Every year when it is time to drive west from wherever we happen to be on Cape Cod, I don’t want to leave. It doesn’t matter how much I miss my own home or that I already have a place booked for the following summer – I don’t want my beach time to be finished. As I approach the Sagamore Bridge I reliably feel my eyes fill with tears, which I don’t release, of course. I don’t need to further convince my kids that I’m getting soft in my middle years.
Each and every time I run through my neighborhood I witness cars running red lights. I’m not even talking about lights that are stale yellow, I mean lights that changed to red while the approaching car was at least a half block away. Red light cameras? Yes, please! People need to learn how to stop.
I am at the point in parenting when I very soon will have a household of boys who no longer indulge me by believing in any of the wonders of childhood. No tooth fairy, no Easter rabbit, no Santa Claus. All done. I’m taking a final shot later this month when my youngest and I head to a most magical place – Disney World. I’m hopeful that Quinn will be impressed by something there – the rides, the fireworks, the characters, and decide that believing is sometimes worth the suspension of reality. Dreams can still come true, right?
Image: hear the sounds
One of the things I most miss about being on vacation are the sounds – the remarkable buzz of the hummingbirds, the rhythmic pounding of the waves, the echo of my running feet on the sandy road. Each of those noises reminded me that I no longer was home in the DelSo and I grew relaxed by the music created by nature.
On one of my first days back, I walked down Delaware Avenue to meet a friend near Lark Street. As I made my way past familiar storefronts and homes, there were different sounds than those of which I had recently become accustomed. Music, aggressively booming from cars, the din of traffic, teenaged girls in loudly colored skinnies talking in Spanish, and the lilt of Burmese women speaking softly to their children. The stimulation and energy caused my feet to move a bit faster as I adjusted my pace to keep up with everything going on around me.
Last night’s violent storm, complete with powerful wind, hail and driving rain, prompted a completely different symphony of sounds. There were sirens as emergency vehicles rushed to various locations, the voices of neighbors checking in on each other and sharing the conditions of their basements and the steady drone of machines pumping water into the street. That last noise was what ultimately lulled me to sleep after a soggy run through the neighborhood surveying the storm’s impact.
Sight and smell seem to be the most frequently remarked upon senses, but random sounds and noises are equally powerful reminders of where we are and where we’ve been. Are there noises that particularly resonant for you? How did Tuesday evening’s storm sound out your way?
I was bold this evening. For a few minutes, at least. I went for a run, a short one, and sported only a skort and a modest running bra. This is not my usual attire, especially not during daylight hours, and I vacillated in a somewhat schizophrenic fashion between thinking I was fit and believing that I was fat. You see, exercising my body and brain simultaneously is yet another way I often multitask.
About 3 minutes into my run, I became self conscious and a bit uncomfortable. I felt exposed, and my skort with the stretched out elastic waistband was sliding down without a shirt to which to safety pin it. I ran past a wooded area and, as is my way, I looked to the side for my reflection, which I didn’t see. Or did I?
To my right, rather than the reflective glass of car and household windows I typically see on my city runs, I saw an undeveloped piece of land covered in trees. They were mostly scrub oaks, an unfortunate name for trees which bear such shiny green leaves from their richly textured branches. My mind took in the beauty of each individual tree and I considered how being a tree wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The strength they show in adverse conditions, the glorious splendor with which they salute the pending arrival of winter, the tiptoe and whisper of their spring greeting. There are far worse things to be in the world.
If I had interrupted my run to examine each and every tree, I know I would not have found any two to be identical. They were unique in their beauty, individual. I was struck by a thought – isn’t the source of our own beauty the same? Isn’t it our own unique spark essence fire that causes us to shine in a way that is pleasing? Aren’t the most attractive people those who radiate something special and distinctive beyond the size of their waist or the shine of their hair? Why is this simple truth so difficult to embrace?
Trees probably don’t waste time wishing they were taller, longer limbed or of a different girth. Their beauty is without question, their position within the forest unchallenged by rigid boundaries or demands to alter their appearance. The next time I seek my reflection during a run, I hope I see a tree.
It seems that so much of life involves schedules and commitments. When we’re at work, during our designated work hours, we frequently have to respond to the demands of others, doing what “they” want, when “they” want it. In my chosen profession(s) I have to be responsive to other people’s needs and, when it’s work time, I don’t take issue with it at all. But, when I’m on vacation, that’s just not happening.
I’m a morning person. It isn’t unusual for me to wake up with the birds and I love the sense of feeling in tune with the earth. Since I need something in my tummy before I can drink coffee, breakfast is a mandatory meal for me. Beyond that, though, I’m winging it. I don’t want to feel pressured to have a meal just because it’s lunch time or dinner time. I want to eat when I’m hungry or to line my stomach before enjoying a cocktail or three. It’s vacation. Unless I have reservations for somewhere, I’m all about eating simply when I feel like it.
Not surprisingly for a librarian, I’m super organized. I prefer to stay on top of things in terms of tidying up, laundry and keeping our stuff under control. I hate the feeling of haphazard inefficiency. Seriously, it makes me more than a little insane. To avoid this, I try to combine errands and minimize the number of times I have to get in and out of my car. Particularly when we’re staying on an island that is inaccessible by car when the tide is in.
