Monday, January 15, 2018

What The Trees Don't Know


I swear it's like waking up to a different season every morning. In a week's time we've gone from 61 degrees, to freezing rain, to -1, and now we're back to pushing towards 20 degrees. Trying to keep up with it all is starting to tax my already overloaded little brain! After all, we need to know what's going on out there every day so we can plan accordingly ... don't we?

I was thinking about that very thing as I sat at my writing table this morning with a hot cup of my favorite coffee in hand, greeting my giant neighbor next door - a pine tree that must be 50 feet in height if not more. There are times I simply marvel at this magnificent creation. Since I've lived here, it has taught me so many valuable lessons about life. Today, it is teaching me about time.

Trees don't know anything about time. They do not measure the day, the seasons, or even the length of a weather event, like snow, rain, sleet or heat wave, the way we humans do. They just greet the new day as it arrives and adjust accordingly. They don't start worrying about whether they need to start planning in January for when to bud in April.  They don't check the Weather Channel for extended forecasts. Each day unfolds, one moment to the next, as it's supposed to. One day a few months from now they will wake up to a feeling in the air that spring is coming and start sending nourishment to the tips of their branches. When the time is right, the little green buds will begin to burst forth ... one day, one moment at a time.

There are many spiritual practices that tells us to surrender our need to know everything, at every moment of our lives, not only this moment, but what will unfold in the next hour, day, week or even year of our lives. By surrendering to what is, and letting each moment take care of itself, we give ourselves so much extra space to just embrace this new day and do with it what we need to do. If we wake up and it's raining, we'll grab the umbrella if we're going out. If we wake up to sunshine, we can lace up our sneakers and go for a walk. If we wake up to -1 degrees, like today, we can make ourselves something hot to drink, wrap ourselves up, and do what needs to be done.

Obviously, what the trees don't know doesn't seem to bother them. On the contrary, they seem to be doing just fine, and have done so since long before we humans showed up. Maybe we need to spend more time with them, sitting in stillness and silence and listening to their wisdom.

And so it is.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Learning To Make Do

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Up here in my neck of the woods we are finally coming out of the Artic deep freeze that has kept us cloistered for over a week. While 27 degrees may not sound like a heat wave, it is considerably better than -15 degrees with a wind chill of -35. I spoke to someone this morning who said that at this rate, with a forecast for 45 degrees by Thursday, she may dig out her shorts!

Having to stay indoors for that long a period of time has its challenges. At first, the idea of being able to just huddle up with a stack of books or movies, a warm blanket and a supply of hot chocolate may sound like paradise. After a few days, however, it does start to get redundant. Also, once you have raided the cupboards and the frig for several days in a row, your supplies start to dwindle and you have to ask yourself that all important question: "Do I want to risk frostbite just to go to the store, or can I make do with what I have until it warms up?" I, of course, being of sound mind and possessing the ability to adapt when faced with the threat of physical discomfort, opted for the latter. I just take my cue, as always, from nature. Nature has mastered the art of making do.

The animal world that stays around these parts in the winter, rather than following the migration of birds, animals and humans to warmer climates, spends the Autumn stocking up for occasions just such as these (as a side note: those folks who went south got hit with more snow than we did and temps almost as cold - so much for migrating south). They make do with what they have and wait it out, knowing that no storm, or cold snap, can last forever. The same holds true of those things in life that feel very much to us like getting hit with a massive storm, ones that seem to last forever: unemployment, a death, an illness, financial woes, you name it. Trying to "go south" and run away from it doesn't help. That's like saying that as long as you ignore it and put your focus somewhere else, it doesn't exist. The flaw with that logic is that, sooner or later, you'll wake up one day to a foot of snow and frozen water pipes. Nope, the best advice to facing the storms of our lives is to stock up on the essentials - faith, forgiveness, affirmations, intentions and commitment - and make do until spring comes when we get to take part in the rebirth of ourselves and our beautiful world.

As for me, I went online and found new ways to use chickpeas in very imaginative ways, and make it okay to have veggie burgers for breakfast when the oatmeal, fruit and toast ran out. I also discovered, digging through my tea cupboard all the way to the back when I ran out of my favorites, that I had several varieties of teas I didn't even know I had, and was pleasantly rewarded for my efforts with a nice pot of something new and delightful! As for running out of books, seriously? Flower Bear has enough books to open her own library, both physical books as well as digital. After all, you just never know when the next deep freeze might come along!

