She was on the other side of our back fence, reaching up on tippy-toes to pick some viburnum berries from the neighbor's bushes. "Can you pick me up so I can reach, mama?" I lifted her as high as I could but we still couldn't reach the biggest clumps. Finally I found myself teetering on top of our old picket fence, picking clusters of juicy red berries for her mud kitchen.
And then I saw the grapes. Dozens of fat bunches of wild grapes, already past their prime. And to think I'd driven 15 minutes each way to forage grapes and elder a few weeks ago, only to find these literally hanging over my back yard, and elder, blackberry, and wild pear just a block away waiting to be picked too. It seemed like a metaphor for truly seeing the blessings in your own backyard versus looking elsewhere for your happiness.
We picked some grapes to add to the mix, and then we spied a gray catbird feather lying on the deck. "Mama, let's make ink! The feather can be our pen!" And so we did. We mashed berries and got dirty and painted with the juices of viburnum, grape, and also black walnut "crayons" as Lupine called them. We colored. We mixed. We marveled. I noticed how the colors changed on the paper as they dried and how lovely the late afternoon light was coming across the yard. I was present. It felt good.
In truth, I wasn't really up for making ink or anything else that afternoon. It had been a full few days and I wanted a break. I wanted to curl up on the couch with my knitting and let everyone take care of themselves. I didn't want to play or read or cook or nurture. I had carved out a few minutes to do just that shortly before her call from the yard.
I rarely have a break from mothering – which is usually fine – but when I am feeling depleted it's hard sometimes to stay present and match the enthusiasm of my kids. And yet, as a homeschooler that is part of my job – to be present, everyday.
Today I told Lupine, "I will play with you today. I promise. And today you will also play alone. Papa and I have you to be with and other things we need and want to do as well." It is a message I never really gave to Sage when he was small, but on days I feel spread thin it is a message we all need to be reminded of. You matter, our family matters, but I matter too.
And when I make time for me I find I can be truly present to the magic that surrounds me every day.