We are done with long drives. Hallelujah! Not that it was all bad, but it is time for it to be over. Our car is too full to stay organized. Every time I go searching for a needed item, my leg room somehow grows smaller and the piles of stuff become less stable. Also, I will have to partake in some kind of extended detox diet to counteract the consumption of road food that I found myself option-less against. Usually I pack enough food for a year, even when I’m only going for a weekend. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t space in the car for such a luxury on this expedition, and I found that non-GMO, organic, free range food is not really available along the I-10 corridor. Luckily there were always hawks, lots of hawks that gave me hope that all is not lost in the world outside of the little utopia of Bellingham, WA.
The best part of the road trip was hanging out with Juniper and Pearl with no interruptions and no other agenda. Joey and I are blessed with the two most awesome travelers that any wanderlust couple could ever hope for. We shared stories, sang songs, sewed flower fairies and hearts, made cards, listened to good music, read books, drew pictures, ate lots of rice cakes with almond butter and jam, dressed and undressed dolls, watched the world go by, and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.
The other good part has been cousins and aunts and uncles. It has been heart warming to see the girls reconnect with our family. There has been much laughter and lots of fun.
We will soon be to Grandma’s. Joey will take his leave to prepare the boat for a toddler and her older sister. I will do our taxes. The girls will do lots of puzzles. Lusa will take lots of walks and get lots of snuggles. I’m starting to get a little teary at the thought of leaving Lusa behind. But I know that she detests boats, and Grandma is thrilled to have her company. Every journey has its share of sacrifice along with its rewards.
As we get closer to our departure date, I am becoming increasingly excited for the time I will have with my kids in the natural world. The boat is small, but the air will be warm and the beaches are vast. I have always needed to spend time in the outdoors. This need has become even more pronounced with children in my daily life.
With children though, the quality and focus of time spend outdoors has shifted a bit. I no longer try to see how far I can make it on a trail. I cannot be attached to preparing a garden bed AND getting it planted in the same morning. Instead, I have learned acceptance. I have been given an opportunity to learn how to be more present and aware in the here and now. As we walk in the woods, we stop to play hide and seek, finding special spots to be still and quiet. We marvel at millipeds and search endlessly for owls. In the rivers, we look at rocks and fill our pockets with treasures. In the garden, we search for worms and beetles. We take frequent snacks on garlic chives and kale, all the while singing songs and listening to birds.
Aldo Leopold said that “when we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Perhaps to build this sense of community with nature, we must start by thinking like children. How rich we may become, if we can all spend time each day outside, thinking like a kid, and experiencing the beauty of the present moment.
How do you put your kid hat on? How do you develop and foster a connection with the natural world? We love comments.
We get mail from almost every conservation group in the country. I often question the efficiency of these mailings, but that could be the subject of a whole other post. Today we got a map of the country from the Sierra Club. I’ve been meaning to take a look at potential routes across the country for our upcoming road trip. Luckily, this one had all of the major highways and cities labeled. I eagerly called Pearl in to take a look with me. She quickly become bored as I verbally weighed the options of spending the night in Albuquerque versus Santa Fe. She wanted to see the map on the other side with pictures of beautiful endangered animals in their native regions. She started asking questions, the likes of which I can’t fully remember because I was honestly thinking about skiing in Colorado. All of a sudden I heard myself respond that “they” were worried about these animals. Well, really I heard her ask, “Why are they worried about the polar bear?” And there it was, what for me is a really big topic.
Before working with young children and having my own, I thought all knowledge to be good knowlegde. I always wanted to learn as much as possible, especially about the natural world. As I switched gears from being an environmental educator for high school and college kids to working with young children, I realized that some things are better left unsaid. Young kids need the warm and fuzzy. They need to feel safe and good about the world. They need reassurance that bad guys don’t win. Sadly, today’s environmental issues, such as hyper-rapid climate change, food security, and wildlife habitat loss, don’t really fit that bill.
With my kids, I try to foster an intimate relationship with the natural world. We spend time outside every day. We find beauty in the swirling clouds, the caw of the crow, the sharp scent of rubbed sage, the softness of moss, a newly germinated pea plant emerging from the soil, and the sweet taste of a perfectly ripened strawberry. Our list for all things beautiful in nature is infintite. At their young age, I do not burden them with the knowledge that our climate is changing at such an accelerated rate that habitat loss is inevitable and the polar bear is likely doomed. Where is the beauty in that? Their lives are long. There will be lots of time for them to worry, ponder, and hopefully find solutions for these harsh realities. So, I was a little shocked to be on the edge of such a big conversation. I sat down and took a deep breath and remembered that keeping it simple works best, always.
“They are worried that there are not as many polar bears as there used to be,” I say. “They want people to help the polar bears.” She proceeded to ask how people can help polar bears. “By riding bikes,” I tell her. She giggled and giggled and giggled some more. Finally she calmed down enough to ask about ways of helping the other animals on the poster- keeping trees by streams for the salmon, buying food from local farmers to help the whooping crane, taking your own shopping bags to the grocery store for the Kirtland’s Warbler, and keeping hotels off the beach for the Hawaiian Monk Seal. She’d heard enough. She walked away giggling to herself that she could help polar bears by riding her bike. It seemed for her silly, fun, exciting, and BEAUTIFUL.
Last May we were visiting my brother and his family in Georgia. My sister-in-law asked us to talk with my nieces and nephew about our upcoming sailing trip. Specifically, she wanted us to talk about the sacrifices we had to make to fulfill this dream. At the time, I struggled to come up with something. Sure, I saved all of my earnings from Little Birdies Childcare for five years, and there must have been things we could have purchased with that money. In all honesty though, this never felt like a sacrifice. I’m not really much of a shopper, and buying most things in this modern consumer society usually has a price tag of guilt associated with it for me. So what have I sacrificed?
This past fall, I had a bitter voice in my head reminding me that I had not gone for my annual solo hike on Baker. It was a beautiful autumn season here in Bellingham. Every time I saw Mount Baker rise up in a blue sky, I just knew I was missing out. I tried reasoning with myself. It was not as if we spent the whole summer working. Well, at least the girls and I did not spend the whole summer working. Joey pretty much did. My part in that was taking the girls, so that he could get the work done. The girls and I had fun entertaining our many visitors, and we swam and rode bikes a lot. I also had some great moments to myself- runs on Galbraith, swimming at the park, and dancing in the late night. Somehow though, I was still longing for a whole day of wilderness and solitude. Luckily, snow came early this year and we got some family time up on Baker. It wasn’t solitude, but being in such snowy mountain beauty eased my soul. I was finally able to let go of my regret, kind of.
Tomorrow I head out for a solo journey to check out this boat. I’m excited to travel by myself, to see good friends, and mostly for the potential of it all. It will be quick and exhausting, but I am okay with that. My only problem now is figuring out when to go skiing again. After all, I’m thinking I’m not really one to make too many sacrifices.
Pearl and June, December 2010
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.
Posted in art, children, community, crafts, fulfilling dreams, gardening, holidays, living simply, mindfulness, nature, parenting, publishing, reading, travel, Uncategorized, weather
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.