Monday, November 20, 2017

A Season Of Hope

Thanksgiving Table

Traditionally this is the week when we pause to give thanks for all of the blessings in our lives and for the chance to take inventory of all the reasons why we should be grateful. This year, however, instead of asking myself "what are you grateful for," I'm asking instead, "what are you hopeful for?"

This past year, like no other in recent memory that I can think of, there have been days when the idea of hope seemed to be in short supply: senseless gun violence; natural disasters; divisiveness; hate crimes; racism; sexism; homophobia; and a seemingly huge lack of compassion and decency in the world. Day after day we have been bombarded with sights and sounds that break our hearts. It's enough to make a person give up hope all together .....except ...

....except .... for the highly paid professional football player who goes to an animal shelter, not to adopt the best dog they have, but to adopt the one that no one else wanted so it could have a loving forever home for however long "forever" lasted; or, the ladies groups who get together and knit hats, scarves and mittens, and attach them to park benches, lamp posts and trees for the homeless or anyone who is cold and in need; or, the little boy who donates his allowance and his chore money to pay the overdue lunch bills of some of his classmates so that they will not go hungry; or, all the folks who risked life and limb to rescue total strangers - and animals - from the horrendous floods and storms this fall; or, for the police officer who spent his own money to buy a homeless man a pair of shoes; or , or, or .......

So, so many reasons to still have hope in the common goodness of humankind. So many signs that kindness and compassion are still alive. So much proof that love always wins. This year when we sit around the table and share what we are thankful for, I wish for all of us to add: "And I am thankful for the kindness of strangers, the generosity and compassion that exists in the world, and filled with hope for the future, because love always wins."

May your holiday be filled with peace, blessings and hope. And so it is.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Seeing Through The Eyes of Imagination

Birds on Leafless Trees

Looking out the big window over my desk towards the hills beyond, it is apparent that this last storm to blow through with frigid winds has pretty much stripped most of the trees of their beautiful fall foliage. A few trees in the distance are still sporting some reds and oranges, but it's the green of the pine trees that are taking center stage now. For some this might be a sorry sight, only the skeleton of trees remaining after losing their crowing glory. For others, like me, it is a chance to see the trees through the eyes of my imagination.

I came across this quote from British poet William Blake while I was wondering what I would write about this week. As always, the right thing always presents itself exactly when I need it. I love when that happens:

"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity ... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the Man of Imagination, nature is imagination itself."

I do not see a sad, leafless thing outside my window. I see the exquisitely built robin's nest that housed a family, left vacant until next spring. I see the sturdy branches that still offer the passing blue jay or crow a place to rest on their journey. I see Nature taking her time of rest, sleeping beneath the roots, gathering her strength until she feels the pulse of new life flowing through her limbs. My writer's mind, which has always lived in the realm of imagination since I was a child, sees a tree that whispers the words to a whimsical story that wants to be written, one that lets nature tell the tale for a change instead of ego. This tree, and the ones down the block, and the ones up on the hill, all have a tale to tell if we simply let ourselves see through the eyes of our imaginations. Watching the seasons change from one to the other is proof enough that Nature is imagination itself.

One of the joys of having lived to this ripe old age is that one is free to reclaim that part of our childhoods that allowed our imaginations to run free. I hope that I will never see the day when the sight of a tree, in every season, does not move me to tears of joy.

And so it is.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Finding Our Rhythm

We turned out clocks back an hour this weekend in observance of Daylight Saving Time. I, for one, was certainly looking forward to an extra hour of sleep. My cat, Laura, had different ideas. Clock or no clock, her tummy was still on the old time and her internal alarm was going off, saying: "Get up, woman, I'm starving!"

Our ancestors didn't need clocks to tell them when to get up and when to go to bed. Like all other living things on the planet, they rose with the sun, followed it's travels across the sky during the day, had their mid-day meal when the sun was "mid-way," and called it a day when Mother Nature turned off her outside light and turned on the moon and the stars for our nocturnal relatives. We didn't "save" daylight, we used it wisely. Like our crops and our animals, we let nature nurture us, guide us and help us to grow.

Along came the electric light bulb and with it, our ability to manipulate daylight. We stopped trusting nature and started relying on the electric company. Decades later we find ourselves spending endless hours in windowless cubicles under artificial light, staring at lit screens all day, and then we wonder why we're always tired, stressed, out of sorts, and often not knowing if it's day or night until we go outside. One has to wonder not only how unhealthy this kind of lifestyle is, but exactly how productive you think you are when you're forcing your body to go against it's natural rhythms. Is it any wonder that so many people suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) because of a lack of natural light?

