I reach out, wiping something from his nose and say, “I should’ve bought you nose hair trimmers for your birthday, koro (old man).”
He laughs and because laughter always encourages me, I sing him a song in my very best Muppet voice; like, if a scientist spliced the genetics of Kermit, Elmo, and Yoda and reassembled them into a one-woman singing, impersonating machine, that’s a little bit of the splendor of my singing voice.
So I sing him a little song about the man that never trimmed his ear hair because he didn’t care to hear most of what the world had to say. And when I’m done, I take a little bow, applaud for myself, and gesture that he may now continue.
And he does. He returns to this conversation about harnessing energy and potential, about taking one boy’s fear of failure and turning it into a discovery of leadership by challenging him to take risk, and as he is talking I notice the quietness of Zaviera sitting in the chair at the table. Her hand is raised in the air, waiting.
I touch Dan’s wrist to pause him and ask, “What’s up, Zavi?”
She shrugs a little and I think she’s about to bargain with me for technology time; there is a nervousness in her face. But then her eyes meet mine and the nervousness drops to be replaced with something I’ve discovered in my children’s faces since returning from the full moon sweatlodge at Mana this weekend.
I see them in a new way and the knowing of them slices through my spirit like I imagine it must be to have wings; to stretch and coast and and surf and cut sharply through the nothingness; the wild edge in the freedom of flight.
“What is it, sweetie? What’s going on?”
“Well, it is just I feel really sad for Elliot. I was watching him out the window and he’s just out there, lonely, throwing his ball up,” she stands up to act it out for me, taking on the mannerisms of Elliot and the sadness it was bringing up in her belly and chest, “I just think we should let Sol go out and play with him. I know Sol is in trouble but he’s my big brother and I love him and I was thinking I really should take better care of him because I don’t want him to look back on his past and not have any good memories so that he knows I love him. So yeah, I think we should let Sol go out and play with Elliot.”
My body moves with the one language it knows with certainty and gathers her in with the kind of affection that I remember my sister, Robin, giving me on the rare occasions I got the joy of being in her company. I kiss the top of Zaviera’s head. Give her a little wrestle-coo and nuzzle words with kisses into the top of her head.
“I love you,” I say. “I love your heart so very much and I think that you’ve come up with a very good idea.”
I quickly try to explain my parenting a-ha! to Dan but since sometimes Dan and I ‘don’t speak the english so well’ with one another, I ask for permission to steer the ship.
Dan says, “Go, so long as you do the explaining because I don’t have the words to deal with Sol.”
And I’m moving down the hallway feeling the cleanness of the marble floors I sat on in the sanctuary up in Mana. I can feel the space as it extended beyond the stone and stain glass and out into the sky and continued to stretch. I feel the exhale as I went through yoga asanas the morning of the sweat, hearing my breath rising up and echoing, as if I were practicing within the temple of my own chest. I feel the soft earth of the path leading to and from my dear friend’s house to the sanctuary. The fallen leaves and pine needles and decay that soaked into my skin as I scampered off trail and nearly lost a beloved notebook given to me so many years ago by my friend Heather. I’ve written prayers in it over the years since she gave it to me. I feel the gratitude of the friendships of this weekend as we sat facing one another in circles, spilling out the deepest of our fears and longings and truths because it was a sacred space we had created. We were all crawling into the darkness, the heat, the sweat, the unknown, and there was a solidarity in this that allowed for an alchemy of transformation. And transform we did.
I knock on Sol’s door, the words already moving up through my body in a way I’m learning to trust. My greatest conversations begin in my body, not my brain.
As I open the door I see the hopefulness and vulnerability in his face and I smile and tell him to put some warm clothes on and come out so we can talk.
In the kitchen, I gather everyone and say, “Ok, so you know how we have been spending the last few weeks working on the behavior in our family? And how a family is meant to care for one another, not harm one another? We have to work together because we are in this life together.” The kids nod, because, uh, yeah, that has been REAL clear, mom. We have definitely been having conversations about that one and can we please not have one right now?
And because it is clear we are all on the same page, I leave it at that and go on to tell the story of what Zaviera did for her brother. I explain to Sol that we will give him a new consequence because his sister acted with her heart towards him. Tears well up in Sol’s eyes as he listens and understands what Zavi has done and what he is being given. He turns to Zavi, blinking and wiping at his eyes, and thanks her.
I look to Dan and say, “Alright, I’m out. To the room. Writing. Barricading. I’ve finally got a blog and it is getting out.”
In the bedroom, I look for things to pile up against the door. My nearest and dearest know that many things I say that sound like exaggerations are not exaggerations. When people ask me, “How do you get writing done as a mother of three?” and I respond “By barricading myself in the bedroom”, they laugh and I laugh and I say, “I’m totally not joking.”
Because I’m totally not.
And then I remember that Sol taught me the trick of wedging a board beneath the door handle. I thank him mentally for being such an awesome son. He’s just saved me the effort of dragging things to pile against the door to keep Joaquin out. Because the kid will come with his best attempt to bust down the door.
So here I am, locked in the bedroom, the music of the weekend surrounding me as I write.
What I took into the sweatlodge with me was the desire to transform some dark stories of my life into light and to let go of a little more of the restriction and fear of believing I am powerful enough to either earn or destroy the grace that is my life. If you can earn it or destroy it, it is not grace.
I discovered a stream of sadness that was pure and refreshing and my readiness to drink it so my spirit can be cleansed. I discovered a love for the strength, honesty, and joy it takes each one of us to be vulnerable enough these days to find a depth of community that can often feel rare but is so ancient and necessary to our survival.
I remembered something essential within me; a love for the dance of serving and being in relationship to others, of twirling through dervishes of conversation and laughter, of bodies moving through moonlight, and the way we created a healing space in the simple acts of hauling rocks, gathering wood, sweeping, washing dishes, eating, telling stories and listening to them …
…until we all, one by one, climbed into the darkness and the unknown and wandered our way a little closer to home.