These are the days of miracle and wonder

These are the days of miracle and wonder.

So much is changing.  Big and small.  Grace is getting ready to go to college.  Mum is moving out of the house she and Dad lived in for 30 years.  Whit is going to have his driver’s license soon.  We are thinking of moving a few towns over.  Matt and I are hanging on, holding hands as we navigate these transitions.  And I am so, so grateful for that hand-holding, much as I sometimes demonstrate irritation more than thankfulness.

A few things have spoken to me lately, amid the swirl of life right now.

Old photos of Dad as we unclutter at Mum’s.  In the photo above I feel like I’m looking at Whit.  I never saw it before!

So many wonderful old photos of Hilary and me as children, often with Mum and Dad.  I’m sharing them from time to time on Instagram, and one of my favorites is below.

Thank God for the Poets – Margaret Renkl’s beautiful op-ed in the New York Times made me both cry and feel like singing.  Her book, Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, is among my favorites of recent years.  This piece, like a few others before it, was sent to me by no fewer than 10 different people in my life, which made me so glad.  It’s like when people send me photos of the sunsets from where they are.  Small gestures like that make me feel both seen and connected, part of the grand human experiment, the pageant of this life.

Which is so full of both suffering and glory, of loss and love.  I wrote a text to a few friends recently that parenting was one long series of goodbyes, suffused with love.  And it is.  I think always of my friend Elizabeth’s annual Christmas card tag line: “an endless alleluia.”

Life is.  Now. Then. Always.  How lucky we are.

One year in: lamentation and hope

Just revisited this post which was almost exactly a year ago.  The longest and shortest year of my life.  Time is flying and crawling.  Was then and still is.  I find it remarkable that at the end of March 2020 I described hope.  I feel hope now and it feels new.  I do feel like I’m hitting the wall these last few weeks – I don’t know precisely why, but probably the accumulation of these fast-and-slow weeks.  Anyway.  No neat message. Nothing specific to say. All of that is still true.  But, also, still here.  And hoping you are too.

***

I am still here.  I hope you are too.  This is a strange, echoing, eerie time, one of lamentation and hope, one of fear and frustration, one that is, for me, about most of all a profound confrontation with the unknown.  I really don’t have anything to say.  But I want to be here.  I’m hungrily devouring anything anyone’s sharing about their experience of this time out of time. I’m curious about what you’re feeling, thinking, reading, eating.  We are all at home, and I am certain that in the future one of the themes of writing about this time will be empty nesters suddenly finding themselves with full nests again.

That is surely the silver lining of this, if there is one: prodigious amounts of family time.  Both Grace and Whit have classes most days (but not all) and they are doing a good job managing their schedules.  I am adamantly not a homeschooler and I feel grateful that they are old enough to handle this themselves.  Both Matt and I are working at home.  I quipped in the first week that I must be one of the only people experiencing this quarantine as MORE people in their office.  I have three other people in my office all day, every day.  It’s noisier and messier than I’m used to.  We are going through food and laundry at a record pace.

And we are so replete with blessings, I know that.  There are more ways than I can possibly count that this could be worse.  So far the four of us, and my mother, who lives nearby and with whom we are practicing social distancing but still in close touch, are all safe.  We are able to work from here.  I am so, so lucky.  We all know it.  I even had a moment last week of knowledge that there will come a time when I miss these days.  I told Matt and about it and he laughed at me because it was such a classic thing to say.  That’s just how I live in this world: shadowed always by the anticipation of loss and of missing.  But I tried to channel that into being here now.

It’s not easy.  I feel a huge amount of fear.  What does this mean, in every way?  What will the world look like “after”?  Will there even BE an after?  I am buoyed by my close friends and family and actually feel MORE in touch with a lot of people than I have in a long time.  But every day, multiple times a day, the questions start to come.  They wake me up in the middle of the night.  There is so much that is unknown, and that’s always been the hardest thing for me.

So I don’t have a neat message here.  I don’t have anything specific I want to say.  I would love to hear what’s on your mind, your kindle, your TV, your heart, your table.  I really would.  Stay safe.  Stay home.

Around here lately

Update from this part of the woods.

