The New Year

Tonight, we celebrated German New Year’s Eve with the kids, which means, we drank sparkling cider at 6pm and the kids watched streaming video of the Brandenburg Gate while we scrambled to finish up dinner and keep the baby out of the dishwasher. Tony found old video of our actual German New Year, seventeen years ago. There we were in Berlin, with four of our friends, the air hazy with smoke, the noise deafening. Even then we were joking it was like a war zone – everything gray, the sound of explosions jolting. We were a little nervous, sure, but of being hit by the fireworks people were throwing out of windows. Terrorism didn’t even cross our minds. It was ten years after the fall of the Berlin wall, and MLK’s moral arc of the universe seemed to be bending heavily towards justice.

We’d been there for the ten-year celebration in November, having stepped off a train in Berlin five months earlier with no idea where we would spend that night, much less the next year. Each of those days – our first in Berlin, at the Brandenburg gate in November, and again ringing in the New Year, felt so full of possibility and good things to come.


Seventeen years later, I wish I felt as hopeful. 2016 saw our family’s beautiful 5 ½ week cross-country camping trip – two adults, five kids and a pit bull in a minivan. It was without a doubt the most incredible experience of our lives. But we returned home to our beloved cat dying, and the rest of 2016 has brought a lot of hard, sad and scary things not just to us, but to those we love and to the citizens of the world. I want to feel hopeful, want to say, good riddance to 2016, but the truth of the matter is, the turning of a calendar page cannot undo death, diagnoses, elections.

Maybe tomorrow, I will walk in the woods, and breathe the peace of the trees, and feel hopeful. Maybe I will believe in happiness after grief, in peace amid worsening conflict, in the power of resistance. Maybe I will believe in good things to come. But tonight, I am curling up with my sweet man, my baby girl, and this love right here:


I will listen to the quiet breathing of my dear children, and be thankful for every single bit of my great good fortune. But I will not feel hopeful. Not tonight.

One of those days


I have a beautiful day to look forward to tomorrow, including time with a friend who offered to bring lunch. I was expecting something simple, but considering that all of the mama meals this friend has brought us after the birth of our last three babies have become staples at this house, I should have known better. The menu (yes, menu) she sent me has me drooling, and also vowing to feed my family more interesting food. (Seriously! Nutty noodles (almond butter + maple syrup), sweet peas, cooked greens ‘slaw’/cold salad (collards, cabbage, carrots, oranges, cranberries). White bean dip + tortilla chips. Oranges!).

In anticipation of a full day out of the house, and with the need to empty our chest freezer, which desperately needs defrosting, last night I pulled out frozen pumpkin and apples for baking, and cauliflower to make my new favorite “cream” sauce for tomorrow’s dinner. Today was going to be productive, so tomorrow could be relaxing.

I’m not sure what time the bickering started, whether shortly before or shortly after sunrise, but it’s been going on most of the day. The heat of summer has arrived along with the mosquitoes and our own backyard black widow colony, so we’ve been driven inside into close quarters. In any case, the bickering continued on and off, about this toy or another, or whose turn it was to hold the baby, or who said what harsh thing to whom.

While the love of my life had a routine dermatology check-up, my anxiety mounted, as it is prone to do. I refrained from googling skin cancer, thinking of Kindness Girl‘s husband’s response to my assertion that he and my husband should form a support group: “Yeah, Dads against WebMD.” Oh, how we’d laughed. But oh, how close to home it hit.

I tried to distract myself with the postpartum exercise video I hope helps my lower back, though I doubt doing the exercises with a three-year-old climbing on me is overly effective. Giving up on the exercise video, I decided to tackle the pile of neglected mail and realized we’d failed to fill out a simple on-line questionnaire that would have reduced our health insurance premium for the next six months. Meanwhile the boys were asking me to read to them (and fighting over which book it would be) while I was trying to assess the actual monetary damage of our oversight.

And the love of my life is fine. And the damage not that great, so I should have taken a moment to breathe deeply and appreciate the good. I should have taken a moment to smile at my girl, who was scrubbing cabinets with her mama, wearing her Gran-made apron. But she and I had things to bake, and we had dinner to make, for tonight and tomorrow. And it all sounds so impressive, this baking with food we preserved ourselves last fall, and this cooking two dinners at a time, but it’s so much less impressive when you know that I was frazzled and couldn’t concentrate on the boys’ bickering or Tony, holding a cooing and shrieking baby and looking up the origin and cost per gram of each of the spices Mia was reading from our spice racks, and then I managed to catch a mason jar lid on fire that was, unbeknownst to me, stuck to the bottom of a pot, filling the kitchen with fumy, toxic BPA-laden smoke.

