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Shatter

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It’s summer.

My car, with which during the school year I drive the highway so often I could do it in my sleep, stays in the garage. I take long walks instead. Occasionally with my husband, less often with one of my children, even more rarely with the whole family.  We’re at the stage in life where there are games for the kids to play and friends to connect with and social media calling to them at all hours, it seems — a constant distraction. So my walks are mostly solitary. I wander the beach, watching enviously as young families build sand castles and catch minnows and play tag with the waves.

Sometimes it’s early and the parents are bleary-eyed, sipping their coffee. It feels like just last weekend that I was them, desperate for just a little more sleep, but loathe to say no to an early morning trip to the beach and donuts on the sand, when one of the hardest parts of parenting was getting them to hold still long enough to cover them with sunscreen.

I’ve taken to collecting sea glass. There’s a beach not far from us where it can be found almost by the handfuls. But I prefer a less-crowded spot a little further away, where the glass is harder to find. Some days I come home with nothing, some days with a scant two pieces. Yet somehow all the searching makes me treasure each piece more.

I keep the pieces in an old apothecary jar, spotted by my husband and one of the kids on an excursion this summer. It’s a thing of beauty, tall and curved and delicate, the glass so thin I hold my breath each time I lift it from the shelf to add another piece. It’s so large that at this rate it will take me years to fill it, and there’s comfort in that thought.

Unless, of course, it slips from my hands and shatters. A disaster I regularly imagine, each piece a wicked sharp-edged weapon beyond anyone’s skill to repair.

And yet.

This morning as I held a tiny piece of sea glass, I wondered what it once was. Bright blue, it might have come from a bottle, but it’s equally possible it was once someone’s heirloom. A beloved vase. A perfume bottle.  A frame, sun-glinted on a mother’s dresser.  The loss perhaps not heart-breaking, but mourned all the same.

And now that identical glass sits in my hand. Its sharp edges have been worn away, and time and the roughness of the waves have transformed it into something else. Something entirely different, yet still treasured.  Stripped to the very essence of what it once was and lovely all on its own.

I still hold my breath as I replace the jar upon the shelf. I still treasure it in its current form. But I’m coming to realize that sometimes, beauty can be found after the breakage too.

 

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Summer

I take more photos in the summer.  I tell myself it’s because in summer, my surroundings are more scenic.  IMG_1340.JPG

Because the days are longer. Because in summer, time is slower.IMG_1441.JPG

There’s no carpool, no mad scramble to leave the house before 7, to hit the highway exactly by 7:15 to avoid the gridlock that inevitably forms, worsening every minute that I’m late.IMG_1461.JPG

But that’s not exactly it.  In summer, time is a bubble.  We pack every June for the same place I’ve gone every year since I was 19.  I buy a handful of new outfits, but wind up wearing the same three every day — cutoff jeans I’ve had since I was 30, a few sundresses, aged to the perfect softness, and workout clothes I’ve owned since before I had children.  I bring makeup, but after the first week settle for sunscreen and a good lip balm.

What we get in exchange for eschewing contemporary comfort is time.  In summer, we lose track of the days.  We have no cable, no air conditioning, no phone line, no wi-fi. We judge the days by the farmer’s markets, by trash collection, by the passing of the tides.

I hold my breath and pretend that my children are babies again.  The house is so small we wake at the same time, dreaming the same dreams of ocean and the sky. They wolf their breakfasts and disappear for the day, collecting hermit crabs,  walking the beach, tubing and running from house to house for card games, for movies, piling into a car for an ice cream run, jumping off the pier into the dark and swimming as fast as they can for the raft as seaweed brushes against their legs.  Last minute sleepovers and early morning rendezvous to watch the dawn, and knowing all the while that these smallest things, these insignificant details, are what we will remember and hold tight in the cold, aging light of fall.

Rainy Day Repast

IMG_9077It’s pouring buckets here today. Is it where you are, too? If you are looking for something to do, won’t you consider hopping over to Writer Unboxed and reading my latest blog post there? And if you get a chance, check out a few of the other posts writers have shared since mine — they are full of writerly inspiration for a rainy day.

WU Redirect With Recipe

I wrote a column for Writer Unboxed last week.  In it I remember a good friend and say good-bye.  If you have a moment, please stop by.

Merry Merry

It’s crazy how fast this year has gone.  And even crazier how fast Christmas is coming up.  If you, like me, are looking for a few last-minute gifts, here are some suggestions:

Beeswax candles from Three Sisters Farms.  We buy a pair or two of tapers every year at the end of the summer. When we burn them on those long, cold winter nights, I feel a bit as if we are conjuring back the sun.  They are beautiful and have a rich honey scent.  (Also, a gift of honey to go along with the candles would not be remiss.)

Soap by Red Antler Apothecary.  I’ve become obsessed with their root beer soap.  It smells exactly like the drink, and puts me in a good mood whenever I use it. It’s cheerful and happy, and who couldn’t use something like that to start their day?

