Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tree Tree Tree

“It would be too soon for us to say: Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping. But, instead of this, we anxiously ask ourselves how we can make a child sleep after the sun has risen, and how we can teach him not to take off his shoes or wander over the meadows. Where, as the result of such restraints, a child degenerates, and, becomes irked with his prison, kills insects or small harmless animals, we look on this as something natural and do not notice that his soul has already become estranged from nature. We simply ask our children to adapt themselves to their prison without causing us any trouble.”  (Maria Montessori writes in The Discovery of the Child).

I push her in the stroller along our narrow neighborhood lanes, while Penny pulls, pees, sniffs and rolls. After awhile, we go home where I leave the carriage and the dog so that I can take baby back outside, just her and me. In a week, she'll be one. Yesterday, she walked a bit on her own and today, I want to take her to the wooded path beside our house for her first hike. She's wearing a pair of sparkly sneakers with Velcro straps, white socks, striped pants and a tank top. Not quite the attire of a Jane GoodallRachel Carson or Gertrude Bell, but we won't be going very far. She holds two of my fingers as we trample up and down the slight slope of golden pine needles, brown leaves and dirt. She falls and sits and crawls and finds sticks to sneak in between her teeth. She looks up and around and smiles and babbles and points. Tree. I say. Tree. Tree. I show her five tiny pinecones. Pinecone. I say. Pinecone. Pinecone. I draw in the dirt with a small Stick Stick Stick. She copies me, holding it between her fingers and carving lines into ant tunnels and worm trenches. Ohhh wind, Amelia! Wind. Wind. Feel the Wind? She wobbles as she walks, but she's fearless even after she falls and flops onto her back. Her cheeks pink as she pants from this work of walking, squatting, sitting, and standing. She pauses, plops down in the middle of the path and pinches a yellow Leaf Leaf Leaf between her fingers before tearing it to pieces. My little explorer's eyes are bright with curiosity.      

Before I birthed her, I feared Time would trick me with distortion. I worried my seconds would be swallowed by sleep or sleepy wakefulness. Worried my minutes might speed up like a Buster Keaton comedy with my beloved bloopers snipped and left to dust and boot scuffs on the 
cutting room floor. I worried the hours, days, weeks, and months might simply go missing as if stolen by the stars, sun and this rapidly spinning earth. But this still feels like a sober speed, clear and unaltered. It feels like a year since I sat at home waiting for my body to shudder and quake, to split open and push her out. It feels like a year since I introduced her to air, since the nurse propped her warm fuzzy head beneath my breast so that she could drink milk from me for the first time. A year since I bled between my legs and wept and pleaded to a room full of doctors: Why won't she come out? after her heart rate slowed and they threatened me with emergency surgery. It feels like a year of gradually lengthening limbs and the rounding of cheeks, thighs and tummy; a year of singing silly songs our sweet Lead Belly lullaby; a year of smiling, worrying, cooing and dancing. It feels like a true year. From her first social smile to belly laughs. From wet pink gums to eight white teeth.  From banana bits to blueberries, yogurt smoothies, sunny side up eggs and bread. From her first roll to sitting straight, to crawling, to standing and now to walking. This feels like an honest year because I am excited (not woeful or weepy) for her to speak syllables, words, sentences and stories; to play games with other children; to run, climb, and jump, and to sit on my lap while I read an entire stack of picture books....but I'm in no hurry. Nature leads her and I follow. It leads her up our steep staircases; leads her to crawl laps around the coffee table, and to pull tissues out of tissue boxes and clothing out of laundry baskets and balls out of her toy box.  She is absorbing her environment as Maria Montessori said she would, absorbing it like the Dirt Dirt Dirt absorbs the Rain Rain Rain.  

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Winter Garden

Snow drapes over the mountain like the finest of lace:
Tiny stitches into snowflakes of water and ice.
The storm has passed. The sun shines bright.
A rumbling truck plow breaks through the deep white,
Causing the country road to shine quite slick
Beside the little house of stone, glass and brick, 
Where the black iron stove is lit
And packed with crackling firewood, long since split.
High on the papered living room walls,
Shelves hold picture books and mystery novels,
Cookbooks, histories, dictionaries,
Pretty catalogues about birds and trees, 
Animal tracks, gardening, poetry
And maps of forest trails for exploring.

