Monday, January 17, 2022

Watching Winter


My post this week is going to be short and sweet because I am currently caught up in one of my favorite pastimes at this time of year ... I'm watching winter. Yes, it's snowing here, finally, after weeks of only a light dusting, brutal cold, and winds that would knock you over. There's about 5 or 6 inches out there so far and the forecast is for snow showers on and off for the rest of the day. My friends and neighbors might not be as excited as I am to see the snow since I'm not the one out there doing the shoveling or trying to clean off the car .... much as I'd like to (I'm funny that way but I can't help myself).

Just to clarify what I'm doing, I'm not just watching it snow. I'm watching winter. I'm watching how the light is so different at this time of year. I'm watching the crows flying up high, calling to each other and racing across the sky (do crows catch snowflakes on their tongues, I wonder?). I'm watching the small pine trees looking like they were dipped in sugar, and the tiny paw prints of my squirrel neighbors who obviously went out before it got so deep to find breakfast and hurry back home. I'm watching how different the snowflakes are, the really big, fat ones mixed in with the smaller, cotton-like ones, no two alike ... kind of like people, right? I'm watching the faces of the people shoveling and plowing outside, the ones who look mad, and the ones who are smiling ... my fellow winter-watch people!

So, here's the thing: snow, and cold, and winter in general, can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. My old mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, was fond of reminding us:

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."

I sure do miss old Dr. Wayne, but his words still guide me, through thick and thin, and through all the winters of my life. So, today, I'm watching winter out of my window, hot chocolate in hand, and feeling nothing but gratitude that I get a window seat on all this beauty.

And so it is. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

When I was a little girl, I was enchanted by the notion that bears would cuddle up in their caves and sleep through the winter. I often wondered if bears could dream and, if they could, what would they dream about? I was quite devastated to learn later on that bears do not actually achieve REM sleep, the level of sleep necessary to be able to dream. Instead, they just go into a shallow torpor which decreases their body temperature greatly, plus slows down their metabolism and heart rate. Bummer! Yet another childhood fantasy shattered!

Those of us (like myself), who are not into the whole "love the cold weather/skiing/ sledding, etc." thing, and prefer a warm fire, a blanket, and endless cups of hot chocolate, would make wonderful candidates for hibernation. First of all, we wouldn't have to follow through on all those New Year's Resolutions to lose weight and exercise more because we would be living off the stored fat we already have. Awesome! So, it follows that, secondly, we wouldn't have to rack our brains trying to think of what to make for dinner every night. Gee, this hibernation thing gets better all the time.

Seriously, I like to go into my own version of hibernation at this time of year. Especially on a day like today, when it is 19 degrees with a wind chill of 7 degrees, and the promise of -10 wind chill tonight, the idea of not having to venture any further than mailbox in the lobby of my building is looking pretty good to me right now. An added bonus for me, however, is that I get to spend this time dreaming ... of projects I could start, projects I started but realize I have to let go of, new recipes to try, new books to read and feed my brain as well as my body (with all those healthier new recipes, of course), and just to daydream whenever the mood strikes me. This is the true dream-time, and I look forward to it every year. To be honest, the whole thing starts to wear a bit thin by the end of February and definitely by the beginning of March which, up here in my neck of the woods, can look and feel a whole lot like winter will never end. For the most part, by that time my ideas and dreams have started to take shape and I look forward to manifesting them into reality. Not a bad way to spend a cold, blustery winter. Now that I think about it, I've got it better than the bears ... I get to drink hot chocolate all winter long!

And so it is.

Monday, January 3, 2022

And The Earth Sleeps

Winter is officially here. Oh, I know, according to the calendar it came on December 21st, but where I live here in the northeast, winter really starts to take hold in January. That's when the cold comes to stay and that four letter word "snow" is mentioned almost on a daily basis. The bears, bees, snakes, and other warm weather animals have gone into hibernation, and those birds that don't handle cold weather well have already migrated to warmer climates. But, what happens to the trees in winter? It's not like they can pull up roots and move to Florida until spring. What happens to the trees?

Trees, like bears, go into a kind of hibernation, or dormancy. It all really starts in the fall when they drop their leaves and focus their energy on maintaining their health rather than on growth. They maintain their existence by channeling all their energy and nutrition into maintaining only the "essential systems" that they need to survive until spring. Smart idea, Mother Nature.

I like to think that the bears and the trees aren't the only ones who can benefit from the idea of hibernation. Early humans took their signals from what nature showed them, from the behavior of their animal and plant neighbors, and started getting ready in the fall, storing up food and fuel to last them through the winter where they could be found in caves or homes built of logs or other natural materials. So what did they do all winter? They planned. They learned. They told the young ones stories about their ancestors, or tales designed to teach them about those things that would help them to grow into strong, decent members of the community or tribe, things like commitment, integrity, selflessness, responsibility, and the skills they would need to survive. So, in a way, hibernation time was a time of growth.

