“Faith is a passionate intuition.”—William Wordsworth

This book is different than what you might find in a mainstream bookstore. The cover is a combination of white and pale-shaded blue—remarkably smooth to the touch—the illustrations fanciful and drawn in a pastel palette.

It has the feel of a children’s picture book more than a middle-age reader and was a gift for two boys’ birthdays celebrated two months after-the-fact.

From the drawing on the front they could see an adventure would be found within, yet Jonah and Adrian still wondered aloud whether the story would be adventurous enough.

Oh-how-enticing the lure of excitement can be.

Adrian will sometimes exclaim in certain situations—usually in response to the presence of a spread of sweets and some parental limitation—I’m so tempted!

I smile thinking about his words and wide-eyed expression and imagine all of the ways in which the world will call to him as he grows and the temperance he will need to harness at times.

I think about the restraint we all need to exercise so as not to be swept up into the appeal of instant gratification and constant diversion so available in today’s hastened reality.

When I check-out of these ways of being too-hurried and too tapped-into the perspectives of others, I notice a new—a renewed—energy rising up in me.

To shed constant noise and popular narrative is a little like being reborn.

I find myself engaged again with the rhythm of my own ready voice filled with the valuable instincts present in the spaciousness of conscious breathing, alive in the drinking-in of my child’s long and detailed story, whispering as I peer at clouds inching across the sky—draped in shadow, then in light.

The natural world sharpens into greater focus—branches of trees outlined thickly as if with a stick of charcoal, as if my contact lens prescription has suddenly been increased.

A greater nuance of color is revealed in my sight and my heartbeat steadies with every moment less I spend absorbed in a world of endless chatter.

Time seems to expand and worries around outcome lessen.

It will all get done. Or it won’t.

I will be known. Or I won’t be.

Stripping away the collective voice, we may arrive at the solitary—yet deeply fruitful—precipice of our own unique being where we may quietly mine our personal truth in living.

It was my kind of drawing—whimsical with an elegant boat made from the body of a swan—a delicate, lavender flower decorating the sail.

Aboard were three children with rosy cheeks and a gnome with a long redish-blond beard wearing a pointy hat standing at the helm where the swans neck rose up and curled forward in the shape of a hook or an umbrella handle.

A mermaid rode portside with green flowing hair and beneath the boat swam three single-eyed sea creatures.

I attempted to read in an animated voice to garner enthusiasm when we began huddled together in one twin bed where the light is better.

It wasn’t necessary though—the story was packed with compelling happenings from the start.

We finished a couple of chapters before we packed for our own adventure and I tucked the book into the boys’ backpack to read while we were away.

I was surprised by Adrian’s early awakening given our long journey and his brief slumber and had to peel my eyes open to greet him.

I had stayed up into the night unpacking, learning my way around our new accommodations and hunting for the coffee I knew would ground me in morning ritual the following day.

We found a wide chair with a giant ottoman to lounge in while I drank from a dreamy mug and then eventually made our way outside—into the back—where the sun cast heat in a way that we hadn’t felt upon our skin in Maine for many months.

The book was far from my mind.

There was a wooden shrine along the edge of the flourishing space with a large Buddha from the Indian tradition seated in the earth-touching position—an emblem of determination—and based on the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

I admired and photographed it from a particular angle to highlight a single strand of flora in the path of the sunlight landing at chest-height in front of it.

It became a touchstone in the coming days to gaze at the Buddha amidst the ruckus of kids in a pool—a flash of serenity among splashing chaos.

A wall of fuchsia bougainvillea almost-completely camouflaged a fence and there was a pool with a giant, inflated swan-boat-raft—seated at the edge—ready to be launched.

It was completely lost on me at first.

The white swan raft with its black markings and yellow beak looked fantastical and fun but I didn’t initially make any sort of connection.

It might have been the second night when we pulled out the book to read before bed that I finally looked at the cover and had a revelation.

We had arrived in a place where there was a literal swan boat available for our enjoyment mirroring the cover of our book and the story within.

On that first morning, I allowed Adrian to launch the swan into the pool.

He pushed it off the ledge and then leapt onto it fully-clothed, shortly after falling in.

There was practically incessant riding-on-the-swan-boat, leaping-onto-the-swan-boat and nearly-destroying-the swan-boat’s neck by four children for five days.

Clearly the one with the long, curly, blond locks was the mermaid and any of the other three could have been the gnome or the sea creatures.

When we weren’t by the pool we were absorbing sun and beauty in other nearby locales.

We had just come from a hike in Topanga Canyon and from scarfing down food from In-N-Out Burger.

We were exiting into the parking lot from the restaurant when a man we had passed by the doorway, called out to me.

Jonah and Adrian were sun-kissed with white and blue hoods pulled up over their heads in protection from the strong rays—slow and sleepy from the activity and the food.

The man began following us.

He was sun-burned, too, and appeared to be either homeless or nearly so.

I heard him say something again and I quickly scanned my inner alarm-system for any signals that I should gather my boys more near.

Instead I received the opposite message and knew distinctly to turn toward him—not away.

He began telling me in his drawn-out voice that he had recently heard a radio program about penguins and that my two boys in their white and blue hoods somehow reminded him of those adorable creatures wobbling along.

I could see his point entirely and his comment had immediate significance given our family’s recent association with penguins.

We thanked him for the message—taking in his weathered face and watery eyes—wishing him well.

Enjoy those bambinos, he’d said as he strolled off.

After he’d gone, we all began talking at once.

Penguins! Can you believe it!

This message wasn’t lost on any of us.

Life has a way of speaking to us when we have hearts to listen.

Sometimes it can take time and reflection to understand the directions in which we are being guided.

Often the world is offering reassurance that can only be understood in hindsight.

There are vast meanings attributed to the symbolism of the swan drawing from ancient mythology to dream analysis to Shamanism to Native American Totems.

The thread that seems to weave the many interpretations together is the emphasis on intuitive listening—our abilities to live gracefully within this invisible dance with something greater than us—and our receptivity to messages delivered from another realm sometimes by angels who walk right here among us as if in disguise.

This might be the slowest entrance into Spring that I’ve experienced since moving to Maine nearly nine years ago.

