Month: April 2015

Swarming

We have had a few frames from a friend’s hive from last year sitting on our back deck for a few weeks now.  They have been awaiting our attention to process their wax to be used for sealing in the spawn during our mushroom cultivating efforts.  This passive act of silently awaiting its purpose, or at least the limited one we had planned for it, became much more than we could have hoped for, as the mix of honey, wax and honeycomb attracted a swarm.

My writing teacher has been actively looking for a swarm this spring.  Her colony of bees did not make it through this last and most harsh winter.  Knowing this, Rob emailed her to inform her of our visitors.  By the time we figured out what to do with them however, the swarm had vacated for the evening, seeking shelter during the cooler temperature of the late spring afternoon.  It was with disappointment that I had to confess we would not be delivering her bees that night.

The following day, as the children and I planted in some strawberry pups, we noticed that the bees were congregating again!  This time, I took quicker action and covered the swarm, hoping to trap as many as possible.  With all but a tiny space covered by a screen, the bees gave off an audible hum of life.  They were so serene and such a pleasure to have around.  The children and I passed through their congregation many times, as the pile of honey filled wax had been placed near our back door for convenience.  They were hard at work busily foraging for sustenance in the hexes created by another swarm’s efforts.

These bees were so wanted – and they came as though they knew it.  Softly, and warmly in the mid morning sun.  They gathered on my back porch, not knowing the depth of sweetness they would bring.  With synchronicity, I was scheduled to attend my writing workshop last night.   The bees were carefully concealed in our weekly organic fresh food delivery box.  Trundling toward the car whilst gingerly holding the box of swarm away from my body, I was surprised to feel tiny legs crawl across my fingers.  The lid was not as well sealed as anticipated and few bees had emerged onto my hand.  In my hasty determination to be on time for my writing workshop, I hadn’t really considered the magnitude of what I was carrying and was shocked by their touch and dropped the whole lot.  “Fresh Box” indeed.  Thankfully the lid remained in tact and so did the swarm.  After some help from Rob and the children to fetch the roll of painter’s tape, and secure the perimeter of the box, I attempted another departure.

Driving with a  swarm of bees in your backseat is an exhilarating experience.  Especially once I was cognizant of their powerful presence.  It was hard for me to stop checking my rear-view mirror.  Relief came as I pulled in front of their destination – alive and with no visible signs of insect-life.  I passed through the latched gate and into the serene yard where these bees would now reside.  The gardens were lovingly tended and bursting with new life.  I set them down next to the hive that would soon become home.

With the box safely delivered I headed inside to join the group for our circle.  The first assignment was to write about something in the yard that caught our attention.  I had no difficulty bringing something to mind.  Rather than wander outdoors, I took time to sit and recognize the frantic buzzing happening inside myself.  I was humming with my own intensity from the evening’s events.  As the bees lay waiting outside in the box, growing drowsy with the evening’s cold, with a few deep breaths I began to steady myself.  My own intensity was mellowed to a low drone.  I came home to myself.  It was then that I wrote part of what became this post…

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Abundance

In shifting my focus from wanting, pursuit and void filling, I am able to become open to receive.  There is no longer a need for me to follow the well worn consumerist tracks that lead to empty promises.  I am blessed to have the privilege and capacity to experience abundance.  It has more to offer than my limited humanity can understand.  There are depths to giving that cannot be quantified.  How is it possible to continue to give?  Studies have shown that the more we share and give away to others, the happier we are, and the more we have to give.  Mathematical mindsets contest and business as usual prevails.

If all the businesses decided one day that it would be alright to share their surplusses, this world would be a different place.  The hungry would have enough to eat, the homeless a place to sleep, and the thirsty clean water to drink.  Instead we trash food that has been shipped across the planet that is still enjoyably edible.  We heat huge buildings which stand empty and illuminated like towering totems of power.  We bottle water conditioned on the municipality’s coin to ship to stores wrapped in a sheath of plastic.

We have gone so wrong.  Abundance is here – we just fail to see it.  In our efforts to gather in everything we ‘need’ we steal from ourselves.  We take and take leaving no room for regenerative growth.  We have conditioned ourselves to thing we’ll be in peril someday if we let go, live with less, and live generously.  We have come to believe that being self-serving is is necessary for our survival.

Our self-service has become a disservice.  We live in  monolithic homes, stuffed with things we don’t need.  Our desire to own and consume is consuming our potential.  We have created a false abundance based on consumerism that is hollow of meaning and truth.  Abundance is not made in a factory.  The underpaid employees can vouch for that.

Nature can’t help but give.  When I am able to follow her lead, I feel connected to the potential for boundless abundance.  The more we give, the more we have to give.  I’m willing to plant the seeds of generosity and see what yields it has to offer.  I am coming to know abundance as a perspective.  I am growing my trust in it.

