Mindful Driving


Cars fly down our street. 50 mph in our 25 mph zone. Everyone in a rush. We’ve talked to the neighbors about petitioning the city for speed bumps. This morning maybe it was speed, maybe distraction, maybe just not-giving-a-shit that killed the opossum, bigger than my cat, as he scurried across the road during the early morning hours, probably tired from a night of foraging for his family. I passed his newly-dead body at 7:30am on my way to the gym. He was lying in the center of the oncoming lane, poor buddy.

It’s Spring and I’m constantly seeing casualties: opossums, raccoons, squirrels, sea gulls, even a small grackle. Why don’t people hit the brakes? Swerve? Try? Of course, accidents happen. And yes, I have hit animals; I am not without fault. I was also a distracted teenager and speeding (read: bad driving is what often causes accidents). I can count at least three times this season I’ve actually seen cars accelerate toward the squirrels scurrying across their paths. I cheer for the squirrel, c’mon buddy, you’ve got this, go go! Fortunately, all those squirrels made it.

What is the disconnect between drivers and their surroundings? Distraction is a given and that rush-rush-rush, but there’s also that strange thing about being behind the wheel that separates drivers from those on foot. Some drivers operate as if they’re playing a video game, as if that little creature going about his day isn’t really real, or maybe isn’t as entitled to life. Like when someone hits a deer and the first question is, oh wow, how’s your car? The first thought isn’t about the deer that was just maimed or killed, it’s: is your car going to cosmetically be okay?

I think about those casualties in the road and the families that mourn them. I always wish I had a shovel in my car so that I could at least give them the dignity of lying dead in the grass rather than being run over again and again and again until they’re finally a stain on the pavement. On my way home from the gym, the dead opossum was still there, but not yet run over again. I had time to do something about it. So I got gloves and the garden shovel and drove back. I parked in front of the poor opossum with my hazards on, waved a few cars around me, then lifted his stiff body from the road and laid him gently on the grass. It wasn’t much; it was nothing really. But I felt a little better seeing him there on the soft grass, the spot he would’ve reached if only he’d been given the chance to take a few more steps.

(Post 128 of 365) 

Advertisements

Fierce and Fragile

P1140129

This fickle Spring will not decide. Rain and cold and gusting winds have made a perilous beginning for the robins. The cedar bends and sways while the mama holds her perch in the tidy nest. She hops around, chirping her warnings when we come near. I wonder if I will ever cease to feel it in my heart, tenderness for the fierce and fragile new mother, creator and nurturer of life. The awesomeness of that responsibility.

(Post 118 of 365)

National Parks: 89/365

josh tree

U.S.A. National Parks I’ve hiked/camped/visited:

Acadia (Maine)

Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico)

Death Valley (California)

Grand Canyon (Arizona)

Joshua Tree (California)

Redwood Forest (California)

Sequoia (California)

Yosemite (California)

Zion (Utah)

 

Ode to April: 88/365

I am impatient for leaves on the maple. I resent the forsythia for being the only bright color in the yard. April, the month of almost-there.

But the birds are singing in the stark branches. And it’s warm enough in the sun.

Also, I lied about there only being forsythia. A few dandelions and daffodils stretch up determined and hardy. There’s the creeping phlox and a few grape hyacinth whose purple bells are quickly plucked and shredded by little toddler hands.

The cats are happy explorers in the brambles out back.

We’ve had to keep our Easter butterflies longer than usual because of the cool weather. Today seemed like the right day to release them. One butterfly stayed for a bit, sunning himself. And Isabella spoke to him, a sweet farewell.

Believer: 87/365

I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Even my college was Catholic-affiliated.

Today I think of Catholicism as an old family tradition.

If asked whether I identify with a particular religion or philosophy, I would say I’m a secular humanist. A secular humanist who believes in miracles.

Or maybe I am closer to Lakota, believer in the Great Spirit that animates us all. Tree and wind, earth and sun, bird and buffalo.

When I was waiting for my daughter, I called on every one of them: ancestors, saints, trees, wind, water, animals, poetry, song.

Building: 71/365

Wings Spread

We’re on eagle watch every day around here. Sometimes all we have to do is look up in the sky, and there they are. Chris is the dedicated one, photographing them every morning and every evening. He even went out during the storm two nights ago to see how the nest was faring.

The eagles have been working on two nests, one in a tall pine in a new location, and the one pictured here, in the original woods not far from their old nest. Initially it looked like they would take up residence in the pine, but over the last few weeks it’s become clear they’ve chosen the nest in the woods.

The eagles spent so much time and energy creating two structures (and Chris suspects a third, a ground nest in the marsh), but they may only end up using one. It struck me as a metaphor for writing, the investment of time and energy. Building and building, uncertain of the outcome. That’s how I’m feeling right now; I’m putting in the hours, but I can’t be sure how it’s all going to turn out.

