Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Imperceptible Evolution

23 July 2012

Dear J-
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In the month since the equinox the days have grown imperceptibly shorter; the main difference I’ve noticed is the sun doesn’t rise with the same alacrity as it did in the early part of the month. The twilit evenings stlll linger on and on in a perfect echo of the day, though, prompting figgy to ask that she not have to go to bed, as there’s still daylight outside. The thought echoes through generations back to my own childhood, asking restlessly and peeking through the curtains on a late glowing summer in Cheney, pressing against cool walls and iron rails in an effort to drive out the heat.

I remember that we used to swim every night in the neighbor’s pool, their children long since grown and moved out. I remember the feel of the pebbled concrete beneath our feet and the various inscects we’d find trapped beneath cover and water; I remember my parents reveling in the unexpected luxury of worn-out kids, telling us that we slept better with some chlorine in our hair, me dreaming all the while of that floating feeling, buoyancy supporting every inch by inch closer to the surface.

Mostly though I remember summers as a time when my parents always had more than enough time when we asked: can we? Yes. We can. We will. We did. It feels strange to have the same sort of interactions with our kids, as Calcifer plunges towards two and I can’t see how the terror could be any more, as he’s already found ways to torment his sister, who’s little more than an unchained ball of emotions at the moment. How do you make time for that? Moment by moment, taking out one distraction after another until all that’s left are you and these two little humans you have to lead by example and patience; would that I could translate the words to deeds so easily.

Mike

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Today Was Yesterday

14 August 2010

Dear J-

Twenty five (has it been that long?) years ago, when I was writing a daily journal as part of my how-much-like-Henry-Reed can I make my life-project, I had convinced my parents that I was doing something that actually took time and, as the journal was sacredly unreadable, there was no way to check if what I was doing was really taking an hour each night.  Meanwhile I had the entries dialed in:  before I hit upon the idea of writing in the day’s Star Trek episode title (I can still tell you a plot summary if you give me a title, which is really not something to be proud of, in retrospect), I stumbled upon writing in the single line “Today was yesterday.”

Three words, and I got an hour to myself, puzzling over the thin blue notebook with thoughtful looks.  And unlike making predictions and suddenly growing a psychic sense (“Today is tomorrow”) it made sense, that summer of 1985:  without anything else to do, we ended up going to the store more often than not, where we’d drill on math in the mornings and then read library books behind the counter in the afternoons, calling for someone to run the register every so often (it was never a very busy summer).

Leave out the obvious travel yesterday (it’s a strange feeling of displacement to wake up in one bed and go to sleep in another) and I could write that again without lying:  these are comfortable days and when you can fall back into the routine after a week without blinking, that’s a sure sign something’s going right.  It’s hard to believe that it’s already the middle of August; this summer seemed like it would last forever, but counting off a day, a week at a time it goes quicker than ever.

Mike

Mountain Man

12 August 2010

Dear J-

I had the opportunity to head out for dinner with the rest of the guys again, but I eschewed it in favor of a lonely drive up into the mountains.  Those of you who already had the opinion that I’m antisocial will nod your heads knowingly, but it’s not just wanting to be alone:  I spend time with these folks willingly, and ungrudgingly — I’d just planned that route out in my head last night and couldn’t wait to try it out (final verdict was that it was worth doing once:  north on Golden Springs Road, east on Choccolocco, continue north on Alabama 9 through the Talladega National Forest, then loop back using smaller roads — in my case I tried going down Hollingsworth, which was worth it, especially going west on Whites Gap Road).

So I end up at the mall for dinner which is a mistake:  it reminds me too much of the lost summer (2004) spent mostly alone in my room/cell in Ann Arbor, where the only entertainment to be had was cooking the same pasta night after night and walking over to the mall, alone alone alone.  And so it seems that passing up the chance at a night amongst friends has the double effect of compounding the loneliness, right?

There’s nothing quite like eating alone in a mall, I says.  The one thing I’m dead tired of is eating out alone; if you’re at the same hotel with people you know if nothing else then you should hang out a little bit.  It’s nice to have time to yourself, but the room echoes a bit too empty when it’s just your thoughts and voice breaking the silence.

Mike

Monday Ambition

21 June 2010

Dear J-

It’s both early and late to be talking about goals, but this summer — not officially starting until tomorrow, of course, and arbitrarily extended to Halloween in my mind, based on the weather patterns of San Diego — is going to bring around a bunch of changes nearby. For instance, I have several on-hold projects that will need to be pushed forward, including convert-the-last-bedroom-into-a-nursery, study-for-the-Engineering-license, finish-the-floors, and my favorite, get-poop-into-the-toilet-consistently. Each of these is worth a summer on their own, I judge, but work and life march on without much direct control.

