Sunday, September 17, 2017

As Clouds Go By

I have become something of a cloud watcher over the last few years. Now that I have a big window with a fabulous view that takes in vast amounts of sky, I find myself being distracted from my writing by the performance that is going on above me. Admittedly, a crystal clear blue sky is surely a thing to behold, but I much prefer watching the personalities of the different kinds of clouds that float by. Each cloud elicits a different reaction from me as if it is trying to convey some special message that is only for me.

There are big, fat, fluffy clouds, the kind that are playful and that make up all those shapes we imagine we see hidden within them. They remind me of a pile of pillows just waiting for some puppies to romp among them. Then there are the thin, wispy clouds, the ones that float by carelessly as if their sole purpose was simply to break up all that blue sky and add a little depth to it. Big, fat, bands of clouds remind me of celestial islands floating above. I like to think it's where the angels live in their billowy homes.

Then there are the blankets of  ominous clouds, the ones with the dark under-bellies bringing with them feelings of foreboding, of storms ahead. They both fascinate and frighten me sometimes. On the one hand, I do not want to know what bad news they are bringing as they make their way across the sky. On the other hand, I know that they are, indeed, just clouds passing by and will take whatever storm they are carrying with them when they go.

I grew up with an obsessive fear of heights as a child. I do not know its origins. My mother was fearful of so many things and it is quite possible I got that fear from her. It wasn't until I was in my 50's that I got on my first plane and rose above the clouds. Filled with both fear and exhilaration, I knew for the first time what eagles must feel like to soar above the clouds, playing a game of hide and seek with them. How wonderful it must be to be able to soar like that every day!

Life, like that blank, blue sky, brings with it many different experiences and not all of them are happy ones. Sometimes life is playful and happy, sometimes innocently searching for something to give it depth and meaning, and, more often than we'd like, can also be dark and scary. We just need to realize that, like the clouds, these experiences will pass and, like the eagles, we have the ability to soar above them to bask in the warmth and glow of the sun on the other side. All we have to do is aim ourselves in the right direction, spread our wings, and fly.

Excuse me, but I have to go now. I think I just saw the angels float by.

And so it is.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Lust For Learning

My grandchildren weren't the only ones stocking up on school supplies this week. At the start of each school year I pick a subject I want to know more about, a skill I want to learn, or a totally new idea I want to explore. Thanks to the miracle of the internet and the availability of online learning, there is nothing I can't learn or explore. For someone who has loved learning all my life, September feels like Christmas to me.

My mother always used to tell me that "why" was my favorite word. My dad was a auto mechanic and when I had a problem with my car, it wasn't enough for him to just tell me what the problem was. I needed all the facts. My dad even went so far as to draw me a picture when I wasn't grasping the problem. When my teachers would present something as fact, I was the only kid in the class to challenge the validity of her statement ... even in 1st grade!

Years later, when I returned to school in my 30's to get my Bachelors Degree in Comparative Religion, all of my professors would point to me as an example of what education was all about. It wasn't just about passing tests and getting a good job. It was about not being afraid to challenge the status quo. It was about building a meaningful life.

As I've gotten older, learning new things and exploring new ideas keeps me young in body, mind and spirit. I like to be challenged, even if I find out I've been mistaken about something. We're never really wrong, we're just doing the best we can with the knowledge and experience we have at the time, and as my beloved Maya Angelo always said: "When you knew better, you did better,"

This year I want to "know better" about alternative methods and ideas about healthy aging in body, mind, and spirit. I want to explore herbal medicine, healthy mind sets, and what folks living in "Blue Zones," - places in the world where people live longer and healthier than their counterparts in the west - know that we don't. In the meantime, I'm sharpening my pencils and picking up some more spiral notebooks. Something tells me this is going to be a BIG subject!

And so it is

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Laborless Labor Day

Many years ago, when I was living in Pennsylvania and studying to become a minister (another story for another blog some day), I filled in for a local pastor who was on vacation. It happened to be the day before Labor Day and the title of my sermon was "Labor-less Labor Day." I spoke about how I grew up thinking that Labor Day wasn't just the official end of summer vacation, but also the day that my Dad, and the dads of all of my friends, used to get stuff done around the house that they hadn't gotten to all summer, including putting away the summer outdoor furniture, giving things a coat of fresh paint before the start of winter, and cutting back foliage in the yard that had gotten out of control. In my sermon, I shared the fact that while the holiday was established to honor the working men and women of this country, it wasn't, in fact, a special day set aside to, well ... labor! I suggested that we should use the day to honor each other and all of the long hours each week we all spend working to provide for our families as well as contributing to our communities and our nation. These are the true fruits of our labors and they are right under our noses. Unfortunately, that's the last place most of us look for them.

