When Col announced that he’d like to grow a three sisters garden this summer, I said, all casual, “Sure, honey, let’s make that happen.” But inside, the 9-piece mariachi band started blasting the tune: Here’s something you and your son can enjoy, together! (Because when he asks, like he did this morning, if he can hot-glue some popsicle sticks into a boat and then burn it, I’m a little perplexed).
A 3 sisters garden is a Native American tradition, in which corn, beans and squash are planted together, each benefiting the whole. The beans climb the tall corn and add nitrogen to the soil, and the squash vines crawl around, their platter-sized leaves keep moisture in the soil and discourage weeds.
Growing the 3 sisters garden has been like having a living art installation in the backyard. Everyday I behold the changes. After two months, the three species have entirely merged, each plant in constant symbiotic motion, much like people who make up a household. Bean vines swing from corn-stalk to corn-stalk, and climb up the thick, straight poles. The corn plants rise towards the sun, spooling off wide, grass-like leaves. Squash tendrils anchor themselves on the bases of the corn, while their vines snake through the whole wild patch.
*Pictured in the mix here, amaranth, which appears to be the 4th sister (also a food plant cultivated prehistorically in North and South America).
The whole 3 sisters garden appeals to my agricultural sense of intermingling species, of trusting the wisdom of the plants, and of allowing each variety to perform their own heroic act within the symbiosis of the community.
Also, I did let Col glue a popsicle stick boat together this morning and then burn it in the fire pit, because I couldn’t think of any reason not to.
The door of summer has swung wide open. Every day we practice the age-old parenting art of turning the kids loose. We turn them loose at the river, the overgrown alley behind our house, our grubby, chickened-up backyard, and in our neighborhood, where they become a roving band of child explorers seeking trampolines and the best household snacks.
My own ambitions seem to be falling away like dandelion seeds unhusked by the wind. I’ve put aside projects which just two months ago seemed wrapped up in my very identity, in my blurry notion of success.
There is something about summer, perhaps in observing how every living thing performs its own, particular miracle—squash blossom receiving honeybees—without undue stress or striving, that inspires me to let up on myself. In fact, summer seems to be making me an offer: If it’s not easy and fun, try letting it go and see what happens.
This means we’ve dropped homeschooling with workbooks, agendas and expectations. I am not taking work that doesn’t feel fun and engaging (and, interestingly, fun and engaging work keeps presenting itself). The garden feels more like a collaborative effort between myself and a few trillion microorganisms than something I need to engineer into a semblance of control.
And surely there are times for great effort. But now seems the time to allow, to sink in, to trust, to enjoy, to let the e-mails pile up and go camping while the sun is high; to suck the time-limited nectar of a columbine flower; to pause for celebration of a ripe garden tomato; to crack a beer and plant myself by Col’s side as he hot-glues a model airplane and unleashes a torrent of unsolicited sharing that fills me with connection. To understand that this season is fleeting and filled with precious gifts.
The kids are on board, because of course, this is the way they always, wisely, live. Whenever I get jacked up over What’s the Summer Homeschooling Plan? I stop, breathe and take a look at Col and Rose, who are each on their own unstoppable trajectory of learning.
Here is a guest post I wrote for Simple Homeschool on how we homeschool in the summer. I have to re-read it frequently, to remind myself.
We are at 10,100 feet. The sky hangs heavy. The distant mountains, like an art lesson in shading, are veiled in deepening obscurations of grey. Lightning roams faraway peaks. Dan and I exchange raised eyebrows, noting without words that a meteorological smackdown is likely coming our way.
The rain comes gentle at first, tapping an exploratory tune. We gather under our 12 X 12 tarp stretched across spruce trunks. The kids grow quiet and watchful, concern flicking across their faces. Dan and I put on our “we’re the adults in charge!” game-faces. The thunder crashes through the mountains and rain batters the tarp. The storm is fierce and powerful, loud and humbling, and we are at its mercy. We watch the sky inject yellow bolts of electricity into the peaks.
Time passes. The rains slows. Clouds lift and scuttle away. Beams of sun beckon us out from under the tarp. The lights have come back on, and we laugh and bask in the invitation.
The wild storm of emotions
These wild, quick-moving mountain storms are a metaphor for so much. Our children’s feelings swirl in like heavy clouds, like thunder. They are fierce and powerful, loud and humbling. And yet, they evaporate, and the light returns.
