This ol’ body

Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, “Seriously?”

When I was twenty, I was sure that I would manage to be one of those women who age gracefully. You know, slender, fit, silver haired with long dangly earring, sipping a fine wine at a cafe in Rome.  I imagined my face to be serene and smooth, with just enough laugh lines to give me character.

I had a vivid imagination.

Reality is a little bit different, you see.  (sigh)

Of course, I still have the image of that beautiful older woman in my head. Which why I’m always sort of shocked to see the stocky, round faced lady with the bifocals standing there in pictures of me.

Sometimes I’m a little annoyed with my body.  How did it manage to get so creaky? Why do so many parts of it hurt these days?

And what’s with all the extra padding?

Sometimes I get frustrated when I wake up with a sore neck just from sleeping.

Or when my legs are aching from a half hour on the elliptical.  Or when I’d really like to go hiking with my husband, but I know my heart would palpitate me right off the mountainside.

Sometimes I don’t appreciate my body at all.  “I’ve been feeding you salad and kale shakes”, I tell it. “Shouldn’t you be a lot leaner and meaner by now?”   My body doesn’t usually answer me.  Frankly, I don’t think it hears as well as it used to.

At times like these, I think back on all that this body has done for me.  I make myself remember all the things I put it through in college.  I think back on all of the hikes and camping trips in the rain.  All the rocks and dirt I’ve made it haul around as I built my gardens.

I start to feel a little sheepish.

I begin to remember the times when my body acted like an absolute champ.  When it performed miracles.

I think about my three pregnancies, when I made that body incubate a real-live human and then give birth to it.  I remember labor and delivery when my clumsy, swelled-to-ridiculous-proportions body turned into an Olympic Champion and did what had to be done with precious little help from me.

I remember my body pregnant with one while chasing the other two around the house. I remember it staying up all night to rock a sick baby, then going grocery shopping in the morning.

So I pat it on its chubby little shoulder and tell it that I’m sorry.

I guess this body has earned its creaks and aches and padding.  I guess I should learn to appreciate it.

After all, I don’t imagine its going to get much more spry in the future!

Waterworks alert.

Sometimes  life seems to conspire against us.

Or for us.  I’m not entirely sure.

But there are key points in life where every event seems designed to wring emotion from our hearts.  Where all of life’s resonance seems work together to create a touching and beautiful chord.

I am in just such a place right now, and I find myself compelled to warn my friends and relations. “Waterworks alert!”  I tell them. I say,  “Every part of my life is coming together to capture me in a net of emotion.  I will be teary.  Don’t freak out; just hand me a tissue.”

I’ll give you an example of  what I mean.  Last Thursday I went to a meeting with a lawyer, checking on the status of my Mother’s estate.  My Mom is healthy and hearty and living independently in her own home, but the conversation itself was a reminder that she is nearing her final chapter.  I find myself wanting to simplify and clarify my relationship with her while there is still time.  I want to be sure that I say everything that needs to be said.  It makes me sad just to think about it.

And my middle child, my sweetly idiosyncratic boy, came home last week for some loving care while he was recovering from oral surgery.  While he was here we had a small bulldozer working in the side yard.   The last time that a bulldozer worked here, Matt was a year and half old, and he had to stand on a stool to look over the windowsill that now comes to his mid-thigh. As we watched the work,  I looked up at his six foot three inch frame. I could clearly see the golden haired boy who once stood at rapt attention gazing out the same window, breathlessly recounting every move of the tractor in his husky baby voice.   I felt the pressing of time on my neck as I watched him, remembering the baby he was such a short time ago.  My heart squeezed.  More emotion.

Add in this fact: My third child, my baby, is graduation from college next week. Wasn’t he just born a year ago?!  How do I begin to understand that my last “dependent” won’t be one any longer?  I am excited for him, but I suspect that it is hard for him to be leaving his happy college days behind him. Is he worried about the future? Is he sad to say good bye to so many friends?  How can it be that I don’t know the answer to these questions? I gave birth to him! I held him under my own heart; how can he be so grown up that I don’t know what he is feeling? So much emotion!!