Wool and blankets are staples still.

Tiny buds have begun to appear on branches—though you have to look really closely to notice them.

Strangely, there will be a spike in temperature with a high of 80 degrees forecasted for tomorrow—a welcome relief from the low-draping clouds and the chill.

My hope is to be among the natural world soaking in the warmth and the silence and listening intently for the exquisite call of the swan.

 

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“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”—Omar Khayyam

The housekeeper called to us from down the hallway with the swirling Caribbean carpet. She wore a distant stare on her bronze face that softened when we met. Her smile was generous, her body moved as if weighted down by more than her slight frame.

She offered us water rafts left behind—clear plastic tubes decorated with sky blue and chartreuse stars. We thanked her more than we needed to and Jonah and Adrian promptly pulled the inner tubes over their heads and around their bodies and began bouncing—like inflated Sumo wrestlers—down the hallway.

I slightly regretted the new acquisitions.

The pool water was much colder in the mornings than the more tepid, aqua sea. Jonah placed himself gingerly on his new raft—on his belly, just barely getting his chest wet.

He paddled out to the concrete island in the center of the pool with the imported palm tree planted in the middle—not indigenous to the desert climate where we had traveled for a rest.

He climbed carefully onto the enclave and stood up with satisfaction—his blue eyes sparkling, highlighted by his tan skin.

He folded his arms proudly and with his foot, pushed the raft away out of his reach, theatrically announcing, “Now, I’ve done it!”

“I’m stranded!”

“Now I’ll have to get in!”

A few seconds later he leapt off of the ledge—cannon-ball style—emerging gleefully, breathless from the extreme change in his body temperature and impressed by his strategy.

I lured them to the water’s edge with the suggestion of building a Hogwarts castle in the sand. This worked again and again and we created the structure at two separate beaches in three locales.

I began building drip-castles with them when they still thought it was a good idea to shove a chubby fist full of sand in their mouths.

There was a time when it seemed these days of leading them into play and creation would go on forever.

Now I recognize how brief a moment this stage will occupy across the timeline of living—a narrow sliver on a row of yardsticks across a stretch of years.

They think we will not need one, but I buy a cobalt blue bucket at the gift shop anyway.

I carry it to the shore, fill it with water and bring it to the place where the dense, wet sand meets the softer, lighter-color layer of powdery disintegrated shells.

Adrian makes the connection in this—his 7th year—that sand is the accumulation of billions of ground up shells and rock formations broken down over millennia by the tireless churn of ocean waves.

I once read that sea glass could be created at home by combining water with broken bottles and spinning it around and around in a household cement mixer.

In the past I thought about making the investment in this apparatus so that I—and my children—could experience this process first hand. I might still.

In the place where the wet and dry sand meet I situate myself on the upper layer where I begin building the base of our castle. Jonah and Adrian position themselves beneath me where they begin digging a long trench beside a thick wall—both constructed to protect the castle from the rolling tide.

I pour handfuls of soft sand into the water until I find the right mix—about the consistency of a thin cake batter.

With my fist full, I begin dripping a stream of sand into the formation of individual towers filling the rectangular outline. I watch as the sand sifts through the spaces between my fingers and fist accumulating into mini sculptures—each attempt unique.

It reminds me of the vast scope of lives among us. I think about the many ways that we may cultivate our unfolding—each development organic and coming to life in response to our every thought and vision.

Sometimes the sand cooperates forming a thick base, gradually thinning and growing more and more steep. Occasionally the accumulation of the dripping sand will reveal a form like a body or another figure—an hunched beggar, a mother with child, a towering tree.

My husband notices my whole-body exhale each time we arrive at this place of creating along a stretch of beach and joins in trying out my technique.

Jonah reserves the task of making the tallest drip-castle in the structure.

Once he decides to build it along the side of the building instead of in the center combining many towers into a large triangular wall.

I observe him as he surpasses what I have taught him and I imagine all that he may create in his life—my heart swelling at the thought of it.

I imagine what it means to be encouraged—all possibilities open like a river flowing swiftly through a gorge. The vision—only your heart’s deepest longing, whatever that might be.

The rain comes and goes rapidly.

When we see the nimbus clouds crowding together and darkening across the sky in stark juxtaposition with the turquoise water the boys rush to gather all of our belongings and begin sprinting toward the pool area where there is a hot tub and an awning to protect our things.

I think about how hard it can be to get them moving at times and the disparity of their speed with the threat of a storm.

I relish in the tingling of my skin when I sink into the Jacuzzi—a gentle, cold rain dampening my hair.

We do this again and again when the rain comes—hoping for the most extreme contrast we can experience—a powerful, heavy rain coupled with a warm bath.

Adrian loses his second, front tooth in the pool. He doesn’t notice until we’ve gotten back to the room and he remembers that he felt traction between his mouth and the water when he was swimming.

When his eye swelled up and we took him to the clinic, the doctor commented on the wide garage space in his mouth.

His new, toothless grin both matures him and anchors him more deeply into this place in time in which his r’s are still absent and his lens of the world still soft and hazy.

I was coming from our room by myself and entered into the elevator. It was just after noon.

An older couple—likely retirees—came inside the elevator along with a bellman.

The older man said to the bellman, “good morning.”

His wife promptly corrected him; “I think it is afternoon, now.”

The bellman said, “Yes, good afternoon, it is afternoon now.”

I watched as the older man composed himself. I could almost feel his energy zip into a line inside of him—taught.

A slight brightness came to his eyes. I knew he had something good to share.

“May this be the morning of our lives, then.”

I wanted to hug him.

Back in Maine, snow keeps getting swept out of the forecast by the rain.

Spring is here in full force with her elbows wide nudging aside the snowdrifts and making herself known through the mud and the sweet call-of-the-birds at dawn’s first light.

 

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“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” —Anais Nin

I was wearing a favorite dress the day we closed on our house in Maine— the front beginning to fill out with my rounded, stretching, pregnant belly. This was our second attempt at ushering in a new life, the first lost just a few days before the departure for an intricately planned trip back to Spain—a place I had lived and studied in my final year of college.