On our way up to the mountains for a recent camping trip, Rose was conducting an intensive Q & A session, as some of us do when a little anxious. (The woman who tested me on the driving portion of my Driver’s License test said, afterwards: “Were you a little nervous?” “Yeah, why?” I answered. “You never stopped asking questions that whole 15 minutes.”)
Rose wanted to know if there would be mosquitos, how long the drive would be, what our first snack would be. She became desperately hungry the minute we got about 100 feet away from our refrigerator. (Even though we purposely tanked up on food before piling in the truck). She no longer wanted to go camping. She wanted something fun to do, now. She wondered why we always made her go camping and if we were going to have to hike and if we were going to have any fun. She didn’t think so. She made the whimpering sounds of a hurt animal.
I’ve noticed that when I get into a panic that the storm of my children’s emotions will never end, I begin to believe that the most important thing is to Stop The Thunder Now rather than connect with what’s causing the weather. And really, all our children’s “bad” behavior is a function of them trying to get their normal, human needs met.
And really, this is good news. When all our efforts towards initiating “appropriate consequences” and tiered systems of punishments are put towards determining our children’s unmet needs, the road to peace becomes shorter. Your child will always benefit more from the lasting power of being understood than the short term faux-fix of a time out.
Field Guide to Weathering the (Emotional) Storm
1) Put your own oxygen mask on first. It takes a lot of patience, resolve and compassion to meet a child’s anger, complaints, fears, etc… We don’t like to see our children suffer, and their big emotions can feel scary and endless. When you feel that storm brewing, ask yourself what you need to be present. Deep breaths are a good place to start. Direct some empathy towards yourself. Shit. I really wanted to enjoy this beautiful drive. It’s hard to give up my agenda. Remind yourself that this is not an emergency. (If your anger needs more attention—and I have been there—give yourself some space to calm down before addressing your child. We usually regret things said in anger).
2) Set an intention. It can help to set an intention to listen, to connect, to not interject with solutions, to stay present and calm.
3) Empathize with the feelings. As long as no one’s in danger, set the behavior aside for a moment and look for the feelings. Empathizing means “feeling into,” letting your child know they’re heard, not that you necessarily agree with them or will change to accommodate their wishes, but that their feelings are safe and allowed. You sound anxious, Rose. You sound worried that you’re not going to have any fun this weekend.
4) Avoid judgmental labeling. Pointing out to your child that they’re complaining or whining can put them on the defensive, or bring up shame, and take you farther from connection and resolution.
5) Investigate Needs. What is the need behind the emotion? Make some guesses. Are you feeling sad and worried about being away from home all weekend? Is it hard to leave behind the familiar and head into the unknown? Are you annoyed that Daddy and I often choose to go camping on the weekend even when that’s not your first choice? (The needs might be for comfort, reassurance, familiarity, fun, autonomy).
6) Find a win-win solution. Often being heard and understood is enough and no solution is needed. If it seems a solution is needed, see if you can come up with one that meets everyone’s needs. How about as soon as we get the tents set up, you choose a special snack while I read you a chapter from our book?
This is all a true story. Sometimes our kids get anxious and sad as we drive away from the familiar luxuries of home into a wild world which may demand a little more resilience, imagination and flexibility. When they’re in this place of worry (which can look a lot like complaining) we don’t remind them how much fun they always have (which is true), nor do we give up our desire to be in the mountains as much as possible in the summer. We also don’t numb the discomfort with snacks. Instead, we wade right into the storm, naming the feelings, giving them space and love, knowing it will all pass.
Why not just punish “bad” behavior and move on? If we remember that all our children’s behavior is a function of them trying to meet their normal human needs, we can see clearly that punishment, or consequences will never address the root issue. In fact, it may weaken connection, trust and respect between parent and child. When children are allowed space for all their feelings, they understand that feelings come and go, are nothing to fear, push away or numb. The more emotional safety your child experiences, the more they can state their feelings and ask for what they need rather than act out.
I have been asked by some local parents to facilitate a biweekly group on Peaceful Parenting. How exciting! Here’s what it will (likely) look like:
We’ll meet for roughly two hours twice a month for 4-6 months for discussion, practice and questions.
We will discuss:
* How to turn praise into appreciation.
* Effective alternatives to punishment.
* How to motivate children without rewards.
* The five love languages and how they relate to parenting.
* The difference between strategies and needs.
* Becoming aware of the stories we tell ourselves.
