Playing hooky

There is always something else that needs doing. But there are never enough days like yesterday, days when the trees don brilliant robes and stand tall, rustling softly in their finery. When the sky melts into azure infinity, when the air is as soft as breath, and nasturtiums bloom like crown jewels scattered upon a tumbled carpet of fallen leaves. The thrum of insects, the call of a crow, the precious light, the honeyed warmth – it was too lovely an October afternoon to miss. A day that whispered, “Ignore the to-do list, shut off the computer, and play hooky.”

The dictionary defines it thus: “an unjustifiable absence.” It seemed to me that the golden afternoon was justification enough. Summer was offering an unexpected encore, free to all takers. My husband Steve and our friend Nance met me on the trail and, with the dogs bounding ahead, we climbed up to a quiet clearing with a view of mountains, a place we call “the meditation chairs.” Over many years, visitors to this spot have assembled hundreds of stones large and small into an arrangement of artful cairns and comfortable seats that invite revery and repose and reflection. It was a perfect place to sit for a while, savoring this glorious, unseasonally balmy Monday.

Nance and I looked at each other as we headed back down the trail and we both had the same thought at the same time: would it be crazy to go swimming? We went from the mountain straight to the pond, smooth as glass in the waning afternoon. There was nothing to do but peel off our clothes and plunge. The slap of cold was small price to pay for the exhilaration of slicing through that icy black water, straight out to the middle of the lake, and then turning to look back at hills soaked in color, the empty beach, the resplendent stillness. We swam to shore shivering, exultant, grateful.

When our boys were young, a full moon on a clear night was always a good excuse for sleeping outdoors, but it has been years now since I’ve done it. The truth is, I haven’t been quite ready to return, alone or even with my husband, to some of those cherished traditions that were so much a part of our family life. My greatest joy as a mother was to introduce my children to the world, to lead them gently into wonder, to provide an abundant harvest of experiences that would stir their senses and quicken their imaginations – walks in the woods, nights under the stars, stories told by firelight, hushed sunrises and barefoot walks through dew-soaked grass. Now that they are grown, I miss those times more than I can say. I miss my sons as the little boys they were, much as I love and admire the young men they have become. And I miss the joy of our shared play, the sense of adventure that infused our days and nights, the fun of dragging air mattresses and sleeping bags out into the backyard on a moment’s notice and cuddling up together beneath a vast canopy of stars. I miss seeing the world through a child’s eyes.

I’m also realizing that herein lies one of the great challenges of this new phase of my life as a woman whose child-raising days have ended: to learn all over again to see the world through my own eyes. I want to look and feel deeply now not just for my sons’ sake, but for myself. And to remember that this life, these days, are not just thrilling for young children, but for me, too. To live well on the earth means to inhabit gently its fields and streams and wild places, to praise its magnificent abundance and variety, to protect its treasures, to celebrate its beauty even as we honor our own playful spirits, no matter how old or how young we are.

Now that I have no little boys to take by the hand and lead out into the wonderful morning, it’s easy for me to get so caught up in the doings and details of my “grown-up” life that I miss the soft curve of a day, the gentle approach of evening, the first wink of stars at twilight. I forget to pause long enough to savor the miracles of creation that are right in front of me. But it’s time for me to pay closer attention to this world now for my own soul’s sake; indeed, to partake of its wonders myself just as I once offered them to my children. It is such a simple thing, really, to sit, to look, to see, to cherish. The harvest moon, certainly, is always worthy of celebration and homage, whether one is five or fifty.

And so, I pitched my small tent on the crest of our hill last night and unrolled my sleeping bag. I lit a fire under the stars, listened to the coyotes yipping in the field below, watched the beneficent moon inscribe her graceful arc through the night. When I awoke this morning, my hair damp with dew, the first streaks of crimson were just appearing on the horizon. I lay alone in my tiny tent, silent, serene, looking out across the mountains with a heart full of gratitude — for all that was, and also for all that is. This world. This life. This day.

Thank you, dear friends, for the week full of wonderful birthday wishes and, too, for sharing the precious gifts of your lives with me. I cherish your comments and am in awe of the power of words to bring us close, to weave such marvelous threads of connection through our hearts and minds.

for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. Shelly Howard says:

    Thank you for this reminder. My youngest will be 5 on Monday… I think we’ll play hooky from his kindergarten class tomorrow and go to the beach :)

  2. Sigh … this is beautiful. It seems to me that maybe the learning to see wonder through our childrens’ eyes is just one grand rehearsal for learning to do it ourselves? The introduction to the man effort, which comes after? Just a thought.
    xox

  3. God’s handiwork is yet another miracle we are fortunate enough to experience. Your beautiful words remind us to grasp it with all our senses and revel in its glory. Thank you.

  4. the wonder, the beauty, the simple sacred, and the time to savor it…with the children and/or by ourselves. i hear your call, my soul’s call. and i commit to listening today… thank you, katrina.

  5. I just came back from walking my dog down to the beach. Put on a fire and have home-made soup on the stove simmering away, to read your lovely post. It expressed just how I feel today. Thanks.

  6. Thank you for your post. It meant a lot to me. My children are all grown up now and I still think about the days that we had together…..growing up…..peace.

  7. Beautiful as always. I love this line in particular: “These days, are not just thrilling for young children, but for me, too.” I’m with Lindsey; it seems like perhaps our life with children is, as she says, a “grand rehearsal” for the life that comes after. Of course, I am just at the beginning of this journey and can’t speak from experience! But I certainly know I feel that way about all the small “goodbyes” in my life: they are but one rehearsal after another for the ultimate one at the end.

