birthday number 2, take two

Someone was quite eager to get started. Before daddy even lit the birthday candles, Rivers was rehearsing for his shining moment. Having waited patiently for over a week to devour his birthday tart, until his cold disappeared, he was certainly practiced in the art of extinguishing a flame with the first breath. Too perfected for his mama to capture the reflected glow of the candlelight and his efforts without a relight.

Maybe we’ll do trick candles next year to slow him down a bit.
Daddy allowed Rivers the honor to (attempt to) cut his birthday dessert. And with the pie cutter in hand, he created a smiley face instead. “Eyyyyyeeee. Heaaaa.”

A few weeks prior to Rivers’ birthday I was racking my brain with what to do for his cake. His daddy’s birthday is not even a full month prior. Two winter birthdays can put a bit of a damper on creativity, especially since there is relatively no fresh (local) fruit, and this season they both needed to be gluten-free.  Good thing I have two chocoholics in the family!

Sometimes I don’t know if Rivers fully understands me when I speak to him, but during a brainstorming moment I asked if he would like a peanut butter-chocolate tart. His entire face lit up, eyes widened. He nodded steadily and calmly, letting the weight of my question sink. That settled that.

 

birthday blues and summer days

Our poor kiddo has been under the weather this week. The worst of it perfectly corresponded with his birthday, and as an added bonus he shared it with me.  Plenty of rest, vitamins and elderberry syrup and we are already on the road to recovery.

To put some sunshine back into our healing bodies, I began looking through photos from the summer and came across this Making-of a Hashtache Breakfast. Sometime last year we began project of creating food faces with hash mustaches and presenting them to Rivers for his Monday breakfast.  Just a once a week creative game. To see more, search #hashtachemonday on Instagram.

The best part of the hashtache breakfast is listening to this guy talk to me about what’s on his plate and then watching him destroy and/or eat it. 

lessons in trust: a breastfeeding story

Two months ago, one ordinary morning Rivers decided to wean himself. For the last few weeks we’d been down to one breastfeeding cuddle a day. The fact that it was only once daily made it quite painful for me physically. My body was regressing back to its former sensitivity, the pre-suckling baby sensitivity. He was 22 months at this point, so when he decided to skip his “bop bop” breakfast, I really didn’t mind. Maybe I was a bit relieved even.

The next morning he skipped again, instead following Daddy straight into the kitchen for oatmeal. He never requested our time together later in the day, and I never insisted. This went on for a couple weeks, then suddenly it was as if he remembered I was there, or really that my “bop bops” were there. But by then my breasts had shrunk. I was dry and my breasts far too sensitive to oblige. I could only hold him close, a winter sweater between the space that once held his head to my chest. Our relationship had evolved and we could not reverse time. We both cried a little, because change is tough.

My journey as a mother would not be complete without my breastfeeding experience and it’s absolutely not because of the actual act. The act itself did not complete me. In actuality I never felt the bursts of bliss that some mothers express. The experience for me was a lesson in trust. I had to trust the tiny person who knew more about breastfeeding than his new mother. I had to give him time to find his way, allow him to be fussy (to do the on again, off again dance), to hang on me All. Day. Long. during teething periods or growth spurts, and eventually allow him to do gymnastics on my face when he still requested breastmilk even after he was on a steady diet of solids. I had to trust my body. I had to trust that I was giving “enough,” because the moment I became anxious about it, my flow would begin to diminish. I never gave extra, but I trusted myself and I always had just enough for my single baby bird.

Before his arrival I had set a flexible goal of breastfeeding for one year, but by the time the first month passed I was in such pain that I had to exclusively pump for two days while Jonathan bottle fed. The first time I bottle fed Rivers, I wept terribly because he was so fussy, determined to wiggle his head into my fuzzy robe and get at the real thing. I kept thinking, if I make it to month three and this is still painful, I’ll quit. Month three was fine, but the pain crept back by month four, then disappeared again for good until recently when our days slowly dwindled. I had to trust that, like any physical exercise, my body would adjust and my nipples would toughen. They did.

