the overlap of all these endings and beginnings: summer 2018 recap

Calvert Cliffs State Park

It was almost a jolt for me, last Monday, when I began to see my social media feed fill with “goodbye summer” posts. Even though my work is tied directly to the school calendar, it didn’t register that, of course, summer is drawing to a close.

I’m tethered to rhythms, and usually, I love to let seasons border and bookend chapters of my life. This past summer, though, was such a wild, sprawling, rangy season that I can’t count it as just one thing. How was the sweltering Memorial Day weekend we spent with friends part of the same season as the dark, fogged over Fourth of July we spent along the North Shore? And what was August? This month where we crossed borders and time zones and oceans and mountains in both the air and sky. Into what category do I put the month we visited two countries, returned to our own, then moved from its middle to its eastern edge?

All summer, I thought in terms of endings and goodbyes—and we said a lot—but now that I’m on the other end of summer, I’m starting to wonder if it wasn’t actually more about of beginnings.

I experienced a groundwater shift in my writing life. I finished a novel I’m unbelievably proud of, and I identified and committed to concrete goals and steps for those goals to move my writing forward. I felt my relationship with Chris shift into a deeper gear. Travel stretched us to become more tender, and in the moments when the fears and stresses of moving brought out in me qualities that are far lovable, we had the opportunity to push past the ugliness, and move deeper into love. To enter new levels of unconditional care is, if not a true beginning, a beautiful continuum to be moving along. In so many ways, we were preparing for beginnings: Preparing our friendships to (hopefully) withstand distance, preparing our career paths for new leaps, preparing ourselves to move away from everything we know. Even when we sat in London and I cried over all the endings, it was actually the rushing, tumbling into beginnings that I made me want, so badly, to stay put.

I need more time to think about this. As much as I love bringing my experiences into cohesion—this is what keeps me writing—I don’t like reducing life beyond its size. I’d planned to forego any attempt to write about summer, but obviously I’ve changed my mind. If I’ve learned anything from journaling (a habit I’m haltingly building), it’s that there’s value enough in creating the record. It’s time’s job, not ours, to make sense of these seasons that blast us or our lives apart.

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So what was summer 2018? A whole beautiful mess of things.

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Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend was summer at its finest. The temperatures soared beyond where they normally sit, and we launched into summer. St. Paul Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, rooftop drinking in the afternoon, and the evening at a baseball game with our friends. The next day? Soundset 2018, and a full day of live music, and kickass friends. We even fled our apartment on Friday night to catch the last of the sunset over Lake Nokomis, because the world was just so beautiful in that dying gold we didn’t want to miss it. That one weekend felt like what summer should always, what last year’s summer was like. The kind that’s a gift we don’t get very often.

Goodbyes to to the Job I Loved

In June, I got to say my spiritual goodbye to a job I’ve loved and found so much reward in. I got to spend a week with my now former team and a bunch of excited and exciting kids, experiencing the final stage in a project and process that lasts all year. I wouldn’t actually end my job (or have to say the goodbyes that made me sob) until August, but that week in June served a goodbye to the program. It also made me realize how much joy we can find in endings—when we know they’re coming, they give us such extraordinary presence.

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Saying Goodbyes to Minnesota

July was full of goodbyes to Minnesota. Chris kicked off the month by surprising me with a birthday getaway to the North Shore. We got to retrace our own early history, I saw lupine growing wild along Highway 61, and then after climbing forty-five minutes along the socked in cliffs of Palisade Head, we got ten minutes, where the fog shifted and the cliffs of Lake Superior opened to us. I got to say goodbye to the place in Minnesota’s that feels most steeped in history and home to me.

In July, we also made a point to visit some of our favorite spots in the cities—Hi-Lo Diner, Minnehaha Falls, Nina’s Cafe, St. Anthony Main, Lake Monster Brewing— and we said goodbye to Chris’s hometown with one final (for now) night of bar hopping with friends. It was always going to be impossible to say a proper goodbye to the Twin Cities, and why try? We’ll be back. And maybe restaurants will close and new bars will open, but our home will always be our home. As glad as I am to have had goodbyes at a few favorite places, I’m also glad we didn’t try to say goodbye to everything. Like someone said to me at the Sebastian Joe’s in Lake Harriet, “you visit your favorite places when you’re back, and they get better, because you know what to compare then to now.”

New York - Dublin - London

Then there was our trip. Seventeen days of exploration and travel and miles of pavement pounding in gorgeous and unfamiliar cities. I’m never recovering from London, and even though New York feels like a separate trip, I’m already hoping we get back soon. This trip, though, was one for our books. Not just because it was the first Chris and I took together, but because we were dazzled by so much, exposed to so much, and learned so much.

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Our First Weeks in Maryland

I’ve been introducing myself all week, and it’s tripping me out to say “we haven’t even been in Maryland a month.” But it’s true! We moved less than a month ago.

So far, we’ve done a lot of settling in, but have found time between IKEA runs and new jobs to do a little exploring. Our goal for the year is to spend at least one day, at least every other weekend, sightseeing, exploring, or playing tourist. (My personal goal is to visit every National Park in the area, so we can collect all our National Park Passport stamps. Don’t laugh.) So far, we’ve visited Calvert Cliffs State Park (with my parents), Cunningham Falls State Park, Catoctin Mountain Park (Camp David is somewhere in this park), been into D.C. once, and to Alexandria (so charming) a few times.

I can’t get over the history here. I’m floored every time I pass the home of one of the signer of Declaration of Independence on my way to work, and when I pass signs that the townhouse George Washington is still right here, steps from sidewalk I’m on. It’s a different kind of American history, as well as geographical and pre-historic history, to be surrounded by, and just like everyone said to us,, it’s really cool for us history nerds to be this close to so much history.

As for fall, I’m looking forward to it—assuming the weather here in Southern Maryland changes. (I’ve been warned that it can stay warm until December, but that temps generally drop in late September). We have a giant list in our living room of places we want to see or visit while we live here, and, more importantly, we have plane tickets home for Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to a new season, and for the rhythms and routines we’ve developed so far to become more natural, maybe start to feel something like home.