We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness. David Orr from "Earth in Mind"
Well we had a few days reprieve from the hot Denver summer but the temperature is rising so we are getting out of town for a few days. Up to visit the in-laws in Salida where the mountains are close and the air is cool. I hope everyone has a good weekend.
Just a quick note from the sauna. Sunday we spent 12 hours packing. I know 57 days is a while but we figure when the mood strikes us we can peck away at it. Anyway we took down all the books in the big room (picture really big while wall) and started in on the office. This means that we put a few things that we really need from the office in Alder's room. Of course that means the office is now the hottest room in the house.
Of course all of this coincides with high ninety degree days, so if my posts are a little erratic or short it's the heat I can't handle. (have I mentioned how much I hate the heat yeah for the cool days in Vermont)
On the Alder front he did something new today, I was putting away the markers from making invitations to his B'day party and he starts to pick some up and put them in the jar with me.
Out of desperation we went to Denver Fabrics this afternoon. They have air condtioning and lots of floor space for Alder to crawl around. I found a bunch of linen in the $1 lb bin, I walked out with a big bag of fabric for $2.30!!!
This is what the natural alpaca turned out like after two days of kool aid and food coloring dying. I was really disappointed with the koolaid but the food coloring made it really vibrant. I like the idea that I can decide the exact shade of my yarn. This stuff will end up a sweater for Alder . But I need to finish mine first.
I have been thinking back to my time as a teacher. I for most of my time I saw in practice that the students did better with a schedule imposed on them. For a long time I assumed that this was just the nature of children, people really. This was before Alder so I did not know what having a child was like.
Before Alder was born I had daydreams of putting a child to sleep in a wonderful nightly ritual. There was even a month when I tried this. But it was not the calm ritual that I imagined. I arbitrarily chose 7pm for his bedtime. So we would go up stairs and get into pajamas and hangout on the bed. I would try to read a story but he was more interested in turning the pages or sitting on the book. Then I would give him his bottle and rub his back, which would last a few minutes then he would be up roaming the bed. Any time I saw a yawn I would take this as a sign and I would hold him with the bottle.
Needless to say most of the time this ended in him crying to sleep in my arms. I took the crying as a sign of tiredness. Then one day I looked at the clock and realized that I usually took an hour and a half to get him to sleep. It wasn't a pleasant ritual it was a painful wrestling game where I was imposing my needs on him. So I stopped.
Alder now goes to sleep when he is ready. sometimes it's as early as 6 others it's 9 but it's his choice. One or both of us will be sitting in the living room reading or working on a project. He plays on the floor and occasionally comes over to our lap to be picked up. Most times this is so he can dive off the side of the chairs with us holding his ankles. As he get sleepy he prefers to just sit with us rocking for a while before he climbs back down to play. At one point he'll complain a little to get us to see that he wants a bottle. With the bottle he climbs into our lap and nuzzles himself into a cozy spot and falls asleep. If it's too hot for cuddling he'll find the meditation mat and lie down there.If he falls asleep in our arms we keep him there until he is fully asleep before we put him down in the bed, or if it is too warm out to be up stairs yet we put him on the mat.
By letting go of my need for a schedule has made the evenings pleasant we spend our time together winding down each in our own way, when we are ready we go to sleep. Some nights the three of us get into bed together all drifting off at the same time. The other effect letting him go to sleep when he is tired is that he sleeps better during the night. Sometimes he still gets up hungry but usually we all wake up as the sun comes in the window.
Through this letting go of structure and giving Alder the power to choose when he sleeps it makes all of our lives better. This has made me wonder why say children need structure. I think the structure is only a substitute for love. Children thrive when they know what to expect, if they know they are supported and loved in everything they do the expectation is met by this love. It is impossible for a teacher in a classroom with many students to give each child that same absolute love (or even expected) therefore for these children the expectation becomes the schedule.
Being able to give Alder the ability to grow and learn in his own rhythm is important to me. Not just through his baby and toddlerhood but all the way through. There is so much to experience and learn in this world I don't want to stifle this by packing him into a school for seven hours a day to be processed like a can of tuna fish.
