gathering

Join me for a Thanksgiving gathering of women I’d love to meet, and greet, and seat ’round my table.To say I know them would be inaccurate as I know them only by their Internet and social media presence. I do know of them. Collectively, I know of their kindness and compassion, their ingenuity, and positive spirits. I know how they motivate, inform, and guide. Their how-tos. Can-dos. Why-don’t-yous.

Such relationships with people I’ve never met enrich my life despite never having become acquainted personally. Perspectives and points of view I’d not considered. Products. Delights. Unexpected surprises. Reminders of how many ways there are to be a good person. An intelligent person. Faithful. Curious. Creative. Nurturing. Inspiring. Giving.

I’m thankful for them all.

Meet Elise! Her year-long Make36 project has been a joy to watch! So creative! So fun! A why-not-try-it wonder!

Meet Nicci! A beautiful soul with beautiful products and talents to share! Check out Nicci’s online shop for everything from well-made toys to garden tools to aprons and good, clean skin care. Nicci has informative workshops available for canning and sourdough baking as well! My very favorite place to shop

Meet Erin! Her living-simply lifestyle blog is a beautiful place to pause and catch my breath. A stay against chaos and confusion. A cleanse of my online palate. And … in case I catch myself getting altogether too comfortable, Erin invites me to social action as well … reminding me of my privilege and all I need to learn.

Meet Linda! A true conversationalist! Linda guides me to explore my faith more deeply. Filled with compassion, Linda kindly encourages all from the comforting welcome of her blog’s front porch.

Meet Debby! A kindred spirit. Together, we’re finding our way through a new phase of living, creating, writing, and growing. It’s always good to have a friend who understands.

Meet Julie! Her Maine homestead is a delightful respite in the wilderness of the Internet. Julie puts the home in home sweet home. A farmer, mama, and maker … her homemade gifts…. wow … and those dolls!

Here’s to finding our fill of hope this Thanksgiving!

linger

Linger in the good graces of a morning, over one more cup of coffee, the pages of a book, and couple-talk punctuated by the clink of spoon against cereal bowl.  Linger over the iron’s steam, marveling at the smoothing of wrinkles like the righting of wrongs.

Linger at the door to count blessings and gratitudes and hopes. Linger out in the first, startling cold slap of air. Breathe until wide, wide awake. And ready.

Linger long enough to listen for the gossip of chickens out back and the agitation of blue jays at the feeder. Watch for the indecision of squirrels crossing the road and find grace in the spiral of a wind-blown leaf or the dancing sway of a branch.

Linger over realizations, what you thought you knew, but now know you didn’t. Changes and chances and challenges you should have made or offered or taken.  Linger not to heed the whisper of regret.

Instead, linger to remember yesterday’s promises and the hope in today. Reach out for the dreams you lost track of or the hand of someone you miss. Feel for the tug of a memory in a lingering daydream gaze out the window.

Stand certain, like the last geranium bud in the pot on the porch, somehow surviving despite fall, and frost, and the fading of warmth. Tall, strong, and lingering … just a little longer.

At day’s end, linger a few minutes more at the table with friends; admire her smile, his laugh, their warmth on a chilly evening. Watch the light linger as long as it can, understanding you will find light elsewhere these dark nights. Returning to bed, remember the day, knowing you did your best. Linger over thoughts and questions and drowsy ideas.

In the last lingering moments before sleep, pray.

in this day too

Live in this difficult day too. Live in its sorrow, its uncertainty, its trembling hope. Live minute to minute, averting my gaze so as to avoid peering too far ahead of myself. Move slowly among the memories and their unboxing, the wistful wishes and what-might-have-beens, the celebrations and happy remembrances. Feel what you feel when you feel, but breathe in and out of each moment regardless. Because time will pass, and when I least expect it, even the sharpest edges will soften and peace will be made. Maybe it’s best to read the book only a page at a time, making notes in the margins I’ll be better prepared to read another day.

In the meantime, don’t go putting the cart before the horse or look ahead to some other day, imagining or assuming its an easier day to live. I know there’s shadows on the sunny days too, and it’s worth noting that rain doesn’t always fall from clouds. Sometimes hope arrives when I find even a crumpled, old wad of tissue in my pocket when I really need a tissue. Or from taking pen in hand in anticipation of a difficult day.

come, november

Come, November.  You with your winds and rains. Your passions and gratitudes. Your brisk walks and sparkle-frosted mornings. Come, November. We’ll warm up with your soups and stews, breads and blankets. We’ll be mesmerized by your achingly clear midnight skies pierced for a moment by your stars and the sharp slice of your moon. Come, November. You with your chill and stark sticks. Your reluctant light and bare-boned trees. You, all gray-skied and maybe misunderstood. Come, November. We’ll walk together, thankful and daring, making our way toward winter. We’ll travel by candlelight, firelight, and lamplight. Side-by-side, step-by-step. Disregarding the forecast and choosing instead to count our blessings, knowing nothing is ever as bleak as wasting a single day. Come, November. Let’s gather ‘round your table and be nourished in your company. Hopeful, happy, and home.

gathering

outside

lift nose to breeze, face to sun

rustle leaves, greet squirrels, bid fare-thee-well to geese

feel grateful, feel open wide, feel hopeful and free

think: this is what glorious feels like

collect treasures, nature’s loose parts

colors, textures, leaves, nuts and needles, berries and branches

tuck pleasures into pockets

walk home

outside smells follow inside

pink cheeks, fresh-air ruffled hair

empty pockets

admire wealth spread across a tabletop

acknowledge time and its impermanence

arrange the bounty, the beauty

partner colors, plop berries just so, fan pine needles, nestle nuts

please the eye, pleasure the soul

focus the camera

freeze time and memory

of gathering fall one October morning

in celebration of laundry

Laundry, as a chore – its sorting, washing, drying, folding, stacking, and tucking away – is one of life’s necessaries. It simply must be done in order to be prepared for all of our dailies: work, play, cooking, cleaning, and comfortable rest. Once upon a time, laundry, in all its multi-stepped, never-ending cycles, was almost more than I could manage.

