Our dear cattywampus planet is bearing us northern folk away from the sun once more. At the river, dry leaves were gusting onto the water’s surface. Chevrons of geese were beating southward. But the sand still held heat, the alders and scrubby willows were still mainly green, and the broad pool between the shore and the sand bar was still inviting to small persons wishing to wade and test (repeatedly, for scientific rigor) the buoyancy of beach toys. So back to the river we went with our gang of friends, sucking the last juice of the summer. Jolyon watched the big kids — two whole years old, some of them — sporting in the shallows and shoveling sand over their toes, then fell asleep.
A memorable summer it’s been for my family, with the joy of new life come among us, but also with bitter losses. Too many people I love have stumbled into the alien country of life without a mother, a sister, a baby, a faithful dog. The philosopher Henri-Frédéric Amiel wrote, “Life is short, and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be swift to love and make haste to be kind.” Neatly as it’s phrased, the sentiment might seem trite, or at least easier said than done if you’ve loved and lost. But Amiel, who lost both his parents at an early age and was marginalized in his cultural community, must have been intimate with grief and loneliness. To me, knowing this makes his words ring with courage.
Where am I going with this? A brief hey nonny nonny for the end of summer has twisted into something more solemn. A sense of purpose to lean forward into my relationships is rising in my heart. It’s too easy to eddy off into your own little backwater and fail to extend yourself to anyone but your short-legged offspring. I learned yesterday that one of my favorite people in the world is expecting a child — glad tidings, yes, but she is twenty-seven weeks pregnant and I am just hearing about it now because I’ve been woefully out of touch. Possibly it’s time to stop dismissing Facebook as cheese doodle friendship — instant! satisfying! perilously addictive! yet short on the real nutrients of more thoughtful communication — and join the throngs to keep abreast of their doings, but I’m thinking more of letters, pots of tea, dinners, spontaneous front-porch gatherings while the weather holds… putting some muscle into drawing people closer in the old-fashioned ways. And knitting for them, of course, because wool is love made tactile, you know. Warmth and light and song and laughter in the winter dark: let me live into those and share them freely where I can.