Monday, December 2, 2019

Mother Nature's Calendar

I know the calendar says that the first official day of Winter is December 21st, but according to Mother Nature's calendar, it started yesterday! Here in update New York, as well as many other parts of the country, the sleet and freezing rain started glazing the roads and every other surface before the snow moved in last night. This morning looks like a winter wonderland and the for forecast is for more to fall throughout the day. The new predictions are for 12-15 inches.

I'm sure all the kids were thrilled when they woke up to another day added on to their Thanksgiving break. The parents weren't as happy. Cars and sidewalks had to be shoveled out, childcare arrangements made if they had to go to work, and, speaking of work, were the roads even passable?

I know we should all be used to this if we've lived in this neck of the woods for even a little while, yet even for us this feels awfully early. In fact, everything seems as if it's all moved up on the calendar, from the changing of the seasons to holidays that fly past in the blink of an eye. What the heck is going on?

I'm not a time specialist or even a close buddy of Mother Nature, but even I am old enough to know that the only things that one can count on are death and taxes. Everything else is open to change just like the weather. The only way to get through it is to go with it. In essence it means rolling with the punches. So an early snowstorm is a chance to start practicing your snowman building skills. Driving slower gives you a chance to think about things. A December snow day for the kids is a free day to make their own Christmas cards or start their letters to Santa. It isn't a lousy day, or a miserable day, it's just a snowy day.

Just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two people will view change the same. It's up to you to decide if that change is the beauty of a snowy day, or just a lot of bothersome shoveling. The choice is always yours.

And so it isn't

Monday, November 25, 2019

Gratitude On A Plate

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No season brings us a better opportunity to be grateful than the season that also brings us the celebration of Thanksgiving. The harvest has been brought in and the bounty is there for us to see right before our eyes. It's no wonder that Mother Nature chose to paint the harvest with such lively colors, especially in all of the squashes, pumpkins, apples and cranberries! 

If we ever question what we have to be grateful for, we only have to look to nature and all that it provides for us to know that Creator (or God, or the Universe, or whatever you choose to call it) knew exactly what they were doing. As George Burns said in the very first "Oh God" movie so eloquently: "I gave you everything you needed to make it work. The rest is up to you."  Nature provides us with everything we need to house, clothe and feed ourselves. On Thanksgiving Day, we gather together in our warm homes, dressed in our warm clothes, and share the bounty of the earth. We can look around at our loved ones and the wonderful food on our plates and know what true gratitude feels like. Even if your feast is a frozen turkey dinner and the Thanksgiving parade on the TV, all of it is there to remind us that we have everything we need to make it work. The rest is up to us. What better way to say "thank you" than to use what we've been given to the best of our abilities?

Have a wonderful, bountiful and blessed Thanksgiving ... and all those leftovers afterward!

And so it is. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Color of Gratitude

Image result for free images of cardinal birds

We've just come through quite a cold snap with temperatures in the teens and twenties, and wind chills in the single digits. That's colder than normal for this time of year even for us folks up north. I was perfectly happy to climb under my favorite blanket with a cup of tea at my side, a cat on my lap (for extra warmth), and some good books. At sunrise on the coldest of those mornings, I was awakened by a sound that came to me as if in a dream ... bird song! I climbed out of bed and peeked through the curtains. There on the huge pine tree across the way sat a cardinal whose bright red color stood out starkly against the green of the pine and the early morning frosty sky. I couldn't help but worry how the poor thing hadn't frozen stiff during the night. Then I remembered that cardinals, like blue jays, do not go south for the winter. They stick around and tough it out like the rest of us.

It amazes me how something so small, with such tiny bones and respiratory systems, can withstand the brutal winters we get up here, yet there they are every day, out doing their own thing. They sing each morning awake, call out to find their mates, go about their business of finding food and shelter. That's it. It seems to me that if they manage to wake up each day and survive it, it's a good day.

I think we sometimes take our lives for granted. When it gets too cold we complain, when it gets too hot we do the same. We can move south hoping for warmer climates but we'd probably find something to complain about there, too. It certainly seems as though the cardinals and the blue jays have it over us in the gratitude department. So, what if we woke up each morning and were grateful for the cold instead of complaining about it? What is we were grateful just to wake up, to have one more day on this beautiful earth?  Like those hardy birds, we would wake up, say "I love you" to our loved ones, and go about our day doing what needs to be done. That would change the color of our days for sure, from drab to bright and beautiful, just like those wise old birds!

And so it is. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Color of Our Memories

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It had to happen sooner or later. Back-to-back rain storms with high winds, followed by our first big frost and dusting of snow, ended our yearly love affair with the colors of Autumn. The trees that just a week ago were still struggling to hold on to all those beautiful leaves are now standing bare. What is it about humans that yearn all year long for that small window of beauty just to have to let it go after only several weeks? I sometimes think that our memories of what we love are just as colorful, if not more so, than the real thing.

It's a part of human nature to let time color our memories so that when we take them out to look at them years later, they may look quite different from the actual event. Some memories we color with dark colors because they evoke a time of fear, loneliness, or grief. Some we color with bright colors because they remind us of happier times. I wonder what would happen if we took some of those dark memories and gave them a different color, one that would help us to remember them, perhaps not with fondness, but with a better understanding of the lessons they taught us. Maybe, like the memory of the colors of Autumn, we can brighten those memories so that they remind us of how far we have come and how even farther we are capable of going. Like the trees, they can come back in the Spring as something new and filled with promise like the first buds on the branches. Perhaps we can color our futures even brighter if we take those memories out of the dark and put them in their proper perspective. Even a bare tree in winter holds the promise of new life in Spring.

