Sometimes the symbolism hits you over the head


I was lying in the summer-warmed water of a small New Hampshire lake. The sun was gently warm on my upturned face. Pines surrounded the lake with taller peaks framing the tableau. The air was full of the sound of happy children playing — the yells and shouts and laughter. My ears were stopped by the water, where it was blessedly blissfully quiet. I noticed I was far more buoyant than normal, with my nursing-large breasts and Tevas dragging the rest of me towards the surface. And for that glinting moment in the sun, I just WAS and it was good.

Later that afternoon — after a long leisurely tent-nap — I noticed my watch had stopped keeping time on that swim.

Every once in a while, the symbolism just comes down and smacks you.

We had a fantastic three-day weekend camping. We spent two nights at White Lake State Park, this time. The water was the best. When I was playing with my sons in the water, I had the rare sensation of being completely engaged. I was entirely present in the play, and not thinking ahead or behind or calculating or listening to something else or wishing that I was anywhere but where I was. I threw my laughing children into the air and caught them as they splashed in the water. I watched them discover what they could do in this unusual medium — sand squishing between small toes and eyes squinting against bright sun. I watched my husband, strong and lithe, play with the boys who look so much like him.

The camping parts were great too. We made a vast improvement by putting Thane to sleep in his car seat inside the tent. He was far more comfortable AND we had more room for important things like stomp rockets, rope for practicing making knots and marshmallows. My husband delighted in knot tying (really delighted — he was nearly illuminated with the joy of learning this new skill — and our tarp only took about 4 hours to get up!) Grey poked things with sticks and stayed up too late and ate his bodyweight in marshmallows and made his brother laugh. Thane? Well, Thane probably got the short end of the deal. He really liked the water (a lot!) but spent most of his time hanging out in his stroller, which is probably not as much fun as getting to eat dirt and rub pine needles into his hair.

There were, of course, tribulations. Notably, the first night was an absolute deluge. The rain was phenomenal. On the plus side, we had a drum-tight tarp to keep us dry, which it did. On the negative side, we therefore had a snare drummer playing above our head all night long. Also, Thane woke up inconsolable, which is really hard when we’re all in such a short space. I’m not sure what was wrong with him, and therefore I couldn’t fix it quickly and that woke up Grey and that meant, well, let’s just say we were sleepy by the time the weekend was over.

Also, let us discuss for a moment the word cheap. Cheap can mean inexpensive — a bargain. Cheap can also mean low-quality. When one encounters “cheap” firewood, perhaps one should not be surprised when it turns out to have been cut last week in a bog, where it has been stored since. It took me two and a half hours to get a fire going with said “cheap” firewood. I can usually get a fire going with one match using no man-made materials in about 15 minutes. (We used to heat with wood. I’m really pretty good at fire-building.) The tinder would go up, the fire would appear started and then in 5 minutes it would be dead. The cheap firewood didn’t just smoke, it steamed.

There was also a plague of frogs. If I had to pick a plague, I think the plague of frogs was probably the one I’d mind least. They were pretty cute little buggers, but TINY. There were so many of them that on a walk with Grey we could hardly step without imperiling the little froggy bodies below us. The forest floor twitched with the movement of perfectly camouflaged frogs.

Tiny little frogs everywhere!
Tiny little frogs everywhere!

I think we will go camping again SOON. I keep wishing we could go with friends or another grownup so that my husband and I could go witness the miracle of stars, or listen to the loon sing a night-song on the lonely lake. But even if my husband didn’t like camping (which he does), I think he would go just to watch the petals of the flower that is me uncurl and turn to the new-shining sun. The wilderness is manna to me. It is sunshine. It opens me up and drops my defenses. It makes me remember what I like about myself and forget my mantras of doubt, gloom and distraction. I like who I am in the woods.

Driving home, I couldn’t help but be excited by what we were doing, and had done. Already, a grand two trips in, we have traditions. There’s the “Miss Wakefield Diner” and their chocolate chip pancakes. There’s the spooooooky stories (not so spooky) around the fire. There’s rough-housing in the tent. There’s swimming in the lake. There are memories saved up against cold February days and the creeping sense of dismal sameness.

There is joy, a shared joy, and remembered joy.

A mother of boys

I had an awesome weekend. It started Thursday night — we took Friday off. We stayed up late late late making lists and going shopping and packing stuff into the car for our first camping trip with the boys.

