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.

 

#hopefortoday

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I’ve been a little too free this summer. Like a kite that’s lost its string, I’ve been aloft and at the will of the winds.

Oh, I have things to do. Of course. Projects to start or finish. Appointments to keep. Paperwork to complete. Repairs to be made. All the stuff that’s usually stuffed into an already jam-packed schedule September through June needs doing in July and August too.

But the schedule’s been a bit loosey-goosey lately and I’ve been lolly-gagging along this week, so this morning I had a chat with Arnold Bennett about it.

According to Goodreads, Enoch Arnold Bennett, known usually by Arnold Bennett, was an English writer who lived from 1867 – 1931. I’m guessing he may have had an issue with time management as well, based on the quote I read this morning:

The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.

How did he know?

What he wrote was exactly what I needed to read.

As a teacher, I post a quote of the day in my classroom every day. I’ve also stuck post-it quotes on the fridge for my young adult sons. You can read about that here.

Arnold and I met this morning because I was on the hunt for a quote to go with an Instagram picture I wanted to post. My Instagram account is here.

Like that chicken and egg, sometimes my photography inspires writing ideas and sometimes the writing comes first. The two are pretty intertwined. And today … today I decided to embark on a quote of the day project … for me. And for you too.

To inspire. To comfort. To bring a small moment of peace. To motivate. To move me – physically, spiritually, emotionally … or when need be, off the couch.

Some folks go to Pinterest for inspiration, and I do too sometimes, but mostly I go right for the words of other writers. Other thinkers, book dwellers, and  daydreamers. And just like this morning, I almost always find exactly the words I need to read.

Words are my go-to hope, a connection with someone else who has been exactly where I am. Who understands. And feels. Just. Like. Me.

If you want to follow along, I’ll be posting on Instagram under the hashtag #hopefortoday. Join in the conversation with hopeful and inspiring quotes you come across. Let’s spread hope and help as high, and far, and aloft as that kite I told you about.

You may just write exactly the words someone else needs to read.

#hopefortoday

 

 

 

Flower Picking

Few things feed my soul like heading outdoors with my camera.

This morning, I went flower picking.

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Visually, anyway.

It honestly doesn’t matter to me if the photos come out or not. So many don’t. I know my eye sees many things my camera never will – and it’s really just the noticing that hooks my heart in the first place.DSC_0361 (2)

My pace slows. My breathing deepens. I see the world as the tiniest of details and wide, wide open at exactly the same time.

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It’s the time and place of  photography which pleases me. The act of walking out there in the world. The movement of my life down the road and around the corner and past the field.DSC_0405 (2)

I smell the hay – mowed just a few days ago. I notice the battering the black-eyed Susans took at the hands of last night’s storm. I see someone painted the ceiling of the old farmhouse porch haint-blue. I wonder how to capture the Queen Anne’s lace breezily swaying by the granite stone wall.DSC_0347 (4)

And in the time it took to walk across the yard, I both befriended a hummingbird and sympathized with a swallowtail butterfly hassled by bees nectaring in the cone flowers.

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I experiment. I learn. I sun. Smell. Smile.

I breathe – unrestricted – whatever cares I came out with, left roadside a ways back.

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Get yourself outside.

And see.

 

 

 

Do you hear the voice?

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I’m sitting, right here, right now, in the I won’t judge-me zone.

Pull up a chair. All are welcome.

Honestly, I’m a little sweaty from the workout I just did.

But I’m smiling from the inside out and what’s even better than that … I can feel it too.

Fun fact about me:

According to all who know me best, I’m just about the most stubborn person around. In a good way. (I think.) Once I make up my mind, I’m just about immovable.

And I’ve made up my mind to make my body feel better. (If it starts to look better too … well then, that’s an excellent outcome as well, but not the original goal.)

So I just spent 40 minutes or so up in my bedroom balancing on one foot or the other, with and without weights, bending – reaching – lifting – curling – sweating – and working muscles.

As an aside … are you left footed or right? I never realized before that I have better balance on my left foot. I’m all kinds of wobbly on my right.

But.

I sit here in the I won’t judge-me zone, so I care not about my wobbles. Or my fumbles. Or about how I could only do 12 reps – with no repeat. I don’t mind that I’m probably doing it all wrong. Or that my body doesn’t look – or behave – like the woman’s body does in the picture.

Because I’m doing it.

I do belong to Planet Fitness, famously home to the judgement-free zone. Funny thing is, I wouldn’t really think for a minute about judging someone else working out there. (I’m too busy judging myself.)