8:30 am-10am Bike ride, Clear Creek Trail Lowell Blvd to Sheridan Blvd plus around Mountain View lake. Riding around is the perfect nap activity. He always starts out the ride happily watching everything go by but after ten minutes he's out. I need to figure out a good pillow for him since every time I put one in there for him he leans the opposite direction.
10-12 Play around house, Alder figures out how to open the gate at the bottom of the stairs, we figured six foot heavy wooden screen might keep the kid in, ha! Another figuring out project, how to make a lock. It isn't that I don't trust his ability to climb the stairs, it just his habit to slide down them and crumple into a heap at the bottom that concerns me.
12pm Walk to library to pick up books on hold and have picnic. Denver Library is great I can find just about everything I want to read and have them drop it off at our library. I used to love searching things out but now taking Alder to the library is a little chaotic, his Shiva really shows through, so we limit ourselves to children's sections.
1pm- 3pm Swimming both in the big pool and the kiddie pool. As the temperature rises into the nineties here there is really nothing else we can do but go to the pool when Kevin has the car. Alder loves the water and is even moving himself around a little in it. Of course he loves the kiddie pool where he can cruise the edge, but we have fun in the deep water to, although a lot of parents cringe or are in awe when I dunk him under.
3pm- 3:30 Picnic #2 under shady tree.
3:30- 6pm Long walk that includes buying Koolaid to dye yarn and searching out a creamcicle. It was one of those days where just being outside in the shade was where I wanted to be, we just never quite made it home from swimming since I had two goals in mind and a habit of choosing what streets to go down by how much shade they had.
6pm- 7pm Collapse on floor together.
7pm-8pm Make and have dinner.
8pm Alder crashes on meditation mat in living room (his new favorite cozy spot is the mat and a two pillows on it which he dives on to with a look of glee).
8:30 Dye yarn, berry blue and lemon-lime. One of my hands is still greenish the other blueish. And I still need more color. The yarn is not turquoise/ green / natural I think it needs a darker blue tone to fill the natural areas, I'll get some food coloring paste today to do that. Otherwise the process was really simple. All you need is large containers (I used the giant yogurt ones), lots of Koolaid, white vinegar and water.
My life right now seems to be a study of in betweens. We are still in Denver but I am planning for Vermont. I want to spend my time writing but mainly I have time for editing and outlining. Even my hair is in between, long enough to be on my neck but too short still for braids (I love braids). So it seemed appropriate to take my picture while standing in an in between, a wetlands. This was taken at Pelican Pond which is in Erie Colorado (I think it's Erie). The day was so vibrant that I could see the pelicans clearly across the pond as they fished. I was lucky to see them as they are migratory birds who only stay for a few weeks in Colorado.
Grandma Mary has Alder today so I have been busy working. The morning was slow but I made up for it with five super productive hours after lunch. In the middle of editing and rewriting I was inspired to write the following, it is more a personal meandering than anything. I would really love to hear other people's stories about coming into their own.
My story is a bit of a ramble, but understanding doesn't always come in a flash. Mine was more like a stone wall, rock by rock as they are found. There was a breaking point though, a time in my life that I can look back at as when this all began.
It was the summer after college, I was making up a few classes at Umass and living in my dad's cabin. I was finishing eighteen years of school and was looking for a job.
No, actually I wasn't looking for a job. While my friends rushed off to interviews with resumes on linen paper I could not see that in my future. I still had a few months of classes before I was employable and was fine that there was nothing there waiting for me.
After the courses ended I fell into a job painting an old colonial house (who said you can't do anything with an art degree). It was a solitary job, I'd work my eight hours stopping for a two hour lunch when I would bike to the lake and go swimming. I saw people occasionally but I was happy in my hermitage. After work I would walk to the post office to get the mail and send off a few letters (this was back when people still wrote them).
One day I received a letter from a friend who I had been writing about my indecision about the future. Her letter suggested that I visit her in northern Minnesota where she was living and then move to Colorado with her in the autumn.
