windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (joy fae)
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Friday morning, I woke to the misty, cool enchantment of dawn. After the battering heat and humidity of the day before, I was eager to take advantage of cooler temps. I grabbed my camera, slipped my feet into my clogs, and took off on an early morning walk of the land with the companionship of one very friendly, very adventuresome beagle that I found waiting outside the cabin door.

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Butterflies were out in dancing, laughing clouds of color. Goldfinches dove and banked among the wild echinacea. Brilliant, milky moonflowers glowed in a scatter of magic around the meadow and fenceline. In one perfectly fragile blossom, a camoflaged snowy spider held court. Dew sparkled everywhere and the morning sky was a watercolor wash of pastel pinks and purples and blues. The pathways were sealed, in spots, with iridescent webbed barriers and I felt like the only human alive in a world of bountiful, busy little creatures. Everywhere I looked, the Earth was bright with life. Grasshoppers skipped ahead of my shoes and great black butterflies drifted down to investigate the bright surface of my hat or the amber pattern of the freckles on my bare shoulders. I found my way down to the rock-bottom creek and walked into its icy, shallow current. Oh, it was glorious standing mid-stream and watching small moonstone-scaled fish and chubby little tadpoles race past my shoes. The rocks glowed underfoot, reflecting all the colors of the sunrise, of the wildflowers, of my heart. Oh, to be alive and alert and awake and aware, to be fully present in the magic of a summer morning in nature!

Photos from my morning hike under the cut )
~*~

By 9:30am, it was time for everyone to meet up at the main house and split up into our respective small support groups. There were four of us in my group and I welcomed the opportunity to get to know the others better. The facilitator of our group was a guy I'd met back when I first joined Mystery School but didn't fully recognize until the second day at the Grove. Life or magic or presence or something had utterly transformed the way he looked and carried himself. It was eerie and interesting--I tried not to stare. After our group broke up, it was time for a morning Breath and Song, Prayer and Trance work session. It was really an amazing demonstration of skill and spontaneity. It started with clapping, rhythm, breath and then a handful of facilitators beginning to hum and tone and wordlessly sing. Others joined in. I joined the building song, adding my own melody, my own complementary rhythm, soulful rise and fall, and soon the room was filled with a yearning, magical, entirely improvised, wordless song of prayer. Each individual was singing their soul and yet together, somehow, it worked and together, somehow, we all made a beautiful, coherent, rich and dynamic whole. It was one of the most incredible, empowering, all-out-abandon experiences of song in my life and it was essentially an unplanned morning tune up and gathering-of-the-tribe. Phenomenal. Every hair on my arm raises just remembering the song of that room, the light in everyone's eyes, the glow and power and rock-em-sock-em gorgeous group of people I was surrounded by, singing with, singing to.

We moved into breath work and I closed my eyes and found a comfortable, grounded place to sit on the floor as I was coached through the Breath of Wind, the Breath of Rising Embers, the Breath of Rolling Waves, the Breath of Growing Trees, and the Breath of the Divine and Mysteries. By the time the morning session was ready to begin, I'd experienced a breath/energy/body/spirit connection in a completely new, immediate, impossible to ignore way. It was terrifying and challenging and energizing and enervating. Just a glimpse into an entire world of ritual tools I'm unschooled at.

~*~

At our morning session, we went back to the story of Psyche and her choice to pursue the path of challenge. I don't remember if it was River or Cynthea or somebody else who led the discussion, but what struck me from that session was that the path of challenge leads us to our very self. It is tempting, so temptingly easy, to settle for the other option--easy success and the approval and admiration of others. The harder path is less glamorous! Why, on the easy path, everyone can look like a star because they are doing the things they are naturally gifted at. The path of challenge, however, is littered with opportunities to look foolish, experience complete failure and silly mistakes, and to be viewed as unlikable or different. Psyche could have remained, forever, a beloved princess to her people. They loved her for just who she was! She could fill the role with ease and looked graceful every step of the way. Imagine, then, when she chose the path of challenges, how absurd and clumsy and out-of-her element she must have appeared before she battled through and grew from her experiences! Hadn't I just admitted to myself, this month in Temple of the Twelve work, that one of my three greatest heart wounds was that I didn't try things for fear of looking ridiculous, embarrassing myself, and failing? Here, in morning session, I was hearing that was a pretty common reason why people stick with what comes easy to them--why so many women like me might choose life as a princess in comfort instead of a life of fighting to be acknowledged as an equal to a God. I'm scared to show my loving public that underneath the smooth, princess exterior lies a bumbling, make-it-up-as-I-go girl prone to failure, mishap, and absurd pratfalls!

So here's the part that hooked me right through the chest. Knowing all that, knowing that there is a choice between the easy path of doing what you're good at versus the challenging path of becoming fully who we were meant to be--the very purpose of life isn't to sail through gracefully, masquerading as someone put-together and worthy of a pedestal. The purpose of life is in our own, individual process of becoming. A forest is magnificent in its diversity, when the many varied seeds become their intended selves. We are all born seeds in that forest. Born seeds. Not blank-slate seeds but specific seeds. I don't know what I will grow into, I fret and worry and flail around because I don't know how to become the shape I'm supposed to be because I wasn't born with a seed packet description or a photo of my fully mature, realized state. I don't know what kind of seed I am! How can I grow into something without that information?! This has bothered me for years now, because Mystery School talks a lot about souls as seeds growing and I always draw the blank. I don't know what my vision for myself is. I don't know what I am meant to become. I don't know who I truly am, at core, and that is perhaps expected as that is a life's work and more to get to the bottom of. But what blew me away was the thought, finally, that seeds don't have to know what they are growing into. When they grow, they are also becoming, and no forethought or blueprint is necessary. I am a seed and what I have the potential to become is set. A Mystery to me, but not something I have to figure out. I don't have to wait to figure it out in order to grow--I need to allow myself to grow and see what I grow into becoming. I'm already a certain kind of seed. All I have to do is grow. There is no need to know anything beyond that. Once I figured that out, totally accepted the reality of that necessary blind faith, in the hospital a little voice said with great loving charity to me: You are a sugar maple. I don't have to know how that translates into a human life. I don't have to know where I'm headed. I just have to grow and trust that the essence of myself, that seed of me, will direct me into my best, intended shape.

