Dragonfly: Tales from the Phantom Rickshaw
The web journal of Markus, Emily, Taliesin, and Rhiannon, coming to you from the temperate rainforest of BC.

Emily: signs of spring Sun, Feb 13 2011, 1:58pm  
Today in the spring: heaps of caddisfly larvae and the first frog eggs!

(...well... at least the first I've noticed.)

A hummingbird flew out of the ditch as Tal walked by.

The first of Tal's snowdrops is blooming.

And buds everywhere!

Happy spring!

Rhiannon: dream Fri, Jan 14 2011, 9:10am  
Mama! I was having a dream where we were putting reflective elastics on all our foods so we could notice them better! Ha ha ha ha!!
Emily: photos on the other blog Fri, Dec 24 2010, 3:17am  
It's just so much easier to post photos on the other blog (not to mention the free hosting space for them)... so this is just a note that the last month's worth of photos and posts is now up there: http://rickshawunschooling.blogspot.com
Emily: The Wizard Party! Wed, Oct 20 2010, 10:43am  

More photos are downloadable from our Flickr set

Emily: Note to family: Tue, Oct 19 2010, 8:26pm  
Don't forget that there are sometimes more photos on the Rickshaw Unschooling Blog.
Emily: The kids these days... Thu, Oct 14 2010, 8:58pm  
Rhiannon is busy being her usual inspired self, getting ready for her birthday party (it was postponed, due to her parents' flu, and bad weather) and otherwise entertaining herself with heaps of little useful tidbits: plans, drawings, stickers to sell for money, songs and dances to perform, worksheets of wizard-making, math practice and dot-to-dots for grownups to complete, and her latest greatest pastime: handwritten stories. I shall transcribe one for you:

a sdoree abowt bers
hie I'm a ber I liv in the forist and I liv in the laks
I sdoMP arouwnd in the forist and I SPlash and swiM in the woter
I [heart] Too sdoMP and swiM the mowst
and this is Mee dwing wan av mie favrit things
[drawing of bear stomping in water]

Tal is also up to his usual business: lots of digging in his 'mine', which now has a large vertical shaft at the entrance about 4 feet deep, which is ostensibly in order to find precious stones, but actually turns up wildlife, instead (beetles, frogs, and a salamander). He's re-interested in his violin, since beginning some mentoring with our local violin-maker, and he's constantly exploring physics, biology, and chemistry, again. It seems amazing to me that, without my coercion, the kids follow their own desires quite naturally, and end up in the right places, mostly of their own devices. I help Tal with his internet searches, and to put some search results together into understanding, but mostly his scientific journeys are already beyond my scope of knowledge, so I just follow him on his way. Today we found a little scrap of paper with some detailed technical drawings on it (not at all unusual), and asked him what it was. Well... of course! It was different types of hydraulic systems he had invented! Nothing is more natural, of course. We have hundreds of scraps of paper like this.
Emily: authenticity Sat, Sep 11 2010, 2:59pm  
authentic adj 1 of undisputed origin or veracity; genuine.

I am, at the moment, genuinely shirking my housecleaning duties. Let's just be clear about that. My job for the day is to get a goodly amount of this current job done: cleaning out all the crap we have in every single fillable space of our house. So I just sat down in the middle of heaps of boxes, bags, filth and mess, the washing machine and dryer droning in the background, with a cup of green tea. To type this. Here goes.

A couple of days ago I typed something puny on the unschooling blog about allowing our kids to be their authentic selves, and that thought just keeps coming back to me. Authentic. It means SO much to me. I like to think that honesty and love are basically the most important things in my life; my faith, if I can call them that. But maybe authenticity is more important. And also maybe unattainable or even inconceivable. Who the hell am I?!!

As a few people know, Markus and I are having a crappy time, these days, (well now you ALL know, and yes, he has read this and agreed to my posting it), but we're trying very hard to work through it. And it all has to do with authenticity. Truth. Self-worth, self-knowing, and self-deceit. Trust. But how do you trust somebody when you don't know them, and how can you know them when they don't know themselves? And can we ever know ourselves?

Who are we?

Markus likes to be at the edge of things. Usually the ocean. That place where the ocean ripples, crashes, or floods; where it meets the land. Where everything is both worlds at once. I like to balance rocks at the edge of the ocean; beautiful, moving rock-people... and then go away and watch them wander out to sea, as the tide comes in, and the placement of that edge moves. Sometimes they stand underwater, staring at me from the depths like ghosts from shipwrecked lives, but eventually, either before or after submersion, the ocean rocks them; fells them into its depths, and they are gone. The edge of the ocean is all that's left.

