It’s our last day at the beach. I’m sitting by the water, feeling it lap up onto my toes and legs. It leaves wet sand behind, the type I love to let run though my fingers. It starts out solid but when you lift up your hands it pours its way back into the water.
I’ve watched and learned from my kids this trip. I studied my three year old jumping and splashing in the waves. Feeling the water on her toes, cold at first but quickly warming so she feels only the push and pull of the water. I saw her fill buckets with water, carry them up the beach and pour into a hole she dug to see the water drain away.
I waited while my just turned six year old feed and befriend one of the stray cats. She is patient day by day until, finally he purrs and rubs on her leg. Only then does she reach down and scratch his ears. I watched her paint a palm tree and a sunset and her stuffed kitty cat. Together we marvel at the sheer majestic movement of a sea turtle in the water. I recorded her dancing down the beach and laughing with glee as she glides through the waves on her board.
I sat beside my eight year old as he inhaled books. I joined in (for a while) while he boogie board for hours and hours and hours. Observed his studious yet friendly nature as he watched the local kids to learn how to spot and catch and ride the perfect waves. My heart felt full as he talked about how beautiful the sunset was one night.
Joy is how kids move and breathe and live.
We can all see this. Babies squish their avocado between their fingers and toddlers pat your face while they are nursing. Kids find the corner of mud in the garden just to feel it squish between their toes and dance with no thought of their skill.
I’m watching and letting them inspire me.
So I swim far out into the sea and dive down over and over again. The water pillows my body and caresses my face. As I go lower the water gets colder and I marvel at how I can feel the levels of temperature change. I swim as deep as I can go before my lungs feel heavy. Then I shoot back up and my face breaks the surface. As I gasp for breath the salt water stings my eyes. I float on my back and watch my toes above the water while the sea sparkles on forever. I sing and cry and feel alive.
I’d love to hear what brings you joy? Do you feel content with the amount of joy in your life or like me, could you use some rediscovery?
Today we awoke to valentine’s day cards times three. They were ‘secretly’ crafted between swimming and bed time and stashed beside our beds for early morning surprise.
We ourselves delivered personalized poems on a cut out white paper heart. The poems said things like ‘Roses are red, ice cream is yummy, we love you so much, from your daddy and mummy.’
There was much delight.
Because love is homemade valentines with personalized poems. Love is a gift that is simple (and free) but shows the giver knows your heart.
It is grace extended.
It is being known.
It is choosing patience and gentleness and asking for forgiveness when we don’t. It is being forgiven even when we don’t think to ask.
It is being inspired to grow and work and really live.
Love is children who make us laugh, live so freely and believe in good so wholeheartedly.
It is partners who make time to give you a nap, go for a run, embrace your soul.
It is parents who pray for you and hold your hand and let you go. It’s family who works to stay close though the miles could divide.
It’s friends who care about you like you are their own and it’s friends who help you come into your own.
It is sharing food and listening well and making space.
Love is patient and love is kind. Love shows up in the small ways.
I’m not very apt at being still.
I come by this through some combination of both nature and nurture. I remember my maternal grandmother who had six children and a farm to help run would move around doing extra jobs during mealtimes, only sitting down herself to hurriedly eat after most everyone else was finished. My mother fights with the same pattern herself when she has a houseful of her grown children visiting. And when she comes to visit me she reminds me not to do the same.
But I’ve had more space to just be these past weeks than I have had in years. I’m learning this being still and knowing we rarely (never?) practice in our culture. It’s not valued in school, or work, or even in play once we are past toddler hood.
At first the discomfort is so strong I’m physically agitated. I feel the urge to play something with the kids, pick up a book, explore, take a picture. Check email I can’t check – that urge is still plenty strong four weeks into no ability during the day to do so.
At home it would be read to the kids, fold laundry, feed someone, go somewhere, do some (paid) work, play a game, clean something, check email, do some volunteer work. Finish the next thing on my never ending list.
So I’m practicing forcing myself to leave the book, give the kids the freedom they naturally have to just be and take the photo with my eyes. Sit through the fifteen minutes that come easily and let it grow into a half hour or more. Watch the waves, or the kids or the sun shimmering over the water. Feel nature kiss my face.
And it’s true what they say: the longer I do it the more I know that God is.
I am sitting on our deck in Hawaii only because it is raining today, otherwise we would be at the ocean which is my favourite place in the world to be. Later we will head to the pool rain or not because my kids are Canadian and a little rain is not going to stop them from swimming. Haven-Kate who is our baby but isn’t a baby because we’ve already soaked up three and a half years of her would spend all day there, were it solely up to her.
I’m thinking about how she’s learning how to swim, but frankly, she’s already swimming. Two days ago Aaron posted an instagram of her in the pool swimming about half its width stopping to tread water part way through and now with forty-eight hours more experience she’s clearing the width of the pool all by herself.
She has always loved the water, she was the baby who at the beach while still crawling would crawl into the water with zero regard for her personal safety, fall under the water and laugh as you brought her up to the surface. During a summer camping trip we were at an outdoor pool, swimming several days in a row. This pool had a small outdoor slide and each time she went to the top Haven would seek clarity. ‘Okay mom (or dad) don’t catch me. Don’t catch me mom. Don’t catch me I can to do it by myself.’ She wouldn’t leave the top till we’d agreed that we wouldn’t catch her. We’d watch her slip down the slide and splash under the water (heaven forbid we caught her). She would kick herself back up to the surface, a giant smile on her face, at which point we would catch her least she drown herself. Again we’d be told, ‘No don’t help me’ and she’d half dogpaddle, half have us ‘not help’ her to the edge of the pool. Determination and joy.
Yesterday morning she jumped from the edge over and over and over, swam as far as she was able. One of us would hold her for a few seconds and she’d flip around and swim back to the edge. She was interspersing her jumps with calls of ‘yahoo’ or ‘cannonball’ and I couldn’t help be inspired.
Not on her swimming ability (although that is pretty fun too!) but at her joy and zest and drive. Her confidence and her (from my perspective) calculated risk taking. Her fearlessness and the security that must be there to buoy that up. Her effortless ability to be present to the feel of the air rushing around her and the water washing over her and the work of moving her body in a new medium. Her repeated work over and over on something that could be seen as challenging but she only sees as pleasure. Her momentary freedom from anything else going on anywhere.
Thanks for teaching me Haven-Kate.