Boundaries


There is a place where the
town ends
      and the fields begin.
It’s not marked but the feet know it,
also the heart, that is longing for refreshment
      and, equally, for repose.

Someday we’ll live in the
sky.
Meanwhile, the house of our lives is the world.
The fields, the ponds, the birds.
The thick black oaks—surely they are the
      children of God.
The feistiness among the tiger lilies,
the hedges of runaway honeysuckle, that no one owns.

Where is it? I ask, and
then
my feet know it.

One jump, and I’m home.

-Mary Oliver


I am in love with the poetry of Mary Oliver.  We are kindred spirits– poets and lovers of the natural world.  Lovers of place.  And home. 


In the midst of all the chaos of a new job, new opportunities, a new school year for Harper Lee and Isaac, I am so grateful for this long weekend to just stop. 

My mind has been in overdrive for several weeks– excitement, yes, but also a lot of worry.  Me and worry– well, we’re old friends.  I have worried so much about my children, how things might change this year, how things might be just a little bit worse, how I might be stepping back from long-held dreams.  I have never liked to move beyond my comfort zone, even when faced with the evidence that great things happen when we dare to move beyond what is comfortable for us.

My children, it seems, do not have the same hang-ups about change that I do.  Even Isaac, who is my “mini me”, has rolled with it like a champ. 

He crawled into the back of the Jeep on Friday afternoon and said, “This was the best day in the history of school!”  I cannot tell you the relief and happiness I felt as we drove away and he chatted about his teacher and all the things they are learning.

So many people have told me how surprised they are that I’m not homeschooling, and that I, in fact, went back to work full-time.   Actually, nobody is more surprised than I am, but for a variety of reasons, we decided to give school another go.  For all of us.

I still fantasize about homeschooling, and a little part of me is sad that we didn’t go that route this year.  I
still subscribe to the awesome Simple Homeschool website, perusing
weekend links each Saturday and storing up ideas for
“afterschooling” and the idea that we may still homeschool at some point
in the future.

But for right now, school is working for us.  Isaac is happier than ever before, and I can see both he and Harper Lee growing into more independent people before my very eyes.  They
are totally digging the bus, mostly because they get off in a real
neighborhood and stay with a dear friend from church for an hour each
afternoon until I get home from work.  There are other kids in a neighborhood.  It’s just different enough from where we live to be a fun adventure every afternoon. 

But I have still felt worried.  Once I saw that they were going to be OK, that they were, in fact, going to thrive, my fears turned to me.  

What will happen to my writing?  My art?  How, in the name of all that’s holy, am I going to teach full-time and write a book?  And the manuscript in my desk?  Yeah, well… we’ll see about that.  And what about poetry?  And photography?  And the blog?

You can see how this sort of snowballed.

As usual, a good long run in the woods helped put things in perspective.  I am teaching, a job that I love.  But it does not have to be the only thing I do.  My identity is not wrapped up entirely in my pay stub.  I teach.  But I also write.  And paint.  And blog.  And take pictures.  I make things.  I bake.  I build awesome Lego Hero Factory heroes.  I read Beverly Cleary books aloud with great enthusiasm.  I take long walks after supper and watch sunsets.  I tell stories and listen to stories.  I love old things and places that speak to our history.

I am a mother.

I am a storyteller.

I am an artist.

My grandmother worked in a plant; she ran a gas station; she worked as a secretary.  Those are things she did.  But when anyone asks me about her, I always, without hesitation, say, “She was an artist.”  She didn’t make money with her art until she was much older, but all her life, she was an artist.  And she created a most perfect childhood for me.

Poke berries– Merdie, my artist grandmother, taught me how to gather these and mash them up in a pot to use as ink.  She gave me a chicken feather as a quill, and we wrote each other old-fashioned letters and made treasure maps with them.

Tonight, Isaac and I took a long walk after supper.  We took our camera.

We slowed down.

We saw a rainbow after the storm.

And walked in the wet grass.

We pounded the earth with our feet and felt our hearts beat really fast.

We stood in the fading light of day.

We looked out over our mountains.  The clouds had settled in the hollows, a place to rest. 

Our feet know it.

Deep, deep, deep.

I feel her presence at times like this.  I know what she wants to say to me.

“You are yourself no matter where the road leads.  You are your own home.”

One jump, and I’m home.

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