Thursday, June 21, 2012

letter from a late-June heat wave

I want to rush at this letter with arms thrown open: we are well. Our house is so suited to summer. All of our school schedules have ended, for this one week, and we are home, sleeping late, eating meals on a whimsical non-schedule, walking the hallways barefoot and mumbling.

Swimsuits are still draped on the porch railing, though the 90-degree weather surely baked them dry hours ago. We are fine in our un-air-conditioned house, as long as the wind blows. Like now, the trees rustling, the wind moaning over the metal fence posts and rain-spouts, the pipe-organ of the neighborhood playing strange chords high and low.

Yesterday the thermometer stretched to nearly a hundred degrees, and then the wind stopped, mid-afternoon. We packed our kids plus three more, and drove to the beach, fingers crossed for a parking space, for mercy. When we returned home for a late dinner, still no wind, and when we decided to sleep, still no breeze. My son came by to chant, I cannot sleep. My daughter, too, said the birds would not stop singing, and I swear the birds sang all night. (Is it the warmth that signals their singing? Not the light? They sang all night, or I dreamed them singing all night.)

We parents are trained to survive lack of sleep, but children do not recover this way. They are spending the day in bed, with books and music (one of them), or continuing to nap off the swelter.

While I was standing in the icy blue ocean, yesterday, as ever I found myself singing a melody line of thanks, smelling the salt-cucumber scent of summer with Innocence Mission in my head. And again at night on the downstairs couch, under the blessed ceiling fan, a melody of gratitude for all that is, and for rest (or even a half-rest) of birdsong and sweltering heat.

Sometime in the wee small hours of morning, the breeze kicked up again—Scott rose from the second couch, across the room, and left for the bedroom upstairs. I woke late to this quiet.

One child rustles through, now. Scott leaves for errands in the air-conditioned car. A second child wanders by to ask about a box of muffins our houseguests left.

SO MUCH to unpack from these last few weeks, huge events, gatherings of friends and acquaintances, visits with writers and artists. Concerts. Speeches. Ceremonies. And maybe best of all, quiet times sitting with friends, with nothing terribly important to say.

Much more to write, but for now, cool drinks call.  

Thursday, June 07, 2012

june morning, graduation nears

I let the oregano go, this spring, and now it’s taller than my knees. The thyme is overgrown with stray grass, flowering, going to seed. I trimmed the rose bush down to almost nothing last fall, tired of the thorns and barrenness, and here its long arch has fallen across the front yard, covered with burgundy blossoms.

When I walk my son to the bus stop in the morning, I praise the family on the corner for leaving so many weeds growing around the mailbox, the fringes around the trees, the tall grass. I am happy that the elderly neighbor’s children don’t fuss too much, anymore, and a spray of wild beach roses arches like a waterfall from between the tall spruces, alongside another spray of grapevine.

I envy the manicured lawns, the well-tended perennial beds. The Joyful Noise landscaping truck arrives on Wednesday and makes its way down the street, around the corner, marking property lines like a Bingo card, mowing diamonds and squares into the nearly-million dollar properties.

We grow white clover around the pitcher’s mound, and the muddy home plate won’t grow anything. We keep planning to buy a hammock, but we don’t know how to hang it. We’d need tiki torches for the bugs, and where would we put them? I bought lettuces for the window box, but I forgot to buy potting soil. I will. When I get a minute.

The children grow like weeds.

He dresses himself for the choral concert, now, without my help. He dons a tie in lovely spring greens and sky blues, and when he sings the high notes, he closes his eyes like a choir boy. Then he grabs his cleats and runs. The next day he crafts a cow-shaped sculpture from brown wool, then throws it across the table—it’s supposed to be a bison, he says. It’s perfect, I say. It just needs more shoulder, here and here, just like your drawing. I pull out some shiny curls of mohair, hand-dyed by someone, somewhere, and we add the shoulders, the beard, the tail, the horns. He smiles and starts crafting a box for the diorama, figuring out the balance of sky and grass.

She needs help with the hair dryer, she says, and I oblige. She could learn to do this herself, but there is plenty of time for independence, later. Even though we can’t talk while the dryer is blasting, we are eye to eye, faces close and thankful. She needs help with the new earrings, real pearls, real garnets, a consignment shop find. She promises to pack a pair of socks and flats to school, but she walks out wearing heels, swearing she is comfortable.

I’ve not pulled back, yet, to survey the endings of our life with the little school, the weed-children who have outgrown the desks, the swings, the small stage. They strut and preen, while the first-graders look up with dreamy eyes.

We parents watch, listen, marvel. Who ARE these children?

Maureen, yesterday, asked plaintively, “When will I see you, next year, when our kids don’t go to school together?” Beautiful Maureen. I was just picking up my vegetables and milk from the farm co-op, thinking only about the next minute and not about next week or next month, let alone next year. We will plan something, I say, aware that I plan very little, and then I remember, “you live near our favorite beach—it’s not that far.” Like weeds, I hope these moments can grow untended, unplanned. Her son once coached my daughter in sword-fighting, for a play, pledging he’d “put the man-stink on her,” her wee ponytailed self. She stunk well in that play, shouting about horse-piss in her best Shakespearean English.

Forgive me the imprecision of this post, friends. A shower just washed through and sent me rushing to close windows—just a veil of rain, the river still shimmering blue in the distance. Must eat the toast I left standing in the toaster. Must shower. I find the stack of Innocence Mission CDs, and turn it up on high, as Karen Peris sings “Where Does the Time Go.” Must buy pocket packs of tissues. I can do this, can live with slender green stalks, stretching, thriving.