Hanging out in our vast tent
Hanging out in our vast tent

I love camping. I’ve loved camping for as long as I remember. I love exploring, and the fire. I love the sound of a zipper in the morning. I love pine needles in my breakfast and clear morning sunlight on the mountains. However, here in New England I haven’t known WHERE to go camping, we haven’t had all the gear we needed out here, and since Grey was born I’ve been too chicken to bring him out. Life is too short to not do things you love because you’re chicken, so I put a trip on the calendar this spring.

We went to White Lake State Park in New Hampshire. It was an excellent combination of facilities (nice bathrooms, a playground, a great beach with a lifeguard, an onsite canteen, etc).

On Friday morning, when the boys woke up at 6 am, we shoveled ourselves into the car and headed North. It was a beautiful drive, on one of the first warm days of the summer. We stopped at the Miss Wakefield Diner for second breakfasts, and were still at the campground by like 10 am.

We had a ball. I’d bought a new tent, which turned out to be absolutely enormous. It was more than big enough for a Pack-and-play, two grownups, and a cuddly three year old. The lake was really quite warm for this early in the spring. Grey had a wonderful time swimming. I got floaters for both boys, and Thane seemed to really enjoy swimming too. After we were done with water play, there was sand to be dug into. Naps didn’t really happen, sadly, so our nature walk around the lake was a little more contentious than I’d have hoped. (Grey was tired. Adam and I were TIRED. Thane was sleeping on my back.)

That night we had a great campfire (bragging alert: I got the fire started with one piece of newspaper, with the same match I used to light the mosquito lantern). We roasted hot dogs and made s’mores. We sat and stared at the coals of the fire. It was everything a night in the woods should be.

Around midnight the rain started. This would usually be a sign that camping was about to stop being fun, but we’d put away pretty much all of our gear before retiring, we’d put a tarp over the tent, and the tent proved to be far more water-tight than our old tents were. So the several hours of rain ended up being pretty much a non-entity.

To sum up: camping was really really fun and I want to go again SOON!

But we had to get back home because Grey’s final dance recital was 5 pm on Friday. Grey has been going to dance classes all year. He’s been good about going, although he doesn’t talk about it much. I think he did it and was ok with it, but definitely didn’t love it. The recital kept getting more and more complex. We had to pony up $55 in OCTOBER for a costume that turned out to be a very crappy, Halloween-style tuxedo. There was the Sunday morning lineup to buy tickets to the rehearsal. The tickets were pricey ($20), and they said we’d need to buy them even for Grey if we wanted him to watch any of the recital. Group pictures were $15. A dvd of the performance was $45. They sold bouquets, including bouquets of lollipops which made Grey feel like dancing = entitled to sweets. Then there was a dress rehearsal at 4 pm on a Wednesday, which required massive coordination to make happen. The upside was that Grey did a great job. He looked really cute. He worked hard and paid attention. I’m sure he learned some important things in the classes. But he didn’t love it. Thank heavens. I hated the whole circumstances of the recital, and I’m relieved never to be doing THAT again.

Not that he wasnt adorable
Not that he wasn't adorable

I loved camping. I didn’t love the dance class. Perhaps it’s just as well I’m a mother of boys!

The hills are alive

In a week and a half, A. and I will be winging our way across the Pond to regions Tuetonic. 10 days and several hours from now, we will be listening to the tale of the Flying Dutchman and the woman who loved him, against all odds. We will travel to see medieval arms and armour. We will hike in the Alps, and I will think not a little of Heidi. We will travel by rail over high, historic mountains to a city founded on Friday, March 25 at noon in the year 421 on marshy islands. I will stand inside St. Marks and if God has truly blessed me, I might even hear the polypony I so often imagined. I’ll see too the poryphory statues of the tetrarchs, the mosaics, the four mysterious horses of St. Marks. I’ll see the winged-lion of the Most Serene Republic. And I’ll pay way too much to sit in a cafe and drink coffee — perhaps the same cafe frequented by Lord Byron and Dickens.

It seems more than a thousand miles distant from where I sit now. It is a world distant. It is a place I visited often in fancy, but where I have rarely travelled at all lately, even in the realm of the mind. I have become too focused — to concentrated on a small and arcane realm of the world. Granted it pays well, but I yearn for vistas again. And I shall see them. And that, friends, makes me a very lucky woman.