The Year We Went To Forest School

if you like to read about motherhood, spirituality, and a smidge of uplifting thoughts, you may like to read my work.

The weeds to my left are taller than the rhododendron, and the dog at my feet snorts, then sighs. We are the type of tired thats got an afterglow, like we stole a bit of sunshine from the day to see us through into the night. Their voices litter through the open porch door, always tethered to me in one way or another. With the lightest breath I can suspend myself in this moment between now and tomorrow, before the wave of mental lists and messes and too stern voices and running late angry words and lunch making and forgotten bathing suits and laundry to do to make all things happen, that need to happen. I’ll just take one more little breath, to stay here on the tightrope, because the sunshine is still filling my chest and keeping me brave, balanced up here, above the rest of the world. I could be a ballerina, standing on my tippiest toe on this tightrope up here, where no one is calling my name and needing apple juice mixed with water just right. Up here, there is no news of the world and the neighborhood sings an orchestra made up by an outdoor party just down the way, a motorcycle revving round a corner, a lone firework that begged to be used, and the lazy goldendoodle with his nagging owner that just wandered by. A car drives by too fast and I falter up here on my toes, breathing too deep, uselessly yelling inside my head at the driver to slow down. The girl across the street clicks through at a rhythmic pace as her flip flops clap up down, up down. Birds are chattering here and there, throughout. A conversation is traveling closer, just a walker and his dog and his speaker phone, and they pause to marvel at the neighbor’s tree that died, that now sits roots up for all to see on the lawn near the street. I could listen all night to the song of the neighborhood, if it meant staying here in this space. I shift, and sigh, like the dog at my feet. I breathe deeply. This summer day is thick with abundance and I long to simply roll from one day to the next, but slowly I begin to tumble down from my tightrope in the sky. Each breath reaches towards the crumpled lists stuffed into corners of my mind. The sky has dimmed her lights. Tomorrow waits; the present will be waiting for me to languish there again, some other day, some other time.

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Dear Social Media,

We need to take a break again. And it’s a little trickier this time because I came back to you for selfish reasons. I want to share the things I create and the business I am growing, but you are very distracting. As an artist, I value authenticity above all else. As a human, my desire to live with intention, ranks high. Those values, for me, just don’t jive with a virtual world that values metrics, popularity of hashtags, and a lot of murky unknowns that play into every insecurity you may possess. It feels like we are all shouting at each other, and as someone who avoids conflict at all costs, I really dislike that aspect too. So, the future of how I will “get the word out” about my art, photography, writing, or personal life remains unknown. But there was a way to do this before social media, right? I hope we aren’t too far gone from what we were before. I just know that the moment I came back to you, social media, was the same moment I started to feel less connected again to myself, more sad, and less authentic as ever. You’re good like chocolate but bad like heart disease, so, it’s time to go.

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.

Clutter by Melissa Lipnick

5:31a.m.

Hiss from the heater, soft light across my shoulder. Floating, at the surface of day.

This breath in, And out. Finding calm. In, eyes close. Out, they open. That painting of mine, on the wall? I loathe the way it dips to the right, Slightly off-kilter, I should fix that.

Breath in. Close. Open. It smells. I live in a house that smells. I need to clean up the dog spill, And I need to get that sink empty, And why do we have nowhere good to put all the garbage we rack up? Can’t wait till summertime when the sun cooks it and the wind wafts the scent in. Close. Deep breath.

Exhale. Open. Maybe just keep your eyes closed, I say. You’re really bad at this.

The hiss is done. It’s silent, almost. Airplane exhaust is up above, Just need a stool to stand on, And reach that plane in the sky, He once said.

Close. Breathe. Try. We used to play this game, as kids: “Light as a feather, Stiff as a board.” Creepy. You’d close your eyes, Friends slipped their fingertips beneath your limbs, And we’d all imagine the magic, As your body became weightless, Like a feather, Floating above, Freed from gravity.

Close eyes. This could all fall apart into metaphor And hyperbole Thinking of myself floating above Like a feather Afraid of the winds & gravity Ready to pull me down. What a waste that would be. Cliche would be my worst enemy, The thing that makes me an ordinary, a thing that can be tied up in a little bow, like an elevator speech, a gift to those who need a narrative to make sense, then, move on.

Still trying at 40 To be not what fills me up But who I am meant to be To help fill up the world.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Clutter still there- Stop pretending it won’t be, There, now, You can begin.

