Laundry Day

I was thinking about my grandparents today. I think about them a lot; my parents, my grandparents. My uncles and aunts. The formative people in my life. I miss so many of them, it seems unfair, but that’s growing up I guess.

By the time I knew them, they were semi retired on the Cape. The tiny apartment in Quincy, near the church, was where I spent sick days or holy days with my grandmother. It smelled of the orange juice my grandfather had before work, the table covered with a vinyl tablecloth, felt back. The pens he used (still my favorite – fine point pilots, sparkly barrel with a yellow ring on the top), the newspaper. The tiny tv, UHF, manual channel changes.


But the cape is what I think about the most. My grandfather would work outside all day whenever he could, steady work. He was the steadiest person I’ve ever known. He wouldn’t hurry. You could watch him, raking the seaweed at the shore into the wheelbarrow, or gathering the fallen twigs and sticks. Watch him clearing a path to the hidden beach that I loved so much, just a little further down the shore. Painting a dock. Even when the weather was awful, he’d work in the workshop in the basement, smelling of turpentine and paint, wood shavings. Everything ordered, neat as a pin. I think he had a radio down there; I don’t remember noise though. We made ornaments together once, it was our big project. One hangs on my wall now. He cut the tiny shapes that I traced from paper, and I helped paint them red, and spread the glitter. Mice and elephants and horses.


My grandmother kept the house pristine, even full of guests. Bed linens washed, floors vacuumed of sand and salt. She’d make sandwiches for lunch, fig newtons for desert. She’d do the crossword, and read, and hem our clothes for us. Laundry got hung out on the line. She tended her flower garden, arranged the wild flowers. You had to shake the clothes down for ticks and spiders, but it was worth it for the sun baked into them. Towels off the line were stiff and felt so good. There’s no cleaner smell.


I was thinking about them as I washed my sheets today. The sheets in their house, kept neatly in the linen closet, were the same for all my years. 20 year old sheets, worn so thin over the years, so soft. The patterns were distinctly of their age — flowers and browns and mustard yellows. Pillows were nearly flat from use. They kept things and they cared for them. There wasn’t a lot of waste in that house. They were children of the great depression, and adults of WWII. They worked so very hard — my grandmother as much as my grandfather, raising 5 kids, being a hostess, tending my grandfather. They kept what they had because they valued it, and cared for it. Everything felt well tended and loved in that house. They weren’t sentimental about THINGS, but they…


Well. They gave me something to strive to. I want to be like that, that thoughtful. I want to be someone they would be proud of.


I live here.

There’s a dead fox on the road, just past the speed trap at the drive in. I know this because earlier I switched lanes to avoid hitting it, as if it mattered now to the poor thing. I briefly thought of waste, and sorrow. The tiniest moment to recognize the pain the poor thing felt.


But now the fox is blocked by the speed trap’s police car, lights on. From a distance I thought, hah, she got someone. There’s a woman on the sidewalk, hand pressed to her ear so she can shout more effectively into the cell phone against the other ear, walking away. The cop is talking to another woman, notebook out, looking concerned. The second woman has her steepled fingers pressed to her lips. Give me strength. There’s no car that was pulled over.


I wonder, for 2 days, what that was, what that weird little scene meant.


At the grocery store, there’s a woman in the car across the row from me, bouncing along to music while she does her bills. She’s in her 50s, blond permed hair a triangle around her round face. I bet she’s got a smoker’s laugh, a bawdy sense of humor. Drinks spiked seltzers, has a dog, maybe cats. Sits on her pine needle covered lawn in the summer, in a beach chair, with music and a magazine. Has a lot of friends.


At the door, there’s a pair of indeterminately aged men. The taller one has a shock of pure white hair, and he’s walking away stiffly, a perscription or paperwork in his hands. “I will,” he calls back. “I will let you know.” The other man grins, moustache yellow white, smokes a foul smelling cigar. I spare a smile since he’s looking at me, but I don’t say hello. You don’t say hello to people you don’t know here.

Doesn’t love a wall


It snowed, and then rained, and snowed again. It’s so cold that the icy puddles don’t even thaw in the sun, and every day I drive over them gingerly. Baxter and I go to the vet twice a week for shots, and my upper body strength has increased greatly from lifting his butt into the car. He’s greeted with love by the vet and everyone there, because he’s lovable. He follows me around my tiny cabin, always lying close. If he’s asleep and I move, he wakes up concerned until he sees where I am now. Shadow.






67AC74A8-9518-4E10-906F-56FC292F7824 C4D0238E-98F2-4F98-9728-CBB0ECCFB04E C9D9B60E-3184-4062-8F13-E6FF9C42E8FB IMG_0020 IMG_0026 IMG_0395 IMG_0445I take walks sometimes, thinking about how nice it is to walk through the woods with a book in my ears. I’ve read so much lately, and I look at my dwindling to read pile with pleasure. I’m writing, and taking pictures, and generally trying to keep heart. I’m on a social media diet; found myself caught in a ludic loop. Plus the part where I’d read twitter first thing and then find myself questioning the need to get out of bed at all. Sometimes things are dark.




The pine needles have fallen this week, a thick carpet, suddenly silent footsteps when I walk Baxter, mounds of them on the highway, scuttling across in the wind. October always feels unreal, wavering, storms putting puddles of the sky on the road, the sun making menacing shadows out of everyday trees. Red sunrises, red sunsets. No wonder they believed once that the world is just that much thinner at this change of the seasons, when fall goes from gorgeous and warm to a little wild.


I’ve had nightmares of ghosts, and of unreal things myself. My speaker turned on by itself in the middle of the night one night; was I sleep talking, turning it on? I heard tapping on the door when I was getting ready one morning, but nothing was there. Dreamed of a spirit who looped me into more and more dreams, impossible to struggle out of. It wouldn’t let me turn on the lights. Stole my voice. Pressed me down so I couldn’t move. “The one thing you blamed me for in childhood that I never did,” it told me. “Any guesses?”