The irony of this came to me the other day when I was over at my daughter's house looking to see if anything at all had come from all of our hard work to try and turn her yard into a real garden. It was obvious that it would take much more than the labor of me, my daughter, and my grandchildren to make a paradise out of a jungle that had been neglected for decades (more like a backhoe, five very strong men, and a bottomless wallet). I found that I would probably be able to harvest a little something from my lavender plant, and the Forget-Me-Nots, which had managed to hang in there, might come back next spring. That was about it. All the rest had simply not survived. There would have to be a complete tear down and massive soil amendment before anything but mutant weeds would grow there. Food for thought for next spring.

I went home with some of the cuttings from my lavender plant and was looking for some string to tie them up to dry with when I caught sight of the table-top fairy garden my daughter and grandkids had made for me for Mother's Day. It came complete with a tiny outhouse, birds, a welcome sign, a stone path, and room for a few tiny fairies. I had kept it watered over the summer as it sat next to my writing desk and then had turned my attention to whatever I was currently working on. Today, however, I took a really good look at it and, much to my surprise, realized that the fairies had certainly called in some extra fairy help because it had grown so much that it was hard to find the outhouse, the birds and the stone path.

All I had done was to put my little garden next to my very favorite spot in my home, my writing desk in front of the big window that overlooked the hills beyond, kept it watered, and put on a light over the table on cloudy days. Mother Nature (and the fairies) had taken care of the rest. By giving it a place of honor in a place that I loved, and providing for its' needs, my labor-less labor had produced with abundance and then some!

Sometimes the best work we can do is to set our intentions, have faith in knowing that what is meant to work will work, and what isn't meant to work, won't, and leave the rest up to the Universe to work it's own brand of magic. A little help from the garden fairies always helps, too.

As soon as I am done here, I have to prune back my tiny forest. I'll take the cuttings and root them so that I can replant them in tiny pots and start another tiny garden. Obviously, things grow well that are planted where love is.

And so it is.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

And The Days Dwindle Down To A Precious Few

"For it's a long, long while, from May to December,
but the days grow short when you reach September ..."

It's hard to believe that we are heading into the last week of August. Even though Fall does not officially start for a few weeks, most folks look at this time as the actual end of summer, when the kids start back to school and the days grow cooler. Where I live in the northeast, the early mornings begin to start off very foggy right about now, a chilly mist that burns off by around 8 or 9 o'clock. The air, too, takes on a different feel, a different smell. When I was a little girl, I used to tell my mom that it "smelled like time to go back to school."

Where did this summer go? I don't know if it is because this summer in our area was very wet and cooler than normal - I don't think we had more than a couple of days that actually reached 90 - or because the older I get, the faster the seasons seem to come and go. All I know is that one minute I was waiting for the buds on the trees to put in an appearance, and the next minute I looked in amazement as the first tinge of color appeared on the distant hill tops. It felt like summer and I had been speed dating this year. Yesterday when I went out to put my recyclables in the bin behind our complex, several dried, yellow leaves came floating down to land on my head. Sigh!

I have no doubt that we will have a last surge of summer weather before autumn officially gets here, a taste of Indian Summer, as it's called. Still, something tells me that autumn will settle in early this year, not that I'm complaining. Autumn is my very favorite season of the whole year and with its arrival comes all things pumpkin: coffee, muffins, pies, you name it - if it's pumpkin, it's mine! Still, it's always sad to see summer come to an end. It takes me back to my youth when summer spelled freedom, and when it ended, so did my freedom, or, at least that's what it felt like.

I remember one end of August in particular some years ago when I took a late-season trip to the beach. There was literally no one there except for a few die-hards and the locals who were finally enjoying their surroundings without all of the crowds and noise. Standing at the shoreline with my toes in the sand, even the ocean seemed a little sadder, a little lonelier, without the excited shouts of the children splashing and building sand castles, and the music from the boardwalk carrying out over the waves. Can an ocean feel sadness? I wonder.

So I say good-bye to August this week, and to summer in general. Next week my precious "almost 11 year old" granddaughter (she would be insulted if I didn't say that) starts junior high. Where did all of those years go? I expect they went the same way as the waves at the beach and the summer fun, into my book of memories.

And so it is.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Messages From Above

This is going to be a short post today. My laptop is having a problem connecting to Blogger's server. Maybe the Eclipse is messing with The Cloud, or however it all works. In any case, I am writing this on my tablet, and I am not the fastest or most patient one - finger typist in the world. I am accepting this as a message from above to not stress out over it, but to just go with the flow and type on.

I've been getting a lot of messages from above lately.  I found a blue jay feather the other day. Blue Jays are my favorite birds. They represent adaptability, something I can certainly use more of in my life. Then I found a nickel on the ground. Whenever I find money, even a penny, I always say the affirmation I learned from Wayne Dyer: "Thank you for this symbol of abundance that flows into my life each and every day." I never take these things for granted. There are messages from above all around us but we're often too busy running around, or looking down at our IPHONE instead of up at the world, to see them. I read a blog post the other day that said if you see someone washing windows while you're out and about, it could mean you need to "get clear" on you priorities and goals. Anything can be a message from above if we just stay awake and present in our lives.

