a tisket, a task-et … or why I’m done with planning

DSC_0400 (1)One of my favorite pairs of pants has been missing a button since last April.  Every week, I plan to write and exercise for several hours each and never quite get around to either. Hundreds and hundreds of photographs need to be deleted from our computer, and another few hundred need to be organized somehow.

I’ve been cleaning out our basement for months and I haven’t even started on the attic. One of these days, I’ll bake that bread I bought yeast for in June. Several yards of fabric sits washed and ready on my sewing table waiting for me to get around to making placemats and napkins.

A plan from last fall.

Clearly there’s a difference between what I say I want to do – and what I actually do.

Which is why I’m done with planning.

Planning, apparently, doesn’t work for me. It’s too loosey-goosey, too vague, too lacking in structure. Each morning’s get up and go energy and best-laid plans seem forgotten as day evolves into night, and I’m more likely to sit down and take the day off from whatever it was I orignally planned to do.

I’ve tried listing. Gave bullet journaling a whirl. I’ve got a desk calendar, an academic planner, and a lovely, rose-colored week-at-a-glance. Nothing I’ve tried works.

So I’m turning to scheduling.

I’ve always thought scheduling is for doctors, dentists, and hairdressers.  People on a tight – well, schedule. People who account for and detail the minutes and hours of a day. Of course, some parts of my day are accounted for too … but many minutes aren’t. They’re unbooked. I’m free.  Wide open and available.

So what have I been doing with all that unscheduled time? What have I achieved? Finished? Or even started at all?

Truth is, not much.

I think I’ve approached this planning thing all wrong, and I’m ready to follow a whole new format.  Waking to sleeping, what hours and minutes are already spoken for? When I plug in the working hours, the meeting minutes, and weekly appointments – what’s left?

Because that’s the time I’m interested in.

And maybe I need to see it to do something with it.  If my meeting ends at four and I start dinner at six, what’s on the schedule for those two free hours?  Now that I can see it’s open and available, how will I spend it?

It’s a very visual and a whole new way of thinking for me because I’ve always imagined myself to be spontaneous. Turns out, spontaneity works for a quick trip to the beach, but not that book I’ve been meaning to write.

What I’ve really just needed is a wee bit more structure to make time for what I value and what I say is important to me. I need to pencil in equal parts responsibility and possibility.

And schedule time for both.

 

life lessons: the next best thing

DSC_0365 (3)I’ve got plans.  I’ve got daydreams. And as my father used to say, “I’ve got places to go, things to do, and people to see.”

Thing is, sometimes I can’t.  I can’t follow through with the plans. Can’t go, see, or do.

Maybe that’s true for you too?DSC_0375 (2)Factor in time, opportunity, or shifting priorities – and sometimes what we want to do is better left for what we can do.

Otherwise known as the next best thing.

All summer long I planned to visit this farm come September. The farm’s beautiful sunflower field is legendary – literally a New England celebrity – filling the photographic feeds of Instagram on a daily basis. Sunflowers at sunrise. Sunflowers at sunset. And just about every hour in between.DSC_0340 (4)But September’s starting to wane, as are the sunflowers – and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make it to the famously photogenic sunflower farm.  Not this year.

And it’s okay.

Because I’ve discovered that going and doing the next best thing is just as good.

I grabbed my camera yesterday morning and drove to a sunflower field at a farm about five minutes from home. (Six minutes if there’s turkeys in the road.)  The morning fog framed the flowers softly, and I took my time walking through the tangled path right smack dab in the middle of all that sunflower vibrance.

It was lovely.  DSC_0348 (2)Pretty much just me, my camera, and the sunflowers hanging out in a quiet field on a damp, foggy September morning.

And somewhere out there in the middle of all those towering flowers, I learned the next best thing is good enough.DSC_0347 (3)And sometimes … even better.

 

walk with the flowers

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I love a walking road trip.

