High Pressure System

Somewhere on the drive between Stoneham and Meredith New Hampshire, the seasons changed. As I wrote last week, I’ve spent the last few months without once feeling cold outside. I brushed past my beloved bathrobe – my constant companion while at home – and wondered why I had such a useless thing the other day. As we laded the family vehicle of burden with the heavy gear of our adventuring (bikes dripping off the bag like wax from a candle) I felt the familiar prickle of sweat across the brow of my back.

But over the glow of the campfire, I felt compelled to add a flannel shirt. And then a hoodie sweater. And as we lay under the canopy of stars, seamed by the Milky Way, I remembered that I really should bring an additional blanket on this last camping trip of the year, and that I’d long contemplated upgrading our sleeping bags from “useless” to “slightly useful”. I shivered in the cold, and it was strange.

I’d thought that my family was working our usual camping-weather-magic. You know, the rain dance kind of magic. I sent a note out to my coworkers promising a cessation in the drought, based on past successes there. The prediction that Hermine would land just about the time we’d be wrapping up led to a conclusion that maybe we should wrap up ever so slightly earlier, so we wouldn’t have to put away a wet tent. But I felt good – nay, noble! – in bringing the rains to our parched land.

(Aside: I’m coming to see a drought drought as being very similar to a romantic drought. The more desperate you are, the less likely you are to get lucky. Apparently our ground is so dry it just tears apart rain storms for the water before they can even form.)

***Now, let us take a break to comfort a terrified child who hears horrors lurking in the wind. I laid myself next to him and turned on a Youtube video of sleep hypnosis. I think you should all be extremely impressed that I made it back to my keyboard to finish my blog post.***

But, the rains have not come. The high pressure which has lurked over the northlands these last few months is fending off a determined attack from the warm waters of the south. These storms birthed in the womb of the Sahara, nurtured over the Atlantic crossing, trained in the placid waters of the Caribbean have had their attack shunted aside by the shield of warm, dry air that hovers protectively above us. There was no rain last night. There are great gusty sighing winds tonight, with spatters of rain. But there are not the pelting sheets of water that wash away the slough of Summer and turn roads into temporary rivers.

Still, it feels good to feel the pressure drop. We humans are far less attuned than our animal brethren to such things, but I think we still know when storms are coming on a physical level. The drop in barometry has always felt uncanny to me. I (as you may have noticed) get poetical. (My terrified son just called my sensible. He meant it as a compliment. But I am not so sure that I am always sensible. I am not so sure I wish to be sensible.) The winds feel wild and my heart rides on their wings. The autumn is coming. I’ve always been able to feel closer to my truer self in the clearness of autumn. And I can reach past sensibility in an autumn storm.

Outside my window, something rubs. There is a creaking complaint against the wind. The “sensible” homeowner in me (who has a litany of complaints, at the moment) does not believe that the scraping is either part of my house or in a tree that has reach enough to touch my house. It is a dry and whiny sound, like the last remembrance of superstition. I won’t be surprised to find a branch down in the morning, and that complaining screed forever silenced.

We are not the same, after storms. Even after storms that deal us only glancing blows, turned aside by the armor of our pressure. For many, this is no metaphor but instead tragedy. For others, it is a chance for us to escape, however briefly, from the ridge of high pressure that locks us in the clear-skied and consistent heat to a wild moment of low pressure.

Six shall ye labor and on the seventh rest

Which of the 10 commandments do you break most? If heaven and hell are decided by how we adhere to the 10 commandments, I’m going to need a whole lot of grace for my complete failure to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for us, not us to keep the Sabbath… but the truth is I don’t keep it.

But today, well, I pretty much had to.

Mocksgiving was amazing. It was, I think, our biggest Mocksgiving ever. I believe over 30 grownups simultaneously sat to share a meal. The total attendance was something like 48. I had friends who labored intelligently, diligently and cheerfully in the kitchen to help set the meal. I had friends who did the same to make sure I didn’t wake to mounds of dirty dishes the day after. (Some of those were the same people. I really hope they, um, just like doing dishes? Yeah, I think I probably need to have them over for a dinner they don’t have to cook pretty soon!) My brother did an amazing job keeping the kids happy and engaged and quiescent. But I’m happy to report that the turkey was excellent, there was enough stuffing for even Mike, and all were sated with food and friendship. It had that ineffable Mocksgiving quality that makes it what it is. Also, I can sit 30+ people for dinner.

