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“Faith is a passionate intuition.”—William Wordsworth

This book is different than what you might find in a mainstream bookstore. The cover is a combination of white and pale-shaded blue—remarkably smooth to the touch—the illustrations fanciful and drawn in a pastel palette.

It has the feel of a children’s picture book more than a middle-age reader and was a gift for two boys’ birthdays celebrated two months after-the-fact.

From the drawing on the front they could see an adventure would be found within, yet Jonah and Adrian still wondered aloud whether the story would be adventurous enough.

Oh-how-enticing the lure of excitement can be.

Adrian will sometimes exclaim in certain situations—usually in response to the presence of a spread of sweets and some parental limitation—I’m so tempted!

I smile thinking about his words and wide-eyed expression and imagine all of the ways in which the world will call to him as he grows and the temperance he will need to harness at times.

I think about the restraint we all need to exercise so as not to be swept up into the appeal of instant gratification and constant diversion so available in today’s hastened reality.

When I check-out of these ways of being too-hurried and too tapped-into the perspectives of others, I notice a new—a renewed—energy rising up in me.

To shed constant noise and popular narrative is a little like being reborn.

I find myself engaged again with the rhythm of my own ready voice filled with the valuable instincts present in the spaciousness of conscious breathing, alive in the drinking-in of my child’s long and detailed story, whispering as I peer at clouds inching across the sky—draped in shadow, then in light.

The natural world sharpens into greater focus—branches of trees outlined thickly as if with a stick of charcoal, as if my contact lens prescription has suddenly been increased.

A greater nuance of color is revealed in my sight and my heartbeat steadies with every moment less I spend absorbed in a world of endless chatter.

Time seems to expand and worries around outcome lessen.

It will all get done. Or it won’t.

I will be known. Or I won’t be.

Stripping away the collective voice, we may arrive at the solitary—yet deeply fruitful—precipice of our own unique being where we may quietly mine our personal truth in living.

It was my kind of drawing—whimsical with an elegant boat made from the body of a swan—a delicate, lavender flower decorating the sail.

Aboard were three children with rosy cheeks and a gnome with a long redish-blond beard wearing a pointy hat standing at the helm where the swans neck rose up and curled forward in the shape of a hook or an umbrella handle.

A mermaid rode portside with green flowing hair and beneath the boat swam three single-eyed sea creatures.

I attempted to read in an animated voice to garner enthusiasm when we began huddled together in one twin bed where the light is better.

It wasn’t necessary though—the story was packed with compelling happenings from the start.

We finished a couple of chapters before we packed for our own adventure and I tucked the book into the boys’ backpack to read while we were away.

I was surprised by Adrian’s early awakening given our long journey and his brief slumber and had to peel my eyes open to greet him.

I had stayed up into the night unpacking, learning my way around our new accommodations and hunting for the coffee I knew would ground me in morning ritual the following day.

We found a wide chair with a giant ottoman to lounge in while I drank from a dreamy mug and then eventually made our way outside—into the back—where the sun cast heat in a way that we hadn’t felt upon our skin in Maine for many months.

The book was far from my mind.

There was a wooden shrine along the edge of the flourishing space with a large Buddha from the Indian tradition seated in the earth-touching position—an emblem of determination—and based on the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

I admired and photographed it from a particular angle to highlight a single strand of flora in the path of the sunlight landing at chest-height in front of it.

It became a touchstone in the coming days to gaze at the Buddha amidst the ruckus of kids in a pool—a flash of serenity among splashing chaos.

A wall of fuchsia bougainvillea almost-completely camouflaged a fence and there was a pool with a giant, inflated swan-boat-raft—seated at the edge—ready to be launched.

It was completely lost on me at first.

The white swan raft with its black markings and yellow beak looked fantastical and fun but I didn’t initially make any sort of connection.

It might have been the second night when we pulled out the book to read before bed that I finally looked at the cover and had a revelation.

We had arrived in a place where there was a literal swan boat available for our enjoyment mirroring the cover of our book and the story within.

On that first morning, I allowed Adrian to launch the swan into the pool.

He pushed it off the ledge and then leapt onto it fully-clothed, shortly after falling in.

There was practically incessant riding-on-the-swan-boat, leaping-onto-the-swan-boat and nearly-destroying-the swan-boat’s neck by four children for five days.

Clearly the one with the long, curly, blond locks was the mermaid and any of the other three could have been the gnome or the sea creatures.

When we weren’t by the pool we were absorbing sun and beauty in other nearby locales.

We had just come from a hike in Topanga Canyon and from scarfing down food from In-N-Out Burger.

We were exiting into the parking lot from the restaurant when a man we had passed by the doorway, called out to me.

Jonah and Adrian were sun-kissed with white and blue hoods pulled up over their heads in protection from the strong rays—slow and sleepy from the activity and the food.

The man began following us.

He was sun-burned, too, and appeared to be either homeless or nearly so.

I heard him say something again and I quickly scanned my inner alarm-system for any signals that I should gather my boys more near.

