Summer Morning : Earth

When we’ve all moved lock, stock and candy wrapper to some giant biosphere high up in Space, what will be said of our time on this planet? What will be remembered, say, of a summer day here on Earth?

Will anyone recall the young women riding morning buses on their way to work?

girl on a busEarlier this week, I looked up from the task of wedging groceries into my dented little car, and saw, on a bus idling at a red light, one such young woman perched on the inward-facing seats

She wore a dress scooped low in the back, and I watched as with sure and practiced hands she reached behind her to arrange her hair, lifting and looping sections, disciplining its long braids, until, at last satisfied, she let the heavy whole of it drop against bare skin.  

Where is the video camera for moments like these?

Later that day, 100 miles farther west, at a rest stop on Interstate 90, I wondered that same thing again, as I sat on one of the arc-shaped stone benches encircling the stone tables on the Visitors’ Center’s leafy patio.  I watched as the scalloped edges of the umbrellas sheltering this Stonehenge-like seating danced in the wind and thought, “If I could only paint! I wouldn’t need a video camera if I had the artist’s eye to capture this breeze in a series of brush strokes.”

I looked around more and saw a woman well into her 70s so delighted with the pre-school child holding her hand that she was literally skipping from her car to where I sat, the little boy skipping with her and the two talking delightedly away even as they flitted from the hot asphalt to that cool bower of shade where we outdoor diners sat, paused on our several journeys.

That pause is a big element of life on this Earth in the warmer months I think.

I move through my days, same as I do all year, but find myself lately taking more time to notice each moment.

Yesterday I was trying to clear a sink drain and accidentally dropped the small red cap to the can of the harsh chemical down into the drain too, thus doubly stopping it up, and the irony of that fact made me ponder.

I called the plumber and when he arrived we chatted away about all the small mild ‘reprimands’ Fate sends our way.

 “Look at this,” he said, indicating his reddened left arm. “I was weeding around the foundation of my house when a whole swarm of yellow-jackets buzzed up out of the ground and stung me!”

 “I have eight or ten bites here,” he added, pointing.

 “Yikes!” I said. “And nothing hurts worse than a yellow jacket’s sting!”

 “Oh, but that’s not all! The next day when it started itching like crazy, I realized: That weed patch was full of poison ivy!”    

It seems likely to me that here was a conversation that would NOT have taken place in the hurry-up cold months.

The young woman would have been in a coat for one thing, her lovely back all covered; and the canvas umbrellas would not have even been there to snap in the breeze; and for sure the older lady would not have been skipping over stone-cold asphalt.

Time seems to slow in the warm months and open these small still pools into which we can for once really see ourselves living, the way God sees us and, let us hope, the way God smiles in the seeing.

beach umbrellas flapping


The Give and the Get

It’s not hard to love the people who live in your house. They’re right there in your house, so you really SEE them,  almost from inside their very own eyes!

I mean here’s this one’s toothbrush, and comb, for example and the towel he uses each day for his shower, tokens of the daily care-of-the-body tasks we all must perform each day.

Here’s the book that one reads when sleep eludes him. He has left it on the porch, thinking maybe to pack it on his bike and take it to work to read at the lunch hour.

And here, under the bureau: here is a balled-up sock where it has landed after being taken off and tossed away some weary midnight.

You can never be annoyed at a person once you have seen these things.

I should say I don’t do actual maid service around here- not unless my houseguests are the ages of the two little ones I wrote about yesterday – so I see socks and such only sometimes, when these guys would be away for a week or two and I stripped their beds to washed their linens, just because everyone deserves clean linens….

But why don’t I back up a little here and explain this better: We have had four different young people staying in our house this summer, all part of the National Program for a Better Chance, all young men of on the cusp of college life.  No shower has gone forth without the muted boom of hip-hop pulsing from the bathroom. No golden summer afternoon has billowed into evening without the sound of their happy voices in the kitchen.

Two of them had jobs in this the first summer before heading off to Bard College RPI. That’s Cam and Tristan at the top here. Then a third, now a high school Senior, worked as a tech for a computer repair company, leaving for a two-week stint at Brown where he took a course in the computer operating system known as Linux . And a fourth, a high school Junior did a college tour, took a Neurobiology course at Emory and spent just a week with us, doing an SAT-prep boot camp at a great place called Chyten.  Boy Three did the same course and both came home each day at 5:00, brimming with news about all the English words derived from Latin.

The “give” By David and me was that they slept here and ate a little, though not very much I must say. They packed their own lunches so I just had to buy deli stuff , and it’s amazing how far a teen male can go on Pop Tarts and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cocoa Puffs, foods I have never before stoked in this house. It’s true they like meat at night but hey so do we and if you’re grilling two nice fat burgers you might just as well grill six. I guess I also gave them rides to the Y so they could work out but again, I was going to the Y myself to catch those cardio classes I love so much.

So that was pretty much the ‘give.’ Not such a long list.

The ‘get’  list for me is much longer. I personally got:

  • Much more motivation to get to the Y than I would normally have.
  • Help putting away the groceries
  • Companionship in buying the groceries
  • All the emergency help I could ever have wanted with my PC, my i-Pad and i-Phone and even  my i-Pod when I dropped it in the sink that time
  • Help hanging drapes on extra-wide windows (Number Three has a six-foot wingspan) and..
  • A million laughs.

Here are House guest Numbers Three and Four, Rayvoughn and Hazees, helping me tote stuff in June.

