robinmay robinmay

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Robin May Fleming  By bike, by horse, by word, by foot...

My parents arrive on Tuesday for yet another rainy season in the Pacific Northwest...
Over the years I've nudged them, suggesting they might prefer to come in our glorious summer, when the sun shines so consistently, I've been known to get irritated with it. When I begin to forget what the rain sounds like, and our house gets so dry my skin cracks and bleeds. Yay, summer!
But no, they book their trip out, year after year, for rainy September, rainier October, and rainiest November.
When I'm a little extra lucky, they stay through Christmas, like they're planning to do this year. There's no greater gift than a bustling house at Christmas time...except maybe parents who drive thousands of miles, a trailer in tow, to make home feel a little more like home.
Yep. That's the best 🎁.

I rode my bike out to my dream property the other day, not knowing that it was already sold, that it was already someone else's dream-turned-reality.
Ever since, I've been bound by nostalgia—exploring old message boards and ancient correspondences, mining the internet for traces of an earlier me, comforted that she's still out there. Because, my goodness: Whatever season I'm in right now looks so very different than those other seasons did.
Some people think we get fresh starts in this life. I tend to think we are serial-bound. More Lost than Black Mirror; more soap opera than sitcom. Our heart narratives don't stop and start cleanly. They are grand, arcing things.
And all we can do is build on what was.

I believe you.

My eyes were locked so tightly on the horizon, I didn't even notice the bird.

A few months ago, a woman said to me: "You have great hair....but you must get that a lot." I didn't know how to respond. Yes? No? Thanks?
I probably defaulted to my usual: "Oh. Haha. No, not really.... I've just not washed it in a while."
Awkward, unnecessarily self-deprecating over-sharing? Yep. Sounds about right.
The truth is, I love my hair. It's unruly, yeah. And it took me until well into my 20s to learn how to live with it. Before that, I basically tortured it:
Black. Pink. Platinum.
Spiked. Gelled. Scrunched.
At one point it broke off at the roots and drifted to the ground. Another time, I let a stylist bleach it until my scalp blistered.
In middle school, I discovered hairspray and...it did not go well. I was teased—to my face and not to my face, good-naturedly and not so good-naturedly. I remember getting a haircut in the 8th grade and a female teacher telling me it looked "SO much better." Not good. Not pretty. Not even a banal nice. Just SO much better than it was.
Ahhhh the things you carry with you to adulthood.
At my first job, I stood awkwardly behind the counter of our local drugstore, a deer in the headlights of relentless pubescent mortification:
"You could be so pretty if you didn't wear your hair like that," said the total stranger, her face collapsing into genuine sadness.
Yes? No? Thanks?
My relationship with my hair has progressed similarly to my relationship with my feminine self. It's been a rocky, wary journey, on a road paved with distrust. And along the way, so many well-meaning women have given me terrible, unsolicited directions:
"When are you going to get rid of that lesbian haircut? You could be so pretty...."
"God, I HATE when someone has good hair, but they don't know how to style it."
"Here. Let me fix it for you."
"Let me fix it for you."
"Let me fix it."
Ultimately, no one fixed it for me. I just grew into it, embraced its unruliness, and our relationship relaxed. Every inch of us contains these lessons. xo

Lately I find her in the bathroom, looking up at the bathtub, getting ready to curl up beside it, like she has since she was a puppy, always by my side.
When I gently say her name—once, twice, a half dozen times—she doesn't turn around. She cocks her head. She hops a little, then a little more, straining to see over the edge, positive I'm in there.
I'm not.
I reach out from the doorway, and I touch her back. She looks around, startled, then relieved, like she's just woken up from an increasingly desperate dream.
I tell her it's okay.
We sit together on the couch
and it is.

Hi. Let me tell you about some stuff.
My parents always knew they wanted to retire in the place where both their families had cottages—a handful of hours north of Toronto, on the shores of Georgian Bay.
And that's exactly what they did.
I grew up with that model of marriage: You do the day-to-day together, and you do it with joy, but through it all you're always marching together towards a common goal.
So, given that I'm someone who's never been much for "goals," you can imagine how I faltered in 2013 when I found myself married, (rather unexpectedly, as you may recall) to @matthewjay.
We got married on May 10th, and by approximately July 1st it began:
What's our goal? What's next? Where will we march?? And OH MY GOODNESS, did I ever struggle when we couldn't answer those questions.
I got depressed. I got even more depressed. Occasionally I kicked and I screamed.
I sat on the couch. I sat on the beach:
What's. Our. Goal.
I beat my head against the wall, against our marriage, against life. At my lowest, I wanted to tear it all down. At my LOWEST lowest, I felt existentially bereft.
And five years later? What's our goal?
Guys, I seriously have no clue. But still, somehow we're marching.
Or maybe it's more like meandering....
And our life together grows in its own time, in its own way, in nobody's footsteps. I learned somewhere along the way, maybe it was on the road between North Carolina and Washington, that you can take the core values from a marriage you admire, you can make them your own, but marriage doesn't come with a map, and trying to follow someone else's will just get you lost.
So that brings us to today, to this photo, to being not even a little bit lost (okay maybe a little bit lost), with no real destination in mind, in no real hurry, on a super fun bike ride, in the rain.
Sweet dreams. xo.

Giving him a head start. 😉

Oh the novelty of it all,
it persists.
I'm not yet accustomed to this idyllic view from our library,
or to the massive Trump-stickered trucks that rage and growl on our streets.
I still smile when the lights collectively dim by 8pm (and when everyone's in bed shortly after),
and I shake my head and laugh when the comments on every news story are from someone who knows someone who's related to someone who's connected to the subject.
Tiny town life is a balm and a nettle,
an inhale and an exhale.
I love it
and I'm sometimes baffled by it.
I get it,
but sometimes I don't.
Some folks around here want us newcomers
(and our new ideas)
to get the BLEEP out.
Most have welcomed us with open arms.
I think it's okay to acknowledge when something feels strange
or scary
or uncomfortable
or new.
Pretending otherwise takes way too much energy for something that gets us nowhere.
Embracing our differences...
Acknowledging our differences...
Laughing about our differences...
Talking about our differences...
That's the best route I've found to common ground. How about you?

How long have I known Gracie?
Well, let's put it this way: The first time I ever took her to a dog park, I lost my keys and locked myself out of my apartment. The only solution was to ask a stranger for a quarter so I could USE A PAYPHONE to call for help. Because cell phones just weren't really a thing yet.
I think the next year I got my first flip phone.

This was my first time seeing @modestmouse live, and I wasn't prepared for Isaac Brock's voice. It was like whiskey-drenched butter scraped across the surface of burnt toast...
But like, in a good way.
My iPhone can't do justice to the bright lights or deep shadows of last night's concert under the stars, but I'm sharing this here anyway. Because this is my diary. And I want to remember. xo.

Pretty pictures make me swooooon, but my favourite part of Instagram has always been the conversation. So I've got a question for you:
How many accounts do you follow?

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