Is it possible to stand is awe of the beauty that surrounds us – night after night – just staring open-mouthed up into the clouds?
Somehow more amazed in this moment that the last again and again and again?
Yes, I think so.
The last two evenings have been among the prettiest I've ever seen, the light on the hills and on the clouds drawing us out just one more time before sleep.
Had it not been for the children I would likely have missed it, distracted online in the house.
"Mama, look at the light on the hills!" they called.
I snapped shut my computer and we raced outside, together.
I was thankful they were paying attention, even though I was not.
Technically, we were pushing on past bedtime.
Technically, the kitchen wasn't quite cleaned up from dinner.
Technically, tomorrow was a full day and we should have gone to sleep.
But watching my children chase fireflies through the tall grass in the amber light made me want to whisper promises to them through the darkness that I'll never hurry them again.
That I'll never over-schedule.
That I'll never stress.
That I'll be distracted less and present more, lest I miss out on the magic just beyond my window.
I want to promise them that they'll never miss another sunset – another sky painted orange and glowing magically overhead – until they are grown.
Of course these are promises I'm bound to break before the week is out, but still I feel them in my soul.
And I'll work toward honoring them day after day.
Because anything that moves me from "should" and toward magic is good for us all.
The light on the hills never lasts.
Like most things precious the sunset is fleeting. You can drink it up now or miss it forever.
Last week was busy. Too busy. Our emotions were running close to the surface and small triggers were bringing out big expressions. Everyone needed a quiet day at home, some extra snuggles, and less distraction.
So we called off our plans and dragged our picnic blanket out under the trees. We lay on the grass reading books together. All day long.
It was bliss.
It was medicine.
Between chapters we would lay back and find dragons and rabbits in the clouds drifting overhead.
At noon we went inside to pack a picnic lunch and brought it back out to our blanket in the shade.
We enjoyed our day so much that the kids and I pulled out our tent and spent the night camping in the yard. Why mess with a good thing? We were loving our nest in the shade of the maple tree.
And though I'm often tired the next day after we sleep out, I'm never tired enough to wish we had stayed in.
Because summer – and childhood – is brief.
So instead of chasing an arbitrary number on the clock we chased fireflies, unconscious of the hour. Instead of hurrying through our pre-bed routine we danced in the darkness to the night music of frogs, insects, and birds; told stories; and laughed beneath the stars.
And then I remembered that it had been a big week. We all needed rest.
So we tucked into our sleeping bags and lay down for bed.
And then – as if on cue – four silent, flickering paper lanters rose magically from behind the trees, drifting toward the stars from a neighboring farm.
Fireflies, stars, night music, and glowing lanterns. Magic beyond measure.
We fell asleep late but woke feeling connected to the earth and each other. We were rested and brimming with magic and joy.
Should we have gotten to bed on time? I think not.
Because this we will remember always.
Not a blow-out vacation or exciting trip to a theme park.
Nothing boughten or contrived.
Just fireflies. A tent. And the stars.
Simple, home-grown magic.
And freedom from "should".
I am remided again of how brief this moment is.
This sunset, this summer, this childhood.
And I am humbled and thankful to bear witness to the beauty and magic of it all.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Edited to add:
As I re-read today's post I reflected on how for different personalities "should" has very different meanings.
For me it might be about following the rules (self imposed or societal).
For you "should" might be about playing make-believe with your kids or sleeping out in the yard. Or it might be about walking away from your career to mother full time.
My words today are about presence – not the specifics of how to parent.
I urge each of you to honor your truths, your spirit, and your soul's needs.
Not mine, your mom's, or your neighbors. Only your own.
And in the space you create find presence for the things that matter most. To you.
Because therein lies a life of meaning and joy.
Originally published in 2014.