The Sugar Maple (photo by realkuhl on Flikr)

~*~

Mother

Jun. 9th, 2010 12:00 am
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (invocation)
This evening, I was flipping through old digital photos (mostly of swaps) that I had hosted on Photobucket from my pre-Flickr days. So many of those photos exist nowhere else, trapped on computers that went kerplunk or on the laptop that was stolen in the home invasion we had right before we got married. Not so long ago, but it feels like forever.

Photobucket
Daniel took this picture of me when I was full-term with Graeme. I couldn't fit into any of my shoes, was getting very little comfortable sleep and I was 85 lbs heavier than I started 9 months before, but I was still literally glowing and gorgeous.

I forget, too often, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at any given moment. I forget, too easily, that I am embodied in this life for a purpose that only I can fill. I forget, until I'm reminded by finding photos like this, that I am part of the divine whole.....with you.

Blessed, Blessed Be.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (perfect love)
I decided I couldn't force you to visit Flickr to see everyone's brilliant, beautiful costumes. So a photo post! After you scroll through these, I *know* you'll want to see more on Flickr. :D

Friday
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Really, I have no ups.

More photos of everybody under the cut... )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
On Sunday, we spent our morning dodging raindrops at the Palm Beach Gardens Green Market, where we bought some homemade donuts and guacamole. In the afternoon, while Graeme napped and I visited the craft store (where I fell off the not-buying-wagon to the tune of $30), Sequoia and her Grandma went to see Date Night at the local theaters. I guess that was embarrassing, despite the PG-13 rating, because of the sexual content and jokes and the, well, sitting next to your grandma part. Both were mortified at the end of the show. We drove down to Darbster for a late lunch and then drove home so that Daniel and I could go out to the movies while the other two girls stayed home watching Graeme. Well, first we had to earn our time off by dealing with some bathtub + stomach upset disasters. And just when the bathtub was disinfected and refilled, it happened again! Oh, thankfully Daniel was there to deal with the grossest of the jobs. ;) So once we boiled ourselves, we went out to the theaters and, in a show of solidarity and to be in on the joke, went to see Date Night, too. It was a lovely evening out solo. :)

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Today, things are winding down. My Mother-in-Law flew home this morning and we dropped Daniel off at the airport this afternoon. Sequoia will be here a couple more days and then it'll be back to my empty nest. :) It has been a very busy, very nice week. :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Saturday, Daniel took the day off making us a very happy party of five. We drove to Blowing Rocks Preserve for the morning and then had lunch at Jupiter's Food Shack for a crazy-fabulous lunch. In the afternoon, we went to Jonathan Dickinson State Park and took a guided boat ride up the Loxahatchee River to Trapper Nelson's. It was overcast and breezy, perfect really, and we got some close-up views of alligators, turtles, and ospreys in the nest with their young. Graeme remained pretty cool about the whole inactive tour thing, getting a little wiggly but nothing bad for the two hours. After the ride, we hiked up the boardwalk through the scrub to Hobe Mountain, the highest point in South Florida--83 feet, I think. Worthy of lots of jokes, but a great view, too. :)

After the state park, we drove up to Chuck E. Cheese so that Sequoia and Graeme could play together. The place was a mad-house, so maybe not the best plan. They still had fun, though, which is kinda a tall order with both a toddler and a teenager together. :)

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Um. Don't tip over, people. That's a big alligator.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Thursday morning, Sequoia and I walked Graeme up to the closest community park for an hour or two. We got home in time to load into the car and drive to pick up Daniel's mother (Sequoia's grandmother) at the airport. Graeme was asleep in the car until we got home with her and then very put out to be home and not somewhere else more entertaining. We drove around kinda aimlessly and then stopped for snacks at Panera Bread.

In the afternoon, we drove to Juno Beach and watched a bunch of kiteboarders taking advantage of the good winds. I collected more holey shells for my Fairie Festival costume. :) That night, Daniel took his mom out for dinner so that Sequoia and I could shamelessly fangirl over Vampire Diaries in peace. ;)

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A couple more photos here... )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
We woke up late, broke fasts with pizza and breadstick leftovers, and loaded into the car for a trip to the Grassy Waters Preserve. It seems outrageous that just a mile or so from our house is twenty square miles of (relatively) untouched wetlands, alligators and all. Graeme was sad to see that the "park" I'd promised him had no playground equipment. I think he thought it a betrayal. He eventually perked up when I dug around in my backpack for his toddler camera and spent the next hour or more running ahead of us on the boardwalk and taking photos of insects and ferns and his blue velcro sneakers.

