Nurture

I did not learn early
to love my body.
I sigh sometimes
to untangle curls, another
task in a day
of tasks.
I do not hold holy
in my hand
the toothbrush, take
a few moments more
to care for these teeth,
or carry enough
gratitude for the
geometry of the joints
that carry me.
But I am learning
what the massage therapist knows–
who sees naked form
bundled into bones,
sinews, and muscles splayed
on a table before him every day
like a sacrament–
there are only beautiful
bodies.

Beautiful Things: May 12th, 2016

One of my most important purposes for homeschooling is to fill my children’s lives with beauty of all kinds. At the same time, I sometimes have a hard time noticing and holding onto the beautiful things that dapple our days. (To be fair, I just learned that there is neurological evidence that negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences imprint instantly on us, whereas positive ones need to be savored for a minimum of 15 seconds to attach).  So, I am keeping lists.

-a canopy of tree shade in our yard, sunlight softened as it filters through
-baby girl sifting mulch at the playground with her fine fingers
-my middle boy smelling the baby’s head, and telling me it’s a different kind of sweet than me
-first boy’s counting to 100 by I-Love-You’s at bedtime (I-love-you 1, I-love-you 2, I-love-you 3….)
-hearing each of my loved ones breathing in the still of night
-the poem Pied Beauty, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, taped to my bathroom wall
-reading Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
-a giraffe’s slow grace at the Zoo, and how I enjoyed the little train ride, with my arm around my boy
-second son asking me what my favorite part of the day was, and when I answered about his giving me a card and book, he said with satisfaction, “I thought you were gonna do that”
-dancing and singing with my kids and remembering when my mom did the same with my sibs and me
-how burying my nose in my kids’ hair can change me and the trajectory of my day in a moment

Spill

All my anxieties spread before me
in that two-feet-square slick
of sludge on the tile. Even after making
up with my boy for my overreaction
to the upset tumbler, I still grieved
having broken the beautiful
morning. Felt I had shattered
some pristine crystal sculpture.
No,
my husband gentled me
in his arms. It’s more like the water,
the rock thrown does not ripple
it forever. Calm returns and the whole
of the body of water is unbroken
again, the deep envelops, embraces
and covers, absorbing the impact,
stone sinking until it joins
the soil and sediment, the foundation solid
and undisturbed beneath.

Year of Beauty

The morning is a rare gray, air cool and moist as I trod to the open dirt at the end of our neighborhood. I am looking for uneven ground, the better to challenge my muscles and joints.

My eyes, unaccustomed to the softness, still want to squint. Then I see the weeds. I feel like Rey in that scene: I didn’t know there was so much green in the universe. I need the clouds in order to truly see it. I look for more, and find the mesquites with their new spring growth. Diminutive fronds shower soft from their branches, a green whose name is unknown to me, almost the same as the pastel I chose during the therapy session last week. Inner resources. I closed my eyes and searched, questioning. What does the resource that is continuously renewed look like inside me? A tendril curling within, bright green and growing. Needing nurturing, thirsty. An ocean of water surrounding, feeding it. The depths of that ocean dark and calm underneath any tumult at the surface.

I reach as though to shake hands with the branch, pull back at the last moment when I notice the thorns, a good half-inch long, ivory colored like perfect fangs smiling at me. I test one carefully, half expecting it to be soft and undeveloped, but, no. It resists with a hardness that is surprising.

I so often feel overexposed here, a photograph blown out with too much light. I breathe deep, eyes open but still wary. The haze greeting me on this morning walk is ethereal, otherworldly, the sun’s light diffuse.

By the end of the walk I am in tears. There is so much beauty, and I need to see, and seek, it. I do not know what this will look like. I do know that I struggle to hold onto the beauty. As soon as the misty smudges across the sky register, I am caught in longing again, wishing for more of these mornings and glowering at the thought of the return of the usual desert harshness. Like the ones in the Snow Queen story who have got tiny shards of the magical, distorting mirror in their eyes, the ugly and painful magnified in their sight.

My baby is nine months old on this morning, her arrival in July in the middle of a storm, in the first hour of the morning. I will tell her yet again how beautiful she is when I get back from my walk. Year of Beauty, the words beating a rhythm in my head to match my march across the sand. Quail skitter from one mesquite to another. The soft mixing with the hard.  Beauty and thorns.

Enjoying These Moments

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Navel oranges, their juice bursting in their skins

Painting my nails while all my boys are out

Bees busy in the honey-sweet blossoms

Sketching from a favorite photograph

Listening to Beatrix Potter stories while the kids paint

Reading The Count of Monte Cristo for the first time

Baby Girl’s movements becoming larger, fuller

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Marriage Letters: How We Co-Labor

My response to this month’s Marriage Letters prompt at Amber Haines’ blog.

We swayed for an hour, shower spraying hot on my back and my head glued to your chest. The midwife was on her way from another state, the apprentice gone to get her supplies, having realized this baby was coming along quicker than most first babies tend to. We leaned into each other like two walls of a pyramid, and time ceased to mean anything, the two of us passing through this transition unawares. Your arms held me up when my body needed to pull south; I hung, pressing my forehead into the strength of your chest, and in between surges we rocked and you spoke blessings into my damp hair. This labor, this bringing forth new life, was a joint effort, and for all your exclamations and others bandying about words like “rock star,” I knew we had done it together, as a team.

The pastor who counseled us before marriage told us only ten percent of couples could handle working together, a challenge that raised my hackles. At the time, we thought of my joining you in your career, and when it didn’t work out, I wondered if the pastor was right and we fell into the other ninety percent. Turns out, I just had no passion for real estate, or administration. Plus, I hate making phone calls. But working together? That’s what we do every day.

It looks pretty conventional in this season; many days I am padding barefoot in the kitchen when you leave, suited and tied, for the marketplace. I’ve always enjoyed cooking for you, and you are the planter-of-trees and keeper-of-the-cars.

I’m zoomed-in close-up of a caterpillar, and you’re big-frame picture window with a view of the mountains. I love polishing your words; you help me make connections. I am focused concentration and you are all passionate, spontaneous energy. I’m spend-an-hour-on-line-edits, and you are Big Ideas and Get-It-Done.

Many times I have wailed, But what am I doing? I feel lost in these carousel days of diapers, sippy cups and sleeplessness. Days stretch like an ocean around me and I’m floating with no landmarks in sight. This season of small-child parenting is challenging, demanding, just plain hard. My frustration has at times led me to unfairly accuse you of making your work more important than mine. Yet you encourage me on a daily basis that I am doing good work and well, this nurturing of small ones, and you reassure me that there will indeed be more time for other dreams and projects, for different work.

You are my greatest champion. You, wisely, have always known this adventure we’re on will look different at every stage, and cheer me on in the small victories: the phone call placed, the poem finished, the books read, the meal prepared, the song performed. Sometimes one will bear a little more of the weight of supporting than the other at times. Sometimes support looks a lot like you leaving for work each day so I can follow my heart in mothering this way.

This work of ours is ordering Creation together: each dish washed, every diaper changed, each presentation made, every weed pulled, each line written, each client helped, each chord played is nurturing the soil of our family, chipping away at dysfunction and disorganization, making room for new things to grow, living the art we make every day.

In my macro lens mind, I can’t see where it’s going, how it will all add up, what the purpose is.  But this I know: We are birthing something new here, each day and season a series of expanding and contracting, of gestating and of bringing to light.
“And we’re doing it together,” as you so often tell me.

Thank you for eight years this month of creating together, Love.