Do you ever hear the voice? The one that tells you … you’re not fast enough, strong enough, young enough, thin … pretty … smart … or fill-in-the-blank enough?

I wondered today if that’s what Planet Fitness means by the judgement-free zone. To stop judging … myself?

So from here on out, when working out or writing or cooking or public speaking or teaching or parenting, or living … you’ll find me in the I won’t judge-me zone.

You are welcome to join me.

The voice, however, is not.

 

 

 

 

19,710 days

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As of today, I’ve been out in the world for 19,710 days.

And I stood there in the shower this morning, head full of suds, contemplating the new year ahead of me as one does on such a day.  I thought about vitamins – of all things – and how I should start taking them. And I need to drink more water. I’ll get out of this shower, I thought, and weigh myself so today can be my starting weight date, my birthday, the day (and year)  I finally get in shape. Finally get myself all together.

Once and for all.

As promises go, the only ones I have a hard time keeping are the ones I make to myself.

So.

I have no reason to believe, based on all the days before today, that this day, this year will be any different than the last. Or that today’s promises will be kept. I’m likely to forget the vitamins, skip the water, and continue day after day to watch my body reflect whatever I’ve chosen to put in it the day before. I’ll count my pounds and wrinkles, along with all the other real and/or perceived shortcomings, and vow to change it all – to change me -one more time.

And I rinsed the soap from my hair and thought ever so quickly how good it felt to be clean.

In that instant, in that one grain of sand through the hourglass of today, I felt a split-second of happy. Happy to be clean. Happy for the hot water. Happy in that moment, in that shower, in that small second of my life.

And I realized – right there in the shower – how tired I am of the endless mental litany of my own  lacking. I’m not ever quite the wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, writer … person … I want to be, should be, or am supposed to be.

I’m not sure where I got the yardstick I measure myself by, but it’s time to put it away.

For the love of all things great and small, enough is enough.

It’s time – before any more sand slips through that hourglass – to think more self-lovingly and less self-critically.

To go looking for those small moments of happy.  Gather them up in my arms, hug and hold them close. To appreciate them.

And I’m quite sure … if I can manage to keep that one, single promise … all the wishes I’ve ever made on coins in a fountain, shooting stars, or birthday candles will finally come true.

 

 

 

Where do I go next? And why?

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The air feels lighter this morning. And by the air, I mean my air which has been heavy and hard to breathe in.

I’ve learned such heavy and hard breathing doesn’t last. It usually means I’m on some sort of metaphorical climb to whatever the next life level might be. It means I’m doing work. Life work.

My birthday approaches.  But I don’t think that’s really what this is all about. It’s not about the broken dishwasher or the tiny ants crawling endlessly around our floors. It’s not about family troubles or feeling invisible to my children or even -for once- the sleeplessness I’ve been experiencing lately.

It’s none of these things and all of these things. And more.

I guess, it’s about me. And what it means to be me, right here, right now, in this moment. And it’s about the me I wish I was. The me who should handle life’s work with more grace and less complaining. The me who should be able to relate better to my people. The me who should be stronger, less sensitive, more confident. I should celebrate more, worry less. And – I know – all this is about the future me. Where I go next. And why.

I came thisclose to deleting this blog yesterday. Much as I love writing and photography, I couldn’t (and can’t) really see its purpose, its function, its focus. When I write, I discover what’s really and truly on my mind and in my heart, but … so what?  I think that’s the core feeling right there: so what?

Doesn’t there have to be a so what?

Now that I appear to be done climbing, for the moment anyway, it’s time to pause, catch my breath, and take a good look around.

My air is lighter. It’s possible I’ll see with greater clarity.

Where do I go next? And why?

 

 

 

 

All-Natural Summer Centerpiece

We sometimes walk down the road a bit after dinner. It’s quiet. We’re full of both food and gratitude for the day, for life, for the beauty and peace of where we live.

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It’s a great time for reflection. For noticing.

Our rural road is mostly wooded – dotted with here and there houses. There’s a swamp filled with cat ‘o nines in the fall and pussy willows in the spring. Some scatterings of wildflowers like Queen Anne’s Lace, Black-Eyed Susans, and sea roses.

And, I noticed, many different explosions of grasses by the roadside.

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Some grasses reminded me of fireworks.

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The colors. The grace.

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The delicacy.

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So I started collecting … images and grasses.

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Found a battered, old pitcher … and borrowed a bit of beauty for our home.