, tangible thing, and it’s part of his long-term goals for himself, one that he has had to postpone for too long.
In other news, last night Corey installed a new AC unit in the living room. We got a really good deal on a reconditioned 8,000 BTU unit to replace the dead unit. It’s so much quieter and more energy efficient, and it cools the living and dining rooms and into the hall, so the whole house feels much more comfortable. The bad news is that when Corey took out the old unit, the water damage was pretty obvious.
We know that we are going to have to replace part of that wall and part of the master bedroom wall when we finally replace the windows in this house. But as with everything else in the renovation plans, this must wait.
“If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don’t bring forth what is inside you, what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.” ~ The Gospel of Thomas
I came to a realization tonight. It arose in the middle of some drama that I really could have done without, drama that was completely unnecessary and ultimately, peripheral. The realization is that I have much better control over my temper than I used to have. I used to have a hare trigger temper, one that I would unleash indiscriminately, the consequences be damned. Not to say that it’s gone completely; witness the ordeal with Ford.
In a recent conversation, one that would have gone much differently a few years ago, I didn’t lose it, did not curse, did not go for the juggler, though mightily tempting it was, I must say. I don’t think that my calm has anything to do with age. My dad’s temper remained quite volatile even when he was older. I say volatile, but I should clarify that it took a great deal before he lost his temper. About the only person who could really bait him was my mother, and to be honest, she’s just really good at that, even now.
When we were in high school, it seemed that every other day brought some kind of crisis worthy of tears and shouting, storming out of rooms and slamming doors. It seemed that I wore a proverbial hair-shirt all of the time. And in my 20’s I would go off at the drop of a hat. Everything seemed worthy of standing my ground. But not so much any more.
Let me elucidate: I still stand my ground, but the ground that I desire to maintain does not stretch so far. I suppose it comes down to perspective. After losing so much and enduring so much, I have learned to be selective in choosing my battles. As I’ve mentioned, Corey and I do not argue often, and since I am no longer working, I do not have those external triggers to wind me up and make my insides knotty.
In the grand scheme of things, there remains essentially one thing that will cause me to bring my full nastiness to bear: the protection of those I love, especially my children. Be forewarned: Don’t. Go. There.
“The infinite suits you. The infinite where your feet carried you and one evening forsook you, and which now alone has the power to name you.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from The book of Margins, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop
I remember one time, much to Eamonn’s great mortification, I yelled at a kid who threw a basketball at him. “Mom. Why’d you do that? I know him.” Okay. So I might have overreacted. Just a bit. But for the most part, I have let my kids fight their own battles. It’s what you are supposed to do, isn’t it?
Alexis, being the first, really didn’t know how to interact with other children, which is why we enrolled her in preschool, so that she would have to learn how to share. She fought her battles by biting the boy who wouldn’t give her a turn on the tire swing. The director of the preschool took Alexis in the office, showed her a bar of soap, and told her that if she ever bit anyone again, she would have to bite the bar of soap. Alexis never bit anyone again, or if she did, she never got caught.
It’s hard to step back, not to run interference. It was much harder for me after Caitlin, and I’ll admit, I didn’t always succeed. I remember the first time that Alexis wanted to ride her bike to school, I followed her in the car. Of course I did. She was so small for her age, and well, it was the first time. And then she wanted to ride her bike to her grandmother’s after school, which meant that she had to cross a main artery, four lanes. I followed her then, too.
She survived, and when she and her friend got into a fight in high school, and Alexis came home with a swollen jaw, I didn’t interfere. I wanted to, really really wanted to, but I didn’t, and they’re still friends.
“Fill yourself up with the forsythias
and when the lilacs flower, stir them in too
with your blood and happiness and wretchedness,
the dark ground that seems to come with you.” ~ Gottfried Benn from “Last Spring,” trans. Michael Hofmann
Oddly enough, not standing up for me was one of the things that really bothered me about my mother. I suppose when you are an only child, it’s hard not to get blamed for everything, but I got blamed for things I never did, and my mother would believe everyone before she would believe me. Actually, it’s still that way. This mistrust didn’t just extend to me; my father got it as well, but . . . well . . . he deserved it most of the time.
