Saturday, June 11, 2016

Automatic Pilot

Most days, when I wake up, I feel like I’m on automatic pilot. First, the alarm goes off (or not; if I’ve spoken directly to the Universe requesting a wake-up call the night before my eyes pop open before it rings). Second, I automatically think to myself “Oh, no. Not time to get up already!” or “Yay! Today’s the day I’m going to the beach!” depending on whether my plans involve work or play. Then I roll out of bed, search for my glasses and mouth guard (a loathsome thing that’s supposed to quell my teeth-grinding, but which I invariably throw on the floor in my sleep), grab my robe, unplug my cellphone from its charger, and head downstairs for a cup of tea. As I said: automatic pilot.
            One recent day, however, I decided to spend a bit more time in bed before rising. That was the day I snapped the above picture, after noticing that the leaves of the pear tree near my window were tapping against the pane outside the closed shade. That morning, I spent quite a bit of time gazing and snapping photos. It was such a pretty sight, and reminded me once again of how I tend to rush about without really noticing the details.
            Later that day I was eating dinner with my family at the kitchen table. The curtains were drawn because bright sunlight was streaming onto our faces, but at one point I got up and looked outside. Just below my window were two adorable mourning doves. They were hopping about in the grass cooing (I could hear them through the pane). The grass was wet and green from a recent rain, and the doves seemed playful. Once again, I was struck by the scenes that are outside my ordinary field of vision.
            This spring an owl came to visit our home for a few days. We would hear him at 3 in the morning, hooting in a tall tree. No amount of peering or searching brought him to our sight, but we were alert in bed for more than an hour just listening. Deep in the night, right outside my window, was a vast owl world unknown to me.
One day, returning home from a local café with a cup of coffee, I went to my computer for a while, but then got up again to check to see if a package had arrived. I’d heard a truck coming up our hill and was curious. When I opened the door, the truck was gone and there was no package, but a huge mound of dirt was piled up right at our front step, and there was a large open hole just beneath the foundation. A skunk, woodchuck, or some other creature had been hard at work digging while I’d been writing. Who knew?
Another day, I pulled open the shade in my living room to find a dozen tall, bright yellow weeds I’d never seen before. I snapped their photo, sadly knowing it will only be days before my neighbor notices and mows them down.
            I often write about this sort of thing because I find it intriguing. How much goes on while we’re not aware, not looking, or listening? I know that we can’t touch, see, or feel every breeze, every flower, or every birdsong. But can’t we try?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Where in the Heck?

The other day I was looking for something. I scoured the Internet, doing a million and one Google searches. I looked in my overflowing home library for a book that might contain the information. I searched my Nook, feeling as if I had definitely seen the piece somewhere; it was something about a yoga set I wanted to try. I went on Amazon and read a bunch of descriptions. Then, since it was past midnight, I decided to give up my search.

I got ready for bed and started to head upstairs, but I had the nagging feeling that if I didn’t find the piece I was searching for I wouldn’t be able to sleep. So I went back to my computer and typed in a few more search words. Low and behold! The information came up, I happily printed it out, and went to bed. I was infinitely proud of myself for not giving up (actually, I was so proud of myself that I couldn’t sleep!) I love a determined search, and I heartily patted myself on the back (metaphorically of course) for my persistence and success.

The next day, I was rummaging through some papers on my desk, still gloating from the previous night’s treasure hunt, when I came across a book. The book looked exceedingly familiar. The book looked like it might contain some valuable information. In fact, I had truly forgotten that I owned the book at all. I picked it up, opened to the table of contents and found precisely what I had been searching for the night before.

I had been searching for something I already had! Omg.

Obviously, I just had to take this as a message from the universe. We are all constantly searching for stuff that we already have! We are all searching for love, and success, and contentment, and abundance, and excitement, and who knows what else. We are all searching for answers and acknowledgement, and yes, for articles and socks. A lot of time is wasted turning things upside down, endlessly searching for that which is already found or for that which was never even lost to begin with.

Hug your kids, collect your hugs back, and Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

In the Moment

This morning I went for a walk after reading an especially disturbing news item online, the details of which I won’t share here since it was too disturbing to be repeated. For a long time recently, in fact, I was on a news-free diet, because things have gotten so out of hand in the world that sometimes it’s just too painful to know, even though as a former news reporter and news hound I love to be aware of what’s going on (especially during election season!)

As I was walking I asked myself the question, once again, the question of how people who have gone through so much pain can ever be happy again, how they can ever believe in God or some other divine force, how they can even find the strength to ever again get up in the morning. It’s a mystery to me how human beings can continue to pick themselves up when they have fallen so hard, when their limbs and hearts are broken, when they’ve lost hope, when everything has fallen apart.

