I wasn't expecting this to be the type of summer that got one big end-of-season post, but here we are. Even if one experiences a temporarily happy moment these days, coming to social media--and a shared news cycle--tells us that things are very much awry in the world, and in particular in the United States. How do we use these spaces we've created? For affirmation? For protest? For the quotidian? We struggle, in the moment, whether we should use them at all. Sometimes it is all we can do to shut up, and to take in the changing colors of the water around us.
This was a small-scale summer, which I needed after beginning the year in Ireland. I traveled to Tampa for teaching; my husband and I did an overnight getaway to Charlottesville, stopping off to visit Virginia Center for Creative Arts in tandem; and I just returned from running a few seminars in Delaware, as part of the Lewes Creative Writers' Conference. Otherwise I stayed very much anchored to home.
I've been working to forge my own connection with the Wharf, a rather shiny and megalomaniacal new complex mere blocks from where we live. The Wharf brings a lot of commercial energy to the neighborhood, but that's not the same as calibrating to the neighborhood's needs or price point. I'm slowly figuring out the best spot to sip a cup of coffee during a meeting (Velo), or to sip a single fancy cocktail while alternating between reading and taking in the view (12 Stories), the best $10 lunch (Grazie Grazie), and the place to snag a free chair right by the water (I'm not telling you). Officina's market has good deals on house-made sausages, and big loaves of fresh sourdough and ciabatta. We cooked a meal using filet from the fish market--posole verde with cod--and that's the start of something, even if I did add so many spicy chili peppers that our guests hiccuped.
An incredibly talented poet happened to be temporarily in the neighborhood, too, and that proved to be another anchoring joy of the summer. We had hijinks, as one should.
Many of my worries about what might happen in going to Ireland did not come true--they were phantoms, nothing more--but one did come true: Whisky, our beloved cat, lost weight. She is not a cat who could afford to lose weight. (Look at those jutting hip bones in the photo below. Good lord.) She missed us, despite three superb cat-sitters. I've been trying to bring her back from the brink one bite of food at a time, which entails many pets.
I've been planting things. That is partially a literal observation--I've redone all the succulents inside the house, and I've flipped many of the patio containers that get challenged by the brightest of suns and the strongest of winds and, on the 9th floor, a lack of natural pollinators. They are hanging in thanks to daily watering.
The planting has been going on figuratively, too. I am leaving the summer with a nonfiction manuscript of lyric essays in hand, as the wheels turn on the next poetry collection. The fall is teeming with teaching responsibilities. For the University of Tampa: thee nonfiction students, two in their thesis semester. For places outside the academy: a three-session arc at Politics and Prose (poetry), and a four-week online class for 24 Pearl Street (nonfiction). For American University: my usual undergraduate session of Writers in Print / in Person, and teaching the graduate poetry workshop--a classroom space I first entered as an MFA student, 17 years ago. Bringing some apartment life into my campus office felt like a good idea, so I got a baby-Groot inspired holder for one of our air plants.
As I was working on this post, I found out that a friend died. He'd been ill for a couple of months, an inexplicable interruption to a vibrant (and much loved) life down in Mississippi. If there was a cool thing going on in town, Ron would be there. That was how you knew it was where you wanted to be. His generosity came so easy to him, so natural--"Got U a chair if U wants," says an old text message, "I'm to right of stage"--and though I'm tempted, once again this summer, to fall into silence out of grief...I know he wants us out here doing the things. All the things. Live a life that makes people miss you when you're gone.