I’m realizing that I might be challenging to be around on vacation since I feel about vacation as I do about running: it’s my time to completely set my own pace. Beyond the rhythm of the tides, I won’t be pressured to abide by anyone else’s schedule or demands. It’s my vacation and I want to go with my own flow. Don’t you?
The sun is peeking out from the soft grey clouds and my private little deck beckons. Listening to the birds and the trees on a quiet morning while the rest of the house still sleeps, is one of my favorite times of the day. No one needs anything, other than the hummingbird who just cruised by the feeder looking for some breakfast. He’ll have to wait.
I’ve been visiting the Cape for 16 consecutive summers and the charm has yet to wear off. Sure, there are places I no longer find appealing (I’m talking to you, obvious consumption Chatham) but, in general, I still appreciate what this place offers me. Despite all the changing variables – where we stay, the layouts of the various houses we have rented, the time of the summer, the composition of our families, which friends visit, the most special thing to me about the Cape is how it itself remains constant. There will be fried seafood and sandy feet and predictable tides. The shoreline may shift and beaches and dunes will erode, but the sun will reliably drop into the bay in a blaze of orange and purple at the end of the day. This, is what I love about being here.
I can’t help but reflect on my boys and how their needs and interests have changed over the years. The amount of props they once required! Strollers and pack and plays, life preservers and diapers – all gone now, replaced by digital toys and, thank God, books. When I packed this year, in my usual style, filling Rubbermaid containers which can double as hampers after the clothing is hastily put into temporary homes in strange dressers, I got my own bin for the first time ever. For years, I’ve shared my bin with my youngest as I’ve placed the big guys’ clothes together. This year their stuff is all together and I have a smaller box just for me. It means something doesn’t it?
Life is changing – every day. Coming to the beach and taking the time to recognize, accept and honor that, while digging my toes in the sand, makes these weeks the most special of the year. I hope you have a place like that, too.
Time to feed the hummingbirds.
Where are you at when it comes to worry? Are you inclined to focus your energy imagining all of the perils lying in wait around the corner? Do you spend hours (years?) second guessing every decision you’ve ever made in life wondering “If only I had…?”
If your tendency to worry paralyzes you in a way that prevents you from putting your car in gear and driving forward, are you content to live your life stuck in neutral?
I have worries, believe me. I am uncomfortable when my children are passengers in anyone’s car during long and (too) fast rides. After two rounds of relatively “good” cancer, I am inclined to being a bit paranoid about not being so lucky if that crabby* bastard decides to lap back around for a third visit. Being a homeowner makes me incredibly nervous at times because there are far too many things of which to keep track. I wonder, occasionally, if I will ever be in a healthy and satisfying romantic relationship again. See? I, too, worry.
But, what can I do about any of it? Do I give away today with worry about tomorrow? How can I if I don’t have control of any of those things? All I can do is reiterate the importance of driving with caution and stress to the boys how imperative it is to take driving seriously. I try to keep myself strong with exercise and nutrition in case of further challenges to my health. I’m learning to ask for help when it comes to maintaining my house and my car. I’m actively working on things to enable me to keep moving forward in a positive fashion.
I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that life can change in an instant. When that time comes again, I’d like to believe that I’ll be ready to face any and all challenges thrown my way. What I’m not going to do is this: lose myself speculating and projecting about both all the mistakes I’ve made in life and all the possible ramifications of my future decisions. Today, this very day, is far too precious to cast it aside for the events of yesterday or the imagined perils of tomorrow. Go get it.
*In German cancer is called “krebs,” you know, like crab. Seems an appropriate word to me.
After working for 16 of the last 18 days, I finally hit the wall today. Maybe you heard the sound of me crashing around 4:30 Sunday afternoon when I returned home from the Hong Kong Bakery, my belly full of terrific Chinese food. My initial thought had been to grab Jeter and head down to the dog park for a little bit of play time. But, I started thinking about our last visit’s mud situation down there and my utter lack of interest, (or energy, it turns out), in giving both the puppy and the bathroom a thorough cleaning two days in a row, and decided that a nap for myself was more necessary than a play date for Jeter. Sorry, puppy.
I climbed into bed with a book and was asleep in less than 10 minutes, a state I stayed in for nearly 2 hours. Long naps are not typically my thing. In fact, I boast of my ability to benefit from a mere 5 minute nap. Sunday, though was different. Both my body and my brain
needed required demanded some down time. I was tired.
If you know me, you’re aware that I like to pace myself. All of the activity and events of the last few weeks, though, got away from me a bit and sleep was the only area that had “spare” time built-in. I think I’ve averaged 5 hours or so of that precious state lately, no more than 4 of those hours being consecutive and uninterrupted. Work and boys and Jeter have conspired to challenge, and ultimately upset, my best intentions to balance living with rest.
I am so grateful that I’ve learned to recognize and respect my body’s need to regroup. Saturday night, after waiting on what seemed to be the entire Western Hemisphere,* I fell asleep with the alarm set for 7:00 a.m. and a firm intention to both run and photograph a race in Saratoga. That didn’t happen. Even though I initially put my running clothes on, I just didn’t feel like busting my ass to do both tasks and I elected to go with the job that paid. It was a good choice.
So, what do you do when you hit the proverbial wall? If you’re anything like me, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and sign the wall with a big ole Silvia was here. And you just keep going.
*a bit of hyperbole, but there was a large table of Canadians as well as an even bigger table of folks from various countries in South America via NYC.