collective nouns (of summer)

a snip of zinnias

a straggle of petunias

a cheer of sunflowers

a wonder of days

a sweat of nights

a hum of fans

a goosebump of air conditioning

a drip of cones

a slurp of popsicles

a sizzle of cookouts

an aura of fireflies

a glee of children

a boom of thunderstorms

an anticipation of farmers

a plethora of zucchini

a nest of tomatoes

a clutch of green beans

a delight of peaches

a fantasy of corn on the cob

a harvest of gratitude

summer mandala

circle in peace

compassion

and remembrance

circle in unity, in solidarity

hands and hearts

and hopes

circle in times of challenge

in sorrow, in grief

circle in faith, in belief

in the frailty of being human

circle in meditation, in prayer, in promise

in fear

and courage

circle in the divinity of morning’s soft light

or the deepening grace of evening

circle n celebration of summer

and sun and warmth and flowers

circle in peace

luxury

What a luxury to let dappled sunshine dry my hair this morning. Walking the rise of hills hurried my breath and released it again as those hills sloped back down. I crossed paths with a chipmunk and good morning-ed fellow walkers, all of us waving away the incessant deer flies.

Walking the dirt road today, I remembered other dirt roads, childhood roads, where I walked to school, never once thinking about anywhere other than right where I was. So I practiced that kind of presence today in honor of that girl I used to be.

Sweat bubbled on my nose and streaked across my forehead as I walked, only a hop, skip, and jump away from summer. There’s hope and happiness and freedom in summer, and I’m ever so happy to be out in it, grab ahold of it – deer flies and all.

I’m thankful for those who plant their gardens alongside the road for the pleasure and enjoyment of walkers-by like me. Roses climb a trellis while springtime pansies linger awhile longer under the mailbox. Chalk drawings in a driveway welcome summer as only a child just out of school can.

I want to remember this morning. Remember the breeze taking me by surprise and the glorious green surrounding me as I walk. There’s the swoop of a sparrow flying to rest on a fence post and the bounce of a robin across the neighbor’s front lawn.

Make no mistake – I saw that poison ivy spreading its way and growing alongside wild roses and the purple tufts of clover. So I’m reminded to admire not only the sunshine but the clouds too. I know rain sometimes ruins our plans and hopefully waters our plants – both. There’s the duality. Learning to savor the comings and goings, hellos and goodbyes, summers and winters. To spend these days wisely and aware.

Soon the sunflowers in the bed out back will stand taller than I do. Pumpkins will one day be ready to carve with our granddaughter. Summer’s car washes in the driveway will be replaced with new chores, with gathering, and nesting, layering and readying for rest.

But just for today, a warm breeze ruffles the ferns, tosses the buttercups, and distracts the bugs.

And I’m grateful.

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.

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.

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

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.

pause

I love commas. And as I writer, I’m prone to the (probably) overuse of ellipses. It’s the pause I’m after. The breath in between thoughts. No full stop like a period, a comma dangles there in my writing and in my mind offering me a moment of rest.

Sometimes, a moment is all I need.

Today deserves a few well-placed commas. Some intentional ellipses. A deep breath in … … and a slow exhale of release.

My wish for you in all of today’s hustle and hurry … is at least one hopeful pause.

gathering

Join me for a Thanksgiving gathering of women I’d love to meet, and greet, and seat ’round my table.To say I know them would be inaccurate as I know them only by their Internet and social media presence. I do know of them. Collectively, I know of their kindness and compassion, their ingenuity, and positive spirits. I know how they motivate, inform, and guide. Their how-tos. Can-dos. Why-don’t-yous.

Such relationships with people I’ve never met enrich my life despite never having become acquainted personally. Perspectives and points of view I’d not considered. Products. Delights. Unexpected surprises. Reminders of how many ways there are to be a good person. An intelligent person. Faithful. Curious. Creative. Nurturing. Inspiring. Giving.

I’m thankful for them all.

Meet Elise! Her year-long Make36 project has been a joy to watch! So creative! So fun! A why-not-try-it wonder!

Meet Nicci! A beautiful soul with beautiful products and talents to share! Check out Nicci’s online shop for everything from well-made toys to garden tools to aprons and good, clean skin care. Nicci has informative workshops available for canning and sourdough baking as well! My very favorite place to shop

Meet Erin! Her living-simply lifestyle blog is a beautiful place to pause and catch my breath. A stay against chaos and confusion. A cleanse of my online palate. And … in case I catch myself getting altogether too comfortable, Erin invites me to social action as well … reminding me of my privilege and all I need to learn.

Meet Linda! A true conversationalist! Linda guides me to explore my faith more deeply. Filled with compassion, Linda kindly encourages all from the comforting welcome of her blog’s front porch.

Meet Debby! A kindred spirit. Together, we’re finding our way through a new phase of living, creating, writing, and growing. It’s always good to have a friend who understands.

Meet Julie! Her Maine homestead is a delightful respite in the wilderness of the Internet. Julie puts the home in home sweet home. A farmer, mama, and maker … her homemade gifts…. wow … and those dolls!

Here’s to finding our fill of hope this Thanksgiving!