“every once in a while…”

The bedroom door cracks open a little before 5am. Mark is awake and out of bed already, and I’m pretty sure I already heard the coffee maker grinding beans a few minutes earlier. But he’s back now, standing in the doorway.

“Campbell?” He whispers, loudly enough to rouse me, stern enough to know that something serious is going on. “I need you.”

About a thousand things run through my mind, all of them tragic and scary, so that when he tells me that Maggie, our dog, has been sprayed by a skunk I sigh with relief (if not exasperation). I throw the blankets off, and step quickly to get to work.

And we do get to work. Triage the situation. Mix the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap. Scrub, rinse, repeat. It’s cold outside; I worry that the sudsy puddle is going to freeze into an ice rink. Make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pack his work bag. Send Maggie to the basement to dry off until the sun comes out and she can be warm enough outside. Light the candles, burn the incense, throw the laundry in. Send Mark off to work. The rhythm of the work carries us, and we barely say a word. We’ve been partners in this work of life for long enough now.

*

Heat’s in the tools, Mark is always saying. He has these things he says, these trademark quips. Maybe it’s a fatherly thing, a piece of the brain that cracks open as these men grow into dads. Maybe not. But my dad had them, too, and I don’t remember Mark saying them when we were younger.

“The heat’s in the tools,” Mark says standing in the swirling snow that blows around him, sturdy and unmoved like the weight of a statue, ready to shovel the driveway. He says this to the complaining kids getting out of the car to begin a hike. Heat’s in the tools. I’m sure that he says this to the motley gang of guys that he oversees at the jobsite, each morning setting down his coffee and strapping on his tool belt, his breath puffing like cold clouds from his mouth. Get moving.

(Heat’s in the tools, he whispers to me, his breath warm on my face in the quiet moments alone, tucking a strand of my hair behind my ear, and I soften at his words).

And of course, he’s right. Soon enough I’m sloughing off my extra layers, setting my hat aside as the work of shoveling snow heats my core from the inside out. Once on the trail hiking, the kids no longer complain, but are engrossed in the tracks of the deer and dogs and boots printed into the mud. It’s the rhythm of the work that makes time pass, and the work of it that brings the glow and the sweat and the warmth.

This week I stepped up to coach Grant’s soccer team. They were low on volunteers and high on players, and so though I don’t have any coaching experience, I said yes. The heat is in the tools, I remind myself. I know a bit about the game and a lot about first graders and enthusiasm and teamwork, so while that first game might be cold and scary, I think I’ll get warm fast. Just get moving, right?

Mark’s quips don’t stop there. Rubbing is racing, that’s another. I guess it’s from the movie “Days of Thunder,” but I’ve never seen it. To me, it’s pure Mark.

Chasing the soccer ball down the backyard, with his hip pressed into Grant’s lithe body, he laughs out “rubbin’ is racin’, Grant!” He says it when he comes back from a trail run, mud splattered down his back, thorn pricks on his calves. He’ll say it with the corners of his mouth turning upward in a puckish grin, and I’ll know that he’s dancing that line of fair play, whatever the situation. He says it as he puts Band-Aids on the kids, or grabs ice packs to ease a bump, the simple results of playing and running and being a kid. He says it to me when I share a hurt feeling, a misunderstanding with a friend. Rubbing is racing, and life is nothing if not filled with friction.

“Every once in a while, a blind squirrel finds a nut.” This is probably Mark’s most used line. Humble at his core, he says it after someone gives him an ‘Atta boy, or a congratulations of some kind. He says it after he offers some useful information, or knows a bit about something, or fixes something. He says this when I thank him for something – “every once in a while…” He says it so much, actually, that I’m pretty certain that this squirrel is not so blind, but is a very good nut hunter.

