finding hope

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Right about now, it’s hard to find hope.

And it’s difficult to feel hopeful.

But there must be as many ways to find what’s lost as there are ways to lose something in the first place. So, now that hope feels a little lost, I’ve been searching.

I found a kind of hope I’ll call awe.

The awe of standing so small alongside the towering magnificence of a mountain fills my heart with hope and exhilarates my imagination.  I felt awe several times this summer and each time, I was interacting with a view, a place, a piece of the world so much bigger than I. The mountains. The ocean. A big and bustling city.

Maybe being filled with awe is like in kind to feeling centered and prayerful.

Maybe as I stood top-side on a boat scanning an ocean as far and wide as my eye could see, maybe I somehow felt like the only silent and still entity for miles around. Maybe surrounded by the vastness of all that water, I felt more like an anchor and less adrift and at the whim of the waves.

Maybe climbing a mountain to its peak is some sort of symbol of life’s hike to the heavens. And maybe up there in all that open air of the summit, it’s easier to breathe. Easier to believe. Easier to understand I am but one person in a very big, very confusing world. Maybe it takes some of the pressure off.

I found a kind of hope I’ll call beauty.

I keep looking for the beauty all around me and find it with a bit of conscious effort. A few internal reminders help me understand the fact that the world’s ugliness must in some way, however large or small, be counteracted by its beauty. Its complexity opposed by its simplicity. Its violence, contrasted by moments – however brief – of peace.

Many times it’s nature offering up all that counterintelligence – the perfect, pink curl of a zinnia petal. The softest summer light at sunset on the river. The quiet call of a barred owl after midnight.

There’s beauty too in the smile of a friend, or my son, or the stranger behind me in line at the grocery store. There’s a simple kind of knowing we trade in a smile. There’s a peaceful ease and delight to be had in the sharing of music, a meal, or a book I think you simply must read. There’s happiness to be found in the hugs we exchange, the return of a long-gone someone special, and the hand I hold walking across a busy street.

I found a kind of hope I’ll call comfort.

Amidst all the daily confusion and unpredictability of the world, I find comfort in the regular and routine. The washing of dishes. My time at the gym.  Or the smell of the black ink from my favorite Bic pen.

There’s comfort in the rhythm of chopping vegetables for dinner. There’s routine in the patterns and schedules of a work day. There’s the regularity and a kind of grounding to be had in the habits of a day’s end … the brushing of teeth, the pages turned in a bedtime read, and one last I love you before turning out the light.

There’s more hope to be had, I’m sure of it. And while hope changes nothing about today’s worries, it does perhaps brighten tomorrow with anticipation and the power of possibility.

So I’ll keep looking for and finding hope … in the innocent eyes of a child, the happy wag of a dog’s tail, and in the gentle, morning breeze through my open kitchen window.

And as long as I keep looking …  I know hope will be found.

 

 

 

 

 

 

walk with the flowers

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I love a walking road trip.

Or maybe it’s better called a destination walk?

Either way, I enjoy walking the sidewalks in towns not my own.

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I’m partial to parks, of course, but I also enjoy a slow stroll along someone else’s Main Street.

Window shopping’s fun. But I also love flower box browsing.

What combinations of lovely do other folks plant? What’s blooming on the front stoop?

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As a walking tourist, I guess I have a bit of a floral fascination. I already know just about every shrub, perennial, and pot in my own neighborhood, so it’s a little fun to see how they do it in another neck of the woods.

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When I walk new neighborhoods, I discover what summer abundance grows wild by a garden gate or tucks neatly around a mailbox, what burst of summer celebration hangs lush and colorful from a hook on a front porch.

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It’s a little peek – really – into a life I know nothing about except for the beauty they’re willing to share with a stranger, a passer by, a someone like me who very much appreciates the gift.

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A rose by someone else’s gate … still smells as sweet as my own.

So a grateful thank you to those kind strangers whose streets I walk … and an open invitation to amble past our garden anytime.

Just now, the coneflowers are in full bloom.

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it’s time

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Got a minute?

