I miss writing here. A year has flown by, full of change and turmoil and so much love, too. We are six days away from turning back to the light: some people find it surprising that I feel the winter solstice is a far more optimistic day than the summer solstice, but I do. I’ve written at length of my family’s long-time love for and celebration of the solstice. It’s Adrienne Rich’s words I feel most keenly at this time of year:
… we are moving towards the solstice, and there is still so much here I do not understand.
I have loved those words since I wrote my senior thesis in college on Adrienne Rich, and every year they continue to speak to me. They say something a little different each year. They always remind me of another quote (Adrienne Rich and Don Henley are funny paragraph-mates, I think every time) that I think of often:
… the more I know, the less I understand.
And yes. I understand so little. As I move deeper into midlife, there is so much of this world that I’ve seen, and still so much unseen. I’ve always been fascinated by why certain words and memories rise in our minds when they do, and today the quotes and words that are surfacing are all about that we can see and that we can’t, about loving this world even when we don’t understand it, about how much surpasses our ability to fully grok (one of my favorite words) it.
The closing of each year offers a moment to reflect, and I think everyone should take it. When I look at our lives, so much is the same as it was a year ago, but that belies the work and change that happened as well. We are still in the same house, we are still a family of four with two much-loved grandmothers and a small tribe of nieces, nephews, brothers, and sisters. We have the same two jobs, which we are fortunate to like (Matt) and to truly, deeply love (me). And we are still, blessedly, healthy and safe. And we are still reading about rising covid cases and unsure what the future holds. That’s one constant, right: the uncertainty of tomorrow. A parent’s sudden death will remind you of that, I can speak confidently here: nothing is promised. Say what you want to say since who knows if you’ll have another chance. Say I love you. Hug.
And so much is different, too. Whit drives now. Grace graduated from high school and is in both college and the last year of her teens. We have a dog that we all adore. We almost moved to the suburbs in 2021 but decided ultimately to stay where we are and to renovate our small city home. My mother moved out of the large home she and my father shared for 30 years to a smaller one-bedroom condo around the corner, which entailed a lot of pruning, cleaning, sorting, and giving away. I’m so happy she made the move, but it was no small feat. Hilary and I spent a lot of time together this spring, laughing a lot and crying a little as we unearthed memory upon memory.
As always, the border between light and dark fascinates me. I have long been drawn to the edges of things, to the liminal. I think it’s not an accident that I’m a mid-August baby, born right as summer quietly begins to turn to fall. Next week, right at the moment of the deepest dark, we turn back to the light. I know better than to say 2022 is going to be “our year” or to really focus on any kind of specific hope (hope has always been troublesome to me as a concept, because it’s so quickly attached to a singular outcome, which can be so problematic). What I want at the close of 2021 is to honor all the changes, transitions, and joys of this singular year, even as we acknowledge what the year lacked (much travel, seeing a lot of people, Dad).
Grace sent me a photo last week of something she’d seen in DC that said “this too shall pass.” Said it reminded her of me. And it reminds me of my father. He always said that, and he was right. The good and the bad. It’s all transient, always changing, always turning. Life itself. All we can do is pay attention to the swirl around us. And give thanks for the opportunity to be here.
Thank you. Happy holidays. I hope to write more in 2022.