I did feel the shadow of the attacks in Paris. I do not forget that half of the Syrian people have been driven out of their homes – that bombings are frequent enough to blur together in the strife-torn middle east. But I think Paris hits close to home for those of us in the West because so many of us have been there, or it seems so familiar. We react more strongly the more we see danger threaten people who could be us. I wish I could think of a thing I could do other than pray for those who went out Friday night and will never come home again, or those whose homes are a continent behind them, or those who face the choice to join with evil or die. I’m pretty sure that making sterner lines between “them” and “us” will not make any of use safer. But, as so often before, I lack the imagination of spirit to see what I can do to influence that outcome.

My novel progresses. I’m at 17,000 words. I’ve managed to move forward to some plot points. (Although my plotting is rather mirroring my discovery process, in which the protagonist finds something cool on the internet – not sure that’s a page-turning technique there.) I managed to write 250 words yesterday, which is about 10% of what I should be writing a day, but 250 words on Mocksgiving day seems like rather an accomplishment.

One thing I like about Mocksgiving (and I like many – most of them people) is that I no longer feel resentful of the imposition of Christmas that seems to happen earlier and earlier. (I’d love to see the studies that show that people buy more when you hammer them with Christmas carols in 65 degree weather eight weeks before the high holy day…) But hey! I had my Christmas so bring on your tinsel, Madison Avenue!

Do you remember back when my posts used to have a central thesis I’d write about? Yeah, me too. I’m sure that will come back in December, when I’m not doing all the writing on the side. Right? Right.

So I made an offer to my Facebook friends. If you’re DYING to read my novel (you know, my unedited, stream-of-consciousness write-as-many-words-as-possible attempt) drop me a note with your email and I’ll share my document with you.

This feels so much like a letter, I am finding it hard to end without a proper closing.

I remain your faithful friend,

Brenda

All Saints Day

Time for another bullet points update!

1) The dining room is finished!!!

Dining room beforeDining room before

It looks much the same, but feels spacious and warmer
It looks much the same, but feels spacious and warmer

After three months of working nights and weekends (and taking a bunch of Fridays off) the dining room has now been completed. The difference is hard to see on camera, but the extra six inches in the ceiling are remarkable. The room already feels more comfortable (with, you know, actual insulation in the walls…). And it is such an incredible feeling to get both the room and the husband back! Adam did a phenomenal job on the work.

I have put together an (unedited) album of all the stages of the work. You can see it here.

2) We trick-or-treated like bosses

The Chestnut Street crew
The Chestnut Street crew

There’s a chance this year will be the high water mark for trick-or-treating. We started around 5:30 or 6. The oldest kids and grownups didn’t roll back in until well after nine. The candy bags were HEAVY. We fell in love with the house that handed out water bottles. I love these nights when the streets are alive with friends and neighbors. My mother-in-law did an amazing job feeding everyone, manning the door and welcoming the little ones when they returned. It was a great night in which to get an extra hour, so we didn’t pay as high a price for the hijinks as we might!

3) We gave Thane a great 7th birthday party!

They played in a vast melee for HOURS
They played in a vast melee for HOURS
Happy 7th rotation around the sun, sweet child
Happy 7th rotation around the sun, sweet child

Thane said he wanted “a neighbor party”. Usually this means “as long as there are Doritos I’ll be happy”. My incredible mother-in-law made this happen with her usual sang-froid. I ordered a really cool cake from The Mad Cake Genius (I’m still surprised at how affordable her cakes are for the works of art they also are). The kids were insane, like always. The grownups were happy to see each other. They just played, and we just watched (and blew balloons – the true test of friendship). It was so lovely to see the kids being with each other and enjoying each other’s company. Thane thought it was an awesome party, and is so grateful to his friends. In fact, the biggest challenge was that Grey was super jealous of his brother’s awesome party.

