I am upstairs in my office — by the window where I like the light — taking a photo that is completely staged. Sometimes I do this when I’m cleaning my desk. Maybe I am avoiding the actual cleaning part? Or maybe, I think, if I arrange a few lovely objects that have been obscured under piles, I will be inspired to create something with them.
I printed out the Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook by Susannah Conway a couple of weeks ago, and it has been looking at me longingly ever since. This will be my fifth year journaling my way through the pages, and I’m thrilled just thinking about it. Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow I will make space to purposfully reflect on the year past and envision the year to come. One of the questions I’ll ask myself is “Why do a 365 project?” To nurture my creative voice? To encourage myself to see beauty in our everyday life? To be an active part of a photography community? To see my family more deeply, with more dimension, and with more reverence?
I think of the quote I so love by Brenda Ueland: “For when you write, if it is to be any good at all, you must feel free — free and not anxious. . . Yes, it has made me like working to see that writing is not a performance but a generosity.” In that spirit of generosity, I want to venture out on this 365 project. Thank you to Jenny, one of the most generous people I know, for inspiring me to begin.
I am sitting on the couch with a baby asleep in my lap (do we sense a theme here?). Ellen is climbing up onto the table and then peering into the lamp. “Mama, there are a bunch of dead flies and ladybugs in here.”
“Ellen please get down,” I respond automatically. But then, “No, wait. Actually, stay up there.” I reach across the chest in front of the couch for the camera. Fortunetly, it is within arm’s reach.
“Mama, why are you taking a picture of me?”
“Because I like you up there. Because I like you. I like the things you do. I like the things you say.” Did I say those things? I wish I would have.
I am folding laundry. I am trying to fold laundry. Wallace is not content, and so the mountain of clothes on our bed is not shrinking. Sometimes he likes to be on his tummy. I lay him down in front of me and attempt to fold a few more shirts, but his eyes look so beautiful with the light coming in though our big windows that I grab my camera instead. The pile of clothing is in the background. I push it all off the bed onto the floor, and I manage to capture our baby boy during moment of peace — quite literally a moment — between sad faces. He then buries his head in the blanket and starts to cry. I pick him up, I nurse him, and I wrap him up on my chest. I scoop up the laundry from the floor and begin folding again.
I am walking down the path that leads to the chicken coop and the girls rush past me — running ahead, unplugging the electric fence — eager to greet the birds and check for eggs. The day is cold and dark and there is just one egg. A light blue egg, a shade slightly softer than Amabel’s coat. She wants to hand it to me but my hands are full with baby, compost bucket, camera, and letters to put in the mailbox. This is my recent condition: hands full. My two greatest mothering tools are my voice and my hands, but for the past two months my hands have been so occupied with our little baby man that I’ve had to rely on my voice with the girls and I’m feeling the strain. My voice isn’t tired; the girls are tired. Tired of me talking so much. Telling them what to do instead of guiding them with my hands. I long to put my arms around them, to do projects next to them — or to simply get a glass of water myself instead of asking them to help me again.
Jeffrey arrives on the scene. He takes the egg from Amabel and hands her a sheet of ice that he lifted off the top of the wheelbarrow. As I watch the girls examine the ice (we have no snow yet — but ice is a welcome sight), I am grateful that his hands are here to do the work that my hands long to do. I set the compost bucket down and somehow manage, with a baby wrapped up on my chest, under my down coat and thick scarf (“Mama, you don’t even look like you have a baby. You just look really plump!”) to take a photo of our daughters with their ice on the day after Christmas.