Leaving a Light on Always

So fellow travelers, tomorrow Favorite Youngest Daughter wings her way West again.

This parting is stretching my heartstrings more intensely than before. I know it is because her path forward from here is less defined than a Mother’s mind is comfortable with. Yet deep in my soul I also believe by following her heart she is making her best choice  and I am committed to sending her on her way feeling supported and loved.

 

Beyond darkness Light

The comforting warmth of Home

Love is always here

 

 

There’s no greater gift we can give each other than our acceptance. When our children reach the time where our paths diverge we stand at that crossroad, holding hope in our hearts that everything we have given will hold them steady in their journey. Knowing all choices hold challenges, we pray what wisdom and strength we have passed along provides them the resiliency they need to live their dreams.  So I will invoke the armor of love to surround my daughter as I wrap her in an until-next-time hug.

Then both of us will shoulder our packs and head out to explore the adventures calling us onward.

 

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

 


The Last Shall Be First

So fellow travelers, we have arrived back home after a long circuit of family visits for the holidays. Most of the drive was a tense journey on slippery, slushy roads through misty bands of wind driven snow. (God bless my husband for driving.) It felt like a very appropriate metaphor for the stressful twists and turns which made this past year such a challenge to navigate.

But there were moments of glorious adventure, great joy and earnest personal insights too. Just like the weekend’s cherished moments with family, the year now counting itself down brought gifts of love and laughter to ease the pangs of change and loss.

A bright full moon followed us on our drive home this evening and I realized this full moon is both the last full moon of 2017 and the first full moon of 2018. It too is a metaphor for my mind so full of thoughts about the coming year. To be honest I feel a bit of uneasiness regarding what lies ahead in the months to come although there is more hope in the mix than I felt a year ago.  There are many elements I am more than ready to leave behind when I change the calendar pages at midnight and there are lessons to carry forward to fortify the resiliency so essential to thriving in troubled times.

The last being first and first being last, are remnant puzzles from my Sunday School years, left unsolved by college comparative religion classes and only slightly clarified by meditative reflection on the yin-yang continuity of life’s ebb and flow.  What I know now is simply this.  What will be will be and when what is falls beyond our control, all we are left to master is our response to it. Our response may be the only choice we have in some circumstances, but it is also the most crucial choice we make because it creates the framework of how those circumstances affect us and how we in turn affect others.

So I have chosen to carry just one resolution with me as I cross this Light bridge created by last and first moons: this year I intend to be mindfully present in as many moments as I can, to experience these moments as fully as possible as they happen, unfiltered by past judgement or future concerns.

To that intent, a simple haiku for the moons of 2017-18.

So first shall be last  

The fullness of an ending

Beginning afresh

Happy New Year fellow travelers. Thank you for joining me along the way. 

Walk gently on the path my friends and as always, may the adventure of this coming year find you ready.

 

 

 

Zen Moment: Deep Freeze Sunrise 

So fellow travelers,  a deep cold  snap has settled over our humble home.

My little pond has become a skating rink for the resident squirrels who slide across the surface to drink from little pool which forms around the heated aerators. Below the ice, fish sleep suspended in hibernation until Spring.

Last night when howling winds woke me I thought I was hearing voices singing. The clock showed just past 3am but no ghosts of Christmases past, present or future appeared. Still the eerie chorus must have echoed in my sleep, strange images swirled in my dreams until dawn, fueled a bit by the dynamics of  processing the stress from the last month at work and balancing the logistics of family gatherings throughout the holidays.

I’ve been feeling the impact of some personal losses this season too so when I caught the radiant light of sunrise this morning it stirred a desperate longing for peace giving words to this haiku styled prayer.

 

I want to believe

In every sunrise promise

Dig deeper for faith

Breathe in reach for hope

Deep in my soul I know each of us will find our way forward through challenging times.  We have strong bonds of love woven by family and friends near and far. A new year is coming and although it is “just a flip of a page on the calendar,” as someone rather jaded recently pointed out, for me at least it is still a chance to review our direction and reset our course as needed.

The glowing Light of sunrise is my daily reminder every day brings the hope and promise of  a new beginning.  I will greet this coming year holding strong in my resolve to believe the journey always brings us to where we belong.

 

 

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

 

 

Christmas 2017

So fellow travelers, the last of our Candle Night lights has been lit.

Christmas Day has come.

Beautifully wrapped gifts from my dear friend Lisa.

There will be gifts and greetings shared with family near and far. We will linger over hearty meals and hugs. Thanks to the technology  of Skype we will be together with all our kids for a little while later today.

Outside winter winds howl and lake effect snow adds more and more inches to the holiday card scenes in my yard but no weather can lessen the warmth and Light of the joy in my heart on this blessed morning.

Treasured ornaments

Lifelong memories shine bright

Bringing peace and joy

Walk gently on the path my friends and may blessings of the season go always with you.