As we neared a year, and Rivers became more physically active, he seemed to nurse less and less. I almost thought our days were over, but my instincts told me otherwise. If he refused me, I pumped. Nothing worth keeping ever came out of the sessions, but I kept up the activity to keep the milk glands active just in case. I trusted my instincts and sure enough he was back to nursing like clockwork.

Sometime after Rivers’ first year, a female farmer at the greenmarket unabashedly asked if I was still breastfeeding. It turned out that she had practiced extended breastfeeding with her son through his early toddler years and swore he never went through the terrible twos because of the practice. Her produce partner teased, “Oh yeah, did he skip the terrible threes? What about the terrible fours, or terrible fives? Are you just going to breastfeed him till he goes through puberty?”  Though he seemed to be doing this in a friendly manner I couldn’t help but remember a time when I reacted similarly (internally, thank goodness) when a coworker told me she’d been breastfed until the age of three and even had memories of it. When my mother in-law first told me she’d breastfed both her children at least two years my eyes bulged a little. My mother breastfed, but extended breastfeeding was definitely a new term for me. I learned much more about it when I realized our journey was not over on Rivers’ first birthday. I talked to and read stories from other mothers and trusted that they were not crazy or smothering, but simply balancing the needs and wants of their child with their own instincts and boundaries.

After the first year of breastfeeding, the second came easily. We were practiced at the dance, and quite a dance it could be with a toddler! I could envy the farmer who took care of her son’s “terrible twos” by shaking her breasts. I wouldn’t mind doing the same as Rivers enters that stage of his life, but if I hadn’t learned to trust that we would both know when our time was truly over, then I wouldn’t have learned anything at all.

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release for 2015

We will be more successful in our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time,
and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.
                                                                                                                         –Thich Nhat Hanh

Blue Ridge Mountains 2014

Last New Year I wrote a list of resolutions in my best handwriting, with a little script lettering for flair and a couple doodles to make it cute.  Fellow blogging mama, Lyssa wrote about focusing on one word for the year, so I opted to do both the list and the mantra in 2014, just for fun.

Of course the one word mantra was much more successful. It was easy to remember and flexible. I could focus on achieving it an any moment, because it wasn’t specific to one goal. It wasn’t something just to cross of a list, it became a practice.

Slowly.

I chose two words for 2014, mindfulness and presence. Jonathan gifted me a wrist tattoo of the Chinese symbol for mindfulness and still it was slow to learn. Often this past year the lessons came at the cost of connecting with my internet community and contributing to this space. It became easier to shut off all screens, to be a present mother and partner, rather than being more mindful of my time. I’m still learning how to juggle, and which aspect of the juggle is important. I will be a student for the rest of my life.

In the end these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?
                           – Jack Kornfield

My mantra for 2015 is release. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Frozen with Rivers, but I’m taking Elsa’s lead and letting go. Since our move I have felt severely overwhelmed by the number of the projects that need to get done and the ones that moved with us, unfinished. This year will be a release of unrealistic expectations (that often lead to disappointment, guilt and anger), unwanted possessions (that clutter our space and require our time for cleaning or moving); and unnecessary appointments (that inevitable leave us wishing for more and more time in the day).

The lessons of release sounds much like mindfulness. Told ‘ya I’ll be a student for the rest of my life.

Cheers to 2015!

 

 

 

{2014} looking back

09.14-NYCskyline-

This is New York City, the view from my (former) home subway stop. Having lived in the same apartment for all 3.5 years of my stay, I saw this view in every season, and being a pastry cook meant I saw it at all (odd) hours of the day and night.

This particular day was early autumn, Sunday, and one of the first actually cold mornings of the season. It was about 6:30am when my sister in-law, Bathsheba, and I ventured out on an experience that only crazy people or real foodies (or real crazy foodie people) would do. We left the warmth and comfort of our beds to wait in line for hours, shivering and holding our pee so that we could taste the original, the infamous, the one and only cronut09.14-NYCskyline209.14-bathshebaThis girl is kind of badass in every way, but waiting in the cold for hours just to taste a pricey weird dessert, well…she’s also a girl after my own heart.

