It’s 11pm and I should be asleep, but as I lay there listening to the sounds of an electric guitar coming through the night window, many thoughts come to my mind. I should be pushing these thoughts to the back of my head and getting some good rest, you are a mother! my conscience shouts. You have much to do on your feet tomorrow! But somehow now I am not tired and I find myself drawn to the familiar green velvet couch to dance in this fabric awhile. A flame burns in my mind and becomes a bonfire. Ah yes, this is how it starts. I remember. The lyrics to the song from so long ago return to my memory and it all feels familiar again. Not so very far far away. This writing business. This telling the story of my life as it is, and as it was.
I think to myself, with this new moon and total solar eclipse approaching, I want to remember. I want to pull fragments of the past back into my present and weave the future onto this weft. I think about how I’d like to get up early, before my son wakes, and meditate in the luxuriously dark closet I decorated for myself. How I’d like to use the yurt halfway up our hill for yoga in the mornings. How I might start up morning pages and, gosh, artist dates again, because I really need an excuse to try out acroyoga and exotic dance classes at the neighbourhood studio. I witness a fear living like a rug across the shiny washed floor of these new ideas and get a sudden urge to rip it up. All this thinking about freedom and delight gets me remembering how I would paint vivid watercolors of my dreams in a moleskin journal every morning that summer I turned 23. I think about my friend in New Orleans who inspired me to do this after we came across a gargantuan book of Fellini’s dreams, each furiously etched out in Italian, all bosom and curve.
All of these ideas of how my days could be more, my own… they give me life. I know I will be tired tomorrow. But it’s somehow only taken me 7 minutes to write this, and we have an espresso machine, so everything is going to be okay after all. The drums have kicked in to back up the guitar down the road and my heart is beating fast. It’s true I hardly recognize myself anymore. Which is why I must keep writing. I must write in order to know myself. I must. I must. I must not forget who I am, I must not let these years pass by with no trace of their existence but for some filaments of social media. I must create something of meaning and depth to chart this precious world of mine that I swim in. I must. Who am I? I write to find out.
I must also try not to shout at my three year old anymore. Today was a doozy, and a miracle, all wrapped up in those 90 minutes before a toddler sized dinner is lain on the crumb strewn table. I’m kinda beginning to get the hang of this parenting thing, but I’m sure, as they say, a new challenge will pour over my head in a few weeks. I figure that the most interesting terrains feature various kinds of flame: volcano, bonfire, candle – so maybe it’s okay that things get a little heated once in a while. Wasn’t I a tempestuous artist at some point in time? I am still sewing her back into this life with its forever capless washable markers and light-up Star Wars toothbrush. My husband fell asleep peacefully before I got up to write this – it’s the only time I have to pour these little shards of my light into some kind of container. We will all drink from it later.
Meanwhile, time is a wicked ghost. In my retreat from mass media I’ve reconnected with many of yesteryears relics. On our recent trip back to Australia I came across a fascinating cassette tape in the bottom of a bin of toy trains. Today whilst reading a book I am desperately devouring (‘How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen’) I read a passage about a little boy choosing to play his Sesame Street tape in the bathroom while his mum takes a shower. Fantastic! Why do we not use these anymore! I’d much rather my child have his own cassette player and vintage tape collection then an iPad or an iPhone beaming white light and marketing for plastic egg toys at his synapses. I’ve made up my mind. Give a child the freedom to put his own book tapes and vintage music cassettes on, and I think we will all be so happy.
But even in this glee over lugging the old gems from yesterday into tomorrow, I feel a familiar stirring. An ambition. Is it that? A sense of purpose. A sense of a mission. I know I have not come here simply to tend to a beautiful house with a beautiful family. I wanted them with all my heart, and I created them, in the flower of my heart, I blossomed all of this. And now it is here, and we are swimming deeply in the nectar of this heaven and earthliness: a family life of repetitive physical labor and the sweetest nuzzling cuddles and the smell of a child’s neck. A world of beauty. A bonfire at dusk on a freshly stained deck. The amber of sunlight fading behind the cool of protective mountains. In some sense I could stay here forever enjoying this nectar, and live quite happily my days on this mountain, producing child after child and meal after meal.
However. There is much disquiet in the world, even in the world just down the hill beyond our home. A world where people put bananas in plastic bags at the supermarket. Where single use cases of water bottles are normal purchases. Where sick whales and birds are discovered with their bodies full of plastic. Where white-supremacists march in Berkeley and Washington Square Park on a Saturday in August. Where unarmed young black people, or Native American people, or women, march for freedom and their voices before being shot down by a brutal militant police force in full SWAT uniform. A world full of conflict. A civilization trying to work out how to live without violence. Heck, I am wading through this problem on a daily basis in my own home. How do I stop the small boy from biting the puppy? AGAIN. How do I prevent the boy from using his fists whenever I say no thanks? I am remembering that anger is the next emotional evolution after sadness. Being sick for days after a 15 hour plane journey that started at 9AM in Australia? Not exactly conducive to happiness. Cabin fever because we can’t go to the library/museum/playground/creek/beach etc etc? Ugh! He just wants to be happy. He told me himself. We really need to remember to address the root cause (unhappiness) not just the symptoms (violence.)
So. There is a list. Things That Make Jules Happy: Mummy and Daddy. The playground. Being outside. The museum. The library. Reading books. Fire. Toasted marshmallows. The Sky. Quite simple really. Now when he feels the urge to hit, we are going to hit the giant PAUSE button in the sky and go to that list on the fridge. We will pick something to do that makes him feel happy and thus avert the problematic behaviour with other more benevolent options. Honestly, I feel like this is a major win for the future of mankind on the planet. If I can parent a small man this way and prepare him to deal with his strong emotions responsibly, I will be so grateful for my patience within this intense work. There will be a boy who will grow into a man who will be peaceful and loving and self-reliant. And I will be able to give myself a break about not writing a million books already, and let myself paint those watercolors, and take that dance class, and live my dream life because dammit, I’m doing a great job, and I deserve my own self-respect in this season that I’m in. Volcano, candle, bonfire – this flower has still got some bloom left.