bloom

I have so many writing ideas when there’s no time to write.

Truly, I have ever so much more to say once upon a work day, and despite my whenever I have day off intentions, I hardly ever follow through. I’ve netted many a willow wisp of an idea in the hour or so before my shift starts, but I live onward in the day and in the days after that without looking back to whatever thought I captured.

I have to believe if I had something important to say, I couldn’t help myself but say it.

Still, ideas I’ve left unexplored feel like hopes neglected and a voice – my voice – ignored.

I’ll need to meet myself face-to-face at this intersection of what I say I want and walking what I talk.

I wonder why the commitments to myself are those I’m least likely to honor?

Hope is hardy though, especially and always in spring. If ever there was a time for new growth, this is it.

So look for me nestled … and writing … among the branches of the forsythia, anticipating the bloom of the lilac, my words, and me.

good day to you, February

Good day to you, February!

I welcome you to the comfort of my kitchen. I’m warming the oven – and myself – after a long, dark, cold January. I’m baking today. Seven cabinet doors flung wide from the gathering of ingredients and tools and bowls. Evidence I was here. Cookie dough spins in the mixer and the sun just arrived … at 6:58 … same time as last year on this day. (I checked.)

I smile to think of who I am this February compared to last. At 6:58 or any other time. And then I think, how nice it is to smile about such as that, about me as I am. Yes, February, I’ve added the right ingredients: plenty of rest, drinking my water, moving my body, reading lovely books, loving my people as best I can, and of course, hope.

Hope was a little harder to find last February. Maybe sometimes hope is tucked away in the back of the cabinet, behind the molasses, just waiting for me to pull it out, dust it off, and share it with others. Hope, like the cookies I’m baking today, is meant to be shared. And February, you with your earlier sunrises and later sunsets – give hope. Just when we need it most, I think.

So today I’ll be sharing cookies, February. And if you’d be so kind, please share some hope. In your month of love, remind me to love my neighbors, to offer warmth, to welcome … and accept … everyone. 

Open my heart wide, February. 

French Love Cakes

1 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped, roasted pecans

Sifted powdered sugar (about 1/2 cup)

In large mixing bowl beat together butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt until fluffy. Stir in flour and pecans until combined. Shape into 1 1/4 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 325 ° oven 20 to 23 minutes until golden. Remove from sheet to cooling rack over parchment paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 30.

-adapted from Country Home Magazine, February 1999

after all

I am a writer.

After all.

I’ve learned (recently) just how I write. How – I – write.

I used to think I needed a writer’s notebook to write. (To be a writer.) And I needed a room. Maybe a loft. Definitely a desk. Old. Wooden. Carved with someone else’s initials and scuffed at the legs. Funny the images I create. The people and personas I imagine. How one is supposed to write. Supposed to be. Supposed to live. 

And none of them are me.

Who I am is a writer who writes in the morning while making the bed. While readying for work. Somewhere between brushing my hair and my teeth, I find my meaning. I write in come-to-mind phrases. Snatches of conversations I have with myself. Scraps of thought I may never sew together. A dropped stitch plucked up from some other day’s ideas.

Maybe my writer’s mind is free to roam while my body is otherwise occupied. Maybe I listen best to what I have to say while moving. Maybe it’s how I greet myself of a morning and find out what’s been on my mind all night.

I’ve taken to propping my computer open on my dresser. I stand there and write. Listening to my fingers find my words as they appear on the screen like some kind of sleight of hand magic trick tapping out today’s truth of me.

All of which is to say I am happy to find the writer I am and discard that draft of she I thought I should be.

A writer writes.

I’m an audience of one, hopeful to write and read whatever my words mean to say.

I am a writer.

After all.

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.

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

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)

an early spring

Did you know spring arrives earlier than usual this year?

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the spring equinox falls on March 19th – earlier than it’s been in over a century! For those of us counting – and here in the northeast, we are many – that’s only 18 days away! Not only that, but we’ll turn the clocks ahead an hour only seven days from today as we spring forward into Daylight Saving Time.

For me, there’s no hope quite like spring hope!

