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“Our greatest joy is lived in deep, loving and generous relationships with others.”— Dalai Lama

*This is the 4th (and final) installation in a series of posts. If you missed the first, you can find it here and follow along with each subsequent post.

I’ve been slightly delayed getting winter tires onto my car this year—one blustery storm already gone past presenting Jonah with a premature opportunity to inquire about sleeping outside in his igloo this winter.

Igloos are warm!

Autumn passed by in a flash like the view from a bullet train on a rural railway, unwilling to slow for the seasonal chores to get done. A rush of dark peach, red wine and shimmery gold went surging across the landscape in a flood of cascading leaves hidden from the dull palette of a dreary hospital room where I spent several weeks in October with my mother.

It’s a strenuous task rolling the second set of wheels up the steep stairs from the basement through the garage and lifting them into the back of my car so they can be switched-out for the season.

Last year Jonah had grown strong and sturdy enough to become my partner in the lifting—he enjoyed discovering how he could lift me, too.

We stood facing each other behind my car, the tire positioned vertically between us. I had urged him but was reminding myself as well, use your legs not your back and counted one, two, down (this is where we were supposed to bend our knees and engage our legs) up!

We gave the tire a little bounce to create momentum lifting it into the spot where I once spilled a blueberry pie fresh from the oven—as evidenced by a purple stain.

With all four tires loaded and my lower-back intact, I recognized I had crossed a threshold—my son now officially both willing and able to assist me with physical labor.

Driving through that first storm with my more-slippery tires still on I gripped the steering wheel a little more tightly than usual—trying to stay aligned with the places where other vehicles had already traveled—and made it to an appointment that didn’t end up mattering all-that-much.

It was like entering into retreat to be out in the stillness of the blanketed morning especially in the places filled with trees and where I could drive slowly taking in the quieting display of glimmering light reflecting off all of the snowy surfaces—fields and mailboxes and the slope of the rocky coastline.

I drove beneath an arching row of branches glazed with a billion or so little ice crystals—spread wide across the road as if extended in celebration like a bride’s white-gloved arms outstretched on her wedding day.

Since then we’ve had heavy and unrelenting rains transforming the pristine, white layer into puddles of slush and mud with the occasional remnant of a tall pile of snow pushed aside by a plow melting at a more leisurely pace along with the one last clump of an icy mix where Jonah had begun to build his igloo.

Adrian likes to point out that it isn’t-even-officiallywinter, yet—the solstice still a few weeks off. He isn’t taunting so much as being exacting in a way that reflects the precise nature of his mind and how he interprets the world.

I aim to preserve the things he’s come to us with, to allow him to unfold without too much tampering. His impulse toward only-the-facts feels like it might have a purpose one day perhaps coupled with his vision of himself as a cheetah and powerful king.

His voice shouted out through the clearing of woods where he and Jonah were playing snug in their new coats with the orange and red stripes around the chest—a convenient splash of color in a season and state where hunting remains a long-held tradition.

It was nearly dark at 4:30 as I walked swiftly up the pathway—the faint hint of twilight glowing along the edge of the field in the distance.

He must have recognized my silhouette, the gait of my walk. It’s remarkable the number of ways in which we might know a person—the sound of my mother’s charm bracelet getting ready for church, one sister’s voice for her dog, the other’s penchant for telling us what we should eat.

I heard him shout out through the quiet campus to Jonah.

She’s here!

Running toward me he wrapped his arms around my waist and tipped his head back to look up at me. We had met in a place where a light was shining off the side of a building and so I could see his face—delighted, sparkly eyes and cheeks, speckled with mud—like prominent freckles— along with a large splattering of wet sludge on the top of his hood.

I noticed his bare hands and asked where his gloves were. He pointed to a little play house. I walked over to where it was and in the dark I stuck my head into the doorway, feeling for the gloves and finding them—cold and wet.

A few days later we had lunch—just the two of us—at a Japanese restaurant.

In the car on our way there, we played a game in which he drew a circular, cardboard chip out of a bag and read (or spelled out to me) two words. Each chip had a word written on either side.

 Hearing and sight.

Surf and turf—this one I had needed to explain to him.

Pumpkin pie and s’mores.

The idea was that you were meant to choose between the two words in order to share in your preferences and ultimately in-yourself with the other person.

We discussed at length about how Adrian would much rather have his hearing intact than his site. He equated being able to hear with his ability to talk and found this to be most important.

He does have a lot to say.

For me, it was—hands-down—my sight that I would keep.

I could not imagine a world in which I would not see the face of the boy in the rear-view mirror again.

Adrian has been coming to the Japanese restaurant since he was an infant asleep in his car-seat and eventually he became an amazing edamame eater there. In a video from when he was about two years old he demonstrates his humble beginnings with this beloved cuisine.

He was working very hard at opening a bowl-full of spring-green pods. His hair was light blond then and curled up at his neck, he wore a navy, rain jacket covered with yellow and green frogs and his face would get all scrunched up in his effort as if he were opening a jar with a really tight lid.

Each time he was able to finally release one of those stubborn beans, he would look up at us—so proud of himself—shouting out in his low-for-his age voice, I di’ it’ agaiiiin!

He did this over and over, relentless in his effort and announcement of his success.

When we entered the restaurant recently, before I could stop him, he bee-lined for the hard-candy wrapped in the shiny paper in a basket by the cashier quickly putting a piece in his mouth and another in his pocket.

It was less-subtle than he thought.

He mirrors the growing independence of his older brother with abandon and there is (almost) no stopping him.

At a point while we were eating, he was on his second pair of chopsticks—the first having fallen to the ground. He was navigating them quite easily but a bit carelessly. I let him know I would not be asking for a third pair if he dropped those.

He grinned at me knowingly.

There was a television over the sushi bar showing alpine ski racing. I was grateful it wasn’t turned to CNN. He looked out of one eye at the screen as he lifted a long udon noodle high up with his chopsticks, tipping his head to one side and slurping it up—little bits of sauce gathering at the corners of his mouth.

