23 September 2007

The Fall of Autumn...Transitioning into a Transitional Season

"There are a few more freckles on your shoulders.
The hammock swings lower and touches the grass.
The apples are ripe and the corn is past .
Everyone says summer goes by so fast,

And we just got here..."
~ Carly Simon, "We Just Got Here"

The last day of summer was sweet. It was just such a delight - the entire day and into the evening. It was the perfect coda to a tumultuous, crazy, adventure-filled period of time. The summer of 2007 is now, officially, one for the books. It is history. It was quite an interesting time, indeed. (Photo, top: Sue & Susie, 22 September 2007.)

My good friend Sue dropped in yesterday morning bearing gifts from Starbucks. Whenever she comes by, she's always got a surprise or three up her sleeve. She never quite understands that she's the real deal, the main event and even if her hands are empty as she raps on the door, she IS the "gift". And so it was yesterday.

We were all so happy to see her. I hadn't seen her since we last had coffee at Starbucks (where else?) way back in April on a Saturday Morning at Mayfaire. Too much time had passed and so much had happened in our lives. It was so wonderful to reconnect with my energy-infused friend who now lives in Topsail but brought her NY accent and verve with her. She's a force of nature, this one.

My Mom joined us for coffee, talk and a discussion of all that had transpired in the season of sun that was coming to a close. It was great being with both of them. We spoke of her impressive daughter who is in her 3rd year of residency at a hospital in Charlotte. She shared news of her visit with her Manhattan-based son and his wife, who visited her last weekend. Both he and his wife are attorneys in NYC and what interesting lives they lead. She no longer has her side-kick, Cody, who is her daughter's bouncy, boisterous and beautiful Labrador who, one night when Sue was sharing dinner with us, decided that he wanted to go for a swim and we watched in awe as he leapt in our pool with wild and reckless canine abandon. What a show he put on for us! It was hysterical. (Photo: Maxine, Susie & Barbe, 22 September 2007.)

We talked of sailing misadventures and the beauty of the Abacos. She told me that when she read my e-mail back in August when I wrote about my car wreck and, after visiting the blog and checking out the late, great PT Cruiser, she literally cried. She's a passionate woman and I knew she was giving an honest account of her initial reaction. I was spellbound. I reminded her I was in the car wreck and I didn't even cry! She must have gotten emotional enough for both of us.

My Dad finally got up and joined us at the table and collected his warm hug from Sue. Vanessa and Joe came by Friday Night and of course, my Dad got an enthusiastic hug from Vanessa so he had two blond hugs in two days. He felt he was living large.

The conversation around the table went in every possible direction and eventually my Daddy pulled out his diaries and shared some old memories with Sue, who listens with rapt attention to his eager and colorful storytelling. It was just so good to have her back among us. I sat there sipping my hot coffee, surveying the scene, and feeling so happy to be in my home, among family and a good friend, warm sunshine bathing us; a perfect accompaniment to the goodness of those sharing this table with me. Life could only be "tagged" delicious in every single way possible. Moments such as this may look ridiculously common and maybe not so noteworthy, but it's a collection of such "notes" that make any life notable and, I suspect, the recalling of these times comprise a great deal of one's "best recalled times", a little later in life. In fact, I'm sure of it. (Photo: Maxine, Barbe & Sue, 22 September 2007.)

I received an e-mail from my wonderful friend, Mike, serving in Iraq. Well, to be more accurate, I got an e-mail with a heading of "Look! Santa Came Early!". I opened it up and nearly fell over. I signed on to try and talk sense into him, but what can you do with crazy people hanging out in Iraq? He definitely rendered me temporarily mute, but I found my voice quickly when I found him on Yahoo Chat and even though I'm his "elder" by 6 1/2 years, he paid no attention to my admonitions. I'm going to have to schedule a "sit-down" with that boy when he gets stateside this December. If he thinks Iraq is challenging and has "fireworks", he's got no clue until he's dealt with me in person. Thanks Mike - you're an amazingly generous and sweet soul, but you're in so very much trouble. It's sad to reenter the United States in such a way, but you brought it on yourself and though you may be a good foot taller than me, I'm not easily intimidated. But you will be! :-)

Then, I took on something crazy. I had been at a friend's home the night before and was admiring his house and the moulding, and decided I should strip the wooden moulding and handrail of my staircase. I blame him for this, though he refuses to take any responsibility. I got out the liquid stripper and started peeling and melting the paint adhered to the wooden spools and rail and I'm in the middle of a mess, but I think the results will be worth it. Right now, it's just too soon to tell, but I remain optimistic.

