I walk around the house today and see remnants of summer. Abandoned bottles of sunscreen sit next to colorful beach towels still a little soggy with the chlorinated water from the neighborhood swimming pool. Flip flops and totes full of snacks to sneak past the lifeguards all sit, kicked off or hung up, as if a nuclear bomb was about to go off and we had to drop everything and run. Summer is over, and as it goes it takes with it the joys and burdens of being with my children 24/7. Right now, my three sons sit in three separate school buildings, spread all over this town. They fidget in plastic and metal chairs next to kids I have never met, learning from people I do not know.
Considering the average school day lasts eight hours, and the amount of time my boys will choose (ahem, be forced) to spend with me when they get home, it will be literally impossible for me to learn about more than eight percent of the collective 24 hours they spent at school today (and I’m being generous in that estimate, it’s probably closer to four percent). This means I will know roughly 92% less about their lives, Monday through Friday, than I have known this summer. This also means, I will have roughly 92% more time to invest in my work, my spirit, my creative soul and I have decided this is a really good thing.
My kids all face brave new worlds today, and so do I; as of this moment I have a first grader, an eighth grader, and – oh my gosh I cannot believe it – a high schooler. A couple nights ago he sat on the edge of my bed, worried. A typical first born, he was feeling apprehensive and unsure about this whole high school thing. He didn’t know what to expect. He didn’t know how to control the environment, how to prepare, how to navigate. It was all still a mystery. I gave him a hug, listened to his teenage anxieties, and then told him that, in a couple of days, the mystery would no longer hover. He would come home and he would have done it, would have survived his first day of high school, and he would know what to expect. I remember the feeling. I still know the feeling. I’m still nervous and apprehensive of what I don’t yet know.
I cried as we left him at the gigantic high school campus, off to fend for himself in the maze of hallways and emotional ropes courses that make up the high school experience. I cried but there was confidence behind my tears, that this was exactly where we were supposed to be. I grabbed my eighth grader’s hand just before he jumped out of the car, and looked him in the eyes when I told him, “I love you. You got this.” I teared up when my first grader jumped out of the car and walked up the school steps without looking back, without needing me to hold his hand and walk him to his class anymore. Then I came home and experienced something I haven’t heard in our home in months – quiet; pregnant, hopeful, mysterious quiet. This is the same quiet I hope will give birth to the book I’m trying to write (emphasis on trying, think tortoise, not hare).
One year ago today, I took up residence in the room I am now writing from. After years of flirting around with the idea of being a writer, I knew it was time to pull the trigger and see what happened. This room has always called to me, something about the bright tall windows that start at the floor and reach taller than me, the way the light travels on the walls and floor throughout the day, and the quiet view up high in the trees makes it a perfect place for the mystery to come out and play. Jeremy helped me move my desk from our bedroom into a small nook in this room. He hung up a cream colored hammock chair in the corner, and then cheered me on as I filled the blank slate with items and artifacts needed by writers worldwide in order to be at home in the space where they create. I kept adding to this room as the months went on; another typewriter, stacks of books adding up to a small personal library that sits in happy, color-coordinated shelves just to the right of me, drapes, plants, photographs and candles, incense and art projects and hand-written cards from my beloveds, and over 100,000 words written within these walls in one year, made this place into a creative home of my very own.
After a long summer in this old house filled with three loud boys, with our friends and neighbors, with vacations and camps and more errands and loads of laundry and trips to Costco than one person should ever have to endure, I walk around my writing room today and see remnants of attempted creativity turned to dust and ash. Summer with three omnipresent kids seriously harshed my creative buzz, and it shows. My white board might as well say, “I give up trying.” Old scraps of the New York Times sit folded and forgotten on top of a dirty typewriter. A stack of letters with return addresses of strangers sits and waits for my attention. The Arboricola and Ivy plants show signs of neglect, a few felled branches and leaves, a few yellow tones where there should be dark green. Used up incense ashes fill vessels, prayers gone up in hopes that the muse would visit and speak through the noise of children smelling of sweat and sunscreen. Nine books I’m currently reading but can’t seem to get to the last page of play dogpile on my desk while sticky notes and index cards, pens and word-filled college-ruled paper are spread over surfaces.
I have cried the tears I needed to today, grieved the end of the summer – one of four more I have with my oldest before he leaves for college – and I’ve honored the passing of time and the way it bitch slaps me when I least expect it. I have lived through this summer with my boys and, somehow, so has my drive to continue creating the work only I can make, writing the damn precious book, already! I see the mess in this bright writing room of mine and I clean it up with a lot of joy and hope in my heart, inhaling the quiet energy of this space. Then I rest easy knowing I’ve done my best to prepare my boys for the world they’ve just walked into, knowing it’s time for this new season in their lives and in mine. It’s time to get back to work. It’s time to see what the mystery has for us. It’s time for the unknown things to make themselves known. I’m certain I’m not the only one with this trepidation and hope today, with the wide unknown stretched out before them. Aren’t we all trying to shake the dust off and live our way into what happens next? In the words of the Fantastic Mr. Fox, upon seeing a wolf in the wild then raising his fist in the air, “Good luck out there.”
Happy First Day of The Mystery, friends.