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.

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.

morning glory

I greet the day with a good morning salutation to my life. 

It’s a beautiful day outside my window, but my attention, my gaze is inward. A moving moment with myself, within myself, for myself.

I stretch. Slowly. Almost timidly at first. Loosen and limber my body, open my circulation, lift my face to the heavens.

Let go. 

Feet side-by-side and steady. I focus. Firm my base. Tether the possibilities in my day to the intention of this solid rooting. In this moment, I re-engage with the substance of me, the soul of me. I am tall. Undaunted. Strong.

I ballerina-arch my arms overhead. Both at once and then one at a time, an orchestration in a symphony of movement. Lean to one side, switch arms, and lean again opposite. Tilt my head to and fro. Nod yes.  Swivel no. 

Clasp my hands overhead and gaze upward. Step wide. 

A living, breathing, sign of peace.

Arms down. Palms up. I seek balance. Raise one leg behind me. Lower. Raise the next. Wobble. Steady. Wobble. Breathe in, out. In, out.  Accept the wobble. Accept myself. Understand my limitations and work within them. Sometimes noticing I’m holding my breath. Releasing it, I try again. And again. As many times as necessary.

Faithful.

Kneel. Cat. Cow. Cat. Cow. Arch. Collapse. Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. Deepen. The. Stretch. Just. A. Little. Bit. More.

One part yoga, one part simple stretching, one part whatever feels good. 

My morning glory. 

hello

Hello.

I don’t know why I picked this day, time, and place to write again, but here I am. 

I’m transitioning. Leaving one lifestyle to live in the next as I close my career and cross into the wide-open world of now what? And maybe I should admit right from the get-go that I while have no idea what I’m doing, I’m feeling all kinds of faith that whatever’s next will somehow find me. In the air around me, there’s a sweet-smelling kind of hope like newly-turned soil or just-mown grass. A fresh, first time. A brand-new moment of me.

I’m not sure if I’m in search of a new identity or reacquainting myself with an old one. I’m conjugating … Who was I? Who am I? Who will I be?  I’m not so much making decisions as I am choices, and I don’t think I ever really understood the distinction between the two until now.  

My breathing feels as unrestricted as my day – a deep inhale and a slow, intentional exhale. And I guess that’s exactly where I am right now, the peaceful pause found in the space between breathing in and out, between an end and a beginning.

In the meantime, between all this new-found serenity and possibility, there’s boxes to be emptied, books to shelve, and rooms filled with tasks I’ve wisely left “until I have more time. “  Time I now have. Plus more to read, daydream, walk awhile down the road …

and write.

i’ve been meaning to write

i’ve been meaning to write
to send word
to put pen to paper
fingers to keys
to find release in the process
an understanding
a few of the right words
(or any words at all)
i’ve been meaning to write
for the pure pleasure
of the pen scratch
for the marvel
of how many times i forget
to cross my T s and dot my I s
for the twirl of hair
around my index finger
thinking thinking
for the cross-outs and arrows
and notes in the margins
i’ve been meaning to write
with a come-what-may pace
to “speed ahead of the censor”
to find truth
in whatever flows from my pen
to learn whatever it is
“I did not know I knew”
to show up
here
i’ve been meaning to write
from inside to out
to uncork the bottle
to chart a map
to discover
and when I’m done …
to hope
to put the pen down
and keep walking.

*quotations thanks to Donald M. Murray

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.

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