Or maybe it’s better called a destination walk?

Either way, I enjoy walking the sidewalks in towns not my own.

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I’m partial to parks, of course, but I also enjoy a slow stroll along someone else’s Main Street.

Window shopping’s fun. But I also love flower box browsing.

What combinations of lovely do other folks plant? What’s blooming on the front stoop?

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As a walking tourist, I guess I have a bit of a floral fascination. I already know just about every shrub, perennial, and pot in my own neighborhood, so it’s a little fun to see how they do it in another neck of the woods.

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When I walk new neighborhoods, I discover what summer abundance grows wild by a garden gate or tucks neatly around a mailbox, what burst of summer celebration hangs lush and colorful from a hook on a front porch.

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It’s a little peek – really – into a life I know nothing about except for the beauty they’re willing to share with a stranger, a passer by, a someone like me who very much appreciates the gift.

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A rose by someone else’s gate … still smells as sweet as my own.

So a grateful thank you to those kind strangers whose streets I walk … and an open invitation to amble past our garden anytime.

Just now, the coneflowers are in full bloom.

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life lessons: off grid

DSC_0326 (7)I’ve been living off grid.

Not unplugged, mind you, but off grid in the sense that daily summer adventures are moving me beyond the regularly traveled intersections of my life.

The result?

My spirits: higher. My rest: deeper. My stress: lower.  My eyes, heart, and mind: clear, open, and engaged. In that order.

In short:  I’m happy.

Day trips. Camping. Tennis. Hikes. Beach. Baseball. Friends. Food. Books. Family.

Life feels invigorating.

Research shows multiple benefits to breaking out of your routine. Even taking a different route between work and home is like a refresh for your brain. New surroundings. New focus. Heightened awareness. Brain growth.

Take yourself outside for even more health benefits.  Google it: “health benefits of being outside.” I got 11,600,000 hits. Everyone from the National Wildlife Federation to Harvard University agrees: spending any amount of time outside can improve your mood, your mental cognition,  and just about everything else about the way your body and brain work: from your attention span to your deep sleep cycle.

The good news?

There’s still 52 days left of summer, and summer is one of the easiest times of the year to explore.

How will you spend your 52?

 

 

mistaken identity

I’ve been doing a little digging.

(for a book)

And one thing I’ve learned just lately is the difference between Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota,)

Queen Anne’s Lace

and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).

Poison Hemlock

Quite literally, it’s the difference between life and death.

Unlike Queen Anne’s lace, parts of which are edible, poison hemlock is as its name indicates – a deadly plant and definitely NOT for eating.

But easily confused, apparently, by me.

All this time, I thought I was taking photographs of a prolific and well-loved wildflower – or invasive weed – depending on your point of view. When in reality, I was also sometimes photographing a poisonous imposter.

Poison Hemlock

I even enlarged and framed one of my photographs for our guest room, believing all the while it was lovely Queen Anne’s lace which so nicely complimented the old quilt on the iron bed.

Turns out … I was dead wrong.

Isn’t learning fun?

Queen Anne’s Lace

Named for Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) this lacey flower is frequently found roadside around my New England home. It’s a summer meadow filler too, dainty-looking, but a bit tough to pick.  The flower begins and ends its life pulled in tight on itself in a delicate, little ball – blooming wide open only in the hope of pollination.

Legend has it Queen Anne was quite a lace maker. Once upon a time, she pricked her finger and a single, tiny droplet of royal blood fell upon her lace work – just like the tiny, purple spot found within the central area of her namesake flower.

I just love a story where someone else’s past shows up in my present.

Queen Anne’s Lace

A biennial, Queen Anne’s lace is also known as wild carrot. It’s high in sugar and since Europeans cultivated it, American colonists came to use it as well, boiling the taproot – sometimes in wine.  First year plants are best. Roots work well in soups, stews, and tea. Leaves work well in salad, as do the flowers.

However.