I observed him as I ate—taking in his still relative-newness.

We shared a look when in his eagerness he nearly dropped the chopsticks again.

We discussed the skiers—who used their poles more, which countries the flags represented and mostly, the incredible death-defying speed at which they were flying down the mountain.

I thought about what it would be like to watch my own sons ski in that precipitous place and what it would mean if they fell. We talked a little about how dangerous it looked—they were skiing so fast—and I acknowledged in the back of my mind the idea that whatever my children love, I will find my way to encourage.

I commented to the server at the gelato shop next door that I was happy they were using reusable tasting spoons. I had been bothered by the number of plastic utensils a single person could use in figuring out what flavor to choose. He shared that the store intended to switch to entirely compostable bowls and spoons by the end of next year and they were already well on their way.

I suggested we sit on the leather couches toward the back of the room where the Salvador Dali inspired painting depicted the parallels between melting clocks and dripping ice cream.

Adrian chose a leather chair next to the couch and as he consumed sour-cherry gelato mixed with cake-batter—his choice—he began bouncing in his seat to the tempo of the Bob Marley song playing overhead.

Everything’s gonna’ be alright.

As he ate he bounced twice on one side of the wide seat, then twice on the other side and then twice in the middle so he was creating a sort-of-triangle in rhythm with the beat.

I asked him if he could just eat but his ability to slurp up his gelato, bounce, smile and talk all at the same time negated any sense of seriousness from my face along with the impression that he needed to respond to my request.

On one of his bounces, I watched as his spoon flipped out of his hand, landing on the dingy floor. He looked at me sheepishly and with his doe-like eyes asked if I would get him another one.

I considered the irony as I walked to the counter and asked for another, plastic spoon.

When I returned, Adrian began talking about how the polar bears are having to swim further and further to access food in the Arctic. It related to our discussion about composting and was also a part of an ongoing conversation we have in our family around Jonah and Adrian’s vision of one-day building a sanctuary to protect animals and particularly endangered species—not a small dream (or burden) for such young minds to shoulder.

He continued to bounce—new spoon in hand—as he declared that he was going to save the polar bears. Bob Marley sang out his support with the soothing lilt of his song and Adrian didn’t seem burdened at all. He exuded an air of confidence in his belief that he could one-day make a difference in the world.

I thought about The Book of Joy written in-part by The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu—the last of the three books that had accompanied me through a recent, difficult time.

In the lens of the moment, Adrian appeared to me as the complete embodiment of joy.

The nature of children and their capacity for presence in play—and desserts—is a powerful place to begin in contemplating what it means to cultivate presence.

The children with whom the Dalai Lama celebrated his 80thbirthday (and whom he described in his book) live like he does—in exile in India away from their homes and families at the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala. The majority left their homes at age five or six in order to be educated in the Tibetan tradition and will not see their families again until, perhaps, adulthood.

At the celebration, when they described about their journeys, they cried and became completely overwhelmed with emotion. Ultimately, they explained how they had been able to return to joy through the loving care of their teachers and they had learned to take a more expansive view of their lives—recognizing the gift of their education and the ability for their culture to live on through them because of their sacrifice.

I shed many, quiet tears on the flight back home after being with my mother reading these particular stories of suffering —more than in response to any of the many other adversities I had read about (and witnessed) in my recent study of hardship.

The Dalai Lama often speaks about how if he had not been exiled from Tibet—the most dangerous, frightening and sorrowful event of his life—he would not have had the opportunity to spread his message of peace around the world.

Without his struggle, he might have remained a quiet monk in a distant land unconnected from the many lives he has touched.

The sky has been closed up for a few days now and the morning sun radiant casting a wide and warm glow in contrast to the dipping temperatures in the night.

I am on the look-out for snow—for the feeling of peace and the quieting in the air and in my being engendered by its presence. I am checking in on the condition and luminescence of my own heart counting on its warmth—and its wisdom—to sustain me in even the darkest of nights.

 

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“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”—Loren Eiseley

The sky is rumbling—ever-so-slightly and then boorishly—a steady, sonorous rain falling placidly, spread thin through lush, velvety-green, pine branches, landing upon lavender flower petals then making its way to the ground—drunk up by a thirsty earth grown parched from endless days of summer’s swelter.

The resting Buddha’s chalky-white surface transforms in the garden—gradually revealing itself as the wet, clay sculpture of its inception. I am reminded of a recent attempt to position Jonah and Adrian there next to the Buddha for a photograph marking their first day of school—to include the statue as one of my own, between the two of them.

They insisted on hiding her from the sight of the lens and sitting on her head and teasing me while I begged them to move to either side of her, laughing and finally giving up.

They love nothing more than to turn my attempts at keeping them in some-sort-of-order into bubbling amusement—sometimes my eyes will change from serious to lit-up, along with the hint of a smile, in response to their innocent preference for fun and antics. Jonah—especially—revels in pointing out this shift.

It makes me smile, now, thinking about them. Remembering all of the many ways they challenge me—the way they still need me and yet covet their burgeoning independence like a shiny, precious jewel nestled in a little pouch within their heart-space—pulsing out the colors and rhythms of their lives—Jonah in his graceful, cerulean dance with destiny, Adrian marching forth, staff in hand, grounded and golden.

Seagull feathers from countless days of beach-combing are scattered about the front porch—wide spaces flare outward between the curling, silvery barbs. I admire their gnarly appeal—textured and engrossing in their imperfection and think about the stark contrast of these castaways with the delicate plume that I keep in my car with its smooth surface and intricate design.

I rubbed it across my cheek recently in comparison, experiencing its softness and considering how-on-earth the thick and sturdy quill could ever have been attached to an actual bird.

I used to have a rule for myself that I must submerge my being in any body of water I came across. With the exception of New York Harbor and the East River—when I lived near these two heavily-trafficked and perhaps less-than-cleanly waterways—this held true for nearly a decade.

It didn’t matter the season or the temperature or the circumstances, although, I was no member of a Polar Bear Club.