09.14-cronutbox09.14-BashCronut09.14-cuttingcronutThe cronut flavor changes each month, so we actually ended up meeting a few other NYC residents who were returning to try October’s Pumpkin Spice. There are no other choices, it’s just whatever flavor the bakery makes that month.

The boys showed up in time for doors to open and the dessert purchasing to begin to eat. As we finished our indulgent breakfast an older woman approached our table and whispered, “Was it worth it?”  Still taking it all in, I immediately replied ” I don’t know.” She turned to a man by her side and said something about being glad they didn’t have to wait. Anyone can just walk into the bakery if they’re ordering anything besides cronuts.

Now that it’s been a few months, and I’ve been able to try some of the “imitation” cronuts out there, my answer has changed. It was totally worth it! The cronut from the Dominique Ansel Bakery had a very distinct flavor (beyond the pumpkin spice), and the experience of putting forth effort and then waiting patiently for a treat makes it that much more special to savor. Just my thoughts.

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After dessert, we walked from SOHO to Chinatown for a much needed savory lunch, at a vegetarian dim sum place that we’d had on our list to try for almost as long as we’d been in NYC. Why? Because “good fortune” and “unicorn” were featured on the menu. And it was delicious!

Lesson learned. Never put off vegetarian dim sum, ever.

09.14-BW-HoldingHands09.14-BW-SOHO 09.14-BW-Rivers209.14-BW-Chinatown 09.14-BW-RiversCronuts, dim sum and an afternoon of flirting with the friendliest waitresses on the planet was too much for this kid.

One of my favorite days ever!

 

{2014} looking back

After quite an unexpectedly long hiatus from blogging (and almost all internet in general), it’s difficult to know just where to pick up again. The last three and a half months were blissfully spent enjoying one another and our final days in New York before the move to the midwest. We toured the south, visited with each set of grandparents at least twice, traveled to seven different cities, spent quality time with great grandparents, ran a half marathon, had our first weekend away (sans baby), packed a moving van, unpacked a moving van, celebrated a birthday, then jumped right into holiday mode and made feast after feast for family get-togethers.

I wish I could have juggled blogging too, but I didn’t have internet half the time and I didn’t really care. My 2014 resolution was a one word mantra (actually two words), Mindfulness and Presence. In the midst of the bustling journey it felt best to honor the mantra. I immersed myself in our move and our adventures and feel more alive because of it.

I chose a new word for 2015, but first things first. It is the season for reflection, and now that the stream of life has slowed its pace somewhat, I shall take the time to do just that.

GreetingsCapeCod

Since his birth we’ve been writing anecdotes about our trips and sending Rivers a postcard from just about every city he’s ever called home for the night. In early September, Jonathan surprised us with a trip to Cape Cod to see the cranberry harvest. It was one of those trips that is planned out just right, but in practice does not unfold at all the way it’s expected. The cranberry harvest turned out to be mostly baby wrangling in a sandpit, and thoughts of whale watching were dashed when we realized that more baby wrangling (on a boat for four hours!) might actually kill us. We opted for ice cream instead.

The trip didn’t unfold the way it was expected, but the way it should. We hiked, dipped our toes in the ocean, met a drag queen mermaid, climbed the pilgrim tower, learned some Spanish lingo from toddlers, adopted grandparents and saw an old narwhal tusk.

I’d return in a second!

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Gray cedar siding. Cape Cod could be described by this photo alone.
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 The very last day I used the baby carrier, on the cranberry tour. See how well that went? Rivers nabbed a friendly, sharing child’s camera and was off like a true tourist.

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The final blooms of fall, captured by Jonathan’s eye.
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Trying to figure out how to get the the beach.
(Check out the family in the background with the amazing, inflated beach wheelchair.)