And then there is this: My only daughter is getting married this summer.  I spent today shopping for her dress.  We were with her Maid-of-honor, a beautiful young woman who I have knowns since her birth.  When they were little, the girls used to play “Double Wedding” out on the lawn.  I am breathless with the realization that both are now planning weddings, and that they will stand up for each other.  Just the way we once dreamed…….

And yesterday I was at school with my fifth grade team.  We were having our weekly meeting, talking about lessons and kids. I am the wise old woman on our team.  Another teacher, Amy Jo,  is new to the profession, but is a young mother of two girls.  The third member of our team, Caitlin, is my daughter’s age, and is due to deliver her first child in a few short weeks. We were going over our usual teacher business when suddenly Caitlin grabbed my hand. “Want to feel the baby?”, she asked with a smile.  I placed my hand on her swollen stomach, and Amy Jo put hers right next to mine.  We all paused, waiting. I looked at our three hands; the hands of three women who love each other and who love this not-yet-known little boy.   I could feel how connected we all are, how much our lives have been woven together.  I felt that little boy moving, and my mind went right to my own little ones, who I first met as they moved inside of me.

I looked at our three hands, and I thought of the healing power of love, and of the “laying on of hands”.  I thought about how time moves in unending circles, and my eyes filled with tears.

Time is not a river, or a ribbon, or a journey.  Time is an eternal circle, coming back again and again to the moment when a woman comes to know the brand new being who lives and moves within her.

Waterworks alert.   I can’t believe that I am the wise old woman of the village. I can’t believe that Caitlin is having her baby. I can’t believe that my boys are all grown up, or that my own baby girl will be getting married and starting her own life circles.

Around and around it goes.  Life conspires to remind us that it is all about change, and growth and moving on.

Waterworks alert.

Making lunch


I have never been one of those good wives who takes care of her man.

I don’t know how to sew on a button (I am NOT kidding. Stop laughing.)   I can iron, but only under duress (ie, a wedding).  I don’t iron Paul’s shirts.

I do make dinner, so I think I get some brownie points.

But I have friends who have been making breakfast for their hubbies since the wedding day.  Me? Not so much.

I figure that I married a perfectly capable and able man. He can make his own coffee and toast. Especially since I have been leaving the house before him for the past 20 plus years.

And I haven’t ever gotten into “making lunch”.

I mean, I guess when my oldest was little, I’d probably make sandwiches or soup or something.  But my kids have been packing their own lunches since they were in second grade.  I used to have a section of the cabinet marked “school snacks”.  They were supposed to pick what they wanted and put it into the lunchbox.

I figured that my job was done when I bought the stuff, right?


Now that the kids have all grown up and gone away, I find myself suddenly interested in making lunches.

I have been packing super healthy foods for myself for every school day. Kale shakes (no, I am NOT kidding), yogurt, veggie wraps.

So it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me to take on Paul’s lunch most nights.  I get out the wraps, the cold cuts, the cheese, the veggies, the mustard or french dressing, and I make the neatest, firmest, most packed wrap the world has ever seen.  I put it in his lunchbox, with some fruit and some juice and maybe a cookie or two.

And it is only once in a while that I ask myself, “What the hell?”


There seem to be some unexpected benefits to the proverbial “empty nest”.  And most of them are going to my husband.


Hanging up my “Good Mom” credentials

The world is full of really good Moms.

These are women who want their beloved children to be healthy, hearty and independent.

Sometimes I pretend to be one of those women.

This week, though, I was a really bad Mom.

The worst.

If word of my behavior gets out, I will no doubt be ordered to hand in my Good Mom credentials.   I am.  So.  Ashamed.

