Taking a minute (even if it’s only borrowed)

18 11 2015

A thousand things busy up my everyday, my every day; if you’re in the practice of spending sustained time with young children, you can list them just as easily as I, and if you’re not, I doubt you want to see the list, but I promise: the poetic hyperbole of “a thousand” exaggerates in the opposite direction of what you imagine.” Yesterday, still, I found a second, or one found me; I was only doing as directed by the smallest of the smalls, and I certainly wasn’t physically still: the reversal, in fact, as in “running to stand.”  With Evanny climbing ladders in the yard (not mine) behind me, I buckled Tabitha in the baby-swing (on her demand), then acceded to her pointing-finger request by sitting in the yellow plastic saddle of the swing beside her, walked my feet back through the well-packed mud, and fell into rhythm beside her.     

Here is the view over our heads as we swayed back and forth in the cold November air, chilled by the cool eddies our movement swirled around our scarf-less necks, and here is the wonder. While we were swinging, the drowsy late-morning baby and I, her sister merrily occupied in movement and narration with Miles by the truck-garden, I thought about the readings I’ve encountered lately about the importance of movement in preschoolers’ cognitive acquisitions of skills, about how the Montessori teacher we met with explained her classroom strategies for incorporating big body motions in small, fine-motor tasks, about how infants need to be moved so frequently that it feels continuous, about the continuity of that need as they grow: I thought. Do you see the most important idea in that list of things to think about? 

I thought about the value of movement and how it might never stop being important, about whether it might not have been the occasions of privilege allowing contemplation that built the great thinkers of old but the inherently grounding physicality of life before technologies were invented to replace so many of the motions of our tasks: when heating the house required the whole-body swinging of an axe, when eating a sandwich required at some point the swinging of a scythe, the back-and-forth body-crossing of threshing wheat, the bend-and-pull of plucking lettuce from the ground, the rock and squeeze of milking cows to make the cheese. 

I thought, too, about color, the seemingly limited palate of the winter view of sky-through-trees and how many colours it would take to paint it well (the indigo behind the blue, the yellow leaf, the golds beneath the greys).  I thought about how the placement of my friend’s yard on the ridiculous hill I would never have wanted to face on wheels once the ice arrived allowed her to say “I like living in the city” while having trees on three sides of her house and only one real neighbor. I thought about that one last maple leaf at the edge of the frame and about how my parents had a book, when I was a child, that narrated the fearing and falling of the last leaf on a tree, a book intended to be a parable about death, which I knew and rejected even then; people weren’t leaves, and life didn’t end by flying and then sailing down a little creek. I thought about what November looks like in the places other friends live, about how little the warm sun felt like a path that would wind its way toward Christmas, despite the chill. 

I thought: consecutive ideas, words and possibilities of implication, whole strings of what-ifs and maybes, and for that whole untimed and unmeasured minute, nobody interrupted me, whined for my attention (beyond a few baby-requests for another “poooos”), fell down and cried, asked for feeding, made a mess I needed to clean up–it was miraculous.  In the time it’s taken me to write this down, of course, I’ve angered both girls, allowed I don’t know how many messes, called a few people choice names, moaned about the whining, and decided again that I’m a selfish, terrible mother, bc all they want me to do is play Jack Frost and read a book and do a puzzle and move the couch and pour some cereal and offer a snuggle and break up a fight and go for a walk, but at least now I have a record, for later when it seems again impossible: I thought.  It really happened. 

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