Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison.
Warner Books, 2000. 222 pages.

I was introduced to Katrina Kenison via an email forward of this fabulous poem/reflection. 

The poem resonated with me.  Our fleeting lives.  Our fast paced, breakneck lives.  How fast our children grow and change. After investigating a bit further about the author of the poem, I was pleased to discover she’d written a series of reflections about motherhood.  I found her writing easily accessible and captivating—transported to a simple, easier time. I laughed out loud (always a treat when reading a book, a laugh out loud moment means the author has done his or her job at humor— very well indeed!) and cried a bit when I could relate to her yearning to slow down and one story about trying to get dinner ready while trying to deal with her then 2 and 4 year olds. (She resorted to putting the little one in the sink to play. I have yet to do that…But these are daily questions, tensions, and issues in my family due to working full time, although we only have just one little sprite to follow around.)  Kenison is a part stay at home mother, part time editor; a believer in simplicity, and Waldorf education.  She mentions and quotes the writings of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Louise Erdrich, & Mother Teresa.  Virginia Wolf’s soft whispers were there, too, but not directly quoted.

Her writing resonated with me so much that I came up with seven pages of typed notes and quotes from her book.  Here are a few passages that spoke to me:
“I have learned to quick speeding through life, always trying to do too many things too quickly, without taking the time to enjoy each day’s doings. I think I always thought of real living as being high.  I don’t mean on drugs—I mean real living was falling in love, or when I got my first job, or when I was able to help somebody, or watch my baby get born, or have a good morning of really good writing. In between the highs I was impatient—you know how it is—life seemed so Daily.  Now I love the dailiness.  I enjoy washing dishes.  I enjoy cooking, I see my father’s roses out the kitchen window, I like picking beans.  I notice everything—birdsongs, the clouds, the sound of wind, the glory of sunshine after two weeks of rain.  These things I took for granted before.” –pg 10-11 from friend Olive Ann
On Healing:
“To an adult, a Band-Aid may be nothing but a sticky plastic strip; but to a child it is a badge of honor, imbued with magical healing properties.  Be grateful, and stock up.” Pg 101
☺ Need I say more on that quote?

On Nurturing:
"In the moment my first son was delivered out of my body and into my arms, the world tilted.  Miraculous life!  How fiercely I loved him, and how urgently I plunged into my new vocation, this career of the heart called motherhood.  At the time, I had no idea how I would nurture this tiny infant through his journey into manhood.  Don’t spank? Spend quality time? Build self-esteem?  Buy organic food? These were the themes of the parenting books I had poured over through nine months of pregnancy.  But how little I really knew, as we embarked on our new life together.  And how quickly, it seemed, the days were eaten up by the details of parenthood—feeding, diapers, ear infections, housework…It took a long time for me to begin to develop anything that might be called a philosophy of mothering.  Most night I felt it had been all I could do to get through the day. “ pg 171
On spirit:
“Over and over again, I am reminded that most of what I know of God, I have learned from my children. From the instant they arrived on this earth, squashed and bloody and astonishingly alert, they have been my teachers, messengers sent from beyond who force me to confront my own deepest questions and beliefs.  Surely in those first moments after birth, when we come face-to-face with these diminutive souls entrusted to our care, we do catch a glimpse of God. We know what it is to be blessed.  Our children arrive, as Wordsworth wrote, ‘Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory…from God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy!’ Life as we know it is suddenly transformed—by the arrival of six new pounds of humanity.  Few would deny the presence of spirit then, for in giving birth, we experience a profound awakening ourselves, perhaps even a heightened consciousness.  But is there a way to sustain that spiritual connection as we set about our tasks as parents? How do we nourish our children’s souls as they grow and begin to challenge us?  Where, in our complex lives, does spirit live and flourish?” pg 181
On balance:
“The sweetest memories are right here, in the moments we create and share with one another.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote Gift from the Sea….she said she “went away in search of answers to the question of ‘how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center.” Pg 195
“I suppose I think of Gift from the Sea as a kind of mother’s fairy tale—a fantasy of peace and quiet that I could only dream of.” Pg 196
I love this realistic view of AML’s time at the sea.  While her writing resonates a cord within me, I see the fantastical elements in her work.  How did she get away for such a long time (2 weeks is long)?  How’s did she manage?  But then I think, the Lindbergh’s probably had a nanny.  I should do a little research to solidify my guess here, but seriously.  How’s she pull that off?