I viewed the presence of water—of rivers and ponds and lakes and especially the ocean—as evidence of the miraculous. I thought of them as sacred spaces infused with a higher energy that could only be manifested by an intelligent, creative consciousness.

I especially felt drawn to saltwater and while a dip-in-a-lake could feel nice there was nothing that could quite compare to the presence of salt left-gritty on the surface of my skin—the stickiness of its residence in my hair, the remnants of its grounding force upon my heart.

It felt like a violation of my soul to pass up the opportunity to make contact with something that felt so holy. I rarely articulated anything like this to anyone around me. I was just a free-spirit—a wild child—with a rose-colored, magic bag and an extra set of clothes wherever I went.

I didn’t always swim but I always got in—at least up to my knees or thighs if I could hike a skirt up. Living in the northeast, it meant many experiences diving into frigid liquid and then quickly reemerging—breathless from the cold.

I especially loved the way icy water would make my heart race—like I’d just run a marathon but without all of the effort. It always felt worthwhile, as if I had stroked a wild animal across the forehead.

I cannot remember the exact moment in which I allowed this self-imposed directive to fall away, although I do know it at least in-part had to do with the discomfort of changing diapers, cold and shivering, in a wet bathing suit. To be clear, I did still go into water—especially warm water—but I had become more timid, more motherly about it.

I imagine it must have been a gradual release to have let-go-of something so intrinsic to who I was in those years.

That usually is the way of change—over time, slowly, the manner in which we proceed through life, transforms us.

We become something new—without even knowing it.

In Maine, the beaches vary greatly in their qualities and substance. If you’ve seen one, you have not seen them all.

There is one beach I’ve long considered a favorite that appears like a desert in its breadth of sand. I ventured there often when Jonah and Adrian were pre-school age—this was before I discovered the closer path to the shoreline. I would layer-up with a backpack and our lunches and blankets and buckets—and sometimes even Adrian up on my hip—and trudge like a camel slowly across the football-field length of sand shouting out encouragement to Jonah who lagged behind me with his wave board on a string.

We’re almost there!

The destination tide pool appeared like a mirage in the distance.

The beauty there is vast and will take your breath away in the late afternoon when the sun dips down and the water mirrors light—like glass—and your child walks silhouetted back to the car.

Another beach—across the bridge where enormous Navy ships are constructed—has large rolling waves, long stretches of soft, white sand lined with sun-bleached driftwood and a frigid lagoon with a current running through it. It seems like you might be able to ride the current like a water-slide but it’s an illusion and just beneath the surface are a path of jagged rocks.

There are beaches with large collections of shells and some with extremely shiny, vibrant stones. There are even beaches that feel like lakes with higher water temperatures and only the slightest sound of lapping-water on the shore.

In the last weeks before the start of school it was tempting to begin counting down—to get organized—to shop and re-establish a bedtime routine. I decided to forgo almost all of that. I recognized the call of my spirit to instead prepare for the coming, colder months and the more in-breath existence with one last monumental outbreath and the application of a thick layer of salt and warmth on the many sheaths of me.

I decided that Jonah and Adrian would benefit from the same.

We managed to traverse one beach or another for a long stretch of days in a row—doing the work of packing and driving and loading and unloading the car and piling sandy towels and bathing suits into the washing machine late into the night only to rise and do just the same the following day.

On the first of those days—ears all-filled-up with the long-summer sounds of bantering brothers—I strolled alone down a nearly empty stretch of sand re-discovering my breath and sweeping away the debris that had been building in my body and mind.

As I walked, I noticed the spaces within me—especially within my chest—expanding and my tanned, bare feet sinking more deeply into the soft, warm sand.

I stopped occasionally to notice where I was exactly—in a magnificent place on an incredible planet.

I watched Jonah and Adrian in the distance—marionettes leaping along the water’s edge. Strolling back, I bent down every now-and-then to collect a feather—this beach particularly full of them.

Finally reaching Jonah and Adrian, I told them I was coming in.

The water couldn’t have been more that 50-something degrees as is common in some parts of Maine. I inched my way in—icy cold waves meeting me at the shins, then the waist. My sons beckoned me to jump in more quickly—balking at my trepidation. I lifted my ribcage up long and away from the waves, stood on my tippy-toes trying to put off the inevitable chill and then suddenly—realizing the futility of my efforts—I dove into the crest of a large wave. The powerful swirl of water curled over me, pulling at my bathing suit and elevating my heart rate fast. Emerging, I could taste salt on my lips as I struggled to stand up—readjusting my suit and looking to make sure my boys were safe.

I was both incredibly aware of the frigid water and in some ways not experiencing it at all.

I was in it but not fully succumbing to its numbing potential. The shivers would come later.

Sometimes at night, I will put my hand on Jonah’s chest and ask him how his heart is. It’s my way of inquiring whether he feels the need to close-himself-off to this sometimes-harsh world.

I massage my hand quickly back and forth across his chest as if I could vibrate away any pain he might be experiencing in living.

Being tossed about in the waves felt like someone had done that to me—like they had shaken my heart free from all that was gripping it.

Driving home the car was quiet—Jonah engrossed in a book, Adrian gazing out the window.

I didn’t know then that I would be drawn into the sea again-and-again in a series of saltwater baptisms at each of the many beach-outings we made in the coming days. I am less inclined at this point in my life to make hard-and-fast rules for myself and so in that moment I was only aware of that single, nourishing communion with the waves and it, alone, was enough.

The fields of goldenrod lining the seagrass marshes on the road home seemed to glow in the path of diminishing light and the occasional tall bursts of ironweed splashed their vibrant-purple hues across the landscape like an end-of-summer firework finale.

 

 

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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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“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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“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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“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” —William Wordsworth

The days of summer that nourish me the most are the hottest ones in the final weeks of August when the calendar is empty of plans, the days long and meandering—filled with casual outings to near and far-away beaches along the coastline.

