REPORT A PROBLEM
There are fires in Quebec. I know this because yesterday I woke up and smelled wood burning. Actually, it didn't faze me at first as my neighbors burn wood for fuel. The weather report told me otherwise. Smoke on the wind. That was the forecast. It felt ominous and magical. The last day of May there is smoke on the wind. Over 400 miles away fires rage and we know about it here outside of Boston. At sunset I was out walking in the heavy charcoal breeze it was as if I could see the flames reflected in the sky.
I am working on not doing things. It's pretty hard. I have a newborn and am aiming to give him my undivided attention. There is a poem about mothers not worrying about cleaning and gardening, and instead focus on their babies because "babies don't keep". I've given up planting my window-boxes and weeding the beds. The veggie garden is at the bare minimum. But it is pretty hard sitting in a dirty house. I just keep telling myself that a child lives here now. And it's OK to not clean. Or organize things. Or work out. It's not freeing.
There is a spider in my son's room. A self-aware spider. I walked in and saw a white and black splotch on the wall, and then it started moving. Not just in any random way. It was backing away from me, the intruder into it's space. I could feel it staring at me. I tried to take its picture to send to my husband, the spider killer, but all the pictures were blurry because it was moving too fast. It crouched into a window crevice and watched me. I backed out of the room slowly and shut the door.
I miss conversing with real live people. The majority of my friend existence now is through the web. Email, gchat, twitter, facebook. I do not have many friends living near me, and, in all honesty, do not make friends easily. I blame a variety of factors on this: shyness, eccentric personality, lack of filter. However, even when I was at work all day I rarely spoke a word to anyone (if you knew my coworkers you would understand why). But now I speak to an infant, trying to get his future verbal score up. It's a very one-sided conversation.
Today is my mother's birthday. She is 65. I think about when I will be 65, in the year 2042 and wonder a lot of things. What will I be like? What about my kids? Society? My mother is excited because she can now stop paying for health insurance and go on medicare. To celebrate the milestone (her b-day, not going on government assisted health care) she is traveling to Alaska, something she's been wanting to do forever.
I rarely celebrate my birthday, but perhaps when I'm 65 I'll go to Alaska too. If it's still there.
Family time cramped into single parking spaces. Laughter and watchful eyes. Small children growing large, and then it's their turn. There are only minutes between each person, in thoughts and words and actions. Those gaps are hardest to cross when all that binds is blood. Mirroring expressions when lost in the chaos to manage the missing bonds.
The ride home was a landscape of the afternoon. Dappled sunlight through dripping trees. The undulating road hides surprises. We stop in the middle, aghast at the tornado damage. In this region they are like ghosts: stories told but none seen.
My first sleepless night.
Instruction manuals are often tossed aside or misread. Perhaps this is why children don't come with any. If they did, would a parent follow them to a T? Or go with what they think they should do anyway? Countless words of advice are offered, and ignored.
Sometimes with good reason.
Instead we have stories of how we were raised. What worked what didn't to guide us. My mother said with my sister she walked the halls at night singing folk songs. Eventually my sister hummed them back, stopping the crying.
But I am a silent person, who lost the ability to carry a tune long ago. It was shouted out in bars, projecting my voice over the dueling pianos and noisy conversation. Scratched by my love of smoky places and long nights.
Now my nights are still long but in a different place. As I shuffle him around in my arms, staring down at his dewy skin, I remind myself that I chose this after I did all that I wanted with my nights. Gone the bars, the lingering kisses at a door, the hangovers. I moved forward.
I think that this is the only way for me to be a comfortable parent. No regrets, only memories. In actuality, I consider my twenties training for having a child. I hold them in my head with pleasure. Besides, my tolerance for staying up for sunrise is high. How many times did I do it for no reason before?
I can rock and shush with a light heart, and never distress over missed sleep. Because in the morning he will still be here in my arms, needing to be loved. And I offer it unhurriedly forever.
We are planning a weekend away to the Vineyard. There is a small B&B in Chilmark near the cliffs at Gay Head, a beautiful beach with cliffs of clay. It's a 5-minute walk to the beach down a wooded path. The inn is on the other side of the island from the main towns. I would be happy to stay in town, my husband lived there for a while and would like to avoid, except for a dinner out or a walk through before the ferry leaves. I'm going to call the inn tomorrow to book the suite.
