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.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Dear Mother Nature: What's Up?


Image result for free image of mother nature


Dear Mother Nature:

First of all, let be begin by saying that I think you are doing a magnificent job. Your flowers this spring and summer were beyond spectacular, and over the last few weeks it is obvious that you will once again outdo yourself with the fall colors. I can't wait until the trees are at their peak and you pull out all the stops.

However, the reason I am writing to you is because there seems to be a bit of indecision on your part concerning what season we're actually in. In August, instead of your usual "Dog Days of August," we had rainy, cool weather, more like fall weather than summer. Then in September we had a few fall-like days with cooler and sunnier weather. However, since the official first day of Autumn, we have had temperatures in the high 80's and broke records by hitting 90 last week. Autumn did return last Thursday and we even had a frost warning last night, but when I checked the forecast for this coming week, the prediction is for temperatures to be be back in the 70's. So my question to you is: what's up?

Now, I would never, never presume to tell you how to do your job. After all, who can argue with millions of years of work experience under their belts? It's just that I was wondering if perhaps there was something wrong? Maybe you are over due for a vacation? When was the last time you took a day off and just enjoyed yourself, maybe indulging yourself with a day at the spa? A makeover? Everyone needs to employ a little self-care once in a while. In addition, while I hesitate to bring up the subject of age, I can speak from personal experience when I say that there's no shame is admitting that you need a little help once in a while. After all, changing seasons four times a year on opposite sides of the earth, and not getting Australia mixed up with Atlanta is no easy job

So I am volunteering my services. I would be honored to offer you my own years of gardening experience and my love of nature in order to give you a break and, as the guys always say, get your game back. There is nowhere I'd rather be at this time of year than walking in nature and letting the smells, sights and colors feed my soul. Think of it as my way of saying thank you for all of the joy you have brought into my life. It's the least I can do. I'm willing to work for free, but if you wanted to pay me in apples I wouldn't complain ... my applesauce stock has run out.

At least give it some thought and let me know. I am available at a moment's notice. In the meantime, could you please bring back the fall weather? As a football fan, there is something almost sacrilegious about watching football in shorts and sandals. I really, really need to wear my lucky team jersey.

Thank you for your time, and Happy Halloween in advance,
Flower Bear

And so it is.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Happy Anniversary Flower Bear


Five years ago this week, I called in to a radio show on Hay House Radio. The host of the show was meditation teacher and New York Times Best Selling Author, Davidji. I had been following his work for some time and through his advice and teachings on making meditation available to everyone, I had incorporated a daily practice into my life that had changed it in ways I couldn't even imagine at the time. On this particular day, the weekly show was focusing on our chakras, or energy points, and I was having a problem with the third chakra, or, as Davidji describes it, our "get it done power center." I decided to call into the show. After explaining my dilemma, Davidji asked a few questions to clarify the issue and then proceeded to tell me that I needed to trust my intuition. He said that if I trusted that my inner guidance, my intuition, knew what to do, then doing it would come easily, without the struggle. So I followed his advice, and Flower Bear's Garden was born.

For the past five years, I have had the pleasure of using this platform as a way to reach out to people who had arrived at a time in their lives where their own intuition was telling them, "there's got to be more to life than this." They've paid their dues, filled out all the forms, done all of the right things, and now the job, the kids, and perhaps even the spouses, are gone, and the best years of their lives are ahead of them! We, the Baby Boomers and Wisdom Elders, can go anywhere, do anything, create whole new lives for ourselves, and it all begins with listening to our inner guidance, planting the seeds, and watching what grows.

I chose the idea of using gardening and nature as a metaphor for creating these new lives because it is there that we have all of the examples of how to grow an authentic life right before our eyes. I came to gardening later in life, when I was in my mid-forties, and it was there that I came to understand that with the right soil, the right seeds, and the right nurturing, we can grow anything. My sweet avatar, Flower Bear, was the idea of some dear friends who knew that besides gardening, my other passion was collecting teddy bears. Flower Bear actually exists. She was given to my mother years ago and when my mother passed, she came to me. She sits in a place of honor next to my bed and whenever I look at her, I remember Mom. I think in some way this blog is dedicated to her, a woman who never got the chance to create her own authentic life at a time when such things just weren't acceptable.

So on this, Flower Bear's fifth anniversary, I want to thank all of you who have been with me from the beginning, and all of our new friends who have joined us more recently. Never, ever, let anyone tell you that you can't have the life you dream of regardless of how old you are, where you are, and what you do or don't have. All it takes is a dream, a seed, and the ability to listen to your intuition. Follow it, and you will grow a life beyond your wildest dreams. Peace, blessings, and lots of teddy bear hugs!

And so it is.



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.