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#21 summer shards

Today marks the true beginning of summer for me and the end of this series. It’s the longest day of the year. This morning before the worst of the heat set in we filled a large blue plastic wading pool with cold water from the hose. Larkin, Zoë and I splashed and laughed and sat in the cold water. When Larkin had enough and snuggled with his mom I sat in the shade on the swing. He asked, “who’s that ?” and we listened and said, “oh, it’s the cicada.” Their song felt like another true sign of summer. Lingering, damp in the shade, studying the ornamental grass against the house and the clouds in the sky all reminded me of the parts that create the air of summer. Once Larkin napped, Zoë and I painted some fabric for a future quilt. I took the remaining paint and used it for today’s photographic backdrop. We both began to dream about other possible summer projects.

What’s the start of summer for you, the signal that it’s here? Is it the last day of school? The lilacs or day lilies? First sleep with the windows open? Smell of cut grass behind the gasoline of the lawnmower? The fat red tomato sliced thin and salted? A sunburn? Shins sweating? The first swim? The first hotdog off the grill? Throbbing light from the fireflies? Campfire smoke in your hair? Is it the first day of June? Is it the day when light’s longest? When your midday shadow’s shorter than any other day? When the sun sets and sets and sets?

–Nina MacLaughlin, The Start of Summer, The Paris Review, May 31, 2019

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#20 summer shards

Today’s nine am diversion was taking Larkin to pick blueberries at our friend’s magnificent patch of high bush plants. For today’s late entertainment we made it to the pool at just 4:51 EDT, the moment that marks the solstice. As we slipped into the water it felt like the pause of the season. Our body temperatures dropped and we eased ourselves into summer mode. Even thought, scientifically, the solstice happened today, personally the solstice and longest day of the year is still marked for me on the 21st–so one more shard to come.

summer solstice

will be significant
im going to release something
soft and radiant
and true
into the world

–Jenny Zhang in My Baby First Birthday, Tin House Books, 2020

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#19 summer shards

My family asked what I wanted to do for my birthday and I responded I wanted to go to the local river and wade in the water. I love having a routine and this week it is defined by our grandson who is 2 1/2. We wake a little earlier than normal and we nap more regularly. We splash a little more. Today, I forgot to take a net to the river to catch minnows, but maybe writing provides enough structure to capture the June light, the scent of the river, the coolness in temperature, and the way we all slowed down. Larkin took his time getting used to the spot. We walked up stream and placed rocks on a log in the middle of the river, and sat in the cool, slow current. Eventually, he got comfortable enough to bob and paddle a bit before it was time to come home for lunch.

On our evening dog walk my daughter asked what do I want to do with this year ahead of me. My response was that I want to keep swimming, do some juggling, spend more time in the studio, and do things that bring smiles to all of our faces. She said, “you already do most of that.” Hmm, yes, but I want to keep it up and make an even more blurred and beautiful pattern.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.”

–Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, Harper Perennial, 1989

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#18 summer shards

In the evening before the sun goes down I like to step outside, sometimes to water, other evenings to empty the kitchen compost, or when there is a colorful sunset I walk to the top of the driveway. I remember my mother was always driven to see the sunset. It was if she expected to be saved by the changing light. I like to linger in the quiet after sunset hoping to see the moon. I don’t expect the light to save me, but I do love the ritual at the end of the day.

The Light Continues

Every evening, an hour before
the sun goes down, I walk toward

its light, wanting to be altered.

Always in quiet, the air still.

Walking up the straight empty road

and then back. When the sun

is gone, the light continues

high up in the sky for a while.

When I return, the moon is there.
Like a changing of the guard.

I don’t expect the light 
to save me, but I do believe

in the ritual. I believe

I am being born a second time

in this very plain way.

–Linda Gregg, from In The Middle Distance: Poems by Linda Gregg, Graywolf Press, 2006

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#17 summer shards

Garlic was harvested today, although not the pictured garlic. Cosmos seedlings planted, other plants watered, holes dug. Through all the process our job is to see beauty as well as the potential of how things can go terribly wrong. Life with a toddler is to love and be loved. It is also to find patience you never knew you could muster. There is such simple joy, beauty, power, emotion, strength, energy and exhaustion. We try to understand the perspective of the child, we watch, we empathize with the parents, we remember, and we imagine.

To love. To be loved. To never forget 
your own insignificance. To never get used 
to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar 
disparity of life around you. To seek joy 
in the saddest places. To pursue beauty 
to its lair. To never simplify what is 
complicated or complicate what is simple. 
To respect strength, never power. Above all, 
to watch. To try and understand. To never 
look away. And never, never to forget.

