Childhood… tire swings… growing up: A spiritual exercise in drawing material inferences

3.5 Morning. You’re welcome, and I’d be delighted. An aside: I love opening these rainbow colored documents and not at first being able to tell whose voice is whose. Did I say that? Did you? Does it matter? Well, no.

Good morning, A. Not sure exactly what this document is. Reminders to me? Notes to my children?

A., this seems one question too many, this ‘what does it mean’ question. It means: poetry. It means: love. You open a document, you write, you invite, I accept, I write. And my words come attached, like monkey hands on monkey hands on the top of a red barrel, to yours. It means: Let’s we two…

Then let’s we two…


My child is hungry, I feed him. First from my body, the garden he knows. Then from other gardens, as he comes to know the wider world.

A child cries, I comfort her.

She is afraid, and I hold her.

He plays peekaboo, and we laugh together. He knows I’m here, and that I see him. Like now.

My toddler lifts his arms up to the sky. I lift him up to my heart. He lifts, I lift, we lift.


He learns to play catch. Back and forth, giving and receiving. Aiming true, catching securely, letting go.

A child learns manners. Respect for self and others, gratitude to hosts and givers of gifts, how to start and end conversations, use inside voices and attunement to what is needed.

One child hits another. (“Ouch. Hey, that hurts!”I gentle him away and teach him better. Ask what he’s feeling, help him get what he needs. (Hitting is frustration freshly felt, hitting like concepts new and fresh, like words before they existed. What is fairness? What is justice? Where *do* our desires go? I point, we walk, this way.) 

Her child wears cords, wants to swing. He asks for a push and A. pushes. The green tire swings, here man hands on shoulder blades, here blue heels rising and falling. Short legs, widening eyes, whirring smiles two. Someday, his legs will be long enough and he will learn to pump them.

Eating and Food

My child learns to cook. Food for health, food as love, cooking as part of self sufficiency, self-love. By learning to cook, he also learns to chew.

The children eat meals with their families. Conversation, stories, questions, trying new things, would you please and thank you. He passes the dish. Oh my is it heavy! It clinks without spilling. He looks rather sheepish, does this boy, a touch ashamed, feels he lucked out. We assure him with twinkly looks and he grins. Our son.

She goes to the farmers’ market. The farmer tells stories of animals, weather and bees, and she begins to understand interdependence and ecology. The bee says, ‘Moo.'” “No, Momma, the bee says, ‘Buzz buzz buzz.’”

Art and Creating

A child makes art and music. Asks, what do I want to say about the world, about myself? How can I express it without words?

My child goes to galleries. Meets artists, asks questions. Talks with the gallery owner about ‘what it means’ and ‘how it makes me feel’. The gallery owner feels loved, is patient. A cold day brightens.

She tries on clothes and shoes from my closet, tries out voices and ways of moving. Finding hers. Some clothes are too small, others too large. She looks at herself in the mirror and laughs. (I hear racket. I come upstairs. Silly girl.)

Things and Wanting

Our child wants something, now. We teach him to wait, that it may come later. We imagine him holding a long note in the air.

My child wants something that is not good for him. I help him understand why he might not have it, and to want better things. I teach him that what he really wants is [fill in the blank].

He learns to clean and care for and maintain things. Things are a responsibility. Things might be his or ours, but they are not him or us. He loves them enough to take care of them. He loves them enough to let go of them.

A child cries to get something he wants. I teach him to ask for what he wants, to use his words. “Darling child, use your words.” We look wryly at each other, as if daring the other to speak first. (We are lone rangers.)


My child learns to ride a bike. You can go fast, really really fastaway from all the adults. Freedom, balance, swiftness. The wheel wobbles, the bike wobbles, the child oh pedal pedal pedals. The child looks back. Later, the child doesn’t look back, pedals with ease. (Have I died?)

The child learns to do math. When you learn the rules, then you can solve for x. And ask, is x something I really care about? What do I really want to discover? “Does X mark the spot?” “Yes,” she said. “What spot,” I asked. She stopped and considered. She wasn’t sure and it was nice not to be sure.

She learns to read. New worlds open up for her, new words revealing new worlds revealing full lives.

He learns to sing, because I sing to him. He speaks a poem and layers it with sound and tone and style. I sing a reply, then let him have the final word. With sacred fingers, he takes it from my tongue.


In time, my child beloved will be able to give and make love. Dearest, this is true: your child will.

Further Reading

My word, what in the world are we doing here? Oh, you know, playing, swinging, loving. This spiritual exercise (yes, dear, the old ascesis again) in drawing good material inferences above took place yesterday between one conversation partner and me. For more on what we’re doing, might I invite you to go over here?

And why on earth am I interested in a gift economy anyway? Briefly: you pitch, I catch, I pitch, you catch. Need more words for the things we do now? Go on and see the things we do now.

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