See, when my kids were little, I was so proud of myself of helping them to be independent. I bought them hampers and taught them how to do laundry when they were in the fifth grade. (Oh, OK.  This happened when my oldest child was outraged that I washed and dried her best sweater, turning it into the perfect doll outfit. Still….)  I had them choosing their own clothes by first grade, making their own lunches by third grade,  organizing their backpacks by fourth.

I was such. A. Good. Mom.

I let my little fledglings fly!  And I was so proud!

Until they all flew away.  And my nest was suddenly empty. Then my entire mindset changed.

All of a sudden, I wanted them to need me again.  You know, just for a little while!

Which brings me to this week.

My middle child, my golden boy, my smart and independent older son, had to have five teeth pulled at once.  Two of them were impacted wisdom teeth.  He was going to be in a lot of pain and under the influence of a lot of drugs.  I offered to help him, but fully expected him to decline.

My boy.......

My boy…….

This boy has been independent and self-reliant for quite a while now.  He doesn’t need his Mamma.

But to my great amazement, he accepted my offer!  He asked if I could come and take him to his oral surgeon and then bring him back home!  “Gee, OK!”, I said.

And this is where I became the worst mother ever.

Instead of feeling sorry that he had to endure such pain and discomfort, I became ridiculously happy to think of having him home for three days!  I bought pastina and yogurt and good ice cream! I made up his bed and cleaned up the bathroom.  I defrosted soup and bought extra mouthwash and got ready to nurse my injured boy back to full health.

I am a wicked bad and shameful mother.

And I have had such a great time with my baby boy for the past two days!

As soon as he finishes his home made mac n’ cheese and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, I will reform and repent and reject my sinful ways.

For now, though, I plan to make him a nice soft omelette and watch him carefully as he eats it.

I’ll turn in my Good Mom badge tomorrow.

Note to self….

……Dear Empty Nester Me

What the hell were you thinking?

You went to the grocery store at 11AM on a Tuesday?!  Seriously?!

Have you lost your aging mind?

You should have known what would happen!  You should have predicted it.

But, no.  You just had to get out there to buy those red peppers, didn’t you? In the middle of the week. When all the young Mommies are out there with their adorable little ones in their arms.

You idiot.

You should have predicted what would happen.

There you were, buying your soy milk and chia seeds.  Your recycled toilet paper and your organic kale.

Not a juice box or a fruit roll up in sight.

And along came the very people who are supposed to shop in the middle of a sunny Tuesday.  A pretty young Mom, her three or four year old daughter walking beside the carriage, and the sweet little toddler with the golden curls. The one who sat in the grocery cart seat, his chubby hands fixed on the bar in front of him.  The little guy who looked up at you with those perfect sky blue eyes.  Who responded to your smile with a frown of his golden brows and a pout of his sweet little boy mouth.

You felt your heart thump and swell, but what did you expect?

You thought that you were doing just fine when you tried to walk away from the little boy.  You thought you were moving on, thinking about the coffee beans and the allergy meds.

But then you came around the corner, down the frozen food aisle.  And there was the young Mom, with her daughter holding onto her leg, the baby in her arms.  You tried to just walk by, but then you saw the little guy leaning out of her arms, reaching for the floor. You saw his cheeks, red with frustration, and you heard that little voice say with near desperation, “Down! Down, Momma, Down!”

And there you were, twenty years ago, in this same spot, with your own little boy demanding his freedom.  You felt the sadness sweep up and around you, holding you close once again.  You wanted to talk to that young woman, but you bit your lip and moved away.

You wanted to tell her, “Whatever you do, don’t put him down! Hold him, as tight as you can.  Never let him go.”


Note to self: always shop on Saturdays, when all the old people are in the store, and there are no beautiful babies to break your heart.

A perfect moment

I was talking with my daughter this afternoon.  We were in the car, on our way home from work. We shared stories of classroom antics, talked about our colleagues, our students,  our upcoming professional development days.