* How to say “yes” more without compromising your boundaries.
* How to determine the needs behind your child’s behavior.
* How to make empathy your first response.
* How to make requests, not demands.
The cost is $25/person per session.
Space is limited and the group is half full already. Please contact me if you’re interested.
All Col and Rose will remember about our camping trips when they’re 40:
The big stand up:
By the way, the delightfully exciting thing that is happening here in this household is that the kids and the parents are meeting at the precise crossroads of intersecting movie tastes. Which means family movie night need not include the predictable foibles of an animated, whining monkey. Though, it does seem to include Rose asking approximately twenty question per scene.
We all recently gathered on the couch to watch The Right Stuff, a historical dramatization of the early inroads of NASA’s space program. We all loved it! It had aviation excitement (for Col), and relationship subtleties (for me and Rose), the intense rigours through which astronauts were put in hopes of being selected (Dan), and an interesting look at striving in the name of national pride, and (holy moly), the extreme risk-taking personality laid bare. A lesson in so much.
We also recently loved, Wild Horse, Wild Ride (instant play on Netflix), a documentary on a program in which people are given 100 days to tame a wild mustang. The film follows several different contestants and their horses, detailing their different approaches, and ultimately their love and connection with these large, wild and soulful creatures.
I would love any suggestions you all have for family friendly movies. Col is 10, Rose is 8.
I also want to recommend the memoir, Merle’s Door: lessons from a freethinking dog, by Ted Kerasote. It’s a beautiful story chronicling Kerasote’s adoption of a feral dog near the San Juan River, and what he learns over 14 years of honing his communication with the dog. They build an unusual relationship, based more of mutual understanding and compromise (much like the kind of parenting I strive for) than the typical insistence on obedience. I read portions of this to Col and Rose, which they also loved.
Book recommendations welcome, too, as always.
Also, I am teaching two upcoming classes, to which I’d like to invite you:
Fermented Beverages: Kombucha and Ginger Ale
Tuesday, July 14th 6pm – 7:30, at Durango Natural Foods Co-op. (970) 247-8129. Co-taught with Jennifer Smith.
Learn the art and science of making these easy, delicious, living & nutritionally-beneficial drinks.
Participants will sample both drinks, go through a step by step process to make each,
learn how to obtain a kombucha scoby & go home with a ginger ale starter.
Free scobys [an acronym for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast] available to first 7 sign ups!
* little known fact: I’ll be bringing the latest batch of chokecherry mead. Potent stuff.
* other little known fact: Jennifer Smith, my co-teacher, is a wealth of nutritional information.
$17/Co-op member $20/non-member
Space is limited, so prepay/sign up with one of our friendly Co-op cashiers.
Wild Weed Identification and Cuisine
Soaking dandelion greens and purslane: our daily multivitamin.
Wednesday, July 29th, 6pm – 7:30, at Durango Natural Foods Co-op. (970) 247-8129
Common garden weeds are packed with nutrients, adapted to native soil conditions and natural rainfall. Meet at Rachel’s in-town garden to identify common, edible weeds, discuss history, culture, philosophy, learn the best time to pick them, which parts are edible and how to prepare them.
Learn which common weed has Omega-3 amounts to rival flax seeds; and which plant has more nutrients than spinach, though will never ask as much from you as a gardener.
Learn appetizing ways to introduce these nutrient dense plants into your meals.
Return to the Co-op to enjoy delicious creamy amaranth-artichoke dip as well as a diverse wild weed salad!
Recipes & handouts included.
$17/Co-op member $20/non-member
Space is limited, so prepay/sign up with one of our friendly Co-op cashiers.
Amaranth: gorgeous and free.
I absolutely love teaching this class on edible weeds. Eating the highly nutritious plants that flourish without fuss feels like one of the most revolutionary acts we can perform at home.
And, also the hero bringing snow to the people…or, er, the beer cooler.
I am filled with gratitude.
But also, a little perplexedness, as my post last week didn’t go out to my lovely, faithful subscribers (AKA my mom and a few others). The post is here, if you missed it.
p.s. can you let me know you got the e-mail notification on this post?
We awake to the red naped sapsucker hammering on the telephone pole. We fall asleep to the neighborhood kids shrieking happily (and Col blundering out of his room half asleep but still able to identify voices, “Jebby and David are outside, keeping me up…” It’s so fun, the communal neighborhood of summer living! In fact, one pair of siblings are such frequent visitors that when a day passes without their knock at our door, I worry about them).