I somehow blamed myself for the pregnancy ending. It was my body I had no control of and I couldn’t seem to will the hormones in the right direction. My skin crawled when people minimized the loss with their relentless insistence that it happens all of the time. They seemed not to understand my attachment to the dream—a vision that had died along with the tiny beating—I had briefly seen it beating—heart.

While I was living in Spain—with my youthful rounded face, platinum dyed blond hair—I had joined a group of students traveling and together we had boarded a ferry out of Le Havre, France heading to Ireland and spent a spooky Halloween night crossing the Celtic Channel. We played cards, smoked Fortunas and never slept.

We were greeted at dawn in Cork by a white sliver of light glimmering off the water and the rocky coastline—much like the Maine landscape. Eventually we made our way to Galway where we were met at the train station by a woman offering her home as a hostel. Boats rocked gently in the bay painting the horizon in vibrant pastels enhanced by the sun—pink, mauve and baby blue.

We slept in twos lined up together in feathered beds and woke to an Irish breakfast like that of my childhood, the table filled with fluffy eggs and buttered toast, pancakes and tea. I felt at home in a way that seemed woven within my DNA, tracing back to my Irish heritage. I thought that I could have lived there or had been there before.

We found a second hand store and bought old, woolen sweaters to keep off the chill and made our way to a bar where we mixed with the locals. I met a young man—a fellow student—who asked me what I thought about “the troubles” and the recent strides toward peace. I could hardly make out what he was saying through his thick brogue and the hum of the packed pub but I knew he was referencing the years of conflict in Northern Ireland that has spilled over into his and other parts of the world.

Later we huddled together by an enormous ventilation system of a warehouse building, trying to stay warm with the rush of air from the fans. I saw him once again a few years later, this time on the other side of the pond. We took a night-time carriage ride together through Central Park, his friend was our driver. We flipped through a copy of LIFE Magazine—where I worked at the time—marveling at the image of a giant sea creature that was featured within its pages. Only now do I fully understand how much the peace—the glorious end to the troubles—had mattered to him.

My dress on the day of the closing was argyle and matched the colors of the season with its golden yellow and pumpkin orange diamond design. I remember stopping to buy an additional layer—a grey sweater—the weekend we drove up from New York City to contemplate a move one last time. There was a chill in the air that had a way of working itself right into your bones. It was familiar and met the hover of fog and dense sea air in the perfect dance of climate and mood.

Keys in hand we drove to our new home, the route winding and long. We didn’t yet anticipate every steep hill and sharp turn, we didn’t yet know intimately the trees, the places where friends lived, the spots where cell service could be lost or found.

I had lived out a pattern of moving—either across the country or across town—every seven years for much of my life and this move fell precisely into the timing of yet another shift. Still, on that seemingly long drive from the nearest town onto the peninsula where our house sits perched on a tidal cove, I wondered whether we had made a decision that would nourish the tender nature of my soul.

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“Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” — Thoreau

It is late and the house is still. I’m sitting at our dining room table, lights dimmed, listening to the whir of the washer one floor above me sifting sandy garments from golden days away. The heater clicks like an off-tempo metronome and the tulips on the counter across the room open their petals one-by-one in the spaces in between my thoughts—we’ve just discovered today that they are a pale and pretty yellow.

I’ve come from my studio where in my latest work I entered the third dimension, bringing alive a nearly life-sized sculpture of a woman draped over the earth in a posture of protection. Her hunched body is covered in American flags, images of the Statue of Liberty and other monuments. It is a slower work than I am accustomed to with periods of gathering hard to find imagery and awaiting things to dry. A few weeks ago I sat on the floor of my studio examining a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund calendar that had been donated to me to be used in my work. Within it were letters from the loved ones of soldiers who died in Vietnam. All these years later, the pain is still so raw in those who were left behind. Through tears I read how one man wondered what his life would have been like if his older brother had survived. I thought about what it would be like to live with this question for a lifetime. I thought about what else that brother could have done if he had lived. I can almost see him, tossing his daughter up into the air—taking in her giggles like angels’ song. Holding his wife’s hand at church or a ballgame. Getting a call—his mother has fallen. Oh, beautiful humanity.

I stood in an airport security line recently coming into the United States from another country. Like a herd of cattle, the people were lined up, stripping their snazzy shoes and straw hats, piling up all of their many, many belongings to be placed on a conveyor belt for screening—my we all carry a lot of baggage along with us on this planet. I stood outside of myself for a moment in that line and I thought about all that we have dreamed up and created to protect ourselves from one another. I thought about the mind-boggling extent of our very existence that is controlled by a fear of each other that dates back millennium. I thought about the weapons and the dogma, the metal detectors and the courts. I thought about the bombs and the border patrols and the sharp-shooter perched at the top of a tower. I thought about what we have all collectively done with this opportunity to live a life here on this miraculous, living planet.

Throughout my travels, I took in the wide variety of human form. This pastime can be especially captivating on a beach where clothing hides far less of our being than under normal circumstances. We come in so many packages. There is size, of course. And color. And then there is essence and aura—the energy with which we navigate our lives and the world around us. This varies greatly as well and none of it is wrong. I could sit all day looking at we humans with our wide smiles and wrinkly legs, with our love of adornment and loud talking. With our limps and with our strides. Let me linger in paradise taking in your unspoken knowns and big bellies and slender arms. Let me immerse myself in your sadness, your gladness your silly songs and oh-please-let-me-be-with-you-and-your-dreams—each one of them alive and pulsing within you like a beating heart on a mountain’s climb.

Some humans are deeply steeped in the overarching stories we have been telling ourselves as a global society for generation upon generation. Others are untethered to these tales or as I have come to imagine myself—tethered—to an entirely different worldview and reality that is not bound by the constraints of time and space. It is not bound by fear, at all, but pieced together instead with the most powerful particles that exist in the Universe—particles of what we might call, “love.” These same untethered (or tethered) souls are often infused, as well, with an understanding of the illusion of “other.” They know about the backdrop that connects us—even with the most broken among us.

