The other day, my friends and I were at a local bar relaxing on one of the lounge-y sofas when a guy plopped his ass on our table. This New World, you guys. She’s manic and crowded and thirsty and very rude. I am struggling to jump in and out of her Double Dutch ropes without wiping out in a bloody defeated mess.
In May, the race began to do all the things before the summer tourists arrived, before the beach parking restrictions began, before the roads were too crowded to take a left hand turn of any kind, before restaurants filled up and you couldn’t get within 10 feet of a table until September, before locals’ lives were pushed to the edges of the day — all of us racing to complete errands before the first boat from Boston arrived each morning, before post-pandemic swarming madness hit.
All of those things we ignored all winter — and in this case, all year — were glaring at us, demanding our attention. The pandemic added an extra six layers to the usual preparations for summer in this summer town.
When the sun started shining through the windows I could see all the dustballs. The thought of having to clean my house every week for summer visitors made me anxious and annoyed. I liked the dimly lit twinkle-lighted protected sanctuary of our home. I didn’t want to turn my enjoyment of it over to other people.
Nor did I want to share this special place with the gazillions of people who are overwhelming the streets, businesses, and services in our tiny community. I never do.
But here we are. Throwing elbows for space. Strangers’ asses on our tables.
I am in a constant state of huff huff and a puff about all the people peopling. And after a year of pottering about while listening to Sven Libaek, I’ve been finding it nearly impossible to rise to the occasion.
Yet, I have walked down Commercial Street — twice now — blissfully intoxicated, mask in pocket. The only concession I’ve made to aggressively defending against anything that degrades that precious energy field between me and this New World.
Once more we are at the time of year when daily life revolves around the weather and the tides. And we tell time by the deep horn bleats of the whale watch boats backing out of their slips on their way to see the most majestic creatures on the planet who spend summers in our backyard. (And occasionally sample and spit out local lobstermen who get in their way of feeding on sand eels. Even here — where extraordinary things happen every day — we couldn’t stop talking about it.)
We had my father’s Celebration of Life in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago. I packed my Apache Tears that I recharged under the Super Flower Moon, my deluxe box of Martha Stewart CBD gummies, my protective pink yarrow flower essence, and my dad’s Hamilton watch. My cobbled together talismans did not help me navigate this much delayed ritual. I had hoped for some closure, maybe even a little healing, but I left with gaping wounds and a desperate realization that the last seven months was only a liminal period and forever has just begun.
I’ve been meditating every day. Mostly, I yawn and fidget my way through it.
Walking around the edges of town fills me with joy at seeing the results of the energy others put into their small spaces. It also fills me with anger at the too perfectness of some places — there’s usually a luxury car parked on paved over land, surrounded by flowers that originated half way around the world and provide no food, pollen, or sustenance to our native inhabitants.
But walking around in the outerness only sparks joy. The messiness is the beauty and everything there belongs there and feeds and shelters and supports everything else around it. I feel an exhilaration, even when going off the beaten track requires a choice between trekking through poison ivy or the scratchy twigs of the Rosa Ragusa. (I chose scratchy twigs.)
I am struggling with wanting to be that lone explorer I’ve always been and just not wanting to move. My natural inclination is to go the opposite direction of everyone else. Lately its been hard keeping my eyes on my own paper. Everyone is back out there. What are they doing? I’m trying hard not to know.
Tragedy befell my bird gymnasium crew. A pine siskin appeared at my window feeder quite visibly showing signs of salmonella. After I scrubbed and disinfected every bird feeder and every surface the bird may have touched at least seven times, I called it a day. I took a CBD gummy, put on the soothing sounds of a mountain spa hot tub in my Calm app, and laid down under my weighted blanket, ready for Tuesday to arrive. I asked the universe if it could please give me a break from all the impending doom. (It did not, several weeks later an infected goldfinch shivered and shook it’s salmonella-ed ass all over my bird bath.)
My hummingbird feeder is a success. We’ve had ruby-throated delights visiting at all hours, but mostly in the evening, during hummingbird disco hour. The setting sun hits the disco balls just so and tiny shimmers of light sparkle all over the deck. I spied on one tiny visitor from our large picture window overlooking the front porch. It buzzed about the air getting every last drop out of the just bloomed purple catmint flowers.
I bought white sneakers. I wanted something light for the summer. They feel Too American. I also bought a pair of neon pink sweatpants.
I’m still Nooming. And now I can sit with my legs pulled up to my chest again. I had no idea how much I missed being able to do that. And everything is loose, including my skin. I hit my second weight goal and rewarded myself with an entire day of just reading. No dishes, no laundry, nothing but reading. (Here’s the book I gulped down that gloriously indulgent day: The Decagon House Murders.)
I pre-ordered Egyptian walking onion and crimson clover and oyster leaf for fall planting. I will not be growing perennials from seeds again. Oy. And all three basil types got crispy. The pineapple tomatillos surprised me and rallied and now have stems the thickness of my arm.
I found varicose veins on my calf. They have probably been there a while, but I was so pale from the insiding we did all year that I could see them. The indignity.
A raccoon has been making nightly visits to polish off the grape jelly leftovers that the catbirds leave behind. Raccoons remind me of my dad who went to great lengths to keep them out of the garbage cans at the cottage in Eastham. They are as Cape Cod to me as the pockets of warm, still summer air scented with pine needles and a whisper of salt.
