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unfamiliar territory.

On Thursday afternoon, I looked up at the sky and saw this:

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And then I had one of those realizations that stop you mid-breath, mid-thought, mid-movement.  You know those ones that creep up on you suddenly, like turning a dark corner and seeing those neon lights of a 7-11 – a jarring, bright light in your face that you want to shield your face from but you just can’t look away until your eyes can adjust to the sudden glare.  One of those moments that you now know has been building and you were just afraid to face the truth because you just couldn’t accept it as truth.  Well, I couldn’t deny it anymore. Almost bursting into tears at the sight of these 7 balloons floating against the most perfect sky, I knew it was true:

I AM HAPPY.

There. I said it.

Now I want to hide and apologize to everyone for being so happy.

Isn’t that funny how that works? 

I am so happy that I just can’t stand myself right now. (Really, it’s true. Part of me is telling me to shut up and stop being so obnoxious.)

Let me clarify. I am happy at this moment, this point in time, this week actually.

Well, it is coming up on the end of Week 1. But Week 4? Not so much happy-joy-joy in these parts but I know the darkness is necessary. 

I love the following quote.  Judith Duerk in Circle of Stones: Woman’s Journey to Herself writes:

It was only when I lived through the summer solstice light, far above the Arctic Circle, the light of the longest day in our year, the totality of white, white, ever-pervasive light, day after day, that I experienced our desperate need for darkness, for shadow, for relief from clarity, sharpness, and rationality that this present world demands….a need for soft lines, blendedness, greys…to respect one’s need to be sometimes out of focus, unformed, blurred.

Grateful for those “week 4’s” of my life and the many years spent “unformed and blurred.”

Life is far from perfect still – there are bills to pay, decisions to be made, loose strands waiting to unravel.

But I am still happy in spite of it all and because of it all.  The “ALL” is what makes life more interesting.

Take this past Thursday for example.

Thursday wasn’t supposed to happen.

Let me explain.

A trip to Cooper’s farm wasn’t on the radar this year.  This week was a short one because of Thanksgiving and there were no plans for field trips because I was:

a) Exhausted from a busy long weekend.

and

b) Needed to finish some lessons that I had planned since this week was only a 3-day school week. Friday is our outdoor day.

But then my mom called. This is a strange occurrence in and of itself since she never calls.  She’s more of an emailer or texter.  She calls when she is expecting to meet us somewhere and she is wondering why I am late or explaining the chain of events that is causing her to be late.  My mom and I don’t call each other up and chit-chat.  My mother is busy.  She works crazy hours and has 2-out-of-4 kids still at home.  One is 20 and the other is 9.  She is a get-to-the-point type of person.  When she calls, I always assume something is wrong or she has to ask me something time-sensitive that needs an immediate response like, “What size are the girls’ feet? There is an online sale at Birkenstock.” No ‘hello,’ no ‘how are you,’ just a rapid fire of questions and then click, we are done.

On Tuesday morning, my phone rang. I was in the middle of lessons but I glanced at the call display and saw it was my mom so I answered thinking it had to be important because she rarely calls to begin with and never calls on a weekday morning.  The conversation did begin with a question.  “Have you guys already gone to the pumpkin patch?”  I told her no and it wasn’t something I was planning to do. She wondered if we were up for going this week because she really wanted to take my youngest brother and didn’t mind pulling him out of school. I quickly ran through the pros and cons. I was tired. We would have to make-up school work another day. But I can’t remember the last time my mom wanted to do this.  In fact, I can’t remember a time in my childhood that we went to the pumpkin patch before my younger brothers were born. That was never on her radar.  My gut/intuition/God/my guardian angel/my new-found optimism held up a large flash card inside my head that read, “GO.” I tend to listen to those strong messages so I promptly made plans with her.

On Thursday morning, before dawn, I wrote the intention for my day: Be open.

Be open to opportunities for love and magic.  Be open to miracles – big and small. Be open to just the experience alone without judgment.

Be open.

The forecast called for rain all day.  The kids were a little disappointed that all of their friends weren’t going but then they were happy that another family ended up joining in on the fun. The hour long drive up there is always a little daunting. We were running a little late in the morning, but so was my mom.

