for feeling

The yard is covered in petals and puddles, the boys are bored and my heart is sore.

Safe in our house, feelings surface like earthworms after a heavy rain - restless and weary and anxious and angry.

Feelings are for feeling I remind us all as we gear up to go out.

Fresh air is essential, even if it means raincoats and muddy clothes. Balls and bike rides and ditch drains and dirt kitchens give us a chance to come at things sideways rather than tackling them head on, the yard our emotional playground.

Outside we become different people with different feelings, clean slates and dirty hands.

We do not have to pretend to be inspired and attentive and grateful and calm, but we can move in that direction, heads up and hearts forward.


safety first, and so many words

Hank learned to read last week. And he learned to weave today.
He already knew how to climb trees. And he likes to wear his helmet all day long.
He still talks all day long too.
Working at his craft table: Did you know that pipe cleaners are snippable?! I just cut this one in half.

What’s inside the toaster? Like a factory of fire makers? 

The sun is just too sunny. I wonder where the light switch is that makes it not be drab anymore? Like on a tree at the end of the woods?

May I have more broccoli? But not on that side of my plate, only on the right side of my plate.

Examining a plush turtle from Hawaii: I don't know how people make stuffed aminals? They like kill other animals and then put stuffing in them?

If I cut this cookie in half why isn't it called twooths?

Using walkie talkies with his bothers in the woods: Roger that? Wait, is my name Roger now?! 


holy chaos, abundant grace


on earth

How on earth did we forget that every single day is a life or death proposition, always has been?
We learn this lesson and then learn it again and still we let ourselves go back to living like we don't know, let ourselves go back to being irritated by small matters, every magnified annoyance. Let ourselves become immersed in the illusion of urgency, the supposed importance of everything before us, so that we miss the spun chrysalis, the single blade of grass.
We dropped off dinner at the neighbors, their oldest in the hospital again for far too many days. Another reminder. We paused long enough to play with the chickens in their front yard and to remember for a moment what it felt like to find a meal on the porch, to remember the proposition.

And then we took the boys fishing.  No one caught anything this time, but it felt good to appreciate a small pond without thinking ahead to the next thing.
One of the infinite strangenesses of quarantine is the way the aperture of our attention has shifted. Things we may have missed last month, places we'd previously ignored, become outstanding. Become, in fact, everything.
The central adventure of our day turned out to be watching ducks in the water behind an empty building on campus. Tucker checked under rocks for insects and gazed at clouds and hunted for frogs. Hank climbed trees and made dandelion wishes, and we talked about leaving some flowers for the bees. Tolliver carried a rod around the entire perimeter, casting at every spot, and collected our family's trash before we left. These things constituted the boys' main interaction with the outside world.
I've almost forgotten how we used to fill our time.

Forced to keep the front door shut we seem to have found a hole in the sky, time to add so many life-giving things to most days - longer walks, more art, added read aloud, extra sleep.
Tiny specks on a pale blue dot, we watch the world around us shrink and grow at once, hoping the time for checking in does not run out.


at work

The boys had been, for several days straight, for hours and hours actually, digging a hole.
They reached a layer of clay and stopped, distracted by rolling damp soil into ropes and balls.
At first they used sticks to make lollipops, but they've since experimented with cutting and carving, and their sculptures have become more intricate. They've carried buckets of water to rewet the dirt, rolled stumps to create drying racks and situated limestone slabs to serve as display shelves, setting up a fairly official art studio in the woods.
Plus, there's a mud pie business on the side, each baked in an old brick oven and carefully decorated with hand-picked flowers.
I watch them work and wonder which of these trivial details may help tell the whole story some day...


so many ways

There are lots of ways to reckon with big questions, and while we've been forced to make home our proving ground, we've found perspective here, distilled our needs to most the basic: food and shelter and love.
Also, screens.
While the world is held hostage by a microscopic assailant, we are learning about ourselves and about each other and about how the hell to live like this.
We are so lucky to have the woods adjacent to our yard, a way to let the house breathe. We spend most afternoons outside.

The first week of quarantine, the boys rode their bikes up and down the dead end street, back and forth a thousand times. The second week they maneuvered through the woods to the bottom of the hill where there's a circular path around the park, doing hundreds of laps a day. Sometimes I could catch a glimpse of the small speck of their brightly colored sweatshirts as they whizzed by. Now they're essentially free-range, somewhere in the neighborhood, on mostly empty streets.
They are wearing helmets, and I am learning to trust them.

Learning happens in so many ways.

While the dining table doubles as a desk and the couch switches from zoom central to Disney and snacks, our home bends mostly to our will. On rainy days especially the boys' needs bump against my own, all of us housebound and jittery. We have room to spread out and fortunately no concern over paying the monthly mortgage. Sometimes, though, everyone seems to be screaming at once. Other times, perhaps less frequently, we stumble into moments of easy, joyful togetherness.

We are all learning, with tenderness and trepidation and more tantrums than I care to count.
There is, understandably, some resistance to sitting still for five whole minutes of academic time at home. The boys complete distance assignments most mornings, writing and math, but they also mail letters to friends and help double recipes in the kitchen.

Tolliver tends to procrastinate, diving deep into wooden blocks, some imaginary world of architecture and army battles, almost the opposite of what I'd like as his teacher, and everything I want as his mom.

I've learned a bit of ballet from Hank and he's learning from me to fold laundry. We've also completed every craft the internet knows.

Together the boys disassembled an old accordian in the driveway, figuring out how the air might've flowed through the bellows and across strips of brass to create sound.

Tucker's been reading about Isaac Newton and camel crickets and after a recent podcast we rabbit-holed immortal hydra. He's been thinking hard about generators, bouncing around ideas for solar panels and potential stored energy. From his spot in the temporary indoor hammock he reads aloud from magazines while I clean up the kitchen, wondering whether I knew the canary islands were actually named after dogs.

I stand six feet from my mother in the driveway and feel the void stretch deep and aching between us. We are learning what it feels like to miss someone who's only a few minutes away, that it hurts not to touch.

Learning happens in so many ways.



The boys awoke to Easter baskets, and have been hunting eggs (that they've mostly re-hidden from each other) for a solid week. We made palm fronds out of fort building materials and decorated paper eggs and colored chalk eggs and dyed real eggs.

There were several thoughtful deliveries - candy from the city, seeds from a special friend, lawn games from grandparents, flowers from the hospital, a fairy house from the neighbor next door.
We greet all of the these kind, generous people through windows, on screens, at distances that feel strained and unnatural, exchanging holiday greetings and quiet gratitudes.
We recognize that for most of us, community is everything. 

This Easter, life feels unfamiliar and oppressive and also like a tremendous blessing.