all posts, community, mental health, miscellaneous, nature/the environment

the night school (part 1)

cold dark eerie environment
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I like finding free things to do online (21 days of yoga, weekly journal prompts, etc). I don’t always carry through with many of them, but I enjoy the challenge and the game of setting up something to do, and usually am drawn towards things that involved a lot of self reflection.

This particular project is called The Night School by Maia Toll. I am doing the “part-time” option, which means I will be focusing on the weekly writing prompts (because I don’t have the time or attention span to watch the discussion and ritual videos… I’m still not super into watching videos that require intense focus). But even so, just doing the weekly prompts includes readings from her book (see below) and some general context and discussion points. I look forward to seeing what comes of doing it for the “semester”.

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This week’s assignment was: What in the world feels alive to you and what feels lifeless? Why? Examine your preconceptions.

What feels alive to me? I think I define aliveness too literally, but the email also goes into detail about the energies of things which I find easier to relate to. When I was growing up in Maryland we lived near a small woods. The woods were cool because you couldn’t really get lost in them (it was fairly easy to run out into some neighborhood), but if you knew your way, you could walk through the woods to get all the way to the C&O canal without having to pass really anyone’s homes. I often went into these woods when I was annoyed or upset, or just when I wanted to bike/run through, and if it was getting later in the day and darkness started creeping in (as it always did in the woods before the neighbors since there were so many trees) I remember at some point I started talking to the woods asking for safe passage. I specifically would say the same phrase every time, in French, because I thought the language was older and thus more likely that the trees would know it. Now it’s also interesting because I never had the feeling that the woods were hostile or required me to ask for safe passage, but I always felt it deserved the respect of the question anyway, and that more likely the woods would protect me from something else. In other way, I never had anything bad or shady happen to me in the woods and I continue to visit it when I visit my parents.

Now living in the city where I do I have become much more anxious than I used to be. Part of it was working through my own neuroses of being a stay-at-home mom in a culture where that is very unusual (I am also a young mom in this particular city culture). But even as I work through that hurdle, I realize the city itself makes me anxious. It has such haphazard energy all the time. It is alway noisy during the day (July and September seem to be when all the road construction happens), but it’s also a tiny city that has narrow streets and crazy road patterns, and yet the same 1/4 mile strip of street will be shared with 3 separate road construction projects, 50+ cyclists who have to weave into car traffic to pass one another or to turn, pedestrians that no one can see due to parked cars, standing aside cross walks that have varying degrees of visibility (from electronically lit up to make shift single cones denoting the spot on the sidewalk where they should start to cross). The energy is impatient. People are constantly walking around, no smiles to spare (I often try to say hello to humans on principle and get a range of results). Though the speed isn’t always fast, the tempo varies abruptly as though the very act of having to engage with one another is a burden. And the chug of cars is never-ending. We have driven at all times and find that 3am to 8am is a pleasant time to drive on a weekend in the city. On a weekday, it’s more like 3am to 7am. The weather can be obnoxious, from sun beating down at all angles (it’s literally always directly in our faces when we drive in any direction in the morning) and the winds pick up strong enough to blow away our baby on account of the various wind tunnels created by lots of buildings and few trees. It feels chaotic and it often makes me agitated to encounter it. It took me a long time to realize that this pulse of energy existed and how it impacted me but over time it has become more clear.

Now that is not to say there aren’t pockets that are more peaceful. I keep finding some but the problem is they are hard to get too or fleeting in nature. For example, I jogged through the tree-part of the city to get to an open house for a toddler music class, and minus the fear of being late, the whole adventure was quite relaxing. It had the iconic early fall feel and the class was very cute. That kind of energy emitted a peace that I crave often, and as such, I’ll definitely be taking Fi back, but always by foot if possible.

Examining my preconceptions… well in a nutshell it would seem to follow the standard assumption of city = bad energy, and woods = good energy. But it could be argued that the reason I enjoyed my parents’ woods was because it was near enough to civilization that I never had to feel lost or in real danger. And it could be argued that there are cities that can exude a good time of peaceful energy, particularly ones that are not so jammed with traffic, have more explicit community, and dedicate more time to their green spaces equally across their land. And I know I personally wouldn’t enjoy living in a large woods all alone. I like people- or well, I like community. I think both extremes: alone in a large wood and emotionally alone in a dense city have the same energy to me, fearful. There is something I find primally terrifying about being alone. And not in a “I’ll have to do things for myself kind of way” but in a “no one will have your back if something goes wrong” kind of way. So resonant energies that feel good to me have to leak some kind of energy that feels communal. A crowded Boston T train doesn’t feel communal because everyone is looking out for themselves, usually annoyed to be on the train, and avoiding eye contact with one another, pretending they are alone while sandwiched like sardines. The idyllic memoirs of people traveling in European trains not so long ago had more of the communal feel, with older adults looking out for young children traveling alone, with space on trains to sit and eat, with an impetus to reach out and connect to your neighbor if for no other reason that to pass the time (and that was not unique to Europe, I just happened to have read a French memoir more recently).

Anyway, I’ll stop there for now. My brain has travelled off on to other things.

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all posts, miscellaneous, community, nature/the environment

the man who tamed the birds

white birds perched in front of lamppost
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂

There are moments when we see something amazing, something that is out of the ordinary or just generally impressive. In these moments, it’s often the case that what we are seeing is Time.

As a new mom, with the privilege of choice to stay at home (which in itself is a misnomer of a phrase because the babe and I often venture out of the home ), I have an unprecedented view of Time. That isn’t to say that I have more time than anyone else, but that I am in a unique position to view it.

Often I must wait it out with Time as my babe sleeps. Time waits for no man, or so they say, but it does cozy down with a parent waiting on a sleeping child. Time and I, we sit and drink tea, and read books, and very often daydream in the quiet stolen moments of when the baby slumbers.