What had been a beautiful sunny "last day of summer" Saturday, soon clouded over and thundered boomed in the distance. We had a heckuva storm late yesterday afternoon! I actually took a nap, uncharacteristic for me, and woke up to three nervous cats pacing around my room. It lasted quite a while and looked impressive on the radar. Eventually it passed, as storms always do. If I learned nothing else this summer, I did learn this.

Finally, I took a friend up on an invitation for a final beach walk of summer. I drove over to Wrightsville Beach and we walked in the waves just shortly after low tide, the moon now sprinkling the undulating water and it looked like diamonds dancing in the dark. It was as close to breath-taking as imaginable and I scanned the almost empty beach and just breathed it all in. I was aware that fall was washing in and taking summer out with the tide. It wasn't sad. As we walked down the beach, my mind silently did a quick rewind of the summer - so much of it involved the waters of the Atlantic my feet were stepping in at that very moment. I reached down and dipped both hands in the surf and just let it flow through my fingers.

I can honestly say that this past summer, I didn't just make casual observations from the safety of the shore. I was in the middle of it, in more ways than one. I'd made mistakes, misjudgments, miscalculations and misread the signs, but even with so many "misses", I can say I lived this summer. I guess when you "jump in the water", you're just going to get wet and maybe knocked back by a rogue wave now and again and that's life. It's OK. It is absolutely OK.

For as many mistakes as there were, I learned a lot; I participated. I splashed, sailed and swam and I made it safely to shore and how grateful I am that the shore I returned to was the one on which I found myself walking last night. Wrightsville Beach. The first place I met the ocean when I was six years old. It seemed so oddly apropos that summer 2007 ended where my love affair with the ocean began way back in 1966. My 2007 summer started with a bang, a tropical storm and the illusion of promise. The summer ended with a serene stroll on the beach, calm waves, "a few more freckles on my shoulder", but none the worse for wear and, in many ways, wiser, definitely in better shape physically, and a much more peaceful mind, heart and soul.

Before we walked off the sand, I turned for one last look at the "summer ocean" and I had to smile and whisper, to God, a sincere and heartfelt thanks. For the beauty, the wisdom, the adventures and for surviving it all!

I'm going kayaking this evening. I've never been on a kayak and I'm looking forward to it. It seems a reasonable way to begin Fall - communing, once again, with the water and nature. No tropical storms are forecast so I think it will be a safe expedition. Of course, I'll be taking my camera and if we don't encounter rough marsh conditions, I'll upload the photos later tonight.

As for the Autumn, well, it's not this particular season I have issues with - it's the one that follows that I don't care so much for. I may have been born in February, but I am not a winter person by any stretch of the imagination. However, were it not for the diminished hours of daylight, the chill of the air, the occasional gray skies, summer probably wouldn't hold such charm. I'm definitely going to look for the good stuff, enjoy the days, remain open to opportunities and celebrate every single morning I'm afforded the gift of hopping out of bed and into my days. I'm stunned at how fast they continue to fly and I swear I think time gains momentum in terms of warp speed with each year I celebrate in February.

Maybe the more days we're allowed to hang out on this planet simply increases our awareness of how precious it is and, as we all know, there isn't an infinite quantity of them so that means there's just no time to waste and plan on "living large" another day. No, this is it. This is the "big show". The seeming ordinariness of these "days of our lives" are the "show". How (extra)ordinary they turn out to be is largely up to our own creativity and invention. I aspire to being as creative as I possibly can. I want more nights when I can look at the 24 hours I've had at my disposal and think, "Yeah, I squeezed the most I was capable of out of 'em.". And, because I'm human and know all of my days won't report such stellar results, on the ones I've lagged and been careless with, I want to look back at the end of those, and hopefully determine to do it better next time. And then do it!

And, on a happy note, there's only 272 days until summer but, of course, there's a lot of living to do until then. Happy Autumn to all you leaf lovers out there.

Oh, and a special congratulations to my dear friend Michel and his daughter Anne! She received her Ph.D in neuroscience yesterday! I had the great fortune of meeting Anne on a trip to Nantes a few years ago. We consider Michel part of our family and that makes Anne family, right along with Gwenn, Brieg and Charles. I also know Michel is so proud of her as well he should be. I'm proud of her, too! Well done! C'est Magnifique!

(Photo: Michel and Susie in Central Park, Oct. 2006.)