I sent my son off to baseball recruitment camp yesterday morning. In a matter of months, I’ll know where he’s going to be spending the next four years. In one year I’ll be attending two graduations: My daughter from college, my son from high school, both of them onto the next giant step of their lives. And me too. I suspect I’ll be this woman that I wrote about in 2014, on park benches everywhere. That’s my goal. May this inspire you to “let the parade pass you by.”
When is the last time you sat on a bench in your home town? It’s summertime here in Whitefish, Montana, so that means there are tourists enjoying the view from our town benches everywhere I look—taking a break from the overwhelm of our nearby Glacier National Park, our stunning lakes and rivers, and miles of pristine wilderness. I’ve lived in Whitefish for twenty years and with our long, dark Montana winters, summer is my biggest bully, beckoning me to get on my horse, put on my hiking shoes, pack up the camping gear, grab the huckleberry bucket, paddleboard, canoe…and get after it, as we say around here. And “it” is a high calling with vast reward. I have been good at “it.” Not this summer.
This summer everyone in my family is running in a different direction. Perhaps you can relate. My daughter is leaving for her first year in college in a matter of weeks, baby-sitting 24/7 to help pay for her expenses (we should all be $baby-sitters$ these days!) My high-school bound son has been up to his ears in baseball— his 13 year old All Star team not only winning State, but last weekend, Regionals! (They went up against teams from all over the Pacific Northwest who had hundreds try out for those coveted spots. They had twelve. Small town miracles do happen!) Personally, when I’m not watching baseball games or filling out college forms, I have been under a deadline for a novel I’ve spent the last few years writing. (Deadline was yesterday. Made it—phew!) In other words, I haven’t stopped to enjoy summer. Haven’t seen my horse. Haven’t taken one hike. Went out on Whitefish Lake once thanks to a friend with a boat who took “pity” on me when she saw my pasty skin. Got some fresh huckleberries from a friend and her secret huckleberry patch, which I guiltily used in our pancakes the next morning. It felt like cheating. Most of all, I haven’t felt part of my community. And I miss it. I need to sit in it and just be.
So yesterday, when our town threw a parade for our Whitefish All Star champs, I got there early to make sure I captured it all on camera and cheered alongside the fire truck holding those glowing young men. I was all ready to go, expecting the fire truck to round the bend at exactly 5:00 as scheduled in our town newspaper, but there was no parade to be seen. I waited, checking my camera to make sure I had remembered the memory card and a charged battery—(I have an uncommon knack for forgetting both in the most photogenic moments), texting my son to find out what was going on. Whitefish loves its parades. I got a text back. Schedule change. Not til 6:00. I had an hour.
Normally, I would think, “Ok— what can I check off my list? What mail needs to be sent? What errand can I run? Do I have anything at the dry-cleaners? But the stores were closed and my car was parked far away…and there was the nicest empty bench on the street corner in the shade. And I thought—what the heck. Why don’t you just sit down. Take a load off. People watch. And BE. See what other people see when they sit on our town benches. The Burlington Northern railroad running through, the azure skies and popcorn clouds. The emerald green ski runs on the forest green mountain. The children skipping alongside their carefree vacation-minded parents. The older people licking ice cream cones and gazing into shop windows I race past every day, really taking it all in– commenting on the western art. “Oh, that’s lovely.” And moving on, slowly, on the shady side of the street.
Summer can be slow. The “it” can be something quiet. Meditative. Simple, with no proof– not even a photograph. I decided yesterday, sitting on that bench, that I’m going to become a bench dweller. I’m going to make a practice of sitting on benches, especially in my home town. I want to see the wonder of what Whitefish looks like to people who are seeing it for the first time. I want to say, “Hello” to strangers, and locals too, and give benign smiles that have nothing to do with team sports or college entrance or work or who are the best teachers, or who are you going to vote for, or even what’s in the local paper. I just want to Be in my town. Take a load off. Sit a spell.
When those fire trucks came around the bend, I grabbed my camera, ready to shoot in rapid fire, to share on Facebook and with the paper and everybody else for that matter. But instead, I stood up, and waved, smiling to my son and his team, took one picture, jogging alongside them for a few steps to show my support. But then I stopped and watched, smiling and proud, as the truck made its way down Central Ave. And I sat back down on the bench. Being a parade chaser is too exhausting. Sometimes it’s better to let the parade pass by. There will be more parades. Most of life is about all the stuff that lives between our heightened moments. That’s the “it” I’m going to start getting after. On little benches everywhere. I invite you to do the same in our last weeks of summer.
If you would like to take a break this fall and live the writer’s life in the woods of Montana, find community, find your voice, and maybe even find yourself…check out this video and info, and email the Haven Writing Retreat Team asap to set up a phone call!
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The rest of the 2018 schedule to be announced…
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***We reached our goal and our baseball family is leaving for the Babe Ruth U-13 World Series in Virginia today! Thanks to all of you who helped make it possible!