it was about finding a language

It was about being true to the very stuff of life, it was about trying to capture, though you never could, the very feel of being alive.  It was about finding a language. And it was about being true to the fact, the one thing only followed from the other, that many things in life – oh so many more than we think – can never be explained at all.

– Graham Swift, Mothering Sunday

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I have been thinking a lot about the idea of homesickness.  It is an emotion I’m familiar with, but when I ponder the feeling more deeply, I find myself confused: what is home for me?  I’ve written at length about my peripatetic childhood and the slipperiness that engenders in my own sense of home.  Now, I’m crystal clear: home is the small house Matt and I moved into 15 years ago July, to which we brought home both of our babies, in whose walls Grace and Whit have grown up.

Of course home isn’t a place, though, at all.  It’s people. It’s family, the one I was born into and the one I have made.

The truth is I didn’t feel homesick much as a child.  At least I don’t remember that.  I know that I came home at midnight from my very first sleepover, in Paris, and I was homesick then.  I know I did not like my first camp, which I went to when I was 9, and was homesick.  But for the years after that, when I went to camp on Cape Cod (where Grace and Whit go now) and then to boarding school, I don’t recall feeling homesick. I don’t say that as a criticism, by the way – I know that I was a securely attached child who was confident of her relationship with her parents and my lack of homesickness did not reflect something nefarious.  Whit, for example, isn’t homesick.  And I know he loves us and vice versa.

This is part of why I’ve been thinking about the idea of homesickness, lately.  I think it’s more complicated than simply missing home.  Grace was homesick at camp this summer, which surprised all of us a little since she’s been to camp for many years, and confidently so. I suspect what she’s homesick for is me, but more than anything, I think she’s preemptively homesick for right now.  In some deep-seated way Grace is aware that the days when I can solve problems for her and when I’ll be an uncomplicated source of security are numbered.  It’s not that we won’t always have a close bond; I hope we do and trust we will.  It’s just that she’s a young woman and her relationship with me is necessarily changing.  I know it will and already is.  I studied this and now I’m living it.

This is as it should be.

But it’s not easy. It’s scary to know what’s coming, to look independence and young adulthood in the eye and it’s also sad to glance back at all that will never come again. It won’t surprise any of you who know how frequently I glance back to know that Grace does the same.  Often.

So I understand this latest surge of homesickness in Grace this way: a prescient awareness of what is coming, a preemptive sorrow, a clinging to what is because what is on the horizon is scary and exciting in equal measure.  Maybe she’s just wired this way, aware of the light and the dark, attuned to the shadows that hover around a lot of life’s experiences, sensitive to loss even before it arrives.  If so, she’s just like her mother.

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The people who show up


Matt the day after surgery.  Things actually went seriously south after this, but they are stable now.

For better or for worse, the last month has given me a lot of insight into certain friendships.  First let me say that Matt has an injury, not an illness, and he will be totally fine in time.  I realize this is a situation of great good fortune and that in the big picture this is just a hiccup.  It is also true, however, that this has been a substantially difficult few weeks in our  family’s little life.  Reentry into school, restarting sports, all with just one driver and adding many (many) doctor’s and PT appointments on top of everything else has been challenging. There were some additional non-Matt-related hiccups in the first week or two of September that added texture and complexity to our lives.  Everyone is fine now.

I also work full time, which is not inconsequential. In short, this has been a challenging time.  And certain people have absolutely blown me away with their support.  I will never forget the friends who showed up on our doorstep bearing food, sent gifts, or offered help.  People have sent and lent books and given many suggestions of things to read, watch, and think about.  People have come by to sit and keep Matt company for meals.  People have helped me with driving.

The kindness of people – family, close friends, and, frankly friends who weren’t that close before (but are now) is hugely notable.  It goes without saying that not everyone has responded this way.  That’s not what I want to dwell on.  What I want to consider, celebrate, and ostentatiously acknowledge, is the kindness of people in our lives who’ve gone out of their way to both help and check on us.  Even a simple text checking in and offering help goes SO FAR.  Seriously. The generosity of so many people has moved me and indelibly changed how I think about them.

It also has made me consider my own behavior in the past when friends near or far have struggled. I have been feeling a lot of guilt about certain instances in the past when I wasn’t there enough for friends.  I did not realize the insensitivity of not checking in, and now I do.  There are the friends who show up, and my devout, deliberate intention going forward is to be one of them for those I love.  It takes so little, honestly.  A phone call.  A swing by when you’re out doing errands.  A text.  I am sorry, and I am grateful, at the same time, all the time, right now.

Let’s be the people who show up.

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the iridescent and the dark

I have sometimes thought that there are moments when you can see it all – and if not the future, then all that has come before.

And I think also of the gathering net Evan threw into the water, and how he let it sink, and how he drew it up again, and how it showed us the iridescent and the dark, the lustrous and the grotesque.

– both Anita Shreve, The Weight of Water

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who are we?

I have been thinking a lot about this question of who we are.  Possibly precipitated by these these quotes which presented themselves to me over and over again this summer (reminding me, yet again, that there’s some inchoate logic behind what we think of when we think of it).

Tell me who you love and I will tell you who you are – Arsene Houssaye

Maybe that’s who you are, what you remember. – Orson Scott Card

Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are – Jose Ortega y Gasset (from A First Sip, Instagram here)

Are we those we love, our memories, or our passions?  These all feel right to me. Perhaps we are all three.  Surely we are so much more, too.  I’ve been thinking about how I would personally answer these questions but also about the way that each of these quotes touches on external indicators of something truly internal.  Can we ever really know who we are?

