A Wish for the New Year

So fellow travelers, I would like to take a moment to thank every one of you for coming along with me on this journey. Whether you read one post or all I am grateful to have been blessed by the gift of your time.

I have set only one goal for the coming year.  It is to live my life with greater kindness not only towards others, but also towards myself.

May the winds of change to carry your hopes to the ears of angel. May your hearts be filled with peace and may Light guide you on your path wherever it may lead.

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Photo of prayers tied to cedars on the path to the temples of Nikko Japan.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

The Gift of True Friendship

So fellow travelers, I arrived home from our holiday road trip to find a beautiful hand-cut snowflake from one of my friends. Never have I been so happy to come home to snow.

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Look closely…..

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My dear friend Beth has cut not only my name, but also the Japanese character for “friend”

!friends

into the pattern.

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This wondrous work of art came dusted in glitter, carefully tucked in an equally sparkly card

 

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which showered my desk with the glittering magic of true friendship. As a bonus, I now have a great reason to never dust my desk again (not that dusting my desk was ever a frequent occurrence in my routine.)

Beth’s gift of friendship is a rare gem, one of those where the trust I feel has been there from the start, something I have experienced only a handful of times in my life.  Beth and I met first as members of an online Creative Group I have often mentioned. It is a rare thing to meet people in person and find them to genuinely be as they present themselves online, whether that “persona” is reserved and introspective or boisterously funny. The friends I have made in the Creative Group are each and every one of them people with caring hearts, people willing to encourage each other in creative growth and personal healing.

We are also a community which stands together when boundaries are crossed. True friends may not always agree, they may have misunderstandings and even be angry with one another. Yet even in the heat of sorting out differences true friends treat each other with respect. When lines are crossed true friends listen to each other, support one another and when necessary sustain boundaries to allow for healing. True friends acknowledge pain but do not perpetuate darkness when others are suffering. True friends hold fast to hope and joy so others may feel them again. True friends are a rare kind of magic, for they have the ability to create Light. It is magic I soundly believe in for I have seen that Light shine on the path to help others find their way back to the hearth where home fires glow in peace and love.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

Breakfast From the Heart

So fellow travelers, our holiday visit with my family is winding down. Normally early morning travelers, today we head north a bit later to give the winter weather a chance to shift from sleet to rain.

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My dad, an early riser, set the table before he left for work. Always thinking of others, his is a heart filled with kindness. He is my first teacher of compassion. This zen moment haiku is for him.

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The table is set
Though he leaves before we wake
Breakfast from the heart.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Family Gatherings

So fellow travelers, my holiday season is filled with family gatherings. As many of us have begun to move into new phases of our life journeys the time spent together becomes more precious. It makes the hours of preparation when we are hosts and the hours of driving when we are guests worth it. So this zen moment unfolded at my brother’s house as the meal wrapped up and a family photo session began.

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Good food and laughter

Gathered around the table

Love and family

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Love Across the Continent

So fellow travelers,  baking cookies the morning of Christmas Eve day has become a tradition at my home.  I started this originally to keep little hands and minds busy downstairs while elves wrapped presents upstairs. We deliver small plates of cookies to our neighbors later in the day. Last week,  Favorite Oldest Daughter asked for one of the recipes, thumbprint jelly cookies, which are a family favorite and standard fare for Christmas Morning Breakfast.

Today when I was baking those cookies the thought that she was carrying that family favorite forward made me smile. Cookies across the miles keeping hearts connected, the thought gave birth to this haiku:

Christmas Cookies Across the Miles

On the other coast

One I love is baking too

Cookies bridge the miles

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Wishing you and those you love a sweet and joyful holiday.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

Winter Solstice 2015

So fellow travelers , the gift of sunlight in this time of shortest days is always a treasured gift.  The arrival of the winter Solstice is our reminder that darkness will give  way to Light. It’s a time to hold fast to hope and the promise of love.

My daughter captured beautiful images of a dancing flow of rainbows cast across our little Christmas village created by a little burst of sunlight . This holiday together has been most precious for us, made sweeter as I know she will be heading back out on her own journey again all too soon. Rainbows on this little village she loves; promises of a future bright with adventure and joy.

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The promise of Light returning is what makes the Winter Solstice the most significant holiday of the year for me.  If I had to choose only one day of celebration for the year, it would be the Winter Solstice.  Recognizing this annual reminder to focus on Hope and Light is so essential to my beliefs, I found a way to make it part of our seasonal traditions   Candle Night, as it has become known in our home, is a bit pagan, a little reminiscent of Hanukkah and centers on the Christian (Lutheran for me) symbols of an Advent wreath and Nativity.

As my daughters travel further into their futures, it is the Light of Love which will keep us connected, the same Light which connects us all if we open our hearts.  Many friends this year are facing holidays shadowed by the sadness of loss.  It is these words I would gift to them and anyone whose hearts ache in the midst of this season.