The truth of our house.
Between sapsuckers and post-sunset revelry, the days last forever, unspooling like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. We start in agenda-less freefall, all options open. The kids paw through the lego pile together, speaking their own insider sibling language. I chop rhubarb while singing a little song to myself about how lovely everything is. Next, the heat of sticky boredom rises, entangling them. They bicker heartily over the same tattered arguments, just to see if a new angle pops up.
I generally stay out of the fray, though my ear is always tuned to catch a slight and dangerous rise in Rose’s voice. I casually mention from my rhubarb station: “I heard Rose say, stop, did you, Col?” Because we all know Rose has about three warnings in her before she strikes.
Col makes a lego laptop and Rose insists her doll needs to use it. I issue Parental Broadcast # 34 about requests being easier to hear than demands. She reframes. He acquiesces. I exhale. Rose cheerfully asks Col, How do you spell, Frozen? I hope we can get it on Netflix!
Food prep, dishes, food prep, dishes. Col approaches me with the book, Chino: Warbird Treasures Past and Present, eyes gleaming and ready to explain some WWII airplane terminology I’m not going to understand. Stay present, I tell myself. Ailerons, fuselage, hypersonic. Blink yourself awake, I hiss, as my attention sneaks away.
A flock of vultures soar over the house, so low we can see their feather-less red heads. We gather at the window, wondering and watching them merge into sky. I gaze down at the garden, which rises to the snake charmer’s song of heat and rain. I’m in perpetual amazement that we planted all those trees. We read a chapter of our latest book and the kids melt into me, our heartbeats synchronized, our nervous systems unclenching.
Rose has turned the livingroom into an Egyptian burial for her doll, tiny plastic shoes and headbands lined up tidily. Dresses and nightgowns displayed across the floor, taking up an unreasonable amount of our 800 sf. I grumble inwardly about the selling of consumer culture to little girls, while Rose brushes acres of faux doll hair onto the floor.
Food prep, dishes, food prep, dishes.
We file outside. It’s 95F with afternoon clouds marching down from the mountains. There’s 3 pairs of boy/girl sibling neighbors playing Hide and Seek in our funkified yard. I say a little prayer about safety from spiders, rusty nails and errant antlers. Feeling like I accomplished something monumental along the lines of tending to basic needs, emotion-coaching, supporting growth and freedom, conflict-resolution, I head upstairs for a beer.
I text Dan at work about the problem of drinking the last beer without replacing it. He texts back something about women’s soccer. Col finds a house sparrow fledgling, not the first which has flopped early and helplessly from its nest.
The siblings all go home, and I feel—despite the missed beer opportunity—that summer is perfectly itself, equally full of awe, adventure, freedom and the luckiness of a little boredom. I open the fridge, thinking about dinner, and wondering how to match up everyone’s different tastes with our paltry supplies. Col calls out, “Look! Look!” Everyone gathers at the window, searching. Col continues to point and shout. Rose says, “Col, it’s just a hummingbird.”
But, it’s more than just a hummingbird. It’s the avian equivalent of summer, so fleeting and rare and precious that sometimes all you can do is point and shout, and then take it in with an exhale of gratitude.
:: Green gentian lives between 30-80 years before flowering once in a blaze of creamy-petaled glory, then dying. There are always some green gentians flowering, but in periodic banner years, thousands of them bloom in one area. This year seems pretty good already.
:: These days are long enough to get up high, have a little cook-out in the woods and play the extremely exciting and risky game of: throw the paper airplane through the fire.
:: Everlasting salad # 76, the lambsquarters version.
:: Col to Dan: So, I’m thinking about putting one of the engine cartridges from my rocket on this balsa airplane…do you think it’ll work?
Dan: Are you trying to make the thing fly, or just have a haywire experiment?
Col: Haywire experiment.
See that cartridge thingy between the wings? Col attached it to fuses and got to launch it in a park near our house. The whole thing was slightly alarming and confusing to me (and ultimately successful!) Thank you, Dan, for discerning when Col’s going to blow up the neighborhood or just do a little fun propulsion.
They built this stand for the launch. That’s what a cool dad Dan is.
All the love,
The skin of my own motherhood is stretching in real time. The little people, who once spent their days circling me like very small tornadoes, are inching out. It’s so heartbreaking! It’s so liberating! It’s so perfectly normal.
