Illigetimi non Carborundum

Emerson, I am trying to live, as you said we must, the examined life. But there are days I wish there was less in my head to examine, not to speak of the busy heart. -Mary Oliver

And what happens when the examination becomes scrutinization? Soul stripping diminishment? Lost at sea dismemberment? Inner criticism disguised as wisdom? Carefully cultivated Matriarchy suddenly expelled by old stories from Patriarchy?

What happens is you go feral. Again and again, as often as it takes. And you listen to the birds.

Fern and I drove north, to Dawn Falls and Baltimore Canyon, on the Northeast side of Mt. Tam.

Tired of listening to my own voices of spinout, instead I trained my ear to really listen to the birds, paying constant attention to what they were saying they could see from the tree tops and understory. And I listened to my daughter’s need for play, for making homes in the tight circles of trees, making beds where the nursery stump used to be. We ate breakfast cookies and climbed up a very questionable slidey hill, our hearts racing, finally running ahead of thoughts.

I need to be around elders, beings that hold wisdom that I may never entirely know, whose existence was encouraged by the only real truth to be found in this world.

Suddenly we are looking for preschool in the city, something that was never part of the plan. Supposedly I can’t afford the type of school I know is best, supposedly time is running out and maybe we missed the boat and wouldn’t this all be easier if we had been able to move like we had planned?




But maybe, just maybe, I can remember that I am her teacher too. That she is missing out on nothing. That I don’t have to kowtow to a life I have never wanted just because we feel stuck and trapped. After all, this is my three year old babe, who already knows how to lay a fire, just from watching us.



I feel the tides of mainstream societal expectation, about what my child is supposed to be doing, how she is even defined by this age. Preschooler.






Nothing is decided. But as we wander the forest, I remember the importance of trust, of letting go. Of flow. And of how it feels when I am following my own inner guide. I remember I know how to track, and that the world around me is in response, alerting me with a web of sound, all members of the forest community sounding off. That I am a member too.




I re-member that those societal voices chattering about what is right for me and my child, about who I might be, about what my life and history says about me, are the same voices that talk so much they don’t know how to listen to the birds.






People go jogging by, talking about he said she said. A dog walker baby talks to her pet, her four-legged pet that is wearing shoes.

Oblivious to what is right above their heads.



What would it feel like, to find your dinner by banging your beak into a tree? And what if your dinner was Carpenter Ants?


We have been hiking for over a mile. Still she wants to keep on. She wants to see the waterfall.

I am still looking and listening for birds.

(The problem with having a fancy camera is that it expects me to be more particular. For instance, when I want to quickly take a low light shot, it absolutely does not cooperate, but rather wants me to take the extra five minutes to change the shutter speed, during which time to subject is long gone.

And so…blurry birds.)

Varied Thrush

Belted Kingfisher

You can imagine my frustration with this particular picture.

The shot that could have been…Pileated Woodpecker

Finally, we arrive at the humble little waterfall, and it is more than grand enough for her.



And the little trickle was more than grand enough for its resident protector.


Look closely.



We rested with more cookies. And then my miraculous daughter hiked all the way back with hardly a complaint.


On the way back, we stopped only to listen to an owl and to collect a few Turkey Tails.



Turkey Tails are one of the best studied of the medicinal mushrooms. I highly recommend listening to this extraordinary talk by Paul Stamets, about how his mother’s life was saved by Turkey Tails. Also, grab a tissue.

Folks like Paul Stamets and Jon Young inspire me because they look forward by looking back, by listening to what has been said for centuries, by other deep souls who had an ear trained on nature. By looking down, to the Earth and noticing their feet upon the ground. By looking within, and recognizing the beat of their heart and the way it reverberates through the rock beneath us. And by listening. By listening to those with quiet voices, those with voices unlike their own species, voices of the under-privileged, to the voice of their own heart…that softest voice of all.

We drove back to the city, Fern falling asleep almost instantly. We made soup that night, a Turkey Tail thrown in for essence. Finally, instead of urban clamor bouncing off cement buildings in my head, I smelled the forest floor, I heard my blood slooshing through my veins, I knew the goodness of my own body and I felt the love between my daughter and I.

All the rest will work itself out, and I will guide it with how I live…by following my own inner compass, and remembering what my Dad has always said…

Don’t let the bastards grind you down.


6 thoughts on “Illigetimi non Carborundum

  1. You know i was nodding along. It is really really hard to let go in terms of pre-schooling. i remember i lost alot of sleep. I felt terrible about it. I feel your anguish.

    And you are right, you are also her teacher. We have so many influences in life, and you will always be her first and foremost guide that she looks to.