4) I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year
Because I’m crazy. I sure am not bored, and November is never a good month for this. But honestly, I love writing. And I have a friend whose writing I really want to read, so I’m dragging her into NaNoWriMo with me, which means I have to actually do it! So, um, please feel free to ask me how I’m doing.

5) It’s been an amazingly busy and rich fall

A cloaked apparition amongst the graves.
A cloaked apparition amongst the graves.
Thane ran hard all year.
Thane ran hard all year.
You can always tell when we did something on Sunday because my jewelry and clothes don't align.
You can always tell when we did something on Sunday because my jewelry and clothes don’t align.

Just looking at my pictures, I am amazed at how much we’ve done this fall. Hikes in the Fells. Family visiting. Birthday parties, hosting and attending. Construction projects. Apple picking. Soccer. Church. There are about two weeks left in the “high season” before things quiet down again.


You can see all the pictures from the second half of October here. The first half of the month can be found here.

Speeding to the finish line

Every year around this time I take a deep breath and figuratively buckle my seat belt. This is always high time for me. In a six week period, every person in my household has a birthday. Two weeks later there’s Mocksgiving. Then Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We also kicked off our soccer season this Sunday, with losses for both the U8 Netherlands team and U10 Brazil team. Perhaps the extra coaching session (called clinic) both our boys are doing this fall will help transform some losses to wins.

The level of play is much higher this year than it was last
The level of play is much higher this year than it was last

I only caught the Netherlands game, since I needed to get to church to kick off the Sunday School year. I’m teaching 2nd through 5th graders this year. I’m particularly lousy at traditional Sunday School arts and crafts curriculum, but am hopeful I make up for it by attempting to teach actual Biblical information. (I had two kids who memorized the books of the Bible last year – one OT and one NT!) But we’ll see if my planned curriculum works for 2nd graders.

After church, I chaired a meeting of the Mission Taskforce, which will be in full swing through the end of the year. We have some interesting work to do, trying to figure out what the next generation of church holds for our congregation.

Also there was room cleaning
Also there was room cleaning

Saturday was no less busy than Sunday. I had dueling playdates for the boys (I hosted one, and shipped Grey off to one). Somehow Thane managed to fall, fully clothed into a swimming pool. We found a new bike path, and went for a cool ride along the Mystic River.

We've really enjoyed our bike rides!
We’ve really enjoyed our bike rides!
This is 20 feet in the air
This is 20 feet in the air

I don’t have a thesis statement. This is all just a very long excuse for not posting yesterday! It’s also foreboding. Several of these things are things that will not improve in 2015. They’re seasonal, and the season just kicked off. This is one of my favorite times of year, but it comes with a price tag. Hopefully I’ll find some moments to walk in the quiet forests of fall, with the only sound the shuffling of leaves at my feet and the laughing of my children. Hopefully I’ll find a quiet moment to soak in the essence of New England – only available this time of year. There will be apple picking and trick-or-treating. But there will not be much down time between here and January. So buckle up.

The busiest time of the year

My six year old
My six year old

Autumn is my favorite season. The crispness and crackle in the air makes life feel more vibrant and immediate. I love the start of school and the apples and colors on the trees. Autumn is a time of itchy feet and revealed horizons and sparkling skies.

It is also, without a doubt, my busiest time of year. And I have a hunch that this will only get worse as time goes on. The busy season really starts with my birthday on September 23rd, which almost always coincides with Must Watch Baseball. Then in the first week of October, my eldest has his birthday. I get a week’s reprieve in which to go apple picking and make apple butter before my husband’s natal day arrives, followed a week later by my youngest son’s. And two out of seven years, the child’s birthday does not fall on a weekend. This means that I really have to do things on two days that week, because how lame is it to have your birthday and no cake? Almost as lame as having your birthday party and no cake, that’s how lame. So…. two cakes.

Three days after Mr. Thane’s birthday is Halloween, aka my worst holiday. (I am totally a “Let’s go to a store and buy you a costume” kind of Halloweener.) Of course, if the Sox are in the playoffs, my evening schedule also involves finding ways to sneak in the game because (as Sox fans are so keenly aware this year) we don’t make the playoffs every year. (This year the complicating role of baseball has been played instead by knee surgery and twice-weekly physical therapy.) Less than two weeks after Halloween, I host a Thanksgiving type meal for around 30 people – all sitting down to eat simultaneously.

