Our rental for early July was cancelled — I am sure because the house has been occupied since the dawn of quarantine and a family has arranged a way to extend their rental through the end of summer. Or maybe the owner decided she didn’t want Manhattanites up there and is leaving it vacant. Or maybe she moved into the house with her own family for the long haul. Or maybe she discovered she could charge much more by breaking our agreement and reposting the house with a higher rate and a longer minimum stay.
Why I sit here and muse over the possibilities is beyond me. The point is: our plans have been canceled for us.
Possibly a gift? In that we no longer need to negotiate with the pros and cons of leaving the city, or fretting over whether we will be out of “shelter in place” order by then?
Mainly, though, a heavy sigh. I have been clinging to the naive, irrational, and unfounded belief that our week away with our best friends and our children would mark a turning point in all of this. That talk of “a second wave” would disappear; that life would somehow, miraculously, “return to normal,” even though I comprehend that no such thing will take place. July was — for whatever reason — meant to be a turning point. Curves flattened, normalcies resumed. “A nasty business,” I imagined us saying to one another, dusting ourselves off, grieving–but moving.
And, selfishly–pettily, I will admit–I have been desperately hungry for that July trip if only for a view unhemmed by buildings and blessedly vacant of other people. For space.
At the same time, I have been desperate, like everyone, for companionship: “When I see you, I will hug you and never let you go again,” my sister texted me earlier today.
But now the summer extends before us, flat and unmarked, and the virus persists and numbers climb, and I must continuously remind myself to count my blessings, to remember that this, too, shall pass, etc, etc — all the things we must tell ourselves to shore up against these ruins.
I have been lingering, in the face of this, over an excellent pair of stanzas in an otherwise mildly cloying poem from Edna St. Vincent Millay:
I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.
When I read this recently, I found the use of the future tense cheering: I will be. Not “I want to be,” not “I would be.” I will be. Never have I felt a verb tense so electrically encouraging.
On second reading, I found the tense newly evocative of a pledge: “If you let me see this, I promise I will…” Also resonant for me. I’m game for such vows at the moment.
On a third reading: is it supplication…? “If you would only give me this, please please please please–” A tone not alien either.
But mainly, across all readings, I clung to the speaker’s appreciative spectatorship of nature — no ownership, no manipulation, no interaction. She does not pluck the flowers. She watches, with quiet eyes. She lets the wind work its magic. And the recursion of the word “grass” in such close — almost irritatingly close — proximity in that final couplet: you feel nature’s movement in the very structure of verse, sense its unbrookable force. That second “grass” is there because it must be there, not because Millay couldn’t have found a more artful way to avoid such close repetition.
I admire, in short, the speaker’s reserve and self-control: I will let these things move around me, she is saying. And I will be glad about it.
And so I will, too. I will watch with quiet eyes from the inside, gilding my desktop with lilacs and hydrangeas from the corner bodega, writing as I wait for the grass to bow down and rise again.
+OK, this pool float is everything.
+Totally in love with this Innika Choo dress.
+These earrings remind me of the blue and white chinosierie I’m so obsessed with.
+MAJOR Missoni vibes, for under $50. I’d pair this with a white midi skirt.
+Would have loved to wear this bag over the Fourth of July weekend.
+Some REALLY good scores in Shopbop’s new sale section:
THIS BREEZY GANNI — PERFECT OPTION FOR AN EXPECTING MOTHER LOOKING TO DRESS UP
+Prettiest ribbon to pair with simple kraft paper for a summer birthday.
+I swapped out the steel wool you can buy from any grocery store for this chain mail scrubber and WOW! Obsessed with it, and it doesn’t get all frayed and raggedy and clotted with random debris. (Dishwasher-safe.)