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It was hot and sunny and beautiful. We saw lizards and swimming snakes, giant fuzzy bees and papery wasp nests, water-striding cypress trees, tiny silver fish and even a silently stalking alligator. We watched in shock as a group, led by an official guide, stepped off the boardwalk in their shiny white tennis shoes, walking through the swamp with only some nervous giggles and walking sticks, knee deep in the murky muck and tannin-brown water.

It was so beautiful and so alien.

At a certain point, we were too overheated to enjoy it anymore. We got back into the car, bought sandwiches at Jimmy John's, and then picked up Daniel at the airport. Here at home, Daniel took the kids swimming at our pool while I talked to Rhiannon on the phone and nursed my sunburns in the cool of our darkened bedroom. We had gnocchi and salad for dinner and have been playing games all evening long. Such fun! :)

More Grassy Waters Photos... )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Graeme hadn't been able to go to sleep until 12:30, so it was a real shock to the system when my alarm beeped me awake at 4:45am. I threw on clothes and then bundled a still-sleeping Graeme into the car. The roads were mostly deserted, straight, monotonous down to Miami and I was feeling so tired. It was miserable, really, trying to stay awake. We got to the airport alright and picked up Sequoia, whose red eye flight from Seattle had allowed her about as much sleep as I got. Both of us were feeling sick and puke-y and tired on the drive back where, again, I felt like a zombie and had to do stupid things like pinch myself and tap my fingers on the steering wheel to make sure my attention didn't wander to asleep-with-eyes-open status.

Back at home, Graeme zoned out in front of the television while both Sequoia and I beelined it back to bed. I'd sleep for twenty minutes before Graeme needed some attention or food or a channel change and then I'd be back to sleep for another twenty minute stretch. I just couldn't get up! That went on for about three hours of near-complete parental inattention. Sequoia woke up around the same time and the two of us kinda sat and drooled in a stupor, watching Spongebob Squarepants and saying every ten or fifteen minutes of silence--"We should go to the beach today." "Yeah."

We finally got ready and out the door around 1pm. A couple minutes from the beach, Graeme fell asleep in the car and we were obligated to rearrange our plans a bit. Sequoia ran into the grocery store to get us some chips and bagels and we sat in the car for about an hour, talking and snacking. Once Graeme woke up, we grabbed our towels and toy shovels and walked down to Juno Beach.

The sun was so bright, the sky cloudless, and the beach was hot! It was probably in the mid-80s, reminding me that summertime here will be into the high nineties and all humidity. A lot of man-o-wars in the water and on the shore, making the idea of swimming a little less appealing. We were on a mission, collecting shells with natural holes in them for my Fairie Festival costume plans and really had a great time. (Graeme later said it was his favorite time of the day--being at the beach with Sequoia (which he seems to say as, "Keera")).

After the beach and some time at the adjacent playground, we cooled off in town at Gelato Grotto (Yum!) and then visited another playground in the long hours of sunset before going home to play games (we found an electronic Deal or No Deal game of my Mom's, Sequoia pulled out her card tricks, we played School with Graeme who was excited to wear one of my backpacks around the house) and we ordered pizza in and talked about our mutual love of Vampire Diaries.

Lovely day, overall, despite our total out-of-it-space-cadet fatigue. :) Today, Daniel flies in and joins our party! :D

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Mango and Forest Berry gelato!
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (sacred)
This weekend, Daniel stayed home with Graeme, allowing me to meet [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden for the Spring Equinox Woman's Weekend at Diana's Grove in Missouri. It was the most enriching, life-changing, magical sabbat celebration I could have ever hoped for.

Thursday afternoon, I flew up to Chicago. On the plane, I was reading the book Affluenza about our society's unhealthy addiction to stuff and I've been giving great thought to the impact I have upon Gaia in my own life, so it should have come as no surprise that shortly after arriving at my Chicago condo for the night, my iPhone died a sudden death and couldn't be revived. The message there wasn't lost on me, so I happily did without until my return here yesterday. (I was pleasantly surprised to find that pay phones do still exist.)

Friday morning, I lugged my bags to the bus stop, transferred to the train, and rode to the airport to meet up with Sarah. As luck would have it, I found her in the terminal without the use of a phone. That was pretty awesome. :D We flew together into St. Louis and were picked up there by another woman driving to the Grove. The four hour drive to the Grove passed companionably with a stop at Subway for sandwiches. The weather was gloriously warm and sunny. We felt pretty lucky and intrigued to learn that there were only 15ish women registered for the weekend, compared to the crowds of 40-50 I've encountered in the past. We were assigned our own cabin together, with three bunkbeds, so it felt like outrageous luxury and privacy. There was one woman and her dog in the cabin adjacent to ours, but really we felt like we had the run of the place...acres and acres and acres of solitude. The afternoon gave us a couple hours to walk the land together, wade bravely into (and out of!) the icy spring run-off of the rocky creek, visit some of the Goddess shrines/altars on the land, and otherwise sink our roots into that sacred land. At 5pm, we hiked up the hill to the Mystery School House, pinned on our name badges, and circled in the Great Room with the other participants. It was an intimate, warm group. Just over a dozen of us women, aged 12-70?, mothers with their daughters, maidens, mothers, crones. A few of the women I'd met in visits years past and it was wonderful to see and hug them again. Others, I hadn't met, were so kind and open-hearted, it seemed we'd known each other forever.

There were a couple themes to the weekend: the courage of a seedling dreaming in the dark as it stretches towards the uncertain welcome of the spring world and the sacrifice of Persephone returning out of love and service to the world of her Mother, Demeter. We are the Seeds, we are Persephone, we are Demeter.

