Friday, July 24, 2015

The Tale of Mama Bear and the Block Tower, as told by an idealist

My darling,

Today we went to the Children’s Museum for the last time. We’re moving this weekend and if you kids were stuck roaming the house full of empty walls and boxes one more day, it may have been a horror story--for me.  You needed a change of scenery, things to climb, and tools to create. 

We played near the baby pond, a soft area for babies to be safe from the whirlwind rodeo of children who move without awareness.  You began to build this elaborate structure from the soft blocks. A mother and her young son approached.  Clementine threw blocks out of the circle.  Harper practiced her ballet along the sides.  The little boy wanted the blocks that you were, but his mother saw how your head was reeling with a plan and she asked him to wait for you to finish.  I thanked her with a smile. 

Just as you were done, a reckless storm blew on the scene in the form another boy.  Almost instantly, his sent your walls and tall arches to the ground. You watched in devastation as tears welled in your eyes.  I looked at the boy, who was already bored with his surroundings.  His mother and her friend watched him without the slightest raise of an eyebrow or mischievous smirk.  They didn’t shrug their shoulders, suggesting that boys will be boys.  They didn’t even react.  They were gone.

Her blank face caused  a fire to grow inside me.  I held you close in your sadness and saw the first mother and son, who witnessed the whole event.  Their faces were heavy with the injustice of it all.  I wanted to confront the thoughtless villain of the story, I really did. Sadly, even as an idealist in a full mama bear moment, I don’t think it would have mattered.  Instead, I wiped your eyes and took a deep breath.

Baby, I hope you always create amazing things.  I love the way your eyes glow as your mind works.  I wish I could see all the greatness that is happening up there.  We only get a glimpse out here.  I hope you never stop seeing the materials before you with unlimited potential to become something new.  Never stop building.  Pour your heart into your work, let it dazzle everyone with imagination and truth.  Creativity is our gift that changes the world.  I know this to be true.

And just as easy as we can create, we also have the ability to destroy with that same great force. It’s huge and otherworldly; it’s powerful and fierce. The world is full of people who will take one look at your masterpiece, all your heart and passion and stomp it to the ground.  As sure as breath flows through their veins, they will ruin whatever they find.  I can’t yell at them all.  I wish I could. We can’t always take up arms against the sea of troubles.  Some battles are not worth fighting, although many are.  This is something we keep learning our whole lives. 

That child didn’t pause to see what you were doing.  He didn’t notice how each block was placed with intention.  He didn’t imagine what it could be or ask to join. Maybe his world little room for potential and possibilities, a mere existence, a force of survival.  We can’t always know the story, we only get to live ours.  Let it be one of awareness, goodness, and heart.

My son, our sadness can be a gift, so that we remember how it felt, so that we don’t bring that same feelings to others.  I can’t keep you from sadness.  I can’t stop the thoughtless destroyers, but I can tell you this, so that maybe on the hardest days, when you need to find the good in the world, you’ll have these words planted somewhere deep.

The world is a beautiful place, but it’s also pretty ugly.  You’ll meet all kinds of encouraging people who will help you along the way.  Remember them and be like them.  You’ll meet all kinds of people who have yet to discover how their power can be used for good, it will be heartbreaking and sometimes, they are hard to forget.   They’re actions and words will stick in your head for years.  Don’t let them win. You may want to give up, so many times.  You may wonder if what you do matters.  Sometimes, I ask those questions too, but think about this, light eradicates darkness, that means, if there is even a sliver of light, it will penetrate the darkness.  Like the stars that shine so boldly in the huge sky above us.  They look so small from where were are, but they are bigger than we can imagine. So when it all feels like a big, dark night, look for the stars.  And if you look everywhere and see only darkness, take something into your hands, tell a story and create the light you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, July 13, 2015

these little field notes

You know the familiar image of a person crawling to the finish line, panting for air, struggling to take just one last breath. Today feels that way.  I just put the last kid to bed and the door opened approximately two minutes later, with someone hoping that my answer for a bedtime snack had changed. It had not. 