I thought I was getting a message from above over the weekend. Our little town of Endicott, New York, was host to the Dick's Sporting Goods PGA Tournament at the Enjoy Golf Club which is just a few blocks from my home. Thousands of folks rolled past my windows, especially on Friday night when Bon Jovi was there for a concert. Anyway, a small plane was flying around over the area all weekend pulling a banner behind it with some writing on it, but it was too high for me to read. I felt sure that the message held some significance for me. On Sunday, as all the people and news trucks were pulling out and going home, the plane finally flew low enough for me to read the message: "Superior Light Beer." Hey, maybe it's a message about healthy drinking?

And so it is,

Monday, August 14, 2017

Up, Up and Away

Image may contain: one or more people, crowd, sky and outdoor

Our area recently celebrated it's Annual Speedie Fest and Balloon Rally. The festival has been around for many years and each summer as we get closer to the first weekend in August, you can see people from all over the country converge on our little corner of the world to eat great food and indulge in our fantasies of flight. (Note: What is a "speedie" you may ask? A speedie is our claim to gourmet fame in Broome County, New York. It is chunks of chicken or pork that are marinated in a "secret sauce" and grilled. It is served on a bun, over rice, or in a salad). The big attraction, however, are the balloons.

What is it about our fascination with hot air balloons? Most of us got our first taste of it watching "The Wizard of Oz", or, "Around the World in 80 Days." (Now I'm really showing my age). What is it that speaks to our inner child? Our spirit of adventure? Our wish to fly with the eagles? For most of my adult life, I was afraid of flying. I don't know where the fear came from but since my mother was also afraid of flying, I suppose it is one limiting belief that was passed down to me. I was in my early 50's before I got on a plane for the first time, and once I got past my initial terror and inner dialogue of imminent death, I felt "the wind beneath my wings" in a metaphoric manner of speaking. In a word, I felt free.

I think the idea of being released from all of the pain, pressure and burdens of life, and having the ability to soar wherever and whenever we want, is probably at the root of this desire to fly. Yet flying in a hot air balloon also speaks to that little kid inside that still believes in magical adventures and happy endings. If that is so, then the question we have to ask ourselves is what limiting beliefs are keeping us tied to the ground? I don't mean just a fear of flying; I mean a fear of living - living a life that lets us spread our wings and soar? Maybe it's time to stop filling our balloons with hot hair and start filling them with dreams, with a little faith and some magic thrown in for good measure.

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Balloons, like life, come in all shapes and sizes. So, what does yours look like, and where is it taking you today?

And so it is.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Rainy Days and Mondays

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I cannot remember a spring and summer as rainy as the one we've had so far. The weather folks certainly agree with me. It's not even just a wet summer. While we may get the occasional sprinkle, most of the rain we've seen has been in the realm of biblical proportions - deluge, downpour, tropical, well, you get the idea. The lightning has been like something out of the Star Wars special effects vault, and flooding, from just a little to major events in some areas, has become the norm. This isn't the way summer is supposed to be! Here I went and got myself all psyched for those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, and so far all I've been able to experience is the crazy part! It's enough to almost make you wish for winter!

Even my new garden has taken this sodden summer personally. I'm afraid that between the many years of neglect and the repeated soaking, it will take several seasons, not to mention a way bigger investment of time, money and manpower, to turn this jungle into a garden again. I truly believe the weeds and shrubs have mutated into something with a very bad attitude and territorial issues.

So here we are, another Monday with a forecast of - yep, you guessed it - thunderstorms. followed by a "steadier" rain for the rest of the day. No gardening today. No nice, long morning walks (not without storm gear, that is). I don't want a cold breakfast smoothie, I want hot oatmeal and hot cocoa! What's a body to do? Then I am reminded by my better nature of one of my favorite sayings that I picked up  from the creator of Notes From the Universe, author and teacher Mike Dooley: "Do what you can, with what your have, from where you are." Okay, Mike, let's see what we can make of this day.

So I made a list of rainy day activities:
  • Clean the apartment - singing to Luke Bryan songs, of course!
  • Work on the next chapter of my book
  • Give myself the gift of a longer meditation and yoga practice
  • Journal
  • Listen to relaxing music while coloring in one of my favorite coloring books
  • Take a long, hot, sudsy bath
  • Make some yummy soup for supper
  • Start a new crochet project
  • Read for pleasure instead of research
Wow, there are any number of things I can do to lift my spirits, take my mind off my rain soaked summer, and off "the garden that wasn't," and probably wouldn't be, any more this year. And, when the sun makes a come-back, and I can get outside again, I can let my gratitude show by not being envious of other people's gardens, but, instead, to be grateful for the ability to see and enjoy them, and thankful to the neighbors who worked so hard to bring me such pleasure.

Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are.

...and while you're at it, don't forget to be grateful. Gratitude goes a long way to bringing a bit of sunshine into our hearts.

And so it is.