Posted tagged ‘summer’

waves

September 26, 2009

What is it about the ocean? 

I woke up in a funk this morning.  I was feeling fragile and working hard not to begin the day in a mess of tears.  There was no reason.  It’s grief or it’s happiness or it’s fear or it’s gratitude; doesn’t matter.  In those moments, I struggle to stay present lest I be lost in emotion.  Then in other moments, I am so present I get overwhelmed.  There is no balance between grace and the horrors of this world.  Grace always wins. 

I had the good fortune of being near the ocean this morning.  Sky and water bouncing into each other in a dance of fluid light. Soft sand still warm enough for bare feet, defying the coming of fall. Waves, the constant motion,fall09 069 a lullaby. I had an urge to fling myself onto the ground and make angels in the sand.  I think it was a desire to hold the earth and sea with gratitude for its gifts.  There is an indescribable peace in such moments.

When I was five, my sister Debbie took me into the waves at York Beach.  She was twelve.  I worshiped her.  The waves were solid, bone-numbing they were so cold, huge.  Debbie took me out to where they were breaking and held me in front of her. She would yell to me “here comes a rumbler, get ready!”  I was terrified and thrilled as a wall of water well over my head crashed with enough force to knock us both backward.  We tumbled in the white water.  Sometimes, she would hold onto me all the way in and we would end up in a heap on the shore.  Most of the time, we got thrashed violently; held down and spun like seaweed so that we couldn’t tell which way was up until we were thrown onto the sand.  I learned to surrender to the waves.  Fear gave way to thrill once I realized that eventually, I would crash onto the beach, find my breath, stand on solid ground. 

I realize now–this memory, which I love so well, is part of what binds me to the ocean.  On the surface, it is me and my beloved sister playing on a summer day.  It is innocence and laughter.  It is me trusting my sister, without question, enough to allow her to hold me facing waves: scary and uncontrollable.  It is learning to allow the ocean to cradle me as it overpowered me.  It is understanding that eventually, it would deliver me to solid ground.

Deeper, this memory, like the ocean, sustains me. I am drawn to both.  At the beach, I cannot be trapped in my head.  There is no will or need to cope or to seek or to struggle.  Some part of that five year old surfaces and I am trusting and innocent and allowing the ocean to carry me.  I see now that it was up to me to determine how long I waited on the shore and recovered my breath and balance before I went right back into those waves.  I see now how it has become a metaphor for life.  My anguish, my questioning…the tender ache of life’s bittersweet blessings…grief, happiness, fear, gratitude:  I am learning again to trust that each wave will eventually return me to solid ground as long as I surrender to it.

daisies

September 19, 2009

The summer I was 19 I worked at the lake.  My on-again, off-again high school boyfriend and I were “off”.  I was home from my first year of college; immature, drifting around in my life.  I often worked from 4 pm until 2 or 3 am on the late afternoon, dinner and evening booze cruises aboard the Tir Na Nog.  I loved that job; making tons of cash while making sure the tourists were having a good time.

I was surrounded by new friends…  There was the work crew: Melissa, Maura, Chris and Mike plus Dave the captain who kept us entertained with stories from his life at sea.  I secretly had a crush on Dave.  He was at least 30 years older than I was.  He was exotic and carefree and secure enough in his life that he seemed eons beyond the boys I was meeting.  There was the gang of locals, Kendra, Tony, Jay, Marcy, Nicole and Mike,  home from college and playing hard.  We would spend nights on Mark Island in Jay’s parents’ summer home; making huge pasta feasts and water skiing until it was beyond dark, then swimming and hanging out on the raft as the moon rose to greet a perfect summer evening.  There was the crowd of hockey players, Steve and Bobby and their buddies,  who came on the booze cruises and then invited us all to their place on Rattlesnake Island for horse-shoes and rowdy parties.  I got punched for real by some hot-shot player for the Washington Capitals who thought it would be fun to show me how  hockey players fight.  That began an all-out brawl which I escaped by stealing a canoe and paddling back to the mainland.

Careless and carefree, my biggest problem was choosing what to do for fun when I wasn’t working, which was fun.  In August, a few weeks before school began again, I met Liam.  He was visiting his family for a few weeks before heading off to seek his fortune in Alaska.  He was 17, scrawny and tan with long, soft curls I envied.  I had been hanging out with his sister all summer and he came to a gathering at my house one night.  He was confident but not quite cocky. He was  quiet, though aware of his charm.  Immediately smitten, I eventually ignored my duties as hostess when he invited me to star-gaze on the lawn. 

We spent hours lying in the grass. The conversation was as big and endless and deep as the sky, punctuated by friends coming and going, sharing the view and some laughs.  I remember the thrill of lying shoulder to shoulder, laughing, loving the moment without acknowledging it.  What did we talk about? It seemed so important at the time. As it got late, I got chilled from the damp of the night.  I knew he was leaving soon and was reluctant to break the spell of the evening sky.  We got quiet, realizing that this fun, unexpected connection would end almost as soon as it had begun.  He leaned over me then, gave me a sweet, sad kiss.  He got up silently and walked away without looking back.  I lay there for a while longer then went inside to say goodbye to the last of  my lingering friends and make my way upstairs to bed.  Bittersweet.

I awoke the next morning with the sun streaming in.  Grabbing my glasses, it took a full minute of staring around my bedroom to realize I was not still dreaming.  Every surface was covered with daisies!  Scattered across the floor, atop my dresser, the windowsill, tucked behind the mirror on the door, burying my blankets, woven into my hair…simple, cheerful daisies. There was a note tied to a posy which had been tucked under my pillow.  It said “Think of me whenever you see daisies.  Know that you have been loved.”  I never saw him again.

