Gone is the life of leisure. I’m back to work after three restful weeks of living at my whims – meandering walks, cooking big pots of things, watching old movies, visiting with my people and enjoying my own company. Looking back now, I realise more than ever how much I needed that time.
For the past few days I’d been pouting about having to rejoin the world of the working stiffs again, and pouted some more when I woke up two hours in advance of my alarm clock this morning. But while I was getting ready I started to really look forward to my walk up to the office.
I think that’s something to do with the new photo journaling project and the walks I’ve been taking in support of it. There is a pleasurable and fresh purpose in walking outside, even if that is to simply open my eyes and pay attention to my little world within a big city. I’m falling in love with my city again – looking into its cracks and crevices and finding a canvass that’s painted with new pictures every time I look at it. It’s still early in the project but I’m finding it’s less about finding a photo to get up there than it is finding rewards (again) in learning how to paying attention.
All these years after developing the idea for this blog, I’m substantiating what I knew in the first place. Not just for writing and art – but for living. Living in the moment is what it's called. And it's beautiful thing number 81.
There has been a soft rain falling off and on since last night, and as I walk to work under the heavily overcast skies this morning everything is glistening luminous under the dim light; the pavement a wet black canvas painted here and there with splashes of colour reflecting the city pulsing above it.
Earlier, I lay in bed watching the sky through a gap in the curtain, thinking I was as reluctant to come to wakefulness as that sky was. Last night’s rain capped a gorgeous, warm and sunshiny Sunday – that kind of weekend day you look upon as a gift at any time of year, but particularly this one. The day was gentle; I walked and shopped and puttered around my home, and later my table housed a big pot of vegetable barley soup and toasted rosemary bread and warm company and suddenly I find myself in deep autumn with not a little pleasure.
The slowed pace amidst the low clouds and glistening streets extends that autumnal comfort even on a Monday morning. Once upon a time when I was a driver on the highway trying to get to work in mornings like this, I would curse at the way even a soft rain like this would slow everything down. Now I feel lucky to be able to find pleasure in the slowed pace of a city under a rain. It wasn’t all contentment – I wanted to walk right past my office and spend the morning in it.
I’m not sure I’ll move so peacefully into winter, but who knows? Maybe I just need to learn to carry with me in my mind the gentleness of a rainy morning.
The weekend was like the most spectacular gift the gods of late summer could muster: sunshiny, clear, breezy and free of commitment. It was the kind of weekend that enveloped me in its wide, generous arms and wouldn't let go. And I was happy to stay there and honour its whims. It was two days of hanging out in the harbour – people watching, reading, photographing, feeling the sun and relishing the freedom.
None of my attempts to photograph the light on the lake can capture how spectacular it looks – like billions and billions of floating diamonds shining so bright they hurt my eyes.
Me and a strawberry ice cream cone wander into a crowd of chuckling people to find a busker riding the smallest bicycle in the world. Just beyond, a lady dressed in officy looking gear hobbles in painful looking high heels and sips from a giant can of Sapporo beer.
In the middle of one meandery walk I sit on a bench under a tree, and the feeling of the breeze on my skin is like swaths of silk being trailed across it. A man sits next to me and we both try to capture photographs of greedy squawking seagulls going after bits of bread being thrown into the water by some girls. His camera is much more impressive than mine, and I soon give up on the birds and try out some shots of peoples’ feet and legs as they walk by.
I loll on the grass and flip pages of a magazine while I watch the action on the water. People crowding around the perimeters of tour boats and sailing ships. Others kayaking and canoeing toward the island. Sailboats leaning deep in the wind. Plane after plane setting down into the airport.
Sunday, Carly texts me from the baseball game and says she will come down and meet me after. We have a beer next to the bandshell and we’re glad we don’t have to listen to the bad girly hip hop music for too long. Kelsey texts and she’s coming down too so we plan a simple meal and buy a bottle of wine and go back to my place.
We eat baguette with olive oil and fresh grated parmesan and black pepper and we catch up on our news and plans. We admire the colour in our meal: red field tomatoes, yellow corn on the cob, orange and red peppers, green asparagus. We think the corn might be the best we’ve had this season. Later Carly takes off to go meet up with some friends and Kelsey and I finish the wine. I walk out with her to meet the streetcar, and then walk down by the water to try and hang on to that last few minutes of the weekend, feeling thankful for the spontaneous summer supper with my girls.
It’s the kind of weekend that sets you right again. I’m facing Monday with a deeper suntan and a rested mind. And it wasn’t until it the weekend was over that I realised just how much I needed those two days of glorious late summer and doing nothing in particular with them.
(If you’re in the Portsmouth area, you can meet Andy and his work in May.)
Thinking about beauty today is contrasted with today's date, which means that I am inevitably reminded of the darkest moment I ever had, 15 years ago today. My little girl almost died that day. Many times since I've thought I should write about it, but it's not happened. Writing about the the deepest darkest moment is, understandably, harder than writing about the other end of the spectrum. And goodness knows I'm the biggest avoider I know.
Fortunately for me – for all of us - Kelsey lived. Doctors shook their heads and we – well we we rallied around her and thanked the heavens that sweet little girl didn't leave us. And thus was born an elevated and everlasting appreciation for what I have.
I'd like to never have to remember a minute of that day or the days leading up to it, however, trauma has a way of living on in the cracks and crevices. But if it all means that I am reminded that I get to live in this world with Kelsey, with both my girls, and my family and all of you, then I'll gladly take this annual revisit of that nightmare. Because the gifts outweigh a bit of sleeplessness in millions.
POSTSCRIPT: The minute I sit down at my desk when I get to work this morning, I get an email all about gratitude for the warm sunshine and gorgeousness of the morning. It was from Kelsey.