Climb On


Even though the chippering birds have been waking me up early in the morning, I have my windows open; screens are in place, keeping out bugs but letting in the sounds and slight breezes of spring. Last week I woke in the middle of the night, air was whooshing into the bedroom–the surrounding trees playing catch with wind, their young leaves anxious to get a move-on, to show their stuff.

We moved here in August, so this is still our first go-around. Summer was a blur; fall felt crisply short and strange; winter was as it always is for me–a slog and then a wonder that we all made it through.

Spring continues to prove itself my favorite season, and I’ve so enjoyed the awakening here in this house. It’s still an introduction (Oh, so the peony by the front porch is pink! ). Much is popping up: hostas in back, lemonade stands in front. My head is clearing as neighbors become friends, as weekend schedules fill.

I’ve always had this uncanny ability to meet excellent people. I buzz towards good folk like a fly to sticky paper, and I don’t even have to try that hard. It’s part genetic: my parents attract clever and funny friends. It must be a big part Irish luck. I have this collection of All-Stars I can call or text or write, and on-demand, they make me laugh, ease my mind, whatever the call is for.

So it hasn’t really surprised me that I’ve been both salsa dancing and rock climbing recently. New friends celebrated birthdays with style, and I have benefitted. Pre-school teacher by day/Salsa master by evening (his name may have been Marco?), the instructor came to Tracie’s house, having just taught a group of nuns the night before. He lined us up and showed us the steps: 1 2 3 5 6 7. We paused on 4 and 8, saying the numbers in our head.

As for rock climbing, our guy Chris explained the basics with patience and humor: the figure 8 knot, the importance of the belay–providing slack and braking–the need for communication. The climber must tell her belay that she’s ready to climb and belayer needs to make it clear she’s heard and she is ready–Climb On. By the end of an hour lesson, chalky-pointy shoes stepped (in my case, hesitantly) up a wall, with thin, piano-fingers leading the way.

My mom used to have an expression, “You can hang by your toes for that long,” which would come into play when I was uncertain about something–some event I was dreading, maybe an oral report or a weekend away. It was obviously not true that I could hang by toes or fingertips for any extended period of time, but inevitable survival was her point.

I think of it now not only because of my stint as rock climber, but after surviving, almost, a year in a new house. Hell, surviving the months before the move: selling a home, finding another, saying “goodbye” to wonderful friends, transitioning two little girls. Getting through, one season at a time and arriving here, at Spring. I can’t say I’ve come out unscathed or completely in tact (neither have the girls or Dave), but if my mom were to have said I could hang by my toes throughout this process, I would have flat-out denied it.

She would have been right, though. I did feel like I was teetering and slipping through this year and last. The unknown pulled at my confidence, this worry, oftentimes subconscious and deeply hidden, that I was possibly harming my children. That somehow this was not all going to work out.

These insecurities and emotions are common–they don’t go away–but happily, now, spring has brought steps that I can follow, pauses, time to say the numbers in my head, slack so I can move but assurance of a strong hold.

Everyone told me that it would take a year, that I’d need to go through each season. The girls will go back to school in the fall, and the place will truly be theirs. Our house will become our home as we match paint colors to rooms, discover where we’re spending the most time, choose fabric and just the right spot for a refurbished chair.

I’ve been keeping watch on what’s growing in our yard, where the sun hits the longest, where the deer like to feed. I have planted forget-me-nots, feather reed grass, salvia and Queen Anne’s lace, golden yarrow and angel blush.

I get down on my knees in the dirt and distraction dissolves into the task at hand: this bleeding heart, it needs a space, a place to settle in. I dig the hole, scatter fresh soil, then pat, pat, pat.

What is grounding me, what is my comfort, my belay, is that I get to be here, rebuilding a routine. In this garden: the watering, the watching for blooms, the removing heads, the tending, the fading and the blooming again. What is grounding me is the miraculous, that which appears next: the fuller flowers, the density, the depth and height. It all becomes much more than what was there was before.

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