Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nap Time Blues (Mommy's, that is...)

Dear Hank --

Why. WHY? Why won't you nap at home? I've been hiding in the back, listening to you NOT nap for the last twenty minutes. Why do I have to put you in the car and drive you around to get a nap out of you? Why, when you are clearly tired and sleepy, won't you just lie down in your little bed and go to sleep right there? Why, why, why? I haven't got it in me today to drive around for twenty minutes and then be stuck in the car while you sleep for the next 90, so please oh please just fall asleep in your nice little crib and we can all just call it a day.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Gata gata paragata*

*'Gone, gone, completely gone' -- part of the chant that accompanies the mizuko jizo ceremony.

Yesterday we went out the the Green Gulch Zen Center in Marin County for an afternoon mizuko jizo ceremony. This is a Buddhist tradition of remembrance for children who have either not made it into life or who have died shortly after being born. We went to put a 'close' on our own experience with the miscarriage in December.

It was a very quiet experience. It took place part in a yurt and part outdoors in a lovely garden. In the yurt there were altars with statues of deities from numerous religious and spiritual traditions whose purpose is to watch over children. In the yurt, two female priests dressed in flowing black robes led us through a period of quiet contemplation during which each participant created an offering to leave for Jizo, the buddhist deity in charge of lost children. They provided red cloth, rosemary (the herb of remembrance), fresh wildflowers, needles and thread, and other supplies that we used to make our offerings. We made offerings to Jizo and prayer sticks, that would later be hung in a tree for the wind to carry away.

I spent much of the quiet/creation time feeling somewhat disconnected to what I was trying to accomplish, but when it came time to leave our offerings, and the lovely priests led us in the chant that I quoted above, I finally felt a sense of release that I think I had been hoping to feel for months. The words 'gata gata paragata' -- 'gone, gone, completely gone' hit me deeply and I remembered looking at the ultrasound and just blurting out 'it's gone!' and the sadness that followed that knowing. But in feeling these words again, a sense of realization washed over me that this experience really had been completely beyond my control, and with that release came one last explosion of grief and then, as the priests led us all in a procession down to the jizo garden, a calm sense of peace, acceptance, and opening filled me.

We walked to the jizo garden, which was tucked away behind a stand of bamboo, nestled in among the zen center's rows of lettuce, beets, fruit trees, and other crops. As we walked, the priest at the front of the procession rang a singing bowl, and the other rang an enormous bell that was hanging from a tree that we passed by. We ended in the garden where we all left a second offering in a large tree that was strewn with past offerings, all slowly being scattered into the wind. The sun was at a perfect bright angle, and everything around us was blue and vibrant green, and we were remembering these losses in a place that was simply abundant with life, regeneration, and renewal. The earth at our feet was exploding in food.

The most poignant moment of all this for me was when we, as a procession, crossed a small bridge that covered a fast flowing stream, racing to the ocean. The sun was glittering on the surface of the water, making it silver. The crossing struck me deeply because of the buddhist tradition that we flow in and out of an ocean of life, for many years the ocean deposits us, wave by wave, and then for many years, it slowly sweeps us back. While I'm not a religious person, I really like this idea, and I was glad that the water figured into our experience.

I am so grateful that we went to this ceremony. Neither of us think very much of the miscarriage anymore, but clearly a closure of sorts was still useful for us both. I was so sad to see so many people there -- there were lots of heartbroken people with us in that yurt, and we couldn't help but wonder on the way home how many of them were there for losses like ours, and how many had actually lost a flesh and blood child? I can't imagine the pain, and I don't want to. But I do hope that those families have found some peace.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Busy Bees

Some highlights of the last few weeks (which have had us running around like chickens with our heads cut off)...

We managed to pull off one more weekend getaway with our friends Melissa, Emmett and their kids. Despite Hank having an ear infection and some truly horrific weather, we still managed to have a really lovely time. Yosemite Valley was still blanketed in snow from a storm a few days earlier, and there wasn't any rain on Saturday. So that afternoon we were able to take all the kids out for a brief hike (Hank cried the whole time, I felt terrible!!), and over to a fantastic sledding hill alongside the road up to Mirror Lake. The hill was crawling with sledders, and it was really fun to be out there. Hank wasn't sure at first what to make of the whole snow thing, but after a little time he realized that falling into it wasn't so bad, and if he picked up a chunk and chewed on it, it even soothed his poor little teething gums. So, in the end, snow was a hit.

My favorite part of the weekend came at the end of the afternoon when we were strolling the Village. Everyone else was in the bookstore, and I was pushing Hank around outside in his stroller. There was a commotion up ahead as people started darting across the path with their cameras out. I pushed Hank over to see what the fuss was and it was a large buck, with a beautiful rack of antlers -- something I'd never seen. The buck started moving towards a nearby meadow, and Hank and I followed quietly behind it, trying to get a better look. After a few minutes the buck stopped to munch at a bush, and Hank and I got to get a really good view. We were no more than 10 feet away from it, and we could even hear it chewing. Hank, who was pretty sleepy, lifted his hand and pointed at the buck, and then fell fast asleep. It was a nice little moment to share, just the two of us.

So Hank finally got a real, big boy haircut. I'm going to try to rustle up a photo to put here, but long gone is the mop-top-fifth-beatle look. I was pretty sad when we got home from the haircut place, but the new cut has grown on me, and he looks cute as can be. And it is so much easier to wash.

Hank gives hugs now!! It is so, so sweet, just melts me. ooo! I have waited so long for this, and it was worth it.

I've been taking Hank to swimming lessons on and off since he was 6 months old and this weekend, for the first time, he actually seemed to like it! Usually he clings to me for dear life and it is a bit like taking a cat swimming. This time he really enjoyed himself and it was more like taking an otter swimming.

Teeth Watch
We're up to four, now. The fourth one came in while we were in Yosemite -- no wonder he was so upset on our hike, and was loving eating the snow...