I’m trying to find a new rhythm to my life. This December I’ll be forty-six, and in just eighteen years I’ll be sixty-four, a number that holds some kind of magic for us old Beatles fans. I want a rhythm that allows me to enjoy what’s left of my life. For instance, I just rediscovered my sense of smell this summer when we drove across Alberta and Saskatchewan, and now I want to get out and smell the world every day.
This year I’m teaching at a different elementary school. After nine years, I decided I wanted not only a change, but also less teaching time, so I went to half-time. I’m in the classroom for two and a half hours a day, but spend twice as much time planning, and several hours a week at meetings. This nets me about three hundred dollars a week. I plan to spend all the rest of my precious time doing the things I’ve put aside for the past nine years. This summer I bought a computer so that I could write every afternoon. So far, all I’ve written is letters. (This is one of them.) This afternoon when I came home, I weeded the front flower-beds and raked the lawn. It was a pleasure to be out there, working in the sunshine, smelling the earth. As I exchanged a few friendly words with the letter carrier who was speeding up our block, I felt we were fellow conspirators, both of us enjoying the kind of employment that allows us to spend part of our lives outside in the sunshine.
Every day at four-thirty I pick my husband up from work and we go for a delicious hour’s walk along the ocean. We congratulate ourselves for having decided to move to Victoria seventeen years ago. We had absolutely no idea what a lucky move it was. We usually use part of our alone time to talk over problems, like his possible career change, or our family concerns, like my healthy but aging mother and our two children, aged nineteen and fourteen. Our nineteen year old son is a major concern these days. He has a girl-friend and, against our explicit request to the contrary, has her stay overnight at times. Now, we’re a little angry and quite confused about what to do. I was married at nineteen, divorced at twenty-two, had a couple of “meaningful relation- ships” in the late sixties. (I still exchange Christmas cards with one of these men. The other one joined the Hare Krishna movement.) I had my son and then married his father two years later, when I was really sure I wanted to be married again. So who am I to judge, right? Well, I’m the mother, that’s who. And I want both my children to get the idea that casual sex isn’t okay, especially in these days of AIDS. And I want my fourteen year old to have good role models. But our son’s monogamous, isn’t he? She’s his only girl friend for the past year. Yes, but his parents make the rules. He should move out if he can’t follow the rules of the house, shouldn’t he? But how can he move out? We want him to go to school, jobs are hard to find, and he just can’t afford to leave. Around and around our conversations go, with no clear solutions.
And so I go on with my life, trying to find a comfortable rhythm, achieve some kind of peace and meet my obligations.
I can smell the earthy garden out there. Autumn calls to me through my open window. I still have to pick the tomatoes and scarlet runners, I tell myself, but I’d be happy just smelling the earth.
Amber Harvey Victoria 1991