Thursday, September 28, 2017

In My Mother-in-Law's Mother Land

My mother-in-law's family has deep roots in eastern Virginia: she grew up on a large plantation in Prince George County, and one of her ancestors once owned Smith's Fort Plantation. When we were in that area for a family reunion recently we enjoyed seeing her oldest brother's renovated farmhouse on the edge of vast cornfields.  He's not living there yet, so it is gorgeously open and sparse and full of light.

The agriculture in that region is staggering: enormous fields of corn, soybeans, and peanuts....

...and then the occasional darling little lot of cows. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Governor's Palace

Our first tour in Colonial Williamsburg was at the Governor's Palace.  The tour group was enormous and the guide spoke too quickly; Finn was in almost tears trying to soak it all in. If I could offer one piece of advice to tour guides, it would be: speak slowly.  People can't process new information that fast, and just because *you* know it by heart, doesn't mean we do!  (If someone who spoke English as a second language happened to be in the group, they were probably totally lost.)

All that aside, it was a nice tour. 

We are reading  The Scarlet Badge right now, so when the guide began talking about Lord Dunmore, the last colonial governor of Virginia, my children remembered reading about him in the book! It was fascinating to hear of his escape from the palace by night just before the revolution. 

Here's my husband at the edge of the closed, extremely unkempt maze.  Tradition dictates that before you graduate from William and Mary you must (illegally) jump the wall at the Governor's Palace at night and run to the middle of the maze.  "Did you do that?" Finn asked in awe.

Nope!  Trespassing has never been my thing.  And they still gave me my diploma, which is entirely in Latin.  So no harm, no foul. 

And no misdemeanor charges, either.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mortar and Pestle for Weight Loss

I realized last week that if I had to go through this in order to get my supper, I'd be a lot slimmer.  

(September 2017, Jamestown, VA.)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

William and Mary, Revisited

A new place on campus (with an echo spot!), near very old redwood trees.

The legendary Crim Dell. 

Flags commemorating 9/11 in the Sunken Gardens (we were on campus on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks).

Flowers over the President's fence.

Our children climbed a live oak at the very east end of campus.  I ran past it a thousand did I never know it was the perfect climbing tree?

Children notice these important details!

We didn't have enough time for the climbing and exploring, so I've vowed to return with an entire day reserved for nothing but tree-climbing and eating candy.  May it be so!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Home Again

We arrived home this afternoon from our much-anticipated trip to Colonial Williamsburg, whose "homeschool days" dovetailed perfectly with an annual family reunion over in Prince George County. So we stayed with family, attended the reunion, and then crossed the mighty James River by ferry (huge excitement to my children!) and drove into Williamsburg.

Oh, Williamsburg. 

I got up well before the crack of dawn one morning, bubbling with excitement.  Carefully dressed in my running clothes and crept out of the house, careful not to wake my husband, children, or my in-laws.  I drove to a street I know well. I parked a block away from campus. 

I stood in the quiet of early morning and looked out at the Sunken Gardens. 

I crept into Tucker Hall and visited every floor.  I ran my hands over brick walls. 

And then I did what I'd done a hundred times before, what I sometimes dream at night of doing: I turned around and ran from the Wren Building, down Duke of Gloucester Street, past Bruton Parish Church. I wove my way through colonial streets to the Capitol.  Then I ran down past the old gaol and wound my way through streets again,  nodding a hello to the Governor's Palace, and ending my run at the steps of the Wren Building. 

I got back to campus just as the sun, rising behind me, hit the bricks.

So many memories.  I spent four years here as a student at The College of William and Mary.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  Every nook and cranny of campus seems to hold memories.  As I ran through CW and down DOG street, I revisited those days.  Back then when I ran I was trying to outrun my anxiety; only occasionally did I actually run for the joy of movement. Back then my past and future seemed to intersect in a mysterious puzzle.  Who was I?  How could I cope with some of the pains of my childhood?   How did my past inform who I was becoming?

And where was I going?  What did the future hold?  What choices should I make?  Would I ever feel really well? Would I ever figure out what living was about, or how to live? What was, after all, the meaning of life?

I remember walking through campus and feeling ecstatically alive and young and full of promise and new hope.  I also remember feeling despondent and fearful and anxious and restless.

Spring always hit me with its newness.  I've never had springs like I did back then.  Spring was when I felt most hopeful.  My life was in front of me, a Great Unknown, but promising.  I can't describe the feeling of promise I had.  It invigorated me. I knew even then that the feeling was special, that it wouldn't be like that for every spring of my life.  I hope my children experience springs like that. 

I gave poetry readings.  I studied philosophy.  I worked at a candy shop.  I fell in love. 

 When I graduated from college I was engaged.  I was ready to leave school, ready to start my real life.  And yet even now, I dream of college. In my dreams I'm always running, just like I was then--running through town, running over brick walkways, running around Lake Matoaka. 

I realize now that I was running away from childhood, straight into the future where I now sit.  And that maybe I haven't felt intoxicated by spring in so long because those vague hopes are finally fulfilled.  I ran down the dream and the dream is so much simpler than I'd anticipated: a little house, a little family.  And faith!  Faith, the great surprise of my life, the rain of grace that I never anticipated.  Yes, faith is part of the dream, too. 

It was, and is, good to be home again. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Love and Delight

Our folksong this term is "Simple Gifts," an old Shaker song that I've heard plenty of times before, but when we listened to this version of it I found my face wet with tears. 

My children are used to this happening at random moments, but Finn still teased me for crying. 

Why did I cry? Maybe it's the cello, which always gets me. Or perhaps it's Alison Krauss, whose voice I love (we danced to one of her songs as our "first dance" at our wedding reception nearly 18 years ago!). 

But actually I think it's because I realized that my whole life could be summarized by these eight lines. My story, like most stories, is a little complex, and I would not have imagined twenty years ago that it would have led me here. But I did, in fact, come down to where I ought to be. 

Through some truly undeserved and unearned grace I'm here in the valley of love and delight.  Every single day I wake with immense gratitude for it.  

 And yes, our backyard valley is beautiful, but I'm talking metaphorically as well.  I joke that I have stray dog syndrome: you know how the stray dog is so fearful, and then it's always the one most grateful when it finds a home?  

It's like that. Every day.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

An Occasion You Could Not Imagine

Yesterday was lovely, a perfect day: up early to watch Mr. Polly run a 5k (third overall!), then a Labor Day parade, then delicious sandwiches from our favorite market for lunch, then a two-hour nap for me--because watching my husband race is always exhausting--then puttering around the house, then dinner on the patio at our favorite local restaurant.  We ate under an enormous oak tree as the full moon rose in the east. 

It was a nice pause.  Today both children began art lessons.  Tomorrow Annie begins ballet (aside: why is ballet so stressful?  Hair nets!  Schedules!  Birth certificate required for registration...yes, I'm serious!).  Thursday I'm having an afternoon tea with a sweet friend.  Friday we leave for our next trip.  And we're doing school, housework, and exercising.

And sometimes I take a minute to read a poem.  This one is the poem that resides on my fridge right now. I like to always have one there, and Jane Kenyon is wonderful. 

There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what 
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

As someone who is consistently surprised at my own happiness, I love this poem.