Darkness and light: solstice 2020

I’ve posted these candles on this day before.  This photo was taken right after the winter solstice in 2011, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  I love this light and this darkness.  I’ve written a lot over the years about the solstice, about shadows and the holiness of this day.  For many years my family celebrated the winter solstice, a tradition I’ve shared before.

This weekend I read and loved a glorious piece in the New York Times called How We Survive Winter.  I shared it with several friends and with my mother and sister and then I woke up to the best compliment this morning, when people I trust and loved sent it to me saying “this reminded me of you.”  I love this piece.  My favorite line is:

It is precisely at the point that the night is longest and darkest that you’ve actually turned a corner.

Has there ever been a solstice where we’ve longed more passionately for a sign that the light is coming back?  For me, there has not.  I don’t have any insights here, only an exhortation to read the beautiful Times piece and to know, deep in your bones, that we are turning towards the light.  In ways literal and metaphoric, we are.

My favorite photo from the last Solstice Ball.  My parents are just out of the frame, holding candles also.

there are only fragments

 

“There is no complete life. There are only fragments. We are born to have nothing, to have it pour through our hands.” – James Salter.

I woke up early with Light Years (one of my all time favorite books) in my mind today. And this photo, also one of my favorites, on a porch in Florida over Thanksgiving 2009. My father-in-law stands behind us. He is gone now. These children are now young adults. I agree entirely with Salter: life is an accumulation of moments, that it pours through our hands. Only with open palms can we really see the glittering of our lives. That’s the tricky part, isn’t it? Not to grasp but to trust, watch, and wonder. And to love.

first posted on Instagram.

Thanksgiving

 

“We are saying thank you thank you we are saying and waving dark though it is.” – WS Merwin. This poem has always run through my head at Thanksgiving and today it is again. On 11/26/17 I shared it with this photo right here because it was our first Thanksgiving without Matt’s father. My own father died three days later. This is the most laden day in the calendar for us: Matt’s parents anniversary and that of my sister’s in-laws (1966), the day Matt’s father received a life saving heart transplant (2002) on Grace’s one month birthday, the day my sister-in-law’s father died (2016) and the day my father died (2017). It is a holy day, no question about it, one limned with deep gratitude and profound loss. I know that loss is felt far and wide this year and extends far beyond my personal grief. And still, dark though it is, I am saying thank you

Summer 2020

This summer was different.  In so many ways.  And yet it was also the same.  In general I’m finding this particular year profoundly disorienting, especially the way time seems to be functioning these days.  It’s both Groundhog Day – every day the same – and yet the days are slipping past even more quickly than usual.

We spent a LOT of time as a family this summer.  And we added my mother to our pod.  More nights than not the five of us had dinner on the back porch in Marion, laughing often, snappy sometimes, quiet occasionally.  This is a strange time.

Grace and Whit filled their days with a lot of hanging out, sleeping in, and a fair amount of looking at their phones.  Whit started skateboarding and found a new passion for fishing.  Grace did some online tutoring.  The two of them connected deeply with a few friends in Marion, where my family has a house and where we spent a lot of the summer.

Matt played a lot of golf.  We played some family tennis (and, as always, I am definitely the weak link in our family tennis chain).  Grace and Whit sailed often with my father’s best friend.  The blossoming of those relationships into what feel like sturdy grandfather-grandchild style bonds brings me great joy.

I did a lot of puzzles.  I did a lot of work.  I ran a lot.  I read a lot.  My favorite book was The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall which has vaulted into the pantheon of my all-time favorites.  Just.  Amazing.  Read it now if you have not!

Matt and I made margaritas with fresh grapefruit juice more than once.  Whit discovered he loves corn on the cob. We ate fresh tomatoes with mozzarella with basil out of the garden, chicken with my great-grandfather’s homemade barbeque sauce, and a lot of ice cream.

We drove to Maine to meet our puppy, Phoebe, who joins our family in a few weeks.  We stopped and ate outside at Duck Fat in Portland on the way back.  It was a joyful, spirited day with an uncommon amount of laughter.  There were a lot of happy moments, and a fair number of tense ones, too.

I can’t speak for others in my family but I’m aware of a tugging undercurrent of worry, anxiety about where the world is and seems to be going.  I’m nervous about my children going back to school, I’m afraid of what I see happening in our country.  I worry about my mother’s health and, to a lesser degree, about that of the others in my family.

I miss writing here, but I feel like I have nothing to say, at the same time.  Life contains so many opposites, so many things that don’t go together, so many pieces that rub up against each other in awkward or disconcerting ways.  At least that’s my experience.  I don’t have a neat summer summary post with all kinds of fun things we did.

Instead I have these fragments, held together by white space, by hoping, by bewilderment, by life itself.

My daughter turns 18 in 2 months.  Evening comes so quickly these days.  Time moves inexorably forward.  That’s unavoidable and both reassuring and sorrowful to me, right now.

Fragments.  Joy.  Sunsets.  Family dinners.  Memory and so much love.  Trust and arguing and circling back for forgiveness and grace.  That’s right now.  And what I know, deep in my heart, is that it’s enough.

What’s In Front of Me

Time continues to move in a strange stutter-step kind of way – flying and crawling.  I’m struck by how life feels both terrifying and mundane at the same time, often in the same hour.  I’ve been thinking about how quarantine kind of feels like my regular life, but with more zoom and fear.  I can’t ever get very far away from worry about the state of the world, but if I dwell there it pulls me into a very scary thought spiral so I try to focus instead on what’s in front of me.

The two young adults I live with, who make me proud and make me laugh and occasionally make me frustrated.  I’m more aware than ever of Grace’s adult life stretching out in front of her and I feel grateful to still be near her both literally and metaphorically.

The beautiful world out the window.  My awareness of this world’s gorgeousness continues unabated.  I’m hearing and seeing things I never noticed before.

Our family home in Marion, Massachusetts.  I’m so grateful to be surrounded by such happy memories of my father there, and to see my children so relaxed and happy in the familiar space.

This mention by Emma Gannon her Vanity Fair piece about her inspirations while writing Olive I was delighted when she featured On Being 40(ish) on her Instagram book club a few months ago and I was thrilled to see this mention.  I can’t wait to read Olive.

My bearded officemate, whose presence all day every day has become very familiar, reassuring most of the time, profoundly aggravating some of it.

Instagram.  I still love it and that is not abating.

Books.  I’m still reading a lot.  Finishing Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore and really liking it.  Next up is Jennifer Weiner’s Big Summer.

Reconnecting with friends who I’d lost touch with.  There are a few friends from various parts of my life with whom I’ve recommenced dialogue and it’s a complete joy.  I do think that one of the lessons of this time is the power of deliberately choosing who we connect with (rather than doing so by default because of life’s busy patterns).  I am deeply grateful to be reconnected with some of these special people.  You know who you are.

Our current summer cadence of quiet weekends, heavy on family time (the four of us and my mother).  We are seeing a few people outside and each child is seeing a couple of friends but still keeping close to home.  The truth is I don’t mind it.  I’m doing a lot of puzzles and drinking a lot of iced coffee.

What’s right in front of you?  Can you focus there and not be overwhelmed by the big picture of this threatened world?