"Follow the red things...

I can hear my voice some months earlier, saying that sabbatical might be a (long-awaited) time to embrace the noticings and happenings in my own life, outside of being a mother. And yet, in the daily meanderings of my life, I have come to realize that extricating one part of my being (motherhood) from the rest is not possible.

I am not trying to find myself outside of being a mother; rather, I am seeking the new person I have become as a result of embracing this role.

Seems like such a common-sensical realization, but the process of arriving here, at this new place of knowing, was an interesting and difficult journey.

As an artist, my making process has been floundering. Each time I enter my studio, I face the same sensation of fear. Or rather, I feel fear, but the texture and complexity of it changes over time with each new instance of entering a creative space. In many ways, I feel as if I am starting anew every time I cross that threshold. It is work and effort and investment, yet I often emerge on the other side knowing less about what I want to do, and more about what I do not wish to pursue. Doorways closing rather than doorways opening. That, in itself, is a way of knowing too, but the culminating sensation is one of discouragement.

Today I decided to leave thoughts of the studio behind and go running instead.


It was a beautiful, breezy fall day. Though Jonah is now 7 years old and weighs 50 pounds, I am still--by sheer will power and desire--able to run with him in the running stroller. But the challenge of even the slightest inclines in the road makes me realize that our days of running together this way are coming to an end. That knowledge makes every instance of running together precious.

On those runs, we talk. We look. We notice. I feel the wind and breathe deeply. I listen.

He sits. He thinks. He asks questions. The wind blows his hair this way and that. He tells me countless things he notices. He notices the smallest beauties that might otherwise go unnoticed. He points them out to me and shifts the way I see the world. But he also tells me the things that are not visible--invisible creations of an imaginative mind. He asks existential questions about life, war, nature, death. And he ponders out loud the motivations behind people's actions, considering what he might do in similar situations and asking me what I would do.

Despite the compelling nature of his musings, there are still times when I struggle to stay present in these moments, as other obligations, due dates and responsibilities crowd my mind. It is a conscious, concerted effort to remain attentive. His noticings are a pull back--always--to the here and now.

On this run, in a landscape of yellows and greens and browns, of countless shifting colors in that in-between, ephemeral seasonal palette before winter, Jonah decided to notice red.

"Umma, let's follow all the red things..."

With that one statement, he shifted how I looked at the world, and off we went on a running journey toward the next red thing.

"There is red, and there is red, and there is red!"

Small noticings--a little red berry, a far-away stop-sign, a corner of a leaf turned red--became the beacon for which direction to go, and "the next red thing" determined which way to turn. Those moments, running unabashedly toward something red, sensation of wind blowing by, became--for me--a moment not to forget.

"Follow the red things..."

12"x 24"
India ink, colored ink, gouache, watercolor, and paper on wood panel.