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It took this kid about two seconds to persuade his adopted grandfather, Mr. Robert, to escort him to the beach. He ran right up to inspect the wheel then raised his arms for a “pick up.” Jonathan and I were flabbergasted. Mr. Robert’s family happily snapped about six photos before we managed one. capecod4

Just as quickly as he befriended his way into a ride, he waved goodbye and raced off. capecod11

capecod5

The obligatory family photo on the beach, the effort before the perfect edit.

yours truly : a typical morning

 

Dear R-

It’s cliché to say that having a child has completely changed my life, but not an exaggeration in the least. It’s hard explaining this to my former people, the carefree and child free. Take this morning for instance. Not three minutes into the breakfast Rivers began choking. For a kid who inhales food without actually utilizing his teeth most days, choking isn’t unusual. My heart has skipped enough beats that I no longer panic. Almost every meal we have to remind him to “gobble, gobble, nibble, nibble, munch, much, scrunch (like a dinosaur),” a reference from his storybook.

We gave him a minute, then because he was still struggling, Jonathan took Rivers over his knee and firmly patted his back. The culprit came back up, along with a spatter of breast milk, oatmeal and un-chewed apricot chunks. Without skipping a beat, Rivers jumped down from his father and attempted to devour the mess all over again.

When I was fourteen years old and expecting my youngest brother, a neighbor allowed me to hold his newborn son as practice and asked if I would be ready for the baby. I said, “Of course, I’ve raised puppies. How much different could it be?” Our neighbor looked perplexed and took his son back. Clearly I was not on his babysitter list from day one, but another fourteen years later I stand firmly by my word. Babies are like puppies, they need plenty of food, love and exercise, a little guidance when it comes to the potty and a good parent who will step in and keep them from eating the most disgusting things off the ground!

Back to my morning- in no time at all the mess was mopped. Rivers finished the remainder of his fresh oatmeal more carefully without any hiccups and went off to play. Jonathan left the room to find a yoga video on YouTube, so that we could stretch together before I needed to leave for work. I began cleaning the kitchen when I realized that I could only hear Jonathan. Maybe the only thing worse than a child making too much noise is one who makes too little. Ha! He was quiet because, after vomiting most of breakfast, he was still hungry so decided to open a container of cat food snacks and help himself. Are babies really that different from puppies?

Trying to explain that the cat food was strictly for the cats somehow got lost in translation. Judging by his reaction, he may have thought I was saying something about the existence of life  coming to a complete halt right then and there. Maybe true happiness is locked in cat food and I’m just missing out. I don’t know. What I do know is that he looked me square in the eyes and let out the most horrifying scream. I felt like I was in a wind tunnel, my hair flowed straight behind me and I needed to squint my eyes.

“EXCUUUUse me?” I was firm, but not angry. That’s when his tears started flowing and he started grabbing himself. It was potty time, not time for mama to be upset over losing part of her hearing or even to turn the moment into a lesson. We raced to the mini toilet with minimal mess. When he finished, we looked back toward his spot to see that a bit of pee had not deterred one of our cats at all. The fur ball was munching on a couple of wet pieces of cat food left on the floor. In the crazy cycle of events, it finally clicked for Rivers. Translation complete.

Jonathan and I were able to finish our morning, the whole fifteen minutes of it, with a baby free yoga routine. Rivers was too busy feeding the cats by hand. The routine Jonathan chose was short but intense. Emotions from the morning-worry, confusion, frustration-came flowing out, but not without some difficulty. When the video finished and I sat in child’s pose, on my knees with my face and chest to the ground. Rivers bounced over, stretched his belly and chest along my back and wrapped his arms firmly across my shoulders in a hug. Then moved to face me, picked up my head with his chubby hands and kissed me.

I’m coming to realize that, while some individuals instantly feel immersed in the sorority (and fraternity) of the insane (aka the parent club), others accept their membership over time. I’m one of those. I loved being child free and I sometimes envy the majority of my companions who still are. I’ve tried to talk about my life beyond my son, but it is becoming more difficult each day. How can I possible explain my morning without including him? And how can I possible explain it to a child free individual without initiating a look of terror and sympathy? I can only laugh at the thought. I’m glad to share this story with you. My hope is that it will bring a smile to your face, make you nod in agreement or even laugh.

