To others in the park, from afar she seems younger than she actually is. It could be her small frame, or her brown hair that falls in waves over her shoulders. At a closer glance, however, you can see the wrinkles on her face. You can almost see the years of smiles.
Now, instead of a smile, her expression is focused. The women, named Janice, heartily climbs the stairs in Laurelhurst Park in Portland. Up, down. Up, down. Repeat and repeat, her muscles burning.
Janice focuses on her back, which she has to listen to carefully when she exercises. She fell while skiing some years ago and couldn’t make any dramatic movements for a while. Now, she more so appreciates the the ability to be active like this. Today, her back feels good. She scolds herself for not doing her physical therapy exercises more.
The fresh air revitalizes her and helps clear her head, full of too many things these days.
“Getting outside will help you so much,” her friend Maureen said last week. “You have to do something to take away the stress and nervous energy.”
It truly does help. She remembers someone saying that losing a child is one of the most painful things a person can experience. Her daughters have always been her greatest joy, but sometimes, they break her heart.
Janice arrives back at the house and closes the wood door behind her. She lets out an exaggerated but content sigh, announcing her presence to the others in the home. Phoebe, a giant white bear of a dog, runs with uncontrollable joy towards her favorite member of the family. Her husband Kent is in the kitchen with his mug of coffee, standing as usual.
“Hi honey,” Janice says with a tired smile. “Do you want to sit?” She already knows the answer to this daily question, but always hopes that just once, he will follow her advice. He smiles, but doesn’t lift his eyes from his book, nor does he sit down.
Janice goes out to the backyard. There are figs to pick and flowers to plant. The backyard, with the adjoined garden, is her special place, full of things she has helped to grow and live. In the summer, she is content to spend all her time out here. Working in the sun with her big sunhat, planting every type of flower. Now, summer is at its end and fall is beginning, but it’s alright – each season has its own beautiful things.
She chooses the last good figs from the tree, sweetly humming a song she composed in her mind. She used to sing like this to her daughters when they were little to calm them down. Now, she calms herself without realizing it.