The quiet of the night was overwhelming. I was sleeping on a mattress made of reed. With nothing more than a pack on my back I had landed in the Uros floating islands of Peru, alone.
I couldn’t sleep. I walked outside to see the incredible light that was keeping me awake. Thousands of stars shone down upon me. It was blinding. There was a tiny presence of electric light from across the lake. La Paz, a great distance away, flickered.
But all the attention required me to look up. Just immense black night and illuminating bursts of fire. Under a thatched roof and a thick llama wool blanket, I was enraptured with black and white.
I felt both deeply alone and deeply connected to something much bigger. How can a human heart feel such diverse emotions at once?
When I slept atop a floating island, with a lake beneath me, an ocean to my West and a brilliant sky demanding my attention, I couldn’t help but wonder about the fury of connections we have between us.
Above all, those connections we make with our children.
That night while beneath the immensity of fiery glow, I just felt surrounded by connections much bigger than I knew what to do with.
With the raising of four girls, I often feel very similar. There is fire. Yes, push-backs from the girls, boundary-setting and rebuttals and it looks like bright bursts of fire. And they last with tremendous energy just like a star.
There is darkness. Sad moments they experience that I can deeply understand. Darkness of fatigue on my own path as I work to find that sustaining healthy flow as a mother. Darkness that comes with life’s challenges and changes for all of us.
There is light, a “La Paz” that is serves as our own internal barometer of what we know is best. That mother’s intuition that is a brilliant guide if I listen close enough. A “La Paz”, every time I see our daughters thriving and such light, when I see their individual and spirited smiles.
And there is an enormity that surrounds all of these things. The hugeness in the task of mothering that connects me to all mothers. The vastness of my role that is so beyond reach, but right in front of my eyes.
And then, I fall asleep in our home, under flannel sheets and in an aluminum-sided home, a fog horn in the distance and I remember that the connections we make with our children are lasting. Unlike stars, they don’t burn out.
So this is the black and white of it. Make connections, make a lot of them. Let them fill up your night sky and your children’s too. Let them be so illuminated that everything else is blacked out.
Let them hold you, like a gentle floating island. Because these connections, are at the very heart of parenting.
We float together for a while with our children in-tote, then they create their own island. But the connections we have made are still in that brilliant sky right above us both.
Open-communication, resilience, unconditional love, support, presence, each one of the values that is near and dear to you becomes a burst of connection hovering between you and your child. It’s beautiful. Its vast. It’s black and white. And it is bright. But above all, its lasting.
In the world of photography, things used to be simpler. There were no filters to enhance images, no photo adaptations to be had. There was only ones’ keen eye to catch a unique artistic moment. The shadows, the silhouettes, the expressions of the subject or the position of the landscape caught brought life to an image. All the details belonged to the beholder’s imagination.
Perhaps, it would be good to bring black and white back. Lasting simplicity seems to speak for itself. Our authentic connections will do the same.
If ever the opportunity exists, the floating islands of Uros in Peru have a mystical way of drawing you in. Near Puno, entire schools and towns are built upon these totora reed islands. Eighty islands in the heart of Lake Titicaca are only connected by tiny boats fashioned to look like canoes with llama and dragon heads. For over 500 years, the Urus people have sustained their livelihood by existing off fish they catch and vegetables they grow. Little comes from the mainland. I am sure, many years after my visit, there is heightened tourism and influences that have adjusted their living, but the fact that hundreds of people can live on floating islands intrigues me.
Last night, our power went out. I went outside anxious to see many stars beaming down. Through the tree branches that shade our home there they were : Little bursts of bright energy reminding me that these connections matter deeply and always will.