Wading Through Summer

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I slept this morning, my day off, until I woke up naturally.

No alarm.

I woke to birdsong, and a gentle breeze coming in through the window.

Outside, flowers are blooming, sun is shining, the garden is growing.

And yet…

I woke to a feeling of deep sadness, mounting pressure and near panic.

I’ve been trying to figure it out, as I have coffee this morning.

I have lots to do, no doubt, and I am behind in everything.

Today, for instance.

This is the first day of Museum Week here on Beaver Island. There are speakers and activities all week long. Many of them, I have book-marked to attend. There is no sense, I tell myself, in being on Beaver Island and missing every good thing that goes on. Things that – if I didn’t live here – I would come here to participate in.

A week ago, I deliberately missed a good party – the Islander’s Reunion – because (1) I had to work all weekend, and worried I’d be too tired, (2) I didn’t have a companion to go with, and was afraid I’d feel out of place and (3), behind on everything already, I felt it would drive me farther into this mire that I am slogging through. Oh, and I couldn’t afford it.

Just last weekend, the Beaver Island Music Festival took place.

I stayed away.

Same reasons.

Slogging through summer. Mired in work and obligations.

Today, I have to finish and frame four collages to submit to the Museum Week Art Show (that deadline is tomorrow). I have to go over my notes for a talk I’m giving at the Beaver Island Association meeting this afternoon. I have frames to pick up at the airport, to frame six new paintings for the Livingstone Studio “Meet the Artists” event, coming up soon (that date is August 2nd). I have towels on the clothesline already this morning, have a comforter washed and ready to go out, and a load of dark clothes in the washing machine. I have a kitchen drawer, in parts, on the floor behind me, evidence of my sorry ongoing attempt to repair it. The contents of that drawer are keeping company with a cluster of dirty dishes on my kitchen counter, right next to the faucet that is still leaking and waiting for repair. “Do dishes” is on the top of my to-do list today, though I’ve already put other tasks ahead.

I’m feeling sand under my bare feet, and have to take time to sweep. My windows show evidence of swatted flies and mosquitoes; they could all use a good cleaning. I mowed lawn last week, but still need to take the string trimmer around the borders and walkways. The weeds are getting away from me in the garden. The back seat of my car is now full of “recyclables” so I need to make a trip to the Transfer Station.

I have too many jobs without endings!

The house: I could spend a forty hour week getting it caught up, what with drawer repair, half-finished painting projects and both major and minor construction all waiting…on top of necessary upkeep.

The garden will take whatever time I can give it and never, I think, be truly “done”. At this moment, though, it looks clearly un-done, which adds to the pressure I’m feeling.

Writing takes as much time as I can give it. I never finish a piece without thinking that – given more time or a tighter edit – it could have been better.

The studio: “bursting with ideas” feels like a cursed weight upon my back when I don’t have time or energy for bringing ideas to life.

My administrative job asks only a few hours each week from me, but there is much to learn and more to do and I hold the constant feeling that I am two steps behind in my obligations there.

The hardware (sigh…) and other jobs that specifically offer an hour’s pay for an hour of work, that I can walk away from at the end of my shift…are a blessed relief. They offer little in the way of status, glory or personal enrichment – though I am always enriched by doing a job well and to the best of my abilities – but they support me. Rarely do I wake up sad and overburdened by them…except by the hours they take that prevent me from other pursuits.

I remember summers, when I was small, with warm, sunny spots and shady places and trees to climb, and room to breathe.

There have been summers, with children or grandchildren, when we didn’t miss a single good day for the beach.

Where have those summers gone, that’s what I want to know!

