Gathering

DSC_0716We’ve spent months watching the same flock of turkeys who visit our yard almost daily. Chicks hatched in the spring matured to poults over the summer, and now all the birds in the flock look about the same. This fall, several new turkeys gather with the flock. We watch them land in our yard every morning and see them head to roost in the pine trees across the street every night.

Now that it’s the day before Thanksgiving, the flock’s disappeared. They haven’t been around for two days, and I guess they have some understanding it’s a good time to go. Strange, but true. Just the other day, I watched as they chased each other around the yard, uppity and looking a little irritable.

Maybe I noticed because it seemed they were feeling a little like I’ve been feeling.

So I’ve spent this week gathering gratitude.

While gratitude is a concept I intellectually understand, it’s sometimes a bit of a struggle for me to feel emotionally. Life doesn’t always look like it does in the picture – my picture – the one I’ve imagined in my heart.

I want more.

Or  less.

Of something soul related.

Either way, I’ve been a little cranky, dissatisfied, and truthfully, overwhelmingly negative in my thinking. I know this only because I’ve been mentally keeping track. Every time a resentful response leaves my lips or a sarcastic tone creeps into my voice, I tallied myself a mark. And these days, there’s been more negatives than positives.

I’m not proud. Resentment is so unattractive – inside and out.

A little gratitude, however, goes a long way.

I started by gathering quotes. I read them, wrote them, and posted them on Instagram. I felt for them in my heart, borrowing someone else’s ideas about gratitude until I could finally feel my own. Sometimes I just breathed through all that thankfulness when I felt especially needy.

And it worked.

Because just like those turkeys found some new place to roost, so did my discontent.

I am Thankful. So Thankful.

My husband gathered feathers from the yard all fall. One after another, I tucked those feathers into my  Thanksgiving centerpiece, filling the empty spaces – like gratitude filled the empty spaces in my heart.

That centerpiece – a symbol – a gathered collection of gratitude – grasses from out front, bittersweet from down the street, and a few flowers from a week-old bouquet my husband bought me … reminds me of love, home, hope, and how very many small moments of thankfulness add together to a life more beautifully lived.

Happy Thanksgiving and my greatest gratitude of all … to the man I love.

 

 

Choices

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Have you ever made a choice between saving your sanity and feeding your soul?

I did.

This afternoon.

Any guesses which I picked?

It is a bit like a chicken and egg dilemma. Which comes first? Can you really have one without the other?

You can if you choose feeding your soul.

After you do, you’ll find sanity returns along with reason, perspective, and a healthy dose of  reality. None of it – whatever it is  – is all that bad, or important, or immediately necessary.

I hopped in the car at 4:09 and set off after a 4:19 sunset. Twenty-one minutes later, I returned home with no real stunning photos of a pastel-painted sunset, but I did have myself a bit of a breather. A time out. Several small moments spent on my soul rather than the shoulds, have-tos, and musts.

Here’s what you do:

Press pause. On everything.

Make no promises and don’t look back. Many promises are guilt-driven sanity robbers anyway. You’ll get to it when you get to it. So there.

Go already.

It doesn’t take long to feed a soul.

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I’m Going on an iPad Diet

DSC_0485My grandmother once told me she saw me reading the backs of cereal boxes at the breakfast table when I was four.

I’ve been a reader ever since.

Books are my solace, my hope, my escape, and a very real need. I can’t sleep without several by my bedside at night, and I’m almost giddy with delight in a bookstore.

But lately,  I’ve noticed I’m reading differently.  I’m  inattentive. A mind wanderer. It takes me weeks to finish a not-so-very-long novel.  Some books, I’ve abandoned altogether.  I’ve got commitment issues.

And I blame it on my iPad.

Somehow, the iPad’s evolving me from a reader to a sampler. I move from blog to blog and site to site like trees in an orchard, plucking at  a writer’s words like pieces of fruit here and there along the way to the next, more visually appealing tree down the path.

I don’t think I  like the reader I’m becoming.

And I question what all this means for me as a writer.

Does anyone read what I write? Do you read all the way to the end of a post? Has photography become the interior decorating on this blog? The picture hook I hang my words on?

I’ve known for awhile that I’m more visual than ever. I’ve known my reading attention is limited by a scan, rather than in-depth thought and processing. I’m not sure how much meaning I make either as I scroll, pinch, tap, and type.  A writer’s words, truthfully, probably grab me only after I’ve browsed the pictures first.

So I’m going on an iPad diet.

I’ve been sampling too much and reading too little.

Going forward, you’ll find me holding a book at bedtime. I’ll read next to the soft, yellow glow of a lamp on the nightstand instead of the harsh, blue light of  the electronic device on my lap.  This week, I’ll curl up with Stephen King’s On Writing A Memoir of the Craft instead of Pinterest.

And every once in awhile, I’ll bring that book to my nose … to smell the pages.

I wonder how much more weight my words will hold if I leave you with only one picture instead of four or five?

Will you read anyway?

I’m hopeful you will.

Fanstagram

I think I can credit Instagram for my own personal Renaissance.

My very first Instagram post was an iPhone4 photo of some cream-colored cone flowers in our front yard 70 weeks ago.  I took that phone with me everywhere – of course to communicate , but mostly to take pictures. I saw pictures – mine for the taking – everywhere I went. Old barns, clouds, apples, stone walls, gates, anything rusty at all,  and pure New England scenery of every season.

