this moment

Joining Amanda for {this moment}. A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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making friends with halloween

DSC09772DSC09769I’ve really tried to make friends with Halloween the past few years–it’s just never been a celebration that resonates with me. It remains a bit of a mystery, a little outside of the scope of our family festival work, which centers on the cycle of the Christian year. We’re not personally in the camp that views Halloween as inherently un-Christian (after all it was originally the vigil of All Saints’ Day). It’s just that it tends to sneak up on us while we’re busy celebrating other days, tucking the garden in for the season, knocking off the first thin layer of ice on the animals’ water buck.  In the midst of all of this activity, Halloween becomes a last minute annoying poke in the ribs: “Put down the Christmas knitting—you have three penguin costumes to make”  For the children’s sake, I try to get excited; there’s plenty about us that is already pretty weird. The least I can do is make peace with this very normal holiday

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I started coming round a bit to this scary sugar crazed night last year, when Mattheus was really old enough to realize the magic of walking up to a complete stranger’s door and having them give you a gift just because. In a modern world dominated by bedroom communities, this is the one night of the year when we open our doors to anyone. They come out of the darkness and cold and are greeted by the shining warmth of our homes. No pulling the curtains shut and hoping the unknown just goes away. Watching Mattheus, I began to realize the value of this little image—that when we put aside our fear and are open to others, we begin gathering surprising gifts.

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But there’s something else that strikes me about this holiday that falls in the final days of the Michaelmas season, just before All Souls Day, when we remember those that have crossed the threshold. Once again we celebrate man’s ability  to revel, to play, to find humor, to offer a moment of warmth, to rise in his spirit above nature’s laws of death.

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I guess Halloween and I are friends after all. Not BFF. It’s those pesky penguins that keep us just a little bit at odds. And the candy! More candy than a child could moderately consume in five years. Thank goodness for the Hob Goblin who comes and trades us for an equally exciting, but much smaller and slightly more wholesome taste of sugary euphoria. Heaven help us when they realize the slight inequity in this arrangement.

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planting seeds

DSC00124The spring flower bulbs and garlic are going into the ground this week. Each year we plant a few more of both during the four weeks of Michaelmas. Admittedly, we are still finding our way into celebrating this “festival of the future.” But planting bulbs in the fall was an easy one. This year, in addition to the collection of crocuses, tulips, daffodils and hyacinth that we already have, we are adding Dutch Irises, Salome Daffodils, Mickey Mouse Tulips (a favorite of Lu’s) and Chionodoxa.

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It seems almost every year, we miss a garlic bulb during harvest and it ends up resting in the earth for another season. To our surprise it pops up amidst the future home of tomatoes or squash. It is proof that we can never be certain when the fruits of our labor will fully ripen.  Sometimes they emerge at the most unexpected times.

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As we tuck each of the flower bulbs into the cold earth, we know, with no uncertainty, that their colorful blooms will signal the return of the sun. As the natural world dies around us, we plant these seeds of hope. Knowing they are awaiting their moment of resurrection under the frozen earth, instills in us the courage to fill the darkening days with our human, light-filled endeavors.

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this moment

Joining Amanda for {this moment}  A Friday ritual. A single photo, capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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Beacon

DSC00068Over the five years since Mattheus was born, we’ve found our way into a comfortable daily rhythm. It stretches, crumbles and evolves with each big change (namely new babies, new school years, new seasons, new animals), but always we return to it with a sigh of relief. It buoys us in times of challenge, and supports us in keeping things familiar, simple and dreamy. On the days when everyone is a bit tired, cranky, or moving slowly, the rhythm carries us through the day, allowing us to rest a bit, while at the same time accomplishing our work.

The weakest link of this rhythm is morning. I need several hours of solitude at the start of the day to find my center and collect the gifts of sleep (I wake up very slowly). To maintain this ideal I’d have to get up at about 4am. You can imagine how often this happens.