I wonder how the kids will remember this.  Doubtless, these word are a soundtrack of their childhood.  There will be times when they will roll their eyes at these remarks.  Mark might just sound like a corny dad, but he offers sage wisdom behind his witticism.  All of these quips point us in the same direction:  just get started, get moving, doing whatever it is that you’re going to do.  There will be bumps, rubs, accidents, and you’ll be on both the giving and receiving ends.  That mostly it’s work, and often you go at it blindly, not certain which direction is right.  And then every once in a while…. it all falls into place.

And that you’ll always have a dad to remind you of these things.

*

Maggie was skunked about five years ago, too. Then I had a toddler and a newborn, and had never smelled the nauseatingly strong stench of fresh skunk spray. It was scarier, then, and harder. Mark was a servant hero, taking control and dealing with the situation. This time when it happened, we knew the recipe to mix the right de-skunking concoction. This time I was less panicky about the stink. This time, I threw open windows, begging the kids to put on sweatshirts, pulling blankets around my knees to let the brisk almost-spring air into the house. I know to expect that Maggie will have strange frosted tips, the result of the hydrogen peroxide on her black coat. This time, the blind squirrel knew to ask for help, and Mark and I did it together. I know by now that the heat is in the tools. That though it may painful and cold sometimes to get out of bed, I’ll be warmed by the work, whatever the work may be. I also know that rubbing is racing, and that life is a full contact sport. We’re going to end up with some scrapes and bruises (and sometimes a foul smelling dog), but the race is long, and I’ve got good teammates.

Today is the first day of spring, but it’s snowing here.  Heat’s in the tools, friends, heat’s in the tools.

 

chasing sunsets

photo 2Our car bumped along the back country roads a few evenings ago, the voices low and small in the backseat humming along with the rhythm of the tires. Mark and I were quiet with the exhaustion of a long weekend. The sunset was setting gloriously in front of us, setting the trees on the horizon aflame. It was burning out in such a surprising way – the day had been dreary with spots of rain. But just for a bit, the clouds were gone, the sky instead painted with swaths of burning pastel. We pointed out the windows, sharing this moment with each other, staring it into memory. I tried to take a picture or two, but nothing on the screen looked like what I was seeing.  It was directly ahead of us, and it was poetry – driving off into the sunset. We chased it down to home. But we never got there, to that sunset. Because you can’t actually get to a sunset, can you?

Here’s the hard truth: I’m spinning, and I’m spun. Winter is hard for me: there is less actual light. We are not outside as much, though we try (if last year was called a polar vortex I don’t know what to call this year’s record breaking cold temperatures). Our house is small; we are in close quarters. It’s hard to admit, but I’m having a hard time seeing the light, and finding the glory. And I feel convicted, and embarrassed because isn’t that supposed to be my thing? To just slow down enough, to see life for the beauty that it offers, to say thank you, always. Right now, though, I’m doing a terrible job.

Towards the end of a really rough day, Mark shooed me off to take a long hot shower all by myself while he took over trying to manage the post-dinner, pre-bedtime crazy. As I stood motionless with the water pouring over my head I tried to fix myself, pull myself out of my ridiculous pity party. I thought of all the families that I know, personally and intimately, whose lives are harder and more devastating than mine. I thought of all the tragedy in the world, and reminded myself over and over again that a day in my life is so far removed from that. But it didn’t work. All it did was make me feel guilty.

Later that night, after the kids were (finally, finally) all asleep in their beds, Mark and I did our rounds, pulling blankets up, sweeping hair from faces, and kissing them with blessings. After I had done all that, I stood at Griffin’s bedside with slow silent tears on my cheeks. The beauty pounded in my chest, my heart beat so fiercely that I thought Mark could probably see it, glowing in the dark room, right there. I was so twisted up about it – about why it takes this dark and quiet moment to be thankful. About the work it all takes, plodding one foot in front of the next through the tantrums and the raised voices and the chores and the sheer constancy of it all. About how elusive and slippery beauty and truth are.

Just like that sunset.

That’s the thing about a sunset, about any beautiful landscape on the horizon, really. It’s there for us to see, not to actually get to. That sunset is always just ahead, leading the way. The peaks and crags of a mountain are beautiful from the ground looking up. When you’re climbing that mountain though, what’s right in front of you is decidedly less glamorous. It’s steep, and hard, strewn with brush and bramble, and often you can’t see much but a few steps ahead.

