Making My Own Green Peace

Notes from the Mommy Track

On a recent summer Sunday, my morning had started slowly with a gloom over it. Nothing serious, just work again. As I drank my coffee on the back patio, my head just felt heavy.

My part-time job in advertising may sound perfect. But it’s a fine line to walk. I’m always torn between a desire to be really needed and not really having the time. Walking away to switch careers some years back landed me square on the mommy track. But in this economy, jobs are good. So, I really can’t complain.

My self-chastisement session was interrupted when my kids burst through the patio door to remind me of the promised canoe outing. So I checked my gloom and joined them to make sandwiches and pack Cheez Whiz (a picnic essential). We were on the highway by nine o’clock.

Down at the river, the morning was fresh and cool. It was our first time canoeing. So we bumbled around a bit. We even had to head back to the shop for paddles, as we’d walked right past them. But early on Sunday is the time to go. We had the river mostly to ourselves.

We all practiced rowing, particularly my son who has challenges with both large and small motor skills. I wish I could say I planned the trip intentionally for development, but it was just luck.

After seeing another family on a gravel beach, we decided to beach it too. We pulled over by an abandoned set of stairs. My son jumped right in and swam. My daughter and I walked up the path and found a trail and a magical-looking ring of logs around an extinguished campfire. We had our snack under the trees.

When we continued down the river, a blue and white butterfly joined us for a while. We soon discovered that paddling unnecessarily only sped us closer to the end of our trip. So we all rested our paddles and just drifted when we didn’t need to steer. It was peaceful and we saw only a few fellow travelers. There were wildflowers along the banks, and the hillsides were the dark green of midsummer.

I enjoyed the scenery. My thoughts only occasionally returned to work. I think I started to feel dissatisfied at work when promotions came out this spring and I didn’t receive one. I was fully expecting one, as I’d been offered a higher lever originally. And though others received them, I didn’t. The explanation was not clear, but my part-time status seemed to be at the root. There are no part-time employees at associate director level. My career has reached a crossroads. Or, maybe I’ve just got the wrong boss for me. One thing I know for certain: This time with my kids while they are young is precious…and swift moving like a river. It is too valuable to waste one moment worrying about a job, what people think of me, or any thoughts of self-doubt.

We passed a rope swing from an overhanging tree – my son spotted it. So we executed a turn mid-river and paddled back to it. He isn’t the strongest kid, but he fearlessly grabbed the rope and seemed to fly above us out of the boat. He held it for a quite a while. Then he jumped. We angled the boat back and my daughter tried it, too. My husband asked if I would like to take the leap. I decided that I would. We paddled the boat back again and I grabbed the rope and swung out – free.

My kids and I swam and floated down the river together to the gravel bank where my husband waited. My daughter’s eyes have never looked as green as they did on this outing, reflecting the trees and the river. I shut mine to try to memorize the color.

Later, when we picnicked, we visited with the river outfitter. He said that business was good. They had been worried at first about the economy and how it might shake out. But the day before, as with other Saturdays of late, all 500 canoes and rafts had gone out. Their business was going to survive. He felt people were getting back to basics more, leaving the malls behind, for hiking, biking and nature. Or maybe people were just rediscovering their own backyards and the “green” we all talk so much about.

They say you can never swim in the same river twice – it’s always moving, always changing. Where you started isn’t where you land. But here’s the real beauty: If you miss a swing, a dock, or perhaps your exit, you can always turn, paddle hard and get back to where you were meant to be.

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