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I started to see small. The world was bigger than I ever imagined, filled as it was with all those teeny, tiny details. The curl of a leaf. The faint blush of a flower. A squat, brown, spotted toadstool.

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When I found Instagram, I found me. A new me. Someone I’d never met nor known before.

Me. Creative. Me. Inspired. Me … still me … but more.

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Thirty-seven weeks ago, according to my Instagram feed, a new Nikon introduced me to even more of the world.  I’m learning about light. Morning light. The blue hour. Shadow. Contrast. Framing. And I still love to photograph barns and flowers and rusty old gates.

Photography inspires my writing in a way that blank piece of paper never could. Every single shot tells a story – my story – and the view I have of my world on that one and only day I’m living.

So, thank you Instagram.

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And thanks to all of you Instagrammers for sharing your art. Your fun. Your landscapes, children, pets, parties, sunsets,  sailboats …  and your lives. All of you inspire creativity, spirituality, and intellectual thought in my world.

Only a few Fanstagram favorite follows – more to come!

So Friendly …

 @juliainnh    –   @washblue    –     @fuzzy.67    –   @barbeest

Seriously Fun …

@marisaminor14

Cool Beans …

@putnam18    –    @jimmy_wils      –     @sallycooperphotography

Truly New England …

@maineskater

So Motivating …

@andyha

A Light Kind of Dark…

@dirtroadjournal

So Thought-Provoking …

@heathen720

@row4shore

Enjoy!

Chasing the Light

I surprised myself this morning.  I traded in all my intentions for a little last minute spontaneity.

I thought I was driving east in search of the sunrise, but what I found instead was fall’s final serenade.

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Each leaf  lingers –  the last onstage –  playing one last note of color.

Some few greens still  mingle with the fading glory of reds, browning golds, bright, brave yellows, and a remaining whisper of orange.

And I didn’t want to miss a single one.

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Sitting on the damp morning grass, I knew fall was feeling the last of its warmth. Nature, too, gathers its strength for the winter we all know is coming – whether we’re ready or not.

So I chased this morning’s light past the sights I see every single day, pushing the foreshadowing of winter away by the length of my camera lens, determined to savor these last few moments alone with autumn.

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I kicked leaves like a kid. And didn’t care who watched.

Me and my camera, just hanging out with fall in the cemetery, on the common, and crouched down low in some pricker bushes. I’m sure fall understood the secrets I shared.  Light of any kind offers encouragement – but early morning light feels especially hopeful.

Today is yesterday’s second chance.

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I spent the final few minutes of fall watching one leaf after another tickled by today’s earliest light. Bittersweet, berries, and the bare bones of trees kept me company, somehow understanding my need to focus and refocus.

Light leaves us minute by minute each day after the next,  so I’ll need these final moments of fall to carry me across a long, dark, and frozen white path to spring.

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This morning’s spontaneity was like a surprise party and fall was in charge of the decorating.  I’m so glad I accepted the invitation.

The Winds of October

DSC_0051 (2)The whiteboard calendar in our little office in a closet still shows all our September appointments. Somehow, October whooshed by in a blur and I don’t think I ever made the time to update the details of our lives on the calendar because we were much too busy trying to survive them.

I have this mental image of myself  in October: walking – head down – into the gale force winds blowing against me. Just keep walking, I thought, until you get to November.

November’s here and I feel better already.

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So what did I learn in October?

Most of what I learned relates to that month I missed up there on the whiteboard – and the reasons I missed it.

I learned if saying yes adds more stress, then it’s important to say no. For me and for everyone around me. I also learned if I agree to a project or make a commitment it’s important to follow through to the finish with a positive attitude. Attitude is both a perception maker and momentum breaker.

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I learned complaining only subtracts – it never adds to my life or anyone else’s. Sometimes I can feel a complaint right there on the tip of my tongue. Right then and there it’s up to me to make a decision. Do I speak?

I love myself more when I remain silent. I do unto others with more kindness when I swallow the complaint instead of speak it.

Complaining makes me feel all kinds of ugly inside. An insidious little demon,  complaining masquerades as a stress reliever, but it’s a lie. Don’t believe the lie. Keep quiet. Be still. Breathe in calm. Breathe out peace.

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Time and stress are tied together and I cannot think about one without feeling the other. The more I have to do, the longer the list, the more stress I feel and the more likely you are to hear me say, “I don’t have time.”

Running has always been hard for me. When I run,  I can’t quite  catch my breath and I feel ever-so-slightly panicked but I keep running.

October had me running.

And running.

And running.

Somehow all those to-dos multiplied time in my mind until it grew out of control and unmanageable, towering like an angry Kong above me – every single thing I have to do taking on unrealistic proportions and threatening to take over my world.

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Seriously.

All that laundry…  like an  insurmountable mountain …  was really only a couple loads easily managed on a Saturday morning.

All that paperwork … hours and hours at the kitchen table … was only a couple cups of coffee worth on a Sunday morning.

Nothing is as hard, takes as long, or is as complicated as I make it out to be in my stress mind.

Finally I learned about the elixir of the outdoors. Every single detail feels more manageable outside in the sunshine. Fresh air fills my soul after a day inside chasing demons around.  There’s beauty out there in the world. And in beauty, there’s hope.

Go find yours.

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