Into Something Better: May 2017

Sleeping in the Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,

She took me back so tenderly

Arranging her skirts

Her pockets full of lichens and seeds.

I slept as never before

A stone on the riverbed,

Nothing between me and the white fire of the stars,

But my thoughts.

And they floated light as moths

Among the branches of the perfect trees.

All night I heard the small kingdoms

Breathing around me.

The insects and the birds

Who do their work in darkness.

All night I rose and fell,

As if water, grappling with luminous doom.

By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times

Into something better.

We as a group of artist mothers from all over the world are making it our priority to turn off the tv/video games so that we can give our children the sacred experience to connect with the fast disappearing natural world. We will freelens our adventures into the wild and share them through this monthly project.  The goal of this collaborative is to journey “Into Something Better”.

The plan was to go somewhere truly wild this month. Away from the city, away from people. If you have lived in a big city before, then you know that sometimes that is not as possible as you think. We live in Shanghai, which is the most populated city in the world, with 32 million people. We're smack in the center of this metropolis, which means we are over an hour from the edge of any city boundary and a couple hours (without traffic) from anything that might resemble nature. We love our city and we are out and about almost all the time, but "wild" is hard to find. Often times when you find what you think will be nature, you find that you and at least 2 thousand other people had the same idea and you are packed together even more closely than you would have been in the city. It's something I'm not quite used to about life in China and the primary elements that often finds me feeling overwhelmed.

We were going to take the long weekend and head to the Yellow mountains, but plans changed when Atticus' preschool we're applying to, scheduled his interview (yes, now we totally have to deal with school interviews in preschool) on the Saturday we were thinking of leaving. Honestly, we were just happy that the application process was moving forward (he ended up being officially accepted that day), that another weekend home was just fine. It did leave us without a chance to find any real nature, though, but as I found out last night, that doesn't always matter.

Still clinging to the idea that maybe we'd get somewhere I didn't photograph for this project until last night. Finally coming to terms with the fact that this was our chance, we headed off into our own enchanted forest for the last few minutes of daylight. This 100 meter squared patch of dirt and trees is in no ways away from it all, but tasked with exploring our woods, Scarlett and Atticus quickly turned this small patch of earth into a place filled with wonders. Ducking through trees, hiding in bushes, using the "fires" to warm their bodies and cook their food. I was reminded of something I already know. Children need only the smallest opportunity to break free from daily constraints and be truly free. Next month we will plan once again to venture away from the city, but for those times when it's not possible, we've got enough to inspire us right here.

When you are done, be sure to click through to Joni Burtt, New Brunswick, Canada. Her work transports me every time.

The Effect of Her Being: 55

"But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."-George Eliot

Amanda Voelker Photography

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Heather Robinson Photography

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10 on 10: February 2017

This last month been full. We have grown more comfortable in our new home of Shanghai and are settling into some routines. On the other side, we are actively trying to see everything we can, so we can fully experience this fantastic and quite different location.

Pollution is something new we're learning to deal with. It hasn't been as horrible as I thought it would be, but there have been several days where we've woken up to toxic levels of smog and a sun you can look right at all day and never have it burn your eyes.

Scarlett is settling in so well to her new school, but there have been some challenges. The bus has been a big one. They had her by herself, not allowed to color (because she could poke her eye out, apparently) or move seats. She also had to deal with some mean girls, but she continues to press forward with the most positive attitude of anyone I've ever met.

We took a weekend trip to Suzhou and 2 hours in Scarlett threw up EVERYWHERE! It is at that point that we learned AirBNBs in China do not provide towels, so we (mainly Nathan), did our best with what we had to clean the mess and take care of our little girl.

Fortunately, her bug was short lived and we went to the Leaning Pagoda of Suzhou the next morning. Pisa has got NOTHING on this beauty. The kids were constantly surrounded by people taking their pictures, or taking pictures with them, and Atticus even fell face first off a bench trying to get out of a photo.

My new favorite spot in town. The Bird, Insect and Flower Market. There were so many insects being sold as pets it was insane! Cricket fighting is popular here, so there were a ton of old men carefully inspecting their crickets, seeing which ones would be the best warriors.

I feel like I go about my days, comfortable in what I'm doing, and then bam! We run into something completely unexpected, like this pigeons and Chickens waiting to be Chinese New Year Dinner. They were just on the side of an alley outside a park, tucked between trash cans.

This is the spot where Scarlett found real treasure. While walking through the park she found a sign written on a rock. I was sure it said "No Swimming. No Fishing" in beautiful Chinese Script. But Scarlett told me it said, "Congratulations. You've found the secret treasure". In case someone is listening in, when we talk about it now, we talk about how we found "the dirty laundry", so as to keep our secret a secret.

I've always been a little afraid of crowds. I don't like being in a crowded building, in Italy, when there were strikes and marches daily, I steered clear. My reason is that I know how little it takes for a spark to ignite and for panic, violence, whatever, to breakout in a crowd. I probably need to get over that fear because China is crowded. We went to the aquarium over Chinese New Years and we crushed into this tunnel with thousands of people. It was pretty tough for me to not think, "If even the slightest thing goes wrong, this is how we all die".

Everything looks so beautiful during CNY, with all the lanterns and lights. Even our building is decorated.

Once again, Scarlett had to say goodbye to a true soul sister. If there is one thing I could remove from all this, it's the having to say goodbye to incredible friends. That's not real life, though, so instead we are grateful for the time we have with those we love, and grateful for the heartache, because it shows how much love we have in our lives .

Now please continue the circle on to the wonderful Breanna Peterson. I love her and her work so much and cannot wait to see what she has in store.

30 Minutes in the Life: January 2017

We're in China now! It's been a big adjustment, but everything is coming together pretty smoothly. One of the great things about Nathan's job is that he gets US and Chinese holidays off so we get days off where everyone else in China has to work, which adds up to perfect travel times. We spent our first weekend away in Suzhou, which is right outside of Shanghai. It's a beautiful Canal town, very much feeling like the postcard image of China. We were all geared up to explore when Scarlett threw up ALL over. Fun fact, airbnbs in China don't provide towels, which made for a very challenging clean up. Fortunately, our sweet girl felt much better the next morning and we explored YuYun Pagoda, or the leaning Pagoda of China. Having been to both famous leaning towers, This Pagoda definitely takes the cake. It's surrounded by beautiful gardens, canals and old buildings. We loved our bit of time we spent here and are happy it's so close to where we live.

When you're done, be sure to see the beautiful post this month from Sonia Epple Fotografie / Augsburg Bavaria