It’s been too long. I have been writing, but not here. I’ve had a deadline for this nonfiction book that I’ll announce soon (and is finally nearly finished) and the next novel. I’ve essentially been off social media and devoting all the time not with my kids, to the writing. It hasn’t made for a very fun or social Valya; but I’ve been productive, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
My next post (that I’ll put it up after this one) is about my Uncle John who passed away a week ago. I didn’t want to post the tribute without some quick note in between.
Life and death. Spring to Summer. The wheel turns. Before long Autumn winds will be blowing leaves in circles. Life is so fragile. I want to hug all the people I love, all the time. (Consider yourselves hugged. Virtually. Hopefully in person soon.)
I’m not much of a beach person or a swimmer, but I like summer; and I love what summer brings: conversations in the shade, wine on the patio, warm nights with music playing softly.
In Chicago, the days can be sweltering, but sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes we get summer days that are bright and comfortable, the kind of golden-hued days I remember from childhood– filled with laughter and imaginative adventures late into the night. The best summer days end when we tumble into bed exhausted and fully satisfied, our bodies tired and our hearts full.
So much of last summer was shadowed in heartache because of the failing health and deaths of my grandmother and grandfather. There were moments of happiness and moments of beauty, but they were tempered by a longing for days when Baba and Dido were healthy and strong.
We are approaching the one year anniversary of my Baba’s death, and it’s still hard to believe she’s not sitting across the kitchen table from my Dido in the Ukrainian Village, serving him some of her delicious varenyky or a slice of torte with his coffee, maybe indulging him as he asks for more peaches or pickles.
I think of them all the time, and I feel them around, especially my Baba. I believe that she still watches over us–her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She was a caretaker and the matriarch, and I can’t believe she would let death stop her.
Our lives move so fast; we orbit around one another, busy until something forces us to stop. If we’re lucky, it’s a happy occasion that reminds us to notice the circles of which we are a part.
This summer I am trying to be mindful of those moments of joy in the company of family, tribe, and kindred spirits. There have been several: a 4th of July family bbq, visits with friends in the backyard, campfire chats, margaritas after swimming, lunch with out-of-town friends, and thoughtful conversations over wine as the sun comes up.
I began this post with the intention of writing about specific highlights so far (camping with the kids and friends, lunch with Gene and Neil, Neil’s Ocean reading and time spent with the illustrious Cat, my first Readercon and the wonderful people I met there). Each one was a cherished moment, and together they have shaped this summer into a remarkable one so far.
The remaining weeks of summer stretch not too far into the future, and autumn waits close by to take its place. Before the leaves fall, there are a few more trips to be taken and adventures to be had, good books to read (some written by friends), wine to drink, stories to be written, and children to play with.
“Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.” ~Ray Bradbury, DANDELION WINE
It feels like we have only had a few days of summer in Chicago so far, and yet with the Solstice on June 21st, the hours of daylight have already begun to decrease as we move slowly toward Fall.
The kids are out of school. We’ve been on one camping trip with friends and family, and there’s more travel in the works. The rest of the summer is mostly unscheduled, allowing us to follow our rhythms: stay up a little later, sleep in a little longer, have a pajama day here and there, lounge in the backyard, read in the shade.
I’m not a fan of overscheduling the kids with camps and activities, and while I may grumble about battles and complaints caused by too much time together, I think we’re usually able to come up with creative ways to spend the day.
I have signed them up for an hour-long art class, and I really savor that time to myself in the middle of the day, ice coffee in hand, sitting outside the cafe under a shaded umbrella with my book and notebook.
Plus I have been writing! So many stories this summer, and even as I gear up to start the next novel in the Fall, I have been immersed in short stories: reading them, listening to them, writing them. I love the form. There is so much to be learned from it, and I’m enjoying the process. I hope to have some solid pieces to shop around this Fall.
Exciting news also in the works about the comic book/graphic novel (to be announced soon), fingers crossed for agent news with the The Supper Club. More on that as soon as I am able.
So that’s the quick recap. I’m going to make an effort to write more, perhaps during that lovely little hour break in the day. Perhaps not. I may just sip coffee and soak in the glorious quiet.
Until then, I hope that you are also finding moments of happiness in unexpected places.