Winter Solstice Haiku

We’ve walked in darkness
Long enough now Light returns
Winter Solstice gift

Blessed Season of Light to all.

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(Photo of the rainbow on the village pond.  The image is SOOC , the color was indeed this bright at times as my daughter sat taking photos.)

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

December Dandelion

So fellow travelers,  we here in Upstate NY are living in a Strange New World. It’s a world where temperatures are in the 60’s and Christmas lights cast their colorful glitter across lawns of green grass. We bask some what uneasily under snowless skies, shooting furtive glances at the lavendar clouds, convinced Lake Effect will descend at any time.

“We’re gonna pay for this later you know,” is a frequent comment I hear from my colleagues and neighbors. Really?  As if Mother Nature keeps some sort of balance sheet on which we owe her a tremendous debt for this gift of unseasonably warm weather. Hey, if is there is a balance sheet, I dare say we might have some credit due on our end to compensate for the brutal winter we survived earlier this year.

I have a different perspective; I simply accept the fact our weather is what it is. I am grateful for the good days, dress in layers for all other times and keep walking dogs through all of it. Which is how Delilah and I came upon this little pop of joy as we headed out yesterday evening. “Oh! A December Dandelion,” I exclaimed as she sniffed curiously at the flower which boldly defied the calendar.  The phrase wove itself into this haiku.

December Dandelion

Snow less skies green grass

December dandelions

Strange gifts this season

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

 

Haiku for Candy and Tess

So fellow travelers, Miss Delilah (who recently reminded me I really must write about her more often) was most excited to receive mail from her pawpal Tess.
The joyous photo is accompanied by a delightful poem written by Tess’ human-in-training Candy Cuthbert.

This little haiku is for them; they make quite a team.

Love transcends species
Paw to paw and heart to heart
It knows no distance.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

The Poetry Challenge and the Pirate Dog

So fellow travelers, I work as a special education assistant at a local high school (“local” being a small town in Upstate, NY) This year I provide support in an 11th grade English class and one of the extra credit assignments was a poetry challenge.  Students were given the opportunity to write a poem in the style of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven.”  The requirements were as follows:

*Three or more stanzas of six lines

*Use a consistent rhyme scheme of ABCBBB

*Extra points for the use of internal rhyme

*Extra points for the repeating refrain

*Use of horror theme is encouraged but not required

For reference, here is a stanza from Poe’s original poem:

“Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door–

Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door–

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.”

Being one to lead by example, I always make an attempt to take on the extra credit writing assignments.  It’s been a long time since I had homework, but this was a project I wanted to take on because I knew it would push me outside my comfortable haiku writing box.

Poe’s mastery of poetry wordcraft becomes evident when you actually try to write a poem in this format. After a few false starts with horror themed poems, I pulled out notes on a poem I had started about an experience at the Bedlam Farm Open House weekend and got to work. I posted an early draft on the Creative Group’s Feedback “room,” a forum focused on providing constructive feedback about work we choose to post there.  The comments helped me work out a few kinks in the rhythm and rhyme schemes. The revised version has been sitting for a month in my draft folder, waiting for me to find and edit the photo I wanted to post with it.

Life has a way of nudging creative time towards the “to be completed” pile. Family is my first and foremost priority. I have paid too dearly for the times in my life when I lost sight of that; my heart is and always will be happiest when I am attending to the needs of those I love. It’s a priority which becomes essential when the ravages of advanced aging and illness rob the ones we love of the ability to care for themselves. Yes, I do know taking care of myself empowers me to be a stronger caregiver and my creative time is one source of fuel which keeps me going. There simply are times when I have to choose a quicker way to recharge like walking a favorite path at sunset with my dog.  Suddenly the all too early hour of dusk’s arrival becomes an advantage rather than a seasonal bane.

The year however, is coming to a close and with it many changes on the horizon.  Time to clean out closets and draft folders alike. Time to address unresolved concerns and attend to work left to languish too long.

This was a piece I wanted to post as a thank you to Jon and Maria for opening their home to all of us over the years. The Bedlam Farm open house events have become an informal gathering for Creative Group “farmies” who are able to attend, as well as a public showcase for local artists and of course the farm itself.

No surprise Red and Fate are a main attraction both on and off the herding pasture. I got to share some time with Red during the workshops held at Pompanuck Farm the day before October’s open house started. Sitting front and center with writer Nancy Gallimore during Jon’s workshop on writing granted me the opportunity to witness a soul dog moment she wrote about in her blog.

