While so many areas of the country are being snowed into oblivion and onto record charts, we are having the most beautiful spring weather here– a bit on the hot side even, some days. Knowing these temperatures, these clear and breezy days are not going to last very long into the calendar summer, we are having our outdoor summer now in spring. Tree climbing, popsicles, water play, mud kitchen, chalk, scooters, swings, walks to the park and the library, eating outside, making messes, art projects, complete freedom to do anything we think of, and all of it outside in the blessed fresh air. I know it will not be long before the desperate heat of summer and blistering sky is upon us, so we are enjoying these days to the fullest, living up summer in spring.
Very early yesterday morning through a sleepy-not-quite-awake-but-up-and-moving-haze (just like every day), I heard the mowers barreling through the yards in our neighborhood and suddenly snapped to attention — ‘oh no!, they are going to cut down all the clover in our yard and we haven’t collected any yet for Saint Patrick’s Day!’. Seems like a silly and small thing, but the clover here is tall and very pretty and I have never lived in a place where large swaths of it flourish this time of year outside. The green is so lush and beautiful right now.
Boots flung on and bouncing out the door, we managed to collect some in the knick of time and more than we needed, the morning sky gently misting, much like it was in Ireland when we visited on our honeymoon back in 2008. And today we read about Saint Patrick and what he did and how he used a shamrock, literally translated ‘little clover’, to illustrate the Holy Trinity, the Triune God to those who followed him. The picture book read that St Patrick was a quiet and gentle and kind man, and Zeb said, “Just like dada”. I nearly cried, because it is true.
We made Irish soda bread with cranberries instead of currants, which turned out wonderfully (I had never made it before) and we made fresh pea soup with crème fraiche and chives, which I called “Spring Pea Soup”. My littlest one (17 months old) ate four bowls of it, so I would say it was a success, though my eldest child who is a very adventurous eater was not so sure.
And we hung a front door swag of blooming branches from the tree in our yard, played outside nearly all day long in this mild and wonderfully gentle weather and enjoyed another day of learning and living and working and celebrating together.
Yesterday was so beautiful we spent nearly the entire day outside. As they say, make hay when the sun shines — or in this case, make mud pies when the yard is a swamp. 🙂 They made a mud kitchen, got absolutely filthy in the process but had such a wonderful day in the fresh air. They need more fresh air than I realize. We do go out to the park daily for hours, but if it was up to them, they would be outside all day long. I wish that for them too. I would love to have our own waldkindergarten, to learn and do everything outside.
We did have a little bit of outdoor freedom in South Carolina, but here it is a different story. There are a lot of rules about letting children play by themselves, and without a fence to hem in the yard from the roads, I have to be out there with my littlest one who likes to wander off from time to time following a bird or squirrel. I don’t mind being out there too (in fact, I prefer it), but then nothing gets done inside, the house is in shambles by the end of the day (worse than the usual), and meals are outside and I can’t remember what we even ate in the process.
But it is always so worth it: By late afternoon, lots of other children who saw us outside came out to play too next to our house (where there is a basketball court), riding bikes and scooters and throwing balls, playing hide and seek, running around chasing bubbles, everyone sharing everything. Mothers of small children congregating, watching others little ones, a neighbors sweet puppy bouncing along, bigger kids playing basketball while carefully navigating the little ones darting in and out from where they were playing.
We were there for hours. By dinner time there was a whole little community gathered together and I nearly cried. Eithne cried when it was time to go (we stayed out until 7pm), and said, “Mama, can’t they all come for supper? I am going to miss them.” I felt the same way. I was sorry to have to leave.
It has been years, years, since I have had neighbors, a group of truly friendly kind folks who genuinely care, who watch out, who reach out. It was a beautiful thing to behold, a beautiful thing to be part of, a blessing to be in a neighborhood.
So our house is a complete mess today, mud literally everywhere, and the laundry piles are endless and I need to get to the market, but those things are really not all that important, not really. Friends and neighbors and love and sunshine are the important things — and of course, so are making mud pies in mud kitchens.
We have been so surprised by how much it rains here in winter (or maybe just this winter?). I somehow imagined that it would be quite arid but I am guessing that comes in the summer months of one hundred degree (plus) weather. And the mud– Have I mentioned the mud? There are large portions of land without any grass whatsoever and the mud is epic, especially when it rains hard, as it did last night and half-way through today.
When we moved into this house we moved in half of the yard’s mud and it felt overwhelming to me at the time– trying to unpack, take care of children and deal with the mud everywhere, trying to not get it all over the things I was unpacking, trying to get it off the children as soon as they walked through the door only to then realize it was I who hadn’t removed muddy boots before stepping inside from taking out the recycling. It was a battle I fought hard (and even cried over) but it was a battle I often lost until I finally decided that dirt is a good and healthy thing, and that when it dried, how easy it was to brush off or sweep up. I had to let go. I am always having to let go.
Please understand that this is enormous personal growth for me and work that is not yet done, my children stretching me further and further in ways I have to pray through at times.
“Mama, can we please play outside in the big puddles in the rain?”
<insert dramatic pause>
They were out there for hours, coming in several times for clean and dry outfits only to return soaking wet and muddy with water pouring from their boots a little while later, or returning only to smile through the window at me or show me how big a splash they could make or to find a shovel or a bucket or a boat to add to their fun (or their baby sister who had been watching the rain and her older siblings through the window).
No constraints, a day of “yes!”. It was such a fun day for all of us, worth the mess, the mopping, the extra laundry and baths.
Beauty in the mess, joy in the rain, in the letting go.
We all need more yes-days.