Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Rip Van Winkle Day

What Was Missed:

The wedding procession, up from the glen (the dry riverbed, in August, wavering with new grasses).

Red lanterns strung from Douglas firs and cedars.

An apparently windy speech from the Father of the groom.
(Snickering from his divorced wife.)

A taco truck.

Hours of dancing and spirits flowing as fast as the river in spring runoff.

Costumes (sequins, glitter).

Clouds of mosquitoes.

A male guest, in search of swimming trunks, passed out in the back seat of a rented car. His distraught girlfriend.

Tent sleeping.

Uncontrolled controlled substances.

Uncensored, unfettered Bacchanalia.

What Was Seen, Smelled, Tasted, Felt:

Paper-cut banners slipping from their pinnings, limb from limb.

An unlit pile of red lanterns in the dirt.

Unstrung strings of lights.

Empty bottles.

A box of masks and hats, some with purple feathers, spilling.

Very-slowly-moving people, hungover people, danced-out people, I-slept-all-night on-a-deflated-air-mattress people.

A teensy silver Streamliner trailer: nest for the bride and groom.

Tents clustered, flaps flapping.

Citronella on the breeze.

A ziploc bag of peanut butter cookies on a picnic table.

A towel airing on a huckleberry bush.

Ninety-four degrees.

Nine hours later and ninety miles to the west, more to be missed:

The band played and was gone before we arrived.

And in the late summer dark on the saltwater beach: large groups of revelers hunkered around campfires, each temporary territory bounded by tiki lights, some green, some yellow. Ribald & boisterous merry-making in the cool breeze beside the Salish Sea in a public park.

Where had I been for so many years to not know this was going on each summer in my city? Everywhere, up and down the stretched-out beach, clusters of people knew what they were doing -- it seemed as natural for them to camp out here of an evening as to plunk oneself down in front of the television and settle-in for an electronic three hours.

This was not my party, yet I so wished I could go back thirty years and stake my claim on this sand with a candle on a spike, gather my friends into my own circle of light.


And afterwards, the longing for a life not lived, a sense of loss so profound and bittersweet it was as if I'd missed summer, forgotten Christmas, skipped tra-la-ing past birthdays and holidays, mired in the drudge of ordinary living.


  1. Everyone should sleep outside occasionally. It revitalises the Gypsy spirit in us all.

  2. I will go back and read and reread this post.

  3. Cro, nice comment on the Gypsy spirit, yet I believe I have credit in the sleeping-outside department!

    Elizabeth, you've made my day. xo

  4. I've known that longing--that's the stuff of poetry, for better or worse.

  5. I get that too, that longing for what I missed. I always wanted to take my children to a lake for the summer. Didn't happen with Katie, way too hard. Everything was too hard with her and now I look back and feel I missed so much.

  6. achey-breaky heart.
    this post could be the definition of poignancy.

  7. 'Tis why we write, paint and make things, perhaps?

    Love, C.

  8. Bittersweet must be the word of the day. Tears for all of us, what has been or may be lost. xo

  9. For me, that painful sense is a tug at my sleeve to grab life while I can -- it's still there, waiting to be engaged. We make new memories all the time.


  10. Interesting. Reading that lovely piece helped wash away some of my longings for things not done - realising, I guess, that there's so much not done but so much done too and our longings are random. Why this and not that? Why, for me, a family holiday in Vietnam rather than sleeping like a gypsy on a beach? Your words cleared things suddenly. Thank you.