amy in blueberry land

Several people –myself included– have asked me recently, how am I doing? How do I feel about our move, now? Depending on the day, even the moment, the answer seems to vary greatly: busy… happy… completely overwhelmed… incredibly grateful… so tired… a bit lost… inspired… in awe… in tears...

We’re still settling in, the dining room is still a storage space for a slowly dwindling pile of unpacked boxes, and this whole “living in Maine” thing?… it still feels kind of surreal. I do not yet feel a clear sense of place. But mostly, lately, I really love it here! It feels right, and I am content, and at peace, being here, now. Slowly, I am beginning to find my ground in our new house, our new town, our new life. And I’m feeling such gratitude for the basic ok-ness of it all! In the early days after our move, before we had moved into our “forever home,” and begun to truly “settle in” here in Maine, there were some moments when something (a line from a song, the taste of a sip of tea, an email sent from far away, some words spoken by my oldest son) would bring forth such a sudden, strong wave of longing, I could barely register it before noticing I was weeping. Most often the longing was for a loved one back in Boulder, a dear friend I wished I could meet for a tea date, see in person, touch, talk to, and hug… or for an old, familiar ritual that used to, perhaps, mark the passage of our days through the seasons, or simply shift our energy when the boys and I were having a frustrating morning together. Have we made a mistake? I worried, in those moments, or, what if it takes a really long time to find friends as loving and supportive and intelligent and inspiring and brave and soulful and, and… sigh.

These things –meeting people, connecting on a deeper level, establishing lifelong friendships, and cultivating conscious, soulful community– well, of course these things will take time.

But creating new, place-based seasonal rituals? Well, we can get started on this immediately! And so, my new obsession was born this summer…

… in blueberry land! This is where I live now, and will live for a brief, delicious time from about mid to late summer, every year from now on.

Looking for berries, berries for jam

Blueberry picking was so much fun, and such a wholesome, summertime activity for the boys.

Later that week, turning those piles of sweet, juicy berries into jam was the most satisfying of tasks. Working in the kitchen of my 150-year-old home, I thought about all the other women, over all those years, cooking and preserving food for their families.

As I stood at my stove, stirring a bit of honey into those simmering, bubbling blueberries, while the boys played nearby with my mom, my thoughts moved from those mothers of years past, to the days ahead of us, the cooler mornings to come, when my family would spread this dark purple jam on our toast…

And slowly, slowly, as those berries began to be transformed into jam, and that sweet smell filled our kitchen, I began to feel my first glimmerings of a sense of place.

peace in the present moment…

This morning, I’d like to share some words from Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. The following essay is from one of his books,

Peace Is Every Step:

Twenty-Four Brand New Hours

Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.

Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don’t have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. We don’t have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy.

We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.

This… is offered as a reminder that happiness is possible only in the present moment. Of course, planning for the future is a part of life. But even planning can only take place in the present moment…

Peace and happiness are available in every moment.

Peace is every step.

We shall walk hand in hand.

Wishing you all a lovely and peaceful day, friends.

the art closet

A few weeks ago, we unpacked a big box of Isaiah’s art supplies. At our old house in Boulder, there was a cabinet in the living/dining room area, which we used as Isaiah’s “art cubby.” It was perfect, as he could access it, and it had doors that closed to hide the mess that a preschooler’s accessible art supply storage area inevitably became. After we moved from our rental in Maine to our “forever house,” as we’ve been calling it, we didn’t unpack the art supplies box right away because I wasn’t sure what to unpack it into. I had this idea that we needed something special and, of course, aesthetically pleasing, to put all of the art supplies in. Specifically, we needed a beautiful antique jelly cabinet, found on Craig’s List, for an amazingly low price.

Well, weeks passed and, not only did this jelly cabinet not present itself, but the money that would have been used to purchase it went toward other things we needed for the house. So, I started to think about alternatives. After unpacking my small collection of coffee and tea sets and crystal bowls into the built-in china closet in the dining room, I found there were two (counting the floor) lower shelves, perfect for a new art supply storage space!

Initially, as things got unloaded and piled in there, I worried that we had too much stuff and not enough space… Since the door is glass, closing it to hide a messy pile of pipe cleaners tangled with random balls of string and sticky glitter glue tubes, etc., wasn’t an option. I don’t do well with messes. (I know– how, then, do I live with a four-year old and a toddler? Lots of deep breaths. Oh, and after-bedtime clean-up time. Isaiah cleans up everyday, but, well, he’s four, and I’m fastidious about our living space, sometimes, perhaps, to the point of obsession.) So…

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent some time watching Isaiah use the closet, and re-organizing and re-arranging the shelves, finding new and improved storage containers for various supplies, and making new labels for them. (Isaiah can’t read yet, but someday…)

Yesterday morning, while Isaiah created some art with glitter, and Quinn explored body art with purple magic marker and green glitter glue, while simultaneously leaving a trail of teeny, tiny balls of mint green play dough all over the house, the art closet was finished! I love it!

In addition to art supplies, the bottom of the closet houses activity books, sticker books, and a stack of large, laminated posters about leaves, trees, bugs, butterflies, etc., that we found last summer at a yard sale. As Isaiah and Quinn get older, the art closet will evolve, I imagine, as storage for more science, nature, and other homeschooling supplies.