After introducing ourselves, talking about the weekend and the science of composting outhouses, we split up into smaller support groups and took some time to talk about where we were at emotionally and what we expected from our time at the Grove. At 6:30pm, a communal dinner was served. We had time to hike back to the cabin under the bow moon before hauling back up for what had been billed as an 8:30pm Candlelit Storytelling in the Great Room. What began as a story morphed into a group ritual. There was drumming and dancing and impromptu elemental invocations. I have no conscious memory of what was said. (I should have journaled.) :)

That night, my sinus infection got worse and I froze about to death. I remember thinking that I needed to get out of my bunk and across the room to turn the gas heater up but I was shaking so badly the thought of throwing off the covers I did have seemed suicidal. ;) I did get up and piled on clothes, cranked up the heat, and slept better after that.

I woke up at dawn and took photos around the barn and meadow.

Around 10am, Sarah and I went up to the main house for a quick breakfast before our morning sessions. We talked a little bit about the astrological wheel and all the pairs of conflicting/related issues that spread across its spokes, the solstices and equinoxes that mark it into quarters. Another staff member, a poet and wordsmith, led us through a really neat writing activity. Here's how it worked: Poetry, A Unique Egg Hunt, and other Wordy Bits... )

During the afternoon, the main house was host to some crafting opportunities. The big kitchen table was surrounded by women working on creating collages with their word strips from the earlier session, decorating magical, inspirational eggs, and coaxing the sun onto that sunprint paper. I had no idea what to do with the eggs. On the one hand, I'm vegan and I don't buy or use eggs. On the other hand, it is their big ritual tradition for the sabbat, decorating and exchanging blessing eggs. If I didn't create one, then someone else wouldn't get one. I was totally at a loss for how to proceed gracefully and within my own comfort. The giant bowl of undecorated eggs on the bowl decided me. I did my decorations and when the time came, collected my egg from someone else, absorbed the message of the blessing, and slipped it back into the basket before I left.

At 4:30pm, after a glorious hot shower, we met to plan the evening's ritual. I was randomly sorted into the group to invoke Water, very happily, and we laughed our way through some borderline crazy considerations for how to do that. In the end, we had half a plan and then made it up on the spot later with perfectly acceptable results. ;)

At the last Circles of Support meeting, I cried like a baby. I'd been mentally calculating how many days of my life I could expect to spend on that land at Diana's Grove. When the question came around to me in our small support group of how the day had gone, I surprised myself by completely losing it. I was mourning the loss of it, the loss of my daydreams where I could bring my daughter, my daughters with me to this land. I felt like I'd come to the party about fifteen years too late and I just felt the loss of that passing in one painful rush.

Dinner was at 6pm and then we had a few hours to get dressed for ritual.

And the ritual! It was perfect. The best part was that release of the energy after an increasingly fast, wild, joyous singing She Changes Everything She Touches and Everything She Touches, Changes. We were in the dark, our breathless faces lit by the candles we each held, as the chant ended and we all took a huge, collective, grinning breath. Looking around at the faces of all those women, beautiful, wild, joyous women of all ages, gave me perfect faith in humanity's goodness, the power of the Craft, and my own divine ability to make a difference. One of the staff members looked over us all and proclaimed us something like "Beautiful, powerful women all. Changers. You have the power to change eternity, to change the world." We are all seeds dreaming ourselves up through the dark, close to making our colorful entrance to the world of light, of spring. :) Sarah and I went back to the cabin and stayed up talking long into the night. The ritual had unlocked something in both of us, the door to the path of our lives. Torrents of words about where we each suddenly knew we were headed and tarot cards to reinforce that knowing with images. Witchy slumber party par excellence. :D

Sunday morning, we woke up to a steady, icy rain and the reminder that it truly takes courage to sprout in spring. The weather isn't always welcoming! My sinus infection shrugged off the 15-whatever-days of antibiotics and I was back to having pockets stuffed with tissues and tins of cough drops and drinking all the water I could stand. The damp wasn't helping me feel like less of a troll, I can tell you that! :) I've been told I'm not contagious at this point, but it was still hard not to feel like a plague. Very shy and sniffly. :)

At 10am, after breakfast, we had a tarot session with the Grove's resident Tarot expert. Really, every tarot session with her brings up new techniques, new insights, new wisdom. What is it I'm planting to bloom in my life? Every woman had her own answer--mine was the 4 of Wands. Funny as that's what I've gotten every time I've been at the Grove. Another portal to cross, another new life born from the work there.

We exchanged eggs, hugs, good wishes and had lunch before packing up and saying our goodbyes to the damp, daffodil brightened spots we'd come to love again. Long drive to the airport in the rain, rain delays, long walks at the airports with leaden, clothes-stuffed bags. In Chicago, I took the train back to the condo for a quick sleep before my morning flight back to Florida. I decided, fortunately, to take a midnight shower before falling into bed where I found, to my horror, a tick dug tenaciously into my shoulderblade.


AAAAAAAAAGGGH!

(It's okay now. Provided I don't get Lyme. But really, I kinda freaked and when the suffocate-them-with-goop-so-they'll-let-go didn't work, I just used all my strength and ripped the little bugger out of my skin. My immune system will have to dispose of his little mouthparts.)

AAAAAGH!

Ahem. Yes. I've had two ticks in the whole of my life and they've both come from the state of Missouri. Missouri, I'm looking at you! ;D

But hitchhiker notwithstanding, it was an incredible weekend.

