Greetings from Ashland

Wind chime close-up

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Well, it has been a while since I have had the physical or mental space to be able to write anything other than (yet another) to-do list, but today, my new office in Ashland is officially open for business.

My computer equipment and desk are the same, but the locale is different enough that my head is still spinning from the change. Instead of a four lane highway populated by trucks heading to the depot and students queuing up at the front entrance to the community college across the street, the view out my window now consists of a placid stretch of road only populated by leaves skittering in the New England wind and the occasional squirrel. The windchimes that Matt and I have spent our lives together slowly collecting are hung around the outside of the house, much as they have been in every home we have shared, but now, as never before, their songs are clearly audible no matter where you stand in the house, or how tentative the touch of the wind. It is almost as if we had been collecting them just to hang here.

Our return to what passes for normality in the Sheehy house occurred in a staggered fashion. Ana was very anxious to get back to her academics, and so I ran up to her school and got her enrolled and ready to go two days after we first walked in to our new house in Ashland. Frances was a bit more relaxed about it, and wanted to start the next day. Owen, predictably, wanted NOTHING to do with school, much preferring to stay home with me and fill my ears with his stream of consciousness chatter. This worked well for him given the fact that as a child who requires special education services he was a little more complicated to get enrolled in school.

When I finally got Owen started at school on Monday morning, one week after our Ashland landing, and after about two and a half weeks of no school, I walked back into our big house, filled only with boxes and cats, and felt the silence begin to close in like a woolen blanket until I was literally paralyzed by the stillness. It is kind of ironic that the quiet that I have craved as an ideal for all these years would be so unsettling when it becomes the reality of my life instead of an abstract goal to work towards. I drowned out the silence by finding my local NPR station and using it to fill the empty audio spaces with familiar voices and shows, although periodically I would so a cognitive double take when I realized that the weather report being announced was for Boston rather than New York Metro or that the announcer was drawling the “r” sound as only a New Englander can. Other than that, the sounds of Public Radio soothed me like an old blanket and made me feel more like I was at home rather than visiting some far away land and I began to dig through boxes, feeling like I was opening presents, even though it was just my same old stuff that was contained inside each box.

Later, as I prepared to retrieve the kids from their various schools, I realized that it was not so much the quiet that unsettled me as the sense that I was really alone here in this place. My life has always been somewhat solitary, and it usually suits me quite well to have several hours in which I need not speak to anyone but  my cats and I can explore ideas and be able to examine, and express my thoughts without interruption and without the need to attend to the needs of others. Always before, however, once I left my house there was a world outside that contained friends and familiar faces that I might encounter. Here, the world outside is undiscovered, and that reminds me of my solitude. I guess I am lonely…but I am not unhappy.

Life is good, and I am thankful for mine, in every respect.

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2 responses to “Greetings from Ashland

  1. I’ve often found myself craving a bit of peace and quiet, and then when I’m afforded it, realize I miss the normal hubbub of life… the kids chattering, television in the background, music coming from the bedrooms of teenagers. I guess, for me anyway, quiet is nice as long as it’s not too prolonged.

    It’s good to hear that you’re settling in happily.

  2. I’ve moved several times, some with family but most alone. Criss-crossing the country with hopes of adventure are sometimes dashed by the overwhelming sense of loneliness and newness. In time, life falls into a routine. Friends are made; grocery stores become “yours”; shortcuts are learned; clothing adjusted to the weather; and you eventually find your place.

    I’m sorry to say that my attitude wasn’t nearly as healthy as yours during all my moves. You’re going to do fine.

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