Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Review of Nothing


In January of 2013 I wrote about my yearly ritual of choosing a new word for the new year. The word becomes my yearly theme. The year prior, I had chosen self-love, and I had created a heart each Monday as an homage to the theme. It was a year of art and writing.

I had trouble choosing my word/theme for 2013, and after much contemplation, I realized the word would be "nothing."

Nothing took on many connotations over the past year. Sometimes it was no-thing, as in I did not need to focus on any particular thing, instead, whatever came up was exactly what I needed to focus on.

Nothing helped me to lessen my obligations; I did not hold myself to any particular projects, or make schedules set in stone. Nothing allowed me to be more present and my heart went to the places it needed to, even without a defined focus.

Nothing brought a tireless push to see my brother through his year of cancer treatment for stage 3 colorectal cancer. Nothing brought a new job: tutoring in the public school system, returning me to my once beloved position of teacher. So, see, nothing brought plenty anyway.

Nothing made me feel a little more secure in following my instincts.


“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”  
{Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace}
 



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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nemophilist



(n.) one who loves the forest and it's beauty and solitude, a haunter of the woods





Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer Dream

Crazy Horse Memorial, Black Hills, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Black Hills South Dakota

 Little Bighorn Battlefield, Sheridan, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

 
 

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

 
 
 
Old Faithful Geyser
 
 

Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone
Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming
 
Chapel of Transfiguration, Grand Tetons
 
Bald Eagle on Snake River, Grand Tetons
 
Snake River

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mixed-up Flowers

The pansies in my front planters have become scraggly so I went to the flower shop yesterday. I was fortunate enough to get my brother to join me! I told him what color combo I liked and we got started, perusing the whole place and coming up with the combo at least three times--only to disregard each batch of particular flowers and start again--for various reasons, all the while laughing our heads off, in the rain! Rich was so funny, acting like a true flower connoisseur, goading me, "You MUST have this one." I was losing interest fast and at least three times I tried to abandon all and run for the car, but he made me stay with it. Toward the end he kept picking up flowers and getting pricked. We were surprised at how many flowers had pickers on them--until we realized it was his chemotherapy side effect--sensitivity in his hands to temperature changes.

So the fourth combo came home with me. It is very pretty, it has the blue, white and pink I wanted and a little twist with some soft coral we threw in at the last minute.


 
But of course the pansies all raised their heads and smiled at me when I pulled in to the driveway. Now I need to find them a new home! But where?





Friday, May 24, 2013

Going In

Photo Credit: Colleen Powers

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising.

Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.

I merely went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, was really going in. 
{John Muir}

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sanctuary



I savored the book I just finished by Deborah Carr entitled, Sanctuary. I discovered Deborah's writing by hitting the "next blog" button on the top of my blog one night. She, like me, hikes in the forest by her home and records her journeys. Her book is stirring, it is the story of Mary Majka, a Polish woman who emigrated to Canada after World War II. At points in her young life Mary was separated from all that she loved: her family, her home, her land. She was even a prisoner at one point, captured on the way to reunite with her mother upon leaving boarding school. Yet, through it all Mary found solace in nature.


Caledonia Mountain {via}

As a young woman she relocated to North America, married, and after some searching found  Caledonia Mountain to call home. Once settled in, she became the founding member of the Moncton Naturalists' Club in her new town of New Brunswick, Canada. She went on to be a well-respected naturalist, a national activist, and a historical  preservationist. Mary has spearheaded many, many projects, with many groups, to help preserve countless wildlife habitats, as well as the beauty of the land, in New Brunswick. Her mission has been to share what she has learned, particularly with children, to get them interested in nature and preservation; she has always been a teacher throughout all of her work with the land. As well, leads restoration projects for many historical sites in and around New Brunswick.

Mary's home for years was in the mountains, surrounded by acres of land she became intimately acquainted with over time. The land and its wildlife became her teachers. She and her husband named their mountain home Aquila meaning eagle, Poland's national emblem. Mary also has the good fortune of having a cottage at a point along the Bay of Fundy, "Mary's Point," named for Marie Bidoque, part Mi'kmag and Acadian, she inhabited the land in the mid 1700's and was buried there. Later, Mary Majka restored a larger home on the point, and moved there along with her husband. All of Mary's homes have served as meeting places for all types of naturalist groups, historical groups, and many friends who all became family.

