I found myself outside in the garden at 9:27pm with the sunlight still clinging to the sky. The hot, dry earth was like crumbly stone and the going was slow. The weeds clung to everything, forming a well-woven chaos. Squatted over the garden bed, I chiseled and yanked and swore.
At one point, I looked up at the house — you know, “Gus” — and there were only a couple of lights on inside; most notable among them was the steely glint of the LED on the phone Natalie uses, illuminating the book she was reading while waiting for Echo (eye-mask-clad and snuggled up in bed next to her) to fall asleep. I didn’t have a kid or kids to usher toward bed. I didn’t have anyone to read to or tuck in or snuggle up. Suddenly, “the Summer” had come and gone. Bella’s 8 weeks zoomed by, and now both she and Xi were off to their other houses. And I was by myself in the yard at twilight.
For 8 weeks we’ve been in bliss. For 8 weeks we’ve been our whole family unit, undivided by time and distance and circumstance. For 8 weeks we just were. And over the last month in particular, the rest of the world faded finally, completely out of focus, and even things as close as the front yard softened into happy blurs. We had more family come and visit. We camped. We played. We celebrated. We rivered. We went to the lake. We went to the mountains. We went to the shore. We went to weddings. We did it all. We had the very best summer of our lives and it was all before August even started!
As a result, almost as soon as Xi got picked up and I dropped Bella off and returned to a thinner, more solemn Gus; almost as soon as the last soft edges of Bella and Xi faded out of sight (but not mind), the rest of the world came careening back into focus in glaring, wanting, necessary detail. I grew a list like a magic beanstalk. And at or near the top of the list was my other baby, our yard… For those of you who don’t know, we have more of a Rocky Mountain English Garden than a lawn. There are nooks and crannies of amazing life out there that I track all summer long each year just to find again in order to nurture them onward. So I ventured outside with my mind on microscope mode in order to fine-tooth-comb through some particular areas and tame back some unruly intruders.
Twenty-four hours later, it is 9:27pm, and the sunlight is clinging to the sky and I am hunched over face-to-face with the dirt and the weeds. Out of those 24 hours, I spent 6 of them sleeping, 2 of them eating, and the rest in perforated chunks somewhere in this jungle maze, eye-ball deep in plants.
I watched a fly with something egg-like hanging from it’s back end struggle to take off, as though trying to scrape off the egg-thing, only to discover that the egg was an ant, struggling to hold the fly down. I huffed in mirth and blew the dueling duet into the air where the ant rode the back of the fly like Bellerophon on Pegasus. Then, presumably because of the increased weight (of an ant!), the fly crashed down again, where the ant promptly grabbed hold of the nearest hunk of earth and prevented the fly from leaving the ground once more. Then another tiny gust launched them briefly skyward over the canopy of weeds again, and back down at last, at which point, the ant gave up and stalked dizzily off.
Other things I’d been “missing” came into focus as well. My list grew even more, as I worked to trim it back. In between moments when I hunched and toiled and swore, I breathed deep and slow and long. I settled back into a version of myself I hadn’t been wearing much at all lately. I’d been so carried away with being my (much preferred) fully-familial self, that I found all this unused me hanging around all over the place. I kept getting in my way, and tangling myself up, a well-un-woven chaos.
I’ve been doing this co-parenting thing for something like 12 years now. I know what it’s like to be in “full family mode” and then shift back to “work mode” or “single adult mode” or, as it’s been in recent years, “single kid family mode”. And I’ve become good at diving in and getting as much out of my time with my girls as I possibly can. It’s gotten a little more poignant with Bella over the last few years, now that we only see her during Winter break from school and those 8 weeks of Summer. Now when she comes, we really go all out — much in the same vein as it’s always been with Bella’s time, but now on steroids… So in the vacuum of her departure, especially since it coincided with Xi leaving on the same day, I feel unnerved, unsettled, unkempt, stalking dizzily around my to-do list.
I’m getting there. Things are continuing to come back into focus. The light isn’t quite so stark, but the clarity is still rich. I went back to Facebook today and had something like 64 notifications… I see things I want to get to. I see people I’m eager to connect with. I even see you — friends, family, and other blog followers — and am typing away at these weeds grown up between us. I’ve got several new missions — some of which you will no doubt be hearing more about quite soon…! — and I’m ready to take things to a new level.
I’ve been to the mountain, but now, I’m back.
Stay tuned… Next up, I’ll be posting some photos from our recent adventures!