Or are we always looking for hints, or clues, or the shimmer of that self, like a thread in a woven fabric or something glinting in the ocean?

I suspect it’s more the latter, and that’s why quotes that at who we are are so powerful.  Of course I am not certain.  What I do know is that some combination of what we love, what we remember, what we pay attention to feels like as good as any as a way to ascertain who we are.  That all resonates.

For now, that means that who I am lives somewhere in two tall teen and tween children, one gimp husband crutching around, sunsets, books, poetry, friends whose loyalty is deep and wide, the sky at all times of day.

That sounds about right to me.

Who are you?



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10 years


My first post here was on 9/15/06.  That is ten years ago last week.  The picture above was taken a couple of weeks before my first blog post.

Ten years ago.

It feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago that I thought, hmm, let’s try this.  Like all anniversaries, this one is an opportunity for reflection, and there are a great many ways my life is the same as it was that day and even more ways it is wildly different.

I have been blogging for a meaningful chunk of my adult life.  This place and the community it has introduced me to is a very important part of my daily existence.  I can’t imagine life without A Design So Vast.  I have printed out my annual blog posts every year and, hard bound, they take up half a shelf.  I guess that is my “book.”

We are rooted, and we are moving.  We are stagnant, and we are dancing. I have T.S. Eliot’s lines from Four Quartets in my mind (now and very often):

we must be still and still moving

Maybe I am not moving enough, here or elsewhere?  I do feel like I’m repeating myself a lot, writing about the same things over and over, even as some shifts are apparent (I write about Grace and Whit far less than I used to, most vitally).  So on this anniversary, I’d love to return to something I used to do, which is ask you what you want to hear about.  I’d really appreciate your thoughts on things you’d like to hear me write about.  Questions, thoughts, ideas.  Please bring them on!  Thank you in advance for anything you ask or share.


This picture was taken 10 years to the week after the picture above, in the same city.  So much changes, so much stays the same.


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we know quite well it is not

It is not a life we are living.  It is life’s reward, beautiful because it seems eternal and because we know quite well it is not.

– James Salter, There and Then

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Things I Love Lately

 You Don’t Need An Extreme Bucket List to Find Happiness – I loved this piece by Mary Elizabeth Williams.  “I hope someday to see Machu Picchu. I fantasize about getting my master’s degree. There is a big world full of spectacular things, and I have so much I still want to experience within it. But today, I can make that fried chicken recipe I bookmarked three years ago…There is nothing standing in my way – no money to be saved up; no calendar to clear. Life is happening now, and the whole big lesson I got out of almost losing it far sooner than I ever planned is to not put off anything that catches my curiosity or moves my heart.”

A Year Without Oliver Sacks – Sacks is one of my favorite writers, and I think often of his legacy, share his writing, and return to his words myself.  This remembrance by one of his best friends made me ache for his loss, as well as swell with gratitude for his life.  His contribution was enormous (I also had no idea he knew Robin Williams, though it doesn’t surprise me, when I read it.  I hope they are together somewhere now, laughing hard).

American Crime.  I am not a huge TV watcher, but WOW.  I watched Season One over the summer and Season Two just a week or so ago while Matt was immediately post-surgery.  I loved Season Two even more than Season One, but found both incredibly riveting.  So, so, so good.

Matt has been reading a lot, since he’s mostly immobile.  He has recently read and enjoyed Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger, Valiant Ambition by Nathanial Philbrick, Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez, and Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth.  These are somewhat different than the fare I usually write about here, but if you have any books that you think he might like, we’d both love to hear about them!

I read a lot this summer, and I shared the rundown with brief thoughts on each book last week.  I am interested to hear what you have been reading.

I write these Things I Love posts approximately monthly.  You can find them all here.

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16 years


16 years ago last Friday Matt and I were married.  As you can see above, it rained during the ceremony and after before clearing into a gorgeous night.  We were so young then, just babies, full of optimism and suntans and grand plans and high hopes. So much has turned out precisely like we planned it, and so many things have been surprises from left field.  I’d wager that the surprises have been more glorious and (when not glorious, often) more full of learning than the things that have gone according to plan.


the night before your accident, August 18, Vermont

So … this anniversary looks a little different than we’d perhaps expected.  Last year we marked 15 with a dinner with our children (a detail we took some teasing for, but one I am happy about).  I’ve made a few jokes about how we’re focusing on the “for worse” and “in sickness” vows this year, which is perhaps uncharitable.


The truth is, Matt, I’m wowed by your attitude and your positive spirit. See above for a text exchange of ours before your surgery.  Kelly Clarkson has been a refrain in our house in the last weeks.  This has not been fun for anyone, least of all you, and you remain undaunted.  Your behavior in the face of this challenge does a whole lot to remind me why I fell in love with you in the first place.  Thank you for that.  Only 4 more weeks in that brace!!

So.  Here we are.  It’s been rainy and sunny and stormy and certainly not dull.  I hope there are many more years ahead of us than behind, and I look forward to seeing what this 17th year holds.  I love you, Matt.

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we have to take wing

We have to take flight. It’s not given to us, served up on a pretty, parsley-bordered platter. We have to take wing. Was I brave enough to do that? Or would I be content to remain earthbound?

-Elizabeth Church, The Atomic Weight of Love

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