I wrote about dipping autumn leaves in beeswax for the October Wild+Free bundle on LEAVES. So when the girls wanted to bring out the dipping pot today, I was especially aware of the beauty of this autumn tradition.
Here is an excerpt from my piece:
September 2010. It is our first year homeschooling. I have two daughters: a five-year-old and an 18-month-old, and four curriculums: a stack of books and a box of binders. I want so desperately to do this right — but nothing I read feels “right” for the type of “school” we want to do and the sort of family we are. I read. I take notes. I make lists and schedules. I envision our days. I want to choose a path and have it feel deep and meaningful right away. But I’m overwhelmed by choice. Which method to follow? Which books to read? Which projects to make?
When we go outside, my head clears. Outside I don’t need a curriculum. We play in the garden and take walks. The girls fill baskets with wild treasures. We rake leaves and jump into piles, tossing the colors of autumn up into the air, over and over again.
We bring some leaves inside, and I remember a project that I read about in one of those binders in the box next to my desk. Curious, but skeptical, I shuffle through the pages and then fill a pot with chunks of raw beeswax and heat it, slowly. The aroma of melting wax — like honey and summer memories — fills the house. I coax the girls into the kitchen and as we dip our leaves in the beeswax, magic happens. We marvel as each leaf transforms into a object of shining light, coated with a layer of nature’s finest gloss.
Wallace has fallen asleep for his nap and I am distracted by an idea for a piece I want to write. I should be mentally preparing for my two precious hours with the girls. Wallace’s nap time is our focused learning time. But, instead, I’m heating up lentil soup and making notes in my notebook. So that when they come down for lunch and language arts, my head is somewhere else.
All afternoon, I am distracted. I try to bring myself back. But it isn’t until the evening, when the girls are at choir and Jeffrey and I are picking wild grapes, talking quietly together, surrounded by the smell of October, that I come back into presence. We find a nest in the tree covered with grape vines. It is oval in shape and coming apart after a summer of wind and rain.
Wallace examines the nest. I look at him. Our October baby. Last year at this time, he was nestled inside of me. This little one who is not so little any more. So strong and alive with determination. So clear eyed. So much a part of who we are as a family now.
Why is it so easy to get distracted? Why is it so hard to come back? When should I follow my distractions, my callings — and when do I need to set them on the shelf for a later moment of quiet?
Writing connects me to this world. And yet it carries me away too. It’s a strange combination. It is a calling I love but sometimes ignore because I know how it can take me somewhere else. And I want to be here. Looking at this nest.