    Find a center that closely aligns with what you want. When my children went, I chose a small one, with a great outdoor area, a veggie patch and animals, as a center, they went for lots of outdoor walks to the stream and other playgrounds; and the icing on the cake was that it felt like a family. It most certainly wasn’t perfect as we found out over the couple of years; but my babes were safe and happy there. They should allow you to visit to get a feel of the place before choosing anywhere.

    Thanks for your comments over on my peer-parenting post, I drew strength from them, and it was good to feel that I am doing the best that i can for them – despite feeling pressure. Just lately my girl has started to play with a new trio of little girls, smaller, (not younger, just physically smaller) and more naive than those she normally hangs with – I am so happy about it, her other friends had been playing the “you can’t play with me today” and “i don’t want you to sit with me” games that girls play. so these new little friends are a lovely reprieve from all of that.

    At first it seems that modern culture and it’s demands on our children and their development is insurmountable; but once you just stop, make the decision to go your own way and go forth……it’s done. mounted.

    i love your dad’s saying. in my head it sounds all growly.

  2. bravo, bravo,
    i say these words with a satisfied reverence; amen.

    i know that pressure.
    i feel like giving in.

    teddy didn’t go to pre-school.
    i thought, why i should i give him up to someone else?
    we’re having fun, aren’t we? he’s learning about so many things and he has his freedom to grow into what he naturally is, right??

    and then i thought: HE NEEDS TO BE AROUND MORE KIDS!

    even now i’m waivering. i know there must be an answer, i pray for one. i listen to my heart…there are so many conflicting voices floating around.

    soon we’ll find out if he got a spot in the local charter montesorri.
    i try to make myself feel better about it by pointing out that the school has a garden and no homework…that the children come from more alternative homes so teddy won’t feel pressured about not watching the right cartoons or wearing the popular brands. oh, but it’s so much more than that.

    i want teddy to be free. free from society’s expectations of him, free from the consumer training, free from the pressure to conform, just the freedom to be who he is. i want him to know that the world is his…..and that is why i’ve been attempting to home school. it’s been about revolution and resistance!!

    at night i even have dreams about this.

    i’ll wonder: is it really that big of a deal? isn’t this what all kids do?
    think of how relaxing it’ll be at home without always trying to referee link and ted, and redirecting him to something more creative and constructive!!

    ANYWHO: you dig, you dig. i know you get it.

    i love the photos of your hike… what a treat to see a kingfisher!

    listening to the blood in my veins and the churning of my gut!!

    fern is amazing and so are you.

    i know you’ll do what is true for you and her.
    ask the trees.


  3. Oh, my heart. This one got to me.

    My son is 15 now and has never, ever fit into the mold he’s been forced to try to stuff himself into school-wise. Two different charter schools and the public school system, and he’s had exactly one teacher who “got” him. His first kindergarten teacher told my husband that he was “too immature” for school… right in front of our son. (Papa bear raised a stink in the office and pulled him out of that school right that minute.)

    It wrecks me to watch him struggle in high school now, because I remember being in the same boat and wondering why it was so hard to just be myself, without being told on a daily basis that the way I learn, the way I express myself, is wrong and must be changed, must be hammered into a shape that isn’t my own. He’s stubborn and stalwart, though (not always an easy way to be, but it’s the way he IS). I’m exasperated by him and in awe of his resolve in equal measure.

    I’m inspired by your post to take him hiking this weekend. The weather is supposed to be beautiful and Montgomery Woods is less than an hour from my front door. Time to go outside and listen to something besides rules and criticisms.

  4. i feel like you are so happy lucky an blessed to be on a path to learning with that bird language man…..

    so funny your words feel like a mirror to me…and then you mention matriarchy and i know they are…it’s a theme for me in the inspiration of my next creative writing assignment.

    going with the changes, the turns in the road that we weren’t expecting to take can be disturbing, to put it mildly. kind of a microcosm of waking up to society’s ways and our place in it. i feel that way often when i’m pumping gas. not to compare preschool with fossil fuel abuse. not at all. i actually feel excited for fern to go to preschool. i have this feeling she is going to love it. and so are you. and you will both probably hate it too. microcosm.

    like marriage. a microcosm. like self love. blah blah blah. lovelovelove.

  5. don’t let the bastards get you down. hallefuckinglujah.
    without going into detail, let’s just say that this afternoon my kids and i went to check out a charter school that supports home schooling families.
    no one knows what our kids need better than us. and with all the crap we have been through since kindergarten, i don’t know why i fought against it for so long.
    i wish you and fern well on your journey towards what is right for your family [and that you find a less nausea inducing road to take than we did 😉 ]

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