Time to renew and refresh

Setting up camp. Faith, on the left, is the youngest; Robin, on the right, is the middle sister. My brothers-in-law, Tim (Robin’s husband) and Alfred (Faith’s), are left to right on the other end of the table shelter.


For a couple months now, people have been advising me to take a few days away from everything.

I resisted because, well, the orange menace in the White House and Congressional Republicans trying to take health care away from 33 million Americans and all.

But then my two sisters decided to come to North Carolina for the eclipse, and they reserved campsites near the totality zone, about 40 minutes from my house. I was invited to pitch my tent on my youngest sister’s site.

The campground has no cell phone signal. The most I could do was send a text here and there, so all I could do was hang out with my sisters, go for walks and relax.

One of us went out every day for ice and news so we could be aware if a war started or something, but for the most part, we basked in the quiet.

My next-younger sister scoped out the best place for us to watch the eclipse without going into Brevard. We wound up going about 3 miles up from the campground to a small picnic area. We arrived at 7 a.m., certain the little clearing would be inundated with people before 9 a.m., but just a few people showed up — two young friends of mine, a biker from Connecticut, a woman from Swannanoa, a family from Raleigh and a young man who appeared to be almost unaware of anything around him except for the eclipse.

The sun, in total eclipse.

It was a small group and most of them were there by 9 a.m., so we got to know each other, shared lunch, joked, taught everyone how to speak with a New England accent and learned some Appalachian phrases.

No one asked me about health care. No one expected me to take the microphone and speak. No one asked me to write a few words for a letter to the editor or to a member of Congress or the state legislature.

I was just the oldest surviving Boyd sister (we lost my older sister to cancer 11 years ago), the loudmouth, ball-buster to Robin’s poetic sensibility and Faith’s quiet observance of everyone. I fear she’ll write a novel one day and we’ll all be portrayed too accurately.

For most of the trip we didn’t talk about my activism. We talked about our childhoods and our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

We watched a group of families with eight or so small children and they reminded us of the group vacations our family took with the Davises and the Bainses when we were little. We had the run of the campground. We always met other children, and all the parents kept an eye on all the children.

Robin just retired and is a little unsure what lies ahead. She was trying to think about something she could do, and she came up with a project to visit all the subway stops in Boston and write poetry about what she finds. Faith’s husband will be her guide, since he’s a native of Boston.

I love the idea. She is a gifted poet.

When I sighed and said I wished I could do something like that, both sisters looked at me as though I had just said I wanted to become a short-order cook or a prison guard or something.

“You have a really important project,” they told me. “You’re working on getting people the health care they need.”

It was the first talk of who I have become since my son died. I was transported back to the present. I was reminded that I can’t take a permanent break from the work I do.

Robin’s retirement work is to wring beauty from the mundane. Faith is a devoted grandmother to two special-needs children. Me? I’m the brassy loudmouth who was created for the work I do now.

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