Try to remember the kind of September

September is the most beautiful, still so full of summer, warm sands, salt water holding onto August heat.  The humidity drops, the sky is clear.  Bright blue, high clouds or no clouds.  Achingly gorgeous sunsets, topaz, violet, and maroon. Sometimes hurricanes come in September.  We'd ride them out at the beach, leaning into the wind.  Waves would rise to cliff-height and crash down, seething white over the sand, across the boardwalk, into the boat basin.  And then the weather would clear, and we'd clean up the branches and leaves and broken windows.  My house was built in 1938, survived the famous hurricane that devastated our area, and all storms since.

Early September brought conflict, i.e. school.  It required a complete alteration of mind and mood, a radical revision of self, to go from the beach's freedom to school's schedules.  We learned a lot in both places.  But to this day I know I was one person at the beach and another once school began.

Yesterday a friend and I walked through the city.  We headed downtown from 23rd St.  The day was hot.  Tenth Avenue reflected the heat.  We were on our way to a meeting.  Business, like school, starts up after Labor Day.  I wore loafers and real pants, not jeans.  My teeshirt wasn't torn or gigantic or from Surfrider.  It looked vaguely legit.  I sat around a big table with bright, creative people who talked about exciting things.   I had a coffee.  My friend brought amazing cookies.  We all partook as we discussed.   I particularly enjoyed the carrot cake cookie.  It felt good to be part of a whole--the way I always wanted school to feel.  My desk, the cats notwithstanding, can feel lonely.

Have I mentioned I was a September baby?  I, and other September children with whom I've spoken, always feel renewed this time of year.  One dearest friend and I have birthdays separated by just a few days and for many years have managed to celebrate them together.  She lives in LA and I live in New York but that never seems to matter.

On September will go.  Soon I'll be heading east on the way to my niece's wedding.  By dusk I'll be swimming in the Sound.  I'll have a massively festive reunion with whomever we're lucky enough to see.  The cottage is inhabited by ghosts, no joke, and we'll be glad for their company.  One early morning I hope to walk the beach, through the marsh, up the hidden path.

The air will be warm but not as warm.  I'll smell the leaves changing.  The air will be spicy with rose hips and young grapes.  The bay will flash silver with bait.  I'll swim as often as there's time.  My thoughts are already deeply with my niece, for whose wedding we'll be gathering.  It's the main thing.  Sometimes, with such a big, important event on the horizon, this one in particular because it's so dear, so incredibly tender, it's hard to imagine bothering with all the minutia of the days leading up.

But life being life, there's a lot to do before getting to that moment.  It's a moving meditation, the way of September.  Ineffable beauty.  Deep dreams and memories.  Things to do.  Including swimming.  Attempting to fathom the unfathomable.  Attending a wedding.  Celebrating Molly and Alex.  And to quote my sister Maureen who was quoting someone else, "love, love, love."

Try to remember. Thank you, Jerry Orbach.

Endless summer

Morning walk along the beach.  Sandpipers, plovers, egrets, and surfers are the only ones here.  I set my towel by the lifeguard shack and walk into the water.Taking my swim, I watch the surfers paddle and wait, then rise up and become part of the wave. The sun ripples across the ocean.  Even with salt in my eyes, I can see Catalina.  As I start to climb out, I see a Snowy Egret standing in the hard sand, eyeing the scene.  She is a small white heron, with gleaming white feathers, long neck, black bill and legs, bright yellow feet.  Stalking prey she ruffles the sand with one foot; her bill darts and she moves on.

I step from the water and dry off, and the egret and I go our separate ways.

Pacific dreams

I swim in the Pacific.  The tide is out, and the waves roll long and frothily into shore.  I ride them in again and again.  Then I lie on my back and float staring up at the clear blue sky.  Getting here... I'd left New York early, in the rain.  Took off through gray clouds.  We rose through mist and strata.   Thicker round shaped dark clouds ranging from oyster to deep gray.  Ground still visible, then the Atlantic.  We banked, glimpsed the Verrazano Narrows and bridge, Manhattan invisible.   I'll be flying sea-to-sea.

We climbed through stages.  Into cloud then out, a momentarily bright and clear middle-zone with a dark ceiling above us and a thick gray-white layer below.  Gaining altitude into the blue.  Sharp true-blue endless blue.  Rigpa.  The cloud valley below mostly silver-white but with sharky patches of long pointed brown shadows.

Mid-country the clouds are gone.  We fly over plains and crop circles and patchwork farms.  Now we are over rocky terrain--garnet red rocks, deeply scored canyons and ridges, mountains with roads snaking up to the top in diminishing circles.

Hours go by.  I reread Peter Matthiessen's Blue Meridian.  Beginning our descent.  White lacy cobwebby cloud above, high desert below.  Landscape looks bleached into tones of white, cream, pale peach, pale green.  Then the coast mountains begin.  Dark, bone, mystery peaks, several long sapphire lakes.

I love these long flights across the country.  I literally rise into blue.  My heart and mind are at ease.  Things of the earth matter less in the sky.  We begin our descent and I already know I will swim this afternoon.

There are the tall buildings of downtown Los Angeles.  The Hollywood sign just a little above and behind them.  The Getty Center, white and sprawling in the hills above Sunset.  I used the sign and the Getty as landmarks; my friends live there, and there.

We land.  I get a ride to Santa Monica.  I enter my home away from home and am so glad to see everyone.  We hug and catch up; I haven't been away so long this time, but still every one has news.  It's wonderful to have more than one place to live.  Some real, on earth, others in your imagination.  This, for me, falls directly in between.  They carry my bags to the Luanne Rice room.  How funny and how lucky I feel.

I hurry down to the beach.  The sand is hot.  Happy voices drift over from the Pier, shrieks from the roller coaster and Ferris wheel.  Shorebirds skitter along the tide line.  There's a sign: surf to the left, swim to the right.  I set down my towel, and before even sitting down, go down to the water's edge on the swim side.  The waves are the same.  They tug my ankles.  I let them draw me in.

I dive in the and come up for air and I am looking up into the blue sky from which I'd just emerged, and I am in the Pacific.