The Reasons Why I Didn’t Write A Book Last Summer

“What I want most this summer is simply to spend time with the ones I love. To have more days just like this one. Enough presence of mind to pay attention. And enough presence of heart to make gratitude my song, acceptance my refrain.”

Katrina Kenison

I didn’t write a book last summer. In fact, I didn’t even write a single word of a book. The boxes of letters remain untouched, unopened and unread in the same position that they began the summer, eager for my attention and begging to release their stories. But like so many things during the eight weeks or so when I detached from teaching and attached to myself, the book never materialized. The stories remained in their envelopes.

This was going to be the summer I finally did it, the summer when the story that’s been forming in my head for decades would finally find its way from my ruminations to my laptop. I’d even taken those first steps – I’d declared my intention, out loud, to a few friends and even some strangers. I’d moved the storage box from under my desk to my writing space, thinking that if I looked at it every day I would obviously make it happen.

June coast summer

But somehow, as usual, life got in the way. At first it was because Lily was home for only a week in June, and we needed to adventure to the coast and take long walks along the creek and go for Dutch Bros coffee even when we really didn’t need it. I told myself it was OK, I was just ‘detoxing’ from teaching and that the summer days would hover in front of me, intimidating me with their silence just as soon as she left for Oregon. I convinced myself, as I counted down the days until she left, that I would straighten out her room, lay down the letters and get to work. I bought a new journal and found my favorite writing pen, and instead of writing my words, I finished reading stories written by Barbara Hambly and Tara Conklin and dreamed of what the Civil War must have been like.

Carmel surf summer

And it was July, and the heat smacked us over the head like a battle weapon. So hot I couldn’t think or breathe and instead of settling down in front of the air conditioner to write, I bolted for the beach – I took my boy and my dog and sat in the fog and watched him board and swim and somehow even managed a little sunburn. I devoured Robin Oliveira’s book about Mary Sutter, a Civil War nurse, and cried through Lee Woodruff’s retelling of her husband’s tragic accident in Iraq.

And then John started to feel ill and life turned inwards as it often does when he can’t manage or work or talk very much. We went inside for a few weeks and spent our energy figuring out how to navigate chronic illness when it consumes your life. It felt a bit like hell. I read some more – Kim Edward’s The Lake of Dreams helped me disengage when I needed to step away.

Chelsea market summer

Still, the journal remained unopened, calling to me in a voice I couldn’t answer. I went to New York City for the first time, hopeful that surrounding myself with writers would ignite the story, would retune my ear to her whisperings and somehow, something would appear on the page. Instead, I walked Central Park in the heat, devoured gelato in Chelsea Market, went to bed early, and filled my head with thoughts about equality and kindness and my introversion kicked in big time. I escaped the city with my oldest girlfriend, watched the fireflies at dusk, hiked a mountain and ate Thai food with her sons. Oh – and I met an actor on the airplane home.

Big Sur Summer

In August, I covered my new journal with lavenders and blues and sea glass and butterflies. I read about the somewhat scandalous hidden life of Edith Wharton. I stayed in bed late, listened to NPR and when Lily came home, I relished every single ordinary moment together. August 3 came and went, and I celebrated one year of healing since Cameron broke his leg and ten days of both babies sleeping under the same roof. My girl and I escaped to Carmel and Big Sur, riding with the windows down and hiking in the sun. I spent a peaceful night alone at Tahoe and dashed off to a long weekend of hiking, family and gratitude in Yosemite.

Utah summer

And before I knew it we were loading the rental car, driving across the desert and depositing Lily back at school – this time in a house. We spent a few days shopping and unpacking and hiking and laughing and suddenly it was time to go. Those ten hours driving home across the Salt Flats were long and tedious and when I walked into the house I simply cried, not only because she was gone, but also because the summer was, too.

Then, I cleaned. Every room in the house. I cleaned her room and moved in new bookshelves and lugged the boxes of letters onto her desk. I placed the journal alongside and vacuumed the floor, straightened her duvet cover and cleaned the glass on her dresser. I walked out her sliding door into the garden and noticed the Russian sage alive with honey bees and a red-breasted hummingbird just leaving the tall crimson tube of a Canna flower.

summer Big Sur

I breathed and reminded myself of all that I did do this summer, and realized that those things, as small and ordinary as they may seem, were exactly what I needed to do. They were exactly what I wanted to do; those moments of paying attention, of walking alongside those I love, and of feeling gratitude for the gifts the Universe has presented me with. This was supposed to be the summer I wrote a book, but instead, I created the stories of my life, every single extraordinarily ordinary moment. And for that, I am truly grateful.

primark

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Cusp of Change: Those We Love Most

cusp

“Her life now hovered on the cusp of change…at this precise intersection in time, contemplating both distant memories and the uncertainty of the future, she knew she was standing on the lip between past and future. she had not yet taken a step forward into her new unwritten life.”

Lee Woodruff, Those We Love Most

She stands on the cusp of womanhood, her body and mind blossoming in unison. Only seventeen, the future spills before her with temptation. Choices abound, crashing through her day as she contemplates which class to take, which test to cram for and scrolls through glossy promises of college after college, holding her future in their hands. On her bedroom floor, littered with hastily scribbled to-do lists, fading birthday streamers and balloons nearly deflated, neat piles of laundry await, compromises about what to carry away to six weeks of summer ski camp in one not-so-gigantic bag. I can still see her childhood smiling back at me as she packs.

He bounds into the room, red faced and sweaty, backpack full of treasures discovered in a neighbors’ ‘free’ pile down the street. Deserted childhood bowling trophies, a half-filled helium tank, a roll of unopened masking tape and someone’s discarded Sacramento Rivercats handkerchief now strewn across the baby blue carpet of his bedroom. He is thirteen, teetering between that round-faced little boy I toted on my hip and that suave seventh-grader gently holding hands with his girl after school. He towers above me now. It’s his time to sample life, taking n taste after taste of all the world has before him. One class after another, new sports, new friends. A decision about a ski academy, the move-in date etched in our minds. Moving away before I’m ready. I grin as he gulps down his favorite dinner, and push myself back into his childhood.

I’m riding the line, straddling the fast lane. Since when did the teeter-totter weigh less on my end? Motherhood, once so physically exhausting, has now shifted its pressure. My mind tethers me to the past and drags me into the future. I write, I teach, I parent, I love, forever remembering who I am first and wondering how long that will last. We push ourselves to travel, to meet new people and speak their language. I strain for their hands, hoping to catch a finger before they soar off in another direction.

We hover on the cusp of change, dipping our toes into the unknown waters and in that precise moment, contemplate our next step. We ride the ebb and flow of life, sometimes skittering to the safety of shore, occasionally squeezing our eyes shut and diving into the wave. The future lies before us like a foggy horizon, and we, cautiously, carefully, often blindly, scan the horizon, searching for the lighthouse.

This post was inspired by the novel Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff. Every family has its secrets and deceptions, but they come to surface a tragic accident changes the family dynamic forever.. Join From Left to Write on June 6 as we discuss Those We Love Most. You can also enter to win a live video chat with Lee Woodruff! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Use this link to enter to win a live video chat with author Lee Woodruff.

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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