Here’s a few fun ways to enjoy, celebrate, and spend your days in positive ways while you await spring’s arrival:

  • Keep a spring flower journal … The arrival of spring flowers is a beautiful progression of blooms to watch and document. I know just where the daffodils bloom next to the foundation at church and spotted a few green shoots this morning. I can’t wait for the forsythia and lilacs to bloom out back, and every year I spend lots of time photographing the neighbor’s iris. Journal your way to spring by keeping a written record, watercolor paintings, sketches, or photographs.
  • Keep a birding notebook … In our part of New England, Canada geese are making their way northward. Bird calls are increasing by the day, and I’m ready to research just who’s heralding spring around here. It’s time to learn how to match the call to the bird … a new project for me!
  • Visit a sugar house … with the warmer daytime temperatures and still cold evening temperatures, the sap’s been running well here in New Hampshire. There are over 350 maple producers in New Hampshire and you can learn about them here. The 25th annual NH Maple Weekend is scheduled for March 21 – 22 with open sugar houses across the state. Visit the Vermont Sugar Makers’ Association here. If you aren’t able to visit in person, visit either of these sites to order syrup or mix up some maple sweetness in your kitchen with a variety of yummy recipes!
  • Bake hot cross buns … a spiced sweet bun with dried fruit and marked with a cross on the top, hot cross buns are a Christian Lenten tradition. I wrote about baking them here and used this recipe, substituting dried cranberries for raisin or currents.
  • Plan your summer garden … no matter the dimensions of your yard or size of your containers, the Old Farmer’s Almanac can help you plan what to grow in it. You can explore their free garden planning trial by clicking here. Hope springs eternal in a growing garden, and you’ll harvest a bunch of health benefits too!
  • March for Babies … According to the March of Dimes, two babies die every hour in the United States and one woman dies every 12 hours from pregnancy complications. Register here to March for Babies and find a local spring march for healthy moms and their babies.

full

January’s been … long.

And full. Purposeful. Mindful. Meaningful. Grateful.

I’ve felt powerful: building my physical strength and stamina. Resourceful: planning relevant experiences for my students. Sorrowful: remembering the first anniversary of my mother’s passing. And, of course, hopeful: beginning each and every day this month filling the pages of my journal with gratitude, guidance, goals, and hope for grace.

I’ve lived faithfully: honoring my commitment to #the100dayproject with at least a photograph a day – – showing up at the gym more days in January than not – – devoting time and effort to my health, diet, and overall well being.

There’s been wistful days, joyful days, and stressful days. More ups than downs, thankfully. A few trips and falls, painfully. Many new insights, realizations, and emotional turn-abouts, helpfully.

In other words, life’s been plentiful. And I’m taking one more deep, full breath of January and the fresh, clean air of a new year.

Thirty-one days.

Heart full.

3

habit

I think it’s true: the more you write, the more you write.

Writer’s write. It’s habit. It’s pen in hand. Laptop open. It’s simply showing up. The words, I’m discovering, will take care of themselves. It’s work, of course. Equal parts determination and devotion. Sometimes, delight. But mostly, it’s a decision.

So, I write.

I’ve been writing every morning. Journaling mostly. Lists. Notes. Phrases. Quotes. Ideas. Seeds. 

As a child naturally seeks boundaries in order to feel safe enough to grow beyond them, so does the structure of my morning page first fence me in and then free me to roam beyond.

Ideas arrive, much to my surprise. Pages fill. I think bookish thoughts. 

My notebook travels everywhere I do. Sometimes the words arrive in the spaces between. The space between leaving for work and arriving. There’s space too, after writing what I want to say in which I sometimes discover what I need to say.

I am not the sum of my words, but the subtraction of them. I take away what I mean to say from the entirety of what I wrote, so what’s left is what’s necessary, real, and true. Somewhere in all those words is my tiny moment of knowing. 

And sometimes, simply sitting with stillness and silence feels just right. There’s faith the words will come, because the habit of writing proves this to be true. 

The more you write, the more you write.

time travel

Stepped out the back door with my camera yesterday afternoon, seeking a moment or two in the last of the light. Feeding my soul, I’m learning, needn’t wait. If I’ve a bit of opportunity, an open few minutes, that’s exactly the right time to take the time. Life will wait, the light won’t.

Time travel: soul searching, to soul feeding, to soul filling.

In only ten minutes.

Out the back door.