Thousands of years later, we humans can also take a page from Mother Nature's textbook and use the winter months, not to hibernate (although when it's a -21 degree windchill, that sounds pretty good to me), but to learn and to grow. We can take this time to take a long look at what is no longer working for us, find what we can use in it's place, take stock of where we are and where we want to be in our lives, and our place in the community at large. I'm not talking about making New Year's Resolutions, although using this time to re-evaluate our diets, our exercise - or lack of it - and our livelihoods would be a good use of the time. I'm suggesting that we use this time to conserve our energy by redirecting it from the daily grind of appointments and work, and channeling it into our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. I'm saying that, like the trees, we focus on what's truly necessary for us to not only survive, but to grow. If the trees can go from dormant, dead-looking branches, to beautiful blossoms and bountiful new leaves in the spring, what can we humans create by focusing on what's truly important in our lives? We can create lives that are not only beautiful, but truly worth living.

And so it is. 

Monday, December 27, 2021

Out With The Old, In With The New

As a child, I always thought one of the saddest days of the year was the day we took the decorations off the Christmas tree so my Dad could haul it outside to be thrown out. Living in Queens back then, there weren't as many more sustainable ways to dispose of trees as there are now. Most cities and towns now have recycling programs for Christmas trees, mulching them up for ground-cover in playgrounds and dozens of other uses. Back then, it was almost too sad to look out of the window until the trash men came and took it away from the curb. All the joy that it brought, and the knowledge, in my childish mind, that is, that the tree grew just for us so we could feel that joy, just to be tossed away like yesterdays trash, was almost too much for my little heart to bear. It was like having to say a very sad good-bye to a dear friend. 

Coming to the end of a year often feels the same way, although this past year has been so filled with one challenge and crisis after another that many of us are only too happy to see it go. Still, it is sad to think that another year has flown by, and what do we have to show for it? Maybe, instead of focusing on the sadness and loss, as I did with the tree, we can think back to all the good things that came out of this year. Perhaps you discovered what was really important to you, what truly defined an authentic, contented life. Maybe you found a new job, a new interest or hobby, or made a new friend. If you were truly blessed, you and those you love came through this year healthy and whole. If we look hard enough, we can always find something good that came from the year just past. It all depends on how you look at it. Like that child of long ago, it can be a sadness for what has been lost, or joy and gratitude for what it gave us. As always, even in nature, perception is everything.

I wish you all the most joyous of New Years and the hope of wonderful, positive things to come and lessons to grow from. 

And so it is. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas

If there is one city that says "Christmas," it's New York City. I was fortunate to grow up there and to experience the magic and splendor of the Big Apple during the holidays: The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, The Radio City Christmas show complete with the Rockettes, the beautiful ice skating rink, and 5th Avenue decked out like a spectacular light show from one end to the other, with St. Patrick's Cathedral ringing it's bells as horse-drawn carriages deposited people at its steps. Yes, indeed, New York City was, and is, the place to be if you want to really experience a magical Christmas ... unless you want a white Christmas. As a child, I would have traded in all the lights and the Rockettes as well for a really good, authentic, white Christmas.

Long before the days of climate change and global warming, the New York City area didn't see a great deal of snow in December, if we saw any at all. Every year I would wish and pray to wake up Christmas morning to see my neighborhood in Queens decked out like the country Christmas movies I saw on TV. Alas, the most we ever got was a dusting, and that would usually be gone by dinner time. One year when I was about 8 years old, I prayed my heart out for snow. It was Christmas Eve and I was up in my parents' bedroom on my knees, looking out their window into the early evening darkness to watch for my father's car coming home from his work. Looking at all the colored lights on the neighbors' houses did nothing to lift my spirits. I wanted snow. I wanted to go outside on Christmas Day and build a snowman, make snow angels, and catch snowflakes on on my tongue. I finally saw my father's car come down the street and pull in to park. As I was about to get up, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. Could it be? Was I really seeing ... snow flurries? Oh, joy, my prayers were being answered. By the time I woke up tomorrow, it would be a real Christmas wonderland. Alas, the next morning when I woke up, the dusting barely covered the tops of the cars and the sidewalks, and, as usual, was gone by dinner time. 