Immediately after Mocksgiving (or preferably prior), it’s time to start with the Christmas cards. I usually do about 80. I almost always write a personal note. It is meaningful and important to me and takes nearly two months.

Did I mention I have a full time (plus) job, and two small children and a house to keep and (now) cookies to bake for the PTO bake sale at the Halloween xtravaganza that happens a week before Halloween, thereby narrowing my window for successful creation of costumes? Also, are any of you dying to buy raffle tickets to the cash raffle at said Halloween party?

Also, the inexorable exhortations of my soul require autumnal reading of ghost stories and preferably a good spooky game of Cthulu.

So if I’m running around like a one-legged mother of a six year old (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!) on a hamster wheel until New Year’s…. well, you know why.

Just keep moving

Don't worry - the story ends with blue skies
Don't worry - the story ends with blue skies

This weekend was a study in inertia. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to be cranky.

Saturday didn’t start well. There was a serious bout of crankiness going through the house, and we kept reinfecting each other, like some nasty virus. The weather was gorgeous outside, but we just couldn’t shake the storm clouds. It was a busy day, which was probably part of it. We tried Grey on a piano lesson (we’re trying to figure out which activities will be fun for our FIVE YEAR OLD — I still can’t get over that). Thane was rather nightmarish during the lesson. I’d planned on getting him out of the way, but (confession time) my kryptonite is getting up in the morning, so I wasn’t ready to whisk him away. Halfway through I took him on a walk to the library to return all but one of the books we’d taken out a fortnight ago.

Grey and Adam did aikido, and Grey even entertained himself during the older kids’ session. I put Thane down for a nap, and in a complete departure from form, he wouldn’t go. Once I finally got him down, I mowed the lawn & then hand-scrubbed the back fence, which was moldy. (Digression: I’d bought one of those power washer attachments for this. I tried it out. After about 20 minutes, it became clear this was no panacea. I was compiling a complicated fence-cleaning plan including special fence-cleaning chemicals and a REAL pressure washer when it occurred to me that maybe I could just wipe it off. A dish scrubber and biodegradeable dish soap did the job with admirable alacrity. It was touch and go whether I had that much common sense, though.)

But Thane woke up after only about half an hour’s nap (he needs more like 2.5 hours). The stormclouds still thundered. Through sheer force of will, I got clothes and shoes on everyone, packed some snacks, and loaded everyone into the car.

The clouds began to break.

We got to the Middlesex Fells reservation and started hiking.

There was laughter.

We walked from dim darkness to golden autumnal twilight, running and singing and laughing and chasing each other. We watched our sons climb a big hill together and hit things with sticks. We found mushrooms. We at chocolate at the top of a hill, surrounded by pines, with golden glimmers of sunset water in the distance. We sang “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”.

Eating chocolate
Eating chocolate

The day was saved.

Taking the lesson of it, this morning we skipped church. (Note: I really like church, but I was having trouble figuring out how to fit apple picking in this fall. This was my solution.) We drove out to the hinterlands of New Hampshire (ok ok… right across the Massachusetts border, but in an obscure spot). We got lost in a corn maze, admired goats (or as Thane called them, elephants), rode a hayride tractor (Thane refused to get off so he and I did it twice), ate our weight in apples, rough-housed in the grass and selected two very fine pumpkins. Then we bought and ate some apple crisp. The over-long drive home, windows down, singing to Peter Paul & Mary was as good as mistakes of over-reaching come.

I have to go to work on Columbus Day. I’ll be bringing the boys to Abuela’s. Grey didn’t “count down” to his birthday, but he is to this daycare day. With a weekend as rich and joyful as this, though, I don’t mind working.

Thane was beside himself to be on a TRACTOR!
Thane was beside himself to be on a TRACTOR!

The summer’s wise

Although the calendar informs me that there are several precious days of summer left, my updates are more sporadic than I might wish.

