Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Right as Rain

Yesterday, about halfway through my morning walk (just when turning around and going back would do me no good), it started to rain. At first I was a little freaked out by this, since I was pushing my little guy in the stroller in front of me -- I had visions of a wet and screaming 3-month old keeping me company for the next mile and a half, only to catch pneumonia by the time we got to the car. I was relieved, however, that our investment in an awesome outdoor stroller had really paid off, and I was able to keep the little one warm, dry and sleeping the whole way back.

Once my motherly worries subsided, and I'd successfully stowed my iPod, phone and keys in a waterproof pouch, I got to focus on myself and the trail. As the rain steadily fell, I gave up the fruitless exercise of dodging beneath the occasional tree to stay slightly drier; and after about five minutes, I let go of the hope that any part of me would not return home drenched and muddy.

After that, I settled into the dreary day and actually began to enjoy my watery walk. All around the trail, my favorite fall flowers are in bloom -- the hardy, rough-looking ones that don't appear in florist's shops but are startlingly beautiful in their own unique way. Though I'm sure they are stunning on a sunny day, their beauty was enhanced against the gray world around them. The cat's tails stood out clearer, and even the tiniest, spindly little plants became sparkling chains of light as the raindrops formed diamonds on their tips.

There were fewer people at the trail than usual, but those who were there became friendlier once the rain started. It was as though we were part of a secret society of people who -- yes, perhaps -- are too stupid to check the weather before going out to the trail; but who also get to see that beautiful place in a state that few people get the chance to appreciate.

It all took me back about a decade (or more... sigh), when getting caught in a rainstorm far from shelter was part of my daily reality. Hiking with friends in the English Lake District...riding a borrowed bike through the wilderness near a remote Hungarian town...ducking dripping wet into a coffee shop in Krakow for a respite from the downpour....finding shelter in museums and churches all over Europe while waiting for the rain to stop, the hostel to open, or the train to arrive. And more recently, navigating with MDH through the sideways rain at Ireland's breathtaking Cliffs of Moher before warming up with a well-deserved Guinness and shepherd's pie.

These memories, this rain, brought back a part of myself that seems to be getting lost the more I work my way into responsible, sensible adulthood. But it's still there. It's the part of me in love with the world, thirsty for adventure, and ready to take life's challenges as they come. This part of me can just let the rain roll on, hike peacefully through the mud, and admire the flowers.

Maybe forgetting to check the weather before hitting the trail isn't the worst thing in the world.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Oh, sweet shower...

Yesterday was one of those days. My little man was so exhausted that he couldn't sleep -- and it was driving us both crazy. I tried everything - his crib, the pack-n-play, the swing, the bouncer... every contraption known to man designed to make babies comfortable and sleepy. I tried a ride in the car and walking around the house in the Maya Wrap (sling). No dice. He just kept crying himself into short bouts of fitful sleep, then jerking awake to scream with renewed energy and volume.

He was miserable, I was miserable; he cried, I cried. There's nothing worse than your child being inconsolable and feeling like there's nothing you can do about it. And even though - logically - you KNOW it can't go on forever, it feels like, well.... forever. I felt completely inadequate as a mom, and totally frustrated as a person. There were a couple of moments when I thought I might just go for a walk and leave little man to cry it out in his crib.

I didn't do that, of course. And of course he did calm down eventually. And when MDH came home from work, he took over parenting duties and let me have 30 very sweet minutes all to myself to take a long, scalding-hot shower. It was amazing the difference I felt... 6 hours of frustration washed away by a half hour of hot running water.

It really made me appreciate the little things (like a hot shower) that that make us feel human. I thought about all the methods of torture that involve taking those little things away - like time and sleep deprivation. They don't sound all that awful from the comforts of your living room, but (as every new parent can attest) losing those little freedoms that we normally take for granted can really wear away at your internal resources and sense of self...

I spend so much time, in my line of work, exploring the complex and unknowable depths of the psyche and all the intricate neural systems that make people tick (or not). But it occurs to me how simple things like uninterrupted sleep, basic hygiene, or the freedom to just sit and gather my thoughts for a few minutes are so fundamental to my basic sense of well-being. Maybe I'm not such a complex creature after all.