I’ve been thinking a lot about time. (Because I’m about to have a lot less of it wide-open to my whim … and much more of it scheduled and spoken for.)

Think of  verbs associated with time:  manage, save, spend, use. We make time for this, that, and the other. Fit people and appointments into our schedule. If we’re not multi-tasking, we’re doing one thing at a time. We waste time, fritter it away, and wish we had more. In any daily life, there’s a time to rise, time to work, and maybe a little play time if we’re lucky. And thankfully, at the end of the day, there’s bedtime.

And all of the time … I’m trying to find time.

As though time hides somewhere out of sight. And maybe it does. But maybe all I really need is a moment. A conscious moment. In the present. Here. Now.

Give me a minute and I can restore a bit of order to the kitchen counter.  Give me another, and I can pluck a flower from the garden out back to brighten the table. In a minute’s time I can brew a cup of coffee or tea. I can sit on the porch and catch my breath. Or make that call to the dentist I’ve been planning to make – when I get a minute.

Just a moment ago, I spread some lotion on my dry hands and a bit of balm across my lips. In the minute after that, I remembered to take my vitamins and drank a full eight ounces of water. Sixty seconds of self-care. Easy to do … and it only takes a minute.

I’d rather life be less time-management and more time-enjoyment.

Time waits for no one and never stands still, but I can slow it down a bit when I live a little more intentionally.

More aware of the minutes, and savoring each – one at a time.

 

life lessons: off grid

DSC_0326 (7)I’ve been living off grid.

Not unplugged, mind you, but off grid in the sense that daily summer adventures are moving me beyond the regularly traveled intersections of my life.

The result?

My spirits: higher. My rest: deeper. My stress: lower.  My eyes, heart, and mind: clear, open, and engaged. In that order.

In short:  I’m happy.

Day trips. Camping. Tennis. Hikes. Beach. Baseball. Friends. Food. Books. Family.

Life feels invigorating.

Research shows multiple benefits to breaking out of your routine. Even taking a different route between work and home is like a refresh for your brain. New surroundings. New focus. Heightened awareness. Brain growth.

Take yourself outside for even more health benefits.  Google it: “health benefits of being outside.” I got 11,600,000 hits. Everyone from the National Wildlife Federation to Harvard University agrees: spending any amount of time outside can improve your mood, your mental cognition,  and just about everything else about the way your body and brain work: from your attention span to your deep sleep cycle.

The good news?

There’s still 52 days left of summer, and summer is one of the easiest times of the year to explore.

How will you spend your 52?

 

 

mistaken identity

I’ve been doing a little digging.

(for a book)

And one thing I’ve learned just lately is the difference between Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota,)

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and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).

Poison Hemlock

Quite literally, it’s the difference between life and death.

Unlike Queen Anne’s lace, parts of which are edible, poison hemlock is as its name indicates – a deadly plant and definitely NOT for eating.

But easily confused, apparently, by me.

All this time, I thought I was taking photographs of a prolific and well-loved wildflower – or invasive weed – depending on your point of view. When in reality, I was also sometimes photographing a poisonous imposter.

Poison Hemlock

I even enlarged and framed one of my photographs for our guest room, believing all the while it was lovely Queen Anne’s lace which so nicely complimented the old quilt on the iron bed.

Turns out … I was dead wrong.

Isn’t learning fun?

Queen Anne’s Lace

Named for Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) this lacey flower is frequently found roadside around my New England home. It’s a summer meadow filler too, dainty-looking, but a bit tough to pick.  The flower begins and ends its life pulled in tight on itself in a delicate, little ball – blooming wide open only in the hope of pollination.

Legend has it Queen Anne was quite a lace maker. Once upon a time, she pricked her finger and a single, tiny droplet of royal blood fell upon her lace work – just like the tiny, purple spot found within the central area of her namesake flower.

I just love a story where someone else’s past shows up in my present.

Queen Anne’s Lace

A biennial, Queen Anne’s lace is also known as wild carrot. It’s high in sugar and since Europeans cultivated it, American colonists came to use it as well, boiling the taproot – sometimes in wine.  First year plants are best. Roots work well in soups, stews, and tea. Leaves work well in salad, as do the flowers.

