“What you are will show in what you do.” —Thomas A. Edison

A few years ago my now six year old son Jonah became interested in having a special container where he could keep his treasures in a private and secure place. He wanted something with a lock. We happened to have a small, unused lock-box that I offered to him. I strive to say “yes” when I can. I love to see my children manifesting their desires if I sense that it will be beneficial. Jonah came to call this box his “kit.” He keeps it remarkably unhidden on a toy chest in his playroom. I must overt my eyes, though, when he reaches for his hidden key. Adrian—his adoring little brother—may look on, for he is “a kid.” Jonah has utilized various key chains over the years to keep track of his key. My favorite was a multi-colored disco ball that he had picked out for me at an airport gift shop. I was happy to see it go to good use. I believe it has since broken and been discarded, replaced with a little scrap of yarn. For a while, Jonah’s kit was mostly filled with various gifts of the earth—stones and shells and such. In the last few months, he has become increasingly aware of the value of money and he has taken to setting up shops where he might earn a few dollars. His kit is filled with his earnings, plus some bills from a small—and oft forgotten—allowance and gifts from family. My favorite of his shops was his whittling mill that he set up in our living room on a small side table. In mid-summer he discovered that a kitchen, vegetable peeler acted as a fine tool for the shaping of sticks. This work proved to be a good place for his bountiful energy with so much of it going into the smoothing out the rough edges of the plentiful branches in our yard.

The abundance of acorns peppering our lawn this season makes walking around barefooted on these lingering, temperate days rough on the feet. I find myself taking a step, then a hop, a step, then stopping to pull a small acorn away from the arch of my foot. It is said that increased fruit production in nature portends heavier winters. Like squirrels in preparation for snows arrival, we’ve begun collecting these nutty gems once again just as our Acorn Tree Art prepares for shipment to the Maine Audubon for display. I’m taken with the way we arrive at that which is ours to do in this life. Collecting buckets and jars filled with acorns in the fall and saving them for art—I’m certain—is not for everyone. It is what we do, though. On one of our warmer days recently, I found myself engrossed in this process of moving along the steps of our back porch on hands and knees collecting these powerful seeds and their anthropomorphic little hats. I have a special affinity for the deep, chestnutty brown ones. Adrian—my littler boy—likes the still-green ones and tells me so when he comes near me in my work. We sit together closely for a few moments on the steps. I ask him if he knows that he has acorn eyes—such a beautiful mix of chestnut and green. He just smiles a knowing smile.

Soon he moves along to the work he has created for himself of digging in the dirt, of climbing and calling out for me to watch. Looking back down to a sunny spot on the ground filled with handfuls of acorns from which I might choose, a profound sense of calm washes over me, settling all of my inner-clutter into its right place. Faith shows up in this way—unannounced and without warning—a welcomed elixir brimming with healing thoughts and mending songs. There you are collecting acorns in your yard, on the couch—your sleepy child’s head in your lap. In she walks dripping with asylum, each droplet a new miracle to behold.

 

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“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” —Leo Tolstoy

There are various stacks of paper piling up on my counters and spilling off of my filing cabinets—evidence of my growing apathy for the “should’s” of this world. My car inspection will wait for the last moment, I’m certain. Thank-you notes go unsent—though my heart is filled with gratitude. A plethora of e-mails in my inbox are like messages in bottles adrift at sea. Instead I drive across a landscape—again luminous with freshly fallen snow—captivated by the shapes of trees and shadows and hills. I am mesmerized by the contrast of the red barn juxtaposed with the snowy field, the rocking yellow sign with the blue-sky backdrop. I wonder how I might bring these scenes to life with the scraps of paper that have become my latest artistic medium. The sun is a torn flower from an old calendar. The arm of a child is the pink and orange sunset, quintessential Maine.

My fingers and my dining room table both have a thin layer of polymer gloss covering them. At night when I rub Jonah’s back in his bed he tells me that my fingers feel rough. They feel rough to me too as they travel up the silken skin of his smooth, warm back. I wonder how much longer this precious time with him will last. A few weeks ago he announced that he didn’t need for me to rest with him in his bed at night any longer. I was surprised by this edict and grateful that it didn’t last. This is the place where I experience the gentle, “I love you’s.” This is where I listen to his longings for learning, for more knowledge about the world. This is where I remember how little he still is. He asks to feel my rough fingers and evaluates which ones I must use most in my collage work. I think of his request that I create a collage based on him and use a dolphin picture we found together in an old calendar. I think of he and Adrian standing on a bench overlooking one piece making various observations. One woman’s arm appears like a flamingo and Jonah feels this may exclude it from being “chosen.” They take in a picture of a beach from a torn calendar and Jonah exclaims, “that would make good skin!” It’s a family affair, my art.

I’m working on a piece based on a photograph of a friend and her child curled up sleeping together. Her son is feverish and her arm is draped across him with care. I am belaboring the faces. Pieces layered and layered—attempting to get the nose just right, yearning to create a cheekbone as perfect and rounded as my friend’s. This work is consuming me. And then later I am laying with Adrian. He too prefers these quiet, end-of-day moments with company. Often he leaves me with only a sliver of his bed so I am lying on my side trying not to fall and he is sprawled out on his back. Our faces are so close that I can feel his soft cheek on mine and notice the sweetness of his breath. His eyes are open but he rests in the space between wakefulness and sleep where a haze begins to fall over the happenings of his day and his lips fall silent. I am studying him like the faces of my collage. I could never capture his incredible beauty. His softness. This time. I must live in this time. Nothing will capture it or preserve it or ever make it come alive again in the way that it is now.