Sunday in the Park
July 18, 2008
Summer demands an openness to serendipity. It just does. The best laid plans of mice and others give way when someone says, "Wanna take a walk?" "Have a drink on an outdoor deck?" "Go for a bike ride?" The work brain says, "I couldn’t possibly; I have too much to do, things that need attention." If you are very lucky, the universe will whack you on the side of the head about this time and say, "This actually IS your life seize it, embrace it, Don’t forget to wholly live it."
That happened to me this week when the things I mapped out for certain times fell casualty to summertime. Hmm, not summertime blues, just the opposite, really. Summertime highs, maybe.
The first surprise du summer came on Sunday when my son called to say he was coming up from Salt Lake City to go on a bike ride without the rest of his little family. If I wanted to have lunch afterward, he mentioned that would be okay. I think his word was okay. My word would be grand. As the mother of two adult children who both live in Salt Lake City, I have the unique distinct pleasure of seeing them and their perfect offspring often. We have numerous dinners and lunches and movies and play dates. We can be like one big surprise ball of limbs and lungs and emotions rolling around for a few hours and coming away unstrung but with great little gifts. Individual time, however, is so precious as to be the proverbial pig seeking truffle. Rare, delicious, unexpected.
So my son appeared and we drove up to that perfect summer lunch spot, Royal Street Café. (I prefer to take the lift up but, in the interest of time, driving worked just fine.) Then we sat on the deck as if we were miles away from our everyday lives and talked a little. Just a little. Unlike my fully conversational adult daughter, my son produces full sentences with the frequency of the aforementioned truffles. He is a scientist by trade a physicist, actually and his work-a-day world and my work-a-day world have little in common. But on this spontaneous afternoon he shared with me a project he just completed, a book he just read, a movie he took the kids to see. We shared our sadness over the recent loss of his godfather. We critiqued the food, in the way one critiques anything Deer Valley’s Julie Wilson has overseen degrees of fabulousness. It was quiet for much of the lunch, though. Peaceful. Precious. When he took his leave I knew it was a gift of summer that wouldn’t fade. I had abandoned other plans he never knew of, to seize the moment.
The very next night I caught up on errands including the marketing and I was too tired to fix dinner so I grabbed one of those pre-cooked chickens. I planned to eat it on the back deck on yet another glorious golden summer evening. I had just put the groceries away, poured myself a glass of wine and plopped onto the porch swing with a big fat novel when the front door flew open and my red-haired friend announced she’d been on a bike ride and decided my house was her destination. She spied the wine. And the chicken. I invited her to stay and sit out back with me.
And that is how we came to be outside, chicken picked clean, and remnants of berries and whipped cream in dishes on the table, when I realized the sun had taken its leave hours before. We were still talking. Because, although we see each other more frequently, we are generally with others and have little individual time to talk about matters of the heart. She brings out the political junkie in me and we talked about issues from Marsac to Maryland. She also shared her sadness and joy about pieces of her transitioning life. I did the same. The moon was a giant, almost touchable circle when we finally decided our conversation was in the "to be continued" category
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The next night the sky threatened rain and, after I completed my bird-feeding chores, I came inside to release a show I had previously recorded, "Saving Grace." The second season of TNT’s quirky, edgy show had started and I wanted to be re-introduced to those rich characters: Holly Hunter’s hard-drinking, bad-relationship-choosing, recovering-Catholic, still-mourning-the-Oklahoma-City-bombing-death-of-her-sister, brilliant detective. And her angel, Earl, a large beer-drinking man with slicked-back hair and a collection of T-shirts from the places he has been "on assignment." Earl is working on Grace, trying to teach her the elements of forgiveness. Since this first must start with Grace, it is easy to see how this series could go on for years. Grace, for all her faults, which we see in each episode in exquisite detail, has a kind heart that is badly damaged which matches her faith in anybody’s God. But a desire, a yearning, to connect. Which makes the random appearances by Earl so rich.
That night, which ended, really, into the next morning, I sat on the porch swing in the otherworldly quiet of the clear still-warm night and thought about my own laundry list of people I could forgive and feel lighter. And I thought about the random, serendipitous appearance this week of people who give me great joy. I could attach divine significance to it all, but like Grace I’m a bit of a skeptic about how all that works. For now, I’ll just try to stay open to the random gifts of summer when, with any luck, structure and discipline and orderly days fall away to moments of unexpected spontaneous connection. And that can come any day, even this very Sunday, in the Park
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.