These children are the daily reminder that everything is in flux, that signing on the dotted line of parenthood is like entering the accelerated version of the Warp Speed Program of Impermanence. The fine print reads: be prepared to continually accommodate the next stage of children’s changing needs, no prior warnings given. Good luck!
All we parents can do is stand back, widening our orbits ever more, supporting each new incarnation of the child-self, and then allow it to slip off like a shed skin, making room for what’s next.
Beetle-sketching outside of Cuba, NM.
A few weeks ago, Col flew in a 4-seater airplane from Durango to Pagosa Springs for breakfast (and to drum up some business for his custom airplane portrait business). Upon returning, he said, preemptively, to Rose, “Please don’t interrupt me,” and proceeded to share every detail of his experience (Including, “Mom, you’re not going to like this part”—apologetic smile—“the turbulence got really crazy on the return flight. It was my favorite part.“)
I still have hopes that Col will switch his 10-year old homeschool major to library science, but when your kid is enthralled enough to pore over thick, dry airplane reference books (and correct me with amused and gentle solicitousness, “No, Mom, those are called rear stabilizers”), what can you do but become enthusiastic cheerleader to their dreams.
Rose and her younger buddy Jordan found a dog wandering in front of our house, recently. They led him inside, ransacking our pantry for something to feed him (not the elk jerky!), and took him on several tours of the neighborhood. I called the number on the dog’s tag, and Rose and Jordan met the owner out front. They were as proud as if they had returned a stolen piece of art to the Louvre, and promptly announced they were now animal rescuers and would be canvassing the neighborhood for more animals in need. They set off alone and came back an hour later (An hour in which I was celebrating their courage and also, feeling the slight discomfort of the stretch) reporting that they had rescued another dog (our neighbor’s dog, Chloe, an inveterate wanderer) and 3 worms.
Col, contemplating the SF skyline from a ferry boat.
My motherhood skin stretched another inch last week, which Col spent in my hometown, Berkeley, with my parents, including flying there and back without us. He got his ten-year old mind blown by everything a city has to offer, but I think he also grew up a little in those eight days, under the influence of temporarily cutting his parents out of the deal. When Dan picked him up at the airport in Albuquerque, he strolled off the airplane, confident and relaxed, with his new flight attendant buddy (but, somehow not quite grown up enough to have not left his backpack on the airplane).
The best thing going in Albuquerque: urban foraging.
I like to take advantage of the times my children don’t need me. My job is to notice the pitted, baby-missing place in my chest, breathe into it, and then go backpacking with Dan.
This is the way of all things. Larvae to pupa to butterfly. Change and growth. Leaving, returning, and leaving again. You trade in the intoxicating feeling of being the very sun that your children’s planets orbit to something a little more, well, sustainable. Something like each family member harnessing their own planet, always in and out of each others’ gravitational pull.
As I was at home waiting to get the text from Dan that Col’s plane had landed, feeling jacked up on anxiety and my own overactive imagination, (Dan was, meanwhile, at the Albuquerque airport cheerfully watching soccer on the big screen ), I thought: we will never do this again. This, being, let Col out of our sight, let him out into the big, wild world of possibility, of adventure, growth and risk.
But, of course, we will, all of us stretching in the process.
My version of a selfie.
Backpacking must be the original video game: first, shoulder everything you’ll need for next few days on your back (discover just in time that you remembered the goat cheese but forgot a jacket), next, feel a little choked up saying goodbye to family (helps that 8-yr old daughter is nattering on cheerfully about shoes…What if your shoes get muddy, Mama? I would have brought my boots, sandals, flip flops, sneakers….), then, ford knee-deep snow on forest service road (while discovering fairly large rip in old, substandard hiking boots), arrive at trailhead with equal parts excitement/apprehension, descend 2000 feet in 2 miles (the 40 + #@*% yr old knees!), fend off mosquitos, shiver under mountain wind, swelter under mountain sun, arrive here:
All the fear I felt before this solo trip was actually the fear of getting out there and having to deal with feeling fear in real time. Does that make sense? I truly am not scared of wild animals, nor human predators (who would do better than seek prey 7 miles from a road), but of having to feel the fear or loneliness or boredom that might arise. (Which is highly human and slightly neurotic and decidedly not a good enough reason to stay home).