By the time I had reached home I had mentally packed my bags and boxes. It was reading that letter that made me realize what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: be happy. I had not applied for any jobs because every job description sounded constraining and consuming. I wasn't interested in tons of money so that was never a motivator. Understanding this I realized that I was happy to work various jobs to support my real interests.
That first year after college I learned more then than I had in all of my schooling. I had driven cross-country, canoed in the Boundary Waters, learned how to shoot a gun, learned how to ski, rock climbed, tried snowboarding, took a solo hiking trip in the desert and much more. I took what ever jobs I could to cover rent and food.
As the years in Durango passed I still felt that something was missing. I had fun with my friends and lovers but it just that, fun. I went back to school to get my teacher's license and stumbled upon what was missing, practically by accident. I did my student teaching at Community of Learners Charter School (COL) (and continued to be connected to them for two more years). The school was travel/ natural world focused. Students did not move from grade to grade only completed portfolios one each for elementary, middle and high school, with areas such as intrapersonal skills and natural world. The teachers I worked with blew my mind. It wasn't their teaching styles that was so amazing but their views on life and how to live it. I began to discover a entire world of people who looked at the world in a way that immediately made sense to me.
But for the five years I taught I still felt torn. Here I was implementing the very structures that had made me so miserable. Even in a place like COL there are rules and expectations. Out of misplaced responsibilities I returned to school to get my master's through Goddard College, in a low residency program. Goddard's model of education was student led, I loved what I was learning and how much automony I had.
My studies introduced me to authors like David Orr, Ron Miller and John Holt. I focused on the importance of a connection to place had in people's lives, specifically how to connect children in school with the places they live. But the more I read the less I saw a need for the educational system in my life. I think there is a place for schools in the world but it wasn't my place to be working in them.
A moment of clarity came while I was reading "A Life Worth Living" a compilation of John Holt's letters. Reading the progression of his ideas I realized that I had been unschooling myself since I had graduated college. That having the freedom to learn what and when I wanted had been what made my life so different now. I knew that I did not want send my own children (unborn) to school and that I couldn't support the system I worked within. So I decided to stop being a teacher.
This was the final piece in my search for understanding of my own happiness. Understanding what constructs of my life are unnecessary and caused me to be unhappy, and being able to let go of them, has allows me to be more joyous in much that I do. Without expectations it is easier to work hard, care deeper and love more easily.
Of course this tale was not as solitary as it sounds, I had many guides along the way, none more than my husband. I feel that I should thank those people who have touched my life along the way, some only briefly others for years.
[In no particular order] Bliss Bruen, Kate Chasson, Hallie Whitney, Sam Carstens, the Darby's of Paonia, the Lehrman family (where are you now), and Molly Peacock.
I will start this post with a warning, going to a town that has a national park an hour and a half from a major city on a sunny Father's Day is a bad idea. It is even worse if you are trying to coordinate three cars of people coming from three different locations. If you are in this situation it is important not to leave your cell phone on the kitchen counter. If you do find yourself in this situation you will probably end up not finding at least one person.
We weren't really thinking about Father's Day or that Estes Park is home to Rocky Mountain National Park. I was just set on going to the Estes Park Wool Market. We had celebrated Father's Day the week before by accident so it was not in our mind as we headed towards Estes Park. It was a slow drive for us, even slower for Kevin's parents who got stuck on the road that Ride the Rockies was on. An hour late, and minus a good friend who was driving up separately we finally connected.
Kevin and his dad went off hiking while his mom and I went to the Wool Market. I'm not sure the name is quite appropriate since there were more animals and fiber not from sheep than wool itself. Unfortunately I left the camera in the car because Alder and the goats made really good friends. They loved the sweat on his toes and he loved being licked and petting them.
We spent most of our time with the animals but there was one building where yarn, fleece, roving and lots of other fiber oriented stuff was for sale. I was good I only bought one skein of delicious natural colored alpaca and a bag of wool felt scraps. There was so much delicious looking yarn there but the last thing I need is a new giant pile of yarn to pack and move, there will be other fiber festivals (like the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival).