In this time a calming pulse drifts in like the tide steading the frenzy of activity, allowing for a pause just before the bustle and transformation of fall.

It is on these days I stand still—barefoot in the yard—absorbing the sensation of skin on soil imagining roots winding down beneath the souls of my feet, grounding and balancing me on the planet.

I stroll along the shoreline of beaches with my boys in search of driftwood and colorful seaweed, textured shells and fallen rose hips to be positioned together as art and left to be drunk up by the sea.

My grasp on my children loosens and allows for more daring scaling of trees and leaping without nets, for rejection of sunscreen and bedtime and an increase in late nights by the fire, under the stars.

The garden weeds become like a jungle around the tomato plants and the winding vines of the gourds with their tendrils and yellow and white flowers. I wonder how I could have been—once again—so negligent with the weeding even as I discover a mammoth zucchini beneath the flurry of stray vegetation.

Later I take a photograph of it draped across Jonah’s arms—like a prize. It reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk somehow—the exponential quality of growth when sun and soil and moisture mingle with magic in a dance of sustenance and creation.

When evenings start to hint of Autumn’s chill, I begin dreading the dismantling of the wire fence around the garden—constructed yearly to keep the lumbering, resident groundhog from consuming our harvest.

If I left it, the harsh Maine winter would wear away the forest-green paint that blends with the plants and leave rusty metal behind. It wouldn’t do its job anymore, either.

I know it will be less demanding to take it apart and store it away while the days are still long and balmy. Yet I often wait until the first frost to finally lift the heavy stones lining its base, to pull pins from the earth—holding it in place—and to lay the wire out across the ground flat so that I can pull the weeds that have grown between the beehive like design and tuck it back into the shed for a winter’s rest.

Somehow that day always seems colder than even mid-winter’s deepest freeze, my blood vessels seemingly still dilated from summer’s sultry hover and slow to adjust. Shivering, I wonder whether all of the work is worthwhile—whether I made enough gazpacho and zucchini bread to justify all of the effort.

A few weeks ago I drove along a highway lined with pine forests. Rain was coming down, the road lined with tall banks of snow—enormous pine branches hung heavy, now wetted with rain.

As the showers kept coming, the towering trees seemed to come alive with the new weightiness of their branches. I imagined them as characters from, Where the Wild Things Are, traipsing along the highway beside the cars.

I could almost feel the shuffling gate of their giant limbs.

Despite the frequent rain, there are still tall drifts of snow in our yard, up to my shoulders—pushed out of the driveway by the snowplow—and a thick layer of snow and ice on the ground.

The light has begun to change, the days lingering—dusk more delicate and glassy. Though still long off, fragrant spring air is palpable. I can sense it on my skin, like a feather’s touch.

The temperatures that in November dwelled in my bones sending me to the woodstove now call me comfortably outside in a light sweater.

I begin to imagine what I will find in the garden when the snow finally melts and is absorbed back into the ground. I wonder what nutrients the pumpkins have shared with the soil as they fell apart into pieces, disintegrated—hidden beneath an icy layer—over many, quiet months.

I remember how pretty they looked when I first placed them in the raised beds—the round, orange surface striking against the backdrop of wispy, white flakes of snow.

The sky is a soft blue with tufts of powder pink clouds angling downward toward the hazy horizon. It’s the color of a new baby’s arrival, the hue of new life.

The soil beckons me from deep beneath a still-snowy surface—ripe for massage and cultivation—ready for soiled nails, wiggly worms and rebirth.

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“Clouds symbolize the veils that shroud God.”—Honore de Balzac

My head has been in the clouds these last few days—the sky scape with its disparate displays drawing my attention upward. Throughout the day, the clouds are spread out like puzzle pieces awaiting connection, their texture like stretched wool, the colors muted with pastel blues and the slightest tint of pink separating the willowy masses. The canvas of clouds feels near—hovering—almost as if it belongs to another planet, another world completely.

At sunset a vast contrast occurs—the sky dividing into fragments of intense streaks of sienna and amaranth pink. Thin slivers of bright, golden light divide the layers of color. Tall pines become black towers in the foreground of the vibrant display as we drive through forested lands, peering for a glimpse of the setting sun.

The clouds at this hour disappear all together.

As an early-riser and also sometimes-keeper-of-the-night, I mostly collapse into bed dead-tired, falling off to sleep within moments. I fall asleep mid, “thank you,” a parade of images from my day flooding through me. I like this feeling. I watched my father work himself to the bone for much of my life and I’ve come to understand the impulse— the easing quality of meaningful hard work—and the contentment of collapsing at the end of the day, mission accomplished.

Occasionally, I will prioritize sleep, aware of the opportunity to be transported to a healing and renewing place. I dream more vividly and grasp for the messages imparted. I wake up feeling as if my brain has been reset. I recently got into bed before I was bleary-eyed sensing that it might be a while before I slept. I laid on my back—a heavy, down blanket covering me—and placed one hand on my abdomen and the other on my heart. I dropped down into myself—like falling into a vast, dark night’s sky. I might have been a feather floating in space.

I was aware of my spine but I experienced everything else as pure energy. At first, there were clouds huddled in my midst—bunched up and stormy—heavy—especially around where my throat and lower back might have been. I noticed a part of myself that began winnowing out the particles of these billowy vapors, freeing them to return to their rightful place. The essence of me was like a sheet being pulled back taut and tucked in.

I drifted in the wake of this movement noticing a greater buoyancy of my being, noticing a sense of having been recharged and made right again.

Jonah is nearly nine years old now. The top of his head rests at the top of my sternum and he likes to show how strong he is by picking me up. He bends at the thighs—creating a firm center of gravity—and wraps his arms around me mid-leg, lifting me into the air at an angle—like a rocket ready to be launched.

I feel like I might topple over and yell, “that’s enough, that’s enough!” He insists in his demonstration I not hold onto anything. I try to be a good sport and cooperate, tightening my body like a dancer in a lift.

Despite his strength, he’ll still climb into my lap and let me hold him. I wrap my arms around his waste or chest hoping we’ll always be so close, knowing it is impossible.