My home office is a mess, and I think I'm going to have to clean it out. The various things that are in there that shouldn't be include: a crib mattress, a wedding dress (preserved), three gaming systems, unused wedding presents, a car seat, and giant box of fabric that will never be used. Plus the piles and piles of paperwork on various important things such as mortgage refinancing, bills, day care, and various savings plants. Mounded in no particular order.
I know that most can go into the garage, but then I have to organize that too.
A weekend promise was given to me on Thursday. It was supposed to be nice. I was promised sunshine, warm temperatures, and long daylight hours. Strawberry picking and ice cream eating. A cookout. Some gardening and flower sniffing.
It's gray out. And rainy. Nearly raw in fact. I had to shut the windows in my house to preserve Friday's left over warmth, which was threatening to swirl out the window and be replaced with fog. The only outside work we can do is haul sodden branches to the town's brush site. We sit inside silent, mourning our Saturday.
My curtains seem to be growing hair. Like the fur moss that sometimes grows on trees, the curtains in my house are all trimmed with wispy curls of down. From a distance it looks like cobwebs, but up close it's apparent what creature has marked our curtains. The cats.
Our two cats are indoor cats, and of course that means they are obsessed with the outside. So they sit in the windows. Not just sit really. Stretch themselves against, nap, hunt, and fight. Each movement causes them to rub against the fabrics, lining them with their excess fluff.
The days are blurring into each other. It's kind of nice. Not having any schedule is freeing. I am even starting to get over the boring feeling that was there before. Loneliness is still there.
But that is nothing new. I feel like the loneliest girl ever. Separated from friends and family by distance; silent at work; a strange face among commuters. One of the first "favorite" rock songs songs I had as a child was "People Are Strange" by the Doors. It was featured in the Lost Boys movie. Still, it called to me. A familiar chant.
Got in the garden today. Managed to stake some peas, pull a few weeds. Still need to put the basil plants in. I probably should be doing that right now in fact. But I'll take a few seconds to write.
The garden centers call to me when I drive past them, but I just don't have the time to put in flowers this season. I wish I did. Instead I'll focus on the vegetables and herbs. Practical plants that are useful.
But the empty window boxes really bother me. Maybe I'll plant at night. Moon gardening.
I started running again this week. A few days early; I'll be officially cleared tomorrow for exercise. But I needed a jump start. I'm starting out slow with distance. 1.67 miles to begin with. This time around I'm going to work on speed. My first two runs have averaged 10 minute and 24 seconds per mile. Not too shabby actually. That's my marathon pace. I figure if I can build up a quick short distance I can transfer it to my long distance. No races are planned, so time isn't a factor. The beach vacation next week is though.
Cool rain falls in the late spring. A last refresher before the blazing summer appears. Leaning out the window, past the roofed overhang, I stretch my arm out so my hand is drizzled. Two oval puddles show the rain to be slowing, each drop more spaced out than the last. The rings each leave on the surface spread out to the steaming asphalt. The lengthening day allows for a brief glimpse of the late sunset, which peeks out behind the black storm clouds, illuminating the peeling sideboard of the house. A rush of breeze springs up, promising warm days ahead.
The kids like the idea of strawberry picking better than the reality of it, Chris says. I nod, looking at my nephew sitting in the shade of the striped tent. He's not sulking so much as indifferent to everyone around him. I didn't say it out loud though. My niece screams and runs away from a bug circling her head. She hates bugs, Chris says. The only one who wasn't whining or fussing was her youngest son. At 4, strawberry picking was his best reality of the day. I watched him pick a berry and pop it in his mouth.
Space is always a good thing. Room to move, think, recover, and vent. I drove north on my errand, enraged at the day, even though it did its best to calm me. The sky was that deep June blue, the kind that makes me want to drive to the beach and sit on a dune and stare at the ocean. There was a breeze along the treeline rippling the green maples. My windows were rolled down, sunroof open, but all I could do was seethe.
How dare she. He? They? How...how dare I care this much?
So I stopped.
I ran into a neighbor today, who I don't know too well but always wanted to befriend. We ended our runs at the same time, coming in different directions and meeting in the middle.
Smiling, I inquired how she was. She had lost her father that spring, and being father's day, thought that today must be especially hard for her.
I just need everything to stop for a while, she said. This spring was so hectic that I didn't process anything. She ran me through her schedule and I gasped.
Breathing must be hard, I said.
Every second is.
A midsummer's evening walk.
