Three years ago, the girls and I started nature journaling. What this looks like, for us, is gathering natural objects from our garden and walks; laying them all out over the table; and sketching and watercolor painting in our journals. We also write the names of plants and creatures and other items in French when we are inspired. Nature journaling is definitely about the process for us. We did it regularly for about two years and then got out of practice. Today we gathered around the table again, and I was so happy . . . even when Wallace started painting blue stripes all over his arms. I hope we will make space to nature journal all summer and into the fall. There’s nothing quite like the meditative space it inspires.
We made it there and back again: all five of us across the ocean to beloved France, to visit Paris, Bordeaux, and then Aunt Zane and Uncle Gerard in the beautiful Dordogne Valley. What a journey. 15 years ago, Jeffrey and I were together here. I had just finished a study aboard program and he came to meet me in Southwest France. To return to this part of the world with our three children was a tremendous gift.
It was wonderful to travel all together as a family, but Paris was not easy with Wallace. I knew that Parisians are stereotypically impatient with loud, active children, but on the first day we had a couple of incidents that were particularly humbling. I speak French but Wallace doesn’t! We got “the look” more than once. Gratefully, the girls were a huge help, and we all tried to be extra attentive to Wallace and negotiate his melt downs. I hope the girls remember our walk along the Seine, Jeffrey’s commentary on the remarkable architecture, and traveling down magical narrow streets — as well as they remember coaching Wallace through it all!
On our second night in Paris, we explored le Passage de Grand Cerf, found dinner “a emporter,” and then I put a very tired little man to sleep while Jeffrey took the girls up into the Eiffel Tower to see the city all at night. I opened the windows in our sweet little apartment on Rue de Caire and let in the Paris night noises: fragments of French, dogs barking, mopeds. . . I sat on the old wooden floor and wrote, letting myself linger in poetry inspired by a Parisian Passage.
On the last Thursday of August we took the Manitou Island Transit Ferry across the big lake over to South Manitou Island. In all my years in Leelanau, I had never been to visit this incredibly beautiful place! We hiked to the valley of the ancient white cedar trees and marveled at some of the only “old growth” forest left in Michigan. (In the Midwest?) Why were these trees (many of them well over 500 years old) not cut down in the 1830s and 1840s when the rest of the island was logged to fuel ships? The wind blew in such a way that the massive tree trunks collected sand from the dunes, and the sand dulled the blades of the loggers saws; and so a beautiful grove of white cedars was left to grow and grow. Walking among them truly feels like entering another time. I loved watching the girls and Wallace marvel at the trees after our epic hike through the woods together.