And so I sent everyone upstairs, and opened the back door for the smoke (and indoor cat) to get out, and the wasps and mosquitoes to get in — the wasps we don’t want to get rid of because they may or may not be predators of black widows. And just as the smoke started to dissipate, down came Tony and Mia, and Mia was covering her face and crying, and Tony was saying something about needing stitches. And after picture taking and e-mailing to the pediatrician aunt to confirm, he and my girl were off to get stitches, she scared and tearful, but still hugging her littlest brother and telling him it’s okay, she knows he didn’t mean to hurt her. And after they left, my little guy fell into my arms and said very, very softly, “I’m sorry I threw the wooden thing at Mia.”

And though every fiber of my being wanted to be with my girl, I served dinner for the boys, and Jonah picked out the mushrooms, and Lucas declared the entire thing inedible because even though he picked out the tomatoes, it still TASTED like tomatoes. And in frustration, I showed them the giant vegan food nutrition chart I hung on the kitchen wall, and explained to them how they couldn’t just eat one category, their bodies needed lots of variety. And they chimed in, offering to eat many of the beautiful fruits and vegetables and grains pictured, none of which I had to offer them at the moment, so, with a crying baby in my arms, I sighed, and instead cut them each an extra huge hunk of pumpkin bread and held the pieces out to them with the plea that they just eat them and go to bed without fighting. And they did eat them, and sort of went to bed, emerging only to find stuffed animals, to complain about the blanket situation, to fight over who got to rest his head on the monarch butterfly pillow, to say it was too bright, to argue the other was snoring too loudly, before finally going to sleep in their clothes, teeth unbrushed.

And now they are sleeping, the house quiet and still for the first time today. And Tony called, and Mia is not afraid any longer. My poor, sweet, brave girl, who told her brother it was okay and held him close, though she was scared. And I think of my littlest boy, and his quiet contrition, and of my biggest boy, who brought band-aids and cool washcloths and comfort, and I’m sorry for having been impatient with any of them today, and vow to do better tomorrow, as I often do.

The End of Preschool


I remember when he first started. He’d just turned three, and we had just moved into the city. He felt so little to me to be sending him away for part of his day. But then we visited, and the director of the school crouched down to his eye level and spoke to him gently, and guided him from classroom to classroom, and picked a fig for him from the tree in the courtyard. And oh, he cried that day, tears of bitter anguish, not out of fear for what was to come, but out of despair that our visit to this magical place had ended so soon.

And my boy grew, that first year in the Block Room, where he played with toy animals and changed from one costume into another. Often, I arrived early for pick-up, just so I could park around the corner and watch him, running his skip run across the playground. The beautiful, rough-and-tumble playground that is more about exploring than about smooth, safe, rounded plastic equipment. While my daughter felt like a little fish in a big sea in kindergarten, plagued by stress headaches and stomachaches, my little boy thrived. Year after year, he thrived.

Oh, how he loved the Block Room, and even the next year, in the Art Room, he returned again and again to the Block Room to play. No one stopped him, no one told him he was too old for the Block Room, no one told him he should try something new. But eventually he did, on his own time. This year, in the Lego Room, he sought out the Block Room less and less, returning to it at the end of the year only to welcome his brother, who in turn was taking his first steps of exploration out of the Transition Classroom and into the Block Room.

What is it about this preschool? I feel the same way when people ask me what it is about Germany. I might list the bakeries on every corner, the cobblestone streets, the compost pick-up in the big city, the public transportation, as I would the thoughtful position statement on super hero play, the nature walks in the rain, the child-led learning, the understanding that your child will come home filthy on a daily basis, and that there will be a second set of muddy clothes in his bag. Or how the five-year-old class puts on a production of Peter and the Wolf, and there are many wolves and many cats and birds because everyone gets to be the part they want to be. Or how a chance discovery of a puppet theater on the way to visit the seniors turns into a multi-week project and a puppet show. But somehow, the whole is greater than even the sum of its magnificent parts.

I must admit, I was feeling pretty lucky over the last few weeks, watching my friends, whose youngest children are finishing their time at preschool. My second son just finished his first beautiful year there, and this baby in my arms, her time is still to come, and so I saw our family’s time in this magical world is not yet over. But this week, it hit me, three whole years after that first visit, the first fig from the fig tree, the first tears of departure, it is the end of my oldest son’s era there.

