I am watching my dear friend guide her dear boy over a snowy trail. The temperature is slightly above freezing and the path from one Gousty* house to another is slick. She helps him navigate the the hill, anticipating his movements and interpreting his little language. He is her third child. Even though I knew her well as the mother of two, it is hard for me to remember their family before him. And it is hard for me to remember Kristen as a mother before her little boy arrived. I don’t think that she is different — so much as she is more. More her intuitive, freely giving, mothering self.
That seems to be a theme in my thoughts recently: the giving more and the being more that is required of us as our families grow. And the joy we find as we stretch.
*Gousty is the land where my parents live and where I grew up.
Spring is a windy beach, still clean from a half a year of ice and snow.
Spring is a handful of radishes fresh from the moist earth.
Spring is a half-grown chick — part bird, part dinosaur.
Spring is a baby with bare arms. And bare feet.
Spring is a morning in the garden.
Jeffrey gets up early to go looking for breakfast in the woods behind our house. In the afternoon, our neighbor, Mike, takes the girls on a mushroom-hunting adventure on the edge of the orchard. At dusk in the Gousty forest, Jeffrey and I search for the illusive morel.
I used to be easily discouraged while looking for morels. Accustomed to walking fast and covering a lot of ground with a dog, the pace of mushroom hunting didn’t come easily to me. But then our children came along, and I learned how to slow down. Now I love to meander through the woods and field edges, pausing as little fingers point out flowers, bird’s nests, berries, and — during the month of May — morels.
These days, the girls usually find more mushrooms than I do. But I don’t get discouraged any more. I like to watch them find morels perhaps even more than I like finding them myself.
I also like to hear Jeffrey’s stories when he comes back from the hunt. One night after an evening walk, he tiptoed upstairs to show me his treasure, including the biggest morel ever. He’d found a particularly large group of morels growing under a grove of poplar trees close to where we’d walked just the night before. Did those enormous mushrooms appear overnight or were they silently standing there as we ambled past?
And then sometimes they appear when we aren’t searching at all. Yesterday, Ellen found a lone morel (nearly 5-inches tall!) down by the hammok while the girls were swinging. After we documented it for uncle Chris, the girls ran over to the neighbor’s house to show Mike — because sharing the delight of discovery is half the fun of finding morels!
Tomorrow, my brother Chris arrives with his family for the summer — and I’m guessing the first thing he’ll do is head back into the woods with a mesh bag in his pocket. I asked my Mom and Dad if they’ve been out looking for morels recently, but my Mom said no, “We’re saving them all for Chris.”
My mom continually inspires me with her creative projects. And so I’ve decided to start a series: Susie’s Knits.
This delightful little blue bird (pattern from Itty-Bitty Toys) folds neatly inside its underbelly — transforming into a pale white egg.
The egg fits perfectly its furry, brown nest . . . where it snuggles for a while . . .
Until it’s ready to hatch back out again!
For every Bird a Nest—
Wherefore in timid quest
Some little Wren goes seeking round—
Wherefore when boughs are free—
Households in every tree—
Pilgrim be found?
Perhaps a home too high—
The little Wren desires—
Perhaps of twig so fine—
Of twine e’en superfine,
Her pride aspires—
The Lark is not ashamed
To build upon the ground
Her modest house—
Yet who of all the throng
Dancing around the sun
Does so rejoice?
— Emily Dickinson
Reading to Amabel and Ellen at bedtime is my favorite part of the day. Snuggled up between my girls, warm and wiggly, lost in the adventures of our imaginations . . . this is bliss. But last night, I took our bedtime ritual a step further and read three chapters from a book I’m writing. A book I’m writing for them. I’ve been working on a chapter book, on and off, for over a year — ebbing and flowing with the seasons of mothering and work. I started in a yellow composition book two summers ago, but it was only this fall that I began (reluctantly) to transcribe the chapters into digital files. I love to write by hand; I’m very old-school that way. But my story was becoming unruly and I couldn’t hold all the threads together in a paper notebook anymore. I needed to type them up in an organized fashion to get my head around the plot. So I’ve been spending (roughly) one afternoon a week in my parents’ guest house, where I set up my little iPad alongside this reassuringly solid, powder-blue typewriter. Writing in this peaceful space, with nothing else calling for my attention, is another sort of bliss. Reading and writing . . . perhaps my two favorite things?
As much as I love the writing part, I was nervous to start reading the story — still so young and raw — aloud to my daughters. What if it didn’t hold their attention? What if it was too serious? What if speaking the voices of the characters out loud didn’t match the life I’d imagined into them on the pages?
I needn’t have worried. I couldn’t have asked for a better pair of listeners. Amabel and Ellen piped up with simple, honest reactions and curious questions. And after they fell asleep, each girl breathing in her own rhythm beside me, I snuck out of the bed and took notes. I have an idea now for the next scene; maybe the aunt could be a bit funnier — if I can exaggerate the dialogue without going overboard? Ellen said she liked the part in the woods best. And Amabel tactfully pointed out that I used the word “lips” too many times. My budding editor!
After we finished reading, Amabel asked, “Do you ever get writer’s block?” Her question caught me so off guard that I didn’t answer directly. Writers block? Where did that question come from? Well, to tell you the truth Amabel, it’s not so much that I have trouble with the writing part — it’s more that I have trouble with the sharing part. But reading and writing go together! How could I forget? Thank you and Ellen, for reminding me why I started to write this story in the first place. This project is a lot more exciting now that I’m sharing it with you.