The yarn will become a sweater for Alder, after it's dyed (koolaid I think) and the felt scraps are crowns for the kids at Alder's birthday party next month.
Summer is here in Denver which means that it is time to get outside, and preferably up in elevation. Most of the counties around here have a lot of designated open space parks. Alder and I have started to explore them. So far we have been to Mt Falcon, where there were ruins from 'castles', and Walden Ponds a wetlands. There are literally hundreds more for us to explore this summer.
Side note: Kevin past the herbal section of the national acupuncture exam on Saturday!!! Only three more sections and a school exit exam and he's done!!!
Once during the dynastic rule of China there was an emperor who was at war with the neighboring kingdom. Things were not looking good for this king, the enemy was preparing to attack and his troops we spread thin. He was not sure what to do so he sent for the most venerable and spiritual of wise men.
This wise man lived out beyond the walls of the city in the forest in a small hut. He was in fact a Taoist sage, but on occasion he would come advise the king because he had a good head for affairs of the state.
On the morning that the escort arrived to bring the wise man back to the royal seat he was in his garden watching a nearby stream, he watched as sticks that were floating down river tried to navigate their way through the rocks. Some would remain jambed between stones, others would end up in the eddies and float listlessly with no current to move them forward. The few that did pass the rocky section tended to float a little higher and shift more easily with the current. He was contemplating how these sticks related to the lives of people when the escort showed up out of breath.
"The Emperor requests your advice immediately," the escort announced with his chest pushed out although his breath was still short from the run from the city's gate.
"Have some water while I gather my scrolls," the wise man told the escort.
The escort collapsed against the wall of the hut to drink the bowl of water the wise man had given him. While he drank the wise man rummaged around in his home looking for things at an easy pace. The escort had finished his water and he could hear the wise man whistling a tune as he moved around inside.
"We must hurry," the escort shouted. "The king needs your counsel and is afraid that many men will die."
"I am ready," the wise man told him.
The escort was both taller and younger than the wise man this meant that he had to continually wait for the wise man as he made his way through the woods and fields. In one field that they crossed through there were large swaths of flowers. They were so sweet smelling even the escort slowed down to inhale. But when he reached the end of the field he saw that the wise man was standing still in the middle of the field.
The escort rushed back to make sure everything was alright with the old man. As he approached he saw that the wise man was not injured at all. Rather he was just standing there watching a butterfly as it wandered around its buffet. The escort tried to cajole the wise man into hurrying but he would not move until the butterfly heavy with nectar floated off.
Once clear of the field the wise man kept up with the escort for the rest of the journey. They reached the Emperor's chambers just as the sun was at its zenith. Once he was in the chambers his sack full of scrolls were laid out on the table and arranged to make a full map of the kingdom. The two men stood over the maps discussing the possible tactics that the enemy might use. After some time they decided that they should send the bulk of the troops to the western boarder. A messenger was called up as the king wrote a message for his general.
Just as the messenger was about to leave another one arrived, bloody and exhausted. He had come from the northern front where the enemy had begun to advance. Quickly the king changed his message and sent the messenger off. Once he was gone the wise man began to laugh. It was a deep joyous laugh and he could not stop despite the kings demands.
"This is no time for laughing," the king told him. "What could you find so funny about almost leaving open all of our villages to attack?" he asked.
Eventually the wise man stopped laughing long enough to say: "This is all thanks to the butterfly."
then he placidly gathered up his scrolls accepted a brief cup of tea and walked back to his home in the forest.
This is based on a Chinese Tale that I heard a long time ago.
These are some more pictures from our trip. Everything is in bloom right now and I want to capture it all. Of course photos never seem to capture the exact richness or hue but looking at these I can still smell the days that I took them.
