Wednesday, August 05, 2015
Thursday, July 30, 2015
The Luxury of a Bad Vacation
I know there is such a thing as a bad vacation – the truly terrible kind that leave people fundamentally changed. But as I sit in the little place we rent year after year at The Nice Part of the Jersey Shore (thanks, Snooki), I know I’ve never had one of those.
The day we left Cleveland, Lylah took ill with abdominal unhappiness. Nothing dramatic, just discomfort that slows the constitution and makes food unappealing. Two days later, the gathering storm hit my shores with considerable force. I wanted my mommy.
Like clockwork, 48 hours later, I could practically see Al Roker standing in the family room as Katy succumbed to hurricane-level misery. At the urgent care, halfway through our beach vacation, one of the very nice nurses kept saying to her, “You poor thing, you’re dry as a bone,” as she tapped around for a vein. A couple bags of saline and a slew of drugs later, we stumbled back home and called it a day.
The fact that Carlo seems to have been immune to this plague is only the start of what fills me with joy on this, the second last day of our odyssey. Here are a couple of others.
Every day this week, I’ve woken up with the Atlantic Ocean a block away. Most days I’ve been able to go there early and watch the shore birds fish in the tide pools as the sun wipes the horizon clean of mist. Everyone who wants to should be able to do it.
This is a place my parents introduced us to when we were still kids. They’ve both been gone a long time now, but coming here brings them a little closer again. Very little changes in the town. Mom and Dad would be glad of that. They would still like it here.
The other day on the beach, a little girl and her mother came up behind me while I was sketching. The child was perhaps 5. I asked if she likes to draw. She nodded and looked at my pages. She has many sketchbooks herself, her mom told me. Then they showed me the tiny hermit crab they found in its tiny shell in the sand.
Yesterday on my beach walk, two women strolled toward me with a beautiful black Newfoundland. They let me say hello, and I caught a glimpse of our dear departed Pearl in the dog’s slow tail wag. Pearl is the great dog heartbreak of my life. I look for her in magical ways, and sometimes she shows up.
I could go on, but this is the internet age, and already some of your are all, like, “too long didn’t read.” But let me just add one thing. The four of us together – talking, laughing, suffering -- is a gift never to be taken for granted. So break out the Coppertone and the Lysol. I’m squeezing the last juicy hours out of this best bad vacation. Cowabunga, and thank you.
Saturday, July 04, 2015
Something happened to time in the woods. I want to resist the cliché about it standing still, but some sort of warp was going on. Being surrounded by all that nature – trees way older than ourselves, smells you couldn’t find indoors — provided a connection to the infinite. We'd be explorers from the 19th century for a while, and credibly so.
Today I hiked around the woods and meadows at Holden Arboretum. The farther I got from other people (this took awhile), the more I found of the person I was in the woods back in Bay.
The weeds lick my shins. The sun and breeze take turns brushing my cheeks. A fly settles on my sketchbook. It could be 2015. It could be 1971.
But the wandering grownup knows to treasure these forays into nature on a perfect summer afternoon. Supplies are limited. This is part of what it means to grow up. I don’t take anything lovely for granted anymore.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
“Although I had a pen of pheasants and a pen of quail, a flock of turkeys, seventeen geese, a tribe of mallard ducks, three Japanese silk bantams, two Polish Crested ones, and several chickens of a cross between these last and the Rhode Island Red, I felt a lack."
Sunday, April 19, 2015
We lucked into front-and-center seats at his Saturday show, and I really did have the sense of being in the presence of someone extraordinary. It wasn't just the stylin' outfit (crisp jeans, necktie, hip shoes). It was watching the dazzling combination of intense concentration and muscle memory at work as he played. People who are passionately driven in the arts -- not to fame, but to mastering their medium -- exude special charisma.
Plus, he was with an ace drummer and B3 player, and they were doing very tuneful, sophisticated stuff.
All of this would be interesting enough on its own, but then you learn about Pat's 1980 brain surgery, from which he awoke with his memory shot through with holes. You can read about it here.
Monday, April 06, 2015
The bathroom scale I grew up with was covered in gold carpet. Your tootsies stayed warm while your blood ran cold. The numerals were marked off every five pounds with little slash marks in between. If you stepped on the scale three times, you could get three different readings. And there were many times, in my fat-obsessed teenage years, that I stepped on the scale three times in succession.
I mentioned this daily scale-check to one of my daughters today, and she was stunned. I’ve been known to pack the scale in my suitcase when we go on vacation, but I suspect she thought I was just trying to keep myself honest during one of my flirtations with Weight Watchers. If only.
Deep into this this lifelong dance with food and fat, I still pay homage to the numbers as a hedge against morbid obesity – or so goes the theory. I’m afraid to look away for too long; I might lose touch with the reality and float out to sea on a raft of bagels and peanut butter.
Monday, March 30, 2015
There is no there there, as far as I can see, though if you find it for yourself I am genuinely heartened. I find the there in here, instead – a small place in my heart that grows with prayer and meditation and shrinks in their absence. No longer dazzled by the altar and the pillars, I remain reverent about Jesus and the purpose of his life.
Love, he told us. Put others first.
He would not approve of my road rage, but he might give me a few points for all the times he sees me making effort not to be a complete self-centered jerk.
He would appreciate my kindness toward animals, though he would almost certainly wish that I could extend that a little further onto my fellow humans.
He probably frowns when I natter on Facebook about the weathergirl’s bad fashion. He probably thinks I have enough flaws of my own, and that on the very day I get my own self together in one spiritual basket, then I can start judging how other people live. And dress.
My religion tells me to love and be kind. Love everyone, including myself. And be kind to all, not just the dog. This is the spiritual work of a lifetime. This seems to me to be made plain in the life of Jesus, and in the Easter story. It’s the part of the church I couldn’t leave.