As we chatted, we started to talk about her childhood. We were laughing, loud and hard, as she recounted her memories of recess in the fourth grade.  As a fourth grade teacher now herself, she was absolutely shaking with hilarity when she remembered that every day at recess she and her best friends would crouch under the darkest, scariest part of the playground structure so they could “talk to the dead.”

She remembered that her favorite game at the time was “light as a feather, stiff as a board”.  They would try to put one child into a trance as the others attempted to reach the spirits beyond.  “Can you imagine?”, she kept laughing,  “I would freak out if my kids were doing that!” We chuckled and clucked and thought about how funny our childhood memories can be.

Then Kate began to remember earlier and earlier moments, moving from verbal memories to those that were more sensory. She remembered playing with Grampa when she was probably no more than two.  She remembered the little house that we had rented for a few years when she was very small.

And those memories triggered one of my own, and I had to share it with her.

“Kate, it was a perfect moment”, I told her. It was a warm early summer day.  She and I had been outside all afternoon, digging in the backyard, working to reclaim an overgrown, unkempt garden from the weeds that had come to dominate it. I remember digging with a trowel, pulling out grass and dandilions to uncover the shoots of irises and coneflower and daisies.  The afternoon had passed with my little girl at my side, learning to see the beauty in the wildness.

We had gone inside and I had put her into a warm bubble bath.  I remember that I had wrapped her in a towel and rubbed her dry.  I had put her soft brown hair into two tiny ponytails and dressed her in the prettiest white nightgown.  The sun was setting, the air was warm and sweet with early summer smells.  We were waiting for Daddy to come home, and my beautiful barefoot girl was rocking in her little wooden rocker. She was singing, “In the Good Old Summertime”, and she was giggling.  I sat across from her, barefoot myself, and smiling.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her face. I simply could not believe that anyone on earth could be as beautiful, as perfect, as radiant as she was.

I remember the feel of the air that evening. I remember the smell of magnolias from the tree outside of our house. I remember the creak of the wooden rocker on the porch floor.  Mostly, though, I remember how my little girl looked with the light of the setting sun on her face. I remember the husky sound of her voice and the sweet smell of her skin.  I remember, as distinctly and clearly as if it had happened this morning, how it felt to be me right then, living and seeing and saving a perfect, perfect moment.

When I was 21…..

I haven’t written here for a while.  So much has been swirling around in my heart that I wasn’t sure where to begin.  I’ve started a few posts, but quickly realized that each one fell short of what I was hoping to say.  So I waited, and fretted a bit, wondering when I would finally find the idea that could serve as an anchor for my thoughts.

I knew it would finally come, and it did.

I just read posts by two of my favorite bloggers; Elyse at Fifty Four and a Half and Darla at She’s a Mainiac.  Turns out that Elyse inspired Darla by asking “What were your thoughts at 21 about having kids?” And both asked the rest of us to write about the same question.

So here I am.

Oh, my, what were my thoughts about motherhood?  Can I even remember being 21?

The past few weeks for me have been a confluence of poignant synchronicities.  I have been constantly looking both backward and ahead, weighing and measuring the changes and the consistencies.

I am teary and fragile.  I am poised between what was and what I can’t yet see.

And I have been thinking so much about my own dreams at the tender age of twenty one.

I’m the oldest daughter in a family of six children. The first time that I felt the pull of maternal yearning, I was thirteen years old, holding my sweet sleeping baby brother on my lap. I remember the smell of his sweaty baby hair, the look of the long lashes on his soft cheek. I wanted a baby, a baby of my very own.

That's me in the flowered poncho.  The baby brother is the adorable little curly haired guy to my right.  Weren't we cute?

That’s me in the flowered poncho. The baby brother is the adorable little curly haired guy to my right. Weren’t we cute?

