She careens down the dirt drive, hair blowing out from under a ski helmet which she much prefers to the bike variety. A slight bit of bruised knee showing between sundress and mud boots, Ada hits the ramp with growing confidence and speed then jams the brakes to skid into the corner and pedal uphill for another run. Heading for the pasture, I have a saw in one hand and Harpers boots in the other as I try and catch up to the barefoot giggler that thinks it's so funny to outrun his old man. I hear the older boys up above the barn, banging out some sounds on the drums and keyboard. I finally track down my speedy toddler and sit him down on the chopping block to attach some footwear.
"Papa, chop?" he asks with the accompanying hand motion.
"Yup, time to work on some wood. Sound good?" I ask.
"Papa, CHOP!!" he replies with even more vigor to his simulation.
We carry on toward our overgrown and long neglected fields where I always have to stop on approach and reaffirm our big picture. From back here I can visualize how the brambles and slash have been cleared by pigs and goats and the trees thinned and shaped into a healthy grove, giving ample shade to the livestock. The underbrush is gone and a lovely post and rail fence runs along the perimeter. I lay napping in the hammock with an icy lemonade at my side as the birds of song whistle me an afternoon serenade...Back at reality ranch, I swipe at the black flies gathering to feed behind my ears, take a deep breath, and head past the empty hammock into the thicket to make it happen.
I get my short and energetic sidekick onto a project straight away. He will usually fall for anything that involves his pint sized hammer and some nails or, better yet, climbing around in my truck after I give it a quick, child proofing once over. Eventually, he will see that Mama has made her way into the garden to plant onions and then he's off like a rocket in her direction 'cause...well, he's a Mama's boy that Harper. I quickly take advantage of having no children in my radius to run the chainsaw in a duel effort to gather firewood and reclaim that pasture from the hands of Mother Nature. Yup, the snow is barely off the ground and wood must be sliced, diced and stacked to dry as we prepare for the drift back away from the Sun in a few short months. I select carefully and cut trees to free them from overcrowding or those dying with disease. A job that would occur naturally, over the course of decades or centuries but, for our present needs, it is beneficial to help nature along. The work is physical and rewarding although I certainly grow weary of the incessant roar from the saw and decide to relieve the ever so pregnant Mama of her exuberant two year old.
As I near the garden, I see Ada has been joined by her big brothers and they are all riding bikes together. Amanda has somehow taught Harper how to walk between the rows and he is barefoot, once again, and enjoying the feeling of soft, fertile Earth under his toes. A moment of harmony. Another chance to stand back and remember the big picture. The picture of a family being shaped and growing and learning alongside each other. A family eagerly anticipating the arrival of their baby. Inside the belly of this beautiful Mama a tiny life waits patiently for their time to arrive. They will be greeted in a swirl of love and affection and they will grow alongside their big sister and brothers.
Adelaide laughs hysterically as her bike slips off mid ramp and she is re-routed across the grass and ultimately ends up falling softly into an exhausted heap. Lungs heaving to catch a breath, the entire world beneath her, holding her up. The shape of life.