we almost did it. almost. almost ordered thai food for pick-up.
but we didn’t.
we’d been hiking and were cold and tired. and we didn’t reeeeally want to make dinner.
but we did.
we got around to it.
we pulled our adirondack chairs into the last vestiges of sun in the yard, sipped wine, had a happy snack. when the sun disappeared, we brought our glasses inside and painted rocks – from the sand near the beachhouse – at the kitchen table, for we had hidden all the ones we previously painted. time stretched out in front of us, slow, a glorious saturday night.
instead of pad thai, we made tacos with homemade seasoning, had one of the last two avocados from my sister, watched a hallmark – yes, hallmark – movie under a big sherpa blanket, had two squares of chocolate.
hiking – tough elevation climbs – on this last trip to north carolina reminded me to go slow. it was the lesson i brought home from vacation. set a slower pace, don’t set too high a bar, mosey a bit, let living happen.
so i planted the painted rock on our sunroom table on top of sandstone from those smoky mountain trails. the other side of the rock reads, “no. slower.” you know…take a backroad, linger in the setting sun, sink under a blanket, climb a little slower.
my snapchat alerted me to a flashback. two years ago. on a balcony in aspen. the caption: “i don’t want to leave.” i remember slowly packing up, slowly loading the truck, slowly driving away. it was hard to go – as always – but slower made it a little easier.
i leave summer slowly and i step into autumn – my favorite – slowly. i wasn’t really ready for flannel. i pulled off the summer sheets for the last time in the season, thinking about how it feels on a hot night to place your face on a cool spot of the pillow. flannel isn’t like that.
but at the end of the night, after hiking and tacos and wine, chocolate and blanketed-movie-watching, in a house chilled by blustery northwest winds, the flannel was warm and i found myself snugged in soft stripes, slowly drifting off.
out of the corner of my eye i caught a glimpse of him leading her over to the edge of the garden. something about his tenderness made me stop and linger. he had his hands on her shoulders and was looking right into her face. and suddenly, he got down on one knee.
they were strangers – and remain strangers – but i had goosebumps of excitement as i watched him on his knee. we couldn’t hear anything, really, but when she threw her arms around him and he was beaming, it was pretty obvious. family and friends spilled out of the places they had hidden in the botanic garden and surrounded them, celebrating.
it was a moment in time. and we were witnesses to it.
we walk along the shoreline and marvel at the expanse of lake michigan. often – after the work day is over – the sun is lower in the sky to our west, so the sky over the lake is starting to turn all crayola-like as we walk. our shadows get longer, longer. it would seem we are on stilts. we stop for a minute to appreciate it all, take a picture, hug. witnesses to the end of day, one that we cannot recreate no matter how hard we try.
we walk on, sometimes entirely quiet, sometimes reviewing our day. we marvel that it is mid-october. already. witnesses to time flying, warp-speed, flimsy tendrils floating you cannot harness.
our trail was mostly empty on saturday. hiking there – in the woods – is like wrapping in a comforter. the turns and twists, the meadows, the fallen logs…they are known to us, familiar. it had been a couple weeks. many leaves had fallen. the ones that remained were yellow, some red, some orange. some of the trees were hanging on – their leaves were still green, but i imagine the color changing tiny bit by tiny bit even as we passed by. witnesses to autumn.
we often photograph our shadows. there is no worry about smiling in a photograph of your shadow. funny thing, though…we almost always smile anyway. the capture in time we got to be in a place, together, passing through, witnesses to a moment.
now i understand. at least, i am beginning to understand.
my sweet momma and poppo would linger…watching birds, gazing at flowers, studying the horizon – be it shorefront or mountainside, cityscape or tiny town or rural farmland, slowly taking it in. in the hurry-hurry of my younger years, i would scurry past, noticing but maybe not really.
i am moving slower now. not because i can’t scurry, but because i am choosing to list to the linger side. though we still watch re-runs after re-runs of joey hiking and climbing and backpacking and pitching tents any and everywhere, imagining ourselves in those canyonlands keeping up, imagining ourselves on the pct or the john muir or the colorado trail, i know that our pace would not match the pace of joey or the exuberant younguns on heading somewhere or walking with purpose or the meticulous norwegian xplorer. we would be slower, lingering, lingering. i’m not sure that would get us from point a to point b successfully or in a timely manner, but i’m thinking that our definition of ‘timely manner’ may have to just be different. because now – in the middle of this grand middle age – is different.
