centering down for Michaelmas

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“Strongly I will think, will remember often, how within I’m vitalized by all primal spirit strength, will strongly sense within me weaving soul and power of will, will reflect in stillness how I can find a hold in my heart’s depths when my soul, quiet in itself, rests and also strongly acts out of itself.” by Rudolf Steiner, “The Heart of Peace”

I’ve been reading a great book: “Living the Quaker Way,” by Philip Gulley.  A friend recommended it after my post about searching for buffers in this chaotic world.  In his preface Gulley writes, “I’m not inviting you to a church but to a life,” built upon the Quaker values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality.    And it’s in these pages I’ve learned the phrase “centering down,” a common practice before a Meeting of Friends.  (Although we don’t have a name for it, it is also what you’d experience 15 minutes before the service if you were to attend The Christian Community.)  It means choosing to create the quiet needed to reconnect to one’s inner life, making more space for whatever divine or higher presence guides you.  And, according to the author, it need not be sitting in silence.  While he described his experience with walking meditation, a vision of yarn and needles came into my mind.  The familiar feel of them in my hands became a life line during the family’s bumpy transition back to urban life and school.  I do also love to sit in silence, a more traditional centering down, but it comes much easier after the rhythm of knit and purl have passed between my hands for a few minutes.

Between that and the unfinished projects I discovered while clearing out a fiber moth infestation, there is a lot coming off the needles these days.  This Striped Linen Stitch Cowl, however, I finished up over the summer.   I received the yarn (a Mountain Girl Yarn, whose Etsy shop is currently on a little break) as a gift from my friend Kim at Mothering with Mindfulness, a few years back.  I don’t receive yarn gifts often, so I when I do, I am always tempted to extend the gift by making something for myself.  I had a few other projects in mind and actually started one and pulled it out before I settled on this cowl.  I’ve been wanting to take on a linen stitch project for a while and this one was perfect: since it’s in the round I only had to learn half of linen stitch!  It proved the perfect repeating-pattern-travel-companion for about a year.  I took it with me to Ann Arbor, and Nova Scotia, and tossed it in my carry-on when I came back to Denver in July for my training program, then, back again to Canada.  All the while I wondered if I was going to be able to double it around my neck.  I started with not quite enough yarn for the project, by my estimates, so I cast on a few less stitches, fingers crossed.  Excited to say that it does tightly, but still comfortably, go around twice!  We’ve had an uncharacteristic rainy week and it has been so lovely to pull this out.

I wish I could say that I’ve been outwardly preparing for Michaelmas while wearing it, but alas, no.  One myth of parenting I am beginning to really understand: it does not get easier as the children get bigger, it just gets different hard.  What the children once needed in physical care–diapers, feeding, shoe tying–they now need in emotional care.  I find it equally difficult and more complicated, and draining all the same.  Which is why our nature table at the moment consists of left over pictures from Lucien’s birthday (in August) and a vase of flowers from Nana’s garden that should’ve made its way to the compost days ago.

I am thankful for the years when I’ve had more space for dragon bread and harvest activities, because I think they are part of why I have an inner relationship to Michaelmas.  A simple, enigmatic relationship with the courage to act; the courage that He can plant within our hearts.  For some, those actions may be loud–taking to the streets.  But let us not forget the others.  The ones carving out a simple, conscious, life, in partnership with the Spirit, an act that goes against every grain of our more-faster society.  Let us not forget the courage and sacrifice it takes to turn off the device and “center down,” making room for whatever it is that reconnects us to our best and most authentic selves.

That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow afternoon.  Come join me on the porch if you’re passing by.

 

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these ordinary moments: afternoons on the porch

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which me and my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

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The transition back to urban life and school has been unpleasant.  Tantrums, tears and “so and so hit me!” are my daily soundtrack.  It plays on repeat in my head while I sit in traffic after drop-off, pondering how I can help it all go more smoothly, wishing I could find more grace.

