Friday, August 23, 2013

Late Summer

Looking back on recent posts, I am struck by what a beautiful summer we have been having, and what a special childhood my little boy is enjoying. In the day-to-day, it's easy to start thinking life is a chaotic string of events, and that I am not doing a very good job at this thing called parenting. Add to that the uncertainty that comes when every single person has a different way of being a mother, and feeling those pangs of self-doubt when I let Rafael play with my iphone while we're grocery shopping as an alternative to discussing why we can't buy a package of toy cars every time we're at the supermarket. 

Then I look over these photos, and think about how much my boy and I laugh, and cuddle, and all the hilarious things he says, and how he throws himself onto me in the mornings, and grabs my face with both of his hands to look into my eyes and give me kisses. And I know I am doing something right.

Not everything, but something.

The mornings are cold, and days are noticeably shorter. The first bright orange pumpkins are piling up at the farmer's market, along with sunflowers and corn. In the forest I found the first little mushrooms sprouting up along the side of the path, as well as a piece of egg shell fallen from a nest, and a little toad soaking in a murky puddle. We made, and ate, a big apple-blackberry crumble. The tiny crabapples on the three trees in the garden are slowly turning from green to red.

I went through my cold-weather clothing and had to pack away a big pile of things that no longer fit after my weight-loss, so I'm going shopping for a fall wardrobe this afternoon. Maybe I'll find some cute things worthy of sharing here. It's no surprise that autumn is my favorite season to dress for!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Books and Berries


Sometimes I think of nice things I would like to do with Rafael, and then, while we are in the middle of it, I realize that it is a reenactment of a pleasant childhood memory of my own. Picking blackberries for pie and going to the library are recent examples.

I am sitting in our deep white couch now, with shins and forearms stinging from blackberry brambles. But it's a familiar feeling associated with something happy. We rode our bikes down a sunny dirt path this morning and picked blackberries under the hot August sun. Rafael doesn't know what pie is yet, but he will soon. I remember the huge messes of brambles that flanked the dusty dirt roads in my home town. Back then, as now, I would pick berries while thinking about eating the pies they would be put into. Washed in a colander, tossed with sugar and flour, poured into a yellow hollow of dough, topped with latticed strips, and then baked until the purple-red juice bubbled over. The impatient hours spent waiting for the baked pie to set, resisting the urge to slice it open...cutting the pie while it was hot and runny would ruin it. And then finally, you eat your first bite, and it is deliciously tangy, sweet, and buttery, all at once. 

Every step belongs to the ritual; the foraging, the thorn scrapes, the assembling, the baking, the waiting, the eating. Rafael is learning about it this summer.

Last week I dressed Raffi in a button-down shirt, slacks, and leather shoes. I told him about the library while we walked hand-in-hand on the sidewalk; that it's a place where you can borrow books. He was very interested in the idea, and kept repeating the concept back to me on our way: " can borrow books there. can borrow books there, right, Mommy?" "Yes, we borrow books at the library."

When we arrived, I told the two elderly librarians that this was my son's first trip to the library. I expected them to acknowledge that this was a special occasion, and to introduce him to the children's section. I was in fact very excited about this first trip to the library; I had fantasies about bonding with Rafael over piles of books, and about handing him his very first library card. In reality, the first thing he did was pull some books off of the shelf, and one librarian said, "Young man, would it be possible for you to not take books off of the shelves?" Rafael was already on his way to the next aisle, where he found children's dvds. My romantic notions were bursting. "Let's get this one, Bob the Builder, Mama! This one, yes? We can borrow it Mama!" "Yes, we'll borrow it, but look over here, look at these books Raffi, look how wonderful."

There were whole crates filled with children's books, many of them quite old, with lovely illustrations. After some coaxing, I did get Rafael to leave the dvd section and join me in looking at books. We picked out four, and then I saw it: The Lupine Lady, one of my favorite books from childhood. And suddenly I was transported back to the library of my childhood, cool and quiet, with the sweet, musty, lovely smell of books. The large windows looking out onto the street; the tiny table with the tiny computer sitting on it; Anne of Green Gables, The Babysitters Club, The Hounds of the Morrigan. I remembered venturing into the adult's section and finding an enormous hardcover book with paintings from Van Gogh, and looking at those sunflowers for a long, long time. 

It became so clear to me why taking Rafael to the library was important to me: this was something I had enjoyed as a child, and I wanted to make sure he enjoyed it, too.

We got our family library card, and checked out five books, including The Lupine Lady, and yes, a Bob the Builder dvd. Rafael watched while the librarian pounded the stamp onto the slips inside, and then we tucked the books into his little felt bag and left. It wasn't as romantic as I had imagined; but it was real, and special, and we'll go back many times, I think. I hope Rafael will make some good memories there.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Happy, Too

"In the happiest of our childhood memories, our parents were happy, too." -Robert Brault

Isn't it good, when you look back on the past few days, and realize they were happy ones? Isn't it good, when you look at your husband, and feel a rush of love, butterflies in your stomach, after all these years? And isn't it wonderful, when you open your child's bedroom door to sneak a photo of them napping, and find them laying there, awake, quiet, just thinking and being?

