Spring

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It’s the beginning of spring. 

It’s spring break. 

The rhythm of schooled days have turned into a tossed windstorm of bike rides, beach combing, farm visits, field running, and play dough covered hands. Children who never seem to stop moving, eating, needing, loving. 

All day we play, run, eat, until we collide with our pillows at night. 

Today, I watched them laugh for a solid hour. Laugh so hard their cheeks became flushed, tears running down from the  joy of their secret shared language. 

Siblings. To watch siblings as an only child….

I love these days when time stops, where no one needs to be anywhere. When they find each other and become one in imagination. When play takes center stage and I am the audience and guide.

The kids carry me through the exhaustion of these non-stop beautiful chaotic days. I feel like their joy is the scaffolding keeping me up, keeping me going…to hear that laughter again.

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Our first sprouts have sprung. Green reaching, searching for the still coy sun. We are still swaddled in blankets. 

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A very sweet neighbor of mine walks down the mountain everyday to the village. She buys what she needs, then hikes back up. Sometimes she takes my offered ride. Every single day you can see her skipping down or trudging back up. I like the reliability of her. She’s part of my days without even knowing. 

Memories

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My son and I found this piece of bark on one of our long beach walks. It is completely whole, round, having fallen off and come apart from a tree without breaking. I imagine the log tossed in waves, smashed against rocks, water massaging and tearing at the bark little by little until it unhinged itself and floated back to shore. 

I’ve been thinking a good deal about memories now that the time for our next move is coming nearer and nearer. How we always have to start over, reinvent, find our footing, find our lives again and again and again. How this island that has been a stadium cry will become but a whisper. 

Moving from country to country, continent to continent, I have memories that have left me, others that have burrowed into my skin. I have felt like I was shedding each time, with each move, letting go of yet more things, saying goodbye to smiles that have touched my heart, and wanting so much to carry some of what I found with me, to not forget. 

Maybe it’s not a shedding we do when we choose to let go of something or have something taken from our hands.  Maybe the things we take off from, the people we leave behind, the lives we turn away from, the things lost, stolen, found are still there in the ocean of our life completely whole, surrounding us closer than we think, waiting for us to gather them up, piece by piece, slide ourselves right back inside of them. 

Maybe, even if we don’t find them again, it’s enough to know they are still there, floating by, perhaps to even catch a glimpse of, so that we can smile and wave and say, oh yes, I remember that so well. 

“But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.”  –Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

Dear daughter, Dear son

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Be kind. I will show you how. 

Be strong in who you are, but flexible. Allow for change. Make room inside yourself for growth, even when it scares you. Especially when it scares you. I hope I’ve shown you what bravery looks like. 

Listen deeply, as I do to you. 

Speak confidently, as you see me do in life. 

When someone needs help be there as a friend. I will show you what friendship looks like. 

If your neighbor is sick take them food. We will cook together. 

Recycle. Nature is my gift to you. 

When you want to take a picture of yourself turn the camera around and take a picture of what’s in front of you. Better yet, put the camera down and just look. I will tell you stories of my youth where no one stopped to capture anything. 

No means no. I will teach you to say it firmly. 

So much can be fixed with a hot bath and warm tea. That’s why you see me making them so often. 

If someone hurts you think about how wonderful it was that someone meant that much to you. Each time we are hurt and it leaves a mark it means we have been touched by love. Keep going. A marked heart is full heart. I know that well. 

It’s important to join large causes and scream for justice with the masses. It’s equally important to see the homeless you pass by, or the overworked mother of 3 down the road. Give them your time, even if it’s to say hi, I see you. We’ll make a card together for the child who sits alone at lunch. 

You can always go in a different direction. See how many paths I have veered from. 

You can always start over. I will teach you how to take one step at a time. 

Remember that when the waves come all you have to do is ride them and go with the current until they spit you back out into calm water. You won’t drown. Listen to my stories of tidal waves fought. I will teach you to tread water. I will teach you when to paddle hard. 

It takes strength to cry. That is why I celebrate your emotion. 

Don’t be afraid of sadness. It is how you will truly know joy. 

Make strong boundaries. I have taken your hand and shown you when it was time to walk away. 

Sometimes though, forgive. Even I make mistakes. 

Don’t look for a happy life. Look for a full life. I am so very full, which is my happiness. 

 

Winter’s edge

 

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Warm days in full sun trapping us in joy. 

