Juncos have been the highlight of our walks these past few days. All the way down our street there have been lots of them- flitting about in the trees, hanging out on power lines, pecking at the ground, and singing with their friends. Juncos are slightly larger than a chickadee with black caps and black eyes. They forage on the ground and along tree branches for seeds and insects. In the winter, they congregate in large flocks. I have long since admired Juncos for they are so darn cute. But this week, I really got to know them. Juniper and I (and once our friend, Finley) spent time watching them. I would try counting them and realized that where I thought I saw five or six, there were actually nine or ten. It was akin to noticing one mushroom on the forest floor and then looking around and seeing that mushrooms actually covered the forest floor. I’ve been trying for awhile to figure out the Junco’s call, and finally I was serenaded with it. Their rapid trill and flat “chip, chip” are forever etched in my memory. In winter’s dark days, these little birds happily get together, feast, and sing. So simple. So merry.
Last night I went to mix up my pumpkin pie and realized I never baked the pumpkin. Oops, minor detail. Pearl had mentioned a desire for cherry pie, so I decided I could change the menu, go to bed, and deal with pies later. So, today I got busy on my pie and found that my crust just did not want to stay together under pressure of a rolling pin. That is fine and well for the bottom crust which can be mushed together and then covered up, but what about the cherry pie top crust. I took a deep breath and decided to take my time and play around a little bit. What is the point, if not to enjoy oneself. June woke from her nap eager to participate. I found random objects in my kitchen drawer ready to be used for cutting small circles. And then it came to me, I realized I could make it pretty and exciting for June, who loves owls. Here’s the pie before and after the oven…
The cherry owl pie was a hit and the inspiration for photos within photos (thanks Oso and Teresa). It tasted alright too! Hoping everyone had many reasons to feel thankful on this pleasant day.
The day is grey and I am struck with the reality that Joey leaves tomorrow for work and I have not completed my to-do-while-Joey-is-home list. I’m forcing myself to ignore the bins of fabric that I meant to go through and I’m finding ways to laugh off the discouragement I feel about publishing a book. Going through my emails I am reminded that this week is about remembering to give thanks. My mind races back in time to a night I was sitting in a bar with Joey when our relationship was newly forming. I recall sharing with him my belief that the secret to a good life is to be always thankful. Gratitude, I realize, is what I desire to be the foundation of our life together as a family.
I then stumbled upon a link to the making of a gratitude tree (from the blog This Cosy Life). Walking outside with Juniper to gather branches for our tree, I looked around and inhaled the majestic beauty of this grey day- the towering trees, crazy wind, and swirling clouds. I felt blessed to have this awesome child in my life with her sweet hugs and happy disposition. I realized I am thankful that I finally got my garden put to bed for the winter, better late than never. As I prepared dinner, Pearl cut out leaves from previously painted paper. I was struck by her developing abilities- to cut, to diligently finish a task. After dinner, we wrote from hearts to leaves and put together our gratitude tree. I was thankful we could celebrate while Joey was still with us. Trip preparations and publishing books no longer mattered. They will happen when they need to. What matters is that we are present with one another, feeling thankful.
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I have always wanted to look around the next corner. I hate turning around on a newly ventured trail because I just know that the most beautiful thing I have ever seen is destined to be just beyond the next horizon. I knew early on, growing up in South Carolina, that I was meant to see the world. I dreamt of tiny villages tucked into corners of dense rainforest and drumbeat on a savannah under an ocean of stars. And then there were the people I would meet, all so rich in personality, culture, and place.
In college, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in two expeditions to study the water quality of Lake Baikal and the Angara River in Siberia, Russia. I was in awe of a world so different from any I had known, where food and goods were purchased from grand open air markets, people drank vodka to greet the day, and everyone sang from their heart over tables of potatoes and pickles. My destiny had arrived and I was hooked.
Now with children, the itch remains. I still need adventure and discovery. Luckily, I have found that my kids follow my lead when it comes to the unknown. If I am relaxed, they are happy to draw. If I am having a good time, they are content to giggle and sing to themselves. The moment I get frustrated, they climb in my lap, bury their faces in my hair, and beg for a story. With this knowledge, I realize traveling with kids gives me an opportunity to focus on the present moment. When traveling, I am not thinking about the dishes, my garden, or that thing that needs to be fixed. I am here. I am now. I can just be with my kids, go with the flow, and take it as it comes. Of course there are always unexpected glitches when traveling, like the time they would not let us on the plane to Mexico because we were misinformed about the necessary paperwork for a three-week old infant. That was frustrating. Fortunately, when I have a child holding my hand through the process, I see that a choice exists. I choose to breathe and enjoy traveling with my kids.
I am finally dealing with the stuff in my attic. I see this as my greatest obstacle for getting out of the house and on our merry sailing way. Thoughts of clothes, fabric, and Joey’s collection of charts for the Middle East, and other places we are unlikely to explore, have been lurking in the recesses of my brain, subtle yet present. I’ve had this fear that it will all be thrown in the garage in one big unsorted pile. I already have one such pile in my Mom’s basement in North Carolina. I am told I must conquer it on the next visit. It must be dismantled. I try to think of myself as organized, but in facing the many piles around me I realize this is not entirely true. I like to get it organized, but I am too distracted in my daily life to keep it that way. It starts slowly. One random object is left in its random place and like a magnet it beckons other assorted trinkets to join. In light of this, I know that I can never own a large home. I’m also delighted to trade my 900 square feet for 30, especially now that my attic is cleaned out.
I recently learned that in order to be a published writer, I need to develop “my platform.” Meaning that I need to devote myself to hours behind the screen making myself popular in cyberspace and beyond. Facebook, Twitter, blogging are now to become daily habits. And all along I thought I could make it in the world simply by digging in the dirt, hanging out in the woods, and making art. At least my life is about to take a new direction in adventure and fun. I’m not so sure the world needs another blog about snotty noses, whiney kids, and the monotony of the modern family. Please do not mistake me. I often need to gain inspiration about how to deal with my children’s seemingly irrational behavior. It is nice to know that all kids are crazy and it is not some huge parenting mistake on my part. I’m just happy that I will be able to create a platform by writing about adventure, travel, sailing, living simply, learning about other cultures, making art, and spending quality time with my family away from the modern hustle and bustle. Of course though, my kids will still be crazy and I will still have Facebook.