It’s all fun and games…
…till someone spits in your eye.
Some of us are visiting stately homes…
Some of us are deciding which jaunty beret to wear today…
Some of us are wandering around in beech hedge mazes:
Some of us are in Wales visiting Castle Conwy…
and picturesque waterfalls:
Some of us are taking a leisurely tour of the Lake District:
And the rest of us?
Well, the rest of us are up to our usual no good…
Even I, dogged chronicler that I am, have to admit that some moments are impossible to capture in words or on film. This weekend was full of those moments…
My fifteen year old came back from his pilgrimage with his youth group to Arizona. I picked him up late at night in the church parking lot. I drove him home with a smile on my face as I listened to him talk about the adventures he’d had.
“The Grand Canyon is amazing. Even more amazing than you can imagine. Pictures don’t do it justice.”
As we pulled off the interstate we slowed down so that I could show him another of the world’s wonders in our own backyard. There is a scrubby, weedy tree to the left as you exit the highway onto the dark country road which leads to my house. I believe it’s called a Tree of Heaven. In the daytime you wouldn’t look twice at it. For the past few nights, the whole canopy has been full of twinkling fireflies. The effect is indescribably beautiful.
My very dear friendy Wendy, whom I’ve known since high school, came to visit me this weekend to say goodbye. After teaching elementary school kids in Arlington for almost twenty years, she is moving on to a new chapter of her life. Sadly for me, that chapter takes place all the way on the other side of this great big country.
There would have been more photos, but for the fact that we spent the afternoon, evening, night, and the next day doing nothing but talking, talking, talking. (OK, and maybe we ate
a little, too)!
As we drove back home late on Saturday night, I was glad to be able to show her the firefly tree.
The next day as my friend prepared to drive back, I tried to express the ineffable sense of joy I felt for the new direction her life is taking mingled with my sorrow that she will be so far away.
“It’s NOT goodbye, Ada,” she said, using my old childhood nickname, “We’ll see each other soon, I promise!”
Later that night, I met up with my friend Katherine to go to the Charlottesville Free Clinic’s annual benefit concert at the Pavilion on the Downtown Mall. I was dismayed to see all of the signs forbidding any photography or recording. But as I sat with my friend in the sultry summer air and listened to the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter without once picking up my camera, I felt like I could swim in the music. For the final song – in gorgeous three-part harmony, some of it without any accompaniment at all – all three women sang The Water is Wide. I was spellbound.
On my drive home, I decided that I had to record an image of the firefly tree. I exited the highway, and pulled off to the side of the road where I tried and tried to capture the picture. No matter what setting or camera I tried, all I could get was a black frame. I finally gave up and drove the rest of the way home. My son was still up when I got back. We chatted about the music I had heard, and I looked up some of my favorite songs and played them for him on youtube. It just wasn’t the same. I kept finding myself saying apologetically, “It sounded much more amazing live…”
The truth is, sometimes the most beautiful moments can’t be pinned down. You just have to show up and be there.
My loyalties will not be bound by national borders, or confined in time by one nation’s history, or limited in the spiritual dimension by one language and culture. I pledge allegiance to the damned human race, and my everlasting love to the green hills of Earth, and my intimations of glory to the singing stars, to the very end of space and time.
Edward Abbey, Confessions of a Barbarian
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
My boy is 13 today…
I am alone in my house now. It’s quiet. It’s impeccably tidy. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want without interruption. I don’t have to rush around, ferrying kids from point A to point B. I don’t have to worry about feeding anyone else. I can eat popcorn and ice cream for dinner if I want.
I don’t like it one bit.
Thank goodness for the photo and video updates I’ve been getting on Facebook and through phone texts since my family left for their travels to Arizona and England.
I held my breath as I watched a video of my son and his fellow youth group members leaping off a high cliff into the water below, somewhere far away in Sedona. I smiled as I caught a glimpse of my lanky boy, looking very serious as he helped out at a food bank. And it made my day when I got these photos, sent by my husband from England:
An entire day went by without any photo texts, so today I sent a plaintive request for more:
My son is turning 13 tomorrow, and I’m sad that I won’t be with him on his birthday…
I was mollified when he told me that he had actually gotten my son a part for the computer he’s building and that they’ve baked him a birthday cake and are going to take him out for a birthday lunch tomorrow…
When you move to Charlottesville you are made to sign an oath in your own blood swearing to bring to Monticello any out-of-town guests who have never visited Thomas Jefferson’s house before. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve made the pilgrimage to Jefferson’s home, but I can honestly say that I learn something new every time. On this visit, I did the Garden Tour for the first time. In my own garden there is nothing but a few Monarda stems; the gardens at Monticello on the other hand, are full of color:
How do you make sure you have incredible vistas? Build your house on top of a mountain:
How do you make sure you don’t have annoying neighbors? Buy the mountain right next to your own mountain.
How do you keep up all those tidy acres and acres of beds? Slave labor. According to our guide, Jefferson himself spent about a half hour a day working in his own gardens.
“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden…But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”
My husband and two younger kids are visiting family in England for the next couple of weeks. They stopped off at my work on Friday afternoon to say goodbye.
My oldest son is spending the week in Arizona. He is on a “pilgrimage” with his church youth group. I think the fact that I managed to get my teenage son out of bed by 2 am and to the church parking lot by 3 am on Saturday morning for his ride to the airport could be considered a bona fide miracle.
Knowing the house would be empty, I thought it would be the perfect time to invite my college friends to visit Charlottesville for the reunion we’ve been talking about having for so long…I was thrilled when my friends agreed to come, all the way from Boston, Massachusetts and from Charlotte, North Carolina.
We painted the town red this weekend:
We went to Monticello and the Downtown Mall. We ate at some of my favorite restaurants in Charlottesville. We went to the movies. We tried the buzzy “bronut,” or brioche feuilleté at Marie-Bette Bakery Café…(délicieuse)!
Most of all, we talked and laughed, and talked and laughed some more. Although we’ve been in touch over the years, it’s been over a decade since we’ve actually seen each other. One evening I brought out an old box of photos and we had a wonderful time looking through them and reminiscing about our time together at Dartmouth College…
We even got to catch up over the phone with our friend who wasn’t able to come:
So much has changed since our college days. We have scattered to all ends of the United States. We are all gainfully employed. We collectively have eleven children. And, of course, now we are older, wiser, and far, far more mature!
I found these old photos of our year in Carrboro, North Carolina…
There was a beautiful grand piano in the house we rented.
One day our son, a 1st grader at the time, emerged from the bedroom he was sharing with his brother, dressed in a suit and tie for no reason at all…
On second thought, it was a special occasion. What better reason is there to dress up, if not to hang out with the people you love?
I’ll be seeing my little band of musicians off this weekend as they leave for England (my husband and two younger children) and Arizona (my oldest child). Can’t wait to make music with them again in a couple of weeks!