I was sitting under a pool umbrella today, trying to connect with wifi or do whatever was necessary to pair my iPad with my portable keyboard, so I could write. It’s been weeks since I’ve given myself writing time, and today was going to be that day. But without a functioning keyboard, I am nothing. Right when I was at what I considered to be the pinnacle of frustration, a large shadow flew into my periphery–great, I thought, let’s just add a dive-bombing dragonfly to the mix, that’ll help me relax and reflect. I looked up quickly to fend off the hornet, the winged lizard, whatever dark beast was lurking, only to find a yellow monarch resting on the umbrella, then ducking itself into the shade, softly circling, sharing some space with me for a while.
Yesterday I was at it again in our front yard flower bed, either reviving or killing the Salvia … tbd. I was dead-heading daisies, watering a newly-planted shrub, when I looked up to see two yellow finches landing nearby on a tired looking azalea. They stayed for a spell, then jetted off towards the bird-feeders to see what the squirrels might have left behind.
Poolside computer glitch and pesky squirrels: these are Main Line problems. I live in a Philadelphia suburban town and really, most of my problems are of the “Main Line” variety: I’m forced to stay at the pool for long stretches at a time because my kids aren’t old enough to be there by themselves yet. I watch my daughters get exercise all day but can’t fit in a workout. I may not make it to Wegmans to buy my gluten free granola in time for breakfast the following day. I have an aching “tennis” left elbow (I’ve only played tennis twice this year), I think from the way I’ve awkwardly and repeatedly been reaching for the seat-belt in the Subaru, where I’ve been spending much of my time. In fact, I’ve been so busy schlepping my girls around to swim team/tennis/water ballet, that I haven’t been able to buy the garden bench and Adirondack chairs I’ve been hoping to find cheap somewhere in Lancaster. In other words, I’ve been so busy sitting on my tush in a car, that I can’t find the time to buy more things to fit my tush into.
As I remove my tongue from my cheek, I tell you I’m lucky to spend all of this summer time with my girls. But I also have access to a metaphorical magnifying glass, and through this lens I see them, in microscopic detail, attempting to meet friends, keep friends, navigate the social landscape. It can be hard to watch at times. School is easier, at least on me.
And of course there’s real world trouble. There’s Donald Trump. Or whatever it is you fear. There are post-mass shooting reactionary gun purchases . . . there are mass shootings, for God’s sake. There’s an Amendment aged out of context, closed minds, lines drawn, this soap box I’d rather not be standing on.
When I see a yellow finch, I think of my mom. She was a bit of a birder–I remember her keeping books and a pair of binoculars on the wicker stool in the kitchen. She died fourteen years ago, on July 13, so this day, this month, has since become a more difficult one for me to traverse. It’s easier, obviously, as accumulating years cushion the fall, but still, this is loss. I see a finch and I get a little something back.
We all have such losses, in one way or another. We’re older: sadness is inevitable and happiness sometimes takes on a more mystical quality. I find I really have to home in on it. When we’re busy like we are, it takes effort to attend to our dreams, to plan vacations, contact old friends, be creative. It takes focus to stop, open my ears and really hear Lexi’s laughter. It is a necessary shift in attention: from my iPhone to Caroline’s request to play Monopoly.
My mom once told me to look up and out. She said when you’re looking down and in, you’re missing things, possibly wallowing, certainly not opening yourself up to new connections, different viewpoints, or brighter perspectives. I hope I’ve made it perfectly clear that in relation to just about anyone, I’m doing fine. I wish the rest of the world had my “problems,” imagine if that were the case.
But no matter who we are, we have days when we need nudging and reminding. My mom used to offer her opinions sitting at our kitchen table, or we’d share time and talk and quiet in her favorite space, the screened-in porch. I miss that space, that time, but here I am in this time, and the sun’s out.
The shadow of the butterfly was big only because the sun’s light was coming down on it in such a way.
If we look up, we may just see something beautiful.