We missed it - Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) and The Roots at Prospect Park - thanks to the awfully wet and wallowy summer we’re having. I’m sure it was epic, legendary, magic. Hopefully there will be a next time, so until then…
So this happened at work today.
Washed Out - It All Feels Right
We were lucky. It might not sound so at first, or always, and we probably didn’t always agree, but looking back, with the help of time, it’s easy to see and to say that we were. See, we were close because we had to be. We were sisters and sisters are family. They’re blood. They’re brood. They’re buddies. But our bond – my sister and I – it grew out of something unique. Something a little different. Because we lived in the country, outside of town: no real neighbors, no kids down the street. No other kids for miles, really. And really, no real streets. Just open, unlined country road. No walking with friends to the bus stop or school. No meeting in the cul-de-sac for a game of ball. They did that, probably, because they lived in town, but we were too far. We were a world away, but it was okay: we had our own.
The memory of my childhood with her is one long summer vacation. An eternal summer. The land of milk and honey, or rather, the land of pleasant living. Eight small acres that for a kid made the great unknown. We were removed from that hub of town, from our classmates, our friends, but we had each other. We had each other and we had our woods and our dock and our sandbar and our sunflower field. We didn’t really have TV, and back then there wasn’t any Internet, so we played in the yard and in the water and inside the house with our Dad. She wasn’t so sure of me at first, when I was born. I think she thought: who and what is this new little thing entering my world? Her world away from the greater world. Her lucky piece of the pie. But soon enough, she let me in.
From the time we were little, we were on the move. We were going. A million miles in the mind’s hour of a kid. We ran around our woods with salt-tangled curls and callused feet, completely oblivious to the twigged turf underneath. On an imagination mission. Circumnavigating the roots and branches and forest floor, taking solace on the soft damp pads of moss. We wiggled our way down to water and dug into the shoreline’s side for sand and clay. We waded in the waves; they lapped at our thighs. We pushed through the reeds; they tickled our chins. We did cannonballs off the dock. We fried jellyfish in the sun.
We pranced about our backyard in our baby bikinis and screamed high, piercing squeals as we jumped over the sprinkler, praying to not get stung by the turning cold wet. We played hide-and-seek in the pitch-black night and hid in the shadows of the rhododendrons that danced circles around our house. We watched fireflies fill the valley and tried to catch them in our hands. When we did, we showed them to each other. Our pulsing golden prizes. We walked out past the shed and looked up at the stars. We memorized the constellations. The Dippers. Orion’s belt. Sometimes we could see Jupiter. Saturn. We were lit by the light of the moon.
We swung on our little metal swing set that would eventually rust away in that very same spot, beneath the shadow of the trees, its metal skeleton laying on after for years. She taught me how to pump your legs hard so you could go high. How eventually, when you got high enough, you could jump, and land crunching into a pillowy pile of leaves, and then run on. I was scared, but if she could do it, I could too. I always wanted to make her proud.
We were the Native American princesses of our property, sunburnt and wild, brother to the deer and the squirrels, sister to all the millions of birds. Friend of the turtles and the toads and the bumblebees. Even the snakes in the grass. We wanted to discover new worlds within our own and to find new treasures. Feathers and shells and bones. Old glass bottles and driftwood washed up on the shore. The dream was an arrowhead, once buried deep but washed up to the surface, to us, after good hard rain. We tramped endlessly through the fields in search of such remains. The corn stalks rose high above our heads and turned our narrow paths into a maze. We ran through - fast - with scraped arms and cheeks, and I followed the flow of her messy flaxen mane, trying to keep up.
We went for boat rides and sat on top of our legs with bended knees at the nose of the boat, our puffy orange life jackets holding us in a hug, each bump of a wave bouncing up our bottoms and along the bones of our backs like a jazz man on the vibes. We wrapped our fingers around the cool metal railing, closed our eyes and let the wind wash over us and whip back our hair as the whaler whisked us home. A cool crisp air wicked off the green-blue water and ribboned itself around us. A sad, beautiful kind of smell.
She taught me things, both in her silences and aloud, and through her own example. I followed closely in her dirty, bare footsteps. I learned how to ride a bike, and a horse, and eventually play field hockey. I learned to let my humor blossom, and my self, and that it was okay to go off for a walk in the woods on your own sometimes. To go sit on the dock alone. And I learned to try, despite her own temper, to find patience. And appreciation. To listen when Dad sat down to the piano to play. To watch the way Mom made her favorite cake. To move my fingers along the lines of the dining room table to admire the craftsmanship but also the imperfections in its lines and the beauty in the knots and grains of its wood. To relish in those nights, as a family, when we got just plain silly. When we circled round and nestled in and laughed so hard we came to tears. Could barely even breathe. When, together, even in the dead of winter or the nostalgia of the fall, there always seemed to be this warmth. A little bit like summer.
And though we grew older and found ourselves yearning for something more, for something else, for somewhere else…and adolescence and driver’s licenses eventually pulled us away, to town, out into the greater world, as did college and commitments and our career…something had happened out there that would always allow us to stay.
It’s a special bond that kids make in the wilderness, in the woods, with their siblings, with a family like ours. Different than that of the city or the suburb. It wasn’t just convention or obligation. It wasn’t just because we were family. Something real was planted there. Something physical. Something manifest. A foundation inside of us. One grounded in an understanding, in an appreciation for all the warps and wicks of the grain. Like the trees in our woods, we laid roots. And they gnarl and overlap and they fight for sunlight and space, but they continue to grow. The saplings inch upwards. They reach toward the sky. Inside the both of us, we carry that world - the one we made. We carry each other. We’re a tribe.
A Life Well Lived | Jim Whittaker & 50 Years of Everest by eric becker
Fifty years ago, Jim Whittaker became the first American to summit Mt. Everest. This is his incredible story.
“Don’t go through life unburnished…It is in the wild places that I enter my own personal cathedral and know where I fit in the vastness of creation. Being out on the edge, with everything at risk, is where you learn and grow the most.”
You look great today. You’re always dressed like you’re about to go on vacation to some island - like Saint Tropez - with like, Suzanne Somers, and she’s always like, “Oh Lydia! You keep me young!”
I’ll take it. Pour me another cocktail, Suz.
You want to tell a story that, somehow, breaks people’s hearts.
—Colum McCann, after a readinglast night in NYC. I absolutely loved this. Let the Great World Spin surelybroke my heart. Here’s to breaking it again with his new book, Transatlantic.