Not long after he’d been up this morning, Aedan announced that he had to poop. We haven’t moved into town yet, so this means that we have to put on our boots, our coats, our hats, grab a headlamp or a flashlight, and trudge to the outhouse. As we cross the porch, I glance at the thermometer: -25 celcius. My nose tingles; the exposed skin of my face stings. I realize my new parka might not cut it this winter. Our boots squeak on the hard-packed snow that leads us to the outhouse. I help Aedan get his pants down, help him get up on the pink foam seat. I hold the light over him because he is afraid of the dark. We wait. After a moment, he looks up at me and says “the poop’s not ready.”

We head back into the house and proceed with breakfast. Soon, he announces that he thinks the poop is ready. This time, Paul takes him out. They’re back after only a minute or two. Still not ready. We go through this a half dozen times, each time with the boots, the coats, the hats, on and off. I’m getting tired of this. I can’t shake the chill, my tea has gone cold. I imagine it’s no fun for Aedan, either.

But the seventh time I take him out, standing in the dark encouraging him to just wait another minute and see if it happens, I hear an owl hooting in the distance. Hoo-hoo, hoo, hoo. I hold my breath, whisper to Aedan to listen. We hear it again, and again. And then I notice the complete absence of any other sound. I look up and I notice the pale ghost of last night’s aurora. I notice the bright, slender waning moon, the few stars that still hang in the sky. The silhouettes of bare trees. I exhale and I allow myself to slip into the noticing, to feel a moment’s gratitude for this outhouse that takes us out at times of the day and night when we’d otherwise stay tucked inside; this lifestyle that gives me chances to experience things I’d otherwise miss.

I don’t mean to romanticize it: I still grumble when I have to go out there in the winter time. And ushering my five year old out every twenty minutes over the course of the morning until he relaxes enough to poop is no great joy; but there are moments of beauty, if I stay open to them. This holds true for most aspects of life: always a faint glimmer of something beautiful, if you look hard enough.

What beauty will you notice today?

Mama Magic

When I was in my teens, I went through a witchcraft phase. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this. I would watch The Craft over and over on our pirated Pay Per View. I read books and websites about Wicca. I formed a short-lived coven with a couple of friends: we’d go into the woods in our neighbourhood and cast our little spells to have our crushes return our affections. I dreamt of growing up to have a little cabin in the forest, herbs drying in the rafters. I imagined people would come to me for simples and spells. I’d be weird and a loner and I’d have power.

I’ve got the cabin in the woods, and sometimes there are even the drying herbs…but my power is one I never imagined for myself. It’s the power to soothe a crying babe with my voice alone. The power to heal a hurt with a kiss. When I gave birth to my first child, I was bestowed this strange power without even knowing it or ever asking for it. These children are enthralled with me, and I with them. They are my familiars, or perhaps I’m theirs.

There is a swirling flow of energy between the 4 of us; it feels impossible to break. The sour mood of one will affect the others until we’re all triggered, brooding under a dark cloud. But I have the power to dispel the cloud. I am the one who ultimately sets the tone. They look to me for their cues in our daily ritual. Each morning, I cast the circle we all dance in, I invoke the course of our day. If one didn’t get enough sleep, is lashing out, and the others retaliate, it’s for me to choose how it will go. Will I be triggered, too, and curse us all? Or will I be the benevolent one, choosing to remain steady through the storm? If I can manage to be the calm center, slowly I pull them back into me for shelter. I weild this power in the face of the powerlessness that comes with trying to navigate life with 3 very different, still developing little humans. It’s power over myself and my own reactions.

The rest of it, the power to heal with a kiss, the power to invite sleep with my presence alone, is all an illusion. It was those babies who bestowed on me this magic as each was born. And they’ll take it away as they grow older and leave our circle. It feels too big, sometime, too heavy, their intense need of me, of my body and my physical presence. But it’s transitory, I have to remember that when the need becomes overwhelming. At the end of these early years, they’ll comfort themselves, fall asleep in their own beds whispering their own secret stories, and what will I have left? Just the memory of magic, faded like dried herbs in a dusty glass jar.



Image via Flickr user Gabriel Roja Hruska