It has been awhile since I've written.  See, my husband and I took all the littles and and went on a camping trip.  We got home exactly a week ago, and I'm finally beginning to feel as if I'm starting to recover and get my feet under me again.  I have loved camping since I was a kid.  I always planned to live that way.  I remember, even in jr. high planning my dream cabin where I would live at one with nature.  Now, I can barely survive 5 days with 5 kids in the wild!  I admit it - I have gotten soft.  No more plans to someday move "off the grid" for this gal.  Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed every minute of the trip, and I've already reserved the campsite for next summer, but it was soooo hard!!!  I thought that my daily life was already one of perpetual motion, but up in the mountains, where the weather changes constantly and food prep is much more involved, I felt like a whirling dervish!!  It's regular life complicated by all four seasons every 24 hours with everything packed in tiny spaces.  I don't remember camping this way.  I remember leisure - listening to the wind in the trees - fishing on the river - reading - hiking - communing with nature.  I understand now why my Mom always laughed when I told her I was going to live in the middle of nowhere when I grew up.  Ah, wisdom.

But I still really enjoyed myself.  We go to the most beautiful spot, and it is fun to watch the kids discover it the way I did as a kid.  Wordsworth had it right when he called little boys "nature's priest."  Although my Lily is more wild than any of the boys - and more covered in head-to-toe dirt!  It is amazing to watch the stages as the kids at first are fascinated with everything, then they get bored wondering what to make of this non-technological world, then their minds begin to open, their imaginations begin to put down roots in the rich mountain soil, and something beautiful and wonderful grows.  By the time we leave, they know every rock and tree, where the grasshoppers are, the best skipping rock sites...  And they inevitably have established "clubhouses."  Not built, or altered from the way they find them, just spots where they gather - a fallen tree that makes a large hollow, the canopy of a giant pine, or a grassy clearing surrounded by aspen trees.  I always regret bringing them back to civilization (though one more day without a shower and I'd just cry).  In another Wordsworth poem, he writes, "and she shall lean her ear in many a secret place, where rivulets dance their wayward round, and beauty borne of murmuring sound shall pass into her face."  This notion resonates within me as I watch my children - filthy, bedraggled, sunburned, bug-bitten and more beautiful than at any polished time because the beauty of nature has passed into their faces.  

And so even though it takes me two weeks non-stop preparation followed by a whirlwind camping trip, followed by another two weeks of recovery and laundry, I will never neglect a summer by omitting a trip into the wild for my little wild ones.  But I won't be moving there permanently any time soon!
There is a tree in my yard that is amazingly beautiful and brings me great joy.  It was here when we moved in, so I don't know what kind of tree it is, but it has almond-shape leaves and it weeps just gently enough to give it an elegant, umbrella canopy.  In the spring, it puts on a show of blossoms in dangling, delicate white clusters that make the whole yard ethereal.  Of course, the birds love the tree too - and my mornings in summer always begin filled with birdsong, like a Disney movie.   Only the part no-one likes to mention is that having a beautiful tree that brings beautiful birds also means a yard covered in not-so-beautiful bird crap!  Every morning I have the lovely task of  getting outside before the kids do to hose down their table, the slide and swings, and anything and everything else left in the yard overnight.  It also makes it a bit of a gamble to actually sit under the shady canopy and emerge clean.  Why does it always seem that in order to enjoy beauty, we must put up with a certain amount of crap?

Once I start thinking about it, I find it in almost every aspect of life - especially when it comes to parenting.  A U2 song recognizes that "there's always pain before the child is born."  And from that moment on it continues into infinity; parenting is full of crap - literal and figurative.  It is down-and-dirty-not-for-the-faint-of-heart-back-breaking-heart-breaking work.  But flabbergasting beauty  is the payoff.  The look of adoration that my baby gives me just because I walked into the room.  Tiny arms wrapped around my neck.  Listening to the miracle of my kindergartener reading for the first time.  Reading a story written by my nine-year-old. Bedtime kisses.  Overheard prayers.  Tutus and lightsabers and baby dolls. 

 It would be nice to have the beauty without the crap - enjoy the love without enduring the nights of ill children vomiting - but I'm beginning to believe that it is a universal imperative.  It's the stupid adage that we'll enjoy the bike more if we earn the money to pay for it ourselves.   Somehow it's true.  Others may admire my tree, but they don't get the birdsong in the morning, the blossoms in the spring, or the crap to scrub.  Others may enjoy the company of my children, but I get the truly beautiful because I also get the unsavory.  But if dichotomy is a universal imperative, I personally believe that it is not at all an even one.  In the grand scheme of things, when all is weighed in the balance,  the beauty in life, in parenting, and in trees eclipses the requisite bad stuff.

An overheard scene:
Lily: Come on Chloe, time to take a shower.
Chloe: Okay mommy (gets into the closet and makes shwish noises)
Lily: All done, come get dressed now.
Chloe: Okay mommy.
Lily: You look pretty.  Now it's time to eat, let's go to the kitchen.
Chloe: Okay mommy.

While trotting by me in the hall, Lily announces, "We're playing house."  Obviously.  Yet I wonder.  If playing at being mommy and child is a reflection of their reality, why are they so much more obedient to "mommy" than they are to Mommy?  If I ever asked any of the kids to do something and had an instant response of "okay Mommy" followed by prompt action, I would think I was being punk'd!!  Maybe tomorrow morning I'll get up and tell the kids, "today we're playing house, I'll be the Mommy and you be the kids - now let's eat breakfast and get dressed."  Think I'll get an "okay Mommy," from any of them?  
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