[Quiet Thoughts] Of Touchstones

Photo: There are some undeniable perks for living in New England. Apple cider donuts absolutely count.


I spent the bulk of my afternoon on the phone with my aunt. Every once in a while, she makes an appointment for deep-dive check-in, instead of the usual text or recipe exchange. There have been funerals and other happenings back home, so I needed to be caught up with everything.

What I love about these sorts of sharings is the fantastically masterful weaving of the utterly hilarious, the absolutely mundane and the downright heartbreaking all in one story. The cast of characters are an assortment of people I know and don’t know, though they all are always somehow related and therefore also related to us. They do stupid things and smart things and tragic things. I enjoy feeling like I never left because the stories shared are so vivid.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I once again approach storytelling in some sort of organized way. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I earned a scholarship for a class at Grub Street this fall. It’ll be my first “workshop” class, where I will have to produce work and read it to a small group of peers and the teacher. They’ll critique it right there in class.

I cannot tell you how excited I am and how utterly terrified I am. I admit that I’ve never managed to develop a thick skin. Honestly, I’ve always found it paradoxical: why are we taught to give everything “our all” and yet also taught to be stoic in the face of critique? I think it’s impossible. I put my all in and I feel my all when I’m done. So, as you can imagine, I am going through the expected sequence of emotions: elation, excitement, doubt, anxiety. As I get closer to the start date, the scarier it gets, the more of an imposter I feel.

That’s why my chat with my aunt was such a lovely thing today. It was good to hear the stories of home, to indulge in the cadence and the tenor of them, and to let them rattle around in my ear as I get ready to compose on demand for a while.

My Quiet Thoughts this evening are on touchstones and how important they are. Sometimes you  don’t quite realize how much you need them. I think I’m also realizing how they morph and change as time goes on. People leave us, so others fill the gap.

Next Thursday marks two years since the last time I spoke with my grandmother and my father. They were two touchstones who mattered for different reasons. Their departures from my life were separate and unequal. There is a rising dread as the days drag me closer, which I know I shouldn’t feel about my own damn birthday. Last year was really miserable. I’m doing everything I can to avoid what I endured then. So my dance-card is busy: meetings, playdates, a trip to my favorite fabric store… There is knitting to do, quilting to do… stuff to complete. This year, the strategy is “if I keep myself busy enough, I’ll forget to be miserable.”

It might not work.

Maybe it won’t.

I suspect what will happen is I will run and run, but the quiet will inevitably come and my mind will inevitably wander and a bit of the darkness will find me. I pray it won’t bite as deeply as it did last year. Perhaps a shorter duration will mean a bit of healing. We’ll see if time lives up to its maxum.

I can at least say that time reveals more touchstones. Wise souls have revealed themselves in the last 2 years. So have friends I can share with and rely on. There are people who I have come to admire and others who challenge me and demand that I grow. “Replacement” isn’t a possibility…. but I’m grateful for whatever this is.

There is a real and actual chill to the air tonight. Our windows are open and there will be an extra blanket on the bed. These days are precious indeed: cool in the evening, warm in the day, the house perfectly comfortable, no need for the heat or the air conditioning. May this last for a few more weeks. This house is at its best when the windows are open and the air is free to move on through.

Friday nights are for wishes because Friday nights are a natural stopping point. This is a key moment to catch your breath, to remember your accomplishments, to roll back your shoulders and close your eyes. Transitions like this are great times to let out  a wish. Let it be carried off into the future you’re stepping into.

My first wish for you is an opportunity to yes: to an adventure, local or far. To an opportunity that will test you and help you grow, or maybe for something you’ve been asking for and never thought you’d get. I wish you time with a favorite touchstone: someone who knows you well and can tell you where to go next. Or someone who will feed you, give you room to breathe and rest and retool. I wish you time outside to smell the sweet air and feel the change that is well on its way. I wish you soup… hearty and delicious. Chicken tortilla soup seems to be all the rage right now (note: I always recommend chicken thighs over chicken breasts). And in this new season of rapid, dramatic change, I wish you one pretty leaf to press in a book. Pick a good one!

You woke up this morning as a person who is loved. Even if you woke up alone in your bed, you still woke up loved, held in someone’s heart as precious and wonderful and worthy. Throughout your day, you were thought of. Someone wondered about you, wondered after you. Someone smiled at the thought of you, thought of a thing to tell you, considered your needs, let out a little thought of hope on your behalf. Even if you haven’t heard the words today, let it be known in your heart and in your soul that you are loved. What you did today mattered to someone. You bring something beautiful into the world.

I know you’ve worked hard this week, Dear Reader. Weekends are for rest. But don’t forget to do one kindness. Remember the people in the Carolinas. Remember the people in the Merrimack Valley. Remember the women asking to be heard and believed.

Until Monday, shine on and take care.


Can you spot the bears in the apple tree?

(Apple bushes?)

(Seriously, their shape has always been a mystery to me…)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.