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Tag: simple pleasures

shaky all around

the news seeping into my little world isn’t so swell these days. nothin’ at all to do with today being that unlucky friday. phooey, i say to that. that’s ol’ superstition. and superstitious i’m not. not so much, anyway.

i’m talking about the front page of the paper. and, lately, the business page, too. they’re the ones spelling out the downs and the more downs; whole columns of type, sprinkled with words like recession, inflation, and war that won’t end.

oh, and bosses at work being shown to the door. and other ones, new ones, saying they don’t like what we do. and we don’t do enough. and, oh, by the way, they’re cutting the pages, and the numbers of people paid to fill the ones left.

all sorts of talk, all day in the newsroom, about what’s going to happen, and who’s going to leave. anyone left, we all wonder, still reading the news? anyone left who loves turning a page, not knowing just where your fancy might land, soaking up something wholly brand new you might never have known? getting grabbed by a photo, or maybe a headline. seeing a byline, sinking into the words of a friend you’ve not ever met but feel that you’ve known for ever and ever.

it’s all very shaky. and it’s not only newspapers.

here in the village where i now mostly walk, or pedal my bike, to save the gas in my tank, i see houses for sale. hear stories of folks needing to move.

i know my dear friend the breadman isn’t baking so much. because no one is buying quite so much anymore. and cash registers, all over town, seem to be rigged with an odd little button that makes all of the totals twice what they were.

even at home, there are reasons to worry. the tall one is stiff, with a pain in his back. and all of us grownups, on pins and on needles.

so what do i do when it’s shaky all over, when the world at my door gets blurry and buzzes and is all out of sorts?

i crank up the dial on the parts of my life that matter the most.

i pay attention to what i’m cooking for dinner. i set the table with just a little more care. i cut more and more peonies from out in the garden. i tuck them there by the bedside, even in rooms strewn with little boy’s clothes.

i walk to the library. i sit with my sweet little starting-out reader. we pluck books, chapter books now, from shelf after shelf, whole piles too heavy for one of us only. we take turns with each chapter. we take turns with the book bag. sometimes, each one of us takes one of the handles. we lug it together.

i buy pie for no reason. i promise to learn to make my own crust. i snip herbs from the garden, snip with abandon. it’s summertime now and i needn’t be stingy.

i work in the garden. i pull weeds and more weeds. i stand back and admire the one-inch-by-one-inch that‘s finally weedless.

i sit on the stoop. i let ice melt on my tongue. we stuff chocolate-chip cones with mint-chocolate ice cream. then, for no reason, really, except for the joy of redundance, we sprinkle jimmies on top, those bit-lets of bite-able sugar. then we try not to bite, but only to lick. not once have we made it, not once without biting. these are the games that we play when we play for no reason, ’cept for the pure joy of playing at play.

as the world around me feels all very shaky, i sink deeper and deeper into what i love most, on a scale that gets smaller and closer to home, closer to heart.

it’s almost, you might want to think, like whistling in the dark. only that’s not what it is if you look from the soul side. it’s whistling, all right, but with very deep roots.

it’s the whistling of grownups old enough and wise enough, and humble enough, to know that the whole of the world we most likely can’t change.

but we can keep the ones that we love from feeling the bumps and the worries, from noticing that all around the edge of this boat, the waters are sloshing, are getting quite queazy.

we can make this place we call home a fine and true respite. the place we come back to, because it soothes us and calms us. because in a thousand small ways, we can dust off the dirt, and polish the places that just might maybe shine.

we might not steal headlines. we might not cinch deals. we might not be brokers of peace ’round the globe.

but what we do with our days, and our hours and minutes, just might make the difference in just a few blessed lives.

and those lives, some of them, were handed to us, for just a short time, really and truly.

