Snippets: It’s June

Confessing that I enjoy Phoenix summers has brought on just as much controversy as my decision to birth my babies at home, or become a vegetarian,  or not adhere to a religious dogma.   I mean, it’s venemous territory to tread, being someone who loves the desert in all of her forms and temperatures and landscapes.  Because I’d like to think it mirrors the practice of loving people in much the same way.  If we live with intention with people, and within a Place, then we welcome their seasons.

I am going on the third-ish year of not being dreadful about summertime in the desert.   Bemoaning something that is so predictable seems like a huge waste of energy.    It’s not like we have snowstorms or torrential rain or “actual weather” that we need to prepare for.   We don’t even need an extra wardrobe for it. It’s just HOT.   Tomorrow will be hot and the day after and the day after and it will be that way – save for a few blessed weeks of monsoon season – through October.

I don’t even understand folks who check the temperature, or take a photo of their car’s thermometer gauge,  and then post about it on Facebook.  WHY?  What good does it do to whine about something we have no control over?

cropped-desert-by-jason.jpgIn fact, I actually enjoy the summers here now.  I revel in the late evening swimming and bike rides.  I embrace the extended daylight hours and the weekend trips up north to cooler weather.  The lazy schedule and sleeping in does my heart good.    Of course, I do my best to avoid any trips out of the house in the blazing heat of day, so late night grocery shopping becomes an anticipated treat.

And it wasn’t too difficult to do, to make the lickety-split decision to make “sunshine out of sun”.   It feels like I stumbled upon some not-so-hidden secret; the letting go and the surrender. But don’t forget about the Welcome.

photo 2Welcome, summer.  Welcome burn and fire and heat and flames and sizzle.   Welcome breathtaking tangerine sunsets and aphids on the milkweed and the return of the hawk wasps and living in swimsuits and flip-flops.   Welcome parched earth, waiting with mouth wide open for drops of rain.  Welcome days of lounging under the Cottonwood’s shade and watching my children wade in the river.   Welcome six people crowded into one King-sized bed to drift off to sleep.  Welcome popsicles and shaved ice and a kitchen table scattered with art supplies and lit by the glow of a single candle.

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I still haven’t finished Julien’s birth story or JP’s death story.  I don’t believe it’s coincidence. Both seem tied together in a way I can’t quite explain, except that writing both is an admission of the end of something.  The last of my births, the last of the days we had with our family dog.

JP witnessed – literally – the birth of my four children.   He rested his chin on the edge of the birth tubs and layed in the birth space, his eyebrows moving as he watched and listened.

We held each newborn up to his nose and let him welcome them.  He would sniff and give them the most gentle of licks and his ears would perk up if they cried.

My goal is to finish their stories when Julien turns six months old; impossibly just a few weeks away.

photo 4In the meantime, I bathe with Julien in the tub he was born into.  I float him between my legs and we giggle as I pretend I’m whooshing him up from the water to my chest again, just like I did that evening in December.    He is my last baby.  This feels certain and right and harrowing and heart-breaking.   Holding all of this – holding him – feels like the very physical incarnation of Paradox itself.  To catalog “the last newborn giggle ever/the last gummy smile ever/the last tiny head in our bed ever” is odd and probably not very spiritually self-serving.  But it gets me through.  It buoys me in the momentary flecks of grief.

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June and July, my birthing season.   A month or so ago, I started noticing the light again.  The clarity and depth of it and the way it always finds a way to stream through a crack in our curtains [because light cannot be contained].  This is the light that welcomed three of my babies and it is like the flame of the holiest candle.   It will always bring me to my knees.

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Three birthdays clumped together within three weeks of each other – my heart can barely handle it.   But I’ve come to enjoy celebrating birthdays in the way I devour Oreos:  all at once.  Just enjoy every last one of them and get it over with.

A five month old and a four year old and a first grader and a fourth grader.  Who am I, this woman who is called Mama but still feels like the teenager wearing knee socks and a plaid uniform skirt and curling my hair each morning? How is it that time has marched on every so stealthily so that I have ended up in this chair, at 11:30 pm, writing about my four children but still recalling the way he hugged me when I showed up in Arizona that night at age 19 and never left?

I never understood Math until I became a mother.    And I’ve realized the key to surviving the piercing arrow of Mom-Math lives in the breaths and laughs and moments between the calculation and the answer.   And that 2+2 doesn’t really equal four.  It equals infinity; four hearts beating as one infinite drum circle within me.

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Snippets: A House in Waiting

Tonight I arrived home about 25 minutes before Jason was due back with the three older kids. It was around 9:00 pm.    Julien slept in the Ergo as I noticed the stillness and darkness of the house.  I took a deep breath and rolled my neck slowly a few times while I heard my muscles crack and snap and stretch.   And then I began what mothers do.

I pulled the peed-on sheets of of our bed and Lyric’s bed and replaced them with clean ones.   I placed a pillow and blanket on the girls’ beds as well as a comforter on Lyric’s, readying their sleeping spaces.  I turned the girls’ light on low and cleared a path in the middle of the toys.  I left the pile of rocks, which I jokingly have dubbed “Foot Acupuncture Station”.

The dirty sheets were stuffed in the washer, the dirty clothes collected from every room, the  dirty cups and plates from the living room tossed into the side of the sink full of soaking dishes.   I pushed the ingredients from the cookies I baked today against the back wall of the kitchen counter, lining them up neatly instead of putting them away.   Scattered mounds of organic sugar littered the counters, a leftover from Lyric’s “helping hand” in my baking project. I swigged two glasses of cold water and gathered a pile of construction paper on the kitchen table into a neat stack.   I tossed crayons in the art supply drawer, pushed in the kitchen chairs, and deposited the box of cereal on the top shelf of the pantry.  I left the pile of legos on the kitchen floor, the secondary “Foot Acupuncture Station”.

I flipped on the patio and carriage lights and opened the front door.  A cool breeze rushed past like a ghost.  The late night air smelled of the blooming Jasmine lining our entryway and the moonlight spilled her milky rays all over our yard, outlining our grand Palo Verde tree.  I stopped purposely in front of the open door and took it all in.    It occurred to me how good it felt to prepare, if even so briefly and hurried, the house in waiting.    How lucky am I to have a family to wait for, to construct a simple homecoming for?

Stepping outside, barefoot, I crossed over the smudged sidewalk chalk drawings;  tic-tac-toe and self portraits.  The dried Jasmine leaves rustled on the ground, filling the air like a tambourine.    The music of the Palo Verde’s branches rubbing against each other reminded me of the creaking of the wooden rocking chair I’d just sat in hours before in my mother-in-law’s kitchen.  In fact,  while lounging in that chair (as I’ve done dozens of times) I wondered who she’d will that chair to many years from now? Because I love that chair, one handed down by her very own grandmother.  It has an authentic squeak and creak of well-loved wood that I demand in a rocking chair.  And I very much would love to rock my grandchildren to sleep in it.

The windchimes that the kids picked out for me for Easter hang from a tree branch and offer a soft twinkle to the evening.   The entire tree sways with the wind and she is creating and whole night song.  And so I think of the classical piece entitled “A Little Night Music” and I recall playing it on my flute during High School concert band.

I stand in the driveway, waiting, shuffling from one foot to the other in a gentle lullaby dance for sleeping Julien.  A few minutes pass, and I hear the familiar rumble of a diesel engine and see the headlights from our truck turning the corner.  A rush of intense love fills me as I watch the truck pull into our street.   “That’s my whole life in there “, I say under my breath, in a way that’s more of a prayer than a statement.   My man, delivering our snoozing children to me, to this house in waiting.

Our house, our home, our family, our life.