Perceptions of Work

My children and I have been having an excellent week outdoors.  Despite the return of colder weather and snow.  We have been working to clean up the tree that came down in the Fall.  I want to salvage as much of it as possible.  We have been picking up sticks to use in the construction of our hugelkultur tomato beds (more on that later).  The children have really been enjoying seeing how high they can pile the sticks before we drag them on a tarp across the yard.

There was also a lot of sawdust created, which we raked and shoveled into some large bins for later use.  The boys have their own pint-sized spades and they have been using to blissfully scoop sawdust.  Once that job was completed, they began helping me shovel dirt into buckets and emptying them out into the divots in the lawn that the limbs made as they experienced the full force of gravity’s pull.

So what has made this ‘work’ so joyous for us?  Often when things seem like ‘work’ the children look for a hiding place!  I believe the success of the tree cleanup has been treating it as something to look forward to whilst I’m outdoors with my children.  Stacking functions.  While they happily go about their play, I have taken to the task of working on cleanup –  but without it taking over my attention to their worlds of play.  In the first few days, I was interrupted many times.  Sometimes only working for 5 or 10 punctuated minutes.  The beauty of picking up tree branches (and most tasks, although I have difficulty convincing myself of this) is that it could easily be interrupted and returned to at a later time.  Each time we were outside, I’d pick away at it a bit more.  The children started to take notice, and wanted to join in.  I was enjoying the activity, and so were my children.  There was no predetermined end goal, no timeline, no rush.  It started to become what we were doing outside.  My eldest is excited to plant the grass seed and rope off the area, but we’ll have to wait a week or so until it warms up a bit.

When I treat things like work and drudgery, that’s what they become.  I feel it, my children feel it.  It comes out in my words, tone of voice and body language – despite every effort to conceal it!  When I can accept what is, and do what needs to be done with joy in my heart, the task has potential to become tolerable, perhaps even fun, or if I’m really on top of my game, a meditative practice.  The feel of our inner landscape makes all the difference in our projected view of the outer world.

The Push and Pull of Community

“The healthy social life is found, when in the mirror of each human soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the community, the virtue of each one is living.”

~Rudolf Steiner

As I was writing my post yesterday about parenting from the heart, I recalled the piece I wrote at my first writer’s circle last week.  I have been pondering the idea of love and have come to the conclusion that is not a simple one.  I have been exploring its polarizing aspects.  Full love, true love, deep love, includes boundless beauty, but also many unsavory bits.  Love is what binds life together into a journey worth taking.  I have edited the original version slightly, but here it is:

When people join together, something new is formed.  The mixing of experiences, beings and energies creatively combine into something different.  This couldn’t be more true than it is with my family.  I am new because of the living I’m doing in community with my children and husband.  We’ve become so intertwined.  There are depths to our knowing of each other that cannot be understood by our minds.  Patterns of falling into each other and repelling again.  But after each cycle of push and pull, we are all changed for it.  Like re-calibrating the poles of a magnet – we are drawn in and push apart in an act of nature beyond our control.

My deep rooted connection to them cannot allow me to be totally lost despite sometimes feeling the need for distance between us.  I sometimes crave autonomy.  But I can never really be alone.  My need for space exists because of our relationship with each other.  Definition of myself is always anchored by knowing who I am in relation to the loves of my life.  Every time I push away, the poles of my magnet flip and I’m saved from myself – brought back to the wholeness of our family nest.  They are part of who I am.  Their pull is greater than my own strength.  I cannot wander too far.

Pulling myself back into alignment with togetherness, to something greater than myself, is actually what is allowing me to know myself.  Moments of repulsion have the ability to teach me who I am.  With each flip of the poles, my influences are broadening.  Likewise so are the ripples of change I create.  I send out myself while receiving others, then send out a new self, receiving again.  For a cycle of growth that is never solely my own.

Connection is such a simple idea but so difficult in practice.  I miss so many opportunities because I’m just not present enough to fully hear.  I miss making eye contact, or don’t really listen with my full self.  In my absence from our togetherness, I am lost.  I am missing to my loved one, but also absent to myself.  I am missing the chance to catch my own reverberations.

My inner strength is heavy and of the earth.  Iron courses my veins, holding its invisible magnetic power to draw in and push out.  Opening to the polarities in life, in both its attractive and repulsive states, is what allows me to grow.  What allows all of us to grow.

Parenting from the Heart

It is so easy to feel like there is an expert somewhere out there that has the solution to all of my parenting woes.  The list is long and ever changing.  But when I stop to actually assess the possibility of this, I am stricken with how impossible finding this is!  There is no strategy I could use to ‘fix’ the problems that come along with raising children.  At the root of this mental catch is that children do not need to be fixed at all!