It is no easy task, navigating a life with this contrary perspective. It doesn’t save you from the pain. Quite the contrary. It is well-worth the cost of shedding the regular narrative, though, to be able to slip back and forth from here to eternity time and again, back into the glorious, salty sea air so readily, the sand now clinging to my skin again, lying near my sweet son as he drifts off to sleep—his silky cheek against mine in the softest of touches, meeting a kindred-spirit in of all places a gas-station to dance, following the trail of breadcrumbs—the tether I hold onto within my tight grasp guiding me from moment to moment to moment as I raise my face up into the sun’s glorious rays for a touch of warmth to power on. I wouldn’t trade this way for anything. I feel awake. I feel so very, very awake.

 

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“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.” —Rabindranath Tagore

In this season, the birds awaken so early, beginning their morning song a good hour before our household stretches its sleepy limbs. I’ve been listening to their song and heard them clearly this morning—the door to our bedroom kept ajar in the night. Lingering in the space between sleep and wakefulness, I experienced their chirping coming to life and then my bigger boy Jonah called out to me from his room down the hallway. I jumped up quickly and went to him trying to ensure that he didn’t wake our littler boy Adrian with whom he shares a room. It is a big job protecting these two birds from each other, soothing over ruffled feathers and quieting the squawking when one has seized a valuable find from the other. “It’s so cold in here!” Jonah exclaimed as he stumbled into our room still half-asleep. I suggested he crawl under the covers quickly and from the swagger in his walk I knew he would be back to sleep in no time. It seemed much later than it was and I was surprised when I looked at the clock and saw that we had more than an hour before we needed to rise for the boys’ first day of camp. I had just drifted back to sleep when I heard Adrian call out. I glanced over at Jonah and saw that he was soundly sleeping again. Even as he grows quickly into his more mature six year old self, his face still appears like an angel when he sleeps—his lips full and pink, his skin so smooth with cheeks still slightly rounded. He seems younger than he is under the big fluffy white comforter. I pull back the covers quickly and head back down the hall to Adrian—this time trying to protect Jonah’s sleep. Adrian asks for me to lay with him and I crawl into his tiny twin bed. It is toasty warm there and a luxury to curl up next to his still, little body. He is coming into his four year old being with the speed of a bullet train and the stealth of a ninja. And so this moment of calm is that much more treasured.

A few summers ago, our family ventured out on a three-hour whale watching excursion launched from a dock in Portland, ME. The “before” picture is a favorite of mine with a special aunt and uncle journeying along with us, the sun shining down and smiles across the board. The boys look so small—Jonah with a wide brimmed sun hat and Adrian decked out in a plaid shirt, tucked into my arms. Shortly after leaving the Casco Bay we found ourselves out in the deeper sea on a vessel spouting heavy fumes and with the gait of a slow-motion, bucking bronco. It wasn’t long before I found myself in the boat’s tiny bathroom with Jonah where he was loosing his lunch and my head was spinning.  Adrian was draped over my husband’s slumped shoulder escaping his nausea and this tumultuous situation through a deep and abiding sleep. Our relatives were stoic but now donning gray complexions. The whales were elusive and the minutes were counted until we would return to shore. We all envied Adrian in his slumber and the sip of Ginger Ale from a kind stranger was a life saver. The photograph at the end of the journey would have been a very different one than the one that was taken at the start! I have found myself recently in this same place of enduring some of the things that life has thrown my way, of counting the moments, of holding on until the waves have settled and we may come safely back to shore.  I am heartened by our ability to share this story of our excursion with such laughter now and of our dream of still owning a boat one day.

I attended my first yoga class in New York City in the 1990’s. I remember looking up from a congested Manhattan avenue and noticing the fluid, muslin curtains draping the sprawling windows of the second floor. I remember the start of my practice, of comparing myself of being somewhat outward-focused. Last summer, I was able to begin a more consistent, deeper practice at a studio that opened near my home here in Maine. I find myself now in class often with my eyes closed heavily, my attention drawn deeply inward. I find myself lingering in the spaces within me, strengthening my ability to be with the varying sensations that arise as we travel the asanas sometimes holding for longer and longer periods of time. I notice the way that anchoring in my breath and feeling my way around the many facets of my being, I am able to witness the rise and fall of these sensations. There in the wake, I find myself in peace and I find myself growing stronger.

 

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“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” —Henry David Thoreau

It was the final day of an eight day stretch that I had spent alone—largely in solitude—with my 4 and 2 year old sons, Jonah and Adrian. As we sat together on our living room floor that last morning, memories of popsicle painted faces and sand covered floor boards—of transferring slumbering toddlers to cozy beds at the end of long and salty days—left us all content in only the way that happy summer exhaustion can. My strategy had been to treat our time together like a treasured vacation. We had explored tide pools aplenty and ridden rickety carousels and filled the tub at the end of the day with sand and suds. My boys were well worn-out and when I asked Jonah if he would like to go to the beach or have a “home day” that morning, he seemed almost wistful in his reply that he would like to stay at home—this coming from a boy who would eagerly make an impromptu plane trip at bedtime in a snowstorm. This is how the three of us found ourselves late that morning—still in our pajamas—sprawled out on the living room floor putting together a wooden necklace. Jonah and Adrian doled out the pieces. Adrian would have circles. For Jonah, squares.  And for Mommy, stars and ovals. Jonah decided on the pattern. First, Adrian would put on his pieces. I watched as Adrian slid the shoelace style string through the holes in his multi-color circles, Jonah encouraging him and commenting on his, “nimble fingers.” Next it was Jonah’s turn. He was more independent and quick in his contribution. I took my turn next—slowly—noticing the energy of our work together. Noticing the peace. There was a synergy to our interactions that had come alive in the long hours we had spent together in that week unencumbered by plans or appointments or obligations to keep. We worked this way for a while. We chatted about whose turn it was and such. Then Adrian stood up—a little abruptly—and began backing away from Jonah and I slightly. I didn’t have time to wonder what he was up to when he suddenly turned to Jonah and I both and closing his eyes—just a little bit—and with a tiny, little bow he said to us, “Namaste.” In our living room surrounded by wooden blocks and of his own volition, Adrian presented himself to us—as if on a stage—and shared this powerful word in what could only be described as a reverent and loving voice. My heart was marked in that moment, my breath taken away. Jonah and I quickly joined in responding back to him with the same word and with our own little bows. Jonah and I then looked at each other in amazement and giggling a little and with wide eyes we celebrated what Adrian knew that we did not know that he knew. As I write this, I can hardly believe that this scene actually unfolded, but it did and I know that in that moment Adrian was sharing with us that he felt the presence of love between us all. He was letting us know that he felt seen and that he could see us too. There are so many moments that I treasure and hope to always remember from these precious years with my boys. This moment will surely stand among the most dear.

