summer profile

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Facebook  memories pop up:  3 years ago today, we were at Coogee Beach in Australia; 4 years ago we were cruising in Alaska; 5 years ago we were in the lovely town of Orta San Giulio in Italy and 6 years ago, we were with Julia’s China Sisters in Ohio.  We are going to Ohio tomorrow and I hope for some fun.  But today I gather my thoughts to write where Julia is these days and ask for help.

This morning I arrived at sudden clarity after months of confusion and muddle, and maybe a little hope that some of my greatest concerns could work themselves out. Nothing has worked out “by itself.” There are no answers this morning, but I can see where we are with Julia’s life, the little that is going well and all the rest.  

This was excruciating to write; however, necessary.  The four weeks of ESY (Extended School Year) have not gone well.  Every week Julia has had some days of refusing to do the work of the day, threatening self-harm at school and having rough mornings or evenings at home. Nothing I have done at home in previous years is working.  Before the school year and the new transition program begins, I need to work out some things that help  Julia.  She is NOT going to blend in and get adjusted by herself.  She is NOT going to transition without effort.  She is still on high alert and on the brink of meltdown every day.  She is as hypervigilent and affected by trauma as she was 12 years ago. 

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traveling

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Lily Pond at Longwood Gardens

We are home and . . . .

We left on Friday, early in the day.  There was the threat of rain but there was also Longwood Gardens, one of my favorite places in the entire world, a bit more than an hour north.  On the way home.  Almost.  It never rained but it was cloudy and clammy.  Julia complained, but I was not to be dissuaded from indulging in the garden.  We did some walking, less than I would have liked, more than Julia wanted.  Compromise!  Beds of color do not impress her, but the water fountain with musical accompaniment was pretty thrilling.  Best of all was when I found the plant that is her favorite.  I almost didn’t find it.  It was in the very last exhibit, behind the green house, in a corner of the water lily ponds.  Mimosa pudica, also called the sensitive plant.  The tiny ground hugging plant with leaves that fold at the slightest touch is of never ending fascination to Julia.  And she was thrilled we found it.

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miracles & lessons

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Our set on a cloudless evening

Emergence.  I’m reading Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson’s blog post on the topic.  As well as her wise words, there is a quote from Ursula Goodenough, scientist and religious naturalist:

“[T]ales of natural emergence [are] far more magical than traditional miracles. Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us.”

To both of them, I respond: I didn’t know that emergence could be such a thing.  As attached as I am to the metaphor of chrysalis with all its possibilities of gooeyness and dissolving, I have given very little thought to emergence.  Yes, I know there is, or hopefully will be, a butterfly at the end of metamorphosis but Carlson shines light on the miracle of emergence, the process of claiming change.  She says:

[W]e forget how miraculous we are. The sheer improbability of our existence escapes us, and we need butterfly garden-shaped reminders. Thank goodness there are small miracles surrounding us.”

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half way mark

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Cast & Crew

The comments of two friends — one, not quite knowing what she should wish for this venture, the other, asking if I had mentioned anything about this project before it began or had I just dumped everyone into the middle of deep end.  Both very good questions that have me thinking . . . . working the questions out for myself.  

This is an odd project for a person like Julia to be a part of, and as I have described the first few days, especially the first day, Julia was not all that enthusiastic about acting in front of the camera and crew.  Julia has participated in a theater workshop for young people with disabilities, on zoom since last spring, and sometimes she is not enthusiastic about that either.  And yet, once she lets her no-no-no guard down a bit, she is able to follow directions, give her lines authentically and improvise with other actors quite naturally.  Film is actually easier for her than the theater workshop because it is happening in little pieces with plenty of direction in between.  

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lights, camera, action

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23.5 degrees.  The tilt of the earth on it axis, the axis which points directly toward the Sun. The pointing happens twice a year during Earth’s orbit and today in the northern hemisphere, it is the longest day of the year. 

And we are in the first day of filming.

Repetitious backstory: We travelled far too long on Friday, found a place to sleep and headed out again on Saturday.  It was Jersey that defeated me!  We crossed the George Washington Bridge, AKA George Washington Parking Lot, just after all light was gone and were dumped into maelstrom of Jersey highways.  Given too many signs that all seem said the same thing, or to be fair, slight variation of road numbers and directions that contain no logic to one no longer a Jersey whisperer. I took a wrong exit, recognized the mistake immediately and searched for a way off the speedway.  When I recalibrated and got back on the road, I found I was traveling at 50 MPH where others travelled at 70 MPH.  I could have pushed myself at 50 but I couldn’t keep up with 70.  I needed sleep.

