Just three months ago, this is where we lived:
It was a dream come true, to live this close to the water. I am a Cancer, a water sign, a crusty crab. The ocean puts me in my place; reminds me of my smallness in the grand scheme of it all. Yet at the same time, it’s vastness can help me to expand. Transcend. Feel closer to God…if I am open to experiencing God. Somedays I am not. And then the ocean can feel like the loneliest place on the planet.
Phil loves the woods. “So much life surrounds you in the the woods,” he says. “When I step into a trailhead, I go into a meditative zone.”
When we moved into our house in Scituate, I bought two prints by Mae Chevrette, one for my office:
and one for Phil’s.
We didn’t live there long enough to hang them up.
Now, we live among the trees, in a suburb of Philadelphia. This past Sunday (Mother’s Day), there was a heavy energy in the house. The girls were cranky and combative; repeatedly banished to their rooms. Phil – already uptight because Hallmark holidays give him performance anxiety – had no patience for their pinching and poking; for Emma’s quiet teasing and Phoebe’s maniacal response: “EMMA’S MAKING A VAMPIRE FACE!!!”
“To your rooms!” Phil ordered. “Now!”
And up the stairs they trudged, whispering to each other: “It’s YOUR fault.” “Nuh-uh! YOUR fault!” “Nuh-uh! No it’s not! YOU are the one…”
And so on and so on.
I was being a Little Girl in a Huff because it’s Mother’s Day and CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? I decided to leave the job of prison warden to Phil and went outside to mow the lawn.
But the lawn mower, of course, would not start. I yanked and cursed, yanked and cursed, until I finally
kicked the pice of shit gave up and flopped down in the grass. Lying on my back, I looked up at sky and said, “Ugh, HELP.” Something had to give. Our collective energy was as gunked up as the mower. I thought of other times this has happened to us as a family, when everyone falls apart at once our combined resources were low. What did we do to salvage the day, to declare a Do-Over?
We went to the woods. Even when we lived at the beach, we went to the woods. The day following the school shootings in Newtown, we went to the woods.
When our dog Ellie died, we went to the woods.
I abandoned the lawn mower and went inside.
“Let the animals out of their cages,” I said to Phil. “It’s Mother’s Day and I say we take a hike.”
We piled into the car and set out for Rolling Hill Park in Gladwyne. As we navigated our way down the trail head, I could feel us decompress; a collective “Ahhhhh.”
Emma, who has had the hardest time with the move, said, “I love trees. They are so…inspiring. They all have different faces, like friends, kind of. I feel like I’m in a cocoon of trees…like they are giving me a hug.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I never feel lonely in the woods.”
As a kid I remember wondering if the ocean felt lonely in the winter. It felt good to spend two winters by it’s side, to keep it company. Our time spent by the ocean taught us how much in this life is beyond our control, and in order to live peacefully we must learn to just let it ride. To feel exposed. To not hold on so tightly. To let go. To be free.
But I can’t help but think that wherever we are – right now – is exactly where we need to be. That right now, this lush, wooded place is waiting to feed my soul something it needs. Wading in the Mill Creek beneath the shade of the towering oaks, life is calling us to go within, to lay some roots, to feel our feet firmly planted on the ground.
I think the lesson of the woods is to be still long enough to let our roots take hold. To reap the nutrients of the soil. To dig a little deeper into who we really are, what we really want, what we are here to do. To be sturdy and steadfast. To stay. To grow older and wiser, together.
Post hike, the girls crashed on the couch, and I finally mowed the lawn. When I finished, I resumed my position, lying on the ground looking at the sky.
Phil feels guilty for moving us away from the beach. He thinks he stole my dream. But as I lie sprawled out on the driveway looking at the trees, dirt, grass and gravel stuck to the back of my sweaty legs, I am peaceful.
Because what he doesn’t realize is, he is my dream.