At the end of the day

When long days
full of careful consideration
and analysis
stretch slowly
into nights of empty thoughts,
when all that work,
all that thinking,
leaves me dried up,
shrivelled like the leaves
frittering about the yard,
I read
and I look to the sky,
I blank-stare into the distance
I pace,
I let my thoughts roam
away from me,
I watch my family;
I look for inspiration.

I don’t always find it
but still I feel pride,
pride in the work I have done,
in the thinking,
the careful reading,
the deep, soul-searching writing
I have done,
I feel pride
that I have given my work my all.
I can look my colleagues in the eye
and know that I, too,
have shown up,
have delivered,
have stretched myself to the limit,
spread my wings, solo,
and flown;
I’ve put everything I had
into my day.

If I go home, then,
with nothing left to give,
no further creations to mold into being,
so be it.
I have done my thinking,
my creating,
I have worked my brain.
I may smile weakly at times
and my family may wonder if I mean it,
but I am happy to be with them,
they recharge me for tomorrow.
I do mean it.

But never mind tomorrow.
Right now, I rest.

What I learned from sending my boy away to camp

Well, today’s the big day. The day my son comes home after 26 days of camping up in the wilds of Canada at an all boys camp.

Where has the time gone? It seems to have slipped away and that suggests to me that I made the most of it, got into a groove and got things done. And by things, I mean writing, mostly, and relaxing.

My husband can attest to both. He’s watched me write for what in his estimation has been 6 to 8 hours a day. It doesn’t ever feel like that, but I guess between writing and related research, reading and critiquing other Yeah Writers’ work, and reading through the many blogs I follow, his estimate is probably correct. So that’s how the time has flown.

I feel guilty for admitting that I really enjoyed the freedom to be able to write all day, without having to entertain someone. But there it is, my guilty secret. I miss him, for sure, and I’m pretty excited to see him today, but I will also miss having my days to myself.

Really, I shouldn’t feel guilty because I know he would spend all his months at camp, without us, if that was an option.

Besides writing and related activities, I have allowed myself to relax. The pressure of taking care of a little being has eased. My husband can equally attest that I get up more or less when I want to, and go to bed later as well. I no longer angst over meals; I just make whatever is available in the fridge and cupboards.

Why don’t I live like this normally, with my son here? There are of course some differences (he does need to be told what to do, and I do need to give him some attention!), but this month to myself has taught me that I fuss too much. And why? He’s doing well. He’s nine. He doesn’t need me to weigh myself down with responsibility for him. We’d all be much happier if I just took it down a notch, or two.

Meanwhile, he’s been living in a tent under very rustic conditions through what has been a pretty cold and wet month. From what I can see of the pictures the camp posts, he seems to have survived. And more than that, he’s smiling. On visitors’ Day, he even told us he wants to return next year for two 26-day sessions! That’s not going to happen, but the point is, he has happily and successfully taken care of himself with minimal guidance. I mean, it’s a camp of boys, run by boys! He has fed himself (the kids get to choose from the salad bar if they don’t like the hot meals), clothed himself, bathed himself (or possibly not), got himself to his activities on time, handled a sprained ankle, lived through adverse weather conditions,dealt with any drama and upset, followed rules, and taken on responsibilities.

And that’s another thing. The camp has rules and structure, a schedule and individual responsibilities. They are presented matter-of-factly as just the way things are. From what I gather, there is little (if any) resistance to the rules, the daily routine, the hierarchy or chores. The boys just get on with it.

Why is there so much resistance at home, then?

I know, I know. Because we are not as fun as a boys’ camp. We don’t scream and cheer and slam the table at every meal, thereby releasing all the pent up rule-following angst. We’re old(er). We’re boring. We’re strict. But, perhaps we (read: I) need to present the rules and the schedule more calmly and matter-of-factly, like the camp does. Without wiggle room. Without inviting him to test the boundaries or rebel. I know he will anyway, but I think I can do my part to bring some level of harmony to the way things work at home.

This is related to my first point about easing off a bit. Hovering less. Worrying less. Relaxing more.

I guess we both learned something from this experience. I just hope I can apply the lessons and avoid slipping into my old habits.

 

 

If By Sea

Today, I return with my family to another of my favourite places in the world. It’s a small community – a gathering of just a few houses – on the Maine coast. We’ll be there for two weeks.

It is a peaceful place, just sand, sea and sky.

The small cottage is the quintessential writer’s cottage, with a view of the sea no matter which way you look.

There is poetry at every angle, in the light, the shadows and in the open foreverness of the view.

I wrote a lot while I was there last year. It was really the start – or, rather re-start – of my writing.

And I began this blog shortly after returning home.

