At the top of a morning, I notice the energy of possibility. Hope, wide awake and willing, greets the day face-forward. Counting on roadside petals, life loves me and I love it right back. How fairy-taled the deep green velvet of a moss-covered path. How gladly sunlight dances with daisies and trumpets daylilies. How fun to chick-a-dee-dee-dee with chickadees and honk with geese flying over the lake. How gently the fog lifts as the day warms. How delicate a thread of web stretches from flower to flower to flower, a tell-tale trail of one spider’s travels. I marvel at the intricacy of a gravel road, two miles into my day. And returning, notice now how I feel right this very minute, tip-tapping on keys. Happy.
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
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.
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
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.
Come, November. You with your winds and rains. Your passions and gratitudes. Your brisk walks and sparkle-frosted mornings. Come, November. We’ll warm up with your soups and stews, breads and blankets. We’ll be mesmerized by your achingly clear midnight skies pierced for a moment by your stars and the sharp slice of your moon. Come, November. You with your chill and stark sticks. Your reluctant light and bare-boned trees. You, all gray-skied and maybe misunderstood. Come, November. We’ll walk together, thankful and daring, making our way toward winter. We’ll travel by candlelight, firelight, and lamplight. Side-by-side, step-by-step. Disregarding the forecast and choosing instead to count our blessings, knowing nothing is ever as bleak as wasting a single day. Come, November. Let’s gather ‘round your table and be nourished in your company. Hopeful, happy, and home.
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.
I love your windows wide open and the billow of your breezes in my white curtains. I love the last of summer’s flowers, both the gathering and the plunk of them in a pale blue Ball jar on my kitchen counter. A bit worn out, like summer itself, but still up for one more celebration before the leaves begin to color and claim center stage.
September, you need not try as hard as June, July, and August. You’re simultaneously an end and a beginning. No need to be something you’re not – neither summer, nor fall – but summer and fall. You’re a burst of yellow school buses up the road, irrationally blue skies, and a few final barefoot walks around the yard. You’re one more trip to the beach and a bonfire for Sunday’s cookout.
What would you be, September, without a new notebook? A couple more morning minutes under the warmth of the covers? A final few nights lolling about on the front porch before dinner?
Just yesterday I saw two geese honk south – early birds – and the green acorns I kick down the road have begun to brown. Frantic squirrels dash across the road, mouths full. Monarch butterflies are migrating, and I wish them well as our paths cross for a moment, stuck as I am in traffic and surprised by their sudden appearance. The geraniums cling desperately to their pink even as the mums bloom on the front stoop.
Maybe we’re all on pause, dear September, not yet ready for what’s next but lingering awhile longer with what was. The thing is, wishing never once made time stand still, and so we move onward into earlier darkness and later light come morning, not without our hardships but hearts hoping, nonetheless.
So September, I’ll tilt my face to the last of the sun’s warmth and lick ‘round my mouth as the juice of apples and peaches and tomatoes drips down my chin. I’ll front porch our pumpkins and shuck all the corn I can get my hands around. Each day I wonder if today’s the last day I tug on my shorts, all the while looking forward to flannel. One day ice cream and the next, apple cider donuts. You’re neither, nor, and both. My favorite month of all.
I greet the day with a good morning salutation to my life.
It’s a beautiful day outside my window, but my attention, my gaze is inward. A moving moment with myself, within myself, for myself.
I stretch. Slowly. Almost timidly at first. Loosen and limber my body, open my circulation, lift my face to the heavens.
Feet side-by-side and steady. I focus. Firm my base. Tether the possibilities in my day to the intention of this solid rooting. In this moment, I re-engage with the substance of me, the soul of me. I am tall. Undaunted. Strong.
I ballerina-arch my arms overhead. Both at once and then one at a time, an orchestration in a symphony of movement. Lean to one side, switch arms, and lean again opposite. Tilt my head to and fro. Nod yes. Swivel no.
Clasp my hands overhead and gaze upward. Step wide.
A living, breathing, sign of peace.
Arms down. Palms up. I seek balance. Raise one leg behind me. Lower. Raise the next. Wobble. Steady. Wobble. Breathe in, out. In, out. Accept the wobble. Accept myself. Understand my limitations and work within them. Sometimes noticing I’m holding my breath. Releasing it, I try again. And again. As many times as necessary.
Kneel. Cat. Cow. Cat. Cow. Arch. Collapse. Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. Deepen. The. Stretch. Just. A. Little. Bit. More.
One part yoga, one part simple stretching, one part whatever feels good.