someone wiser and truer than i’ll ever be, someone infinite, someone you maybe call God whispered once upon a time, spoke to each of our hearts. said, this is my beloved, and this is yours, too. i’ve breathed in a life, i’ve sculpted with love. it’s your job, should you so choose, to cradle, to take by the hand, to teach the words and the poems and the stories. to tuck into bed with a prayer, to draw tight the sheets. to kiss sweet blessed heads, and send dreams off to dreamland.

give the gift of your calm. give the gift of your grace. give laughter. give whimsy. give ice cream with sprinkles.
make each hour count.

make it be simple. make it be rich.

and then that Someone reached out and gave us our loves.

a wise friend of mine tallied the world as some of our children have lived it: 9/11, afghanistan, iraq, columbine. then there’s tsunami, new orleans under water, virginia tech, and gas at 4-plus-bucks-a-gallon. and, sure as heck, i’m leaving out a thing or two that’s kept you awake.

now, in grade school and high school, even in pre-school, they practice drills year after year, in case of intruders. our cold-war atomic-bomb scares replaced with very real fears that a classmate, or passing-by kook, could burst through the door, carrying guns.

some nights, as i lie in my bed, whispering prayers, and begging for mercy, i ask for a cloak of untattered peace to fall on my house.

and then i wake up, and give it the whole of my heart: i crank up the oven, i tuck in a pan of cinnamon rolls. i wait for the sound of the feet that i know. the big ones and little ones. even the cat’s.

and i do what i think i do best: with all of my might, i aim to sew even though i can’t thread a needle (not anymore anyway, not without my old-lady glasses). i stitch this old house with gracenotes of beauty, and fumble for even a loose knot of calm. i pay attention to nooks and to crannies no one might notice. i iron out wrinkles. i wring out the worries.

it’s called housework. and mine is of and for the soul.

i owe it, i do. to the ones whose everyday stories are being inscribed at my old kitchen table.

and besides, long long ago, i promised: dear God, bless me with life, and i’ll make it most noble.

how do you make your world a little bit calmer, a little bit richer, when all around it feels like the walls are starting to crumble?

welcome to summer

the half-wheel of moon drooled down on us, peeking through the pines, half-lighting the peonies, bent from the rains. the summer bugs hadn’t yet started their chorus. but it was june. it was a monday. and it was half past nine, and no one was hurrying.

we were just slamming the car doors, trying not to spill cotton-candy blizzard and blue-raspberry arctic-something-or-other anywhere near the insides of the still-smelling-new new car, which was when i glanced at the clock on the dash, saw it was nearly an hour past school bedtime, and sighed.

“i love summer,” i said, tripping over a rock in the pretty-much dark.

to which the little one retorted, “how many times do i have to tell you? it’s spring. this is spring break. it’s not summer until june 21.”

well, doesn’t he know his numbers?

and yes, technically speaking, were i inclined to pluck words based on the alignment of sun and sweet spinning earth, i would be more precise.

i am, however, not.

i am more stirred by the poetics of these unstructured days than i am by the facts of the matter.

in fact, the minute i start swooning about this state of mind that has me wanting to plop up my crocs and do nothing more rigorous than turning the pages of two delicious books i am reading in tandem (“signaling for rescue,” short stories by marianne herrmann; and “mr. gatling’s terrible marvel,” by my genius of a friend julia keller), i am reminded that summer–like a storm that blows in off the lake, with no warning–suddenly can turn into a mad-dash morning where the manchild has only one way to get to his very cool summer gig slinging a camera: me and the old car i am very much driving to some faraway outpost that requires a map and a mantra–”i will not get mad that no one figured this out the night before.”

and, yes, one of these meanders we can devote to the cold hard truth of summer versus the make-believe version, but let’s–just for the whimsy of it–stick here and now to what summer can be.

think: lemonade stands and peach pie oozing with juice. think summer porch and peanut-butter-and-jelly on a blanket, generously dusted with sand.

and think, maybe, about making a pledge.

oh, no, you needn’t start moaning, thinking i mean to get out the girl scout sash, and work toward one of those neat little circles you tried so clumsily to sew on after checking off each one of the itty-bitty boxes in the ol’ girl scout guide.

