The water’s fine but we are not

On vacation, my mind inevitably turns to dark topics, as my posts from last summer prove (“The Nihilist on Vacation” parts one and two).

This summer, I sit contemplating the sparkle of the pool. There is nothing quite like the color of swimming pool water. Ridiculous, since water has no color. But somehow this does, and it is chlorine incarnate.

Razzle dazzle.

Razzle dazzle.

Perfection

How pleasant to sit here. Pleasant to drink a Diet Coke (one of two or three I consume each year) and eat Smartfood popcorn (stupid: it’s no better for you than chips) and catch up on my New Yorkers. How perfect this afternoon seems, reminding me of other perfect times, like

  • Being 22 and crewing a schooner off the coast of Maine for a week in September
  • Deciding to marry the love of my life on a steamy Boston evening
  • Inhaling a Safeway tuna sub the night after I gave birth for the first time
  • Watching my first born accept his high school diploma on a recent May afternoon
  • Drinking Tab (remember Tab?) and getting stoned with my best friend the summer I lived away from home for the first time
Snack of champions

Snack of champions

This too shall pass

Everything is perfect until

  • The kids turn on the water jets and you realize why the poolside chair you picked was vacant as you scurry to dry ground
  • The family whose towels occupy the chairs near your new location returns, raucous and whiny
  • Fanatics hijack your democracy
  • The kid you have brought along as a companion for your son at bike camp takes a spill and needs to go to the ER to get his wrist checked out
  • You and the love of your life find it hard to share a bed because you keep each other awake with your respective bad habits
  • A baby poops and they close the pool for 24 hours
  • Your boyfriend leaves you (note: this occurs prior to meeting the love of your life, so it’s a net positive)
  • The body you once displayed thoughtlessly in a bikini comes to resemble the brow of a Shar-Pei
  • Your once-trustworthy mind begins playing tricks on you

But really, who cares about damp notebooks, noisy kids, wrinkled flesh, or even trips to the ER or the compromises of a long marriage? Mindfulness tells us to experience what is. My mother, no mindfulness practitioner but surprisingly wise in such things, counseled this too shall pass. Zen teaches non-attachment, because all is impermanent. Do not judge; simply be. Laughing and crying are the same. On vacation or at home. Wrist intact or broken. Shine or rain. Life or death.

I want to believe it’s possible to reach a state where I actually believe that.

Delightful for them, soggy for bystanders

Delightful for them, soggy for bystanders

My half-full cup runneth over

I watch a shrieking child race through the sprinkler. A woman presses ice to her arm where a bee stung her. My phone buzzes to tell me my husband is bringing my son’s friend to the local hospital.

I take a sip of Diet Coke and stare into the abyss.

I wonder whether I am a can-half-empty or can-half-full kind of gal. I realize they are the same thing. The universe outside the can is cold and dark and cares nothing about the contents of the can or my contemplation of it. So I might as well color my world with a few blinding sparkles of reflected pool light, a bit of warmth from the smoldering heat of a long-tended love, the largely meaningless but somehow comforting knowledge that my genes live and walk outside of me, incarnate in my two sons.

I take a last sip of Diet Coke and toss the less-than-half-full can in the bear-proof recycling bin.

The abyss

 

 

 

 

 

Postscript

Before I could post this, I had to stare into the abyss again.

This time, my son.

This time, my son.

He’s okay and so is his friend, though no sports for a few weeks.

How has your summer vacation been, if you’ve taken one?

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21 thoughts on “The water’s fine but we are not

  1. Audrey, you are a wonder! Everything you write begins and ends as quotidian, yet your imagery magically fractures and synthesizes for meaning. All that, and you are a marketing powerhouse! I hope your efforts attract the attention of the millions of readers who will enjoy your work. I think I ended up subscribing twice, sorry about that. Now we are connected. I loved Dance of Souls, and eagerly anticipate your next novel.

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    • Elise, thanks for your very kind words [blush*blush]. I think my very smart email/blogging software handles sorting out multiple subscriptions from the same email address, so you should receive only one notification. And I have never been called a “powerhouse” of anything. Very flattering!

      Like

  2. So delighted to make the connection with you and your writings. A direct result of your recent decision to follow Learning from Dogs. Thank You!

    I have two hopes: The first is that you will leave a comment or two from time to time and, the second, is that you would consider sending me a guest post to publish on your behalf. See: https://learningfromdogs.com/interaction/

    I would readily follow you in return because your background and experiences sound very interesting. But just now I’m really stretched for thinking time and overdue on progressing my second book. Hope you understand!

