A good portion of my family came to see us on Easter weekend — to celebrate birthdays, to labor in our yard, and to provide general merriment. I can’t get over how much fun these people are sometimes. I felt like my Gran when they returned to their respective homes. She, normally of the stoic and sarcastic temperament, would always turn her face and cry a little when family left. This is what I did for a moment on Sunday afternoon, but I know we’ll see each other again soon. (And, ideally, in Europe.)
Spring is finally here, and I am grateful.
The big project: Adding pea gravel to our little fenced garden area. We will eventually add two more raised beds, but we wanted to go ahead and finish the gravel before we depart for the summer.
Didn’t the boys do a marvelous job? I’m so happy with how it turned out. To finish it up, I want to find some low-growing, flowering perennials to put around the edges.
We are all falling. This hand’s falling too— all have this falling sickness none withstands. And yet there’s always One whose gentle hands this universal falling can’t fall through.
Unexpectedly, owing to my grandmother’s rapidly deteriorating state and a general lack of a contingency plan, my grandparents have moved in with my parents.
Mom called me yesterday to fill me in on everything. I feel weighed down and lost and helpless about it. Mom and Dad are so boundlessly generous and took them in with no hesitation or questions asked. Mom and Dad sleep upstairs in the guest room on the double bed now. We talked and teared up for a while, and I put down the phone and felt hollow and useless.
Predictably and gratefully, Kelsey called me some minutes later (presumably after Mom had filled her in), and then we talked about our joint feeling of uselessness and schemed about how we could be helpful at Thanksgiving. Kelsey is a source of compassionate comfort and strength in hard times. I am the eldest child, but even when I was young, I relied on Kelsey perhaps more than she ever relied on me. I still feel this way and look up to her in this essential, dependent manner. I am so thankful that she and Alex are so close by (it is worth noting what a marvel it is that she married someone as compassionate and kind as herself). When I think of them, I am filled with the conviction that I could turn to them in any form of need.
Inspired by an interview I read with an author, I am keeping a five-year diary (designed by Tamara Shopshin). It is very interesting to me to note the limited phrases and sentences that come to mind, at the end of the day, that I consider necessary to record.
If you love home—and even if you don’t—there is nothing quite as cozy, as comfortable, as delightful, as that first week back. That week, even the things that would irritate you—the alarm waahing from some car at three in the morning; the pigeons who come to clutter and cluck on the windowsill behind your bed when you’re trying to sleep in—seem instead reminders of your own permanence, of how life, your life, will always graciously allow you to step back inside of it, no matter how far you have gone away from it or how long you have left it. — A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
We spent a delightful weekend in DC with Kelsey and Alex, who are splendid hosts. We saw lots of old friends and spent time with new ones, and we didn’t want to leave their pristine urban paradise. But we have a Kelsey-and-Alex-filled fall, so that assuages us.
After leaving DC, I grew pensive and even a bit sad as I thought about my professional life. Alex just started a graduate program at Georgetown; Cristina is about to become a lawyer; Russ is starting a graduate program in California; Kelsey is seriously considering an MBA from New York University. And me? What am I doing? Reading lots of books and still schlepping around in the same job I’ve had for five years. I enjoy my work, and I am really grateful for my job, which provides me with a genuinely superb work/life balance. I am extremely happy on a day-to-day basis. But I would love nothing more than to go back to school. My graduate-degree ambitions are hindered by three major factors: (1) lack of sensible degree (I really just want a PhD in English, as deeply, heartbreakingly foolish as that is); (2) lack of money; and (3) lack of desire to move to another city. I feel stuck. I don’t have any answers, but I felt like confessing that to the void. I feel that I am getting old, and I don’t want my career to atrophy.
In brighter news, I am finally reading John Cheever for the first time, and I am IN LOVE. The Chekhov of the American suburbs!
At lunch, I watched these mourning doves try to have sex. She rebuffed him after his failed attempt, and then they shuffled apart from each other and went back to preening themselves separately, not making eye contact. I imagine that she went back to her tree afterward, drank some white wine, and called up her girlfriends to say that she just didn’t think this relationship was going to work out.
