We swam in Long Pond today, our first open water swim of the season. Coming down to the water, the sun was low across the pond and full on summer hot. Two years ago the water didn’t warm up enough to swim until well into June and we were still wearing wet suits in July. Last year I heard from my neighbors, the second week in June, that they’d been swimming Memorial Day weekend. It’s been a hot week, so after a hot day of gardening, we thought we’d try it.
The water was dark and thick with pine pollen and plenty warm to swim. After a winter of crawling up and down the 25 yard pool at the Y, minding the lane, making room for other swimmers, turning every 30 seconds, turning, turning, chlorine scent on my skin all day, using up the boredom of the back and forth to try to zone out, it felt gloriously free to just swim. Arm out and up to the sky and turning my face to breathe and seeing the trees on the shoreline, swimming and swimming and swimming and only turning after covering the quarter mile width of the pond. This is swimming; this is summer.
I wrote over a week ago that I was only going to take the daily (though they have been far less frequent than that lately) haikus to 100. Have I gone five days without a post because I don’t want to stop the haikus? Maybe I won’t.
When I started the haiku-a-day, it was a way to organize my writing ideas so that something came every day, even if only those 17 syllables. And there were many days the syllabic beats would come to me out running in the morning, touched off by something I’d see, and stay with me through the work day, sorting themselves into the freshest and best language I could muster through the hectic pace my life has been for as long as I can remember. So it worked, the idea, the discipline, the practice.
That won’t end. In fact, I’m expecting my writing practice to get more focused than ever after June 15. For now, here’s Haiku C.
Perfect point in the cycle
To pretend to end.
Apple trees blossom
Seasonal flowering screen
It’s been a grey, rainy May, as it was five years ago, after Eric died. Maybe that’s why I’m waking up too many mornings with a low-level churn in my stomach. There is lots of change coming and already come — I have a grandson, I’m leaving my job and the world of regular income, Sam and Marianna have done a 180 on their plans — so the churn could certainly be related to that. But this is more, gut level anxiety that my body remembers from those early weeks of grief, waking to my new reality, our “new normal” as the kids and I called it. The world without Eric in it sucked and made me anxious and wish I could somehow just not wake up.
I chatted with a good friend today, just home from a visit with her frail and elderly father. Talking to her about my anxious waking this week she said, “I know, I did it too this week. Being back with my family, I’m a little girl again. Why do I do that? I know what’s going on, but there I am with a churning stomach.”
I was thinking about our talk as I drove to get soil and compost and alpaca poo for my garden today. Cutting across back roads from Pittsfield to East Concord, I saw a dark shape on the side of the road. A snapping turtle. A big snapping turtle, well over a foot long, just sitting there, head out, though he pulled back into his shell when I got out to take a photo.
He was my totem animal today, my reminder that I have a reptilian brain, the ancient core that takes care of basic survival and that knows when to “fight or flee.” As the Buffalo State University website on the brain says, “the overriding characteristics of reptilian brain behaviors are that they are automatic, have a ritualistic quality, and are highly resistant to change.” Reptilian me.
The tag line for my twitter profile is “I have 140 channels in my brain.” There is a lot going on in there.
I’ve decided, in the poetry channel of my brain, or maybe it’s a haiku channel, that I’m going to take the haiku posts to 100. I’m at 98. Why stop at 100? I’m not sure. Haiku is a stream in the poetry channel and that’s what the stream is murmuring to me.
In the countdown-to-the-end-of-my-job channel, I’m very aware that I have 17 days of work left. Seventeen is my favorite number, because it’s attractive (that sloping 7 pointing back towards the 1) it’s a prime number (I love prime numbers though I can’t explain why) and mostly because 17 was John Havlicek’s shirt number when he played for the Celtics during my childhood. My father was, and still is, an avid Celtics fan, and I grew up watching them play. Havlicek was handsome and brilliant and captivated me. I was twelve on April 15, 1965 when I got to listen live to one of the most famous play-by-play calls in NBA history, when Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most exclaimed “Havlicek steals it! Havlicek stole the ball!” after Havlicek intercepted an inbound pass to clinch the Eastern Conference Championship against the Philadelphia 76ers.
I have since moved in and out of being a sports fan of various sorts, and since Eric died, have been out of that zone. The sports channels are more or less dormant. But I’ve always hung on to number 17, and can still remember the thrill of a stolen basketball, a clutch play, an over-the-top excited sports announcer’s voice rumbling out of the radio, perfect awareness of a perfect moment. Humming in channel 17.
Another gray day
Brook rising to lap green shores
Rain every day
Wet porch ringed with spring bushes
Hidden sunshine waits.
Shade pink to blue to purple
Fading to summer.
Clematis and rose
Green hills rolling to ridges
Long fence to the farm.
I’m out of my usual routine, in Tennessee since yesterday afternoon for Marianna’s (Sam’s fiancée) graduation from Law School. Adrienne and Matt and Emilio arrived today, and we had lunch at Sam and Marianna’s house with her parents and sisters. It was the first time we’d met her family, and it was a lively yet relaxing early afternoon on the porch, with the main item of discussion being who would get to hold Emilio next.
So, no haiku yesterday or today, and really, ever since reading Adrienne’s most recent post about being a mother, about her own little family, I’ve been thinking there is nothing I could post right now that would be anymore right on about where I’m at — in the middle of family and loving it.
Click here and enjoy — it features a photo of the amazing Emilio too: http://barnardbabyblog.tumblr.com/post/5360037730/4-months