This is my metaphor right now.

It’s easy while I’m writing to take a step back and see that the mess is beautiful and daily and necessary (and I guess that’s one reason why I keep writing). But it is hard, really hard, to do it when I’m living in the middle of it, and things are unfolding all around me.

Most days I have that chance to see that sunset, look out into the horizon and see what beauty is there. But if I’m trying to chase it down, trying to hold on to it and claim it for my own, then I’ll only be disappointed when I never get there. If I have my eyes on the sunset, I’ll always know which way is west.

Sometimes it looks like the peaceful reprieve of sleeping bodies, rising and falling with breath in the dark.

the light of everyday

2015-01-20 11.05.32 Can I tell you something? I’m a bit obsessed with something. I can’t stop taking pictures of light.  Here’s the thing: once you start, it’s really hard to stop. Because that light is everywhere. And it’s beautiful.

Sometimes it can feel so hard to get at the light – both real, actual light, and its glorious metaphoric blaze, to feel it on my face, and let it seep into my heart, that it becomes this wild goose chase. Other times, even with my closed eyes I can see the afterimages dancing in my mind.

There was the Sunday a few weeks back when the kids moaned and groaned at our plan to head out on a hike. But we fought through it, we chased that light, hopeful for something magic. Ignoring the protests, Mark and I put our heads down and focused on the goal as we planned our route, prepared for the adventure. It is not a surprise when things don’t start smoothly: Griffin’s coat doesn’t zip properly, Renee is hungry already. Grant only wants to throw the football and has little interest in the actual trail. But eventually, eventually, something breaks through. The magic is there. Fresh air, sunshine: light. Dancing off the creek in ripples reflected on the rocks. We lay in the middle of the bridge, all of us, legs and arms slack, lifting our faces to the sun, ordained for something bigger. That was light.

2014-11-23 12.40.45Sometimes it harder, more elusive. There was the day off from school when I took the kids to the botanical gardens around here that has been a favorite place for countless years. Especially at this time of year, it often feels like a shot of serotonin to the brain, and exactly the light that I was seeking after a weekend of refereeing a few too many squabbles. But it’s work to get there, right? Work to fight against the lack of momentum, to convince the kids that this is a good plan, to get out of pajamas and into clothes. It is work to pack lunches and fill the gas tank. I’m willing to put in the work, certainly, in search of this light. But I want the promise that it’s going to pay off.

So we do the work, we find our hats and coats, decide to forgo the stroller. Grant bites his lip in the parking lot, and the whole thing is unravelling before it’s even begun. Most of the day goes that way: the kids are less taken by the flowers, more interested in the snacks that I didn’t bring. The fountains that the kids look forward to splashing in aren’t entirely functioning properly. The flowers don’t bloom in me like I thought they would. By the time lunch rolls around, Griffin is torn to pieces about sharing his ketchup. We are all spent. As I drove the windy country roads home, I asked myself if it was worth it, and I came up short of a good answer. We work, we strive, we pack lunches, we wear sensible shoes, and still: sometimes, there is no light.

Maybe it’s not something I can create. I can’t chase light, or magic, or glory, or hallelujah. I can’t say magic words, pray the right prayer, to get at what it is that I’m seeking.

I can only receive it. I have to be paying attention. Open my eyes. Not focused specifically, hunting out the treasure, but open to see it when it is there.

Sometimes it’s easier to see light only against the shadows. Sometimes it’s only seen in the negative space.2015-01-28 08.20.23Can there be light in the ordinary, the not-so-spectacular? Griffin routinely throws typical three-year-old tantrums about his breakfast in the morning. I’m sure I’ve cut his toast in the wrong shape, or put his water cup in the wrong place. Often, he just doesn’t want the toast that he’s just asked for, but instead wants yogurt. Whatever it is, it so ordinary, so not glorious, and certainly of the make-me-pull-my-hair-out variety of parenting episodes. So it goes with most of us: Renee takes forever to get out of bed, needing jiggling, reminding, pleading and coercing to the point that we are almost late for life.

