making peace

I’m learning peace isn’t something to be found. I know. Because like just like everyone else I meet, I’ve been looking.

Real peace is –I think– peace I must make on my own. I’m learning to make some sort of patchwork peace with the world as it is. Healing a little here, hoping a little there. Making peace with my own side of the street and how I want to live on it. With the past of me and the present of me. With who I hope to be next. I’m making peace with remembrances. And worries. With loss. Grief. And farewells.

This year has offered plenty of time for self-reflection.

Early mornings of late, I sit alone stitching. Quiet. Focused on the knit or the purl or criss-crossing the embroidery thread. Slide the needles. Wrap the yarn. Pull the stitch through. I’m knitting with wooden needles quite likely older than I am. My grandmother’s.

I wonder: Is she here with me? Did she too enjoy the texture of the wool, the taut pull of the yarn, the repetition of pattern? As she worked the needles, did she make peace with herself and within her life as I do, sitting here before sunrise?

And I’ve only just today been able to pick up my mother’s cross-stitch project. I promised I’d finish it for her. A sampler for my brother. I know she worked on it as long as she was able, and it was important to her that he receive it. That it was finished. And all these many months, it’s been tucked away in a basket. In wait. Maybe she knew I’d get to it when and only if I was ready. A trust exchanged between us. A certainty the day would come.

There’s peace-making in the folds of fabric my mother once held. I hold onto it as if holding her hand. The thread, the rise and fall of the needle, the finishing. A release. An exhale. A circle closing.

I wonder: Is she here with me? Are we, mother and daughter, each pulling the same thread? One beginning, the other finishing? It’s been an almost two year goodbye, and maybe it’s time to make peace with that too.

Maybe I’ve spent all these many months in the making of bread and the taking of photographs and now, the knitting of scarves and sewing of samplers … to make my own peace as it seems it can’t be found anywhere else just now. Maybe making peace is being at peace and living in peace.

The weary world needs the hopers, the helpers, the givers and the peace-makers.

Rejoice. And make peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

one thing

The list is long, the weekend’s short. It’s already Sunday and tomorrow’s Monday and even though I’d really rather meander through my day, I guess I’d better hurry.

So where can I find hope in all the hurry?

If I do one thing today, let me love the people I’m with. Let me listen. Smile. Enjoy them. There’s hope to be found in the gift of each other. The giggle of a granddaughter. A husband’s hand to hold.

If I do one thing today, let me take pleasure in simple tasks. Soup making. Bread baking. Sheet tucking. Laundry folding. There’s hope to be found in a warm meal at the end of a chilly day. In clean sheets ready for rest. In tall stacks of towels and socks that match.

If I do one thing today, let me find joy in the happiness of home. The book on my nightstand. The candle on our counter. The last of the zinnias plucked from our garden. The just-about-ready-to-tumble heap of apples ready for pie, or crisp, or sauce. There’s always hope living at home.

If I do one thing today, let me lose myself in the pages of that book. In a walk with our granddaughter down the foliage filled road. In the delight of writing. Of soaking in a hot bath just before bedtime. Hope is where I look for it, so if I do one thing today, let me remember to do just that … look for it.

If I do one thing today, let me slow the hurry.

And live.

small things

A text this week from my youngest:

“I am trying to concentrate on just doing small things to take better care of my body.”

Contemplating health is not new to me. It is to him, however, and a new conversation emerged between us as a result. Health. All kinds of health. What it means to be healthy. How to be healthy.

Mind. Body. Spirit. Soul. Heart. Relationships.

His thought stayed with me all week.

And offered a new kind of hope.

Small things.

One at a time, small things build me, bit by bit, brick by brick, into a stronger person, healthier, happier in my life and relationships.

One small thing which makes me happy. One small thing which feeds my soul. One small way to move my body … fuel my body … nourish my body.

One small action to better the world, brighten a day, honor a friendship.

