One of the things many of us are experiencing in the life of the unraveling world is more knitting together across the internet, across the yard, on the bike path, among those in our households, over the phone.

Today, I’m taking time to write to those I didn’t find time or energy to respond to during the “work week” when I was busy sorting through so much related to shutting down, letting workers go, managing the business, trying to imagine what next, while reading the news that changes constantly.

I woke up thinking of the kids and families and of the tree house and sent the e-mail below. So far, a few kids plan to visit.

Meanwhile, my house is getting cleaned. JT is tackling the bathrooms with the attentive, detail-oriented focus that makes him a great copy editor, and I am rambling my way through various chores with the divergent thinking I bring to life, here, there, and everywhere, getting things done and thinking of new things to do as I go.

Isabel made us a fine breakfast, tidied up, and headed out with three friends from Rindge, making me even more grateful for the few months she spent there, which left her with local friends near enough to bike from their homes, far enough that she’s introducing them to the bike paths near our home, venturing into Arlington, Medford, and Winchester.

Later, its the Breakheart Reservation for me and JT, a walk in the woods, and time to be together out of doors. Somehow, the weekend feels like a real relief here. Even as the world unravels, there is joy in connection, in caring for home and neighbors, in doing our work in new ways, in being out of doors and active, in cleaning things that haven’t been cleaned and sleeping in a bit, after years of hardly slowing down or having time or energy for lots of things.

If you’d like to visit the Tree House, let me know, and we can find a time for an appointment. Share your dreams, as well as your fears. Maybe together we can make them true.

Hello All,

I woke up thinking of all of you. When Isabel and I collected her things from her dorm at Landmark, I found the tree house book I used to keep in the day care, and decided to bring it home so I could share it with the children over Zoom or in photos to remind us of our shared dreams and stories. 

Many years ago the tree house in the backyard was built out of the dreams and stories and community of the day care. At a time when my family was breaking apart and my financial future was uncertain, the children wanted to build a tree house. At first I thought we could build it ourselves. When I was a little girl, I had wanted to build a club house in my backyard. My two best friends had fathers who built them each real club houses, with windows and doors and roofs. My stepfather promised, but didn’t. One day I gathered pieces of flat wide siding boards, a hammer, and nails, and tried to get started. I didn’t get far. Somehow, I thought the kids and I could build the tree house with our day care tools. And then I realized we couldn’t. I also realized I didn’t have the money for supplies. The children were not worried. They set about raising money for the tree house. When I saw how committed they were, I wondered who would help us. We put a request out on the list, and soon a grandfather offered to build it with us/for us. He had a son-in-law who was a structural engineer who would help design it, and two grandchildren in the day care, one adopted from Columbia, and one born miraculously shortly after, whose lives and community he wanted to honor.

The children raised one thousand dollars that year! They baked cookies and sold them at the end of the day care day and at Sudbury Valley. They painted pictures and we made and sold calendars. They wrote letters to the parents, and many donated. We had a huge day care yard sale during Porch fest and raised money that way. The grandfather built a wonderful tree house and the children were so happy that all of the children could play in it, with it’s tall sides and safe ramp ladder. The grandfather measured the hanging bars so that each of his grandchildren and their friends would have the right height to test their skills. 

In the middle of the children’s fundraising efforts, that grandfather had a serious stroke. I worried that the children’s dreams of a tree house with a ramp that would go up and down, a rope ladder, a roof, and a pulley to the upstairs porch (which was there for several years but no longer) would not come true. But the grandfather rallied. He came and worked as he recovered. The children could see him from the back door and the porch as he hammered and sawed and built. 

All that year Isabel and her after school friends counted and rolled quarters. She and I set up a passbook account at Middlesex, called The Tree House account, which grew roll by roll of quarters. She is still a wiz with money and manages her own accounts with skill I trace back in part to the year we dreamed the tree house into being.

When the tree house was done, one of the older girls (whose younger brother had dreamt it in the first place, an active guy adopted from Guatemala, whose arrival marked the beginning of our connection) decided to make a wooden marker dedicating the tree house to the day care and to the kids who would use it into the future. We honored that group’s work in a ceremony and for many years the Tree House was a focus of our backyard play.

Two years ago at this time the day care was shut down by EEC after we made and reported a mistake we made by leaving a child at the park. Since that time we haven’t felt able to use the tree house, knowing that we were skating on thin ice and couldn’t afford an injury in the yard on a tree house that didn’t fully meet EEC requirements for backyard play equipment. The children ask about it and we say they may not use it because of rules we need to follow. When we were relicensed this summer, our licensor confirmed with us that we were not using the tree house. Fortunately the ladder the children requested, that could go up and down, has allowed us to see and not visit the tree house, and has prevented the licensors from requiring us to take it down.