It was 43 years later when I experienced my first, real, white country Christmas. I has moved upstate in March and after a lovely summer, and a thoroughly beautiful autumn, the likes of which I'd never seen, I was assured by my new neighbors that a white Christmas was a sure thing. In fact, it wasn't unusual to see snow for Thanksgiving, or even before (in fact, in 1994, we had snow for Halloween). That first Christmas morning I woke to brilliant sunshine glittering off the white blanket of snow, decorating the ends of the pine trees outside my windows, and reflecting off the surface of the ice blue water of the river below. If I'd had a camera at that moment, I would have run outside in my pj's and snapped a picture to preserve that scene forever. 

It has been 29 Christmases since that first, magical one, and at the age of 72 I still pray for a white Christmas. I've never really understood why I was so obsessed with the idea of snow for Christmas unless it was because my childish brain associated it with Santa Claus and the North Pole, or, as I got older, the picture in my heart of a simple, authentic, country Christmas. Whatever the reason, I don't think I could live in Florida, or Hawaii, or anywhere warm where there were palm trees instead of pine trees, and I know for certain that I couldn't live anywhere that the chance of a white Christmas wasn't almost a shoe-in. All I know is that on a snowy Christmas Eve, I swear I can hear the prayers of all the children in the world in that silence that only a snow-covered Christmas Eve can bring, when the world stands still for just one night and love lives there in every snowflake. 

May you all have a wonderful holiday filled with love, laughter, family, friends, and, if you're lucky, even a little snow.

And so it is.

Monday, December 13, 2021

What Christmas Feels Like

(Please enjoy this post from last December so Flower Bear can go out and finish her Christmas shopping)

For anyone who has been following this blog from the beginning, you already know the story of my pilgrimage to find a simpler life and where that led me. For anyone new to the blog, let me just encapsulate the story: City-born girl longs for life in a small town. When the kids are all grown and gone, and hubby has flown the coop, city girl packs up her car and heads north to a small country town that made all of her dreams come true. It was like living in a Hallmark movie, with county fairs, and hometown parades and, most of all, a country Christmas that would have made Normal Rockwell jealous. It was almost perfect and she was so very happy.

Fast forward 25 years and city girl turned country girl had to move to a medium sized town on the edge of a small city because jobs in her little town got to be few and far between and she had to support herself. After she retired, she tried moving back to the small town of her dreams but this time it just didn't feel the same. Everything felt and looked different and, worst of all, Christmas was no longer beautiful and perfect. In fact, it was downright depressing, especially since the rest of her family were living an hour south of her. So when a small studio apartment with a killer view came up for rent in that slightly larger town, in the suburb of that smaller city, she moved closer to family and friends, and has spent the last three years trying to figure out what went wrong when she had tried moving back to the town of her dreams. So this is what she (meaning "I") came up with.

Christmas, like life itself, isn't where you live, or how you live, it's who you are wherever you live. Sure, it's a tree, and cookies, and carols, and Santa, but it's much more than that. It's the choices you make that turns your life, and your holidays, into the gifts of love, charity, and kindness that follow you wherever you live and that define you inner as well as our outer life. Maybe, after growing up amidst the bright lights of New York City at  Christmas - magical to say the least - and all the hustle and bustle that went with it, and then experiencing a hometown Christmas of carols in the square, the town Christmas tree, and the annual church Christmas bazaars, I was trying too hard to make it an either/or kind of life when at it's best it was a blending of them both. 

Life, especially at Christmas, and especially after the year we've all had, should be about all the things that feel like Christmas - the love, the care, the compassion, the giving without expecting something in return, and the knowledge that everything else is just tinsel on the tree. May your Christmas, and your life, be trimmed with all the things that make life a blessing no matter where you live.

And so it is. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

This Too Shall Pass

There are weather alerts out this morning in advance of a rain and high wind storm that will be hitting our area later on today. Wind gusts of 50+mph are possible which means the rain will be waving blankets of water, power lines and trees could come down, and Christmas decorations will be flying around like Santa in his sleigh.

I've spent the morning so far filling up anything that can hold water, digging out batteries, flashlights, candles, and battery-operated radios. My phone is charged. Like the Girl Scout I was so many years ago, I am always prepared. Experience tells me I can do this.

The Native Americans have a saying, "No storm lasts forever." Yes, the coming storm may turn nasty and we may have several dark and cold hours to get through, but tomorrow morning, like every other morning, the sun will rise again. The same is true in our lives: no storm lasts forever. Whether you believe it or not, your are adequate for any and all situations. How do I know this? Because you're still here. If that isn't proof enough, what is? 

So in the days, weeks, and months ahead, remind yourself that you have come this far, and you will be able to continue moving forward. Use your experience and strength to guide you, fill your hearts with love and hope the way I am filling containers with water, and keep your light shinning to light the way - no batteries required!

And so it is.