“Sometimes, I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”
– Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems
Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. Her words never cease to stop me in my tracks. To give me pause. To pierce the heart of my normal day and remind me that there is beauty in the ordinary. I have a few dog-eared copies of her books on a shelf in my bedroom and several of her poems written on the pages of my heart. Every now and then, in the most unexpected moments, her words come to mind and bless me where I stand.
Eloise and I have a daily ritual. I strap her in the Ergo carrier and clean the house while she takes her morning nap. I clean up the breakfast dishes and sweep the floors. I throw a load of laundry in the washing machine and make the beds. At some point, I feel the baby’s body grow heavy against my chest, as she is lulled to sleep by the rhythmic movement of my own body.
This morning, while scraping pink toothpaste off the side of the bathroom sink, the baby snoring softly on my chest, I thought of Mary Oliver’s words: “…I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” Scraping pink toothpaste off the side of the sink is not a very glamourous task. Not much about motherhood is.
We clean purple crayon off the walls, grubby fingerprints off the light switches and peanut butter off the cupboard doors. We change diaper explosions – sometimes several times a day, and keep tissues in our pockets and sleeves to wipe tiny red noses. We cut the crusts off sandwiches and peel the “stringy things” off bananas. We sneak spinach into every meal we can and inwardly whoop in triumph when it gets eaten unnoticed.
We break up sibling arguments over the silliest things, and try to curb toddler tantrums before they get out of hand. We grocery shop with our children in the front of the cart, praying that we make it to the checkout without any major crisis. We push our children through the isles, their hands and faces smeared with melted chocolate and cookie crumbs. We let them eat the stale, packaged grocery store cookies because it’s worth it. Any mother knows a successful grocery trip always starts with free cookies from the store bakery.
We read the same Dr. Seuss book over and over again because it is her favourite, but we are hard pressed to think of anything more annoying than On Beyond Zebra for the one-hundred-and-fifteenth time. We put our babies to sleep in their own rooms at bedtime, knowing only too well that at some point in the middle of the night, we will be squished up against the wall with one pair of tiny feet in our face and another digging into our ribs.
We remind ourselves to check pockets for rocks and dead leaves before tossing the laundry in the washing machine. We wince in pain as we (yet again) step on a plastic dinosaur left in the bottom of the bathtub. We dig through the garbage for the drawing from our three-year-old that we “accidentally” threw out. We smooth out the wrinkles and brush off the bits of food, and hang it back in its place of honour on the fridge for another few weeks.
We hide all the dining room chairs so the baby who has just learned to climb doesn’t end up on the table when we turn our back for just a moment. We take a bite of the wet, mushy toast in her chubby hand because she wants to share, and because it’s so adorable when she say “dere you doh” in her squeaky baby voice. We pull on a sweat shirt to hide the spit-up and goldfish paste on our t-shirt before answering a knock at the door.
And the toothpaste. We scrape pink toothpaste off the bathroom sink.
It’s funny how sometimes in the midst of an unremarkable moment my heart swells with love for my ordinary life. While scraping toothpaste off the side of my sink, Mary Oliver’s words can fill my cup:
Sometimes, I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.
This is where I stand a lot of the time: completing mundane tasks that must be accomplished to make it through the day. But I am blessed. Oh, I am blessed.
In between the tantrums and diaper explosions there are peanut butter kisses and toothy-grins. There are wagon rides and bike rides and stomping around the muddy back-yard in rubber boots. There are the dance parties in the kitchen and the tea parties in the living room.
There are the watercolour paintings drip drying on the counter and the belly laughter of sisters playing slap-the-jack on the sofa. There are mugs of hot-chocolate and cuddles under patchwork quilts. There is the little voice that calls out several times a day: “Hey Mom! I love you!”
There’s The Little Prince read aloud, everyone fighting for a place on my lap and there’s that moment when they all fall asleep, the harmonious rhythm of them breathing together, dreams dancing beneath their closed eyelids.
As mothers we navigate the waters of the mundane right alongside the marvelous. There are difficult days. Wonderful days. There are things we must do because we owe it to these little people, and things we do just for the joy of it. There are tears. There is laughter. As much grace as we can muster to give and as much grace as we allow ourselves to receive.
Even when I’m scraping pink toothpaste off the bathroom sink, there is no where else I would rather stand. The baby sleeps against my chest. She is still tiny enough to be carried around. She won’t stay like this forever. I am blessed in this moment. Now. Because tomorrow she will be a whole day older and soon enough I won’t be able to carry her while she sleeps.
I took these photos of Darryl, Laura and their adorable little red-headed daughter last autumn. I’ve wanted to share them here on the blog for a while. I love so many things about this session – the light, the joy, the love, laughter and connection – everything that I seek to capture in my images all wrapped up in one little family. In a few short weeks, Ainsley will be a big sister and I’m so very excited that I will be able photograph those first moments as Laura navigates the uncharted waters of being a mama to two babies. I can’t wait to stand behind my camera, a silent observer to the love that this family shares and the blessings that are bound to overflow.