This past week was Week 8, which is codespeak for the eighth week of the 10-week quarter, typically a place of panic and doom (mine) and very late nights with little contact with the family for Dan. I think it was during Week 1 that Dan told me that it already felt like Week 10. My response was to collapse dramatically on the couch and begin to cry. I promise, I am usually more supportive than that, but I seem to remember feeling tired from the previous quarter, with a short week in between, and one or all of us were sick, and the thought of 10 more weeks of stress at home and Dan feeling overworked and overwhelmed was too much. Well, it went better than that, of course, and here we are close to the end. For a while. So I was reflecting on this past week and there was so much in it to give me courage and hope, and I thought I would share.
For starters, the girls and I had that magical day at Fox Lake. It is so rejuvenating for all of us to be out in nature, and as they get older the discoveries they make on their own connect them so much more closely to the world around them. Eliza has a penchant for knowing what things are and will toss out names of trees as we pass by, as if greeting old friends. Our week was sandwiched by visits with friends - this spring Mondays have been a day to host our friends the L's, who arrive with eggs from their chickens and good stories about their goats getting into the house. They arrive and the girls disperse into the land of make-believe while M and I cook, talk, follow the baby boy around. A small chaotic slice of heaven. Friday we got to see them again, while we gathered for a pizza party at our friends' house in the woods - more chaos, more filling, a little more hectic for the day we were already having, but so lovely to be there. The drive out is windy, wooded, swampy, through a couple of postage stamp-sized towns.
Tuesday was a bit of a miracle - I knew I had to get to the "farm", but I was really wanting to spare the girls some of the time I knew we'd have to be there this week. As if she knew, a friend called to see if I was available to come and watch 4 of her kids for a while in the morning, and as we talked about the day she suggested that when she got home I leave my two with her for the afternoon. Brilliant! The girls had such a marvelous time out there, I got to feel as though I was contributing to my friend's sanity and stride, and I got three hours of work done at the garden. As extra bonus, I got to carry a baby around all morning, and dug my Sutemi pack out of the back of my car and slung her on to do some of the mountain of dishes 6 people can produce. An extra extra bonus was listening to NPR on the long drive.
Wednesday was all about coop, which went well and was pleasantly exhausting, and we got Dan out to Fox Lake for a walk in the evening light, which has to be my favorite time to be out in the world. We heard the throaty cough of a heron making its way around the lake, and the girls stopped to show him particular plants we had stopped at our first time there. I mean, the exact same plants! They were so excited to be with him, it was a little heart-breaking. The constant patter from Eliza, behind me, in front of him, was something like this: "I love you Dad! Dad, we found TWO TOADS when we were here last time, do you want to look for toads? Dad? I love you. You can hold my shells if you want, Dad. I love you." I told Dan that I am still this way with my Dad - I'll realize that I'm so glad to be with him that I've been talking non-stop for an hour, and the subtext is all "I love you I'm so glad to be in your presence, I love you". He handled it well, quietly "mmmmhmmm"ing and patient.
Thursday is our day of decompression after the early part of the week - slower, meandering, though not always quiet. We spent the morning with the 9-month-old baby of a friend who just lost her childcare and needed to attend a class. What a nice time for the girls and I! She had us giggling and playing and we somehow kept her from crying until Mama came back. In the middle of the day I got a call from a new friend who lives close by, asking for help. Her family was having a rough week, kids were sick, one was recovering from dental surgery and had a fever, life was feeling out of control and could I bring them something to eat? I almost burst into tears (that's me), I was so grateful that she called to ask. I know how hard that is, and I was just impressed with her willingness to reach out for it. So I doubled the fresh spring rolls I was making, put in a batch of squash muffins, and headed over.
Friday was more farming - this time with kids, and for a while it went really well. They both wanted to be out with me, which I loved, and so Eliza was on one side of me, trimming the roots from the green onions, Ani was on the other, handing me rubber bands to wrap around the bunches, and I pulled the onions and shook the dirt from the roots. It was slow, but we were all involved and it was really nice. It lasted about 15 minutes. The rest of the morning was stressful - I "gave in" to watching more Little House on the Praire, and of course the fighting started, and then I yelled at someone because there was muffin all over the floor and in my mind I'm thinking, not only am I needing to harvest all of this, I'm going to need to clean their house when I'm done! Finally I called it quits, we went and relaxed at our pizza party in the woods, and I came back at dinner time, alone, to finish the lettuce and spinach. This also meant that Dan had more time with the girls - evening on Friday as well as Saturday morning during market. Market was its own immersion in community - so many people I know and enjoy stop by the stand to shop or say hi, my market neighbors help me without my asking, taking me under their wing, sharing their wisdom of years. I could enjoy being there, knowing that my family was having a lovely morning together - pancakes and a walk to our garden to plant tomatoes and flowers.
I am ready for activities to end (piano, dance - choir ended 2 weeks ago) and for our summer to take on its own shape; ready to not feel like I am a tight string stretched between 4 human beings; ready to find time to renew myself and get some perspective on how we are doing - but this week showed me that I am already intertwined here in this place, that I have people I can rely on to help me find my way to the next stepping stone, that I am counted on to be a helpful part of the way things work around here - that some of the stress of being out in the community, taking part, is paying off in shared care, shared trouble, shared joy.