Changes and Traditions

These last couple of months leading up to age three are all rapid change and growth. Increased vocabulary and refined pronunciation. Heightened awareness and comprehension. Assertiveness, a strong will. There’s a lot more resistance, a lot more “no!” She will hold up her hand and say, “No, mommy, leave me be!”

She still has an ethereal essence, a sweet and gentle soul. It shines through her big brown eyes even during crabby moments. But a fierce will is emerging, and though it sometimes wears me out, I’m glad for it. I want her to claim her space, raise her voice, stand her ground. She is an incredible combination of peace and strength and silliness, teaching me all the time.

If you ask her what she wants for Christmas, she will answer, “A present!” There is no material good she longs for, except perhaps another book to add to her collection. She is still blissfully unaware of our consumer-driven culture. I know it won’t be long before this changes, and I’ve been thinking of little traditions that focus on what truly matters. I love the tradition of decorating a tree in the yard with edible ornaments for the animals, detailed over at Wilder Child. It’s a simple craft project, an experience, and an act of giving. It turns our attention to the creatures we share space with and instills a sense of responsibility to wildlife. And it looks so lovely, the cranberry strands and orange cups of birdseed hanging from the tree. We’ve been reading Jan Brett’s The Mitten every night and thinking about all the creatures in our backyard.

If I had any talent for sewing, I’d quilt an Advent calendar. My favorites are the fabric ones with pockets for little felted ornaments and candy canes. This year we have a beautiful paper one from my sister. Perhaps next year I’ll craft one from fabric…

How are your little ones changing? How do you celebrate the season?

(Post 316 of 365)

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Fireflies

It’s hectic around here, unlike last week’s staycation mode. But the day’s end is quiet.

Tonight, after I buried the woodchuck who’d been hit by a car, after I watered a section of garden, after I bathed Isabella and got her to sleep, I went outside to call in the cats. As I headed down the yard, I noticed a young deer in the neighbor’s yard. We locked eyes for a few beats, and then I turned away, wanting her to understand I wouldn’t disturb her. I stood in the middle of the yard watching the fireflies, tiny licks of flame everywhere, glowing and fading, glowing and fading.

(Post 176 of 365)

 

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) 

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)

 

Threads: 69/365

It’s an odd process finding one true thing to say about myself every day. Truth can be simple but doesn’t come easy. Possible threads drift through my thoughts daily, but I don’t always want to write into them. I was twelve years old the first time I ever boarded a plane alone. I believe that singing a song you love at the top of your lungs can be a form of prayer. I talk to trees and plants. Zoos and other places that imprison wildlife make me weep. One of the reasons I stay home with my toddler is so that she can be in the dirt and fresh air, on the beach and under trees. I struggle with the way writing pulls me away from my daughter and my husband. When I was twenty-one, I visited Cezanne‘s studio in the south of France, crouched on a hillside with my canvas while the wind blew dirt and twigs into my oil paints, and I painted my own Mont Sainte-Victoire.

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.

Indoor/Outdoor: 47/365

In the golden late afternoon light we dig in the dirt. Chris does most of the shoveling and Isabella works with her sifter and pails making little contributions to the wheelbarrow. I work in the bed around the maple tree, raking and grading the hauls of dirt. I press it down with my boots, doing a little two-step to the music. The squirrels come to say hello. We’ve been keeping them fat with bird seed and apple peels. I look up and see the cats watching us from the backdoor, bathing in the bright sunlight. Bali, the little one, for once isn’t scratching to get out. The air is cool and smells of earth. That kitty would love to be out playing in it. And I feel a real heartache.

We moved into our house in August. Before that, we had a second floor apartment with a porch, Bali’s favorite spot. She would hunt birds from her perch, roll around in the sun, curl up on the ledge, and a few times, she jumped. Now we have a big backyard, and she darts from the backdoor to the window itching to run after the squirrels and birds. But we also live on a main road and people drive twice the speed limit. The previous homeowners lost a cat to a speeding driver. We tried a leash, but she wriggled free. Cats aren’t made for leashes. I’ve been stuck in the house so much this month with sickness making the rounds, I’m going stir crazy. I think of her never getting outside and think about how unfair it is, unhealthy really. I’m struggling with this one, whether to keep her safe or set her free.