Monday, June 8, 2009

capturing the diamond in the rough

The scene:

Growing up in the mountains of Kentucky, natural beauty was all around me. I remember drawing pictures of my family and wondering how to draw the mountains where we lived instead of making the land look like the flat place under the sky. I remember puzzling over how to capture the look of my favorite cliff when drawing a bunch of large circles (rocks) and coloring them greyish-brown didn't quite get at it. I am not sure whether anyone taught me how beautiful the mountains were, but I feel certain that I knew it regardless. I knew it was more beautiful than I could capture in my drawings as a 5-year-old and that amazed me.

So it often makes me sad that my kids are growing up in a house without much of a yard in Indiana. There is hardly anything not man-made near us, since we live in the city. The houses around us a largely abandoned or severly lacking aesthetically (even ours these three years later...!) Even when we leave, to explore the natural landscape, the predominant characteristic is fields of either soybeans or corn. Mono-cropped fields are simply not natural beauty.

This weekend, we snagged the rare opportunity to plan plenty of fun outdoor adventure. On Friday night, we tried out camping in our backyard. This turned out to be quite a bit more adventurous than you might think. We decided, last-minute, to go buy a firepit for the occasion. I'm not sure why, since we didn't even roast marshmallows, but somehow camping doesn't seem complete without building a fire. Israel seemed to like the experience -- especially when I tried to get him to be still for a picture by having him watch the fire. In our discussion of it, I asked if he could see how the fire dances. He proceeded to dance around the yard (presumably like the fire) for quite some time, preferring the living of the moment to the capturing of it. He liked the tent and went to sleep at dark (around 10:00). Pat, Eden, and I stayed up a little later and sat around the fire, which was nice. There are street lights and flood lights that light up our back yard, but even so, we could see quite a few stars. I have a feeling that evening of sitting by the fire, looking at stars, and eating chocolate mint ice cream (a recent favorite...) will make it into my "favorite memories" file.

What will not make it into my "favorite memories" file is all the noise of camping in our back yard. There is a lot to learn by trying to sleep outside. I learned that someone likes rolling their trash totes back and forth (either that, or they own more than 2 trash totes) after 11:00 at night, four days before trash pick-up. I learned that Katya really likes sleeping with us at night -- enough to sit, overlooking us from a window, and meow until I would cave in and sleep in my bed. I learned that Pat, Israel, and Eden can sleep through anything. I, on the other hand, cannot. I gave up about 1:00 am and took Eden inside with me to sleep. It was just a little too chilly, anyway. I ended up getting a cold from exposure to the air. Who knew? Urban camping is not for wimps.

The next morning, we had the pleasure of going to the annual garden fair. I love the garden fair. It was not nearly as leisurely as it has been in the past, though pushing a double-stroller through the crowd does make for moving pretty slowly. Israel was a bit grumpy from staying up late and getting up early. (Apparently, sun rise is about 6:00 am; we're just not usually up to see it....) Even as a sleep-deprived family of four, we managed to shop around a bit and bought some plants to put in our front yard for this year. Eventually we will landscape, but in the meantime, I'm tired of mowing over the weed patch. I finally caved and bought a rhubarb plant after years of trying to grow one from a root ball or thinking I could transplant one from Kentucky. I hope it takes over the front yard!

We left the tent up and set up the fire again for our friends to use. Israel's friends Aidan and Allister came over to play for the evening while their mom and dad babysat for us. Pat and I left to enjoy being outside all by ourselves, but that is for another post. I made vegetable hobos for them to cook on the fire and when we left, they were all sitting around the card table under the ash tree, unfolding pieces of aluminum foil with their names on them.

We find natural beauty around and we try to capture it. We diamond-hunt for natural treasures. We love our 40x20 back yard. We love the leaves on the tree that hang down by our dining room window, even if the tree is in pitiful shape. We collect its "helicopters" to fling into the air and watch them come twirling down. We dig in the dirt and watch plants grow. We pitch our tent and look at the stars. We listen to the birds and stop everything if we see a squirrel while out on a walk. We hold worms and pick dandelions and splash in puddles. I hope that by learning to appreciate even our little plot of weeds and dirt in a monotonous landscape our kids will be able to find beauty in just about anything. And I can't imagine what they will do when confronted with something like camping in Red River Gorge. I hope that we can all learn to be amazed with the small things so that larger things will simply overwhelm us with joy.

Eden enjoying the fire

a blurry shot of Israel's fire dance

Israel loved being inside the tent!

Israel and Daddy reading Goodnight Moon before turning in

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