We stole away to Southeast Oklahoma a few weeks ago to celebrate the end of school and the start of summer. All our dreams packed into both Jeeps because one isn’t big enough to carry all these hopes. Hopes for a perfect weekend. a perfect cabin, a perfect campfire.
Next summer, Juliette will be packing to leave for college and my Sullivan, my baby boy, now on the brink of adolescence. There’s just something about turning 10, and leaving the single-digit years of boyhood behind. Magnificent, perfect, glorious boyhood.
When he was little I’d sit on the side of his bed and tell him I was so very, very unlucky. “I only have one Sully ,” I’d sigh, “And I would like to have had 10. Ten boys just like you! Ten Sullivans!” He’d giggle and the next night he’d ask me to tell him once again how unlucky I was.
As long as my camera and my kids are by my side, I see a thousand things I might otherwise miss. The gorgeous blanket of moss at the base of the tree, the apricot-colored mushrooms, chantarelles. There is so much to see in the forest! Centipedes and lichens and wild blackberries. The moon. The moon! It’s the same one they’re seeing in France and Tibet and Belize and beyond.
My dad always said there were just some things a mother knows. Like how his mother knew a boy needed space to roam. Just poke around. Look at the sky. Throw a stick. Jump in a creek. Catch a frog. Through my kids — especially my son – I’m getting to know my father as he was in 1939. His hair so blonde, his skin so tan, fishing on the banks of the Piney Creek of Montgomery County, Texas. He said his mother always told him he was as brown as a berry.
But, berries aren’t brown. They’re red and purple, black and blue, but never brown. Or are they? It’s so fascinating how language develops, skipping over centuries and generations, like smooth stones bouncing, bouncing, bouncing over pond. As it turns out, brun means dark-coloured or black, dark red, or reddish-brown in Swedish. In Old French brun refers to a dark colour between red and black.
And, then there’s Chaucer and Canterbury Tales. From the 1380s he wrote, “Broun as a berye, a propre short felawe.” Translated it means, “brown as a berry, a good-looking small fellow.” Mystery solved!
What language are you leaving behind?
My husband Robert turned 49 today. Forty-nine! I met Robert less than a month before his 36th birthday. I hardly knew him, but bought him a giant sword I found at a flea market and gave it to him with a card: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE DREAD PIRATE ROBERT! We married the following year, and here come the rough seas. There are a lot of things in life that will try and shipwreck you. There were times I thought the ocean would swallow us, but, we just kept on rowing. We just kept on rowing!
Happy Birthday, Robert. Here’s to you – slaying waves, hushing sea.
A Poem for Wild Blackberries and Broken Bow
The Peace of Wild Things
By Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Beautiful Broken Bow is about four hours southeast of Oklahoma City. It’s located in the Kiamichi Mountains, a sub-range of the Ouachita Mountains. At the top of a mountain that overlooks the Ouachita Forest is a beautiful cabin called Heaven’s Hideaway. It’s in a perfect spot, and although it’s away from the lake it overlooks the tops of pine trees. I plan to go back there this fall when the leaves are changing. I’ve scoped it out for you – so maybe you can go, too.