  8. Beautifully written! This is my favorite: “[My challenge is] to learn all over again to see the world through my own eyes. I want to look and feel deeply now not just for my sons’ sake, but for myself. And to remember that this life, these days, are not just thrilling for young children, but for me, too.” Thank you!

  9. Colleen Fleming says:

    Again I am moved to tears reading your words. My 16 year old son is in the other room, doing his homework, and I am supposed to be doing mine, but took a break to read this. I wish he had a sibling, and I miss the days when he was my little boy, where does the time go? But, I cherish the time I have left with him here in the house (we actually move into our own house on Friday)-it has been a long three months moving, and I cherish his growing up time. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Colleen Fleming says:

    And, happy birthday!

  11. your words so wise,it is so easy to not appreaciate what we take for granted.My boys are growing in front of my eyes and some times i cant wait for this phase to end: the fights,thenegstive attitude, all things that happened to me as a teen as well.

  12. My 23 year old daughter was home here today in New Hampshire from California for only 2 days and she insisted we go apple picking like we always did every fall. We carved out an hour before I took her to the plane and had a wonderful time. She asked why we didn’t go without her and I told her it just isn’t the same. It won’t be but I think my husband and I should continue to go each year. It will be different but it will still be fun. We are learning to do everything on our own since our 2 kids have moved out of state. I sat in my car and sobbed as her plane took off since we don’t know when we’ll see her again. It is hard to see them go off on their own which is why I love reading your blog.

  13. Michele Noel says:

    You gave yourself a Mountain Day! Maybe part of what we have to learn now is to gracefully give ourselves what we have been have been giving to others for so many years. Thank you for the affirmation and the inspiration.

  14. Inspiring, as always! I will do something joyful and just for me today.

  15. I’m so with you on this, Katrina. It’s as if all our heartfelt word pour into the river of life that, along with everything, seen and unseen, turns out, in unfathomable yet truly Loved aggregate, to be our actual and ultimate Self.

    Our special place in this conscious universe may turn out to be the splendor of being at once individual and at one with everything—connected in some self-organizing, harmonizing, utterly organic principle as old as the hills and as new as the dawn: Love.

    Namaste

  16. MargieAnn says:

    I feel compelled to write to you to let you know how meaningful the words in your book, The Gift of an Ordinary Day are and have been to me. I heard about your book and asked for it for Christmas last year, 2010. I just finished it this weekend, October 2011. And I am glad it took me this long to read it, as it has meant something to me all along the way. My son is a senior at West Point this year and will graduate in May 2013, and your words about your journey really helped me put my own feelings and thoughts in to words and in to place, really. My daughter is a junior in high school and the times she allows me “in” to chat or to have time together, I truly count as extraordinary gifts of ordinary days! I thank you so very much for sharing your experiences and your words with the world. I tell people that this summer I was reading two books that really helped me with my perspective and my “voice” on life – one was required reading for my job as a preschool teacher and helped me with talking about my role as a teacher and making changes, too and the other was your book that helped me express my feelings on letting go and moving forward and taking on this new journey in my life as a mom with renewed vigor and strength and joy. I have purchased two copies of your books so far for friends, as your book is an ordinary extraordinary gift! Blessings, peace, and joy and much gratitude – Margie Bozek

  17. Katrina,

    My friend, now a face-to-face friend and not just an email/blog buddy. what a lovely post!

    I am struck by this: You say, “I miss seeing the world through a child’s eyes.” But in fact, I think you are still seeing the world through such eyes, for it is the childhood vision that made you pitch “a small tent on the crest of our hill last night” and told you “there was nothing to do but peel off our clothes and plunge.”

    You inspire me to play hooky!

    XO
    Meredith

    ~ Meredith From A Mother Seeking Come find me on my blog, A Mother Seeking…

  18. You are so so so right. I had been feeling this odd yearning and couldn’t put a finger on it. You’ve defined it for me. My house is no longer full of little people, whose interpretations of the world depend on me.

    I took such joy in being their guide. I find myself still searching through the local newspapers, looking for fun festivals to share with them. I catch myself, over and over, trying to talk them into attending events intended for the little ones, not my tall teens.

    They ‘just’ want to go spend hours upon hours at the incredible bike parks, practicing their jumps. Or hours upon hours biking the same mountain trails. And I have to make peace with that. It’s their joy now. It’s their choice now.

    I try to sit back and figure out where I fit. Until ski season begins, it’s usually in a lawn chair, next to my life partner, watching them do their jumps and tricks on bikes and skateboards. We talk about life stuff, and how great the kids are, and how frustrating they are, and how we love them anyway. It’s not such a bad gig, really.

    Thanks for putting my angst to words. It shouldn’t surprise me. You always do! :)

    Judy

  19. By all means, play hooky all that you can.
    For some reason this post makes me think of Mary Ladd Gavell’s short story “The Swing.” My son is still in high school, still at home, but there is not a day that goes by where I don’t experience a longing for that cuddly little boy. I miss him and yet he is sitting right across from me. Beautiful post. Thank you.

  20. Your words are always an inspiration to me. I have two daughters who are grown with homes of their own now. I miss my two little girls. I miss seeing the world through their eyes.I too am now relearning how to see it through my own eyes. Thankyou for sharing your life and your family with your readers.

  21. Not sure how I missed this last week but what a treat to read it now! You are so brave Katrina in the way you dig so deeply into the marrow of life when the easiest thing is to reach for comfort. Your night under the stars is deeply inspiring to me, who loves nothing more than 800 thread-count sheets. Thank you for reminding me to look up at the stars and to lean into the wind.

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