Hammer and Nail

Dear Moira,


Clearing webs from the hovel

a blistered hand on the handle of a shovel

I’ve been digging too deep, I always do.

This year at your school’s birthday walk, your teachers said that your favorite thing was to be outside. I could have guessed that, given that you come home plated with mud so often that we seriously discussed buying you two winter coats just to get through the week. There is something about you that is so hearty and earthy, so full of elemental vibrance. Your explosive exuberance touches and shapes every day we spend together. In all the parts of your life you get in there, and you act. You are movement, charming and hypnotic movement.


Gotta get out of bed

Get a hammer and a nail

Learn how to use my hands, not just my head

Now I know a refuge never grows

From a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose

Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.

Three was an age of action and movement. It wasn’t as tough as some people say three can be, but it was certainly a time of decisive swiftness. It’s good for me, and you are too, to be reminded that too much lingering and navel-gazing isn’t helpful. You are a vital, vivacious spirit. One of my favorite parts of this year was watching you learn to ride a balance bike downhill. You fell–oh, how you fell, again and again–and laughed it off. You laughed every time, even when it hurt, and you pulled yourself back up to the top of the hill. And by God, if you didn’t figure it out. “It’s best when you yell ‘Whee!'”


I had a lot of good intentions

Sit around for fifty years and then collect a pension,

Started seeing the road to hell and just where it starts.

You are a Scorpio, a water sign, and when I think of you I do think not of roads but of water. Not a vast ocean or a calm little lake, but a quick, lively little stream in a sunny and colorful forest. You are funny and whimsical, full of turns. Your imagination transports us to new worlds and stories every day. Moira, you have so many beautiful stories. I’ve started writing them down as you transcribe them, and I record your many hilarious sayings for our friends and family. After our trip to Florida in April your Nana said that she wouldn’t believe half of the things I post were it not for the fact that she had just spent nearly three weeks with you. You’re sharp and quick and all charm, and you miss absolutely nothing.


But my life is more than a vision

The sweetest part is acting after making a decision

I started seeing the whole as a sum of its parts.

At your school’s parent-teacher night, we learned that you’ve been working on your sounds and numbers (when you aren’t slinging mud pies in the mud kitchen), and that’s pretty cool. You don’t have a whole lot of extended interest in it yet, and it’s hard for me to pin down what you know since you’re always zipping about so fast, my speedy little liquid current. It was there that we got the best news of all about you. Your teacher told us that kids of three and four, simply by nature of their age and developmental stage, just aren’t really all that empathetic. Your teachers told us that you were genuinely empathetic toward others, and a truly kind child.

I really believe that part of that empathy and kindness is a direct result of action. You are seeking out others; they seek you out in turn to be part of your energy. You’re the child who sits next to someone who’s upset and feeling shy at a birthday party until they’re ready to participate. You stick your chest out and yell at boys twice your age who are pestering birds. You can see who needs a little more help, and you’re there. You are sensitive and thoughtful, but you don’t spend a lot of time getting trapped in your own head. You act as you see fit, and when it comes to others it’s generally for the good.


My life is part of the global life

I’d found myself becoming more immobile

When I’d think a little girl in the world can’t do anything.

Moira, I’ve thought this for a long time, but I truly believe you have what it takes to be a successful person in this world. I don’t mean that you’ll have wealth, though you may, or that you’ll be a person of power and influence, though I’m sure you’ll come to that in time. What I see in you is the ability to perceive others’ needs, the decisiveness to act (and act swiftly), and the heart to get up again even when you fail. I believe that your life will be rich in acts of service and compassion, and that you will be a true helper to others, leaving it a little kinder than you found it. That is the best kind of success, and the one I know you are destined to have.

A distant nation my community

A street person my responsibility

If I have a care in the world I have a gift to bring.

My darling little river-child, you have so many gifts to bring to the world. Thank you, thank you, for bringing them to our family first. I promise you that I will do my best to help you down the path to bring those gifts to fruition, and that I’ll go along laughing and falling down and getting back up again by your side.

Gotta get out of bed

Get a hammer and a nail

Let’s go, baby. We’ve got a lot of building to do together. I love you.




(Italicized lyrics are “Hammer and Nail” by Indigo Girls)