Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sand castles.


Last weekend, we camped on the Olympic Peninsula. We spent most of our twenty-four hour visit on the beach, searching for sea creatures and running in the waves. 

I stayed up at camp while Nolan napped, then hiked down the bluff to Scott and Cal building a sand castle on the beach. Cal was digging with his fingers in the dirt like a little turtle, making a a moat around his fortress. 

The sand was littered with crab and mussel shells, castoffs from the eagles' and crows' meals that day. As I stood watching the waves (with Nolan clutching on to me like a little koala bear, like always), I decided Cal's mound of dirt needed a little decoration. I started picking up shells and placing them randomly on the sand castle. Soon all four of us were searching for shell fragments and pressing them into the sand. 

The tide was coming in, and soon sea foam was frothing in Cal's little moat. Soon the sand castle would melt back into the sea. The waves would scatter the shells, and they would revert back to carcasses instead of precious decorations. The cynical voice that stows away in the corner of my brain said, "Why do this, when it's just going to disappear? What's the point?" (The Existentialist unit in AP Literature seriously traumatized me). 

Fortunately, the hopeful voice in my heart is better nourished than my inner skeptic these days. We made the sand castle because our spirits yearn to create. We studded it with pearly shells and broken sand dollars because we love beauty, no matter how fleeting, no matter how imperfect. 

All societies make art. It has no clear biological purpose, but it's present throughout history--we walk through museums to wonder at it, turn on music in the car to be immersed in it, read a few words by lamplight before slipping into sleep. Give a family a few hours and some raw materials and we will build a palace; give me an experience and a few raw words and I will try to shape it into a story. 

The waves will erode our creation, but we keep building. I don't know if my words will reach anyone beyond my small circle of influence, or if they will be swallowed by the web of the internet, but I'll keep writing. Even if no one else will see them, I'll keep building sand castles. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

100 breaths.



In the creativity course I'm taking, we are focusing on Space this month. Space to create, space to be a woman in addition to a mother, space to breathe.

Unfortunately, space is closing in, rather than opening up. 

Erin Loechner revealed in an interview that she wakes up at 2 am each day (!!), going to bed by 7 pm in order to be well rested. While 2 am is a stretch for me, I think conceivably I could work my way back to 4 am. I tried to be smart about it. Last week, I set my alarm for 5. This week, it's been 4:30. 

I skipped my hour long writing session after dinner Monday night in order to be up by 4:30 on Tuesday. I overslept, and planned to skip cleaning up after dinner--only to receive a phone call from our property manager. The realtors were coming over to take photographs of our house at 11:30, and could I tidy up a bit? 

Insert groan here. 

I was up until 10:30 cleaning, and decided I would grit my teeth and just get up at 4:30 am anyway. I'd just be tired for one day, in order to get myself in this routine (and I have some deadlines that I need to meet). 

Unfortunately, Nolan woke up at 4:29, and refused to go back down in his crib. Rather than wake the whole house and have him be ready for a nap by 9 am, I settled into the rocking chair and tried to get comfortable until everyone else woke up an hour or so later. 

Nolan wasn't having it, though. My Fitbit alarm kept going off, and he was curious about the flashing lights and vibrations coming from my wrist. Then he spent several minutes bemoaning his skinned knee, pointing to the scab, and saying, "Ouch, ouch," mournfully. (It's his first big "owie," and he's been milking it). 

I was getting tense and angry--not the way I wanted to start my morning. I was going to be sleep-deprived and I wasn't getting any writing done, not to mention that if Nolan didn't go to sleep soon, he wasn't going to let me put him down all day long. 

Nolan started poking me in the eye. "Eye!" He grabbed my nose. "Nose!"

I took a deep breath, turned my face from his jabbing fingers, and decided to take one hundred slow breaths. 

The first thing that happened as my body relaxed was that Nolan was able to relax, too. By breath 25 he was nuzzled under my arm, pacifier dropped from his slack mouth. 

Next, I found myself reasoning out how to get through the day. No, it wasn't ideal that I wasn't going to meet my goals for the day, or that I would be tired, but it was one day. I rested my head on Nolan's silky one, smelling his baby shampoo. My impatience ebbed away, replaced with a sense of peace. 

Around breath 99 I started dozing off. I woke up half an hour later and read my scriptures, prayed, read a magazine, and read a chapter of an ebook. 

I hadn't planned on spending two and a half hours trapped in a rocking chair with a sleeping toddler on my chest, but when Cal barreled into the room at 7, Nolan blinked those sleep lashes a few times, exclaimed, "Mama!" and hugged my neck. And I was able to enter the day peacefully and circled by love. 

I know I won't be able to take 100 breaths every time my plans go awry. Lack of flexibility is my downfall, and I'll probably be working on it for the rest of mortality. But today, letting my mind and body slow and rest brought peace to a day I thought would be fraught with stress. I've tried meditation programs with varying degrees of success, but I think this one that came to me in desperation at 4:30 in the morning might be the one I need. 

How do you find calm when you're stressed? 


 
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