Monday, July 17, 2017

Remembering Who We Are


Whenever I talk to someone about connecting with our roots, folks always seem to think that I'm talking about our ethnic roots, our connection to our maternal and paternal ancestors. When I moved out of the city to live a small town life, and replied to people who asked why by saying, "I want to get in touch with my roots," they were always mystified because they knew that my family lived all of their lives in New York City. So if I wasn't talking about logging on to Ancestry.com and doing a DNA test, what was I talking about?

What I'm talking about is finding our way back to the time when we were connected to the natural world just like the birds, the insects, the plants, and everything that lives on this planet. That connection came with instinctual knowledge, a wisdom of how the world worked and our place in it. Every species on the earth has that wisdom. Birds just know how to build a nest. Fish just know how to swim. Turtles know where to lay their eggs. Perennial flowers and bulbs know when it's time to go to sleep for the winter and when to wake up in the spring. Trees know when it's time to drop their leaves, store up their energy, and push out green buds when the time is right. Just like all of them, we had a knowing, a way of living that connected to the seasons and the cycles of life, and we flowed with them.

Somewhere along the way we decided that we weren't one with nature and separated ourselves from all that we knew. We got the idea that we were the masters of the natural world and believed that we could control it. As time went on, we lost our connection to our true nature. We lost our roots.

Is it any wonder that, at some point in our lives, we all come down with a case of restlessness, a feeling that there is more to this life than money, possessions, power, and the constant need for validation?  We don't know what it is, but we know what it isn't: we're not living our true, authentic lives. It goes by so many other names, like "mid-life crisis," or, "empty nest syndrome." It doesn't matter what we call it, what matters is what we do about it.

We need to reconnect to our roots. We have to dig deep into our inner knowing to rediscover the wisdom that was always there but that got buried underneath our mistaken notion that we were somehow separate from the rest of the world. We need to become reacquainted with our authentic selves.

So maybe that's why I find such peace and connection when my hands are in the dirt, or when I sit and watch my squirrel neighbors scampering about, or see the blue jays playing air tag and wish I could soar with them. Maybe that's why I feel my body change it's rhythms as Mother Nature changes hers with each passing season. Maybe, just maybe, my body remembers who I really am. It's up to me to help my soul remember, too.

And so it is.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Summer Time State of Mind

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Just as the changing seasons have their own patterns of weather, temperatures and natural phenomena - like leaves changing colors in the fall, snow covering the land in the winter, and flowers blooming in spring -  I have often thought that each season has its own state of mind as well. In the fall we scurry to bring in the harvest and prepare for the winter ahead. In winter we hunker down with our blankets and hot cocoa to ward off the cold. In spring we rejoice as the first green tips of the crocus and daffodils push through the earth and the trees begin to bud. Now it's finally summer, and I find myself in my summer state of mind.

I don't know what your state of mind is when summer finally arrives, but for me summer is the time when thoughts of work, schedules and deadlines fall away like receding waves at the shore. I walk slower, more mindfully. I savor food more. I have a hard time taking my eyes off the sky. I spend hours outdoors watching the antics of the birds and the fluttering ballet of the butterflies. I watch bees going from plant to plant doing their jobs (at least someone is working). I gather every luscious moment and stash it away so that I can take it out when the snow covers the landscape and let it warm my soul with its memory. I find myself staring into space with no idea how long I've been sitting there ... something calls to me from beyond the hills in the distance. I swear there are days when that longing is for somewhere I have been before even if I have no memory of it. Perhaps, as some of my Native American teachers once told me, it is my blood memories of a time and place when I lived on the land, not away from it, when every tree, plant, bird and animal was my relative and we dreamed the summer together.

So I'm throwing guilt over work not done out of the open window and allowing the sweet morning songs of the birds flow in. I'm taking long walks before it gets too hot so I my eyes can bathe in the colors of flowers in bloom. I'm breathing in the smells of newly cut grass covered with morning dew. I want to remember it all, every moment of it. I'm kicking back during the heat of the day with a cold glass of ice tea and a juicy novel and, who knows, maybe even an afternoon nap ... something I never allow myself the rest of the year. There's no rushing because in summer, time stands still.  It's just my summer time state of mind.

