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“Each color lives by its mysterious life.” —Kandinsky

It’s early and silent—three tender souls under one roof still are checked into another realm of slumber and dreams. I’m lying on a bench in our living room, gazing up at the tops of trees just coming into the light. The temperature is still very low from the night and there is a slight breeze that has begun to awaken the highest of branches—first so gently and then with an occasional gust bringing all of the branches together rising up in a momentary dance with the air. These few brief moments of noticing stir in me many aspects of my being—raising dust and moving around the parts of me stuck in the dark corners, bringing those facets back into the fold. Even from the other side of the glass where I am warm and removed I can sense the aliveness of the trees. I am wondering if I were living in a city still whether the sound of subway wheels clanking—multitudes of intricate faces passing me by—would move me the same. We are all made up of stardust, they say—even the trees, even the subway cars. We are all just orbiting around each other—each of us composed of this same magical dust. We brush by each other—at times like silk, a gentle caress. Other passages are abrasive—like brick on brick. I wonder what we will remember—what will remain—of these passings by.

Orange—I’ve decided—is the color of the soothing of souls. It is the color of warmth and comfort, of holding and forgiving. It is the color of new-beginnings—like green can be. Orange was Adrian’s 3rd-year favorite color, behind red and “lellow.” It’s funny, I’ve never before been drawn to the color orange like I am in this season. Now, I take it in with my eyes—with my whole body—like an elixir, soaking it up in the setting sun, in the images I work with, in the ember glow of a wood stove fire on an icy cold day. Our walls are grey, but—orange—orange is present when we come back into our home in the afternoons. It’s in our play. I feel orange in the preparation of a hot meal and the endless coloring, puzzle making and reading of books. Orange is Adrian licking the peanut butter and jelly off of his bread as I look on. It’s Jonah telling me a very long story at bedtime in a whisper—his voice still high and lilted—giggling out into the night air. Orange is cradling my heart—making it hardy—as I sift through old ways winnowing out what is worth keeping and discovering what must go.

My newly 7 year old son Jonah, who’s favorite color is blue—though and through—has decided that he would like to be a zookeeper when he gets bigger—a rescuer of animals hurt in the wild. He has elaborate plans for how his facility will be and prefers not to speak of any other options for his future so as to prevent distraction from his single-minded focus. He is seeking as much information about animals as he can get his hands on. I imagine a circle drawn around him—filled in with all that he is dreaming of. I see the circle as moveable and expansive—breathing—as his world grows larger and larger. For a long time, it was decided that Adrian—nearly 5 now—would also be a zookeeper with Jonah. I was surprised recently when he shared that he was going to be an artist instead. First he’d asked, “can you be just an artist?” I told him you could. There was a time in which I thought that I needed to decide between being an artist and being a writer. There was a time in which I thought that I needed to decide about who I would be.

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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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“Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory.” —Percy Bysshe Shelley

I’m sitting in a shady spot and although temperatures have tipped into the 80’s in Maine these last days, a cool breeze is grazing the skin on the back of my arms giving me a chill. I’ve been ruminating of late about my boys as babies, as toddlers—images of their less than steady gates, their need to be dressed and held up in the bath are swirling around my mind, around my heart. I’ve been feeling the impact of those bygone days. We were warned —more than we would have liked to have been—about the fleeting nature of those precious times and yet, here I sit on the other side of it all in awe of the haste with which it passed. I am grateful that I paid close attention and yet still I yearn for those chubby baby thighs, the rocking chair cuddles, the simple summer water play in a backyard baby pool. My eyes are a little dewy as I write this and I allow myself that bit of nostalgia before taking heed of these emotions as a cautionary tale about the value of these very times in my midst. Jonah called down to me yesterday from our upstairs bathroom, “I’m 44.8 pounds!” Later I watched him—shirtless and barefooted—in our driveway on his florescent green bike riding back and forth swiftly, then raising up so that his legs were straight for a long glide toward our garage eventually coming to a too-quick stop. We recently decided to name the bikes for their colors, for their speed. Jonah named his, “Running Grass” and Adrian’s is called, “Quick Cheetah.” Adrian’s bike has training wheels still and he sits very upright as he petals—quickly—down our driveway keeping pace with his bigger brother. We write so that we may remember. We write so that we may live this fleeting life twice.