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Chicken Math”

Because I like my husband, we became chicken parents in the Spring of 2021.

It all began on Mother’s Day, when I woke my dear husband by whispering, “let’s get chickens today.” It’s a good thing he agreed because I already hit “add to cart” and “buy now.” Hours later, in a freak May snowstorm, we arrived to collect our bounty at a rural chic rustic deserted serial killer-esque farm. Nevermind the dead bodies vibe, it was a disappointment to learn that the chicken lady knew nothing of our online order. I was not returning to our van empty-handed, not with four hungry children + one dreams-about-to-come-true-husband and the very real possibility that I would be digging our van out from the slushy snow. Therefore, I exited with a cardboard box containing birds that were most certainly not the designer ladies I paid $40 a piece for online. Er, I mean $25. I mean $25 total. Yes, that sounds more like an appropriate amount a sane person pays for chickens. It’s round-down math. Maybe it’s the new math. It’s whatever math you haven’t done.

Anyways, we took those imitation chics home and set up shop nurturing them in our basement. We fretted over enclosures and predators and named the little beasts, because once you name them they’re yours to keep.

One fine day, about a month into becoming certified (or certifiable) chicken keepers, I approached our neighbors ready to spill the egg-cellent news. Their eyes grew wide – like that emoji we all use – and that’s how minutes later I broke the news to my farmer husband, “the chickens have to go.”

A few weeks later, I came up with another brilliant plan: we would get a pet rabbit. We already have two dogs and four boys, but that really wasn’t part of the equation here.

Also I’m a real go-getter who doesn’t like to fail. I WOULD win at wild & weird pets. The math was elementary: impulse + pandemic divides by a quick fix for sad chicken feelings = a surprise flemish giant rabbit.

We named him Duncan because his minder gave me an address that led me straight into a remote Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, where I pulled my van up alongside her white Lexus, she popped the trunk, I inspected the specimen, I took the pedigree papers, I Venmoed the overpriced dollars, and exited the lot with a bunny in a Costco box + a donut for the drive home.

Naturally, Duncan needed a friend, so three days and another Dunkin’s drive thru exchange later, Nero had joined our family.

Then disaster struck again. This equation added one suddenly sick Nero + emergency vet + more money + middle of the night call = empty pockets and empty hearts.

Duncan gets bigger every day. We miss Nero and the chickens, but we like our neighbors enough to sacrifice a want versus need in the name of community. And maybe that’s the most important name afterall, the equation that matters most, and the one that sticks. The last few months have contained their own set of challenges, as the seasons of life will do. Our neighbors have been there to help, in the small ways that feel big. So I believe, if we share our space on this earth with gratitude + compassion, multiplied by some sacrifice in the name of the We instead of the I, the equation adds up in all the best ways. Just don’t check my work because math was never my strong suit, ok?

C. 2022 Melissa Lipnick

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.

Come tour my house with me, will you? Let’s begin in the living room. Careful of your toes. Just step around the LEGOS, train sets, paw patrol bridge, and wreckage of a playdough toy set. Watch out for the dog pee! Sorry, our dog is elderly and can’t contain himself. Also it’s really too much to ask for us to take him out 95 times a day, even though we are almost always home, so he pees in the living room.

Here we have our mustard yellow card catalog- we are sooo hipster. No, no don’t open it! Oh my gosh. First of all, it’s actually a dresser posing as a card catalog. The drawer pulls are just for looks, goodness don’t actually USE them! It teeters on tiny mid century legs, and it’s physics cannot be verified.

And, I don’t know what’s in there. I mean, abstractly, I do. Art stuff. Sharp stuff hidden from the kids. Bills I meant to pay. Keys for things. Paper clips, I assume. Stamps? I know one time I definitely bought stamps. Pictures. Precious pictures! They are spilled like hills and valleys over the variety of things that I don’t know what they are, and if you move just one you are sure to ruin the rest. This cabinet (dresser) is meant to be beautiful on top but it’s the tallest surface to hide things from the short people so instead, on top, the paper towels roll (for the dog pee) is balanced on the wool dryer ball (I am so green!!), with charger cords woven throughout that are guaranteed to not be the type you need.

