A tragic accident.
Her loss is incomprehensible.
Today the sun has risen, the clouds race.
Rain moves in and across, and the racing clouds again reveal the afternoon sun.
Tonight the moon and stars will rise again.
Still in the field of time, all moves forward.
Helping loved ones absorb the loss,
We hurt, and look for the pieces of what has broken, and reflect.
It is a mystery, how this could happen, from nowhere, to one with such a long future.
What could have been, will not – and for that the grief comes hard.
What was, was good – and for having had it,
We give thanks, look back with longing, and smile through tears.
I wrote in my last post about cultivating some balance in our lives, and how our steady progression toward the end of summer might assist that goal. Returning from vacation to work this week, that balance seems elusive.
It’s not just the grind of returning to the day job, but meetings after work every evening this week to address needs related to my civic commitments. I serve our local community as a Village trustee and also as a trustee at our local community library, and I believe strongly at this point in my life in putting some effort into helping to keep our village as that place that first attracted us to live here…so while tired and off-balance toward the end of this week, it’s all worth it, all toward the right ends.
Plus…to cap the week off…
Our oldest daughter turns 13 today.
She was born at 9am, and I’ll never forget holding her and looking deep into her wide eyes that first night, when she was 12 hours old, while my wife slept soundly, getting some needed rest.
Not yet a day old, she lay wrapped in a blanket in my arms, hiccuping and looking back at me. I had the profound, mystical feeling that there was wisdom behind those eyes, that she knew things I couldn’t know. I held her there for quite some time, not wanting to let go of that moment with her new life in my hands.
I tell her this story every year around her birthday, as I want her to grow up knowing the impact she had on me that first night. Right now, she lays in the bottom bunk (with her sister in the top) in the room behind me, having slept away her 12-hood, soon to wake up as a teenager.
There have been, and will be many more, times when ‘wisdom’ is the furthest word from my mind to associate with some of her actions or behaviors (or her sister’s), but the memory and the impact of that first night persists. And whether or not she really knew unknowable things that first night, she and her sister have taught me so much…
So we’ll move through the work days and the birthday festivities today and Friday, remaining joyfully off-kilter, and will look to rebalance over the holiday weekend…
We spent the early part of this week in northern Lower Michigan – a day trip to Mackinac Island launched from our several-day base in Petoskey. This has become a tradition for us over the last several years, a late-August trip together as a family before our free-form summer lifestyle reverts back to the phased rhythm of work and school routines.
“Loving where I live” is a major component of my TGQ (Total Gratitude Quotient), and of course “loving other places within a few hours’ drive from where I live” factors into the equation as well.
Experiencing this recurring ritual getaway affords an opportunity to benchmark our girls’ growth over time. We pass this way another year older, and that brings a little more clarity to how they’re growing and changing. We’ve shed the baby jogger and the scooters, and there are no more rides on Dad’s shoulders as we hike into the Petoskey Gaslight District from our hotel a mile out. New opportunities and perspectives emerge, riding bikes around Mackinac Island and letting them wander down to the shoreline by themselves while we watch from a distance.
This brief unwinding also brings into relief the balance that we try to strike in our lives. We’ll start the cycle again soon – school will start with the requisite drop-offs and dramas, routines of homework and music lessons. We’ll measure it off with the Monday through Friday metronome, and learn again together how sweet Saturday mornings are.
For me, August 15th is always ‘Orion Day’, at least since that first time many years ago when I attached some significance to the reappearance of the most recognizable winter constellation.
I caught him scouting out the late-summer territory a few weeks ago, but now he’s determined the coast is clear and boldly makes an appearance before sunrise – he has arrived. Orion’s presence here in August is a reminder of the cycle through which we all pass, appreciating what remains of summer and looking toward autumn’s rewards.
Wheeling through this cycle again, I think about time passing and our ladies growing up – at my age, life is a stream of events and duties against the backdrop of a seasonal wheel. But for children, the seasons are a ratchet – this summer of being 12 will fold into 7th grade and she’ll never return to summer quite the same way. So it’s important to hold those moments, like last night, when she came home from her friend’s house, asked to go back and spend the night, gave me that hug and left with her musical laughter trailing behind.
The wheel turns, and we go around again – but it’s never the same trip and what a beautiful ride.
Finally some rain today in the midst of our great
midwestern American drought of 2012 – and just like that I have grass to mow again, not that I’m complaining. Through one window to my left I see a patch of lawn and garden beginning to look alive again.
To my right are our ladies talking to each other as they compete in a video game.
Here in the middle is me, the watcher watching both directions, noting the grass revive to the left and wondering at the people our girls are becoming on my right. Beauty on all sides, and I’m thankful, thankful.
So much about the passage through this world is perspective, and the journey of learning a slower, more mindful approach has rewards obvious and subtle. Of course the obvious ones are clear, but the subtle ones make themselves known only through hints, and not unidirectionally; they may briefly appear and then withdraw. Simple, stupid examples might include just recognizing there’s an option to leave the radio off during the drive home and finding the mind more chatter-free and attentive for home re-entry; or taking a moment to focus on the breath during stressed intervals and finding upon careful observation that calming really does come, leaving some openness to work within where there was just tension.
I’m learning slowly through experience from yoga practice that the body really is an extension and an instrument of the mind (and vice versa, I guess?), and experiencing the first subtle signs that creating openness and fluidity in the body does manifest as improved openness and fluidity in the mind. Trust me, I’ve been a brittle stick from years of running, cycling and no-stretching, so I am not that willowy ideal yoga practitioner. And it’s funny to see revealed the ways in which the brittle stick body corresponds with the brittle stick mind; sometimes through brittle breath, or through brittle will, brittle emotions.
Working to open one opens the other, and it’s a fascinating journey indeed.
It’s hot in the house. We’re in the middle of the great midwestern drought of 2012 – here on July 12 we’ve had approximately 0.1″ of rain since the beginning of May. I’m learning now that the absence of moisture in the region’s soils allows the daily temperatures to rise unmoderated, so our daily highs are more easily reaching the 90s even though the nights descend to delicious low 60s.
We’re about 3 weeks past the summer solstice, but living here on the western fringe of the Eastern time zone, our July twilights extend well into the 9 o’clock hour and beyond. Now, approaching 10 o’clock, the cool sets in with the brilliant blue/black of receding day and gradually the averted eye catches planets and then stars in the sky (always interesting to note that averted vision is more sensitive to faint light that direct vision…maybe that’s true in some metaphorical sense as well?).
Through the screens and open windows (resisting turning on the air conditioning), the insects in the woods make their high, continuous whine; then, listening closer, I hear the spectrum of frequencies and overlapping signals – that which I first thought was a one-dimensional stream is a three- and four-dimensional orchestral arrangement for an unseen audience. Who else is listening and who responds? Listening closely to these noises and imagining lives lived, I recognize how little I understand what goes on in my backyard.
Same with our daughters. There are so many signals we want to make sure they receive amongst all the others available to them; some are basic instructions met with frustration when not followed, others could be life lessons if the connection is made. Among other things, I want Mack to come out with me for a ride around the lake on the tandem or on the lake in the canoe – time outside with me, the sun, water and wind. But for now, she resists, refusing to align with my ideal of what a great time that will be. Maybe in a day or a week if I don’t push too hard, she’ll come with me. And I want the same for Alex, continue to show her facets of the world she might not have known otherwise – such is the infinite potential of parenting that I too-rarely slow down enough to act on.
And their time with us is like this one night, so I’m out here in the woods, desperately calling, happily willing to call all night, hoping they hear and respond before the sun comes up in the morning.