We may live in the scorched desert, but an alpine playground is never too far away.
Our neighbors invited us to join them and three other families at a cabin a couple hours north of here. There were 9 kids (Miles was the only boy), which made for around-the-clock fun. Sledding. Hot cocoa. Crafts. Reading by the fireplace. It was just the escape we needed.
I know a lot of people hate the "Enjoy it! It goes so fast!" sentiment that is just too sticky sweet and judgmental and seemingly ignores the enormous energy-drain that is parenthood. I've even written about that here.
But I wonder if the message is a little misunderstood. Those older women (and men) who stop you in the grocery store or at church or the park and beg you to savor every moment. I don't think they mean you should be brimming with happiness at all times. I don't think they have necessarily forgotten how utterly exhausting and messy and emotionally draining parenting can be.
I think, perhaps, they're just saying, "Notice stuff. Stop and observe."
For me, that means noticing how small they are, how their heads barely peep over the edge of the couch. Noticing their messes (even if I hate cleaning up those messes).
This morning I was feeling completely exhausted, grumpy and unmotivated. I reached for my camera (something I usually only do when I'm feeling energized, joyful and creative). I liked what I saw. It didn't turn my mood around much. I didn't suddenly gush with happiness or feel like I was savoring every moment. But it did change my perspective a little. Instead of seeing unfolded laundry and dirty rugs, I saw them.
I filed away a few memories for when I'm older, when the nostalgia eats away at my stomach and I want to grab my younger self by the shoulders and shake her with a desperate plea to remember it all.
I stood on my porch this morning and took three photos with my iPhone. The first is of the sky looking east. The second, looking north. The last photo looking west.
That blanket of grey clouds is retreating too fast. Chased away by a vast wall of blue. The blue says, Move along now. You know you don't belong here.
I begged it to stay just a little bit longer, to let its moisture seep into our skin, its chill spill over the landscape. I had just pulled the thick cable-knit sweater over my head. I hadn't yet finished brewing my tea. I wanted to put a log on the fire and curl up under a blanket with the kids and read books.
Of course I have a romantic attachment to winter. Winter can do no wrong. In the same way people who don't live on a beach dream of living on a beach and don't consider sand in their ears and their hair whipping them in the face and the constant smell of sunscreen and hurricane season, I am quick to forget the resistance of a snow shovel digging into two feet of slush, the desperate cold that forces you to do silly things like sit with your toes pressed against a heating vent and take hot showers in the middle of the day.
I realized today that my love of winter is a love of comfort and togetherness. A love of cuddling. A love of hot beverages, how they warm you from within. A love of hats and scarves and hearty pots of stew.
Bronwynn wears her rain boots perhaps three or four times a week. I can't recall the last time it rained. Months ago, maybe. Does it diminish her joy in wearing the boots?
So here I sit. The sun is shining full bore now. I have my tea, piping hot. I'm wearing a sweater, a different one...not as thick as the cable-knit, but cozy just the same. A blanket is draped over my legs (though not for long, as I'm starting to get hot). Tonight, we will cuddle. The calendar still says winter, after all.
The past couple of weeks have been hectic and stressful. Stomach flus and deadlines, working late and solo parenting and X-rays on a toddler's banged-up knee...and just not enough sleep.
I am weary...and yet just when I was starting to slip into that dark, bitter place where I complain and lose my temper, I received a gift.
Joy. Perspective. Love.
On Sunday morning I had the chance to photograph the most courageous, beautiful family. Their little boy Daniel is in the late stages of battling a terminal brain tumor. I was asked to help them capture some memories during this excruciatingly painful time. I felt honored. And terrified.
I was really drawn to this park in town that houses one of Robert Indiana's famous LOVE sculptures. I thought it would be beautiful and poignant to photograph the family in front of the sculpture.
After the shoot, I stayed up really late editing the photos, eager to see how they'd turned out. What I discovered: The photos in front of the statue were nice, but they were totally unnecessary. The photos that communicated the most "love" were the ones I didn't plan. The ones that happened naturally when the family was interacting and talking with one another.
The love and bond of this family was overflowing. All I had to do was capture it with my lens.
If you live in the greater Phoenix area, there's a benefit car show for Daniel being held this Saturday February 11th. Details are on his CaringBridge site.