During the extensive hiatus of writing L + L, Kalispell Brewing Company opened its doors (June 2014) and about four months ago I gave birth to a son, Charles Fielding Schneider. And now, with heavy yawns and a full heart (fuller than I could ever dare to imagine) I’ve needed to revive this special space, to once again thread the needle and weave — surely dropping a stitch or two, but, nonetheless, try to find the pattern of story.
Near our house is a bike path that runs below Woodland Drive, with a small creek and cattail lined ponds, and off in the distance the Swan Mountain stretch to the east. Aspens, cottonwoods and a few spruce line the west edge of the path, and a field with houses and junkyard cars lie to the east. The marshy area is home to lots of birds, and today, a warm and sunny January day the birds, mostly chickadees, flitted and sang between branches. Through the slop of snow and ice on the path, I pushed what I like to call Charlie’s Cadillac, a burley jogging stroller. We take a walk nearly every day, and have since we brought him home (me in the back seat of the car, holding onto his car seat, tearful and terrified to leave the hospital) at the end of September.
Today’s afternoon walk was a walk, of course, but also my third attempt at trying to get him to nap. He woke up early this morning, after sleeping poorly at night, and didn’t want to take a nap. Nursing didn’t help. Rocking was no use. Stories, and snuggles, and more nursing resulted in him drifting off for about twenty minutes before he’d wake, kicking his legs and beaming his giant smile. Charlie typically (and I’m realize, about four months into this whole mothering business that there’s not one thing that’s typical or predictable) falls asleep on long walks, bundled in his snowsuit, wrapped in his hand knit (one of many, courtesy of my mom) blanket. Today? He slept maybe, maybe 30 minutes. As I walked, I’d see his arm fly up or a leg kick. He’d whimper and sigh, and then I’d peer through the stroller cover, check to make sure he wasn’t either too warm or too cold and tell him to fall asleep. No such luck. He gave me a smirk, and I went back to steering and pushing.
I like our bike path and have thought of it as “our” bike path since last winter when I found out I was pregnant. Until September 26, I didn’t know Charlie was “Charlie” as we didn’t find out his gender until his grand entrance into our hearts and world. During my pregnancy, it was “Figgy” who I took on my walks on the bike path. During the first trimester, when I was nauseous and exhausted, I’d scuff along the bike path, willing myself exercise, and I really only felt the best while walking. When spring took hold — which was early last year as winter didn’t amount to much — I rejoiced in the blooms and blossoms and whistles of the red wing blackbirds. Energized during the second trimester, I’d walk and walk and walk. And wish and pray, and wish and pray. Pregnancy, and now motherhood, is just an unfolding book of magical thinking. If I do this, the baby will be OK. If I do this, the baby will sleep. As if.
Our corner of northwest Montana was on fire this past summer. Wildfires to the east and the west, and smoked clogged our little valley. I couldn’t even walk/waddle the 6 blocks to work at the brewery — the smoke was that bad for a few weeks. I was in my third trimester by late summer, and it was hot. I took to that bike path when I could, holding onto my giant belly and tried to find a stride that wouldn’t result in my thighs rubbing too much. By mid-September, the fires died down and the smoke cleared. I was just weeks away from my due date, and I resumed walking more and more and more, sometimes even twice a day. The path was lined with sunbaked and crisp flowers and weeds. Rosehips and mountain ash berries brightened the golden foilage. The fields nearby were dull straw. But it was fall, and a wisp of coolness refreshed the air and the light — oh the light during those last weeks before I gave birth–they were warm and rich.
I don’t know how many miles on “our” bike path I walked before Charlie was born, or how many deer I came across, or how many flickers I saw dart between trees. A month ago, two big bucks were wading through the newly fallen snow in the marshy section of the trail. I noticed their lush, thick tawny coats first, then their antlers.They picked their way through the brush on the hillside above us, and me, pushing the bright green stroller over the wet pavement. I whispered to Charlie, who was asleep: look now, there’s two bucks.
On today’s walk we didn’t see any deer, and if we did, this time he was awake to see them. Sometime soon I know he’ll see the deer along with me.