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Checking Out & Checking Back in Again

August 22, 2010

Lately, the office has been a real stinker. The summer’s been pretty stinky too, but in a good “whoa, it’s stinking hot today!” way. Between the office politics and the steamy streets, I was ready to take off for a week in the woods and made short work of packing, planning, tidying, arranging, and preparing to check out for eight days. On Friday evening, I took stock: luggage standing ready at the door; ice packs handy for keeping bacon and trout cold during the long drive; little carrier-cage ready to receive my cat for her trip to my parents’ (aka Summer Camp) where she’d live while I was gone; chocolate pound cake cooling on a rack, to be wrapped in foil and snacked on in the car.

I hustled into pyjamas and poured a glass of wine, then switched on the television to watch something from the “kill them then rummage around in their guts for clues to who did it” genre. Heading from kitchen to couch, I stubbed my toe against the futon frame so hard there was a snick sound like a chopstick snapping in half…et voila…I began my vacation with a broken foot. I raised it, I iced it, I promised I’d never kick anything again so long as my toe didn’t land me on crutches and wreck my holiday. If it could have spoken, I’m sure my toe would have let out a mirthful snort, and scoffed, “Fucktard, it’s a little late for promises, don’t you think? You’ve already broken me in half. There’s no taking back a thing like that!” And so, I taped it to its neighbour and hoped for the best.

M.and C.  fetched me at 10:00 the next morning, by which point I’d made it out of bed, into the shower, into clothes (shoes were out of the question), and had fueled myself with coffee. I’d also stubbed my broken toe against a cupboard, the bathtub brim, my cat, and my knapsack, which proved to be only the beginning of a string of objects and creatures which would interfere with my toe before the week was through. I figured it was best I was leaving the city, since I was clearly a menace to myself, and the fewer large, busy, crowded, heavy, fast-moving things I was exposed to, the better. A week barefoot on a dock at a nearly abandoned lake? Perfect. We arrived under cloudy skies and swiftly unloaded the car then dropped like stones to take naps. This, like the toe-stubbing, would prove a week-long trend. Breathe in, then huff it all out; leave the day-to-day grind behind.

After a breakfast of olive oil-orange cake, coffee and fresh berries devoured lakeside, it’s harder to stay stressed and preoccupied than to let your shoulders drop away from your ears. We sunned, we slept, we read and talked and cooked delicious things. And, toe permitting, we took afternoon walks with no particular destinations in mind. We met a garter snake, a lazy fat frog, and swarms of Monarch butterflies feasting on milkweed in the ditch. I coveted the crab apples we passed each day, and M. hopped from rock to rock where a river turned to rapids. But, something tight and pinchy bothered my chest, settling into something substantial enough that I had to admit I felt off. This was not the same light and breezy cottage get-away I’d taken in July. And with that acknowledged, the questions began to flit around my head like the butterflies on the road.

By Friday, I had it all figured out. It’s an ant-and-grasshopper thing. The evenings are coming earlier, the temperatures aren’t rising quite as high as they did three weeks ago. The stars are shifting position overhead, and the mornings call for sweaters we haven’t needed since mid-June. Soon, school will resume, and even though I haven’t been called to home-room in eighteen years, I still feel the pull of fall and it incumbent responsibilities. Time to wrap up the laid-back summer and get on with productive things again. My birthday falls mid-September, too, and this is a yearly marker: where was I last September? What do I need more of? Less of? Hope for? Wish to fend off? Want to accomplish? Need to remind myself to work toward? And so on…Hardly the stuff of a dreamy cottage day. So irresistible, counting down sleeps till a good  thing arrives, then when the good thing gets here, listening to the minutes till it’s over tick and zip and fly.

But, the beautiful thing about getting to the bottom of something, is that you are then in a position to evoke another, better cliché: you can put that thing in its place. And, holiday is no place for mulling over anything at all. Save that shit for an already ugly midweek city afternoon. With that, I  got on with preparing excellent suppers, sipping wine in my swimsuit while reading a truly useless book, hanging with garter snakes and watching the loons fish for their lunch.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2010 12:06 pm

    As someone with a September birthday, I too feel that Fall tightness. I try (and fail) to use comparison only as a guide to do better, placed in the tool drawer to use on a tough problem.

    But, no cottage for me. Only working and not working and trying to store enough sun and dollars for the coming winter.

  2. Kyle Mackie permalink
    August 23, 2010 2:14 pm

    Amanda, you sure can write. You summed up that end of summer feeling so beautifully (especially since I do still enter a school every September).
    Kate (not Kyle Mackie)

    • welltailored permalink*
      August 23, 2010 4:54 pm

      Hey there, Kate-not-Kyle…yeah…I’m sure it doesn’t matter if you’re a student, a teacher, or a Virgo…September means fresh pencils and new sneakers and (sniff sniff) an end to summer. Boo!

  3. Kurt permalink
    August 23, 2010 7:07 pm

    We early Libras feel the September marker looming as well. I too have always felt that the new year starts with my birthday. 2010 has been a bitch so far, so I’m looking forward to fall even more than usual this year.

    I love the golden fall sunlight, the end of sticky summer nights, the wearing of sweaters sans jacket, and the unexpected summer days that can show up along the way to gray November. By then I’m too busy to notice that I’m stuck in an endless winter.

    Oh yeah, and fall also means the switch from gin to vodka, BBQ to braising, and the return of borscht. It’s all about coming home and I kinda like that.

  4. September 2, 2010 3:32 pm

    I once stubbed my big toe on an ancient 18th century iron being used as a doorstop and I know exactly the sound you speak of. There’s something gut turning about hearing that sound and knowing it’s being made by one of your own body parts.

    I need a lake vacation, pronto. So jealous!

    I’ve missed you on Blogspot and was glad to finally find you on WordPress! Life hasn’t been the same without the cakes and neckties, well-tailored or not. 🙂

    • welltailored permalink*
      September 2, 2010 6:03 pm

      Ahhhh I miss being a well-tailored cake, myself. The summer has been so gorgeous and I do little else but whine all winter about how come summer’s not here…so…once it arrived and was the nicest one in many years, it seemed literally criminal to spend *any* of it indoors. I am sure to be posted behind my computer soon enough as fall approaches, and there will be all sortsa posts then! Thanks for hanging around so patiently!

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