Winter Solstice Reflection

So fellow travelers, its easy to lose ones bearings when navigating the maze of life….so many twists and turns, too many conflicting directives and confusing maps which lead us everywhere but where we truly need to be. Yet all we need to find our way back to our true path is just a glimpse of light.

 

You have wandered so long

misguided by trail markers and maps meant for others

when darkness heightens awareness of how far off path you meandered 

you had forgotten you are lost 

until a distant glimmer of light beckons you home.

 

 

 

 

As long we have someone who dares enough to hold love in their hearts for us there is always hope we will find our way.

Walk gently on the path my friends, blessings of the solstice be with you all


Grave Thoughts

So fellow travelers, many years ago I bought my first house, a compact two bedroom cape at the edge of the city I still reside near. One day a few weeks after moving in, I took a walk around the area with my dog and discovered a cemetery about a half mile from my quiet little street. It quickly became my sanctuary for walking meditation, a practice I was just beginning to include in my routines.

Perhaps because I visited one often as a child, cemeteries have always held a curious place in my awareness. Certainly I sensed the aura of sadness and loss surrounding the adults during these solemn graveside visits, but my experience was infused with a deep feeling of mystery. Most likely this is because any questions I might have asked would have been answered with “This is not something we talk about.”  So other than grasping the idea we came to honor people who were no longer alive, I was left to ponder on my own the significance of the vast variety of grave markers and tombstones, and wonder how those we honored knew we were doing so or for that matter exactly where they were, other than “no longer with us.”

 

 

 

One thing I did know with certainty from those visits was cemeteries are havens of bird habitat. Those Sunday morning visits might be the source of my initial interest in birds, because I remember seeing and hearing birds not found in our tiny backyard and wondering about them. So it is cemeteries still remain associated with mystery to me.

Since my mother-in-law’s death last year, I have become the person who, by both choice and default, tends to her grave.

I chose a simple flag to mark the site as Joan’s tombstone has not been set in place yet. 

Each visit, I take some time to absorb the restful serenity of the sanctuary. It’s evergreens and ancient oak trees are prime bird habitat throughout the seasonal changes and I can always count on a few cheerful songsters greeting me as I walk the quiet paths.

On my most recent visit I noticed how many graves had seasonal decorations. Sparkling wreaths, miniature Christmas trees, artificial poinsettias (real ones would perish within hours in our chilly weather)  and it occurred to me what I was seeing was a tremendous expression of love.

 

 

In fact this little community cemetery is full of grave sites that are decorated year round, vibrant statements standing in defiance of the emptiness of death.  There is a feeling of tenderness which brings life to a place which otherwise would instill sadness.  It’s truly a tribute of love’s power to transcend death.

Loss is pervasive

So is love its everywhere

even in graveyards

Over the years I’ve realized elaborate tombs and stone markers mean nothing to the deceased. Graves are points of reference, symbols to reassure the living that the dead have not been forgotten and tending to those sites is an active expression of love.

While there are also cemeteries in Asia, many Asians have small altars in their homes where the deceased are honored.  My mom has one by a big window in their apartment. Small dishes of water, food or salt (a symbol of purification) are set before photos of my grandparents. I cherish the way this tradition makes the deceased part of the daily lives of the living, so I created one in my home too. It is a meaningful way to integrate loss and the process of grief into the fabric of daily life.

Tending my ancestral slater and mother-in-laws grave are both acts of love, different but honorable. In this holiday season when an empty chair at family gatherings hits hard they are reminders that love lives on in our hearts.

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

 

 

Roots

I’ve come back to read Tom’s piece several times, it is so thoughtful and imbued with significance for my own journey of searching for “home.”
HOME has become for me more about the people in my life than a physical location, so I feel I am home regardless of where I travel to be with them. As I write this I am sitting by the window in the guest bedroom of the townhouse where my parents live outside Philadelphia watching the sunrise cast amazing colors across the sky.

Yet I have also come to appreciate the connections I have to special sanctuaries in the Upstate NY area where I have lived now for over 40 years.  It’s where our daughters and our son-in-law were born and raised. It’s where my husband spent most of his life growing up. It’s where I learned to bird watch, hike trails and rescue dogs.  It’s where I re-discovered my creative spirit and found a tribe of kindred souls who being spread out across many places are like beacons of homefires reminding me there’s a lot of  home out there for me to visit.

 

Quarry House

Rogers Store Museum.JPGFrom my journal:

I am home.

For the last week, the woman I love and I have been down in Virginia, visiting my family and some of the places that were once home.  We spent a day in the DC area with one of my sisters, a day in Richmond with another, and a day in Surry County with my aunt, my dad’s sister.