–Arundhati Roy, from The Cost of Living, 
Modern Library, 1999.

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#16 summer shards

I remember when our daughter was eleven she flew to Maine by herself to stay with my parents on Heron Island for two weeks before we arrived. It was a huge adventure for all of us. She took one of my favorite photos–my mom blowing bubbles at sunset. I remember one night talking to her on my dad’s early bag phone. She was so excited to tell me that she had learned how snails move. I was glad to know she had slowed down enough to watch the snail emerge from its twisted shell and propel itself along a rock leaving a silver trail. It was the beginning of her going away from us into her own shadow ways, into the light of her life.


I go from you, I recede
Not by steps violent
But as a snail backing
From the lewd finger of humanity

I go from you as a snail
Into my twisted habitation.

And you!
It does not matter how you
React. I know the shadow-ways
Of Self
I know the last sharp bend
And the volleyed light.

You are lost
You can merely chase the silver I have let
Fall from my purse,
You follow silver
And not follow me.

--Patrick Kavanagh, in Collected Poems, WW Norton, 1973
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#15 summer shards

Our daughter Zoë arrived late last night with her husband and their two and a half year old son. It was a tough ride from NYC to our house. During the drive I’m told they debated if the late night drive was worth the effort. However, Larkin’s full day of digging in the driveway, a trip to the farmers market, watering the garden, a swim in our community pool, and dinner on the porch made the effort worth while. I have been deep in the summer memories of Zoë at this age. It’s so fun to reach forward and imagine what our grandson’s summers might hold.

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#14 summer shards

Tonight, as we were saying goodbye at a weekend sale of paintings and other crafts I was introduced to another woman with the line, “do you know each other.” In fact, I did remember where and when we had met last fall and where she currently lives. These days my memory is like swiss cheese. I can be on solid ground remembering the names of esoteric Japanese potters and then I fall through a hole forgetting the name of my good friend’s daughter. But I also remember arguing with my mother in seventh grade when she would not let me go see the musical Hair. She said to me, “these are not the important things; you will not remember this.” But of course I do. Where now do I put this memory down, because of course she was right; it was not the important fact.

You remember too much,
my mother said to me recently.

Why hold onto all that? And I said,
Where can I put it down?
She shifted to a question about airports.

–Anne Carson, from The Glass Essay; Whacher, (starting line 84) in “Glass, Irony, and God,” New Directions Press, 1995

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#13 summer shards

My mother died twenty years ago this summer. She died of a heart attack in her sleep and it was a great shock. Later I came to understand it was a blessing due to her failing memory, but for months afterwards I wanted to hear from her in my dreams. When she finally appeared in a dream I was so excited I woke myself up. These days she comes to me in my dreams in her nightgown searching for candles in the loft on Sullivan Street. Or sometimes we are talking on my grandmother’s screened porch on Long Island. Last night I dreamt I was shopping for geraniums to put in her pocket to take on a plane to Heron Island in Maine. It was a hard task as the dead are difficult to shop for.

Peas masquerading as geraniums


I have the sun’s eye one minute—
the next, I’m going to bed with it.
Last night, I dreamed of rosemary,
for remembrance and for a baby

born to a woman who lived
in an apartment building. In the dream,
the dead and I said goodbye
at the door. I tried to buy a magazine

in a drugstore, but nothing was easy.
Nothing is easy when you’re shopping
for the dead. Maybe toys, I thought,
as I passed some boys playing

by the side of a road. Maybe a gold key
with which to open a coffin lid.
I woke to find none of the bodies inside
were alive outside the dream.

–Mary Jo Bang, The New Yorker, June 3, 2024, page 42

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#12 summer shards

Over the last week as I drive and walk I see daylilys along the roadsides, in ditches, or garden beds. To me they signal summer. They also make me think of my mother. She liked to pick a single blossom and stick it in a cup. It seemed like a flower brought into the house created its own vibration. My mother taught me about the art of everyday things–the ritual of plates on the table, the flowers in the cup, a plant on the window sill, the child in the playground, quick words on a page, and always a sunset to be seen. All were part of the poetic correspondence of everyday things. The daylily was a thing to draw and a thing to celebrate.

I Wanted Music

I wanted music yes

but I also wanted the music

of everyday things

a plate an arm some dirt a chair

how a plant is related to a window

how a window is related to a chair

small words with purpose


of everyday things

the music of combustible objects

one day ending

not tracking for posterity

but loosening like a fig

--Sarah Ruhl in Max Ritvo and Sarah Ruhl, Letters From Max: A Poet, A Teacher, A Friendship, Milkweed Editions, 2019