Once I got older and was no longer forced to live in the 9 to 5 world, I found that my body slowly started  learning to re-adapt to the natural world. I simply could not get up and function before dawn, and discovered myself starting to yawn right after the 6 o'clock news at night. I rose with the sun and the hours between 10 am and 3 pm became my most productive. I felt better, ate better, slept better. I had more energy and smiled a whole lot more. I was more patient with my sweet fur babies. My creative juices flowed more freely. Even more than all of that, I found myself more intimately connected to the rest of the natural world. My non-human neighbors, those of the fur and feather persuasion, and I, greeted each other every morning like old friends, and scurried to get our day's work done before dark. I began to see and feel myself as part of this world-wide community called Earth.

Laura will eventually adapt to the time change, hopefully. Perhaps if I set the example, she'll remember her own inner natural rhythms and follow the sun the way her ancestors did. If that doesn't work, I may have to teach her how to open a can.

And so it is.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Rainy Day Ruminations

Image result for free image of rainy day

I woke up this morning to a rainy, blustery day. All night long I heard the sounds of the rain pounding on the roof, and the wind plastering it against the windows. One of my cats, Charlotte, spent the night under the bed. She is terrified of storms since the big one early this past summer when trees came down all around us and hail pummeled us without mercy. Her sister, Laura, opted to curl up next to me and bury herself in blankets.

I was delighted to see that we had not lost power. However, I was not delighted to find out that the internet had been knocked out. On a Monday? Rats! Monday is the day I write and post this blog. Monday is one of my two scheduled networking days. I have upcoming deadlines I have to start working towards, and articles to write, and research to do and, and, and, ..... there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Then it dawned on me - when had I become so connected to technology that being without it felt like the time I went cold turkey and quit smoking? When had I exchanged my real life for one that resided in "The Cloud?"

I got up and made myself a hot cup of coffee with a splash of yummy, almond milk based pumpkin spice creamer, and crawled back in bed with one cat next to me, one cat underneath me, and my journal. I said my morning prayers. I meditated to the sound of my breath and Mother Nature's heavy breathing outside. Then I decided to treat myself to something I reserve for Sunday mornings only - curling up with a book and letting go of the virtual side of my life. Sooner or later the internet would come back on, my self-imposed deadlines would be met - or not - and in the end none of it mattered in the least. Neither rain, nor wind, nor gloom of night had kept me from doing what mattered: praying, meditating, journaling, and spending some extra cuddle time with the braver of my two fur babies.

Who were you before the internet came along? That's the person you want to spend quality time with. You're not "virtual" reality, you're the real deal!

P.S Charlotte finally came out of hiding. Funny how the sound of a can of cat food opening can instill courage in a traumatized cat!

And so it is.  

Monday, October 23, 2017

Plant, Prune, Dream

Image result for free image of pruning a tree

On one of my walks over this past gorgeous weekend, I saw folks out in their yards raking leaves, cleaning up, and generally putting their gardens to bed. Some of them were preparing their gardens for next year by planting bulbs and pruning trees and bushes. It got me thinking about how this is also a perfect time of year to do the same for our inner gardens.

When we plant bulbs, they sit snug under the soil and mulch all winter long, sleeping, taking in nutrients and establishing their roots so that in the spring they can burst forth as daffodils, crocus and tulips. Our dreams and intentions also need some time to take in ideas and information, and plant good, solid roots. In this way when our intentions and dreams burst forth into reality, they have a healthy start in life just like the tulips and daffodils. When we take the time to go slowly, prepare the soil and mulch well, we can grow anything.

Pruning, on the other hand, isn't so much about what we put in as it is what we take out. Over the course of the summer some branches were not as productive as others. They did not put out leaves or blossoms and remained bare for the most part. Leaving these bare branches takes away the much needed nutrition and water from the rest of the tree or bush. By cutting away the dead branches, we redirect the nourishment to where it is needed.

Where can we prune away the dead branches in our own lives? What can we get rid of that no longer nourishes our spirit? Maybe it's a relationship, a job, the way we live? Can we clear the clutter out of our lives? Downsize so that we have more time to spend on experiences than on buying and maintaining "stuff?"

The first of the many journals I read by poet and novelist May Sarton was titled: Plant Dreaming Deep. Sarton was also an avid gardener and while the title was a perfect metaphor for her life at that time, I can guarantee you that she also chronicled a lot of pruning in both her inner and outer gardens to create a life she cherished. May we all "plant dreaming deep," prune away our dead branches, and create a life that flourishes!

And so it is.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Savoring Life's Nectar

I woke the other morning to the sounds of geese flying overhead. Popping out of bed, I went to the big window over my desk. Sure enough, there was a huge flock of geese, at least a hundred in number, flying across the sky with the Autumn-colored hills in the background. They were headed, I knew, for a field that surrounded the country club greens across from the river. That was their meet-up place where they could rest up, get a bite to eat, and prepare for the next leg of their journey. They had been meeting there every fall for years.

