I'm off to dig up irises with a long-lost, soon-to-be friend. We're going out to the retreat center where I used to live in a board and batten cabin with my first husband and three young sons. When the house is small (770 sq ft) and the land is big (77 acres) - you tend to spend lots of time outside. I loved being a 'country mouse'. The boys and I would go for 'rambles'. We would walk through the woods down to the river. We'd hike around at the bottom of the bluffs. We'd scour the fields for wild flowers and we'd play hide and seek in the orchard. It was all very Walden and Tintern Abbey. We had almost no money for toys and no room to put them in the house even if we could have afforded them. My guys had mud instead of play-doh and sticks and rocks instead of action figures. They used to talk to flowers. To this day, peonies are the flower I most associate with motherhood: they bloom around Mother's Day, smell divine, and I can remember Mayhem telling me (at age 4) that he liked to talk to them the best because they listened and bobbed their heads to show they understood. (They also end up heavy and drooped on the ground which is how I felt so very much of the time with three baby boys!) Mary Oliver understood: lush/fecund life, mysterious/dark death, peonies. If you don't have the book American Primitive, you need it.
Today - we live in a suburban neighborhood 45 minutes away from that rural outpost. And even my youngest baby is older than the oldest was then. My boys are in school and know other kids. They have action figures and video games. But you know what? All three of them love going back and have taught their new siblings to love it, too. This morning they all want to go with me and my almost-new friend to dig in the dirt. They're out of school in only two weeks - so I've promised to take them soon. But I may have to bring them back a peony blossom (ants and all) just for old times' sake.