At the upright piano, Pop sits,
Pressing pedals and keys into quiet music:
Sweet, like the smell from the kitchen stove
Where Momma chops kale and red potatoes,
And sings to the baby sleeping in her belly,
While glancing at a tattered old recipe.

At the long farmhouse kitchen table,
Six-year-old, Hadley sits, so sad and dull.

“ Oh Momma, when will winter be over?
I miss the sunshine, berries and flowers.”

“It’s awhile away. Go make what you miss.”
Momma says, leaning in for a forehead kiss.

Hadley closes her eyes and pretends that she is barefoot in the garden dirt. Removes her long sleeved shirt, unlaces her boots, peels off her socks and imagines torn-up, tangled roots and muddy gray rocks. She pictures pulling weeds and planting seeds, unfurling a blanket and picnicking on cheese, bread and strawberries. She runs to the field where the breeze blows through the summer trees and tickles her naked sunburned knees. And there on the path, she sees, the flower patch with the pretty pale pink peonies for making posies! Then on her imagination goes……to the climbing vines of red tomatoes and the fragrant purple basils, the geraniums and the pointy thistles. She imagines her bathing suit pinned to the line, her black and brass bicycle, the lake, and drippy purple popsicles. She hears fireworks, tree frogs and coyote cries, sees bonfires and blinking fireflies.

Suddenly, she opens her gray speckled eyes.
Then off to her easel, she practically flies!

Hadley paints pale posies of peonies;
The blueberry bush; wild grass; pine trees.
She paints seedlings 
And feather wings, 
Shining stars, 
And insect jars, 
Green tangling vines
And warm yellow sunshine. 

Hadley paints and paints! 
Paints until she nearly faints!

Momma sits with her books and photographs,
Collecting data and drawing up graphs. 
She’s a botanist, a plant biologist, 
a professor and field scientist. 
She’s a social justice organizer,
a mom and a vegetable gardener.

Pop is a poet and a pianist.
 He’s a bee keeper and a tree arborist.
At the local elementary school, he teaches music,
English, history, art and mathematics.
He’s a dad, an animal lover,
A feminist and a book collector.
Today, he lays with his cellphone screen lit, 
Reading newspaper stories recently writ. 

Hours later, with an empty belly,
Hadley slices bread and smears it with jelly 
(The jam she and Pop made late last summer)
…And just like that, she starts to remember…

It was so hot then when Pop stood at the sink, his hand stained blue, holding a tall lemon drink. Blueberries boiled in a pot on the stove: hot fruit jam to fill jars with pretty handwritten labels. Hadley stood beside the blueberry buckets with her tongue, lips and fingers wet with blue violet. Now months later, back in the cold white winter...

Hadley prepares a cup of peppermint tea,
Turning the comb with wildflower honey.
She slathers her bread with blue jam and butter
Momma and Pop must have gone out without her! 
At the sink, she washes her dishes and sees, 
Out the window surrounded by snow and trees,
Are her sweet, precious parents, her family.  
Hadley puts the kettle back on for more tea. 

Hadley finds socks in her oak wood dresser,
Long johns and her softest sheep wool sweater. 
She wraps her scarf; ties the laces of her boots,
Puts on her knit hat and puffy snowsuit.
She buttons the buttons of her jacket;
Grabs mittens and the empty kindling basket.

Steam rises from the mugs like clouds in the wind.
When they see Hadley, her parents pause and grin. 

“Tea for you.” She says, holding out her tray.  

“Thank you! Ready for a little work and play?” 

Hadley gathers sticks from beneath spindly trees;
Fills the bird feeders with lots of little seeds;
She throws snowballs as far as she can;
Runs, tumbles, makes a fort and a silly snowman.
She sweeps the porch and brushes off the wood pile,
Shovels the garden path and wipes off the sundial.
Hadley coasts down the hill in her long, planked toboggan
Until the sun sinks behind their great pine forest mountain.

Sweaty and sleepy, Hadley lays in the snow,
Thinking about her day and the new thing she now knows: 
Even though it is late winter
And cold and windy and dark as ever,
Inside, she can be cozy, busy and happy 
And, if she wears her layers well and warmly,
The outside, too, is a delightful place to be.