What If?

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I went back to school today.

Actually, I’ve been in and out of school all month long, but today was the official first day of school.

It’s always a bit of a mystery, that first day. No one really knows what to expect. On day one, both the tall and the small share the same hopes, heart-fluttering nerves, and   what-if worries. We all feel a little giddy (and maybe giggly) because we didn’t sleep well last night. And all of a sudden, the day begins and before the end of the first hour, it feels as though we’ve been back awhile.

We arrive with one foot left still in summer and the other walking forward into fall.  Day one is fresh and forgiving of past mistakes. Our new shoes arrive at the front door unscuffed by the past paths we’ve walked, and our notebook paper waits clean – no marks, smudges, or erasures.

It’s almost like New Year’s Day. We sharpen our pencils and get right to work, a checklist of goals just set and still easy to remember. All of us stand right there at the starting line. Poised and ready to run.

Because we know we can. The first day of school is here and the last day of school is so far behind us, we can’t see it clearly anymore and all we really know for sure is … this … this will be our year.

When we go back to school, we all have dreams and there are people all around us ready to help us reach them.  We each have questions and friends all around us who want to help us find answers. We are not alone.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone went back to school in the fall? If we all set learning goals and found time to write, read, and figure things out every day? What if we found nourishing people to surround us and support our lives and our dreams, and what if those same people forgave our mistakes, remembering we’re all still learning?

What if?

I love when my students ask, “What if?” It tells me they’re wondering. They’re thinking. They’re taking chances, risks, and plunges.

Have you asked, “What if?” lately?

Maybe today’s the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning How to Transition

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I don’t transition well.

Never have.

I was always the kid who cried when it was time to go home. The one who begged for one more minute in the pool or one more TV show before bed.

It’s not that I want more necessarily, it’s just that I’m not quite ready for whatever’s next. A here and now kinda girl, I’m always and forever just settling in to wherever I am.

So summer’s moving on. This fact both leaves me in deep denial and also some small amount of panic.

Because I’m only just now getting into the swim of it.

There are still projects undone, photographs not yet taken, adventures left on the list of places to go and all of a sudden, mums are out at the garden center!

Wait a minute, summer … I’m not ready!

Clearly, I need a plan.

Here’s how I’ll try to transition:

Find your loves. Look for what you love in whatever’s coming next. In fall, I love boots and jeans, wool blankets, football, plaids, pumpkins, cider donuts, and new notebooks. You may remember I have a thing for notebooks.  And, of course, there’s beautiful, New England foliage – summer’s going away party.

Learn something. I’m enrolling in a digital photography course starting in September. It was a summer list to-do, but easily carried over to fall. Hopes and dreams aren’t limited by  the date on the calendar. Check out your local adult education programs. Ours has everything from soap making to conversational Spanish to ballroom dancing.

Make room in the schedule. There’s still time for porch sitting, beach walking, and book reading. Build a fire in the pit out back to remember the weekend you went camping. Collect acorns instead of shells and trade salads for stews. See that’s the thing: there’s room in life to love it all. And live it all.

Spend time outside. There’s wide open  air out there, no matter the season. Sun to feel on your face. There are breezes and the smells carried by them. Say so long to the honking geese headed south and kick through the leaves gathering on the sidewalk. Bundle up and walk down the road through fall afternoons, pinking your cheeks and filling your lungs.

Think ahead. Of course we transition on other days and in other ways. We’re transitioning all the time from one season to the next, and from today to tomorrow. What kind of postcards will you want to send from this next season in your life? Where will you go? What souvenirs will you bring back with you?  Live in this one single day, but remember: Tomorrow’s ready for new memory making. Bring your camera.

 

How to Arrange Your Garden Flowers

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It’s a good day when – “pick flowers from the garden” – is at the top of my to-do list.

Consider it done.

The flowers out there are beginning to fade. The cone flowers, so show offy last month are browning now, with only a last few pretty and pickable. Black-eyed Susans are on their way out too and my favorite daisies are all but gone.

Still, the butterfly bush is explosive and the zinnias – coming up fast on the daisies as my new favorite – keep coming and coming.

And I’ve wanted to mess around a bit with flower arranging all summer, so seasonally speaking, it was now or never.

I’m so glad I prioritized.

Here’s what I learned:

Consider color combinations.

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The vibrant orange of this coreopsis strikes fire against the cool cobalt blue pottery. This arrangement fuels a bright moment by the soft wisp of sheer curtains and sturdy, white cabinet.

Simplify.

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There’s something soothing about single stems. Simplicity feels good. Cut the clutter and let each bloom speak for itself.

Bunch big blooms.

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Let them spill. But keep the container plain like this burlap wrapped Mason jar. The flowers steal the show.

But don’t be afraid to layer.

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The same bunch looks cool and fresh reflected in this galvanized mirror.

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Mix temperatures.

 

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There’s heat here. A touch of warmth. And I’m keeping it cool so the pale blue of the vintage canning jar plays well with the cool wall. The pinks pop. So does the orange. The corals and yellows keep it all cozy and calm.

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Sun dappled and cheerful.

For the life of me … why haven’t I put garden flowers bedside before?

Alliteration.

