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She heard him pull on his jeans and pad down the hall. Though she still wanted to snuggle into the sheets, it was no use. Her brain was already whirring away, and the scent of java lifted her body and spirit. Sitting in their favorite living room chairs at 4:30 am, they sipped the strong, warm brew and reconnoitered.
It was the first day of the 2010-2011 school year, and she was thankful to have the advantage on it. What a delight to linger together over a mug, leave early, and arrive at her office before the rush.
And oh my, it was a busy one. I volunteered to “do” the new students. Usually parents take care of this little matter before the first day of school, but this morning at least 10 teens sat in a row along the side of the counseling triage center; a centrally located computer lab where students were directed if they had a “problem” with their schedule.
One by one I helped the new kids select courses, and sent them on their way with little more than a welcoming smile and a map. They waited patiently, and bravely ventured off to class.
He was up before me with a pot of French Roast pressed and ready, when I emerged after a shower. Smiling warmly, he told me how lovely the slight crescent moon and stars had been on this crisp, clear, early morning, and I regretted having succumbed to the warmth of my bed that last half hour.
Even if I’d been up, my eyes wouldn’t have gazed into this dark morning sky, and it’s likely he would’ve missed the view too. As I backed the car out of the garage, he bid me farewell with a nod to the waning moon.
Labor Day weekend. I have no plans written or spoken, but many thought about and all of them centered right here at home.
There was a time Creighton and I would bicycle off to Wilson Creek and camp at a DNR primitive site, marking the end of a summer filled with bicycle journeys. Long ago and far away!
The bikes hang upside down in the garage, still fine machines, but this older body no longer craves that kind of physical discipline. Ah, spending the days puttering inside and out, followed by grilled dinners with wine will suit me just fine.
Westerly winds have ushered in a coolness with hints of the Autumnal Equinox on its edges. Though I’m loathe to relinquish summer’s mild and welcoming comforts, and the joy I feel being out in the gardens, the season will progress and so must I.
It’s only the grayness, the lack of enough hours of bright light in the sky that makes autumn and winter less favorite seasons for me. Though I love the changes, and honor their individual richness and beauty, I cling to summer as a child going to school the first day might clutch at her mother’s skirt.
When they first moved in across the street, she wasn’t sure what to think. Her first impression of him was that he might be a redneck sexist. She couldn’t have been more wrong. It took a year for her to countermand her initial estimation, but all the landscaping activity he was supervising in his back yard drew her over.
One day, as he talked with a mutual neighbor, she inserted herself into the conversation with a plausible quip. He was courteous and friendly, even warm. Over the ensuing months they became neighbor buddies, swapping union lore, and conferring about flora.
When I included them on an email I sent out with a link to the New Yorker article, I was taking a risk. I unchecked and checked her address, wondering if she might be open to another point of view.
He answered for them in a 1200 word rant as vitriolic as the venom he suckles daily from the right wing media. In 19 words I apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again.
Sometimes even long friendships fade and die for lack of commonalities. Our political positions have never jived, but before, politics wasn’t the centerpiece of all his conversations.
As we discuss the tone of ‘emperor’s’ rant, and process our feelings about this end to a friendship, Creighton reminds me that I’ve anticipated this; “someday it will happen to us.”
For years emperor had alienated most of our mutual beach acquaintances. One by one he’d exclude them from his cabin, and if we invited them to our table, he wouldn’t attend. He’d repeatedly degrade them with stories of transgressions made upon him and/or his family. To remain friends with him, it was incumbent upon us to nod our heads and keep our mouths shut.
I saw the pattern.
The school bus stops outside the window of her dressing room. Children in warm jackets and boots, clamber aboard. It’s her signal to grab a sweater and scramble into the car. He fills her travel mug with fresh coffee, and hugs her goodbye. Grinning, a twinkle in her eye, she breaks into a chorus of; “I’m off to
the wizard!” which cracks him up.
His laughter lingers in her ears as she navigates the side street, slowing as a cat crosses out of the rain. She imagines future evenings of returning at days end to a warm, fall fire.
And there’s always the second guessing, the examination of my own responsibility, the self questioning about how I’ve handled my reactions, responses, messages.
It’s not as simple as it might seem in these two, 100 word entries. Necessarily, they are a distillation of thoughts that span many years of shared experiences. And, the discipline of writing helps me see through and beyond the immediate irritation of being patronized, and the umbrage for being dissed. Writing cautions me to rein in a fervent desire to lash out, to express myself with elegant passive-aggresive constructions.
Writing shepherds me to find resonance within.
