It’s 9/11. 20 years later. And somehow we’re living through something even MORE awful. Who could have imagined?
That’s all I’m going to say about that.
It’s September 11th. Which would indicate that we are fully into fall, and fully past summer, and to that I say, “What? Who punched the FF button on my life?”
Alack and alas, here we are in September, in fall, in my favorite season. Here we are watching the changes once again, the slow of summer suddenly hitting its own FF button, harpooning itself right into the low 1000K sun and the cool nibbly nights and the somehow-different-though-I’ll-never-know-how cricket song. God, I love fall.
This one is different though, and it remains to be seen how I cope. For this one is an empty nest fall. This one is now an empty nest life, for Sarah Rose, the Conserve Kid, the youngest of the seven, has finally flown the coop. Sigh.
She’s been installed into her new life in Maine for almost a month now, as part of College of the Atlantic’s 50th graduating class, and she’s doing great. (Which does a mom’s heart good, but nevertheless, she’s still gone, and this mom’s still adrift.)
And all is well.
Funnily enough, I realized once we got home from dropping the the kid off that most of the tumult of my summer–and there was considerable tumult–was magnified into unmanageable proportions simply by the anticipation of The Last Kid Standing’s fledging. I knew (of course I knew) that the torturous wait was killing me, and that that curtain about to fall might as well have been a guillotine—I knew that everything took on a sickly pallor through the lens of all that apprehension–but I didn’t fully appreciate how much of my life was sapped in that dread, not to mention all those poorly-executed efforts to hold on.
Nevertheless, here we are, in September, in the fall, on the dawning of a new and different (and frankly terrifying) chapter of life. Who am I? Who are we? What’s in store?
Robin Wall Kimmerer talks about her ‘grief containment system,’ a new kayak strapped to the roof of her car, when she dropped her daughter off at college. She fought off the darkness via an immediate date with a paddle and a pond, and embraced her new chapter in silence and sparkly light.
Now, she was single, and facing an empty nest in the most literal of senses, so she was also avoiding going home altogether, but that aside, she knew herself. And rather than wallowing in what she knew would be a bottomless pit of grief and despair, she took to the reeds and lilies and glided into the natural world that had always cradled her. In her shiny new red kayak. Wise woman.
The other day I was re-reading Kimmerer’s fledging chapter (Braiding Sweetgrass…YES, you should read it) at the behest of the wise kid in Maine, and all I wanted to do was paddle through my beloved Boundary Waters. Feel the swish of the lilies beneath the canoe. Glide across mirrors of lake with nothing but the rhythmic string of drips off the end of my paddle. Sit beneath the shush of the pines and watch the sun drop under the water. All I wanted to do was take comfort in the natural world that has always cradled me.
Yeah, not today.
Here in old Wisco, we didn’t get our Boundary Waters trip this year. Poor Sarah’s last childhood paddle and portage, and we chucked it out the window when I succumbed to E. Coli in July. (For the record, I would not recommend. Like, at ALL.)
Since that little hospital staycation, historic drought has swept northern Minnesota. No Boundary Waters for us. Not even the usual North Shore camping this fall, for the fire danger to our treasured places is far too high a risk.
And that’s OK. It will all be there next year, and the year after that (hopefully not too much worse for the wear), the lakes and the rocks and the forests and the rivers, as Scott and I find our way into a different sort of family rhythm, still punctuated by paddlestrokes and footfalls, if only two sets.
For this fall, we’re departing from the usual, and ferrying ourselves out to Madeline Island, across the great lake from our usual haunts, across from the devastating drought.
Kind of appropriate for this year maybe. A new start, a new perspective, a new place. Still us in a tent, but solo now. Still us on the big lake, but on a different shore. Still us around the fire, still us under the stars, still us on the water. But all new.
Fitting I guess. I’m excited.
(For the record, the drought was only part of our abandoning our Gooseberry trip. We were well on our way to canceling our reservations for when I was slapped with the clear and undeniable fact, staring right back at me from the computer screen, that I had never made the reservation. A-hem. Oops. Slight casualty of the tumult. 🙄 Good thing we were preparing a Plan B.)
If you need me, I’ll be preparing my fireside reading material. And my stargazing chair. The 27th can’t come soon enough.