Instead, we fight our way through chaos: waking up randomly, eating separately, playing what must be played in pjs before anything else can occur, running out the back door dressed from the waist up, naked from the waist down, and insisting that we are ready to go outside because we’ve put on our boots and hat. It’s not uncommon for the boys to leave for school whilst Opal and I wave from the gate in our pjs. On the days when the boys are home, we are lucky to recover by midmorning snack, when everyone has dressed appropriately and been shoved outside while Mama stands at the window sipping (hot if I’m lucky) coffee and capturing a fraction of almost solitude. All of this would be fine if it could be accomplished with centered parents, standing amidst the chaos as beacons of calmness. This is not the case, of course. We grump at the discomfort of it all, find ourselves irritable with the children and each other. Morning becomes a time that shapes our day in a way we wish it wouldn’t. Quite a contrast to our evening rhythm, which, begins with supper and ends with bedtime, and flows so habitually from one moment to the next we don’t even have to think about it.

We’ve tried to build a morning rhythm, we really have. Somehow we just haven’t found one, and we’ve suffered countless failures: “Wake up, get dressed,” “Wake up, eat breakfast, then get dressed,” “Wake everyone up at the same time with a song and a verse. After all, we put them to bed that way.” Nothing ever sticks. Our morning needs are just too diverse.

But, I think we may have landed upon a tiny moment of magical ritual. A simple move in the right direction that has us feeling so much better. Whichever parent wakes up first lights the candle that we keep on our festival table. It shines right through the chaos, a beacon of intention. Before we walk out the door, either to school or to the work that awaits us in the yard, we gather round with held hands and join in a simple song and blessing.

“Morning has come.

Night is away.

We rise with the sunlight

And welcome the day.

Blessings on our day!”

I’ve also noticed an added benefit to this little ritual. Throughout the day we have a better sense of how we are holding each other, how we are traveling this journey together as a family. Together or apart, the protective sheath of the family accompanies us, and I for one am deeply nourished by it. All of this from just one tiny-huge moment, not a set in stone series of events. A moment that we’ve made ours, out of the ideals of living a rhythmic life. I think, I hope, we’ve found a keeper

And you, what’s your beacon moment?

home days

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We’re homeschoolers at heart. With two Waldorf teachers in the family, it seems natural. But, it is precisely because we’re teachers that we’ve come to value the education of a child that happens outside of the sphere of home. An education that allows the child’s spirit to work through his own individuality, outside the influence of all that we inherit from family.  (Of course, we are lucky enough to have access to Waldorf education; if that weren’t the case, we can well imagine our family on the homeschooling path.)  We’ve also come to know the gift that is a loving supportive community, especially its teachers. Most rewarding, we’ve witnessed firsthand the capacity that sets man apart from the rest of the universe: being able to love in freedom, not as a mother or a brother or an aunt or grandmother, just as another human being who chooses to love.

The tradeoff to a life lived out in the community, is never quite enough home days. With school and church, extended family and community activities, too often we find ourselves running off. The old Volvo wagon, three car seats across one bucket seat, three irritable kiddos and two harried parents, rolls onto the highway only to find itself stuck in standstill traffic. Forgot about game day again! Suffocating from concrete, noise, fossil fuel consumption and crazed blue and orange footballers, John and I stare at each other, knowing that that question, the one that has haunted us since we packed up our lives and made the pilgrimage to Denver, well, it’s racing through both of our minds again: what are we evening doing here in this city?!

We truly have found answers to this question (some of which you can read about here) and some answers we still wait on, trusting that they will come someday. In the meantime we do what we can to balance home and city.

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Surrounding by falling leaves and Halloween decorations and clear blue skies, we’re doing what we can over fall break from school to spend a little more time in this little red house and its quarter acre of land. We cherish the moments reserved for special meals (apple cake!), an impromptu (10 mile!) bike ride, a little extra knitting and that extra cup of coffee, another hour digging in the dirt, a few minutes to update the chalk board, a little more time for visits with friends and family and, just one extra measly–magical hour for Mama and Papa to be Coco and John again.

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It’s good to be home.

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this moment

Joining Amanda for “A Friday ritual. A single photo – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”

DSC09865Mattheus finds a solution to sharing a room with two noisy siblings.