Our annual trip up to northern Wisconsin was wonderful as usual. Most of my dad's side of the extended family were there--- grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and their spouses plus 10 great-grand kids. I think there were about 30 total but we missed those who were not able to make it. It was so peaceful to be surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of nature once again.
Before making the trip up north--- into the woods, cabins, lake, nature and bugs--- I was at home reading an email about Scott's and my mind was catapulted into thought of the sereneness I was about to enter, then back to the thought of life here at home. Sitting on the porch, taking in my surroundings--- the trees, chirps, smells of freshness, enjoying the words of my book with long, leisurely cups of coffee--- I thought, 'how much better could it get? This is all I need."
Yes, this is true, but once up there it became clear once more that the heart can become constricted in city life. And mine had indeed been tightening over time. Each noise, task, to-do list, jam packed day, stressor and 'ping', adding another constricting band around the heart. Each little task taking me further away from the moment, from myself, from thinking about the important things in life, from wholeness.
Like vines of ivy wrapping around an old brick building--- the rushing, the noise, the interruptions--- wrapping themselves, constricting the life around and within me. Sneakily, with each 'ping' and notification, taking me hostage. And also like ivy, the only solution to loosen the grip is to cut away at each branch. So as my phone reached the point of no service for the week, my first thought was "I didn't even get to say good bye" turning to "I can do this" then quickly settling on "good riddance".
The week was filled with quality family time, catching up with each other and hanging out. Much time was spent reading and listening to thought provoking podcasts with plenty of time outside (when the mosquitoes weren't driving me crazy). As I sat by the water, I was aware of all the life happening around me. Each gushing breeze, flying eagle, slow snail, rustling leaf--- slashing away at the tightness, leaving me with peace. I could breath in the silence and it was okay. Play became priority and doing nothing became easier. I didn't just read, I ingested words. And then a funny thing happened as life powered down, slowed down and became simpler; I felt more whole. In the wake of wholeness, the importance of this and that could take their proper place. Once upon a time, a few days before, I would fill 30 seconds of down time by checking something electronic, but here I space out looking at the lake, actually staying in the moment. And if I had a hard time staying in the moment then certainly each new mosquito bite brought awareness. Awareness of my hatred of mosquitoes but awareness none the less.
As I drive back, I start seeing grey over green. Concrete takes the place of trees. Quaint towns become outlet malls and sprawling manufacturing buildings. Costco comes into view and I feel a familiar, slight tightening in my chest. Which reminds me, I wonder if I have reception yet? I start checking my phone--- "an old habit" ---I tell myself. The complications of "real" life come back into focus.
But then once at home, unpacked and at ease, I'm playing in the backyard with Lucia. It's the closest thing we have to nature here. Our everyday nature fits neatly into square plots. It might be less wild and unruly but it's all here on a smaller scale--- the chirps, the majestic trees, leaves rustling, bright blue sky. I just have to work harder to connect. We may not have soaring eagles but we have singing sparrows and that's just enough.
After a heart loosening week, I'm encouraged by the fact that it's easier for me to pay attention to life around me at home as well. It comes easier for me to drop everything and play with Lucia. I forget until night that I didn't remember to put make-up on. I find myself deep in thought at random points throughout the day. I feel more at peace and for this I am thankful.
The key to these kinds of things is to integrate lessons learned into our everyday life, real life. And real life requires work, responsibility, time constrictions. But just as important is to bring awareness and breed wholeness to my life. This kind of work begins at each new day and picks up the next day right where it left off. Now if only I can do those things that come so much more naturally when in nature: to help the heart be open each morning and to unbind the unnecessary constrictions each evening.
Here are some pictures from our week...
We got to stay with Anne and Sommar, in from Washington. I loved having so much time with them and Lucia had a great time playing with Sommar.
Each evening, one cabin cooked dinner for everyone so we all ate together.
Right before the week, Lucia entered this phase of not ever wanting to wear pants/shorts/skirts, basically anything other than a frilly shirt or her bathing suit. This couples with the fact that she is now capable of taking off her own pants. Perfect-- at least were outside all week. No pants required= no extra and unnecessary toddler battles.
