6/30/14

To the Moon and Timbuktu and Exploring Creativity

It is a rare book that I turn around and re-read as soon as I finish it. It is also a rare to find a book that is exactly what you want and need simultaneously. Nina Sovich's To the Moon and Timbuktu is eloquent and exhilarating, and her reflections on adventure and domesticity a revelation for me. For the first four years of my motherhood, I tried to look at it as if it were simply another adventure. I wasn't done having adventures, I was simply having a different kind of adventure. Then Eloise was born, and motherhood felt like a terrible trial. A soul-crushing, overwhelming, tragic ordeal. She has been home from the NICU since March, and I knew it would be a different trial at home. I knew it would be easier than having a child living in the hospital, but hard being home all the time. So when I read this passage near the end of the book, it brought tears to my eyes:
"Those adventures live in my memory now and they are always at hand. There are times in motherhood when the patience of an African traveler is required. The baby is squirming and crying and trying to put everything in his mouth and I look at the clock and think, "Four hours to bedtime. Worst case scenario five." It isn't unlike waiting for a bus in Maradi. There is at first boredom but then the kind of Zen-like state takes over. Your brain resists the slow ticktock of time. You give into it, and your submission is rewarded with the lifting of restlessness.
Most of my thoughts on Africa are practical like this. I went there for the resurrection of my childhood dreams, a return to the sense of the world was full of promise and beauties. I went to get closer to the earth and to discover what really mattered to me and whether I could live with less, or nothing at all. I went to challenge myself as a man might. These were romantic notions, and I found experiences to sustain a whole life. I am tough now in a way I wasn't before. Yet it is the smaller lessons that I live with every day. It is the memory of waiting for a bus, of walking by the road, of sharing crackers with women. It is the good sense of ordering a day with Islam and tea, of making eye contact with strangers, of spending time on hellos and goodbyes. It is the ability to laugh - really laugh with noise and snot and mirth - regardless of circumstances.
The small things stay with me, not the exhilaration of riding through the desert on top of the jeep, though I confess, on occasion, I yearn for that particular freedom too. They allow me to feel that I have experience and adventure in my bones, that is woven into me, even as I struggled to be a wife and mother.
For I do struggle. The contradictions of my life still exist. I am an adventurer who often finds herself at home. I am a lover of solitude who is surrounded by people all the time. I am an impulsive romantic thrust into the routine of daily life. It is never easy to grow up and live the life you have chosen, even if it is a good life."
Nina Sovich, To the Moon and Timbuktu, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. Pages 301-302. 

I am not having an adventure. I am enduring with patience and love, trying to raise these little human beings. I am a better person for it, but I would really like a jeep ride through the desert today. Or any day. But since I am literally stuck, and it feels like I'm trapped, I have to remember that she is still in me:
I do have a reserve of adventure memories to draw from, and I take hope from Nina's experience that it will be enough.

However, recently I have recognized how being trapped at home with 4 children younger than 6 has let me explore my creativity. Sewing, cooking, baking, painting, home remodeling, decorating, writing and of course Glamping. Art history and foreign travel are my greatest passions, but they are utterly inaccessible to me. Maternity hijacked my life with an explosion of responsibility. 
I can't spend an afternoon researching and writing in the library like I long to do. I can't hop on a flight to Morocco. I'm writing this at the hospital bedside of my baby, with an O2 mask on her face, waiting for her to wake up from her 37th trip to the OR. 
Pretty sure this is no one's idea of a good time. However, I would never have found I have a talent for baking, or have remodeled a trailer camper from the '40s, or gained this new perspective on life I could only attain from this maternal entrapment. So someday when I can return to my great passions, they will be sweeter for it, an in the meantime I can explore my creativity. 

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