Monday, January 28, 2013

Ice Skating :: Finding Balance


There was a layer of snow on top of the ice rink on Friday morning.  I shoveled some off to make a slick patch for Amabel and then realized that Ellen was much happier "skating" on a couple of inches of fluff.  I left more than half the rink covered with a layer of padding for Ellen.  She grinned at me and toddled off on her own.


Amabel, on the other hand, spent most of her time on the patch of slick ice: "breaking the speed limit," turning, going backwards, and balancing on one foot.  After shoveling, I sat in the snow bank, watching her.

She isn't like this when we go ice skating at the big indoor rink in town.  The ice is more uniform there—quite slippery—for one thing.  And there are many more people, including lots of experienced skaters.  I'm not sure if Amabel is intimidated by experienced skaters or just distracted by them, but either way when we leave the indoor rink she often says, "I'm not good at ice skating."  On the outside rink in our little village she is like a different person—confident and smily, bold and playful.  Almost as soon as we've left, she asks to return.


I love the serenity of this little village rink, so why drive all the way into town and make the extra effort to go to the bigger indoor rink at all?  

This a question I ask myself.  It echos a larger question too: what can Amabel learn better in the comfort of home and family and what is important for her to learn out in the world beyond?  When should I choose to put her (and/or myself) deliberately into new and (at least initially) uncomfortable surroundings?  

I've been watching Amabel regain a deep joy and confidence since we decided to homeschool in November.  I am paying close attention to this shift.  I believe that her mind and body have been incredibly relieved not to be in a school setting seven hours a day.  This relief has freed up her willingness to learn and try new things.  She has become her generous and enthusiastic self again, and I am so grateful that we are able to give her the space she needs.  

Amabel's impressions of people and places are deep and lasting—and her understanding of the world is something I am continually in awe of.  So, I listen to her as best I can.  But sometimes she also needs a little push to go out into the world; to go off with a new friend; to let go of my hand.  

I think I'll always be striving to find this balance.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Space on the Beach

Expansive Beach

Part of my work this winter involves coordinating speaker events—helping to bring experts to Leelanau County who will talk about our water.  Water in the Great Lakes.  There has been quite a buzz about lake levels this year: Lake Michigan water levels recently matched a record low set in 1964.  In some places along our peninsula this simply looks like a whole lot more beach.  In other places this looks like mucky, rocky shoreline stretching out for hundreds of feet, causing difficulties for boaters, swimmers, and all sorts of water-dwelling creatures.


The Great Lakes are a complicated ecological puzzle.  To quote The Environment Report from a broadcast last week, "There are just a lot of moving parts."  Indeed.  Sitting in front of a screen or pondering over it in conversation, it is not hard to get overwhelmed while trying to understand how all the pieces fit together.

Zebra Mussels

But standing on the beach, watching two girls and two dogs at play, it is not hard to remember why this place is so very precious.  Why our Lakes mean so much to so many people.  


I stand along the shore, deepening shades of blue stretching out before me.  I breath in the air coming off the lake—air that I recognize as from only here.  I watch my daughters trace their fingers in the sand and see how close they can get to the water without getting wet.  I let my heart fill with gratitude for this place.  Today.  Knowing simultaneously how little we can really know and that I will go back to work tomorrow, trying to understand a little bit more.  



We turn to walk back up into the dunes and I call the dogs.  Ellen's snow pants are wet and the sun has retreated behind a blanket of misty clouds.  We are ready to return home now, nourished by all the space on the beach.

Lots of Beach

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A New Year


A New Year.  I love this week of family, quiet, and reflection.  Time to return the stack of Christmas library books.  Take down the tree.  Rearrange rooms.  Make lists.  Share gratitude.  Write letters.  Read.  Put our home into order and prepare our spaces—physically and mentally—for the seasons ahead.

Christmas Books

We are entering the new year with much joy.  To say that we are excited about our days together homeschooling this winter is an understatement!  Jeffrey and I will continue to take turns doing lessons with Amabel.  We have excellent curriculums, books galore, project materials, a well-stocked game closet (thanks to generous family members), and two endlessly curious little girls!  Amabel and Ellen will continue to come with me to choir rehearsals, which they loved watching (and listening to) last fall.  Both girls will also take classes at Blackbird Arts in Traverse City.  I'm looking forward to part-time work with the Leelanau Conservancy.  Jeffrey is occupied with his architectural design and illustration work, as well as an upcoming website.  And we will celebrate Ellen's fourth birthday this month!


We hope there will be many more snowy walks, cross-country skiing adventures, sled rides, and ice skating trips during the coming weeks.  There is a sweet little ice rink in our village, and Amabel is becoming an enthusiastic ice skater!

Snow Home

I look forward to sharing more stories and projects, photos and reflections here with you in 2013.  Happy New Year, friends and family!