We are six women friends nestled into a small cabin beside the Pacific Ocean, not far from the lower lip of the opening to the Salish Sea. We have spent the day walking on the beach, talking and laughing, eating, and then laughing and snacking some more. We’ve been coming here every year for almost 25 years.
Now in the dark of the late evening we have settled down with our books. The cabin is eerily silent after so much hubbub. Even the chatty old refrigerator has quieted down for the night. I can only hear the roar of the surf from beyond the driftwood piles and sandy beach.
From where I am sitting in the living room, I can see Bev in the bedroom in her pink, long-sleeved flannel pajamas. She is sitting up against the wall on the bed and reading a Martha Grimes mystery, a small blanket folded neatly across her lap. She looks like she should be headed down into a mine for the night. She is wearing a black apparatus strapped around the top of her head that comes down over her eyes. For the first year she needs more than glasses and is using this magnifier to enlarge the print and to delay cataract surgery for just a little longer.
Doreen is in the other bedroom, stretched out flat on her back on the bed, head up on a pillow and reading Greg Mortenson’s book, Stones into Schools. She’s wearing a white t-shirt and plaid pajama bottoms. She will give out first tonight. She is awake and reading at the kitchen table at 5:00 a.m. every morning, but so silent that only the aroma of coffee gives her away.
Helene is sitting beside me in a green chenille bathrobe and pink slippers. She reads Meditation for Dummies with her hand positioned at the corner of her mouth. Occasionally she takes a sip of tea. Her head tips down more than the others, she frowns a little, and her legs are crossed. She is meditating deeply on Meditation. She’s almost always the last one up in the morning.
Renee’s sitting sideways on the couch with her legs up and stretched out, comfy. She’s still dressed and wearing a light jacket. As she readers her Tony Hillerman mystery, she wiggles her multi-colored stocking feet. If you watch her carefully, you will notice her mouthing the words, her lips barely moving. I’ve never seen her read without doing this.
Jean’s sitting in a chair and reading Widow of the South. She has the book balanced up on her boobs so it’s close to her face. She’s still dressed, but her bare feet rest on the coffee table. Soon she will migrate to the air mattress in the corner of the living room and try to read some more, but will last only minutes before she squirms down into her cozy corner and is snoring quietly. She’s also an early riser. She’ll be out the door and on the beach in a chilly fog before four of us have even stirred.
Five crones adrift on a sea of books.
Me? Living with five other women for 5-6 days in a small cabin is intense for me. I have a magazine in my lap, but I’m not reading. I jot down a few notes. I use quiet moments like this to decompress, to process, to wonder at how comfortable we are with each other. I marvel at their wit and beauty, their sense of fun and respect for each other. I think about how much I love waking up to the aroma of coffee even though I don’t drink it. Will I hike with Bev and Jean to Second Beach tomorrow? If it’s raining, maybe I’ll read.