I am reading a book about walking (Wanderlust, by Rebecca Solnit), and I’m really enjoying it. People laugh when I say this, but walking is one of my chief joys in life. It sounds funny because it sounds so mundane; it’s not like my chief joy is skydiving or horse wrangling. But there is no black mood that I can’t lift with a good, long walk. I crave a daily walk. My love of walking is also likely connected to my love of dogs and my love of solitary thinking; all three elements complement each other.
Things I could learn from Kelsey and Alex:
The names of every world leader and his or her general policy stance
Why Ukraine is under siege
How world economies will adapt if the birth rate keeps falling in the developed world
Where to buy exercise clothes
The lemon tree is getting rather ungainly. Here he is, sunbathing on the back deck. I got one fat, juicy lemon from him last year. I’m gunning for two this year. Dreaming big!
I also have a tendency to presume that all of my plants are male. I am not sure why.
I found an old diary from my senior year of high school. I wrote like I was living in a Jane Austen novel. And I, of course, was Elizabeth Bennet. And every boy was some Austenian archetype (there was a Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins, etc.). It was very weird to re-read. I was surprised to read these dramatic scenes from my young life. I felt, at times, like I was reading a young adult novel about some other girl, some person entirely different from myself. I’d forgotten so many things that I barely believe they ever happened to me.
We loved having Mom, Dad, Kelsey, and Alex stay with us over the Easter weekend. Lots of good food (mostly made by my live-in gourmet, Guion), lots of laughter, lots of walks and dog time. I love these people ever so much.
Love my sister and bro: Kels and Alex came to stay with us this weekend, with the intention of camping, which was downgraded to hiking, which was further downgraded to just “a walk on the Rivanna Trail.” Not complaining: We had the perfect peaceful weekend with them, and we even got to eat the first meal from the long-awaited cob oven. As you can see, they are an exquisite couple, and we were so pleased to have them. It is so nice to have such beloved family so close by.
We spent more than week away from the “real world,” which was magical.
First, we spent a little time in the Pines with Nettles…
and left Pyrrha at doggy summer camp with Guion’s wonderful parents, and her puppy BFF, Georgia.
And then we went to Hatteras and ate lots of food and talked and wandered around on the beach.
I didn’t get any glamorous beach shots, because I didn’t want to take Louis in the sun and water, but these two photos give you a general idea of what we mostly did (ate and talked and ate and talked, and sometimes watched appallingly riveting television, such as “Swamp People”).
You guys, I love these people that I happen to be related to by blood (and marriage).
At the beginning of this week, I took a mini-vacation to D.C. to stay with Kelsey and Alex, visit with Mom, and see Grace off for her summer in India and Nepal.
Alex and Kelsey’s apartment is this peaceful, minimalistic oasis in the middle of the city. I was delighted to finally be able to see it!
I had most of Monday to myself, so I walked to the National Mall,
and spent the majority of my afternoon in the National Gallery (west building). Delighted to see so many paintings I had only seen before in books.
I particularly enjoyed: the exhibit on Rodin’s sculptures, the pre-Raphaelite exhibit, Van Gogh, and noting how very famous paintings are often nonchalantly placed in a strange corner of the room.
On Tuesday, Mom and I got to spend the morning at the U.S. Botanic Gardens, which was delightful, as I now share her great love of plants.
We killed time here while Grace fearlessly navigated the Metro to Georgetown to apply for her visa, and then we met up again and had the famously delicious lunch at the Native American museum.
The quiet car on the train! The best invention. Also, the ride from here to D.C. is really beautiful. I caught up on my New Yorkers and finished The Gospel According to Woman (Karen Armstrong).
Dinner with Eric, Cristina, Emily, and Brian on the night I got in. So fun and lively!
Dinner with Patrick, shortly after Mom and Grace arrived. Just adding to the list of family time, and surreptitiously celebrating his birthday.
I don’t think I could make it in D.C., but I’m glad that Kelsey and Alex aren’t very far away, and I love their sweet, streamlined lifestyle there. Visiting their apartment felt a bit like visiting an upscale resort (the rooftop pool! You cannot even imagine this pool/deck area). Love those two so very much; they are perfect hosts.
And now I am looking forward to seeing (almost) everyone again in June, for the family excursion to Hatteras! It cannot come too quickly.