a collection of pleasures

A lot of my life’s details are currently unresolved. There’s no clear forecast to be found, and I feel uncertain about almost everything. Like just about everyone else I know. It’s an unsettling way to live day after day after day.

So this morning, I went looking for the known, the constant, the beautiful, and the joyful. It’s a gratitude list yes, but more a gathering of what makes me happy, where I find pleasure … where my day-to-day satisfaction can be found in the midst of all the world-weariness, anxiety, and uncertainty.

In no particular order . . . here are some joys I can count on . . .

. . . washing my face . . . a stack of clean, white plates . . . folding laundry . . . old, wooden spoons and rolling pins . . . the sudden, hot flash of a red cardinal . . . soapy sink water . . . the heft of a camera in my hands . . . the smell of ink . . . learning something new . . . early morning light . . . making the bed . . . a new notebook . . . tenacity . . . chopping vegetables . . . an uninterrupted night’s sleep . . . dogs . . .a toddler’s pout . . . clean sheets . . . unexpected laughter . . . the scuff of slippers across hardwood floors . . . nested mixing bowls . . . bossy bluejays at the suet feeder . . . the annual parade of flowers from the first of the crocus to the last of the mums . . . a new book . . . neighbors chatting on the porch . . . making our own fudgesicles . . . a breeze billowing summer sheer curtains . . . the perfect backhand . . . persistence . . . kicking acorns and hickory nuts down a country road . . . a tidy desk . . . feeding my family . . . the first sip of morning coffee . . . clean kitchen counters . . .the smell of hose water . . . sleeping with the windows open . . . the call of an owl . . . sun on my face . . . knowing someone far away is safe for another day . . . the ocean

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.

– Emily Dickinson

What’s in your collection?

bread

I’ve been baking bread. Loaves. Buns. Rolls. Sourdough mostly. And after many failed attempts.

I am my most patient self while baking bread. I am most patient with myself while baking bread. I allow myself the time. The learning. I forgive failures and put aside worries. The bread won’t be rushed. And neither will I.

There is only the bread. The starter. The flour. The salt. The yeast. Maybe a bit of honey. A pat of butter. Simple ingredients, pleasing to my senses. The combination comes to a kind of miracle. The task offers me some sort of purpose. Satisfaction. A notion I’m doing good work…Is wholesome the word I’m looking for?

Each step, its own place, its own part in the process, a piece of my peace. Of my pleasure. A moving meditation. I am quieted for a time – inside and out. The measuring and mixing. The kneading (needing.) Rising. Waiting. Shaping. Rising. Waiting. Baking. Browning. Smelling. By and by … we break bread and eat. A small blessing.

I clean up. Set the kitchen to rights. Hot water from the tap. Soap and soak bowls and tools. Brush flour from the big, wooden work board – taking care not to dust the floor.

I didn’t know I needed bread making. I did not know my hands needed a simple and satisfying task. I did not know my heart needed another way to love.

(Dedicated to Stephanie)

possibility

Possibility is hope with options. It’s every choice and every open decision from how I will cut my hair this week to what’s for dinner tonight. From what to read to how and who to help. From how I spend my time to where my resources will go.

An optimistic sister of imagination, possibility possesses the ability to envision the rainbow stretched across the sky during the storm. It’s the best of all outcomes, the silver lining, and the cart before the horse.

While worry wrestles for control, possibility sees potential. It anticipates the best of what could be, might be, may be. It’s a mind wide open and ready to imagine, to dream, to wander streets seeking only what’s found at the end of them.

As a child, possibility hinged on which way an adult door would swing. There was excitement in the anticipation of and in the last few seconds before knowing. Can I stay up 10 more minutes? Will we stop for ice cream?

For me, with opportunities for summer employment cancelled, an empty-ish nest, and relaxed responsibilities, possibility need not be any less thrilling as an adult. And while we’re as cautious as ever about venturing out into the world outside our own four walls, there’s possibility in the every day. And even more in the some day.

The only expectations I must meet are my own. And while my tendency is almost always toward lofty, this summer I’m reaching for concrete action and possibilities easier to grasp, measure, and attain.

I am learning. And I’m learning every day about the privilege which affords me all the many possibilities in my life.