Group like with like. Think location, location, location.

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These cone flowers and black-eyed Susans work well together because of their similar petal shape. You’ll see the deep yellow of the Susan repeated in the golden center of the cone flower.

Everything about this placement pleases me. The weave of the basket coupled with the rusty tile color on the table. The white cone flower partnered with the antique ironstone bowl and pitcher. And the pop of gold for contrast.

Still life with garden flowers.

It’s summer’s last hurrah and I want to make the most of it.

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Now.

What to do with the sunflowers?

 

 

Overcast

DSC_0372 (3)Some days there are clouds.

It may be  your day off. The day you planned to go to the beach. Maybe do a little gardening. Or you thought you’d take a long, leisurely bike ride. A walk. A paddle on the lake.

Whatever you had planned, the clouds took you by surprise. The magnitude. The intensity. They’re threatening. Foreshadowing. Dark.

And you feel a little cheated.

Or worried.

It could be you’re thinking about someone else’s disappointment. Or the reaction of someone you love. Our clouds cover them too, after all. So it’s on your mind and all of that makes the horizon that much harder to see.

But it’s there.

Tomorrow will come – rising, ready or not – and a new day with all its weather will be delivered to your doorstep.

And maybe …just as it’s important to live for today, in the moment, and seize every second … there are also those days when it’s better to look forward to the hope of tomorrow. If there’s anything I know about tomorrow, it’s wide, wide open to possibility and change and all the benefits of today’s experiences.

What I’ve learned walking around in the fog today, will steer me better through tomorrow. I’ll have an umbrella, for starters, and maybe some boots better for walking out there in the mud after it finally rains.

And then,  I’ll find myself a rainbow.

 

 

Dreaming and Doing

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I’m noticing the difference between what I say and what I do.

There’s a gap spaced – this wide – between the dreaming and the doing, the imagined and the actualized.

There’s power in this noticing and a certain freedom in the observation.

I know.

I would’ve thought there’d be judgement too, but there isn’t. No blame either.

There’s just me. And those dreams I can see but haven’t yet reached for.

We make time for what’s important to us.

Upstairs, three chests rise and fall, sleepwalking through their dreams while I sit here alone at the dining room table face to face with mine. It’s early. Dark. And quiet. The clock across the room reassures me:

There’s still time. 

I’m tempted to explain. Offer excuses. But that’s only another way to delay. It’s another diversion away from what I say I want. And the clock’s still ticking away up there on the wall.

So here’s what I’m thinking: I choose.

Every single day. I choose the dream and the doing – or not.

Because that’s the thing. They’re two separate actions. Dreaming. Doing.

Maybe some dreams stay dreams living in place on the outskirts of day-to-day living. A dream meant only to delight, to savor. A moment of diversion from all the other doings in our lives..

A dream. The doing.

There’s time for both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Meditation

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I’ve been washing dishes since I was old enough to reach the faucet at the kitchen sink.

Do you have any idea how many dishes a family of seven uses each meal?

I washed. My sister dried. Night after night after night.

And I never thought I’d say this, but today … I find dish-washing kinda calming.

Even comforting.

There’s something meditative about the predictable pattern of wash, rinse, repeat. I am almost thoughtless, really, purely in the moment and soothed by warm water and soap bubbles, mesmerized a bit by a cotton towel. Drying. Stacking. Back and forth.

Clean.

Maybe it’s about creating order in a chaotic world. Or maybe it’s about completing simple tasks in a complicated life.

Whatever.

This mindset,  this moving meditation brings me peace.

Slow your busy mind down with these household chores too:

  • chopping vegetables – the rhythm satisfies the ear
  • folding laundry – warm from the dryer
  • making the bed – snug the sheets, pile the pillows … tuck, fluff, smooth
  • baking – see my post on how baking centers me here

How do you slow your busy mind?

 

 

 

 

So Many Ways to Pray

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There are as many ways to pray as there are people who pray.

Head in your hands, knees on the floor.

Prayers repeated over and over like a mantra in the middle of the night.

Some prayers, like wishes, for dreams, hopes, and desires. Others, like insurance, place hope against evil, or illness, or pain, sorrow, and suffering.

Hands folded. Hands waving high. Hands to heart.

Beginnings. Endings. Births. Deaths. And every day in between.

Thousands of thoughts. Millions and billions of voices in hundreds of languages raised up in a single religion of hope.

Prayers for today and tomorrow, for what has been and what may be. Prayers for people and pets. Prayers over new jobs, crops, good health, friends in need, college applications, a way out of trouble, and money to pay the bills.

Prayers for our children. Our families.

Holding hands, we pray over dinner.

Some pray in a building and others find their quiet moments in nature, heads held high to the sky above.

Candles lit for love and life. In the memory of.

Prayers for the planet. For the world full of its people. For peace.

I spent my morning prayer today beside a lake just before sunrise. The horizon glowed tangerine and the clouds, purple. I watched the sky blue little by little in the company of five ducks and a lonely loon calling from somewhere across the water.

Fog rolled in, just as problems sometimes do, and I never witnessed the actual sunrise.

I didn’t have to see it to know it was there.

Some prayers rely on faith.