I didn’t mean to take a break. I didn’t mean to go away for so long. Without even saying goodbye. It just happened.
Sometimes you don’t know what you need till it’s done. This summer, I needed to get very quiet. I needed to think, but more than that, I needed to stare into space.
First I was going to blame it on the NSA. I mean, privacy? Do we have any left? I want the government to ferret out the maniacs who want to inflict death on us. What I don’t want is Google, scanning my email so that if I write a note to a friend about her dahlias, I start getting ads for…plant nurseries. But I felt at cross-purposes with myself: here I am, writing my heart out, and at the same time, I am a very private person. What’s with that?
I sure didn’t stop working. I have never had so much work to do. Moms is growing, and the planet keeps warming.
I meant to write a book. I have an idea of what I want to say. In fact I said plenty, in drafts. But it wasn’t the right time. I couldn’t draw from deep enough down.
[Well, actually, I did write a book: an e book for Moms Clean Air Force, about the link between our changing climate and the extreme weather hitting us more and more frequently. I’d love to hear what you think of it.]
I didn’t take pictures all summer. I didn’t write essays. I didn’t even write letters.
Here’s what I did do: sat still for lots of sunsets. All the way to the end. Woke up in darkness to wait for the sun to rise. Walked aimlessly under starlit canopies. Watched babies grow a bit more, watched friendships get a bit deeper, watched my parents get that much more frail, watched a loved one leave this world.
Swam in the ocean every single day, because I remembered how all winter, I long for the ocean, long for the silky feel of that heavy, dark water, and so why, just because it is raining, would I deprive myself of a swim?
Thought about this dear, gorgeous planet, and the havoc we are facing, and thought about how to stay upbeat and sane in the face of fear. Well, to cut to the chase: the answer is to do everything I can as though my life depended on it.
I spent most of the summer in Rhode Island, in the guesthouse of dear and generous friends. This was the first time in over thirty years that I did not have a garden of my own to tend. By late spring I felt jangly; I did not know what to do with myself, what to do with fingers that couldn’t pry apart roots or arms that didn’t hold a shovel or legs that weren’t bracing against stone or eyes that weren’t wandering over mop-headed blooms. Again, kind friends came to the rescue, and invited me over for a bit of gardening. But it isn’t the same, you know, if it isn’t your own mess of weeds.
I haunted real estate listings.
None of this made me sad—well of course the death did. A stray cell, a clot of blood, a weak vessel, or just the simple passage of time...It just made me quiet. Thoughtful. Emptying out, to refill.
Sometimes I was so quiet that I felt like a fish, hanging in the current just under the surface of the water. Sometimes I felt like the branch of a tree, its leaves trembling in a breeze. Sometimes I felt like the child I once was, just watching in unknowing wonder. Sometimes it scared me, how quiet I felt. But mostly I felt very happy, and light and full of peace. I decided to just let the quiet unfold. I’m quite aggressive about doing what’s right (see above, Moms Clean Air Force). But I am a gentle soul and intend to stay true to that in my dealings with people. And with myself.
And in all of this watching and wondering, I realized I was waiting. Waiting as my life changed yet again. Waiting for the answer to the question: what next? to reveal itself. Sometimes I felt like I was supposed to be practicing patience, practicing acceptance, practicing openness.
Until finally I saw, once again, the lesson that takes a lifetime and gives for a lifetime: day in and night out: what is next is what is now. Each and every moment of now, of the sunrise and starlight and moonset and fog and sparkle and cool water, every moment of laughter and tears and longing and love, all of it, that was what was coming next. If I am lucky enough to catch it.
And it is now. So I am lucky. We all are.
I’m glad to be back in touch. More later.