The Cure for Anything

 

Watching for Arthur, By Michael Edwards

Watching for Arthur, By Michael Edwards

“The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.”

-Isak Dinesen

Spending time at the shore did feel like a cure, and we would have liked to stay. Back in land-locked Denver, we have tears and sweat at our disposal. I have to believe that fresh water will cure us just as well; the inundation of late afternoon thunder storms, the rushing creeks and rivers, even the left-over mud puddles, open for one last splash.

I set my computer screen with a Hokusai wave painting and we pore over our shells that still carry Atlantic sand. Is this attraction to big water just the yearning for something different? At the shore we still fought and fussed, grew weary of the wind and the sand that infiltrated our lunch. Wherever we go, we’ll be tethered by our bodies and brains, but when I dive under a wave some knot inside begins to loosen. I see that in the kids too – the sand and the salt and the sky bring something new to the surface. Their shoulders are more relaxed, their faces calm, hands and feet more sure.

Save that Water!

Photo by Michael Edwards

Photo by Michael Edwards

This is the second summer that Sam has attended day camp at SPREE (South Platte River Environmental Education). I’ve been consistently impressed with their program, which involves lots of time playing in the river, as well as lessons in conservation, natural history, and environmental science. The campers are constantly learning, but without the constraints of traditional classroom structures and norms.

Today Sam came home with a ‘nature invention’ – a bug catcher made of two plastic bottles, connected by a cardboard tube, so that he could observe the bugs in action, but also give them a place to escape for shade and privacy. I love his invention because it’s an echo of his own personality. He loves action, but also needs quiet time for recharging his batteries.

Each day he’ll share some new bits of information about water conservation or animal behavior. And this afternoon, when his sister was repeatedly dumping her water bottle out on the sidewalk, he had no problem telling her that she was wasting water, and exactly why she should be more conservation minded (have I already mentioned how much I love eight-year-olds?). We also now know exactly how many gallons of water we go through with each load of laundry and running of the dishwasher, so all of us are working to make sure we run full loads.

The kids are all about the idea of wearing their clothes multiple times before washing them, but we’re treading a fine line between being environmentalists and being just plain stinky. At any rate, I appreciate Sam for reminding us to be more conscious of the resources and energy that we’re using each day, and I appreciate SPREE for helping him learn in a way that’s engaging and meaningful.

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

The poem and the photo sum up our trip to the ocean perfectly.  Ocean waves, sand, shells, clouds – every element reminds me of how small we are. Thank you to Michael for the photograph that captured it all.

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

e.e. cummings

 

Moby-Mix – Oceanic Book Recs

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Earlier this year, Sam and his dad started reading Moby-Dick at bedtime. It was an abridged version, from the dollar store, and it was a big hit, at least for Sam. While there are infinite layers of symbolism that he might explore when he reads Moby-Dick down the road, for now it lives in his mind as a great adventure tale, which is good enough for me.

The story became even more intriguing, when we recently found Moby-Dick In Pictures by Matt Kish. He really created one drawing for every page of the original novel, and each illustration is fascinating. Even though I didn’t start as a particularly rabid Moby-Dick fan, this is a book that I must own. That I will own!

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We’re both in love with the book, and with Matt’s art, so we also recommend his very fine blog.

I thought our whale tale was settling down, and then we found Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalist, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them. If you made it through the title, you might enjoy the book. It’s a dense, non-fiction account of exactly what the title describes. I’m reading it to Sam, and I think we’ll be maximizing our renewal limit on this one. But he loves it, so I’ll keep on reading, all for the love of a water-loving boy.

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What are your watery book recommendations? 

The Wrap Up

There were some low points, but in the end July turned out to be a good month for celebrations, at least for our family. Our hearts are with the many families that weren’t celebrating, especially those affected by the tragedy in Aurora and the fires throughout Colorado.

