Happy-Sad Endings

6_13 honey moon cropThe Honey Moon from June 13. I waited a bit late to get out there with my camera, but it’s kind of a cool photo anyway.

Full summer is here with all that brings – warm evenings outside, time spent in the garden or working on the patio. I’m getting a nice tan. And lots of plans to do fun things all the way past Labor Day in September. That always seems to be the way of it, looking ahead to the end already. Human nature, perhaps? 

My mom and I were talking yesterday about a friend of hers with cancer, which she calls “the bad stuff.” She’s an irrepressibly cheerful person who refuses to dwell on the fact that the bad stuff has come back and her prospects are dim. My mom said that, when she feels blue, she reminds herself that she’s not facing that. I do the same thing, to focus on the moment, to enjoy my life so that shadows of future endings don’t taint what I have now.

But looking forward to future fun builds anticipation, too. Our end-of-summer plans involve celebrating my birthday, along with my aunt’s and stepdad’s. My late summer birthday has always been a bittersweet event for me. On the one hand, I love my birthday and look forward to it. Birthdays are a big deal in my family (obviously) and are celebrated with panache. As a Leo girl, I soak up my moment in the sun, unabashedly savoring the gifts and good wishes, all the petting, eating and drinking. But my birthday has also always meant that summer is coming to a close and that school would start again, usually within a few days. The two have been entwined in my head from my earliest days – the indulgence of my birthday with the ending of another summer.

I’m at another ending right now. I’ve hit 120,000 words on The Talon of the Hawk, book 3 in my Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. By tomorrow, it should be done. It’s a big ending, because it ties up not only this heroine’s story, but that of my other two heroines also. I’ve talked about how I’m past deadline and going long on this book. What that’s done is made me very focused on finishing. I’ve been pushing hard towards this goal and looking forward to completing this project.

But then… it will be over.

I’ll miss living in this heroine’s head, miss the world of The Twelve Kingdoms. For my readers, the adventure has just started – they’re reading book 1 and anticipating book 2. It’s a funny place to be. I have all the rewards of finishing – which are considerable – but also that twisted up bittersweet nostalgia that summer is drawing to a close.

All in all, good problems to have.

Happy Labor Day!

I love to have an all-white bed in the summertime. The layers of whites create a crisp cool feeling.

And look! Isabel matches.

It used to be, back in Wyoming, that I’d retire the white sheets after Labor Day, along with my white sundresses and white shoes. I know some people get annoyed with that “rule,” saying it’s arbitrary and silly. But I like the ritual of it. Observing the changing of the seasons.

In Wyoming, though, we could get a frost, or even a bit of snow this weekend. (I see our old hometown got down to 40 F last night.) Here, we still have a lot of warm weather still.

So, I’m enjoying the day off, finishing some outside painting and chores.

I’ll keep the white bed just a little longer.

Hope, Faith and Summertime

This photo is for Hope, who sent me this amazing and beautiful iced tea maker from Teavana, in celebration of continuing summer enjoyment. That’s a strawberry-lemonade herbal blend that’s just delicious. Note that my morning glories are climbing right up the post now, too.

I love when an act of faith is rewarded. Gardening is very much an act of faith. We put the seeds in the ground and hope they will eventually bear fruit. We can water and fertilize, trim and coax, but ultimately whether the plants flourish or wither is up to the vagaries of the universe.

Writing is like this, too. In some ways, it feels like an even greater act of faith to me, because we spend so much time and effort laboring alone for something that may never see the outside of a drawer. Even a really excellent book may never be well-received, for any number of reasons. And yet, we continue to hope, to believe. It’s like that old saw that went around a while back about women over forty having a greater chance of being killed by a terrorist than of getting married (which turned out to be completely fraudulent data, by the way) – we look at the statistics and resolve to be one of the lucky ones. (It helps to know that those statistics are often damn lies, to paraphrase.)

I think this is part of it though. In gardening, writing and other works. It’s good for us as human beings to invest faith in the universe. To express hope through effort.

Perhaps it’s what we’re here for.

Morning Glories

When I planted these morning glory seeds, I had a vision of the wisteria vine taking off and climbing up the portal, with the purple morning glories winding through. Gardening is a lot about grandiose visions that reality sometimes can’t quite catch up to. Our dry winter and even drier spring slowed things down. But, now that the monsoon rains have started, look! I have a blossom. With more promising.