Transformation: 68/365

“Literature is my religion. Books have been the thing throughout my life that have offered the greatest consolation and enlightenment and illumination and all the things that we go to religion or spiritual practice for.” 

Cheryl Strayed

This weekend we will celebrate Easter without church or religious ritual.

We will hunt for eggs filled with little dinosaurs and finger puppets and animal crackers. We will spend time with family and eat lots of good food. Togetherness and gratitude as forms of prayer.

Every Easter my mother gives us a container with caterpillars. Dark, unremarkable insects that move very slowly. We will watch them grow fat and eventually make their way to the paper at the top of the cup. They will shed their skin for the last time and reveal chrysalides. We will carefully transfer the chrysalides to a netted butterfly house. In the stillness their bodies will break down into imaginal cells and form an entirely new shape. Eventually they will begin to twitch and break free, emerge as bright winged creatures. After a few days of feeding them honey water, we will take them outside and watch them take flight. A tangible reminder of the power and possibility of transformation.

The Joy of Age 2: 59/365

IMG_4562IMG_4471IMG_4733IMG_4671IMG_4604IMG_4003

FullSizeRender (5)

I love age 2. Exactly where we are right now at 26 months old.

I love my daughter’s laugh, when her heart-shaped mouth blooms into a smile and her head tilts back and she laughs so hard I can see every bright white tooth, rosy apple cheeks pushing her eyes into happy crescents.

I love that she’s able to repeat any word I say: triceratops, guacamole, spectacular. I am in awe of the way she strings words into sentences. I love our conversations.

I love watching her deftly manage a spoon. The way she requests cinnamon for her yogurt. The way she calls it yogurk.

I love watching her climb and navigate obstacles. I love watching her play. Scooping up dirt with her shovel and dumping it into the bucket, and then dumping the bucket out and beginning again. Discovering an old board in the yard that bounces, and balancing her way across.

I love the way she cajoles and charms, especially for breastmilk. She knows that things are changing and I’m not always up for nursing, so she smiles irresistibly and makes an “L” shape with her finger and thumb and says, “Lil bit more milka.”

I love to listen to her count and recite the alphabet.

I love the way she will sometimes call to us the way she hears us call to each other, “Sarah! Chris!” and “hey, babe!”

I love the way she cares for her cats and notices the birds, squirrels, deer, and turkeys. The way she says, “shhh” when we walk by the spot in the woods where the owl lives. The way she shouts, “bald eagle!” The way she collects stones and puts them in her pockets.

I love the way she pretends her doll is crying, and then holds the doll to her chest and sways back and forth humming, hmmm hmmm hmmm. I love the way she makes up stories with her dollhouse people just like I did.

I love that she loves dinosaurs and knows nothing of princesses.

I love watching her delight in a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Waving, clapping, running across the green, making friends, holding hands, dancing.

I love the process of learning to sing. The way she asks me to pick her up, hold her hand like a dance partner and twirl around. Then commands, “Sing Down by the Bay, mama!” The way she sometimes repeats the lines and other times sings along with me. The way she tests her voice as it moves from speech to song. It’s one of those unanticipated miracles you stumble upon during parenthood.

There are so many of these little miracles unfolding every instant. I wish I could cast a net big enough to catch them all. I’m sure I will wake up tomorrow with a fresh list.

 

 

 

Birds: 54/365

kookaburra-cleaned-up (1)

Lidia Yuknavitch says we have to look for what repeats in our work; this is how we find our metaphors.

In the tag cloud on my homepage, I watch the word “bird” becoming bigger and bigger as it’s used more frequently.

Chris now sets out for the eagles with his camera at first light.

As I’m folding laundry in Isabella’s room, it occurs to me that the three drawings hanging on her walls are of birds. I began a small series of pencil drawings during the time I was trying to get pregnant, as one year gave over to the next and it all felt so uncertain, so endless. Drawing felt meditative and grounding.

I’m not sure what all these birds mean, but it seems worth taking note.

 

 

Tethered: 48/365

Some days I’ll do almost anything else,
Wander the house, tackle the ironing, dusting, I’ll shuffle
This pile of papers, those books, to another more sensible place

from Ingrid Wendt’s The Simple Truth

A trip to the store, a long run, dishes, laundry, shoveling dirt, pulling the wheelbarrow that was too heavy to push, grading the garden bed, watching the squirrel eat an apple, salt air, Isabella walking up and down the Bilco doors trying to reach the cat in the window. The golden light that takes a little longer each day to surrender. I didn’t even try to sit down at the computer today, didn’t try to write. But here I am now, before bed. This daily practice keeps me tethered. I have to sit down and examine, figure out, come up with something. Every day I have to return to myself, look myself in the eye.