ConnectionOn Friday afternoon, I sat down to write as my family headed out the door to the kid-friendly Rockygrass Festival here in our hometown. I was happy to prepare myself for a weekend with friends, family, and general joviality with a few, quiet moments to myself. With deck in hand, I asked for a card to guide my weekend and thought to myself that the Tree of Life card about connection would be spot on. Lo and behold, out of 52 cards I pulled it. No kidding. I love this.

The weekend did prove to be a celebration of music and community. Our little town is transformed during these festival weekends. People come from all over the country for pluckin’, river play, and good times. The locals also come out of the woodwork. Some dear folks I see only a few times a year at the festivals. Amidst the visiting crowds, pretty much everywhere I turn I spot a friend, and everyone pulls together to keep the little ones safe.

RockygrassWhen my Haven was wee, he was a runner. I have lost him at festivals many times, but one toddler escape is engraved forever in my memory. We realized our two-year old adventurer had slipped away and headed straight to the river that borders the festival. There were friends hanging out everywhere along the bank and in the water. They had the waterfront covered so we turned toward the stage. Within seconds there was a ripple of “Haven’s lost” through a sea of familiar faces. Sure enough someone had seen him heading toward the front row. There he was dancing knee-high. Alone it would have taken us a panicked eternity to find him. Thankfully we had an entire village on hand.

This year Haven was impossible to track. He and his buddies have grown up with the best of bluegrass serenading their games. They feel at home and safe to roam on the festival grounds. Having worked so diligently not to lose him in the past, I had a hard time granting him a longer leash. Little by little, I began to trust that within this protective, alternate universe, he could fend for himself under the collective watchful eye. Someone always knew the whereabouts of the little boy posse.

Boy PosseI actually missed Haven, but love watching his free spirit on the run. I also was granted newfound freedom to connect with cousins, a new niece, old friends, random strangers, and especially sweet Afton who soaked up my undivided attention.

Afton RiverI would highly recommend a weekend devoted to nothing but hanging out along a river listening to some good ol’ tunes with your loved ones and several hundred other mamas. Where can you and yours bask in the embrace of your community?

Mothering Muse ~ Listening

On Friday, we invoke the muse of motherhood to shine her light of inspiration upon us.

I have stumbled on several beautiful things this week (some new, and some I took off the bookshelf and rediscovered) that have sprouted fresh views and energy for me. May they spark some new light in you and your families, too. The first two are long-ish for us mamas, but they are worth it. Maybe bookmark them for when you do have time.

How to Truly Listen: A TED Talk with deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Wow. She is extraordinary! I am not a musician and I loved this. I kept thinking of slowing down and listening (and opening) to my daughter with the same attention and curiosity.

THE LAST QUIET PLACES,  Krista Tippet interviews with Gordon Hempton on npr’s On Being. He defines real quiet (listening) as presence. He says if you want to be a better listener, go for a night walk with your child. How true.

And this book that has given me ideas, stories, gentle reminders and tools to talk so my daughter will listen and listen so my daughter will talk.

This conversation between a mother and her son. It inspires me to start going thru the many audio recordings+conversations I have with my daughter and stitch them together for listening back on someday.

This article by Harriet Lerner about listening in marriage/relationships…”Listening well is the ultimate spiritual act and the greatest gift that you can give to your partner.” Passionate listening.

And a passage from this classic (and one of my favorite) children’s books…

I used to know
an old man
who could
by any
and hear
the corn

“Teach me,”
I’d say
when we’d
passed on by.
(I never said
a word
while he was

“Just tell me
you learned
to hear

And he’d say,
“It takes
a lot of
You can’t
be in a hurry.”

And I’d say,
“I have
the time.”

— from The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor

I love this book. And isn’t this so true — when we are listening to our children’s spoken (and often unspoken) truths/needs/fears, we can’t be in a hurry.


Wild Card Wednesdays ~ Listening

Fanning the fire midweek, we are tossing you a spontaneous quote, question, or conundrum related to Monday’s post. We invite you to riff on this prompt or share a story—heartbreaking or hilarious—to spark further conversation about the path of motherhood.

Sometimes the way I listen is to write down what moves me about my children: the  amazing things they say, the magic of the classic milestone moments, the things I struggle with, what stirs up my shadow self.