This morning I realized I am not currently operating a licensed day care and that maybe some children would like to visit the tree house during this unusual time. I think about how the children are missing out on playgrounds and climbing and getting a different view by being up high. Though some of us, like Emmy and Harper and I, have porches on the second floor, others find their lives more settled down below, and might enjoy being up high and exploring the tree house for a little while.

If you would like to make a date to come and visit the tree house, let me know. I’d have to think about how to stagger the visits and would clear it with my household members so we would all know who is coming and going. While the tree house is mostly made of wood, there are a few parts made of metal bars and two plastic hand holds. Perhaps before leaving a family could wipe those down with something sanitizing.

I’ve also been thinking, as I read the news, about how to share things from the day care if we are closed longer than three weeks, which seems possible to probable. If families would like to borrow  toys or books that are meaningful to their child, or take home the special animal they sleep with at nap, or their nap blanket, or gather things from their cubbies, please let me know. I also have a lot of art supplies I would be happy to share, if families could use those.

I’d like to keep writing about children and learning during this time. I’m thinking about the format I want to use, and will keep you posted. Please let me know if there are topics you’d like me to address or information or ideas you’d like me to share.

So much is changing so fast, I haven’t been able to get my head around fall contracts or tuition or the financial ramifications of all that is happening. If you have thoughts about those things to share, I’m open to a conversation. We are all operating in a landscape that is transforming all around us, in which making plans for the future feels almost absurd.

I am happy for the children to have this time with you, even as I miss them and all of you. For all the stress and challenges, you are the most important people in your children’s lives. They can never get enough of your love and time and attention. May you find peace and love in your connections with your children as well as time for your work and yourselves and your adult relationships.

May our dreams continue to come true,

Maria

I’ve been dreaming about redwoods, reading Wendell Berry’s World Ending Fire, walking in the woods around Walden, wandering the Minuteman path to Spy Pond, telling stories to the children about heading to the forest to build a tree house, thinking about Ashfield and the land there, wondering about growing food and flowers, anticipating working in the garden.

When I woke up this morning, having taken a day off day care to reflect and find a way forward that feels right, I imagined ways our little people could gather safely. Just like in our stories, we would wear backpacks. The children’s parents would pack lunches. We’d wear outdoor gear and wander the bike path, exploring the edges I noticed yesterday, where others would be less likely to gather, collect sticks, bring shovels and buckets, one for each child, with their name on it. We might meet at Walden Pond, where kids could dig six feet apart in the sand they love so much. Parents would need to drop off and pick up at the Pond on those days. Days we explored nearby we might meet in the yard, and walk with a long rope, with loops six feet apart for each child, or with a stroller for the toddler and rules for older ones who might be allowed to run along the path on their own.

I imagined little cloth mittens for my toddler, so I could safely hold his hand, as words don’t always guide him. But are mittens safe?

I wondered how we would wash hands outside, how long we could be out without a bathroom. I pictured the yard, and our tiny sandbox, and wondered how we would share it with a group of kids, who normally congregate there in a bunch. I imagined giving kids access to the bathroom, sanitizing the surfaces as much as we could, sending kids inside to pee or poop while I was in the yard with the others. But who would check to see if my little guy had adequately wiped? So many, many details to consider in providing child care in the time of Coronavirus, COVID-19. Even if I were to follow our fantasy of the children leaving the day care for the forest, I can’t imagine caring for young children from a distance.

I did picture story time and singing in a circle in Magnolia Field. I wondered if the ground was too wet for sitting, pictured bringing an old shower curtain from my basement for us to sit on, or cutting it into small squares for each of us to carry in our backpack so we could sit farther apart. But squares of plastic and forest day care seem to be at odds. Perhaps we just get damp, or wear the rain pants or rain suits we wear on damp and rainy days.

When I announced that today I would be closed to think one Dad asked about a singing or story time over the computer. While I imagine that is something we could do, I spent hours meeting with Quakers for Worship and decision-making yesterday and by the end of it I was disconnected from the people and concreteness of my home world. The walk JT and I took to Spy Pond along the bike path, where I saw a real life tree house I wanted to show the children, and the scrubby edges of the path I imagined the children exploring, and the ducks on the Brook I figured the kids would be happy to see, and the open spaces at Magnolia that seemed just right for kicking balls or gathering for stories, was the highlight of my day.

