A few notes from 2017:
A couple of months ago, for the first time in my life, I did a headstand.
I’ve since done more of them, though never without a wall of door close behind me, the integrity of my neck being something I think about now, at 51, despite never having given it much thought before.
It’s a small accomplishment, as accomplishments go, and rather unspectacular, I’d imagine, to watch, all of the things normally held in place by spandex and underwire suddenly free to jiggle and flop about in the opposite direction. But, for a split second or two, it – the headstand – offers an interesting vantage point.
I found my way upside down in a small, private group led by a delightful young woman who is naturally judgment-free and an antidote to the Lululemonization of yoga. Her greatest gift, though, is an ability to guide overachieving tendencies, summoning when they lend strength and courage, dispelling when they get in the way.
I had, earlier on this particular spring day, been drinking mimosas from a Lismore tumbler, the occasion being our 15th – crystal – wedding anniversary. The glasses (pattern detail added for the benefit my Southern sisters) were a gift from my stepmother years ago, when Bernard and I were scandalously unwed and she thought the protocol of cut crystal might set us straight.
I looked, though not in earnest, for something new to mark the day. And we have, also thanks to my stepmother, a set of lovely Tiffany crystal flutes, given for our wedding, that would have been entirely appropriate for this particular anniversary.
In the end, though, I decided a solid-bottomed, well-used whiskey glass to be the best choice for toasting the life we’ve lived and the way we’ve come to celebrate it: at home, with sincere acknowledgment but without excessive fanfare. After 15 years of legal co-habitation and 21 years of partnership, we each see the other about as clearly as one person can ever see another, which is a good deal clearer than one can ever see oneself, irrespective of barware.
So we filled our old glasses with bubbles and clementine juice, ate poached eggs with hollandaise (Bernard’s specialty), and sat for a while on our front porch before I headed to yoga and he to mow the grass.
All of which to say, I was relaxed and in a peaceful state of mind when it came time for inversions. Anyone want to go all the way up? the instructor asked. Oh, what the hell, I answered. And up I went, just like that.
From the dark winter solstice until now – at least for me, but also for most everyone I know – life in 2017 (the year of #artharder) has had this kind of openness to it, a long thread of why-the-hell-not, with carryover anything-can-happen currents. That some of what can happen is monstrously awful does not preclude other aspects from being miraculously wonderful.
I’ve heard young women suddenly find their voices, watched people terrified of heights rappel down a 30-story building for charity, marveled at art made entirely of blue tape, savored lettuce grown in a pot on my front steps, seen $1 million pour in from donors in all 50 states to help save a local Memphis park, met men who, in their 50s decided to use words instead of violence, and witnessed rebirth of a behemoth inner-city building, long shuttered and generally thought to be unredeemable.
This is, for me, where wonderful most often lives, in small feats of bravery, wild public art, a garden’s first harvest. It’s crossing the Mississippi River on a footbridge on a perfect April day, watching a hundred (or more) pink sunsets, impromptu gatherings, and even a teenage boy willing to smile for a camera, if not to look directly at it.
And that’s all just since late December, and only a sampling of the things I’ve seen myself, witnessed with my own eyes.
Now here we are at summer’s sun-stand, the long solstice (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) of June, fruit of a cycle born six months ago at the onset of winter. It’s still an anything-can-happen era with a why-the-hell-not vibe. It’s the time to ask, again: If not now, then when?
A few days ago, for the first time in my life as a parent, I sat my saggy, baggy behind on the sand and built a sandcastle.
If you are thinking, surely this isn’t true, I want to assure you, sadly, that it is. When my children were small, on the few occasions when we went to the beach, I watched them play from my safe, clean perch. I didn’t dig in and get messy because just going to the beach was work enough, so much work that I generally avoided it altogether.
Then last year, as you might remember, right before the solstice, my now-teenage daughter (who is so often my muse) intervened. Her brother (who is so often my conscience) assisted. We explored and swam, suspended our expectations. It was magical.
We are back this year for another week, though in a different house, and on a different stretch of the same long, white sand beach that was so often a fixture of my own childhood.
I don’t remember, not that it matters, who first mentioned dragging buckets down close to the water, filling them up and then turning them over, one at a time, on a flattened piece of hastily-claimed territory, protected by a quickly-dug, watery moat. What I do remember is the feel of the sand, the decision to surrender, to plop down, right in the middle of it, hearing in my mind the echo of a small voice from a decade ago: why won’t you stop vacuuming and play with me?
All of which is to say, while I believe very strongly that people – we, all of us – don’t change, I also believe that we do evolve, becoming softer (or, sometimes, harder) versions of our same selves as we age. We learn, if we’re lucky, to let go of things we no longer need. We accept, if we are very lucky, that we’re better than the worst decisions we’ve made.
After 30 minutes or so of failed castle-building (despite valiant effort), our little beach trio opted instead, at her request, to bury my daughter up to her neck in sand, all of us in the process getting grit under our fingernails and stuck between our toes and in our hair and in our swimsuits. I brushed off just enough to take a few pictures (also by request), paused to ensure they met with her approval, because to a teenage girl that is important.
Satisfied, we tossed our belongings onto our chairs and raced into the water, all of us together, to rinse off, start fresh, and see what might happen next.
Food | Week of … whatever week this is
When we’re not under umbrellas or in the water, we’re feasting on cantaloupe, arugula, boiled shrimp and salted brown butter Rice Krispie treats, while playing Texas holdem. If you don’t find any of that inspiring, then may I offer you How to Host a Relaxed Dinner Party Like an Italian (“the ultimate luxuries are silence and time”).