Yours truly-

kissface

 

unedited thoughts: saint louis and other things

I’ve been writing this post over and over and over, and yet I can’t publish it. It doesn’t feel like my voice, my true voice. My words come out in anger and despair. Of course that’s how I feel sometimes, but I have to remind myself to come back to the center. To breathe. I am one person, I can’t make a change in the world, but I cannot solve all the problems of the world. And there are many.

I’m in awe of people who can be poetic and contemplative in times of confusion or turmoil. They know just what to say to bring calm and love to a troubled heart. I’m not one of those gifted souls. I grasp for straws, so to speak. This is my first new draft of this post and final, unedited. My apologies now for any grammatical errors. I just need to get this announcement out.

We’re moving. In just about two months we will be unpacking our belongings and settling into a new home in Saint Louis, Missouri. We’ve slowly revealed the news to our employers and close friends in the last several weeks.

One friend recently asked me if we were still planning our move, considering the activities taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. I told her that, yes we are still moving and that sadly Michael Brown’s death was nothing new. I reminded her that Eric Garner had just been murdered in our own backyard by police brutality not a month before

I’d lived in Saint Louis for almost seven years before New York City, and worked in the neighborhood where Brown attended high school. Michael Brown could have been one of my culinary students. He wasn’t, but he was just that young. Police harassment, specifically by white police officers toward black individuals was a common topic in my circle. In college I often heard the term “driving while black,” or  “walking while black” tossed around. We knew which of us could speed through the neighborhood with no problem, and which of us were frequently stopped just to provide proof of car ownership. Because a person of color can’t possibly own a Porsche, right? Later, I learned that this is a common phrase and even kind of a joke in most cities across the US.

A year or two out of college I was teaching a class to teen moms. I’d been teaching nutritional health and cooking skills to low-income families for some time. I’d grow up in a low-income household and found this job as my ticket to give back. I was the first in my family to go to college. I wanted to see the same for the kids of these families, and hoped that by sharing some basic life skills that they could too. I thought it was just that simple. But this one particular class, I met a toddler boy who rocked my whole world. His mom yelled at him for something insignificant. She was young and impatient and so was he. Watching him cry was such a trigger for me. I knew it was wrong so see him as a statistic before his life had even begun, but right then it seemed like when his mom was against him, the whole world was. I knew full well the challenge it is to grow up without a father and with a teen parent. I’d been on that road. Unlike me, this baby boy was black. Having grown up in the south, with all the rampant racism there, and then attending college in a racially tense town, I was aware that my struggles didn’t compare with the challenges that he will face. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.

I wasn’t in Ferguson on August 9.
I didn’t witness this tragedy.
I don’t know the truth of what happened in this particular shuffle.

I do know that racial tension is high in Saint Louis and surrounding areas.
I do know I am given a free pass from stop and frisk, general questioning or harassment because I’m not black or brown.
I know that while I grew up in a very turbulent home, very poor, I can be perceived differently and no one has yet questioned my background.
I know that I am one of few white people in my NYC neighborhood and yet I cannot go a whole day without seeing people who look just like me, they’re plastered all over the covers of magazines, and play the lead roles in almost every movie, play and TV show.
I know that the same cannot be said for people of other ethnicities. Where are they?!
I do know that a mother lost her only son.
I know that I still weep over that baby boy from my class every single time I think of him.
And I pray every day that he doesn’t become a statistic or a blood stain to a world that doesn’t care.

We’re still moving to Saint Louis. We’re not turned away from the outcry that is taking place. We’re proud of our community for marching in the streets and raising its voices.

 

 

short stories from a long summer

The Fourwoods are still here! Thank you so much for checking in with us through email, instagram and your comments here while we were away. Taking a couple of days from the internet turned into an unexpected two month hiatus.  The summer has been long and lovely. I’ve been writing elsewhere (unpublished), but have missed sharing our stories on the blog. AND hearing from you!