I love writing about Oriah every month in Nikki McClure’s The First 1000 Days, and I just got her Remember journal  to start writing about Jordan in again. I want to write him a letter every season about our time together. But for those short little day-to-day nuggets, I love my casual, fun, polka dot notebooks. They take the pressure off writing for posterity and remind me of how simple it is to put pen to paper.

Tonight, to find some gem apropos listening, i searched online for Anna Swir, a Polish poet who wrote the collection of poems entitled Talking to My Body. This poem of hers makes me think about the kind of listening that goes straight to the heart and bypasses all the other senses.

To that which is most important

Were I able to shut
My eyes, ears, legs, hands
And walk into myself
For a thousand years,
Perhaps I would reach
—I do not know its name—
what matters most.

Back to me: My son Jordan turned five today.

What matters most:
The innocence of the nape of his neck, how it meets his slender shoulders, how it is already part of the man he has yet to be.

His gorgeous, oceanic eyes.

His squealing delight in learning to ride a bike.

The way he talks to Oriah, the intimacy of brother to sister, how well they know each other.

The feel of his sturdy hand in my own.

The singsong of his voice as he reads

What matters most to you about your children? Name one thing…


More than anything else, mothering is an extended course in listening.

From the sensitive hearing we immediately develop to the particular nuance of our babies cries, listening is the true umbilical thread between mother and child.

Right now, listening is a theme that’s in the air between my children and I as we make our way through the dog days of summer. Oriah, on the one hand, is exploding with language, just starting to put two and three words together, and explaining everything else in a lilting babble that mimics the tones of conversation but is hilariously undecipherable. I pay special attention to her as she signs and talks her way through the world, enthusiastically pointing out airplanes and bugs and dogs, showing me the sign that she’s hungry or wants help.

On the other hand, there is my growing-up-so-fast Jordan, and I struggle to understand his soul’s deeper struggles that lie just underneath the surface. He too seems somewhat mystified by the turbulence of his own emotional landscape. He can be so contrarian, holding back at a day at the zoo, and then suddenly coming forward unexpectedly upon our arrival home.

Sometimes it seems like he doesn’t hear me at all, and I have to repeat things several times to get his attention.

My dilemma? Whether to meet him where his current passions lie, or gently try to steer him elsewhere. I try to do both, to meet him where he is at and then together move toward other activities. My sister-in-law Cindy Kaplan, a parenting coach, recently shared with me about how once in a while how helpful it is to takes the role of observer with our kids. She explained it as stepping out from the role of active mothering. In other words, not trying to manage them, but just truly observe them–see them as they are–without trying to change any behavior.

It’s refreshing to see my kids in such a light, as exactly as they are, shining in their own perfection, working out their struggles as best they can.

And after many struggles with Jordan, when I think we have to have the same battle over and over, he surprises me with what he has heard. Usually a few days later, he comes back to me with his interpretation of what I had said. Right now for example, he is working on the idea of why it’s important to limit certain activities.

I love this dance of listening, how to listen to our children the way the parched earth listens, with every fiber of its being, for the first drops of rain. I quiet the busyness of my mind–all my agendas and thoughts of how I would like it to be. I leave my idea of right and wrong doing behind…and cup my ear to what is.

What is mothering teaching you about listening? What have you heard that’s amazed you?

Wild Card Wednesdays ~ Fierce Love

Fanning the fire midweek, we are tossing you a spontaneous quote, question, or conundrum related to Monday’s post. We invite you to riff on this prompt or share a story—heartbreaking or hilarious—to spark further conversation about the path of motherhood.

Kali is difficult to approach. After all, she wears a necklace of skulls and a skirt of severed arms. Blood drips from her sickle. But she is the mother goddess and we have much to learn from her deep feminine wisdom. I invite you to read the following invocation and then share how Kali speaks to you.

It is time for the invocation:

Kali, be with us.

Violence, destruction, receive our homage.

Help us to bring darkness into the light,

To lift out the pain, the anger,

Where it can be seen for what it is

The balance-wheel for our vulnerable, aching love.

Put the wild hunger where it belongs,

Within the act of creation,

Crude power that forges a balance

Between hate and love.

Help us to be the always hopeful

Gardeners of the spirit

Who know that without darkness

Nothing comes to birth

As without light

Nothing flowers.

Bear the roots in mind,

You, the dark one, Kali,

Awesome power.

                                      —May Sarton