We hopped in the car, put on some happy Latin American music, said a little prayer for a road rage-free drive, and off we went. The drive was completely traffic-free and absolutely gorgeous. I found myself gasping at the sheer beauty of the leaves.  I could have drove and on and on and the kids even enjoyed the views. The leaves were brilliant and on fire.  They reminded me of my mom’s love of the fall colours – this small window of time where she always just wanted to see the leaves.  We drove up and down rolling hills and the time flew by.

Unfortunately, when we got there, we were told that there are no hay rides for the public. Darn. But then the lovely owner, Farmer Lisa, said we could tag along on the next hay ride with a group that had booked one and we just had to wait. A small miracle.

There were grey skies as far as the I could see and after waiting an hour, we thought the hay ride would never happen.  Of course, the kids didn’t care so much. They played on hay bales together:

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#1, my mother, #2, and I pushed the others on the swings and I was able to capture this photo – candid conversations in between the laughter as we pushed them higher and higher…

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And there was this moment with uncle and nephew…

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For the last 3 years, we have come to this farm.  Farmer Steve does the most amazing hay rides because he is passionate about his little farm.  Because we have visited each year, we see how he has rotated his crops and livestock.  We see the effects of his chickens being moved all over a patch of land for the last couple of years because the grass is now a luscious green compared to the plot of land that he has just moved the chickens on. In the beginning, the kids didn’t listen much and I never made them.  But over time, through repeated visits, they see what he’s been saying all along.  The pumpkin patch is in a different spot.  The pigs are in a different pasture.  There are no sheep this year, only goats, because Farmer Steve explained that keeping goats and sheep was a disaster last year. While on the hay ride, we watched the goats make a great escape from their penned in patch and Farmer Steve had to stop the tractor and call in some herders to get them back.

As we bumped along on the wagon,  I was sitting beside my mother and across my oldest daughter.  This trip may not happen again.  In fact, this is the first time my oldest had visited this farm. She had always wanted to come with us but she was always busy with other commitments. Schedules and lives move in separate circles but when there is that rare moment of overlap, like when you find yourself sitting beside your busy mother and your busy daughter on a hay ride in the middle of the week, miracles happen.

A trip to the pumpkin patch to pick that perfect pumpkin can seem so ordinary.  But what if you knew it would be your last time with this combination of people you love?  What if you weren’t sure if it would happen again like it’s happening in this moment?  You move slower.  You look around and watch your children search for that perfect pumpkin.  You watch your mother and your brother inspect pumpkins together. You step back and pay attention.  To me, just having my oldest daughter share this experience with us this year was a blessing on its own.

M and A pumpkin

After lunch, it was time for the corn maze.  I bought all of the children red balloons and brought them to the farm in case a child got lost.

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The moms – my mom, a friend, and myself – hung out on an elevated platform and watched the balloons go bobbing by:

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As we sat there, the sky changed.  In a matter of minutes, our grey skies turned into this:

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The sun was shining. It was hot. We could hear the kids running and talking and yelling.  We could see the occasional balloon disappear and reappear depending if the child wanted to be seen or not.  Casual conversation, sunshine, and a beautiful fall landscape – miracles.

When the kids had gathered on the platform and I went down to take the picture of them, I saw the 7 balloons floating in the sky – the first picture above.

At that very moment, I was happy and I felt peace in general.

I also felt total peace with my mom.  I knew for sure right then and there that there was complete forgiveness on all sides for everything – forgiving each other and ourselves for every disappointment, every failure, every misunderstanding, every broken heart, every hurtful thought, every piercing word, every angry act, every shortcoming, every moment of feeling abandoned, alone, and unloved.  EVERYTHING.  I scanned my memories and looked back at it all – even the very worst of it – and there was only compassion, understanding, and gratitude.

Yes, gratitude. The most surprising feeling of all. We have both tried our best and are continuing to meet each other halfway, continuing to accept each other for who that person is right now, continuing to try to build our own mother/daughter relationship unique to only us – unique to a mother/daughter who are only separated by just over 17.5 years of age and who both have young children separated by only 7 months of age.

This moment came because I said YES. Yes to it all.  The darkness. The light.  The love. The openings. The miracles.

The above picture of the balloons against a blue sky did me in.  The miracle of a day with my mom.  The miracle of a day with all of my children.  The miracle of a day with a friend to share it with.  The miracle of the outdoors and the changing of seasons in all aspects.

I’m not afraid to admit it anymore. I’m not afraid to let it in in fear of losing it.  I’m not afraid of the “big-ness” of it.

Right now, I am…

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