Today was another gift from Mother Nature. It was clear, sunny and warm--particularly for late October. I made a list of the tasks I wanted to complete today during the course of the week on the dry erase board hanging in the kitchen. Ken and I used it as a "vision board" of sorts to keep track of current creative projects and write down ideas for new ones. I still use it for that: blog ideas, reminders and to track the last book I read to encourage myself to read more. A small square I drew in the middle lists things I would like or think need to be accomplished.
One of the items on the board had been daunting me since I wrote it. And I suppose that's why I put it there. To keep it on my mind and to passively bully me into doing it. "Take down canopy frame." Since moving back to Chicago five years ago, it signified the end of summer and served as the harbinger of winter's approach. Unfailingly, Ken was the one who took the initiative in the spring and in autumn to set up or take down the canopy. Though the sun has been too low to hit the backyard for weeks now, I ignored the black aluminum frame as I walked through the backyard to and from the car.
But today was the day. I didn't know when it might rain again, so like pulling a bandaid off, I set out to do it quickly. But it just never works like that for me. Plus, the accordion action of bringing it down took longer than I would have hoped. As I moved from pylon to pylon in turn, pressing the release buttons, my nostalgic mind unavoidably drifted to the breezy day in May when I set up the canopy with the help of my sister-in-law Katie--and under Ken's supervision. She had come for a few days to visit--one of many she and my brother-in-law and nephews were able to make, knowing our time with Ken was going to be limited.
That day in May, I braved hamburgers on the grill (comfort in the kitchen doesn't translate to comfort with the grill for me) and the three of us sat around the table under the shade of the canopy, talking, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. It's a memory that is emblazoned in my memory in stingingly vibrant colors. It was such a lovely day. It was as special a day in May when I erected it, as it was a reverent one when I took it down today.
(Ken was so impressed with the burgers and so expert at being in the moment, he snapped a picture of his.)
Our backyard has been a place of so many happy times--far more in quantity than the sadness that eclipsed everything this summer--and almost every single one of them included Ken. I haven't spent much time back there in the past few months. It's just not the same. Nothing is the same--including me. Time and healing on the journey are showing me that change is just that: change; and it sometimes defies being measured as "good" or "bad". In spite of what I may want, change is inevitable, and something I'm working to embrace--or at least despise less.
There are other kinds of change in the air, as well. I attended a writers' meet up last week at a coffee shop a couple neighborhoods away. It was really very exciting to me--just going and doing something new on my own--a feat that usually causes a great amount of anxiety. It involved mostly just heads-down writing on your own project, but ends with a really informal social component where all of us attendees just sit around and talk. In spite of my initial fears, it was the part I enjoyed the most. It felt like a pay-off for my bravery. I gladly accepted it, and am looking forward to the next one.
As for the back yard, next on the dry erase board list: "clean up garden", another dreaded nail in summer's coffin. More change. More time. More healing.