July 31, 2010

Land of the Pines

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.
--Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Today marks the one year anniversary of my arrival on the island, when I crossed the bridge sunburnt and mosquito-bit from ten days of driving in a car packed full of friends and one unfortunate fern. It is fitting that we arrived in August. It has always been my favorite month. It is a portentous month, heavy and hot and bittersweet. I counted its days as a child, dreading the erring chill moments of fall, the first browning leaves. It always seemed to me the last chapter of a book you didn't want to finish.

I have been thinking about what to say about this year, this long, strange, short, surreal year. This grounding year. This feet planted on the dirt year. This isolated year. This year of figs and persimmons and cherries and butter beans. This year of snow and hail and thunder and tide. This year, almost two since my sister died and left me to figure out who I was if I wasn't her older sister. This biking, kayaking, swimming year. Sand year, mud year, brackish year. This year on an island in the Chesapeake Bay, bounded by water and family and fable and memory. When I left Santa Cruz I didn't much care to try. Try, try anything. I just wanted to leave, to move, even laterally. I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I could find my way here I would find some strength again, some sliver of passion or pride. A year ago I described myself as a forest burnt to the ground. I did feel that way. I underestimated my roots. I underestimated this place and my people. I find myself buoyed up and held by my eastern family, those people who I saw but barely knew, shared blood with but never a home. This year could have been indescribably lonely, and while it had its hard days, my aunts and uncles and grandparents visited and ate and laughed and treated me like I hadn't been raised thousands of miles away, tethered to them only by phone line and photograph. I expected to find my strength in the place, and while I love this island with a desperation that I have reserved only for Laura, I found as much, if not more, in joining the family fray. I see Laura sometimes, in the turn of my grandfather's head or the narrowing of my aunt's eyes or the quietness of my grandmother's company. I see myself, too, and feel as close to complete as I have in two years, in more.

I made the right choice, and I am ready to try now.

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