And so it is. 

Monday, November 4, 2019

Seeing Things In A Different Light

green grass during golden hour

Say what you will but I think the sunrises and sunsets in Autumn are the most stunning of the year. There is something about the play of light on the land that gives the dawn of a new day a kind of golden hue, like a soft, inviting greeting to the day. When sunset comes round, the light explodes into color until it slips softly down beyond the horizon in blankets of purple and gold, a fitting end to a glorious day. We forget all of the worries and harried thoughts to bask in the last notes of Mother Nature's symphony for the day, at least for those few moments.

It's amazing what effect the presence or absence of light has on us as humans. As the days grow shorter and the hours of darkness lengthen, we hear of more cases of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. People become reclusive, depressed, lonely and suffer from loss of energy. Getting out of bed in the morning is a challenge. Yet take the same people and fill their days with light, and their whole outlook changes. They have more energy, are more light-hearted, and look forward to the day.

Our ancestors let the light of the seasons dictate their day. They lived by the circadian rhythm of the 24 hours. They rose with the light and ended their day when the sun went down. They did not stay up to watch the Late, Late Show, or rise at 5 to go to the gym or commute to work in the dark. They respected the laws of nature and figured Mother Nature knew what she was doing. After all, the animals and trees had been doing it successfully for thousands of years before we came along. She must be doing something right.

I think we would be doing ourselves a great favor if we started living by the laws of nature more and the laws of mankind less. We would be able to see the world in a different light, and that just might make all the difference in the way we treated each other and the world. Maybe our differences would fade with the sunsets, and our common threads glow in the morning light. If it works for the animal kingdom, it just might work for us as well. At least it's worth a try.

And so it is.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Welcome All Hallows Eve

Image result for free images of scary nights

This week we usher in the scariest night of the year: All Hallows Eve or, as we have come to know it, Halloween. What is it about this night that changes the very air around us? Mostly it's the old stories, the traditions and festivities that have come down to us from generation after generation. 

Have you ever gone out on Halloween night, especially out into nature away from the noise and activity, and just listened? I expect you would find that the sounds and sensations that flow into your experience are no different than any other night. Mother Nature did not change the natural flow of things just for Trick-or-Treaters. The creatures of the night are no more scary on this night than on any other. They just continue to go about their business like reliable employees on the night shift. We are the ones who have made them the stuff of scary stories. The truth of the matter is that nature has equipped the creatures we associate with the night with special sensory equipment in order for them to survive. Animals like bats, who probably have the worst reputation thanks to Dracula, have a special built-in sonar system that they use to find their way around because they do not see well in the daylight. Other creatures of the night either do not do well in the heat of the day, or wait until dark because their food choices consist of other night-time creatures. Owls hunt mostly at night as do foxes and raccoons. Nothing scary about that. It's all just part of the life cycle.

Being an outdoor lover, I have spent many evenings in my life sitting outside or by an open window at night, especially when I lived in the country, and just listened. There is a beauty to the silence of an evening after all the humans have gone to bed, and a tickle of curiosity when one hears a tiny rustle in the leaves, or senses almost silent wings in flight. Even the breeze sounds softer. I've never found it to be scary, not on Halloween night or any other night. I've always found it to be just another of Mother Nature's fascinating creations to explore.

Just so I don't miss out on the Halloween fun, however, I will do what this apartment dweller (no kids want to climb three flights of stairs to knock on doors even for candy) does every Halloween night: pop some popcorn, turn out the lights, and watch old episodes of "Ghost Hunters," my favorite spooky TV show. Then maybe, after all the kids are home in bed, I just might open up that window and give a listen.

And so it is.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Autumn's Endless Childhood

Image result for free images of autumn leaves

On Saturday my "almost" (birthday is in 2 weeks) 10 year-old grandson and I were walking back from a Holiday Bazaar and Craft Fair at our church. It was a perfect Autumn day and the colors of the trees against a deep blue sky was beyond beautiful. A carpet of leaves, left there after the rain and wind storm of the day before, crunched under our feet. Neither of us was paying much attention to what was going on around us. We were too busy looking for treasures at our feet to pick up and take home. 

What is it about childhood, Autumn, and the overwhelming desire to collect the leaves? I don't know any child (or any child-at-heart adult for that matter) who can resist the urge to collect a bouquet of Autumn's offerings. It's as though Mother Nature put them there for us to take what She has created and create something of our own. It's a right of passage like learning to ride a bike and our first day of school. Leaf collecting is part of our heritage, a gift from nature to remind us that, while everything changes - the trees as well as us - we can take those changes and make something beautiful out of it. 

Right now the leaves are drying on the bench by my front door. The next time my grandson comes over, we can take our treasures and do something fun with them. Perhaps we can do leaf rubbings, or trace them to make paper leaves, or start a scrapbook, or any number of things. It doesn't really matter what we do with them as long as we take what nature dropped at our feet and make it beautiful again.

And so it is.