2003: I turn 46

2003: I try the Golden Door Spa, but it feels like famine. While I’m there, I do a silent meditation walk, and before I can stop myself, I’m judging the way people walk. We listen to Dave Matthews as Bobby learns how to drive–Ants Marching, Satellite, Crush, Crash Into Me, Tripping Billies… I take Bobby and Jack and Jack’s friend to Washington, DC for a concert. On Sundays starting at four and before they can do anything else, the boys must wash clothes, fold clothes, put clothes away, take up the trash or recycling, clean their rooms, and get their stuff off the steps. They appear to have so little homework that we impose an hour and a half time period in which they must study or at least read. We are torturing them. In June we go back to Nantucket. Instead of the ferry we fly. I have to take a Xanax before getting into the tiny 10-seater Cape Air plane in which Cal has assured me there will be a co-pilot. There is not. This time Sam has his own bike instead of sharing a bicycle for two with Cal. I return to the New York State Summer Writers Institute for a third year, but I go for the first two weeks and take the workshop with Mary Gordon and Marilynne Robinson. Mary sits on the edge of her desk as she talks about how to “saturate a moment.” Marilynne grins as she tells us she reads while she walks her dog, then she gazes into the air above us and talks about Galileo. There are readings by Francine Prose, Michael Ondaatje, Carolyn Forche, Honor Moore, Robert Pinsky, Claire Messud, Anne Beattie, Mary Gaitskill… I feel like I’m on another planet. No triathlons, but for the 9th year in a row, Amandah and I hike the 23 miles of the Pine Mountain Trail–now with the husbands. Kathleen graduates from college and comes home while she looks for a job. The kids are 22, 16, 14, and 10. This is the year of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto and a big year for the classics—Middlemarch, The Sound and the Fury, Mrs. Dalloway, and To the Lighthouse.

14 days to 60


She sees that she has before her an important task: to understand that all the things that happened in her life happened to her. That she is the same person who was born, was a child, a girl, a young woman, and now she is old. That there is some line running through her body like a wick.
Mary Gordon, The Rest of Life


8 thoughts on “2003: I turn 46

  1. Hi Cynthia,
    I love discovering little things we have in common, apart from a love of reading and a love of writing, as we are in so many ways, so different. Three of the years I lived in Cambridgeshire I walked the Pathfinder March (a 46 mile circular route around war-time airfields, held on the longest day of the year so as to have as much light as possible), and explored many other long walks (though never pushing myself to the extent of the Pathfinder). I have been reading about the connection between walking & writing – that you are also a long distance walker adds to my belief that the combination is, to some of us, almost necessary.
    Cheers, Louise

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  2. When I have taken that tiny plane to Nantucket, I try to sit in the copilot seat because I’d trust myself in an emergency over the typical tourist. Even the illusion of control makes me calmer. I have fond memories of reading Bel Canto too.

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  3. My parents let me fly in a tiny two-seater with a 16-year-old pilot when I was in high school. What the HELL were they thinking? I loved it but had to lie in a dark room for a couple of hours after with a cold compress on my head and fat headache pills down my gullet. Never to be repeated.

    Once again I must nominate you for Best Mom Ever for the routine imposed on those boys. Are they thanking you, yet?

    I like this list of books the best so far. In college that passage of stream-of-consciousness in the Sound and the Fury, right before the suicide, struck me as so elemental and beautiful that I wrote an EXTRA paper on it for the lit professor who had assigned the book. She was flabbergasted. Peak-geek. How did I not know I was a writer?

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  4. 46 miles is hard to imagine. But how cool, around the war-time airfields. Walking and writing, that rhythm and unfurling of steps or words… And occupying the mind with movement often frees my words from whatever box I’ve put them in. The pot is stirred in a different way. Almost like dreaming…


  5. Sarah, I’ve now flown in those little planes so often, I no longer even try to be in control. I just let go and feel every bump. No Xanax needed. But I do love sitting in the co-pilot’s seat–I’m like a little kid.


  6. I need to reread The Sound and the Fury–I can’t remember the passage you’re talking about. And in all my school-loving years, I have to say I never even thought about writing an EXTRA paper.

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