Sneak out of work early, but not too early. Even though you just got home from vacation. Even though its the middle of the week.
Drive out to where the river meets the bay, where boundaries between fresh and salt water are not so hard and fast.
Put on a bathing suit and wade into the dark murky water, full of silt and lettuce-edged seaweed, holding the hand of the one boy who always makes your heart sing. Whisper that there are no water snakes here.
Wade out waist deep and crouch a little so the warm brackish water comes up chest high. Float around a bit and chat. With the boy, with his friend, with the man who has brought you here.
Dig with your toes in the velvety silt. Dig as you walk and float. Feel with your feet as you move along the bottom until you find it, a clam…then two, three, many more.
Keeping your toes on the clam, hold your breath and dive into the silty water. You won’t be able to see the treasure on the bottom. But maybe you can grab it. Deposit it in the blue bucket.
Later, after a picnic dinner, when the boys have gone to throw the clams back into the Bay, when the women have gone in to clean up after dinnner I was all alone in the moonlight. I stripped off the suit I wear, and dove back under water. There I found joy and peace and quiet in swimming alone, in feeling the water carry me like a little child. This is how I squeeze the last juice out of the summer days.
The summer is waning. Even though this is the 40th time I have experienced it, I am shocked now, surprised how quickly the days grow dark now. This time last year, I sat in a similar space, resisting the coming autumn, reluctant to allow summer to pass. “Please, stay another day,” I begged August, but September came and with it blessings, lessons, a winter of quiet and growth and peace, an unfolding and a relearning and a return of the spring. It comes and it goes. With luck I will return to summer’s shores again but only after having seen a new world. Each summer is entirely new.
And this one is not yet gone, though the slipping away is palpable.
I wander out in the waves of a new year, hold the hands of those who make my heart sing. I cannot see the bottom, cannot see if there are prizes, or monsters or anything else here. I do not know what we will find, or what will happen when we take the next step. There may in fact be water snakes here. We don’t know. But I feel the solid earth and I know if I walk and dig we will find treasure. This keeps me walking even when the birds will leave. This keeps me walking even when the flowers die back. This keeps me walking.
Her orders were quite clear.
“Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to sit in the sunshine and grow fat, like a cantaloupe–to swell with the sweetness of knowing you are loved, that the earth and the universe are conspiring to support you, and that it, whatever it is, doesn’t have to be hard.”
I took them in, these marching orders from my dear friend Kaiya and wondered how on earth one actually accomplishes the task of becoming a melon, sweet, full ripe in the late summer sun?
What I learned on my summer vacation: How to become a Cantaloupe
By Meg Casey
1. Drive a long long way and listen to brand new music. Music you have never heard before and saved, especially for the moment when the traffic is thickest or the road is most boring. Be thankful you have the time to really hear it for the first time with no distractions. Say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the one who thought to send you the music.
2. When the music is done, take time to listen to this podcast. And then listen to it again. And know that these words were meant for you.
3. Watch the sunset, completely still and almost completely silent with the one person in your life who you never doubted ever loved you.
4. Run along the beach and fly a kite. A pirate kite.
5. Make guacamole for the 3 beautiful people who act as though your guacamole is the food of the Gods. Let the love of your guac sink in and spread out to your toes. Understand that it is really love of you.
6. Sneak into the shed with the cousins for late night giggles.
7. Empty the dishwasher. Fold the laundry.
8. Do a talent show judged by the children. Dance you butt off to really old dance music.
9. Walk into town. Over and over again. Tell your stories while you walk. Just like you did when you were a kid.
10. Dive into the waves. Let them carry you to the shore, then stagger back against the surf to do it over and over and over again–even though the water is cold and salty and you got tossed under a lot. The ride is worth it every time.
11. Learn from the children how to boogie board.
12. Cuddle up in towels on the beach with your boy and read his book outloud.
13. Play board games with the kids. Play blackjack with the kids. Have a light saber fight with the kids.
14. Sit under the stars and listen to stories. Think about all that your loved ones had to go through to get to the place where they could pass on their wisdom, observations.
15. Wake up early to feel the sun on your face.
16. Sleep with the windows open.
17. Walk out into the bay and look for crabs.
18. Go grocery shopping. Make dinner. Make sandwiches for lunch. Make breakfast. Make coffee.
19. Watch for whales. Watch for seals.
20. Watch the sunset, watch the tide, watch the baby explore his world, watch the world wake up. Watch yourself wake up.
The sweetest sound is her voice calling, “Now…Aunt Meg…NOW…swim…swim…swim”. Or is the sweetest sound his voice cheering me on as he catches the wave with me and rides it all the way in to the sandy shore where we lie laughing as the next one crashes over our heads and flips us over? Venturing out into the freezing cold water on the ocean side of the Cape, Emily and Max proved that you can teach this old dog new tricks.
An hour later I am staggering up the beach, looking like a drunk, high on salt water and sun. Warn out from fighting against the waves to get out where I can catch them again, I wonder how I ever played for hours on end in the surf as a kid…where did I get the stamina, the energy, the ability to stay warm? And I wonder if I ever played as hard as he does. You know, I don’t think I ever did.
There is nothing like learning something new from your child. Nothing like being a beginner and having to put your trust in the wee one you are signed up to protect. Sure, I body surfed as a kid and I suppose this is NOT that much different but it has been so long, and we never did have these boogie board when I dove in and out of the waves. The closest we got was a half deflated raft that rode out past the waves and laid on while it rocked our sun-drenched bodies.