After the commute, a (half) school day and a nap, the afternoon marches on towards supper prep.  It’s not unusual to realize in the midst of good nights that a day has gone by without any quality one-on-one time with a particular child.

My feelings about all of this roll around as if in a cement mixer: a messy aggregate of values trying to form a coherent pourable material.  At odds with each other, they simply keep churning, no freshly set sidewalk in sight.

So, until the sidewalk is ready to be poured, there are afternoons on the porch.  While the children rouse from their rests I boil water for tea and prepare “dessert.”  (Our fruit based afternoon treat)  Then I head right out with my handwork and we all sit. Sometimes the children have a story from the school day.  Sometimes there is a request for a book to be read or a plan for a project when Papa comes home.  Last week it was paper airplanes waiting to be folded.  Some days they quickly inhale whole peaches, dripping sticky juice down their fronts, and run off to the trampoline leaving me sitting in silence, an entire hot cup of tea still waiting.

Whatever passes between us in the moments, it’s heartening knowing it will be there most days.  That amidst the going all directions there will be space to connect to ourselves, each other and our values.

And that, my friends, I do believe is what you call a buffer.

 

 

like a weed

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When we walk down the halls of school this fall we hear a lot about Opal.  “She’s so big!” and “She looks so grown up.   Like a kindergartner.”

It’s true.  At nearly four and a half, Opal seems to have left her toddlerhood somewhere in Atlantic Canada.  She’s running with the big kids and couldn’t be happier.  We’re proud of her everyday.

I’m about a “birthday sweater” behind nowadays.  Meaning I took her to pick out this yarn on her birthday and finished it just in time for Lucien to turn six.  It’s a Cascade superwash I’m fairly certain, but I cannot seem to find the tags anywhere in the detritus of our house. Nor can I find anything on their website that quite fits the bill.  Now that I think of it, I may have steered Opal away from Cascade after poor results with Lucien’s last birthday sweater: it’s filled with snags and pulls to the point of being unwearable.   Such a disappointment after all that work and love on my part and anticipation and love on his.  I have only begun to dabble in superwash yarns, for which I have long had a bias against.  (The more processed a fiber is, the less of its natural health bringing properties it retains.)  The practical challenge of handwashing for a family of five has been the push I needed to search out some high quality yarns that I could thrown in the washing machine.  If you have any favorites, please do share!

The pattern (also picked out by Opal insisted on a dress) is Little Miss Jane.  I added some around the arm holes because I was convinced they were going to be too tight.  Of course they ended up too loose!  Ah well, room to grow, which we all deserve a little more of. Last touch was those daisy buttons.  She always loves a pop of something fancy to catch the eye.  These were our compromise.

Next up for a birthday sweater is Lucien, who turned six last month.  He’s requested yarn that “looks like fish skin” and has already chosen a set of tractor buttons (I’m learning to let go!)  Fish skin that can go in the washing machine and tractor buttons. Guess I had better get on that.

these ordinary moments: the wait is over

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which me and my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

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Once per summer we make our way to the ancient amusement park in our neighborhood for some good old fashioned bacchanalian revelry.  A few years back Mattheus became fixated on the bumper boats.  At the time he wasn’t tall enough to ride them, and so the refrain the past few summers has been, “I wonder who will be tall enough to ride the bumper boats this year?”

After much anticipation, it was finally Lucien’s turn.  When John saw that the line was pretty long and moving slowly, he suggested to Lucien that perhaps they could go ride something else and come back a little later.  Lucien’s answer?  “I’ve waited long enough, Papa.”

What is different about the pure and simple joy that passes through us when we’ve had to wait for something?  Is it that our desire has the time to deepen and mature, allowing our joy to do so as well?  Whatever it is, in a world of instant gratification, sometimes it sure does feel good to wait.