Instead I received the opposite message and knew distinctly to turn toward him—not away.

He began telling me in his drawn-out voice that he had recently heard a radio program about penguins and that my two boys in their white and blue hoods somehow reminded him of those adorable creatures wobbling along.

I could see his point entirely and his comment had immediate significance given our family’s recent association with penguins.

We thanked him for the message—taking in his weathered face and watery eyes—wishing him well.

Enjoy those bambinos, he’d said as he strolled off.

After he’d gone, we all began talking at once.

Penguins! Can you believe it!

This message wasn’t lost on any of us.

Life has a way of speaking to us when we have hearts to listen.

Sometimes it can take time and reflection to understand the directions in which we are being guided.

Often the world is offering reassurance that can only be understood in hindsight.

There are vast meanings attributed to the symbolism of the swan drawing from ancient mythology to dream analysis to Shamanism to Native American Totems.

The thread that seems to weave the many interpretations together is the emphasis on intuitive listening—our abilities to live gracefully within this invisible dance with something greater than us—and our receptivity to messages delivered from another realm sometimes by angels who walk right here among us as if in disguise.

This might be the slowest entrance into Spring that I’ve experienced since moving to Maine nearly nine years ago.

Wool and blankets are staples still.

Tiny buds have begun to appear on branches—though you have to look really closely to notice them.

Strangely, there will be a spike in temperature with a high of 80 degrees forecasted for tomorrow—a welcome relief from the low-draping clouds and the chill.

My hope is to be among the natural world soaking in the warmth and the silence and listening intently for the exquisite call of the swan.

 

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“Being must be felt. It can’t be thought.”—Eckhart Tolle

Upon our descent the airplane tilted the left wing sharply earthward—our bodies shifting off balance in our narrow seats. Across the aisle we caught a glimpse of the Maine landscape, the fields and forests splashed in white and russet brown. The stark-white sheets of snow had melted or been washed away, now only intermittently splattering the trees and rooftops and the rocky coastline like a Jackson Pollock painting.

Peering out the far window, I tucked my book partially under my leg so as not to forget it. Its orange cover was worn, the pages yellowing with many of the corners bent from years of re-reading. The topic—inner spaciousness—breathed through me emphatically as we as we surged to the ground.

Driving home—despite the single-digit temperature and our thin clothing—Jonah said it felt like fall and then he shouted-out, suddenly remembering his snow-fort in the front yard and fearing its demise. Once I realized his howling was not from injury, I assured him that it would take a long while for the snow in our yard to melt entirely—which turned out to be true, in the front at least.

In the back, a damp and grassy ground had become visible beneath the new, circular swing and all around it. It feels more like spring than fall to me with the sudden accessibility of tree roots and the coffee-colored puddles.

Just a few weeks ago, I tried the swing out myself, with a vigorous push from the boys and then a leap off into the snowy padding below.

I felt so alive in the clutches of the cold, rocketing toward the pink-streaked sky at dusk.

The fire pit is still covered in an icy mix. I’m tempted to clear it out and build a fire with the dry wood stacked in the garage. It takes time to feel grounded again. Building a fire allows a weight in me to be regained, stirring the embers steadies the stirrings within me. The heat melts away the high-vibration cells in motion.

By tomorrow, the ground will be covered again. All evidence of the raw verdancy witnessed today will be blanketed over with the return of winter’s firm habitation in these parts—a clean palette dropped down from the heavens like a curtain unfurled in a midnight meeting with the new moon.

In a café this morning, I looked around for where the light might be streaming in and ended up in a cozy spot in the back. I thought about all of the ways light shows up in various scenes of living—in my home, in the places I go—how it feels heating my hair, my skin, the way it can shine on a face or create shadows that only draws a greater—more powerful—emphasis on its presence.

Looking for the light made long days with babies and small children less lonely and forged a fruitful pathway to deeper seeing. Discovering the light again and again has had a way of establishing me into the present moment and vindicating my right to be there at my own slow—even glacial—pace.

While I was reading the café seemed to fill up and overflow with ebullient conversation. The space was mostly filled with university students and some of their parents. I gazed across the room and my eyes were drawn to a man who appeared to be a father with his son. For some reason—I don’t know why—the father captivated my attention.

I felt a spaciousness growing in me as I took him in, my thoughts falling away.

He was looking at his son as he ate—his eyes just slightly lit up. I noticed his attributes. I was far enough away that he had no idea I was looking so intently at him.

Finally, I looked away and my attention was drawn more near to a table of women and girls. One girl talked in a lively way. I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Her hair was long, her face round and youthful. Everyone was listening.

I felt myself landing more deeply into my body as I sat observing all of the people in the room, none of them noticing me. I looked down at my book and read on.

In one of the airports there was a courtyard in which a pianist played. We settled into a couple of the rocking chairs beneath a row of trees. I asked Jonah if he thought the trees were real. We looked down and saw that they were planted right into a square space that had been carved out of the concrete and filled with real soil.

We agreed the trees were alive and envisioned a vehicle coming around watering each of them. It was hard to imagine that so many would be watered by hand.