Saunter over to the next wall, and behold the ugliest smattering of metallic teal acrylics that you’ll ever see. I call this eyesore, “another victim of things I do at 5am.” Some people do dumb stuff after a few adult beverages. Others go shopping in their sleep. Me? The dark corners of early morning awaken every impulsive itch in my body and I’m metaphorically in Vegas: what happens at 5am, stays at 5am. Except if you pallet knife a four by six foot interpretive Art piece on the living room wall. And then with great regret, you begin to peel at the rapidly drying acrylics, revealing plaster colored, jagged shapes that resemble North and South America. Ish. Then Vegas follows you home and glares at you, silently saying, “I know what you did at 5am.”

Moving right along- watch the wet again, please, our elderly dog only puts his paws onto the pee pad and allows his urine stream go where he wishes. Please behold, our current couches. “Current,” you ask? Ah yes, well, ahem, couches are my equivalent of your new favorite jeans that fit just right until 20 minutes after you removed the tag, and now they stretched and sag.

It all began with my first IKEA Klippan sofa. Small, trustworthy (except for the lone leg that didn’t like to stay put), and surprisingly comfy, I fell in love with the idea that I could adult with pretty & affordable things. But like all our collective youth, with time, the Klippan lost its luster and I grew embarrassed of it’s unabashed sized-for-dorm-rooms, let’s “play house,” style. When we discovered a seriously grown up Bernhardt couch via Craigslist for a cool $400 cash and mad Tetris skills required, we jumped off the college train. Hellooooo grown-up-hood!

The Bernhardt moved into our first house (apartment). The bathroom ceiling fell through, the fridge covered a dark colored mold, the heat more than once forgot to work, and the white cat froze solid in our front bushes. But. We had a Bernhardt. Friends collected on this massive ornate couch while we fried donuts and played with our young (now elderly) shoelace-eating shih tzu.

The Bernhardt followed us across the street to our next home, when we could not take it any longer with the rain in the bathroom and landlord that came/went without notice. Forgetting to close our back door, no less! Two by two, my family carried lamps and a vacuum and boxes and that grown up couch, across the road, from one house to the next.

Over the next four years, the Bernhardt made a movie appearance, the mid-life dog got banned from it’s seats after snapping at the baby that graced our family shortly after marriage, shortly after my dad died, shortly after a graduation, shortly after a big job loss and a big job gain. The Bernhardt was #hereforit.

One day we were pregnant again, so off we moved to the house next door. Each item again went two by two, us the ants marching through the bushes shouldering talking toys and clothes on hangers, a piano, and, the Bernhardt.

The second baby and the first baby got bigger and more playful. They pulled the Bernhardt’s cushions down, jumping from springs to foam. The crumbs were rampant, so they dubbed the Bernhardt “the dirty couch,” and so he/she shall forever be known.

The truth is though, I never loved the Bernhardt. It was the best we could do but it projected an image of “stately” that I really just couldn’t get behind. We aren’t fancy people and I tried to dress it down with shabby chic/farmhouse fab, but that gave me imposter syndrome too. And, if I’m being honest again, there was a sag to the middle that we couldn’t ever rectify, despite a promising “As seen on TV” purchase.

Eventually, the dirty couch left us. It still lives on, at my sister’s Air B’n’B rental. Occasionally we visit the dirty couch and it’s awkward. Retirement looks good on the old Bernhardt, but I know resentment when I see it. The dirty couch was the reason we became friends with the couch’s original owners, the Craigslist sellers, and mourned when the husband, Dennis, passed away too young. It was just a couch, but it was also, not? Should my sister and brother-in-law ever decide to upgrade, I will accept back the Bernhardt with open arms, ready ease her into the final years with grace. Yes, you heard that right. Bernhardt was a she all along, because who else could carry our endless weight and soldier on without complaint?

After the Bernhardt, it was the age of new. New house. New baby. New (to us) IKEA couch. Sadly, shortly after assembly, my round bellied pregnant self took a surprising dip downwards when the chaise lounge (aka best seat in da house) became unhinged, literally, and broke, also literally. I wish I could say it was the only piece of furniture I broke during that pregnancy, but I cannot.

The IKEA KIVIK was fixable. Ish. It was low to the ground which felt like safer play territory for my children, until the 1 year old fell from it and will forever bear the scar of a duplo block above his left eye.