2015-01-27 17.44.53Or what about light in the harder parts of parenting, the ones that aren’t so much pull-your-hair-out, but more a squeeze to the heart, a blow to the gut? As the kids grow, so do their struggles. It’s not as easy as fixing an incorrectly cut piece of toast. Learning how to encourage without pushing, how to support but not hold too tightly, how to love, fiercely and deeply without condition or praise. Much of it is about balance, and that is only found in the unbalance, like water seeking its level. This can sometimes look like shadows, dancing and larger than life. Those shadows make me turn my head, though, to look for the light that shines behind the shapes, or glows over the edges.

Sometimes light doesn’t come in a blaze, but it softer, gauzier.

Light can look like this: the typical tight squeeze of the five of us in our ten-year-old station wagon driving home from an evening of errands. Through the poking and pinching, a song comes on, one the kids know and love, a family “anthem” of sorts, though nothing about is child-like or typical. Mark reaches for the dial, and our car is pounding, dancing, jolting, and we each sing along, every single one of us, at the top of our lungs. Mark leans over to my ear, whispering “This. This is what memories are made of.” And with that ordination for that ordinary moment, light blazed in glory. I see it.

It’s jumping on the trampoline, again all five of us, nearly diving into each other, bouncing and tripping and squealing and laughing. I dare you: just try to this without a smile. The freedom of flying, the view from the top of the bounce, and that unpredictable double bounce: that is what light feels like.

2015-01-27 15.22.59These are the unexpected moments, the light not chased after, but simply witnessed. It’s the light at the end of the driveway, waiting for the bus,  discovering new tracks – deer, rabbit, fox, and investigating them each. It’s a 5:30 in the morning snuggle in bed with Griffin, who sees the neighbor’s far away lights through the trees and calls them fireflies. It’s the light that slants on the kitchen cabinets, just under a sink full of dirty dishes. It’s the light of the sunrise – sometimes elusive, the almost-light of a new day turning more gray than exalting. Some are extraordinary, fifty seven stories high, glinting off the Delaware River, the blank slate of a new day.

IMG_1383

You have to see it for yourself – the light just behind the crest of the hill, barely visible, just a hint of glow. It’s the light inside the oven when you’re baking a loaf of bread, it’s the birthday candles that usher in the next year. It’s the sun setting on the cow field across the street from school. It’s the stars punched through the black velvet sky getting into the car late at night – connecting the dots, drawing constellations, Orion’s Belt, the Big Dipper, right there before your very eyes.

Sometimes, though, we have to go ahead and make our own light. Pull out the candlesticks and set the matches to them. Plug in the twinkle lights that you thought you were putting away after Christmas, but you see the wisdom in keeping them around.

It’s light inside, and light out.

The light is everywhere. It’s pervasive, seeping into the drudgery of daily life.   It’s the work of being in this world, seeing it for the truth it is, and bringing that truth into the light. It’s the ordinary transformed into extraordinary. And it’s beautiful.

“These days you might feel a shaft of light (light) make it’s way across your face
When you do, you’ll know how it was meant to be
See the signs and know their meaning
It’s true, you’ll know how it was meant to be
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking to you, to you”
10,000 Maniacs, These are Days

 

Bring it On

I was late getting out of bed today.  It was dark, still.  A bitter cold had settled on our old house over night.  I was wrapped in thick swaths of comfort and warmth, and though I knew the day beckoned, it was easier still to resist.

I did get out of bed, later than I should’ve, padding to the bathroom only after checking the thermostat.  Looking out that window, I watched the light play on the snow-covered yard. It felt darker than it should be.  The blue-light of almost-dawn lay eery shadows on the snow.  The swings gave rides to invisible friends as they gently rocked in the wind.  My eyes were drawn up the spindly naked trees, stretching skyward.

