The summer after my first “marriage” ended has a name. I use quotation marks around the word marriage (and later for the word divorce) not because the relationship wasn’t real or committed. It was. The quotations are there to reflect the reality that ours was not a legal wedding, but a commitment ceremony, because at that time (the year was 1993) same sex unions were legal nowhere in this nation. Two decades have made quite a difference in this regard, though not everywhere.
The winter of that same phase in my life also had a name. Or more accurately: a theme. Its theme was walking on water. No Jesus miracle. Just walking on frozen water: frozen lakes. That winter, I skied, snow-shoed, and just plain walked on as many frozen lakes as I encountered. It was thrilling to stand in a location that I could not typically attain during other climatic circumstances. It was not particularly miraculous, as I have already noted, but it was personally memorable.
So the summer of that year had a name and it’s name was Summer of Bold Water. At least, I think it was. As I write this all down, I am less certain that all these events took place in one discreet time frame. In fact, I am becoming increasingly convinced that I have telescoped several events from disparate summers into one, and then assigned it this year. It is possible that all these events happened in one summer, but perhaps not the first summer after the “divorce.” In fact, I think that is more likely. Be at as it may, I will continue as I started, if for no other reason than to be consistent.
That Summer of Bold Water I bravely skinny-dipped by myself at night in Lake Champlain; I daringly skinny-dipped with a bevy of women ages 11 – 82 off the dock at Star Island (also, in the dark, this time getting in trouble); I took a formal kayaking lesson and successfully stood on my kayak on the water, perfectly balanced and lavishly triumphant.
That summer, I felt I could summon all necessary courage when it came to water. I was in love with water that summer, which I must report, sadly, has not lasted. More than a decade has passed and I have reverted back to my modest ways of swimming properly clothed day or night. I haven’t kayaked in years (though this summer isn’t over yet). And most unfortunately, it takes forever for me to wade into water: I cannot find it within myself just now to just jump.
All this comes to mind because somehow, at this mid-point in the summer of 2013, I have found myself referring to it as the Summer of Solid Rocks. As I reported in a previous blog post, I did not return from my recent trip to Europe weighed down with crazy amounts of Scottish whiskey (just modest quantities) or packages of European loot (except German chocolate, which I did bring back in rather copious amounts). Instead, I was laden with stones from important places I visited: Tibetan Buddhist retreat center, Samye Ling; the ruins of Disibodenberg Cloister; the grounds of the Inchmahome Priory (also in ruins); and from along the verdant Bracklinn Falls in Callander, Scotland.
Here I am now, on my beloved Star Island, seven miles out in the Atlantic Ocean on a large chunk of granite (and a few other choice rocks), doing the same: picking up rocks, feeling their heft, their shape, and their essence with the intention to lug at least one (and probably more) home. This afternoon, as I walked on East Rock with my daughter (our annual ritual), I temporarily collected a set of flat rocks. Before we left East Rock to engage in our other Star Island ritual (either a lime rickey or a root beer float with coffee ice cream), I built a small rock cairn, gratitude in the tips of my fingers.
When I turned on my computer to write these thoughts, I unexpectedly found myself in a rarely-used folder of poems I have written (which I don’t do so much anymore). Another indication, that this is the summer of rocks.*
Blessing the Rock Harvest
I’m cleaning out the garden. It’s a messy business and it’s not terribly pleasant. But in the task of very doing it, my senses are being brought alive. I’m attuning my body. I’m cleansing my soul. I’m making myself ready to receive the gift.
a new crop.
their stony throng.
If I am to sow anything,
these mineral impediments
must first be reaped.
Metallic clatter of trowel
against quartz, chert, or shale –
it matters not –
only confirms this theology.
Pulsing ever upward,
from lithosphere to earthly surface,
exposed to raw air and
late winter’s barren sunlight,
this rocky multitude
provides undeniable satisfaction:
dislodging of rock,
dark loam insinuating itself
under ragged finger nails,
the slight suck of soil
as leverage excavates
the common relic,
with its common homeliness,
its ordinary elegance,
its extraordinary blessing.
*even if I wrote it last year and during a different season