I sit in a clean and quiet room, a small pile of boxes in the corner.  The light is fading from another day of hot July heat.  I hear rumbling in the air.  Rain, if only for a moment, so I move to the porch swing and rock in the breeze that ushers the heavy drops that fall from the sky. That electric air is magic to me. I hope the lightning doesn’t find me and my computer.  But, these days that feel so crazy require dramatic acts of survival. So I sit and feel. The rain slants to the left and mists over me.   A bolt slices zigzagging light in the air and a crack that makes me jump sends six birds into the air.  The trees full of  leaves shake to the crescendo of the storm.  In the wild commotion, I am soothed.

Tonight, I stood in the middle of their bedroom, after kissing freshly bathed heads and taking all the deep breaths that summoned any reserve of patience that may be hiding.  I sang the words of To Make You Feel My Love., a favorite lullaby in our home. I pretend I sound like Adele and that I’m as poetic as Bob Dylan when he first penned the words. It’s these words that always get me,

The storms are raging on the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret.
The winds of change are blowing wild and free,
You ain't seen nothing like me yet.

I don’t even mind the use of “ain’t.”  Bob Dylan gets all the exceptions he wants. They are something between an anthem and a prayer. 

We got home from the beach yesterday.  It was an unplanned trip, but one we desperately needed.  One of us mentioned it and not in a casual way, but in a way that “we should go to the beach,” meant “I really need to meet God by the water, do you think we can make it happen?”  We made it happen.  It was a proper and bitter farewell to living four hours from the coast, knowing that our next home is every bit land locked.   So many words were left unspoken that last morning as we reluctantly returned to the car, with feet covered in sand and hems of our shorts soaking wet. Words we didn’t really know how to say were replaced by the whining children who either never wanted to leave or wanted to be home that instant. 

When I was a young girl, we would spill out of the car and run down the sandy shores of Lake Michigan.  The waves were most often mild, but if you were lucky, they reached 4-5 feet.  We would wait until just before they came crashing down on us and jump into them.  The force would knock us off our feet and we would sink below the surface.  Rising to the top again, we’d shake the water from our eyes and anticipate the next swell that would soon follow.

At the end of the day, toasted in the sun, our bodies would feel so exhausted and so free.  We didn’t understand then how the power of the water beat away those extra things we carried. I am now trying to conjure up the difficulties of childhood and find them comical. But thankfully, the waves still hold that magic, so I handed the baby to my husband who already had two little kids clinging to his legs and waded out for a few brief moments.  They were much too small for the waves this day,  I needed to do this on my own.   In the book, All The Light We Cannot See, one of the characters stands on the coast of France spellbound by the ocean and says, “I think the sea is big enough to contain everything a person might feel.”   I’m glad of that, I have many feelings. 

The swell rose higher and higher and at the just right time,  we collided.  I lost my footing and stumbled to stand.  Salty water covered my face, I wiped it from my eyes.  I tasted it on my lips and squealed.  I could have done it for hours, but the luxury was not mine this day, so I grabbed my boy and carried him out.  We didn’t go as far. I held him tight.  We let the water jolt us.  We were shaken and filled with laughter.  I never let go.  One wave met us when we weren’t looking and we were separated.  We stumbled about, I quickly found his hand even though my footing was not secure.  His face shined half with delight and have with trembling.  I think that’s a good place to live though, brave and so alive, just past the comfort and safety.  We crawled to the shore on our knees.  His little sister begged for a turn. We took turns, the parents, holding the baby, and switching children. 

Our North Carolina baby giggled and cooed a little melody that mirrored the rushing waves.  I think it was a love song. Some things require no translation. 

On the shore, I held them close and said, do you see how big the ocean is?  No, I can’t even see it all, they would answer.  Well, God loves us even more than the ocean.  They were quiet and didn’t speak.  Yet, what could one really need to say to that?

I collected all these moments in my head, these little field notes.  The way Harper always flocked to the waves. The peace and restoration glowing on my husband’s face as he stood holding her hand, not moving from the spot their feet were planted, letting the water wash over them. How Hudson would gravitate to the gentle tide pool abounding with treasures to discover.  And Clementine always trying to get in the water, to dig her fingers into the wet sand.  These bits of wild, I’m tucking away for safe keeping, preserving all the magic and truth and light and life. Because life is a brilliant mix of crashing fully alive in the waves and crawling along, hoping with reckless abandon to make it through the day. 

It’s dark now and these treasures have worked their magic, like the crashing waves, to shake off the heaviness of a long day.  The storm has rolled on and the earth is hushed, drinking in the provisions left in its wake.

