My Summer of Everything and Nothing

As summer starts to wind down and the days become slightly shorter, I find myself in hives and palpitations seeing the displays of overpriced backpacks, not-the-right-colors crayons and every glue except the required one at Target.  I am just not ready for the grind to begin yet.  I run into people I haven't seen for a few months and the usual "How has your summer been?" or "What have you been up to this summer?" is inquired.  What have we done? Everything and nothing. I'm not sure how to explain it.

Going into this summer, I really did not want the kids to be scheduled to the Nth degree with activities. After the spring we had, I just wanted very little structure. I wanted to them to sleep in, and stay up late. I wanted them to be kids.  Selfishly, I didn't want to sit at the ball diamond for 2.5 hours a day, 4 days a week with the third wild wheel (the 3 year old) in tow, spending our retirement on ring-pops at the concessions.  With the Good Doctor's new schedule, I wanted to be able to play on the pontoon on a Wednesday, if he was off, and mostly, I just wanted to be.

I've been asked if I have given up writing, or have been training for any races. The reality, it most days I wasn't sure which day it was, since there has been just a beautiful lack of any schedule this summer.  Thus, that was usually my reason for missing the deadline for the local paper.  I haven't been running. Not for any real reason, other than I am still battling a tendon issue, but I haven't been inactive either.

I have spent countless hours in our yard.  It is sizable, and the reality is we inherited a lot of maintence to catch up on when we moved in here five years ago.  I have spent time breaking a sweat doing the kind of manual labor that leaves one utterly exhausted, sore in the haunches and shoulders,  salt covered but joy-filled at the end of the day.  I have torn back thorny bushes.  I have broken soil, by hand, to sow seeds and plants.  We got a new family member, an Alpine Goat named Bill, who has attachment (as in he thinks he's a human) issues, so I have pounded fence posts.  I have trimmed, pruned, raked and mowed.  I have helped the Good Doctor rebuild our deck with a lot of sweat and some tears, when he stepped on a screw.  (Not a nail... a screw...)   And through all of this I have thought and thought and thought.

There is something about doing this kind of work that makes me feel connected, in the moment... alive. As I trim the unruly bushes, I discover pines underneath that have been growing despite fighting for sunlight and nutrients.  
The unruly bushes are drug to either the goat, who feasts on the tender green leaves, or to the firepit, where the dead branches will provide us with warmth, light, toasted marshmallows and laughter.  It, we, are all connected.

I have had a lot of time to practice letting go this summer.  Being outside for hours means the 2 bigs are pretty much on their own inside.  The little is usually by my side with a clipper, cutting things I wish he wouldn't.  The bigs have learned a lot more self reliance this summer, and although self reliance may look like a pile of ICEE wrappers or an apple core, I take joy in the fact that they took it upon themselves to NOT come 2 acres out in the yard to ask me to get them something to eat.  They have had to  learn to play with each other better, and work together more without me in constant sight.   I have realized if I am going to play gardener, yard keeper and chef, there will not be time to play housekeeper.  I am SO lucky to have a husband who gets this.  We will have guests over for amazing meals, on the DECK. My outside will be inviting and welcoming, my bathroom will be relatively clean, the rest of the house? Nope. Not gonna happen.  I've come to accept and appreciate that those who come over, really don't care about the way my house looks.

This past winter was too long and too stinking cold to be inside. Plus, I had about 6 weeks of staring at these walls, wondering what lay ahead in my life, to continue to sit and look at these same walls.  I have not been able to get enough of the outside.  The wind rustling the leaves, my daughter calling to the mourning doves and having them answer her with their sad song.  I've needed to feel dirt on my hands, and smell the dampness of the evening as dusk settles around us.  I've wanted to lie on our deck, holding my youngest under a blanket, and count the stars as they fall to Earth.  I've let the belly laughs of a 3 year old wash over me as his big brother pushes him, in a way only brothers do, on the tire swing.  I've found myself in awe that I can smell the sunshine in my line-dried towels when I finally get around to folding them, 3 days later.  I've needed to just be. 

The grind and schedule of school and activities will start again soon.  The checklists, the homework, and the fundraising.  The days will consist of mostly "shoulds" "need to dos" and "requireds."  The drama that accompanies elementary school relationships will once again have a daily matinee and  anxiety will probably accompany it as the oldest moves to a different school.  But for now I will do my best to milk every last hour from this summer before the routine starts again.  It hasn't been a summer of amazing adventures and trips, but one of presence, love and observation.  Those are the things that are not easily captured on film, but more so in the heart and soul.  My hope is not just captured in mine, but in those hearts of those I love.

by Diane