Saturday, July 21, 2012

Good Day

I saw Isabel from across the field.  She was wearing a flower-print gingham dress and a blue bonnet that tied under her chin.  It took just a moment to recognize her.  I was sitting on a bench, signaling to the world my preference that I be left alone by reading Quiet, by Susan Cain.  Isabel was in a group of four girls, all dressed similarly anachronistically and they were deep in conversation.

As her group passed my bench she looked up and said “Good Day” and mid-greeting realized I wasn’t just any old tourist—I was her Dad.  And it was good to see, in that moment when the realization hit, that her face lit up in a flash of a smile that lasted just a millisecond before she was back in character.  She allowed herself a surreptitious wave and walked on, not even looking over her shoulder to see if I would follow.

She has been at King’s Landing Provincial Park in New Brunswick, Canada this week.  Erica has been in Ithaca, working.  And I have been lonely.

King’s Landing has a summer camp program they call Visiting Cousins.  In a business model Tom Sawyer would be proud of, boys and girls from all over pay money to come and live the life of children in the 1830s.  They dress and act the part of townspeople as tourists roam the village.  The kids get a fun, unplugged week and the park gets to fill itself with “townspeople.”

That is why Isabel was in gingham and a bonnet—she was a Canadian schoolgirl from the 1830s.   When I saw her it was Friday afternoon and I was there to pick her up and bring her back to New Haven for our final week of life in Connecticut.  I missed her all week while she was gone and I was excited to see her again.  Now that she is twelve I know that there might be some tough times coming for us.  Teenage girls and their fathers don’t always get along so well and I have no reason to think we will be any different.

So, in that moment when Isabel recognized me, I was so relieved to see something flitter across her face that was not annoyance or disappointment or embarrassment or hatred or resignation or anything else that might be there in the coming few years.  If I let myself admit it, what I saw on her face was love.  The one thousand mile round trip to pick her up is a small price to pay for that millisecond.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Few More Beautiful Things

I have not posted each day, but I have been noticing some beautiful things this week and it really has helped me not get lost in the stress of mortgage applications and searching for a job and writing Progress Reports for my 20 students.

One thing I saw was the sparkle in the eyes of a one-year old friend of ours as she splashed naked in a kiddie pool on a 90 degree day.  Her pool was in the shade, she was naked, the water felt refreshing, and life was good.  All of this and more showed in her eyes.

Another thing was the interplay of sunlight and dark clouds as some fairly severe thunderstorms ripped through on Sunday afternoon.  The clouds were towering cumulonimbus and they were saturated.  The bottoms were turbulent and the tops were boiling higher as I watched--pushed by updrafts to over 30,000 feet.  At one point Isabel and I drove into a wall of rain.  One second it was clear with blue skies directly overhead and the next we could see a white wall of rain coming north up Whitney Avenue.  We drove into the wall and it felt like going through a waterfall.

One other beautiful thing I saw this week was Monday night at the Bodyology workout place I go to sometimes in Hamden.  Their workouts are tough.  They are generally comprised of both strength and cardio components and they demand high reps at high intensity with minimal resting time.  These workouts consistently kick my ass.  Everything is timed, and the big red numbers on the timer are visible from everywhere in the room.  Monday's workout was especially hard and as I neared the end I wasn't sure if I could make it all the way through without hurling or quitting.  But I did.  And this is the beautiful thing I took away from that night:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Chuck It

My dog Ginger loves to chase a particular kind of orange rubber ball.  It has a blue pattern pressed into it, it flies long distances when thrown with a Chuck-it, and it bounces unusually high.  Plus, I imagine it feels good to chew on.  The beautiful thing I saw yesterday was the unbridled joy with which Ginger runs when I throw her orange and blue ball high into the air and well out into a big field.  She looks like an outfielder with a bead on a long fly ball that might or might not make it over the fence.  She does not catch the ball on the fly.  Part of the fun for her seems to be to let the ball bounce and then try to catch it as it comes down from it 12- or even 15-foot high bounce.  When conditions are right, she can do this over and over and over again and not lose interest. 
            Yesterday, conditions were right.  She threw herself into the pursuit of that ball again and again, each time launching her body up as the ball came down from its bounce and snagging it out of the air a good five or six feet off the ground.  Sometimes she had the trajectory just a little bit off and the ball would bounce off her snout and careen away at an unpredictable angle.  When this happened she would lunge after the ball and hunt it down like a baby rabbit.  She was so clearly having fun that it made me feel good, too. 
            Dog owners like to believe they have access to their dogs’ inner lives and emotional states.  Maybe we do, maybe we don’t.  (The whole enterprise leaves quite a lot of room for projection if you ask me.)  But in this case, I think I can tell what Ginger is feeling.  I think I can tell because there are times when I have had the very same feeling.  For me it isn’t an orange and blue bouncy ball.  Instead, it is a 187-gram Frisbee thrown far and high out across a huge grassy field.
            When conditions are right, I can chase these Frisbees down from below and snag them out of thin air at a dead run, stop on a dime, turn, and launch the Frisbee back to the person who threw it.  And then do it again.  And again.  And again.  The world goes away and all there is is the Frisbee and the chase and these two things are all there needs to be for a while.
            Eventually, Ginger tired of the game yesterday.  It was very hot and very humid and she had expended a lot of energy.  But for a little while I got to experience some vicarious joy as she sprinted full out across the grassy fields of Edgerton with her eyes focused upward on that orange and blue ball and the rest of the world disappeared.