Photos here... )
Lots more photos at my Flickr page.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (outdoorsy)
Yesterday morning, we drove over to the Palm Beach Zoo.

All the reasons I'm not too keen on zoos and maybe why I should change my thinking...under this cut. )

The place was unrecognizable. Small but delightful. Fewer animals occupied larger habitats, lushly planted with local trees and plants and laced with running water features. Daniel was telling me that they have become something of the great non-profit success story, having raised tens of millions of dollars for all the renovations they've made. As a zoo, it wasn't ideal, but obviously there were a lot of minds at work on behalf of the captive animals. It was shady and tropical, so pleasant to stroller around and take photos. Graeme was especially thrilled by their brochure map and used it to successfully navigate us to the parrots (priority #1), the kangaroos (priority #2), and the white alligator named Mardi.

Animals were separated into geographic areas. The South American section was themed as ancient Mayan ruins peeking out of the jungle. They had big stellae and pyramids. It was crazy and beautiful.

Oh! And along with wild white ibis and chickens running around, they also had free-range peacocks and peahens nesting in the trees and strutting around. Pretty magical at times.

Photos from the Zoo )
After the zoo, I dropped Daniel and Graeme off at home and stole about three hours by myself to thrift shop for clothes at the two biggest Goodwill stores in my area. (I rarely have the time to try on clothes with an unpatient toddler underfoot, so it had been a long time since I got that scavenger joy of flipping through the racks.) For about $60, I about doubled my wearable, "it fits!" wardrobe: two pairs of pants, a jacket, six or seven shirts, a black embroidered skirt, a cocktail dress. I am over-the-moon with my finds. The jacket, for instance, is a brand-new J.Jill in this cheerily spunky watermelon pink/peach color. It was $15 originally but was 50% that day *and* there was a dollar bill in the pocket when I got home. So, what's that? $6.50 for a quirkily brilliant coat. :D Hanging all these tropical-bright purchases in the closet next to a sea of blue-green, gray, and black, I could literally see the depression-fighting powers the Florida sunshine has offered. :) I'm like, a super-powered rainbow now. ;)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Friday, the day of my mom's wedding, Graeme woke up with the hot, paper-dry skin of the fevered. He complained of bees in his nose and a sore throat, too, alternating the day between extreme lethargy and sudden torrents of tears. Daniel and I both felt run-down from our busy past couple of months. In Chicago, Daniel was supervising the remodeling of the condo and had spent three days operating on little sleep so he could box and haul away most of our worldly possessions before the floor guys started ripping up and replacing the wood floors. Here in Florida, I hadn't packed for the cruise, had nothing really appropriate to wear to my mom's wedding, and was living in a crazy-mess of a house. We talked on the phone, commiserating with each other, and decided to cancel our participation in my aunt's birthday cruise. It lifted a huge burden off of us. We'll get about 90% of the cruise cost refunded to our credit cards, won't have to drag a sick baby onto a boat in the middle of nowhere, and have gained seven precious days at home together without work or obligation. It has been divine ever since making that decision!

Around five pm, I bundled Graeme up into multiple fleecy layers and strollered to the neighborhood gazebo where my mom was getting married to her long-time boyfriend, Bob. She sprang the wedding idea on us last minute and I was pretty resentful of how she turned my aunt's birthday celebration into her own conveniently pre-paid honeymoon. Still, there was no doubting how supremely happy she was in that late afternoon light. About twenty-five of us witnessed them exchange some moving, personal vows (including one by Bob to act as her "knight in shining armor") and within a few minutes, they were married. We caravanned over to my aunt's patio which had been transformed with only a couple week's notice into this gorgeous wedding reception, complete with orchids and palm fronds and warm pools of candlelight. My mom was sparkling with happiness. For better or for worse, she's embraced this course of her life and looking around at the other guests, most of whom I'd never met, I could see how much my mom's life has diverged from my own. She is her own person and totally unaccountable to me. She has found ways to reinvent what her life is all about and has a whole circle of friends and new family that help her to do that. It was bittersweet but, with Graeme clinging and Daniel flying in later that night, mostly just sweet.

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The reception ended early so everyone could finish getting ready for the cruise departure the next morning. I drove over to the airport and picked up Daniel. Such a relief to know, at least this week, he won't be flying away in a day or two and he won't be closeted in his office working until 2am. No, I get seven days with my husband! :)

Saturday, Graeme was snuffly and a bit under-the-weather, but he still announced, "Today, we are going to the beach!". How could I say no to that?! The three of us packed all our beach towels and toys and bundled up for the breezes. My brother Matthew, who'd come into town for the wedding and wasn't able to afford the cruise, called and we made plans to meet in Jupiter at the beach. He brought his wife and our two nephews, Gideon and Elliott (who is Graeme's age). It was such fun to see everyone playing in the sand and the surf. After the beach, we visited an adjacent playground and then drove over together to get lunch at Pollo Tropical, this Cuban fast-food place we love here in South Florida.

After lunch, we split from Matthew's family. I got the sheer luxury of a trip to Goodwill and an after-lunch nap (!!) while Daniel and Graeme played at our park. That night, we played with animals, picked up groceries at Greenwise, gave Graeme a bath and made pasta and steamed broccoli. Mmm. :) It was a perfect family night.