So what is authenticity? Does it matter? Maybe all that matters is who we are in the moment; that in the moment we do no harm to ourselves or others. That can be really stressful, just sussing out all the potential outcomes of any one thought or action, but maybe that's because we care too much.

I think I have to go back and read Siddhartha, again.

It is beginning to rain on my home, and on my family, outside getting firewood. The washing machine is finished its job. My tea is gone, and I have once again succumbed to caffeine. Boxes of junk are beckoning. I like that these things are tangible.

Emily: few photos Fri, Sep 10 2010, 4:58pm  
Really time to give some photos to the feed, here. Summer happiness:

It's firewood season!

In August we went to the Princeton Traditional Music Festival. Rhiannon performed a song with us for the first time, and we even managed a little play in the Tullameen, between watching other performers. There, we saw a man gold panning, who said he'd already found 4 flakes.

Brenden and Vista got married. It was a beautiful and interesting Zoroastrian wedding ceremony, with some beautiful added touches, like the one below, where Vista sang to Brenden.

Annie likes taking photos... and it's always reassuring to see Mama and Pappa being happy. :--)

Emily: Aiden's first birthday photos Tue, Aug 17 2010, 11:49pm  
...I hate to confess this, but Flickr is just so much faster than uploading to this site. That's why the photos from all the other events between last winter and now are not here, yet...

But this is a beginning, anyway!! So our dear nephew/cousin Aiden turned one on Aug. 4th, and we had the honour of spending his day with him, Mischa, and Bree. Here are the photos:
Click to see them on Flickr
Emily: The smell of butterfly bush flowers... Fri, Jul 23 2010, 6:44pm  
...reminds me of my Grandma's house on Greenleaf rd., where I lived briefly, as a child, and it makes me very happy.
Emily: rickshaw unschooling Fri, Jun 4 2010, 9:08pm  
I've resurrected my old unschooling blog, after nearly two years of silence, there. http://rickshawunschooling.blogspot.com
Emily: Competition Thu, Jun 3 2010, 11:43pm  

takes joy out of giving
gift out of life
life out of joy
gives in to loss     losing
loses dancing from moving
movement from song
song out of living
gives value to 'wrong'     winning
steals meaning from passion
passion from love
love from the losers
gives in to loss
my poetry sucks

so I can't share it     afraid
it's not good enough
for wanting
wanting is not enough     losing
is all it's about
when there's no need for gain     pain
when there's no need for doubt     love
in sharing our souls
I lose the value of loss
wanting to feel you
sharing my failures
my laugh
my story
my pain
my losing
wanting to hear you

there is strength in giving without pride
there is giving in loving without judgment
there is love in witnessing frailty
there is pride in knowing we love

Just sharing a bit of the reason I don't enter art competitions, or encourage students to emulate other people's work, don't encourage my kids to be competitive, and, also, why I write and perform music despite my lack of skill and training. Because it's love. And we're all valuable. And I want to hear your voice, see your painting, watch you dance, witness your passion - not because there's anything to win but because you DO have something to give when you share non-competitively. Whoever you are. In my heart there is no such thing as a loser. And I try very hard to walk my talk.
Emily: A Thousand Little Deaths Sun, May 30 2010, 10:32am  
Our Island Discovery Learning Community's coordinator, Al, is a parent like the rest of us, doing what he can to give his children the kind of upbringing he wants them to have. In addition to this he is responsible for helping the rest of us to figure it all out! Thank goodness he is the sort of dedicated, thoughtful person that he is. Our community has an email list that we use to communicate our thoughts, resources, inspirations, questions and experiences. This is one of Al's most recent emails, which I obtained permission to post on Dragonfly. Al preambled that it's sombre and melodramatic, but I think it's important, being some of the thoughts that contribute to our own and others' choices for alternative schooling and not-schooling.

A Thousand Little Deaths
By Allan Saugstad

We are surrounded by an infinite number of small cruelties, which give rise to blankets of apathy, and ultimately, loneliness. The pace of our world feeds these things. Our culture celebrates them.

Some of our first instincts as parents are to protect our children from them. We smother them with love, acceptance, and attention. We teach our babies that we care about them; and that life and love is worth caring for. We show them that the greatest love and joy to be had is by connecting with others. I'll always remember my firstborn as a small babe, me carrying her through Stanley Park. She kept trying to catch the gaze of each passerby, and she often succeeded to get a look and a smile, much to her delight. But often she did not, and this confused her. She was reaching out, but she was learning that others didn't always care to reach back, even to a baby like her. Fortunately she was surrounded by many who did, and she learned that to connect was a good thing. It brought her joy.