After days and days of summer weather, Fall was back with a slight bite in the air and a whispered invitation for me to come out and play. So, after breakfast, I threw on my jeans, sweatshirt, and sneakers, my official Autumn uniform, and headed out for a walk to one of my favorite places: The Cider Mill

The Cider Mill is a hot spot in our area at this time of year. Tucked in between homes, apartment buildings and the train trestle, stands a big red barn-like structure whose entire purpose involves everything apple: apple cider, apple pie, candy apples, caramel apples, apple jelly, to name just a few. There are other non-apple things as well, like donuts and, of course, just plain apples. If you like apples, this place is like apple heaven!

As I walked through the iron gates that surround the property, I was greeted by rows and rows of pumpkins of all sizes. Along the side of the building were deep bins that held smaller pumpkins, gourds of all different varieties, and at least four or five  kinds of squash. Past those bins were more that were filled with every kind of apple you can imagine. Each bin was labeled with the variety of apple and what it was best used for - baking, cooking, eating, cider - whatever your need, they have just the right one for you.

Pushing open the big doors into the building, I was hit with the aroma of baking and cider. You can actually watch them make the cider from beginning to end through big glass windows. Around on the other side you can watch them make the donuts. There are no stale leftovers on the shelves for you to buy. They are made fresh every day, all day, until they are gone.

The front of the store held bins and coolers with all of their apple products plus an assortment of jams and jellies made from local produce, locally made cheeses and all kinds of goodies. There are free samples of whatever kind of cider they are pressing that day as well

I treated myself to a few apples, both Empire and, of course, Cortland (just a few miles up the road is Cortland, New York, home of said apple), a maple donut, a huge freshly made oatmeal raisin cookie, and a single cup of flavored coffee ... maple vanilla nut! I strolled home with my treasures, stopping off only to pick up cat treats so my fur babies, Charlotte and Laura, wouldn't feel left out

Kicking back with my fresh-from-the-oven cookie and a hot cup of the most delicious coffee I've ever had, I felt like a goddess enjoying the nectar of the earth. The sky outside my window was crystal blue, the squirrels next door were scurrying back and forth with chestnuts from the trees out back, and in that moment all was as it should be. You can keep your big houses, big cars, and big bank accounts. At that moment, I was already rich, and blessed to boot. You can't put a price on happy.

And so it is.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Standing Tall

Image result for free image of bare tree

It is a warm and stormy day today. In the distance, fall is making it's colorful march across the treetops, but for the little tree that stands right outside my window, the rain and wind have stripped it of the few leaves it had yet to drop. Now she stands there, surrounded by mighty pine trees and more colorful neighbors, looking like a poor relation ... and yet, I look at her, standing tall with her roots deep in the earth, taking whatever Mother Nature throws at her, day after day, year after year.

We can learn a lot from trees. I know I've written on this subject before, but with the current climate in the world today - the actual climate as well as the national and world political climate - I think learning something from the wisdom of trees is worth another look.

My little tree stands tall and proud because that is what she does. She has a purpose. She was put here to provide food and shelter for her relations in the animal world. Blue jays, robins, finches, cardinals and a host of others visit her every day. Squirrels scamper up and down her branches in play or in search of seeds. In the Spring she sprouts her greenery and shows it off proudly. In the Fall, she unleashes her beautiful box of colors for a last hurrah before dropping her leaves to earth to become mulch for the next growing season (gardeners take note: don't bag and trash your leaves! Put them in the compost pile for beautiful black gold in the spring). Regardless of how poorly we think she looks, she remains standing tall and strong. She is a tree. She stands up for who she is and fulfills her purpose.

Sometimes life throws storms of every kind at us, from the ones that leave us literally homeless to the ones that leave our spirits feeling as if they have no inner home to shield us. We feel battered, tired and bare to the bone, just like the branches on that little tree, but we humans need to take a lesson from the trees and stand tall for who we are and what we believe in. We were all put here for a reason and it is our duty to fulfill that purpose. We all have things we believe in, things we feel compelled to feed, shelter and protect. We all need to dig our roots in deep and not let the storms of anger, discontent, and divisiveness wear us down. All of us, just like all of the branches of a tree, need to work together. As the old Native American proverb that Dr. Wayne Dyer loved to quote so often says:

"No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves."

What do you stand for? What can you offer to the world that will make a difference to another? It doesn't need to be something huge. Can you offer food, shelter, or money, to support an organization or someone in need? Can you volunteer your services - the strength of your branches? Can you mount a letter writing campaign, knock on doors, use your vote to make your voice heard? What can you stand for?

There is a lull in the storm for a moment. A few, fragile yellow and orange leaves cling precariously to the wet branches of my little tree. A cardinal, brilliant in it's own red coloring, lands on a branch and calls to its mate. She joins him, and together they sway on the bare branches in the wind, lending their own color to the tree. I think it's their way of saying thank you. We can all do something, even if it's just to love a tree.

And so it is.