But, the KIVIK fell victim to my heebie jeebies, activated by the mice that came to nest in our home. It was one thing to hear them scratching in the walls, and it was another to come face to face with a mouse in our basement. And it was one thing to see a mouse scamper across our living room, scream for help, jump on the KIVIK, trap and release the mouse (then house him again when he returned), and quite another to discover mouse droppings beneath the cushions. The Bernhardt would be aghast. I could not sit upon the KIVIK again, knowing that, without my knowing, mice had been beneath my bottom. The KIVIK had to go.

And so one fall day, leaves orange and brown, I dragged the KIVIK to the curb. Another family will need this couch, I thought! I’m still being so green, I thought! Mother Nature is no dummy though. She called me on my lie and promptly dropped buckets and buckets of rain that rendered us without electricity for days and the poor KIVIK was destined to wait weeks on the curb, on display for all who drove by, until the bulk pick up truck whisked him away. Yes, for reasons I cannot explain, the KIVIK (may he Rest In Peace), was a he.

There was an ugly Arhaus sectional that we hid in the back bedroom, beige on beige, like pleated khakis and pearls. For a time after the KIVIK and before baby #4, it lived in our living room. Then the subsequent chiropractor bills piled up, so it had to go (upstairs).

The pandemic hit and I was a) pregnant again, b) caring for my mom post-surgery, and c) beginning to wake at 5 and indulge in therapy. Not the talking kind, but the Vegas kind, like I mentioned before. And so it is how we ended up with two, brand new (not just new to us!) IKEA Stockund loveseats. At this time, we also ordered a new IKEA dining table. IKEA forgot to send the legs and stopped answering the phone because, Covid. In defiance, I laid the dining room table top on the floor, legless, and encouraged my children to treat it like a picnic table with chairs. Or a wooden rug.

Upon opening the boxes of our stocksund, I was struck with disappointment. A better person would have called a spade a spade, packed the minivan, and stood in a risky Covid line to return the overpriced seats. Sadly I am not a better person. So here upon I sit, as I write this manifesto to our couches, on a squatty Stocksund semi ornate but weirdly comfy and practical washable loveseat.

Stay with me here though, because that is not the end of our couch story. The #pandemicbaby was born and I found a “mid century modern” La-Z-Boy sectional on the marketplace. My eyes knew it wasn’t mid century style, but my heart and head could not be convinced otherwise. And so, that is how “the couch that you got while we played at Grandma’s house” came to be. During this time period, the Stocksunds took on other duties in various rooms about the house.

The LaZBoy was a behemoth. Yes, I had measured. Ish. But it looked so darn comfortable that I was remiss when, again, I would be spending more couch change at the chiropractor.

The La-Z-Boy sailed off into the sunset tied atop a Honda, along with the new owner’s every hope and dreams. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect couch, so if you see anything, LET ME KNOW. Thanks, in advance.

Now, follow me into our dining room, if you will…

C. 2021 Melissa Lipnick

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.

5:20am

You are snoring to my right. Even today on your birthday, I worry. Are you happy? Do you know how much I love you? I ask you this all the time and you tease back with your fingers; first just three, (“more!” I say), then just five, (“more!” I say), then two full hands, (“even more than that!” I say). That smile. Oh, what I’d do for that smile, do you know?

You are stacking up lore in our family, but I want you to know that those are just nuggets of our love for you. They are sound bytes that you’ll think you remember, as we retell and reminisce with years that pass. But really, I want you to know – I need you to know – that our experience of you is not you. We are blessed to be by your side as you grow, and we will collect our favorite moments like precious stones, but that glint in your eye belongs only to you.

Everything about you, I adore. It’s impossible to reduce you to traits and lore, because you are the sun and the moon and the air and “the G-d inside you,” as you say. I know it’s too much, the amount I love you. It’s too much to count on our hands, and it’s too much for you when it makes you feel seen. But just know it’s there for you, always, ok? In the darkness or light, years beyond my life, I just ask that you tuck my love into that fire inside of you. If the flame simmers, remember your reverence for me, and reignite yourself with all my love, because that’s whats it’s there for. It’s your home, and you can always, ALWAYS, come home.

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.

3:46am

Yesterday a bird on my property yelled at me. I’m walking up the black asphalt drive and from the branches above, it lets out the ugliest screech at me. The nerve, that bird. On my property.

