Looking through 20-year-old photos this week, I glimpsed the full landscape of my personal life in a true, complete way. And realized that I have neglected that landscape as a writer, creating here and in my published articles this sense that I spend all my time sitting on rocks in the backcountry. These inspire a lot of my writing, but the full story is… fuller.

Most of life vibrates in the everyday, the wiping up crumbs, unwrapping vegetables, pouring out pasta water, listening to those little anxieties of one’s children or pets. The clattering of feet defined life in our little Victorian house for so many years. From 1988 until 2009, at least one daughter lived with my husband and me, and our daily landscape was so very colorful. They dressed up in scraps of cloth. They invented stories about princesses who lived in the woods. They gave names to their tiny dollhouse figures and set them up with labyrinths of rooms on the front porch. Etc.

Mountains and backcountry lowlands seem to clear out something on my head, answering some yearning fixed in me way before I became a mother. The noisy comings and goings of my large family growing up gave me much joy. But when I left home and went on my own and then committed to marriage and motherhood, I thought that I sought quiet.

What I truly sought, and what I wanted, was a family. My family. Our family. That is, the next branch of a large tree of people in two families going back thousands of years. I told myself I wanted a peaceful family, but actually I wanted the kind of noise that I was the mother of. Rather than being part of the noisy, loving chaos as a sister and daughter, what felt like quiet to me was simply being the mother.

Well, now those sparrows have found their nests. The younger of the two, pictured above, is now 29 and creating her own special world. Her sister, 31, is doing the same. My world, and my husband’s world, now almost resembles the quiet of a windblown mountaintop. But we reminisce about the clattering of feet. That’s right; that’s how it should be.


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