From professional to political and social justice to self-awareness, there’s humility in the understanding how very much I do not know or need to relearn. So much to think about. So many questions to ask and answer.

Beyond the horizon of this pandemic, there’s hope. Purpose. Progress.

And a whole lot of possibility.

even if

Do it even if you think you can’t, or when you think it doesn’t matter.

(You can. And it does.)

Do it even if you’re tired.

Do it when you’re scared. Irritable. Or feeling lazy.

Do it because it helps someone else.

Do it because it feeds your soul, fills your heart, and makes you smile.

Do it even when you feel foolish or uncertain.

Do it when you’re down. (And know you will be lifted.)

Do it when the little voice inside you reminds you what’s best.

(Trust the voice.)

Do it for the common good.

Do it for the team.

Go team.

Go me.

Go whoever, today, I (or you) want to be.

life ways

We’re living new life ways.

Even as cancelled and isolated as we feel, I’m finding life’s still a daily balance. I work several hours, clean a little, exercise a bit, and find some freedom in all the confinement. We still have dates and details, things to do, order, and buy. There’s calls to make. Emails to write. Trips to cancel.

And always, always hands to wash.

There’s a new order to things, our living spaces organized by function over form. A hand weight sits alongside the remote in the family room. I’ve clustered all manner of disinfectant wipes, gels, sprays, and hand creams of every kind in the kitchen right where I can reach ’em.

(I’m a little worried about my jelly bean addiction.)

I climb three sets of stairs from my basement to the attic and back down again for a round trip total of 112 steps, and call it cardio. I moisturize after my shower and call it self-care. I add lemon to every glass of water I drink for the extra vitamin C. Each family member dries with their own personal hand towel. Today, I folded and packed away our ironing board and iron -an important fact only in its symbolism.

There’s not much of a routine yet, but there is a rhythm. A time to wake and work and sleep. And while the biggest question of the day is: What’s for dinner? When we get right down to it, no one much feels like cooking. Dinner is catch-as-catch-can most nights. Maybe it’s a lack of motivation, but I think it’s more of a world weariness that sets in by supper time.

There’s daily joys yet. I’m finding pleasure in the way sun splashes my desk. There’s happy industry to be found in the dusting of windowsills. I’ll love in the baking of my husband’s favorite shortbread cookies.

I catch myself humming the theme song from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood as I work, missing our granddaughter, but connecting to her in that one teeny, tiny moment.

Today, I’ve got plans. Today, I feel strong. Today, I feel like fighting back.

Today, I’m hopeful.

One hopeful day.

cobbler

I love the whole idea of a cobbler. It’s a work-with-what-you’ve-got kind of baking. To cobble means to put together roughly or hastily. And that’s exactly the kind of time I have for baking. It’s a hurry up sort of season. Gather the last of the harvest. Enjoy the very last of summer’s bounty.

Baking. One of my very favorite ways to create. The warmth of the kitchen. The delight in mixing the ordinary to become extraordinary. The anticipation of opening the oven. The certain happiness which comes from leveling a cup of flour. And now … cobbling!

Here’s to the last of the peaches!

Basic Fruit Cobbler

from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

Any fruit you bake in a pie, you can add to a cobbler. Peaches, in this case, but apples, pears, cherries, and berries of all kinds work.

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup sherry, brandy, or bourbon*
  • 3 to 4 cups fresh fruit (large fruits sliced, berries left whole)
  • whipped cream or ice cream

*If you’d rather not use liquor, increase the milk in the recipe to 1/4 cup and use a mixture of 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of water in place of the liquor. (This is the option I chose and it was delightful!)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9 x 9-inch square pan (or similar casserole dish) or an 11-inch round quiche dish.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Beat together the eggs and 1 cup of the sugar. Add butter and milk. Add the flour mixture, stirring just to combine. Pour the batter into the greased pan.

In a medium-sized saucepan, simmer together the sherry (or the mixture noted above) and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the fruit and stir to coat with the syrup. Pour this hot fruit mixture over the batter in the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

living like I mean it

I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of my comfort zone: summer.

I’m living like I mean it. I’m a shell gatherer. A flower picker. A storm cloud watcher. I’m a bird listener. A porch sitter. Healthier. Happier. Whole.