Gloriously summer
Gloriously summer

This summer was an exceptional one. I’m not quite sure how to articulate it, but it seemed like uber-summer — the kind of summer used to define what summer is. (Reminding me, in fact, of last Halloween). Perhaps it’s looking at the world through the eyes of my sons. For Grey, this summer might well define what summer is. It may be the thing he unconsciously expects for the rest of his life. (Note: my uber-summer was the summer I was nine and living in the fields and forests of Washington state. According to my memory, I spent the entire time wandering the woods, catching newts on the pond and watching clouds wend their way above dancing firs.) But this summer was one of those kinds of summers. It started early, in May. The weather turned exceptional after a soggy spell of spring and a less-brutal-than-usual winter. And it stayed exceptional. The summer made you comfortable and secure in its summerness. I forgot entirely about jackets. My sons wandered in sandals alone. The windows were only closed when it was too hot out. There was warm, hot, and omg.

This summer was also full of joyful adventures. We took three 4-day weekends to go camping with the boys. I watched my sons evolve over the course of those trips. I watched Thane learn how to entertain himself (and I learned what to pack so he would). Grey made friends with the kids next door, and ventured past the protective skirt of his parents to roam with the packs of children. (Well, he was more watched than he realized, but he never caught me tailing him. And he never needed me to be tailing him.) Both boys made a lot of progress swimming. (Thane would push himself along with his hands in the shallow water, saying “‘wim! ‘wim!” the last time I took him to the lake.) Heck, the boys even figured out how to sleep on their shared and bouncy air mattress. At the end of the summer, my husband and I sat in front of a roaring fire, our sons sleeping nearby, reading as the sparks flew to the visible milky way above.

There was my whirlwind trip across country with both boys to California. That had some very *important* moments in it, and some valuable ones. Those will prove precious, now and later. But I think my favorite parts were getting to know my young cousin and the brief hours we spent at Yosemite. There was a primal longing for me that was quenched, scratched, call it what you will. It was both deeply desire-inducing and deeply satisfying. It was captured by this moment, I think:

The golden light, the tall trees, the river, the mountains, the children
The golden light, the tall trees, the river, the mountains, the children

Of course, notable among the life-long-memories was the trip to Istanbul. The heat of summer was just one of the flavors of that journey — the clarity of the winds off the swirling straights, the competing calls to prayer from the minarets high on hallowed and historic ground, the delights to be found in aubergine… it was a week never to be forgotten and long to be savored.

Then there were the day to day things that came together to make it just and wholly summer. Every week I had a huge box of produce to find a way to work into my menus. Many a Monday night I stood at the sink peeling peaches, or stirring jam hot on the stove, my hair curling at the nape of my neck. My sons would ask to play in the park on the way home, and I would oblige. In the undimmed sunlight of 6 pm they would run and jump and climb and crawl. On Saturday afternoons, you might find me in conversation with a neighbor on the latest happenings on the street, or watching our children playing together. Most nights we slept with the windows wide to the light and breezes and air of a barely-cool summer.

It has seemed so long and glorious and full. It has been the epitome, the true expression, of what summer can be even in a life fully lived with jobs and kids and church and all those things that keep me on my toes.

Autumn is my favorite season. The crispness and urgency of the beauty catch me up short. The leaves (after a brief, drought-driven flirtation with color) have only now started to consider the possibilities inherent in changing their green gowns for gold and crimson. I traded out Thane’s 2T summer wardrobe for a 3T winter wardrobe this evening. It seems selfish to hope that autumn is as gloriously autumnal as summer was graciously warm. But oh! I do hope.

I rarely cite song lyrics, because I mostly listen to 16th century polyphony and that makes for really obscure allusions, but one of the few pieces of music from the last 50 years that I do know is the King Singers’ cover of “The Summer Knows”. It summarizes well the intentional seduction of such a warm and easy summer:

The summer smiles, the summer knows
And unashamed, she sheds her clothes
The summer smoothes the restless sky
And lovingly she warms the sand on which you lie.

The summer knows, the summer’s wise
She sees the doubts within your eyes
And so she takes her summer time
Tells the moon to wait and the sun to linger
Twists the world ’round her summer finger
Lets you see the wonder of it all.

And if you’ve learned your lessons well
There’s little more for her to tell
One last caress, it’s time to dress for fall.

And if you’ve learned your lesson well
There’s little more for her to dwell.
One last caress, it’s time to dress for fall.

