Celebrating the Night

It’s Halloween!  Officially one of my favorite nights of the year. Tonight, millions of children will walk out their doors dressed in all sorts of creative costumes including Star Wars characters, Drew’s minions, and adorable cuddly animals. Some will walk alone, some with their parents, and some will walk in gangs of teenagers. In my neighborhood parents have almost as much fun as the kids—we socialize in the streets as our kids run up to the front doors of each lit-up porch, we celebrate the few adults who put on costumes to join in the fun, and we occasionally steal candy from our children’s stashes as we offer to hold their heavy loads. I love seeing the final decorative outfit unveilings of our neighbors adorned with proud smiles that represent the hard work of the kids (and moms or dads who helped.)  My husband, who hasn’t touched a sewing machine since high school, has spent about forty hours creating three 2013 costumes on a borrowed machine. He wears the Halloween hat in our family—thank goodness, and this year he’s truly hit it out of the park. I’m a miserable failure when it comes to costumes. Tonight, many of the passing turtles, Spider-Men, and cowgirls, many of whom I’ve known since the day they were born, will take a pause to say hello and show of their outfits. Even the big kids will flaunt their wear. I get a kick out of these gaggles of teenagers. I’ve caught them celebrating when I give out miniature containers of Play-Doh instead of candy, “Yes! Play-Doh!” and I’ve seen them watch out for little kids on steep staircases or even on cracked sidewalks.  It’s a joy I tell you—the whole darn thing.

Throughout the last two years of doing my 365 Every Day Outside Challenge many of my 30ish minute outings happened just the way many of us will head out tonight—after dark under street lights.  Sometimes my kids join me, waving flashlights around, and occasionally turning them off to test the darkness.  More often than not I’d go alone, after the kids were tucked into bed.  These solo nighttime walks are often magical.  My senses are heightened and the quiet is precious.  These outings often follow days filled with indoor responsibilities and too much sitting in front of my computer. The first deep breath of fresh air doesn’t always happen right away, sometimes I’m halfway through my walk before the tension fades enough to allow my diaphragm to expand thoroughly. Finally relaxing, breathing deeply, and rapidly moving my body contribute to the heightened sense of joy I carry back inside with me.

Maybe, my decades of enjoying Halloween—chilly nighttime walks with friends have been trying to tell me something.  Connecting to the natural world is not just a daytime thing. Taking time to enjoy the stars, the moon, and the way cumulous clouds are backlit by the light reflecting off the moon throughout all seasons is something to treasure. I hope you all enjoy your Halloween evening and if you don’t get outside tonight, I hope you’ll consider adding regular nighttime walks to heighten your connection to each season.

What we Hide

I’m preparing to present at the Pecha Kucha Event in Portland at SPACE Gallery tomorrow night. Basically eight thoughtful, creative, energetic, and passionate Maine folks will share the cool stuff they’ve done or are doing with 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide. Exactly 6 minutes and 40 seconds to share a project, art, poetry, photography, or a passion. I’ll be sharing what I do here in this blog and the 365 Every Day Outside Challenge.

I had what I thought was  a pretty tight presentation and shared it with my husband. As you probably guessed almost all of my photos are outside, in fact nineteen of the twenty slides are outdoor ones.  All beautifully capturing Maine and happy moments for my family. After smiling through the whole thing, Hans’s advice was to share the hard stuff too… to show the messy desk, the kitchen with overflowing dishes and windows that needed to be cleaned a year ago (maybe two), to show the night time walk at 11pm because I couldn’t get out until then. It was great advice–I will speak about being busy but I also need to show this in at least one of my slides.

Is there such a thing as a parent who can keep up with everything?  Even stay at-home parents never get it all done when they want to.  Maybe people who can afford to hire a lot of help can keep up but there’s always more homework, papers to sort through, mail to respond to, art projects that were not cleaned up, Lego everywhere, and dirt and dust and grime. So Hans took this photo of what my desk looked like right then and I took a few photos of what my kitchen looked like at that very moment.


I’m pretty embarrassed by these photos… I’d cringe if a friend or neighbor walked into my home looking like this. I desire a picture perfect home but raising kids is messy work. Here’s the thing, we do have moments of neat and tidy but I can’t keep up. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. I could have photographed a few neater corners, but if we only share with the world the tidy moments then it just adds to the shame I (we?) feel when someone sees what we’re trying to hide. None of us live in the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog or Better Homes and Gardens and even if our homes are shared in those pages, the photos are taken after days of cleaning and the things we live with on the counters are hidden in storage.


Yesterday, I could have cleaned the kitchen instead of taking a few minutes to play backgammon with my son on the front porch in the warm sunshine as he recovers from strep throat.  I could have stayed up late cleaning instead of going to bed early to try and stave off strep which I always get when I’m exposed to it.  I could have scrubbed for those few minutes before work instead of taking my daughter’s hand when she wanted me to watch her “new tricks” on the monkey bars before going to school. I could have and maybe I should have but the choices we make in those small decisive moments define our lives.


My kids probably won’t remember the mess when they’re adults, but they will remember playing games on the porch on a sick day and they’ll remember how wonderful it feels to be outside on a chilly fall  morning before school. Nobody has asked how I get it all done, or even how I find time to get outside every day, but I think it is important to share that the choices I make make it possible. I also will argue that the outdoor time energizes me to get more done inside… but that’s another blog entry.


Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow night. Please say hello if you’re there!

I Returned the Cart

I am a Type A person. I’m a control freak but capable of getting a lot of shit done in a short period of time.  To get that stuff done, I’m constantly thinking and planning and multitasking in order to be as efficient as possible. This morning, after a stress and tearful kid drop off at school, I headed over to Whole Foods in order to buy some alfalfa and wheat seeds for two upcoming workshops that I’m prepping for. As I drove I thought of the things I needed to do to get ready for the workshops next week as well as the one I’m teaching on Friday here in Portland, and I also thought of the things I needed for my family while at the store, and how to juggle the other stuff on my very full plate.

I parked at the far end of the lot, shopped fast, and got out of there in under $75 and 15 minutes.  Not bad.  I pushed the cart back to my car at the far end of the lot, unloaded my bags, and looked around for the classic Hannaford–midlot cart drop off. There wasn’t one. I heaved out one deep and frustrated sigh and considered leaving my cart right where I was.  I took a deep breath in and decided to be a good girl and return the cart to the front entrance. After approximately six steps I looked up at the gorgeous blue sky with sprinkled fair-weather clouds throughout, I felt the perfect Maine fall temperature and realized how ridiculous I was being. These few outdoor minutes across the parking lot were mine.  I could choose to enjoy them or to not. I could choose to breathe deeply or shallowly.  I could choose to keep my face in a scowl, continue to think of all the things I needed to do, continue to look down instead of up, and I could continue to feel frustrated.

I chose to relax my face. I chose to breathe deeply. I chose to not think. I chose to enjoy my two and a half minute walk across the parking lot while I looked up at the utterly beautiful Maine sky.  When I got back in my car, I rolled down my windows, continued to breathe deeply, and kept connecting with all the little things that make me more peaceful inside of this type A body and mind.

Those few short minutes outside affect my well being. When I’m fully present in any outdoor setting, even if it truly is only a few minutes here and a few there, I am happier and healthier and less grouchy and less controlling. I’m already looking forward to a walk outside later today–after all, two and a half minutes to and from the car wouldn’t be enough for the 365 Everyday Outside Challenge–but, they were enough to make a difference in that moment.