poetry, travels
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Wildeve & light

Hedge rose

Now all the doors and windows

are open, and we move so easily

through the rooms. Cats roll

on the sunny rugs, and a clumsy wasp

climbs the pane, pausing

to rub a leg over her head.

from ‘Philosophy in Warm Weather’ by Jane Kenyon

That weather when our bodies feel soft and open, adrift in warm air. That’s when I know that summer’s here. And, finally, it is. All I want to do is lie in the garden & read. But not quite yet. July is going to be an exciting month for our little family. We’ve got a 90th birthday party, a ballet exam & a wedding, and then — though if you’d told me this a week ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible — then, we’re flying to California for a month. As I said to B last night, if it wasn’t happening to me, it’s the kind of thing that would really annoy me.

There is an unexpected gap of four weeks when the kids are off school and nothing is expected from any of us. It seemed too good to miss. One of the things I love the most about B is that on the big things I don’t think there’s ever been a time when we haven’t instantly been in accord. ‘I’ll check some flights,’ I said & he said okay & we didn’t even need to discuss where we were going.

It felt rash, sitting up late on Saturday night and booking five flights to LA, but it felt right. Then we thought of the last time we had three weeks off together & neither of us regretted that trip or remembered how much it had cost. We went to Rajasthan and one evening sat on a rooftop in Jaisalmer and talked about how there would never be a right time and we would always be terrified. That was the night we decided to have a baby. And though the memory is clear — the desert sky, the cooling evening, the dusty, spicy smell of India — it turns out that it happened very nearly ten years ago.

I’m so excited, but there’s also that small part of me that can’t believe such good luck doesn’t come with a cost. It’s a part that wants to be knowing and cynical and acknowledge everything that could go wrong just so that if it does it can say, I told you so. I run all the possible dangers through my brain, all the ways this good fortune could turn to bad, though who can know all the possible dangers?

There was a bit I loved in The Folded Clock where Heidi Julavits worries about her former babysitter killing her kids:

“I consider myself highly sane for exhuming the possibility that my children might be killed from the lulling banality of everyday life. I congratulate myself for my foresight. I think: I want that person on my team. She has all the angles covered. In her brain she runs a computer program to evade dooms no one has even considered. There’s nothing she hasn’t thought of, and thought of and thought of, poor woman.”

My default worry as I fall asleep seems to be about our children being eaten by bears or sharks. We have one child in particular who I can really imagine being eaten by a bear — in the Pierre being eaten by the lion way. I’ve spoken to him about it at length. But I disagree with Julavits. I don’t think you can out-think all the possible dangers. You only have to read the news to know that. And knowing that — how fragile, how tenuous, how human our lives are — means that an opportunity for a family trip, however unexpected, is something that should never be turned down. Life is short. Here’s a trip.


Best of all a trip means a whole new reading path: California recommendations? Should I be brushing up my Didion? Reading Steinbeck? For bookshop & food planning I’m starting here because travel guides for ‘bookworms who love to eat’ are exactly my thing, but I’d love to hear any other suggestions.


  1. Ooooh! I’m so thrilled for you. Have you read Didion’s Where I Was From yet?? I love that book. And some Wallace Stegner? Your kids are so lucky. It’s going to be amazing. Looking forward to following vicariously! xo

    • Thanks Kerry! I’m adding Where I Was From straight to the top of the list — not one I’ve already read. Yes, yes to more Stegner too. I had Angle of Repose from the library & then someone requested it before I got to it. Already planning to travel light like you did & pick up books on the road — though following your airport bookshop experience I figure I’ll take one to start me off!

  2. You are making me feel that it is highly necessary that I pick up a copy of The Folded Clock….

  3. This is so exciting! Such an opportunity is not to be missed. We’re just back from nearly 7 weeks travelling and that sense of packed suitcases and constant movement hasn’t left me yet. I hope it all goes well and enjoy this adventure!

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