On Choices:
“As Louise Erdrich wrote in her memoir, The Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year, ‘Mothering is a subtle art whose rhythm we collect and learn, as much from one another as from instinct.  Taking shape, we shape each other, with subtle pressures and sudden knocks.  The challenges shape us, approvals refine, the wear and tear of small abrasions transform, until we’re slowly made up of one another and yet wholly ourselves.” Pg 204
“And, at some point, we may begin to ask ourselves: Just whose standards am I living by, anyway?  An advertiser’s? A neighbor’s? A parent’s? A corporation’s? A culture’s? Only when we stop long enough to figure out what we really care about, and begin to make our choices accordingly, can we create lives that are authentic expressions of our inner selves.” Pg 207
Oh, the people we are amidst the chaos of life and the people or moms we want to be or dream of being.

As I started this blog entry I kept singing a certain song I learned around the 5th grade.  That year we students learned what we called ‘the groovy song,’ a classic rock song that we often asked to sing.  We thought it was a bit silly, but nevertheless fun.  “Hello lamppost, whatcha knowin’?” Strange, but strangely appealing to a ten or eleven year old.  As an adult, I amazed my own husband, who incidentally, did not know all of the lyrics to this song, when I could sing the song in its entirety.  I was shocked & amazed that he did not know it and immediately determined that he should learn it.  My daughter things it’s a pretty happy tune that she smiles and dances to. It is, after all, classic Simon and Garfunkel.  The “59th Street Bridge Song” sings a kind of harmony with Mitten Strings For God. I'll close with it.
Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobblestones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.
Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da...Feelin' Groovy.

Hello lamp-post,
What cha knowin'?
I've come to watch your flowers growin'.
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in' doo-doo,
Feelin' groovy.

I've got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Love/Hate Part 2

A T-Shirt worn my one of my 8th grade students:  "Stop texting me, I'm right next 2U."

Love it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Lyme Park on Easter Sunday

Ten years ago on Easter weekend I took a long train ride across the Scottish and English countryside all to catch a glimpse of Mr. Darcy and his esteemed estate, Pemberley.  Ahem, I mean, to see the beautiful grounds of Pemberley.  (Ahem...) Sorry, that's not right either, I mean, Lyme Park, the location of P&P '95's Pemberley.

The 6 hour journey from Aberdeen went through Edinburgh to Carlisle and then to Stockport and finally to the small city of Disley in Cheshire.  Along the way there were beautiful hills full of green grass and sheep.  Because it was spring, there were also lambs. Lots of lambs with their mamas.  I distinctly remember seeing a lamb stand up and immediately topple over onto a brother or a sister.  Could it have been its first time standing?

I traveled with my American friend, Ellie, who was also very excited to visit Lyme Park.  Our Saturday arrival was met with torrents of rain as our taxi dropped us off at the main entrance.  (Rather than walk from the train station in a downpour a la Marianne Dashwood and catching a horrific fever, we opted for the taxi.)

We did the best we could on such a rainy day--we toured every inch of the house!  Lyme Park is part of the National Trust in England, much like our Nat'l Historic Register etc.  It is well maintained and hosts a variety of local functions throughout the year.  No pictures were allowed inside the house, so all I have are postcards of beautifully ornate rooms in a scrapbook.  It was beautiful, and I swear I saw Mr. Darcy run down a set of stairs but then I blinked and the moment was gone.  Sigh. 

By the time we were ready to head to our B&B, it was only lightly raining.  The picture to the right shows the road we walked down to get from the park to Disley and our B&B.  It had a very English country walk feel to it. It was there that I saw what I kept looking for and had never actually seen.  An honest to goodness English countryside footbridge!  So, of course, I had to pose for a photo opp.  (See below.)  After the mile walk from the park to The Grey Cottage,  our wonderful beyond compare B&B!, we had a quiet evening watching British TV and reading a horribly ill written Dawson's Creak spinoff novel.  (Note my enthusiasm about our B&B.  In other words, should you make a trek to Lyme Park, I highly recommend this place!) 
The Grey Cottage
Looking out on a beautiful Easter Sunday morning from Grey Cottage.

On Easter Sunday, the sun came out and we took an early morning walk to Lyme Park one more time before catching the train back to Stockport etc.  An Easter tradition on the grounds of the park is that local families bring their children for an Easter Egg hunt.  We saw tons of children in their Easter Sunday attire running around by the garden finding eggs.  Of course, did I take photos of this event.  No.  So, just imagine children hunting eggs.   It was also delightful to see the park in the sunshine.  We were able to walk outsite and catch that (in)famous glimpse that Elizabeth sees as she approaches Pemberley!

A few more for kicks...

The 'back' of Lyme Park, what visitors see first upon entering from the main gate.

Walking to Lyme Park from Disley/Grey Cottage.  Building in the background is the Cage.  A hunting tower that women would go to in order to watch men hunt.
The Cage a bit closer.

But wait!, there's more!

10 years ago Easter Sunday.... (This is the foot bridge photo I mentioned earlier.)

2010 Easter Sunday.