Saturday, October 25, 2014

Outside In

It's cold enough that the heat came on, and hot air ruffles the leaves of the peace plant. I had to look up the name of this plant. I've had a smaller one for years, but never knew what it was. Now that I have a large one (given to us at Dad's funeral), I feel a greater responsibility to it, am working harder to keep it healthy, to coax its airy white flower — which shoots up, seemingly out of nowhere — in bloom.

In from outside is the cactus, the large fern and — new this year — a hardy, happy thyme plant. (We'll see how long it's happy inside.) They join a profusion of cut flowers — bouquets from Suzanne's arrival — all making the house cheerful.

As flowers fade outdoors they bloom indoors. I'd rather have the profusion of summer, but when that's not possible this is the next best thing.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Seasons of Hope

I spotted these trees on a walk two years ago and have never forgotten them. The way the living tree flames out behind the dead ones. The promise of new life hidden in each glowing leaf.

As leaves fall it is easy to be melancholy, but I remind myself that until they do, the new ones cannot grow.

What this tells me is that each end is also a beginning. That there is no season without hope.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Suzanne was born 26 years ago today. It's the first birthday I've spent with her in three years. Not that one expects to be with an adult child on every birthday, but after having her so far away from home these last three years having her here feels pretty darn good.

I think today as I always do about the moment I first saw her — and the feeling is as clear today as it was then. It was a supercharged familiarity. "I know you," I said to myself the instant I glimpsed her face. "Of course. It's you."

And even though she lives in Africa now, and has been independent for years, I still have that feeling about her — and about Claire and Celia, too. There they are, I think, as I watch them grow up and enter their own lives, the children I was meant to have. As unmistakable as blood or water.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

True Colors

The hedge is returning to its roots. The pink hues of bud and stem — the colors I notice every spring — are present now in the roses and russets of autumn. In the months between, of course, there's a lot of green. But the green is fading now and those first colors are reappearing.

Which makes me wonder: What are the hedge's true colors? The green it wears most of the summer or the pink it dons in spring and fall?

I'm no botanist, but I'm fond of the hedge. I notice its growth and cycles. And if I had to name its true color I would say the one it was born with. Apples, hedges — and people, too — none of us fall too far from the tree.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Back Home and Walking

Suzanne was out the door yesterday morning before sunrise, running down a paved road first and then, with first light, ducking into the woods and the old trails she knows so well. At midday she  took Copper for a walk, and, in the late afternoon, she, Claire and I drove to a southern stretch of the Cross-County trail and strolled it together.

I didn't think of this in the countdown days before Suzanne arrived, but now that she's here it seems perfectly natural. When you return home after a long absence your feet seek firm ground. Walking becomes a way to reacquaint yourself, to re-enter the landscape.

Walking does this for me, of course; it's a way to ground myself and put life in perspective. But it's nice to see my children walking, too. All three girls run or walk —they move through the world to help the world make sense. I hope they always do.

(Suzanne and Claire on the Cross-County Trail.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

International Arrival

You would need a heart of stone not to be affected by the international arrivals hall at Dulles Airport. Everywhere you look are reunions of one sort or another: husbands and wives, children and parents, brothers and sisters, friends. There was a man next to us who said he was waiting for his sweetheart to return from Denmark. His cap was pulled down low so it was difficult to see his eyes — maybe because he was expecting them to fill.

Claire and Celia were holding Claire’s two homemade signs. One of them said “Welcome Home” in “pennant” letters. The other was a map of Benin in green magic marker.

After what seemed like an eternity, we saw Suzanne. She was wearing a short-sleeved “Virginia is for Runners” t-shirt and her arms and face were tan. She was wheeling three large suitcases and a carry-on. (I later learned that only one of those large bags was hers; the others were for Peace Corps friends.) 

The first impression — that ever amazing, important first impression — was that she's a world traveler now. There was a nonchalance in the way she wheeled the bags, a certain jauntiness about her. 

My second impression — or perhaps I should say thought once I was capable of having thoughts — was that I don't ever want her to leave again.



Saturday, October 18, 2014


It's not only possible now but entirely sensible to count down to Suzanne's arrival in hours not days. No more than 32, if all goes well! Her plane is scheduled to touch down at Dulles tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. She's well into her departure preparations, I imagine, and will leave for the airport in five or six hours for an overnight flight to Brussels, where she transfers to the plane that will bring her home.

The last time I saw her was June 24, 2012. A lot has happened since then.

This is one of the last images I have of Suzanne, walking with two heavy suitcases through a crowded Union Station. She would begin her long journey aboard a train for Philadelphia, meeting up with other Peace Corps volunteers there for the flight across the ocean to in-country training.

She's not returning for good tomorrow — I wish! — but she does have a six-week leave, and I've warned her that she may find herself tied to a chair come December 1. Besides, we're not thinking of departures now, only arrivals.

For now there's a new day dawning, grocery shopping and last-minute tidying still to do — and only hours till she arrives.

It seemed like this day would never come. And now it's tomorrow.

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