What Happened to “After Grace?”

Over a year ago I started my original blog, intending to document my final year in my job. Having done a lot of reading about succession planning, I thought a blog providing insight into a succession planning process in progress would fill a gap.  So, I started writing. But I followed my instinct, confirmed by other coalition director friends, not to make the blog public.  There was too much current content about people’s reactions to my plans to leave the Coalition after 30 years.

My plan then was to keep writing “After Grace” (the name I gave the blog), and wait to make the posts public during this year, my year after leaving.  I’d write about what I was going through having made, or being in the midst of making, a huge transition, and then also post whatever I’d written the year before.

But by March I was hardly writing any posts for After Grace, and then I finally stopped.  There wasn’t just too much current content about other people, there was too much content about other people period.  That’s an issue I think any personal blogger has to pay attention to, the boundary between one’s own story and others’.  What are my stories to tell, and what stories do I have no right to make public?

So for now, After Grace will be a private record.  In the weeks to come, I’ll review the posts and see if there’s anything that would be appropriate and worthwhile to post.

In terms of my own story post-Coalition, I’m too busy right now to comment.

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Puerto Rico Haiku

Frogs singing clipped chimes
Surf rolling soft roar warm air
Door open to night.

Sweet Day

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Yesterday I met a number of cousins (first cousins, once and twice removed) — the children (and their children) of my first cousins, who are the children of my aunt, Margaret Kirkwood Ferris, one of my mother’s sisters.  We were all at Aunt Peg’s memorial service, at the stunningly serene and spacious Peacham Congregational Church.  Set in the small, June-lush hill town of Peacham, with a grand steeple and enormous windows looking out on a quintessential Vermont landscape, the church is reportedly the most photographed in the state.

There was a small knot of family gathered in the front few of the many curving pews, to remember and celebrate and honor my aunt.  David and I drove up to Vermont with my parents.  Peg was my mother’s last living sibling; now there is only my mother of the five.  Sitting in the sanctuary, singing the hymns, listening to the memories of cooking and knitting and sewing and days on the beaches of Cape Cod, I could feel a deep peacefulness unfolding.  David and I are both still churning at the work speed we’ve been maintaining for decades, and the family situations and obligations we’ve faced since leaving our jobs close to two weeks ago, has not done anything to lighten the churn.  But all that was gone yesterday afternoon.  We were just there.

After the service, we gathered downstairs for refreshments.  I went to look over the old photographs my cousin Peg had laid out.  One of my grandparents, and my mother with all her siblings and their husbands and wives, was particularly sweet, everyone young and smiling, whole lives ahead of them, just a few of the next generation yet born.  My first cousin, once removed, Lucy, has been researching family history, and she knew as well as me who everyone was in the photograph.

As we left, David showed me how to ring the church bell, pulling on the thick jute rope hanging from a hole in the ceiling of the foyer.  I had to pull down with all my weight, let the rope float back up, then pull again with the fall of the rope and then the bell sounded, deep and clear, floating out across the first blue sky in days.  The young boys, first cousins, twice removed, made a game of holding the rope as it pulled back up with the weight of the bell, letting it lift them off the floor, swinging into the chiming. Bell song rang out across the summer afternoon.

The Spin Cycle

I wrote about the spin cycle in March, while reading Margaret Roach’s book and I shall have some peace there.  In Roach’s book, which chronicles her time after stepping out of a super-busy, mega-Manhattan career life, she talks about the spin cycle in washing machines.  Once that drum is spinning, it doesn’t matter if you turn the washing machine off.  It doesn’t matter if you unplug the machine, the momentum keeps that heavy drum spinning and spinning.

I’m 8 days into my post NHCADSV-ED life, and the drum is spinning.  It’s making me feel dizzy and sloshy and a bit unbalanced.  But I got a sweet reminder last night that I wasn’t always on this cycle.

David and I went to see Greg Brown — excellent show, including an opening set by Jason Wilbur, who deserves mention and recognition.  He was great on his own, and then playing with Greg Brown, double delight.  At the show, I saw an old friend, Tim, who I hadn’t seen for at least a decade.  Probably more like 15 years.

“I heard about Eric,” he said, and held his hands to his heart.  “How are you?  How’s your writing going?”  I told him I’d just left my job and my plan was to start writing more again.  “Did you choose to leave?  What happened?”  I realized he knew a more balanced me, the me who had being a writer as a central identity, the me who was raising children and who gardened and hung out with groups of friends and worked part-time.  He had no sense of me as the Executive Director of the Coalition, no idea of how big my job had gotten, how much of me it was taking up, how it had crowded out other identities.

“Every time I go into Gibson’s book store I look to see if there are any books by you,” he said.  I’m keeping that idea of me in mind today, watching it spinning by on the drum.

Dock Talk

I’m back in New Hampshire, back from the family visit at the Jersey shore, back to regular internet access.  A sweet tradition with David’s family is gathering on the deck overlooking the bay after dinner to watch the sunset.  Every sunset was wonderful, even if not glorious.

One night while we were there the almost constant wind died and the water reflected every color and nuance of the sky.  We talked about the unusual array of colors and shades and then David’s father said, “When the water is this still, it makes me suspicious.  That’s what I don’t like about lakes.  They just sit there and look at you.”

Ninety-two year old wisdom to ponder.

Sunset, No Internet

I’m sitting on the curb as I write this, between 84th and 85th Streets on 3d Avenue in Stone Harbor.  This is the annual “shore” trip for David’s family.  His parents’ house is perfectly situated for watching sunsets, but there’s no internet, and the neighbors whose internet we often rely on aren’t here.  So I’m in the one spot I’ve found where I can pick up a bit of signal from some unsecured network, and posting briefly to say, the sunsets have been glorious, and a few days of paying attention to what’s right here, right now, not what’s on the web, is probably a good idea.

June 15, 2011

It’s a sunny morning, the first one for a week.  We’re on the back deck drinking our cappuccino, the sun working its way up through the trees along the brook, leaf filtered rays of light shining on the grass.

I find the period after every word that I see used in writing overly bloggish (see it a lot in blogs) and lazy.  Why not find grammatically correct and accurate language to express what it is that needs to be described? But this morning I can’t resist.

One.  More.  Day.

The Last Tuesday

“Good morning, sweetheart,” David said as he got up to make our cappuccino.  “Last Tuesday.”  He walked out of the room.  He’s been saying that since last week — our last Thursday, last Friday, last Monday, now our last Tuesday at our jobs.

Tomorrow is June 15, the countdown date, the day that’s been drawing near just about here, the last day of our jobs for both of us.  For David, it’s been a little over 10 years, for me, it will be exactly 30.  I started at the Coalition on June 16, 1981.

When I decided a little over a year ago to announce my departure from my job, I’d thought of leaving in March.  “Are you kidding?” Adrienne said.  “Three months short of 30 years?  Just do the 30 years.”

So I decided I’d leave in June, but couldn’t decide the date.  “Look in the records at the Coalition,” a friend suggested.  “Find out what date you started and make it 30 years exactly.”  So that’s what I did, except I looked in my journals to find my start date, not in Coalition records.  As I’ve said many times, maybe even here in this blog, I have a well documented life.  Two shelves of the book cases in my study are lined with journals and diaries, in chronological order mostly, dating back to 3rd grade.

It was easy to find the day I started at the Coalition.  Adrienne was six months old and I was heading back to work after being home as a new mother.  Now Adrienne is the new mother and I’m a grandmother.  After today, my life as the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence will be one day from being over.  Stay tuned.