I haven’t run more than a mile since returning from Ireland, though I have hiked some, once in Mundy Park (where we definitely heard a bear nearby), and another time over the weekend on a trek up the hill for a few groceries. It is a slow recuperation, getting back to work, both my day job and press, and organizing things in my head. Then there is the garden to deal with. Upon our return from the holiday, my pole beans had shot up four feet, and they are now hooking onto a lattice on the balcony. Over the weekend I harvested leaf lettuce and one turnip (and some turnip greens) and made a terrific salad.
All day yesterday, while my husband was out getting fitted for being a groomsman for some friends’ upcoming wedding, and hanging out with our old friend, I read in entirety a submission to the press and fell in love with the book. In the background of my hammock reading, the winds were rising and falling, gently nudging my wind chimes. The day was blue with sun and gales. The green foliage of the garden and ivy and trees surrounded my reading space with the occasional morning glory popping through.
I remembered how in Ireland the wind was heavy, especially on one night. With forces from the Atlantic sweeping through, we could not even leave most windows open as the wind would bang them shut. It reminded me of The Shipping News, set in Newfoundland. I watched that again recently as I’m reading the author’s newest novel Barkskins.
But yesterday I took a break from that epic novel to read this other book, a very good story submitted to my press by a professor in Kentucky. The mood she created for summer and fall and the outdoors was very good, nearly divine. I cannot say more at the moment, other than I hope we can work together to publish this upcoming novel–but reading her novel made me reflect on how life and seasons, mood and ambience, and certain small admirable moments make life, to me at least, just that more enhanced.
The women in my family used to do these “surveys” after Dad died. During that harsh aftermath, we all drew close and perhaps even got to know each other a little better. We often talked about seasons, food, scents…the little things in life that we truly appreciated. The surveys allowed us to slow down from our busy lives and reflect on what made us happy. I read back on some of mine recently, and they were always the same. I loved deep summers, green forests, and warm beaches. But autumn was my favorite season, and it may still be–though summer comes a close second.
The smells of cedar and hazelnut, vanilla and blueberries, the transition between ripe blackberries and the first frost–the season of apples and the fragrance of burning firewood at night. The first sight of acorns and dry leaves gathering on our back deck, crisp nights and coffee. The way the tiny hairs on turnip greens sting your hands, the sky frothing at sunrise or sunset, gentle rains that lullaby one’s senses. The way hardwood floors are bathed by swaths of sunlight coming in through the window. A cat soaking in that sun. These subtle things make up what life is, to me. Of course friends and family are important, as is work, but on a day to day basis, it’s these small things that make me appreciate living.
I’ve often been asked: What is the meaning of life? I have no answer except that I don’t know. I don’t know that there is a big meaning for all life in the universe and beyond. All I know is that perspectives allow us to find meaning in our own lives, and the meaning for mine seems to be unique to me. I’m such an isolated person that I don’t think my purpose is to be anything but quiet, surrounded by a few family and friends, and be enveloped by the nuisances of being outdoors–but my own meaning, my own tiny universe–it’s definitely purposed by the environment I enjoy and the one I wish to preserve. Since I’m a nature-lover then, this means that things that are natural, rather than manufactured, usually give me the greatest joy. I should also not say things, but experiences.
I thought about this a lot yesterday when outside, enjoying the glorious sun and strange winds that lifted throughout the day. I thought about it when reading, too, how some woman I have never met wrote words that covered me as though I was a cat soaking in her sunlight. I often have that experience, not just when reading, but reading in the outdoors, under a tree, in the elements. It makes me admire authors quite a bit for creating worlds and bringing us to those worlds.
Well, tomorrow is back to my normal running schedule. I am looking forward to it, and our weather in the next week looks to be cooler and somewhat rainy–my favorite running weather! Today is a long walk after I enjoy my salad from my own garden.