As our children grow, they meet more and more people. They watch what goes on around them. Every noticing, every interaction, is a learning. If they see people laugh, hug, help, hold hands, listen, take turns, empathize, etc., they learn to trust the world and they remain open and vulnerable. If they see exclusion, teasing, yelling, avoiding, and threatening, they learn to close their heart against this emotional threat.

Their school lives are full of these small cruelties, this apathy, this loneliness. They are there in the way a child can chase another across a school field for his hat and never be noticed by an adult, they are there in the way a teacher watches the class snicker at a child's wrong answer and not have the energy to deal with it, it's in the way the supervision aides on the field bark orders all day long at the kids because there are too many of them to talk gently with, it's in the way kids have to line up, it's there in the way a girl cries silently in the hallway and no one cares to find out why, it's in the way that a child has something to say 20 times a day and no one has time to hear him. It's in the way that we learn to compete with each other and in the way we learn to do what people tell us to do, or else.

It happens like this in the beginning of the schooling years, and it happens later on too. In high school it's in the way a boy whistles at a girl and looks her up and down. It shows itself in the way a child would rather be with friends than you, and wouldn't dream of doing things like going to the mall with you. It's all about the pressure to wear the right clothes, to speak the right language, to act the right way. This becomes it's own unique loneliness; the act of losing oneself completely a veritable last nail in the coffin of individuality, freedom, and happiness. As a society we call this growing up. "It's the way of the world" we say, and the sooner they learn to toughen up, the better.

I left the school system because I was tired of watching little, bright, beautiful, open eyes lose their shine. I was tired of watching children so full of big bold ideas learn to be silent. I was tired of watching tired teachers who had lost their own spark years ago (how can you truly care for that many kids?).

Through a series of a thousand little deaths, each and every day, our children's souls are slowly dying. Perhaps the greatest work we can do as parents is to change that; by loving them openly, by choosing to spend more time with them, by choosing their environments carefully, and by refusing to believe that growing up has to mean closing up.

The Island Discovery Learning Community does have a website: http://www.islanddiscovery.ca

Taliesin: Working in the garden, today... Mon, May 24 2010, 6:48pm  
Tali says:

"Mama, what does 'downright' mean?"

(Mama explains, using 'downright mean', and 'downright amazing' as examples.)

...a little later, onto another weeding area...



"You're downright beautiful! Even when you're just wearing your painting clothes."

Mama nearly cried.
Emily: SuperMAMA Encore! Tue, May 4 2010, 3:38pm  
Well... it's hard to keep up with the blog, these days. I keep saying there are lots of great photos of the kids and events, etc. but I know I won't have time to post any for a couple of weeks, at least. That's because the SuperMAMA performance went so well we're doing another show on the 15th.

Now. More importantly. Do you know how wonderful Markus is? He is superPappa. Not only is he doing all of his work plus most of mine while I completely neglect my household and parenting duties, but then, when I come in all happy, stressed, and frazzled, dropping baskets at the door and running to make/answer phonecalls and fire off promotion emails, he hands me food to be sure I'm eating properly, doesn't complain when I miss meals, and, at the end of the day when we snuggle with the kids, he puts his warm arm around me and reminds me that it's OK. He forgives me without words. There is no measurement to explain how blessed I am to have him in my life. Tali and Annie, too, while they wait patiently for the show to be finished, have had to fill much more of their own time than usual, and they have risen to the challenge with big bright wings. They are learning to settle their arguments without me; they don't complain about food (that is a wonderful development!!), and they don't pressure me for things they know I can't make happen, right now. Maybe they are learning from Markus. I don't know how I managed to have a housefull of such tolerant, supportive people, but I am not letting any day of it pass me by unnoticed.

As if that weren't enough, I have such dear friends and family who come to be with me, some from far away, not minding that my house is a mess or that my time for visiting is punctuated by the phone ringing and various errands, but just being there in my life, beautifully. Friends, sisters and my mother phone and drop by to offer support, etc. Pappa seems to smile broadly every time I see him, now. Adrian wore a suit to my performance. And the flowers. I am crazy in my running around -- I know -- but these things also do not go by unnoticed. I looked out many times during the superMAMA performance and saw your faces open with acceptance and love, in the audience. I am having a hard time to express the amount of gratitude I feel, right now.
Rhiannon: Mama! I lost my tooth! Fri, Apr 30 2010, 12:06am  
Today at circus school, Rhiannon's first wiggly tooth came out! Upon hearing the story, Mama picked her up for a big cuddle, and, as we got in the car afterward, Rhiannon said -- losing your tooth is very special.


Because then everybody is happy and cuddling you!
Emily: spring coming, through my bedroom window Sat, Apr 17 2010, 2:13pm  
At approximately 8 or 8:30 every morning, Rhiannon comes into bed with me (or us, if Markus is home, and we lay together for a while, just enjoying the morning, while we wait for Taliesin to wake up. Often we watch the morning develop, through the bedroom window.

