It is so dark outside! How do I not remember the darkness from winters past? The sun skims the sky in mid morning, giving us a few hours of light before dropping from sight before I’ve even started dinner prep.
We are following the light. Seth works in whatever room catches the morning rays. Asher sits like a cat in patches of sunlight, playing Legos. I mostly drink cups and cups of mint tea, which keeps me warm and keeps me from eating peppermint Joe Joes, which is what I really want.
Seth and Jackson chased the light all the way to Arizona, where the hiked around the Grand Canyon and spent time with Seth’s Grandma Lewis, who is 93. He said the trip was life-changing, reflective, a reminder of priorities. Grandma is the last surviving grandparent for both Seth and I. She is the mother of 12 children and still cracks the best jokes.
Addison is 10! Today! We celebrated this past weekend with a raucous group of football lovers. They even braved the brutal temperatures outside for a game of touch football, playing until their fingers froze. I always vow to be finished with birthday parties, but goodness, how can I deny my son the joy of nine besties chowing on pizza and learning the art of paper football? I cannot. The parties continue. They are their own beam of light.
I interrupt the radio silence on this here blog to bring you an update. It is winter in Minnesota. Seven degrees on my morning jog. Seven! And Addison is still running around without a coat. You would never know he was born in Miami.
We are in the midst of painting the kitchen/living room and tiling the bathrooms. There is a toilet (R.I.P.) sitting on my front porch. Everything else in the house, including all the coats/hats/dirty rags that usually sit in the laundry room, are in the front room. Cold and chaotic is how things run around here.
But this: I took Asher to his little preschool yesterday, and watched him gallop through the door on his stick horse. And I thought:
Oh to be four
And gallop next to your best friend
On a stick horse
I told this anecdote to my sister and she said, “That sounds like the beginning of a Billy Collins poem.” So there you go, Billy Collins. Your first stanza written.
The boys went back to school today. The house was quiet, just Asher and I. (And the professor, working from his office under a tree.) The stack of papers on or next to my desk is about three feet high. There is much to do.
But good golly, all I want to do is hold on to the summer, this magical, magical Summer 2013. The sun-tinted, watermelon-flavored days. Hours on the trampoline, weeks in the Pacific Northwest, nights reading aloud to my long-limbed boys. My perfect, perfect trip to London with Seth.
This summer my garden grew only partially, I wrote very little, the house was nearly always messy, we ate a lot of cold cereal for dinner–and it was fabulous! I didn’t make jam or blog or do a single craft with my kids, and we never, ever cracked our summer math books–and it was awesome! Instead, we swam, a lot. We got good and grubby. We spent so, so much time together.
But the best part of all was family. Family reunions and family gatherings, reminding us of this great, glorious peoples we get to call ours. We played in the shadow of the great Camas paper mill, where my Grandpa Arvidson worked his entire life. We hiked in the foothills of my mom’s childhood, and explored with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles on the beaches of my childhood. Even in London, walking through Westminster, standing in front of Old Bailey, I could feel the spirit of my people, my great British ancestors.
My yard in the back is covered in leaves. The air snapped yesterday, bringing hints of what’s to come. It’s going to be a fabulous school year. But oh, summer! You have been so good to us. You filled my cup, brim to overflowing, enough to carry me through whatever comes next.
I got a kind email from a reader of my column who urged me to pick up this blog again.
So here I am. It’s about time.
You see, the sun is shining and it’s 46 degrees outside, meaning we are without coats and a friend showed up at my house in flip flops. Almost all the snow is gone from the front yard and it’s shrinking in the back, and all that’s left on the roads are those great dirty lumps in the middle of the cul-de-sac. I almost wrote a post about the beauty of puddles.
It’s come to this.
I’ve been in the north through three winters now, and I will say this: a Minnesota winter is not to be trifled with. It is one-hundred-and-twenty-days-below-50-degrees long. There is no getting around it. Seth and I talk often about the two planets we live on. Summer is glistening lakes, birds everywhere, a landscape green as Oz, golden cornfields, gardens, lilacs, tulips, daisies.
Winter is a sheet of ice and snow. You can’t tell lake from land. Unless you’re wearing blades or seven layers of clothing, it is simply too cold to be outside for more than an hour. The air stings and we crowd inside, bumping into one another and learning the art of patience.
But spring is here. On Wednesday I stepped into my backyard for the first time in four months. Yesterday I was hustling everyone out the door because it was Science Fair Day and we had three massive posters plus visual aids like dish soap and cloth and we had to stop at Staples for colored graphs and the kids were supposed to be cleaning out the trunk to fit all the posters and visuals and I found them…standing on the driveway, all four of them in their winter jackets and backpacks, sniffing the air.
“Get in the car,” I said, just a teensy bit snippy.
“But Mom,” they said. “Look. Listen. Can you feel it? This is spring.”
I had one of those moments of clarity the other night, right at that bluing time of dusk when store fronts flicker and the world quiets as day turns to night. I was in the car alone, paused at a stoplight, and there it was. I just felt it. Peace and vision, the kind that makes me want to throw my arms wide and I say, “I get it. This whole tragic, messy, beautiful thing of life makes sense.” Just a glimmer and it was gone. But I’ll never forget it.
We have been many places since I last wrote a true post. I will write about that soon. Promise.
It’s good to be back.
Yesterday I made bipartisan pancakes, red and blue, for breakfast. It reflected my own ballot choices, my extended family’s leanings, and the way I hope my kids enter every political race.
We went as an entire family to the polls. The kids were so excited. They hovered over every bubble I filled out. As I watched people stream in and out of the polling place (which is also my kids’ little school) I cried like I do every time I vote. Because, I get to vote! We all get to vote. And whether the pancakes on our plate stack red or blue or some shade in between, I am grateful for that freedom. I live ever hopeful that the country will move forward in a gentler, more discourse-friendly manner. That’s one thing I’m always willing to vote for.
Well, that was quite the blogging hiatus. I always have high hopes of keeping this blog alive and kicking during the summer months–after all, that’s the time worth recording. Sun! Warmth! Lakes! Gardens! Trips to national parks and foreign shores! But alas, for three years now I have been unable to keep it up. I’m too busy getting out in it to sit down and keep this record.
But I’m back. The first fat flakes of winter are falling on wet ground outside. The house, with three kids in school and one napping, is quiet. Blissful writing time. Lots to recap, lots to share. Stay tuned!