A mist suffused the sunlight, adding to the quietness around her. Cutting fresh roses on this early Saturday morning, with the scent of coffee and bacon lingering in the air, a trace of sadness tinged her profound inner peace. Nine years now since the 9/11 attacks and the horrific losses that were incurred. She hadn’t lost anyone personally, but remembered, like it was only yesterday, seeing the live television coverage as the towers disintegrated before the eyes of the world.
She placed the fragrant blossoms in her vase, and whispered a prayer of peace for all the slain souls.
It won’t be long now, she sighed. Leaves were already beginning to change color, and the misty air hung in the holly tree, its berries tingeing from deep green to chartreuse in their progression towards winter crimson. With her house tasks done, and no obligations to the outside world, she settled into a favorite spot to read Cormac McCarthy through the afternoon. Before dinnertime she’d finished
No Country for Old Men
, and sat thinking about it for a long while. The characters, so well developed, yet with such sparing style. Sentences hanging without a noun or verb, making perfect sense.
Does two score and one year sound longer than forty-one years? Either way, as we sip coffee together on this anniversary of our marriage, we smile forgivingly, gaze into one another's bleary yet sparkling morning eyes, kiss a little old person smooch, and wonder how the hell we made it.
In the same breath we know how we made it. Love at first sight, cared for with perspicacity, patience, persistence, which matured (as we have) into abiding love.
Celebration plans? BBQ of fresh, wild caught, Coho salmon with fresh corn-on-the-cob, bubbly, served on our own deck, within our private sanctuary.
The frenetic energy of an overstuffed school begins to permeate Union. Though the vibe is still predominantly positive, the tone is intensified by the sheer number of teenagers, including 500 freshman. Today Tanya had to yell out her office window repeatedly to boys trying to jam and jack the salt and sugar vending machine. Finally she implored me to go out and say something to get their attention. I did. They stopped.
Tomorrow I plan to sit out there and have a conversation with the potential leaders of our 400 building lunch foyer. Nothing works better than mature peer pressure.
When the conference was over, they were disheartened. Though they understood the original plan couldn’t fly, they’d expected their financial advisor to consider facilitating a solution that was still available to them. She didn’t.
Instead, she suggested they suck it up, tighten the already restricted belt, and squeeze yet another ounce of blood from the proverbial turnip. She assured them it’d be better to suffer more now than later.
Alone together, they considered it possible she didn’t want to suffer either, and how much they suffered, whether now or later, was immaterial to her.
They decided to sleep on it.
When she arose, he had been up a few hours, unable to sleep. Anxious and spent he wanted her to stay home, but she had awakened with a renewed calmness and determination. Before leaving for work they made a plan for the day; she would make an appointment with their accountant, he would order a change of DSL providers to a more economical plan. She admitted she preferred to retire in two years, but that if it came to it, she’d delay retirement another year. Better to retire with security and enough income to enjoy life, than scrimp any more.
Starlings gathered on the telephone lines at the intersection nearby. She preferred observing them over watching the gasoline pump tally the gallons and dollars required to propel her to and from work for another week.
A double decker row of birds faced into the southwesterly wind calling out to one another in their reedy whistle. She admired how they created an image of a solid line, at equal distance from one another, even though they were continually in flux. As one flew off others landed. Although there was constant winged motion, anyone casually glancing up might see a static line.
The morning broke clear and inviting after a stormy rain drenched night. She basked in the sun’s warmth streaming through the window by her desk, while her beagle curled up under the chair, his soft ears and muzzle resting on her bare feet.
She checked her emails, then pulled up AccuWeather which told her she had until noon to get outside before the rains returned. Scratching her dog’s ears, she promised to get out for a walk right after breakfast. “Got to take advantage of every opportunity now,” she assured him with a pat, “otherwise we’ll succumb to cabin fever.”
On Morning Edition Sunday, I was taken by the story of composer Robert Kyr., who draws his inspiration from the environment that surrounds the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, near Abiquiu, New Mexico, where he retreats to create his music. The story is lovely, and a comment John Burnett made struck me: “It is said that beauty lubricates the spirit.” “Oh yes,” I murmured, “yes it does.”
It’s the desire for beauty that propels me out to dig into the earth around me and create a personalized landscape of glorious flowers and lush trees. And then there’s Beach Haven.
Dear friends. Though we didn’t grow up together, we’ve matured together, and nurture a friendship born of being in the same place at the same time, with enough similar interests to keep getting together during the week we’re all at Beach Haven. It’s been 25 years now.
Their children have grown up, moved away, married, had their own children.
We’ve grayed, evolved from obsessive running and/or cycling to being content simply to be able to walk, drive, talk, think, lift a grandchild up in the air. More important is that we recognize the value of caring to be friends.
