Monday, December 11, 2017

First Snow

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We had our first real dusting of snow on Sunday. My granddaughter was spending the weekend with me. She had come to help Grandma decorate her tiny home for Christmas. On Saturday we put up the new tiny tree, all flocked to look like it had just come out of the snowy woods, and hung small, simple ornaments. On top, my sweet Mrs. Christmas Bear tree topper (did you expect any less from Flower Bear?). Underneath the tree I place some of the smaller pieces from my Christmas village: a gazebo, playground, skating pond, park benches and little people. The Nativity looks out over my Christmas town. Seriously, it was perfect.

On Sunday, after breakfast, I put on my virtual fireplace, complete with soothing, instrumental Christmas music, and took out my crochet projects to work on while Gabby sat with her tablet watching one of her kid shows. It was so peaceful and quiet, and perfect. Then I heard Gabby say, "Grandma! Look!" Outside my window a light snow was falling, just dusting the trees and grass at first, then covering the sidewalks and street with a feathery covering of white. It wasn't windy, or heavy ... it was silent and beautiful.

I clapped my hands and got excited like a 5 year old. "Our first snow! Awesome!" My granddaughter looked at me like she was the adult and I was the child. Perhaps she was right. At the ripe old age of 11-going-on-30, she already thinks about things like how she will get to school tomorrow if it gets worse, where did she put her boots, will her Mom be able to pick her up before the roads get bad, etc., etc., etc. I, on the other hand, felt all of the wonder and gratitude at the silent beauty of snowflakes drifting past my window, no two exactly alike, and how magnificent was that? With the music and the fake fire going on in the background, and my little woodland Christmas village on the table beside me, all we needed was snow to finish my little Norman Rockwell moment. Christmas had come at last to my home, and to my heart, and for those first few moments it was all I could ever want. I felt the love and beauty of the season, the hope and the promise, the joy and the gratitude.

Our first little snow only lasted a short while. By later in the afternoon it had all melted and blown away. Tomorrow we are supposed to have an actual snowfall of a few inches. Like everyone else, I will be scurrying out to pick up a few necessities at the store. Tomorrow when the snow comes down, I will be cozy and snug in my little self-created Christmas world and enjoying the view before it all turns to slush. For that little while, I will be 5 again, pretending it is a snow day from school, and loving every minute.

And so it is.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Faith In A Mustard Seed

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I woke up this morning to the signs of a hard frost over night. The roof tops are covered with a white crystal substance that started to glitter as the sun rose higher in the sky. The hills in the distance have a frosty looking haze hanging over them, and I can see chimneys all up and down the block sprouting smoke, the signs of the warmth inside all of the homes.

As I sit here to write this, my squirrel friends across the way (whom I have named Mr. Gus and Mrs. Gus) are poking their heads out of their rooftop homes tentatively, testing the air and checking for the locations of any of the neighborhood cats that like to take a stroll around the property every day. This day it would seem that the cold is keeping them closer to home and warm beds. Finally, as if he has decided to simply take the plunge, Mr. Gus takes off over the roof top to the huge pine tree beside it, and the chestnut trees behind the house as well. Cold or no cold, rain, snow, sleet or hail, just like the mailman, Gus and all of his squirrel friends go out and bring home the bacon ... or the nuts, if you get my meaning. This is true of the blue jay family that also lives in the neighborhood (very noisy folks, a bit on the hyper side but very devoted to each other), the crows from down the road, and every other member of the animal kingdom; they all get up, do what needs to be done, and come home to roost or nest when the day is done. They do not worry whether the sun will come up again in the morning. They know it will. You can call it instinct if you want. I like to call it faith.

Each and every day, no matter what is going on in my life, good or bad, I know that the sun will rise again, a new day will present itself, and I have the opportunity to make of it what I want. Sure, some days may be cloudy, grey, even downright miserable, but behind all of that the sun still shines, the world still turns, and the day continues to move from moment to moment. It's not just a lifetime of experience that tells me that, it is my faith that tells me that as well. In that respect, Mother Nature has been my greatest teacher, faithfully moving the seasons one after the other, the sowing, growing and dying back. If we can have faith in a world that continues to work with or without us, what amazing things can we accomplish if we cooperate with it instead of fight against it?

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to that mountain, "move," and it will move.
Book of Matthew

Mr. Gus has just returned, scampering quickly over the frozen roof top, a huge chestnut in his mouth. He stops for a moment, scanning the area for signs of trouble, then moves quickly into his home, bringing the little woman her breakfast. He will come out again later, perhaps joined by his lovely partner, and they will go in search of goodies to store up for the winter. Just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, I know I will see them again. As the saying goes, "I have a mustard seed, and I'm not afraid to use it!"

And so it is.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Holding On To Autumn

My youngest granddaughter's birthday fell on the day after Thanksgiving this year. While we celebrated with cake and gifts on Thanksgiving day while we were all together, it was her heartfelt wish to spend her actual birthday experiencing Black Friday with a wallet full of birthday gift cards and cash. When you're 11, this is a really big deal. Her mother, my youngest daughter, has been playing Christmas music since Halloween. She was born on December 5 and has always been known as the Christmas baby. She lives up to that name. So the two of them, along with my oldest granddaughter (daughter to the Christmas baby and sister to the young lady flush with cash), got up at 6 a.m. and drove out into the darkness to get the Christmas season started ..... except ....'s still Autumn.

I don't care what the TV, internet or newspapers say. Winter doesn't start until Dec. 21. Until then, it is still officially Autumn. I don't know what this insane rush is to toss away one of the most beautiful seasons of the year like yesterdays turkey bones and plunge into the Christmas season with a madness that sort of cancels out what the Christmas season is supposed to be all about, if you think about it. As for me, I hold onto the soul-touching beauty of Autumn until the first snowfall.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his novel, "The Great Gatsby," says: "Life starts all over again when its gets crisp in the Fall." I totally get what he's saying. There is something about the smell in the air, the way the wind feels on your face, and most of all, the light, that takes me somewhere that feels safe. Yes, it's the light, most of all, that has a special golden glow to it, that speaks to me of cozy firelight, hot chocolate, jumping in the leaves, collecting pine cones to decorate, and leaving special treats for the birds and squirrels to put away for the winter months. When the first rays of sun hit the hills outside my window in Autumn, they light up with a magical glow that calls out to me: "Come, come out and play with us." And as the last rays of sunlight dip below those same hills, sending magnificent purple sunsets across the sky, I can almost feel Mother Nature pulling her blanket over all of us, wishing us a good night and sweet dreams. Between the two, my days are filled with going for walks, watching the animals hard at work gathering up their stores of nuts and seeds, and feeling ... loved. That's the only word I have for it; Autumn makes me feel loved.

My daughter's family have a tradition of putting up the Christmas tree as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are tucked away and the dishes washed. I usually excuse myself at this point and take myself home for a cup of something hot, a blanket over my lap (usually with a cat on top like icing on a cake), and my virtual fireplace roaring while I pull out my journal and write down all of the things I am thankful for. On that day of gratitude for family, friends, food, shelter and health, being thankful for the season of golden light and love has to be right up there near the top of my list, and I am going to hold on to it for as long as I can.

And so it is.

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

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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.