And as we cleaned out his cubby, he whispered to me, “Mama, I feel sad,” and we held each other close and cried, there in front of his cubby. And I could hold my boy because one of the teachers had swooped in and carried the baby in my arms away in hers — safe and loved into the Block Room where she will one day play. And so I held my boy, and together we peeled the family pictures out of his cubby, and he wondered who would have his cubby next year, who would inherit his symbol, the one he picked out when his teachers came for their home visit before school started that first year.

What is it about this preschool? This preschool where teachers and parents and children all cry every day for the last week. This school where only the five-year-olds’ parents take home their thick binders of pictures and quotes and adventures from all their years, and the parents of all the other children leave theirs to be filled in the years to come. This school where so many parents come back to teach, unable to leave its magic. This school where one parent turned teacher says she went into each room, when her son’s time there had come to an end, and in each room, she cried, picturing him there, as he was at the age he had been. This school, where the parents had to gather after the last day, for a support group masquerading as a party, and the teachers came, too. And there we looked out over the children playing and running through the yard, seeing them captured again in this moment, after years together, captured one more time before they scatter to different schools and different lives like dandelion seeds, the first of many scatterings.

And I think my little boy was right to want to stay in the Block Room. And I think my boy was right, to cry those tears of anguish that first day, for this day that was to come.


His Puppy

Not that puppy, but another, whose story I'll tell soon

Not that puppy, but another, whose story I’ll tell soon


From a year and a half ago, when my sweet boy was just a few months past his fourth birthday, instead of less than two months from his sixth:

We went to the shelter today and there, in one of the cages, was a tiny pit bull puppy named Cyclone.  He had a big round wormy belly, which made his head seem tiny in comparison.  He was mottled gray and black and really cute.  Lucas stood in front of his little cage and the puppy whimpered quietly, those little puppy cries that almost sound like sighs.  Lucas looked a little bit like he was going to cry himself.  He ignored the other puppies, just standing in front of this puppy’s cage.

Tonight at dinner, he asked, “When are we going to go back to the animal shelter?”

I asked him, “Why do you want to go back to the animal shelter?”

And he said, “Because of the puppy who loves me.”

Dear God, I wanted to get in the car and drive through the rain to the shelter, break in and snatch that little round-bellied, grunting and sigh-crying puppy out of his cage and bring him straight home.  For Lucas.  Because my kid is empathetic.  Because my kid recognizes that puppy’s need, not only to be loved, but to have someone to love himself.  And he wants to be that someone.  I saw it in his eyes, as he gestured towards the puppy, wanting to hold him, cradling his wish in his arms as though the puppy were already there.

But we didn’t hold the puppy.  We just stood there in the puppy room, and while the rest of us looked around, visited the other puppies, Lucas stood loyally by his little puppy.  And he never spoke the words asking us to take him home, but we felt his wish all the stronger for his silence.  We didn’t touch any of the puppies.  We’ve seen parvo firsthand and so we’re super careful not to spread contagion, even though this shelter hadn’t seen parvo in a long time.

We wanted to be careful, and yet I am reminded of that episode of This American Life, where they talk about how babies were getting sick and dying more often in hospitals when people were picking them up — this was before they knew about germs — and so instead, these babies’ illnesses and deaths were being attributed to being picked up.  People were told not to pick up their babies, not to kiss them.  And in the hospitals where the no-touch policies were strictly followed, they started to see babies and children die.  They literally died from lack of loving contact.  And I look at those puppies, and I don’t want them to die of parvo, but I can’t help wondering, are we killing them just the same by not holding them close?



I couldn't find a picture of my beloved vest, but here I am in purple anyway.

Not my vest, but still my beloved purple.

From a year ago:

The Purple Lady was the kind of famous only crazy people get to be. I’d look for signs of her as we neared my grandparents’ town — electric poles painted purple as high as she could reach. I never saw her, and in those days I didn’t think she was crazy. Purple was my favorite color, too, and those electric poles, those purple beacons in the fields were my signal we were nearing Portsmouth, even before our fox-colored dog Hexe pressed her nose against the vents, inhaling deeply and whining, smelling we were close.

Purple had been my favorite color since I was old enough to pick one. After my declaration, my sister knitted me a soft, fuzzy vest with thick bands of purple and pink. Oh, I loved that vest, for the purple and for the person who knitted it. And I wore that vest often during the days we lived in the gray house by the creek in Germany, and I wore it when we visited my grandparents in the States. And when my grandmother took me to have my picture taken, I refused her beautiful, smocked dresses. I wanted only my vest.