If I were to apply recently-learned principles, I’d set out a plan of attack and brainstorm steps and dependencies, estimating durations and blocking out my now not-so-free time as needed; it’s hard to imagine that I’ve already frittered away half the available time doing nothing but staying awake and entertained on the weekends. I have learned that TV isn’t the universal soporific — once we got her a vacuum, she prefers vacuuming with me on Saturdays to sitting down, so that gives me hope that I’ll have some help, though I’m still not quite sure how I’ll fit shopping trips in (perhaps snacks and bribes would help).

By the time I was a teenager, my folks would ask me to write out plans for the summer — make out a schedule and stick to it, rather than find something to do as the day wore on (which generally meant asking them if they had anything for me to do — the utility of the schedule is immediately apparent, in retrospect). If I didn’t have this gaping twelve-hour hole in my day from work and commute, I’d now have a perfect fit for those long hours and then some. Everything falls under the name of improvement, though all I might want is another nap or two.

Mike

Size Class

11 March 2010

Dear J-

Back in Washington, the state used to classify school athletics by enrollment; AAA schools had a thousand students or more, AA schools were five hundred to a thousand, and so on until you got to the B schools, whose exact numbers I don’t remember, but I believe were less than a hundred students in the entire high school. The really big schools were all from the major centers — Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, and the Tri-Cities — and our town was big enough to support a AA school (I think our exact number was close to eight hundred when you counted in the 9th graders?), And our town was not huge by any stretch — eight thousand people inside the city limits, maybe a total of ten including the borders of the district.

Some of the B schools, though, had to draw from two or more towns to even field teams; that’s where you’d hear of names like Almira-Coulee-Hartline, Tekoa-Oakesdale, or St. John-Endicott (whose St. John contingent called “Emptysquat” to emphasize just how small the town was), and they were all, almost without exception, east of the mountains. This is the background that shapes my perspective; I knew about cities and subways but only as a theoretical exercise; a determined bicyclist could make it across town in fifteen minutes, which led to thoughts of becoming a bicycle messenger in a place with no demand for one.

In comparison the county and corridors we travel (fifty miles of city along I-5) are asprawl with concrete and streetlights; I still goggle at it every so often to remind myself of the St. Johns and Coulee Citys of the world, where time stood still for us one week each summer. With any luck we should be able to find ourselves someplace a world apart yet close in my mind, some time this summer; the unexpected reminders of home are always waiting to ambush my head.

Mike

Sunny Days

2 January 2010

Dear J-

Some days aren’t all that memorable — yesterday, for instance, I’m not sure that without looking back at pictures I’ll be able to say where we went for the first day of 2010, whereas I’d always be able to tell you that we went to Coronado on 1 Jan 2009 (instead of the Pacific side of the island, we walked on the bay side, which I thought was pretty incredible, but Coronado’s always an inspiring/aspiring place to visit). I was having a hard time this afternoon trying to remember where we went for lunch yesterday, as we tried three different restaurants before we found one open for the holiday. There’s nothing wrong with Torrey Pines; it may just be the combination of where and when.

Today with the omnipresent threat of work hanging over my head (I get the shaft late shift this weekend) we had an abbreviated day, bouncing to the park and back in time for a little lunch and a little fun; while in Balboa Park we ran into a greyhound group, where owners congregate with their gregarious, gangly dogs. As it turns out I’m nearly positive (there are only so many greyhounds in the neighborhood) that we ran into one of our neighbors there as a bonus — if you see people you know (or think you know) outside of the usual setting it sparks all kinds of odd feelings of deja vu.

It echoes my past, where I’d spend all summer moping around without being able to see the usual crew of kids (distance, time, and schedule mean as low a dose of the school chums as possible, exacerbated by a lack of motorized transport) and the one or two times I’d unexpectedly run across them would resonate in my mind for weeks afterwards. We went this time with the intent of making a strike on the Model Railroad museum and I end up thinking of that summer before junior high and running into Jennifer Franks at the B.Dalton; funny, the connections our minds make for us some days, right?

Mike

Rich Time

18 November 2009

Dear J-

Perhaps the sun seems brighter here in Southern California because of the lack of shade trees — sure, you see the palm trees all over the place, but they provide precious little shelter and are prone to  dropping large, tough fronds at the slightest provocation.  Whereas you look out at the side of the roads here to see the occasional tree, for the most part there is no significant native growth here aside from low scrub — no forested canopy stretching away into the distance.

