spring mandala

Gather. Meditate. Center. Breathe.

Circles and cycles. Bud and bloom. Belief and doubt. Celebration and grief.

Faith.

Move inward, out. Outward, in.

Still. Sacred. Spiritual.

A revolution, a resolution, a plan, a path, a prayer.

A journey.

Start here. Or there.

No destination in mind or notice of arrival. Back where I began, here I am returned. Again. Both renewed and changed by the experience of the walk itself, a guarantee that no matter how familiar the path, I am in fact a different person than I was the last time I walked it.

Spring too, here again. Another spin around for both of us. So familiar, but so new and ever hopeful. Both transformed and transforming.

From the one to the many. From the many to the one.

Here, at last.

in the morning kitchen

In the morning kitchen, evening memories linger. Too tired to wrestle with dirty dishes, I’m more likely now to leave it all be. Gathered eggs nest in a basket on the counter next to the remnants of last night’s dinner and a pile of plates. Just lately, I’ve come to love the quiet calm and purpose I find in a morning kitchen. Despite whatever state of chaos I might find upon my arrival, I’m so happy to be there.

I’m done with the guilt I’ve given myself over the years – choosing bed over tidying up. Yes, it’s lovely to brew coffee in a clean kitchen, but there’s delight in a warm bed after a satisfying meal too. I don’t mind the morning mess, and finally how I actually feel is taking precedence over how I think I should feel.

There’s hope in a morning kitchen, a kind of promise to the day ahead as the room’s set to rights. This morning I lit a candle on the counter as I began to clean. A long, white dinner-party taper lit simply because I like candlelight – even in the morning – and especially in the kitchen. The act of lighting – a prayer – a pause – a moment of appreciation and offering, lighting whatever world-weary darkness may be on mind.

I’m home in the morning kitchen. There’s a flavor of peace. Leftover nourishment. Contemplation out the kitchen window over a sinkful of hot, soapy water. I watch the bounce of a bluejay from feeder to branch. The trot of a turkey hen across the yard. The greening of grass.

When I arrive home again at day’s end, the comfort of a clean evening kitchen will greet me. I’ll no doubt light the candle again. Feel happy again. Home again. Content. Right there in the kitchen.

miracle

If you’re in want of a miracle, you need only visit New England in spring. You’ll find the glory you’re looking for in the unfurling of daffodils, the birth of wild violets, and the promise of lilacs. The splendor you seek will be discovered in a burst of forsythia alongside granite rock walls, and there’s something undeniably magical about the magnificence of a magnolia tree in bloom. We’re a ways past sugaring season – one of spring’s first miracles, and impatient as we are to plant in the garden, we welcome the soft purple velvet of pansies in a pot on the porch.

I’ve yet to see Canada geese, though I’ve heard a few honks. The turkey toms are all strut and nonsense out back by the chicken coop where the girls are laying regularly again. So many birds are back, and on my walk I hear a towhee whistle, a repetition I’ve gone so long without. There’s a persistent drill of a woodpecker somewhere off in the distance, and I feel almost dizzy with gratitude to be outside and warm again.

There’s a particular patch of peach daffodils out front of a favorite old farmhouse I walk past. I wait all year for their bloom. No blooms yet, but I know there’s a measured pace and pattern to growing. Just as I know the apple trees blossom sometime around Mother’s Day and the peonies a week or so after that, I know nature takes its own sweet time with no regard for human opinion or hope. Those peach daffydowndillies are late bloomers is all, and if pleasures like these awoke all at once, they’d be done and over, there and gone before I knew it. Too much, too soon is never a good thing.

Beyond the old farmhouse I can hear the rush and tumble of a usually slow and humble creek all proud and boisterous after this week’s Nor’easter. I’m on the watch for baby ducks paddling single file in the quieter water below the falls, or if we’re lucky, maybe some goslings too. Just to smell fresh water and first-mown grass feels almost impossible somehow. Wasn’t it snowing and cold only yesterday?

My silly watch measures my walk and my much slower-than-normal pace, once in awhile messaging: Are you done with your workout? I’m sure it wonders why on earth I’m walking so slowly.

As if that requires explanation.

I’m witness to the greening of grass, the golding of weeping willows, and the arrival of a New England spring. A privilege. A blessing. A miracle.

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.

balance

There comes a tipping point in my balance.

When what’s good for me becomes just one more thing to do, and I am no longer one of my own priorities.

No amount of candle lighting or journal writing can recenter the weight.There’s only the passage of time, hope for a good night’s sleep, and the certain knowledge this time too shall pass.

In the meantime, there are negotiations. Trades. This for that. Time borrowed here and spent there. Adjustments.

And the truth is, imbalance is just as unsustainable as balance.

Because there arrives a day when the pressure subsides. Responsibilities lift. Check marks ink all the to-be-dones as done. And I wonder what all the fuss was about.

Hope emerges from underneath the pile on the desk.

I turn a new page in the journal, flip the calendar to April, and finally choose to pack the camera after all.

I breathe in. Exhale. And smile.

Every little thing’s gonna be alright.*

Thanks to Bob Marley for the reminder.

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

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.

from within … to without

I suppose it’s true to say the older I get, the more generalized anxiety I feel – especially as relates to my health. One scare too many, I guess. Near-misses and almosts, thankfully, but they’re the cause and culprit of anxiety that now goes from zero to 60 faster than my car. Covid hasn’t helped, of course. I’m sometimes only one small headache or throat-tickle away from a full-on, full-alert, oh-my-gosh-I-should-get-tested reaction. 

Safe to say, the cause exaggerates the effect.

Walking gives me a moving moment or two of peace, a respite from the thought spiral, a shift of focus from myself to the great big, wide open out there.

A walk from within anxiety … to without.

For me, it’s all in the noticing. Moving from big feelings to small details. An intentional pause to find nature’s bits and pieces I might ordinarily walk by – looking without seeing. The way morning light caresses a leaf. How fall colors brighten the poison ivy first. Berries. Nuts. Seeds all but ready to release and drift aloft. Itty bitty oak leaves. And the tiniest little wildflowers I never did see – or notice before.

And that thirty-minute walk takes me both outside into the world and out of my own head altogether. Call it self-medication. An intervention.

A cure.

One foot in front of the other. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hope.

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.