Ray was with us almost the whole summer. He helped me, he teased David, he backed down from an arm-wrestle challenge from David (more than once) and he played with our little grandsons.

It’s  time now for him to start the long grind of applying to colleges.

He’s equal to the task I think. He’s a smart as a whip and hurdles just don’t scare him. even if he doesn’t always ZIP the life jacket even tough he put its mostly on, and maybe THAT’s the lesson he taught me this summer: Strike a humorous pose, look like you’re equal to any challenge and you might just pull it off!

August Paradox

You know  it’s August when you find little spiders in your bed and just brush them out so they can have a nice day too. Or when a live bird is found swooping around your kitchen at 2am and you simply escort it out with a little arm waving, not even stopping to wonder how it got there.  It’s live-and-let-live time you figure. Or maybe you’re just too serene to stress anymore.

That’s not how you feel in July when you’re still coming down from the high-wire act of the school year. Or June after so many weddings and graduation bashes you were practically living in the greeting card aisle. But it’s how you feel now, pretty much.

Anyway it’s how I feel. Over the last three months I’ve been fizzy with busy-ness and that whole time all I could think was “August! Just get me to August, Lord!”

The day before August began, I drove 300 miles in one day to bring David’s elderly uncle up north to the place he loves best: the New Hampshire Lakes Region where we have a cottage. He won’t stay overnight there – he’s 90 with bad arthritis – so we make it a day trip always. And this particular night after bringing him home, I had to turn right around and go right back to our other guests –  as soon as I got my phone fixed, that is. I dropped him at his apartment at 9:35pm and was at the Verizon store a full seven minutes before it closed at 10:00.

“My phone is dying!” I cried to the young tech who placed it on the little diagnosing gizmo.

“Actually,” he said cheerfully, “this phone is dead! And we’re closing anyway. Come back tomorrow.”

But tomorrow I would be back up north for a week! And without a phone? For seven whole days? Me?

Yup. I drove back north and the next day the sun rose same as always and by 1pm when it had begun its slow cartwheel into the west, half the household was napping. I took paper and pencil and headed down to the dock to begin making the grocery list down on the dock– where I ended up falling  dead asleep stretched out on its sun-warmed boards and did not wake for two whole hours. Even when little ones came swimming with their momma. Even when they stepped on me by mistake a few times and splashed me while jumping in the water.

Then four hours later, I climbed into bed and slept for 12 more hours, and when I woke it seemed like May again, with the summer all before me and there, people, lies the sad realization we come to every August: namely that it’s only right near the end of this delicious abundant-life Summer that it comes to seem most eternal.

Mostly Dead

This is me napping. The cartoon just under this is by Bruce Eric Kaplan in a recent New Yorker. The set-up he gives on the site you can visit to see all his work says In the middle of a cemetery, a thought bubble rises above the ground from someone beneath a grave.

Of course people who say stuff like this aren’t the real people;  they’re the ones who say they’re staying home for the summer if they’re just hopping over to their 20-room ‘cottages’ in the Hamptons on summer weekends. 

I love it, feeling as lazy as I do this weekend. I don’t feel exactly dead; just mostly dead as Billy Crystal says as Miracle Max in The Princess Bride. Watch the scene I’m referring to, which will take you right back in time to the comic heyday of Billy himself and Cary Elwes, and Carol Kane, all in this scene.

Dazed ‘n Amazed

How can we do anything but stand around looking up with weather like this? This is the second summer in a row that we’ve had day after warm sunny day in the provinces north of Boston. It feels so …unchanging; it feels like we bought the warranty.

I know it might be inside my head merely. My blogger pal Brian wrote  with great appreciation about the full moon which I guess I must have missed somehow. I keep looking up at skies that seem completely unchanged night after night, the stars looking as if they were painted onto the inside of that inverted teacup the ancient Jews pictured sits up there sheltering us.

I mean I know Earth is doing its little pirouette around the sun and the summer is waning. The crickets announced it when they tuned up last week. Most years it’s August before they show up but I heard my first one last Wednesday the 27th of July so there you are.

They’re just earlier, like the way spring comes sooner these days; like the way little girls are developing earlier.  I know what does it: it’s hormones in the chicken am I wrong? Someone’s feeding estrogen to the crickets deny it if you can.. and here’s one other true thing unchanging throughout recorded history: a really good bra is any girl’s best friend, whatever her age or shape.

And the Livin’ is Easy

Yesterday fat white clouds drifted all stately across a sky that looked like something out of those old-time Dick and Jane books with Spot and Puff and Mother in her pretty checkered dress with the belling skirt and Father slim as Fred Astaire in his natty light grey suit. 

It was a picture-book summer day in other words and people weren’t exactly working hard as far as I could tell.

At CVS the kid at the register was in such a fog he greeted me, thanked me and bade me goodbye without interrupting his open-eyed nap for so much as a second. I could have been wearing a clown wig and he wouldn’t have noticed.

Work was the last thing on his mind.

The last thing on my mind too.

I knocked off early to go for my first massage in over two years’ time and after it  felt so relaxed I missed the step on my way out of the building and had to execute several super-fast Salsa steps to keep from pitching forward onto the sidewalk.

I then went out for an early dinner, missed my mouth not once but twice, came back home for a quick nap, answered three emails, fell asleep watching the latest episode of Breaking Bad of all the impossible feats and went to bed for real at 10.

I swear: there are tensed-up stomach muscles that don’t really let go until right now, in this fully flowered, children’s-book-beautiful stretch of high-summer weeks.