In the setting sun a firefly flies into my arm.
A token of the element I hold dear.
In the rising darkness I hear a whizzing sound near my ear, then feel the small pinches of mosquitoes chomping on my body.
A reminder that fireflies do not actually have bodies of heated flame that can take out the biting buggers in the night sky.
Sunrise in the east, on the downside of summer. I am covered in welts. Itchy, scratchy welts. Red skin exasperated by the sun.
A double red curse on my pale Irish skin.
Today I visited my best friend and her son, who live within 20 miles of me, but are separated by a highway and three long roads. Today, all those roads were blocked. Early summer construction, unmanned broken lanes, and an accident.
I was nearly also sidelined by an empty gas tank. It was frustrating as the nearest station to me at the time was a BP. I couldn't get the image of the oil saturated Gulf out of my head, and drove on until the gas light turned on. Even though the other desert Gulf was oil suffering as well.
Waiting for the furnace people all day. Had I known they needed to look at and evaluate every room in the house I would have picked up my bedroom, especially put away my bras that are all on the floor. At least they are clean.
They stare at our 1960 aluminum windows, shaking their heads. We're going to replace them, I offer. One guy perks up. When? he asks. Um, depends on the furnace quote, I reply. We only have so much money here.
But the windows do need to go. They sometimes frost on the inside in the winter.
My hair is long. It's been that way in my head all my life, but I had it short in college and then again a few years ago. When I was younger I kept it down past my butt, and now it's all the way down my back. In all honesty, I think it's my best feature, and love it long. I can't do much with it long or short, so it's better for me if I just keep it flowing. I can wrap it around me in case I find myself naked in the street. Like in that nightmare.
I feel bad for one of my cats. A Rag Doll breed, he is very doglike, and follows us around-- his people. However, Crook has been shuffled to second fiddle since we brought home the baby. He sleeps in the bed still, but the past few days he's been acting up. Rather, acting like a baby.
I've found him in the crib three times sound asleep. After being kicked out, he napped on the changing table. Now, he's on the baby's activity mat.
I need to give him a little love, to let him know he's still our baby too.
We hit the road at 4:30 AM. Dylan and I slept the entire way. I awoke at the harbor when Jon swung the car into our appointed space. Our luck was still going, and they waved us on to an earlier boat. Up on the deck, we watched the Vineyard grow larger with each passing minute, enjoying the warm sun and breeze. The ferry was fast, and soon we were in Vineyard Haven stocking up on PB&Js for the weekend, and grabbing coffees from the Black Dog.
"We're not touristy," Jon said, "because I used to work here."
We drove the winding roads out to Aquinnah, breathing in the sea air through the open windows. As the road rose we could see the ocean ahead. Just past a small farmer's market we saw the sign for the inn, and pulled in to a grassy lane. In the middle of a field, flanked by a large barn, was the gray two story building. Clover wafted up around our ankles as we unpacked the car. The basement suite we reserved was rustic, with stone walls and a large fireplace. A path to the beach was cut through the long grasses.
We took turns going into the water, as the ocean was still too cold for the baby. In the mid-afternoon a mist swirled in from the sea, blurring out the sun and trapping the heat still radiating from the sands. It secluded us from the other beach goers, and we sat in stillness eating our packed lunch.
We drove into Oak Bluffs to Offshore Brewing, another of Jon's old jobs. Out on the patio we watched the club goers saunter by in small dresses or pressed khaki shorts. I wince at their loudness, my mind still on the beach.
We decided to visit Chappaquiddick--a part of the island we always skipped. The ferry held 3 cars at a time, but the crossing took under a minute. Probably the same amount of time to swim the short channel. At Mytoi gardens we wandered around the lush foliage, all marked and identified. I refused to look at any of the plants not marked, even though most were indigenous to the region. How can we be sure this is a rhododendron, I said. It's not on the brochure. Instead I made up names. Encompassing purple dart bush. Paper trees. Pancake makers.
We had the morning to spend on the beach, and the weather gave us a gem. The sand shimmered in the heat, and we walked towards the clay cliffs. Jon went for a walk but came back quickly. The entire cliff over there fell. There is clay washing into the water. It was forbidden to climb the cliffs anymore, or to adorn yourself in clay and watch it stream off into the surf. A natural spa treatment. I went to the collapsed cliff and picked up the soft clay. A stream of rocks shone in the cliff. Pyrite. Fool's gold.
The Tip Jar