I fell in love with my husband at seventeen.  I knew that I wanted his babies as soon as I knew that I wanted him.  By twenty one, I was planning both my wedding and my family. I wanted to rock and hold and sing and soothe. I wanted to nurture and love.  I was ready.

Paul and I got married at twenty-two (!), but we had grad school ahead of us. My Mommy dreams were put on the shelf, growing stronger with every passing month.  Finally, at the age of 27, with my Master’s Degree in hand and my first job underway, I was truly ready for motherhood.

But maybe I wanted it too much, because it didn’t happen.  Not in a month, not in six.  Not in a year.  The pain and the shame are hard to describe.  I had dreams of desperately climbing a cliff, hanging by my fingernails, pulling myself up onto a ledge where I was met by a crowd of mothers and nursing babies.  I raged, I mourned, I prayed. And finally, after a lot of medical intervention, I did it.  Eight weeks shy of my thirtieth birthday, I became a mother.

I know it sounds like the sappiest of cliches.  But I finally became the woman that I had dreamed of being, ever since that moment when I looked at my sleeping baby brother and felt my heart turn over. I had my very own baby to love.

And not so long after that,  I had her brothers. Life was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Then, when my oldest child was nine years old, and her brothers were one and three, I started a job in the school where I work now.  I took the job reluctantly, feeling that the forty five minute commute was just too much to handle. But I was young, I was idealistic. I loved the children at school almost as much as I loved the children at home.  I believed with my whole heart in everything that I was doing in both places. I threw my whole heart and soul into our school, and into raising my three children.

And somehow, although I didn’t truly feel it happening, twenty years have gone flying by.  My baby boy is the one who is twenty one now. He is about to graduate from college, ending another phase of his life and of mine.  That fact has me looking back, but also looking forward. How did my little baby grow so suddenly into this strong young man? What will he do with the life that stretches out before him?

What will I do with mine, now that I am the mother of three adults?

Our school district has an annual celebration for everyone who has been working here for twenty years. A twentieth anniversary party for everyone who has managed to hang on for so long. I have attended many of these celebrations in the past.

To my absolute shock, I am one of those “Twenty year” people this year. They’re giving me a chair. The other night there was a wonderful dinner, a funny and touching “roast”, a great celebration.  I loved it all.

But I can’t really grasp the fact that I have been at this job, doing that grueling commute, for twenty years! How did that happen?

Now I am fifty eight years old.  I still love my students and love the time I spend with them.  I still feel lucky to have the job that I do.

But I no longer believe in most of what we do in public school. I no longer feel quite as excited and proud and idealistic about my job. I no longer teach in a way that I think is best for my kids.   Now I prepare for the tests and I give the tests and I score the rubrics, because that’s what they tell me to do.  Now I try to sneak in moments of joy and creativity in my classroom, hoping that they will go unnoticed.

Now I am an older teacher, riding out my last few years.  And I love and admire my young colleagues, who bring so much energy and joy to our school.

And here is the synchronicity:  One of those young colleagues is that baby girl who made my dreams come true.  Now she is a smart, confident, beautiful woman.  A teacher like her Mom.

When I sat on the stage during my “Chair Ceremony”, I looked out at the room full of my fellow teachers.  I listened to my colleagues as they talked about my past, and I looked at my daughter, sitting in the crowd, representing the future.

What did I think about when I was twenty one? I can’t remember it all, but I know that I wanted my children, desperately and deeply.  I know that I wanted a job that let me grow and learn.  I guess I wanted exactly what I have.

Now the question is this: What do I want for the last phase of my life? What do I want my after 60 adventures to be?

Comment here or write a post to answer this question, OK? I am certainly looking for some inspiration.

Universal motherhood.



I love history.  I do.  I love gazing at old photos, imagining the experiences of those who lived their lives so many years before my own.

I love thinking about what they felt, what they thought, what they dreamed. I can imagine them growing up, marrying, working, aging. I can picture them falling in love and dreaming and laughing and planning their futures.