A Glimpse Within

July 28, 2009

My child is filthy.  His clothes hang disheveled, covered with mud and soot.  I can smell him from several feet away.  His face and hands are nearly black.  His shins are covered with blood from bug bites and brambles, sweat drips from under his baseball hat.  He’s smiling as I walk toward him. 

I ask him about his day.  I expect to hear about building camp in the woods, about making a fire without matches, about whittling a bowl from a log.  He is a Forest Scout and this is his first day of Earth Skills camp.  On other such days, he’s talked of juniper tea and eating roadkill.  He has built himself a shelter of branches and snow and spent a February night there.  He has talked of hiking to the middle of the Maine woods with only a compass and some cryptic directions back to the path: left at the big mossy rock, straight through the blueberry patch…The stories of his adventures in the woods tumble out, his words almost faster than his mind as he races from highlight to highlight. 

These are not the stories I hear now. Instead, he tells me he was annoyed all day.  He struggled with his group and isn’t sure how he’ll participate with them the rest of this week.  Though the activities were fun, there were kids in his group who “put a damper on the day”.  I ask him to begin at the beginning.

One boy came to camp wearing a fedora.  My son inquired about his choice of head wear and this boy responded that he’s Jewish and that all of the great rabbis wear a fedora.  This satisfied my child’s curiosity.  Throughout the day, however, other boys in the group would make comments to this boy such as “you can’t play this with us, you’re Jewish” or “we’ll fight you, you’re Jewish”.  The boy would laugh along with these others but my son was deeply offended.  He asked the boys to stop speaking this way.  He told them their words, while not aimed at him, were hurtful and offensive.  Once in a while, the counselor would also ask the boys to rein in their comments, though it didn’t last for long. 

My son and I consider the options.  He can deal with it as he did today.  He can ask to switch groups. He can try to find remedy through dialogue.  He decides to speak to the assistant program director since his counselor has already left for the day.  He tells her he’s uncomfortable in his group with this kind of atmosphere.  She agrees that it is unacceptable and assures him that she will speak to the counselor and help him to resolve the issue.  My son feels better and begins in earnest now to describe the ember he created to hollow out the center of his cedar-log bowl.  For a moment, all else is forgotten.

This boy, my first child, is a student of history.  He knows World War II the way other boys his age know baseball statistics.  He can rattle off campaigns, dates, military leaders and strategies, weapons, outcomes.  He is fascinated with Nazi propaganda.  Sometimes it is disturbing, this knowledge.  I try to encourage him to fill his mind with peace- as balance.  I required he read “Talking Peace” by Jimmy Carter last school year.  I banned war books for the summer.  I limit the amount of conversation focused on the military.  It is my own discomfort.  It is my own hope that my child not absorb the terror, hatred, brutality of history.  It is my dream that he be an instument for peace in the world. 

I see now that I need not worry.    The program director meets the kids in the woods.  He speaks to them of tolerance and awareness.  There are fewer remarks and the kids respect my son’s request that they refrain from anti-Semitism, even when “joking”.  Are these boys truly anti-Semites?  Probably not.  Is the boy who is Jewish offended?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that my child  has demonstrated strength of character.  He has proven his integrity.  He is sensitive to inherent wrong.  He has shown leadership in his intolerance of the language and actions of his peers.  He has been proactive in seeking resolution.  I know he can use a compass to navigate the woods and now I realize he has tapped an internal compass as well.  I am so proud of him.  I am so grateful he is in this world, as he is.  He is all boy: filthy and disheveled, bruised, smelly and physical.  Yet he is more and I have caught a glimpse of him in truth: strong, principled, peaceful.  Amen!  I am a lucky momma, indeed.

Community

July 6, 2009

It’s eight o’clock on a Sunday morning.  It’s the first truly warm, sunny day after almost an entire month of gray, cold, rain.  I’m sitting on metal bleachers, eating a bagel and drinking too-sweet iced tea.  I imagine myself as a solar battery, absorbing the sun and feeling my energy restored. 

Somewhere in the dugout to my left, my 12 year old is waiting for his turn to play.  I cannot see him from where I am.  His teammates are on the field, looking worn out after a weekend of tournament play.  They aren’t chatty and look a bit rumpled this morning.  It’s a different story on the bleachers!  I am surrounded by smiles, friendly greetings, mutual appreciation for the turn in the weather.  There are moms and dads, siblings and grandparents surrounding me.  A dad in the front row yells to the left fielder to move in a couple of steps.  Another dad is assessing the position of the scoreboard and whether or not the fence should have been extended beyond the bleachers where we are sitting.  Moms sip coffee and spray their kids with sunscreen and bug spray.  As the game gets started, the kids on the field begin to perk up.  They banter.  They chatter.  They sing “G-O-O-D- E-Y-E: good eye, good eye, good eye” as a teammate waits for that perfect pitch.  The teams are well matched today and despite an out-of-the-park home-run by their star player, the kids have to work hard to earn their 5-3 victory.

I stand to walk to the concession booth for some water.  I can’t walk more than a few feet without stopping to chat.  Hi Chip, Hi Sara, Hi Dana…The conversation doesn’t matter.  I know these people only in the context of these moments; parents sitting together, cheering “our” team, waiting through yet another inning.  We talk of plans to find last-minute lodging in the middle of July near Sebago Lake for the State tournament.  We talk of double elimination and double plays.  We talk of ways to get the damp, locker room smell out of cleats.  We talk of the weeks of sacrifices–plans rearranged in order to have our children here on the first sunny day of summer.  We understand the meaning of this time in our kids’ lives; how All-Star baseball shapes this present into future nostalgia. 

I smile all the way to the concession stand.  It is one of those moments of recognition of the perfection of life.  My child, loving the game.  Me, loving my child–bringing us into this community, in this moment.  It is joy.