“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” —Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’m sitting at wooden table at a Whole Foods Market a few feet from a checkout line. I’ve completed my shopping and devoured a cup of soup. I’ve been out since before dawn, hence my pre-noon lunch. My cart is propped up beside me at a table with a little European Cypress Tree popping out of the basket—a gift to cheer up my husband’s office for the holidays. I drove to a doctor’s appointment this morning in a cold, pounding rain that took me by surprise with its sudden transformation into snow—giant, sloppy flakes, blurring my windshield. I didn’t know where I was going exactly but I relished being out in the early morning knowing there would be time after my appointment to linger before picking up my boys at noon. I’ve bought myself a treat—a dark chocolate, sunflower buttercup. I’m wondering what I should do with this sliver of time between grocery store shopping and nursery school pick-up. I decide to eat my goody. I have been on a mission, lately. I have been on a mission to bring my art, my meditations—my writing— out further into the world. I am working hard to create a new website that will feature all of these things together in one place. My hope is to carve out a unique and welcoming place where I can share more about inner-listening, about journeying. My hope is to make an imprint and I feel called to take these steps. I know about the value of bringing our visions to life—no matter their scope. And as I sit here eating this sweetness—contemplating my to-do list—I begin to experience a deep inner peace about being exactly where I am, in a Whole Foods relishing a treat. Today, I realize, is not a day where I will be checking anything off of my list. Sitting into my seat further, I become more deeply aware of my body and how it feels anchored in my chair. I can feel the wrinkle between my eyebrows softening as I release the need to accomplish something more. I’m looking at the package of this sweetness with all of it’s assurances—non-GMO, Rainforest Alliance Certified, gluten and nut free. I feel assured about the value of sitting and being. I’m eating my chocolate and I’m listening to the rustling of bags. I notice that I’m a little cold, but only on my legs. I’m layered up with long-johns, a sweater and a scarf but my leggings are thin for this damp day. It’s sort of loud where I am but I feel very, very quiet. I notice my mouth is closed somewhat tightly and I open my lips slightly instead. I notice my jaw loosen. I’ve finished my delicious dessert now and contemplate the idea of buying another. I stay seated. I uncross my legs and find greater grounding by placing my feet directly on the floor. I contemplate tree roots quite often and I’m imagining them again now. I love our earth. I’m connecting with my breath now and closing my eyes even a little. It seems a little odd—falling into this space in a public place—but I’m not too worried about that. I notice that my abdomen has softened, now, and I’ve just very briefly forgotten about time. Here I am. Here I am. Here I am. And then I do check the time and I must leave now. I gather together my things and head out to pick up my boys from school. They spend a lot of time in the outdoors there. I look forward to tucking them into my toasty car knowing full well there will be complaints and troubles. It will be cozy, still. In Maine, children are wearing snowsuits already and when I arrive my boys are soaked and muddy in only the way that a snowsuit can be soaked and muddy on a rainy, winter day in Maine. Jonah has a new set of mud-freckles peppered across his nose. I admire them—keeping them to myself— as I get he and Adrian into the car. Jonah strips off his wet outer layers and gets himself “strapped in.” I help Adrian with his clothes and buckling. They are wriggling around and settling in and waiting for me to strap myself in because they know that I have a treat for them, too.

 

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“There is nothing permanent except change.” —Heraclitus

This time last week it seemed that our family could have morphed into a collection of sea creatures—our bodies so well acclimated now to the sun and sand, to the salty sea air. It seemed that summer should go on forever. For days and days we had been soaking in the soothing warmth of the season surrounded by rocks and waves. Living in a climate in which these golden days are bookended by so many chillier ones made our experience all the more glorious. Just as I was beginning to bemoan the end of summer, the tide changed abruptly, reminding me of the cyclical nature of life, reminding me that the only constant in this life is that things will always change. A trip to the beach earlier this week was reminiscent of a dinner I had with a group of friends in New York City a decade ago. We had been like a family with our very own share of dysfunction and delight. After traveling through the many ups and downs of our late 20’s and early 30’s together we finally parted ways after a dinner party in which a candle was knocked over and the table cloth literally went up in flames. We left that dinner and immediately the season of our friendships as we knew them came to an end. This is how I felt when we left the beach earlier this week—as if the curtain had been drawn on our summertime production and the finale was, well, final. There had been a fierce power struggle over lunch, a family walk that ended in a stale-mate and enough tears to fill the sea itself.

By the grace of the Universe I had a singing group to meet with that same evening. There we learned songs—mostly in a style called “Mood of the 5th” that uses a central A tone and moves gently around that tone with undramatic beginnings and endings. In my mind, singing in this way, in a high-pitched voice—no matter your natural range— creates an ethereal setting allowing us to preserve for our children their ties to the heavenly realm from which they came. We use these songs to remind them of their oneness with the world and usher them (back) into a place where they know and feel that they and the world are good. That night, surrounded by a sisterhood of laughter and honey-sweetened and fresh-from-the-garden, peppermint tea, I learned three autumn songs and allowed my day to fall away. I remembered in those two brief hours of communion with other women—with other mothers—that both I and the world are good. “Golden in the morning, golden in the glen,” began one very sweet song. “Rosy apples glow,” started another which was a beloved favorite of a dear mother and friend. “Come away, said the river,” was the third, slightly melancholy yet precious song.