But it seems beyond my wildest imagining to think that the ladies in the pictures above were ever young mothers, like I was. It seems impossible to think of them cradling their precious new babies, the way I did once.

All of these women lived in the very same town where I live. All of them had children. All of them were once new moms.

Somehow, though, it seems beyond belief to picture them rocking a crying child in the darkest part of the night, thinking, “I don’t know how to make him feel better!  I need my mother!”

I look at their faces, frozen in the black and white images of history. They look solid, assured, secure in themselves.  Their clothes are just right, there hair is orderly, neat, stylish.

They are no-nonsense.  They are confident.  They are adults.

When I was the same age as these women, perhaps a hundred years after they walked the streets of our town, I was muddled, insecure, unkempt.  My hair stood up in messy tufts. My clothes were wrinkled and stained.  It took all of my strength to keep my babies fed; I could spare no effort toward making a good impression.

I hold these old photos in my hand. I gaze intently at the faces of the women in them.  I wonder, “Did you cry when your firstborn went to school?”  It seems unlikely, somehow.   I ask them, softly, “Did you think about how quiet your life would be when they grew up?”   They look so resolute, so determined.  Surely these were women who gave birth with the intention of creating solid adults.  Surely they were too grounded in life’s realities to think about such silly whimsies.

I rub a finger over the face of the lady with the stern uplifted bun.  I squint my eyes, and suddenly I see it.  Her face lights up with joy and laughter; her grown up children have come home.  I see her holding each one to her heart, kissing each one softly and sweetly and pushing him back to look into his face.  I see her embracing her daughter, newly wed, sharing the joy of life unfolding.

I see these women, all three long gone, long buried, long forgotten.  I see the face of motherhood shared.

I wonder suddenly, “Who will look at my picture a hundred years from now?”

A shoulder to cry on…

empty nest

Dear brand new Empty Nesters,

This is for you.  I have been in your shoes, and I have some observations to share.

You did everything you were supposed to do.  You bought those stupid extra long sheets and brand new matching towels and facecloths.  You naively packed a broom and a little vaccuum, along with a supply of vitamins, ibuprofin and Tums.

Maybe you opened up a student checking account.  You put some equity onto one of those swipe cards so your child can buy a sandwich, some coffee, toothpaste.

You packed up the van and took the long drive, placed your temporary parking pass in your windshield and dragged 24 boxes of “essentials” up the three floors to the dorm room.

You met the roomates and their parents, helped your child to put some things in the tiny crevasse that passes for a “closet”, and then stood there awkwardly for a few minutes.

Now its time to go.

Its time to put your arms around your baby, kiss her cheek and tell her that you are proud of her.  Tell her to have fun, then indulge yourself in one more “be careful!” before you square your shoulders and walk out of that room.

Well meaning friends will tell you that you should feel proud right now.  Reassure them that you are.   They will tell you that this is the way life is supposed to go.  “Kids have to grow up!”, they will say, “Its a vital step!”  Nod your head and agree with them.  You know this already!

Family members will attempt to make you feel better by saying, “Oh, don’t worry!!! Hahaha!  They always come back!” Just smile.  Look grateful.

Then get into your car, put her head on your arms and let yourself grieve.

Tell yourself what you know and must sadly accept.

You are saying goodbye to the baby that you raised.  You are leaving those Mommy times behind you forever. Your little one has done what little ones inevitably do; she has grown up.  You can’t stop that, and you can’t pretend that it isn’t a loss.

Give yourself time to curl up under a blanket and just cry.  Cry for the first days of school and the birthday parties and the goldfish crackers and the tiny socks in the hamper.  Cry for the warm little hand resting on your cheek and for the feel of your palm on a fevered brow.  Cry for the good night kisses and the cuddles and the need for you when a nightmare strikes.

Give in to the need to look away when toddlers and their mommies walk past.  Its OK.  Allow yourself to skip the baby aisle at the grocery store for now, knowing that the smell of powder will make you weepy.  Turn your head when baby commercials come on TV.

