The children are with my parents, and Rachel and I have the morning and afternoon to ourselves.
Last weekend we did the same thing. We are getting spoiled. Two nights, three days to just brain dump, re-organize, and re-calibrate.
We need these times, though.
Today we went to Talula’s Garden at Washington Square in Philly for breakfast. Cold, honey-glazed, mustard chicken with a side of beets and goat cheese, garnished with some combination of spices that was delicious, but we couldn’t quite pin down. Though a fennel seed did find its way out between my teeth an hour later.
Then to the thrift store. Rachel is washing her purchases now. T-shirts, pants and a sheet for both wearing and sewing. Some for the kids. Some for her to experiment with piecemeal clothing projects.
We are entering a new season. Fall always seems like a new beginning to me. A time to start fresh.
I was listening to a podcast interview with Alexander Shaia in which he was talking about how the early church read the gospels in the following order: Matthew, Mark, John, Luke, and how this order corresponds with the seasons. (If I remember correctly: Matthew – Fall, fallowness; Mark – Winter, moving through suffering; John – Spring, joy and new life; Luke – Summer, maturing). He mentioned that in some cultures fall is the beginning of the cycle, and that we in America often think of Spring as the beginning for obvious reasons. To these other cultures, Fall is the beginning because it is a season of rest, dying, and fallowness. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies…”
So, maybe this feeling of Fall as beginning has some intuitive beginnings.
* * *
We feel we are at the end of a season of purging, getting rid of, and de-cluttering, and at the beginning of a season of adding. Filling our home with opportunities. Asking one another: What do you love? What is life-giving to you right now? What do you want to pursue? We are trying to listen to and observe our children. What gets them excited? What are they fascinated by and interested in?
I’m thinking of Emeth. His endless flow of questions about outer-space, electricity, building materials, building methods, animals and their place in the food chain, habitats. Digging deep into the “Why?” and “How?” of everything.
This can sometimes be frustrating, especially when I’m trying to move him along to whatever the next thing is, whether important or not. Sometimes I am merely frustrated by my lack of understanding of these things, and my inadequate answers. He is okay with, “I don’t know,” for a response. But what I’m realizing is that these are opportunities to take notes. To ask him questions in order to understand what makes him tick.
So we bought him an electricity kit. (We haven’t given it to him yet. We plan to this afternoon.) We look forward to seeing where this guides him in his thinking and understanding of the world around him. A small thing. But a start.
* * *
It seems to be a season of feeding desires and interests. Investing in materials which can serve as the basis for their learning and education.
Rachel has shied away from formal curriculums for sometime now, not always able to articulate fully why these do not resonate with her. Yet has hesitated to seize her ideas and act on them.
So that’s what last weekend became. A time to decide: what will we choose to invest in for ourselves and these little ones?
Today was a little bit more of the same. We also feel the need and urge to have creative outlet, but due to time-constraints, we often feel stuck in those little moments of quiet we get after the kids go to bed, or before they wake up in the morning.
So, recently inspired by some Pintrest posts, Rachel decided she wanted to delve into sewing again, but this time a simpler approach. Use pieces from the thrift store and piece them together. Clothing that doesn’t have to be perfect. But at least be comfortable and enjoyable to wear.
Which reminds me of an article I recently read in Taproot Magazine, Issue 8 :: Reclaim, called Back in Time, by Meredith Winn. She is a photographer writing about learning the collodion process. Invented by Frederick Scott Archer, “It became the most dominant photographic process used between 1851 and 1880. He set a new tone in the world of photography by publishing his discoveries openly (and knowingly) without first obtaining a patent. This was his gift to the world. From such humble roots, wonderful things continue to grow.”
She goes on to say that it is a process which leaves much room for error. “Shifting my mindset from digital to analog leaves me contemplating happy accidents such as sloppy pours, silver flares, fingerprints and the swirl of developer. I believe the mystery (and acceptance) of imperfections in this process truly adds to the beauty of the finished plates.”
Social media and modern day advertising prove the digital world to be an unreal representation of real life. In this day of Photoshop, we compare our outsides to other people’s (often Photoshopped) outsides. Does this leave us feeling less? Less human? Less perfect? Less worthy? When I shoot on collodion, the mask is removed. Tintypes embrace the imperfections. In contrast to Photoshop, collodion somehow seeks out imperfections that reflect our individual beauty to remind us that we are all perfectly and imperfectly human.
– Meredith Winn, Back in Time, from Taproot Issue 8 :: Reclaim
Maybe that is it. We are entering a season of accepting imperfection. Purging was our attempt to rid ourselves of distractions and things unnecessary. Things we at one point in life said, “I would like to pursue this,” or “This piece could be used for this or that function,” then later decided that hobby or piece of furniture had run its course, and is no longer useful to us. And in getting rid of it, trusting that it will find its way into the hands of someone who can breathe new life into it.
Now we try on new ideas. New hobbies, new (or used) pieces of clothing, new recipes, new books, podcasts, educational material for the kids. Attempting to enter these new things with less calculation. No thought of hard ROI. Allowing ourselves be sparked by an idea. To run with it. Till it either takes flight, or falls to the ground. But in falling to the ground, trusting that in its death – in allowing it to die – it will come back to life in a new way, and we will be lead to the next opportunity.
“There is a season for everything,” the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes.
“A time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew.”
And so we take time now to build up, gather, seek, keep and sew.
* * *
While at the thrift store I found several books that looked interesting, either on recommendation (Franzen), or reading the jacket, or exposure to other books by the same author (Sedaris, Bryson). I haven’t made time, nor been in the mood, to read lengthier novels, though. This partly may be due to listening to audiobooks for a season while I drove to work. I finished several larger books, all without having to look down, straining eyes and neck for hours on end. An activity I used to find thoroughly enjoyable, losing myself in its pages.
As I stood scanning text, however, trying to decide which to keep, which to discard, I reckoned with myself. “This is not a season for reading these kind of books. I’ve been enjoying articles, the newspaper, Taproot. Reading in spurts. I don’t have time for projects that require long stretches of concentration. And that is okay. It is a season.” So, to my surprise, I put them all back.
I have a few things I’ve been going back to over the last several months. The Wisdom of China and India being the main text taking up those few minutes of reading time before bed. Before drowsiness. Before a child needs to use the potty for the third time. And it has been feeding me.
To satisfy the necessities of life is not evil. To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom, and keep our mind strong and clear…
This is the middle path… that keeps aloof from both extremes [of self-indulgence and self-mortification].
– The Buddha, The Sermon at Benares
As a solid rock is not shaken by the wind, wise people falter not amidst blame and praise.
Let each man direct himself first to what is proper, then let him teach others; thus a wise man will not suffer.
If a man make himself as he teaches others to be, then, being himself well subdued, he may subdue others; for one’s own self is difficult to subdue.
– Selections from The Dhammapada
To yield is to be preserved whole.
To be bent is to become straight.
To be hollow is to be filled.
To be tattered is to be renewed.
To be in want is to possess.
To have plenty is to be confused…
He does not reveal himself,
And is therefore luminous.
He does not justify himself,
And is therefore far-famed.
He does not boast of himself,
And therefore people give him credit.
He does not pride himself,
And is therefore the ruler among men.
It is because he does not contend
That no one in the world can contend against him.
– The Book of Tao, Futility of Contention