And so it is.

Monday, July 3, 2017

God Bless Us, One and All

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My town has been unusually quiet this weekend. With the July 4th holiday so close and many people taking this Monday off to give themselves a 4-day weekend, the fireworks and celebrations would normally already have started by Saturday at the latest. This year I haven't heard so much as one fire cracker go off. Yes, you can smell the chicken barbecuing on the grill and hear kids splashing in their backyard pools, but all in all, it has been strangely silent. Even the traffic has been less than normal.

I can't help but think that this July 4th many people are, perhaps some for the first time in their generation, worried about what is going to happen to this country. For those of us old enough to remember the turbulent 60's and 70's, the Viet Nam war, and Watergate, these feelings are all too familiar and ones which we had hoped to never feel again. Along with our friends and neighbors, and our fellow citizens, we are caught in a current of hatred, violence and fear. The dialog in this country has become intolerable, filled as it is with racism, sexism, cultural and religious intolerance, and greed. This is not the America my generation fought to preserve, not on the battle fields in Nam, and not on the streets of this great country in protest against war and inequality.

I'm not going to name names, or point fingers of blame, for that is just buying into their rhetoric and that's just what those that would tear down this country for their own greed want. What I am hoping is that this year, as you watch your parades, and have your picnics, and wave Old Glory about while fireworks light up the sky, you will ponder these words by the brilliant Albert Einstein:

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

I don't know how everyone else will interpret those words. I only know what they say to me. They say it is time to not stand idly by and watch the parade ... it's time to become the parade, the parade of those who believe in the Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution (and have actually read and understood them), to stand up to bullies and say, "No More."

Tomorrow in the garden the kids and I are back to pulling weeds that, with the wet spring and summer we've had so far, have continued to multiply like a bad virus, and this time getting them out by the roots. Then we're going to mulch the heck out of them and help repair the soil so that next spring the garden will grow back healthy, vibrant and strong. It seems like the right thing to do this July 4th, a fitting metaphor, don't you think?

And so it is.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Three Little Words

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When I first took up gardening 25 years ago, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. With the exception of having a knack for arranging the cuttings from my mother's rose bushes and lilac trees in a vase when I was younger, my knowledge of gardening was  zero. When the urge to commune with the dirt took hold of me, I was like a human vacuum cleaner sucking up everything I could find about gardening. I had no problem responding with: "I don't know" when people asked me what I was doing all those early spring and summer mornings on my knees with spade in hand. All I knew back then was that if I put in the hours, learned what I could and planted it all with love, something good had to come of it.

Lately, as I've begun work on transforming my daughter's yard, it has come to my attention that I have forgotten a great deal of what I've learned over the years. There was a time I could name almost every plant in the nursery without looking at the tags, or identify plants and foliage in other people's gardens that we saw as we passed them by. When my daughter asks me now, "Mom, what's that one with the pretty colored ball-shaped flowers; you know, like the ones you used to have," I am reluctant to admit, "I don't know," lest she think I have grown senile or forgetful.

Why is it so hard for us to say those three little words: I don't know," as if the saying of them was some kind of negative judgment about us? How often have people plunged recklessly ahead into some endeavor rather than admit that they didn't know what they were doing and were too ashamed to admit it? How much anguish could be avoided if folks looked at I don't know as the first step on a wonderful and challenging adventure into the unknown instead of a statement about their intelligence? And if I don't know is the first step on the adventure, what is the second step? The second step is: What if?

Every invention and advancement that we enjoy in our lives today started out with these two steps. First, someone had to acknowledge that they didn't know something, and then they had to imagine what might happen if they did? From there we now communicate with people all over the world at the touch of a keyboard on our phones or computers, send people into space, cure diseases, and help the wounded to not only walk again, but to run! All of it started by someone admitting: "I don't know, but, what if?"

