what is it with me and circles

Apparently I’ve written 20 posts about circles, including one post explicitly titled ‘circles.’ I love closing a circle, and I’m not the only one, of course. I really adored this thing Roger Ebert wrote in his lovely memoir, Life Itself:

“I may appear to suffer from some sort of compulsive repetition syndrome, but these rituals are important to me. I have many places where I sit and think, “I have been here before, I am here now, and I will be here again.” Sometimes, lost in reverie, I remember myself approaching across the same green, or down the same footpath, in 1962 or 1983, or many other times. Sometimes Chaz comes along on my rituals, but just as often I go alone. Sometimes Chaz will say she’s going shopping, or visiting a friend, or just staying in the room and reading in bed. “Why don’t you go and touch your bases?” she’ll ask me. I know she sympathizes. These secret visits are a way for me to measure the wheel of the years and my passage through life. Sometimes on this voyage through life we need to sit on the deck and regard the waves.”

Wheels, echoes, circles figure heavily in my experience, and I touch them regularly — especially the older I get, which is kind of an obvious thing. As I’m getting ready to leave Austin, I keep having these experiences. In many ways, moving back to Austin in November 2012 was a closing of a circle, and as I prepare to leave, I’m closing many circles that opened here. It’s kind of extraordinary.

This was at my birthday celebration with friends November 2015. We somehow always end up like this. Isn’t she beautiful?

Sunday night I will have dinner with my beautiful, beautiful friend Lynn, who I recognized in such a deep way the moment I met her when I first moved here. We didn’t get to see each other very often; she was gone, I was gone, we were busy, but it didn’t matter. She is one of those people I just knew the moment I met her, and we are good no matter what, we are connected no matter how long, how far.

When I moved here, I joined a number of Meetup groups so I could encounter people and find friends. It’s hard to find friends when you’re an adult, anyway, but when you’re 54, and you work for yourself at home, and you’re new in town, it’s SUPER hard. I had no interest in being a professional Meetup-er — plenty of people are, it’s just not my thing — so I joined very specific groups to increase the chance of meeting similar women, including a “women who travel the world” group, or whatever the specific name of it was. I never went to any meetings, but in my profile I listed the places I had traveled to, and that list included Myanmar.

See what I mean? This was my birthday November 2016, and again we were with our big group of friends — all of whom are wonderful — and somehow Lynn and I end up like this.

Lynn contacted me through the system because she wanted to travel to Myanmar, and we arranged to meet at a restaurant called Apothecary. There was an instant connection, and our friendship just was. I never went to a single meeting of that group, and unjoined before too long. So Sunday evening, I am having dinner with Lynn at Apothecary, her deeply wonderful idea to meet at the place we first met, and that just feels so extraordinary to me, closing that circle. Our friendship will continue always, even if we only talk once in a blue moon, but we get to close this circle together.

I moved to Austin when I was 2, from Abilene, and this was my fourth separate time to live here. (I just sketched out those years — 1962 to 1972, 1977 to 1987, 1998 to 2003, and 2012 to 2017 — 10 years and 10 years and 5 years and 5 years, so interesting!) It’s been funny to me, living where I’ve lived this time in Austin, because it was a return to my oldest time here. I live 1.4 miles from where I lived when I was 6, when I became Queen of the Pillbugs. I hear the same trains at night that I heard as a girl. And every time I go to the grocery store, I drive past the apartment complex where I lived when I was 18. Something about this whole time in Austin has been a deep circle, a constant resonant hum. But last night, as I passed the apartment complex on the way to the store, a song came on that I listened to non-stop when I lived in that apartment, just at the moment I drove past the entrance. (It was 1978, don’t laugh.)

Barry Manilow, Sunrise. From the Even Now album.
I still have the album, thanks to my daughter Katie who kept it for me. I bought it Feb 1978.

That converging of music and specific spot threw me back, and if I hadn’t been thinking I might just have pulled into the complex and walked up the stairs to my apartment, which felt so fancy then, a whole apartment of my own with rented furniture and my few precious objects that still sit here in my house — Big Daddy’s hard hat, and his cat door stop — and my old record collection which sits now in my yoga room and there was nothing else there because there was so little of me, then, and time circles in and circles around and there we are lost in it but if we’re lucky we get to notice.