There was the moon, just a few days past full, hovering like an ornament, hung in those trees, adorning the morning.  Strong, luminescent, gently glowing with fuzzy edges.

I wasn’t late at all.

*

While I love the chance to reflect, I carry little pomp and circumstance from the end of one year into the beginning of the next.  We don’t often get wrapped up in New Year’s Eve celebrations, and our New Year’s day probably looks much like the rest of our life: quiet and together, maybe seeking out sunshine and fresh air.

I’m not big on resolutions, and I’ve had a tenuous relationship with “goals” in the more formal sense.  I’m not a linear thinker, not a type-A planner.  While I may really love lists, they tend to be more suggestive than directive, and I want my lists to look pretty and include beautiful things in them, too. In the past I’ve done the whole “one word” thing – it’s been fun, and useful, and challenging, and freeing.

This year feels different to me, though.  2014 was a life-shifting, perspective-gaining year, and I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to forget the heart-swelling reality of all that was etched in my heart by reducing it down.  I’m not doing “one word” this year.  I’m not making resolutions, setting goals, making lists.

But because of this, 2015 feels vibrant.  It feels full of color and opportunity.  From where I am, with a pinky toe into it, it feels like fresh air.

*

I struggle with the notion that I am supposed to be a better person this year than last, or even a more fuller version of myself.  From my perspective, life looks to be more spiral-like, more weaving in and out, up and down, and less like a climb.  While it can be tempting to make building blocks out of our time, clicking Lego-like foundations one on top of the other, I can’t quite get myself to say that I’m always on an upward trajectory.  Sometimes I’m not. That’s where resolutions fall a bit flat, I’d say.  If last year I was going to learn Chinese, than it supposes that I’ve done that, and can build upon it this coming year, say by resolving to plan a trip to China.  Life is not as boring and fundamental as a syllabus for a class.

Sometimes, I like the version of myself from years past better than the one I am today.  Isn’t there something about innocence that we know we want to hold on to, something about the traits that we love best in ourselves before they get covered up with the cynicism of life?  I think there is.  How do you resolve, then, to take apart what you’ve built, one Lego block at a time, to create something new?

Just as truthfully, I can cringe at versions of my younger self. I’m thankful that I’m not who I once was, and grateful for every next day that I have the chance to rearrange myself again and again.

I am growing, and learning, and becoming a version of myself that resonates deeply with my soul, but my experience has felt a lot more like trial and error than a check list of things to accomplish. Sometimes it takes a dip into the past to teach me something of the future.  Sometimes its taking steps backwards, or upside down even.  Sometimes its standing still.

I want to stay soft.  I want to be teachable, mold-able, grow-able.  Less like Legos, more like Play-doh.  And this year, it means not being strung up with goals, or lists, or words, but being smushable and flexible.

2015 will have no resolutions.  I will make no check lists; I will not a choose a word.  I will not clench my hands tightly around any one thing, but lay it all in my open palms.

*

We do have some intentions for 2015.

The kids will cook more in the kitchen.  I will drink my coffee black.

Light

Be outside as much as possible.  Grow things from the ground.  Seek the smokey benediction of the campfire.  Pay attention – to each other, to the moment, to the world.  Less whining, from all of us.  Look for the light –  casting shadows through the trees, sparkling the dust motes in the family room, coloring the sky with pinks and oranges.  See it. Love without boundaries.  Take risks, big and small.  Be thankful, always.

See the unexpected moon arcing homeward, sliding down the smooth bark of the trees. I’m not late at all.

Hawk Mountain

WO Hawk Mountain Art

We drive up the winding forest road to Hawk Mountain, and the kids begin to recognize the place. This hike begins high in the mountains and the car does most of the climbing, making it a bit easier for those kid-legs while still giving the spacious views. My ears pop. We pull into the parking lot, not surprised to see it full. This is the first warm weekend; you can see the hibernation from winter is over.

Louisa died four weeks ago. That fact hasn’t left my mind since.