let us, though, start out this seasonal dash by holding up the rest of june, all of july and a good chunk of august to their fullest possibility, and then maybe proposing to approach this all with a little more vim and vigor this year.

my thinking along these lines got a bit of a jumpstart when i was out strolling by moonlight on the very first night after the schools around here let out their very last whistle, and shooshed all the kiddies away till the end of dear august, which i’ve now come to understand is sooner than you’d care to think.

wandering down one of the leafy, cobbled streets around here, i looked up at a house with a rather broad porch, a porch like a mama wrapping her arms. there, taped on the front door, was a sign: “welcome to summer.”

two strands of crepe paper, by then sagging, squirmed in the wisp of a wind.

i nearly cried, brightened by the fact that i’m not the only kook who approaches these things with the ceremony they deserve.

but also, mostly, by the notion that summer is more than a stack of hot days, one piled on top of another, like wet swimming trunks dumped in a heap in the basement, just daring the mildew to come.

it got me to thinking about how summer offers the chance to break loose of not only the school year’s constraints, but all those unspoken rules that can make one season bleed into the next.

what if, i wondered, what if summer offered a wholesale new way of being?

what if we reveled in this short sweet reprieve, not by packing up and leaving, but turning inside out each and every day, slathering ourselves in summerness the way other mothers (read: better mothers) remember to grease their bare-backed kiddies with great gobs of sunscreen for a day at the pool?

in my head (where i do all my best work), i started a list.

so far, it goes something like this: wake up late/wake up early. head out to the screened-in porch. sip coffee. listen to the birds wake up. watch the sunlight catch on the lipstick-pink petals of the climbing roses.

make blueberry pancakes. enlist the wicker-basketed bike for all errands. rediscover calf muscles. make daily rounds of the growing things in the so-called garden. carry clippers. cut a new bouquet every day. tuck them in odd places, like next to the children’s beds, just to see if anyone notices.

tiptoe back to the summer porch soon as the afternoon sun starts its descent. keep two books within reach, no matter where i go.

make lazy summer dinners. grill. strip tarragon leaves with reckless abandon, stuff inside chicken breasts, lace through mounds and mounds of pasta.

walk to the train, with all available children. pick up daddy, and watch his face light up.

go to the library. often. sign up for summer reading club. invite neighborhood kiddies to read in the summer porch. bake cupcakes, or simply serve pretzels and lemonade, to accompany whatever we’re reading.

visit your neighborhood ice-cream shop. try hard not to spill in the car. make sure that doesn’t happen by walking.

open the windows. turn on the ballgame. let the little one watch till the end of the game, paying no mind to the time on the clock.

steal away while he counts runs and innings. read some more.

go to bed with all windows wide open. wear summer pjs. fall asleep to nightsounds.

wake up, start all over again. only scramble it up. do something brand-new each day. something you always wanted to do, but couldn’t find the time for back in the days when lost mittens had to be located, and snowboots mucked up the hall.

it’s summertime. welcome to all it can be.

what’s your idea of summer? how will you spend your days? remember this here is make-believe, what you wish it could be.
the challenge: to see how close you can come to making it happen. the pledge: to try really loosely to savor the notion of summer.

i’m thinking of a few ideas here: maybe a summer book swap, read something yummy and mail it along. we might all be delighted by what lands in the mailbox. surely, we’ll take turns in the kitchen. if anyone comes up with something soooooooooo easy and so good, we’ll post it. if a wholly serendipitous summer moment lands in your lap, do tell; it might inspire the rest of us.
till then, kick off your shoes, open the windows, crank up the fans. and go freeze some juice in the old ice-cube tray. remember biting into a sort-of crunchy, sort-of slushy kool-aid cube?
p.s. i think this might be rather meandery. but it’s summer, straight lines and clear thinking are not always the surest way to go. thanks for winding along…..