I, for one, plan to continue enjoying both of these flowers, which tend to like the same kinds of space, from behind my camera.

Poison Hemlock

It’s safer there, it doesn’t much matter which elegant flower is which, and my life doesn’t depend on telling them apart.

postcard: mrs. lincoln’s garden

DSC_0356 (5)Jessie Lincoln Beckwith Johnson Randolph loved her mother.

It must be so.

It must be true.

In my imagination, Jessie was a daughter who loved her mother so much … she created a garden just for her. And not just any garden. A garden with thousands of blooms. A garden with borders and pathways. A garden planned and planted by color and symmetry.DSC_0353 (7)Maybe Jessie wanted her mother to have a garden as majestic as her new home.  Maybe she wanted to remind her mother of the years she lived in Europe. Maybe Mary Harlan Lincoln, daughter-in-law of Abraham, was a woman who had everything … except for a formal, parterre garden.DSC_0343 (10)Or maybe, just maybe, Jessie wanted to gift a garden that would bloom and bloom her love forever and ever.

And so far it has.DSC_0350 (8)A garden like this one doesn’t happen by accident and deserves an inspirational setting in which to take root.  This mother-daughter garden grows at Hildene, ancestral home of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, in Manchester, VT.DSC_0334 (6)It’s said Mary Harlan Lincoln could see the whole expanse of her garden blooming before her as she stood at her second floor, center bedroom window.  Now known as the Hoyt formal garden, I prefer to think of it as Mrs. Lincoln’s garden.  Stunning from any view, the garden is most beautiful, perhaps, from that second floor – planned as it was to resemble a cathedral stained glass window. DSC_0348 (9)Hildene, a beautiful 24 -room Georgian Revival style manion, is but one generation away from the single-room log cabin Abraham Lincoln was born in.  Tucked into the beautiful Vermont green mountains, visitors can walk, self-guided, through most of the home with many of its original furnishings and features, including family artifacts and a historical timeline perspective of President Lincoln’s life and death.

You can read about Hildene’s history  here.DSC_0354 (7)It’s the garden, though, which captured my heart.  I’d love to take tea with Mrs. Lincoln out on the porchswing in the early warmth of mid-June. We’d swing, and sip, and marvel at mountains and the never-ending beauty of Vermont.DSC_0344 (6)And the sweet scent of a thousand peony blossoms would remind us both of the ever-blooming love between a mother and her child.

 

 

 

 

postcard: billings farm

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Step into the 1890 farmhouse and make yourself right at home.

Can you smell the biscuits in the oven?  Feel the curve of the pump handle in your hand?

Don’t get too comfortable though, there’s work to be done.

Maybe the cows are ready for milking.

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Or it’s time for butter-making in the creamery.

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Could be there’s ripe tomatoes ready to pick in the heirloom garden. Or supper to cook on the kitchen’s grand black stove.

There’s always work to be done, but be sure to make time for a quiet moment to graze awhile and simply smell the sunsoaked grass.

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Are you ready to receive visitors in the front parlor?

Or is it time for bed after a long day’s work?

Early to bed, early to rise is a way of life on the farm.

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There’s so much to explore at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, VT where blue skies and green pastures meet at the horizon and the rural history of Vermont is a  just short walk back in time.

An interactive museum, the Billings Farm features films and exhibits on farming history, maple sugaring, ice cutting, and life in the farm community.

The farm animals befriend visitors right there at the pasture fence or back in the barns: draft horses, dairy cows, chickens, and sheep.

The 1890 Billings farm house offers you a home and hospitality from the past: the business end of farming and function in the farm office with its majestic standing desk,  family living quarters, and the glorious pastoral views from every window.

Billings Farm is owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc., a charitable nonprofit. An interactive museum and working dairy farm, be sure to try some of the Billings Farm cheddar cheese!

Open daily, May 1 through October 31, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

www.billingsfarm.org

802-457-2355