Much to my dismay, advice can never get me to my destination.  It is rather like a road map that I can follow to lead me down different paths on my way, oftentimes they are paths I had not considered previously.  I am the one who has to do the travelling.  I am the one who has to get lost and dirty along the way.  And isn’t this half the fun of this journey called life?  And in reality, there is never a final destination.  Just many, many, many stops along the way.  The stops on my parenting journey look something like this: get breakfast, get shoes and coats on to go outside, eat snack, make a deposit in the potty rather than your pants, eat lunch, nap time routines, dinner, navigating sibling disputes, manners, bedtime routines, meeting or missing social norms, and so on.  Some of the stops are lovely and warm, and others messy.  Others require a lot of intellect and others yet require perseverance not required of me in my other roles in life.  There are endless possibilities for redirection and changing course. None of the more ‘right’ than another, despite my conviction that there must be some sort of ‘perfect’ way to approach parenthood so that everyone comes out relatively unscathed.

Humans have become so good at categorizing things into compartments.  Defining things in terms of black and white.  It has taken me some time to recognize my parenting journey as yet another area of my life to apply a greyscale.  While it might be nice to package my ‘parenting philosophy’ into some sort of pretend finality, my approach never stops evolving because my children never do.  Despite our culture asserting the subtext that people can be mechanized and ‘programmed’ to perform this way or that, treating my children in this fashion will never achieve my desired outcome, which is to grow a real human.   I want to grow a person…an individual.  I want my children to able to rely on those around them, trusting in the people not the ‘experts’ or their ‘techniques.’  Nature doesn’t follow a manual.

My disillusions of parenting often include visions of raising a perfect, well behaved, socially adjusted, brilliant child.  But if I am to more aptly consider the situation, my discomfort often stems from wanting these qualities for myself.  Parenting is unlike anything else in life.  I stare into the tiny beautiful faces that I created, and see all the facets of myself (both beautiful and ugly) and the potential for achieving my desired self – welcome ego.  All too often I push my own agenda on my children – most of the time unconsciously!  The idea of this breaks my heart.  I am working to untangle my own unrealistic expectations bestowed upon me by culture at large.  It is hard work, but worth it for even a chance at changing the course of my children’s lives.

I want our lives to be lived with love, around love, because of love.  When it comes to parenting dilemmas, it is when I can clear away all of my preconceptions and listen to my heart that I know what I need to do.  My children will grow in spite of me.  Much like a plant will find the sun regardless of obstacles.  But rather than being an obstacle, I would prefer to be a container.  I want to hold the space for their growth.  I don’t need some ‘expert advice’ to proceed.  I just need enough self-compassion to keep re-visioning the journey and trust what my heart is telling me to do.

Writing with Courage

Last week, I started going to a writer’s circle.  It’s the first time I’ve done such a thing.  I went to school for art, and didn’t really enjoy writing while in school.  I am married to a poet and never considered myself a writer.  Attending the writer’s circle was a big step out into my edge or  perhaps past it.

I have happened into blogging.  I have a couple of friends who write blogs (on the road to free and how wee learn) and was inspired.  Once I started writing, things just seemed to ‘happen.’  I started to look forward to my writing time, and look for ways to do more of it.  I loved the idea of being able to share my inner journeys with the outer world…so I thought.

Stepping into the writer’s circle peeled back that falsehood very quickly.  It went something like this…we were asked to think on the word ‘courage’ and write for approximately 20 minutes.  I had no problem conjuring up something anecdotal from my day.  We were to go around the circle and share what we had written…aloud…while everyone listened and looked. Then we were to make positive comments about the writing.  When my turn came, my heart was thumping as I began to read.  My mouth went dry.  I tried so hard to maintain composure.  I think I succeeded.

Then came round two.  The second writing exercise began with a meditation.  We were to clear our minds of all things…but inevitably there is something within us that does not part from us, even when we ask to ‘just be.’  For me this ever-presence was motherhood.  Upon finding this ‘thing,’ we were asked to ‘look to the edge’ of it, and find what is hiding in the shadows just beyond it.  We were then asked to write for 40 minutes.  I had trouble starting the second time.  It wasn’t as easy to pour out my rambling reflections of the day.  I started into a deeper self-reflective piece.  I wrote, then stopped.  I re-read my work, feeling trepidation over what I’d come up with.  I knew this time what it would be like to share it aloud…with an audience.  As others shared their fictional writing, my nervousness grew.  I am not (yet) a fiction writer.  I have learned in my adult years that I don’t enjoy reading fiction either, which is why I always thought I wasn’t a ‘good reader.’  So as I heard the beautiful words creatively spun by the others in the group, I started to shrink inside myself.  I worried my writing was too raw, too revealing, too personal.  My time came to read.  After a deep breath of preparation, I went for it.  It was like what I imagine jumping out of an airplane might feel like.  I reflected on our earlier pondering of ‘courage.’  We had been aptly guided by our writing coach.  I confirmed that true courage is doing something despite feeling terrified. I read.  I kept reading, despite my body urging me to stop.  I finished.  I was asked to re-read it!  I took a pause, and another deep breath.  I started again.

