Today is my birthday and I've been looking forward to it for months. Not because I can't wait to add a year to the total when asked my age, but because I knew I'd be here, and I knew that being here would give me ample space and time to be calm and breathe. This is my first birthday without my father and that puts me on somewhat shaky ground. But while there is an emptiness inside of me that I can’t begin to fill, I’ve also been surrounded this past week with so much life and so much love and squeals of pleasure, laughter, surprise and awe, excited faces and clapping hands, that this morning seems to float with that fat white cloud that's slowly drifting without a care along the mountain tops outside my window.
Each morning I’ve awakened to the cool breeze through these windows, and the birds in song in the woods out back. The Wrens, Finches, Grosbecks and Mourning Doves, all chattering or warbling in the trees each morning at dawn, which by the way breaks through at around 5:15.
Yesterday, we saw a red Cardinal. A friend of mine has told me there's some symbolism there, the red Cardinal and my father, but I can't recall the exactness. Still, we were happy to see him. Augusta has been looking for them, a bit saddened because she figured they did not live around her new house. We recognized his song before Cat spotted a flash of red through the woods and then finally seeing him at the feeder. For different reasons, each of us happy by his presence.
Being here, it's easy to forget there's a city I call home. It's easy to forget traffic or knotted emotions. It's easy to forget emptiness. The grey skies, and cold concrete fade from memory. The voice of my friend, the laughter of a baby, the company of my niece, these things have been soothing to me. These simple things have brought me incredible pleasure this week.
In fact, the entire week has been about simple and casual moments that sparkle. Among them,
- Picking blueberries off the bush with my three year old guide telling me to only pick the big dark blue ones. And to eat them. At the end of the afternoon, each of us had full buckets of berries to haul home. Her bucket, however, had three berries rolling around. Her fingers and her smile stained blue.
- Painting her toenails, and seeing that she has the same teeny tiny, barely there nail on her little toe that her mother does.
- Learning that every chipmunk is Chippy, and Chippy, that rascal, he’s everywhere.
- Sipping a glass of Alison Champagne, 2002, from my favorite Vintner.
- Building a sandcastle with the three year old.
- Being called a Dodo bird. More than once. By people who know me well.
- Sitting on a porch on a Sunday afternoon, reading and discussing the New York Times with my niece. (Somewhere up there, my father couldn't have been prouder.)
- Taking a ferry ride across Lake Champlain, having a picnic lunch in a park in Essex, New York, along the shores of the lake and, afterwards, strolling the babies along the shaded sidewalks and through the town to the ice cream store.
- Sitting on the porch at midnight and remembering how comforting the darkness can be.
- Walking past clouds of blooming hydrangeas of the softest purple and white.
- Being a shutterbug with my niece.
- Breathing in the air here which may or may not be perfectly clean but it's sweet smelling and lingers in my lungs.
These are just a handful of the moments I've had on this trip, moments that have me counting my blessings today.