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.

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?

mend and make do

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We spent the summer nesting. The kind of nesting, apparently, one does when the last of the children leaves and you’ve suddenly inherited a wealth of space previously occupied. It’s a wistful sort of nesting, at first. But we eventually found our way into a groove of happy home-tending.

As such, we’ve worked on all things home this summer. A little remodeling here. Some new furniture there. Paint. Flooring. All with an eye toward how we really intend to use the rooms in our home at this point in our lives. We’ve also planned ahead for when the children, and later the grandchildren, visit.

We’ve spent some hot, summer days in the attic and in the cooler basement: tossing, sorting, debating, and deciding. Paring down possessions accumulated in our 20 or so years as a family. What’s needed? Relevant? Beautiful? Sentimental? Worth hanging on to? Still useful?

While I wouldn’t classify our final decisions as utterly ruthless, we did take a good hard look at our life with stuff. And quite clearly, we have just about everything we need. And then some, probably.

Most of the time, making do simply involves taking a look around to see what I’ve already got. And I guess, that’s what I’m learning. Mend or make do is less about frugality, exactly, than it is recognizing what’s useful and purposeful and helpful among my possessions and banishing those which aren’t any of those things. It’s about retraining my brain from mindless and somewhat habitual consumerism to consciously evaluating wants, needs, and the altogether unnecessary.

New curtains after painting downstairs? Not necessary. Shift the bedroom curtains and rehang some sheers we found in the basement. New area rug? No need. Do si do the rugs in the entry and family room, and it’ll work just fine.  We removed our old kitchen counter and sat it atop some sawhorses downstairs. Et voila! A new workspace emerged for printing and framing my photography.

Maybe it’s time to find a cobbler for those boots I love, so the worn out heels can be restored. It’s a good idea to remove photgraphs I no longer display from the frames I could use for photographs I intend – one day – to show and sell. That old rattan planter makes a nifty wastebasket in our new office space. And I promise I’m finally going to hem that dress which was always an inch or so too long.

It’s a mind shift. A habit shift. A throwback to the days when folks used it up, repaired it time and again, or just plain wore it out before the thought ever occurred to buy new.

Feels good right about now, and I’m discovering …. less really is more.

just do

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Nike got it right.

Just Do It.

Brilliance in only three, one-syllable words.

I spend so many days busily living the norm. Whatever the time of year, days have a certain flow and rhythm, regular and habitual tasks, and the occasional moment of spontaneity where life feels a little more fun and free.

There’s also an on-going and ever evolving list playing on repeat reel in my mind. To-dos, yes, but also want-to-dos. Should dos. Wish I coulds. And someday whens.

Here’s where Just Do It must’ve been born. Maybe we all have such a list playing like background music in our private thoughts. And instead of just thinking and dreaming and planning and wishing and waiting and … hoping … we should just do it already.

Whatever it is.

As of this morning:

  • write every day
  • open an Etsy shop
  • ride my bike to work
  • morning yoga
  • make a salad
  • make do
  • sit with it
  • invest in photography lighting and a new tripod
  • (see make do)
  • save
  • mend that missing button
  • floss
  • take a pottery lesson
  • experiment with photographing people (kids especially!)
  • experiment with minimalism in photography
  • walk the beach
  • put down my phone
  • finish that book
  • train for another marathon (or half … or 5K)
  • walk after dinner
  • climb a mountain

Whatever shall I do today?

 

bake for good

DSC_0018 (2)There’s nothing more simply satisfying, more homey and wholesome, or more basically beautiful than a loaf of freshly-baked bread.

Unless you bake two loaves – and share one.

When I bake bread, my heart fills in direct proportion to the rise of the dough. I love all the steps: the measuring, the mixing, the kneading, the baking. I love the aroma as the crust browns. I love to cradle the warmth of each loaf as I wrap it in a cotton cloth just out from the oven. I especially love feeding my family.

I’ve written before about the joy and grounding I find when baking. (See Warmth.) I’m not much for cakes, although this is a good one, and I’m family-famous for my chocolate chip cookies, but my new fascination is with baking bread. It’s been a long-standing someday thought, only recently realized come an unexpected snow day off from school.

And it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

Time-consuming? Yes. But easy. And so worth the time.

This latest good thing in my life rose even higher, so to speak, this week after an in-school presentation by King Arthur Flour. Based in Norwich, Vermont, King Arthur Flour’s been a baking name to know since 1790 and employee-owned since 2004. With a company focus on connections in the community, the flour company not only maintains a baking school, but several outreach programs designed to “Bake for Good.”

Last week, the students in our school enjoyed King Arthur Flour’s Learn. Bake. Share. program where they learned all the basics of bread baking and the science behind it too. Each student was sent home with a flour-filled canvas tote, a dough scraper, a packet of yeast, a booklet of delicious recipes to try with their families at home … and an invitation: To share what they bake by donating a loaf to a local food bank.

Kids can participate in two ways:

King Arthur representatives visit over 200 schools all over the country every year. In-school presentations can be arranged by visiting here. Self-directed group baking can be arranged by visiting here.

Youth groups of all kinds can participate in Learn. Bake. Share. Anyone can participate and pledge to King Arthur’s Bake for Good. One pledge = one meal donated to Feeding America.  So far, King Arthur’s donated over 41,000 meals to date!

Bake. Enjoy. Give. And rise.

 

 

 

 

It Feels So Good … To Be Well

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There’s nothing like a good dose of — I’ve been sick for weeks and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me– to slow, if not stall life on the spot. All the balls in air and mid-juggle, drop to the floor.

The mental rooms I lived in for almost a month felt smaller, more intimate, cleared of superfluous clutter, and I focused only on one thing — getting well. It was a life-shift, honestly. A paring down to the necessary and essential. Rest. Drink. Food. Every day’s decision evaluated by the sole criteria … Is this what’s best for me?

At the time, I found myself wishing for my “old life” back and wanted more than anything to think about something … anything … beyond my symptoms and what caused them. What eased them. What would finally elminate them.

Maybe it takes feeling really, really bad … to decide it’s time to live well.

Because after a week or so back into regular living,  I’ve decided I don’t really want my old life back after all. I want to live a more careful and considered life where the focus question all day, every day is followed by that one and only get-well criteria I lived when I was sick …

Is this what’s best for me?

What choices do I need to make to feel … well?

What should I eat? Drink? When do I need to rest?

Which balls do I pick up? And which do I leave on the floor?

What mental clutter needs clearing?

The very questions that guided me during my illness are guiding me to my wellness too.

And it feels so good … to be well.

 

 

 

 

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.