I don’t know if it comes from being the youngest in a family of 12 children, or if it’s a result of being a child of the depression, or if it’s the result of being the spouse of someone who was repeatedly unfaithful, but whatever it was, whatever the genesis, my mother is not very trusting. She would accuse me of telling lies when I was being completely truthful. Do you have any idea how that skews a person?
I taught myself to trust because if I didn’t, then I would have ended up like my mother. Granted, dating a pathological liar in my teens did not exactly help in the trust department, especially since I was so naive that I didn’t realize that just about everything that came out of his mouth was a lie. It took me a while, but I did finally catch on.
“When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours?” ~ Franz Kafka
It’s now 10:30 p.m. A big thunder storm blew through the area, and I decided to err on the side of caution and get off the computer for a while.
Of course, since leaving and returning, the subject on which I was pontificating has long since lost its appeal for me. The night has grown dark and quiet; Eva Cassidy is singing “Fields of Gold” with a voice so lovely that it makes me want to weep.
Each time the sky opens up in the evening and the thunder rolls over the horizon, I am taken back to the night on the back porch with my father, how we sat in companionable silence and just enjoyed the moment. I realize how lucky I am to have that memory, at this moment especially when the tenuousness of family relationships is tugging at my heart.
We never know what life is going to give us; just as we do not know what life will take, but we can be assured that it will indeed take as much as it will give. We have moments, just moments of pure bliss, and they seem to fade when compared to those moments of great pain, will fade, unless we hold onto them as if our lives depended upon retaining them, because it does. It most certainly does depend on those connections.
What makes us who we are are moments sitting on cement steps on a covered porch as a deluge rains down from the sky. Who we are depends on who we share these moments with and whether or not we are willing to share at all.
With luck, my own children may look back some day and remember such a moment shared with me, and they will smile, and perhaps they will shed a tear or two, but that memory will keep them going for another day, another week, another year, just as my own moments sustain me.
“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that—I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.” ~ Sylvia Plath
If I give you the impression that I am full of despair and sadness and that my life has no meaning, this is so far from the truth. If you come away from these pages feeling sorry for me, don’t. If you read my words and think that I know nothing of happiness, of bliss, of love, then you have misunderstood me.
Yes, there is grief, and yes, there is sadness. But in turn, there is great love and compassion and understanding. And although I have not come to terms with the idea of getting older, I have come to respect the wisdom that the years have given me. I am so much more comfortable in my skin that I ever was in my 20’s.
And though I have faced storms, storms of the soul, the dark night of the soul, if you will, I have not come away empty-handed. I have been given so much, and I have taken so much, and as a result, I have the pleasure of being capable of feeling so much. I would not trade the storms for anything for I have had more than my share of fields and flowers and cool water.
My tapestry continues to grow. Each new person who enters my life brings their own colored threads, and I greedily scoop them up and integrate them into the pattern. And because I have been weaving this tapestry for so long, it has become tattered and worn in a few places, thinner in those places that I have wrapped myself in when the nights have been too long, but I don’t fret too much. There is no limit on how large we grow the maps of our souls.
Peace be with you and yours.
Music by Eva Cassidy, “Fields of Gold”
The best time is late afternoon
when the sun strobes through
the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
and when you find an agreeable rock
to sit on, you will be able to see
the light pouring down into the woods
and breaking into the shapes and tones
of things and you will hear nothing
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
and if this is your day you might even
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
driving overhead toward some destination.
But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories
how the earth holds us painfully against
its breast made of humus and brambles
how we who will soon be gone regard
the entities that continue to return
greener than ever, spring water flowing
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
passing over the hills and the ground
where we stand in the tremble of thought
taking the vast outside into ourselves.
~ Billy Collins, from Directions in The Art of Drowning