When he was littler and would sit in my lap, I would sometimes pat him on the back almost like I was playing a drum. Once his spritely friend was over and I was patting his back and she exclaimed, “why are you beating him?” She laughed and laughed. Whenever I did that to him—and I sometimes still do—it felt like I was helping him to come more fully into his body. It felt like I was grounding his airy nature and securing him onto the earth.

Yesterday I had intended to begin working on the second part of a two-piece creation in my, “Free to Play” art project. I had first created an image of my younger son Adrian leaping off of our back porch—his pocket goldfish-orange. I planned to create an image of what precipitated the jump—the crouch before the launch.

I went in search of the tracing paper I use in the first phase of the work and saw—and remembered—that I had finished the roll. I didn’t have time to go out and buy more materials before school pick-up so I began looking around to see if there were some scraps of paper I could tape together and use.

I couldn’t find any but I did come across a sketch of a woman—folded over in grief—that I had worked with previously.

I felt inspired to return to that image with the time I had. I could feel myself returning, also, to the original joy of this process without the constraints of planning and instead following an inner guidance system that drew me to particular colors and textures and shapes and showing me how to piece them together in an intuitive way—like a puzzle put together in the dark.

As I worked, I noticed a thinning out of the energy within me—the bunched up places unfurling and returning to balance. I felt a sense of relief and as if the atmosphere was clearing and a thousand tiny lights were being switched back on—brightening the way and returning me to firm footing once again.

 

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“Beautify your breath—beautify your life” —Amit Ray

It is the morning after my five day immersion in a barn-studio in rural Maine, learning more about yoga—about becoming a teacher of this ancient tradition. It is the morning after a soul’s journey into deeper noticing of the ways in which the mind works, of observing more closely the manners in which our bodies compensate when faced with the stretching and tugging of life’s mighty grip upon our spines, our limbs, our hearts. It is the morning after sitting in the company of a community of souls—each one exquisitely themselves, each one unfolding their life’s path with courage—moment by moment by every single important moment. The wind is gusting outside fiercely—my home responding with creaking, the windows even are shuddering. The gusts are long and breathy and sumptuous seeming like they might never finish this deep and blustery exhale. The snow is like powdered sugar being danced across the landscape in thick, rapid sheets before me.

One of my teachers says she can see a mother coming from a mile away. She recognizes them in their too stretched shoulders, their forward tilt. I suspect she knows them energetically as well with their increased tendency to give, their ability to notice the untended needs of others. When describing this recognition, she talks about all that mothers give—their milk, their comfort, their everything—she says so aptly. She is not a mother, but knows the body well—dedicated to a study and understanding of anatomy and proper alignment. She called me to the front of our practice studio demonstrating to the group these characteristics living in me. I am the poster-child for these rounded shoulders and forward tilted hips. As she makes an adjustment to my body—drawing my shoulders up and then back—my neck is suddenly offered relief from its constant overwork.

I am remembering rocking in a pale blue chair in the corner of Adrian’s room when he was a baby still—the shades are drawn. A deeper noticing is coming alive in me with his silky skin so near—a sliver of light shining through a crack in the shade landing on his soft arms, illuminating him like an angel. I must have bended forward into Jonah’s crib one thousand times—gazing down at the blue whales with their red spouts on his sheets, rubbing his back into sleep. Leaning into both of my children is what I have done these last years and have every ounce been rewarded. Another mother in our group later shares that tears sprung forth in her when she witnessed this demonstration of my being brought back into my more optimal shape—relating not just as a mother, but as a woman as well. I too know that this pattern of curling forward runs deeper than motherhood alone. It is indeed the posture of profound giving, and it is also the posture of protecting the heart, the posture of shrinking, the posture of remaining unseen. Pulling my shoulders back into their proper alignment, I notice the way that a space is created in which my lungs might fully expand. I feel like I can breathe into all corners of my being like never before.

It’s evening now and I am sitting on the edge of Jonah’s bed, holding his hand as he begins to quiet into sleep. He’s seven now and independent in so many ways. He’s very physical and silly and loud at times. He can get wrapped up in a building or a book or some digging. And yet—so like when he was a baby—he struggles to ground himself at night for sleep and so I often still help him with my presence. Tonight he is afraid of what might be lurking behind his closest door. I remember feeling that way as a child and muster compassion for him. I sometimes still feel that way even now and make certain that my closet door is fully closed before sleep. Despite the desire to be finished, I stay with him and sit on the edge of his bed. He takes my hand and wraps his fingers in mine precisely—wanting to be held just so. I allow him to guide me and I am thinking about an exercise we experienced in our training in which we closed our eyes—palms pressed together with a partner—noticing the subtle push and pull between us. There is an energy that gathers between two bodies touching. I whisper to Jonah about his inner gaze offering that he might rest his attention on the space between his eyes. I suggest he follow his breath between his abdomen and this expansive place. I am sharing with him about how this is a special pathway to his contentment and how some spend a lifetime trying to discover it. I am sitting and my legs are crossed and I am hunched forward leaning toward him—my hand is wrapped in his, resting on his chest—observing him as his breath lengthens and he begins to fall peacefully into sleep. His chest is wide open, his lungs are filling up completely. I can feel his heart beating against my palm.

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“By God when you see your beauty, you’ll be the idol of yourself.” —Rumi

I am propped up on a cozy, orange bench, a fire is going. My layers can’t seem to warm my too-cold hands. My fingers are dry against the smooth keys of my keyboard and there is a layer of polymer gloss that remains on a couple of my fingernails—remnants from a current project, one that is living in me like a child waiting for delivery.  I’ve come to this place once again where I may anchor my soul back into myself, back onto this beautiful and complicated planet. My tendency is to drift in my mind and with my body into the realm of daydreams and desires, like a balloon caught up in a dance with the breeze.  The fluttering around of all that I am imagining and even all that I must do sheds off of me like a skin as I sink back down into the more weighted place of present moment awareness. Typing with eyes closed now, the neurotransmission of my mind become both softer and more rhythmic. My breathing slows and my shoulders uncurl. I am safe. There is time. When I sit down to write, I never quite know what will come to the page but I know that it will draw roots out of me and intertwine me back within the earth.