Whenever we would visit Canada we would remark on how it seemed just like home — only greener and politer; part of that was hopping the border over to Vancouver, on the rainy coast, but everywhere we would go west of the Cascades seemed to have thick stands of forests lining the roads — it’s the difference here between, say, Crescent City amidst the sea of redwoods, and Redding, a dusty station along Interstate 5.  No trees means little shade here, and it also means no shuffling your feet through leaves (no whispering crunch) as you walk along the sidewalks.

There are compensations; raking is an occasional chore, rather than a once-weekly morning lost.  I find that the older I get real luxury comes from being able to spend time the way I want, rather than as I need — there are days I’m convinced that the endless ennui I had those summers before college was the real reason folks like to say that youth is wasted on the young.  With no trees in the way of the sun, though, summer here seems to stretch into an eight-month season, and we’re all the richer for it.

Mike

Drama Wave

20 August 2009

Dear J-

I can always tell how poorly I’m driving the van when there’s someone new in the passenger’s seat — if they’re grabbing for nonexistent handles or treading on the brake pedal then I know I’m not doing it right.  Transitioning into a driver from a napper brings its own set of difficulties — my body says sleep, and often drags at the controls in sluggish response while my mind stays bolt-awake with sheer terror — here I always picture someone like Amuro Ray clutching the joystick with ever-growing panic inside my head; this response is unsurprisingly mirrored by the passengers.  Some of it is style — I guess I’m not much of a brake person — some of it is just inattention.

This week has been full of odd things; at various points I’ve forgotten to keep up with the various news/rumor sites (Canon S90 coming on the heels of rediscovering the joy of having a camera in my pocket), ignored my voice mail more fiercely than ever, fallen asleep in odd situations (trying not to at work is sometimes a trial), and have felt the weight of those hours on the road — traffic reminds me of cattle chutes at times, pushing forward towards an uncertain fate, corralled into lanes and nudged along by peer pressure.  Summer brings a flood of tourists rushing south into San Diego, washing on shore at times in surging waves and overrunning our favorite places.

Mike

Ever Onward

12 June 2009

Dear J-

I learned a lot at 22; storming out of the house early in the morning makes for a horrible day — don’t work yourself up before 6AM, if you can help it; used merchandise dealers can be good or bad, depending on how desperate you look; garage sales and scrounging can be a viable way to furnish a house, depending on how much you’re willing to innovate; air conditioning is not necessarily just for those wallowing in luxury, although a reasonable facsimile can be cobbled together via bus pass and a route map; having a dog swaying gently and wagging from the window as you come home can be the most exciting part of your day; Doritos and spaghetti do not make a filling meal.

Most of all, I learned how lucky I am. We’re fast approaching nine years married; I read about Sam Mendes’ explorations of the American marriage — American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Away We Go — and I think about where we fit into that particular ladder; at times it’s as though we’re the sea and shore, relentlessly wearing each other down, especially that first summer together. Lately, though, we move with a kind of rhythm that surprises me more the more often I find it; our lives revolve around this busy caretaking until we fall into a sort of exhausted trance in front of the TV, too spent to do much more than marvel at folks with energy.

The important part is that we keep learning; you’d think by now that I’d know that some questions and requests are not requests at all, or that I should stop worrying about the little things beyond my control. Onward, onward; out and beyond.

Mike

Summer Now

21 August 2008

Dear J-

Do you remember the exact moment you decided to live in California?  For me, it was when you called me up — excitedly — coming back to school from winter break and exclaiming that you needed to wear shorts.  In January.  The summer heat here starts early and stays late, but the daylight doesn’t follow.  I remember back when I lived nearer to Canada, summer days were insanely long — the sun would be well-up early and stick around until nearly bedtime.  It made the delineation between seasons more dramatic, especially in winter, when the day was fleeting, at best — slow to rise and early to retire.  Back to southern California and the mostly summer with a few months of rain.

Other people keep telling me that there’s only a limited amount of real estate that’s like this in the world — we’re living somewhere that other people want to come on vacation, and that’s still amazing every day I realize it.  The whole of I-5 passing through San Diego County is pretty scenic compared to other stretches I’ve been on (all the way from border to border), and there’s little I’d trade.

Except, of course, for the whole every-year-this-place-goes-up-in-flames (the hills are starting to parch and go brown).  And traffic.  And home prices, still inflated beyond reason (I remember pricing Kauai real estate and discovering, sadly, that San Diego was outpacing it).  Yet there’s something magical that keeps my head up and alert, at least every time I leave work.  Find something that works — and my life is nigh-perfect — and do what you need to keep it that way.  Simple.

Mike