I don’t believe in ghosts, in spirits, but I feel haunted.

I feel a little bit like I’m shrinking. I lie in bed in the early morning or right before sleep and I feel like the world is thin, the line between the me lying in bed at Adams Street, in college, in DC, in Dennis, that border is so thin I could break through. I could close my eyes and wish with all my might and everything will shift, backwards. A time before. The liminal places that aren’t really liminal but feel that way anyway. The world feels like a backdrop, unreal, painted.


I’m curling my own world in around myself, a veil, a blanket. Fleece in front of my eyes. Could live in the in-between moments forever.


There’s magic in the air

DSC01150 I forgot about July 4th, which was lovely and chilly and full of midges and sand and the beach at night with the fireworks exploding overhead, silhouettes of people all around. The Cape has really been putting on a show lately, trying to get me to love it again, and I have to say I don’t know of many places more beautiful, when the light is just right.



From Paine’s Creek you can see Provincetown and Plymouth, the  bay curling in on itself like a contented cat. The best fireworks show was the amateur one put on by one of the houses fronting the beach. Wildly unsafe I’m sure but worth it for the joy in Case’s eyes, and the momentary feeling of belonging.

all possibilities

I have a love hate relationship with the cape: hate how much of it is close minded, hate how isolating it is, hate the high prices of living. Love the other half, the open minded people, the salt of the earth, the tradition, the water, the off season when you smile at other people at the grocery store, your neighbors. New englanders, typically, aren’t exactly outgoing and super friendly, but there’s a shared sense of survival in, say, October and November: we made it through again.


But the other night, I tipped pretty firmly into the love camp. It’s hot, June’s mild sweetness finally giving way to air so thick you can drink it and temperatures so hot the beach is even quiet. Just before twilight, I sat on a beach with friends, a local beach, not one of the ones everyone knows about. We listened to the sounds of a summer concert from the church alongside, traditional harpsichord that sounded a little ghostly with the water backbeat. On the way home, I stopped at Fort Hill where there were waves of purple, sage and blue all around: ocean, flowers, meadow. Fireflies as big as my fist darted and were chased by little birds, swallows and finches and sparrows. The air was still too thick to breath and no-see-ums bit at my arms but I sat there for a bit, watching the ocean crest over the hill. I drove back against traffic and listened to Nick Drake murmur and for just one brief moment I felt all the possibility in the air.


When I moved in here, I chatted with my landlords out in the space between our yards. It was August and route 6 was a wall of traffic from one end to the other. “It kind of sounds like waves, like surf,” she said. “if you pretend.”

June has been so gentle. The weather cool every morning, a sweatshirt as I walk the dog, marveling at just how clean the air is. The days long, golden, light. It can’t last.

The sunshine moves like water on my pillow, on the window.

Last night it stormed. Not a true thunderstorm, just a distant rumble and some soft rain and then the eerie yellow sunset through the clouds which is one of my favorite lights in the world (favorite: black thunderclouds being lit by a cloudless setting sun, you know the one, if I could draw a picture you’d understand). My cottage turned gold, windows glowing with it, and I read a book that took me from even to destroyed in the space of 50 pages.


Today at work I told a coworker about it. “It’s not the same,” I said, “but the crisis mode they’re living in, the exhaustion and sorrow and humor and the way you feel like you’re just holding on, making it up as you go, life and death and wanting to go to sleep all the time,” and he nodded because he knows, too, for different reasons.


Tonight I told myself no distractions, just the quiet of my room, the windows open, books and music and early bed. The more I distract myself the less I know myself, and I need to make room. June’s come in gentle and cool this year, every day under 80 a glittering gift. I wake up and the sun is pouring through my window, the constant wind of the coast making water like patterns on my walls, bed, every surface. At night the sun comes down to eye level across the cottage, a micro magic hour.


My answer, then. I’ll remember this time by the light it cast.

only the echoes of my mind.

I remind myself every day that it’s in this moment that I can choose who I want to be. It’s sometimes useful and sometimes makes me roll my eyes because nothing is really that profound in my life.


I’m reading Alibis by Andre Aciman, and in an essay about time and memory and Proust find this:


With temporizers, experience is meaningless–it is not even experience–unless it comes as the memory of experience, or, which amounts to the same, as the memory of unrealized experience….It is only when it’s too late that one comes to understand how close one came to bliss…or how needless our sorrows were when they drove us to despair.


I watch my life from two steps back: This is who I am, and this is what I’ll look like to myself in a years time, five years time, ten. The shiny ivy of DC is what I thought I’d remember about my apartment in SW, not the walk from it to L’enfant, the statues in the parking lot, the rats along side the church, thinking about writing while Rufus Wainwright sung Hallelujah in my ears and a man halfheartedly blew dead leaves into piles on the sidewalk.


Last summer is the moment of floating in the pond I only found at the very end of the season, early morning, 5:30 or 6 am when it was still and already hot and Baxter paced the shore alongside my lazy strokes. I remember the good clean feeling of being exhausted from the water, getting dressed for work, washing sand and leaves off my skin. And why that instead of the countless pricks and sorrows of last summer? Because my life is a story I was telling myself, and that moment was the one that I liked best.

I’ve been drifting a little, struggling to find a balance between responsibility and work and life and commutes and all the other things that make up my mundane self at the moment. I’m feeding on the energy of the season beginning, though, all the people flooding over the bridges, into the stores, on the roads, on the trails, in the water. Windows open to the sweetness of June, unwilling to put the A/C up just yet.


In this moment I can choose who I am, and maybe watch my life from a step closer.

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