Thinking Outside the Basket

Easter is complicated. No, I’m not referring to the debate over whether Christians should participate in a day associated with depraved things like eggs. And bunnies. And *gasp* a day on the calendar that acknowledges the life-sustaining existence of the SUN.

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Though we didn’t worship any pagan deities over the weekend, we absolutely reveled in the sunlight, in the arrival of spring and in the hope of the Resurrection.

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We gifted the girls ribbon kites and wooden play eggs rather than dyeing real eggs because we’re just not that into egg salad or deviled twice-yolked eggs.

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It was a weekend spent enjoying gifts of nature, festivities, friends and family. All of these things are the icing on the cake.

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The real gift, of course, is that God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all. And that is where it gets complicated for me. I’m not bothered my kids expect candy on Easter. What’s more important to me is that they understand there’s more to Easter than a personal celebration of a Get Out of Hell Free card. I never want to be so smug or lackadaisical in my salvation that I forget there’s a whole world out there enduring all the pain and suffering of hell in the here and now.

On Sunday my children wore crisp, new shirts from their grandparents, ate from full plates and were surrounded by people who love them. But a shadow was cast over the joy of the day. It is the shadow of unrest in Ukraine. It is the shadow of bombing and kidnapping in Nigeria. It is the shadow of civil war in Syria. It is the shadow of famine, of slavery, of disease. How can I reconcile these things with Easter Sunday?

Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:24-39

The people of this world living under the shadow of oppression are keenly aware of the suffering of Christ. Perhaps Easter is more real in the filthiest pit of Earth than at a lavish table spread. Rather than getting caught up in presents and pageantry, I want my children to know we are connected to a world in need. Rather than simply filling our proverbial baskets with good things, I desire to be equipped in order to share and to serve. I want to teach my children to cling to the cross, to the unconquerable love of God.

Drifting

We wandered to a new beach this week. It was like a dream, seeing the lake from an altered perspective. Strange and familiar. Between seasons it is still quiet and quite abandoned. The sand is warmed by the sun, running parallel with ice jams slowly disintegrating. The sound of the crumbling cubes is like crystal. Clear and brittle and we hold our breath waiting for the next wind to play it like chimes. The surface of the lake is shattered and solitary slabs of ice drift toward the shadowy places. Their counterpart is the sun-bleached driftwood. Full lengths of trees washed, desaturated. The driftwood does not mesmerize. Its surface does not shimmer. But it is warm and smooth and invites us to touch, to stay in the lingering light.

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Kickstarter

IMG_2452It’s cold up here. Sure, it’s technically spring but after the winter we’ve had I finally reached my breaking point. The season needed a kick-start. On Sunday I packed up the kids and headed south in search of spring temperatures. Highs into the 60s sounded as good as any sunny vacation destination. Plattsburgh might not see those numbers on the thermometer until the next season change so we left the winter coats behind and headed for Saratoga.

School this week was spent exploring parks and trails spongy with spring thaw. Soft cool mud, sharp green shoots showing eager in the soil, flowing water filling every downward crevice. It is almost criminal for a child to spend early spring stuck behind a desk in a classroom when there is a world waking up outside the window. Even in the early darkness of the day there is a promise of warmth on the air.

Mornings we were roused by the clear, bright calls of birds. The girls scavenged the woods for boats of bark, vines and feathers to sail along the Kayaderosseras. The stream in early spring is rough and fast, drinking greedily of winter melting along its banks. A rainy day was spent indulging in the Saratoga Springs library collection. I imagine my feeling walking through the aisles in the children’s section is akin to what some women must feel walking through shoe stores or peering into jewelry cases. On any given subject there are stacks of titles.

After the girls went to bed I had a few nights to catch up with modern culture and old friends. I went on my own to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. I like going to the movies alone and a late night showing on a Monday meant I had the entire theater to myself, which in and of itself felt like a scene out of a Wes Anderson film. Equally as enjoyable was the drive through town that night, streets gleaming black with rain and Smiths on the radio. But I wasn’t a total loner. Another evening I caught up with a friend over a $20 cheese plate (her treat). We were both in need of a good conversation. And aged cheddar.

And though my sister is 30 weeks pregnant we got in one late night hangout. Over cups of Honey Lavender tea I tried to convince her of the brooding grunge and cynicism of 90s music. She countered with the mix of emo and hardcore that saw her through her teen years. In the end we both remained loyal to our generation. Perhaps that is inevitable. For my sister and I it is compounded by the fact that we have nearly a decade between us. We weren’t peers until adulthood, so we’ve had to catch up. Turns out playground swings are fun at any age.

The trip north at the end of the week was sunny, the girls peaceful and quiet the entire drive. The earth is emerging from its cocoon of cold and snow, however gradual in the heart of the Adirondacks. Even the stoic blue walls of ice on the mountainsides are beginning to trickle. We returned to the North Country refreshed after a week of sun and rest and relaxation. Vitamin D and laughter were just what we needed to release the remnants of a long, dark winter.