It’s suburbia here and a buck is staring me down. I’d like to park the van. He’s young, and unpredictable, I’d assume. I cautiously yet optimistically inch towards the side door- the van is nudging this teenage buck to get on home. Nearly to the door. He really isn’t thrilled with me and I brace for deer-sized tantrum. He’s gone now, and I scurry around the sliding doors collecting children and things and scramble through the hazardous storm door (watch your ankles). Are we safe?

The tree had to come down. It was nice for the shade but invasive. It costs a boatload of cash we didn’t really have. Dropped a few good branches onto our nice stuff-tried to be a boss. Anyways, tree had to come down, so all the men and their trucks and tools sliced it till nothingness remained. I imagine the process sprinkled new seeds of that awful tree everywhere within a mile long radius. Scientifically, I’ve got nothing to go on. But can’t you just see those tiny, dusty and defiant molecules settling into the earth? “Watch me now, jerks,” says the unearthly ghost of tree! “I’m bursting into millions and digging my heels in deep to the cool moist depths of the dark earth. Nothing can’t stop me now.”

Oh the mice. The Mickey Mouse wanderers who find our home. I. Do. Not. Do. Rodents, and if I need to poison them and their food chain I will thank you very much take your uppity peaceful living garbage and shove it. Phew. That was exhausting. Mad is madness is invasive and then permeates.

I hear you raining on my roof, water squeezed like dishrags from the sky. Tires roll 50 yards from where I sit and the wet between their treads and road would tell me enough, without needing to hear the gutters overflow.

Even at 4:11 am it’s noisy. There’s static in my ears and a stray baby cry and snort, snort, siiiiiigh from the dog at my feet. I only want to weave, in the quiet, without the rain and static, and cries, and sighs, and judgey birds, and intimidating bucks, and invasive species, but who am I really without all that? I’ll meditate on the wool thread as I batten it down, but there’s no structure to hold the wool without the steady, boring, omnipresent weft. The other day I told my son that the weft cannot break, and to demonstrate, I pulled hard. It broke. I guess the thread was cheap and just an imitation. Fooled me though, that’s for sure. Turned out I was betting all my woven art on a faulty system of threads that could snap with just a nudge of my hands.

I’m planning to be a better parent today, just like everyday. If only I can turn down the static, just slide those radio dials to zero, then click off. I’ll yell from above at the distractions in my way or stare down hard at the crap in my path and scurry through the mazes while dodging the toxic temptations, and finally, finally, settle down into my rightful home, nuzzle my children close, inhale, exhale, there we are, we were there all along, weren’t we? Just had to turn down the noise.

c. 2021 Melissa Lipnick

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.

But, How Did It Make You Feel? By Melissa Lipnick

It’s autumn and I’m driving. The clouds that clustered for days have dissipated. Just little puffs like smoke sprinkle the sky, now. The days before this, I drove blindly through the fog. My senses lit the way because there wasn't a choice otherwise. The haze felt too real, too ominous, and too metaphoric.

But today, the light is bright and easy. And though there is one child in my car who is unleashing his anger in screams that suffocate the cabin space, I can breathe better. I am treading lightly in this new space. If the clouds reached toward me, through the windshield, I would let myself be enveloped in their soft hug. This floating feeling exists only if I allow my reasoning to be flung out the window, lost in the wind.

This is the year of the pandemic, the year my fourth child is born, and the year we went to Forest School. We exit reality the moment I turn left onto the gravel drive that leads us to the forest that can be everyone’s school. It’s our path to Narnia; the tree branch covered road that unexpectedly opens into an exhale of wide land. Power lines litter the cross space of field and gravel. It should feel wrong. The juxtaposition of ugly with freely growing grass should feel misplaced, but instead I read it as a message.

Today we round the corner towards that opening, and suddenly there is nothing but light. I hit the brakes at a halt. I am blinded. To move forward, I have to trust again like the days of fog. But in the light, it feels like free falling. We are barreling down the roller coaster hill, even as my foot is firmly on the brake. Somehow it is scarier to trust how to move forward in the light, then it was when the absence of it.

Time wins. We have four minutes less then usual, so I press down on the gas and imagine I am enveloped again in a cloud’s hug, being guided safely. For a millisecond we are suspended in trust. Blink. Next millisecond and the stomach drop passes. The next curtain of trees ushers us inside their shade.

We get there and it’s on a different timetable than I intended, but it’s ours. I accept it. Is there a choice anyways? Fog, light, blinding sun, sad skies, deep clouds, gravel, road, suspended in a moment, click the camera to remember not the image, but how it made you feel.