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  3. Years ago, after our last move, I swore I would never move house again: ‘this is where I stay until they carry me out’ – since which time my wife has been trying to alter the demi-paradise (well, somewhat short of that) into the next house she wants to move to. So far, we have remodeled the ground floor (living on the first floor) then remodeled the first floor (living guess where?) Now we are remodeling the bathrooms. Which is good, I tell myself. The plants in the garden have never looked healthier and our neighbours are learning things about us they never would have believed. Why must we move? Heaven, if I ever reach it, should be many kinds of paradise; all of them static. Hell is to be found often in the context of a two-week vacation. Sorry to jump in on your discussion, BTW.

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    • “Hell is to be found often in the context of a two-week vacation”… or in a months-long remodeling project.

      I recently heard research about how much vacation is required to actually decompress from whatever your daily life is, and how quickly the effects of vacation wear off (within a week, often). But, for those of us who enjoy the quotidian, that fast-fading effect can be a blessing.

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  4. “Fall in sports.” That’s pretty funny. Sorry. Probably not to you. I note that you snuck in a line about our hijacked democracy. Oh yeah. Sigh. Glad your son is OK, that your summer includes time by a pool for daydreaming and remembering. Cheers—

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    • Yeah, hurtling down a mountain and launching oneself off mounds of dirt… it would be funny if there WEREN’T any injuries. I am able to laugh about it because it wasn’t as serious as it might have been. Politics-wise, an historic, histrionic, and interesting season indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The pool looks fresh, cool, and inviting, but not sure about going into busy public pools these days. So loud and far too few kids and adults with manners and consideration for others…not to mention those “swim diapers”
    Glad the kid is OK. That’s a real jolt.

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    • Yes, a jolt–and not to a part of the body that tolerates them well :-).

      The great thing about this resort was there were two pools: one for families and one for adults. So no danger of potty accidents in the adult pool (one hopes).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So many things in this post made me laugh (the family sitting next to you who makes too much noise, the baby pooping in the pool). You forgot about all the mosquito bites (or are all the mosquitos just biting me? It certainly feels that way).

    I’m so glad your son is ok. That must have been frightening.

    Summer is being taken up with training my puppy and a lot of house maintenance (this is what seems to happen when I decide to work from home for the summer….)

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    • I’m so glad you were able to laugh. The fine line between laughter and tears is always with me these days, it seems. As for mosquitoes: I’m no stranger to them, having grown up on the east coast. But one of the blessings of the California mountains is that, during the daytime anyway, mosquitoes are usually nowhere to be found because it’s so dry here.

      Puppy training sounds fun but exhausting, as does the house maintenance. Good luck with both, and thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  7. Glad your son and his friend are okay. I’m sure that was scary. My summer involves house showings. We’ve listed our house and are hoping to downsize. So I’m doing lots of on-the-spot cleaning. Good times, good times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks–I’m grateful too.

      Somehow, house showings don’t sound very relaxing. I’m envious that you’re downsizing, though. Our day will come when the two bedrooms are vacated… though that may be a while, given housing prices here and how hard it is for young adults to move out on their own.

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      • Since the market’s so good, we decided to do it now. There’ll still be a place for high school and college son in the new condo, but the smaller space will hopefully also serve as a deterrent to them from moving back home when they’re done college. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • We downsized a few years ago – about half as big a house – it’s nuts…Still feeling like needing to play Goldilocks and find the “just right” size…but I hate showing houses and selling one – and there is the dog to consider (I am so not going down an elevator/stairs to let the dog out in bad weather just in case tht grumbling tummy…). So another trip to Goodwill/Salvation Army.

          Liked by 1 person

        • We carry far too much with us ( in many respects). I had a friend in college that used to say you should never own more than can fit in your car – I used to think it was because she was a child of divorce shuttled back and forth, but as a child of the 60’s, maybe she was ahead of the curve?
          Stuff expands and contracts to fit available space, right. (Smart to let the kids know there’s haven as needed, but not extended forever accomodations – that used to be what we were all taught…but then again we were happy to have roommates and orange crate furniture instead of Pottery Barn, RH, and instant magazine worthy homes in trendy neighborhood? Life has always been difficult after college, but some attitudes and expectations seem to be making it even harder…but then again I live where work is available if you are willing to do it. Each sees things through their own experiences)

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        • What an interesting discussion this post has sparked. I resent the accumulation of stuff that seems to happen without me trying–or even with me actively trying NOT to accumulate. I welcome the chance to downsize. It was eye-opening being on vacation in an 1,100-square-foot condo (nearly half the size of our home) and realizing that it worked perfectly well. I enjoyed not having all the extra things around me.

          Liked by 1 person

        • We’ve gotten rid of most everything we don’t need. My boys should be grateful. They won’t have to do it for us down the line! Now we’re just waiting for the house to sell. Tick tock, tick tock. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

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