Isaiah’s almost four and a half now, and Quinn is 18 months, so my homeschooling plans for this coming school year are very loose, involving, I hope, lots of use of the stuff in this closet, as well as baking projects, free play, backyard explorations, and visits to the local library and the beach. Setting up this closet reminded me of setting up my preschool classrooms in years past. I have always loved the arts and craft corners the most. Inspired by my time spent in a Montessori classroom, I put together a couple of trays, ready-made with all the materials needed for a specific type of art project.

Loose glitter is not something I’ve previously given Isaiah free access to, but I thought I’d try it and see. As soon as he saw the containers of glitter in the tray he asked if he could use it. He worked very intently for a long time, and really seemed to enjoy these simple materials.

We hung it up on his art line to dry, and for display next to some of his other recent artistic explorations.

Hooray for art!

right now: summer!

As these weeks of summer continue to move us slowly and surely toward the first cooler breezes of fall, I am trying my best to stay present with what is happening, right here, right now. For, though summer is, of course, luscious, delightful and full of juicy goodness, by mid-August, I usually find myself daydreaming about crisper air, turning leaves, the unpacking of colorful woolens, apples fresh from the tree… but wait! It is still summer, after all… and rushing it away by moving into autumn in my mind, well, that’s not what I want to be doing right now. The sooner autumn starts, the sooner winter will follow, and while autumn is my favorite season, well, winter is not. So, right now, I am loving:

Playing in water: at the beach, in the backyard, and under raindrops… (It rains here! A lot! I love it!)

Looking for shells on the beach on Orr's Island.

"Look Mama! I'm surfing!"

Beans, our silly dog, waits patiently for Quinn to throw water at her. She loves it!

Berries! Picked and eaten fresh, by the handful; made, by Joe, into incredible toppings for cheesecake and ice cream; baked into muffins; and whatever is left over, tucked into the freezer for those cold days to come… We’ve gone strawberry and raspberry picking this summer, and plan to go blueberry picking this week, this time picking enough for more eating and baking, but also, I hope, making some jam!

We found an amazing organic strawberry patch within a half hour’s drive from our house. Acres of ripe, luscious berries… I only wish we had made it back a second time before they closed for the season. The jam we could have made! Next year…

Morning muffin making boys

On my birthday, I took the boys raspberry picking.

Isaiah picked raspberries with me for a while, until he discovered a huge sandbox at the end of one of the rows of berry bushes… and that was the end of my help with picking! He did help me eat lots on the way home, though.

Quinn wandered around underfoot, picking and eating berries, until he too saw the sandbox. The next night during a diaper change, Papa discovered that Quinn had eaten a green beetle along with his raspberries! Hmm… natural immune-builder, perhaps? Words cannot express how happy I am that the beetle made his appearance in the one diaper I didn’t change that day!

But I digress… Moving on to more of what I’m loving about summer:

Sharing some good old fashioned, small town New England summer fun with my boys…

Isaiah was so intrigued by the cotton candy, and sounded so wistful, asking if we could buy him some, "for a very special treat?" It's summertime, it's the fair, I loved it when I was four... yes!

Visiting with my parents and other beloved family members down in Rhode Island, a mere three hours drive away! This year we were present at my dad’s birthday in late May, and my mom’s in early August, with lots of visits from them (and help with childcare during our two moves!) in between! Such a gift, to live close to my family of origin once again. The boys are soaking up the grandparent-love…

Gramma has two helpers for breakfast-making!

Happy Birthday PePere!

Frosting Gramma's cake...

Happy Birthday Gramma! (Quinn, very concerned, is signing that the candle flames are "hot!")

I didn’t serve Quinn any of the chocolate cake, but he really enjoyed his first bowl of ice cream!

Summertime may be short, but it sure is sweet, don’t you think?

What are you loving right now?

more beach love…

My birthday was on a Monday in mid-July, and we spent the Sunday afternoon before it at the beach. My dad came to celebrate with us, which was a nice surprise. The first time in many years that he has been able to decide spontaneously to visit on my birthday, and just get in the car and drive on over! (Thanks again for coming up, Dad.)

I’ve been loving watching Isaiah’s play evolve at the seashore this summer…

Sand, water, a stick or two…

This opportunity for my boys to grow up so close to the coast is such a gift.

summer at the shore…

Hello from mid-summer in Maine!

We’ve been very busy settling into our new home this past month, and in between unpacking boxes, we’ve been playing at the beach! Today I uploaded about 400 pictures from the last few months, and decided it’s about time I posted some of them here, in this quite neglected space. There are so many, it’s hard to know where to begin… The following photos were taken in early July, at a sweet little beach we found at a nearby state park.

I managed to take a few of both boys together, looking extra cute in their sweet little matching swimsuits, courtesy of Grandma…

Watching the boys play in the sand, I remember so clearly being young at the beach with my family. We spent many days there throughout the summers of my early childhood.

The weight of the salty air, heavy with seawater, on my skin, is so familiar, and so comforting. In the midst of one of my life’s biggest transitions, sitting by the sea, soaking it up through every pore in my body, I know we’ve made the right decision. We’ve found the place we are meant to be, here and now.

On this particular day, Isaiah quickly requested I not photograph him while he played. Quinn, however, didn’t seem to mind…

The littlest among us agrees, I think– we’re happy to be here.

exploring the neighborhood

Across the street, a few houses down from us, there’s a public boat launch. We’ve been stopping by this spot every time we go for a walk, to poke around, explore a bit, and see how high the tide is.

The landscape here couldn’t be more different from the ones we used to explore in and around our old neighborhood in Boulder! It’s so fun to watch Isaiah study everything he comes across, here at the edge of the sea.

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