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.

5:39am You chat in babbles. I am knees up, beneath the blanket on the couch. The coffee maker clicks. I’m at the side of a mountain; the air is still.

I’ll jump or climb or tumble down; soon, not yet. The pause in your voice as it drifts across the rooms is only temporary. It’s adventure, to you. It’s exhaustion, to me.

Here they come, feet on the boards above-I’ll know who by the sound on the stairs.

I begin by remembering I’m not here just for me. Each corner of the house begins to unfold like a pop-up book, just as your cooing quiets. Different patterned thumps, unique as their fingerprint, sound the call of morning, of family, and of responsibility to each other.

It’s all romantic in a sense, until the dog vomits. Duty to one another extends beyond the preparation for perfection. Pull up the rug to wash and decide whether to be burdened by it or grateful. Either way, the book is unfolding into another day-another chance to decide.

By Melissa Lipnick

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Gift of the Midwest

The gift of the Midwest is sometimes we are snowed in. Today is one of those times, a forced day of rest within a forced year of exclusion. You asked me not to leave, and though I am busy, I will sit and watch you sleep. Your blue blanky is hugged tight beneath your chin and the sun makes lines across your body, slipping through the blinds. Our baby sleeps near you. The waves rise and fall from the machine that makes sound.

It’s 4:59 in the evening and this will make for a long night, this late nap. I rock and make lists, gazing out the open door towards the house that keeps moving. An open closet door is filled with aging spices. On it’s handle, hangs a white garbage bag that must be gathered tonight with the rest. Just beyond, near the food bowls, stands our Wendell dog, aging like the spices, perhaps beyond his expiration date- one can never know with rescues- he looks up expectantly, waiting. “Dinner” looms, sitting on my shoulders while calling from the kitchen, admonishing me for another day unplanned, unprepared, happening upon the time we eat without an idea of what I will set out for it. Dinner doesn’t like me. But the feeling is mutual.

You both, my elder two, the ones who are a pair, with names I say together like one, you’re languishing in another day of nothingness. This year has been like a river, some days smooth, others that are filled with currents. But the shores are soft and overflow easily; water spills onto plants that have enough and aging wooden docks buckle under the pressure. The river used to be murky, impossible to see beneath the glistening layer of sun kissed water at the top. But suddenly now, it is shockingly clear, straight to the bottom, here, in this river that has been this year. We are floating downstream, lazy on tubes, feet grazing the wet at times, heads tipped back just enough to cool our necks. If we try to look down, to absorb this chance to finally see what is beneath the top layer of glistening sun kissed water, the tube tips. So we float aimlessly like a dream, then grip the tube sides when the current suddenly pulls us this way and that. Wet hands and wet tube are mostly futile, when matched. But we try. And when I tip just a bit and take a look downwards, on my break from looking upwards where I basked in the sun, I see that the river bottom is only quicksand. The promise was that the river was built well, but now I see that the seahorses were fake and the plant life simply plastic. If we fall from our tubes, the sand beneath the water will swallow us whole. Now we are plummeting faster and faster downstream and all I have are my two arms, so I pull my children atop both our tubes. We link together and with hands held tight, we are balanced. Eyes match eyes, not up or down, but straight on. Children on our laps, they keep us from tipping this way or that. We cannot depend upon the clouds or the river floor, and if we turn forward or back, our tubes may tip. So we are finally steady, and we take the turns together. It’s not calmer, there is still chaos as the dams break and water wins relentlessly, mercilessly, but we have our own foundation upon which to travel these clear waters.

It’s 5:34 and I’m on 1%. I promised I wouldn’t leave, but I need to recharge. I’m quick but not quiet and the baby cries when I re-enter the room. You can’t jump ship without rocking the boat, or tube. You can let the phone die and sit in the dimming room, as the sun sets, and just listen to the manufactured ocean in tune with your children’s miraculous breaths, or you can get up and keep moving. Keep charging. You’ll miss out on a moment but you’ll be active in the next. Maybe you’ll make friends with dinner. Maybe you’ll think of a way to save your boys from the lazy river they found that they love, within the year that the quicksand swallowed the structure beneath our plans. Maybe you’ll just enjoy the snow, the imposed break, the gift of the Midwest, the moment in time where life shuts down for Mother Nature to make her way despite us, in spite of us, or just because.

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.