It’s letter of recommendation writing time in my world, an activity I approach with serious relish, since I love to write, and this offers an even more specific challenge; presenting a young adult of 17-18, in their best light, using the written word. And, to do so in a way that avoids banality but instead piques the interest of the reader. It’s a tall order.
The most recent recommendation form had six well crafted questions, with word count limits for each. Wow! I’m in heaven! Such practice I’ve had writing exactly 100 words and having it all make sense!
Summer officially ends tonight about 8:00, when the sun is directly over the equator, and the minutes of light and minutes of dark are equal. Tomorrow the shift begins; in the northern hemisphere, every day brings more minutes of darkness, and less of light, while the southern hemisphere anticipates the longer days and shorter nights of spring.
Sunlight dapples through still green leaves, and the air temperature is mild. Koi ply the pond seeking bugs and finding morsels of fish food I’ve tossed in for them. They have grown fully twice the size they were just this past spring.
Full moon of the Autumnal Equinox. A row of 4 students sat waiting to see her when the bell signaled the beginning of first period. None of them had appointments. She recognized two sophomores she’d counseled last year, both of whom she’d expected to see before long. Here they were, neither knowing the others story, and both genuinely needing her emotional support.
One at a time she saw them, winnowed out their chief concerns, and suggested possible solutions. By day’s end, there was a positive resolution for all but one of the concerns. It would have to wait until tomorrow.
Reflecting on the week, she leaned her head back to see a patchwork of bright blue sky outlined by tree branches, leaves, and needles. What had happened this week that made a difference? Well, everything, whether it happened or not, everything influenced the energy of the universe.
Hearing the steady, always changing splash of water spilling over rocks soothed her mind. “It’s Ann I’m thinking of,” she whispered, “thank you powers of the universe, Ann’s OK.” A dear friend had undergone skull adjustment surgery two days earlier, and only today had the news come that Ann was recovering as expected.
He was up most of the night. A week of waiting for QWest to provide new DSL service had ended in a non functional modem, no on site help, long, frustrating phone conversations with techies, and their irritating conclusion that the problem must be with his computer. No, it’s not. Computer was working just fine with the prior DSL service provider.
So a new modem is being shipped, but the whole process frazzles him and when his mind gets wound up at night, he may as well be up. Just as he came back to bed, I was waking up.
Consequently, we’ve been sharing my laptop because for some unknown reason, I am able to get internet service using someone else’s ethernet connection. Net surfing is one of Creighton’s constant activities, so for him not to have internet access would be crazy making, for both of us! It’s stop gap, but will have to do for now.
I’m reminded of our first little Apple SE 20, with 2.5 MB of RAM. We loved it so. Now we have my iBook and his iMac, with plans to get a new iMac soon with 8 GB RAM. Ten thousand light-years from home!
She radiated an inner beauty that matched her lovely countenance. I’d not seen her in my office for over a year. Now a senior, she came seeking assistance on negotiating the college and scholarship application process. And I was ready.
For each question she asked, I offered an answer or a handout with the information that would lead her forward. Every handout I presented she looked over while I explained the general content and highlighted important points. “This is exactly what I need,” she smiled, “it’s such a confusing and complicated process.”
“Indeed,” I confirmed, “and we’ll navigate it together.”
sometimes I wonder
then I think
could it be a compliment?
then I puzzle
but is it
things barely tangible
nag at my wounded
fear foments nausea
feed the flame
sparks of doubt
hiss for wisdom
whence such ambivalence?
incubated and hatched
into termite belief?
awkward never the less
whether intended as
a sign of genuine respect
and though I wonder
still the question must rest
and so it is
not a push to pasture
but a release from the yoke
Three boys, all fifteen years old. On the cusp of becoming young men. Two may yet have that blessing; one won’t.
How is it that any of them was driving? Driving a truck. “Behind the wheel of a large automobile.”
Parents - where are your brains? Mothers, fathers, how could this happen?
Crazy, crazy. Driving 50-60 on a narrow 35 mph two lane road with only concrete to stop vehicles from plummeting onto a six lane hiway.
Truck hit, spun, flipped. Two boys wearing seat belts are alive. One without restraint, is dead. Dust in the wind. Such a waste.
A headline on the 5:30 TV news made me shudder; young woman hit by BN freight train. Then the phone call from the SMART manager asking me to be at a sister high school first thing in the morning. Another student dead. She attended the same school as the boy who died last Tuesday. Students and staff already traumatized, exhausted, will need expert care. 10:00 news identified the victim as a teenage girl, hit while waking on the tracks. An iPod had been found near the scene.
How do we explain the unexplainable? God asleep at the wheel?
The Tip Jar