My House of Belonging

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Fires still lit for early mornings and fading light at day’s end. 

Skies filled with a sometimes warm sun riding on still too crisp breezes. 

Spring seems to whimper in a corner as winter refuses to yield. 

But our rhythmic days have returned after the whirlwind tumble of school breaks. 

Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s the mediative quality of the island, but I find myself so deeply in love with routine these days.

It means everyone is well. It means the wheels are all turning. It means contentment. 

I used to bristle at sameness, ache for difference. For my days to scream like a crow’s caw. 

Now I long for and settle into, celebrate my days that look like every other. 

I cook and study and play and tuck in and wake and do it again and again and again, happily. 

It’s become like a dance. 

The place I come home to. 

This routine of my perfectly simple life. 

A very special friend of mine in NY recently sent me a book of poetry. (Is there a better gift from a friend than a book of poetry?)

In it David Whyte writes, 

This it the bright home

in which I live,

this is where I ask

my friends to come,

this is where I want 

to love all things

it has taken me so long

to learn to love.

 

This is the temple 

of my adult aloneness 

and I belong

to that aloneness

as I belong to my life. 

 

There is no house

like the house of belonging. 

 

 

Road trip

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After 23 hours of flying my husband arrived from South Sudan and then just hours later we all packed into the car to drive up the Pacific Rim Highway, to where the sea crashes into the shore on wild waves. 

Our island is gentle, soft. Our shore is silent and meditative, calming.

The open north Pacific, out there on the edge of nothing, where land falls away into forever, the shore is brooding and powerful, and makes one feel so very small. 

What is it about that wild coast, where land falls away into sea that moves into forever? You can feel the curve of the earth while leaning into that horizon. 

We ferried and drove from our little island all the way to that wild sea, the Pacific in all it’s fullness. Farms in green valleys gave way to mountain roads still edged with snow that gave way to a long flat edge. There at the endless sea waves crashed against rocks, with a wind so strong you couldn’t hear your own thoughts. The beaches had no end. 

I thought of this amazing explorer I was just reading about, Henry Worsley. His need to push his boundaries, man’s boundaries, ultimately cost him his life. Standing there at the curve of the earth I thought of him and how some are pushed to go deeper than the rest of us. I thought of all the ones who set sail on that wild sea to discover and conquer, without even knowing if they would find land again or forever be adrift. The ones who kept their eyes skyward. 

How often do we not look up? As a child I never lost sight of this magnificent crazy earth. On hot summer nights I would lie in grass counting stars, making wishes on falling ones and everything seemed so tiny compared to it. The wonder of it all was my ship, my point of departure into becoming who I would be. 

Life gets busy. Kids don’t sleep. Dreams change. We have good days and bad. Good years and harder ones. But the stars are still hanging above us and some of them are falling, catching children’s dreams as they go. 

We are on a planet, spinning in space. 

Sometimes being on this inland has felt a bit like sitting on a butterfly’s wing. It’s so beautiful and gentle. Translucent and magical. We are protected from the open ocean, cocooned and nestled between islands. 

It was so nice to go past these boundaries, to reach up and over and to stand at that curvature of the earth and look up out of that butterfly’s wing to the chaos of this crazy and truly wild universe.

Wow.

The unpredictable life

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I love this spot where the sky meets the sea. It is our playground. It is my heaven. 

Every day, rain or shine, bundled against cold, or shedding against heat, this is where we come. 

Living all over the world is so hard sometimes, but this is why we do it. Had Uganda not been so difficult we would have never found this. 

When we came back to North America I wasn’t sure what would happen. Would I settle back into the easy life and never want to go? Would I again want what I had left behind?

Then a strange thing happened. I got offered a job, to step back into acting. Then another opportunity knocked. My old career was there waiting, peaking behind a door cracked open. But I didn’t want to push it open and walk through it. 

I didn’t want to walk through it. 

As much as I love this island, as much as I love being almost home, as tempting as it was to go back and walk through that old door, I realized I love this crazy wild ride I am on more.

It’s one thing to visit a place, spend a week or more touring and feel like you’ve seen it. It’s so completely different to live for years and breathe alongside of another culture, within another culture. 

I realized that I’ll take the hard stops, and hopefully ride them out easier, and then breathe deeply in these perfect spots…

…where the sky meets the sea. 

I want to keep going. 

“The wild card. The unpredictable wild card that never comes when it should. Had it fallen earlier, years earlier, what would have happened to me? I looked at my palms trying to see the other life, the parallel life. The point at which my selves broke away…” –Jeanette Winterson, The Passion

Where did your paths verge, and what did you choose?

 

 

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.