Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Empty Nest: New things vs. Old things.

When scheduling gets tight, and favorite things go undone, new things get crowded out. "Hey, let's do Pilates together!" becomes "Hey, let's do the dishes together!"

Also, it struck me on vacation that even the things we do the same, we do differently. Like hiking. Since I love scenery yet fear heights, I sometimes have to cover my eyes on the drive leading to the hike. He does not do this (which is a good thing, since he is driving.) And he does not slow down, until I yell, "Hey! slow down!"

We have hiked all over the world together, over many years, through various levels of fitness, pregnancy, and state of mind. My friends have all witnessed my breakdowns around the 5-mile mark. I have screamed a lot more than "Hey slow down!" over the years. I have screamed, "I'm hungry! I'm going back down to the cafe!" I have screamed, "I can't do it! Go get a ranger to carry me down!" And other times, I have simply said, "You climb hand over hand to the top. I'll wait here and you can tell me about it." And then, after watching elderly handicapped people pull themselves to the top, I followed, surprising him, shocking him, that I got over my fear.

But sometimes, going at my own pace, hanging back, affords me the opportunity to see something beautiful. Like my family, my gaggle of sprites, running through the dappled light.

Sometimes, there is a wonderful reason I am lagging behind.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sofa dreams

My home is filled with my husband's parents' furniture. It's not difficult to imagine how this has happened. Things are inherited. Things are difficult to part with. Three children are in college and who has money for furniture?

But last night I dreamed of my childhood living room sofa. We had a family room with a TV and cozy seating and a basement/playroom and no one claimed the emptier, more formal living room. No one except me, who used it as a reading spot. I read a lot, so I was there a lot. Laying down and looking out the bank of windows in between chapters. I remember that sofa so well. Dark turquoise. A slightly nubby silk shantung, a word my grandmother, who had bought the sofa, told me. It itched slightly against my legs but I didn't care. It was easily the most expensive thing in the house, and my parents never said don't sit there, don't lay there, go read somewhere else. Never. It's something I'm thankful for. For what would I have become if someone had told me to leave my reading spot?

And I wonder what that sofa would look like in my house now. If I would find comfort in it, if I would find peace. And I wonder if its the reason I love the color turquoise, I crave the color turquoise, so much.

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's the climb.

Everyone thinks writing that first draft is the steep side, the rough crossing, the hand-over-hand on icy terrain that rewards you with a view at the top. And -- that revising is the easy glide down the other side. When. in. fact. The opposite is true.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Let's remember this sky.

We were at her house when the light across the neighboring horse farm turned darkly beautiful. This, I said. This is the in-between almost-autumn that I wrote about in ONE MORE DAY. This always-cloudy never-rainy October sky. The still-green leaves that stubbornly won't change color. The metallic gray clouds that can't quite stop the golden slivers of sun. Remember this sky, I said to her. When you read my next book, remember this sky, and this day.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The best laid empty nest plans . . .

It's September. The empty nest is upon us. To avoid it as long as possible, we dropped off our younger two children in Massachusetts, and headed up to New Hampshire to see friends we've been meaning to see. To get to their house, you pass by a lake, twice, and I was dumbstruck each time by the sudden beauty of it, to emerge from the green forest and stumble upon all that blue.

A town fair on Saturday. A boat ride on Sunday. Exploring the inlets, the gulches and glens, winding through the water in a way you don't do in the ocean, was calming, like being in a canoe. We docked at another friend's cabin, explored their property, with its own jetties and landings, and a special sunset-y patio on the edge of their property, connected to nothing but waves and roots, jutting out into the water for dinner parties. A rocky landing just for dinner parties, with a tiny spit of sand a few feet wide, and a small dock for friends arriving to the party by boat. It was simple, and simply gorgeous, and seemed the height of empty nest fabulosity.

Looking for things in common in our marriage, for a new place to live, for activities that last and connect, I land on a single word: Harbor. I grew up in a small harbor town in Illinois. I lived the happiest five years of my life in a harbor town in California. We spend our summers, as much as we can, in another harbor town. The thrill of arriving, of stately marine traffic, the snap of sail and flag, the welcome of whistle. It's in my bones, and in his.

And every time I've seen a town like this, whether its Annapolis or Tiburon or Perth, I think: Home. And I think now, of the small craft my husband sold when the college bills started to come, and the upkeep outstripped our use. And I know, each in our own way -- he the navigator, the fisherman, the keeper of the tides -- and me, the observer, the dreamer, the chronicler of memories -- that we both are happy when we are in the same boat.