Muddling through this awful mood, I came upon a lovely bit of writing by Will, who writes at <www.saddlebackmountainfarm.org>

I am about to go now and pick the first of the beans. It is early Monday morning. It is cool, clear, and the sheep are up and grazing to eastward. The largest of three porcupines that roam our farm nightly is still roaming. Bird flight and song are the only sounds. And in the garden in the middle of this living are my beans. 200 ft. worth. Damp with pinkish-white flowers, slim, willing, green. When I reach in to pick them they will swing. When I drop them into my bucket, they will sound. When I pick on down the row, they will increase, increase, this heaped-up increase of the fullness of life, this moment in the company of beans. And now the new sun and me damp at the end of the row, hands smelling of beans, the day just started, the sheep, when I look their way, looking off at something I can’t see. This increase. Do you understand what I mean? How there are moments sometimes when we are as lifted? Increased?

Another friend wrote of how she’d nearly forgotten about winter, now walking in bare feet to maintain “that connection to the earth.”

That’s what I want, of summer!

Renewal, increase, connection.

So, now – swamped in obligations, wading through summer – let me add to my list:

Don’t forget to appreciate what is here…to notice sun, breeze and birdsong. Don’t forget, in these long summer days, that life is short. Take time to read, to draw, to think…and to not think. Take time to walk in the water, to stroll under the stars, to feel bare toes in the grass. Take time to love the warmth.

Take time…take time…take time.

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14 responses »

  1. oh dear sweet friend, breathe, just breathe. This feeling of overwhelm is so, well, overwhelming. I know it well. I remind myself I have only this moment. the rest….will take care of itself in other moments or it won’t. I am glad you slept in and wish for you a few moments to just be without all that other stuff crowding in. No lists, just breathe.

    • Thanks, Joss, good advice…I’m much better today. Work days this time of year are exhausting…I have little energy for much of anything else when I get home. I keep thinking, “when I get a day off…” It puts a lot of pressure on that first day off!

  2. Cindy: This was one of your most beautiful, honest posts I’ve read to date. I love your ability to embrace your humanness. I have a friend, who wrote a post in her blog (http://godsleadingldy.blogspot.com) that might give you some perspective:

    “When God tells Elijah to go through Zarephath in 1 Kings 17, it is a true test of his faith. The land represented enemy territory for him, so God was intentionally sending him through the “lion’s den”. Now, there are plenty of cities that Elijah could’ve gone through that would have been more amenable to the prophet. But, that’s not where God sends him. Time after time, God directs Elijah on paths that would seem ridiculous, and at times dangerous, to the rational mind. Yet, a study of Elijah’s life shows that these very paths led to the most supernatural works performed by God in the Bible.

    What does this teach us?

    The journey to the incredible always travels through the uncomfortable.”

    Keep traveling through the uncomfortable. God bless.

  3. I like how this post traveled through the many doings and angst and challenges of life and reached a sentence where you stated what you wanted. To remember your connection to the earth, to walk barefoot on it. To appreciate simple presence. Lately I think our “divine spark” comes through what we really want. Go for what you really want. That’s where I’m aiming, too.

  4. Cindy, this touched me and moved me. Although the things that overwhelm me are very different from the things on your list, they tend to have the same effect on me that yours do. There is comfort in knowing that I am in such good company, but my heart breaks because I think I know how you feel. Other than having a glass of wine and choosing to read a book instead of participating in any of the other activities that make me feel inadequate and incompetent, I don’t know of a solution. But please continue to take time to write. Trust me — in doing that, you are touching other lives, I’m sure, as you are touching mine!

    • Kate, your generous comments always make me feel better about my grumbling and complaints. There are certainly bigger issues out there than my busy life/bad day. Thank you for reading, and for your kindness!

  5. I don’t even know what to say, except that I can relate. Summertime is way too chaotic for me. Lazy days of summer? Not quite. I much prefer the quiet warmth of a fire on the grate on a cold winter evening.

    • Yes, I think our expectations (maybe from “summer vacation” as kids?) of summer are impossible to reach…at least before wealth or retirement. I look forward to summer, but once it’s here, I look forward to fall! Thanks for reading, Sara, and for your comments!

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