A Changing Sort of Happiness

I've been changing my mind this summer. And I love when my mind changes because it usually means something's happening, even if it doesn't feel like anything different has occurred. It means that monotony doesn't win. Maybe it's the sun or maybe it's being a mom, but Sitka has more warmth this year than it ever has for me. I wake up, and I know what I'm doing. That might sound overly simple, but it's true; so many other years here, I'd wake up and think, what am I going to do all day? There was always the temptation of t.v. or too much coffee. There was always the buoy of loneliness bobbing on the surface of my consciousness, reminding me that all of my efforts at engagement were a distraction from a low-grade depression. I think this is the ongoing imbalance of the fishing life--every day the same, every day not wanting to admit to the sadness, and when a day is not the same (it's 70 out!, or, Luke has a day off!) and the sadness recedes, feeling that it might have been ridiculous to acknowledge any down-ness in the first place.

I have realized, this year, in the fluctuations of my body and my lifestyle and my redirected love as a mother, how much each day rolls a new texture over me. This texture has to do with the sky, with sleeping patterns, with a song I hear, with nothing at all. It's like I'm making more of an effort than ever to pin down how to live the best life since I'm living it in front of someone every hour. How funny that even though we try to control every minute of our lives, and often succeed, we still cannot assure our own happiness. But maybe this version of happiness is off. Maybe real happiness comes in bursts, or in hindsight, and not so much in longevity. Maybe we expect too much of the word happiness, and we should take happy when we can get it.

There's a group of five or six moms and our kids, and we work out every morning, rain or shine--rain, under a vaulted tin roof shielding a lumpy basketball court; shine, on the playground, improvising pull-ups and high knees on purple and yellow playground equipment. It's one of the only times in my life I haven't dreaded exercise because commiseration makes all pain easier. I mean the pain of not sleeping and the pain of loneliness and the pain of pull-ups when your triceps have atrophied over the course of a less-than-exerting 9 months. It's a good substitute for the grueling swim practices of last summer, though I miss those, too. It seems I am always missing past summers, in some way. Maybe we have seasons of nostalgia, some stronger than others, depending on where are happiest memories live.

Up here, I am allowed the luxury of allowing Zaley to nap. At home, daytime sleep comes on the fly, between working and grandma's and wherever I'm driving to next. We are only here one more month, and I'm excited to go home, but I'll miss this summer more than I expected. It's not necessarily missing this place, but missing what it means. Walking where we need to go. Seeing the ocean and hearing it whenever we feel like it. Living as a family in one place, without traffic, without billboards, where life might be closer to that caveman era I'm always comparing in my head to the ugly convenience of the urban now.

A friend of mine up here who also has a 9 month old said that she thinks summer is the hardest time to be here. Not because of the weather, but because it's the time of year when she  grieves the loss of her own childhood the most, which she spent on a farm in Ohio. Now, though, she admits, even that childhood wouldn't be the same. The land her parents moved to has been changed by urban sprawl. Even if she lived at home, she'd be living the summer of a mother, not of a child, closer to neighbors than her own upbringing, with the desire we never had when we were children: to be them.

It's true: I believed that I would give Zaley the same sweet summers I had, participating in the greased watermelon contest at the pool or making sand birds in glass bottles in the dusty heat of the Colorado State Fair. Instead, I bundle her in two layers and we look for kings on the fish finder. I dream of hot pavement, melting popsicles. But it might be that one day, she'll dream of here--stripes of fog, shrouded strolls in Totem Park, combing through the tide pools for crabs and shells with little friends and wet dogs, off-leash and covered in kelp.