82 :: 365


Another baby photo!

My creative head has been in my writing rather than my photography this week.  When I start to get muddled, I turn to E.B. White.  He is one of my writing mentors.

“Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition, for, as an elderly practitioner once remarked, ‘Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.’  This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what you are, rather than what you know, will at last determine your style.”  — E.B. White, The Elements of Style

“. . . therefore what you are, rather than what you know, will at last determine your style.”  I love the paradox imbedded in this sentence.  It is both reassuring and intimidating.  Few, I can just be myself.  Wait, who am I?

Who am I, when I write a piece for a homeschooling magazine?  Who am I, when I write a story about farmers for our local land trust?  Who am I, when I write an article about our homebirth community?

Who am I, when I at last sit down at my desk — covered in books and paper, tiny things made by my girls, love notes, baby nail clippers, stickers, and an unfinished doll scarf still on toothpick-sized knitting needles — and write a chapter of a book?  My children’s book?

“Writing is an act of faith,” E.B. White says.  Maybe that is why I come back to it again and again.  Writing is where I uncover my truth and find my story.  Sometimes I think I come to tell a story . . . but more often that not, I come to find it.

47 :: 365

just the tip

I believe that if one fathoms deeply one’s own neighborhood and the everyday world in which he lives, the greatest of worlds will be revealed.  — Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution

I want to get back into a big piece of writing and this 365 project is helping — helping me to see the importance of a daily creative habit.  It might seem like a little thing: taking and sharing a photo each day.  But it’s exactly the commitment to do it daily that has pushed me past a point of stagnant energy on multiple occasions.  And this is just the help I need to get back into my bigger writing.  So, thank you all, for your dedication to this project.  Having a group to share with has made all the difference!


29 :: 365

baby love 29_365

As I mop the floor with a sleeping baby wrapped up on me, I am thinking about a grant application that needs to be revised.  It has been on my mind all day.  But what do I do instead?  I set up the tripod and fiddle around with the timer settings on my camera.  And when this sweet baby boy wakes up from his nap, I put on a fuzzy cardigan and cuddle him in the light.

Taking timed photos in front of my office window feels a bit awkward, but later in the day when I upload the photos, I am so glad to have this image.  This is true reflection of our days together.  We spend our days very close.  Wallace likes to be close — close when he is awake and close when he is asleep.  When my body grows tired with so much closeness — so much holding — it helps me to revisit one of my favorite articles by Peggy O’Mara.  She says:

[My baby boy] was a baby who liked contact, who demanded contact, who wanted always to be in touch, who in every way is a very physical person. We are often impatient with babies because they are so physical. The popular media suggests we have to train our babies to control themselves, to be independent, to sleep, and to obey, as if these were not things that had intrinsic value and would be learned naturally, as a matter of course, in human society.

How dangerous for our society that we distrust the very behavior that is the most necessary for human survival. It is those babies who demand to be attached who are the most evolved. And it is the most securely attached babies who will have the best chance to be the most resilient adults. Resiliency comes from having internalized the functions of an empathic mother and father.

. . .

Our children are born hardwired for survival. Their needs and wants are the same. They know what they need, and they demand it. In hunter-gatherer societies, being in the arms of the mother meant that the infant was safe from the tiger. In modern times, being held in another’s arms still means survival. The single most important factor responsible for an infant’s normal mental and social development is physical holding and carrying. Infants need to be in arms. They know it, and they let us know it.

Current fashions and customs conspire against these natural and necessary needs of human infants. Devices such as the plastic infant carrying tray, pacifiers, cribs, and bottles are ways to distance ourselves from our babies, to gain a respite from the intimacy they require for full human development. Trends in perceiving the life of the home as servitude and drudgery, as well as lack of economic support for the family, also conspire to separate us from our loved ones, as these trends quite literally put physical distance between us.

Human infants don’t like physical distance. They like constant physical contact. They expect it. They need it. And they’re totally content when they have it. But how do we learn to surrender to this fierce need when others warn us that we must teach our infants to sleep, to be independent-and certainly not spoil them?

It is obvious that dependency is feared by many adults. Many are hungry for intimacy but afraid to surrender. Yet, life with infants is a surrender. When we just give up and give them what they need, it becomes so easy. It reminds me of the true meaning of the Sabbath-a day of leaving things just as they are, not trying to change them, and not doing anything. With infants, we are but humble servants to what is.

. . .

Don’t stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby. Go to your baby a million times. Demonstrate to your baby that people can be trusted, that the environment can be trusted, that we live in a benign universe. The crisis of the first year of life is trust or mistrust. Which will your baby learn?

— Peggy O’Mara, In Their Hands: Editorial, Mothering, No. 85, Winter 1997

11 :: 365

baby boy 11_365

I am sitting next to Ellen listening to her chattering, when suddenly she turns to me with a question: “Mama, what is your favorite word?”  She pauses and then adds, “The last time I asked you this, you said ‘Love’.”

“Hmmm . . .” I say, thinking.

“My favorite word today,” Ellen says, “is membranes.  Is that a word, Mama?”

“Yes, membranes is a word.  I like how that sounds,”  I reply, smiling.  I realize now that she mostly wanted to tell me about her favorite word.  But as for my favorite, I think I still choose Love.


365 :: Practice Round 4


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.

Blizzard Truth

valentine cat
our valentine cat

In my journal last week, I copied down a sentence from Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly.  I’d read the book before, and I had picked it back up to read the chapter on leadership.  Leadership led to parenting and then this:

“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”

Brené Brown’s book is about vulnerability—how essential it is for a full life—and how being perfect is not the goal.  So, no pressure, mamas and papas!  But, is it my imagination, or has Amabel become even more keenly aware of who I am and how I engage with the world since she started school?  Or maybe since she turned nine?  Whatever the reason, I’m sure she is taking in the essence of her mother to a greater degree that ever before.  No pressure, mama.

On Tuesday I had a difficult conversation at work.  Amabel wasn’t there—she was three blocks away, probably taking a math test—but as I looked out into the swirling snow and confronted whether or not to stand up and speak my truth, I thought about my daughter.

The blizzard had subsided by the time I left the office to pick up the girls from school.  The sky was clear.  Distracted by my thoughts, I did not stop to notice the fresh comforter of snow, but I remember the drive home and the chattering voices—so confident, so sure.  Yes, I spoke my truth.  It may have fallen on deaf ears in the moment, but it was not lost on oblivious children.