Somewhere along the line, I learned to appreciate other colors. As I grew, and especially as a teenager and then an adult, I claimed I didn’t have a favorite color. But when my first child was old enough to pick a favorite color herself and she chose pink, I was slightly horrified, both at the princess connotations and at the lack of purpleness. And so I reclaimed purple. Slowly. I began telling her purple had been my favorite color. She started telling people purple is her mama’s favorite color. I started to wear more purple shirts, when I had to replace my ten-year-old sneakers, I bought ones with purple trim, and when I had to pick a cover for the new futon, I chose purple.

This afternoon, I sat with my daughter, who will be eight in just a few much-too-short months. I sat with her and talked to her about the many disappointments of her day — a very sick cat needing medical attention meant we missed our Waldorf co-op, a playdate was at first delayed and then canceled, our afternoon activity postponed and then her almost five-year-old brother, having performed the dance she choreographed and sung his parts in their show, didn’t want to practice more. There were tears of anger and frustration over too many disappointments. And I found myself explaining to her why we’d missed all the fun today, about how we stop everything in this family when someone is suffering, and we give them what they need, and she understood. And so I told her a little bit about my disappointments, too, and that I felt sad about not being able to come on our big camping trip with friends since I have to stay home to take care of our sick cat. How I wouldn’t be with them on Mother’s Day, and how I would be okay, our cat needed me, but that it was okay to be disappointed and sad anyway.

And suddenly, her tears stopped. And she asked excitedly, “Mama, could I borrow some of your felt?” and moments later came back in and asked for thread. Purple thread. And I knew what it meant even before she banned me from her room for the rest of the afternoon. And my tears were not tears of disappointment over the camping trip or worry over the cat or even sleep deprivation from the emergency vet visit in the middle of the night. My tears were tears of pride and gratitude for this little child of mine and whatever it is she is doing with purple felt and thread in there, pushing aside her own disappointment so readily to show compassion for her mama.

Tonight, we went to to see a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream outside at a park. My sweet girl was enthralled. Her little brothers were amazing, but didn’t quite make it to the end, and after we had our fill of shushing and redirecting and running around in the dark off to the side of the audience, we said it was time to go. And she cried, and flitted back towards the crowd again and again as we left, tempted to disappear into the dark mass and stay there until she’d seen the end. And it wasn’t fair, not after all her disappointment, so after we got her brothers in the car, I decided this girl of mine needed a little compassion herself, and together we ran over to the fence and found a spot we could see through the bushes, and she giggled as she climbed the fence to peer at the stage and watch the last few minutes of the performance. And she was happy and held my hand and laughed on the way back to the car. And I have to remind myself, sometimes we all need a little purple thread and felt in our lives. And I thought of the purple lady and the joy I felt seeing those purple poles, and now I wonder why I ever started to think she was crazy at all.

Can you see it?

DSC_1523I remember as a child, riding on the train through the mountains near our town in Germany.  There, up high on a mountain above the train, stood a statue of a stag.  The statue wasn’t visible long, just for a moment, and I can still remember the wail of devastation when our friend’s little boy missed seeing it.  A pain made worse by the fact that his big brother and I had seen it.

I remember that wail so well, and have heard it often enough from my own children that I hesitate to point out things one of them might miss.  I’ll spot whatever it is that might be interesting to them, and then I’ll calculate how long I’ll have to tell each of my various forward and rear-facing car occupants, which way to look and what they will see.  And quite a few times, I’ve made the decision to keep it to myself, whatever interesting thing I’ve seen, sacrificing all their chances to see it in the hopes of preventing that wail.

We were driving to preschool this week, and to the right, I saw a woman walking a dog, only the dog was walking along a little garden wall.  I couldn’t resist.  “Look!” I cried, “Look at the dog walking on the garden wall!”

My five-year-old laughed in delight, but when I didn’t hear the same laughter from my three-year-old, I braced myself.  Instead of the wail, I heard his sweet little voice, “When we are coming back from preschool, I will see the dog walking on the wall.”  And I had to decide, would his disappointment be greater now, fresh in the moment of having missed the dog, or would it be worse later, having anticipated an opportunity that would never come.

“Oh, honey,” I said.  “The doggie won’t be there on our way home.  He’s going on a walk and won’t be in the same place.”

“But I didn’t get to seeeeee him!” began the wail, and I felt so sad for this poor sweet little guy who’d missed seeing the dog.  And then I remembered how the The Children of Noisy Village describe the world to their blind grandfather, and I had an idea.