I’m here in the wilderness today with this ache in my heart. I’m desperate to receive some beauty from this wild.

At the trailhead, Grant, six years old and with a knack for details and a steel trap memory, reminds us all where to go. This way first to go to the bathroom; that way next to find the trail. He and Renee, his four-year-old sister, each carry a trail map, numbering out the many options for our adventure. Griffin, now two, has gone from a baby-hiker to a little-kid-hiker in the six months since we were last here. This means that instead of being happy to travel in a carrier on my back, he now wants to walk on his own. And who am I to stop him? For this reason, though, it means that we can’t head down the River of Rocks trail, with all its boulder scrabbling and tough climbs. No, today we’ll have to stick to the more populated Lookout trail, with its places to pop through the tree line onto the crest of the mountain and see out over the valley.

The beauty of the lookout and the valley is unmistakable, evident, but seems just beyond our grasp. We are off to a rough start. Grant complains that it is hot. Renee says she is tired. Or hungry. Griffin is like a drunk and rowdy college kid, albeit a very short one. The trail is crowded. The peace I was hoping to find seems out of reach.

I am honored to share a special essay with the folks at Brain, Child magazine.  I love Brain, Child for the way that they treat mothers: for the very real, very three-dimensional, very unique beings that we are.  I first discovered Brain, Child when, years ago, my cousin sent me an photocopy of an essay from the magazine.  It reached me in those early years of parenting, and I’ve been hooked ever since.   I’m challenged again and again by the thoughtful work of Brain, Child magazine.

Keep reading “Hawk Mountain,” about hiking in the face of tragedy, in Brain, Child magazine. 

Looking for Christmas

I’m looking hard for Christmas this year.  I feel my broken edges, sharp and pointy, and I’m tired and weary from the world.  I’m needing something holy.  I’m trying to find Jesus, trying hard to see the babe in swaddling clothes, the one who brings light and love and makes things right again.

Maybe Christmas looks like twinkly lights, strung along roof lines and spun around bushes.  Is this holiness – these tiny dots of light, twisted and tied into a brighter picture?  One small LED bulb isn’t much on its own, but step back a bit and I can see the shape of a reindeer, or the letters that spell out “peace.”

My small light isn’t much on its own, either.  Sometimes, even, a bulb or two are missing or out.  Maybe if I string my little light offerings with your little sparks we can step back and see His burst of glory, the grand story spelled out in twinkles.  Peace for each other, one small light at a time.

Today I’m sharing with Christie Purifoy as part of her Advent Series.  I’ve had the joy of visiting with Christie at her old farmhouse, and the kids got a kick out of collecting eggs from her chickens.  I’m honored to be included in her beautiful community of writers.  Today i’m writing about looking for Christmas, and ultimately it finding me in the most unexpected places.  It’s about holiness. And light, and rock concerts. 

Join me there?

home: a lesson on perspective

Most people pass our house, the first time ’round.  It sneaks up on you,  this small white house in the middle of the hill on a busy road.  I’ve been told that the road wasn’t so busy, years ago.  I’ve been told that they used to sled down that hill, down the middle of that road.  That was a long time ago.

We’ve lived in this house for eight years now.   Eight years ago, it was just Mark and me and a dog and a cat.  We knew we’d have a family, someday.  We even figured this is where it would start.

We bought this house from an older woman named Helen.  Helen was a widow who lived alone here in this house on a hill.  No matter which way you come, there are stairs to contend with here.  Drive in the garage, and you have to climb up the basement stairs to get to the living space.  Stay out front and you have to climb the stairs with the sidewalk to get to the front door.  These stairs were wearisome for Helen, and along with the upkeep of the house and grounds, she decided it was time to move along.  I wonder what it was like for Helen, packing up and leaving this house.  Do you know that her husband and his brother built it, concrete block upon block more than sixty years ago?  Do you know that she raised three kids in this house?