 

“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.

“All good things are wild and free.” —Henry David Thoreau

This morning as I stepped into the shower I asked myself how I might spend my few hours alone in a way that would truly serve my soul, fuel my spirit. This was precious time and I wanted to spend it well. The answer came swiftly, poured over me like the warm water wetting my face now. Go and write in the woods. What about all of the gathering that needed to be done for a ten day journey with my children? What about the banking? Go and write in the woods. The message was strong and so here I am nestled in a little forest overlooking the Casco Bay. It is chillier than I expected even with a forecast of 80 degrees today. I am grateful that I wore heavier clothing than I originally planned— still I have goosebumps. It’s a crisp feeling though, almost like a taste of fall—my favorite season with its aroma of new beginnings. The sun begins warming me from a distance as I witness it’s glow through a grouping of trees separating me from the shoreline. An early morning hiker strolls by and says hello. I envy her sunrise routine.

I’ve been thinking about how I might better allow my boys to experience their true essence. I’ve been thinking about ways to preserve space around each of them so that their souls may always be at the forefront guiding them along. I’ve noticed how much correcting I do—especially in the summer months with so much more unstructured time together. I’m noticing how much stopping of activities and saying of “no” is coming through me. Often I am inserting myself just at the moment when wrestling becomes warring and someone is about to fall off of the couch. I am my children’s protector. Often I am interrupting conflicts when voices begin reaching decibels that could shatter glass. How else would they learn skills for peacefully resolving disagreements? I am their referee. I am their teacher. I am noticing that there is other correcting that could be withheld. I see the spaces in which I could loosen the reins and be more allowing. I notice it in the keeping of manners and the keeping of kind speaking. I could instead keep sacred more space for breathing and being.

I am thinking back to a precious moment from a recent family vacation.We were in a sparkling pool, overlooking the ocean. Caribbean music was beating rhythmically, languidly in the background. It was toward the end of our trip and there had been a fluidity in the way we had moved about our time away that has connected us all back a little more to who we truly are. My bigger, nearly four and a half year old boy, Jonah was standing on the steps of the pool snug in his swimming floaty. I looked over at him, taking in his sparkly blue eyes, the lightness in him. He looked back at me and then noticing a new song beginning to play, he started to dance. Like an old man, he brought his hands up under his armpits and leaned back a little bit shaking his chest from side to side. His lips were pursed together and turned up in a little grin. He knew how silly he looked and held back a little laugh while giving this performance. And while it was a bit of a show, I could see that his spirit was soaring. I could see that he felt free and was in alignment with his being, in alignment with his sense of fun. I was holding Adrian and he wanted to join in. I began bouncing him up and down in the water, in rhythm with the music, and he revealed himself also as a boy of great facial expressions. For him it was a little grin that came across his face and then with the music, he began moving his tongue in and out of his mouth with a little curl. His head jutted forward slightly with each tongue curl. He was teasing me with this little dance and laughing as he curled his tongue in and out. I hold dear that look on his face, that moment. He too, like Jonah, was fully alive and fully enjoying this world and his body and himself and me—his mother. Cultivating these sorts of moments is my greatest work. Yes, I am the protector of these two little bears always rolling about. Yes, I am their referee—at times—when they become more like little wolves than cubs. Yes, I am their teacher. There is so much to learn about living in society when you first arrive here. And most importantly, I am their guide. I am their guide to help them always remember the essence of their beings. I am their guide to help them remember that from which they came. And as their guide, it is my greatest privilege to step aside, get out of their way and allow them to be and to feel free in exactly who they are.

10 Gems for a Better Summer, 10 Gems for a Better Life

In the snowy wintery months that now seem so long ago, I discovered knitting again. It was with the encouragement of a teacher at my sons’ school that I found my hands nestled around a pair of slender, wooden knitting needles, my fingers gently finding their way in a dance with a ball of sea green, woolen yarn. It was while my younger boy Adrian was deep in play at our parent and toddler class that I found myself moving rhythmically in a rocker immersing myself in this meditative work so that Adrian may be freed to find his way around the room independently. The teacher—a lovely woman with a deep dedication to recognizing and cultivating the inner lives of children—helped me along. She used wonderful imagery of a fisherman’s work as a way of demonstrating the way in which my needles and yarn should interact. It was the same kind of imagery she uses with the children and so I was learning both about knitting and about ways that I may teach my own children. I fell in love with knitting again in that quiet room and since have begun a couple of very simple projects. Mostly I just make rows—back and forth, back and forth—creating rectangles that can be used as baby blankets or perhaps sewn together into hats or purses and such. I have found deep relaxation in this practice. I knit sometimes while my children play which has allowed me to be both present with them and interact with them while still transporting myself into a place of deep inner calm. I knit in the passenger seat of the car when my husband is driving which has deeply calmed my unnerving backseat driver nature.

Recently I was talking with Jonah about the various jobs that people have and he was explaining to me what he thought my job was. His description included my most important job of caring for he and his little brother, Adrian. He also seems to have picked up on the fact that I am a writer despite my never really having talked with him about it. And finally, he said that my job was “knitting.” I have thought long about what I would like for my children to remember about their childhoods. One aspect of that is what they will remember about what I was “doing” in moments when I wasn’t engaged directly with them. I am heartened by the idea of them remembering me knitting. I am heartened by the idea that my hands will be remembered as being filled with something as natural and colorful as wool and wood.

This addition to our lives has created a subtle shift. It has increased a sense of peace in me—especially at times when I might not otherwise feel peaceful. I can also use knitting as a meditative tool to come back to center when I am feeling out of balance. I’ve come to realize in life that real and lasting transformation often occurs with seemingly minor adjustments like this one. I’ve also been thinking—as the summer is so very quickly unfolding—about other ways in which we may all benefit from small changes that yield hefty results. These are a few suggestions that I have come up with. I hope that you may find a few gems here for yourself. Wishing you a rich and memorable summer. Wishing you peace. Wishing you continual growth and connection with your beautiful children for they are living miracles in our midst.