The next morning I brought out these verses over breakfast clean-up and continued to explore them throughout our morning together. I saw my boys in a slow and present way as I sang and found myself lingering over each word—living in each word—and noticing the tone I was making with my voice. I sang very, very slowly aware of a settling coming over our home. I sang these songs over and over until Jonah—my bigger, 4 year old boy— pointed out that I was singing autumn songs and we discussed the new season coming. Like golden leaves falling, each of us fell into our place as I sang.

Autumn is my favorite of all of the seasons. For me it has always marked the opportunity for a new beginning and I look forward to it coming here again very soon. For now though, summer lingers here in Southern Maine with very high temperatures even as the hay is baled. We were at the beach again today. I was glad for the opportunity to begin closing the door more gently on this special, salty season.

“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.”—William Wordsworth

Yesterday was a scorcher by Maine standards. Temperatures in the upper 80’s sent those of us without central air-conditioning scurrying to the beach. My two boys and I were among the earliest to arrive. Traveling down a winding, narrow road to reach a far-away, sprawling spot on the ocean with tumbling waves and a desert like quality, felt like an adventure. Once we arrived we were like camels making our way from the parking lot to a distant tide pool a football field’s length from the entrance. Even from our tide pool we were still another long stretch away from the rolling waves. It was worth the journey. My boys—Jonah with his wide rimmed, navy blue sun hat, Adrian with his ripe orange baseball cap—took their buckets, shovels and wave board into the shallow pool and were busy at play within moments. Adrian piled sand ice cream into his bucket while Jonah pulled the buckets around on top of the board. I set out our blanket and then lying back on the small bag I had packed, took in the rocky cliffs in the distance thinking about the turn of events that brought me there alone with my two boys instead of where we had planned to be—back in the place where I grew up, surrounded by family, cuddling my little niece and nephew who I missed like a drought misses rain and hadn’t seen since winter winds were blowing snowdrifts at Christmastime.

I was sitting in the parking lot of a very large adventure travel store when I received the call. My husband had run into the store to pick up a last item for our travels. The following day he was heading West for eight days for work and I was heading to a family summer home to be with my sisters, their children and my parents. I was looking forward to the companionship. I was looking forward to the comfort of “home.” I was looking forward to the fun of all of our children being together. A few days before, my son Jonah had come down with a virus that gave him two painful sores in the back of his mouth and a low-grade fever. He was feeling well enough to travel though and my sisters had agreed that exposing their children was not ideal but that we should come anyway and just be mindful of washing hands, of separating sippy cups. I had not thought about my Mom, though. I had not thought of the terrible illness she had battled this past winter and how exposing her to something now—even something minor in the world of childhood illnesses—would not have been wise. With an immune system compromised, she could be a magnet for such a virus. She told me as much when she called. She didn’t want to say those words—she wanted to say anything but those words—but she had to and in the blink of an eye we were staying home for the next eight days without any activities planned and quarantined from our friends because of the illness. My husband would be 3,000 miles away. I sat stunned in the car wondering how I would break the news to Jonah who was deep in sleep in his carseat now.

I spent the afternoon and early evening mourning the loss of precious time with those I love so much—time that we have so little of. I felt angry, too. I wanted to blame someone but there was no one to blame. I cried and thought about how hard it would be to shift gears and refocus. I told my sisters and Mom that I was looking for the silver-lining but I couldn’t find it. By nightfall, though, I knew that I had a decision to make. I knew that I could easily spend the next week regretting every moment not spent with family, or I could lift up these precious days and discover their purpose. My greatest concern was with how I would remain present and responsive—not reactive—to the mercurial nature of my children for—what to me felt like—a long stretch of time. I bow down to the wives of deployed servicemen for whom this is their nearly constant state.

At the beach, we were a few days into our time alone together and we were finding our rhythm. With our self-imposed quarantine and everyone feeling better now we were completely free to roam and go and play as we wished. We eventually left our tide pool and made our way down to the crashing shoreline. Jonah timidly dipped his toes in and observed his board bouncing around in the waves. I sat with Adrian and followed my breath noticing the way my stomach, my chest rose and fell with the waves. We meandered down little paths of water that flowed along the sand into bigger and bigger tide pools. We found ourselves finally in one pool deep enough to soak our bodies in and for Jonah to float on his wave board. I should have been tired—Adrian had made a before dawn wake-up call that morning—but instead I felt invigorated. I was pulling Jonah on his wave board from one end of the pool to the other and suddenly I began running with him in tow, splashing a good amount of water up onto my legs and some even onto my face. Adrian was in a very shallow part of the pool, lying on his stomach, propped up on his forearms. His face was filled with a grin. Soon I discovered that if I ran with Jonah for a long stretch and then suddenly let go of the string that was pulling him he would go sailing ahead of me with delight, riding on his board up onto the sand like a surfer with so much momentum. I was doing this for him over and over and at one point I was running and I could feel the water splashing my face and I could hear the pure joy in Jonah’s laughter and I could see Adrian luxuriating in the water and I let Jonah go and then I just stopped and I looked up into the sky. I stopped and I looked into the sky.

It was so vast.

It was so vast.

I could feel my heart beating from running and I could feel my heart expand.

It was so vast and beautiful and miraculous  it took my breath away.

I felt alive.

I felt so very alive and I knew in that moment what it meant to live.

I knew the ecstasy that is complete oneness with life.