On my drive home at the end of the evening, I reflected on just how difficult the events of the circle had been for me.  I think I had a good time.  Why was it so difficult for me to share my work with people?  And nice people, accepting people who were not judging my work?  Isn’t sharing my writing what I do when I put my writing out online?  Shouldn’t blogging in fact be more daring, since my thinking is out on the internet available for anyone to scrutinize?

I came to the realization that it is much more comfortable for me to sit at my computer, with my own thoughts, in quiet, in order for me to feel like I’m alone with my words.  I know people are reading my writing, but the disconnect is real.  The humanness is not there.  The visceral emotional conversation is missing.  This experience has inspired me to think beyond my writing.  For starters, I  would like to try harder to pick up the telephone over sending an email.

I am still re-working the pieces I wrote last week, hoping to post them when I’ve had enough distance from the writing and experience of the circle to bring clarity.  What I can say for sure is that I’m growing confidence in stepping out into my edges.  I’m growing more comfortable in the feeling of discomfort.   I’m excited for the yields that pressing into this new edge might bring…

Days like Today

Today is gorgeous here.  23 degrees and sunny.  There are no clouds and the world is coming alive again.  We had plans to meet friends at a park in the city for some play and a picnic lunch.  Mornings out, especially those which include preparation of a meal are a significant amount of work when you have three children under 5.

We meandered through the morning, somehow finding time between packing snacks for the car (which included spilling a giant bag of frozen fruit in the freezer while earnestly looking for the almonds) and lunches for the park to make a glow-in-the-dark space mobile, read several books, create a fire station from blocks and enjoy some time playing with our indoor swing.  The baby woke from her nap, and we were ready to go!  The car was packed and the older two children already outside playing – meaning they had gone to the bathroom (which included an extensive toilet area cleanup due to an attempted ‘stand-up pee’ gone wrong), were wearing their jackets, hats and shoes…so the time consuming steps toward departure had already been taken care of!

We set out on our 30 minute drive in good spirits.  Sun streamed in through the windows, it was lovely to be out on a beautiful day.  We were about halfway to our destination when my oldest reported that he was hot in his coat.  He still rides in a car seat, so I advised he undo his chest buckle in order to unzip his coat at which time he could do it up again.  In some sort of frenzy, he spent the next five minutes wrestling his body from the jacket.  He did so with such stealth, that I had no idea he was working on it for so long!  When I realized what was going on, he was done and doing his buckles back up.   He asked when we would get there.  When we were almost at our destination, he started whimpering, which is most unlike him.  I asked what was wrong, and he reported he wasn’t feeling well.  I asked if he was going to throw up.  He said yes.  I pulled into a parking lot.  I was about to get out of the car when he said he felt better, so I asked again if he was alright.  He said he thought he had just eaten a bit too much for snack.  I carried on.

Less than 30 seconds later he threw up.  All over the backseat.  So much for plans.  So much for our sunny picnic with friends.

I pulled over to the side of the road and spent 20 minutes or so with a box of tissues trying to clean it up the best I could with limited resources.  He’s a very resilient child, and didn’t seem phased by the event at all.  With hands holding what used to be the contents of his stomach, he asked again when we’d get to the park.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  I suppose it was one of those moments where if I didn’t laugh, I’d have cried.  The situation seemed so ridiculous!

I called our friends, letting them know we wouldn’t be making it the last two blocks to the park.  It hurt to be so close and yet so far.  I was really looking forward to a bit of adult social time that I had worked so hard to make happen!  We started to head home.  As I was waiting at a light to turn left, he felt a wave of nausea again.  I passed him a bag.  The advanced green light illuminated.  I watched him throw up in a bag.  The car behind us began honking.  I turned left, and immediately into a bus stop to support him through the rest of his discomfort and help clean him up once again.  After we shared more laughter at the fact that the bag had a hole in the bottom, I put forth my best ‘cleaning’ efforts and we carried on.  On the way home, he said he wanted to sleep and looked as though he was going to drift off, but didn’t.

After a long morning in the car, I unloaded the children and went inside to give my son a bath.  I dressed him in pajamas and put him to bed with a bowl – just in case.  I decided to take the younger two children out in the yard to eat our picnic lunch on the grass.  My oldest heard our plan from behind the closed door of his bedroom, and quickly came downstairs to join us.  He’s never one to miss a party!  We got to have our picnic in the sun after all.

Now, the car seat cover is running through the washing machine (for the first time ever – it was long overdue).  My son is feeling better.  The children are getting some much needed sleep.  The kitchen is clean.  The sun is shining.  I am writing.  I have so much to feel grateful for.  It is a beautiful day.