Sunday, I finally admitted defeat. Graeme's homemade whoops!mullet had to be repaired professionally. We drove to a children's hair salon at the Wellington Mall and watched Graeme go from stubborn terror ("I'm scared of the barber! I don't want a hair cut! I don't want my hairs cut!") to proud delight as he announced to anyone who would listen ("Hi, I'm Graeme. I got my hair cut today! I have a new hair cut!").

I'd gotten a completely unexpected refund in the mail for $80 and immediately vowed to apply it towards my Pajama Program collection. I darted around the mall for about an hour and added six big kids sized pajama sets to my collection with the funds.

Oh! Oh! So, I didn't mention the other surprises at the wedding reception. My brother and sister-in-law, as a gift for our 5th Anniversary, gathered 28 pajamas to donate in our honor. My mother even took time from her festivities to deliver five fuzzy fleece sets. That, with my weekend's purchases, brings me to a total of 237 pajamas to donate. How outrageously generous and good-hearted are my friends and family! <3 :)

After shopping, we stopped at Darbster for another amazing, nommy vegan meal. (Hello, tempura-battered cauliflower in sweet chili sauce!)

More photos here... )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
On Saturday, [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden and [livejournal.com profile] willow_cabin's last day with us in Florida, we scrambled a bit to try and get everything done that we'd missed. In some ways, we failed and the boys (Graeme, Daniel and, even moreso, [livejournal.com profile] radshaun) got crushed under the wheels of our getting-it-done-mobile. We needed a teleporter, frankly. And a babysitter for Graeme.

Daniel gamely tagged along with us and entertained Graeme while we visited Juno Beach for a bit of a beach fare-thee-well and toured the sea turtle rehab and release center at the Juno Beach Marinelife Center...aka "The Turtle Place". Now, let me say that the mission of the Marinelife Center is one after my own heart and getting to see their exhibit on sea turtles and walk outside to pay calls on the patients in the hospital's tanks is wonderful, but the gift shop is out-of-this-world. An entire posh little shop filled with everything sea turtle themed that has probably ever been created. Coffee tables, coffee mugs, bath mats, tub toys, jewelry, bags, books, pens, journals, candies--you name it. It is the most fun shopping in the world.

After that, we met back up with Daniel and a cranky-possibly sick-soon to be sleeping baby Graeme in the car and headed to a restaurant nearby for lunch. Graeme was asleep, Daniel and I were debating who would sit outside in the car with him and skip lunch, and in the end we decided to ignore our growling stomachs a little longer and drive about an hour south to a New Age/crystal shop that we'd visited together last year. At this point, Shaun, who'd been trailing behind in his own car like someone following vague clues on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? gave up and bailed and Daniel looked like he wanted to bail out the driver's side door. It was a little rough, to be honest, and even moreso when our GPS drove us to the entirely wrong place.

We eventually arrived at The Crystal Garden in Boynton Beach and spent an hour (okay, probably more) shopping amongst its rooms of books, incense, jewelry, and polished crystals. I picked up some beautiful pieces of pink opal, selenite, ocean jasper, along with a couple others whose names are eluding me right now. Graeme woke up, again, in a terrible mood and he and Daniel both got antsy waiting for us in the car. It wasn't pretty.

We piled back into the car with our purchases and drove, grumpy and half-starved, to Darbster, this awesome little waterfront outdoor vegan bistro in West Palm Beach. The food was outstanding. Delicious. Incredible. Crave-worthy. So that went a long ways towards restoring our sense of center.

After a late lunch, showers, and naps at home Sarah and I drove over to the moonlit Juno Beach for a sort of combo Full Moon esbat/early Imbolc ritual. I'll figure out how to tackle my experience of that in another post, but it was perfect.

This morning (Sunday) I got up at 4:30am and drove the girls to the airport. In another hour or two, I'll be dropping Daniel off at the airport again as well. I have a bit of that empty nest syndrome. Everything is so quiet and still after all the activity and company I've had the past week. What a wonderful, wonderful week it has been. :) <3

Thank you, [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden and [livejournal.com profile] willow_cabin, for the love and the memories and the many, many, many, many hours spent companionably basking in the wind and water and sun of "my" ocean. :) We love you so much and miss you already. :)

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Graeme's Cam:  Jenn and Sarah
(Graeme took this photo of the girls at Darbster. So sweet.)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
Friday, we were lucky enough to have Daniel acting as a babysitter. We woke up early and headed out, just us girls, to the unbelievable beauty of Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island. It is unlike any other beach I've seen in Florida with water-sculpted limestone forming ledges, caves, and living art pieces right at waters' edge. We arrived at low tide and were able to pick our way through areas that are more-often-than-not underwater. We spent hours meditating, picking our way over (and under) the rocks and taking photographs. It was fucking spectacular. The mad, crazy-beautiful goodness of the earth on display in one place.

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A break for photos...lots of photos. )

We eked every second we could out of it until we had to rush back to get Graeme and allow Daniel to get back to work for the day. With Graeme in the car, I think we did some more mundane things like visit thrift stores (mostly thriftFAIL!) and shiver at Juno Beach together just after twilight. That evening, Daniel's generous babysitting continued so we were able to have dinner at Whole Foods (thank you, vegan hot bar items!) and then go to see Avatar 3D together.

