Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Work is Love Made Visible

This quote is carved and hung on a giant plaque on the wall of one of the main buildings at the group of summer camps, called Farm and Wilderness, where I have spent many of my summers, first as a camper, then as a counselor, and two summers ago, as a nurse. This past weekend, I went back for a 70th year reunion at the girls' camp, Indian Brook, where I spent all but two of my F&W summers.

I was very anxious about the logistics of getting and being there with a baby, and indeed, it was exhausting and stressful at times. Calliope wailed when I left her with anyone for even a moment, and it was often unsafe to put her down to crawl. Our suitcase was delayed in Boston while we, unknowingly, flew on to Vermont, and didn't arrive until three hours past when I needed to put her down to sleep (in the meantime, I kept her up because her PeaPod tent was in the suitcase, and my friend with the travel crib hadn't arrived, so I had nowhere safe to put her).

Still, it was magical to be there. One of the women who organized the event said, beautifully, "this isn't an anniversary of years (like when colleges have a 5th/10th/15th/20th reunion) but an anniversary of place."

"Circling up" before a meal to hear announcements, sing a beautiful round 
of "the hills and their glorious heights", and stand in a moment of silence
before eating. I have known the women on either side of me, plus my dear
friend Katie, two to my left, for nearly thirty years!

Blurry and disheveled but happy! Calliope
was thrilled to be exploring without restraint
and I was pleased she was in a spot where she
couldn't fall

I just love that. So even women who came from several decades ago and perhaps didn't know anyone still felt at home, because it was about being in that magical spot on the planet where we all feel the same sentiment... home.

This camp changed my life. I believe it changed the lives of every woman who journeyed back. It's a place about acceptance, and peace, and abundant hugs, and joy and power in being female. We are a totally "unplugged" community, with no recorded music or screens of any kind (electronic or the kind that go in windows -- our windows and doors are built to be open to the air). There is lots and lots of singing.

Being surrounded by this wonderful community filled me with joy. I loved catching up with old friends, and trudging up forever familiar trails through the woods with Calliope strapped to my front, and holding hands around the circle as we sang grace before meals. Evenings were wonderful; while Calliope slept, I sang and chatted and played. It reminded me that it's important to get back to being me, and not just Calliope's mother.

Since we returned to Brooklyn, I've looked into joining a "memoir's only book club," though I haven't decided yet if I will go, because paying for babysitting so I can journey into Manhattan for a book club with strangers is quite a commitment  not to mention a lot of time away from my girl during her waking hours, now that I am back at work. But I'm thinking about it. The idea of doing something for me, only me, that's not work and not productive is so enticing.

I've also organized the first meeting of what I hope will become monthly Indian Brook of Brooklyn brunches, hopefully also including a few minutes of Silent Meeting. Farm and Wilderness is a Quaker-style camp, with Silent Meeting every day but no religion beyond a respect for the Life of the Spirit -- there is no talk of God or Jesus. Sitting in silence with friends can be magical. I hope we can make this happen.

Farm and Wilderness is all about "work is love made visible." All the campers and counselors do the work of running the camp themselves. Campers rotate dishwashing and pot scrubbing duty. Campers work in the kitchens, and help to build cabins. Campers feed and water the animals as well as weed the garden and harvest the chickens. In doing this work, they learn so much about themselves.

And where is "work is love made visible" more obvious than in the work of parenting???

I always struggle with the phrase tossed casually around, "parenting is a lot of work," because thus far, I can't really describe it as work. I mean, it's work in that it's the opposite of lying on the couch and watching movies, true. But mostly, I feel it's a joy and a privilege to care for Calliope. To change her diapers, to cook for her, to read stories to her while she sits on her little potty, to snuggle her against me as we nurse before bed. (Okay, picking up her thrown food off the floor does seem like work when it's the fifth time in one evening.)

This morning I thought about "work is love made visible" as I worked out. I used this as my mantra while trying to hold a plank pose for one minute (and succeeded!). I decided that just as it's true as I care for my child, it is also true when I put the work into myself. I am deserving of that same love that I pour into Calliope. So it felt good to remind myself when I was struggling through that workout... pushing myself is showing love and respect to myself.

I decided that I will move up to Week 2 of Rip 60 tomorrow (thanks Claire for encouraging me to share my progress!). Tomorrow's workout will also be the first time that I do Rip 60 two consecutive days. My cousin, who is a workout fanatic, told me that it's okay if my burpees still need work. In his words, "burpees are about suffering." So as long as I'm suffering while I'm doing them, I'm fine, even if I'm not doing full burpees just yet. I'm definitely still suffering while I do them! Today I did 11 of them. Half assed, but still.

My body is definitely changing for the better. I've also been trying for a while to eat a high fat, low carb, moderate protein diet which has helped as well (though in today's world, it's hard to do... try explaining to your health conscious friends and family why you only eat whole fat yogurt, and pour heavy cream into your iced coffee!). But my appetite seems to be dying down a bit, for which I am grateful. I wonder if this also has something to do with Calliope eating more food. While she still nurses twice a day during the week, plus I pump once, I wonder if my body knows that she is no longer solely dependent on me for sustenance, and thus, my body is willing to abandon the ravenous appetite of the first months of her life. Whatever the reason, I am grateful!

Oooh! And my period started today... and it's only been a month since the last one! I can't remember the last time that happened without medical manipulation. So this also makes me wonder if hormonally, things are getting back in order. Hard to say if it's food or exercise or Metformin (though I've been taking it for six months now) or the hormonal changes of nursing a one year old versus a little baby... but it's exciting, nonetheless. Maybe sometime soon I won't have to pluck errant hairs off my chin! Here's hoping.


  1. That camp sounds just wonderful. I went to a camp in Maine much of my childhood and my summers there remain among my happiest memories. I hope I can find a great camp for my son someday.

  2. I just want to say that I read this post last night and found myself thinking about it today. What was on my mind is your wonderful positive attitude about parenting and everything else.

    The camp sounds fantastic. I hope you can send Calliope some day.

    Finally, I've been meaning to suggest you change the name of your blog or just remove 'to be'.