As I sat rocking—as if on a front porch—people of every, single variety, in every shape and pigmentation, flooded by in a colorful stream of hearts beating, blood traveling, cells dividing.

It is compelling to look on and observe the way the brow reflects thought—denser thinking and worries tugging it inward, lighter contemplation or expanding awareness drawing it outward. I can feel it in myself.

I could almost hear some of their thoughts shouting out—like fireworks set-off from their skin. Others emanated a peaceful equanimity—a waterfall of goodwill pouring off in a gentle flow.

They talked and talked and talked, then waited for their turn to talk again. Others had learned to listen—to really listen to hear and to understand. I could see it in their eyes.

I contemplated the significance of each person in all of their consciousness and unconsciousness, in all of the intricacies of their very own, unique lives. Not one of them deserved less than the others.

I am so taken with humanity and the many ways that people go about living. We are here to learn from each other. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Tonight Jonah and Adrian—unusually—went to bed at the same time. I was lying with Adrian in his bed rubbing his back when Jonah said he heard something. I told him it was the music downstairs.

He got up and cracked the door open to listen. I heard more loudly the gentle beat of the kirtan.

He came over to Adrian’s bed and tried to squeeze in with us.

“I wish all three of us could fit.”

I rubbed his leg that had made it onto the edge of the mattress reassuringly and then he went back to his bed.

Adrian said that he was having a scary thought.

I expressed that he was safe and offered to help him find his way out of the thought.

I invited him to follow my breath with me.

My hand was on his back so I could feel his breathing pattern become elongated as I began to become more conscious in my own breath.

After a couple of moments I suggested that he take a pause at the top of his breath and then again on the exhale. I demonstrated with my own breathing.

Some time passed.

I noticed with my hand that his breathing had become very slow, almost imperceptible.

I experienced my own thoughts softening—the planning and imagining falling away.

I relaxed into being right there with him—my palm on his soft skin, my brow relaxed.

Adrian fast asleep.

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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.

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” —Aristotle

It is 2:30 am in a hotel room in Wisconsin. I am awakened by the sound of my son Jonah—a shiny, new four year old now—crying from the queen bed next to mine. He’s twisted in his sheets.  “My leeeeg huuuuurrts,” he sobs. This pain has been happening to him on and off now for over a year and seems to be related to his growth, both mental and physical. The wind howls outside along with him and I crawl into his bed trying to soothe him. I’ve learned that these moments need to be waited out and so I whisper my words of comfort and allow him to cry. I’m temped to remind him of the man downstairs who complained of our family making too much racket the night before. I restrain myself and wait. I think about the fact that my alarm will be going off in less than an hour so that we may get ready and catch our 7am flight out of Milwaukee. We are heading home from our Christmas holiday away. Jonah suddenly realizes he needs to go to the bathroom and jumps up from the bed. I follow him, grabbing his clothes already laid out for our travels. I change his first layer. He’s calm now as I walk him back to bed and he snuggles right up in his fresh skivvies, pants and turtleneck. With Jonah nearly dressed, I decide that we will try to transfer Adrian into the car in his sleep and dress him at the airport. I turn my alarm off knowing that my day has begun. After quietly showering and getting myself dressed I go back to Jonah and sit near him. He is in deep slumber again. The bathroom light illuminates the room enough for me to gaze at his cherubic face. He still has soft baby skin and even his chapped, rough lips look beautiful to me now. I stroke his hair and kiss his cheek gently. I bring my face so very close to his and tell him I love him.

I think about how at home I lay with Jonah every night as he drifts off to sleep in his new big-boy-bed. I’ve been advised not to but I do. Sometimes he will tell me what he is thinking about while we are laying there and his thoughts go on for a while. He turns back and forth from one side to the other and I am meant to turn in whatever direction he does although recently he’s taken to our facing each other. He tells me that he likes to look at me and we hold hands. Sometimes he drifts off very quickly, having been like a spinning top for twelve hours straight. Sometimes he will sit straight up and put his hands behind his head and then slowly fold back down, like a man in a hammock. He resists closing his eyes until just before he is deeply asleep. Sometimes I fall asleep too. Once he’s drifted off, I always lean over close to him and kiss him softly and tell him I love him. I tell him that I will always be there for him. I whisper the things that I want for him to know at his very core, at the place before his thoughts. I wish for my words to wipe away any indication I might have given him otherwise. I want them to wash away my impatient outcry at his rivalry with his little brother. I want them to wash away all of the many, many “shoulds” of the day. I want for my words to become his words to himself, the place where he lands as he grows into a man.

I finish dressing Jonah in his sleep. I delicately pick up each foot and put on his shoes. I sit him upright and put on his sweater—thankfully, a zip-up. He’s an excited flyer, so as I’m finishing I begin to tell him that it is time for us to get up for our flight, and he is happy about that. He manages the early hour very well. I walk over to where Adrian is still fast asleep. Before I wake him, I lean down slowly, bringing my cheek so very near to his, giving him a kiss and a testament of love.