Monday, September 23, 2013

fall notes: roadtrip

You leave town later than you'd planned,
nearly 11 by the time you fill the gas tank
and point the car north.  But the day

is radiant, and entirely yours. 
Your daughters sing along
from the backseat; The Lumineers,

Modest Mouse, the Avett Bros. 
Familiar landmarks stand
a bit taller than usual
against the brilliant
blue of sky.  The highway
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unfurls beneath your tires
in limitless possibility.
It is Sunday
and you've packed a lunch,
bathing suits, a camera.
An adventure is in order.
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Picnic at the Lewis and Clark Caverns.

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Dark skies on the way to Norris.

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Weary traveller.

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Waiting for the storm to pass at Norris Hot Springs. Nearby lightening cleared the pool.

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Yes! Mom, the pool's open!

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Recharged and perhaps fueled with a bit of junk food.

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Dropping into Ennis for dinner.

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The day's last light. And many miles still to go.

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Sandhill Cranes above, wet highway below.

From your booth at the diner in Ennis, 
you watch the windows grow completely black.  
There are three small televisions 
on the walls, all showing the same football game.
The girls alternately cheer for Chicago,
then Pittsburg, amusing the quiet tables

of flyfisherman and cowboys.  You give them quarters
to ride the automatic horse, the little train
with seats for two.
It is after 8 when you drive back
onto the highway.

In the backseat, the girls nestle
beneath their blankets
and close their eyes.

The going is slow.  Heavy clouds
and rain, a nearly empty highway,
lousy windshield wipers, the possibility
of hormonal deer charging into
your headlights.  You squint, grip

the stearing wheel.  55 mph 
for the next two hours.  
Gillian Welch sings her sad
songs as the occasional
semi sends waves of rain
into your windshield.
You can hear the girls

breathing quietly from the backseat
and you remember how,
as a child you loved 
driving at night with your parents,
how safe and warm, and protected
you felt moving across black
landscapes long after bedtime.

You take a deep breath,
relax your grip
and put your trust 
in the miles of dark highway

Saturday, September 7, 2013

singing hallelujah

We roll into the empty parking lot, 
windows down, afternoon light all 
angled and golden.  In the backseat, the girls 
are "singing hallelujah for the first time," 
along with The Head and The Heart.  

It is the begining of the first weekend of the school year 
and so we come to the river.

Wading in, I try to memorize the feel 
of moving water against my legs 
even as the current crawls to a whisper.

I lean deep into 'lasts' this time of year.  
Maybe I shouldn't.  Maybe I should be 
someone who lives easily in the present, 
devouring the seconds and minutes 
as I move  through them.  

But the end of summer 
makes me nostalgic in ways I can't ignore.  

This could be my last river swim until next summer.
This could be the last week we sleep
with every window in the house
This will be the last summer
my children look this small,
need me 
in this particular way.

I float on my back, 
feet pointed downriver the way 
you're supposed to.  

I watch and listen as the girls
play orphan cave sisters, 
gathering seaweed for the long
voyage to the north shore.

And for a second
I get a glimpse 
of the perfect completeness
of this moment, this perfect arc

of sunlit afternoon, of ending summer,
of my daughters; exactly as they are

And I remember that this day is ours,
and so is the next, that the future is one 
enormous mystery to move through.
Lucky us.*

*My friend, Nici, wrote a blog post last spring that ends with these same two words.  Simple as they may be, I think about them often.  Lucky us.  Helps keep everything in perspective.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

first grade

Dear Amelia,

You start first grade in a few hours.  You chose a backpack covered with different colored stars and asked me to put chicken noodle soup in your new thermos for lunch today.  Your clothes are laid out; brand new pink Mary Janes and a sparkly shirt.  For weeks you've been telling me that you're nervous about this new year, but last night as I tucked you into bed you looked into my eyes, tucked your fists under you chin and told me I'm so excited for first grade.

We have had such a good summer.  You learned to really swim and how to tie your shoes.  We camped, floated rivers, spent time on the lake with grandparents, welcomed lots of our family for a week here, a weekend there.  I will miss hearing you slowly thump down the stairs in the morning after the sunlight was woken you, wrapped in your blanket, your body still warm and heavy with sleep when I hug you and tell you Morning, Bird.  I will miss slowly easing into another warm summer day with you.

I know that I will think of you all day long.  I will try to picture you crossing the monkey bars at recess, or sitting beside your friends during lunch.  And I will wait for the big yellow bus to bring you home to me this afternoon.  I'll want to hear all about your first step into this new year.  

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