In Search of the Northern Summer: Part V

“…I never made promises lightly,
And there have been some that I’ve broken,
But I swear to you in the days still left
We will walk in fields of gold…”
— Sting

Thinking back on this year that’s already more than half over, I have to admit that the ride has been pretty indescribable most of the time. James and I aren’t half as busy as some folks, and yet it seems like we go weeks without a chance to really sit back and take in where we are — the present — and consider, also, where we’ve been and where we hope to go.

IMG_0913Maybe, sometimes, it isn’t always so important to know where you’re going. I’m not convinced that we can ever really know that, anyway. But, I’m certain that if you don’t know where you are, you are most certainly lost. And — if you don’t know where you’ve been — you’ve clearly not been paying attention!

I think it was one of the reasons that I wanted to come to the Leelanau Peninsula; I thought we might be able to draw on the natural peace and clarity of our surroundings, harnessing it for our own benefit. Thanks to the beautiful surroundings of Snowbird Inn, James and I were able to do that. Surrounding the inn are fields of wildflowers — full of regal Queen Anne’s Lace, humble Blackeyed Susans, and cheery Star Thistle — all bobbing in a crisp morning breeze and bathed in morning sunlight so golden that even the breeze seemed to be whispering something about autumn being on its way. There’s just something about a field of billowing, tall grasses that begs contemplation.

Every morning, before breakfast, while Nicole was enjoying her “time of wonder” up in her room (“time of wonder” is what IMG_0914she and I call those moments where she’s so caught up in what she’s doing — fixing her hair, checking her make-up, browsing in the grocery store, etc. — that she doesn’t notice how much time is passing), James and I had our own daily “time of wonder” wandering around in these fields of gold. And, as usual, as we wandered and wondered, we pondered — both in conversation and internally — this year and what it has meant.

Our year began with the passing of James’ mother from a long, painful illness. Though we had known that her disease was terminal for well over a year, there are still times when you wish life could slow down so that you could pause and wrap your mind around certain changes. Losing a parent — even when you know it’s on the horizon — is something I don’t think anyone can ever fully grasp.

Amid our grief, too, we had both the joy and the stress of planning our wedding. IMG_0916Perhaps that activity — fraught with deadlines and details — was one of the things that helped us both pull together in that tough time.

Just before we entered the church on that day, James and I stood just outside the side entrance and shared a “time of wonder”. The string quartet was playing Bach’s “Arioso” — a tune which I’d not requested but was delighted that they’d read my mind and selected on their own. We stood there, Bach floating on the breeze, about to enter a church full of family and friends who were there to wish us well and — as we looked into each other’s eyes — we both knew we were missing a few folks who could only be there in spirit.

IMG_0947I don’t believe in reincarnation, by any means, but I do find comfort in seeing reminders of my grandmother’s spirit in nature. I have to smile and pause every time I see or hear a Mourning Dove. Their sweet, gentle presence and timidness make me think of her, but so, too, their hooting call. It always reminds me of the way she sounded when she was impressed, “Whooooweee!” My brothers and I used to laugh when she’d exclaim in delight at even the most banal of things, so it’s no wonder that these birds bring her spirit closer to me.

James’ mother collected ceramic bird figurines and kept them all about her living room. She had all sorts, but the one that was featured most prominently was the Northern Cardinal. Such a sharp, red color… such a clear, unmistakable song. James‘ mother — though always considerate and kind — certainly had a way of making her presence known in a crowded room; just as the Cardinal cuts through blinding snow and cold effortlessly. In one of the last pictures we have of James together with his mother, she’s wearing a Christmas sweater that’s bedecked with Cardinals and holly. Naturally, on the day she passed, we both immediately associated both the male and female Cardinal with Ms. Ella.

Incidentally, while we were standing there, waiting to walk into our own wedding ceremony, we talked about each of us having seen — just minutes before — a Cardinal and a Mourning Dove. IMG_0917I already knew it was so, but I was reminded that they were both there, in spirit, for our big day.

Though our wedding, unfortunately, granted us no change in legal status, it did manage to cement our commitment to each other and brought us even closer together in an unexpected and inexplicable way. Though I don’t have to dig back too far into my past to find a time when I didn’t have James in my life, I can no longer imagine my life without him.

Each morning, as we enjoyed our pre-breakfast “time of wonder” wandering around the grounds of Snowbird Inn, we were slowly able to — without speaking much about it — wrap our minds around this whole year and what it’s meant so far. And, maybe — just maybe — we caught a shimmering glimpse of what lies ahead, too.


~ by Jason on July 29, 2010.

5 Responses to “In Search of the Northern Summer: Part V”

  1. Jason, I continue to be touched by the power and depth of your writing. What a gift God has given you.

  2. No fair making me tear up this morning. What gifts you are to each other and to this world! What an amazing tale of partnership and presence! May we all be granted with such grace and peace. Love y’all!

  3. Jason- I have to agree that you indeed have a wonderful gift not only with words but with talent and poise in all your writings, and stories whether it be reflections from your past life experiences or your amazing outlook into the marvelous intriguing future.
    Indeed your wisdom is far beyond mine and your knack of storytelling seems to come with such ease and joy in the making. Not to mention your wonderful and exhilirating photos, which I believe belong in a Magazine all their own with your wonderful exerpts of past and present life experiences, as well as those wonderful recipes and gardening stories and tips.
    I believe that James and you bring out the very best in each other- and that you both are blessed to have found each other. Thanks for sharing so much of your lives with your family and friends, as well as teach us all alot about happiness and love. I enjoy each and every tale from the emails and articles of your “Tales of Thyme & Place….Bless you both.
    Valerie Deaton

  4. Incredible, beautiful, vivid, enchanting and profound as usual! Those that we LOVE most seem to leave energies and signs behind that always find a way of showing us that a part of them in present in the here and now!!!
    Thank you Jason wow, now I have a word for when Mary gets lost in time and space and in her own world and we are a little late for things! Wow, a time of wonder can be a pretty awesome time indeed! Thank you so much for sharing in your life and your love and many of your gifts, (just to name a few); compassion, literary brilliance, story telling ability and beauty both the ability to capture it is an aesthetic way and through the language of symbolism!!!

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