To break back into blogging I’m sharing a few highlights of the summer. Hope you enjoy.

How is everyone? Drop a line in the comments and/or share a link to your favorite summer story or adventure. I look forward to reading them.

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tantrum

Tantrum, Tears and a Thief

You absolutely adore her, yet that one day, that one particular hour, you wanted nothing more than to escape from the location where our friend chose to meet us, Cake Heaven. What kid wouldn’t want to be at cake heaven?  A pastry cook’s child, apparently. My every attempt to distract you with the dessert display was met with a complete meltdown. Literally, you looked like you were trying to seep right into the hardwood floor. It may be easier to hold water in my bare hands than to cradle you in that state.

One thing did make you smile, taking my hand and walking toward the entrance, waving gleefully to each doting, young waitress as you passed. You thought you’re making a get-away, but the plan was blasted to smithereens by the insufferable mother of yours. The same woman who somehow, with some sort of supernatural mama power, managed your robot legs into the openings of a wooden high chair and strapped you in, all while swiftly sweeping away objects from nearby surfaces.

Thank goodness the waitress had a keen sense of timing. Just as you were about to let out another shrill, a personal coconut custard pie arrived, topped with fresh blackberries and raspberries. You seemed unimpressed, but I knew to shove one bite straight into your trap. You were easily converted. The silence was short, but oh-so sweet.  Our friend appeared un-phased by your previous outburst and was impressed by your ability to pretend to utilize a grown-up size fork. Dessert didn’t last long, as soon as you scooped the final bite into your mouth you demanded the check and the three of us were out the door and meandering through a sad excuse for a park. It looked more like a glorified grassy median between roads, ironically sharing its name with the world’s most famous farmer, the one with his very own sing-along-song.

You were finally in your element, as close to nature as possible. A nature that included a drinking fountain, of which you found life’s greatest enjoyment on that hot summer day. Once you made me sufficiently wet I decided to toss you in the carrier, tie you to my chest and call it an evening. As if we hadn’t had enough drama and excitement already, it was only getting started. Not ten minutes later, we made our way to the eastern edge of the park and, right as we were ready to say our goodbyes, we heard a crash. It sounded just like someone trying to break a bag of ice. At least that’s what I first though, but my brain questioned why anyone would do that in such a tiny park, around so many cars. Ah, the cars, duh! Just a knee-high brick barrier and an arrangement of leafy shrubs separated us from a professional acrobatic thief, who was balancing on a blue BMX-style bicycle, while simultaneously diving into a ring of broken glass to retrieve a prize from the floor of the neighboring silver SUV.

Out of the window came a long, twiggy white man wearing a light gray hoody synched around his face. The thief shoved the prize into the belly pocket of his hoody and shot through the park, zigzagging on his bike, barely avoiding naive pedestrians. For the first time in our entire visit, you were silent, as if you understood the severity of the situation, or like your mama, you were shockingly impressed with the thief’s coordinating skill. It turned out the prize was an iPhone, and to think that the whole time you’d been playing with mine. I would have liked to see the thief try to pry it from your clenched, chubby clam hands.

A delivery man in a bright orange DHL truck was shouting for someone in the park to “get ‘im,” but lost interest as soon as the traffic light changed. A man sitting on a bench, facing the SUV told us he saw nothing. Apparently the three of us were the only willing candidates to report the incident to the fast-talking, chain-smoking men in blue. The owner appeared some time later with a paralyzed expression, all while we answered questions and looked around at the aloof extras still seated at the park. Forever I’ll remember the day as that one time, thanks to you, and your tantrum that forced us to the park, we became bit players in a relatively low-key, real-life episode of Law and Order.