Walking together, though, we held hands. We’ve been together through the last week of Coronavirus life altering experiences. He’s worked from my home upstairs and I’ve worked with the children in the day care down below. We are as safe as we can be to one another. Though we’ve each had contacts with the outside world, mine have mostly been with day care families and children and his have been with folks at the grocery and pharmacy and with a friend on her front lawn.

Yesterday my daughter returned from her father’s, where she’s been with others outside our household. Our day care housemate stopped work in the public schools on Friday. A child in the day care, who hasn’t been with us for a week, is sick, with fever, sore throat, headache. She and another child in one of our day care families have had contact with children and adults in a group where a parent has a confirmed case of COVID19, as he attended the Biogen Conference that is the epicenter of our local outbreak.

I don’t feel any of my teachers are safe enough to come to work. One has been working in a restaurant, now closed due to yesterday’s Governor’s orders. One has medical issues. One has spent the last several days with her mother, who is a doctor in a major Boston Hospital. One had a fever last Thursday and Friday, though her doctor said it wasn’t COVID19. I thought yesterday I would carry on alone, imagining and then confirming that the numbers would allow it, as they did on Friday, when I chose to operate that way.

Then this morning, after the dreams of the WFDC adventuring out of doors, I got notices from the EEC, saying we didn’t need to close but had to use approved cleaning products to follow COVID19 cleaning procedures, which in my range of ability to procure them, includes only Clorox, which isn’t a product I want to use on all the surfaces of the day care.

After reading that letter I got a petition forwarded by my colleague, another longtime provider who has been struggling with the decision to open or close, asking us to join other early childhood workers in calling for the state to close child care programs as it has called for the closing of schools and restaurants and bars, out of a concern for the health of the workers, who are made vulnerable by caring for our youngest. I saw a comment from worker from Bright Horizons, a corporate child care center, and imagined how many, many underpaid, under-protected workers are showing up to work scared, not knowing what to do if their employers, in many cases large corporations, remain open.

In light of all that, it feels harder, again, to know what to do. The Forest Day Care has a lot of appeal. If we could wander six feet apart, if no one needed to pee or poop for hours on end while we were out walking, if none of the children wore diapers or needed their noses wiped, if no one fell and scraped a knee, if I could imagine children playing together without touching, or comforting a child without cuddling, from six feet away, that dream might have come true.

At this moment, I can’t. At 6 o’clock last evening I changed my mind about being open today. My anxiety level had risen as I had tried to sort out where my housemate would be if the day care was in our shared space, as I thought about the vulnerabilities of my employees and of some of the children and their family members, of the responsibility I have to my family to keep them safe, and of the risks of inviting children and families into our home, of mixing together the children of families and caregivers with our many trajectories of connection over the last few weeks, of the obligation to society right now to do things we have never done before, which are difficult, sometimes unimaginable until they happen, which will cause hardship and suffering as well as prevent those.

So, today, I’m sitting with the images of children singing and running and digging together far apart out of doors, alongside the realities presented in the petition, by the Governor, by the news, by what’s been happening all around the world, and anticipating the way forward will come, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month. Life will change. Many will suffer. I’ll find what I am called to do. For now it’s time to be still, to write and reflect, and to be present to the day.

May you all find peace and love in this time of fear and chaos. Here it’s sunny and I look forward to a walk in nature, watching spring emerge and hoping I’ll see others out in ways we haven’t been before, loving the natural world around us for the safety, inspiration, comfort, and hope it confers, even as we know nature, too, is in danger, and that everything is ever changing and mysterious.

Four months into a new relationship, into a new day care year, into my first school year with none of my children living at home, three months from my daughter deciding where she’ll go to college, four from her high school graduation, six months from my son’s wedding, I’ve got a lot to think about.

One week ago I heard from Smith, good news if I count the acceptance and scholarship and financial aid. Tricky news if I think of all the change they might precipitate.

Sunday I had dinner with my framily, my new guy, my daughter home unexpectedly for the weekend, her brother, his fiancé. We laughed and talked over bowls of veggie chili and corn muffins and I sent leftovers home.

Today and yesterday the children were delightful. At the park they filled buckets with mud. Poison for everyone! For the witches. Wood chip soup. Inside they played and built. We made a sign: Hello in many languages. We know thirteen. The children gathered round. They wrote their names and each other’s names. We made another sign. Workers only. Construction site. Then we cleaned up and sang the hellos to one another in turn around the circle, one child in my son’s lap, one in mine, the other eight filling in the gaps between us.