My bride, my love had met my sisters, but not until a day before the wedding. They came up to Vermont for the first time, rented a cabin on a small lake and we had dinner there the night before the wedding, along with many of Cindy’s friends. It was a wonderful send-off, but not a place where you really get to know people. Too many of us talking, the whole social bouncing from person to person, group to group to really get to know folks…

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Waiting 

So fellow travelers, it’s November and suddenly our luxuriously warm and unseasonable weather has flown off with the migrating geese leaving behind chilly winds and rain.
  My mood this week mirrors the grey skies viewed from my car as I wait for my morning coffee on my way to work.

Being a long distance mom is a tough challenge.

There comes a point when standing by in support mode is the most essential role we can take on as our kids take charge of their future. At times the need to be there nstead of here just to give my daughters a hug stretches my heart strings so much it physically hurts. It actually physically hurts.

Zen masters teach me time and space are illusions. In my meditations I focus on being present with the love I feel for family. It helps ease some of that ache,

but I still wish I for those hugs.

Editing a photo for an online project I found these words rising from the heartache

Trapped by illusion

Just a shadow of yourself

Hold fast til sunrise

 

Both my daughters are visiting in the next few months and I will get to give them the hugs I wish for.

Until then I will seek joy in the shadows.

 

 

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


There and Back Again: Redefining Home

So fellow travelers, it’s been a quiet few days since we’ve returned from our marvelous trip to the Pacific Northwest. There’s more than a hint of Autumn in the air, one local weather watcher reported a record early frost in her area a bit north of here. Delilah and I found signs of way too early color on our first walk.

 

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HRH Princess Delilah met us at the airport with squeals and cries of sheer delight. She arrived courtesy of her escort Mark B. who along with my good friend and camping buddy Lisa provide our spoiled rescue Diva with the best of care when we are out of town.  They also happen to be the adopted family of our former foster Sammy aka Sammers Wiggle Butt. He stays with us when they go out of town.  I’m deeply grateful for this reciprocal arrangement, without it our extended annual visit with our kids would not be possible.

Parting goodbyes grow harder for me each time as every trip deepens my connection to the wild wonders of the PNW.  The irony if this is not lost on me, since I had said for years that region of the country was one I had no interest in moving to. Never say never.

Functional graffiti on a side street in PDX

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Each year we explore more areas, seeking out potential towns to purchase a retirement home. My husband tracks property values on Zillow and I seek out natural vistas and new trails to explore. We learn more about the issues each area is facing  and I am planning at least one future trip to experience the colder rainy season. I expect I’ll remain a willing convert, after all you don’t have to shovel rain to get to your bird feeders or brush it off your car to load your groceries.

Rain 2014 the only year its rained during our trip

 

Since returning, I noticed I had a hard time saying I was “home.” Yet I also felt content to be back, walking the neighborhood with Delilah, cleaning my little fish pond and weeding the small forest attempting to take over various areas of my yard. I gathered flowers from the wildflower patch I seeded last spring and discovered a dozen or more tiny fry had appeared in the pond during our absence. Seeing them wiggle in the waterfall current and darting around the lily pads sent a wave of joy through my heart which ached to have coffee at the bagel shop* where Favorite Younger Daughter works and hike just one more mountain trail with either one of my girls.

Then insight dawned.

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Just as I can equally love two daughters with their unique talents and temperaments I can have and love more than one “home.”  It simply means I am twice blessed and for this I am truly grateful.

 

Massive sunflowers greeted me when I got home. They are the first ever to bloom after many unsuccessful attempts to grow them. I laughed right out loud when I saw them. Maybe it was good to be back at this home after all.

 

 

 

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

*If you happen to find yourself  in Portland  do stop by Spielmans.  Their custom roasted coffee is excellent and they make the best bagels I’ve ever had- and I grew up in New York City so that assessment bears some weight.

 

 

Mountain Spells

So fellow travelers, we have spent three days discovering the majestic power of the mountains in Rainier and Olympic National Parks in Washington.

Mount Rainier (above) and Mount Olympus (below)


They are spellbinding. 

 

Yesterday at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Favorite Older Daughter and I hiked a trail leading to a lookout point. It was a mercifully short, but knee cracking steep climb.  My daughter patiently paced her stride as I stopped to get photos and catch my breath more than a few times.

 

The views from the top were worth every inch we hiked.

Even more precious was this rare time alone together. “Proud” barely describes the depth of joy I feel being with the amazing young woman my daughter has become. I have not written much about her because it is not often we get to spend time together. I head back home in a few days with an increasing sense that “home” is no longer where I currently live. It’s become this wild and wondrous place I return to every summer, this place our kids call home.

While trying to describe my experience at the trail’s crest I wrote what I thought was a run on sentence, until I realized it was actually a poem

The mountains are calling and winding tendrils of awe around my  heart

Ice fresh air seductively imbued with cedar fills my head with wild dreams of following endless ridges laced with enticing ribbons of trails 

I would walk on and on diving below the tree line plunging deep into forests of forgetfulness and forgiveness  where nothing matters but the next step

A raven calls

I turn and face the sun

and walk step by step 

 back home

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