Books.  Of course books make the best gifts!  (You were thinking I’d say something else? Come on — this is a writer’s blog.)  This year, for your dystopian-obsessed teen, check out The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.  First in a trilogy, it’s the smart, fast-paced story of star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of a war. For your middle-schooler, I can’t say enough good things about David Barry’s The Worse Class Trip Ever and The Worst Night Ever. They are hysterically funny and at the same time absolutely gripping.  Finally, for the adult thriller junkie, consider Go-Between by Lisa Brackmann.  (Admission — this is the sequel to Getaway, which I have not read but have heard very good things about. You are probably better off starting there.) It’s an intelligent and all-too-realistic look at for-profit prisons, drug laws, and politics, with plenty of suspense to keep you turning pages and a tough talking female protagonist who may just have you believing in conspiracy theories by the end of the story.

So there — my gift to you.  (That and the picture of the Slobbering Beast.  Many, many cookies were involved in the taking of this photo.)

Happy Holidays!

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Photo by the awesome Kevin Harkins.

 

Happy almost Halloween!  I have all kinds of treats here, and very few tricks, I promise.

all-the-ugly-and-wonderful-197x300First, I’m over today at Writer Unboxed, interviewing the talented Bryn Greenwood about her novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.  Bryn is the kind of writer who takes my mind, turns it inside out, stretches it, gives it a good beating, then puts it back together so it’s never quite the same.  Her books aren’t what I would call easy reading, but they shake me up and make me think.  I’d love it if you would stop by and check her out.  (And there may or may not be a picture of her own Slobbering Beasts there too.  Just sayin’.)

51h9kbdnbjlNext,  I am sooooo happy to announce that Author in Progress, a book to which I contributed a chapter, is available for sale.  It was spearheaded by the lovely and amazing author Therese Walsh, who is a cofounder of the Writer Unboxed site.  Over the years she’s managed to pull together a tribe of writers who are supportive, kind, and just plain fun to be around.  If you are a writer in any way shape or form, published or not, the group is one of the nicest and most drama-free I’ve ever known and well worth checking out.  As is the book.  (See my subtle plug there?)  And if you aren’t a writer, but know someone who is, I promise the book makes a lovely gift.

Finally, Monday is Halloween.  So I couldn’t let this post pass by without at least one trick.  Which I played on the poor Slobbering Beast, who will be confined to his crate that evening so as not to lose his doggy mind during the constant ringing of the doorbell.  (And also to avoid any surreptitious snacking on stray candy bars.  Hey, a dog can dream.)

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Totally Johnny Depp.  Okay, maybe Johnny after a few beers.

 

Alone Again, Naturally

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I did my annual hike and cry around the hill today.  My oldest started high school last week (HIGH SCHOOL) but I was prepared, I was ready.  I dropped her off at a friend’s house so they could carpool together, and I may have welled up a little as she walked away, but no real waterworks.  Besides, I had the boy for another week — summer lite.

But the boy went off today.  Bravely, considering he’s starting a new school without his close compadre of friends, the friends who have known him almost his entire life.  So we dropped the girl off, and then jaunted down the highway to his new school, and in the rush of finding where he should be and seeing people I hadn’t seen all summer, the moment where he actually left slipped away.  And I was fine.

Until I got in the car and nobody else was there.

There was nobody to argue about what radio station to listen to, to roll their eyes when I played our summer theme (the entire Hamilton album) again, to remind me to cue up the book on tape or pass the tissues or the hand sanitizer or the box of granola bars.  And for about 15 seconds, it was wonderful.

And then I cried.

Because I can see the end, clearly now.  We’re hurtling toward it like the drop-off of a roller coaster, we’re strapped in and prepped for go and there’s no turning back, no way to get off.  Any lessons they haven’t learned (put your clothes away, make your bed, hug your brother, hug your sister, be kind, be true to you, look for the helpers in times of crisis, in times of crisis be a helper, love learning for learning’s sake), any wisdom I still have to impart, needs to be communicated now.  Because tomorrow is coming up fast.  And because my time with them, which once stretched ahead like the ocean, has become fleeting.

Friends took their kids to college this weekend.  Some to colleges around the corner from them, some to colleges hours away.  All of them are great kids, and the parents all texted me the same thing, more or less:  “He/she is so happy. They’re ready for this.”

The parents were happy as well, but sad in a way that was deeper, that a hike around the lake on a rainy day couldn’t fix.  Because parenthood is the only job where, if you do it well, if you put your entire heart and soul into it, at the end the best result you can hope for is to be let go, to become obsolete.  To watch your kids smile hugely as they walk away from you, because they’re excited and able to take on what’s coming next.  I realized today that all these past Septembers have been practice for the upcoming big one, the ones my friends are already facing.  But I think my heart has known this for years.

Which is why I’ve cried.