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

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

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

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

“We convince by our presence.” —Walt Whitman

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

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

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

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

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

 

“From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.” —Aeschylus

I am sitting in a cozy, almost empty cafe, my body arranged sideways in my seat—an attempt to avoid lower back pain brought on by exercise done too enthusiastically after a long hiatus. It’s a few days since a gorgeous snow storm left our Pines heavily coated, the view from our home looking perfect—all flaws blanketed with the snow’s immaculate coating.

There are so many things that I should be doing—things that matter to me hugely but that I put on the back burner instead. Bills unsent yet nearly due, children’s clothing piling up and needing to be organized, dear friends and family neglected for months—for years even. Given a few moments to myself, though, I almost never want to tackle my to-do list. My inbox remains full, gifts un-purchased. I long for breathing instead. I long for connection with the part of me that has dreams bigger than a balanced check-book. I long for the part of me who is loved despite being out of touch. I choose in these moments—even as I write—to be with who I am beneath all of the stuff, beneath the powdery surface, down in that very perfect place where I am as real as soil and seeds.

In these precious times I push away the should’s and the need to’s even just for a few hours knowing that it is in this rich and fertile place that I may connect with the possibilities of my life. In these moments I quietly sink into who I really am, knowing that when I return to the responsibilities of my life, I will have something of value to share. Here I connect with the life that I feel called to experience. Between my breaths (and yours), in the space behind my thoughts (and yours) there is great wisdom. There is guidance. There is even great love and forgiveness for all that we as mothers (and fathers and human beings) do and fail to do.

When help is scarce, I know that these moments may also be experienced in the presence of my children. When I’ve allowed myself to, I have found this deep inner silence among my two little boys, cherishing a quiet moment inside of myself when I see that they have embraced each other in play. I have found these moments in the space between the pages of a story I am reading, anchored on either side by warm, little legs. These magical moments can even be experienced in seemingly painful times, like when I am waiting out my two-year-old son Adrian’s cries as he himself expands—wanting and needing to be in charge. There are certainly occasions when I fill my time alone with shopping, the endless gathering of foods and things—and there is absolutely a time and need for this. But I have found, over and over and over that filling myself instead with breath, with connection to the source of all that is beautiful and magical in this world is so very, very beneficial to me and to my children. I come back to myself, I come back to my children a more complete and centered being.

While the covering of our (last?) snow of the season was experienced as so magical and made everything look so very beautiful, we—in our home, and in my soul—are eager for the first signs of Spring, for the unearthing of our garden, for the further unearthing of ourselves and for digging our hands into the earth, planting seeds and growing in the process.