Monday, April 07, 2008

Travelling Down Into Spring

One of the peculiarities of where we live at 5500 ft altitude is that while it is wintery here, with snow still piled in the shady spots, by driving for 15 minutes we find ourselves in spring. The folk wisdom in our corner of central California was that this would be a great spring for wildflowers and certainly, as we drove south for 5 hours to see Liam yesterday we saw flowers on every hillside.

We had a nice day with the firstborn. His campus is spectacularly beautiful this time of year (I didn’t bring my camera and was hoping to borrow off Brendan or Clare, who both did, but their pictures don’t seem to be up yet). He himself is feeling comfortable and vigorous, finishing off his junior year and developing his place in the environment, starting to plan for his future but not yet at the point where he has to make final decisions.

All his siblings jostled for his attention in their own different ways. We had a picnic lunch, and we all took part in Sean’s football routines — setting up an informal power-ball-throwing arena and a ladder drill. The older boys and Kevin did some informal scrimmages. Liam brought out his guitar so that Clare and I could play a bit, and he did too. He talked about the sonata he wrote for his music class and the one he is writing now.

I had brought Robo Rally, and the little ones begged over and over again to play a game. So finally we did, and we let them join in which makes for a very random chaotic series of events. The wind also did its part by blowing our cards every now and then. I won for the first time ever!! I did pretty badly with the powerball throw though.

Brendan had brought his binoculars and we bird-watched a bit. There were some woodpeckers or something that kept quarreling loudly in the trees above us. Flowers were everywhere, drenching the landscape with color; the clouds over the bowl of the valley jostled each other and there was a dancing breeze that added coolness to the sun’s brightness. Kieron caught a lizard and we looked at the deep blue coloring on its belly and touched its sandpapery tail; then he let it go back to its habitat in the bushes.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we walked over to the series of pools in the old redwood forest at the edge of the campus. We saw a peacock and Paddy talked to the macaw (or whatever it is — he calls it a parrot) in the aviary.

There were bits of fluffy seeds all over the area, like soft snow. I am not sure what tree they were coming from; Brendan thinks it was the redwoods.

I realized that it’s easier to “be present” when we are outside and all together like that. I had become so accustomed to the minor irritation of living in a cluttered, slightly dusty house where there are all kinds of electronic devices and things to do and places we have to go, that I didn’t realize that this presents a constant minor dissonance. My friend in Oregon, who has asthma and respiratory allergies, talked with me last week about when she lived for a year in the high desert. For the first time in her adult life she found out what she was like without the constant energy drain of allergies. She had extra energy, extra good humor, extra vitality that she had never realized were part of her.

The daily life is not breath-constrictive to me like allergies are to my friend, but it is like a minor case of hay fever or my skin condition that presents a constant subliminal itching that I hardly notice anymore unless it flares up. On Liam’s campus, it was so easy to be leisurely, but not idle. Pondering that, I am realizing that this may be one reason why Charlotte Mason spoke of “securing a quiet growing-up time” for the children and how much of this, she thought, came from many hours spent out of doors. The outdoor air and the beauty is like a nourishing tonic for the children and like a restorative draught for adults.