I recently was the recipient of deep-listening, a process in which I shared a burden and those around me graciously took in my story and then eventually mirrored my words back to me. It is quite simple and yet, not something we can count on in the current pace of our society today. I love to take in and examine faces. My brain does not always work perfectly when it comes to remembering names, but I make a practice of memorizing your eyes, the way your brow is shaped, how you breathe. And when you speak, my attention is one part on the words you share and another part is experiencing you, your energy, your existence as a miracle of creation. I recently read that the probability of our being born—each of us, exactly as we are—is just one in 400 trillion. When I look at you, I remember this about you. It is not hard to see all that is unique about you even as you describe to me your seemingly common concerns, your challenging weekend with the children, your desire to start exercising again, your wish for a greater sense of community and safety. The gifts of the spirit are sometimes spoken to us in the very softest, faintest sounds of a whisper, and we must listen intently in order to decipher the direction to go. And yet, as I look at you, I am left breathless with the realization of how many magnificent creatures there are to love.

The water itself is like a mirror this morning— a house across the way reflected precisely in the bay it sits beside. I just keep sitting and being here with this new moment, and the next and the next, experiencing my breath and sensing what it means to accept oneself, to access compassion for our very own, deeply recognized challenges and flaws and come to a place of noticing, as well, of the many, many ways in which our essence—that which we all inherently are made of—is good. As I breathe in, I come to a place of wonder, as I breathe out I release judgment. No matter our age, this day, this life is still young.

 

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“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” —Lao Tzu

This morning seems very still at first glance—like a neatly hung landscape painting in a tidy museum. The air is crisp and cool, a thin layer of the night’s frost remains, glistening. Upon closer observation, I begin to notice that there is movement all around. There is a seagull along the rocky shoreline of a tiny island in the distance with its white feathers against the mustard-yellow seaweed backdrop. I take in the contrast of colors and notice the way she is raising straight up into the air like an in-breath gaining height with each flap of her wings and then lowering back down again as as an exhale going about the work of cracking open her shellfish breakfast. Further to the right—across the water—are a few houses with a road leading up to them. A red truck with a wooden bed is moving along slowly—coming in and out of view in the branchy landscape. Just weeks ago, it would have been hidden by the crimson and gold of fall’s vibrant mural. The green pine needles of the towering Pine centered in our yard flutter almost imperceptibly. With deep focus, I can align myself with their slight and gentle rhythm of movement. And now the whole scene just becomes fully alive with six loud ducks, quacking their way across the sky—attuned to winter’s imminent arrival. There is so much to see in this world.

Sometimes when I am thinking of my Mom, she will suddenly call. When my sisters and I were growing up, she didn’t really like to go shopping like some other mothers did. She wasn’t someone who felt compelled to have the best name brand of clothing or collect a lot of things—although she always looked beautiful to me. I remember being at the mall with her from time-to-time and she would say, “let’s just sit down for a while and people-watch.” She loved to take in the way people can be. She liked to do that in airports, too, where we spent a lot of time. I was with her recently. Together we stole a moment and went out for a walk. It felt like such a luxury to be alone with her treading about. The grey day transformed and became sun-drenched. As we were walking along, my Mom just suddenly stopped and looked up at the sky. She closed her eyes, tilted her head back and just took in the sun’s warming rays onto her face. I remember her having done that many times before. I love that about my Mom.

I use little Asian tea cups to bring food to my boys at breakfast—they eat more readily from smaller containers. Sometimes the cups are filled with vitamins, other times with a handful of berries. There are two types of cups of different sizes and not meant to go one within another. One set is painted in pastels—pinks and blues—and belonged to my Grandmother. The other set is more modern with deep, rich colors—a recent gift. This morning I was clearing the table after my boys had gone to school and discovered that one of the smaller, older tea cups was caught inside one of the bigger ones. At the sink now, I had the two cups under the water, trying to gently separate them without breaking them—especially the littler one. Then there was a moment in which they somehow just separated. I hadn’t pulled them but was just sort of holding them and under the stream of water they just parted ways. I am taken with the ease with which they became untangled.

 

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“Time and tide wait for no man.” —Geoffrey Chaucer


It is a blustery, late Autumn morning in Maine. The sun is brightening the dimming leaves that linger, the towering Pine centered in our backyard is bending ever-so-slightly with the force of the wind, white caps dot this normally tranquil cove of the bay. I’m sitting on our stripy, green love seat—legs propped up with a pillow—likely for the very last time. To my right is a floral couch with a dingy hue—once vibrant and cream in color. I had planned to take a photo of my two boys seated there early this morning. I had envisioned them next to one-another, arm-in-arm. It slipped my mind though amidst the gathering of various backpacks and rain pants, lunches and mittens. There is so much to be heartbroken about in the world in these days and yet, here I sit feeling nostalgic and watery-eyed about the departure of a couple of worn out couches. I can’t help but think of the babies nursed and napped here, the crumbs spilled with abandon, the forts constructed and torn down, and oh, of the fearless climbing and jumping that can only be demonstrated by the adventure gene yet to be stamped out by time and trial. I sit here remembering it all—my senses flooded—awaiting a truck that will ship out these time capsules of days gone by and later usher in the blank canvases of tomorrow.