Our bedroom has this huge, beautiful window that my Pappa once harvested from the sliding living-room windows, and inserted upright in the corner of what was then his and my Mum's bedroom. From the head of our bed we have a clear view through this window, of layers of trees, and forest, behind. Closest, there is the birch trunk, then the branches and evergreen leaves of the arbutus tree, then the twiggy birch branches, and leaves in the summer, and then the trunk of the big cedar. Beyond that are some floppy cedar boughs, the copper beech in the distance, and then the forest of mostly cedar, hemlock and fir, with the odd maple, in-between.

It was only a few days ago that Rhiannon and I lay together, one morning, watching the rising sun make shadow plays on the big cedar trunk. The sun rose slowly beyond the floppy cedar boughs, casting its yellow light on the red-brown trunk we were watching, leaving the shadows looking bluer, by contrast. Dinosaurs and faces and birds passed before our eyes, most lasting only a few seconds, before shifting form. Sometimes the bare, thin twigs of the birch reached out to the sunny spot, as if wishing to share it - hoping for spring. I remembered that that sunny spot was exactly where we had hung the birdhouse that I made with Pappa, when I was little. Maybe it's time to build one with my children.

Yesterday I was up before the sun rose, and saw only the crispness of the morning air, the brightness of the tiny new birch leaves, and the brilliant maple blossoms in the forest, beyond. It was as if everything was quietly waiting for the sun. Spring is here.

Today Annie crawled into my arms, again, pink-cheeked and sleepy-eyed, and we listened to the rain on the roof. The arbutus leaves were wet and shiny; the cedar a dull brown, in front of its own dark, sodden boughs. In the distance, the maple blossoms drooped, motionless, at the edge of the forest, and layers of thick, grey air quilted the landscape into one viscous whole. It was wonderful. This is the heavy wetness of spring, unfolding.

And as I lay with my daughter wrapped against my chest, with my husbands' warm arms around us both, I felt so acutely aware of my fortune. I am SO happy to live in this beautiful world, and to have the opportunity to love it.
Emily: MAMA website Mon, Mar 29 2010, 6:59pm  
Finally the official website exists (in other words: I finally just bit the bullet and paid for the domain name). More images, videos, tour dates and a whole press section will appear there as they become ready.


Please to pass the information around and help me spread the word!
Emily: nettles & idli on Feral Food Sat, Mar 20 2010, 11:31pm  
My Feral Food blog is pretty ignored, these days, but there are a couple of relatively new posts, there. Idli from a few weeks ago, and Contraband Nettles from today.
Emily: Yes, we're still here! Fri, Mar 19 2010, 4:19pm  
Just a quick update, for those who wonder where we've gone...

Tal is busy with lots and lots of art (drawing/cutting/gluing/sculpting inside, and building stuff outside) and reading at home, these days, as well as his classes, which at the moment include contemporary dance, circus school, and EcoKids (ecologically-oriented science class). He's 8, now - a bit quieter and a bit bossier (!) but increasingly proud of himself, and this is wonderful.

Rhiannon is hell-bent to read and write, right now. She reads at least one book every day, and produces heaps of her own, self-directed writing projects, as well as worksheets for the rest of us to complete! She just got a bunch of new workbooks, and is exceedingly happy. She is the workbook queen. She currently takes contemporary dance, circus school, Serious Play (art class), and joins in for the barre segment of Mama's adult ballet class.

Markus is in the process of acquiring a lobster-tail for his boat, much to his great satisfaction. He just has to wait until the tide is low enough to retrieve it from where he and the previous owner stashed it, after they removed it from the bottom of the imperiled boat it came from. I didn't know what that was, but Markus explained -- it's a protective cage-like enclosure for a propeller, to keep it from being destroyed by deadheads, etc. I think the ferry needs some of those! (I say, naiively.) He is happy with his work, these days, and busy at home, too, with all the yard work and studio-building that is still happening.

Me: I'm intensely busy with the management side of putting on the MAMA exhibition & performance (and touring it; yipes!). I said at some point to my mother and a friend that I feel totally out of my league with this show, and Mum said "This is your league, now." Frightening, but I remind myself that I cried myself to sleep on the first night I lived in the big city of den Haag, the Netherlands, in a tiny room looking out onto the huge, loud, brightly-lit city. Two days later I was well on my way to learning Dutch, and didn't feel at all frightened, any more. I will handle this just fine. I'm very happy to be back at ballet, again, and thrilled that, as the kids grow more mature and Markus finds joy in his little projects (currently he's developing a gps mapping system in his free evenings), all of us become a little more bonded in our life-journey, together.

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