Mary retreats to her cottage, Calidris, for respite. It is named for the sand plovers that flock there in the thousands on their migration journey from the artic to the muddy, nutrient-rich marshes of the bay. Mary has spent many years of her life protecting these birds, and even got Canada to turn the area into a protected reserve. Deborah depicts special moments in Mary's experience on Mary's Point:
The beauty of the landscape and her intimate interactions with the birds invoked profoundly altered states of being. She felt as if, for a heart beat, the lines of separation between her and her surroundings vanished and she was granted a glimpse into another realm of experience.

I know how Mary feels. I too, feel like I enter other realms when I hike the forests near my home. Just last night, I took my last walk in the woods until fall (deer tick season is upon me.) On this walk, I felt I accessed another world. The light was falling on and between the twisted brambles along the beginning of the path and I felt captivated by these magical places. I entered into bramble houses, walking along Kelly green moss stones, feeling renewed. By the end of the walk, I felt certain I had been in another world.




sanc·tu·ar·y  

/ˈsaNG(k)CHo͞oˌerē/
(n.) A place of refuge or safety.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Simplicity

{via}
“As we live and as we are, Simplicity - with a capital “S” - is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Enough

Each day as I walk, I remind myself I have enough. I am enough.
I mean what do I need really? Not much.

In terms of material I have enough. Do I have clothes for every day, no matter what the occasion? Yes. Do I have shoes for every season? Yes. 


My house is enough. It is warm and cozy. It is pretty and sits along a brook. Beautiful gardens surround it in the summer. Pretty trees catch the snowfall in the winter; I see all of this from a big picture window that overlooks my yard. Is my house a big house? No. But it is enough.

My house is full of things. My favorite pieces of furniture are my couch and my bed, they are the most comfortable. My house is full of art. My favorite pieces are art I have made and art that has been gifted to me: paintings, photographs, sculptures, teacups. There are enough things in my house. I don't need a single thing more.


Suffice it to say, I have enough equipment, my trusty laptop to compose my stories and record my dreams.

My family is enough. There just 4 of us, including our dog. Because we are small we always know what is going on with one another. We like being home together; we share a comfortable routine with one another; we have fun traveling together.

I have an extended family, through the years I have lost some who were really special to me. I mourn the loss, but the family I still have supports me and loves me, and I them, and they are enough for me.

I have a few really good friends. A few really good friends is more than I could ever ask for. They are enough to me.

My days are filled with walks, and chores, good food, mothering, laughter on most, meetings, reading, dreams, yoga, art and writing.


I have enough, I am enough.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shadow Dream



I am reading The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford and it is an amazing body of work. In this, her first of many books, Ford describes  how she overcame drug addiction and experienced a slew of therapies that spanned eleven years and included a twenty-eight day treatment program, twelve step meetings, co-dependency therapy, acupuncture, rebirthing, Buddhist retreats and jumping off mountains. She had read hundreds of books, listened to hours of tapes and yet she knew she was still not done. 


Then one day when she was at a retreat something clicked for her. She describes it this way, "Suddenly this part of myself which I'd tried desperately to hide, deny, and suppress--was set free." What she is describing was an exercise she had been lead through by the facilitator of a workshop she was attending. The teacher challenged her to embrace a dark part of herself. In spite of years of therapy, recovery, and steps to healing, this was a new concept to her. She says, "After that day, my life was never the same. Another piece of the healing puzzle had fallen into place. 'What you resist persists.'"


She also said her whole body felt different after the experience. She proceeded on a journey of teaching hundreds of thousands of people what would become her technique, the Shadow Process: embracing the very parts of yourself that you disowned in an attempt to be a 'better person.'



Ford uses the analogy of our self being like a castle. When we are young we roam the castle exploring every nook and cranny without judgment, in awe of it all. Then, our first teachers, in an effort to teach us how to fit in, teach us to hide or deny undesirable aspects of our personality. Slowly, room by room, we close the doors until our castle becomes a tiny, manageable, two room house. And then we forget about the other rooms altogether--those once expressive, now silenced, aspects of our self--for a time anyway.