And truth be told, I never was as brave as Max is in the water. Not even back then when I was on the verge of turning 8. I was afraid and had to push myself out into the surf. I was never a strong swimmer and I never trusted that the waves would not drag me back out with them to sea. I wonder if I really allowed myself to let go of the fear long enough to feel the thrill I feel now.
And with this realization, it hits me like a truck. My fears are not his fears. His journey is separate from mine. Somethings I will be able to teach him, but many things I will not. If I am lucky I can hold the space while he learns, witness his growth. And even now at the tender age of almost 8 he is teaching me, teaching me what he knows, what he has learned. Not just guiding me along as the universe teaches but he is actually teaching me. He knows stuff that I don’t. He knows stuff I never will know. Even now.
Last night, as we drove home from the grocery store, he decided to fill me in on the latest of his discoveries.
“Do you know, Mom, that I am brilliant. I may in fact be smarter than you. Yup. I probably am. Because you, Mama…you are a grownup. And grownups are kids who have lost their imagination. I still have mine so I think–I think that makes me smarter.”
He doesn’t know how right he is. He knows so much that I am only hoping to one day learn. I wonder if he too will one day need a child to teach him. To show him how to ride to waves and laugh when they crash. To teach him to be brave. Or to dance. Or to write poetry or scuba dive or fly into the air on a glider.
How far do you need to go, to touch the shores of the place you haven’t visited since childhood, a place at once magical and familiar? How far do you need to go to reach the spot where the waves crash over your head and you shriek in delight? How far do you need to go to walk along the beach, knowing full well that the tide will come back, even as it is drifting out now away?
We set out on a journey last week, one thousands miles round trip. We head out to Cape Cod for cousins week. I discovered many things along the way. For one, I discovered the fact that my car must really really love me. I know that it does because it kept going under impossible circumstances. When most cars would have given up, indignant at the mistreatment, mine kept moving forward. That kind of dedication can only be interpreted as love. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I also discovered that life really can be easy, even when challenges and obstacles present themselves. I discovered that I can be awake for large parts of the day and simply be and that it fills me, the way constant activity never quite does. I also noticed some habits I have, habits I thought I had once upon a time abandoned. I noticed how I eat for comfort. That sometimes I am fooled into thinking that a hole I feel in my heart might be in my stomach. But I noticed that if I sit with it, the hole just fills itself, the way sand fills in the voids on the beach.
But mostly, I sunk into the deliciousness of knowing that I have come to a place in my life, not yet sure I know it exactly or that I even know how to describe its differentness, but a place that feels more solid, more secure. Its waking up to the fact that I am not the person I was 4 years ago–or even 4 minutes ago. That I have healed in some ways, grown in others, and most excitedly that the adventure is just beginning. Its always beginning. With each new breath, a chance to begin again. And I am no longer afraid. Not of breakdowns, not of detours or delays. Not of the unknown.
Some might say that one thousand miles is a long way to go. Even with great music. One thousand miles is a long way to go only to arrive back home where you started, even if you are a bit more refreshed, a lot more yourself. One thousand miles is a long way to drive in a broke down car, summer beach traffic and heat but it was worth every minute. It always is.
So happy to have spent a week in the presence of my cousins, the ones who know me — the essence of me– and who love me the way no one else really ever could.
So happy to come home to myself, to my magical life right here.
“Its all bullshit”, I said as I slammed the pots into the sink. Tears dripping down my nose. Nothing had happened, so the tears seemed absurd, but maybe that was the point.
Big shifts are taking place in my heart but they are so small. They are the kind of changes that can only be captured by the words…”and then she grew up”. I am finding that unlike the divorce or learning to parent, or discovering my community in this round of the adventure there is no drama. There is no crescendo or aha moments. There is no story worth telling. I keep asking her, my teacher, WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO. She smiles at me and says this time there is no doing.
This time there is just me–learning to feel unconditionally loved–learning to love myself as fiercely as I love my tribe. Learning to be my own rock without letting that rock become a wall. Learning that I can drink my fill from a bottomless well–there is no needing to ask permission or earn my way there. Its is there for me–and it is there for you too.
Learning to receive love…Its not about doing anything at all. Its simply about being.
This can be excruciatingly difficult. And I can’t explain why. Giving up all the stories about why I can’t or don’t deserve or shouldn’t try…Giving up the conditions…”I will be lovable/worthy/accepted when…”, it can set a girl in a tizzy. Its a series of explosion that is knocking down a life time of rules that somehow made it all safe–that set up the game–and gave me a plan. Its pushing my buttons. I am resisting in every way I know how.
Getting rid of the doing as a condition of being loved. It can drive a girl to exclaim that its all bullshit and slam some pots into the sink and wash them.
And then, with tears and pots both dried, there is nothing to do but admit its probably not bullshit afterall.
Sitting in meditation a lot here this week. And simply settling into a practice of doing nothing big or bold or magical but rather simply what needs to be done–Folding the laundry. Sweeping the floor. Paying the bills and shredding the papers. Shopping for groceries and putting gas in the car. Returning the library books. Going to the pool and coming back home again. Going to work. Eating. And kissing Max goodnight.
And noticing, tiny, almost imperceptible shifts that feel like earthquakes…
How do you open up to the love of the universe? How do you stop the endless tap dance that insists we need to hit the performance marks to be loved? How do you give yourself permission to settle into the lap of the world and be held? One breath at a time. Just one breath at a time.