Nap Happiness: Refreshment, Enlivening and Maybe a Rabbitat
For Friday, February 26, 2016; written April 10, 2016
“Lili’s so happy; she had a two and a half hour nap this afternoon,” my daughter said about this beaming, cruising, grabbing, chortling 10 month old baby. My daughter’s family had come to dinner, along with my son who’d driven several hours from graduate school to spend the weekend with us. What joy!
With the acquisition of three bottom teeth and two uppers, Lili enjoyed sweet potatoes and bananas and little things called “Happy Baby puffs,” while the rest of us talked and ate. She eats more when others eat, an obvious sign of the social behavior that constitutes “breaking bread together.” There’s the learning aspect; but more importantly the tribal one. Food shared among a loving group means everyone will eat, everyone will survive; everyone will thrive. And the tribe is connected to the earth from which the food sprang, and the hearth on which it was prepared. And we sat at the oversized round butcher block table custom made for my family of origin when I was a small child.
It was eight before my daughter gave Lili milk and placed her in the softly lined carrier to fall asleep. She herself had napped beside the baby earlier and both had slept well. Such sweet and open sleep do babies in safe places experience, foreheads free from worry, mouths slightly open, and arms released. Waking to whatever happens next in an unanticipated world that has no check lists yet, no obligations, no coveted rewards for hard work or good service.
Renewal and refreshment come in several prized, energetic forms: food, sleep, inspiring stimulation. Lili had had her good, re-energizing sleep, and together our conversation and laughter was buoyed by tasty and nourishing food, and our minds received the stimulation that ideas and anecdotes provide.
The day before, a tremendously enlivening experience changed my life in some ways. A young professor from University of New Hampshire and a graduate student, arrived at my house to walk with me through the still bare-leafed 95 acres on which I live, to determine whether some piece of this densely tree populated wetland area might be cultivated for the New England cottontail rabbit, a species rapidly going extinct, with only one hundred surviving members. They survive in shrub lands where densely filled out low growth bushes protect them from predators. They are hiders, not fighters.
As we walked through the muted pallet of fallen leaves and bare tree limbs, their conversation awakened the woods. Haley pointed out small chewed twigs under a tree where a porcupine likely nestled toward its crown. Matt looked in vernal pools with binoculars to find the first of the frogs’ eggs. There were divots in the leaf beds where deer had gone, and scats, and squared holes where pileated woodpeckers made their way into the trees, and the sounds of the titmouse and many other birds. Matt pointed out red oak, black and white oak, white pines, a darkly lit hemlock stand. Up higher the ground was sandier and full of ledge. Lower down the earth stood richer and fuller and through it ran rivulets from the marshy pond beyond, a “power grid” along which the rabbits could theoretically make their homes.
Everywhere we walked, punctuated only by the sounds of our walking and the wind sweeping in through the trees sometimes, the woodlands woke up and showed themselves to me differently, as if I had borrowed the lenses of these experts’ mental binoculars.
Everything can be interesting, bursting with news, revelatory! Awakening senses, intelligence, and imagination. But more, a sense of connection. A kind of kinesthesia, I felt the woods—cool, sometimes moist as rain fell lightly; sometimes patchy with warmth where the sun stole through. And the forest floor, lounging and lunging and bulging with rock and hummock and hardening around tree roots and sprouting all kinds of intensely green mosses, so green no matter the weather. And the atmosphere, as if it sifted right through my skin and into my interior. As if breathing in the moist curling air, spiraled something alive in me.
I do not have skills as an orienteer. I get lost easily and explained that 95 acres covered with growth might as well be a seventeen mile area because I could potentially lead them in circles. But as we bushwhacked back to the house, I began to feel a sense of direction I had not felt ever before. I recognized some places in the woods, but more strongly felt the slope of the land under my feet, and a tug to my left shoulder. And we arrived, not too shabbily, back at the ranch.
To help potentially contribute in a modest way to saving a species from extinction and to have a rudimentary lesson in the braille of my woods, was most inspirational, and enlivening, and that energy carried me a long way into that Friday night.
Just like the woods are high ground and low ground, thick and thin soiled, so are we humans high dancers one moment and nap-worthy monsters the next. And so much of happiness depends upon a nap, a stir fry, an eye-opening walk in the woods.
Guest Saddle: What was a recent moment of real refreshment for you? A moment when your senses or your heart was enlivened? When you saw something in a new way? Or when you shared something with another person that opened that persons mind, heart or imagination?
(Picture is “Girl with a Pomegranate” by William Bougeureau. Pomegranates are symbols of renewal)