One small moment to breathe more deeply. To read more closely. To listen more carefully. To decide more thoughtfully. To hope more actively.

Health. Happiness. Hope.

One by one by one.

today will

Today will have its challenges. Meet them. Greet them. Walk with them. Work with them.

Today will have its feelings. Feel them.

Today will see its beauties. Frame them in memory.

Today will smile. Laugh. Or maybe cry.

Today’s forehead may wrinkle in concentration or confusion or concern.

Breathe through it all.

Today needs encouragement. Grace. And a rousing — Go get ’em!

Today works hard, loves deeply, and searches for silver linings.

Today hopes.

in transition

I’m in transition.

Vacation to home. Summer to fall. From the known and safe to the unknown and uncertain.

In the space between here and there, I am in charge of the transition. What’s just ahead may be impossible for me to predict and somewhat out of my control, but I can choose how I travel there: smooth and intentionally or abrupt and jarring.

What have I learned on this side of the transition that I can take with me to the other side? What mementos of me will I leave behind – evidence I was here – parts and pieces, ways of being which no longer serve me? What souvenirs must I pack? What memories will I carefully tape into my scrapbook? What stories will I tell to those who were not here? Later, what photographs will I find of moments I no longer clearly remember?

There’s parallel living between the understanding and acceptance of what was … and anticipation of what will be and what’s to come. Who I’ll meet. Where I’ll go. What I’ll see. How I’ll feel.

But aren’t we really always transitioning? One day to the next. Work week to weekend. Year to year. Yesterday to today to tomorrow. What we get isn’t always what we expect. After all, any forecast is circumstantial and sometimes unreliable.

This is a time just before and just after.

Time gently tugs me toward tomorrow when I’m not ready to let go of yesterday and I’m still living today. It’s hard not to feel a little sad, a little wistful, with a few regrets tucked into my pocket. Wish I hads. Should’ve dones.

But.

Gratitude also straddles this space between here and there. Pride too. Hope and history, both. A place of pause. Breath-catching. Nerve-steadying. One last look back before taking a step forward.

In transition and thankful.

verbs of doing

I set about writing my to-do list early this morning. Limited by the small scrap of paper, I decided to keep it simple and without much detail.

It’s still summer, after all.

What evolved was a lean list of tasks, a single word each, using only verbs.

Verbs of doing. Action words all.

So succinct. So fun! Because when it got right down to the doing, I sometimes had to think a minute. Empty? Oh … the dishwasher.

And let me tell you … the doing got done!

Here’s today’s to-dos:

polish

fold

wash

pack

chop

play

move

delete

search

walk

lift

empty

feed

shop

read

write

love

hope

pray

What are you doing today?

self-soothing

I felt my way through a few sad days this week. Nothing (and everything) in particular. Just a little sad. My mood rises and falls, just about as unpredictable as everything else in the world. I’m heartsick. World-weary. Agitated. Snippy. Almost always a little anxious. And tired. So tired.

It’s hard to find hope or comfort, and I know I’m not alone. We’re all a little inconsolable.

I n c o n s o l a b l e (adjective) unable to find solace in a time of distress

Perhaps, like an infant learning to sleep through the night, I need to learn to self-soothe. Self-calm. Self-comfort. Find my own version of solace in these times of distress.

A quick search of self-soothing methods for infants reminded me of soothing my own babies who, from time to time, were inconsolable too. Turns out keeping a babe at rest is not much different from consoling an agitated and worried adult.

Here’s an adult spin on self-soothing techniques for babies:

Anticipate needs. Avoid the toos. Too hungry. Too thirsty. Too tense. Too worried. Too tired. Overthinking too much, too often. So nap. Stay hydrated. Sit still and breathe deeply. Or walk and breathe deeply. Eat well. Rest. Daydream. Pray.