I look forward to sitting with my coffee, staring endlessly at the sea, walking the beach in the early morning fog, and capturing whatever lines flit across my thoughts.

It will be a perfect (if early) celebration of the Silver Leaf Journal’s anniversary.

And on that note, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for being part of this wonderful, fulfilling year!

Collecting my Thoughts

7:50 am and I am back.

Home.

Back to my kitchen, to my laptop, to writing.

I am full to overflowing with thoughts and feelings. I have an app brimming with notes, impressions and ideas that came to me while I was out there, roaming and living and discovering in South Africa.

It was hard to write without a laptop, harder still to get the brain space with a child who needed to do homework and, more importantly, needed to share his experiences with me.

And I wanted to see all that, share all that with him.

But now it’s Monday, he’s gone to school, and I’m happy to be able to return to proper writing.

The thing is, I have too much to say. Five weeks worth of ideas all jumbled together and clambering to get out. Beginnings of stories, references to people and places.

I feel a bit shell-shocked. A bit out of place and time.

You know that feeling you get when you return from a holiday and it immediately feels like a dream? Like you never left?

I hate the way a holiday fades – quickly as though, after only a few days, it seems more a vivid dream than a sizeable chunk of the recent past. 

How can such a huge experience feel like it never happened? I have all these memories, I crossed continents, drifted through airports, even did a boat tour in Amsterdam, and yet it feels like I never left.

And yet. Little things jar me and seem out of place. As though there has been a time lag somewhere or a wrinkle in time.

The local radio station and its news – news that actually seems novel again.

The feeling of a watch on my wrist after not wearing one for weeks.

The relative cold outside.

Driving on the – what side do we drive on here again? Well, driving. I keep trying to put the car in drive with my left hand and there’s only window there.

The way the grocery store or pharmacy seems similar, but different at the same time.

The accents, or lack thereof.

The scratches on my wedding band from scrambling through rock pools and up Table Mountain.

And the flashbacks. Glimpses in my mind’s eye of the shower, the bed, the kitchen, the garden in our little corner of a lodge which is now far, far away.

If I allow myself to sink into these flashbacks, to think about them, then it starts to feel real again, as though maybe I was actually there after all.

And then there’s the people who keep coming to mind.

People I grew fond of and whom I miss. Really miss.

Of course it was hard to leave the wild beauty of the Western Cape, with the mountains everywhere, the crashing, turquoise waves, the pace of life into which I slipped easily comfortably.

And on most holidays, I feel as though I could stay forever. We tend to avoid big resorts and instead choose places that allow us to live, however briefly, like locals. Maine, Mexico, and now South Africa.

Travelling like this does have a way of pulling me in and settling me. Of lulling me into a false sense of what it would be like to actually live there.

But the difference this time, other than the sheer length of the holiday, was the people. I really connected with people. I made friends. I met people that I would want to be friends with no matter where they were or how I met them. They were not contacts or acquaintances of convenience – those people who we may hang out with but who we wouldn’t, under normal circumstances, choose as friends – they actually meant something…no, they mean something.

I watched my son have the same experience.

It’s wonderful to watch, and to experience, friendships develop with people who live very different lives, who come from a very different place, and yet who seem so in tune, so in step, so familiar.

So, here I am, back in my kitchen, indulging my dream-like memories and bringing you along for the ride (forgive me for rhapsodizing just a bit).

The trick now will be to bring all I learned and everything I saw into my daily life – into real life. To bridge the gap between there and here.

A Note from Swallow Way, Scarborough

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The sea is a deep, impossibly deep blue this morning with stark white caps where the fierce wind whips across the top of the waves and a crisp white line where the surf crashes at the beach.

It is sunny and warm but the wind is powerful.

After a whirlwind breakfast, I ushered my son up the hill to his friends’ house for the day. The children are all on holidays this week and are getting in as much play as possible before returning to the business of school. Their parents, meanwhile, are sharing the wealth, passing the growing pack of boys back and forth between households so they can get some work done.

So familiar a conundrum, but unlike Ottawa, there are no holiday camps, no PD Day camps. And as much as I rely on those myself, I would definitely choose the less structured play of these boys if it was an option. It is what childhood should be all about.

Yesterday, they went to the beach, had a stone throwing contest, drew in the red sand with sticks, played sort-of cricket and went to see some spiders and blesbok or springbok – he wasn’t sure.

“It’s like being at camp!” he enthused – and in his world there is no higher honour.

Today they’re off to another boy’s house on another adventure.

After dropping him off, I headed back down the hill to my waiting coffee and my husband, enjoying the view of that deep blue, white-crested sea and looking forward to my own adventures.