Until they surface. These aspects surface as shadows, scary sometimes, dark sometimes, lurking, threatening, so we do our very best to hold them at bay. Sometimes it feels too scary to look at them. We keep the doors closed--until a crisis occurs--and we must look it straight in the eye. Maybe the crisis is we become depressed, because holding back parts of our true nature is depressing. It takes all of our energy.


But, there is a gift in this, because looking at the dark side is really nothing more than embracing your whole self, the parts you had shut down, locked away. Who wouldn't want to discover they had a whole castle full of rooms and possibilities? Maybe when we do discover them the timing is exactly as it was meant to be because we are at a time in our life when we are ready for full expression once more.










Monday, February 18, 2013

New Path

Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult,


 but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, 


which is not nurturing to the whole woman.  

 
{Maya Angelou}



Thursday, January 31, 2013

Five Books That Became My Best Friends

At the end of each day I turn to reading to decompress and let go. For me, good books are like returning to an alternate universe, nightly. The writers and characters become my friends. I especially love books with awkward situations, like real life has, and good humor. The books below have that. These are just five of my favorites, two of which I have read for a second time!

 Good Grief by Lolly Winston

Good Grief

Winston's portrayal of thirty-six year old Sophie Stanton, in the dense fog of grief over her husband's death, is rendered in sharp-witted form. At times the details and descriptions are hilarious.  Lost and alone, Sophie stuffs herself with sweets, absentmindedly shows up to work in her pink bunny slippers never noticing, crashes into a stupor that lasts for weeks--on a blow up mattress in her living room, and sleeps with her deceased husband's sweater. She then reluctantly gets back up one day and rebuilds her life. All 286 pages will have you cheering for Sophie, and by the end Sophie will be your new best friend.

Belong to Me by Melissa del los Santos

Belong to Me

From the minute you meet Cornelia Brown, meticulous, educated, yet still insecure, you want to get to know her better. Del los Santos has a way with words, her writing is developed and facile. Her characters are passionately crafted, their stories engagingly laid out. This book contains the trials of redefining marriage, friendship, career, parenthood and ultimately lifestyle, with many surprising pivots and yanks.

Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

Broken for You

Kallos depicts two women's parallel journeys of emotional and physical trauma, and healing. Aging and ill, Margaret is nearing the end of her life; Wanda is a young displaced actress trying to build one. Margaret places an ad for help in the local newspaper as she knows she will eventually need it. In her rambling, stately, old home, inherited from her parents, she is alone. But that is not all Margaret inherited, the home is replete with prized porcelain, gifted to her piece by piece throughout her childhood into her adulthood by her now deceased father. It is only in her later years that Margaret figures out that the exquisite collectible figurines, in childhood she so held precious, were stolen from Jews during World War II in Germany, and purchased by her father through the black market. Now, what were symbols of a love between father and daughter, have become the bane of her existence. All of that changes when Wanda responds to Margaret's newspaper ad, what transpires is an utterly magical transformation, mending what had become weakened, by breaking it all. Reading this will inspire you to change an old pattern and create something anew.

 She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel 

She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana
This is an uplifting, drolly written, memoir about Kimmel's childhood growing up in the sixties in Mooreland, Indiana, a town of three hundred, she tells us. Told in jocular fashion, her story centers around the journey of her mother from a stay-at home, pork rind-crumbed, couch potato, taken to looking for signs on television commercials, to accomplished college professor of English--it's a journey you don't want to miss! You will love Kimmel and her self deprecating way of expressing her viewpoint of her often zany world--I guarantee that you will relate to something in this story!


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
It is wonderfully inspiring watching the way Victoria triumphs as she evolves from an abandoned adolescent, who comes of age after living in foster homes, and finally a group home for teens, to a self-sufficient young woman on her own. But this story is not told in simple, flowing fashion. Diffenbaugh takes you on a spiraling path of entering the rite of passage into the adult world while living in a public park, and then a crawl space, as Victoria learns to stand on her feet and bring her passion, the language of flowers, to life. But before she gets her footing, she falls deeper than she ever has. Flowers tie her whole mismatched existence into one cohesive garden of experience that will have you rooting for her and glad for the strength of the human spirit.