Other good things, recently: 

The first ripe blackberries, shiny and plump on wild canes.

The first bright goldenrod, sunny splashes against the deep green of august woods.

Homemade peach crumble. 

Summer storms.

A tiny tower of doughnuts topped with sprinkles and candles to greet my husband on the morning of his 35th birthday.

Rafael drawing and playing on his own for hours. 

A date night with my husband...sitting in the train side by side on our way to the city, buying popcorn and candy at the theater, holding hands in the dark.

Early morning walks with my two dogs in the dewy forest.

Bouquets of garden flowers and herbs in old jelly jars.

The first autumn-themed magazines, filled with pumpkins, brown leather boots, and bright leaves.

Rafael sleeping in his room deeply and comfortably, with the dogs crowding him in his little bed. They will have cozy winter nights together.

I hope you are all having happy days. I read your comments and they make my heart smile. Thank you.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

My New Daily Rhythm

A while back I began getting up early and taking jogs, as often as I could. As a result, combined with dieting, I lost thirty pounds. I have since loosened up a little on the diet, as I am currently just trying to maintain my weight and not lose any more. But I still get up regularly to have some active time for myself.

Up until now, I headed out alone, and jogged around town, sweating and blasting upbeat music in my ipod. And then, a few days ago, a combination of things changed my daily rhythm. One of these things was the fact that, after 9 in the morning, it was already sweltering hot, and walking the dogs at that time with Rafael was not very enjoyable. The second thing was that, Raffi was getting a little bored with our morning routine, and our friends kept asking if we wanted to join them on morning trips, which we couldn't go on because of our long, slow walks with the dogs. The third factor was, I really missed taking photos in peace. I had a big Canon macro lens just sitting in it's box, because it was too heavy for me to lug around when Raffi was with me.

So, the other day, instead of jogging alone on the sidewalk, I put the dogs on leashes, hung my camera with the macro lens attached around my neck, and headed into the woods. It was a gorgeous August morning, and early enough that the air was still comfortably mild. I power walked up a steep wooded hillside so that I would also get a little bit of a workout, and then took my time snapping photographs. Not only was I happy, the dogs were absolutely overjoyed, running and sniffing and exploring paths that would have been impossible with a stroller. 

Our morning walks in the woods aren't especially long; depending on when I wake up they are between 20 and 45 minutes. But they make a huge difference in my day, and for the dogs, and also for Rafael, who can now go to the zoo or the playground in the morning as a change of pace. 

Now that I have reached my fitness goals, I am so glad to be pursuing my creative ones; taking photos in nature is one of my favorite things in the world, and I have missed doing it regularly for quite a while now.

I also finally have a bicycle! After a pretty serious bike accident in my teen years, I was afraid to ride, but with the encouragement from my husband and friends, I hopped on again during our vacation in Salzburg and loved it so much that I got a bike when we came home. So, on cool mornings when there's a breeze, I take a nice bike ride to neighboring villages for a change of scenery. It has given me an amazing sense of freedom.

These are some photos I have taken the past few mornings. 

In the cool, shady forest on foot:

And in the sunny fields on my bike:

What a big difference this small change in daily schedule has made in my life!


Saturday, August 3, 2013


"The afternoon was a lazy afternoon, not hot-lazy when you don't want to move, but leisurely-lazy, when you did only what you wanted and took your time about it." -Hal Borland, Book Of Days

When August rolls around, the sun bakes the dirt path and the air vibrates with the metallic sound of crickets, and we seek shade and cold water to wade in. I start getting that feeling, that longing for fall, mixed with anticipation, which is one of the reasons I love this month. The trees seem weighed down with heat, and send the first little bright speckled leaves down to the ground. They float on the glistening surface of the river, and cluster between water-smoothed rocks along the way. These hot days of insect song and loud engines and bare feet, tired bees and worn moth wings, the stubbly harvested hay fields and children with ice cream dripping down their fists, are so enchanting that I sometimes feel sentimental about them before they end. 

The changing of seasons always gives me butterflies in my stomach. I am reminded of the passing of time, of my mortality, and am overcome with the longing to experience all the beautiful things there are to see and do in the world. I get a strange nervous feeling, the feeling that I am not doing enough, not living enough. I promise myself I will get out more with my camera. And that I will capture as much of the season as I can. 

Rafael fell ill yesterday and we're trapped inside on one of the hottest days of the year. All the windows are closed to keep the heat out. I do long for the shady woods; at this time of year I am on the look-out for the first mushrooms and asters. But right now my little boy needs me, and we will get through these days, and I will have the chance to get out with my camera soon enough.



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