I have been thinking about the work of the artist Andy Goldsworthy. He is well known for his ephemeral sculptures made from elements of nature and new to me. I saw the documentary, “Rivers and Tides” a few weeks ago which highlights his exploration of time within the context of nature. He builds sculptures on seashores from stone, only to witness them disappearing with the tide. His fingers are raw as he molds together bits of ice into a fluid design, alone in a cold and faraway place. A red rock becomes a powdery splash of color in a remote stream. I am drawn to the fleeting nature of this type of work in my own life as an artist because of its paradoxical power to ground me. I am drawn to the fleeting nature of this work because of my own deep realization of the ephemeral nature of life itself. A friend and I shared in the power of one particular scene from the documentary. Andy is building a suspended, stick sculpture in a solitary field. The sculpture is slowly coming to life—stick by stick, moment by moment—a circle forming in the center. I could almost sense it before it happened. There was a little cracking sound and then everything—all of these fragile little sticks—started to collapse, almost in slow motion. And then it all just became more rapidly broken. All of the many hours of work came tumbling down in just a few brief moments. Andy—the artist, the human. His head hung down slightly and he took a very deep breath and just then as we observed him, he came to a place of acceptance before our eyes. His head moved in a slight back-and-forth direction now. With each breath he let go more. Over and over, taking in only his postures and his breathing, he revealed the deepest aspect of his work—the deepest aspect of all of our work—as we witnessed him coming to the place of allowing what is.

 

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“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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“I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.” —Simone de Beauvoir

Last week a friend invited Jonah, Adrian and me for an impromptu picnic just after our noon pick-up at school. She said she knew of a spot by a stream just a stone’s throw from our campus. It was a lovely location, she said, “as long as you are ok with trespassing.” My friend wasn’t sure how I felt about trespassing. I happened to have a picnic packed in my car for my boys to go to another location, so we were able to join readily and were delighted for the company. I was fine with the trespassing part of this equation as well. I had seen my friend’s car parked alongside the road before and wondered where she and her daughter had been adventuring off to. The entry into the hidden nook was quite steep and we had to make our way around some muddy, sinking spots and down a plunging incline. My friend joked that they hadn’t chosen this locale for ease of entry. Once settled we found ourselves situated on the edge of a bubbling stream—laying out shirts to sit on and beginning to pull out food. My friend’s spritely daughter quickly shed her shoes and began making her way across the water over to a big pile of rocks. My boys followed suit—only slightly more timidly. Looking up from this picturesque spot we could see a guardrail from the road and the occasional car driving by. Not long after, two more familiar faces popped up from behind the guardrail— another adventuresome mother and daughter pair. Could they join us? Of course! We all luxuriated together in these unexpected and sweet moments-in-time basking on sunny rocks like turtles and taking in our surroundings. I braided one girl’s beautiful hair and one mother felt like the Pied Piper with all of the children surrounding her—gobbling up her yummy snacks. The third mother rose again and again as a spotter for the children who needed support crossing the water. At one point, I looked over at Adrian—now solidly four and a welcome member of the bigger kid tribe. He was on the edge of the water near a little pool, enraptured in mud-ball making. His pants and arms were covered in clay and I briefly wondered how this was going to work itself out in the car. I assured myself that this would work itself out. Eventually, Jonah let me know that he was ready to move on. We had a bike ride planned and he was eager for peddling. I dipped Adrian’s hands into the brisk water rinsing him clean and we were the first to depart—journeying back out from where we came.  All of the mud has long since been washed away, reapplied and washed away again. I am sitting in a cozy spot and feeling called to continue reaching out to you. I am sitting and I am writing and I am thinking about my friend’s words again and again. I am thinking about how I feel about trespassing.

 

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

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

 

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A Mother’s Morning Meditation

I have a vision. I have a vision of Mothers around the globe beginning their days in peace. I have a vision of our children experiencing a gentle calm surrounding them as they venture out into this too-fast world. I have a vision of each of us—myself included—growing in our capacity to experience an inner spaciousness that will inform our choices, our tones of voice, our inner resonance. I have a vision of truly living the proclamation that real peace begins at home. May this “Mother’s Morning Meditation” assist us all in connecting with our truest essence as we begin our days and may that essence spill forth upon our children. May we all shed our worries about all that has to be done, our urgency about the ticking clock and break open our anxious hearts instead with the beauty of present moment awareness. Notice intently the sleepy morning stretches. Notice the sticky breakfast fingers. Notice the snail-paced pulling on of socks. Notice and rejoice.

A Mother’s Morning Meditation

Good morning, dear Mothers. Today is a new day and all is well. All is well. As I enter this day, I center myself with a deep, stilling breath. And then another. I sit in the emptiness and experience myself, the light in me. I greet myself with a smile and acknowledge all that I am and all that I give. With eyes closed, I breath deeply again noticing the many spaces within my being. I notice the places that I experience as too-full. I notice the places that feel clear. I notice the places that feel in need of nurturing. With this noticing, I allow the energy within me to begin circulating, first slowly, then with increased power finding all of the places that need emptying, discovering all of the places that need filling and then slowly, so perfectly bringing the energy inside of me into complete balance. I breathe deeply again now experiencing  the steady rhythm of all that is happening inside of my mind, of all that is happening inside of my chest and all around the rest of my beautiful being. I am grateful and know that I may bring myself to balance again and again throughout my day. In this moment, I imagine my body as a sturdy and flowing tree. Through the soles of my feet, healthy, winding roots begin making their way into the earth grounding me into my perfect balance. Through the crown of my head I grow tall and expansive. I am both strong and fluid. I release this image and come back now into my heart center and feel expansive with love. Here I am. And here is my day before me. I have things to do and places to be. I have children who need me. And others, too. Breathing deeply I know that I will find a pace for my words and actions that allows me to meet each moment in my day with grace and presence. I know that my life has meaning, sometimes even in the smallest of actions.  I know that I have time. There is plenty of time. I will cultivate this feeling of expansive space in my home today and treat my children with gentleness. I will hear their words. I will smile at them and invite their thoughts into my heart. All that they are will be safe and respected with me. As I come to the end of this quiet moment I take another healing breath and see myself with the same love that I feel for my children. The love I will share with my children today showers me, as well. I feel peace. I feel energized for the day to come. I feel alive and ready to give.