for now i want to watch the birds and gaze at flowers up-close. i want to stop and stare, drop to sit on a nearby log and take it in. i want to notice the intricasies of all of it, the undertones, the overtones.
as i look at the close-up of this milkweed trailside i am struck by the layers of detail. it somehow makes me recall decisions between the major chord and the relative minor, a continuum of impact. it makes me think of melodic gestures, a spectrum of color and of grace. a horsehair brush extended from the heights of the universe, painting perfection in the woods. artists’ hands waving paint on canvas, cupping clay on a wheel, flying over the white and black on a piano, coaxing lines that make you weep from a cello. all the same. creation in all its iterations.
on the call pat told me that the music – my music – had harmonics, tuned with the universe, that made her travel. humbling.
for i see that is what my momma and poppo were doing. traveling. they allowed the beauty around them to touch them, to slow them down, convincing them – in all the infinite glory that beauty -and art- can muster – that ‘a timely manner’ was relative, that time was relative. that time spent in a slow linger was precious.
we were in madison and we really could have gone anywhere to linger, have a glass of wine and a meal. my sister had sent me a birthday gift, with instructions that we celebrate with it, so we were on a quest to find the right place. it was a crowded friday early evening and just getting around the streets was nuts. we looked at each other blankly, unable to find a place to park and walk the downtown area to scour for THE place to celebrate. and then i turned the car east.
we drove onto the main street of the little town of fort atkinson and turned onto water street. there sits cafe carpe, a small been-there-since-1985 cafe, bar and music venue, run by two “fairly sentient centenarians” (as it states on their website). we walked in and were two in a total of five. it was early though so we had our choice of seating. we love to sit at the bar, especially if we are in a place where we can gaze out and see most of what is going on, people-watching and enjoying the camaraderie of a place. we found two spots at the bar, on a small stage-like pedestal, and got comfortable. two glasses of wine were delivered; lingering started. and all was perfect.
cafe carpe started to fill up. the door, with the bell on it alerting you to its opening, a sound you associate with shows like mayberry rfd, opened time and again and customers came in, greeted as they did so, clearly locals on their friday pilgrimage. it was a step into the past, and just exactly what we needed. we settled in for the next few hours in a place that felt like a second skin.
somewhere along the way, i noticed i was sitting in front of a spot on the bar with a brass plate that read “just bob” and next to my spot – to my left – was a plate that read “just leslie”. we asked our sweet bartender about this and she told us that the couple that is there every.single.friday.night.for.years. had purchased and installed these plates, marking their territory. we worried that we needed to move and asked her to give us the high sign when they arrived; we would not tread on their designated spots. she laughed and agreed to let us know.
leslie and bob didn’t show up while we were there, so we sat in their spots, keeping them warm for them. i’m sure i can imagine them walking in though. the door opens, the bell jangles against it and they stride in slowly. everyone turns and calls out hello to them and they take their seats at the bar, ordering maybe a standard wisconsin old-fashioned sweet. just leslie. just bob. how good is that?
my sweet momma would often call me just as the time i was born would pass on my birthday. at the end of her life she didn’t do this anymore but i always remembered anyway. mid-morning i would know that this was the moment i arrived at this place, this was the beginning of my passing through, the time of my visiting.
today, this very morning, it was 60 years ago that i joined the rest of this good earth on its journey around the sun. spinning, spinning. every day.
it wasn’t long till i realized – as an adult – that we spin our wheels constantly to get to some unknown place we can’t necessarily define or find. we search and spin faster, out of mission, out of passion, out of frustration, loss, a feeling of no value or a sense of lostness. we spin. we seek. we try to accomplish. we try to make our mark. we try to finish. we try to start. we leave scarred rubber skids of emotions on the road behind us; we burn out with abrupt, unexpected turns, we break, wearing out. spinning. spinning. from one thing to another, our schedules full of busy things to do. often, days a repetition of the previous day. every day full. full of spinning. but we are still seeking. life is sometimes what we expected. life is sometimes not what we expected. and that makes us spin faster, our core dizzying with exhaustion.