Just as I asked myself these questions, I heard a bird calling from the top of a sycamore tree. I could hear but not see him. I stood staring at the tree for a long, long time, watching the light play through the branches, listening to the call of the invisible bird. As I stared up, the tree and sky were all I saw, all I thought of, and I was completely at peace as I gazed. In that moment, my memory of what I had read this morning vanished. My worries and fears left. I was only in one place, and in one moment, marveling at the beauty of nature and the world.

The only way out of pain is through the present moment; it is all we have. There is nothing we can do to erase the pain. But the bird and its tree (or the tree and its bird) reminded me that there will always be moments when we can forget. There will always be moments.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Loving Winter

It’s officially here! To me, despite what the calendar may say, winter does not officially arrive until the first snowfall. Last weekend dumped more than a foot, so there’s no getting around it now. In celebration, I finished my fifth reading of Pride and Prejudice because, in my opinion, there is nothing much better than re-reading a beloved book in a snowstorm.

To be honest, however, I don’t especially like snow. I’m not a skier, and I hate to be cold. Two days after the snow falls, I’m pretty much done with it and I’m looking forward to spring. However, winter brings certain wonderful things that I enjoy even more when the temperature drops. Here they are, in no special order.
1)  Roasting vegetables, especially Brussels sprouts. Somehow the bliss just isn’t there in 101-degree heat.
2) Making soup, a relaxing therapy for a frigid afternoon. And then, you get to eat it for days!
3) Walking in the woods. There is nothing like the squeak of fresh snow beneath your boots (except for maybe the crackling of leaves underfoot in the fall).
4Going to the beach. Yes, I love the beach in the winter. There’s no one there, and you won’t get a sunburn.
5)  Lighting candles (soy, of course). Candles are beautiful any time but on a cold winter night they sparkle in a heightened way. Of course, if you have a fireplace, all the better.
6) Snuggling under the covers with your loved ones (no, I’m not talking about a ménage a trois—I’m referring to your mate and your little ones, if you have them).
7) Holidays. To ward off the winter doldrums, there are so many wonderful holidays in winter. Since my favorite pastime of all is being with family, winter is the perfect time to indulge.
8) Hot tea. Normally I’m a decaf coffee drinker, but winter and tea are perfect together.
9) Feeding the birds. They’re just so darned appreciative in the winter, and so exquisitely picturesque in the snow.
10) Snow shoveling at night. If you want to experience quiet while getting a workout, there’s nothing like stepping outside into the cold night air and shoveling the moonlit snow.
11)  Reading. Winter reading is a gift, because what else are you going to do when it’s too cold to play outside and you want to avoid house cleaning?
12) Southern vacations. Yes, I know this is about winter, but one of the joys of the season is getting away from it. I love to head to visit my relatives in North Carolina in February. The South just always seems, well, Southier, when it’s extra cold up north.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Eyes Wide Open

A few weeks ago I was taking a walk when I turned up a path I don’t usually follow and there I spied this beautiful ivy creeping up a stone wall. I whipped out my cell phone to take a picture and thought about it all day long. What if I hadn’t made that turn? Not that missing an attractive plant would have made any difference in my life, but I was reminded once again of how much goes on in the world that we might miss if we get too set in our ways (or paths) or become unwilling to see things from another perspective.

When I was a kid I used to spend a great deal of time staring through the panes of a stained glass window on a landing of the stairs to the second floor of our house. The window wasn’t fancy in the least—in fact, the entire middle section was clear glass. But the slim panes around the edges were of different colors. If I looked through the red pane the yard below seemed to be lit with fire, the grass and rosebushes crimson. When I gazed through the light blue pane everything was serene and still.  Long moments would pass while I marveled at how differently I felt as I surveyed my yard through various lenses of color.

Recently, in my own home, I suddenly looked up from my computer to spy a woodchuck outside the window, nibbling a fallen pear a few yards away. A little while later I sensed movement on a tree outside. I ran to a window upstairs and realized that by changing my perspective a bit, I could now see a gorgeous redheaded woodpecker; he wasn’t visible from my location on the first floor.

Clearly we can’t see all things from all sides at all times. It’s impossible for us to take all paths and know all outcomes. We have to pick and choose, and sometimes in choosing one path over another we miss out on a bird, or a flower, or an opportunity. But at other times our intuition (or something else) guides us to look up at just the right moment, or to turn at just the right point, or to arrive or leave just when something wonderful (or horrible) is happening.

Some people seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Others seem to get it wrong a lot. I like to think that if we keep our eyes open, stay receptive to new possibilities, let go of the fear of change, and most importantly, listen within, we’ll walk on the miraculous side of life. As any artist knows, changing perspective changes the whole picture. Just have to be willing.