The changing of the seasons

One of the things I don’t like about myself is how far ahead I get. There are advantages, of course. I usually plan in sufficient time. I am seldom taken unawares by the next step. But in children and summer, you give up a lot by pushing to be further along than you need to be. So I pause and take seriously this feeling in the air, to make sure it is not just because I am pushing.

But no. I came back from Istanbul, the heat of summer in the Mediterranean, to discover one flamboyantly yellow birch on my commute home. It has since been joined by several maples in scarlet on quiet roads. Being that it’s mid-August, I suspect drought has advanced the season, and not just my perspective. But still. The days are hot and humid, but shorter. Night arrives earlier, and lacks the sultriness of July. A tell-tale crispness creeps over the window panes in the early morning hours. We are, by no means, into autumn, but we can see it on the horizon.

Summer child
Summer child

As for the other season? I am passing out of the baby time of life. I nursed a child for the last time nearly a year ago. One dark night when I laid Thane into his crib… that was the last night. And tomorrow? Tomorrow they are bringing my baby a bed, with no sides. He will lie unrestrained and tiny on rocket-ship sheets with a blanket and a pillow — faithful Puppy still firmly at hand, golden curls pressed against the unfamiliar mattress.

And it’s not just the bed. It’s been a while since I’ve given you a proper Thane update, but oh! What a big boy he is. At the farmshare pickup after Istanbul, I ran into a friend from church. “It was fun to see your family all in tie-dye,” she said, “But who was the curly-headed kid? And did you bring Thane with you?” She wasn’t being sarcastic, or joking. She literally didn’t recognize my Thane. He does so many big boy things. He climbs, jumps and runs. He’s very good at puzzles. He sits and reads books. He organizes his cars by colors and carries them throughout the house, lining them up. He speaks in full sentences now: “I found it!” “Car mine!” “Yummy pancakes” “Cereal and milk, please” “No, thank you”. He even comes up with new sentences. For example, the other day in the car when I started in on the “ABC” song, he said, “No! Daddy ABC!”

He can recite his numbers to ten. He sings about 90% of the ABC song. He knows “Ring Around the Rosy” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and sings them to himself. He tells knock knock jokes (endlessly!) at dinner. He can correctly identify all the basic colors.

He eats cereal in a bowl with milk. He snitches his father’s ice tea. He climbs into his high chair and car seat for himself. He follows instructions (when he chooses to). He will come lay his head on your knee and say “Nuggle”. He has two kinds of kisses: real kisses and “all tongue” kisses, and thinks it’s hilarious when he can give you one of the latter. Whenever he sees a cell phone, he demands to speak to “Gamma! Gamma! Gamma!” He can correctly identify our two cats by name.

He pours sand on himself first thing when he gets to a sandbox. I’ve brought him home and put him on the changing table, and had rivers of sand fall out of his pockets. He can tell you when he wants a new diaper. I’ve started him sitting on his potty chair, to begin that years-long process.

In a word, he’s not a baby anymore. He’s a toddler, a child, a boy, a curly-haired blue-eyed delight… many things, but not a baby. That season has passed.

Too big for his crib
Too big for his crib

Happy birthday Frodo and Bilbo Baggins

Roads go ever, ever on
Roads go ever, ever on

Today is the day that ought to have been my birthday, by all rights. Today is the first day of fall. More importantly, to my young self, today is Frodo and Bilbo Baggin’s collective birthday. Do you have any idea how much it would’ve mattered to me to be the SAME as those two notable halflings in such an important event? I used to try to work out with the time zones and Zaire (my place of birth) whether I had REALLY been born on the 22nd and this incontrovertible FACT was masked by my impossibly-distant place of birth. Or maybe bad record keeping. Or SOMETHING.

Of course now, thinking about it, I’m pretty sure my mom wouldn’t have minded. I was three weeks later than expected. My due date was Labor Day. I used to think this just meant my mom was bad at counting, until I myself went a verifiable two weeks late with Grey. Sorry about that, mom.