the simplest gifts – the air, clear cool water to drink, the mountaintop exhilaration of parenthood, hand-holding love, the ephemeral seconds of self-actualizing accomplishment, the sun on our faces…we have images stored in our mind’s eye like photographs in an old-fashioned slide show, at any time ready for us to ponder. but often-times we fail to linger in these exquisite simplicities. the next thing calls.
this morning, as i stare at 60 – which, as i have mentioned, is kind of a significant number for me – i realize that everything i write about or compose about or talk about or hold close in my heart is about these simplest things, the pared-down stuff, the old boots on the trail – not fancy but steadfast, not brand new but muddied up with real. in our day-to-day-ness i/we don’t always see IT. the one thing. there is something -truly- that stands out each day in those sedimentary layers of our lives. it is the thing that makes the rest of the day pale in comparison. in all its simple glory, the one true moment that makes us realize that we are living, breathing, ever-full in our spinning world. the thing that connects us to the world. the shiny thing. the mica. that tiny irregular piece of glittering mica in the layers and veneers of life. the thing to hold onto with all our might.
that tiny glitter of mica. mica nestles itself within a bigger rock, a somewhat plain rock – igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary ordinariness. not pinnacle, it is found within the bigger context. sometimes harder to find, harder to notice, but there. and it makes the day our day, different than any other. it is the reason we have learned or grown that day. it is the reason we have laughed that day. it is the reason we have picked ourselves up off the floor that day. it is the reason we have breathed that day.
and now, at 60, i resolve to see, to collect those pieces of glitter. not in an old wooden box or a beat-up vintage suitcase, but, simply, since they are moments in time, in a tiny notebook or on my calendar. join me in #TheMicaList if you wish. as we wander and wonder through it is our job, in our very best interest, to notice the finest shimmering dust, the mica in the rock, the glitter in our world.
with all the reminders around us to remember-remember-remember that every day counts, we get lost in our own spinning stories, narratives of many strata. i know that in the midnight of the days i look back on the hours of light and darkness in which i moved about and remember one moment – one moment – be it a fleetingly brief, elusive, often evanescent moment of purity, the tiniest snippet of conversation, belly-laugh humor, raw learning, naked truth, intense love – those are the days i know – i remember – i am alive.
my visit to this physical place is not limitless. but each glitter of mica is a star in a limitless sky of glitter, a milky way of the times that make me uniquely me and you uniquely you, a stockpile of priceless relics. my time stretches back and stretches ahead, a floating silken thread of shiny. it’s all a mysterious journey.
over and over and over we are reminded. every second counts. it even gets trite sometimes. but then, once again, something makes time come crashing to a halt, where everything moves in slow motion and we are crushed with the inevitability of a change we didn’t anticipate, plan for, dream of or, even, want.
i wrote this song when heidi told me about waiting for the results of her mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy. she spoke of the moment her doctor called; she asked him to hold on and she walked to the mirror to look at herself before her whole life changed. THOSE WORDS impacted me enormously. i couldn’t get the vision out of my mind and wrote this for her. we went on to use this song when we performed (heidi – breast cancer survivor and inspirational speaker, me – writing songs and music to wrap through and around the events) as part of cancer survivor celebrations, walks, runs, hospital and pharmaceutical recognitions, susan g komen foundation, y-me breast cancer organization, american cancer society, gilda radner’s gilda club, young survival coalition, the san antonio breast cancer symposium, bristol-myers squibb tour of hope, living beyond breast cancer…
but this song goes beyond cancer survivorship. time can change and our lives can turn in more ways than we care to think about. there are many challenges, in many categories. the older i get, the more i see it.
on our roadtrip through the i-can’t-get-enough-of-it rocky mountains and intensely beautiful southwest, we talked about one second moving into the next. (don’t worry – lots of time we talk about things like twizzlers or our obsession with mission chips or we talk the scion into going up steep mountains.) and we talked about how, no matter what happens in a moment, it would be in our very best interest to linger in each one and then move into the next moment without carrying the stuff of the previous one. “it’s all new,” we agreed.
each individual moment counts. each one is different. yes, each one…each moment…trite as it sounds…is a gift.
download IN A SPLIT SECOND – track 11 on AS SURE AS THE SUN on iTUNES and CDBaby