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.

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

after all

I am a writer.

After all.

I’ve learned (recently) just how I write. How – I – write.

I used to think I needed a writer’s notebook to write. (To be a writer.) And I needed a room. Maybe a loft. Definitely a desk. Old. Wooden. Carved with someone else’s initials and scuffed at the legs. Funny the images I create. The people and personas I imagine. How one is supposed to write. Supposed to be. Supposed to live. 

And none of them are me.

Who I am is a writer who writes in the morning while making the bed. While readying for work. Somewhere between brushing my hair and my teeth, I find my meaning. I write in come-to-mind phrases. Snatches of conversations I have with myself. Scraps of thought I may never sew together. A dropped stitch plucked up from some other day’s ideas.

Maybe my writer’s mind is free to roam while my body is otherwise occupied. Maybe I listen best to what I have to say while moving. Maybe it’s how I greet myself of a morning and find out what’s been on my mind all night.

I’ve taken to propping my computer open on my dresser. I stand there and write. Listening to my fingers find my words as they appear on the screen like some kind of sleight of hand magic trick tapping out today’s truth of me.

All of which is to say I am happy to find the writer I am and discard that draft of she I thought I should be.

A writer writes.

I’m an audience of one, hopeful to write and read whatever my words mean to say.

I am a writer.

After all.

one moment

When I awoke this morning, two complaints I remembered from the day before perched on my lips like two plump robins ready to fly aloft. 

It was a conscious moment. A powerful pause  –  mid-thought –  in which I interrupted my own self before I spoke.

I closed my mouth, and I think my heart smiled.

The collective energy of us really needs me to pause more often. The greater good needs more … good …  or at the very least, one less litany of who and what’s lacking. Obviously, I’m still becoming the person I’d most like to be.  

Sometimes, one hopeful year is lived one moment at a time.

small celebrations

Thirty-six hours at home. One hot shower and one warm bath on a extremely cold day. Twenty-eight tidy, white stitches cast on Nana’s knitting needles (with any luck, mittens-to-be for a pair of toddler hands.) Five hardy Red Star chickens in the coop out back. A cluster of six red tulips plucked from a grocery store bucket. Two pieces of homemade pizza for dinner. One rainbow shirt and a wish granted. Two days until the full Wolf moon. Eighteen additional minutes of daylight since the New Year. The hope of a 27 degree heat wave tomorrow.

what can I do in this day?

What can I do in this day?

(A meditation.)

How can I do better? Be better? Feel better? What blessings have I forgotten to count? 

How can I be kinder? More compassionate? More empathetic?

How can I be a better listener?  Give more? Smile more? Friendly more?

Where am I needed? Who and how can I help? What’s my purpose?*

What can I do to live with more heart? More hope?

What can I do in this day to strengthen my body? My spirit? My faith?

How do I human -best- in this world? This world right here, right now. Especially right now.

What can I do in this day?

*Thanks to Linda Stoll for finding the word I was looking for.

spine poetry

Browse your bookshelves. Listen. Pull what speaks to you. Arrange in a pleasing pile. Word by word. Title by title. Rearrange until you discover you in a stack of books. A bit of inspiration. A trove of delight. Hope culled from the books you’ve loved and lived with. Read top to bottom – or bottom to top. Write on your heart.

a year of weeks

365 days of wonder

chasing slow

daring greatly

becoming

joyful

simply living well

  • My thanks for today’s poem and life inspiration to Erica Root, R.J. Palacio, Erin Loechner, Brene Brown, Michelle Obama, Ingrid Fetell Lee, and Julia Watkins.