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Lighten up (07/27/2011)

Here we are at the end of July, the Beethoven Festival is over, and this is the last week of the Great River Shakespeare Festival. The state is open again. The river is high, the gnats have retreated, the temperature and humidity have subsided, and now August comes, summer’s last gasp. During our heat wave, more than once I heard people say they’d never again complain about winter. But I bet that’s not true. I bet next February they’ll be saying how sick they are of winter and can’t wait for summer. Spring is never perfect, fall is too wet, or too cold, or too hot, or too short. We’re just never happy with the weather.

We expect too much, I think. We should approach the weather more as children do than adults. On a rainy day, kids can’t wait to wear their boots and splash in puddles. On Saturday, before the big thunder storm dumped torrential rain on us, we were in our back yard playing on the slip and slide (my granddaughters were; I’m afraid to slip, but they love it!) when we heard thunder in the distance. “Tunda! Tunda!” said the 2-year-old, her big brown eyes wide with excitement. I kept an eye on the sky as the thunder became louder and louder, and when the first raindrop splatted on the cement next to me, I herded the girls inside. The heavens opened up, we wrapped them in towels, and ran upstairs where we could watch the storm from the picture window.

The rain was so furious that it spilled out of the eaves troughs before it could be carried away. The trees bent in the wind, puddles formed everywhere. The 4-year-old began to sing, “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day.” Soon they tired of the rain show, got into their clothes, and went to play with their dolls, not at all disappointed that their slip and sliding had been rained out. Their attitude seems to be that there is always another tomorrow, always something they find interesting, whether it’s indoors or out, hot or cold, day or night.

Later we rode our big wheel tricycles and the 2-year-old wanted to ride in all the puddles. The 4-year-old was only interested in speed, not an easy thing on a big wheel. She wanted me to time her on each trip around the drive, faster and faster to beat her personal best (shades of her grandfather, who times everything). Tired of riding, they ran up the steps to a big ash tree that lost branches in the storm. “Look at how big this one is!” they cried, vying for my attention. Soon they were swatting with their branches at a chain that used to hold a bird house. “Look, look, look!”

How can life be so exciting? They even raced gleefully to help me throw their swim suits in the dryer.

How did I become so blasé about my days, why don’t I jump out of bed in the morning and race downstairs to greet the day? Why don’t I twirl around and around in my desk chair, and draw pictures with my pens and pencils?

I look at these grandchildren and feel their weightlessness, their ability to float with whatever stream catches them up to discover new worlds. I feel weighed down, whether by gravity or gravitas, I don’t know. They buzz through life like dragonflies, like hummingbirds constantly moving. In my mind a picture forms. I am a huge old sofa, cushions sagging, arms with swaybacks like old horses. They are the butterflies who briefly land on me and instead of weighing me down, buoy me up. They are a gift to help me see the day instead of the weather. 


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