Find a routine. Nothing feels regular or routine right about now, so it’s up to me to set my own structure. Start small. Aim to wake up and settle down at the same time. Rough out a schedule for the day. Time for this and that. Look for openings and plan how to enjoy them. Create. Read. Exercise. Journal. Bake. Tuck in some quiet time. Wash the clothes on Wednesday and change the sheets on Sunday. I think a good part of self-soothing is finding something I can count on without needing to think too much. Old stand-bys and rituals. Habits.

Focus on the environment. Clean and tidy. Organize. Reduce clutter. Find a place for what I need when I need it. Breathing room. White space. Air. Pluck some roadside wildflowers for a windowsill or bedside bouquet. Make the bed. Do the dishes. (You know you hate waking up to a mess in the kitchen.) Simplify.

Find some security. What can I control? Who’s on my team … in my circle … can be counted on? Where do I feel safe? At ease? Comfortable? When do I feel most calm? What’s going well? Where am I finding success? And especially — What am I grateful for?

Finally … a little lullaby soothes me to sleep:

Breathe peace. Feel peace. Be peace.

a collection of pleasures

A lot of my life’s details are currently unresolved. There’s no clear forecast to be found, and I feel uncertain about almost everything. Like just about everyone else I know. It’s an unsettling way to live day after day after day.

So this morning, I went looking for the known, the constant, the beautiful, and the joyful. It’s a gratitude list yes, but more a gathering of what makes me happy, where I find pleasure … where my day-to-day satisfaction can be found in the midst of all the world-weariness, anxiety, and uncertainty.

In no particular order . . . here are some joys I can count on . . .

. . . washing my face . . . a stack of clean, white plates . . . folding laundry . . . old, wooden spoons and rolling pins . . . the sudden, hot flash of a red cardinal . . . soapy sink water . . . the heft of a camera in my hands . . . the smell of ink . . . learning something new . . . early morning light . . . making the bed . . . a new notebook . . . tenacity . . . chopping vegetables . . . an uninterrupted night’s sleep . . . dogs . . .a toddler’s pout . . . clean sheets . . . unexpected laughter . . . the scuff of slippers across hardwood floors . . . nested mixing bowls . . . bossy bluejays at the suet feeder . . . the annual parade of flowers from the first of the crocus to the last of the mums . . . a new book . . . neighbors chatting on the porch . . . making our own fudgesicles . . . a breeze billowing summer sheer curtains . . . the perfect backhand . . . persistence . . . kicking acorns and hickory nuts down a country road . . . a tidy desk . . . feeding my family . . . the first sip of morning coffee . . . clean kitchen counters . . .the smell of hose water . . . sleeping with the windows open . . . the call of an owl . . . sun on my face . . . knowing someone far away is safe for another day . . . the ocean

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.

– Emily Dickinson

What’s in your collection?

bread

I’ve been baking bread. Loaves. Buns. Rolls. Sourdough mostly. And after many failed attempts.

I am my most patient self while baking bread. I am most patient with myself while baking bread. I allow myself the time. The learning. I forgive failures and put aside worries. The bread won’t be rushed. And neither will I.

There is only the bread. The starter. The flour. The salt. The yeast. Maybe a bit of honey. A pat of butter. Simple ingredients, pleasing to my senses. The combination comes to a kind of miracle. The task offers me some sort of purpose. Satisfaction. A notion I’m doing good work…Is wholesome the word I’m looking for?

Each step, its own place, its own part in the process, a piece of my peace. Of my pleasure. A moving meditation. I am quieted for a time – inside and out. The measuring and mixing. The kneading (needing.) Rising. Waiting. Shaping. Rising. Waiting. Baking. Browning. Smelling. By and by … we break bread and eat. A small blessing.

I clean up. Set the kitchen to rights. Hot water from the tap. Soap and soak bowls and tools. Brush flour from the big, wooden work board – taking care not to dust the floor.

I didn’t know I needed bread making. I did not know my hands needed a simple and satisfying task. I did not know my heart needed another way to love.

(Dedicated to Stephanie)