Month: July 2015

We slipped over seaweed-draped rocks, huddled around a creamy white jellyfish, prodded sea anemones gently; were introduced to chitons and barnacles and moon snails; saw starfish upon starfish upon starfish clinging to the undersides of overturned tide pool rocks; came home with sand in our boots and the smell of the ocean in our hair and have been reading these books ever since:

Oceans by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill

Come to the Ocean’s Edge by Laurence Pringle, illustrated by Michael Chesworth

At Home in the Tide Pool by Alexandra Wright, illustrated by Marshall Peck III

In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails and Salty Tails by Anthony D. Fredericks, illustrated by Jennifer DiRubbio

Ocean Soup: Tide-Pool Poems by Stephen R. Swinburne, illustrated by Mary Peterson

Deep red berries strewn on pebble-studded pavement. Cement gray walls. Black trimmed white cotton t-shirt over blue and yellow and green plaid shorts. Gentle early evening light. Impossibly long 3-year-old legs planted behind sparsely vegetated branches. He plucks berries, tells stories. White striped midnight blue shoes travel on busy feet carrying out scenes plotted in his imagination. Magic unfolds. This is joy.

The news travels a circuitous route. Stomach drops. Stunned but not surprised. Thoughts race, collide, will not stop. I leave my body. World keeps spinning as I watch through thick glass, sounds muted. I sit, I stand, I walk, I smile, but I am not fully here.

Park bench. Man in neon yellow watches man in neon orange cut concrete. They trade places. Green upon green upon green sways in the breeze. A thought. After all the therapy, after all the meditation, after all the Buddhist readings, after all these years, I think the point is to escape this pain. If I were enough, if I were lovable, if I were good, this pain would not touch me.  If I were good, I would not be spinning. Agitated. Angry. Feeling out of control. I would not feel those ways, not now, not ever. But. I remind myself. Pema. You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather. Children on merry go round shriek. The scales fall. This is not me. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I can sit with it, watch it. It will go. It is not me.

Blood red shirt. Aqua and blue and white plaid shorts. Sweet, gentle heart. “Sit. I made some space for you.” I recognize this as a sweet moment, but do not yet feel it fully in my body. I know though. This pain is survivable. It will not consume me. The capacity for joy will return.

Light yellow ochre and alizarin crimson skin on cool white sheets. Long day is over. I breathe. My body feels spacious. We snuggle and read and reminisce and sing. Bed full of grace. I can feel it again. This is joy.

“It looks sort of like an H!” he said, running into the bedroom with two straws, one in each hand.

My mind automatically filled in the missing bar to connect the two straw stems. “Yes! It does!” I replied.


I’ve sung the ABC song to him plenty, but not much lately. I’ve heard him sing all the letters from beginning to end in order, but he doesn’t do it much and never when I ask him if he wants to sing with me.

He has a set of beautiful cut wood letters stained in bright colors. I occasionally put the basket of them out where he will see it, but he hasn’t incorporated them into his play much yet. He does thrill when he finds the H though.

I spell out words for him with the letters on his square blocks, mostly his name and a random assortment of others I can make from the letters that fall into my play space, but I don’t know if he pays much attention. Mostly he stacks the blocks as high as he can before they come tumbling down, and then he starts again.

We read. Lots. Every night before bed, sometimes first thing in the morning, often in the long stretch of the afternoon.

He asks about specific letters sometimes when we are reading or if he finds one in the wild that he recognizes. We talk about letters then: Letters make sounds, sounds make words, words have meaning. Usually this conversation lasts all of seven seconds.


“F,” H said, peering down at the depth marker on deck at the shallow end of the pool. “T.”

My mom and I looked at each other over his head, two sets of eyes grown wide.

“F, T,” he said again to no one in particular.

“Did you teach him that?” she mouthed to me.

I shook my head. No.

“Did you?” I whispered back.

“No,” she said.


I don’t actively teach him the alphabet. I don’t coach him. I don’t push letters. I don’t drill him.

And he learns. He has an amazing capacity for learning. Children are like this, I believe. Given an environment rich in learning opportunities and the freedom to explore their world through play, children learn as much as we could ever hope to teach them. Likely more.


“There’s an H!” he tells me. He sees them everywhere. On my laptop keyboard, in books, on signs, in branches and sticks, in the incomplete form of two held straws.

He sees learning everywhere.

H wandered into the bathroom.

“What are you doing?” he asked me.

“I’m putting my pee in the toilet,” I answered.


“Because I wear underwear.”


“Because I put my pee in the toilet.”


“Because I wear underwear.”

“I am going to put diapers on you,” he informed me.

“You are?”

“Yes. When you need to wear diapers again, I am going to put them on you.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“You might need to lie down for me to do it.”

“Okay. I can do that.”

And then he wandered back out.