pep talk

(In case anyone else needs a little encouragement today.)

You can do it.

Whatever — it — is.

So go ahead. Light a candle. Take a deep breath. Make space. Clear your calendar. Find an opportunity.

And do it.

Take the photograph. Hike the mountain. Paint that wall. Or a watercolor. Swim in a cool, clear lake. Chase the sunset. Follow a thunderstorm.

Ask for help. Seek community. A kindred spirit. Reach out.

Press your luck. Find your fortune. Act on the dream. Lose your way. Find it again. Follow your instincts. Take a chance. Roll the dice. Trust.

You can do it.

Which of your many thoughts just won’t go away? What keeps you awake in the middle of the night? Who’s on your mind? Where do you need to be? Feed the craving. Satisfy your thirst. Give yourself a little nudge. Get started. Be brave. Hold your nose. And jump.

Ready? Set? Go!

Write the chapter. Book the trip. Find that friend you’ve been thinking about all these years. Lose the weight. Schedule the appointment. Plant a meadow. Follow a new path.

Why wait ‘til tomorrow? Forget the forecast. Go anyway. Simplify. Streamline. Speak your truth. Believe.

Cheer yourself on. Pat your own back. Keep your own promises. 

Begin.

Dare.

Do.

the happiness list

I’m a list maker. A note taker. A sometime journaler. A writer in the margins. Scraps of thoughts. A wisp of an idea. The tinkle of a phrase or whisper of a word. I write them all down.

This is the summer of new adventures. I’m driving down roads I’ve never been down before. Exploring. Growing. Getting down to the basics of living a full life. Good health. Gratitude. Beauty. And happiness there for the noticing. Ah. The noticing.

Happiness, I’ve discovered, is not some designated point on the timeline of my life, some ultimate destination, or final achievement. It arrives in single moments – simple moments – and I’ve learned how important it is to be paying attention.

What makes me happy in the course of a single day?

Depends on the day of course. The season. Me. Responsibilities. What happys me one day is circumstantial to the life I’m living right there and then. Such moments pass quickly, easily-forgotten, and replaced by the next, newest, present breath, vision, or feeling.

Which is why I’m keeping a list.

For me, happiness is all wrapped up with a bow of gratitude, so maybe a happiness list is a lot like a gratitude list, but whatever I call it, I want to be sure my days, my newest adventures, and the smallest, happiest moments of my life are recognized and recorded.

Like a child emptying my pockets of treasures at the end of the day, here’s the happy list from just one afternoon in Vermont:

  • the lush green of trees bordering a hiking trail
  • the sound of rushing water
  • still pond reflections
  • wildflowers
  • a forest floor full of ferns dappled by sunlight
  • the smell of just mowed hay
  • sun on my face
  • Vermont’s state colors: verdant green, the deepest sky blue, barn red, and crisp, white clouds
  • the curve of fence posts up toward the horizon
  • baby sheep
  • curtains billowed by the breeze

I want to live a wonder-full life, awestruck and gratitude filled. Celebrating the regular alongside the unfamiliar and unexpected. Using all of my senses to experience the day I’m living right this very minute. Breathing deeply. Smiling. And satisfied.

What’s on your list?

measuring time

I’ve been measuring time in flowers. Watching spring unfold petal by petal. Open. Warm. (Sometimes.)

After the dormancy of a long, difficult winter, the beauty is there for the noticing in real time. The first unfurl of a leaf, a sudden bright shock of forsythia by the side of a salty, winter sand-covered road, and just now the peonies by the front porch, plump and ready to burst.

Life cycles, of course. Even within a season. Memories attach to events and flowers mark places along a continuum. I wonder if I’ll ever again see an early crocus in bloom without remembering a friend, lost too soon this spring. Or breathe another lilac perfumed breeze without remembering Mother’s Day. In the spaces between, I’m mentally tracking time in tulips and daffodils, following spring’s slow but steady march until summer comes.

Hope follows despair as bloom follows an empty landscape.

Summer’s about ready to take her turn, and just today I discovered wild daisies! Already. Almost before I was ready. The iris in front of that yellow house down the street is in bloom. Those iris always bloom the week before the last day of school. Another flower on the timeline and a consistency I can count on.

The point is, I suppose, is to know where you are at all times. More aware. More present. Equally intentional and spontaneous. There are flowers to count time by and tides rolling in on schedule. Places to go. Things to do. People to meet. I’m always optimistic at the crest of a new season. More ready to begin again, make good on promises to myself I may have broken in seasons past, itchy to explore all my life has to offer.

Lots to do … before the sunflowers rise.

wabi-sabi

Each spring flower lives a temporary, but individually beautiful life. Asian bleeding hearts placed on my mantle lost their vibrant pink days ago, melting into purple, now white.

But are faded petals any less graceful, less photogenic than those in first, full bloom?

Or more so?

Like finally placing a face with a name, today I linked my photography aesthetic with a centuries old art form.

Wabi-sabi originated as a concept and visually appealing ideal from a 16th century Japanese tea master, Sen Rikyu, who revised the Japanese tea ceremony to a new simplicity. In every detail of the ceremony from tea house to tea garden, he honored the pure, the plain, the imperfect, and impermanent.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, wabi is defined as deliberate simplicity in daily living and sabi is an appreciation for the old and faded. Another definition explains wabi-sabi as finding the beauty in imperfection.