It thrills me to to see it.

Saturday, at the local post office, the guy there was saying to everyone, I can’t believe summer is almost over! Someone else – not me – piped up and pointed out that we’re just heading into August and that we have at least two more months of warm weather. Really four, because we don’t get freezes around here until around Thanksgiving. Post office guy shrugged that off. “But the kids start school in two weeks!”

You all know this is the part I find interesting.

This week at Word-Whores, the theme is made-up holidays. Already Linda and Laura have said interesting things about Holy Days and traditional holidays vs. special and intimate ones. We have all these layers of schedules in our lives, rhythms dictated by the turn of the seasons, the ebb and flow of work, the divisions of school breaks, the intensive celebrations that require tons of preparation. We plan around these things, always looking ahead to which train is coming down the tracks.

Never mind that the school schedule is changing. We set up summer break originally to correspond with labor-intensive planting and harvesting schedule. Now schools go through summer, start early, have longer winter breaks. But still we associate school starting with harvest ending and the onset of winter.

There must have been something about Saturday, because the woman at the gym – not Crazy Gym Lady, a different one with her own special, gentler brand of nutty – was telling everyone who came in that Christmas is only four months away. Someone else – not me – pointed out to her that it was really almost five months. Which, when you think about it, is far closer to being half a year away than actually looming. Still, she was undaunted, keeping her gaze on that Christmas train.

The Taoists say that the key to serenity, to real spiritual understanding, is to keep ourselves in the present as much as possible. In their view, only the present is real. Being awake and fully aware of what’s happening right now allows us to enjoy our lives. No anticipating the future, for good or ill. No dwelling on the past.

After all, how can you enjoy summer when you’re thinking about it ending?

So I’m enjoying the transitory bloom of my morning glories. I have them now, and that’s all that matters.

Solstice Calendar

Yesterday was Summer Solstice.

The longest day of the year, somehow both Midsummer and First Day of Summer. Thus do science and tradition collide.

For the last couple of days, the setting sun has come squarely in our western bedroom window and cast long rays right on the fireplace screen on the living room kiva. Our own Solstice calendar it seems.

Our builder was Norwegian and I wonder if he aligned it that way on purpose.

The new novel, Sterling, has been hurtling towards a Midsummer Solstice festival since the beginning. Maybe hurtling is the wrong word. Creeping slowly towards. Reluctantly, but with fascination. Now my own reality has gone past the moment in the book. Which should mean nothing, except I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m having to catch up now.

I worried about not writing while I was at my mom’s. I knew I wouldn’t get to and I thought the hiatus might knock me out of my rhythm. Instead, it turned out to be a good break. I wrote yesterday with a sense of the well being full and cool. It helped that I had hours of driving while David studied, to mull over the plot. I know now the sequence of remaining events. Though I woke up this morning realizing I hadn’t accounted for one plot thread.

It’s in my head now, though.

I passed 70K yesterday, which means I’m between about 60% and 80% done. By my feel of the story left to write, I think it’s closer to the 60% end, but we’ll see, won’t we? I’ll know the end when I get there.

It’s always tempting to see Summer Solstice and 4th of July weekend as the Summer being half over. Which is funny because most of us in the US anyway think of Summer as June, July and August – partly due to growing season, partly due to school calendars. By that measure, Solstice is neither the beginning of Summer, nor the middle, but somewhere just shy of the first third.

Demarcations and divisions to measure the progress of the year.

The Living Is Easy

Our neighbors have two tween girls, who are on school break now.

Though our houses have a good distance between them, I can hear the girls play the radio on these hot summer days. I don’t mind it a bit. I think they must be sunbathing on their walled patio. From time to time, I hear their happy voices in counterpoint to the pop songs and boomingly enthusiastic DJs.

I remember that time, spent mostly at the neighborhood pool. We slathered on tanning oils and watched the older girls, relaying to each other the stories we’d heard of who those girls were tanning for. We had this pervasive sense of preparation. That if we groomed ourselves enough our lives would begin and all the excitement bubbling inside of us would have somewhere to go.

The days then lasted forever, though summer was always over before we knew it.

Some of that feeling returns to me, hearing the neighbor girls’ radio. I sit at my desk, reviewing comments on EPA’s proposed Geologic Sequestration Rule and time stretches out, becomes languid. Hot summer air pours in the window.

Happiness can be such a simple thing.