Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.
There are shades of green throughout my backyard: sage green, verdant green and cedar green as the wispy straw color of a thousand weeds spring up where a lawn should be. I sit on a blue-and-white-stripe-cushioned outdoor couch, draped elegantly in a splattered painter’s drop cloth to catch the cat hair. At my feet, an outdoor rug punctuates the textured cement while a pilling, princess-printed, fleece sleeping bag elevates my right foot from the otherwise level terrain.
Birdsong echoes through the still air as a table saw cuts through the illusion of a quiet morning in the distance.
Unwanted vegetation billows around the garden bed where the children harvested two buckets of potatoes with their father three days ago. Looking at our hammock, sheltered by the shade of an olive tree, I see the bag of bug-infested outdoor curtains I pulled down hastily but could not discard because our garbage can was full.
It is all around us: the bad, the beautiful, the busy, the serene.
When my anxiety mounts, I see only the clutter, the doll apron, the plastic broccoli, the tin tea cup ornamenting my lawn.
When I remind myself, “Stop. Focus. Take a moment,” I hear the silence, feel the air, see the rust-colored lily blooming by the fence, a gift from the neighbors whose welcome immediately made this space feel like home. My healthy son wanders the backyard with his blanket in tow. I recall the pleasure of last night’s barbeque with family and friends, how easy it felt to get together, how refreshing the pool water felt on my feet.
One week ago I realized how often I am trying to distract myself from the moments before me.
On Sunday when the Internet was down and my husband was gone for the day, living the artist’s life playing piano in Watsonville, I saw how many moments there when I mindlessly click to my email or Facebook. It is a habit. Maybe the degree of dissatisfaction I feel when there are no emails or notifications is a sign that it is more than just a habit. There is debate over whether or not our constant clicking is to primarily soothe anxiety or gain pleasure.
We welcome summer, the hottest of our four temperate seasons, with later bedtimes and earlier rising times. We turn the air conditioner on, close the windows, shield ourselves from the sun with layers of sunscreen, wide brim hats and sailcloth.
I search “summer” on Pinterest and my page reveals summer outfits, a hammock with outdoor lights, “How to make Frozen Lemon Dreams” and photos of vintage vans on the sandy beach.
Fittingly, my mind flits back and forth from this article to the children before me to the calendar for summer plans. Perhaps we will drive our mini-van on a sandy beach.
A new season, new expectations, new adventures, new moments of growth. There might be moments that seem perfect, then the toddler cries, the children dispute the proper order of creation, the brother pleas for the sister to stop looking at him, the sister wails when he affronts her by sticking out his deadly tongue.
A week ago, I was a bundle of nerves, unable to stop flitting, losing direction. I discerned the need to say “no” to worrying about the numbers, “yes” to professional projects that move my soul and “yes” to the moments here at home. A weekend of my husband’s gigs gave me time to narrow my focus. Cutting out the evening cocktail gave me mental space to think and more peaceful sleep.
I embrace Memorial Day as the unofficial start to summer. The desert scene on today’s forecast found on the National Weather Service website confirms it. Let the heat begin. Let the new season unfold.
The lessons I still struggle to learn repeat more often than they repeat in this column.
Take a moment.