“Do you want us to tell you about the dog so you can use your imagination to see him, bud?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he sniffled sorrowfully.

So his brother and I took turns.

“He’s black and white like Harry the Dirty Dog!”

“He looks a little like a bulldog!”

“He’s fat and when he takes a step his tail and his belly both swing from side to side!”

And my sad little guy wasn’t so sad any longer, he was giggling, exclaiming “He looked so funny!”

And just as delighted at his little brother’s joy, my five-year-old cried, “Can you see it, J-Man?  Can you see it in your imagination?”


Sidelong Glances


I don’t know why I’ve been feeling the passage of time so acutely lately. Maybe because of this baby, probably my last, growing by such leaps and bounds. We watched some old episodes of Homicide this week, and I was stunned by how dated and old they felt, not like when I’d watched them with my parents so many years ago.

In one episode, they find a baby in the basement, and though everyone is hot and miserable in a heat wave with no A/C, they rejoice over this little baby, smile in awe at him, and I think of what it was like to bring my children, each of my babies, into my grandmother’s assisted living home. The way the lonely old people with watery eyes stretched out their arms towards my baby with such longing that I held him closer for fear I’d give him to them out of an impulsive gesture of sorrow over how we treat our elderly, of how separate they are from us, from life, from babies. Or maybe, if I am honest, I held him tighter, too, a little out of fear over the power of their longing.

I saw an older woman in the post office last week. Her eyes were clear, her back straight, an air of dignity and elegance about her. But she cast sidelong glances at my baby girl, and her smile was faint and a little sad, and I saw myself, much too soon that will be me, casting sidelong glances at someone else’s baby, missing this era of my life as it tumbles past me now, and I scramble to grasp it and hold on, as it slips through my fingers, and right now I am holding my baby, right now. But right now is all too short.



We took a walk around the neighborhood the other night, something we always intend to do more often, as we intend to wander the forest paths that beckon right outside our front door.  We’re working on making these walks a priority.  Everyone loves them, we all feel better when we arrive home than we did when we left, refreshed either by the trees and the soft dirt path beneath our feet, or the communion with neighbors.

I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities and treating ourselves well since reading this post by Amy McCracken (scroll down to the third post, though really, read it all, just know I’m referring to the third one).  She writes about taking care of her feet, sitting on the edge of her tub and rubbing them with lavender oil, but only when she had been running, as though only after pain and accomplishment were they worthy of these brief moments of care.  And I think of my busy life, and my house always a mess, and for me, it’s big, warm sweaters and cups of tea and a good book.  When my house is clean, when I have gotten everything on my never ending to do list done, then I’ll sit in a big, warm sweater, I’ll tuck my legs up under me, a good book in one hand, a cup of tea in the other.  But that list never gets done, my cabinet full of different types of teas is rarely opened, and I can’t even remember the last book I read (for adults), though reading has always been such a huge part of my identity.

And I think of what other things fall by the way side, as things I only deserve after some sort of accomplishment, but what gives me pause more than tea and books and warm sweaters, is how many things I say I will do for my children once we are not quite so busy.  And as we walked around our neighborhood the other night, I heard two dads speaking German to their  little girl, and felt a pang of regret.  We were going to raise our children bilingually.  We were going to start speaking German to them one day.  And it always seemed like that moment would still come, the one where it felt right to make the effort, when adding German into our lives would be the only new thing, the only adjustment for them.  Just as we’ll be more spontaneous about messy art projects, and we’ll have friends over more often, just as soon as the house renovations are done, the baseboards are scrubbed, the papers are filed.  Seriously?  The papers are filed?

Meanwhile, my little girl is almost nine, and all these things I’ve intended to do, all these rituals and traditions and memories for the future, those opportunities are slipping away while I wait to deserve the time it takes to be the parent I want to be, and after the kids have gone to bed, to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea.  And so many times, I feel like we have our big priorities straight — our time together over money, experiences over stuff choices, but it’s the little priorities that make up the days, and the days that make up a childhood, a lifetime.  And maybe my cup of tea and my good book can wait, but my children can’t, or at least they shouldn’t.

More on Freiburg


I feel very honored to be included in MaryAnne’s World Culture for Kids series over on her blog Mama Smiles.  Here’s my post about Freiburg, but be sure to check out the other great posts in the World Culture for Kids series, as well as the rest of MaryAnne’s thoughtful and inspiring posts on joyful parenting.