Around the house, I putter at this and dabble at that. No pressure. Not many have-tos. I make my bed every morning and tumble back into it at night, satisfied. My blood pressure’s down, and my hope’s up. And yes, I have sorrows. But blessings too. So many blessings.

 I thrive in summer. All steam heat and sultry days. Plenty of time and lots of the very best things to eat, see, and experience. In essence, I’m living all summer has to offer.  Just picked fruits and vegetables. Digging my feet in the sand. Estimating the time I have on the hard sand before the tide rises. Endless and awe-filled gazing at our grand daughter.

All the important stuff.

Ive read this book

and this one

and this guide has helped me create more simple and healthier options into our cleaning caddy.

I’m paging through this new cookbook

and so thrilled to be spending more time experimenting with this one.

Feel good about using this sunscreen every day and loving the fresh, summery scent of these lemongrass essential oils  in our laundry.  These reusable produce bags are my new favorite shopping habit.

Cannot wait to try my new tripod (thanks to a couple of Christmas gift cards, a bit of extra time for a road trip here, and a really good deal.) Maybe one of these is in my future?

Yep. It’s summer. And I’m living like I mean it. 

Headed here for the day!

Postcard to follow!

 

for peach

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Emerging from hibernation feels a bit awkward. It’s been almost eight months since I posted here. As for writing, there’s only snatches of notes and quotes scattered in my journal. Just now, I feel more comfortable with other peoples’ words than I do my own. I find my meaning and fill my need through them and theirs.

I wonder what exactly I’m afraid of. I wonder about the loss of my voice. I notice the fragmentation of my thoughts, the unsustainability of my attention. I miss writing, sure, but I’ve been in hiding. From you. From me. From feelings and experiences too fresh and difficult to explore.

Ernest Hemingway once advised: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”

So here’s mine: My mother died January 8, 2019.

I am bereft. A little directionless. Still stunned to just about wordless.

It’s not as if I didn’t know what was coming. I did. Much of last fall was spent in preparation and a gradual comprehension of what was to come. Perhaps it’s more that I didn’t and couldn’t know how I’d feel right there at the end. And after.

After, I’m learning, is for always.

There must’ve been a part of me that didn’t know what that would feel like until I lived it. Until I loved it. Because love endures, tangled up as it is with grief, regret, years of memories, and a new awareness of my own mortality.. Losing my mother has evolved into a certain loneliness. I catch myself sometimes mentally feeling for her, emotionally reaching for her. And she’s gone. I feel orphaned. A fact which I’m somehow still unable to resolve.

Last Mother’s Day, I gave my mother a tangerine-colored, single subject, wide-ruled notebook. Nothing fancy, but cheery, functional, and ready. Tucked between its pages, quotes from many of my favorite writers: Joan Didion, Hemingway, Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Erin Loechner, and Donald Murray who wrote, “Writers are expert dawdlers.”

For as long as I could remember, my mother talked of writing her story.  I hoped she’d release her words to the winds and maybe a bit of pain as well. Confined to her bed for the most part, I hoped she’d finally write in that notebook. Get it all down. Let it all out. Be the writer I always knew she could be.

Funny to think of it now, I believe she wanted the very same for me.

I know I’m out of my writing rhythm, and not at all sure what to say. But for today at least, I’m feeling brave enough to emerge from silence, stretch a bit, and give it another go. Today’s a day as good as any to start writing again.

 

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?

 

in praise of porches

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I’m not much of a talker.  I often feel awkward. And shy.  Even with friends, sometimes.

There’s some sort of sudden pressure in the first few moments of any casual conversation or unexpected encounter.  A sense of responsibility. A rush of adrenaline, maybe, and a flush to my cheek.

I just don’t know what to say.

And there’s a small moment of panic right there in aisle seven.

Niceties. Pleasantries. Small talk. All challenging, difficult, and uncomfortable for me.

But I’ve learned this summer  there’s something about a porch that unties my tongue. On a porch, conversations tend to drift, unhurried, and flow like the gentle back and forth of the rocker.

It’s easy. Neighborly. We’re in good company. And there’s a gentle silence in the spaces between words. A moment or two spent rocking and watching the birds fly by.

There’s time enough for companionship. A cold beverage and yes, commentary on the weather.

You and me.

Let’s catch up.

Out on the porch.