Mostly, I felt acutely the infinite blessings of my own ordinary life. Everything came into focus, which is to say, I felt blessed to be alive walking on the earth, smelling elk musk on the wind, spying big cat poop on the trail, popping glacier lilies in my mouth like caviar. I felt perfectly alone, but never lonely. When a mixed flock of chipping sparrows and siskins were whipped up by the wind, filling an aspen tree like chittering leaves, I felt surrounded by friends. (I may have even began talking to them).
Beloved calypso bulbosa (fairy slipper) orchid.
Ladies in the meadow.
I did feel the tiniest bit apprehensive arriving at camp. Camp, being simply the cluster of trees from which I would string my tarp and spend the night. The night! And then I made a small hobo fire, cooked a pot of rice and beans, set up my tarp for maximum rain protection, and felt like I was home.
I could smell the musky scent of elk from the forest above me, saw the nibbled down grass stems around my camp, and found a hunk of elk hair right where I smoothed out my sleeping bag. Clearly, this was someone elses territory.
As the sun melted into the western hills, mixing with the first clouds of the day, camp stove spluttering its busy tune, a cow elk exploded away from my camp, hooves kicking up dirt. Next, I heard a short, urgent bark, an unmistakable cow elk “alarm call.” For the next 20 minutes this one cow issued steady, loud, frequent calls, each one—a dog-like bark with grunts, growls and screams around the edges—so loud, so close, so wild, a startle rippled through my skin every time. Typically, the lead cow issues her alarm call to alert the herd to danger, and what follows is a thunder of hooves beating away. This lady was sticking around.
I wondered if she had just given birth (first week of June is prime elk calving time in the San Juans), and was giving her newborn a lesson in predators. Or maybe she didn’t want to leave her baby and was giving me a fierce warning. She sounded awfully mad (Being currently steeped in Harry Potter, I couldn’t help but think, she’s sending me a close range howler). I wasn’t aware of being nervous, but strangely had to pee every two minutes.
Just as the sun blacked out, the cow elk quieted down, and I crawled into my sleeping bag, perhaps breathing the same night air as a brand new elk calf and her Mama. I felt peaceful.
I woke to rain, made black tea and sipped it from my sleeping bag, watching the clouds cap off the valley.
I hiked out (now up 2000 feet in 2 miles) in the rain, feeling pulled by the little family waiting for me 7 miles away.
It rained all the next day (except when it snowed), and with each hour of tent confinement the kids reached greater levels of infectious hilarity. They’d stand up wearing sleeping bags like upright cocoons and roam blindly around the tent falling into each other, or quiz each other respectively, on horses and airplanes. (Ok, what’s a fetlock, Col? Um, I don’t know…What’s the rear stabilizer, Rosie?)
Dutch oven birthday cake.
By the campfire, Dan and the kids sang me their (weeks in the making, self-written) rendition of the song, “Mama,” sung to the tune of “Lola,” by the Kinks. I laughed and cried while rain tapped out a beat on our tarp and gratitude became the blood coursing my veins. (“Boys will grow up, and girls will grow up. It’s a long, sad, happy, short, muddled up trip, including MAMA, M-A-M-A…”)
Back home, on my actual birthday I requested a walk alone with each family member. Col held my hand for the entire hour, while we discussed Harry Potter as the hero’s journey. Rose and I tested every neighborhood iris for sniffirifficness, and Dan and I walked along the rain-swollen Animas River, discussing how our lives are filled with blessings, top to bottom, and how in the wild swirl of life, we’re living precisely in the sweet spot. (And then Dan threw out my hiking boots.)
sung to the tune of Lola
We camp all summer and snuggle all night
Reading H.P. by flashlight
You picked me up, and sat me on your knee
Said dear kid, “Don’t you want milky?”
On the occasion of my upcoming birthday (40 + approx @%*!!), I’m heading out on a solo backpacking trip.
During the day, when I think about my trip, I’m all: Wild plants! Connecting with the blessings of nature! Waking up to bird song! Slowing way down! The mental clarity that comes from being alone in the woods! Feeling the power of my own two legs! At night when the doubts come knocking on my cranial door, I have a little mantra I repeat about “peaceful nocturnal animals staying in their own areas.”
And really, the nighttime doubts and fears are more about the unknown (I’ve slept in the woods enough to know that wild animals really don’t want to visit my camp, except for one highly persistent mouse-type scurrying around under my tarp a couple summers ago). The unknown! It’s such a vast, amorphous and shifting little nightmare. And really, I’m onto myself. When the doubts whoosh in, I try to shine the light of awareness on them, catching them before they do too much unaccompanied sneaking around. “Hello there, fears!” I say really loudly, “I see you’re back. Take a number.”
