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.

this and that

I spend almost all day Monday through Friday making decisions. For myself, yes, but mostly for other people. It’s part of my job. I’m granted a lot of freedom. Choices. And the autonomy to make them. All of which I’m very grateful for.

But sometimes tired too. By the time the end of the work day or the weekend rolls along, it’s a challenge to make even one more decision. I’m decision weary.

Should I stay late or go in early? Home or gym? Cook or order in? News or Netflix? More often than I care to admit, my book gathers dust on my bedside table while I choose to scroll Instagram. A choice and decision I almost always regret.

Maybe my want-tos are all tangled up with my should-dos. Too many choices can overwhelm. And often there’s others to consider. What would he want? What choice would they make?

Sometimes decisions are mutually exclusive, and I want them both. Or both choices are necessary and pressing so I need them both. Sometimes I simply can’t make up my mind.

I want this and that. When and where is there room for both? For both and instead of either or?

I think the answer is: as often as possible.

More often than not these days, I’m compromising between wants and needs, work and play, and all of the shoulds, musts, and coulds. It’s thoughtful decision making at the end of the day. Tired or not, it’s finding room for a little bit of this and that.

And I’m happier for it.

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.

in case of overwhelm

ride it out * go with it * this too shall pass * one day at a time * first things first * do the next right thing * take something off your plate * tomorrow’s another day * do something for yourself * do something for others * self-care * don’t worry, be happy * rest * relax * meditate * breathe

count your blessings * start with gratitude * it will all be there tomorrow * walk it out * talk it out * work it out * be

progress over perfection * create something * build something * clean something * move your body * organize * strategize * prioritize * trust the system * believe in yourself * have faith

unplug * disconnect * recharge* ask yourself: how important is it * will this matter: in five minutes, five hours, five days, weeks, years * follow your instincts * trust your gut * surround yourself with people who love you* spend some time alone

pray

do or dream

A few minutes shy of six this morning, I left the early Sunday comfort of home to greet the sunrise. I must’ve looked a character in gym shorts, my husband’s oversized t-shirt, plum-colored windbreaker, and tall, black rubber boots. I cared not. Clutching my keys and my camera, my new tripod, my wallet, and glasses, I left a quick note for my still-sleeping husband. My heart was as full as my hands and off I went.

For me, there’s such a dichotomy between dreaming and doing. I’ve oodles of dreams and years’ worth of intentions. What I don’t have – often – is the daring to do. Or the time. Or the energy. Or the opportunity. Whether one or all of the above, the point is dreams remain dormant until and when I decide to do, to act, to move, to create, to dare.

Dreaming isn’t doing, and many days, all I do … is dream.

But back to the sunrise and me in all my sartorial glory. And while I didn’t much care what I looked like to whomsoever passed me by at 5:59 this morning, I felt a bit vulnerable out there in the wide, open world of what if. Vulnerability or not. I did it anyway.

I’ve often imagined a dawn cresting over the farm down the road. Imagined the sky. Purpling and pinking. Imagined the solitary trees shadowed against the brightening sky. I imagined the horses off in the distance, the greening slope of the hill, and the brown barn. Imagined myself right there, experiencing it all. Photographing it all. I’ve dreamed it. And today … done it.

No matter I chose the wrong camera lens. No matter I couldn’t quite find the angle I wanted. No matter the car idling and blinking roadside (or my anxiety about leaving it there as I wandered away with my camera.) No matter the on-the-fly tripod learning curve. No matter my appearance or as yet unbrushed teeth. No matter my vulnerability. What mattered most was me. Out and about in my little town, chasing a dream and the sunrise.

Doing.

living like I mean it

I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of my comfort zone: summer.

I’m living like I mean it. I’m a shell gatherer. A flower picker. A storm cloud watcher. I’m a bird listener. A porch sitter. Healthier. Happier. Whole.

Around the house, I putter at this and dabble at that. No pressure. Not many have-tos. I make my bed every morning and tumble back into it at night, satisfied. My blood pressure’s down, and my hope’s up. And yes, I have sorrows. But blessings too. So many blessings.

 I thrive in summer. All steam heat and sultry days. Plenty of time and lots of the very best things to eat, see, and experience. In essence, I’m living all summer has to offer.  Just picked fruits and vegetables. Digging my feet in the sand. Estimating the time I have on the hard sand before the tide rises. Endless and awe-filled gazing at our grand daughter.

All the important stuff.

Ive read this book

and this one

and this guide has helped me create more simple and healthier options into our cleaning caddy.

I’m paging through this new cookbook

and so thrilled to be spending more time experimenting with this one.

Feel good about using this sunscreen every day and loving the fresh, summery scent of these lemongrass essential oils  in our laundry.  These reusable produce bags are my new favorite shopping habit.

Cannot wait to try my new tripod (thanks to a couple of Christmas gift cards, a bit of extra time for a road trip here, and a really good deal.) Maybe one of these is in my future?

Yep. It’s summer. And I’m living like I mean it. 

Headed here for the day!

Postcard to follow!

 

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.