TWO-LANE LIFE - End of Summer

I did not intend to take the summer off from writing. Many times, in the past few months, I sat down to pen a piece to share, but all these attempts remain unfinished, dangling from wherever I was when I was interrupted. The call of summer and the brief reprieve from Covid made the season a whirlwind of catching up, visiting, mowing, and running around. Alas, summer is always too short.

As I reflect on the season, the girlfriend getaway, the family reunion, the time with house guests, I realize, I was trying to make up for lost time. Time with loved ones we lost during quarantine and Covid, fulfilling a true longing to see friends and family – in person. To share space, squeeze cheeks, hug long and hard. To see eyes glisten, children bounce with excitement, bodies attempting to squeeze around each other in small spaces. To laugh again with a group, to share stories with an audience, to play games and craft together, to sit and soak up sun and/or shade.

This summer I laughed more, fished more, swam more, drove more, played more, talked more, hugged more, and encountered more people than I have in nearly two years.

This year’s “girlfriend getaway” was our 21st annual. For many in our group, we only see each other once a year, during this event. Last year, no one came from out of state, and others chose safety over attendance. This year, many of us had to catch up for TWO years’ worth, not just one. Although we try to keep connected year-round, some things get missed. More than once I interrupted, “Wait… What? I missed that. Catch me up before you go on.” Only when together in a group can you be sure everyone gets back on the same page. What a wonderful start to the summer.

The season basically ended with a visit from my niece and her children. Even though I was halfway to Clarksburg airport when their flight was cancelled and they were re-routed to Charleston (thus I spent several unexpected hours in the car), I could not contain my excitement as I waited for them to appear at the airport. I stood like a small child, masked face and hands against the glass, straining to watch the staircase they would climb once off the plane. My great-nephew, fourteen years old, is as tall as I am now. My great-niece, at nine, is all legs, like her mother was at that age. I had not seen them in 20+ months, and oh how they have grown, physically and as human beings. I found myself reaching out just to touch their head or arm, to hold their hands. More than once I attempted to even commit their scent to memory.

I find myself contemplating the word “presence.” Presence, “the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present” seems simple, matter of fact, and rather mundane. A noun that means “the physical or spiritual representation of someone or something,” some folks think presence is simply existing. There is no effort or action to their presence. Without interaction with others, existing IS mundane. We need to go beyond existing and “be present.” We need to “occur.” Presence requires some effort, interaction, or at least recognition.

Being here, now, together, is what life is about. Just sitting in proximity of someone you love and enjoy is a blessing and joy, but interaction is key. If no one knows how you live, learn, love, and laugh – have you existed at all? If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If you leave this place and no one remembers you, did you really exist?

The present goes beyond words and actions. The present is this exact moment. It doesn't consider what just happened or what will happen in the next moment. It is the pause between life happening; it is the now. “Being present” means being aware. Being present. If you aren’t’ consciously aware of the now, it slips on quickly to the past. There are many amazing benefits to being more present and mindful, but the main point is--you’re not missing the beauty and joy of the current moment.

Spiritual presence “relates to the spirit or soul and not to physical nature or matter.” When I came across this tidbit in my quest to understand presence, I had found the answer I had been seeking. What is the value of a loved one’s presence? It raises us above mundane existence, nourishes our souls. This is the presence, amongst the universe, the world, the mountains, and each other, that feeds our spirits, and soothes us. When we are present together, it is an occurrence, an experience that lifts us. It becomes a fellowship. We become a community, a family, a tribe again. We literally “re-connect.”

I hope you too had time this summer to reconnect and enjoy the presence of others. Take the time to be present with each other, here, in the now. When the world is so unpredictable and frightening, our fellowship and our time together can bring comfort and joy.

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