The hours between five and seven seem to rush by at hyperspeed.
Prep dinner. Cook dinner. Allow toddler to “help.” Clean up toddler’s “helping.” Prevent toddler from eating all of the ingredients while “helping.” Try to fend off toddler while you stir the pot on the stove, open the oven or unload the dishwasher. Set the table. Put the things back on the table after toddler puts them on the floor. Finally manage to cook something and get it on the table. Prevent toddler from throwing everything on his plate, sometimes even the plate itself, on the floor. Throw the dishes in the sink. Feed the dog. Prevent toddler from eating the dog’s food. Corral toddler up the stairs. Throw toddler in the bath. Attempt to wash toddler. Dry toddler. Chase naked toddler around the room. Put on jams. Lotion. Oils. Fill the diffuser. Turn on the AC. Put Bambi and Marcell in their proper place in bed. Brush teeth. Read a book, probably about Thomas the Train. Snuggles. Kisses. Nurse toddler to sleep (hopefully). Lovingly place toddler in bed and secretly wish you could hang out more even though he’s done nothing but wear you out the last two hours. Parenting, man.
Last year during harvest season, these two hours of the day really kicked my butt. Left me empty. Angry. Resentful at being alone with all this work. Tired and stressed. It added up night after night and really wore me down throughout the course of the summer.
This year, I decided that I needed to develop some kind of evening rhythm that would help me decompress and relax. Help me recharge and rest up to do it all again the next day, and the next day, and all of the long, hot days that harvest season entails. I didn’t enjoy being grumpy most of the summer and I really wanted to find a way to cope a little better.
So every night, after I lay that sweet boy in his bed, tuck his quilt under his chin and tip-toe out as I latch his door, I start with a big, deep breath.
And in my head, I recite my Harvest Mantra. “Well done,” I tell myself. “Well done taking care of that baby all day. Well done getting him to sleep. Well done doing your best at being his mama, whatever that may mean that particular day. Well done for getting whatever done on your list that you managed to. And well done for listening to your body/mind/soul and prioritizing what needed prioritizing that caused the rest of the things on the list to be left undone. Well done.” And then I take another breath.
I breathe in the good, and out the bad. I breathe out the moments of frustration; the times I went pee to the tune of tears and banging on the door, the head between my knees as I made all three meals that day, the pieces of those meals that ended up on the floor, the thousand mysterious puddles I mopped up despite establishing quite a few boundaries about water. I breathe out my shortcomings, the things I didn’t get to, the doubts about my self, my parenting, my frizzy hair and sweaty clothes.
I tuck the monitor in a back pocket and I head outside. Usually barefoot. Sometimes with my camera. Sometimes with my pruning scissors and an enamel basin.
I work my way around the house, often starting in the garden, to pluck whatever beautiful fruits and veggies have appeared since the night before. Two buckets worth of pea pods. A hand full of roses. An armload of the wild sweet peas that I’ve trained up the side of our shed. Beets the size of my fist. Or carrots as yellow as the sun. I duck under the low hanging branches of the fruit trees that surround the garden beds and peek up to see the progress of the baby apples, pears and plums. I pluck juicy cherries still warm from the sun, spitting the pits as I make my rounds. I walk around the corner of the house and run my hand through the snapdragons that have started to bloom, pluck the tops off baby dahlias and zinnias to make them grow even taller, and gather as many cosmos as I can for the windowsill above the sink.
Once my feet are sufficiently dirty and my arms can’t carry any more of the garden’s bounty, I tuck back inside, throw everything in the sink and retreat to the couch in the TV room. I’ve re-fallen in love with my favorite British cooking show lately, and so I hit “play all” on the menu and collapse into the cushions. I probably should cut and wash and water the things I brought inside. I should clear the table and put dinner away. I should write on my blog. Answer some emails. Pay some bills. I should do the dishes, take a shower, get in bed at a reasonable hour, maybe read my book. But I decided to give up “shoulds” for harvest season, and so I sink happily into the couch and snuggle up with my pup.
Eventually I do get up and do the dishes. Tidy everything up in the dark and the quiet. Take the dog out. Start the robot vacuum on his nightly roads and press “auto clean” on the dishwasher, but not before taking just a couple hours to myself to reset and reprogram. Let go of my stresses and breathe in my triumphs. And choose to grab hold of all the gratitude I can muster to get me through the next day until it’s time to tuck that sweet baby into bed again, and repeat my Harvest Mantra.