Not so today.

Just now, for me, all those steps are more soothing than stressful. I’ve learned the stress was really more about time and less about the task itself. With four boys – and all their multitude of socks – the drudgery was more about the sheer quantity of the laundry than disdain for doing it.

Today, strange as it may sound, I celebrate laundry.

I feel gratitude for the tidy task of it. The satisfying snap of a towel. Overcoming the dilemma of a fitted sheet. The delight when every sock entering the washer finds it way out of the dryer as well. The small victory of actually washing, drying, folding, and stowing a load all in the same day.

Folding laundry is like a moving meditation. Pull. Fold. Smooth … Fold. Smooth. Stack … Pull. Fold. Smooth … Fold. Smooth. Stack. My mind feels free to go elsewhere even as it stays exactly in the moment. I am centered. Calm. Mindful and relaxed in the repetition of movement and years of practice. Some of my best writing ideas come as I pull clean, warm laundry from the basket.

There’s a metaphor for life somewhere in the smoothing of wrinkles. The acceptance of stains. The reliving and memory of the last week through the clothing we wore. Memories of a dinner out. A successful day at work. A granddaughter’s overnight visit.

Maybe the pleasure I feel comes from more time, or maybe it’s a newfound appreciation for the uncomplicated and routine. There’s hope and happiness for me in simple tasks. There’s peace and a sense of purpose found in the curved folds of stacked towels.

A celebration. Sorting my way through darks and lights and cycles. Alone with my laundry, my thoughts and my love.

self-talk

Explore today.

With all its options and possibilities. Should I? Could I? Will I? Why nots and maybe I wills.

Explore today.

With all it’s wrong turns, detours, missteps, and second-guesses.

Follow your instincts. Follow your hopes, your inklings, and intuitions. Follow a map. If you don’t have one, draw one. Others may wish to follow the trail you’ve blazed.

Explore your expectations. Your predictions. Estimations. Remember: What you think might happen, often does not. And what you least expect, often does.

Explore the sky, the ground beneath your feet, and whatever seems just out of reach or beyond the next bend. Find a surprise. A delight. A silver lining. A dream come true. A friend.

Explore today.

For the fun of it, the thrill of it, the faith of it.

still life

Still life as meditation. I am this moment. Breathing. Lost in the layering, the filling of frame, the lilt of the light. This space.This delicate movement. This sculpture of light and shadow, form and feeling, vulnerability and hope.This me. Being. Seeking balance. Finding tiny miracles. The curve of a stem. The twist of a leaf. The passion of a petal. Assembled here. In the focus. In the breath. In the now. In the knowing. Still. Happy.

on the eve of october

The light creeps only so far now across the grass out back before dropping below the tree line for the night. The pumpkins are all but ready to pick, and the chickens go to roost earlier and earlier. One last, lone daisy stands sentry alongside their coop.

There’s a certain poignancy in the air, a wistful smell of time gone by and the browning of leaves. A cycle completed, the season’s growing weary, silently drifting toward dormancy. Each tree’s a kaleidoscope with colored confetti puddling at its base. One last hurrah and farewell celebration.

There’s poetry in October. Every year I appreciate it more than I did the year before and the year before that, oohing and aahing in all the appropriate places, of course, but also nestling a bit in its nuance – the just so wisp and flutter of a falling leaf and the cacophony of crows, feeling momentary nostalgia for the passing of another September.

Both inside and out, there’s readying afoot and comfort in routines. Burrows blanketed. Woolens hauled from the attic. Wood stacked. The crockpot looks forward to stews and soups as soon we’ll be slow cooking our way through hibernation. We’re getting sleepy, dozing a bit through the game on Sunday and sleeping just a couple minutes more under heavier blankets.

In the increasing absence of warmth, I time my walk for the late afternoon sun on the road. Even as we’re getting ready to pull the rakes out from the shed, we’re eyeing the snow shovels and windshield scrapers, knowing they’ll get their turn before too long.

Still, there’s decisions to be made: when to rake, how to dress the scarecrow, and what to eat at the fair. Just yesterday, I found a rare chestnut, polishing it on my shirt – evidence there’s both finding and losing in this month of October.

I tucked the chestnut – along with a bit of hope – into my pocket on the way home.

lesson plans

It’s been 54 years since my first day of school and only 12 months or so since my final first day. This year, there’s an absence. I’m absent. There’s a piece of me missing. A piece, I’m learning, only I can find.

Throughout all those years of study, the milestones I’ve reached and degrees I’ve earned, and the many opportunities for both teaching and being taught – I like to think I’ve always been a learner.  

There’s so much to know, to understand, to experience. Retirement is more than a chance to spend my time in new ways, it’s a chance to occupy my mind, to learn by doing, to think. To extend. Elaborate. Expand. To busy my mind with ideas. Questions. Possibilities and curiosities.

To walk all those talks I gave about being a life-long learner.

I sit, just me and my notebook, and 30 minutes of wondering.

Lesson planning.

What do I want to know and be able to do? What are my essential questions? 

Project-based learning. Experiential learning. Independent study. Education by design. Depth of knowledge. Just Dewey it.

The teaching philosophies I believed in as an educator still apply.  To me.  For me. 

And now, more than ever, I am the student. 

Back to school this fall, after all.