"I want to take my top off" has been replaced by "I want to take my pants off", her most common phrase these days. In the mornings, Lucia insists on one of her favorite shirts, shoes on and pigtails. Other notables: she is obsessed with nail polish meaning she loves to wear it and show it off herself but also notices and compliments others' nail polish, 'frustrated' is her word for flashlight, she calls some people consistently by the wrong names (my mom is 'grandpa', Greta is 'Scott' and I am usually always 'Elsa' instead of mommy. She knows the right names but just chooses not to use them).
I like to say Lucia is 'full of life' but this is often an understatement. Like most toddlers, her emotions are always heightened, but this little one seems to bring some extra oomph. It seems that Lucia has inherited her moms' and dads' strongest traits rolled into one tiny person, Lord have mercy. At least her biting-when-angry tendency has taken less destructive paths like forcefully crossing her arms, pouting her lips and saying "hmmmph" loudly or forcefully 'shhhshhh' us, spit barreling through her clenched finger to bring the point home. We try not to laugh, just calmly thank her for not biting/hitting/yelling when mad.
On the other side of emotion, Lucia is full of joy at times. She loves to use people's names when she sees them. She'll run up to everyone in the room, smiling and squealing their name over and over, jumping up and down to greet them. She gives great hugs, kisses and snuggle time. She loves to take care of her dollies, saying things like "You wanna sit here honey?". I love the way she checks on people when they are crying ("What's wrong with Naomi?" "I don't know, Lucia" "I'll go check"). I think this comes from the fact that when Lucia needs to apologize to someone after yelling at them or hitting them, I tell her to make sure they are okay. I feel like a forced "I'm sorry" doesn't really help or teach anything after hurting someone. Now I don't know if my method actually helps it sink in but at least she checks on others when she sees something is wrong. I hope that means empathizing is on the horizon.
Tea party with our cabin cuties, Sommar and Lucia
Lucia had tons of fun playing with her cousins and became mildly obsessed with 'Molan' (Nolan).
She was also very comfortable romping around in the water.
Pizza night at Alexanders!
Sommar and Sonja
We've taken a family picture here every year for the last four. Somehow Matt is wearing what appears to be the same shirt for the past 3 years. I guess it's his 'night-out-on-the-town-in-Eagle-River' shirt...
Ice cream chats with grandpa
She was one happy camper. Especially when we told her she could have candy too! She was like a...well, you know...kid in a candy store.
Then we put all that sugar to good use and let her loose in a bounce castle and slide playhouse.
Waving grandpa off in the boat
Then it was our turn for a boat ride and this is the best pic I could get. Blame it on the fear that Lucia would just pick up and throw herself out of the boat at any moment. This move would not uncharacteristic of Lucia to anyone who knows her at all. So I kept one hand firmly on her at all times.
Trying to take her clothes off, as usual. Another fun factoid from the week: Lucia figured out how to climb out of her pack n play. She was in her own room, so she would get out, come find us and say "I'm just awake!" A whole new beast for us who are used to leisurely waking up after letting Lucia play on her own in her crib for a while. From that to Lucia busting in on us, jumping on top of our faces yelling "I wanna eat breakfast!" At least she kissed me when she said it. Plus, she did not transfer this skill of getting out of her pack n play to her crib. Yes! More time til we'll have to deal with that one for real.
All ten great grandkids
Carson - Nolan - Lucia - Naomi - Renee
Gwen - Sommar - Sonja - Addison - Caroline
Some cute close-ups
I love how this one captured Lucia's pouty face and the interaction between Gwen and Renee
First time trying pop rocks
Grandpa's walker helped Sommar walking too!
Lucia loved helping aunt Julie make brownies
Little Miss Sunshine
Last night hanging out at the campfire
Then --- crack --- party foul! Dad's chair broke depositing him flat on the ground. Barreling laughter all around.
Gwen and Sonja hosted a dance party on the last night...tons of fun.
Those Wallgren boys think they're so cool.
A quiet eveneing at South Twin lake
Good night Scott's. Until next year.