Back in the 1930s Arizona had a tourism slogan that went: "Arizona, where summer spends the winter". The unspoken part of that slogan was "...and where Hell spends the summer". I always thought that was funny, until I had to live it. This has been the hardest summer of my life, a never ending psychological and emotional torment. I know that summer doesn't officially end for another few weeks, but it feels like we've turned a bit of a seasonal corner. When I woke up this morning I noticed a change in the air. The light seemed different, the air a little cooler. It's hard to call this autumn, considering it was still 103 degrees this afternoon, but that's what if feels like.
I'm trying really hard not to ask myself "what's next?". I made it through a three-day weekend that included both her birthday and the two-month anniversary. Both of those things could have led to massive anxiety, but I refuse to let them. Sure, they are important dates, but that's all they are, dates. Artificial constructs that mean whatever I want them to mean. We can bend time to our needs if we need to, so, in the case of her birthday if I want it to mean good things, then that is what it will mean. In the case of the anniversary, well, I don't want it to mean a thing and so that is what I am working towards.
We were never big 'birthday party' people. Melissa threw me one birthday party in 15 years, on my 30th. It was a surprise and she managed to get some of my best friends to come out for an evening to be with us. It was one of the nicest presents I ever received, but it was not something we made a habit of. Something about being the center of attention doesn't sit right with me. More often than not our presents and celebrations revolved around quiet evenings at home with takeout and Netflix. That was who we were and it was true to our love for each other. We didn't need extravagances, not there is anything wrong with them, we just needed each others uninterrupted company for a few hours.
I have long viewed this blog as my nightly conversation with Melly. I get out of it what I put in to it. If I can get my feelings down I get a rush that is similar to what I would feel getting in a good discussion with her. I can walk away from it for the evening feeling like we connected, that she taught me something.
I've had a hard time writing over the past four or five days, I think because I am running myself too thin and because it's been a roller coaster of a weekend. Summer's last set of gut punches before we transition to what I hope will be a more mellow fall and winter. I know better than to let my guard down with the change of seasons, but today does feel somehow different.
I got in the old truck this afternoon after work and drove up to the local trap and skeet range. I joined a trapshooting league with my Dad and a couple of friends. It was something I used to do when I was a kid, but haven't done in earnest for almost 15 years. I signed up for it because it is an excuse to get out of the house and to be social in a setting that does not require me to 'tell my story' repeatedly. There is also a competitive aspect to it, both with myself and with the other teams, that I hope will provide some purpose to relight that side of my personality.
The league starts tomorrow night and will meet every Wednesday night, I went up there today to practice a little. When I got to the range they were closed, so I just sat in the parking lot for 15 or 20 minutes and watched the sunset. As I got back in the truck to head home I happened to look up at the sky. There, in a perfect V formation, were 20 or so Canadian geese. Their calls reached my ears and unlocked something deep inside me. You can hear the struggle of their journey in the sound of their honking, but you can also hear their reassurances to each other that they are not alone and things are a little easier because they are a team.
Seeing those birds flying together, over the houses and freeways of Phoenix, made me want to be out in the woods of my childhood. I wanted to be sitting out on a trail at sunset with my brother in our old Ford, scouting for deer and elk. They also made me long for a time when I wasn't locked in a battle to find meaning behind this summer. A summer that is at last, mercifully, coming to an end. Who can say what the fall will bring. It may be more of the same, or it may be an opportunity to get back out in the world and find those lost trails. All I can say for sure is that it is something different, and for that I am grateful.