The first weekend that Alder and I were in New York we took a trip up river to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. This is where we had a little confusion identifying a pig. In fact before we were close enough to it's wooded enclosure we had thought it was a dog (chocolate lab) and a cow. The center is beautiful and interesting, however you can tell that it is just out side of New York City. While it is free to visit the ground the restaurant that is very pricey. The less expensive cafe is still outrageous it cost almost three dollars for a bottle of water (we were in great need for more water after our hike). However the hikes are beautiful and what they are doing with the farm is interesting so it is worth the trip, as long as you bring your own picnic.
During our trip out east we stopped for a few days at my father's cabin in northwestern Massachusetts. This a place that I grew up spending weekends and summers. It is part of my soul like no other spot in the world. The summers there are so vibrant and delicious. I caught some of the parts that I love best with the camera.
The other day I took Alder to a New York City playground. It was a Saturday afternoon and it was teeming with kids of different ages. Alder was the smallest one who was out wandering, it seems that most parents think that non walkers should be held at the park. Anyway, the park was alive with activity, there was a hula girl birthday party, all the Orthodox boys were playing cops and robbers (I was corrected by one when I said it was tag)after temple and lots more kids were roaming around. It was a great scene, kids from all over we calling to each other in different languages while parents had casual conversations.
What I found most striking about the whole thing was how it was evident that most of these children had spent their lives at this playground. The older ones played with the younger ones (one three or four year old kept catching leaves for Alder to catch in the 'stream') or even if they were doing something for 'big' kids they would gently move the younger ones to someplace more safe. The boys involved in cops and robbers ran around the park at full speed intent on their game but they didn't once step on or bump on of the smaller children.
When I take Alder to the playgrounds in Denver it is different. The children aren't regulars, they don't have an innate understanding of where other bodies are as they play. They stay to themselves or with the children they already know. The exception to this is the babies and toddlers who find each other bump noses like dogs and climb over each other on their way somewhere.
The other thing missing in Denver is the sprinklers. I don''t mean the sort that water the grass but the ones that water the children. Growing up ours was a glorified shower head but now the park has a flower like sprinkler whose water flows down a pretend Hudson River that even has the towns noted on the sides.
It is easy to understand the difference, the children in Denver don't need their playgrounds, most of them have yards and play equipment of their own, the park is an after thought. In New York where families live in apartments with no yards the playgrounds and the parks are their yards. If I had to choose I am happy to have a yard, but the life in the playground is one of the few parts of growing up in New York that I wish Alder could experience.
Well I'm back at my father's apartment after week of checking out towns. It was a long trip with lots of driving but completely worth while. We have made a choice. It's funny how the whole thing happened. We kept enjoying every town we came to but I knew somehow that when we were in the right town it would be obvious, and it was.
Saratoga Springs was to hip for us.
Rutland was great but the population isn't very receptive to acupuncture.
Brattleboro already has six, besides the downtown is very noisy.
But Bennington is quite, full of interesting people and their acupuncturist recently retired!
The way that Bennington became obvious was completely fortuitous. My dad and Alder were waiting for Kevin and I in a bookstore. A couple comes up to him to tell comment on how cute Alder was. This leads them to having a long conversation that lasts after Kevin and I come in. After a while I feel guilty that there are five of us just standing there so I buy a card. While I am paying I talk with the women about how we are looking for a place. At first she is a little reticent. But when I tell her why we are looking how I work from the internet and Kevin is starting a practice she softened and spent time suggesting people we should talk to.
There is an added pleasure with Bennington. We knew that most places that we were looking at would have some of the outdoor activities we like. So it was an extra bonus when we bought a river guide and a trail guide to find that we will be right near two class 2 and 3 rivers as well as a lot of hiking.
It feels a little strange finally knowing where we are heading, after over a year of research and daydreaming now we can really get down to the business of moving and planning. I am surprisingly placid about the entire thing. There is a lot of work to do in the next eight weeks but I am excited to do it.
So we are off in the middle of our trip. Life has been full. There will be more pictures of things, like Coney Island, the Stone Barns Organic Farm, more Hudson River moments and more. Lots of stories, including The Pig that was a Dog that was a Cow.