That is the piece of the story that I’m looking at now, the part where Helen raises three kids here.  Because what I can also tell you is that just after signing the papers and sealing the deal to make this house our own, I scoffed at the idea that anyone could raise three kids in this house! That was fifty, sixty years ago! My, how they did things differently! I simply could not see any way that a family of five could share this space here and now in the early 21st century.

Here I am, eight years later, raising three kids in this house, in 2014.  I am tasting my very words.

If Spring and Summer push me out of the house and into the outdoors, then Fall and Winter draw me back in.  Don’t get me wrong: we are a family who knows how to bundle up  As long as the sun is shining (and sometimes even when it’s not) we throw on the extras and head out to play.  It can take an extra dose of motivation, but it is almost never wasted.  We reap the benefits of fresh air in pink cheeks and cloud-breath.  Because here is the reality: this house is small.  Certainly for three always-growing children who need to run and climb and kick balls.

Our cozy cape cod is beginning to feel like your favorite sweater that no longer fits.

It’s easy to see only the lack, to voice the complaints and ungratefulness.  I can drive in most any direction and see much more than what I have, and nothing can rob joy like comparison.  I would by lying to tell you that I am sweetly content in my space all the time, because I’m a real, human person, and gratefulness is work.  Perspective is work.  And when the three kids are each throwing super balls around the one main space we have for living, or they have, again, monopolized the furniture by turning it into a fort, or when there are bathroom emergencies with only one bathroom, it can be hard to find the right perspective.

“The very close quarters are hard to get used to, love weighs the hull down with its weight.” indigo girls

Love is our anchor here.  I’d be foolish not to admit the close quarters, to call it like I see it.  Because the quarters are close, and they are hard to get used to.  But it’s this love that I come back to, again and again, when my frustration festers.  When I put on my glasses and see through that lens of love, then I can remember what I know to be true.  Yes, there are probably more slip and falls, more bumps and bruises, because we’re all running in each others space.  But: we are in each others space.  I am witness to the spun stories of kid imagination because they are told at the helm of this ship, where the kitchen meets the family room.  If this was a different house, if these kids were playing in some far flung play space, I wouldn’t get to hold the treasure of these stories.  It means that we play in collaboration much more, because you can’t build a tower or a fort or a robot alone when you have other kids breathing in at it, too.  It means that we take turns choosing what music we’ll listen to, and we say sorry an whole lot.  I think it’s making us in to the kind of people I want to be, and to be with.

I’ve had this other realization, too, about this space. I’ve been noticing the house in photographs, and I like what I see.  When I take pictures of our life in this house, just the ordinary pieces things like the kids reading together, or a photo of a tower and its proud architect, our small space is there, as the backdrop.  In fact, this background  of a a house is starting to seem like it’s very own character in these pictures.  I can  see the book shelves that line the walls, with the curly cue black brackets.  My eye is drawn to the hard lines of tables and chairs, and soft spaces of sofas and pillows.  The arch above the hallway, the wood floor, the baskets that hold toys and books – each creates artful composition in this family space.  As I’ve noticed these vignettes, I realize that I actually love this space.  Seen in this small scale, I get this creeping warmth that makes me feel cozy and at home here.   Sometimes, it’s good to take a different angle, see the whole scene differently, through a smaller square, focusing in on the details.  This is the home we’ve created.

And then, just as equally, the opposite is true.  Sometimes, it’s good to pull back that lens, and take in the wide angle panorama.  This happened to me, too, this Fall, when we were all outside playing.  The kids wanted to run up and down the hill, and I took a break from whatever yard work I had been doing to sit sort of mid-point on our hill and watch them.  From all the way up here, I could hardly notice the busy road, which we often complain about.  The weed-grass that can be utterly gross and frustrating just looked green enough to be a yard, any yard.  The house is smaller, still.  The trees tower so, so high over head and the sky and clouds above that, giving such a spacious and eternal feel to the whole thing.  And with that perspective, it’s easy to feel just like the kids running on the hill, ready to lean in to the free fall and wait for liftoff.  In those moments, I want to be no where else, live no where else.

How could you raise three kids in this house? This is how.

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