Saturday, September 18, 2010


I've been neglecting my blog, partly because I've been busy with some other new projects, like working on my photography, and partly just because my life has been really complicated lately. I have a lot of things to write about, and then again some things I haven't wanted or been able to put into words in a way that I can share here. I've had such a lack of clarity lately that it's been difficult to know where to begin.

Yesterday when I went to pick Dora up from school, I was really looking forward to seeing her. It's been a long week, full of evening meetings and other activities making our time together limited. I was excited to start our weekend together. When I arrived, though, the teacher told me she had just bitten one of her friends, for "being in her way".  I spoke to Dora disapprovingly, reminding her of the consequence the last time she bit one of her friends - no TV all evening.  

We had to make a quick stop at the grocery store for milk and orange juice. I toyed with getting some ice cream and in the split second I stood still to look at the choices, Dora decided to take off. She's run from me in the store before, but this time she completely disappeared. The store was packed with people starting their weekends. I turned round and round in the produce section, paced back and forth at the ends of the aisles, and she was nowhere to be seen. I thought, is it time to start screaming her name? Then I saw the flash of her plaid shorts by the milk and cheese, following a girl of about 7 who was trying to help her. I grabbed her arm hard, admonishing her never to do that again. She started crying loudly, saying she didn't want a time out. It felt like that scene in a movie when the film slows down a little, every head slowly turning to look at us while I dragged Dora to the checkout line. One man glared at me as if to say, "if you had held onto her properly you could've avoided this". 

I sat in my car feeling like the world's worst parent, embarrassed by my anger and frustrated with my inability to coax good behavior out of my daughter at times when I need it most - in public, or when she could be in danger. I started to cry, thinking of my friends and their lives that seem less complicated, feeling pangs of jealousy of those who seem to (or do) have what I want. I thought, "how can I want two children when I can barely handle one?" 

The truth is, we do want another child, but for some reason, it hasn't happened for us yet. While second babies seem to appear every day amongst my circle of friends, we remain three. I'm sure there are many reasons, but sitting in my car in the afternoon sun, Dora whining for her blanket, I thought perhaps God hasn't given me a second baby because I'm not yet doing a good enough job with the first one.

My logical mind knows this is not the case, that there is not some cosmic scorekeeper above, deciding who's had enough tragedy or hardship, evenly distributing the natural disasters by population and demographics, checking off the boxes next to discomfort and disappointment in each person's life. I know you don't "get" a second baby by being "good enough" to your first one. But the voice of one's logical mind is not always the loudest. 

This afternoon, Brian had a gig and Dora and I had a girl's afternoon. We went to the trail around Beaver Lake in Asheville, me snapping pictures and Dora riding her little Skuut bike. We had to stop and pet every dog. I pointed out every turtle. Dora said hi to every person we passed, and she chatted with others. A group of teenage girls were lounging in the grass, and she said to me, "I want to go talk to those ladies." We talked to an older couple walking a dog, and another couple who wanted to know all about Dora's bike. Dora ran up to another woman walking by herself. We spoke for a few minutes and as we were about to part ways, Dora grabbed the woman's leg to hug her. The woman said, "where does she get all that love?" 

We were near the end of our walk then, so I carried a tired Dora, her bike, her helmet, and my camera back to the car. I thought about what the woman said, thought about curious, open, outgoing Dora, who walks up to old African American ladies at the drugstore and grabs their hands, who says hi to every passing person, even the grumpy ones, who asks to pet every dog. I may not be doing everything right with Dora, my life may be so hectic right now that I can't give her the attention she deserves. But one thing is for sure - she knows she is loved, and she knows that showing that love to other people is part of her job in this world. That loving spirit that shines from within Dora, and the knowledge that I played at least some part in creating it, is more important than nearly anything else I can think of. Perhaps what I need to do is realize that, for now at least, knowing that is clarity enough.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

wind in the trees

Last week Dora and I went camping with friends Mandy, David, and Isaac at the beautiful and wild Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina. It still amazes me that I now live just a short and easy half days' drive from the ocean, one of my favorite places on earth. More amazing still is to go from our rainforest-like mountainous habitat to this tropical, coastal, exotic place in a mere 5 hours. In the morning I was packing our car and running last minute errands and in the late afternoon we were climbing around on the trunks of lumbering, dead Live Oak Trees, waves splashing against decaying stumps and fallen Palm fronds, like characters in Robinson Crusoe, or Lost, or Lord of the Flies. 

Dora had an absolute blast exploring this natural playground with her favorite little boy, Isaac, and canine friend Joey. I just tried to take some deep breaths and let the peacefulness instilled by the ocean sink deeply into me. I hope to carry back to Asheville with me some shred of that solitude, so difficult to hold onto amongst the stress and deadlines and constant interruptions of normal life. I took advantage of the spotty cell phone service and (essentially) refrained from keeping up with emails and checking the dreaded FB account. 

The first night, I slept restlessly. There is something so vulnerable about sleeping with nothing but a thin mesh zippered screen between you and the rest of the world. I haven't done that much camping, although I do enjoy it, but I always feel that slight sense of edginess, wonder how quickly I'd wake up if someone else started to slowly unzip my tent. Dora was restless at first, too, but the ocean breeze and promise of a day full of exploring and beach time lulled her to sleep. I lay awake looking up at the moon through the trees, worrying about having left home, worrying about our future, worrying about worrying.

The next morning dawned incredibly windy. We were in campsite 2, right behind the dunes, the ocean only steps away at high tide. Our site, vulnerable as it was to the elements, was surrounded by tall pine trees. I looked up in the gusting wind wondering how they continued to stand against such a force. Down on the ground, clothes fell off the line, chairs toppled over, our tents wobbled and rain flies snapped. Up above, though, the trees barely moved, swaying gently, a united force expertly designed to withstand natures' coastal chaos. I pointed the trees out to my friend, noting that they seemed to be helping each other. The gusts of wind seemed to be instantly dissipated by the trees' foliage, each absorbing a bit of the impact so that no one tree was required to bear the brunt alone. 

That night, though the gusty wind worried me, I slept better. I hoped that a limb wouldn't break lose and crush our tent, comforted myself with the remembrance of how the trees seemed to be helping each other. I thought about those trees like the people in my life, standing all around me in the wind and all of us helping each other. As I often do, I wished that my mom was here still, to stand amongst those trees by my side. I feel her absence every day, but most of all at times of stress and uncertainty, and I always miss her when I'm near the ocean, a place she so dearly loved. I tried to really think about what it means to have all those supports nearby - whether in body or in spirit - all steeled around me in solidarity, and I fell asleep. 

The next day, the wind had died down. We drove home through hot South Carolina, back to work and stress and all of the messes our lives include that are waiting for attention. Later in the week, Dora and I drove to the park for a quick bout of running through a field blowing bubbles, me somehow remembering to squeeze in a few moments of unplanned and silly fun in our week. The windows were down, music playing, both of us with whisps of hair flying around our faces. I remembered the trees, and my sadness that my mom is not among them, and realized there is a new little tree there now - growing tall beside me, both of us steeled against the wind together, helping each other every day in ways we may not even fully understand yet. I smiled thinking of my little tree, her glowing presence in my life easing the pain of the other absence just a bit. 

That night, we booked campsite 2 for October. I think of that wind, and how much stronger it might be in October, and I worry a bit about us in our little tent, steps away from the waves. The trees will be there, though, standing all around us, helping each other, making sure that we can rest easy - all three of us.