Parent seeks peace among the pines

Picture a hammock: blue, suspended between two maples. From the end of the hammock protrude two feet. They are well-tanned and have not seen a shoe in days. Sunlight glistens through the swaying pine branches beyond, dancing across the lake on a million tiny waves.

The Internet scarcely touches this part of Wisconsin's northwoods; even the most urgent email is powerless to penetrate the pines. Oh Outlook, where is thy ping?

It's family week here for four parents, three grandparents and six kids. All of the children are 7 or younger, and they are ... somewhere over there, I guess? God bless my in-laws, now watching the kids so I can spend a much-needed hour here in the hammock - my bubble of peace. For this one blissful moment, I am peace personified. I am the epitome of zen. I am -

"RORY! Stop throwing sand on your brother!"

A deep breath. I am tranquility itself. Relaxation must take off its shoes and tie to be half as relaxed as me. I am inner silence on both inside and outside, a total stillness of -

"Reagan, give your sister back her scooter! Where's your scooter? No, that's Henry's scooter. And where is your helmet? Reagan, put on your helmet!"

High overhead, eagles soar effortlessly, held aloft less by physics than their own essence. They are unencumbered. Unbothered. Today, I am an eagle too, every feather of my being totally unruffled -

"That's not your hot dog, Charlie! That's Grandpa's hot dog. Don't eat it. It's got horseradish on it. You're not going to like horserad – see? I know, it's spicy. Well don't just spit it back on his plate. Walk to the garbage can! Charlie! The garbage can!"

A chipmunk chirps as it scampers beneath the hammock and off into the ferns. I breathe deeply, recentering.

"Henry, you're driving the go-cart too close to Grandma's car."

The inner stillness of -

"Slow down, Henry!"

The inner stilln -

"HENRY, look ahead before you cra - AHH! Somebody get an ice pack!"

I give up, rolling out of the hammock and heading inside. On the way in I pass my wife, novel in hand. She hands me a baby monitor, which emits static squawks.

"Great, you're up! I'm going to grab the hammock for a while. Will you go get Sophie? I think she's got a surprise for you. It's in her diaper."

"Tranquility indeed," I grumble, stomping toward the bedroom. I yank open the door to find - a false alarm. Baby Sophie snoozes sweetly, smelling fresh as a daisy.

I lay on the bed next to her crib and caress her soft baby feet. In the rhythm of her gentle breathing, I ... find ...


- Peter Celauro is a former contributing columnist. Readers can email him at [email protected].