The heat wave passed. The air conditioner rests from its long run and the quiet astonishes once again—sounds from the boat yard below mingle with seagulls and traffic sounds coming through the windows. (Windows—open! Amazing.) A male voice narrates the whale watch boat as it weaves through the harbor and his voice fades in the distance.
Just Madeleine and me this morning, and she is sleeping late, one leg dangling out of the bed at my eye level.
She wakes and peppers me with questions. What is a hiccup? (A spasm in your diaphram.) What is a sneeze? (Your nose trying to get rid of something irritating.) I wonder what a yawn is, then? (Your body is trying to get more oxygen.) All this while the toast is toasting and we are hugging "hello." She begs for some silly computer game she plays once every three months. I hem and haw and sure enough, while the toast is being eaten she opens A Swiftly Tilting Planet—she’s read her way through the whole trilogy to get to my favorite, one of my top five books of all time. Now that she’s in, everything will disappear and the quiet will prevail. When she is finished, I may need to reread this book again myself. In my college years and my years serving college students, it was my habit to reread the L’Engle trilogy, or Narnia, or Supper of the Lamb each Christmas break, to remember my place in the world. I’ve skipped a few years, it seems.
Midsummer finds me a bit disoriented. I’m reading Dante’s Divine Comedy and Augustine’s Confessions as hard and fast as I can for class requirements. My house full of broken things is becoming ridiculous as I work at reading—the cabinet door below the sink just fell off, yesterday, and my daughter hung a makeshift curtain in its place. My favorite handy man is booked up this summer, so the shelves I need in the children’s room are put on hold, and the pile of stuff to go on those shelves is similarly put on hold. Stacks of papers and projects grow, but I need to finish this reading, and prepare for the kids’ trip to summer camp, and prepare for my trip to my graduate school courses.
I ended the school quarter exhausted with the revision process and feeling some despair that I will ever become “fluent” at this writing thing. (Yes, I can describe things well, I know. But can I learn to write with power? Can I come to a point where something feels absolutely finished, even when I look at it months later?) I’ve written little this summer—but then I’ve had very little solitude or routine, which seem to be my requirements for writing. I travel in two weeks, and I’ll be filling my journal then, I know, as soon as the seatbelt on the plane is buckled and no one needs me. There’s much to do between now and then.
Meanwhile the breeze blows. The girl reads. The boy is sleeping over at a friend’s house, happy to be with other boys for a day. I’ve written a few paragraphs about cooking with my grandmother, and I’m writing still, though I’m not alone and it can’t be called a “routine.” I’m sneaking up on it. The tide clock shows it might be an excellent day for the beach but the quiet encourages me to stay, and noodle at this writing thing a little more.