Digging deep

The Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia

The Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia

We’re spending the week with our son.

We don’t get to do that often enough these days. Right after high school he joined the army and we moved to Alaska. And for the next five years we saw him in bits and pieces, he a cog in the great wheel of the army’s posting and leave schedule, and us connecting when we could match our opportunity to his availability. It was tricky, during those years, but we managed.

We’ve kept up, and kept in contact. I saw him in March, we spent a few days with him back in May, and will see him again at Thanksgiving. We’re making up, a little bit, for lost time. Getting to know him again, and learning about this kid who turned 26 in June. Twenty-six! How did that happen?

It’s often funny, hearing his take on life, catching his humor, his jokes, learning about his likes and dislikes…weaving the fabric with first hand knowledge and time spent face to face.

It’s sometimes hard. He’s not always easy, often stubborn and opinionated. He’s a mix of the two of us, and at the same time, so different from either of us. Life and loss have left a mark. The army experience, both good and bad, and a young marriage that added to the statistics of military marriages, shaped him. He’s finding his way, and so are we.

We laugh and enjoy. It’s easy to be with him.

We tread warily. Rekindled relationships can be fragile. This one needs to strengthen a bit, solidify again.

I find my heart is fragile too, anxious that the week be good, something we’ll all remember with smiles, and a desire to repeat.

Re-connection requires effort. Life gives us people and relationships, but it’s up to us to nurture and make them thrive. So I dig deep, tell my mother’s heart that all will be well.

We’re in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s beautiful and warm, the September sunshine pretending to be a gift of summer. We’ve picked an Irish and a Scottish pub for dinner the nights they have live music, and we’re walking the town and driving the coast. Laid back, charming, and just touristy enough to keep the focus on fun.

How does it happen that you feel you have to get acquainted with the boy you birthed? I know his top layers, but the deeper stuff…well, that’s been forming in the past few years, and I’ve not been with him enough to know his depths.

So I dig deep, mostly within myself…he will have to do his own digging, his own opening, when he’s ready. It is not for me to make demands. He’s his own person now, and I respect that separateness. I just keep it light, make sure he knows he has a home in my heart, so when he wants to land there for a while, he can.

It’s delicate, being a parent to young adults. You play the game of giving them space and respect, but your heart really wants to just make everything right for them. Can’t do it, they have to. I dig deep to get it just right, to hold back, to open up. Exhausting. Fulfilling. It’s hard work. It’s heart work.

 

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Never a dull moment!

Tonight we experienced our first tsunami evacuation. A 7.7 earthquake hit this evening off the coast of British Columbia, and a tsunami warning was quickly issued for SE Alaska.

Rob is on call in Metlakatla this weekend, and he was at the clinic seeing a patient when the quake hit. I was at the apartment we use when he works here, and was completely absorbed in my blog world, reading authors I follow, posting comments, in my own little fog. The apartment was quiet, until I noticed the lamp on the table beside me vibrating. At first I thought someone was running a washing machine in the apartment above. Then I realized nothing was running, but the lamp was definitely moving. Not a good sign. I actually got up and opened the front door, but didn’t see swaying utility poles or anything that looked out of the ordinary. So I went back to my laptop.

My phone rang and Rob was on the line, asking me if I felt the quake, saying we were being evacuated. I drove to the clinic to pick him up, he loaded the back of the car with some medical supplies, and we drove to the high point on the island, probably less than a couple of miles away. A long line of cars was already headed that way, and we quickly moved to the area where the medical and EMS personnel were gathered. Sitting there, then getting out of the car, talking with some of the others who were gathered, waiting, it was a little like an impromptu neighborhood party. Someone passed around bottled water, a kid came around with coffee. There was lots of conversation about other earthquake experiences, other natural disasters. If I had thought to bring food to snack on we could have had a tailgate party.

Listening to the radio from Ketchikan, we learned that a very small wave…just a few inches…had hit another island in the region. I’m not sure if any noticeable wave ever hit Metlakatla or Ketchikan. All I know is we waited about two hours for official word to come so we could be released to go home and eat the dinner I had left in the oven.

In the end, we were released, but I came back to the apartment by myself. Rob went back to the clinic to take care of a patient who had experienced some kind of event during the evacuation. Now I sit watching the updates on the tsunami heading toward Hawaii, with occasional updates on hurricane Sandy moving toward the East Coast. You never know, do you, what’s coming your way?

The last time we were here for the weekend, there was a murder, the first murder in this community in 20 years I was told. I think we’ll wait a while before we make a return visit. These little towns…too intense for me!

Standing Still

Home again, and I’m finding my balance. After two months and five days of travel, I’m in my own bed, my own kitchen, again. The RV doesn’t quite rest, or cook, the same. Still, it offers options the house doesn’t. Haven’t found a way to put wheels on this 90-plus year old home yet.

Ketchikan in September can be wet and wicked, or beautiful, as the past few days have been. It’s perfect fall here, cool, with that certain something in the air that tells me, more clearly than the calendar, that summer is done and October is around the corner. I celebrated by pulling out a few of my favorite things: pumpkins, and a cozy recipe or two, and an arrangement of oranges and browns for the dining room. I put away a few things. Summer clothes and sandals are stored, suitcases are emptied, backpack cleaned out. The fridge is restocked.

The externals are tidied up. Now comes the mental game of tucking back in. Back to work, back to routine. I used to have a hard time doing it after a week or ten days away. But with the new rhythm to life, I have to be more flexible. I kept a few threads of work going while we traveled, the beauty of email and internet access, even if it was somewhat fractured. But the majority of what I do, how I make a living, was on pause while we were going full speed. Funny how incompatible pieces of living can be.

I’m still in the process of creating this life for myself. My husband is more practiced at it, has been doing it longer. For me, the on-again, off-again of work and travel is still a novelty, still a little unsettling. I don’t have it down to a science. I don’t have an automatic feed for employment. The travel is the easy part. Who wouldn’t enjoy rambling for weeks at a time? As long as the money holds out, sign me up!

But on the other end of the trip, I am spent. I love the road, the new places, re-visiting old favorites, and seeing family and friends along the way. That’s a joy and a privilege, and one I don’t take for granted. But at the end of movement, I crave stillness. For a time, I need a time-out.

I am grateful for internet I don’t have to search for, laundry I don’t need quarters for, a full size kitchen, the homey tasks of tidying and puttering that are small in meaning, yet oddly satisfying to my down to earth self. After the last two weeks in Canada, I appreciate using my cell phone without cringing at the added fees for an international call or text. I loved hearing French in Quebec and Montreal, but I’ll admit it’s nice to hear English and know what is being said. I can even admit that I’m ready for a little predictability again.

If I am broadened by travel, home is sweetened by travel. I know that after a few months, I’ll be rested up, ready to go, excited to look at a map and make a plan. But for today, it’s ok that my big outing took me to the hardware store and to get a haircut, and that I’m on deck to make dinner. For now, the everyday has a new glow about it, and it will take more than a few weeks to wear off. For today, I’m standing still.

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”  ~anonymous

                                          Nomads on the road

                     A Quebec landmark, Chateau Frontenac