It’s not about a reverence for the ‘old days,’ or a wish to go back, but more an appreciation of how long life is, how mysterious it can be, how nothing really ends but only echoes, and if you get real quiet and listen, you can hear the echoes, too.


he was loving feeding me watermelon, and i was loving everything about it
he was loving feeding me watermelon, and i was loving everything about it

I had such a magnificent week. A beautiful phone call from Marnie on Monday, and time with a friend, with great food and even presents for me [unexpected!]. Story hour at the library with Oliver on Tuesday, and an extraordinary meeting of my poetry group in my house Tuesday night, just extraordinary. A conversation with a friend who trusted me with her heart on Wednesday. A wonderful morning on Thursday, splashing in water with Oliver and then going to see Mad Max (squee!!!). And yesterday a superabundance of gifts: coffee with my wonderful friend Nancy, who gave me a way to think about something that made 1,000 puzzle pieces fall into place, followed by brunch with my dear friend Karyn, who gave me a dozen gorgeous eggs from her chickens and lots of great conversation and connection and sharing, a fortuitous meeting of a beautiful girl I’ve been wanting to meet for so long, a nice chat with Katie followed by a call from Dixie that left me beaming followed by FaceTime with Marc. Just magnificent in every way, my week. I don’t have very much work and that’s scaring me as I watch my little checking account dwindle to near dust, but everything else was amazing. Blue skies and sunny days, peace and quiet, and joy. Lucky, lucky, lucky me.

Thursday, when I was driving up to Katie’s house, the radio station was playing non-stop music from 1977, which happens to be the year I graduated from high school. That means the music of that immediate period is deeply integrated into me, and thick with memory. I was loving the songs, one after another, and then The Commodores’ Easy (Like a Sunday Morning) came on, and I felt a circle close in my life.

The day I graduated from high school, in Wichita Falls, Texas, I walked off the stage, got in my car, and drove to Austin. I moved that day. A few days later, a very early June day in 1977, I was driving on Burnet Road, a beautiful sunny day with blue skies, overjoyed with being out of Wichita Falls and back in Austin, which held some kind of sense of home to me. My car windows were rolled down and the radio was playing, and that song came on. Of course — I think it was #1 at the time. And it just caught my emotional moment so beautifully, it held everything I felt at that moment in my life. [And that fantastic OOH! (at 2:45 in the video below, if you don’t remember)]:

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(oh my goodness, that beautiful big Afro, that fantastic suit….)

circlesAnd so there I was Thursday, 38 years later, driving in Austin on a beautiful sunny day in very early June — maybe even the same day, I don’t remember that specifically — my car windows down, and listening to the radio, and Easy came on. In that moment I felt a circle close, then to now. It was such a powerful moment, heavy with the feelings from 1977 and now, and my understanding of everything that had happened in between. (Also: I am so thrilled to be 56 and not 18.)

It left me wondering about circles closing all around, all throughout our lives, and we aren’t aware of them. If they are marked in some very clear way, if we mark them ourselves in a noticing way, perhaps we catch them. But how many are closing? One a day? Probably not. How many are happy comings-together, and how many are sad? Maybe I’m the only one who thinks like this, I don’t know, but I love to feel the circles come together. It’s why Oliver and my future grandchildren will call me Pete, to close that circle of love — from Big Daddy calling me that, to grandchildren calling me that. Simply moving back to Austin when my life fell apart in November 2012 closed a circle, or at least it felt that way. I don’t think I’ll ever live anywhere else but Austin, but my life has definitely taught me that I have no idea what’s over the top of the hill, around a curve, and I should never say never.

Thinking about circles closing around me reminded me of my insight about bubbles from last September, which is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever thought of. What is it with circles? Such a deep and ancient metaphor, and myth, and there it is in the world everywhere, and it comes up out of my experience of things again and again. I love that. Circles, yeah. Right on.  (I am trying to bring this phrase back, right on, so if you could help me out by sprinkling it into your conversation on occasion that would be great. Use it in place of yes! Use it when there’s not really something to say, when you’d usually just kind of nod. Say it like the funky dudes from the 70s: “Right onnnnn…….” or say it however you wish. “Right on!”)

My wonderful week slides right into a wonderful weekend — I’m going to a festival of literary arts and cartooning today, and tomorrow I get to babysit my wonderful little Oliver while his mommy and daddy celebrate their 7th wedding anniversary. And we’re having blue skies, no rain, and 90 degrees. Life can be so so good, and sometimes easy (like a Sunday morning). Enjoy your weekend, whatever you are doing. Right on.