  1. Put something in your hands that isn’t electronic. For me it has been knitting, for you maybe it could be wood working or clay molding or drawing or strumming a guitar. As I begin knitting I notice my heart-rate slow down. I notice that there is a space present in me that wasn’t there before. I can take it anywhere and both be with my children and also provide them a little space to just be in what they are doing. What would you would like for your children to remember you holding in your hands when they were young?
  2. Pack and travel lightly. There is a great temptation when we travel—especially with children—to bring every comfort of home along with us, even when we are just heading for a day at the beach. As a single woman I used to be notorious for traveling lightly—sometimes with only a small sling purse—and yet always having everything that I needed when I got where I was going. Embrace your inner Bohemian and try leaving some of what you think you need behind as you go about your adventures this summer and notice what happens. Great ingenuity may be found in times when we must do without or be creative and make things work. This practice may also be used as a metaphor. Choose to let go of some of the heavier things that you carry around with you in life—painful memories, grudges, injustices, mistakes—and notice how much more fluid your travels can be. Notice the lightness in the steps of your little ones when they see that you are carrying a little less.
  3. Learn about the true nature of self-care. I recently had the privilege of attending a woman’s retreat at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health to celebrate my 40th birthday. Author and teacher, Renée Trudeau introduced me to a more nuanced concept of self-care than I had previously considered. It went beyond the idea of self-care as simply creating time and space for ourselves as mothers—as parents—and explored more deeply into the realm of moment-to-moment intense listening to our inner voices, allowing our inner-wisdom to come forth and guide our days. This concept may be explored simply through a 5 minute dedicated morning meditation in which you create intention for your day or through studying Renée’s book “The Mother’s Guide to Self Renewal” or one of many other books which can be excellent sources of inner work such as: “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, “Seat of the Soul” by Gary Zukav or “Wishes Fulfilled” by Wayne Dyer
  4. Be open to what the Universe has in store for you and befriend the moments of your life. Befriend even the seemingly “bad” moments. Life is filled with so many ups and downs. Our most fiercely planned days often end up being the most disappointing. Let your children be your guides as you embrace each day with excitement and anticipation and curiosity for what it holds for you. Given the opportunity, each and every day is ready to wow us with it’s beauty. A simple stroll, a game of ball, a conversation met with intention can change your life and the lives of your children.
  5. Try new things. I am generally a gentle yoga, peaceful music kind of girl. I remember hearing Sean Corn—a well-known yoga instructor—interviewed on Oprah Radio talking about the proliferation of yoga studios across the United States today. She happened to mention that sometimes she recommends to her gentle yogis to try a more intense class and to her very active yogis to try a more gentle class. This message resonated with me and when I recently had the opportunity to try both Dance Yoga and Zumba I understood the power of this suggestion. After both experiences I felt invigorated in a way that I hadn’t felt since my days as a sprinter on the track team in high school. Drive home on a different route. Eat an ethnic dinner if you are usually All American. Try being an observer if you are normally the life of the party. Notice new and worthy parts of your being and enjoy.
  6. Try old things. My son Jonah has recently come to the age where he can really begin engaging in sports. We have set up a pseudo soccer field in our front yard and a basketball court in our driveway. It has been such a joy to play these games with him. I am impressed by his use of the word “diagonal” to describe his method of kicking the soccer ball into the goal and the way he processes the rules of basketball and how he is learning that in this instance it is ok to “take” or even “steal” the ball. Playing with him has also unearthed a part of me that I haven’t seen in a while. I’m remembering that I can feel a sense of excitement with competition. I am remembering how it feels to belly laugh when you get head to head with someone in a soccer rally. I am remembering what it means to play with my whole body. I am remembering. Revisit the parts of your being that you haven’t seen in a while. You will be welcomed back with open arms.
  7. Be process oriented. I recently heard a friend talking about the fact that the more she accomplishes on her to-do list the more she finds that she needs to do. I really relate to her sentiment and I am coming to realize that I will never, ever finish all that I think I need to do. At the end-of-the-day—at the end of our lives—the completion of all of these tasks will not matter so much as how we did them. May we all ask ourselves, how are we approaching these tasks and most importantly, how are we approaching these tasks with our children in-tow? Dinner at my house is infinitely tastier when my son Jonah has cut the carrots for the soup, when I have a happy Adrian playing with mixing cups at my feet. It is infinitely tardier and messier, but it is always a process that I can feel good about.
  8. Find peace in the chaos. There is a wonderful story that Eckhart Tolle shares in his book “A New Earth” about J. Krishnamurti, the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher who spent 50 years traveling across the globe trying to convey in words a message of inner peace and acceptance that can hardly be put into words. At one of his talks in the later part of his life he offered what he called, “his secret.” “I don’t mind what happens,” he said. That was all. This is not a message of apathy. It is a message of acceptance. I notice that in my life when I sit with this level of acceptance, the pain of chaos, the pain of things not going how they “should” is significantly lessened. I notice that in the joy I am not so afraid of fully embracing it. I’m not afraid of when it will leave me. Give J. Krishnamurti’s secret a try and observe a powerful shift occur. Your children will benefit most of all. It could even change who they turn out to be.
  9. Enlist the help you need. Parenting is nothing less than a transformational journey. Feelings—both old and new—have arisen in me since giving birth to both of my sons that I could never have imagined. How could I ever have known the sorrow that I would feel for Jonah recently when he shared a precious gift of nature with a friend and it was carelessly discarded? How could I ever have known the rapid change in my heart rate that would occur each time Adrian cried when I needed to leave him for even a short while? How could I ever have known the impact of my history on my children today? There is so much that I have needed to examine and even transform and release in myself in order to continue on the path of mindfulness with my children. I have not taken on these challenges alone. I have recently enlisted the help of a wonderful therapist in sorting out my old wounds. I have sought the help of loving family for support and encouragement. I have leaned on friends who are mothers (and some who are not) to share in our journeys and just be together in community. I have counted on my husband to travel along this path with me. Whatever your challenge may be in connecting with your children in a mindful way, know that there is no shame in asking for help. Whether you need a therapist, a clergy member or a friend’s shoulder for support, do not travel this path alone. Reach out. Heal. Release. Be renewed. I am here with you in spirit.
  10. Always be gentle and kind with yourself. I’ve said this before. Find at least one thing you could do for yourself to care for your own inner child. A warm bath, quiet writing in a journal or a long talk with a friend, will go a long way. The way we treat ourselves translates into the way we treat our children. Love, forgive and celebrate all that you are and all that you can be.

Hurray! Happy summer to you all …..

 

“Freedom is from within.” —Frank Lloyd Wright

A meeting with Jonah’s teachers at his lovely, pink straw bale school house fills my early morning. A babysitter is home with my boys and I steal a little extra time to stretch my legs and my soul at the local YMCA. It’s a rare luxury these days, time alone on a treadmill mid-morning. I have forever loved exercise but lately my spare time seems to be filled-up with errands and long ignored doctor’s appointments—or with just finding a quiet place to sit and breathe. On the treadmill now, images of Jonah brought to life by his teachers swirl around in my head. I’m thinking about how they say they have noticed his depth, his wide-eyed observations of the world. I’m thinking about how they say they have noticed his “goodness” and how he—like all of us—is also interested in discovering the other, varied sides of himself, the varied sides of life. I am reminded of my own struggle to be accepting of the many facets of my being and how I would never want for Jonah to feel the need to live up to an unreachable standard—a need that I have been working to shed for nearly two decades now.

Nostalgic and poetic lyrics speak to me through my headphones and I am transported away from thoughts of Jonah—away from thoughts of my entire family who are almost always the main occupants of my heart and mind. On this day, I am no longer exercising at a YMCA in rural Maine, looking out at a wooded, still-wintery scene but back in New York City instead. I am meandering through the city with my dear friend, climbing over the Brooklyn Bridge. I have no diaper bag in tow. It’s September 11th now and I am stepping out of my apartment looking at the ash on my street and wondering if I should flee. I am meeting with a another friend in her Upper West Side apartment, plotting to save the world. I am looking for love in all the wrong places. I am schlepping giant paintings on the F train to fringe art shows in Brooklyn. I am being photographed on a tire swing, under the Manhattan Bridge—feeling like a dolphin. I am taking a leap of faith and buying an apartment, buying my first set of real furniture. I am dressing up as Pippi Longstockings for Halloween and staying out until dawn. I am picnicking in Central Park on my 31st birthday, falling in love in a better, more final way. I am so very, incredibly free and yet so incredibly filled with longing.

I’m walking on the treadmill and as these images flood my mind—and my heart, and my soul—I am wondering how that girl from long ago can be the same person who is now the mother of my two boys. I am wondering how that free-spirit with her total disregard for bedtime can be such a force of reliable rhythm for her children now. How can that young woman who teased her then boyfriend—now husband—about his constant need for an itinerary now be the one often in need of more certain plans. How can that girl, then on a constant roller-coaster of emotions now be the one kneeling down before her boys—often creating a lap for two—offering comfort and stability. I am wondering which parts of that girl have been tucked away and which parts of her have permeated her (my!) life today.

A few weeks ago my husband and I had a morning to ourselves and visited a few art galleries in Portland, ME. There was one studio that caught my eye from a distance—it was the vibrant colors of the paintings in the windows, colors in my own palette, that drew me in. We made our way toward the gallery and stepped inside, discovering an artist at work amongst his many paintings for sale. He and I had an instant camaraderie—we shared my maiden name. He was around 80 years old but his eyes were as shiny and tickled as a twenty year old. We chatted for a few minutes and he asked us where we were from. We said we were from “here.” He said, “Hmmm. I would have thought you were New Yorkers.” His comment made my heart sing a little. That life in New York—that decade plus a few years—unfolded me. It made me into the woman that I am today. It made me into the mother that I can now be to my two precious sons.

It turns out that artist—my namesake—is looking for someone, an abstract expressionist like myself, to take over his studio so that he may go away for a while. It did cross my mind that maybe our meeting meant that I should be the one. Ultimately, I knew that it was not for me. Crossing paths with him did reinvigorate something within me though. It reinvigorated my need to not  fall in line. It reinvigorated my need to live unabashedly and to allow my children to do the same.

Looking around my home and at the way in which I live my life, I see that girl has been making herself known in the best way that she could between diaper changes and nursery school pick-up. I see her in the colorful drawings pinned-up in nearly every room. I see her in the picture collage on our hallway wall. I see her in the wild imaginations of both of my boys. Still, as my little ones grow, I hope to unearth her further and share with them a little more of the fun that can be had when we set ourselves free.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” —Henry David Thoreau

My newly four-year-old Jonah has an adventurous spirit. In a past life he must have flown fighter planes or climbed mountains. He loves to go to new places and together we have already begun a sort of “bucket list” of adventures we can look forward to exploring together when the time is right. At the top of his list is visiting “the desert,” riding on a roller-coaster and going on an African Safari. He is also fascinated by space and imagines himself becoming an astronaut. Sometimes when I am lying in his bed with him—erroneously believing he is about to drift off to sleep—he will suddenly perk up and announce, “Mommy, do you know that it is really, really hard to get up into space? And did you know that the sun is very, very hot?” With a long-standing wanderlust of my own, I very much enjoy imagining the experiences to come. I try not to think of the many adventures he will choose to have without me.

It was with this curiosity, this need for exploration in mind that I decided recently to go outside of our normal routine and take my two boys to a community play space that we had never been to before. Clearly not Kenya, but still a little farther from our home than we would normally travel and unexpected, so exciting for Jonah. I felt excited too as we journeyed down the highway, glancing in the rear view mirror at two happy boys.

The play space was very “hip” feeling and very promising with it’s industrial frame, cafe with lattes on the menu and a wide variety of toys new to my boys. All three of us bibliophiles, we bee-lined for the book room. There was an old Walter Farley book, “Little Black Goes to the Circus,” that we read. I winced at the themes, the images that seemed so coarse now. Adrian—my littler guy—found a familiar book, “Mr. Brown Can Moo,” only this version had even more sounds to make than our smaller copy at home. We snuggled up. I felt at peace. I hadn’t eaten though and there was that cafe so we ordered some food next and the boys wandered off finding various other toys and children to play with. After a while I noticed another mother come in with her two children similar in age to mine. They settled into play at a large barn with many animal figures surrounding them. Jonah became interested in these new faces and in what they were playing and found his way to them.

In the meantime, I was sprawled out on a fluffy couch with Adrian where he was surrounding himself with cushioned blocks. I needed to stay near because I thought he might bounce right off if I left him. Jonah was not far and I could see that he was struggling. His horses were acting rough, like they were wild—a little too wild. I thought it might be a tip-off to his being tired, too much “travel and adventure” after a full morning of play at nursery school. Or maybe this was Jonah’s way of exploring the full range of how life can be. Jonah is well acquainted with the beautiful—the kind doctor and heroic life guard, the delicate nature of a flower petal, a sweet song. He seems now— as his 3T’s become high-waters—to want to complete that circle of knowledge. He is so interested in discovering and understanding the scary dragon now, the “mean guy.” Oh, how I wish I could keep him from ever wanting to know about the “mean guys” of the world.

Sometimes when I give my boys a bath I will sit on the floor beside them reading as they play. Tonight though, bathing them before coming out to write, I curled up on a towel in front of the tub and emptied myself to them. I set aside my worries for what life could do to them. I set aside my fears for how I will handle it all. I even set aside my hopes and dreams for all of the beautiful ways in which the world will open up and allow them to unfold. I dedicated those moments instead to truly seeing them. I saw them outside of what I want them to do and or not do. I saw them for more than what I hope for them and fear for them. I saw them only as the incredibly beautiful and magical creatures in my midst that they are—new and fresh and oh-so-very-full-of-life. First I witnessed Adrian, reveling in a little time in the tub all by himself. It is rare for him—play without the directives of a bigger boy hovering over him—and he seemed so at peace. He spun three little wash cloths around with his still-tiny-hands and toyed with a baby duck sitting in an inner tube. When Jonah joined him, the water became less calm, but I observed how they moved about each other like a flock of birds flying in a v-formation, only rarely running into each other and causing a commotion. Then I saw Jonah. For a brief moment, the boy he is so very quickly becoming—older, more aware, less pure, decisive—was gone. Instead I saw him in a total state of purity, knowing that on some level this still remains. This still remains in all of us. I saw his rosy cheeks. I saw how earnestly he played with a little plastic monster, joyously squirting water from it’s mouth. I saw his body, so vulnerable still. Leaning forward I asked if he would like for the monster to sing a little song. He wasn’t sure at first but then suddenly, eagerly agreed and I took the monster and sung a silly song with a funny voice that I hadn’t done in a while. He remembered and his face absolutely lit up and he began to laugh. His laugh is contagious and his brother and I both began laughing too. There was no listening or not listening in that moment. There was no getting along or not getting along. There was no past or future. There was only bliss. Pure, simple, heart-warming bliss.

 

 

 

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” —Aristotle

It is 2:30 am in a hotel room in Wisconsin. I am awakened by the sound of my son Jonah—a shiny, new four year old now—crying from the queen bed next to mine. He’s twisted in his sheets.  “My leeeeg huuuuurrts,” he sobs. This pain has been happening to him on and off now for over a year and seems to be related to his growth, both mental and physical. The wind howls outside along with him and I crawl into his bed trying to soothe him. I’ve learned that these moments need to be waited out and so I whisper my words of comfort and allow him to cry. I’m temped to remind him of the man downstairs who complained of our family making too much racket the night before. I restrain myself and wait. I think about the fact that my alarm will be going off in less than an hour so that we may get ready and catch our 7am flight out of Milwaukee. We are heading home from our Christmas holiday away. Jonah suddenly realizes he needs to go to the bathroom and jumps up from the bed. I follow him, grabbing his clothes already laid out for our travels. I change his first layer. He’s calm now as I walk him back to bed and he snuggles right up in his fresh skivvies, pants and turtleneck. With Jonah nearly dressed, I decide that we will try to transfer Adrian into the car in his sleep and dress him at the airport. I turn my alarm off knowing that my day has begun. After quietly showering and getting myself dressed I go back to Jonah and sit near him. He is in deep slumber again. The bathroom light illuminates the room enough for me to gaze at his cherubic face. He still has soft baby skin and even his chapped, rough lips look beautiful to me now. I stroke his hair and kiss his cheek gently. I bring my face so very close to his and tell him I love him.

I think about how at home I lay with Jonah every night as he drifts off to sleep in his new big-boy-bed. I’ve been advised not to but I do. Sometimes he will tell me what he is thinking about while we are laying there and his thoughts go on for a while. He turns back and forth from one side to the other and I am meant to turn in whatever direction he does although recently he’s taken to our facing each other. He tells me that he likes to look at me and we hold hands. Sometimes he drifts off very quickly, having been like a spinning top for twelve hours straight. Sometimes he will sit straight up and put his hands behind his head and then slowly fold back down, like a man in a hammock. He resists closing his eyes until just before he is deeply asleep. Sometimes I fall asleep too. Once he’s drifted off, I always lean over close to him and kiss him softly and tell him I love him. I tell him that I will always be there for him. I whisper the things that I want for him to know at his very core, at the place before his thoughts. I wish for my words to wipe away any indication I might have given him otherwise. I want them to wash away my impatient outcry at his rivalry with his little brother. I want them to wash away all of the many, many “shoulds” of the day. I want for my words to become his words to himself, the place where he lands as he grows into a man.

I finish dressing Jonah in his sleep. I delicately pick up each foot and put on his shoes. I sit him upright and put on his sweater—thankfully, a zip-up. He’s an excited flyer, so as I’m finishing I begin to tell him that it is time for us to get up for our flight, and he is happy about that. He manages the early hour very well. I walk over to where Adrian is still fast asleep. Before I wake him, I lean down slowly, bringing my cheek so very near to his, giving him a kiss and a testament of love.