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time

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Pause.  Perceive time.  Defined by ticking timers with bells at the end, clocks and calendars is one time.  Linear, predictable and plodding.  But time.  My time.  Our time.  Is different.  It rushes ahead, it slows to as thick slime over cobbles, it slides sideways, quickly, irreverently, without regard for wishes, dreams or clocks.  Over the long covid spring, summer, fall, winter and early spring, time lurched and sputtered.  Time lost themselves is a foggy reality of days that lost their names.  There was too much, not enough of it. It was not manageable no matter the breath and depth of my schedules and calendars.  There was no corralling it for me.  I did not write my Lear.  I did not read Proust.  I read and digested a few poems.  Very few, very short.  I was anxious and scared.  I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and grabbed onto a lot of outstretched hands.  I wrote some.  I dug two gardens.  I pushed Julia’s interests and her future doings along bit by bit. Like Sisyphus.  Didn’t he write emails and phone calls to agencies and people?  A modern Zeus would have surely assigned him to tackle DDS, SS and DIB.  Chasing genius ideas to the dead ends of realization—there should be a word for the feeling of frustration and failure when lots of energy has gone into a promising lead that is chased to an unsatisfying end.  

The quality of time was a small ball of clay that could be removed from the greater river of time in which we all swim.  We gathered via zoom with others but there was a sense of privacy—not cherished and beloved privacy but something like a hidden shame, even though there was no shame—we were visible in our small, regular zoom boxes with backgrounds of books that grew to be familiar and to a much lesser degree to the peopled world from noses up. 

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pomp and circumstance

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Last Wednesday, the 9th of June, Julia finished high school.  It was a great day.  Julia was excited.  It didn’t rain.  The day was so hot that I pitied those poor graduates sitting in the middle of the football field with black robes on.  I pitied their teachers and administrators more because their black robes were made of heavier material.  Spectators were also melting in the 90+ degree weather but. we all survived, a bit damp and frazzled but very happy.

A few days before graduation, the principal emailed that the graduation was going to happen on Wednesday no matter what the weather was.  Some showers were predicted at the time.  He wrote that if there was rain, the ceremony would hold off until the shower passed, but the class of 2021 would graduate on Wednesday.

Now, I may be remembering his email worded a bit stronger than bit actually was.  In my imagination, he was putting his foot down, wresting control of just this one day from the vagaries of the past year, the past 15 months.  The principal is calm and appears laid back and incredibly capable, so, I could be merely projecting my need to gain some control over life and completely wrong about his needs.

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prom

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It was winter and we weren’t going anywhere much that wasn’t absolutely necessary when we found Julia’s prom dress.  The Lord & Taylor’s in a nearby mall was closing.  We were cutting through that store from our parking space to the Apple store because my laptop was ready to die. My laptop is necessary. Rushing through the store, a short dress with a sequined bodice caught Julia’s eye and she pointed it out as we passed.  I agreed it was pretty and then proceeded at due speed to the Apple store. 

On the way back to our parking space darting through L&T again, I noticed the dress and this time I asked Julia if she wanted to look at it for prom.  At that point we had no idea if and when a prom would happen. I thought in that instant that buying a prom dress would be absolutely aspirational.  She still liked the dress and was eager to try it on.  It fit and looked very cute (it was also marked down to a very appealing price).  It was a promise dress, a hope dress.  I couldn’t promise that there would be a prom, we could hope for a prom.  And I promised myself that I would find some event sooner or later for which pink sequin would be appropriate.

It has hung on the back of her bedroom door since then.  Now and again, I thought it was haunting me.  Us.  But now, it is just a prom dress.

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almost

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Every day for a year, I have checked the new reported cases chart in the NYTimes.  I wanted to will a change, make the numbers come down when so many times, for so many months, the counts only went up.  Yesterday, the shape of the chart resembled the Little Prince’s a boa constrictor who has swallowed an elephant. And I almost smiled.  One corner of the horror melted away.  Truthfully, the chart doesn’t really look like Santoine de Saint Exupery’s drawing but . . . it was a playful imagining that I’ve have far too few of during the year.  

Can I sigh with relief now?  

I do want to sigh with relief.  But South America, Mongolia, India and France still struggle. We are in this together.  No, real sighing until we are all safe, until we are all vaccinated and I can feel the mist in front of Iguazu Falls and the silence in the Amarbayasgalant Monastery, stand at the tip of the reflective pool of the Taj Mahal and watch the repairs being done on Notre Dame. Then, a big sigh, many sighs will be in order.

Even here, coming back to what was normal, what will be normal is a slow slide, no giant leaps.

The three-day Memorial Day weekend was cold and wet.  Heat clicked back on and outdoor plans were quashed—Julia refuses to enjoy the rain. We went to a first movie, played indoor miniature golf and shopped for graduation shoes.  We had a weekend guest. I noticed how often we wore our masks making our way in the world.  And although, I felt incredibly daring going to a movie, ordering and eating popcorn without a mask (taking the mask off only once we sat down), there were only about a dozen movie goers in a big theater and social distancing was not a problem.  I did not need to test any daring tendencies after the decision was made.  

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