Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Summer arrives
With a length of lights;
Summer blows away
And quietly gets swallowed by a wave.
 - "Summersong" by the Decemberists

For me, the defining feature of summer is that it slips away.  Fall is about the slow, bittersweet advance of longer nights and colder days, winter exists to be endured, and spring is the soul's coming to life and loving the world again, but somehow it's summer that makes me feel the turning of the earth, ever rolling out of the present.  The sunlight lies to you, claiming to be endless, but before you know it the fireflies have come and gone and all the things you meant to do are either done or deferred.  You look at the calendar and hope that the memories are enough to sustain you as you brace for the year's long slide into night.

These days, I can actually feel time getting away from me.  Sometime in the last year it feels like I turned a corner, with my body and mind finally tending toward a slow decline.  I can't remember names the way I used to, the extra weight is harder to lose, and even my running has a new, leaden quality that wasn't there a year ago.  I started running five years back, knowing these days were coming and now, without any fanfare, here they are.

Of course, these are the complaints of someone who, with any luck, has forty or more summers ahead of him.  Two weeks ago my mother was told that her cancer is incurable, and now we are trying to absorb the news that she has, in all likelihood, just two years or less.  I'm trying very hard not to live in denial, but I just can't seem to understand what this means for her, for me, and for all of us.  Two years or twenty, the future twists out of my grasp like a wisp of smoke, impossible to imagine, let alone to hold with any promise.  What will these final years be like?  What will be left undone, or unsaid?  What will we keep of her, and what will we miss the most?  My imagination feels dull in the face of these questions, and I'm afraid I won't be ready for what's coming.

And yet, in spite of all the uncertainty and the accumulating reminders of mortality, it has been a bright, wonderful summer.  We've grilled with neighbors, swam in pools, and ridden our bikes in the sun.  We've dipped our toes in the Pacific and the Atlantic, visited old friends, and seen a sister married.  Maybe it's easier to remember the highlights, but they were there.  So many times K. and I look at our children, really listen to them talking to each other, and hope they remember, later, what a happy childhood they had.  We try to remember for them, and think how lucky we are to be here, right now, and to have this time.

Waiting for the wedding party at the Portland Temple 

Dad takes our reversal of roles like a stoic 

Ian and Erik at Devils Lake

The stairs from our cliffside house led straight to the amazing tidepools of my youth

We started collecting all the hermit crabs, but eventually the bucket got crowded

Some of my very favorite people

Our family takes a lot of pictures

Especially this lady

The engineer considers the ocean currents

Bob flees the lovebirds

And the snake finally swallows its tail--me taking a picture of Joe 
taking a picture of Mom taking a picture of Mish and JJ

My girl belongs outdoors.  She just does.

Ours were the rickety stairs on the left (not the far left)

Lucy and the Larsen cousins

Ian with new cousin Jack (and cousins Erik and Alex in the background)

Feats of strength: breaking firewood on boulders

Mom with Nora

K's cousin Becky put us up the night before our flight back

Front yard picnic with our neighbors, the Taylors

The annual Fourth of July parade

Ian's first boy scout camp