For me: it’s inspiration.

for peach

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Emerging from hibernation feels a bit awkward. It’s been almost eight months since I posted here. As for writing, there’s only snatches of notes and quotes scattered in my journal. Just now, I feel more comfortable with other peoples’ words than I do my own. I find my meaning and fill my need through them and theirs.

I wonder what exactly I’m afraid of. I wonder about the loss of my voice. I notice the fragmentation of my thoughts, the unsustainability of my attention. I miss writing, sure, but I’ve been in hiding. From you. From me. From feelings and experiences too fresh and difficult to explore.

Ernest Hemingway once advised: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”

So here’s mine: My mother died January 8, 2019.

I am bereft. A little directionless. Still stunned to just about wordless.

It’s not as if I didn’t know what was coming. I did. Much of last fall was spent in preparation and a gradual comprehension of what was to come. Perhaps it’s more that I didn’t and couldn’t know how I’d feel right there at the end. And after.

After, I’m learning, is for always.

There must’ve been a part of me that didn’t know what that would feel like until I lived it. Until I loved it. Because love endures, tangled up as it is with grief, regret, years of memories, and a new awareness of my own mortality.. Losing my mother has evolved into a certain loneliness. I catch myself sometimes mentally feeling for her, emotionally reaching for her. And she’s gone. I feel orphaned. A fact which I’m somehow still unable to resolve.

Last Mother’s Day, I gave my mother a tangerine-colored, single subject, wide-ruled notebook. Nothing fancy, but cheery, functional, and ready. Tucked between its pages, quotes from many of my favorite writers: Joan Didion, Hemingway, Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Erin Loechner, and Donald Murray who wrote, “Writers are expert dawdlers.”

For as long as I could remember, my mother talked of writing her story.  I hoped she’d release her words to the winds and maybe a bit of pain as well. Confined to her bed for the most part, I hoped she’d finally write in that notebook. Get it all down. Let it all out. Be the writer I always knew she could be.

Funny to think of it now, I believe she wanted the very same for me.

I know I’m out of my writing rhythm, and not at all sure what to say. But for today at least, I’m feeling brave enough to emerge from silence, stretch a bit, and give it another go. Today’s a day as good as any to start writing again.

 

once upon a sunflower

 

DSC_0472We’ve been saving for a new computer.

As such, I’ve started the tedious but necessary task of sorting through, saving, and deleting literally thousands of photographs.

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I have a natural tendency to look back over my shoulder, and I’m often self-reflective all day and into the night. Circular thinking. Around and around. Conversations. Decisions. Plans. Details. Opportunities.

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And while it would be far simpler and certainly less time consuming to delete all the photographs en masse, I’m resisting the temptation.

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It’s a good idea to look backwards from time to time. I like to see where I’ve walked and how far I’ve traveled. The photographs I’m looking at captured a single frame of my life. What I saw. Who I was. How I felt. What it was like to be me at that very point on my timeline.

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All of these photographs. All of these moments and memories. And as I reflect, what’s easiest to see: I’ve grown, and learned, and developed. I am changed.

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Looking back. Pausing. Walking forward. And deciding about what’s just ahead …

… a new Etsy shop for my photographs.

I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, you’re viewing my first series: Once Upon a Sunflower.

It was a magical day.  Pure blue and vibrant yellow.  I’ve sorted, and saved, and remembered every moment.

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And now I’m sharing them with all of you.

Here’s to hope.

 

 

 

 

mend and make do

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We spent the summer nesting. The kind of nesting, apparently, one does when the last of the children leaves and you’ve suddenly inherited a wealth of space previously occupied. It’s a wistful sort of nesting, at first. But we eventually found our way into a groove of happy home-tending.

As such, we’ve worked on all things home this summer. A little remodeling here. Some new furniture there. Paint. Flooring. All with an eye toward how we really intend to use the rooms in our home at this point in our lives. We’ve also planned ahead for when the children, and later the grandchildren, visit.

We’ve spent some hot, summer days in the attic and in the cooler basement: tossing, sorting, debating, and deciding. Paring down possessions accumulated in our 20 or so years as a family. What’s needed? Relevant? Beautiful? Sentimental? Worth hanging on to? Still useful?

While I wouldn’t classify our final decisions as utterly ruthless, we did take a good hard look at our life with stuff. And quite clearly, we have just about everything we need. And then some, probably.

Most of the time, making do simply involves taking a look around to see what I’ve already got. And I guess, that’s what I’m learning. Mend or make do is less about frugality, exactly, than it is recognizing what’s useful and purposeful and helpful among my possessions and banishing those which aren’t any of those things. It’s about retraining my brain from mindless and somewhat habitual consumerism to consciously evaluating wants, needs, and the altogether unnecessary.

New curtains after painting downstairs? Not necessary. Shift the bedroom curtains and rehang some sheers we found in the basement. New area rug? No need. Do si do the rugs in the entry and family room, and it’ll work just fine.  We removed our old kitchen counter and sat it atop some sawhorses downstairs. Et voila! A new workspace emerged for printing and framing my photography.

Maybe it’s time to find a cobbler for those boots I love, so the worn out heels can be restored. It’s a good idea to remove photgraphs I no longer display from the frames I could use for photographs I intend – one day – to show and sell. That old rattan planter makes a nifty wastebasket in our new office space. And I promise I’m finally going to hem that dress which was always an inch or so too long.

It’s a mind shift. A habit shift. A throwback to the days when folks used it up, repaired it time and again, or just plain wore it out before the thought ever occurred to buy new.

Feels good right about now, and I’m discovering …. less really is more.