As many of you know, I try to keep a fairly open mind when it comes to finding inspiration for the things I write about on this blog, even if what moves me comes from an unlikely place. Often the most unexpected enlightenment has come from my grandchildren, Nora and Jack. A month or so ago I arrived at their house in the morning to find them eagerly waiting to tell me something. “Freezie, Freezie, we have a new movie for us to watch. You are going to love it SO much!” Well. Who could possibly pass that up?? Certainly not me. The movie, as it turns out, was called The Rise of the Guardians and it is currently streaming on Netflix should you have some time this weekend to sit down and watch it. If you’re raising an eyebrow, and I know some of you are, just be patient with me. I promise you that there’s real substance here. The premise behind the movie is that the children of the world needed protection from the boogeyman, that universal bad guy responsible for our nightmares and the subsequent fear and sadness they bring, which prompted the Man in the Moon to assign a group of guardians to keep everyone safe. Are you still with me? These protectors consisted of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy, obvious icons of childhood who fill the world with good things and happiness. Something goes wrong, and the boogeyman begins regaining his strength. A new guardian is needed to fortify the group, and so the Man in the Moon chooses Jack Frost, a young mischief maker who is going through a bit of an identity crisis. When the other guardians are mystified as to why Jack would be selected, Santa Claus (a.k.a North in this movie and the best character) asks Jack to tell him what is at his center, or what is the core of his being. Why would the Man in the Moon have chosen him? He must be someone special. Yet Jack is unable to answer the question because he simply has no idea.
Every year around this time I begin to feel a certain restlessness stirring in me. I’m ready for school to be over. That made a whole lot of sense when I was a mom of three young kids, and the close of the school year signified the end of homework, packing lunches, and driving everyone around to their various activities. There was even a certain logic to it when my kids were older and more free time meant more time together. I always did love being with them and still do. Maybe the answer is as simple as that. Or, since there are five teachers in my innermost circle, it’s quite possible that their sense of being ready for closure spills over onto me. Perhaps this is a universal thing that’s related to the fact that even if we don’t work in education, we certainly remember being in school, and longer days, warmer weather, and time outside trigger a kind of response in us. And yet, I think there is more. The other night I was looking through a book of poetry by Carl Adamshick (there will definitely be more about him at some point in this blog’s future) when the opening line of a poem called Emily caught my eye: “It is nice to be without answers at the end of summer.” I’ve turned these words over in my head all week and have come to the conclusion that the reason why they resonate with me so much has everything to do with the way I feel about summer, particularly these last two weeks of June. For some of us, summer begins with an invitation to change, improve, or evolve, which in turn leads to the question in late August that asks “How have you done so?”
May and June are prime wedding season months when many of us find ourselves attending ceremonies or celebrations on weekend nights where we gaze upon happy couples exchanging vows, and we listen to speeches that pay tribute to the idea of love. As many of you know, I am a hopeful romantic whose favorite subject to write about just happens to be love, and so I listen to the words people say at weddings to find inspiration or a brand new perspective. I could, in fact, easily become a wedding crasher in the spirit of Vince Vaughn or Owen Wilson attending not for the food, drink, and dates, but rather for the speeches, for their power and poignancy, and for the possibility of being moved to tears. We all have our weaknesses. Two Saturdays ago I stood in the beautiful backyard of my two friends, Mike and Kim, a couple to whom I owe such a debt of gratitude for extending much love and understanding to me at a time in my life when I needed it the most. It was their son, Evan, whose marriage was being celebrated, a person that I have known since he was the sweet pre-school friend of my youngest, who has grown into a man whose light and grace fill any space he occupies. When that space is shared with the woman he married, Giselle, those qualities multiply, magnify, and disperse until they are felt by everyone. I’ve never witnessed anything quite like it.
If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, you are well aware of the presence of an invasive little bug call the Lantern Fly. I remember when they arrived here a few years back. At first I thought they were sadly beautiful with all their spots and different combinations of red and black depending on the stage of their life cycle. The adults had gorgeous wings that turned them into fluttery paratroopers descending a bit erratically before hitting the ground with a roll and coming up on some fairly high legs. At first I wondered what the “squash to kill” order we received was all about. Could they really be that bad? I mean, if you ask me, cave crickets are a whole lot worse. Absolutely loathsome. But then I began reading about the damage lantern flies could cause to trees, vines, and crops that included things like oozing sap, wilting leaves, and even death if the infestation was major. Most insidious of all, lantern flies left a sugary substance behind called honeydew that encouraged the growth of a sooty black mold. As if all of their destructive potential wasn’t enough, their nuisance factor was also quickly climbing the charts. I had lunch one afternoon in West Chester Pa. two summers ago where these little creatures were utterly ubiquitous at the time. Needless to say, they rained down upon our table with a vengeance. I’d had enough. A bug killer I am not, but it seemed like it might be time to buy a good fly swatter.