 

buffer

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We arrived home from Nova Scotia last month to a wall of wild (ish) sunflowers on the northeast corner or our property.  We did plant sunflowers somewhere, once upon a time, not fully aware of how much they tend to migrate, but we did not plant these. Usually we allow a few to pop up here and there and clear out the rest so that the garden proper can grow.  In our summer long absence, they took over all of the raised beds, Jerusalem Artichoke patch and everything in between in this corner of the yard.

I was not entirely sold on their presence at first.  I was happy to see something growing, since we didn’t have a garden this summer.  Then I noticed the birds and honey bees coming to visit the patch throughout the day.   And slowly it dawned on me that those little circles of sunlight had created a natural buffer between our porch and the street in front of our house. A little extra something to take the edge off of the traffic racing up and down the street.  I can sit with my morning coffee or afternoon tea in relative privacy, which I am entirely sold on.

Not even two full weeks into the school year and I’m reminded just how much we all need a little buffer from day to day: the entire family is sick with colds.  Thankfully no one seems too worse for the wear except for yours truly.  Whenever I fall ill I remember that we really need to plan for this eventuality–meals in the freezer if nothing else–but then I get better and all is forgotten and somehow a belief that I don’t get sick resurfaces. Maybe it’s forgetfulness.  Wishful thinking.  Or maybe it’s a little big of succumbing to the world’s message to stay at home parents–that they have to be super human to make up for the fact that they “don’t work,” or having any “income.”  Of course working parents are expected to be super human too because they “do work.”  And then there’s the employees without families who are expected to pick up all of the slack because there’s no one waiting at home who needs help with Spanish homework.

No matter who we are, from somewhere and someone the message is always streaming towards us “there’s more you should be doing.”  Thankfully, I’ve come to recognize this voice as not my own and no longer harbor guilt around moving slowly, being mindful, doing what can be done and leaving the rest for another day.  But it is still hard to watch certain things in our family life come to a standstill when Mama is down for the count.

So what your buffers, my friends?  What do you have in place to make life a little easier? How do you work around those days when you’re not 100% and the world expects you to be? How do you make space to protect yourself from modern life?

 

these ordinary moments*: marking time

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“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which me and my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

John and the kids went back to school two weeks ago.  One short week after we returned home to Denver from our nine week road trip to New England and Atlantic Canada.   We had planned to be back a bit earlier, but life, as you know, has its twists and turns.

As the first official day of school hurtled towards us, amidst teacher in-service meetings and school supply lists, unpacking and reclaiming the farmlette, I couldn’t help but wish we’d given ourselves a little more space to transition from the agenda free, family filled days of summer, to lunch boxes and alarm clocks and going different directions.  The days were passing, we were not ready for the change, and I could feel it acutely.

Then Mattheus brought us the answer.  He woke up a day or two before the beginning of the school year and reminded me, “You know, Mama, we never had our last campfire, and you said we could have it when we got home, remember?”  He was right.  On our return trip everyone was a bit traveled out, so we traded extra camping activities for better time on the road.  But for Mattheus, camping is only camping if you cook your supper over an open fire, so we had promised him a campfire upon returning home.  “A nice way to finish the summer,” we had told him.  I just needed a little nudge as to how true that was.  The clear simple voice of a child to cut through all of the din of preparation.

It wasn’t a big moment.  No ceremony or scrapbooks.  No signs saying “first day of second grade” or growth measurements.  These are all lovely, mind you, and in an ideal world I’d do a few more of them, but sometimes it’s enough to just stand around the fire in stillness, looking each other in the eye, silently licking sticky fingers and acknowledging that these are the last marshmallows of the summer.   Watching another moment come and go, and wrapped into that short moment, all that has been and all that will be.  Knowing that we’re not quite ready, but we will be.

*For my regular readers, you’ll notice the change in title.  In an effort to move away from the material aspects of homemaking and towards the inner work of the homemaker, I’m going with “moments” rather than “things” from here on out.  I look forward to sharing with you!