For lunch there were banana pancakes my son made. Yesterday he drove my daughter and his fiancé to the Bernie rally in Vermont. I heard about it early this morning before we opened the door for the children.

Tonight I was at a meeting where mid year I began to find myself at ease in a new role, where I accepted compliments bashfully and smiled and called on people who raised their hands to talk.

My boyfriend left this morning saying he might be back tomorrow, not Thursday as I expected. I asked why. He said because he’d miss me.

For dinner last night we ate scallops over orzo with capers and tomatoes and white wine and fresh oregano. On Friday night we had an argument. On Saturday I came home from dinner with my friends to find him in bed with his cookbook. On Sunday he showed up with flowers and a bag of groceries.

How can I leave this life, I ask myself, as my mind races and races, and how can I say no?

A day or two ago I started a book I read about in the New York Times last Monday as I escaped the news in Iowa, Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offil. Tonight after the meeting, along with a bowl of my granola with strawberries, I finished it.

She makes me want to be a writer, to tell about motherhood, marriage, work and love, womanhood, life, with the tenderness and wisdom and intelligence that she does. So much to give up, so much to give, to do it, she reminds us. I feel lucky that she has.

For now I just want to read and read her. Weather, her most recent book, arrived today. It’s going to be hard not to stay up too late to read it. Wish me luck.

This morning my guy and my gal are sleeping in and I’m up early, having planned to make my gal tea before she headed off to yoga, before I knew she wasn’t going.

Lately I’ve been working on essays for grad school applications, have written a bit on my stack of plain paper at my desk, Proprioceptive Writing style. I haven’t written much here. I don’t know why. I do miss it.

Yesterday my daughter took over my laptop, reading and editing my essays. Before that I had been losing confidence. Her help felt solid, not only because she’s a great editor and knows me well and has just finished a fall of college essay writing herself, with lots of helpful editing at school, but because she was doing it, and only a few years ago, I didn’t know she’d be in this place, college applications submitted to fifteen colleges, many acceptances and scholarships to sort through as she makes her way to spring.

Last night I wondered why the essay writing is so hard for me. I suppose there are lots of reasons, but the one that lingered was the piece about my daughter leaving, and my wanting to leave too, in some way, perhaps to avoid being here and being left again, to have something new of my own when she leaves, when my years of raising children at home end, rather than continuing on with only the empty nest, to make a positive change for myself as my children build lives of their own.

Our children all leave, if they are healthy and strong and able. Wanting them not to is no good. Letting them go is still hard.

When my oldest left for college at seventeen I took a new job at the kids’ school. When my middle child left at nineteen I was planning to move my life to Northampton and spending two long weekends a month there. Partway into his second semester he moved back home, in a hard place that took time to move through, which he did, and I was grateful to be here for him at that time.

Now my youngest is preparing to leave, also at nineteen, I’m preparing more seriously for the empty nest. She’s an adventurer and would like to go far, has acceptances that could take her across the country to Colorado or Washington State, to Florida, is still waiting to hear from colleges in Ohio and Maine, might end up as close as Vermont or Western Mass, will most certainly not be in Boston, is not likely to be home weekends, may not even be home more than at the end of the semester. She’s also applying to be a camp counselor for the summer, and would like to live away from home rather than work with me in the day care as she did last summer.

All of it is wonderful. It’s what we both want. And I can’t get enough of her while she’s home. She’s a fine young woman who has the potential to make a full and wonderful life. She’s always been wonderful, but the last three years she’s come to love school. That is a mystery I would not have known how to predict before it happened. But it did.

All my predicting doesn’t create the life I’ve lived or the lives my children have lived and it won’t create our lives ahead. It’s tempting to want to know the future and probably best we don’t.

Last night as we snuggled in front of the fake fire, beside the little lit tree, my guy and I talked about unknowing and nothingness, the mystery we humans face and often fear when we don’t know what is ahead, don’t know what to do, don’t know how to predict the future or control our lives.

Writing the grad school essays stirs that up in me. Applying to Smith and getting accepted could change my life, with three summers of classes in Northampton and two years of clinical work in places I can’t predict, into a career that is new and where I’ll be a novice, with financial and relationship implications that are also unknowable. The Simmons application is next. Going there would be a less extreme shift, with local classes I could stretch out over time and clinical work that would keep me nearby.

Somehow I’m drawn to the bigger shift of Smith, to the more intense coursework, to the option to spend three summers in Western Mass, to be there or elsewhere for two years of clinical work, to the demands of a program known to challenge it’s participants on lots of levels.

Either place has potential to be a good fit. Both would be enormous investments of time and money and energy. Both would involve big changes in how I live my life, and both would involve figuring out what will happen to the day care over time.