A picnic on a colorful blanket catching shadows from buds just reaching up through the long browned earth.

A stroll through our village watching shops waking from winter and cafés spilling over.

A bald eagle playing chase with a raven outside our window, so close their wings seemed to reach inside to us. 

Fingers pushing into dirt planting seeds that we now stalk for signs of that amazing first green.  

A bumblebee devouring nectar that caught our attention for while, and us sitting so still just enthralled to watch as it danced with a flower. 

How is it that these first moments of spring, these last of winter, both awaken and quiet us? 

Two butterflies seen. 

Growing light, lingering into night. 

These moments when winter starts to intermingle with spring; Cold, weeping days dotted with promises to come. 

Let us lay on this edge…..fall into the space between winter and spring. 

What a lovely few days it has been.

Pieces of me

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Who am I? 

Who are you? 

Who are we? 

A dearest of my heart, a dear dear friend who knows all of my secrets (shhhhhh) told me today I seem so strong in these posts. 

Am I this strong woman on the mountainside? 

Am I the scared woman under the bed in Uganda? 

I am all of that.

I am all of this.

I am all of me.

I am the woman you see at the store with a smile on her face and a longing in her heart.

I am the child with a dream to make it somewhere, somehow, some way. 

I am the mother happily sacrificing it all for her children.

I am the artist in search of expression.

I am the person reaching out my hand to lift you up. 

I am me.

I am all of me.

I am happyI am sadI am contentI am restless. 

I am so very alive…

….and full….

And searching and living and loving and laughing and crying and yes yes yes, hide me under the bed, perch me on a mountain, let me live it all. I am no longer afraid of much these days because I am so busy embracing wonder. 

How lucky we are to be weak, to be strong. To need help, and then to give it. 

Be all of you. 

” But the time came when I understood that I could no longer deceive myself, that I am alive, and cannot be blamed because God made me so, that I want to love and to live.”

–Anna Karenina, Tolstoy 

 

 

Making sense of it all

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As spring time approaches and the world around us wakes up, I am starting a new ritual  with my children. A few times a day we have to stop and pay attention to our senses. 

What do you see? 

What do you hear? 

What do you feel? 

What do you smell? 

At dinner we take a moment to close our eyes and just focus on what we taste. 

In this crazy world of too much information and so much to do and so many things coming at them, getting ready to come at them, I want to give them a foundation of their sense. A place to come to where they inhabit their body fully.

I love meditation and focusing on thoughts, and then trying to settle into that lovely space between them. 

I love focusing on breath and how a body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. 

But we are more than our breaths, and more than our thoughts, and more than that space. We are our senses as well. 

I want to teach my children to possess theirs fully, to capture them, explore them, move through the world with them. 

What did that sunset over the Maasai Mara in Kenya really look like? 

How did that fresh pineapple floating down the river in Central America really taste? 

And then to teach them how to play with them…

How does that kind of silence make you feel? 

What do you smell when you taste something that rich? 

What do you see when you touch sadness?

Or happiness? 

Staying afloat

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I am often asked how I do it. How I full time mom with a little one still at home, no family around to help, studying late into the night for a degree. How I do it all by myself. How often I hear, “I couldn’t do what you are doing. How are you doing what you are doing?”

Here is my answer…..

I think of this woman Veronica who worked for us in Uganda. She helped me with the children, helped me with the house, helped me in the kitchen. Then every night she went home alone to her son and did it all over again. She played with him, cleaned her home, prepared their dinner. Then woke to come back to me. I think of her. 

I think of my husband dropping food from the sky to refugees who have no home. Masses huddled together waiting for the sky to open and rain down food so they can survive. I think of them. 

I think of time as something so precious and this time as something we will forever hold in our hearts. The time we were all alone on the island, just the three of us. Endless walks on the beach, long board games during rainy days, knowing each other so well we knew when the other would take their next breath. Just the three of us, floating together. I think of how much this time will mean to me, and I hope to them. 

I think about how one day they will be older and friends will become their confidants, how the world will become their playground to explore with others, how they will have their own families and I will cease to be the center of their world with each of these steps. I think about how at this moment they are still so completely mine. 

So yes, some days I am sinking. Many days I have crippling fatigue. But I think of Veronica and refugee camps and closeness and the fleetingness of it all and I wake up every single day saying thank you, thank you, thank you.