For ten years after college, I worked towards becoming a college professor. The advent of my daughter, Madeleine, mid-way through my dissertation, seemed to me an incredible blow. I mentally prepared for the horrors of mothering—the sleepless nights, the sense of being trapped, the inability to concentrate. But I was totally unprepared for the way her birth would be an entrance into this secret world where I get to see the earth become new again.
I finished my dissertation on civilians’ spiritual and political responses to WWII trauma, in Woolf, HD, and Stein, published a few academic essays, juggled watching our daughter with my husband and his doctoral work and both of our teaching. My plan was to keep on in this life, land some kind of teaching position, and continue balancing “life” and “work.” Upon graduation, I was offered a position as post-doctoral fellow at a university teaching center, but I felt conflicted. I thought, I’m going to be rich in money and poor in time. But, the next week the university administration cancelled funding for the position, and I was out of a job. I was crushed. I was relieved. I was jobless. I cobbled together adjunct work and applied to jobs, alongside my husband, doing the same. When he got a full-time position, and I got pregnant again, I thought, now’s my chance.
Now’s my chance to be with my daughter without feeling pulled to do something more ‘productive.’ Now’s my chance to live out my realization that this is life, this work of living life together, caring for bodies, making shelter. I wonder, along with a growing number of people, what it would do for our culture if we scaled back the desire for acquisition that often fuels our perception that we need dual incomes to make life livable. What does life look like when we remove the career-as-success/success-as-happiness model from the equation? What is life for, after all? Children have influenced my thinking on this question more than all my other experiences combined. They show me that life is about seeing the beauty that envelops us, creating beauty together, and building community in a way that we can sustain life together.
Reconnecting with nature and cultivating that relationship with children, I believe, is absolutely crucial to building sustainable community. These days I divide my time between being in the woods with children—hiking with my girls, facilitating in a Spanish-immersion Free Forest School group and participating in a Waldorf, nature-based school co-op; maintaining a home and garden and engaging my girls in that work; freelance writing to pay some bills; and creative writing to further inhabit all these facets of reality. What I love about the life I’m living now is that I’m not haunted by the sense that I’m pretending to be something I’m not or to know something that I don’t. The life I live, the work I do, and the knowledge I seek are integrated. I’m grateful for that and working to keep it that way.
I see this blog as a place to explore the questions that arise every day with the sun and with my children’s earnestly searching minds. Some of the questions are practical—how to keep having adventures with kids in tow; some are more theoretical and spiritual—how do we balance the tension between the desire for transience and the desire for home? But all my questions circulate around the desire to be present, to see the landscape I’m passing through and to be transformed by it.