For now, though, it’s writing and editing essays and submitting applications and not knowing, while also keeping the day care and home life and relationships going, finding time to relax and talk and share a meal, to walk and be out in the world.

Happiest of New Years to you. Mine feels intriguing. Next year at this time life will be different, as it always is, moment by moment, day by day, year by year, and this time, decade by decade.

This morning I wake up in a quiet house, facing the prospect of a weekend on my own, no plans other than to move through a list of tasks I’ve been putting off or avoiding or need to do, and Quaker Meeting on Sunday with a friend.

My daughter is off to Hawaii for the Thanksgiving break, staying with her dad overnight, where her summer clothes have been stored, so she can pack her things between school today and airport in the morning.

My sons are living their lives. The older one is in New York, where he will have brunch with my sister and nephew as part of their birthday gifts to one another, a weekend in a hotel and a chance to see To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway. Late Wednesday evening my New York son will arrive at Alewife station on the GoBus. I’ll meet him after making pies and applesauce and squash and stuffing with my mom and Somerville son that day, a day off work to prepare for the holiday I’ll be hosting this year, preparations on my mind when I wake the last three mornings at 5 to ponder life and the folks and things that make it.

My Somerville son is working today at the restaurant, after having worked two days in the day care with me this week, and having lunch with me yesterday, restoring our tradition after a few weeks’ break. Tonight he’ll welcome his partner back from her business trip. Tomorrow they’ll welcome her family from Florida, who will be here for the week, celebrating Thanksgiving with us for the first time as we all anticipate our families joining with the marriage of our children in the summer.

The house is as quiet as can be, except for the sounds of the electric kettle making water for my tea, footsteps down below, my tenant or co-worker getting ready for the day, and the tapping of my fingers on the keys.

Outside my window the maple leaves have turned November gray, hanging on and colorless. Cars in the distance are headed to work or school or errands with their passengers inside, though my street is quiet.

I’ve been living mostly alone this year, have chosen not to take in another tenant just yet, though this morning I was wondering if I should. Last fall began with a full house, a family of three, my son and me, sometimes my son’s partner, some weekends my daughter, some nights my former boyfriend, some weekends his daughter.

Gradually, sometimes suddenly, the house has emptied out. The family moved into their new home last October. My son moved in with his partner last Halloween unofficially, then into their new and shared apartment last February. My former boyfriend and I gradually put the house together over the course of our time together. As I cleaned out the boys’ rooms and he painted them, I spent time in them meditating, doing yoga, and writing, burning candles in their honor and in homage to my life ahead.

This morning, I’m typing on my living room couch rather than writing on paper at a desk in their old rooms. It feels important to have an audience, not to tuck my words in a drawer upside down, to say what I am feeling in a more public way.

Many women I know are living similar lives. My sister is newly divorced, moved into a new and smaller home, without her children half time for the first time in their lives, learning to live alone.

My former day care partner and good friend is living in her own apartment, having moved this fall out of the home where she and her husband raised their children, making her way alone.

The mother of my daughter’s closest childhood friend, and a former close friend of mine, has moved out of the home where they raised their children, and traveled across the country alone to work for the Indian Health Service as a midwife in North Dakota.

Another friend posted on facebook today from Mexico, showing pictures of the first place she has chosen to live alone, two tiny rooms sparsely furnished. She hopes for visitors, and for one who might stay. She is 48 and wrote of leaving a marriage, of children leaving home, of sharing a home with others here in Boston, of being deported back to Mexico, of taking shelter with friends, on her way to making a home of her own.

Virginia Woolf talks of making a room of one’s own. The study that used to be my son’s room, that used to be my husband’s office, that was my son’s room even before that, that was originally intended to be my study, does not feel like a room of my own. I don’t know how to live that way.

I live in my kitchen, at my dining room table, in the living room. I have never known how to set up a study or an office or a room of my own. Even my bedroom feels less than homey, more a place to sleep and store my clothes and books.

As a young person, I chose to share living space. I never lived alone until I was divorced and my children spent half time with their father, then grew up. Their leaving came in so many unexpected ways it was hard to prepare, though I wonder if any of us mothers ever can prepare for our children’s leaving.

My partners since my marriage ended have come and gone. I’ve visited their places and they’ve visited mine. Like my friend in Mexico I’ve hoped that one would stay. I’ve contemplated leaving, moving elsewhere, to be with Richard in Northampton, to go to graduate school at Smith, though at the moment, I don’t find myself packing up or clearing out as much as settling in, contemplating, if not feathering the nest.

Last night I ordered a tiny electric fireplace. I don’t know where I’ll put it, but it’s mobile so I don’t have to know. My new guy has one in his room and his family has one in their cabin in the woods. Sitting beside them is homey, homier than sitting by my candles, my ongoing connection to fire.

Last weekend I was alone a long stretch in a cabin in Maine while my daughter was with friends. There was a small wood stove there and I lay beside it reading and even slept there in the living room, feeding the fire, remembering the retreats in Michigan as I was learning to live alone and the comfort I found in building and in keeping company with the fire, in candles which I burned as I meditated and wrote and drank tea, and in the fireplaces, which I lit at night to help me relax and sleep, alone for the first time that first July in a way that was profound, away from my children, for a week, contemplating their moving out with my husband at the end of summer, knowing the loss before it came.

So, perhaps the fire will add warmth to my winter. As quiet as the house can feel, I’m not ready to invite a tenant to share it yet. Maybe next year when my daughter leaves for college and isn’t home much at all, I’ll do that, maybe not. This is a learning year, a learning time for many of us women at midlife, as we say good-bye to our years of raising children, of caring for others, as many of us transition out of life partnerships and marriages and learn to live alone, sometimes to re-partner.

Though my observations are that more men find their way into new long term partnerships and cohabitation than women post divorce, I haven’t given up hope. I haven’t resigned myself to another ten years of living alone and sharing space only sometimes with a partner, though I know, from watching my mother, my aunts, and many friends, that I may live the rest of my life alone, that whether I make peace with that is up to me.

Books and writing and quiet are my solace. I am not a watcher of tv. I don’t have a close group of women friends at the moment who gather and chat. I don’t have a close friend who is here regularly or who invites me regularly to her home. I have friends and a sister and a mother who text and talk and sometimes get together. I have a daughter and two sons who love me and who I love. I have a new partner I’m getting to know, who is here sometimes, who invites me to his home, and who loves his time alone.

Life unfolds. At the moment, it’s time for little loves, the tiny wonders who show up at my door each day of the work week and remind me, in fact I am not alone. They are here, needing care and love and attention, calling me into the moment we can call our own. We are lucky to spend our days together one little neighbor girl and I remind each other every so often. We are. Whatever has happened in my home over the last 28 years, the day care has been here for twenty four of them, holding a place in my heart and keeping me going through thick and thin. Lucky life, lucky life, lucky, lucky life.

This morning my sister woke me up in the dark to have breakfast with her before she headed off to a conference and I started my day care week. Before joining her in the kitchen I put on my daughter’s hand-me-down comfy pants and my son’s hand-me-down hoodie, soft items and comfort objects which hold their energy now they’ve grown up and moved out of these items and into other worlds.

It was fine to talk with my sister about her date last night, to catch up after missing her last night because I was tired and went to sleep before she returned to sleep in my son’s old bed, third of my children mentioned here in this post, whose room I painted and freshened, while trying to preserve his essence and leaving space for his remaining at home possessions, guitar cases, books, art materials, clothes he has yet to integrate into his new life or to discard.

Last week my friend and I went to a day long workshop on chakras and energy meditation. One of the most powerful pieces of the day was the guided meditation on the chakras and the invitation to totem animals into our individual psyches. All week my friend and I have been relating to these images and they have been shaping our lives.

On Friday my friend got news the cabin his family has shared the last many years was damaged by a tree that fell in a recent storm. His worry was not for the furniture or books or structure so much as for the worry it would cause his family and for the objects that live there which are his links to his grandparents, which he felt sure would be safe, due to their location in the space.

I’ve been reading a book given to me by the woman whose home held the workshop last weekend, a book by a woman in the Jungian tradition. She tells of an image created in her mind when she was a child and feeling insecure due to a family who traveled a lot and parents who weren’t always present and how that image of an island shaped her life. The island exploration she writes about leads to a description of the importance of stones to humans. The rock her partner discovers when they visit the island of her imagination, which turns out to be an island in real life, Iona, contains the universe, and in noting that, the writer explains how we all are created from elements of the universe, and thus contain it, as do the rocks.

All around my house are piles of stones, lines of stones, jars of stones, pockets of stones, from around the world, from beaches, from mountains, from other countries, from east and west and north and south. Some I remember finding, others I do not. I’ve loved stones such a long time I can’t remember the first ones I collected, though I know I’ve carried some with me for decades.