Stay warm and well!
And so it is!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Entering The Dream Time

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Happy Frigid New Year! B-r-r-r, at least where I am (for those of you in warmer climates, Happy Warm New Year)!

So, the tree has come down, or will shortly, the presents all put away, and now we settle in for "a long winter's nap," as the poet said. Actually, that's not far from the truth. In times gone by, Native Americans would call this time of the year The Dream Time. That was when they stayed mostly indoors, huddled around the communal fires, and weaved stories of times gone by, lessons learned, and dreams of spring. Children gathered close and heard the tales of their ancestors, the stories of their people, and their courage both in battle and in hunting for the tribe. The women would use the time to catch up on the weaving, mending, making new clothes for their families, and preparing for warmer days to come. Seeds were dried to plant when the snow melted. And, of course, there was plenty of time to dream. Bears, it would seem, were not the only ones to hibernate!

This is a wonderful time for us to do the same. I don't mean necessarily to hibernate, although that sounds like a great idea for the next few days up here if the weather folks are right about the forecast. I love to use this time to plant my own seeds, so to speak; not the kind you plant in the ground, but the kind you plant in your heart. I like to dream of new creative challenges, things I would like to see come into being for the year ahead. With a warm blanket, a pot of my favorite tea and my journal in hand, I use this Dream Time to go within and release all that did not serve me this past year, and invite new things in that will. I ask myself if I am happy on the path I am traveling, or if it is time to try a different one or, even more exciting, blaze a brand new one myself! Why not?

Dream Time is also a wonderful opportunity to celebrate your own triumphs and successes. Make a note of those things so that when, in the coming months, you experience fear or doubt about a new challenge or a new direction, you can turn back and remind yourself that you have been here before and come out a champion! It's also a nice way to keep those memories stored for future generations to know what lessons they can learn from your own adventures in life.

Sadly, I have to settle for a virtual fireplace, but the ambiance is the same. I burn some aromatic oils that smell like a woodsy day and let my pen tell my stories on the page. Then, with the sound of the logs crackling, I close my eyes and dream.

Happy New Year. May all of your dreams be beautiful.
And so it is.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Embracing The Cold

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We finally had our first real snow of several inches the other day that brought with it temperatures that plummeted to zero with wind chills of -5! I was glad I didn't have to go out in it and felt badly for the children who had to stand on school bus stops and the folks out there cleaning the snow off their cars, heaters running, so they could start their slippery trip to work. If ever I was grateful to be retired from a 9 to 5 job, this would be one of those times.

As I was looking out of the window at the gently falling snow, I noticed tiny footprints on the roof across the way. Sure enough, my buddy Gus the squirrel had already been out in the brutal cold in search of the morning meal. At that moment a flash of grey and brown came barreling over the top of the roof and down the side, carrying a huge chestnut in his mouth. His sweetie was sitting in the opening to their home, shivering in the cold as she waited for his return. Together they scrambled inside to get out of the cold and enjoy their breakfast.

Watching them got me to wondering whether animals complained about the weather like humans do. Did Gus wake up this morning and think: "Oh, no! It's zero degrees out there and snow everywhere. Now I'm going to have to freeze my tail off going out there to get food. Why couldn't we have been born in Florida?" Somehow I don't think so. I think that animals, like trees, take the seasons as they come, rely on their God-given instincts for survival, and live their lives. They embrace who they are.

Dogs are another great example of this. I don't know of another species that enjoys being who they are more than dogs. They are, for the most part, playful, happy, and always grateful. They get excited over their food, their treats, their toys and even their tails (which seem to provide hours of entertainment as they chase them). They never ask themselves: "Why wasn't I born a duck? Or a bird? This tail-chasing thing gets pretty old after a while." They embrace their doggie-hood.

I will admit that I am not a huge fan of this kind of brutal cold, but I can't imagine living anywhere else. There are some good points about the cold. It refreshes and invigorates us. It allows us to see the progression of the seasons and the new growth to come. It provides us with a time to hibernate and dream. Most of all, it allows us to appreciate warm and cozy instead of taking it for granted. How much better does that hot cup of cocoa and warm blanket feel after coming in from the cold? I'll bet old Gus and his lady were more than grateful for being able to come in out of the cold and enjoy their food. Embracing who we are means that we embrace the world around us as well, finding things to be grateful for instead of complaining. How much brighter and joyful our lives would be if we could all learn to do that!

And so it is.

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.