My bestie moved to Chicago to work for the Obama Presidential Library. Before he left me for Michelle, we ate grilled peach and strawberry bruschetta and watched Eurovision (still in shock over that Italy win) and talked and hugged and cried and the moms and the boys came over. And they all talked and hugged and cried.
Chokecherry has taken over my bird sanctuary. I think it’s ok. But I’m still battling that effing garlic mustard and the knotweed by the mailbox.
On a recent drive down 6A to Hyannis for medical appointments, we hit the rhododendron super lottery — full pinky blooms on both sides the whole way there. I wonder how old some of those bushes are. 50 years?
The Fourth of July weekend was overrun by circuit boys in town so we had our beloveds over for a Mexican fiesta and lit sparklers and ate ice cream sandwiches while the fireflies and foxes danced through our yard.
I’ve become a blurter. At the dog park, or while buying a piece of pottery, or especially — especially — when someone tells me how easy they had it the past year or so and how perfectly fine they were, I blurt: “My dad died in November. COVID.” I watch their faces twist as their minds think of how to respond. And I hope I’ve shamed them enough in their privilege and their assumptions to never tell anyone else how life was grand for them.
Mostly, I’ve spent the past two months fractured and covered in dirt while silently repeating “… and that’s ok.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about:
“How to Be Exuberant.” “People who feel connected to themselves, their lives, and their loved ones in satisfying ways don’t want to speed through life. They don’t want to be done with all forms of work and discovery.”
“Joyas Voladoras.” “Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.”
One of the most beautiful essays I’ve ever read.
Also, here’s some stuff:
Nothing clears a room like grief, especially COVID grief, when the rest of the world just wants to forget and get back at it. It can be really lonely. Here are a few resources that have helped me:
The Artist’s Grief Deck. I choose a card each month to work on. You can use them online for free, but having something physical to touch helps me with my grief. // Virtual experiences through Reimagine. Sometimes you need to connect with other people who have been through the same thing. // It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand. I was shocked at how weird people were after my dad’s death. I have friends who still haven’t said a word to me. But others really showed up. // The Dinner Party resources section. I’m not the demographic target for this organization (I’m too old), but their resource section is wonderful, especially the grief ritual toolkit.
The Pose final season. If you haven’t watched this show, put it on your binge list immediately. It is phenomenal. It is fabulous. It is emotional. And I promise you, you’ll learn something that will make you a better person.
Mare of Easttown (HBOMax). I’m guessing everyone has seen this by now. Jean Smart, though! // Halston (Netflix). I’ve been envisioning my life as a Halstonette, sans all those drugs, ever since I watched it. // Home Before Dark (AppleTV). I needed something not too murder-y, but with an engaging mystery plotline. A young girl solves the cold case of a kidnapped boy after her family moves back to her father’s hometown of Eerie Harbor. // Cruel Summer (Hulu). Perfect summer teen TV fare. More kidnapped kids. // Bad Batch (Disney+). Good thing I spent the pandemic watching the entire seven seasons of Clone Wars. // All Creatures Great and Small (PBS). Just a delight. And so soothing. // Atlantic Crossing (PBS). The story of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Norway’s Crown Princess Martha during World War II. Sounds yawn-y but the drama is quite intense. // Young Wallander (Netflix). A gripping Euro detective series, albeit a bit violent.
Space Sweepers (Netflix). The title is a little cuckoo and, ok fine, so is the premise of junkers in space, but it quickly turned from casual space movie to oh-my-god-this-is-so-GOOOOODDD! // Greenland. I guess I still love a good survive-at-all-costs disaster movie. (Although now I plan to just stay home, maybe walk to the water’s edge à la Rogue One and wait for the end.) // The Woman in the Window (Netflix). Twisty and entertaining even if it does switch to a slasher film for a bit. // VC Andrews’ Ruby movies (Lifetime). All four of them. Sometimes you just need a melodramatic twins-switch-lives-and-drama-ensues movie, if you can stomach the signature VC Andrews incest plot line. // The Midnight Sky (Netflix). A quiet disaster movie. With George Clooney.
The Challenge: All Stars (or OG, as I call it) (Paramount+). I laughed throughout the whole first episode as person after person cramped, gasped, and otherwise failed. Honestly, what are they thinking? But seriously, THANK YOU. // The Real World Homecoming: New York (Paramount+). OH MY GOD!! BECKY!!!! The racism conversation didn’t move an inch after all this time and I just can’t with her.
Harold Budd’s 1986 collaboration with the Cocteau Twins, The Moon and the Melodies. As moody and broody as a Steven Patrick Morrissey lyric. I mean, one song is titled, “Ooze Out and Away, Onehow.”
The Betsy Morning Playlist. I have never been to The Betsy but I can see myself sipping my morning coffee, the day’s kaftan flowing in the breeze, sun on my face, slowly easing into my day. Actually, let’s all do this tomorrow.
Both Mander House Vol. 1 and 2 from Letherette. It’s like that hotel bar where it’s so dark you can barely see your extra strong, I-can-barely-stand-it sugary mixed drink while the LED lights change color around you and you couldn’t be more comfortable in the sink in your chair lounge vibe.
A few local things:
Pond Stories. Did you know there are almost 1,000 local ponds on the Cape?
The last word, according to Fyr & Flamme, Denmark’s Eurovision 2021 entry. I have no idea what they are saying and this song didn’t even make it to the finals (ROBBED!), but it is my favorite from this year’s competition: