“If the whole world followed you, would you be pleased with where you took it?”—Neal Donald Walsch

Jonah and Adrian have been coping with the heat these last, sweltering days by spraying each other down—fully clothed—with a garden hose left out in the driveway.

When water hits the blazing pavement they marvel at the steam rising-up from the surface, transfixed by the chemistry—radiating heat mingled with a cool stream.

An aqua and yellow wave-board becomes a shield—blocking water shot forcefully in a front-yard battle between brothers. Shrieks of laughter and withdrawal and the pounding sound of the hose turned to jet hitting the board emanates like the call of wild birds across the still, quiet landscape.

They look for rainbows in the places where the sun’s radiance intersects with mist and Adrian calls to me—from outside into the house—elated by what he’s seen.

I wish that they might always care so much to share with me about what they’ve seen.

I try to understand how the mind works and construct a future scene-of-them—two, grown men eager-still to share about the things that stir them—the places they will be drawn to—the people—the ways of being in the world that I have yet to know.

I imagine intersecting with this vision of them on another wave in the swell of time.

I sift around my being for any evidence that I can—even now— remember them in this way.

Running inside, they leave footprints on the wood floors and scoop out ice from the freezer carrying it back outside on a makeshift tray.

Delivering it onto the hot surface, they dip their bare feet into the place where it is quickly beginning to puddle and watch as it begins to disappear.

They argue about who has had a longer turn with the hose and ask me to be their referee.

Sometimes I try to decide what is fair—making a judgement and enforcing it. Other times I encourage them to figure it out themselves. Occasionally I will approach them—bringing them to the ground in a seated circle—and engage in a more nourishing exchange meant to soothe tensions all-together with reminders of who they are to each other.

I am always reminding them of who they are to each other.

When I arrived at the soup kitchen, I signed-in, grabbed an apron and asked the supervisor how I could help.

As she started taking me to the back, storage area, I kind-of-wished I’d waited around the serving-line where I hoped to be placed. Instead I found myself walking into a labyrinth of boxes and rows of shelving units filled with a plethora of donated food needing to be sorted and stacks of paper products, plastic utensils and containers strewn about.

As I began moving boxes from one room to the next where the contents would be put in their right-place, I assumed I would be there for the entire shift.

I thought about how I had come there to help—whatever that looked like.

It was a familiar job for me—like the work I had done when I helped manage a large endurance event in New York City and was responsible for keeping straight all of the medical supplies supporting thousands of participants.

There were two teenage girls who I would be working with in this task—one with a warm, wide-open smile and sparkly eye-shadow, the other more-sullen and with a sharper way of speaking.

People donate a ton of tea to food pantries—and canned pumpkin, and artichoke hearts. I imagine it is what they find in the depths of their pantries when they feel compelled to give.

I came-upon multiple boxes of coffee filters and smiled when I thought about how I had been using a paper towel for a filter in my coffeemaker at home for several days because I kept forgetting to buy more.

After chatting about what-went-where, the girl who seemed less-amicable mentioned that she would be doing this work for two days straight. She did not seem at-all happy about this fact.

I didn’t make the connection at first and just as I was asking her why she was there for an extended time, it became clear that she was fulfilling a community service requirement prescribed by the courts.

I’m just a normal teenager—there’s nothing wrong with me or anything.

I said something about how one way or another we are all just learning—I was there volunteering because I believe people are inherently worthy beyond their circumstances and I certainly knew there was nothing wrong with her.

I wasn’t so sure nothing-was-wrong or that she knew her own value but I was certain of her worth.

I wished I could have offered her a glimpse into some of my less-than-stellar life-experiences to put her at ease—to let her know that she was far from alone in her misstep—whatever it was.

Any one of us could pull out a long-list of all of the ways in which we might have done better at some point in our lives.

I thought of Maya Angelou. Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

I knew better than to try to share a quote with her in that moment or to convince her of anything so we moved-on to the paper goods area where she put her hands on her forehead—overwhelmed by the mountain of products.

When I suggested we combine like-with-like she seemed to agree that was a good idea and took over from there, ignoring any further suggestions I made.

Her friend smiled at me sweetly from time-to-time.

It seemed like we had been working for a long while when the manager came back and asked if any of us would be willing to come to the dining room and keep track of the number of trays being served that evening.

I was surprised when I entered the steamy kitchen and saw that the food had only just-then been placed in the serving-line—the first wave of people lining up like pilgrims, layered with their belongings.

I was asked to position myself in a place where I could observe—either in the dining room or behind the serving line in the kitchen and to press-down on a little, hand-held lever each time a tray was filled with food.

I chose to stand behind a friend who was gently dipping out mashed potatoes onto trays—tenderly creating a little space for the gravy—and offering light banter to the souls passing through in the way only a person comfortable-in-her-own-skin can.

To my right was another gentleman I know who—despite his own, significant, physical challenges—was offering bread to weary travelers.

In addition to physically taking a tally of each individual who passed through, I made an accounting of them as well.

Not having a responsibility to interact or provide a service, I passed the time engaged in deep noticing of all those who came there for sustenance.

They selected the foods they wanted and I recognized them as valuable—infused with a powerful life-force and birthed into this world, welcomed or not.

I took in each part of them—the energy radiating from their bodies and especially their eyes and their hands, the turn of their mouths—studying the stories written there upon flesh.

I watched them light up and remember and retreat—expressing preferences and showing gratitude—in much the same ways as we all do.

I told myself the stories of their battles and considered the microcosm accumulated in their various paths—emblematic of the universal struggles we all face.

In the quiet of my mind, I let them know they had been counted—not just for having consumed a meal, not for having passed through, but for having arrived on this planet—in all of their unfettered humanity—worthy of being seen.

 

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“That which is false troubles the heart, but truth brings joyous tranquility.”—Rumi

It is a cool and foggy morning in Maine—the air thick with the memory of a midnight downpour.

The sudden deluge awakened me with a start—the windows open and ushering in the sound of a powerful rain that seemed to be turned on like a faucet in full-force.

I had fallen asleep on my back with my hands over my heart—one on top of the other. I had been soaking in an awareness of the quiet—of the stillness in my being—and inviting the boundaries of my body to fall away.

Bones and cartilage and organs—and all the rest of it—separating into tiny, microscopic cells, drifting apart and dividing until there was no longer any matter to contain me.

I saw this especially in the places where I experience pain—the high-sensation of contraction surrendering its influence when expanded into pure-energy. Ancient stories about who I am and what I deserve are no-match for infinite-consciousness—at least for this brief moment of awareness sans a couple of burgeoning boys tugging at my sleeve.

I had fallen into the space just-shy-of-sleep noticing the way our original essence—my original essence—goes beyond the confines of the body, despite all-of-our-insistence on our physical form being a vessel for the soul.

In stillness I could recognize the way our personal energies continue on beyond what we might normally think of as ourselves and are met and mingled with the vitalities of others—those both in our midst, and even those far away.

Between you and me is a temple that we form together—each pair of us. You place what-you-will-about-me inside the collecting place out there in the middle of us and I will place what-I-will-about-you inside that place as well and something will be born out of it.

We can only contribute to the nature of our-half-of-the-creation. Let us strive to construct our part with the hardy materials of freedom and deep-listening and with allowing.

Let us see how it feels to focus on our part alone.

Startled by the sudden cascade of rain, my heart was beating fast as I got up to close the windows part-of-the-way and turn the bathroom light on in case Adrian came stumbling down the hallway—as he sometimes does—awakened by the bursting cloud.

Back in bed I experienced the storm differently now—more gently.

The rain was slowing-down or I was more aligned with its presence.

I thanked it for watering all of the new trees and shrubs in our yard—yet to be planted—and listened as it flowed through the gutter on the side of the house like a rolling stream and soon I drifted back to sleep.

Jonah and Adrian were dressed alike when I signed-them-in for soccer camp this morning. A cool mist grazed our skin as we walked through the parking lot—their new, stiff, black cleats with the fluorescent-green stripes clicking and clacking on the pavement.

Jonah began dribbling his silver ball—a size 4—that he picked out at a sporting goods store. Adrian held his neon-green ball, a bit smaller—his initials printed with a permanent marker just above the barcode.

Having just returned from being away, we were low on food and so after drop-off I stopped at a small, natural-food store to pick up a few things on my way home.

This store was the first place we had stopped when we moved to Maine from New York City. I remember imagining what it would be like to be a regular patron in such a nourishing space.

Despite the cool morning, the store was air-conditioned so after finding a cart I reached into my bag for another layer and pulled it on.

Just when I looked up I recognized someone I knew entering the store—a former caregiver who had looked after Jonah and Adrian occasionally for many years and whom I didn’t see often.

She had been a treasured friend to our children—introducing them to Pete the Cat and Jan Brett and it’s ok to cry but it’s also ok to stop—and now walking in she had a baby of her own hiked-up on her hip like a pro.

Both of our faces—and my heart—lit up when we saw each other.

Her son shares her lovely, brown eyes and her presence remained warm and introspective.

She is one of those people who makes you feel better for having been around her.

I had always loved that when she spoke it seemed she really meant what she said. She mentioned that she was on the side of motherhood now that I had been on when we first met.

We stood at the entrance and talked for a long time. We jumped right to the depths of sharing.

Sitting in the cart, her son offered me his bare foot and I rubbed the silky top of it. A few minutes later he stuck it out again for more and I got a glimpse of his two, little baby teeth on the bottom row.

She told me that she had written a letter to me in her head on many car-rides but hadn’t had the chance to send one in real life.

I could feel that I had received her thoughts regardless of whether they had made it to paper.

I’ve written so-many-letters-in-my-head in that very way and can only hope the messages have landed where I’ve intended them—like hers did in me.

After we said goodbye, I turned for just a moment to the produce section, moved forward and then felt drawn to look across the room where I recognized another soul-sister who I hadn’t seen in a very long while.

There was more lighting-up and putting arms around a kindred-spirit in an embrace.

I have loved this friends’ capacity for awe in our exchanges.

She has a way of opening her mouth just slightly and widening her sparkly, blue eyes in response to the magic that always seems to show up between us.

Despite the time that had passed—and the relatively short chapter we had spent together—there was an immediate knowing in our shared energy.

I told her I didn’t think I had come to the store for food after all but that it was for these crossings-of-paths that I had come. She shared that she and her daughter had planned to stop at the store after going swimming but had suddenly decided to come in then instead.

I have been thinking about whether it has all been said—whether it can all ever be said—about how exquisite this life is in both its beautiful simplicity and in its complex connectivity.

It reminds me of observing my children when they have just awakened—their bodies radiating heat from sleep in their warm beds, their cheeks soft and relaxed. With heavy eyes—partly still in another realm—they’ll whisper to me will I rub their backs and I do so willingly getting more from the experience probably than them.

Later, they will ask me about the bounds of the Universe—the Multiverse—and inquire about whether I think invasive species are a part of the food chain—they’re not, Mom.

I go on noticing because it turns all-of-the-lights-on-in-me, radiating warmth in the places I need it most, and illuminating the way forward.

 

 

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“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”—Brené Brown

I selected the parks option for a search on the GPS and found a match a few miles away.

With too-little time to travel home and back before camp-pickup I followed a hilly, winding road to a new spot in a neighboring town where many of the homes are surrounded by enormous boulders.

These mammoth rocks have been left alone and integrated into landscaping plans—dense and vibrating with the story of another place and time—likely transported via glacier tens-of-thousands of years ago.

Situated around some of the houses they appear like dinosaurs—curled up for an afternoon nap.

It is so breezy here in this unfamiliar spot.

I’ve gone back into my car for a favorite sweatshirt—worn soft over years —and put on a snug baseball cap to keep my hair from blowing all around.

I’m listening to the steady tick of a sprinkler watering the field beside me—every now and then catching a glimpse of its rounded, liquid arch. The water seems to break off from the end of the stream and shoot forward into a powerful collection of drops—pausing—then raining down onto the grass.

Once in a while the breeze will carry a slight mist my way that I can smell more than I can feel.

It reminds me of running through sprinklers as a child just after the lawn had been mowed—the fresh-cut grass sticking to my bare feet, to my shins.

A large robin digs for a worm down the little hill to my left and then flies off abruptly—startled by a yellow Labrador Retriever with a ball in her mouth running toward me.

A miniscule, florescent-pink spider sprints across my computer screen like he’s late for a flight.

I am often surprised to discover vibrant hues like his—that seem like they belong more in the color-palette of man—manifested in nature.

I try to use a piece of chipped, grey paint from the picnic table to lure the spider off of my laptop so I can get a closer look. He’s moving so fast and keeps avoiding the paint chip but does finally crawl up onto my thumb and quickly begins racing toward my wrist.

I move away from the table out into the sun to try to see him up close—he’s so tiny—but then I have to blow him off of me just before he goes scurrying up my long sleeve, afraid I might lose him beneath my clothing.

We live in such an enchanting world.

It can be so easy to forget and brush by the faces of insects and trees, subway riders and bus drivers, the nurse taking our pulse, the child waiting hopefully at the lemonade stand—our own dear face looking back at us in the mirror.

Don’t let it be said that you are anything but dear.

It can be so easy to let it all pass-us-by while we fret about—you name it.

Let our preoccupation be instead about seeing one another—and ourselves—in the light-of-day, for all that we are.

I say a lot to my children about what they eat or don’t eat—probably more than I should.

It has to do with my own powerful reaction to what I consume.

It has to do with how much I love them and reminds me of the definition of the word sweater as given by the writer Ambrose Bierce, “a garment worn by a child when his mother is feeling chilly.”

Recently I was trying to justify my encouragement of more eating-of-dinner to Jonah and Adrian.

They were in a hurry to get back outside.

I tried to describe to them the relationship between food and mood. That was my initial thought, at least.

I fully recognize the experience of well-being is not that simple for a whole lot of people, myself included at times.

Did you know if you are ever really, really sad you can ask yourself a couple of questions to understand why you might be feeling that way?

They perked right up to what I was beginning to say—It’s mind-boggling to me how sometimes my voice can be to them like that of the Charles Shulz Wah Wah language for adults and other times they seem to devour my words like water absorbed by the thirsty roots of a plant.

This was one of those lucky moments when their attention led me to believe that what I was about to say might somehow soak into their subconscious and be retrieved later in life when they needed it.

I shared that if they were ever really sad they could ask themselves, When was the last time I ate? What did I eat? Was it sugary? Have I had any protein?

Before I could go on, Adrian—my seven-year-old—interrupted me.

Actually, first you should be sure you have had something to drink—drinking is more important than eating. 

Touché.

He was right. Hydration is critical, so we agreed questions about both eating and drinking would be helpful.

Jonah was waiting his turn to speak but I could see he wanted to jump into the conversation.

Together we all quickly went to the question of rest.

Eat. Drink. Sleep.

Have I slept? Have I been getting enough sleep for a few days?

 It was clear to us all that sleeping was an important component in feeling good.

This is where I thought it got interesting.

My first impulse when I posed the question was to point out the connection between how we treat our bodies and how we feel in our emotional state.

Jonah took the inner-reflection to another level and led us into a deeper discussion than I had intended.

He proposed that we ask ourselves, have I been kind?

This sort of blew me away.

Wow. Yes. How we treat others affects our well-being. Have I helped anyone recently?

Next, I began thinking about how exercise contributes to the production of endorphins and well-being when Jonah said we should ask ourselves the question, have I been outside?

We all got excited about our collective need for access to fresh-air, sunshine and natural beauty in order to feel grounded.

Jonah said that he thought of being outside and exercise as the same and then he said, what about asking whether you have been learning anything new?

This was something I hadn’t thought of and agreed contributes to a sense of purpose.

They had taken my one question and run with it.

Suddenly I thought about a practice I had shared with Jonah and Adrian a long time ago that has been an integral part of our daily connection.

I wondered if they would remember as I began hinting, there is one more thing that you can check-in on if you are feeling really, really sad.

Jonah was sitting to my left at the head of the table.

He sat back in his chair—slightly away—thinking.

Adrian was across from me on his knees on his chair—elbows propped up on the table, hands at his chin.

His hazel eyes sparkled searching for the answer—wanting so-much to be first.

They were both on the verge of getting it when Adrian shouted out, hugs!

Yes, if you are feeling really, really sad you should make sure you have had a hug from someone you love!

As the boys ran back out to play—dropping their dinner-dishes loudly into the sink, silverware clanking—I thought about how hard it can be to reach out to others—even those we love—when we are struggling.

I thought about how above all of the things we discussed, this can be the most critical for remembering who we are—maybe especially, for boys and men.

I thought about what it means to have access to all of these things for both children and adults—clean food and water, a present and nurturing family, a safe place to sleep and play.

I hoped that our discussion might somehow be planting seeds that would blossom into my two sons never feeling so alone that they think they have to go-it-alone.

There is a soft, white and blue floral rug on the floor in front of our kitchen sink.

At the baseboard level there is a brown heating vent that can be turned on to boost heat so that on frigid, winter mornings in Maine when I am standing at the sink, the heater will blow a powerful rush of warm air keeping my feet toasty.

When my cat Autumn was in her last days I would sit there on that gentle surface in front of the heater with her in my lap warming us both.

I have eaten food there—like I’m having a little picnic, my back against the vent.

I have called the boys there at times—when their play has made our living room feel more like a gymnasium or boxing ring than a home—so we can have a meeting of the minds on a padded surface.

This morning I asked Adrian for a hug before he left for camp and he came over to me where I was standing on the rug loading dishes into the dishwasher. He rarely hugs me in the typical way and instead wraps his entire body around one of my legs and begins sort-of hanging on me like I’m a tree branch.

This morning was no exception.

I came down onto my knees to be at his level and to be more-steady so he wouldn’t pull me over. We hugged—there on the rug—and he remembered our conversation from before.

The sun has burst forth and hid behind the low-draping clouds again and again since I arrived here in this breezy place.

A flurry of spiders has visited me at the covered picnic table including one who was bright-yellow with long legs and several who were thicker, black and compact—one finding its way to the brim of my hat.

It turned out to be a spidery place.

Before packing up my things, I left it all at the table and walked barefoot across the field—a wide open expanse of space, expanding-the-spaces-in-me.

The ground was lush with mushrooms and clover—the cool damp soil, soaking my feet.

I counted six more robins scattered across the field in two’s, their work made easier by the soft ground. Each time I got near to a pair they would take flight—showing off a burst of burnt-orange feathers tucked between grey.

The clouds were spread out across the pale-blue sky. I tipped my head back and upward taking in the space and the air—damp and fragrant with the sweet smell of summer.

 

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“A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.”—Stendhal

It was Friday afternoon and I was perched at a weathered, picnic table at the top of the stairs overlooking the dock.

The sun burned hot and bright—shining through the just-barely-fluttering birch leaves hanging out over the water creating a sense of transparency, like when light is diffused through kite paper.

The breeze was cool and intermittent, softly lifting a few strands of hair around my face and placing them back down so I could sweep them from my vision again and again.

I did what I could to brush aside, as well, the many, mounting rejections intrinsic to creative pursuit—and to temper the sadness and dismay building in my bones over innocent children dying in school once again.

There are ample reasons in any life to lose hope for humanity and for our aspirations—to lose faith in the power of benevolence and our ability to live safely, fruitfully, joyfully.

Even the smallest injustices can take root in any-one-of-us and germinate into something distorted and more powerful than what is merited if we allow it to.

Might we all find ways to examine this inner-alchemy and insist instead on a personal evolution—a way forward—expressive of greater compassion, deeper insight and specific calls-to-action unique to each of us.

Might our efforts spread and take root and become intertwined between us so that we might weave a world fit for us all—like an intricate basket—weighty yet giving to accommodate the vastness of our differences and our distinct need for one another.

When they first went down to the dock, Jonah and his spritely—his sisterly—friend tied heavy, metal objects to long ropes and tossed them out into the water repeatedly.

They noticed a pair of hermit crabs in the distance and wondered aloud if their rope could reach to touch them.

Adrian sat on the long part of the dock alone soaking in the sun and sea air, resting in his private thoughts.

Then he placed a frisbee with a mesh center and a faded, pinkish-orange frame over his head like a bouncy hat.

Later he made his way onto his stomach—legs stretched out behind him, arms propping him up—resting again.

A motor boat passed through the cove briskly heading for the shoreline off to our right creating fast, undulating waves and jostling the dock.

The quiet mood transformed with the rapid rhythm of the water and the kids sprung-up steadying themselves on the rocking raft like surfers, suddenly filled with new ideas for play.

In the distance an unusual sea craft appeared—one-part tug-boat, one-part barge—with a narrow tower emitting a small stream of smoke into the clear, blue sky.

I pointed it out, speaking in a regular voice despite my distance—my call-to-attention carrying swiftly and clearly in the vicinity of water.

This tendency has to do with air temperature and soundwaves and the way this dynamic allows for more of what we say to reach those who are listening.

Jonah ran up the stairs past me toward the house—inspired.

“Where’s the camera?” he shouted, unwilling to stop to hear my reply.

Soon they had the camera with the zoom-lens and a notebook with crayons poised to capture and record all that they saw and thought about these mysterious happenings.

I tried not to worry too much about the lens getting wet and perused the websites of the chosen artists on my laptop—at first glance the work appeared quite different from my own and impressive.

The mood by the dock changed again when the water calmed and a pair of ducks with a trail of five or six ducklings crossed just a few yards out into the bay.

We all seemed to notice them at once and expressed our glee at witnessing such a sweet sight.

It wasn’t long after that when a sock got stuck in a tree.

On a property with children, socks can be found just about anywhere.

The exploration moved up from the dock and behind me into our yard where Jonah had brought out two, long nylon ropes he found in the shed and together with his friend threw one side up high into a sprawling oak tree and over a branch.

Now there was a length of the rope hanging down on either side of the branch.

They decided to attach a thick, wool sock—one of Jonah’s—between the two strands of rope to create a sort-of seat or thick-knot where they could gain leverage with their bare feet or rest their behinds as they climbed up higher and higher, carrying the rope wrapped up in their legs with them.

When they tired of this pursuit, they threaded the other rope through the circular base of a swing that hung on the opposite branch of the tree.

They took turns climbing onto the swing and allowing the other person to pull it upward with the rope into a steep incline—then letting it go forcing the person holding the rope to run forward along with the swing so as not to get dragged by the momentum.

It was both inventive and dangerous-looking.

I took in their ingenuity doing my best not to gasp at the close-calls and thought about the delicate balance between allowing my children (and their friends) to test their abilities and pursue their visions and to be free, really, all the while trying to keep them safe.

Often giving them space to explore and believe I am not anywhere nearby feels like the most crucial choice I can make now to impact their future-ability to thrive.

It’s so hard to trust this critical process—this birthright—given what I know about the world, given what we all know.

It was a relief—and a return to balance in the weighted-scale of the afternoon—when Jonah and his friend left the swing and brought out the violin.

They both play and passed the instrument back and forth on the porch steps.

I noticed the way the light fell on them like actors on a stage.

Eventually I realized it was time to gather up the ropes and get us ready for an outing we had planned that evening.

The kids pulled on one side of the rope to retrieve it from the tree.

The sock-side went shooting to the top where it became lodged between two branches.

We yanked on it briefly attempting to release it and eventually had to abandon it to leave on-time.

I was surprised a few days later when I noticed the rope and sock had somehow been removed without my knowledge.

Jonah explained that he had accidentally released it when he had once again climbed the rope the following day and it came loose suddenly sending him onto the ground—onto his back—with a thump.

I’m not sure the sock ever made it back inside.

The days have grown longer in these last weeks—the sky illuminated at dawn and brimming with the emphatic narrative-of-the-birds, settling in for a season of greater ease.

 

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“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” —Unknown

I’ve got myself stationed at the kitchen island—hoody zipped up, a string of felted, fall decorations at my side waiting to be hung, the fire steeped in embers.

From here I can glimpse the tops of their heads bobbing in the yard, kicking a ball high into the air with a friend. I aim to strike a balance between keeping them alive and keeping their soul’s mission intact. It seems they’ll jump off of anything no matter the height—no matter the rusty, slicing edges. They hurdle through my room at night showing me they can.

Their faces flushed red from the cold peer in now asking to venture down to the dock. I leave the back door open to the screen—frigid, sea air bursting in forcing the heat out of the room. I can hear them—the tide is in so I want to be able to hear them. Soon they are back up, dragging an enormous pine branch in the shape of a V across the lawn, gifted from the persistent winds.

His head is tilted back under the faucet, his eyes shut—lips cherry red. I’m holding his neck with one hand and using the other to smooth the water through his hair, gently massaging his head, admiring his slight widow’s peak. The water is warm and makes his hair seem a darker, chocolaty brown. The repetition is soothing him, it is soothing me.

I rinse his hair long after the soap is gone and think about the ripple effect of learning to be present in his hurts—what it has meant for mine. I think about the overlap between seeing and listening. They have so much to say to me! Sometime I really listen to every word trying to follow along and sometimes I just look closely—like at a painting—their faces inscribed in the lining of me.

I’ve been noticing the way their voices echo an earlier time—the cadence, the selection of the word evening instead of night, the head tilt in delivery all exactly the same as when they were two and four, even as maturity washes over them. I soak in their newness even as they grow and grow.

There is such simple, exquisite beauty to be witnessed in the human encounter—every gesture a verse, each expression a lifeline to be grasped onto and pulled more near. Life’s most precious gifts can be discovered in the seeing and in the wanting to know. Found in the pausing and seeking to hear. Let presence be an antidote to the epidemic of loneliness. Let seeing extinguish the smoking, contagion of distraction.

I close my eyes when I take in your story over coffee—in the gutted warehouse—listening for any wisdom I might draw from the backdrop of me and impart onto you. I would cast a spell to drive out the unjustness if I could.

 I’ve taped up the card you made for me—imagining what it meant to write the words of a poem in the outline of a bird. The emotion in your eyes—not lost on me.

 At dinner I pretend that we have never met and ask about your dreams. I want to know this part of you, “she wants to dream with you.”

You wait for me by my car just to check in and make sure I am ok. I invite you to dinner once more. The boys are waiting in the car.

You confide how hard it has been—no end in sight. I say what I can about a grief I haven’t known and despite my stumbling way you keep sharing with me.

When I look into your eyes, something lights up inside of me. We might say nothing—or everything—depending on the day.

It’s evening now. They are gathered closely around me near the chair I am sitting in—a fire brightens the space around us like a stage. Jonah is describing a play he saw at school—acting out a scene in which a character in battle is overcome with a sword. He uses a long knife from his ninja costume to demonstrate, falling to the ground dramatically.

I ask him which part he would have liked to play. I assume the upper-grades had performed the show recently for the younger children and I hadn’t heard about it.

He clarifies that it was a production he saw two years ago.

I marvel at the way the story has lived in him as he goes on to recite a funny scene in which one of the British soldiers who received a letter from The French claims that he recognizes the word “chicken” written in French. To the delight of the audience, he interjects the word wherever he can despite the insistence from the French speaking soldiers that the word is never mentioned.

He goes on to describe the part he would like to have played. It was another soldier who stood very straight and tall—he shows me, tucking in his chin —guarding a bridge. He was instructed to destroy the bridge when he saw the enemy approaching. With perfect comic timing the soldier—and Jonah—responds, “after we’ve crossed it, right?” He grins like a professional, nearly winking. It would have been the perfect part for him. I tell him so.

Standing next to my chair, Adrian’s got his arm wrapped around mine as we have been taking in Jonah’s performance together. For some reason he’s got a coin in his hand and he’s rhythmically rubbing it against one of my two bracelets. It’s almost as if he is strumming a guitar. I turn to him and we’re both listening now to the very slight sound that he’s been making and I say, “you know this bracelet is actually made from a guitar string.”

He looks back at me smiling, strumming away without saying a word.

It really was a bracelet made from the sting of a guitar. I imagine all of the things that had to come together in order for him to find a way to play a little tune right there on my wrist.

 

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“There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.” —Thomas Jefferson

It is so quiet in here. Quiet like when a house full of visitors have just gone. Quiet like sleep after a sandy day leaping over waves in the ocean. I could hear a pin drop, quiet. It is only the two little tadpoles who have gone, though. Off to squeal and inquire, climb and test boundaries under other roofs, beneath another part of the sky. September in Maine usually feels so yellow—sunshiny and glowing with warmth. But this first day of school is grey and damp. The evening temperatures seem be to be getting cooler more quickly than in years past. Noticing the entrance of a season has become a past time of mine. I could never have known this would interest me so. This morning the leaves on our sprawling oak out back are stirring—a very slight breeze bringing them to a subtle simmer that has gone on since dawn. I am sitting in the quiet and I am noticing the contrast of this day with those long and boisterous days of summer. I can almost hear the tug and click of the door shutting closed on this salty season.

I had not intended to grow so silent on the page as I did in these warm months. I hadn’t planned to put other things first. It just happened. It happened in the same way that I didn’t plan to be writing today—but I am. Our summer was full. Full like a basket overflowing with a garden’s harvest, full like a storm cloud ready to burst, full like a car en-route for a camping trip, full like a mother’s embrace. I made many scribbles in journals instead, a sketch of my cat and found a story to tell in the black-and-white photos I took of my boys going about their summer jobs of touching and smelling and tipping-over and digging and gobbling and climbing and hanging and balancing and talking and laughing and crying and wailing and caressing and saving and destroying and repairing and competing and loving and making mischief and making gifts. I took them in closely. I took them in from afar.

In August we had fewer plans—no camps and little travel. I was craving the lazy days of summer for boredom and the ingenuity that follows to kick in for Jonah and Adrian. On one of these such days, I agreed to play kickball in our front yard. It is not my favorite of activities, but my boys love anything that involves a ball and meeting them in this matters to me. They are remarkable in their ability to create a “ghost team” and keep track of who is where and mostly—although on opposite teams—remain in agreement about what has happened. I am just along for the ride. We were in the midst of a game such as this and I was running to try to tag Jonah on third base when suddenly his attention went beyond the yard and into our driveway. He stopped running and pointed to something he saw in the driveway and said, “a mouse!” I looked over and together the three of us began walking toward a smallish mouse lying down and moving its body from side to side—it was clearly struggling. It was white and soft-looking and quickly loosing life force. It was dying right before our eyes.

I have never particularly cared for mice and once even had to spend the night with a friend when I discovered that there was a mouse dwelling in my apartment in New York City. But living in Maine and raising children I have come to see these innocent creatures as just as valuable as any other I might come across. I knew this moment was important. Jonah and Adrian wanted to help the mouse and so did I. I wasn’t sure what to do. I am lucky that my 7 year old son did. Jonah suggested that I go and get my gardening gloves so that we could pick up the mouse who was still moving slightly and move him off of the hot pavement. I ran and got my gloves. Jonah took them from me and put them on. In this time it was clear that the mouse had died. I watched on as Jonah so gingerly moved the little, still creature back and forth so that he could get him into the palm of his hand. We decided to move him over to a wooded area. We acknowledged that he had died. Jonah placed him under some bushes and then moved him back a little, hiding him behind some branches and leaves. We wondered about what had happened to him and how he had just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Later we theorized that perhaps he had been dropped by a bird flying overhead—we have two bald eagles, osprey and many seagulls living in our midst. But just then we sat with this strange and seemingly important happening and all of our feelings about it on an end of summer day.

 

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“We are time’s subjects, and time bids be gone.” —William Shakespeare


A few years ago I purchased a small, cornflower blue journal with a golden inscription, “One Line A Day – A Five Year Memory Book.” I began making entries just before Jonah turned three when he was ardently discovering the world and slowing my pace so that I might have the pleasure of noticing whiskers on cats right along with him. Adrian was a chubby 8 months old who consumed a diet of avocado and raspberries with abandon—remnants often strewn across his kissable cheeks and our dining room floor. In the tiny space given for each day, I wrote brief impressions about the resonant—yet mostly mundane—moments of our lives. I was hopeful that with a meager single-sentence commitment that I would be steadfast in my resolve to take note and remember these precious times. There are multiple mentions of our blue push car which must have clocked 1,000 miles as we trekked to Shore Road in all manner of weather. I began writing my blog in that year and professed my gratitude repeatedly for this new outlet of expression. Oh, and the snow, there are so many descriptions of the beauty of living in a virtual snow-globe. I do not know why I stopped writing so abruptly. I do remember the struggle of keeping track—of missing days and trying to write backward in time. I’ve since thought a lot about memory. I’ve thought about the stories we hold sacred for our children—and for ourselves—so that we might offer them a framework for their lives. I’ve thought about what it is I remember from my own life and the reasons why. Years have since passed. My boys have grown and expanded and transformed before my eyes until they just burst forth from their place as the tiny innocents within our constant care into these gorgeous, autonomous creatures firmly taking up their very own space in the world.

We are at a local, annual pumpkin festival. We’ve been coming here every season for about six years. It’s quite chilly and many of the hundreds of beautifully carved pumpkins lining the grounds are partially green. We’ve had a rocky start to our afternoon with tears over coats being worn and other general manifestations of tiredness. Feathers unruffled now, we stride up to the festivities and take part in “gourd bowling” and a beanbag toss. Soon we run into “Pumpkin Pete.” He is a familiar fellow with his spongey, orange costume and human body hidden from sight. Jonah strides up to him and reaches out to shake his hand. We smile reminding him of how afraid he used to be of this costumed character and he does a little impression of that faraway time. Adrian grabs my hand so that he might fearlessly go more near. Together we take a photograph. Next we notice giant bubbles in the distance—over by where the band will play later. There is a man there who is using an unusual apparatus—likely of his own construction—in order to create enormous bubbles in various forms. He has configured two long poles tied together with a network of thin rope. With the poles he dips the rope down into a soapy solution then raising them back up into the air he swings them about forming these magical—and enormous—otherworldly creations. Jonah and Adrian at first stand mesmerized. Then they go jumping about with the other children in an attempt to reach these floating, light-filled orbs. Occasionally a taller child manages to catch the edge of a bubble and the soapy liquid comes splashing down on the crowd. This happens just above Adrian. I use my gloved hands to wipe suds from his hat, from his long eyelashes. The sounds of 1980’s popular music fill the air, children are laughing and jumping all around, the bubble man looks on grimly as he works to keep his magic bulbs appearing with so many bouncy children in his midst. I find my eyes fixed on one very large, lone bubble as it travels above the crowd and begins floating further and further away, rotating and expanding and changing shapes as it goes.

 

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“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” —Frederick Douglass

I’ve just come from a doctor’s appointment. It was so cold in the office that I was shivering when I left. The good news is, the doctor was warm. Now I am sitting in a sunny spot thawing my body with a cup of soup and the sun is streaming in on me. I played musical chairs for a few minutes when I arrived here in a cafe, moving from table to table ending up back where I started—drawn to the sunny rays. There is an hard-working woman on her cell phone a few tables away from me arranging wedding receptions and two older women are seated in front of me getting to know one another over sandwiches and iced tea. One of the older ladies—the one with her back to me—has a silvery braid swept over to one side, draping over her shoulder. I haven’t written in a while. It isn’t for a lack of yearning. I sat down a few weeks ago to share my thoughts and found myself imitating something I had written in the past. It didn’t feel honest. Another afternoon, just as the words began to flow I had an impulse to check my phone messages. I began to admonish myself for my distraction, but upon looking I saw that I had a message from the school. Off I went to pick up my bigger boy, my under-the-weather boy. I am quite often inspired to write as I am driving—truth rising up in me like a fountain erupting as I take in the vast and magnificent Maine sky, fields filling up with hay passing me by. Words and images flood my senses—exquisite and lifelike. These stories are fleeting, though, and I would need to turn the car around and rush home if I wanted to capture them to the page. So here I am again, giving this another go.

I limit my (bad) news intake. I only need to take in a tiny sliver of a story to experience the impact of the suffering. Thirty minutes of NPR on my car radio. A scan of the cover of the Wall Street Journal. A few minutes of CNN. I am in awe of this world. I am in awe of the enormous scope of ways in which we humans may live and how amazingly good and horrendously bad we may be. I’ve been wondering how much choice we have in it all. I’ve been wondering why it all seems so inequitable. I want to be of service. I’ve possessed a servant’s heart before in my life but as a mother—observing so intimately the evolution of my own two children—I’ve come to understand what is at stake. I’ve come to better understand the place from which we all came. We were all once innocent. One might have come into this world surrounded by luxury, another by squaller, but our essence—if only briefly—was good and pure and divine. What happened, then? Connection. Separation. Praise. Shame. Attention. Neglect. Regard. Disregard. Activity. Idleness. Love. Hate. For every human alive today there has been a unique combination of actions and reactions making up each of our very own personal lives and here we are. Here we are, friends. I want to be of service. My servant’s heart is calling.

It’s later in the day now and I’ve come home for a few rare hours of “one-on-one” time with my littler boy Adrian. He’s an “older-four” as he likes to say and remains in the realm where time is fuzzy—though he is trying to calculate it—and magic hovers like a settling fog. We’ve pieced together a puzzle and now we are in-between books on the couch. He is standing and I am sitting. He is leaning backward against the back of the couch and he is sort of looking down on me and the light from the sky-light above us is shining down on him. I am looking up toward him and he is coming in and out of my focus as he rocks back and forth with the bright streams of light showering over him. He is singing a little song to me and laughing because it is funny the way he is singing and our eyes are connected and our hearts and I am just observing him and just holding onto this moment and witnessing him as all of his innocence remains.

 

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“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s a cool and foggy Autumn Sunday before those glorious, sweaty, summerish days arrived for one last hurrah. Our family had made our way down a dirt path to a quintessential, rocky Maine shoreline in an attempt to shake the crankiness off of our day. One boy biked there, while the other road along in a little, blue push-car that has a few thousand miles on it now. We climbed on slippery boulders over to a part of the terrain that held an enormous fallen tree that hung like a bridge. Jonah—so agile, now, in these precarious environments—leapt ahead onto the tree. I warned him not to go under it—wary of the possibility of it collapsing further. Adrian—up ahead of me—made himself clear to my husband that he could navigate the rocks himself, too. I found a seat on a damp rock and took in the scene before me. I took in the juxtaposition of the bright and mustard-yellow colored seaweed against the ashen rocks. A thin layer of fog made the contrasts that much more striking. I sat there for a long while and I picked up a lone acorn that had fallen in amongst a sea of mussel shells and periwinkles, noticing the way it seemed slightly swollen from its contact with the salt water. I sat taking in my surroundings, rubbing the side of the acorn across my lips noticing its smoothness. I sat noticing a spaciousness coming over me and my chest expanding. I rubbed the acorn back and forth across my lips again for a while. Later, I slipped the acorn into my pocket, carefully taking it home with me.

My kitchen sink is positioned conveniently in front of a window looking out at my driveway where my two boys love to play. It is only recently that I may stand here, while they are there. We have a vast lawn and yet it is this runway like surface where they enjoy best setting up their work stations, their water-chalk, their digging zones in the flower beds nearby. We have had more than a few skinned knees here, yet still they return. I’m at the sink now. I’ve come to wash my hands. I turn the water on and adjust the faucet so that a warm stream is flowing through my palms. With soap, I massage my hands together, noticing the way the tepid water relaxes me, and taking in the boys as they play. I am rubbing my hands soothingly and Adrian begins running—laughing—down the driveway with Jonah following. There is crying between them at times. But I am marveling now as I gaze out at them—there is so much laughing. Sometimes the laughing gets to be so lively while they are eating dinner that I think that they may choke. I feel guilty at times reprimanding their antics. I am taking them in from my kitchen window like so many mothers before me and Adrian’s smile is erupting with joy and Jonah’s is, too. I rinse my hands of the soap and reach for a towel.

I am remembering now. I’m remembering now how it feels to look deeply into Jonah’s sea-blue eyes. I am remembering what it means to meet his eyes with mine, crouching down, even, to really look at him when he speaks. I am remembering how he stands up just a little taller when he notices me giving him my full attention. He says more. He has so much to share. His inner-world is active and filled with thoughts waiting to be heard. I am remembering about Adrian’s chocolatey—sometimes hazel—eyes and how his become just a little more liquid when I stop and really take in his words, connecting my eyes with his. It is almost as if he is touched with emotion by my interest. Adrian has so much to say, too. Sometimes he will shout at Jonah, “I was talking first!” I am remembering both of my boys’ gorgeous and reflective eyes and I am thinking about what it means to be seen. I’m thinking about what it means to be seen when you are a child. I’m thinking of all that it means to be seen.

“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.

“We convince by our presence.” —Walt Whitman

I’m sitting on a lawn chair in my driveway. My palms are sitting upright in my lap and they are empty. I’m not trying to read anything, or type anything or accomplish anything. I am just sitting. I am just sitting and observing my two boys playing at a distance from me—huddled together under a family of Pines. They are as industrious as ants filling a bucket with soil and then bringing it back to a puddle by my side where they spill it out again, creating an impressive amount of mud. I celebrate these days in which fingernails are made to be black, and we play a game called “naked babies” in which my boys strip down when we get inside and run squealing straight to the bath—even before dinner sometimes. On these days, I know that they have lost themselves in their play.

I watch the two of them as they adventure away from me again. I notice their smallness among the towering Pines. They are getting so big, so fast, and yet still they are small. Their friendship has blossomed just as winter has turned to spring. I’m sitting and I’m seeing. It’s a sunny day—before the rains began—and I can feel the warmth of the sun on my arms and I can feel a little breeze and then all of a sudden, our buoy wind bell chimes behind me from our front porch. It chimes once bringing me further to attention in this glorious moment. I look out at my boys deep in play and it chimes again. If any part of me had not been there it that moment, all of me is there now. The sound of a chime, so distinct, so holy. I have often thought back to that precious and sacred moment as a means to landing myself here in this moment now.

Spring and summer can be seasons of striving—gardens in need of preparation, branches brought down by winter winds wanting to be cleared, camps to attend and travels to be made. Or if we allow it to be, it can be a time of deep rhythm and meditative work. In early spring, as the snow cleared and the warmer weather began to reveal itself, we discovered that our garden was overrun with a weed that my father diagnosed as “Creeping Charlie.” This moniker made it easy for me to lure Jonah and Adrian out into our garden to help me in the very laborious weeding process that is necessary for removing this prodigious interloper. Knees deep in the earth, I would dig my hand shovel down into the ground and rock it back and forth loosening the soil gripping the roots, finally extricating “Charlie.” Onlookers, ahem, my husband—born and raised in Brooklyn and not yet accustomed to this type of work—thought the experience must be grueling. I found it to be deeply satisfying and my boys couldn’t have been happier with all of the glorious mud I was creating. It reminded me of when I used to help put together a very large mailing for an organization I worked for prior to my life as a mother. My co-workers would tease me because I would say that I enjoyed the mailings, that they were “meditative.” The collective groan could be heard across the office.

I’ve noticed that  when I find myself deep in these kinds of tasks—in raking and weeding or even in the cleaning out of a closet—that my children fall steadily into their own work of playing. It is not the case if I try to use my computer or even a sewing machine. There seems to be something that settles them about my being engaged in tasks in which I must roll up my sleeves. It seems that there is something about my breaking a sweat that frees them to move into their own imaginative worlds of construction site work in our driveway or hamster play in our living room—a recent game in which they use tissues to make little hamster beds and then lay their heads down on them making funny hamster noises.

I am looking for this deep and meditative work to do this summer. I am looking for the tasks that will give form to my children’s play like a set of arms wrapped delicately and carefully—yet firmly—around them. I am looking for ways to be that bell that chimes so reverently for them, bringing them into the very place that they are.