Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blackberry Scrounging and Minnow Rustling

I knew the time had come to start writing yesterday afternoon. Sitting under a gigantic sycamore tree, watching my kids and their friends fly over the path on a makeshift rope swing, I looked around and saw: my badly scratched ankles, the bloody knees on 4 out of 5 kids, a full tupperware of freshly picked blackberries, art deco dragonflies by the score, wild plum trees and a rushing stream of cold, cold water.

What an incredibly lucky person I am, I thought. We were in a canyon smack in the middle of suburbia, unknown to all but those lucky few who live around it, and to those of us who accidentally stumbled upon it. A dirt path winds along a stream which is draped alternately in low-lying Russian olive trees and blackberry bushes; cat-o'nine-tails blanket marshy areas; beaver-ravaged trees stand alongside wood bridges that look like they've come out of a Winnie-the-Pooh story (how many times did we play "pooh sticks" while the kids were still so little?); trees arch so high up that you can scarcely see the few signs of suburbia that are just over the rise. In other words, this canyon is a little edenic refuge that fills me with joy and makes the desert-like place where I live seem not quite so harsh and brown.

We started today out eating those blackberries in the form of a blackberry cobbler, blanketed in nine-year old S's homemade (raw cream skimmed from raw milk) vanilla ice cream. How could a day not be anything but satisfying when you begin it with such a lovely meal? And this afternoon we took Superdog out for a run along the river--mom and kids on bikes, dog running alongside--and ended up at our favorite spot for stick-chewing and minnow rustling.

Am I trying to sound like we live in a perfect world? No, we certainly don't. What with food and gas prices, the housing crisis, the war, politics as usual, the global environmental crisis, quotidian struggles over computer and t.v. time, lessons and sibling harmony, I would never make such a claim. But what I do want to try to do, everyday and even if sometimes I must do it through clenched jaw and a forced smile, is be grateful for life, my life and Life, simplicity in action and in mind, family and friends. Like so many, my husband and I are striving to live a simple life with minimal environmental impact, to raise our children to be good citizens, and to be thankful for every moment we are allotted. We love good food but know our limitations (having long ago lost the battle with Bermuda grass, we are content to subscribe to our local CSA and buy everything else local when possible); we love our bicycles but are not above driving 25 miles round trip for local eggs and milk (does that work out? buying local but increasing our carbon footprint in the process??); we homeschool our kids and wonder daily if we've made the right choice (prevailing thought is, yes). In other words, life is complicated, nothing is black and white, there are ups and there are downs. I look for meaning in my home, in my family, in the connections we have with friends and family, and in living a good and honest life as best we can. Hopefully, writing down my life will hold me to task and keep me on track.