I stand in the kitchen, tired, noticing I forgot to brush my furry teeth the night before. “Girls! It’s time to start our day!” I shout down the short hall to their sleepy bunk beds. I pull two creamy shots of espresso. The aroma awakens my skin. Andy’s art exhibit is in a few days and we are nearing the end of a tightly booked schedule. For months, Andy has been painting between 4 and 6:30am, before his 10 hour work day. And painting again in the evenings and on the weekends. Naturally, I’ve been keeping (attempting to keep) the homestead stuff together, weaving my work around cooking, kids, garden, pets etc. We’ve been in a doable and good rhythm, one that feels doable and good because it is creatively fueling for my husband and because it is finite. I cannot wait to see Andy stand in a white gallery*, surrounded by his art and people who love his art. I look forward to someone else making dinner again. I look forward to breezy, cozy weekday evenings.
I steam coconut milk and accidentally pour the most beautiful heart-leaf design into my mug. I think about taking a photo but I stand and stare instead, noticing how one little beautiful thing can be such a gift.
Last week, during a meeting with Margot’s teacher, I felt a lump in my jeans, on my calf. It was a big lump and I couldn’t believe nobody told me that it looked like I was concealing a small squirrel up my pant leg. I fished my hand up the blasted skinny jean to fetch the item and I pulled out a pair of my underwear. That I then had to hold in my lap for the rest of the meeting.
Our kitchen is deconstructed as we prepare for the last bits of our four-year remodel. I wipe drywall dust off the little stool so I can spread peanut butter on bread for breakfast. Margot has a spelling test today.
BREEZE I say, emphasizing the Z. She wants to spell it with an S like cheese and and EA like please. And really, I wonder how any of us learn to spell when every rule is broken 12 different ways.
Mama, can you please tie this string on my wrist so it’s not too tight but also not too loose? Ruby always has very specific requests regarding fit and tension of accessories and clothing.
One second, baby. I fill lunch containers with sliced tomatoes, cheese and applesauce on the kitchen floor.
Little Dragon plays. The sun cuts light across the dusty floor. Mabel is hungry. I take hold of the fragile string with six gold rings and one diamond in the middle that is held tight to Ruby’s wrist. Except I don’t have a good grip and the beads fall, hop away and vanish into the floor. She screams in horror. I take a gulp of coffee and pick her up. I tell her we’ll make another but immediately regret saying that because that isn’t the point. She grieves over that bracelet on this morning.
She presses her wet cheek into the space between my collarbone and chin. I hold her with my right arm. I wipe the table with my left hand and say SKELETON to Margot.
Despite the sock crisis, the kids make it to school on time and this small victory feels like a big one.
My girls both still push their hands into my bra for warmth. It is always an unfocused instinct, like they don’t even notice they are doing it. It reminds me of them as babies, so I love it.
I went for a run yesterday. It’s one of those runs where I felt as light as a tanker truck and as fast as cold honey. It was quiet and felt like fall. Ribbons of gold and purple, dry earth, slow creek. A bear stepped into the trail, just in front of me. She saw me and kept walking. She rolled on her back in the copper pine needles, bit at a yellowing bush. I watched her for at least a minute. I felt like I could just walk right up to her. My heart beat loudly but I didn’t feel afraid. I felt lucky.
I rerouted my run, turning my head at every forest crackle. The bear gave me a gift: I am lighter and faster now. Awakened.
At home I take the clothes off the line. They’ve been dry for four days now. I live this life and I still can’t understand how I’ve wanted to do this two-minute task for four entire days and been unable to get to it.
I spend my day behind the sewing machine and computer. We leave on our big road trip in just over a week. The girls told me last night that they don’t want to go. Because they’ll miss their friends. And, I realized that 24 days sounds like 17 years to them. We got on my computer and looked at the map, the relaxed schedule and the places we will visit. Margot asked if we can go see Dance TV like on Girls Just Want to Have Fun when we are in Chicago. Ruby still looked worried and said that she just doesn’t know how she feels about it because she just doesn’t know what it will feel like. And I say Amen. That’s life in a nutshell kid. We just gotta go see what it feels like to decide how we will feel about it. She likes that idea.
I sit still with my daughters by the creek. I try to make it happen several times a week. The air moves, massages our skin, lifts gold hair into currents. Trees throb, counting time. Our whole bodies supported by this world. Together, arranging rocks. Talking about jewelry design, glaciers and dinner.
A few nights ago, Ruby climbed into bed with us coughing and declaring she felt sick. This is how it went down:
Andy: What’s up buddy? Do you feel like you might puke?
Ruby: Kindof. But I don’t want to.
Andy: Yeah but are you going to? How about you turn your head away from my head. And if you feel like you have to throw up and you can’t make it to the bathroom, aim for the floor. OK? Do you want to go to the bathroom now?
Ruby: Ok dada. No, I don’t think I will throw upbbbbbbbllllllooouuuuuuuuge
She vomited everywhere, mostly on Andy.
I have been participating in a class that my friend dreamed up and is teaching on Monday nights. It’s movement, loud music, breath, little bit of journaling. During the last class she read poems about transformation in between us following her loose, transformative moves to Janet Jackson, Indigo Girls and Van Morrison. A few times we had a writing prompt like “What are you famous for? What do you want to be famous for?”** Several times we just broke out in dance for two counts of 8. At the end of class she always does just one more something. She said,
Now is the time we all look at the clock and think about how it is time to go home. Pause. Give yourself three minutes.
She packed so much into those three minutes. We danced and smiled, wrote a few sentences and laid on the wood floor feeling our chests rise and fall. Three minutes. In a season of life where I often feel stretched and disheveled, I will remind myself to – every now and then – give myself three minutes exactly like that.
** That prompt came after this beautiful poem you must read now:
Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
I want to be famous to my daughters’ friends,
stray dogs, worms, panhandlers,
famous as the one who made eye contact.
I want to be famous like a campfire,
a warm place, a conduit for storytelling.
I want to be famous in the way a creek is famous,
equal parts flexible and unyielding,
equal parts new and ancient.
Want to participate? Tell us, what do you want to be famous for?