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(A phone camera shot of Red wrapped in Nancy’s scarf laying between us on the Round House meeting room floor)

But it was really Fate who stole my heart that weekend.  Dashing around with impish delight, stealing bread from the Round House bakery, sneaking off to eat sheep poop, grabbing as many water bottles and as much attention as she could before getting reigned in. During the poetry readings I felt someone poking my back; it was Fate who had quickly identified the treat pocket on the outside of my backpack. I’ll never tell if she earned one or not. Watching her follow Red’s lead during the herding demos was thrilling and seeing her out smart Jon’s every effort to keep an eye on her off the field was delightful. No wonder he calls her the Pirate Dog.
At the end of the day on Sunday, Jon was most gracious when Fate nearly followed me to my car as I was heading home. When he called her back she stopped and looked at me just for an instant. For one crazy moment, Fate and I locked eyes, two pirate girls with thoughts of heading for the open seas, a lifetime of crazy adventure on the run lived in the fraction of a second before she raced back to Jon. Not that I’d ever take off with someone else’s dog, let alone one of Bedlam Farm fame.

The poem I wrote for the poetry challenge was born in that moment and offered now in gratitude for the opportunity to sail, if every so briefly, the seven seas with a Pirate Dog.

Fate

Pirate dog in black and white, colors of true day and night.

Through meadowed fields she goes racing

Scatter creatures far and wide, navigating when she rides

With her master, Light they’re chasing.

Patience, focus, lessons facing.

 

Learning still to give the eye, with Red mentor at her side.

Sibling bond pure, soulful, deep

Beautiful the dance they run, moving through the field as one.

Through gates lightning quick they leap

Circling, crouching, herding sheep.

 

Pirate dog come home with me. Master calls. His love is key.

Spirit guide for quilted art,

Here’s the place where you belong, keep words of hope flowing strong.

Playful, loving, wicked smart,

Joy dog’s gift: an open heart.

 

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Editor’s note. My students did point out my poem only has five lines per stanza. No A+ for me I told them, but because I used different rhymes in each of my stanzas I could not employ a repeating refrain as Poe did (“nothing more/nevermore” ) in his original poem.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Finding the Spirit of Christmas

So fellow travelers, this is that time of year when people either embrace or lament the season.  The CGBF page has been scrolling posts from both points of view.  One of my favorite has been a series by writer Kathy Dewez about her determination to “Un Grinch” herself and feel the true spirit of the season.  Another heart felt story came from Jackie Campbell’s memories of her dog Greta, a spunky senior dog our group has come to love through her many stories. It was Grandma Greta’s farewell post written so sweetly it transcends the sorrow of her passing.

Losses suffered are a theme for those struggling to find enough joy to celebrate the season. I admit I was actually blindsided by my own sense of emptiness as Thanksgiving approached and I realized for the first time in a quarter century, neither of my daughters would be joining us at any of the family tables.  Somehow in the anticipation of having Favorite Youngest Daughter return home for Christmas I lost track of the reality that we’d be on our own for Thanksgiving.

Well, not entirely on our own since we host Thanksgiving dinner for my husband’s side of the family. In fact if we don’t (as happened last year when we traveled to New York City to see our daughter march in the Macy’s Day parade) his family goes out to dinner. It’s all good; after all someone has to patronize the restaurants that are open right? So with a full traditional meal to prepare, I soon found my aching heart wrapped in a blanket of comforting aromas and familiar routines.

One of those routines is watching the Macy’s Day parade, which as I mentioned has taken on new significance since our high school Marching Band participated last year.  The arrival of Santa cruising into Herald Square on a spectacular sleigh at the end of the parade sets in motion another tradition. Yes, yes I know the moment has obvious commercial undertones, but my secret to living the spirit of Christmas is I ignore all the garish commercialism and loud banter about political correctness. I choose to focus on things that instill peace and joy.  It’s a secret I discovered years ago when facing a holiday season with a grief laden soul.  Yes something as simple as a tree filled with only red ornaments and white lights created feelings of hope to begin healing a grieving mother’s heart.

So the arrival of Santa at the end of the Macy’s Parade is my reminder to turn on the timer for the outdoor lights. Every year, when our Thanksgiving guests leave, they are blessed by the magical glow of  many twinkling Christmas lights. There is something magical in the lights of Christmas. Not so much the big flashing displays but the little chance encounters I have with simple strands that stand out.  They evoke a childhood memory of the moment when we would finish decorating the tree, turn out all the lights and just gaze in wonder at the glistening ornaments illuminated as if the memories of all Christmas past present and future glowed within each one.

To me Christmas spirit is about finding hope and peace and looking for ways to create them for others. It is for this kind of magic, for this way of finding Christmas Spirit in the little things that I wrote this poem.  I wrote it in my usual form of a haiku, but it ended up with two final five syllable lines, both of which I knew belonged in the piece, so the haiku became a tiny poem.

Haiku plus one for Finding Christmas Spirit

Whispers of hope grow
Christmas spirit is calling
Speaking words of Love
Singing songs of joy.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.