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One Woman's Opinion

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A Summer of All Seasons

by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— Looking back at the summer that has passed by so very quickly, it all seems like a dream now. I am left wondering in front of the keyboard and the ever-blinking screen. Where did the days and hours go?

It occurs to me as I type these words after the long summer’s rest, how wonderful it is to be back on page 2 of the Sentinel with you. I missed our weekly meetings. But it was a good rest for me, much needed, as always a good rest is, and I now look forward to a rich year of writing ahead.

It also strikes me that my vacation was truly a summer of all seasons. It had everything: great and small pleasures; the joy of spring; the passion of summer; the intellectual quest of autumn; and the coming sadness of winter.

Springtime was well represented by exposures to grandchildren. Their visits with us exhaust as well as lift spirits. They all at once hope for the future and continuing joy of connecting generations.

We saw both my daughter Liz’s family with her two children, Walker and Hayden, and my son Wake’s family, with his blessed new baby, Joseph IV, now 8 months old.

Holding a new baby in the family in your arms can do a lot of good toward chasing away the blues. I have decided I want to be called “Mumsie” and not “Grandma,” a simple request, but so far my grandchildren are not responding.

A favorite memory was “Bean” (the baby) in my lap at breakfast one morning at the Greenbrier when our families had come together for a mid-summer reunion. “Bean” reached for a spoon on the left and grabbed hold of it in his determined little paw. His mother immediately took the spoon away thinking he might hurt himself. She offered him two soft toys. Bean ignored the toys and, spotting another spoon to the right, snapped it up.

We all laughed. But I liked the way Bean rejected the safe toys and went after the more dangerous spoon.

Summer was filled with many things: swimming, watering the flowers, tending tomato plants in pots, walking the dogs to Urbanna each day, and sailing on weekends.

The “Queen Mary,” named after my mother, Mary Wakefield, who died in 1999, came out of the water and is at a local marina. She is for sale. If you want a classic fiberglass trawler that comes with all the comforts of a bathtub and even an oven, with beautiful wood paneling and all the rich aromas that come from such a boat, call me.

To represent autumn was a challenge of writing my first novel.  I wrote like a demon, 8 to 10 hours a day. It is based on a letter that Pulitzer Prize winning author William Styron had written me in 1983, explaining his complicated relationship with his stepmother, Elizabeth Buxton Styron. I have a literary agent and the novel is now making its rounds at New York publishing houses. I have my fingers crossed that this book will finally launch my career as an author at age 67.

But, I am haunted with a question. Why did I wait so long to try for the big time? Was I afraid all those years to try to become a national writer preferring to work in a regional milieu? Is failure so very terrifying that we should spend our lives not daring to reach for something that we might not be able to grasp?

Maybe so. But at age 67, failure does not seem so frightening. I say, go for it. And it’s about time. Not secretly, where no one would know if I failed. But openly. Proudly. The experience savored totally and shared in this column. And even if my new novel is never published, then at the very least I can say that I tried.

Summer was filled with great and small pleasures. One of the small pleasures was playing a game of putt-putt golf at the new site off Bethpage in Urbanna. I shot a hole-in-one and almost called Jimmy Pitts to brag about it.

One of the great pleasures came after the game. We took the dogs that had been waiting for some action in the car, down the dirt road that connects the golf course to Bethpage Camp-Resort. We found ourselves surrounded on both sides of the road with corn as “high as an elephant’s eye.” There is nothing like walking near high corn. The green, the rows of straight backed soldiers, the explosion of golden tassels. Supreme.

But that wasn’t all of the great pleasures. A huge storm of shouts of thunder, swirling black clouds, and bolts of lightning came rolling down on us from Tappahannock. We hurried back to the car just in time before the icy torrents of rain hit. It was a regular submarine’s trip back to Urbanna and refuge at the “Pineapple Palace,” with our windshield wipers going full blast.

But throughout such good times, a close friend became gravely ill. No matter what I was doing, my mind was always on him, his family and his deteriorating health. I found myself caught up in the strange dichotomy of enjoying the summer while at the same time knowing that I would lose my friend.

That is life. The pleasures and joys that we know skate over the hard surface of grief. 

We are fine when the ice is thick and the awaiting lower depths are far away from our thoughts. But just once, let our skates travel across thin ice. How the blade first feels the cracked ice. How the tremor of ice giving away permeates our very soul. I remember the lines of Yeats . . . “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

Summer ended with a cruise through the Baltic Sea from Amsterdam to Russia hitting all the Scandinavian capitals. The dogs went to Jackie Willis in Deltaville for her loving care.

Life goes on.


posted 09.04.2008

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