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I have many memories of July 4th; having grown up in the country, most of my recollections include family firework shows orchestrated by my uncle. Us, kids would nestle into the top of a rolled hay bale and applaud the glowing streaks that shrieked to the stars then exploded with a showering boom. Once the extravagant show finished, it would take the bullfrogs and crickets about ten minutes to gather the courage to fill the night with their song. The smell of gunpowder, grilled meat and beer would linger in the air until morning. That to me was what the Fourth of July was all about. That and wearing red, white and blue of course.  

I don’t consider myself a poet in any regard whatsoever, but I felt compelled to write a (sort of) lyrical piece based on my Fourth of July celebration this summer to capture the color and heart-lifting expression. It was as if I understood the holiday in its true meaning for the very first time. 

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The Color of July Fourth

Chilly night. Let’s go,
it’s alright.

Long strides and strolls
along the blushing horizon,
framed by lilac and indigo.

Patiently wait,
standing still.

Traffic slows.
Along a lonely bridge,
masks fixed for the show.

Remaining light
squelched with applause.

Screens rise in waves
capturing blurry reflections,
of glittering gold, jade
and crimson cheesing for the shot.

Orange faces glow, some
brown, black and pink.
Blue eyes, black eyes, and
eyes only seen behind
a primrose head scarf.

Children guarded
on the roofs of machines,
old in the street.
All transfixed.

Music blasting,
citrine blaze.

Everyone dancing. Moving
like the silver tide below their feet.

Harmony’s tone
lifts our chests.

Echoes of Freedom, a single voice
español العربية português Έλληνες
english 한국어 română हिन्दी

Gaia’s breath is too strong
for the fireworks to sound,
but it vibrates among the crowd.

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Watermelon Seeds

Watermelon Seeds

Maybe watermelon and sand doesn’t mix, but don’t tell the kid. He just thinks we’re loco, for the same reason we don’t eat the durable black seeds embedded in the melon’s porous, sticky flesh. Why would we? They’re not inedible, but certainly more trouble than they’re worth. Spitting them great distances is more amusing, especially when it becomes a contest between friends, or in our case, married people. We can’t explain that to the kid; he doesn’t get it yet, and trying to pick the seeds out of his slice is like taking candy from a baby. Who ever said that was easy, to take candy from a baby, never actually did it. Trying to steal anything from a baby is like trying to rob a bank when the alarm has already been pulled.

Those chubby fingers are working with such intensity to pick out each tiny seed, and cram them into the kid’s chipmunk cheeks. I fear I may lose a finger if I tried to stop the process. What can it hurt to leave the seeds, other than the kid’s intestines, temporarily, because we know he’s not actually chewing them and they’re not breaking down inside. Stomach acid is no match for their impenetrable outer shell. This is the kid who swallows raisins whole, and book covers, and keys, and possibly remote controls. (The search party is still out for the silver one missing since March.) Watermelon seeds are nothing.

We three quiet ourselves with individual slices. The kid periodically dips his into a bucket of salty sea water and then a small mound of sand, like a tortilla chip to salsa and guacamole. With each bite he begins to resemble Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, only with an added sandy beard. I look up and away from the charming, sticky scene to see a fin rise from the tide, not fifty feet from the shore. Two more follow, then the first again. We count seven total, gradually rising and falling with each breath along their swim. Their black silhouettes dance along the horizon with grace, and behind the parade is a rowboat with two seemly exhausted chasers. I only wish I had binoculars to see the exerting effort being made to catch the sea creatures. It’s an older couple, who presumably started out on some nonchalant day-trip along the outer coast, one that turned into a sighting and then a chase for more. It’s a comical, somewhat sad sight. They’re moving at a great speed, but paddling in a row-boat will only do so much. They’ll never catch the casual swimmers without something more aerodynamic.

I look back to the kid, who is at this point helping himself to more watermelon. When did he learn to open Tupperware? I try to distract him by pointing toward the dolphins, but he couldn’t care less. Covered from head to toe in sand is no overstatement. The kid is literally coated in nature’s exfoliating scrub. Doubting whether a suit of sand is armor against UV rays, and considering how many times we’ve already washed and re-coated him with sunscreen, we douse him once more in sea water, leave Joker at the beach and return home with our kid.