Copper Pennies


We arrived late, as we should have expected.  Google maps could factor in traffic delays, but we should have accounted for traveling with two small children and a baby.  The staff was gone for the day, but they had left our key in the wooden box nailed to the front of the red education building.  We were in Cabin #1.

Quickly we unloaded our bags, half carrying, half dragging them across the gravel parking lot and along the path leading to our little red cabin, the first in a line of three.  We climbed the steps to the tiny porch.  The smell of pine was strong as we opened the door and stepped inside.  Before us lay a simple room, furnished with two double beds, some chairs and small tables.  On the walls hung large portraits of farm animals; scattered across the tables lay photo books filled with pictures of chickens and cows, pigs and sheep, goats and ducks.  Mia and Lucas were immediately drawn to the books, but we were eager to see the real animals.

The sun had begun to set in the leisurely way it does in the New England summer.  The fields and red buildings, the apple trees and wooden fences were all golden-hued in the light.  As we crossed the field towards the barns, we felt a welcome chill in the air, remembering the scorching heat of the Virginia summer we had left behind that morning.

A small black shape appeared around the corner of the education building and ran to greet us.  Mia and Lucas bent to pet the black cat, who stood on her hind legs and plowed their hands with affection, purring loudly.  The children laughed at the cat’s antics and were pleased when she decided to fall into step with us as we continued towards the barns.  But as we neared the first barn, we saw the chain blocking the path and the simple sign hanging from it.  Sanctuary Closed.

Disappointed, we turned away.  The quiet, the light, the solitude, the sanctuary — everything about our surroundings radiated peace.  But nothing would make the gentleness of this place as real to my children as the animals, and they would have to wait until morning.

But then suddenly Lucas was pointing in all his just-turned-three excitement, and we followed his gaze to the cow pasture.  There, sitting on the fence, bathed in the evening light, sat three scraggly baby birds, and there, just a little further along the fence two more.  Swooping through the air all around them were swallows, their parents.



We stood and watched as the swallows flew down to the babies again and again, hovering for a split second above the eager, open-beaked fledglings.  We stood and watched and learned to anticipate the arrival of the adults by the sounds the babies made, by the timing of their open beaks.  We stood and watched and were grateful for witnessing this beautiful scene — watched parents feeding babies over and over again until our own hungry children demanded to be fed.




And together, we walked back across the field to our cabin, stalked by a black cat; and together, we talked about what we had seen and how lucky we were to have seen it.  And I looked at my children, barely three and not-quite six, and at the baby in my arms, and I decided they were not too young and I told them about Annie Dillard and her copper pennies.


And just like Annie Dillard, our family’s copper pennies have been scenes of nature, our riches have been doled out to us in the cardinal Lucas spotted at the bird feeder, in the snake we found hiding by the play set, in the ladybug Mia discovered in the grass, in Jonah’s exclamation of “Gat!” as he pointed not only at cats, but at birds in the sky.

We watched tadpoles lose their tails and grow legs, and we watched the little peeper frogs they became change color as we released them to climb up the mottled bark of our crepe myrtle tree.  We saw the first crocuses of spring peek out from beneath the grass in our neighbor’s yard and saw them closed again after the cold dark night, only to be reawakened by the sun.  We glanced outside just in time to see our stub-tailed neighborhood squirrel peek his head out of our bird seed bag.  We stood on the sandy beach, watching the Great Blue Herons clack their beaks together, necks twisting, courting in nests high in the trees.  We saw a Kingfisher call and fly and call again in the park right by our house.  We saw the iridescent blue and green cicada emerging from his shell on the curb one sticky hot morning last summer.


And I was reminded of another cicada emerging from his shell, many years ago, that time clinging to the bark of an old pine tree, illuminated by the light of my grandfather’s flashlight.  And I could see my joy reflected in my grandfather’s face.  Not just his joy at seeing the cicada emerging from his shell, but his joy at my own joy.  And I knew then, my copper pennies, my riches, are not just in those moments when I glimpse a fleeting scene of nature, but in the moments of joy I see reflected in my children’s faces — in the riches doled out to them and in their appreciation for those pennies cast broadside from a generous hand*.  And I hope as they grow, they continue to feel the world is generous to them, that their lives are rich in precious moments, and that their moments are one day multiplied as mine are, watching their own children find joy in copper pennies, in the riches of our family, in the inheritance of a healthy poverty and simplicity*.

*From Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, an absolutely stunningly beautiful book that will break your heart over a crippled moth and have you searching for trees of light on a summer night.