the sound of silence

Sometimes I feel words gathered right there on the tip of my tongue, ripe and ready to roll off the second I open my mouth. And then, in a singular moment of awareness, I choose to leave my mouth closed. I don’t swallow the words so much as allow them to slowly dissolve. I can feel the unspoken weight of them and for a moment, the grateful recognition I did the right thing by leaving them there.

In the company of others, both home and away, I feel best and most at peace with what I didn’t say over what I did. The criticisms I didn’t express. The gossip I heard and didn’t forward. The sarcastic retort I didn’t let fly. Maybe even the personal regrets I forgave myself for rather than divulge.

Speaking or not is a choice. I know my heart never swells with pride when I’m unkind – no matter how privately or how far out of earshot. I can add or subtract. Escalate or encourage. My words can increase the almost universal angst we’re all feeling — or abate it — even for just a minute and ever so slightly. Offer hope, or join the melee. So much travels by word of mouth.

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.

sustenance

The daily news hangs heavier and heavier in my heart. Day after day. After day. Each notification, each headline, tweet, and post adds to me feeling powerless. There’s an ache in deep parts of me that never quite recedes. Honestly, I’ve been feeling more hopeless these days than hopeful. There’s no recourse in the short-term. No way to help or stop or become part of the solution. Because the problems – and there are so many – feel too big. Too insurmountable. Too often entirely out of my control.

Still, there’s no giving up is there? No giving up for the people who minute by minute struggle far more than I do. No giving up for the planet and the people far younger than I who’ll need to live on it longer than I will. The list is long, the worries are many, the fear, ever-present.

It’s imperative to stay informed. The need-to-know has never been more crucial. Reliable information helps inform my vote, my financial support, and my prayer.

But I need some good news too.

Have you any? Good news, I mean. Have you any good news to share?

Flowers blooming? Gone for a bike ride? Found a friend? What made you laugh? Who did you spend time with? See something new? Different? Unusual? Did your daughter make the team? Your mom come to visit?

What moved your heart? Please. Share.

I wouldn’t want you to think any of this good news sharing neutralizes or diminishes the serious state of our country and world.

But it may help keep us sane. Or more open to possibility, ideas, action … and hope.

I just saw my son for the first time in almost three years. Mother’s Day was magical. Our electric bill went down this month. The peonies and lilacs are just about to burst.

And yesterday afternoon … I saw an owl. Up close. Its head on the swivel as it’s known to do. Eyes alert. Focused. Full circle aware of the world all around. Ready and on the hunt for some sustenance.

Me too.

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.

only now

In the morning

sitting with a blank page

a black BIC pen

journal folded in half

writing on the flat side

plump cursive

often forgetting to dot i

or cross t

“You write so slowly,” she said once.

I’ve thought about that comment many times over the years,

only now feeling grateful,

instead of criticized,

I am writing at all.

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

linger

Linger in the good graces of a morning, over one more cup of coffee, the pages of a book, and couple-talk punctuated by the clink of spoon against cereal bowl.  Linger over the iron’s steam, marveling at the smoothing of wrinkles like the righting of wrongs.

Linger at the door to count blessings and gratitudes and hopes. Linger out in the first, startling cold slap of air. Breathe until wide, wide awake. And ready.

Linger long enough to listen for the gossip of chickens out back and the agitation of blue jays at the feeder. Watch for the indecision of squirrels crossing the road and find grace in the spiral of a wind-blown leaf or the dancing sway of a branch.

Linger over realizations, what you thought you knew, but now know you didn’t. Changes and chances and challenges you should have made or offered or taken.  Linger not to heed the whisper of regret.

Instead, linger to remember yesterday’s promises and the hope in today. Reach out for the dreams you lost track of or the hand of someone you miss. Feel for the tug of a memory in a lingering daydream gaze out the window.

Stand certain, like the last geranium bud in the pot on the porch, somehow surviving despite fall, and frost, and the fading of warmth. Tall, strong, and lingering … just a little longer.

At day’s end, linger a few minutes more at the table with friends; admire her smile, his laugh, their warmth on a chilly evening. Watch the light linger as long as it can, understanding you will find light elsewhere these dark nights. Returning to bed, remember the day, knowing you did your best. Linger over thoughts and questions and drowsy ideas.

In the last lingering moments before sleep, pray.

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.