Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Throwing Myself In

Kaleesha
Sometimes it's the unlooked for happenings in life that turn out to be the most impactful; chance meetings that turn us from the future we'd expected or planned for. I sit typing this, not in the cabin I built and have called home for five years, but at a beautiful kitchen table in the home of a family I did not know this time a year ago. My days are no longer in the quiet woods, a solitary life shared with a variety of non-human beings. Now I am surrounded by children. Blue Berry is next to me showing me her latest creation. Royal and Atira are explaining to me how much Royal has grown since October. This morning when I awoke Seth was waiting for me with a deck of UNO cards in hand. Most mornings start with a conversation with Kaleesha followed by coffee and a trip to the barn. To put it simply, my days are now filled with the building of a new relationship with Kaleesha and her seven children.

It gives me pause, to consider how quickly and to what extent life can change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. This past fall I'd purchased my first telescope and that also represented a shift for me as I started spending a lot of time looking at the night sky. I'd already been spending more of my time studying and reflecting upon the Universe and a variety of astronomical subjects. The result was a remarkably happy and blissful me. When one spends one's time focused on the Cosmos it seems that a natural result is a certain kind of calm or bliss that comes from an appreciation of the beauty and perspective in such studies. My turn to the stars was certainly a change for the better.

Making ice cream!
And now this. I find myself in the daily mix of a wonderful family of eight, nine counting myself. This is hardly the sort of thing one plans for. Just as my reflecting upon the billions of galaxies in the observable Universe or the billions of stars in our Milky Way was overwhelming and exhilarating, so too, is my new life here in this home. Daily life here is an adventure filled with moments of sharing and opportunity for learning and growing. For all of us. It's difficult to really know where to begin. Like sitting down to a huge feast. So many possibilities.

Let me start with one of the fundamentals of life on Earth: to raise young. Long ago I made several decisions about my life. One of those was that I would not have children. This, not because I have anything against little humans, but that I believed the Earth already had too many of us and certainly too many of us called "Americans" that are really good at consuming far more than our share. So, I would do my part for the planet and hold back. There were other aspects to this decision but really it is a side point that I don't need to go into too deeply. But, for the record, I think little humans are pretty neat and watching them develop, helping them grow into adult humans is an amazing process, opportunity and responsibility. It's not something I'm afraid of being a part of, I just didn't expect that I'd ever be in a position to do so. But, here I am. Five months ago I had a great friend with seven amazing kids. Now I love that friend and call her partner. As for the kids, I'd never aspire to replace or emulate their biological father. What I will do, what I am doing, every day, is loving them as best I can. Let's explore that.
Farra, Justin and our visiting goose

Love. I've had a tendency to be fairly critical of the society and culture of which I am a part. It's what I do. A part of that has been questioning the idea and, more importantly, the practice of love. What does it mean to love someone? To love a partner or a child? What does parenting look like? What does it mean to be married or in some sort of committed relationship? Of course there is no set answer to these questions, no "right" answer. But I haven't let that stop me from pondering them quite a bit over the years. Now, I recognize that my observations are obviously very limited to a tiny, tiny sample. But in my experience relationships of most kinds do not get the care and attention they need.

The general rule seems to be that parents don't really want to parent. Spouses, partners, or whatever term you want to use, often don't seem to want to do the work of communicating with one another, don't want to cooperate. It's easy to use words like love but how do we manifest it in our day-to-day relationships? How do we put it into practice in our relationships? What's the connection between love and respect in our relationships? How do we love those outside our "family" or is that even possible?

Atira
Let's take that last one. It applies here because I find myself in this home and now the newest addition to this family. But… but… these are not MY kids! How can I love them? What is my role here? Is there a switch I just turn on? How does this love thing work? Many years ago I came across a few different ideas that transformed my notion of love and even my notion of what it means to define "me". Interestingly these ideas played very well into my recent explorations of the Cosmos. The idea, quite simply, is that we're all made of the same stuff. We share and exchange atoms and molecules, we are all a part of this Universe and all return to the same place at death. It's much easier to love one another, to accept one another and to care for one another. We humans have created countless ways to divide ourselves from one another, to compete with and dominate one another.

Getting back to the idea of loving others and in particular those outside our family. It's really not that hard to extend ourselves, to offer any variety of things to those outside of our "circle". Of course there are only 24 hours in a day and most of us have limited resources so I'm not suggesting that we are unlimited in what we can do, just that we can often offer far more to others than we do. Settling into this house it was easy and natural for me to begin caring for the kids. Anyone that knows them might say that yes, of course it was! They are adorable, respectful, loving… its a long list of compliments that are often applied to them by friends and family. It is accurate but visiting with them is not the same as living with them as Kaleesha told me many times. I can safely say that they really are normal human kids that sometimes get upset, cry, throw little fits and more. They're not perfect. They are, however, well loved by their mother who parents them with an attention to detail and a consistency I have never seen before. Ever. And they respond very well to her parenting. They know that they are loved, appreciated, cared for and many other things.

Blue Berry
Loving in this context comes naturally. Kaleesha has worked very hard to create a culture of love in her home. It is evident morning, noon and night at the dinner table, in the garden, on the porch and anywhere else. She is, frankly, relentless in her insistence upon active engagement with her kids and with others that might be around. I've spent these first few weeks talking with her about parenting and have observed her carefully. I don't feel that I'm in a position to do much more than observe but I am constantly learning and engaging. The daily lessons range from actually parenting to learning about the children themselves. Learning their interests, expressions, habits, ways of speaking, their ways of non-verbal communication as well as their patterns of interaction amongst themselves. Jeesh, I'm sounding a bit like an anthropologist in the field with that last bit. Oh well. There are so many little details to appreciate in daily life here.

My life here is just beginning and I have much to learn but I don't doubt that I will. Over the years I've had several people share with me that they thought it a shame that I would not have kids, that they thought I'd make a good parent. Time will tell but I certainly am happy and grateful to be given the chance to be a part of what's going on here.

Next time around (and soon) I hope to share about Kaleesha specifically as well as a post about the similarities in life here at Make-It-Do Farm as compared to life at my cabin on the lake. Check back soon!

4 comments:

La Ferme de Sourrou said...

My goodness Denny, what an amazing thing !

My best big hugs go out to you and your lady love and all those great kids.

Irene x

Anonymous said...

Parenting is the ultimate lifelong learning experience. Enjoy!

Gillis said...

Really Really happy for you and your new family. Some things come out of nowhere, and are incomparable to any meticulously planned path. Beautiful kids...can see a wealth of wisdom in their faces!!

Becky Davenport said...

Oh Denny, how exciting and beautiful for you! I am so happy for you! I can relate to your situation as I have met someone with 2 children and combining with my 2 sometimes it is a circus.