I’m in awe of these early fall days with a tinge of yellow on the leaves. That’s the way it was on our drive south to Pennsylvania. Four days later, on the trip home, the yellow was more than a tinge; about half and half and that’s the way it is today as we ease into the September Equinox, which in Boston will occur tonight at 10:29. All over the world, night and day are exactly (well, pretty close to) the same length--12 hours each. Time seems to tread water and then get on with it’s days and nights. The leaves are dancing in the wind in similar fashion. Soon they will get on with their rhythm.
I just completed a 1000 piece puzzle of a library scene, aptly named “Sanctuary of Knowledge”. The picture reminds me of a university library of old, undoubtedly in England, with stacks receding into infinity. In the foreground is an elderly couple and a young boy and girl. Perhaps we are seeing grandparents and grandchildren reading together, the women and children sitting in over-stuffed chairs, the grandfather standing with book in hand by the fireplace. They are surrounded by several cats, books stacked on tables and an array of collectables acquired over the years. Angels fly in from the nearby stacks.
This comforting scene, with its moment of silence, solitude and simplicity, is worth a dream. I like to imagine that in the next minute someone will comment on what they are reading. Or, one of the cats, looking for affection and a comfy place to snooze, will jump into a welcoming lap.
Independence, the fifth on Dugard’s list of traits (curiosity, hope, passion, courage, independence, self-discipline, and perseverance) necessary to meet life’s challenges, is probably my strongest, although I like to think that I can also be part of a group. But I know that my natural inclination is to do it alone. Which brings me to the cottage-by-the-sea. I’m all set for my sixth season of weekly silence, solitude and simplicity there.
Last week I paid a summer visit to the place. The view, the ocean itself and the gardens around the cottage were both spectacular and time cozy. And then there were the people! Walking on the road, driving in cars, lounging on the beach. A challenge to independence.
Hope, the second on Martin Dugard’s list of traits (curiosity, hope, passion, courage, independence, self-discipline, and perseverance) necessary to meet the challenges of life (see previous posts), may well be my strongest. Things will work out, that is what I hope for, and they do. My hopes aren’t specific. As Paul suggests in his letter to the Romans, “Hope that is seen is not hope.” Those specific ‘hopes’ so easily visualized, I consider wishes… I wish the weather would improve… I wish I could find dishes to match those blue napkins… I wish my car would pass inspection for another year. Really, wishes, not hope? Hope is singular.
Hope, which has to do with the big picture that I long for, always includes mystery. Hope is believing in the good. Hope is already present, its form yet to be revealed. It has to do with optimism and faith, not in figuring out a good plan. Things will work out for the best, we optimistic people say, and with that, we move forward. Things are working out for the best, we hopeful people say, and with that live in the present. Hope is timeless.
By the time I get around to writing, I notice that I’m just sitting and looking out at my world. Why not? I write sitting down, and certainly not while I’m active.
It’s early evening. A rare day in June, a June about to turn to July. A beautiful, sunny evening, but there’s a restless about it. The wind is kicking up, leaves and branches are swaying, but that’s not it. No, it’s Mother Robin flitting about, perching on a lawn chair and then flying to the nest. We thought all the chicks had fledged yesterday morning, but with my binoculars I can see feathers moving in the nest. No head peeking out, just the faintest sign of life. And now I realize that Mother Robin is bringing food to her babe. I feel apprehensive. Where are the sisters and brothers who got on their way yesterday? There’s nothing I can do but trust the mother. This is her second brood of the season; she knows the territory well. For four weeks she has been relentless in caring for her babies. She won’t stop now.
It isn’t not noisy around here but it isn’t silent in that peaceful way I long for. I’ll know more tomorrow.
P.S. Now we are hearing a lot of cheeping from the ones who have already fledged. As for the one still in the nest, hopefully he is happy with his own developmental rhythm. It is dusk. Soon all will be quiet.
A robin in nesting in the rhododendron by the side of our house. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, to be privy to. There’s something mighty simple about it. For the most part, Mother Robin just sits there. Occasionally she gets off and once my husband saw Mr. Robin sitting with her. How about that for a tender touch? We starting noticing this about a week ago, so perhaps she has a week to go. Then the feeding activity will begin.
Nature is awesome. When we don’t tamper with it, it seems to be simple. ‘Let nature take it’s course.’ But when we try to understand it and explain it in words, it shows it’s complexity. Fortunately, we backyard observers have the luxury of choosing to sit in mystery. Well, so do the ornithologists.
I have left the cottage; no final week as anticipated. The owner needed to return home and so I have enjoyed my final sunrise, cleaned, packed up, walked the beach, and pulled out of the driveway. Now here I am happily at home. Actually, I’m content wherever I am living at the moment—home, the cottage, travel destinations. I notice, however, that I need variety, a change of pace, a change of venue. And so, I am home for two weeks and then off to Florence for two. I’ll be writing.
While home, my plan is to go to the library each morning to work on “Very Grateful”, the memoir about my mom. In Florence, as I sit overlooking Brunelleschi’s dome and sipping an early morning cappuccino at the Biblioteca dele Oblate café, my writing will shift to memories of my solitary trips to Florence (and Italy). I’m thinking that the title of that one should include both grateful and Il Duomo. I’ll see how it goes.
This is my last month at the cottage. All at once it feels like a very short time, whereas when I started out in November, the time seemed interminable. That’s the way it is with time the beginning having a different feel than then end; school vacation with no commitments on that first morning; freshman year of college with so many choices; a newborn baby waking up every three hours; life in your twenties . But before you know it vacation is over, graduation is upon you, your child isn’t even waking up at home, and you’re celebrating birthdays in your seventies..
I’m going to do my best to live the next three weeks in the moment and not to think ahead about cleaning up until week four. On the other hand, it is almost time for a new routine. I’ll be home for a while and then off to Florence for the last week of April and first of May to wander about the city I love and finish the book that I started there six months ago. I’ll see how it goes. That’s the plan. One thing for certain, I like a change of venue and routine.
I was surprised and delighted to wake up to a star-filled sky this morning (5:15). Yesterday’s online forecast had predicted fog. Forecast or not, I can be surprised. However, I’m going to stop checking. What’s the point? If a nor’easter is brewing, someone will let me know so I can hightail it home, or stock up here at the cottage. There’s a simple wonder that permeates the sea and sky, and the less I know ahead of time, the better chance I have of experiencing its miracles.
This morning I sat for almost two hours, coffee mug warming my hands, just watching. A couple of times I stood out on the porch, breathing it all in. At little after 6:57 the sun eyed me over the thin rim of clouds on the horizon.
On a given morning at home I never sit and be this long. Oh, I don’t have the sunrise, but I also don’t have hours and days of silence, solitude and simplicity to drift about in that seem to embrace this kind of meditation. Four full days here at the cottage is mighty special. “Very grateful.”
Family has come and gone, as has Thanksgiving. I’ve been away from the cottage for nine days and away from solitude time for much of that time. Oh, there were those early morning before the grandkids woke up, as well as other moments that would creep in between the social comings and goings of home and family. But it’s not like the cottage where there are no human interruptions. There are the little interruptions, often in the form of a question: Have you seen my glasses? What’s for supper? What time shall we head out?. Then there are conversations: politics, sports, news of friends.
At the cottage I’m in control of all conversations. Of course! I’m the only one there. I initiate and carry them out in my own head or on email, which is another kind of a challenge because I don’t always want to talk about what I bring up. In fact, sometimes I don’t want to talk with myself at all. I can walk out on another person but not as easily on all those voices in my mind.
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