Today I saw Hazel-the-Turtle: Queen-of-all-Turtles sunning herself on the living room rug. She'd taken advantage of one of the intermittent patches of sun that had been teasing us all afternoon. I grabbed my camera, quick as quick, because poor homely Hazel was almost beautiful in the golden glow and I thought it would be as well to record her moment of glory, but the sunlight faded too fast. Robin had been watching and said simply but with real sympathy (he's an unusually sensitive boy) "Well. That was discouraging."
It certainly was discouraging; January, February, and March are very trying months in Baltimore. I suppose they're trying throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere. When it's cold and gray outside, the smallest setbacks depress me, and I begin to suspect the Universe is deliberately targeting me for destruction. I begin to take things very personally and very seriously. Last week I hollered at the hapless drunk who told me it was too cold for my kids to be outside; today I nearly cried when I realized I was out of almond extract.
Normally I don't allow random strangers' criticisms of my parenting disturb me, especially when the criticisms have anything to do with the weather and how my children are dressed, and especially especially when it's a drunkard doing the criticizing. But last week's encounter lead to a lot of needless brooding about the relentless judgment and disapproval mom's absorb.
Which they do. I am, if society is any judge, both too lenient and too strict a disciplinarian; extremely selfish and pathetically self-sacrificing because I am a homemaker; the downfall and the pillar of civilization because I homeschool, and, above all, utterly incapable and in need of constant guidance and advice from pretty nearly everyone about pretty nearly all aspects of parenting.
Perhaps I am exaggerating just the tiniest bit.
But, if wintertime makes me melancholy, prone to brood, and capable of making mountains out of every molehill, it also makes me deeply appreciative of the small gifts and graces I receive every day.
Seeing a red-tailed hawk soaring high above us, or a flock of pigeons flapping just above the roof-line, or a long and straggling line of crows heading into the setting sun -- all of these can restore my sense of wonder. The smell of bread baking, the taste of wheat and yeast and butter and honey, the sight of my children's sticky, satisfied smiles -- these restore my sense of gratitude. The sound of the pipes clanking, the cats purring, and the wind rattling the window panes -- these restore my sense of comfort.
Today I served a simple but delicious chickpea stew with saffron and almonds for lunch, and as we ate and chatted about today's work and tomorrow's plans I felt supremely content. Tomorrow we will have our weekly playtime co-op. The kids will run around like wild things and the adults will talk and laugh and we'll all feast on sweet, gooey, cinnamon-y monkey bread, and life will be good.
*I stole this of course, from Pablo Neruda, as translated by, I believe, Robert Bly.