When we were driving home from the beach, all three kids with their necks in uncomfortable looking positions, sound asleep.  We talked of life and dreams and the usual. The way that road trips and sleeping children allow for conversation is a beautiful thing. I don’t remember what I asked, something about eight years of marriage, but he answered, I like what we’re building here, motioning to the space in our Corolla, filled to the brim.  I smiled in agreement, captivated my the summation of that sentence.

Oh, there’s so much I don’t know about the one million uncertainties ahead, but I keep hearing these lyrics in my head, (and I’m not even ashamed to say I was a big fan of the Dixie Chicks, not one little bit.) 

I said I wanna touch the earth
I wanna break it in my hands
I wanna grow something wild and unruly

And maybe, just maybe, that is exactly what we’re doing. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 16, 2015

9 AM.  Light filled the silent room. Three children still asleep after a couple late nights filled with friends, swimming, and treats. Soft white curtains frame the three windows and the ties hang unevenly against the window that is without question set in the sunken wall.  The bricks on the sealed fireplace stand in an understated charm.  Resting below them, a small basket is filled with toys for the baby, but she’s happy to get into anything at all.

Six weeks left.  This house has been a wonderful home with its sweeping porch and enormous second bathroom.  The fenced, mostly private yard for the kids to play.  Our rectangular haven in the middle of the city.  The crepe myrtles that line the street haven’t bloomed yet.  I desperately hope their radiant pink blossoms with bid us farewell before we go.

The neighborhood is as eclectic as ever, noisy, unusual, splashed with quirks and questionable activity. And yet, it’s been a safe and pleasant place to be.  I’m sure Rose and her cats will continue to lurk the streets for many years. Certain residents will always grumble about the neighborhood falling into shambles because of the drug culture.  Ambitious mavericks will come and stake their claim in the up and coming scene.  The family next door will never leave and remain in their chaotic dysfunction.  Who will enjoy the abundant harvest of Warren's tomato garden?  That was a lovely surprise.  And will the debate ever be settled over whose fence is really falling to pieces between this house and Ophelia’s? 

The church bells ring at eleven on Sunday mornings, beckoning all who will come. In the winter, when the trees are bare, the steeple stands tall in the tree line. I think my husband will always suggest we should have attended that old church down the street.  We didn’t.   When we moved to North Carolina, we debated between two cities and the other day as we drove home from seeing friends, he questioned what would it be like if we had moved there instead.  We didn’t, but how can you know such a thing?   It’s not with regret, but pondering as we prepare to march bravely onward to the next chapter. All the things that didn’t happen.  All the decisions that we did or didn’t do.  You can’t change them. There’s no ability to know how these years would have unfolded when loaded with if scenarios. 

So, what has it been?  Important.  Every season is.  Kierkegaard said, Life is lived forward, but understood backward.  Special. For the time and memories made.  Crucial in the pursuit of God and dreams.  Crucial in the formation of who we strive to be. And finally, unexpected, because life always is. 

I’m particularly fond of understanding meaning.  With each move and each new state, I get lost in the wild madness of its significance.  What did we learn?  What did we lose? What did we gain?  What did we become? How do we go forward?

There are things to miss about everywhere.  I miss gathering around Ma Bell’s kitchen in Tennessee. I miss California sunsets and its coast line and all the “carnicerias,” because I love to say the word “carniceria.”  I miss the great lakes and the ten thousand lakes of Minnesota.  The culture of Minneapolis.  Those particularly divine pulled pork tacos at the farmer’s market. The wild winds on Lake Superior’s rocky shore.  And now adding to the list, North Carolina’s finest.  The coast, the mountain vistas, the barbeque, the beer, and most of all the handful of people who will be the hardest to leave. 

I don’t pretend to know everything and  I admit it is not always easy to be the ones who have not settled in and found home.  You don’t hear the wild beckoning that roars inside us, the whispers that call us to follow this winding trail for reasons we don’t always see.  And that’s just fine.  It’s a complex and mysterious world. 

My six year old tells a lot of stories.  I started to write one of them down, and this is how it went.

Chapter One- The Beginning.

It starts with a little ending. 

This is a story about a clown dinosaur who meets a cow with horns.  He can protect himself from predators.

He told me that it was going to have lots of chapters.

And that’s kind of genius and true.