Some of our new summer staff members have really gotten a taste of Pacific Northwest weather this week. We have seen several beautiful, warm days with sunshine. We have also seen drizzly gray days. We’ve seen heavy rain and downright cold temperatures compared to what most people expect from June. We even had a blustery wind storm that cancelled some activities. When things are as unexpected as this weather has been, it can produce a helpless feeling if you aren’t putting yourself in its hands the right way. If you temper your expectations on something having to happen a certain way, you’re playing with fire. The weather will defy you at some point, and you will be forced to be either flexible or disappointed.
My newborn daughter has become much more cranky in the past few weeks. I’m learning in these early days of parenthood we are like small time detectives, trying to gather clues for a mystery. The biggest hurdle is that the key witness can only communicate by sleeping, staring at something, or screaming at the top of her lungs. We’ve come up with all sorts of theories about why she is crying more. She’s hungry because she’s growing. She has a stomach ache because we are mistakenly feeding her too much. She’s overstimulated. She’s not getting outside enough. Our most fleshed out theory is that she is becoming more aware of the world, and everything is new and overwhelming. She spent the first few weeks sleeping most of the day, and now she is awake much more. And, seeing all this new stuff is a little scary. I think we buy into that theory, because it really resonates with us. New stuff is scary, it takes some time to adjust to it. If my only coping skill was screaming, there’d be a lot of days this year that I would have screamed all day.
Allyson is having some post pregnancy related health issues that are being stubborn at resolving. She’s spent a lot of time at doctor’s offices and hospitals, and it’s an extra layer of frustration to add to the challenges of parenthood. On these days she’s had to go in for procedures and get prescriptions, I’ve spent most of several days with Aura. With this new phase of crankiness, I’ve been yelled at a lot this week. While the walks outside are not 100% effective, they do tend to soothe her, which continues to give me hope that she will have a proclivity for the outdoors. If I can get her settled down, she’ll cuddle up on my chest and soak in the sounds of the ocean, the breeze, the seabirds and songbirds. It is good for me any time to get out and walk, and it is nice knowing this therapy for me can be therapeutic for her.
One particular day Aura was with me all day, we walked on the beach towards the jetty. I was walking with the wind behind me. We climbed on top of the jetty and looked at the fishermen and the view of Cape Meares to the South and Neahkhanie and Cape Falcon to the North. Then, rather than walking back into the wind I cut up through Barview County Park towards the Sand Dune that connects to Camp Property. I climbed this tall steep, sand dune which is our tsunami evacuation point. I felt myself breathing heavy, my heart pounding, sweat beading on my forehead. I wondered if my daughter registered this–if this was her first experience of exertion like this. From a summit point, I looked out over the Tillamook Bay and tried to take good father/daughter/great scenery pictures. We descended into camp property, walked the slightly grown up trail. She stayed calm and rested throughout. I felt myself at ease.
Not all the walks were like this. I took her out screaming, trusting the rhythm of my steps and the fresh air would quickly settle her down, but she never settled. I turned around and came back, and she basically cried until she wore herself out. I felt like I was entering new territory. From early on, I felt like I had enough tools in the toolbox to soothe her. She certainly got upset with me, but I could calm her pretty quickly. Mastery never lasts forever. You realize you just mastered a portion of something for a period that would inevitably change. Things always change somehow. And, we face new challenges that we have to figure out. It is wise not to get too comfortable in the great mysteries of life. Mysteries are bound to continually defy expectations.
These past few months have been full of lessons in perspective changes. I’ve been peed on multiple times in a thirty minute period, like some deja-vu. My standards for what is gross, what requires a clothes change have dropped dramatically. I don’t think its so much like I’ve heard some parents say–that when its your kid you don’t care. I think its honestly more just a wearing down. I come home expecting to get screamed at, barfed on, and then about the time I get comfortable, I will feel a gush of warm liquid soaking my shirt. It doesn’t seem all that bad to me these days. I need it not to seem so bad. I’m better when it doesn’t seem so bad. It makes recovery time quicker. It makes me able to give myself to the epic hikes with the agreeable child I made, if I can give myself to getting whizzed on by the same child who is also going to very soon yell at me for cleaning her up.
I returned to work on Friday this week, returning to this camp I feel in love with. This work that has given me a many things but taken its share too lately. I could go back into this with trepidation, with resentment, with exhaustion, with anxiety. So far, I am feeling this need to spread calm and humor. I want to give myself over to it. I want to cut loose a little from expectations, and get into the work of gathering clues for the mystery. I know there will be days ahead of getting peed on and screamed at, both literally and figuratively. But, I also know there will be days taking the long walk out into something fresh and beautiful, going where the spirit leads. I am fine with both for now, I am taking it all less personally, just wanting to be there and dig deeper for the answers to the questions that are tough to get words for.
On Thursday, the wind picked up heavy, tossing the rain sideways. Trees shook and the air went cold. The ocean was gray and angry. The camp staff was supposed to practice wave jumping, our heavily supervised activity getting campers into the cold Pacific Ocean waters. There was no way they were getting into the ocean under those conditions. They went to the Tillamook YMCA to finish out training. Allyson and I were out that day for a medical procedure and to run some errands. Aura behaved pretty well. We had talked about getting a train pass for the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad and the three of us taking a train ride from Rockaway to Garibaldi. It would be a great way to close out my paternity leave. It was not going to happen for several different reasons. But, coming back home, watching the wind toss the trees, the waves white-cap in many directions, our daughter asleep in the carseat, soothed by the steady motion, I handed myself over to it, and it felt just fine. A part of me that I had to put to bed for a while is waking up. He’s got questions for me about the way things were handled while he was resting. There are lots of mysteries to solve. Lots of expectations to unpack and rethink.