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Friday, May 12, 2023

Recovery, Phase 2: Nesting

This is what I came home to.

No, you didn’t miss Phase 1. I was too exhausted to see straight during Phase 1, much less write a blog post, having driven twelve hours on Saturday to arrive home after dark and collapse in a heap. Luckily for me, a good friend who used to teach school in Baltimore and come home to Leelanau for the summer, remembering how she felt after all her twice-annual packing and driving, invited me to dinner the next two evenings. Thanks to Susan, on my third morning home I felt nearly human again. 

The first, pointillist green flush in the woods. I wish there were a pause button for this moment.

Unpacking car and bags and boxes, putting things away, clearing clutter left last November, and beginning – only beginning, so far – to deal with sawdust in living room and porch (thanks to a big and very welcome project that took place, surprisingly, in my absence), I find that deciding what to do first, then what to do next, is about all that occupies my mind right now. I'm cleaning up my nest for the season ahead. But with weather as beautiful as it has been the last couple of days, indoor tasks get pushed to the back burner while I work outdoors, pruning berry canes and picking up branches, spreading compost and mowing grass, all tasks Sunny Juliet considers nothing but interruptions in our real northern Michigan country life, which in her mind is chasing tennis balls! 

"Get with the program, Mom!"

Errands, too, of course: banking, paying bills and taxes, updating car and dog licenses, laying in groceries and other supplies, and on and on and on – all part of settling into our little home nest again, Sunny and the momma.

 The whole Leelanau world is blooming and nesting, it seems. And as always, the month of May is speeding by way too fast.

What with everything that taking leave of Arizona entailed, then the drive of over 2,000 miles, and now the work of re-entry, come sunset I’m looking for bedtime reading that prepares me for sleep by silencing the ever-growing to-do lists in my head. (Challenging ideas and deep thinking can wait.) Currently I’m alternating a re-reading of Adele Crockett Robertson’s The Orchard with Anne Tyler’s French Braid: a couple chapters of Robertson’s story first, about trying to keep her family farm in business -- and thus in the family -- during the Depression years, then as much of Tyler novel as I can absorb before Morpheus claims me. 

One more note on my cross-country trip, solo except for canine copilot, and on my life in general. I am not “brave.” Soldiers and support staff and journalists going into war zones are brave. Hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail could qualify. Going to law school. Donating a kidney -- which means you leave yourself without a spare. It takes courage to make such choices and face the uncertain outcomes. All I’m doing is putting one foot in front of the other, doing each day as much as possible of what needs to be done. The unexpected occurs, one deals with it. It’s just life. 

The second time we married each other, we both cried with joy.

What I notice, though, going into my second year alone, is that life for me has flattened out considerably. Morning birdsong makes me smile, as does my dear little dog, but nothing gives me the piercing joy that so many moments brought in my life with the Artist. On the other hand, panic and despair have become more or less distant abstractions rather than, as far too often in years past, my immediate response to difficult situations. Is this good or bad? Or, as I always say of life in general, just another double-edged sword? Call it what you will, it seems to be where I am now, and there are worse places to be. 

Loving family and friends, a constant canine companion, beautiful northern Michigan spring – I can deal with these days, full as they are with hard work. 

Always nearby.

But I miss my love. In our years together, we often spent time apart. When we lived in Kalamazoo, I would stay behind to work while he went north as often as possible. Our early winters in Leland, he drove to Florida and I stayed home to write. But he always came back. So it isn't being alone, working alone, that is so dreadful -- though when we were together, working or playing together, that was always the best. The awful part now is knowing that he isn't coming back. And still not quite being able to believe it.

"Forget me not."

I never will.


Ruminating said...

Welcome home You describe exactly what I will be doing four weeks from now, the long drive solo except for the canine companion, the debris and dust on arrival, but also the joy of rediscovery. For me being by the lake is transformative even in terms of healing (temporarily) my arthritis. So, sunshine today, surgery next week, then the final packing up (with help for the heavy stuff), the drive, and the home away from home and my friends and family in Michigan. And SO many books. Rushdie. Doerr. Austen again and again. I look forward to five weeks from now when it's all over and settled.

P. J. Grath said...

Emita, I hope you will have time to recover fully from surgery before setting out cross-country. I smile at "Austen again and again," because that sounds like me.

Karen Casebeer said...

Welcome home, Pamela. I loved your story of coming home to chores and a new spring, but also your feelings of loss. The last two pictures and their captions are wonderful.

P. J. Grath said...

Karen, it's feeling good to be back. At first I was too worn out and overwhelmed to feel much of anything at all, but working in my yard during these beautiful days and running into friends everywhere I go -- all that is great! Nothing will ever be what it was, but now I say to Sunny what David always said toe: "We live in a beautiful place." And she seems to like it.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful words, Pam. I’m feeling you deeply and sending my love. 💖🎂

Dawn said...

Welcome back. You DO live in a beautiful place, though I imagine the beauty itself doesn't offset the grief. I am finding peace here too, away from new puppy who isn't my old dog, and husband's issues that are mine as well, but that I can't fix, can only hear and accept. It's good to be in the north woods.

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, I understand your grief and worries, too, and am glad you are camping in sunshine -- just hope you're keeping warm!