When the baby is awake we sometimes accompany Time on his off moments, the pockets of space where others are ensconced in their own busyness, to head out as a mother-daughter dyad and explore the world. We meander along aimlessly, especially if the weather is fair.

On one such occasion, walking down what I consider a confused highway (Mass Ave), the baby and I encountered Time as he followed along beside an older Asian man. This man caught my eye as I walked by because he too, clearly had noticed Time and abruptly but unalarmingly, stopped not too long after passing me and the baby by.

But what really kept my attention were the birds. They, these pigeons of the city, noticed the man’s approach and quickly behaved like their feral-er cousins and flocked, in rolling bumbling waves, towards the man until they were crowded opposite to him, separated by the chains of an open air lot.

The man, clearly practiced, produced a black pouch from his person, opened it deftly, and began methodically tossing measured handfuls of some sort of seeds to the bird crowd. The pigeons continued their rolling bumble over one another as they entropically scattered to maximize their collection rates.

All through this, I had slowed down myself, intrigued by this fellow Time companion, and smiled as I thought about how after this gentleman must have routinely stopped with Time to have these birds now recognize his approach in earnest.

If you ask me, I can generically say where I was (though I never know what road it was save for off Mass Ave, but I have no recollection of the hour or day. I have seen him once again since that first encounter. This second sighting, in which I paused my husband to witness as well, all I can recall are he man and his black pouch full of seeds. Other than that, Time has rubbed away any other specifics from my mind, because indeed those specifics don’t matter.

all posts, community, nature/the environment, parentings/things about baby and kids

on parenting, environmentalism, and community

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Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content. 🙂

I read the book Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske, which was a great read all about the differences in parenting mentalities and practices of Germany (specifically Berlin) versus the U.S. It covered categories ranging from policies about children walking to and from school alone, to history courses offered at their respective schools and the differing practices when it comes to forming children’s senses of cultural and civic responsibility, to how to allow the children to establish confidence in themselves.

Zaske also addresses the importance of unstructured play on future development of children, and how to try to change/influences policies where you live.

I read this books, not to replace my own instincts in parenting my baby, but to understand how much of my parenting style is built from within a specific culture, and is not just “intuition”. The more I read, the more I see what culture I am blended within, and the more I can truly pick and choose what works best for me.

Of the “parenting” books, I have also read The Happiest Kids in the World by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchinson. It depicts two expats’ views on parenting, this time in the Netherlands. The expats were one British woman and one American woman talking about their insights into raising children (from infancy to eleven years of age) based on the fact that parenting in the Netherlands focuses on creating happy children. The whole society gets involved to make it a priority.

It’s a good read, and I recommend it for any parents who are worried that they are trying to push their children into checking off too many accomplishment boxes, without taking into account their children’s wants and preferences. Or it’s a fun read if you are just curious to understand how parenting is done in other places.

Previously, I also read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, and French Twist by Catherine Crawford. So my distribution in countries has extended to Germany, France, and the Netherlands but I am working to expand that presently.

These books aren’t here to specifically instruct or convince readers on a certain way of how to parent per se. In fact, most of the authors are expats raising their kids in a new culture and then trying to blend that with their their own in attempt to find balance. However, they all do reflect on commonalities they see in whatever society they are part of at the time, the one that shapes their raising of children. They also do end up implanting little nuggets in the malleable pockets of my gray matter that make me question the status quo of my own culture. In particular, why does my culture (and many others) prioritize working above all?

How does removing playtime for young children and filling it with structured activities with parental supervision impact both the future generations of children as well as the parents currently doing the implementation? What can individuals do to try to mitigate the cascade of symptoms that lead to a cemented cultural practice enforced by litigation (the culture of suing everyone and everything for accidents)?

My mind is teeming with perceived implications for my own little one, and I’m wrought with fervor to carve out a way to achieve the most balanced route for her to grow as her own person. Now I wouldn’t say I worry about her future yet in the anxious melodramatic ways that bubbles into most of my thoughts, but I would say I’m genuinely curious about what happens next. How do I find like minded, community-based people who want to preserve the innocence of youth, but also encourage the growth of young independence in a society that looks to constant busyness as a sign of success? Is it possible within our societal framework? Also, what is happiness and how do we create a space for our children to discover it, and have it be lasting? More to come on this subject in later posts!

One last tie-in I have for today. I read a book called There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk, and it compared different aspects of parenting in Scandinavian countries versus the United States (and other English-speaking countries). Much of it compares how the way we raise our children in regards to their relationships with nature. According to McGurk, in Scandinavia they have more focus on outdoor education for young children so that when those children grow up, they continue to appreciate nature and are naturally (ha, pun) more inclined towards environmental protection.

But another large takeaway from the book was that your society has to support these kinds of initiatives. In some Scandinavian countries, people can cross over (or children can play on) other people’s private land/property (think huge backyards and fields) legally, so long as they don’t cause any damage.

The countries also work to instill independence and responsibility in their children by letting them take more age-appropriate risks (like 8 year olds walking to and from parks alone, or playing outside for hours after they’ve gradually learned the areas with their families). I also recently rewatched Lord of the Rings with my husband, and it always instills in me how important nature is to humans, and how much of humanity just sees it as something to conquer rather than a large part of our health and happiness. We forget that we need the good bacteria from the soil and plants, that the fresh air helps decrease infection and disease risks, that our food either comes from or is fed from nature, that we derive a sense of peace from greenery, and that we can find comfort with change by appreciating seasonal life cycles.

It feels like letting our children learn from and develop stronger appreciations from nature sets them up with a good baseline to be happier and healthier than we are. I’m excited to hear and see about all the different initiatives small communities in America enact to figure out the balance that works for each child and family.