The last days of summer

Photo by Carla Kucinski


These are the last days of summer. I want to enjoy ever second, savor it like a slice of juicy watermelon, the kind I used to eat as a kid. The one with the thick black seeds. I’d spit them out like bullets.

When will I ever have this time again to myself to just write, explore, wander, just be? Back home, life feels different. There are bills, and obligations, and space, not enough space to breathe, let my life be open. Just thinking about it makes me feel suffocated.
Earlier this year, I felt like I was drowning and couldn’t find the ground beneath me. But here, by this lake with the red and white striped umbrella, I feel grounded.

I swam in the lake for the first time this week. It took courage. I am not a strong swimmer, and when I can’t touch the bottom, I panic. I doggie paddle faster, my heart thumps in my chest. I stepped into the water slowly, feeling the lake’s sandy bottom gritty under my feet. Slowly, methodically, I eased my body into the water and pushed through like a hot knife slicing into a buttercream cake. I surrendered. I swam a few strokes then paused to take in everything around me. The tiny white flowers resting on the lake’s surface, the crisp blue of the water, the children behind me learning how to swim, clinging to their foam noodles of blue and green. I swam in silence from one end of the rope to the other, and I paused for a few seconds to catch my breath, realizing I was in a hole, unable to touch bottom. I scrambled. I panicked. My feet eventually found the ground. My breath tightened. Above me, the clouds separated, stretched and floated.

Back on the shore, I sat with my notebook and pen in my reclining lounge chair. Small droplets of water dripped from the edges of my hair onto my bare shoulders. There is a couple that just arrived, their arms wrapped around each other’s waists. She is wearing a sundress above the knee. He is wearing a blue dress shirt and jeans. His cream-colored linen blazer is draped over the crook of his arm. They pause under a shady tree. She’s showing him her experience here at Omega. “This is my beginning,” I hear her say. Suddenly my heart aches, and I wish Andrew were here so I could show him what this place means to me. “I wrote under those pine trees on my first day,” I would point out to him. “Over there, that’s where a woman and a man played acoustic guitar one Wednesday afternoon.”

Coming to Omega has been on my dream list for the last six years. The other day, I couldn’t recall how I heard about this retreat center. Where did I read about it? Who told me about it? Was it self-discovery? And then yesterday in my writing circle, Jayne mentioned Elizabeth Lesser and her book “Broken Open.” That’s it. Six years ago, I read that book while going through my divorce. My therapist recommended it to me. It changed my life. Elizabeth started Omega. And now I’m here sitting in my dream sooner than I had imagined. To come to Omega, to go to a writing retreat, to study with THE Natalie Goldberg, I’ve been carrying these dreams for some time. “Let the world come to you,” Natalie said this morning.

It is hard to be patient. 2016 has been testing me. I feel there are all of these things that I’m pining for, not just for me, but for the people I love. I want my friend Jen to not have breast cancer. She is too young. 37. One year older than me. Things come into your life and are taken away. You lose a job. Your mother dies. You’re pregnant and then you’re not.

I want to hit the reset button. Erase this year. But then I think, I wouldn’t be here right now, sitting by this beautiful lake in this sacred space if it wasn’t for those experiences. If I hadn’t lost our baby, I’d be four weeks away from my due date, and I definitely wouldn’t be here at Omega putting pen to paper, sharing my words with strangers.

So I’m taking it all in. The sun warming my bare skin, my bathing suit still damp from my plunge, the sound of children splashing and screaming in the water:

“Marco.”

“Polo.”

This is where I’m supposed to be.

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4 thoughts on “The last days of summer

  1. Jennifer says:

    You’re such an incredible writer. I feel like I’m right there on that lake shore with you.

    I’m so glad you went on this trip. It sounds transformative–just the kind of thing a year like this calls for. We’ll survive this one, and we’ll be stronger for it. Love you!

    Like

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