But it’s daytime, so I’m excited again. Excited to experience the wild world directly, to get a glimpse into my own humanity as reflected back to me in an aspen forest, to get curious about the taste of columbine nectar, to loosen the reins of control, to simply walk, to love the rain without a roof (the weather forecast is fierce), or I don’t know, just to not have to share my bacon and chocolate for a few days. I’ve got my sleeping tarp, my rain poncho, one pot, one bowl, one spoon, a book (OK, two books – last night was like speed dating for bibliophiles, scrutinizing the first pages of five books I brought home from the library), a large helping of trust, and the sweetest family awaiting my return at a nearby campsite.
And if you pray, pray for me, but only because I’m not bringing coffee.
p.s. Col and I planted a 3-sisters garden (corn, beans and squash) last weekend. Why does the boy look so aggrieved? Must tone down zealous delivery.
What is happening here is that it’s raining. Raining, as in this regular thing that you don’t have to desperately pray for, nor purposely leave car windows down in hopes of chumming in the roving clouds while superstitiously pretending not to actually care.
More snow now than in winter.
Last Friday, downtown with the kids, taking respite from the downpour in a magazine store we love to loiter in, Dan texted me, “Welcome to the New Age” (a nod to the post-apocalyptic song all the kids these days love, or at least our two kids and their friend Cedar who introduced them to it).
Indeed. Everyone is walking around pleasantly bewildered, making back-up plans for outside events, and if you’re Col, noting, “it’s troubling to hear a plane and look up and not be able to see it because of all the clouds.”
Col and his agent doing business with airplane cards in a real airplane hangar at Animas Air Park.
Also, what’s happening here is Col has created a new business, Col’s Aviation Art, in which he draws custom portraits of people’s airplanes. I catch my breath when I hear him on the phone with a client, his shy, hesitant voice squeaking out, “Hi, this is Col, the airplane artist. Your portrait is ready.” Yesterday he was sketching at the kitchen table, muttering about deadlines.
We finished the final Harry Potter book last week and I’m having a bit of a hard time moving on. Everytime I open our new book, I can’t help but feel there just aren’t enough owls. We did name our new foster kitten, Hagrid, which helps a little.
Rose asked, Is it legal to post pictures of cats and rats together?
Every night at sunset we (Dan) slip the six baby chicks in the coop with the five adult chickens, when everyone is all dopey on melatonin and not likely to notice the interlopers, and then in the morning we (Dan) bring the babies out to their daytime daycare. We actually forgot to make a plan for integrating the generations. Whoops.
The payoff for packing out elk ribs.
While I spend most days contemplating, doubting, celebrating and generally over-thinking my life, Dan will happily pass an entire day pushing on the fibers of a brained elk hide with rocks and antlers, softening them into a permanently butter-soft garment, feeling like he’s in the exact right place at the right time. And developing really nice muscles.
Col and his homeschool co-op cronies celebrating 4 yrs of learning and playing together on a backpacking trip. Verdict is: more please!
My summer project is helping the kids to appreciate each other. (I don’t mind the mundane bickering over who gets the coveted privilege of holding the dustpan while the other is burdened with the broom, just wake me when the floor is swept), but I do want them to see each other as allies, as precious kin needing mutual kindness and compassion, or at being least worthy of “bad acupuncture.”
Rose: Col, do you want the good acupuncture or the bad acupuncture?
Col: the bad acupuncture for 12 minutes, then switch to surgery.
Which is to say, one strategy that seems to be working to build sibling bonds is to go outside and plant tomatoes for two hours and leave them to their own, strange devices.
Files from the Raising a Boy Department:
Col: Hey Dad, wouldn’t it be fun to take the model airplane I just built, send it down a zipline and set it on fire?
Dan: Sure. Grab my camera and take a video.
The burning plane came apart, half of it landing on the plastic greenhouse roof below, causing a disembodied adult male voice to shout on the video, “Get the fucking crutch!” Good thing Rose had bought a pair of adult crutches at a garage sale last year, which have been malingering in the yard, but came perfectly in handy to scoot the burning chunks of balsa wood off the greenhouse roof just in time.
That’s all for now, lovely people.