However.

I, for one, plan to continue enjoying both of these flowers, which tend to like the same kinds of space, from behind my camera.

Poison Hemlock

It’s safer there, it doesn’t much matter which elegant flower is which, and my life doesn’t depend on telling them apart.

postcard: mrs. lincoln’s garden

DSC_0356 (5)Jessie Lincoln Beckwith Johnson Randolph loved her mother.

It must be so.

It must be true.

In my imagination, Jessie was a daughter who loved her mother so much … she created a garden just for her. And not just any garden. A garden with thousands of blooms. A garden with borders and pathways. A garden planned and planted by color and symmetry.DSC_0353 (7)Maybe Jessie wanted her mother to have a garden as majestic as her new home.  Maybe she wanted to remind her mother of the years she lived in Europe. Maybe Mary Harlan Lincoln, daughter-in-law of Abraham, was a woman who had everything … except for a formal, parterre garden.DSC_0343 (10)Or maybe, just maybe, Jessie wanted to gift a garden that would bloom and bloom her love forever and ever.

And so far it has.DSC_0350 (8)A garden like this one doesn’t happen by accident and deserves an inspirational setting in which to take root.  This mother-daughter garden grows at Hildene, ancestral home of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, in Manchester, VT.DSC_0334 (6)It’s said Mary Harlan Lincoln could see the whole expanse of her garden blooming before her as she stood at her second floor, center bedroom window.  Now known as the Hoyt formal garden, I prefer to think of it as Mrs. Lincoln’s garden.  Stunning from any view, the garden is most beautiful, perhaps, from that second floor – planned as it was to resemble a cathedral stained glass window. DSC_0348 (9)Hildene, a beautiful 24 -room Georgian Revival style manion, is but one generation away from the single-room log cabin Abraham Lincoln was born in.  Tucked into the beautiful Vermont green mountains, visitors can walk, self-guided, through most of the home with many of its original furnishings and features, including family artifacts and a historical timeline perspective of President Lincoln’s life and death.

You can read about Hildene’s history  here.DSC_0354 (7)It’s the garden, though, which captured my heart.  I’d love to take tea with Mrs. Lincoln out on the porchswing in the early warmth of mid-June. We’d swing, and sip, and marvel at mountains and the never-ending beauty of Vermont.DSC_0344 (6)And the sweet scent of a thousand peony blossoms would remind us both of the ever-blooming love between a mother and her child.

 

 

 

 

feelin’ the blues

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It’s nigh on blueberry season.

Smile.

There’s bushels of nutrition benefits in this bluesy fruit,  and these summer superstars are so versatile in all sorts of recipes from summer salads to muffins, crisps, pies and buckles. They’re a colorful staple in fruit salads and smoothies, and just plain pop in your mouth good – right after a good rinse.

I’m the first to admit, I find the work of picking a tad tedious, and you’re more likely to find me wandering among the bushes with my camera than my bucket. Still, I love these friendly, little berries and try to make the most of their time in season.

Since one of my summer goals is to eat more fruits and veggies, I’m thinking more about eating this year’s blueberries raw,  tart, and fresh and less about just-baked and juicy.

So what about these salad combinations?

Use blueberries and either baby spinach or spring mix as your base and mix in:

  • mandarin oranges, feta cheese, and slivered almonds
  • raw chunks of summer squash and zuchinni, red onion, turkey, and cheddar cubes
  • shelled peas, cherry tomato halves, carrot sticks, and freshly-shredded parmesan cheese
  • pick just about any other fruit to sidekick with your blues in a salad: strawberries, honeydew melon balls, watermelon, grapes, pineapple, or dried cranberries
  • other healthy toppings: walnuts, pine nuts, flax seed, sunflower seeds or a sprinkle or two of shaved coconut

This blueberry vinaigrette recipie looks luscious

You can also visit the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council for creative recipes as well as freezing, jamming, and canning tips.

Really. They’re a rough and tumble bunch of berries and ready for just about anything.

Go blue!