Hug the dog, and talk to her as if she’s a child.  Cry when you wake up in the night because you think you hear your child calling you.  Cry when you wake up in the night because it is too quiet now.

You did everything you had to do.  You were brave and unselfish and you let your child go.

Now grieve for awhile, and admit that life will never be the same.

Then slowly, slowly lift your head and look to the future.  Look to your new life, and your new adventures.  Look ahead and see how sweet it will be to have this wonderful adult in your life, and how exciting it will be to watch her life unfold.

Chin up, Susy! We love you!

Negative Space

BGM examples_negative space & positive space


I teach fifth grade in a school which focuses on the integration of art into all parts of the curriculum.  Since I have literally no background in the visual arts, I have learned a tremendous amount in my twenty years at our school.

One of the concepts which was introduced to me during my very first year was the idea of  “negative space”.  I learned about negative space when our art teacher passed by my classroom one morning and saw the funny, lopsided little cut-out picture that my then third grade daughter had created to decorate my door.  Honestly, I didn’t think much of it, and found it a little bit crude and messy. But I hung it up because I love my daughter dearly, and I wanted her know it.

I had all but forgotten about the little image until the art teacher stopped in my doorway and exclaimed, “Oh, who made that?  What a great use of negative space!”  I blinked, looked at the funny little cut out, and told her that Katie had done it. “She has such a great eye!”, said Margo.  “I love it.”

She then went on to describe the idea of negative space in art; how an artist can use the part of the image or sculpture that contains nothing to clarify or refine what we see.

Here is another example of how negative space creates the image:


The white part, the negative space, is clearly the most important.

The white part, the negative space, is clearly the most important.

You get the idea, right? It is the absence of color, texture, shape that gives the piece its true image.  The art is created by what is not there.

I have been thinking about this concept for the past week, because I have come to realize that in my empty nest life, summers are my “negative space”.

In my mommy days, summers were the busiest times.  I had my three children, and often their friends, to feed, entertain, clothe, care for.  I had my children to laugh with, to travel with, to shuttle from place to place. There were beach days, and movie days. Zoo trips, hikes, rainy day art projects and “We’re making a fort!” days.  Cookies to bake, ice cream trucks to await, grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of popcorn and Disney channel marathons.  Every minute was full.

During the school year, of course, every minute was full then, and it is full now.  School days are positive space, there is no doubt.

But summer now is simply negative space.

I try to stay busy, although I know that I am in desperate need of rest after the rigors of the school year. I get together with friends, I visit my Mom.  I teach for a week or two, and I take classes for a week or two.  I plan little projects to do around the house. I give myself a routine to follow; the elliptical every other day, a good long walk with the dogs each morning, gardening most afternoons.  I make a good dinner and enjoy it with Paul when he comes home. We have weekends away with friends and family.

But summer is still mostly negative space.

It is the absences that define me in the summer. There are few demands on my time; no one needs me to be home, to be in the car, to be at the park or the hockey rink.  I am free. I can go wherever I want to go most days.  But with no company, there is no place that calls to me, and I stay home.

It is the absence of voices around me that defines me in the summer.  Some days (not many, thank goodness, but some days) I hear only my own voice from the time Paul leaves to the time when he comes home.  I put on music, or I watch the news, just so that I can hear someone’s voice.  I go to the library or to the farm stand, just to chat for a bit.

Too much negative space.

I’m just smart enough to know that these quiet contemplative days are good for me, but they make me uncomfortable.  I know that the absences impact and shape the image that is “me” right now, just as the negative space in the portrait above lets us see the woman.

Without the negative space, we couldn’t see the woman’s beauty or fragility.

I guess we are all made up of both positive and negative space. We reflect all that we have, and all that is missing.  I guess we have to accept all of the space if we are going to fully appreciate the art.