Frodo, Fall and I all twine together for a brief period this time of year. If you’re unfamiliar with the Lord of the Rings, this birthday on September 22nd is a critical milestone throughout the books. It’s during a grand birthday that Bilbo disappears in a puff of smoke from Hobbiton. Years later, on that birthday, Frodo grabs his walking stick and three best friends and heads off on desperate, epic quests that make dragons look like child’s play.

Um, it’s possible that these books were just a TOUCH influential on my growing self, ok?

But this time of year brings out the itching in my feet, too. My drive in apparently got the memo about it being the first day of fall. The low places – the mist-covered swamps by the sides of the freeway – have already put out their scarlet and vermilion banners, in anticipation of hordes of tourists coming to admire. The trees are heavy with their fruits. Apples and pears weigh heavily on pregnant limbs, hoping for eventual homes in pies and pastries. The boundaries of my mind get less definite, and I’m mindful of Bilbo’s warning: the road in front of your door connects to all other places in the world. Who knows, by stepping on it, where you will end up?

I admit to inflicting Tolkien on my son at the youngest possible opportunity. His fourth birthday is still eagerly anticipated, but already you can hear him sing, if you listen carefully:


The greatest adventure is what lies ahead
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said
The chances the changes are all yours to make
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

The greatest adventure is there if you are bold
Let go of the moment that life makes you hold
To measure the meaning can make you delay
It’s time you stop thinking and wasting the day.

Why the summers seem so short

This year I think I’ve figured out why summers seem half as short as any other season. The simple fact is: they are shorter.

Consider. Summer officially starts June 20th or thereabouts. June 20th is reasonable for summer starting. By the end of June, we’re pretty reliably above freezing and most of the snow has melted. Then you have July, which is really summer. (Except this year, when it was May Take II.) For me, the first week of August we have our big vacation of the year where I go home and hike Mt. Rainier and relax while my kids are entertained by my parents. I come back August 10thish a bit more tan and a bit more relaxed. But as soon as the tires of my Jetblue redeye touch down at Logan, I’m into planning for fall.

It’s not summer that’s weird. It’s fall that’s weird. No other season requires so much advance planning. I don’t plan for summer. I don’t plan for spring. I plan for Christmas, but not for winter. But well in advance of the calendar start of fall (September 20th or thereabouts), I’m planning.

Part of this is due to my own unique circumstances. Let’s look at my autumnal schedule, shall we?

*September 23rd – my birthday (generally ignored)
*October 6th – Grey’s birthday (big deal)
October 12th – my FIL’s birthday (we miss you Mike)
October 16th – my sister’s birthday (I sometimes scrape up a card)
*October 21st – my husband’s birthday (err… I usually buy something for him off his Amazon wishlist)
*October 28th – Thane’s birthday (what am I going to do for his first?)
October 29th – my niece’s birthday (make with the loot already!)
*November 14th (this year) – Mocksgiving (huge big hosting deal that requires lots of forethought)

Items with an asterisk require me to do party planning if a party is going to happen (which is a longer and longer shot with the grownup birthdays).

Add to that the typical things that need doing in fall — a new wardrobe for the kids, a new Saturday activity for Grey (we’ve settled on aikido), starting preschool, prepping the house for winter (cleaning gutters, furnace maintenance, mulching, etc.), Halloween, Thanksgiving and all that.

Finally, toss in a good measure of church starting back up. Now church doesn’t close down, but we have a more moderate schedule over the summer. Our committees meet less often. We don’t have quite as many events. There’s no Sunday School (we do have a kids’ event). There’s less extra work. But there’s a lot to be done for fall: the Fall lunch, the pumpkin party, lining up teachers to teach, ordering curriculum, the Sunday School launch party… all sorts of seasonal things. (Many of which I should probably start thinking about since the loss of a member has made us very shorthanded for some.)

Well, of course I had better start planning for fall by the middle of August! But what this means is that the amount of time I’m in summer and thinking of summer is about 6 weeks — from the end of June to the middle of August. Although there’s another 6 weeks of summer left on the calendar, my mind is already engaged with the fun season of autumn and has left summer behind.

Hmmm… I’m not actually sure I’m glad I wrote out all the things I need to do in Fall. Because right after I get those done we’re in Christmas. Ah well. As one of my professors used to always say (which, to be fair, drove me absolutely bonkers in college), “Life is rich and full.”