We’ll leave July with a short list of some of the best things that happened…

1. We made it to the farm! And the kids got to swing in a very sturdy porch hammock, so there wasn’t a repeat of the spectacular fall that Sam and I had during the summer of 2009. There were a thousand other things to love at the farm – tractor driving, barn exploring, clay  bowl making, and good company.

2. We made it to the ocean! We camped under giant trees and overcast skies, and we had just about the best time ever. There were so many other great water experiences – the Dungeness Spit in Sequim (that is a body of water), Multnomah Falls, and lots of creeks, rivers, and swimming pools in between.

3. We spent a lot of time with family. Even though the time was short, it felt like we had the chance to reconnect and get to know each other again.

4. Emily and Shobi got married! The ceremony was all about love and connecting and community. And then they danced. And I cried, but just a little.

5. We made it back to Denver! The ride home was rough, but we pulled together and now it’s done. We’re all appreciating the city again, for various reasons. In August we’re planning 31 very exciting days of scavenger hunt activities around town, that we’ll share with you tomorrow.

Whether you had the best or the worst month, I hope you found moments to celebrate too.

Liberation

Today, I’m celebrating letting go. I woke up this morning smiling, for the first time in too long. I had finally unclenched my little monkey fist, from an outcome that I was overly attached to.

Versions of the “how to trap a monkey” story are ubiquitous (there’s a jar, there’s rice inside, the monkey grasps the rice, he’s trapped, but he still won’t let go of the rice), and I’ve personally been a very foolish monkey this year. For me, the rice is generally an idea of how things should be, how the world should work, of what I perceive as the best outcome.

For example, last month a job possibility came up for us in Washington state. At first I wasn’t completely sure about the timing, but then I was convinced it was the right move by a long list of pros and a short list of cons. And then I clung to that rice like you wouldn’t believe. I was checking out Port Angeles real estate listings, schools, book stores and coffee shops. Planning the monthly trips to visit my hometown. Weekly dinners with my mom and step-dad. Trips with the kids on the ferry, to the Seattle Art Museum and the Pacific Science Center! And maybe I’d join a rowing team again…

Yeah. You can certainly see where this is going. The rice dissolved in my hand, as I held on to my desired outcome so feverishly. When the job didn’t come through, I still couldn’t unclench my fist. The rice was no longer a possibility. But instead of removing my hand from the jar, I dug in my heels, determined that only moving to Washington would do. While I was staring at the jar, trying to break it on the ground and complaining over the unfairness of it all, real life was still going on around me. And it turns out I was sitting in a rice paddy all along, surrounded by beautiful abundance.

Someone I love very much reminded me of all I have to be grateful for. He also reminded me that my family will always love me unconditionally, no matter where I live. No matter how foolishly I behave.

So here’s to liberation, from our own monkey-minds and our own grasping monkey paws. I’m thankful that I’ve finally dropped the rice and the jar. I’m hopeful that I can continue to open my eyes to the present moment, and that I can appreciate what is. And when I get my hand stuck in a jar again (because I most certainly will; this is what all monkeys do), I hope I can remember how to let go, again and again and again.

So, let’s get back to the I Love Denver campaign! Since I missed a few days, involved as I was with that rice, you get some bonus Denver love tonight.

#1 Concerts at Red Rocks. Michael took me there to see a little band called The Shins last month. Why didn’t anybody tell me how great they are!?

I think I’ve cried at every concert I’ve seen at Red Rocks, just out of crazy adoration of the space and the sound. True to form, I cried an extra lot over Simple Song. I’d say it’s worth clicking over to the lyrics. Oh yes, there are water references!

#2 Denver Art Museum. Who needs to take a ferry to Seattle, when you can take a five minute drive down Speer Boulevard, to a very fine museum?  And parking is free on the fourth of July, in case you’d like to go next year. We always check out the interactive lights/bubbles on the second floor, as well as the Western collection. I try to sprint to the modern collection, for some wistful sighs, before the kids beg me to move along. I really could look at those Robert Motherwell prints for days. I have to figure out if I can make it to the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition before it ends on July 8, and Garry Winogrand is still calling my name.