 

Listen and be guided in A Mother’s Morning Meditation by Meghan Nathanson:

 

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5 Unexpected Opportunities for Beginning Your Meditation Practice Today

One might believe that a mother like me, the author of a blog titled, “Mindful Mothering,” must have a well-oiled meditation practice complete with a special pillow, a well-decorated alter and a neatly blocked out period of time in which to practice quieting her mind and noticing her breath each and every day. She must conduct this practice quietly and in her own space and with no interruptions. It must be that she begins her day this way and her family just knows that, “Mommy meditates in the morning!” It turns out that I don’t, at least not in the way that one might imagine. I do have a Buddha kitty statue sitting reverently beside my front door and I have looked up various satsangs and Buddhist temples and other mindfulness gathering opportunities on the internet more times than I would like to admit—never having attended any of them! No, formal meditation has not found its way into my life. Instead—as I’ve noted in previous posts—I discover an inner silence, in the space between filling sippy-cups and cleaning up crumbs. I focus on tiny fingers placing magnets on the refrigerator door and the varied expressions of my children’s faces, allowing my attention to come to my breath, allowing my mind to quiet. I absolutely have a meditation practice, it just isn’t formal and it would take a keen eye to even know that I am practicing. To an untrained eye, I may just appear very, very patient (in those moments in which I am meditating, that is).

I’ve been noticing recently when these moments occur and how they can be very powerful in thwarting blind reaction, in slowing things down so that I can think, in preventing me from being too harsh with word or action. I am not always capable of tempering things enough and sometimes I do react unconsciously. Some would argue that this is good for the children, that they need to learn the varied ways in which people may be. It is this (occasional) harshness that will prepare them for the world. I do not agree with this reasoning—perhaps it is just my perfectionistic nature! If I were to humor this idea, though, there is another—maybe even more powerful—realization that I would come to. It would become clear that even if my reacting harshly is “good for the children,” it is not good for me! I do practice mindfulness for my children. I want for them to experience me as peaceful, as someone they can trust, but I also practice mindfulness because of the tremendous beauty and peace it allows me to experience. No matter how many pictures we take of our children—and I have taken thousands—nothing compares to the breathtaking moment of truly taking in the depth of a child’s gaze and realizing the pure love that is in your midst. Nothing compares to truly experiencing a child’s words as they earnestly ask for your opinions, for your knowledge about the world around them. Nothing compares, even, to fully witnessing a child gripped with anguish and blaming you and still discovering enough space in your heart to know that they both need to make you wrong and to be comforted by you at the same time. I practice mindfulness because I’ve seen my children just melt before me because of that little extra heartbeat that I’ve allowed to beat between us.

With all of this in mind, I’ve created a list of a few unexpected moments, perfect for beginning your meditation practice today. All families, all humans, have their challenges, myself included. My hope is that these ideas might awaken in you the knowledge that there is time to breathe, there is always time for one more heartbeat to inform your next steps.

  1. You’ve been out with your children and they didn’t want to leave your previous location and now they are beyond hungry for a meal. You enter a restaurant and they begin acting out as soon as you are seated. You are temped to pick them back up and storm out of the restaurant, or worse. Instead, sit back into your chair and allow your feet to sink into the floor. Feel your attention come down into your abdomen and begin noticing your breath. Take a drink of the water before you and notice the water as you swallow. Rub your hands back and forth on your legs noticing the texture of your clothes. Connect with your child’s eyes and smile. You’ll know what to do next. Maybe you’ll leave. Maybe you won’t.
  2. It’s bath time and no one wants to take a bath. One child is running naked down the hall and the other is standing on top of the sink making faces in the mirror. You begin threatening that there will be, “no books tonight!” It doesn’t matter that you know this is an empty threat. Find a space where you can be near enough to the climber to keep them safe and release your expectations for bath time, for bedtime at least for the moment. Release the need to “get there” when you had planned to. Raise your arms up in the air stretching and clasping your hands, turning them inside out. Pull your elbows back opening your chest, opening your heart, noticing your breath. When you are able, walk over to the tub, turn the water on and dip your feet in truly experience the water washing over them. Notice your children as they surround you in all of their naked glory. Wash and repeat.
  3. It’s a cold and rainy day—your only day “off” away from your children. You have a doctor’s appointment and you are made to wait. This is your only free time! You don’t even need to be at this appointment anyway, you think. They aren’t going to help you. Notice this way of thinking. Notice the tightness in your chest. Make a choice and sit up in your chair finding your spine lining up with the back of the chair. Curl your lips into a smile even if you have to pretend to be tickled by the way your mind is working so hard to make you miserable. Allow a flush of gratitude to come forward within you. Find your breath and just unweight yourself of all of this. Let it go and just breath. Close your eyes and breath and relish this ability to be in life. Open your eyes and look around you at the other faces in the room. Notice the varied ways in which people occupy their time. Notice the lines on their faces. Are they smiling? Are you?
  4. You’re in the car and the decibel in the backseat is raising exponentially. You begin to whine, “can’t we just have a good day?” Then you start to threaten about pulling over the car or swinging your arm into the backseat like your Mom used to do. Meditate instead. First loosen your grip around the steering wheel. Slide your hands back and forth, noticing the texture. Roll down your window and breathe in a bit of fresh air. Feel a sense of spaciousness arriving inside of you and sink into your seat with your whole body. Look into the rear view mirror and smile. You might need to stop and let someone know that they are distracting the driver or maybe you won’t.
  5. You’ve had a very rough day at work and you just know that when you walk in the door at home the smiling faces of your children are going to make everything all better. Instead you walk in and all of the children are crying or screaming or throwing something. The house is a train wreck and your partner greets you with a scowl. You feel like you might scream or cry. Sit down immediately and drop all of your things. Let go of the idea of the house being a mess. One day it will be clean again. Maybe even sprawl out completely on the ground, notice how your children begin crawling all over you. Close your eyes and find your breath, noticing the miracle of living. Notice the many varied sounds around you. Wiggle your fingers and toes then tighten and loosen them. Feel your shoulders relax and settle into your being. Stay as long as you need to and then you will know what needs to be attended to first.