The other day as my daughter and I went on a walk around my neighborhood, she pointed out a bush in front of someone's house, "There, that's the one I was talking about," she said. "Aren't they peonies?" Sure enough, that's exactly what they were, and as soon as I saw them, I remembered what they were called even before she said it. It wasn't a case of "I don't know" as much as the fact that I hadn't used that particular file in my mental file drawer for a while and it got pushed to the back. After almost 68 years, I would imagine there are a lot of files like that one that will probably need to be rotated to the front every now and then, and probably a lot more that I can shred because they no longer serve me. The first one to go is the one that sees me as inferior just because I don't know something. That one is going to be replace with one that says: "What if?"

And so it is.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Planting A Legacy




When I began gardening some 25 years ago, my first major challenge was when I took over a yard that had been buried under grass for many years. A neighbor told me that the previous owners of the house, who had lived there for over 35 years, had planted a huge, beautiful garden that was the talk of the town. Even folks just driving by would stop and ask if they could look at it. Over time, after the house had been sold to younger folks who did not wish to put in the sweat equity necessary to keep it up, the majority of the yard was turned into a large grassy plot with just a few flower beds surrounding the back of the house, and those were mostly bulbs and shrubs.

In the beginning I stayed pretty much within the borders of the already established flower beds, clearing out weeds and planting some annuals to give the beds more color once the spring flowers had finished blooming. Then I began to investigate other areas where I could create new beds and add more character to the yard. I started with digging up the grass along the side of the garage to put in some daises, begonias, and foxgloves. In less than a week after I had cut through the sod and exposed the dirt underneath, I began to see shoots and vines coming up from previously covered over plants. The same neighbor who had informed me about the yard's history told me that there used to be lovely climbing vines where I had cut out the grass. These poor things had been sleeping quietly all these years waiting to come back. In a sense, these perennials (plants that come back every year as opposed to annuals which only last a one season) were the legacy left behind by the previous owners just waiting to share their beauty with future generations.

I often think about that discovery whenever I ponder what kind of a legacy I want to "plant" in my life for those that come after me. How do I want to be remembered, and what seeds do I want to bloom in my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond? Here are a few of the "plants" I am doing my best to grow:

1. Compassion - Whenever I see someone in need, I always tell myself: "There but for the Grace of God go I." We have to care about each other. We have to understand what it's like to "walk a mile in their shoes" and treat them as we would want to be treated.

2. Kindness - A slightly different variation on compassion, this flower is one we can give to everyone, every day, regardless of their circumstances. We can hold a door, let someone cut in front of us on line, smile at a cashier or wait staff person, pay someone a compliment, or simply say, "Thank You."

3. Gratitude - This one needs to grow into a huge hedge that surrounds our lives. "Gratitude is the Abracadabra of manifestation," says spiritual teacher and psychic medium Colette Baron Reid. The more we are grateful for what blooms in our lives, the more blooms we have to be grateful for!

4. Integrity - When we can stand in our personal truth and align our beliefs with our behavior, we can grow authentic, beautiful lives.

5. Love - This is actually not a seed. It's the medium in which we grow the other four and everything else we want to bloom in our lives. If we ask ourselves "what would Love do" before speaking or acting, our inner gardens will always be nourished.

So this, I hope, is the legacy that I work every day at planting and tending. I do this not only in my day-to-day behavior, but in my work as well. Every word I write and publish comes from my wish to serve others by encouraging them to find their own seeds to plant, and to grow a beautiful, authentic and happy life. I do this in gratitude for the life I have been given, and my love for the gift of writing that Source has seen fit to bestow upon me.  

What will you plant in your legacy garden? You'll have to work hard at digging up the unwanted sod that has become so deeply rooted in your yard (what no longer serves you?), watering with gratitude and nourishing it with love, but all that work will be worth it when you see what grows! Happy planting!

And so it is.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pockets of Gratitude


The endless rains finally moved on long enough to let me take some baby steps in my quest to turn a long neglected yard into a sweet little garden. I say baby steps because, between the rain that has lasted through the majority of the spring, and the amount of work this project will take, I understand that baby steps are all I can do if I don't want to take one of my favorite passions and turn it into a chore. I've been gardening long enough to know that if it took Mother Nature centuries to create forests and meadows, it's going to take me a little longer to create this garden. Baby steps allow me to get to where I'm going with joy along the way. They give me pockets of gratitude.

