Hiking with small people is hilarious. How, oh how, did the pioneers cross the continent with their little children staggering off into every clump of stickers because the tufty grass is such unpredictable footing? We didn’t make it very far along Powell Butte before the troops sat down on the track and demanded lunch, but what a glorious adventure it was all the same. Thanks to my friend Robin for the picture and the company. Thanks to the weather gods for the gobsmackingly lovely spring. Thanks to the city of Portland for the huge backhoes and to the Department of Defense for the fighter jet fly-by and to the horseback riders for sharing our trail. The day held everything a couple of two-and-a-half-year-olds could want.
The new year opened with a sparkling clear day, which I like to think is a good omen. I have some dreams for this year, although I’m still raking them out of the clouds and seeing what kind of a pile I might be jumping into. More on that to come. 2012 was a year of hard swimming for our family—with a favorable current, happily, but it’s been breathless effort at times, especially for my husband as he steers his start-up through a rapid expansion. I’ll be the first to say it’s a good problem to have, and I’m terribly proud of the way he has handled the incredible demands of his work without giving up family time, but I truly hope 2013 will be a year to settle and breathe just a little bit more.
January 2 brought us a rare snow flurry, and this time I was quick enough to bundle the bairns out of doors before the tiny flakes had vanished entirely. We tried to catch them on our tongues. (You’ll have to take my word for it that there actually were snowflakes, as the photographic evidence would suggest otherwise.)
One of my hopes for this winter is to get up to the mountain at least once so Ada can taste the joys of snowballs and -men and -angels. (Also I suspect I’d be missing out on a rite of parenting passage if I didn’t have to whip a toddler back out of her cold-weather gear in time for a dash to the potty.) It’s one of my only regrets about our temperate, sea-level home, that there isn’t a real winter. My New England blood makes me pine for ice skating and skiing and snow shoeing. (I’ve never even been snow shoeing, but I’m convinced I’d love it.) On this day, it was excitement enough to scamper about our bare yard with tongues—two human, one canine—lolling. Baby Jolly, hastily swaddled in several layers of wool, took it all in and didn’t judge.
(Pikku-Pete cap still fits! Mama will be so sad when it doesn’t.)
Every day he survives without being eaten all up by his own mother is a miracle. The adorable brioche vest he’s wearing deserves better than a wimpy phone camera, but that’s what was within reach when opportunity knocked. It was concocted by my friend Jen from yummy Blue Moon Mopsy and it couldn’t be toastier. I wish it fit me.
And it’s just the right garment now that the mornings are crisp and cold. These October days we are all awake before dawn. I bring the little fellow into our warm bed for the first feed of the day, curling around his small sturdy body, hoping he’ll doze off again and we can all close our eyes for a few more minutes before the clamor begins from his sister downstairs: “I like walk through dis gate right now! I like eat some food!” But often I catch the gleam of his wide eyes seeking mine in the darkness; he is awake, and he knows I am awake, and he celebrates this simple discovery with much pedaling of legs and the performance of many songs of his own composition, songs to do with milk and moonlight and the felicity of suckable fingers. In another time or another place I’d have to be out of bed in the early dark, stoking a fire, drawing water, struggling to drive the cold out of our home and bring forth some sort of breakfast before the rest of my people woke to the day’s work. It’s a luxury to savor a sweet baby snug in my nest at a quarter to six. If only I were virtuous enough to remember this before I’ve had coffee.
Our dear cattywampus planet is bearing us northern folk away from the sun once more. At the river, dry leaves were gusting onto the water’s surface. Chevrons of geese were beating southward. But the sand still held heat, the alders and scrubby willows were still mainly green, and the broad pool between the shore and the sand bar was still inviting to small persons wishing to wade and test (repeatedly, for scientific rigor) the buoyancy of beach toys. So back to the river we went with our gang of friends, sucking the last juice of the summer. Jolyon watched the big kids — two whole years old, some of them — sporting in the shallows and shoveling sand over their toes, then fell asleep.
A memorable summer it’s been for my family, with the joy of new life come among us, but also with bitter losses. Too many people I love have stumbled into the alien country of life without a mother, a sister, a baby, a faithful dog. The philosopher Henri-Frédéric Amiel wrote, “Life is short, and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be swift to love and make haste to be kind.” Neatly as it’s phrased, the sentiment might seem trite, or at least easier said than done if you’ve loved and lost. But Amiel, who lost both his parents at an early age and was marginalized in his cultural community, must have been intimate with grief and loneliness. To me, knowing this makes his words ring with courage.
Where am I going with this? A brief hey nonny nonny for the end of summer has twisted into something more solemn. A sense of purpose to lean forward into my relationships is rising in my heart. It’s too easy to eddy off into your own little backwater and fail to extend yourself to anyone but your short-legged offspring. I learned yesterday that one of my favorite people in the world is expecting a child — glad tidings, yes, but she is twenty-seven weeks pregnant and I am just hearing about it now because I’ve been woefully out of touch. Possibly it’s time to stop dismissing Facebook as cheese doodle friendship — instant! satisfying! perilously addictive! yet short on the real nutrients of more thoughtful communication — and join the throngs to keep abreast of their doings, but I’m thinking more of letters, pots of tea, dinners, spontaneous front-porch gatherings while the weather holds… putting some muscle into drawing people closer in the old-fashioned ways. And knitting for them, of course, because wool is love made tactile, you know. Warmth and light and song and laughter in the winter dark: let me live into those and share them freely where I can.