I used to imagine living all over the country, or even the world, before settling into the right place that was somehow a perfect fit. I never thought I was the type to 'stay put', but in fact that is just what I've done; surprised myself by being a life-long New England-er and finding my home only a few hours drive from where I grew up. It doesn't make for a very exciting introduction at parties, but there's a special privilege in being rooted to a particular history, both cultural and personal. I'm able to measure the changes in my own life against the constant of my surroundings. Everyday places are stamped with layers of my past and projections for my future- not the most adventurous life, yet rich with comfort and meaning.
When James and I were newly in love and enjoying the flexible schedule of graduate school, one of our favorite summer rituals was an afternoon dip in Walden Pond. We would always steer clear of the sandy beach, which was thick with screaming children, and head for the wooded paths that circle the pond in search of a private little patch of rocks. We'd scramble down the leaf covered bank and James would plunge into the deep water while I tried to balance on rocks and ease myself in... always ending with my slipping or being pushed into the ice cold pond. There was no space for beach towels and no shallow wading, just a quick swim to cool us from the heat, so carefree and refreshing.
I'm lucky, in this phase of my life, to again enjoy an open schedule and have returned to Walden as a favorite warm weather activity. We arrive armed with a giant canvas bag brimming with sunscreen, toys and snacks, and as you may have guessed, we settle down smack in the middle of that sandy, child infested shore. I get to watch Little Smith dig in the sand and splash, I even get to lie down on my sun warmed towel for a minute or two. Up close those kid's screams are actually pure joy, especially when you're pretty fond of the kid.
I do miss the spontaneity of a sundress soaked in pond water- because who could be bothered to remember a towel, and of course I miss having James along (he'll have to play hookie and join us one day since week-ends are just too crowded for my tastes). Still, this new version feels right; geared up, round belly, and lots of tiny sandy toes.