I want to fill them up with poetry

Grace, Whit and I went to Walden today.  Over the years I have been there often, pulled by something beyond me, and I always go in the winter.  I like it empty and quiet.  I like to be the only person (people) there.  I like it when I can feel the spirituality crackling in the air.  I could today.

As we made our way around the pond Grace and Whit took detours to explore the woods and paused to wonder at the fact that the pond is still mostly covered with ice.  It is definitely not warm here yet, even though it is officially spring.  The trees are still defiantly bare, and their black branches net the sky.  Today that sky was gray, with occasional beams of sun breaking through the thick ridges of white-gray clouds.

As we walked I told Grace and Whit about Thoreau, about how he chose to live simply, to focus on the natural world around him.  Our adventure quickly turned into a Notice Things Walk, and each called out when they saw something worth sharing: a peculiar knot on the side of a tree trunk or the pattern of stones leading down to the water that looked like stairs.  When we arrived at the site of Thoreau’s cabin, we saw this sign and a pile of rocks.
As Grace read the lines, so familiar to me, and I felt my chest tighten.  They both had questions about the last line.  We talked about what meant to live a life so full that you felt sure, at the end of it, that you’d truly lived.  I had sunglasses on so neither child could see that my eyes brimmed with tears.  Then they busied themselves building a cairn in the rock pile, as others had done before.
Whit was very curious about the cairns and he moved carefully among the stones, examining the various piles.  I imagined what those who erected these monuments were commemorating: the example of a life thoroughly-lived, the commitment to art, the desire to immerse oneself in nature.
And then we were off again.  The trail wound its way around the pond, a multi-season combination of dead leaves and tenacious patches of snow and ice.  We walked in companionable silence, Whit’s hand in mine.  He announced, apropos of nothing, that when he went to college he still wanted to live at home.  “Why?” Grace piped up from ahead of us.  Whit didn’t answer right away, just squeezed my hand.  “I want to live at college for sure,” she averred confidently as she danced, occasionally skidding in her tractionless Uggs, along the path.

“Well,” Whit said, not looking at me, “Being with Mummy makes me feel safe.  And I want to stay safe.”  I gulped, remembering the time he told me that holding my hand makes him feel like his heart would never break.  I desperately wish I could keep his heart from breaking and keep him safe forever, but I know that neither of those things is in my control.

I gripped Whit’s little fingers and kept walking, breathing the piney Walden air, hearing Thoreau’s words in my head.  Ahead of us Grace’s red and white parka bobbed up and down.  The air was still, the bracing cold of winter mitigated by the promise of spring.  The only sound was our footsteps.

I want to make sure my children know the feeling I get at Walden, the soaring in the chest that speaks of a similar expansion in the spirit.  I want to encourage them to engage with life and to learn what it has to teach.  I want to fill them up with poetry.  Even more, I want to help them see the poem that lives in every day of their lives.

24 thoughts on “I want to fill them up with poetry”

  1. I feel the same way you do about Walden. That place means so much to me and I get the same soaring feeling when I walk there. Wonderful that you’re introducing your children to it- even though I grew up 15 minutes away, I didn’t find it until I was a teenager (my Mom was not the woodland walks type!). They are lucky to have a Mom who helps them see the beauty in life!

  2. Oh Lyndsey! What lucky children you have. What teachings you are offering them. And the writing….exquisite!

    Thank you. This post is a gift.

  3. “On Walden Pond” has long been on my to-read list, and I’ve always wanted to visit. In high school, the seniors in AP English built a recreation of Thoreau’s cabin in the courtyard and held class there while they picked their way through the book. How lucky you are to be able to access the real deal anytime you want, and take your children along for the ride.

  4. Beautiful. And the last paragraph? I would say you’re doing exactly that. Whether you’re taking them to Walden or to Legoland, soaring through the air on a trapeze or snuggling up to read together — you’re each engaging with life, with the poem, and learning what it has to teach. I suspect you’d get a thumbs-up from Thoreau!

  5. What amazing writing, Lindsey. And what a gift you give your children every time you invite them to explore the natural world. It’s always struck me that, when we’re fully immersed in our surroundings, we are also most connected to those beside us. This seems to be the case with Whit–and how sweet was his comment? Love it.

  6. “I want to encourage them to engage with life and to learn what it has to teach. I want to fill them up with poetry. Even more, I want to help them see the poem that lives in every day of their lives.” THIS is a poem I’d like to have tattooed on my forehead

    (well, ok -not really – I’m not that fond of pain & it’d be too long – don’t have that much forehead) – but seriously – this is SO beautiful and I believe it IS tattooed on my heart!

    Thank you for this nourishing direct-to-the-soul post!

  7. Wow, Lindsey…your writing always, always makes me feel like I spent a few minutes reading poetry. So I am guessing that poetry is actually surrounding your children naturally…in the way you speak to them, the way you think. Such beauty with words!!!!! I love this post. How lucky your children are.

  8. Thoreau would be pleased! The love and attention you offer your children is truly the highest expression of your own beautiful self. Yes, I agree with all the others that your children are lucky to have you as their mom. And in you all of us other mothers see a role model, as you remind us of the beauty and the poetry of the small moments, the unadorned gestures, the pauses to see and notice and appreciate. Lovely, lovely.

  9. I love how you have these deep meaningful conversations with your children. And those days of holding your son’s hand, I still have a few of them with my youngest and I cherish every minute. The transition away is so gradual. I feel it now, time slipping away, them slipping away. I am not quite ready.

  10. Lindsay,

    I just finished a long afternoon with the kids and have been frustrated by the monotony of the last couple of weeks in the cold! You just totally inspired me with your incredible words, amazing writing and helped me get outside of the moment!

    Thank you!

  11. You are an awesome mom just by being so authentically yourself. I read this post (well, the parts about your kids) to Oliver and he was so fascinated by the pond. It’s so beautiful but what’s more beautiful is how you are teaching your children to notice and be present.


  12. How lucky you are to be able to take them there! I love Thoreau. Also, have you read those sweet picture books about Henry? They hew so closely to On Walden Pond, and the art is terrific. By D.B. Johnson.

  13. my heart is swelling with gratitude for you, for the inspiration of your soulful mothering, for the gorgeousness of your photos (such romance), for the poetry you fill me up with. thank you.

  14. I’m late in reading this, and agree with all of the above.

    Lucky kids, lucky us. Just wonderful.

    I haven’t beem back to Walden Pomd for years, but would drive up as a teenager just to sink into the healing there. So glad you took Whit and Grace. And you..


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