I am still processing the awesomesauce that was Avatar. Everything I've read resonates with me. Yes, this changes film-making and Yes, this is a must-see, and Yes, this is a pagan-hearted movie and Yes, it does remind you powerfully of some other natives v. destructive intruders stories like Pocahontas and Fern Gully. It was all that and far more. It has the same crushingly relevant social commentary of Wall-E and made me forget, against all odds, that I had to pee for three hours. ;) What can I say?? It was heartfelt and sobering and crushing and wonderful.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
On Thursday morning, we (Sarah, Jenn, Graeme, and I) packed up our beach supplies and drove to Jupiter Beach. Graeme happily dragged his t-ball set out to the sand and we played some strange toddler versions of baseball and catch with him when we weren't standing knee-deep in the surf, burying our sunburned feet in the sand, or adding to our truly monumental seashell collections.

The sea has incredible powers of healing. The hours we spent on the beach during the visit scoured all the negative thoughts, the shadowed self-images, the anxiety and darkness clear out of my soul. The sun warms bone deep, the sea air enlivens my lungs, my heart, the sand gently smooths my skin, the sound of the surf and the wind gently block out every other thought. I can't explain it. It is so immense, so unceasing, so calming--like falling into the night sky, vast and silent, wild and watching, and having its presence whittle down, by comparison, every little trouble and pain and worry until they can be shrugged off as unimportant.

After the beach, Graeme fell asleep in the car and we had the chance to drive to Jonathan Dickinson State Park. I stayed in the car (no doubt, playing more Bejeweled) with Graeme while the [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden and [livejournal.com profile] willow_cabin climbed Hobe Mountain lookout. (If that's a mountain, I'm a mountain goat.)

We drove further into the park, along the banks of the Loxahatchee River. Another thirty minutes or so, and Graeme woke up feeling fussy. We visited a small playground in the park and then hiked for a short toddler jaunt on the Kitching Creek Trail. He perked up a little at the numbered trail markers, claiming he was on "a number hunt" and looking for each in order.

After the park, we drove by like three thrift stores and found them *all* to be closed. (South Florida, the sidewalks roll up in time for the early bird specials at diners.)

At home, we ordered pizzas from Pizza Fusion, an organic, earth-conscious delivery place in my area that has, bless their hearts, a "Very Vegan" pizza. It was an evening of overeating and watching episodes of The Vampire Diaries in my not-subtle bid to win new fans to the show. (Did I succeed? ;D)

All-in-all, a very pleasant outdoorsy day.

Now excuse me as I get to the real point of these posts--the photos! (A zillion more can be found on my Flickr page. Though strangely I don't have many from this particular day.)

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And a couple more under here! )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
On Tuesday night, Graeme and I, along with [livejournal.com profile] radshaun, went to collect [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden and [livejournal.com profile] willow_cabin from the airport to celebrate our second annual Winter in Florida vacation together. :D It was late and we'd all had long days, but that didn't stop us from staying up and talking even longer.

Wednesday morning, we woke up late and drove over to Juno Beach, Florida. It is the beach where we spent all our time last year, so it was the perfect place to soak up sunshine and ocean breezes. We spent several hours there, almost always the only people on the beach. Graeme dug holes and molded sand with his beach toys, the rest of us took photos and scanned the sands for shells and coral and those neat little surf-rocks.

After getting well and truly burned at the beach, we drove to a Jupiter new age store with an amazing jewelry collection. Graeme fell asleep in the car, so our next stop at the Jupiter Goodwill store for thrifting left Sarah and Jenn by themselves while I played Bejeweled in the car.

Daniel (newly arrived from Chicago) and Shaun met back up with us for lunch at Pollo Tropical, a Cuban fast food place with lots of beans and rice and yucca on their side item menu.

After lunch, we drove to the Jupiter Lighthouse, the oldest structure in the area (1860) and took their once-a-month sunset tour. The climb up the staircase was tiring (the climb down terrifying) but the view of the Loxahatchee River pouring out into the ocean, the sun sinking behind the horizon, the palm trees waving beachside was awe-inspiring.

More thrifting afterwards in North Palm Beach (the most expensive Goodwill I've ever seen) and then we drove home for dinner, a delivery of vegan cupcakes (from my [livejournal.com profile] help_haiti winning bid), and a viewing of a Tasha Tudor documentary. (The happiest thing captured on a VHS tape--ever!)

But really--this post is all about the photos.

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windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (ocean mom)
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We arrived at the beach, barefoot, after a late afternoon nap in the car. It was the first mild day we've had in a week--the wind had subsided to a pleasant, stirring breeze and the sun warmed the air to a comfortable sixty-something degrees. Still too cold for sunbathers and swimmers, but perfect for us in sweatshirts to spend a few hours playing on the beach as the setting sun painted everything pastel shades of pink and purple and magical blue.

Curious seagulls and sandpipers skipped closer to inspect Graeme's excavations with shovel and pail. He collected shells and sand and bleached pieces of feather-light driftwood and we spent hours ranging up and down the beach, climbing towards the sea grape and the dunes, running back to the hard-packed low-tide sand. Graeme toddled along and would turn around, always excited to recognize the shape of his own feet pressed into the smooth sand. He picked up grubby fistfuls of sand and cycloned them into the air around him, raining sand on his shoulders and hair. He listened to the sound of the waves and claimed, more than once, that he heard a whale in its depths. He borrowed my camera and took photos of the sand, the sea, and the "nice blue sky".

As the sun set, I carried him and his bucket back to our car, making a stop at his request to say goodnight to the sea turtles bedding down in hospital tanks across the way at the Marinelife Center. We blew them kisses through the chain link fence.

Every moment of it--perfect.

God let me never forget the hours spent together, the genius and gentleness of my son at this age, and the way I felt--complete, fulfilled, humbled to be so blessed.