We have to look for pockets of gratitude where we can find them if we don't want our lives to turn into just a series of chores and disappointments either. They are everywhere if we set the intention to find them, and then remain open to receive them. While I had to squeeze in a few hours here and there between rain storms to get anything done in the garden these last few weeks, I've found pockets of gratitude just in being outside with my granddaughter, filling the boxes and containers with lettuce and basil seeds, setting up an outdoor metal sculpture for the morning glories to climb, and loving the feel of my fingers in the soil. That's a pocket of gratitude.

Today, for example, while we are certainly free of rain, we are, instead, in the second day of a two day mini-heat wave with temperatures in the 90's, unusual for us here in the Northeast in June. So working outside is not something I will be doing today. Instead, I am inside sitting in front of the big picture window over my desk and watching the antics of the family of blue jays that have taken up residence in the big pine tree next door. Here are creatures who live or die at the whim of the forces of nature, whose whole existence is based on finding food and shelter every day while dodging predators, and yet they find time early in the day to play dive bombers and air tag with great abandon. They remind me of how fortunate I am to not have to worry about food or shelter, or being at the mercy of the elements (except when it comes to gardening). Another pocket of gratitude, both for my own good fortune and the joy I get watching my feathered neighbors.

As I write this, my two female feline housemates, Charlotte and Laura, are also playing tag, their usual morning activity after a good night's sleep and a full breakfast bowl. Even at what is considered to be middle age in people years, they have not lost their ability to have fun. They remind me of that famous saying: "Carpe Diem" - seize the day! Age has nothing to do with joy. Another pocket of gratitude.

So now I'm going to go refill my coffee cup and sit down at my desk to enjoy one of my other passions, probably the one I love the most: writing. I am working on a new ebook and this is a perfect day to get some work done, sitting with a beautiful view of nature while not having to bake in it, seeing my fur babies settle down for their morning naps, and letting Divine Inspiration use me via the written page. A great, big pocket of gratitude.

May all your pockets be filled with gratitude.

And so it is.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Keeping The Faith


I'm beginning to think that this new garden is never going to happen! I wait for the weekend to come so the grandkids can help me with the heavy work (and the whole getting-on-the-knees thing) and, of course, it rains. Not that is hasn't been raining during the week as well. If we get two or three sunny days out of seven, we feel blessed! I can't start putting plants in until the ground dries up a little. Mud is  not conducive to plants taking root! On the other hand, I have to have faith that Mother Nature knows what she's doing.

One of my all-time heroes, and the reason I picked up stakes and moved up here 25 years ago, is Henry David Thoreau. I, along with millions of other people all over the world, fell in love with Walden and have dreamed of  running away to live in the woods, far from people, and stress, and live off the land. Thoreau, however, is also known for the research he did while he was living at Walden Pond, much of which is contained in his book "Faith In A Seed." While is it much heavier reading than Walden, and filled with scientific analysis, it does point to Thoreau's basic belief and faith in the workings of nature ... if you have faith in a seed, you can grow anything.

These days it's hard to have faith in anyone or anything. Except for our own tightly knit group of family and friends, it's hard to believe sometimes that we can make anything grow in this terror filled world. That's where faith comes in. I'm not necessarily talking about religious dogma. I'm talking about slowing down and looking for the things that do work in our world, the things we can have faith in: the sun comes up every day, the seasons come and go on cue (even though it always feels as if winter will last forever), no storm lasts forever (which I've been telling myself every weekend), and if you plant a seed in the right soil, with sunshine and care, it will grow.

So while the rain keeps coming down around me, and the world keeps raining tears and sadness, I'm going to start planting my seeds of love, kindness, compassion and joy anyway even if I have to start them in small plots inside my heart. As long as I have faith that the storms will eventually come to an end, and the sun will, indeed, shine again, I can also have faith that my garden will grow so that everyone who sees it will benefit from what blossoms.

Keep the faith, baby! And so it is.