I’m checking out at the grocery store — signing the credit card receipt with one hand and holding a baby with the other. My big girls are helping me with the bags and the cashier says, “Look at you, you old pro. You make it look so easy.” It was a nice thing to say, but I had to laugh to myself. Well, nice cashier, if only you knew what an effort it was to get out of the house today. And, in fact, what an effort it is most days to even get up off the couch. Life would be so much easier if we could all hang out right here, eat popcorn, and read books until this little man can talk to us and walk around on his own two legs. Not that I want to rush anything, mind you!
It is still pitch black outside and the house is quiet when the phone rings at 6:30 am. School is on a two-hour delay. I turn off the light downstairs and go to the window, squinting to see out. As the sky begins to lighten, the magical world outside take shape. Every limb and tuft is frosted white, and the girls want to go out immediately. Breakfast first! After pancakes and hard-boiled eggs, we bundle up and enter the fairy land that is our front meadow, where each little cluster of trees and bushes is a new hideaway. Hours pass.
By the time we should be packing backpacks and heading to school, the girls are fully immersed in creating a snow castle. I use the authority of motherhood to declare a family snow day.
I am thinking about framing. How we frame our images. And our stories. How sometimes what we leave out of the frame is as important as what we keep in. This photo, for example, looks quite peaceful. We have a lovely blanket of snow, and Harry wants to come in out of the cold. What you don’t see is the room around the frame of the door — our kitchen and dinning area that is still disheveled from the oven fire on Monday (Jeffrey put it out with a fire extinguisher, thank goodness, but if you’ve ever used one you may know that a fire extinguisher can make even more of a mess than the fire itself! And although we’ve spent a lot of time cleaning, we both have other work to do.). This is one reason why I find photography to be meditative, in a sense. It helps me to focus on the simple beauty of the day by framing a moment and eliminating some of the chaos around the edges. This isn’t always the goal, of course. But sometimes it is. And it helps.
I am in the midst of chaos. Taco shells warming in the oven caused a fire, which filled the kitchen with smoke and set off the smoke alarm. Holding a half-dressed baby, I throw open the front door (which is normally closed for the winter) and giant clouds of snow blow in while two children run out. And the dog. He goes out too. I try to open a window in the back of the house — but I cannot push it up with enough force because I am trying to plug my baby’s ears to lessen the deafening beeps. I shift my position and manage to get the window open, causing even more snow to whirl inside. The alarm finally stops and my head is clear enough now to realize that my children are still out. Standing at the wide open door, I yell, “COME BACK IN! YOU DON’T HAVE YOUR BOOTS ON!”
“But Mama,” they yell back, “the snow feels like a giant pillow!”
At least they are wearing wool socks.
I am noticing how tall she looks in this photo, throwing a snowball for Harry. And I am remembering when we first got him as a pup and she was just three. I called her my baby zen master puppy trainer. She had a way with him from the very beginning — a certain confidence and grace.
Lately she has been asking for a dog “of her own.” I reply, “Maybe when you are ten. Ten is a good age for a dog of your own.” I think, for now we have Harry. Goodness knows, Harry is enough!
My November Guest
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walked the sodden pasture lane.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.
— Robert Frost