Photos--Both Mine and Graeme's )

Graemeisms

Dec. 21st, 2009 04:59 pm
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
A conversation over dinner:
Me: Graeme, if you could have any animal as a best friend, who would you pick?
Graeme: Elephant! Elephant's my best friend.
Me: What animal do you think is Mama's best friend?
Graeme: A tree!
Me: Well, that's sweet. Mama does like trees, you're right.
Graeme: Trees are nice friends. Windows are nice friends, too. An owl! An owl! Owls are nice friends, best friend.
~*~

Here's a couple shots from the first 300+ digital photos that Graeme took yesterday/today on his little toddler cam. :D The resolution is crap but the thing can take a beating. Eventually I'll teach him to use my camera.

Graeme's Cam:  Self-Portrait
Self-portrait.

Graeme's Cam:  Falling Stars in the Yule Tree
Falling Stars in the Yule Tree
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
On Saturday morning, we loaded up our car with art supplies, a camera, and some toys and drove over to the Garfield Conservatory. It is this incredible historic (1906) complex--something like 4 acres of growing plants under glass. The Palm House has 65 foot ceilings and some of the palm trees growing in it seem to be touching the glass. We shed layers of clothing, took deep appreciative breaths of the warm, humid air, and felt healed by an afternoon there. The Fern Room is designed to look like something prehistoric. Water tumbles into a large pool, the path snakes through, past, under ferns and fronds and along rock walls completely obscured by a curtain of moss and other green, growing things. It did seem like something out of a sci-fi movie. :) There was just so much to do and see, so many secret little places to sit, so many plants whispering to each other, so much sunshine and warmth to bathe in. :) The crazy thing is this place is free! Always free!

We sat down to a lunch from the gift shop (spinach + candied walnuts + dried cranberries=win! bread+veggies+hummus=win!) and then made some Yule sun ornaments for our tree.

Photos! )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (G&I)
Thrift Find: Aeromax Get Real Gear Jr. Fire Fighter Jacket
Found At: Salvation Army Chicago, IL
Price Paid: $3.00
Why I'm So Excited:
Three reasons!

1) This is the best quality children's dress up/costume piece I've ever seen. I only found the jacket, so it is hard to compare, but the original price for the jacket, suspender pants, and matching helmet is a prohibitively expensive $59.95. I paid $3 for a perfect condition jacket.

2) It matches Graeme's beloved, wants-to-wear-it-everywhere "Fire Chief" helmet (another thrift store find for $1).

and most importantly?

3)

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Fire Chief Graeme loves it!!

Thrift stores allow me to buy a lot of wonderful, high quality toys and clothes. He gets the best European wooden toys and educational games, a wealth of books and cute outfits to wear and it is all thanks to the magic of the thrift store treasure hunt. :)

What wonderful things have you found in thrift stores or garage sales lately? Anything that delighted the inner two year-old within? :D
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (windysmile)
We had a surprisingly great weekend in New Jersey. One of our friends, a naval aviator named Trey, had surprised us all when he showed signs of settling down and sent us invitations to his Jersey shore wedding at Point Pleasant Beach. Daniel and I were both feeling iffy about things--not too wild about going to New Jersey and unhappy to find Graeme barred from the festivities. Things turned out, like New Jersey, to be much better than advertised. :D

Friday morning, we flew into Newark and immediately most of the things I'd heard about New Jersey proved true. (And this is really saying something given the city that *I* live in. ;) ) The baggage claim was full of signs warning travelers of thieves and shysters. The bathroom stalls had warning signs, too, which I jokingly translated to Daniel as "Watch your ass!". Across the water from the New York City skyline, Newark looks like an industrialized wasteland pouring all its resources, paying outrageous tribute, across high power lines to the City and into which NYC exports all its pollution and filth. It was the single most depressing drive we've ever made. At some point, when we were no longer traveling parallel to New York City, the scenary made a drastic change from industrial wasteland to autumn wonderland. Maybe New Jersey isn't the armpit that I'd been led to believe. Maybe, just maybe, there is still something natural and spectacular to it. We felt relief and a glimmer of hope.

Photos and text about our weekend, including the best vegan food of my life, under the cut. )
The reception at the nearby Yacht Club was where things felt celebratory. It was a lavish event. We spent about an hour and a half at a cocktail hour with a full bar and dozens and dozens and dozens of appetizers available. They rang a little chime at 6:30pm and we all processed up a flight of stairs to the dining room where the five course meal was served between rounds of dancing on the dance floor.

Frank Sinatra was cued up first. Daniel and I went out to show off our Fox Trot skills (we haz them!) and smiled and laughed and flirted like we'd been the ones just married. There were club hits and old classics and it was unlike most every wedding I've been to in that everyone danced between every course. Grandmas jumped to Black Eyed Peas and the flower fairy waltzed. A ring of Navy pilots kept things going with silly breakdancing and grandstanding when things threatened to quiet down. It was really, really fun.

We got back to the hotel around 10:00pm in a downpour, racing through the parking lot in my heels and laughing heartily. Graeme was in the room, happily playing with Raquel's son. We packed, went to bed early, and headed back home early, early in the morning on Sunday.

(Where we spent the day at the park near our house, at the flea market by the airport, and at our newest Whole Foods which is billed as the largest ever built.) Hello, locally made vegan pumpkin donut holes. Hello, vegan takeout cool case. I love you! :D

Great weekend. :)

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Back home in time to enjoy a perfect autumn day!

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