Thank you

I have had THANK YOU on my mind the last few weeks.

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.

-Meister Eckhart

This line was in our holiday card several years ago and I think of it every single day.

I feel overcome with gratitude lately, for the road that led me here and for all the complex realities of life right now.  Maybe that’s what midlife is: a sturdy awareness of our gifts even in the midst of days that are dark or challenging.  I’m thankful for so much.  For the snow.  For my young adult children, who make me laugh and make me proud and make me excited to see what’s coming next.  For my husband, who has been by my side for so many years.  For our dog, whose presence has been an unmitigated joy even though she barks too much.  For walks with friends.  For my wonderful, incredible colleagues that it’s a privilege to work with every day.  For my dearly beloved closest friends, the true native speakers who know who they are.  For the many, many years of family dinners, and the routine and familiarity of sitting down together most nights.  For pink and red M&M chocolate chip cookies.  For our Peleton.  For my sister and mother, whose steadfast presence in my life means the world.  For my father, who I miss daily.  For the lengthening days.  For the heartache and challenge that helped me appreciate all that is beautiful here.

My maternal grandmother was my first grandparent to die, in 1997.  She was the only grandparent not at our wedding, and I wore her wedding ring. Her husband, my grandfather, was with her when she died and his last words to her were “thank you.”

I cannot think of a better thing to hear at the end of one’s life.

 

Around here lately


Phew!  It’s already February.  Wow.  January 2022 was kind of a blur.

We all got COVID.  Kids were asymptomatic (but both had to miss school for between 5-10 days depending on individual school rules).  Matt had a mild cold for 2 days.  I had a real cough for 2 weeks but was otherwise fine, never had to miss work or anything.  I’ve had worse colds.  I’m grateful we all have antibodies now!

Whit turned 17.  We celebrated with … dinner the three of us, based on the update above.  He is a great sport.  The evening of Whit’s birth remains among the most sacred hours of my life.  I labored mostly alone with him and it was absolutely holy.  Feels like yesterday, but also like a different life.

All my amarylises bloomed.  Also my paperwhites.

It snowed a lot.  We got about 18 inches I’d guess but due to winds and blowing there were some drifts way deeper than that.  Matt and Whit were in Vermont skiing so I did a lot of shoveling.  The photo above is our back stairs.  I’d shoveled them less than 2 hours before this photo.  It came down fast.  I like a storm though I’m ready to be able to walk Phoebe in sneakers again so it can melt now anytime.

The day are much longer now – it’s light at 5pm which feels like a huge blessing and positive sign.

How are things in your world?

 

Always turning

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.

 

sunrise. sunset. onward.

September 1st.  Matt took this photo over Marion Harbor this morning.  It looks like a sunset, right?  But it is the sunrise.  And that confusion feels not-coincidental to me lately.  I’m home, as is Whit.  Grace is at college.  Whit is back at school.  Matt and Phoebe return home this evening.  We are full steam ahead into the fall season.  But I feel like I’m in the whitewater of transitions, overwhelmed by all the things that are different even as I’m anchored by those that remain the same.  Things are ending and things are beginning and it’s understandable, I think, that sometimes I confuse the sunset for the sunrise and vice versa.

Maybe this time of year is always exhausting.  I suspect it is.  A return to “real life,” with all the formality and structure that implies, comes with some adjustment.  This year in particular the summer felt a little weird – a lot of changes (Mum moving out of the house she and Dad lived in for 30 years, Grace heading to college) and a fair amount of emotion too.  But also so many moments of levity and joy: countless family dinners on the back porch and elsewhere, Grace’s graduation party, a family swim to the line, many walks with Phoebe.

In short, everyday life.  In all of its mundane glory.

I think it makes sense that I feel out of sorts and tired.  I’m trying to let myself just be that way rather than fight it.  The next few weeks will be very busy at work and I’m grateful that I got to take Grace to college before that began.  I’m thankful for my family’s continued health even as I worry about this scary new surge.  I know how lucky we are that both children are in in-person school.  So, so much good fortune.  But still, so much to worry about and so much to absorb.  As the Weepies say and I hear in my head all the time: the world spins madly on.  And it does.

Thank God.  And damn it, at the same time.  Time’s relentless forward march is both blessing and curse.  Nothing lasts forever.  As Dad told Grace after her other grandfather died (and before he did), the only thing to do is to reach out and grab the future, even if it hurts.  This too shall pass.  Heartbreaking, deep truth.  The best and the worst moments are all transient.

I’m going to make that sunrise my screensaver for the next little bit.  And remember that it’s a beginning.

Transitions, Montana, and chocolate chip pancakes

A week after the kids got out of school, we went to Montana.  It was most of our first time out of Massachusetts and first time on an airplane since February 2020.  It was our first family vacation since March 2019.  It was really, really overdue and extremely, impossible-to-convey wonderful.

When we booked this trip in the winter, I wasn’t sure how covid would unfurl, and staying in the US seemed wise.

It. Was. Magic.  Wow.  The staff at E Bar L were remarkable, the other guests were warm and interesting, the day had the perfect mix of organization and downtime.  Matt and I have decided we have to be more proactive about getting away since it really does help with being in “real life.” We were not riders before, and they were patient with us.

The food was amazing.  The campfires were wonderful.  The night skies were breathtaking.  Whit shot a 20 (out of 25) one day on the skeet range.  Grace had a friend from high school working on the staff so hung out with her.  The weather was cool which was a lovely respite from the Boston heat.  We slept more soundly than we have in a long time.

This is a time of transition for us all.  Transition from school to summer, transition from high school to college, transition to children who are adults.  We are taking our masks off, getting back to the office and onto airplanes.  My mother is moving out of the home she and Dad lived in for 30 years.  This upcoming weekend I’ll mark 25 years since college graduation with my best friends (our ersatz reunion replaces an actual one, as the university cancelled reunions this year).  The endings come fast and furious, thought they are always paired with beginnings.  I find myself nostalgic and hopeful at the same time.

Our children are young adults now and I feel so fortunate that I so thoroughly enjoy their company.  They make me laugh, they make me think, they make me proud.  They are independent and resourceful and I love this stage of parenting.  Our week in Montana felt like a celebration of where we are right now, and if you know me at all you know I’m big on marking and honoring what is real.  Here we are.  I’m the shortest person in the family.  The days that we all live under one roof are over.  There is no question Matt and I are in midlife.  But I love it.  And wow, am I grateful.