My friend Alice collects stones and bits of nature, too. Many of us do. When I enter a home with piles of stones or shells or pine cones or childhood treasures, I know I’ve found a kindred soul. We understand the memory and meaning an object can embody, the power it has to link us to important people, places, and times in our lives, to the universe.

I hadn’t thought so much until last weekend about the power a totem animal or image could have to help me/us relate to deeper parts of myself/ourselves, to help me/us imagine new ways and worlds. Life surprises that way. If we are open to possibility options continue to unfold.

I’m happy to have returned to Jung as I begin my applications to grad school and imagine myself transitioning at some point in the next few years to work as a therapist. These images and totems and meaningful objects in our lives are guides, perhaps, to how I want to work with others, to the power we can access via intuitive or meditative or contemplative or narrative routes.

Last night I visited the home of new people. When I arrived one of the hosts gave me a tour of the space he and his partner have only recently been living in. The most powerful piece of the tour for me was a book shelf carefully arranged, across from a baby grand piano in their living room, with small carved wooden figures lined up on a shelf above a menorah, which the host told me had been in his family a long time before he turned from it to a shelf by the window on the other side of the piano which held photos of his parents and his partner’s mother, all dead, reminding me of an altar Thich Nhat Hanh had described in a book I read this weekend about creating space in our homes for meditation and making an altar with images of our ancestors to return to and honor and to include as we go about our lives, and which I had talked about with my friend as he was worrying about the cabin and his parents who are going through a big transition.

Maybe that will be my project for the week, to create a space like that for myself, to honor the life of the spirit and my ancestors and to relate to them in my home space, in a physical way that might offer opportunity for a ritual of grounding in the knowledge of my place in the spirit world. We’ll see. Just the image of it created here holds power. For me, writing is ritual, and words are power. Also objects. As the workshop last weekend reminded me, the grounding in the everyday, earthly world is not to be dismissed or contrasted negatively with the spiritual, but to be connected and honored as a place of equal importance and power.

Heaven on earth, heaven and earth, both are true.

Today at lunch one three and two fours were talking. I felt lucky to listen to their conversation. I had been talking with a friend about the importance of friendship in his life and so I was attuned to the way we support and witness the emergence of friendship in our day care, to how important a part of our days and lives are our friends and the way we see and value one another.

Sharing Dreams – Lunch time conversation – What do we want to be when we grow up? How will our selves and our connections evolve over time?

Today at lunch my lunch group was doing their thing, eating way too much cous cous, dripping bits all over the place, talking and laughing. I had the pleasure of offering seconds and thirds and fourths and listening and cleaning up, roles I am happy to play in my current life as family child care provider more than teacher.

Friendship is important. These kids are working on that right now, talking about what they will be when they grow up. And I get to stand by and watch and listen to the images of self emerge and the friendships blossom.

My three and two fours were talking. One four was telling her friends she plans to be a mother and and an artist when she grows up, something she’s been telling me awhile.

The other four and the three were telling her they plan to be firefighters, something they have been pretending for awhile.

Then the first four added that she also wants to be a veterinarian and a dentist. Her friend the four thought she might like to be a dentist for animals and she agreed. He felt sure at first as did the three that he only wanted to be a firefighter, just one thing.

The conversation was so interesting, I tried to capture it in notes on my phone. This is what I got before it was time to clean up from lunch, though the conversation and the play continued, wtih more about growing up, and then another game of hockey in the kitchen, this time in a game where the four suggested they were playing a game of hockey and that they didn’t want anyone to win. “Yes,” said the three. “We don’t want anyone to win, but someone always wins, right?” Always there is that tension between self and other, between the expected and what we have the power to re-imagine, to change.

But at lunch, imagining the future of their friendship, the first four suggested, “One day you can visit my artist studio and I’ll show you my paintings.”

“And you can come over and see how I fix the animals’ teeth and you can see my cute little baby.”


And her friend the four replied, “And you can see how we go down the fire pole.”

“Do you want to go down the fire pole with us?” wondered the three.

At this point, they got up, cleared their places, and began to walk around the kitchen and talk.

“I’m gonna be a firefighter and an artist, too.” decided the four.

“Can you draw a picture of us in our fire engine?” the three asked the four intending to be an artist and a mother and a veterinarian and a dentist for animals.

“Yes,” she replied. “I’ll also draw a picture of you spraying out a fire.”

“And us driving a fire truck.” suggested the three.

“I’ll draw the hose and the ladder and the fire truck.” added the four.

“How about you will work at the same artist studio as me, too,” she suggested to her firefighter and artist friends.

“Only on some days,” agreed the four.

“Only on days there’s no fires,” agreed the three.