A few years ago we decided to move the boys into the same bedroom. It seemed cozier. They each have a little twin bed on opposite sides of the room only mounted by a sort of box spring so that they aren’t really off of the ground. Jonah has a navy blue comforter on his bed, Adrian’s is green. The room is somewhat sparse although the bookshelf is overflowing. They are currently deeply involved in the Magic Tree House book series and have found fast friends in the characters Jack and Annie. They have said that my husband is more cautious like Jack and that I am more daring like Annie. Hearing that makes me smile. Each night we sit on the floor leaning against Jonah’s bed reading our nightly selection. Adrian is to my right, Jonah to my left. Milk often gets spilled and crumbs from “snack” abound. In the morning I often find a damp cloth from their bathroom and on hands and knees go wiping up the remains around their beds. We continue to utilize a leftover changing table for Adrian’s dresser only it too has books and drawing papers piled up on the changing pad which I reluctantly admit is still there. We’ve also kept a chime with four red glass birds in its place over the dresser. We bought it in an attempt to keep Jonah still when changing his diaper so many years ago. I remember standing on a rickety chair and falling when I first hung those chimes. Jonah can climb from his bed now and reach to ring them and does so every now and then with a little mischievous smile across his face. When we moved into our house we inadvertently replaced the light fixture in this room with a fan and light that was likely meant to be for outside use. The light shines only just barely though an opaque cover. We’ve left it hanging as it creates a nice little moon to keep on in the night. Adrian has been known to say, “turn up the moon!” Over the years a little part of the moon has lost a small layer of the cover. Laying with my children as they drift off to sleep each night, I must have stared up at that missing little patch of the moon one thousand times … or maybe even more.

 

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“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” —Joseph Campbell

I am sitting at a rustic picnic bench under a sturdy wooden shelter. My legs are stretched out before me. A breeze lifts the hairs from the back of my neck brushing them across my bare shoulders, cooling me. There is a well-worn path to my right leading toward a hilly, lush trail into the woods. The sounds of birds chirping in conversation and the distant rumble of a truck delivering are surrounding me. My boys are filling jars with treasures at a morning day camp a few miles from here.

I recently meandered with a dear friend around the yard of her new home— taking in the various attributes of the land. There was a perfectly rounded sledding hill out front, a brood of chickens in the back and a home in the middle filled with windows and wonder. Surrounding us was a ring of sprawling trees. A breeze moved through these varied and magnificent beauties encompassing us as if in their embrace. Each sprawling limb was doing its part—sending the rushing air along between them. Even the tall deadened trunks—stripped of all their green for a long while now—stood in the distance holding their place in this rounded, breathing space. We wondered whether an owl might find their home in one of these stunning sculptures of nature’s unfolding. I’m taken with the power and the possibility of a circle. My breath seems to move about my body in this same circular direction—the air making its way in and expanding my abdomen, then my chest, up along my spine into the top of my head and then back down again finally settling into my sacrum. All of the spaces inside of me are transformed into a single expansive globe as my breath moves through me before finding its way out again. 

My son Jonah has become enthralled with bugs this summer. He searches for them, creating homes and sometimes bringing them to and fro in our car, around our house—like visitors. He names them and even loves some of them. Sometimes he squishes them, accidentally. Sometimes he squishes them because he is just so curious to see what happens. Moving through his fifth year, I notice him bringing more authority to his way of being. His thoughts are deepening. I observe him as closely as ever—maybe even closer—although from a greater distance. Even as he grows I notice the part of him that remains constant. There is a place in him that I recognize from when he was nestled in my arms in those very first moments—still wet from the womb. I remember that same essence from when he was a wee-toddler, my family cheering for him as he begins running for the first time down a hallway. There it is again—that dear Jonah quality—as a boisterous three year-old resisting sleep one million times over. And here  it is now—as clear as ever—as he unfolds into a school-age boy. He likes the idea of becoming a “gentleman” and he points out the “gentlemen” that we come in contact with. He notices the way they speak politely and offer to help. He notices these things ahead of me. He refers to me as a “gentle-lady” and has pointed out other gentle-ladies as we make our way through the world. He teaches me to slow down and every day—if only through this essence— he reminds me of his worth.

 I take him in—this beautiful gift-of-a-boy—and create a circular space around him in which he may expand. I try not to make the mistakes that I made when he was three years old, transitioning out of regular napping so many moons ago. Then, I tried to hold him there. I resisted and resisted and resisted. Now, I try to look ahead. I try to look ahead and I make room. I lay down my resistance to the pain that sometimes tags along with seeing your child grow. I try to lay down anything in me that might inadvertently take him away from his original essence. Like the trees, I surround him with my energy and with my love in a gentle, circular caress.