Happy Spring! Here’s What’s Next…

View from the top of Kaaterskill Falls (260 ft. cascade) overlooking the Catskills

The name Thomas Cole has been circulating around our house for the past four years. He is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School of Art. My husband Dan and I had taken an interest in Cole’s work and decided to learn more about his method and what inspired him. Our first impression was that Cole’s life read like a novel or a script. We were also excited to discover themes from his experience that have remarkable modern relevancy. Beginning this spring I am collaborating with Dan, a film and television producer, on the development of a documentary about the life and work of Cole. Continue reading

Inherit the Wind

windLooking out the window into the night I see snow shaken out like white bedclothes.
I recall from childhood a friend telling me how inherit the wind sounded like a beautiful promise.
Across the yard the baby swing is lifted high and higher until it twists on its tether;
midflight it is wrenched to the side,
smashed hard against the wood frame from which it was once suspended,
now suspended by tortuous gales.
It is late and late winter and I know the baby swing is empty,
yet in the blackness of a shrinking moon it is difficult to distinguish the vacancy. Continue reading

The Name of This Post Is Talking Heads

Preschoolers are always ready to party. As the parent, you’re the one who’s gotta make it happen. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Anytime I hear someone say they “can’t wait” for their kid to grow up I’m like, oh, you can wait. Because it all comes back with a vengeance in about a decade. Preschoolers are practice for teenagers. I know because I’ve had three preschoolers. I haven’t had a teenager yet but, whatever, I lived it.

Young children are full of energy and enthusiasm. Give them something to do with it. Time spent in nature and one-on-one nurturing are ideal but not always possible. Homeschooling, working from home, stay-at-home parenting, siblings and other responsibilities require a parent to divide their attention. Little ones need to be able to occupy themselves.

One of the reasons I like hanging out with preschoolers more than teenagers is because they have better taste in music. My 4-year-old and I share a love of Talking Heads, the inspiration behind this list of ideas to help you and your preschooler enjoy the early years:

This Must Be the Place
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Make use of place. Having toys and activities broken up into zones throughout the house can be fun. Alphabet letters on the refrigerator. Bicycles in the basement on cold or rainy days. Musical instruments in the office. We have shelves and baskets of books set up with rugs and pillows in different parts of the house, creating multiple secluded quiet spots. Siblings sometimes need space! Continue reading

All I Really Need to Know I Learned On a Zipline

IMG_8084I remember my Kindergarten classroom feeling like a visit to grandma’s house. Music and art and nature. And more than anything ample opportunity for imaginative play. There were dolls and ride-on toys and a little kitchen. We even had a schoolyard with real pavement that scraped our knees. Kindergarten was first established as a nurturing environment for children of working mothers, orphans and immigrants. What was a children’s garden is quickly becoming a drill and kill zone. Skills and knowledge once learned in Kindergarten are now expected to be mastered before Kindergarten. Should we really be setting up 4, 5 and 6 year old children to struggle and fail? That’s quite the head trip for a child who only yesterday was napping and cuddling and using a sippy cup. Continue reading

Plans

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Story by story builds

a tower conjuring confusion

a touch to burst sky blue tension

cloud drift visualizes collapse between covers

where verses fermented caramel coolly splash sheets and

want carves in cuneiform favorite words like a cut in the mouth

typeset on the page rages silent rattles its tail against the heat of drought

Just as a flood withheld becomes the curse plans change and change everything

Sweeter Than Wine

IMG_2587We spent an overnight on the Saint Lawrence Seaway last weekend for a Pete Seeger tribute jam hosted by TAUNY, a non-profit dedicated to the folk traditions and local culture, past and present, of the North Country. We really wanted our girls to experience something of Pete beyond their favorite songs on a speaker. It was their first time at a community singalong but they blended right in. But I suppose it was not unlike singing at church. Different ages and types brought together in song and in heart. The girls alternated between dancing in the back of the crowded room and taking front row seats with Dutch windmill cookies and lemonade punch in hand. Aside from Pete’s untouchable body of work and his impact on society, he knew how to engage his audience. Half the joy in listening to his music is his rapport with the crowd during live shows. His pleasure in singing with the people is palpable. The songs are for them. Continue reading

Paper Bag Puck

IMG_2626At the beginning of the week I came across my two older girls poring over a comic book-style illustrated book, reading aloud, grinning and giggling. They were propped up on elbows over a (much) abridged children’s book of William Shakespeare plays we found at the library (along with 50+ other books for this month’s topics). We are spending a few weeks studying Will’s work in-depth. Yesterday the girls spent most of the day creating paper bag puppets and staging scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A set of watercolor pencils, a spool of twine and a handy familiarity with Greek pronunciations and they were good to go. Continue reading

The Book I Read

IMG_1609We made it out of the Dark Ages. I can breathe again. For a year and a half, the gloom of the Middle Ages hung over our history readings like low gray clouds. The loss of life, culture, intellect. I am astonished anew as I teach my girls about the printing press. I break away from our texts, moved, emphatically explaining this shift in world history. The goldsmith’s miracle of tin, lead and antimony molded into letters then into pages, slick with oily ink, fitted into an old wine-press. The magnitude of mass production and translation. Books no longer chained to pulpits or kept on the high shelves of the wealthy, privileged few. The holiness of literacy. Continue reading