“I might not be there. I might have to check out some animals,” said the four, making sure to be clear in her commitments.

That the children imagine themselves as firefighters, mothers with cute babies, artists, dentists who take care of animals, and veterinarians, makes me happy. That they imagine their lives well into the future also makes me happy. That they imagine themselves continuing to be in each others’ lives is why I do what I do.

The reality is that it has happened, again and again and again. Children who have played together in the early years have remained friends into adulthood and beyond. They have continue to feel cared for by us, by one another, to be in many ways similar and connected beyond the time they have spent with us.

Teens have visited after years of being away. Teens and young adults share wishes for a reunion of day care kids. Teens have hugged me in faraway places after years of not having been with us. Teens and young adults have helped one another through hard times, have been each others’ rocks when ground has shifted.

What is it, I wonder, about this shared imaginative life, about this day to day, sleeping, eating, playing, talking, laughing, wrestling, running, jumping, swinging life that binds us to one another, maybe for life?

In my life it was my sister, my neighborhood friends, my cousins, who shared my early life of play and daily living. I feel connected still to those early days when we made up the story as we went, when our imaginations and games and lives were so easily intertwined. But it wasn’t all smooth and easy, nor was it all full of happy dreams.

Solving Problems, Hard Times, and Sorrow – Earlier in the day, working things out on the swings and on the rug and in the kitchen

Earlier in the day, my twos were screaming mad. When we arrived at the park, they both expected to swing. There was one swing available and one got it, while the other one cried and cried. Offers from her older friend to push her on a tire swing with her little buddy and close friend did not help. Holding my hand she told me through tears how she had wanted the swing, how her friend had pinched her cheek before climbing onto the swing.

Nearby her friend watched and listened, pumped and lilted, looking less clear in her dominance as the back story to her triumph was revealed. Eventually she got off, her friend got on, thanked her at my suggestion. Still, the winner stormed. She lay on the ground and cried. She cried at the top of the climber where two friends had taken two seats and she had none. She cried at the monster sounds a friend made. I offered a hand, offered solace, was rejected again and again until on the walk home, I offered my hand, rather than a loop to hold and she accepted. Partway home, she smiled again, looked up, asked me a question about my life I’ve now forgotten, asked about something I might have in my life which she also has, establishing our shared vision, our commonality, our connection, and from there the storm had passed.

At home my three and four who shortly after shared dreams of a future fighting fires, making art and visiting their friend’s cute baby and art studio and animal dentistry practice, tugged viciously at an old copy of The Magic School Bus they both wanted to read, until the book was bent and torn. I took the book, asked them to choose another, went to the kitchen to prepare lunch.

Soon the four was tugging another book out of his friend’s hands. I called him to the kitchen for a talk. What was going on? I wondered.

“I had planned to read the book after I got back from the bathroom.” he shared, “But —- was reading it.”

“Ah!” I could see this could be a problem.

” Well, can I tell you what I do if someone uses something I was planning to use?” I asked.

“I know!” said the four, enthusiastically. “I can tell him I was planning to use it and ask him to give it back.”

I looked out only to see him asking while tugging on the book, and called him back.

“It didn’t work!” he said, tearing up.

“You need to ask without tugging on the book. And sometimes it doesn’t work the first time. What else can you do”

“I know!” he replied. “I can ask if I can have it when he’s done!”

And sure enough, I was able to continue making lunch while the young ones worked things out and read.

It isn’t magic, the way friendship and connection builds. It does take time and coaching. Insight and empathy help. Some say patience. I prefer understanding.

As I was preparing lunch, my two who had been stirred up at the park climbed up on the chair and slipped off, wool socks lacking traction, and bumped her head. I gave her a hug and a cuddle and her friend the three brought a boo boo buddy, a small furry dog with a plastic ice cube inside.

Children do this often. They want to help one another heal.

At lunch we sat down and I began to serve the food. My four who had figured out the book problem reminded me we forgot to pause and put our hands on the table, so we did, breathing deeply and holding hands around the table before saying our thank yous to the world, “Thank you for this food and for our friends and family to share it with.” My three who had the book, ended it with Amen, and Bon Appetite. I added Namaste. Someone remembered we had forgotten to do the gentle squeeze, so we reconnected hands and squeezed gently, began our meal.

It feels good to share these moments as a group, to share food with gratitude, to heal one another with kindness, hugs, and boo boo buddies, to see that we matter to one another, to feel our power to connect and to repair.

There was more I wanted to say, but the children are waking one by one and my time today is done. Thanks for sharing your children and for reading. I feel lucky to have time with them and to write about our days.