Wednesday, December 21, 2016

We Bring the Earth Inside

I grew up in Missouri where the winters were harsh. My hands would crack from the cold and my mom would rub utter cream my dad brought home from his work at the farm. She would cover our hands in thick lotion that felt more like butter, and cover them with our socks right before we fell asleep. I have memories of driving country roads at night with my family. Cold and bundled in the car, driving home from my uncle's out in the middle of no where and seeing snowflakes hitting the windshield. The harshness of winter brings out the comfort of home. My dad always had firewood chopped and ready in the driveway. He would carry in loads and tend the fire all morning. My dad is the hardest worker I know, and never missed a day of work, unless the country roads were covered in snow. Then my brother, sister, and I woke to slow morning with a fire. My dad would always be in his gray sweatpants, his red flannel shirt, and drinking hot tea. Which I never saw him do any other time. And of course, watching The Price is Right. Winter had forced us to relax. To stop and take a deep breath.

Austin winters are different from Missouri. They feel like they are never actually coming. All my friends who aren't from Austin keep going on about how hot it is, how fall or winter will never come. But, after a few years here I have a new hope. Winter will come. Slowly but beautifully. This last week it has been quite cold. Below freezing, in the twenties. This is cold enough for me. We buy wood and start a fire and can drink warm drinks all day. It gets cold enough to need to feel warm. To bring the earth inside and watch the wood burn in the fireplace. I wake and start a fire first thing. Then I brew coffee, and I snuggle the kids while they watch a show. The younger two like to have their diapers changed right by the fire. It's warm and they like to watch the flames while they lay there. I huddle us all up like we live in such a cold and desperate time. But it's still Austin. Soon the sun will shine and we won't even need a sweater.

Maybe all of this is just an extended fall. The weather playing back and forth between hot and cold. The dirt is cold and the Texas sun is big and warm. A dying spring of sorts. Leaves fall and cripple under the weight of dropping temperatures but then comes the sun blaring through the bare trees. I never thought I could feel a bit obsessed with the weather, but it really does bring inner change. I have found myself wanting to slow down. To breath. There may not be snow on country roads, but hats and mittens on babies is enough trouble to stay home. For every day we run or go out to explore, the other half of me wants to sit and be still. Andrew crochets. I read and take baths. The girls ask to crochet and make scarfs out of a tangled web of yarn. Foster sits by the fire, raising things in his hand making me always wonder if he will throw that object into the flames. I am convinced God made the seasons just as he did the days. To move and grow and to become weary, and then to end and change just as we need it to, the bright light turning dark, or spring buds starting to bloom. The seasons carry me, and for now, we bring the earth inside when its cold and step out when the sun is shining.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Traveling to a Familiar Place

In October our family traveled back up to Arkansas. We had taken this trip six months earlier as well, both times so Andrew could help the new Whole Foods in Fayetteville. I have always loved to travel. And I still do, but it is a lot harder with kids. Especially traveling so Andrew can work the entire time. Both trips to Arkansas involved the kids and me dropping Andrew off at work each morning, going and having some adventure basically all day long, and then picking him up with the kids already having had dinner, and often already asleep. Very long days. Probably too long for young kids. But something I do appreciate looking back on our trips is how they strengthen me as a mother. I also consider the harder parts worth it to see the good friends that live there. Plus family has traveled from Missouri both times to come see us as well. This trip was over Blanche's birthday. It was really special to have my dad and step mom there. My step mom really made the actual day special for Blanche. She brought gifts and cookies and presents to the park. As well as a "Birthday Girl" ribbon for Blanche to pin on her clothes. Blanche felt pretty honored by it all. I had hoped to get more pictures of her actual birthday, but the days often involved holding a shy Foster or Rosemary or both... which left less room to hold a camera.

Traveling is a funny thing to me. Because I do consider myself more and more of a minimalist. I want less things in my home and I desire to literally want less. But when I leave my home it becomes evident how my home is a safe place for me. I am sure most people would consider their homes a safe place where they feel they can emotionally relax a bit. It's not the things in my home as much as the ideas in my home that make it a small haven. But when I step away from that little bubble and out into the world, with small children and chaos mixed in, it can feel exposing. I think that the idea of being exposed when you travel has really been shown to me through the eyes of my children. Children act so strong sometimes but it can be pretty clear how being out of their normal effects them. Seeing my kids melt down around meal times and rest times while traveling really shows me that they miss the routine and familiarness of home. When we are in Arkansas we often visit good friends and can spend sometimes 6 hours at a persons house. Because Andrew would be working all day and we would have the car, it just felt easier to find a home base that wasn't a hotel room and join friends until Andrew was off. My friends in Arkansas are old friends, I have known most of them for ten years. And while being in their homes and feeling so welcome, it would make me ache for them to come and stay the day with me in my home. Maybe it was just the fact that we were having more than two hour playdates, it felt like with several of my friends in Arkansas I got to live their life with them for the day. So much of it common to me from when I too had lived there. Longs days with good friends revealed to me that their lives were so much the same as mine, but also different. The distance between our homes, and country verses city also played a part. And neither life is better than the other, just different. That is why I have always loved traveling to new places and old. I am never the same person as the last time I was there. I am always changing for better or worse, and going back to old friends and an old town is just like going home to family, my perspective changes. Traveling back to Arkansas twice this past year feels almost the same as when I would leave college and come back home. There were parts I missed so badly and parts of my old life I loved. There were new experiences in my mind that had changed the way I saw things. And sometimes, when when I travel back to an old place, it gets a little easier to say goodbye and go back to the life I have.

I have sat countless times to try and write something to go with these pictures. I keep getting interrupted by Foster wanting to nurse, and my thoughts really do not feel very clear. But I wanted to put up pictures of our trip; I never did post pictures from the time before that, so my favorites from our first trip are here below. The first trip we took in the spring when Foster was six months. We went hiking and saw good friends and both trips were a mixture of beauty and chaos. I have never felt like I have had two separate lives as much as I do when going to Arkansas. I see old friends and places and we just pick up where we left off. Both times it almost just felt like we lived there again. Every night out of exhaustion I just soaked in a warm bath, drank tea, and went to bed. Getting to leave the housework to room service. I thought a lot about how I wanted to homeschool, and decided to start keeping a nature journal with Blanche. I came back to Austin so excited to be home, and missing the open spaces. Happy to see my friends in the city and sad to leave those in the country. If I could live two lives at once I would. I would walk around little Siloam Springs with my kids and go to the library with my friend Joy. Or pop in at Ellen's so our kids could play and share a pizza. Or meet my friend Danielle at the kids museum or friend Carolyn at the park. It is a good problem to have, being loved in so many places.