These are long dark days, there’s no question about that. But I can see the light staying longer every afternoon and vaccines are happening and I can’t help feeling some measure of optimism mixed in with my exhaustion. Photo by Crate Escape, where Phoebe is currently enjoying her second day. She LOVES it and we are grateful to have such a wonderful place in our neighborhood.

Grace is going to class with the windows open and Whit is doing drivers Ed with the car windows down. It had been very cold the last few days. These feel like such 2021 details and I’m hugely conscious of our good fortune that she’s in class and he’s taking driving lessons at all!

I’m dealing with a creaky hip and seized-up back (middle age is so glamorous) and Matt is doing great. Time is flying even as it inches forward, groundhog-day-like. Phoebe brings us all so much joy and I can barely remember life before her.

How is your February going? #everydaylife #february

Sixteen

Dear Whit,

Sixteen.  In quarantine.  You are the fourth member of our family to celebrate a birthday in quarantine.  Which is an indicator of how long this has been going on.  Wow.

More importantly.  You.  My blond boy who arrived in the middle of the night, in a huge hurry (we often joke this was the first and last time you were early for anything).  Who surprised us all with his blue eyes, his blond hair, and the fact of his boy-ness.  And you’ve been surprising me ever since.  Dad used to tell me that parenting was 95% nature and I didn’t fully believe it until you were born, so different from your sister, so entirely yourself.  It’s been my job since that cold January night to stay out of your way, but close enough that I can learn from, and laugh with you.

Sixteen!  Wow.  Time flies, which is SUCH a cliche but also such a truth.

This photo is the most accurate current photo I could find!  Where to begin.  Perhaps with a very classic morning, this MLK day.  You rolled out of bed at 10:30, immediately found Phoebe and said hello to her, and then made a quick Eggs Benedict for yourself before going to play tennis with your dad.  You are a terrific cook and we all benefit from it.  You’re not afraid of complicated things and you do them well.  During the spring of the pandemic you did a lot with breads – baguette, homemade cinnamon rolls, pizza dough.  It was great.

You’re entertaining and hilarious and occasionally stubborn as hell.  You know how to push my buttons better than anyone else on earth.  You are thoughtful and a born debater.  Sometimes, when you talk at the dinner table, your father and I catch each other’s eyes.  You dazzle us.  My father, as good a judge of character as I’ve ever known, described you once as having “sparkle.”  He was quick to cite your natural intelligence.  One of my great regrets is that the two of you didn’t have more time together.  I actually think you have a fair amount in common with him and I know you’d have enjoyed conversations, sails, and projects.  You would have learned from him, and he would in turn have hugely enjoyed you repartee, your opinions, and your willingness to share them.

You are an immensely good sport.  You’ve been at home alone with us for almost four years now, which is probably not your first choice, and you’re both amenable and great company.  One of the true silver linings of the pandemic has been the time as a family, and the greatest joy of that for me was watching you and your sister become even closer than you already were.  You’re very different from each other but really good friends, and it causes me tremendous comfort to know you’ll have each other to lean on as you move into adult life.

You’re a good tennis player and I hope you will play more. You beat your dad for the first time this past weekend!  You love to fish and I look forward to your doing more of it this summer.  You love Phoebe and she loves you.  Left to her own devices she runs into your room and hops onto your red beanbag.  Your academic interests are varied and how you feel about an individual teacher makes a huge difference – over the years you’ve loved Math, and you’ve loved History, and you’ve loved Science.  You’re tremendously impacted by who’s teaching, and we all feel so grateful that we so thoroughly admire and respect the school where you are.

You are one of the funniest people I have ever known.  Your sense of humor is sophisticated and you often say things that make me laugh out loud.  I’ve long held that the truly funny people are also truly smart and you exemplify that.  You do excellent imitations.  The most recent one is Borat (we watched several Sacha Baron Cohen movies over the winter holiday) and it is.so.good.

You are entirely different from me and I admire everything about that.  You go through the world with a light touch – mostly you don’t overreact, and your ability to read and room and know how others are feeling is remarkable.  You are aware of the opinions of others but not paralyzingly so, and are focused on walking your own path.  I can’t wait to watch your life unfold, and know without question that it will contain wonders.

I love you, Whitman Russell.  Then, now, always.

Mum

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.