June 10: “Excuse me. May I reach under your chair?” I turned away from the ocean to look up at a teenage boy. “I didn’t want to startle you. But there’s a crab crawling right where your sitting.”
I graciously rose. (I had originally typed “gracefully,” but that wouldn’t be true.) My new friend groped under the sagging canvas of my beach chair. A teenage girl looked on. “He’s good at catching them,” she explained. And he was. With the sand crab in hand at last, we all leaned forward to admire my saucer-sized visitor and take turns holding it. (I declined; I don’t say yes to everything.)
My teenaged friend asked my name, and I asked his (Xander). Then he set the crab back on the sand and we watched as the crab scuttled in that sidewise ambulation they really do have. The teenagers followed the sand crab a bit more — we all laughed to see how fast it could scoot — and then we returned to our umbrellas.
“We live in Ocean City,” Xander said. “Maybe we’ll see you again sometime?”
As I drove home from Assateague, I caught glimpses of an aerialist practicing stunts for this weekend’s air show. When I looked up again, I saw the plane had looped an enormous heart against the blue sky. Yes, Xander, I hope I see you too.
June 11: In Berlin, Maryland, a young woman sat in an overgrown cupcake tin mounted on wheels, with cake pans for hubcaps and cooking utensils for fenders. At the starting line, a colleague gripped the handlebar behind her and stretched back in a racing stance. My favorite beachside café would take on our plumber (plastic water tank; metal pipes) in Berlin’s annual Bathtub Race.
Crowds pressed four-deep along the sidewalk to watch the competition. Racers included a local theater, a brewery, a meadery (bumblebee-striped tub; wings), an ice cream shop (which careened into the hay bales lining the sidewalk), a bearded men society, and the City of Berlin (with the Mayor himself in the tub). A local radio station called play-by-play and kids shimmied with hula hoops on the street during commercial breaks.
Here’s a glimpse…
During the bathtub races, I stood next to an elderly bright-eyed woman in a wheelchair, accompanied by her daughter. The bright-eyed woman, named Letty, clapped along to The Who and Stevie Wonder and smiled at everything. “I take her different places, and I take a lot of pictures,” her daughter said. “She has so much fun, but she won’t remember. The photos help.”
The photos help, indeed. My Mom would have loved the bathtub races too. (As her town’s Mayor, I’m not sure she would have gotten into a tub, though.) Letty’s daughter and I talked about our moms and the outings we took together.
In the years before my Mom died, she and I had enjoyed Memorial Day, baseball games, Abraham Lincoln, Peruvian Scissor dancers, a butterfly garden and so much more. Letty turned to me. “Tell your mother I say hello.” I will.
June 12: Our minister plucked an improbable reading from today’s lectionary: the Gifts of Wisdom from the Book of Proverbs, 8:1-4, 22-31. The passage describes Wisdom as a woman standing at the crossroads exclaiming, “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all who live.” She says, “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work . . . I was beside him, like a little child, and I was daily his delight, playing before him always, playing in his inhabited world, and delighting in the human race.”
We strive to be good, patient, and kind. We strive to be wise. This passage reminds us of something more. As our minister said, “Wisdom invites us to play. How will you respond?”
June 13: I realized I didn’t know much about Picasso’s “Blue Period,” so I visited the Phillips Collection’s stunning exhibit to learn more. (Besides, the Phillips had assembled 60+ Picassos from all over the world; that was reason enough.)
I knew about Picasso’s misogyny (and worse). What I found, though, were works of deep tenderness and compassion. Painted at ferocious speed when Picasso was 19 and 20 years old, these paintings used Christian iconography to illuminate the residents of Saint-Lazare, a prison workhouse for poor, diseased, discarded women. For nearly two hours I inhabited this sad blue space where Picasso wrapped despair in sacramental dignity.
Picasso’s Blue Period lasted only a few years, and he dashed off to experiment with rose colors, African-influences, cubism and more. I’m grateful I glimpsed his work from a period when he touched his subjects’ soul. And mine.
June 14: Jeremiah gestured to the shady bench and we sat down. We’d just come from a pancake breakfast where, for some reason the tiny metal cups of whipped butter always inspire deep conversation. (Today’s topic: the attributes of folk hero outlaws in long-ago and modern times, inspired by Woody Guthrie’s Pretty Boy Floyd.)
Now, outside the comic book store Jeremiah held a slim package of Magic cards we’d just bought. “C’mon, Mom. Let’s see what we’ve got.” (Jeremiah had built me a special deck for my birthday and he was teaching me to play Magic: The Gathering.)
One by one, Jeremiah handed me the cards, encouraging me to admire the artwork and consider the card’s potential. When we got home, under Jeremiah’s guidance, I did the hard work of exiling cards from my Birthday Deck to make room for three better cards.
Having already made one set of tough choices, I turned to the teetering pile of leftover food containers and went to work.
June 15: I was driving gently through town and just wasn’t feeling the Led Zeppelin slashing through my CD player. So, with no idea what awaited me, I changed discs. Out poured sunshine, in the form of the Clancy Brothers, circa 1973, in their fishermen’s sweaters and apple-cheek smiles. I grinned all the way to the dentist.
June 16: By chance, I parked near the tree section of our local nursery in my quest for lemon basil. I stepped off the scorching asphalt into a grove of birch, maple and fig. Saplings of oak and elm hugged other paths, and the air was rich with moist earth, soft shade and a tree-y sweetness.
I have a book with me. Do you think they’d mind if I perched on a tub for a few minutes to read? Or to record my delight?
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