Now What ?

So fellow travelers, while I have considered this space as a kind of creative “thinking out loud,” there has always been an underlying hope that my writing has served some purpose beyond my own musings.

If an uplifting haiku, an eye catching photo or a bit of humor brings joy or even insight to some of my readers, I feel I have done my part in making a difference by helping others along on their journey. 
Adjusting to the massive changes brought about by the COVID19 pandemic has proven to be more demanding than any of us thought it would be. For me just the switch to online education created an overload of new information to master. There has been little time for myself to relax, let alone write; I had even stopped journaling.

Thankfully, two practices I have maintained are daily meditations and evening gratitudes. That and frequent walks with our dog have kept me sane in a very crazy time, a time which, in the words of therapist Barbara Young, “…is a much longer marathon than we could ever have imagined (becoming) a reality.”  I found her words in an article my friend and fellow writer Kate Rantilla shared. As I read it, I realized why I have felt so pressured: I am, as she describes, trying way too hard to “do isolation well.”

Her insights have helped me make sense of my emotions and allowed me to reorganize my intentions with less self-judgment. So, although I rarely share outside sources here, it felt like the best way, at the moment for me to make a bit of difference for you, my fellow travelers. 

Barbara Young’s article “What do we do now? can be found here: “https://tinyurl.com/sx2ke7n

Walk gently on the path my friends another time-
for now save lives, stay home and be well.

Rewriting History

So fellow travelers- strange dark and troubled waters we find ourselves navigating these days.

First, I pray you and those you love are safe and well. The time is coming when every one of us will know someone, perhaps even ourselves, who has been touched by this viral wave sweeping across our home planet. I see it as an unprecedented transformational experience. While humanity has survived numerous pandemics ( and will survive this one as well ) it has never been so intricately and immediately connected as we are right now. This wave hit fast, hard and will leave an impact we will feel long after the last case has been diagnosed. Hold tight fellow travelers, this journey has taken quite the sudden plot twist.  

someone shares my dark sense of humor

Normally I am pretty disciplined in my interactions on social media. Right now, with our schools transitioned to remote instruction, honestly I am so busy adjusting to new online platforms I don’t have time to keep up with my social media feed. It is however the best way for me to keep in touch with friends and family in this time of “stay home” protocols.

No surprise emotions are running pretty high everywhere, so I started getting drawn into responding a bit more to comments by adding my own perspective. (If you’ve followed this blog for a while you know me and my signature #spreadhopenotfear .) One response** on a friend’s post showing appreciation for NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s leadership drew a surprisingly negative reaction from someone I respected. The gist of it was that the knowledge I shared in my comment (which contained facts backing up my comment) was not as valid because I am a teaching assistant not a teacher,  not a content expert in history and implied my support was driven by blindly accepting “sound bite” media.

OUCH- While being online many more hours a day than I am used to does create some eye-strain, the only blindness I’m experiencing is the blindside of being slapped down for being a lower ranked educator.  I may “just” be a TA ( teaching assistant ) however I do have a college degree in both media AND education. I may not be a content expert in every class I am assigned to but I am intelligent, well read and always seeking to learn more. I use my research skills to sort through information; I rely on science, facts and first hand accounts (aka “primary sources”) not hyperbolic media hype (left or right leaning.) I can spot a #fakenews story easier than dog hair (which is pretty much everywhere in my life) and I know how to read body language to discern when people are lying ( No, I am not a covert CIA agent- but I know people are- …kidding ….maybe.)

The

bottom

line

I have I OFTEN disagreed with Gov. Cuomo on his approach to issues in the past. That was then, this is now. And the bottom line is what we are dealing with NOW is an unprecedented global crisis. The opinion that the rapid spread in NY is due to poor leadership does not equate with well documented facts about what is happening almost everywhere around the world. Regardless of decades of warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) almost no country or leader was prepared.The few exceptions have been a handful of countries with fewer personal freedoms and stronger government controls which instituted universal mandatory confinement within a relatively short time of the outbreak in their country- something that will not fly in America, land of the free and don’t tread on me (observe the push back from simple “stay home” protocols right here at home.)

 Why was everyone so unprepared?
 (trigger warning for my friends who deal with anxiety and/or trauma PTSD. This is a very sobering section, proceed slowly or head right down to the Looking Ahead piece)
Medical experts explain that COVID19 is different, even from other viruses in the same category.  It is stealthy ( most contagious before symptoms present) its efficient (reproduces rapidly right after exposure) its sinister (takes close to two weeks to run its course – thereby prolonging the transmission rate). We do not (yet) have a vaccine or an effective treatment (there isn’t a”tamiflu” equivalent “-yet) 

Most countries and leaders looked back at recent viral outbreaks SARS, MERS Ebola and expected to have a lot more time to “get head” of the infection rate. Experts in Washington State where the first case in the US was diagnosed alerted the CDC, looking for directives in how to proceed. Suffice to say (and this is well documented) there was no sense of urgency from the CDC or federal government, regardless of the rapidly rising infection rate and death toll China was starting to report. Fortunately, Washington state and local leadership paid more attention to what farsighted countries were doing and instituted precautionary closures of vulnerable locations in Seattle early on and when the outbreak spread, so did the precautionary measures. Unfortunately it was not until Italy’s crisis became world news that other countries, including the US, realized the potential severity of this pandemic. And as of the time of this post (March 27, 2020) there are regions in the US where the outbreak is just beginning to bloom, that continue to disregard the warning signs of growing numbers. They have not taken to heart the clear implications of taking a “wait and see” approach. Many of those regions are rural areas highly vulnerable to having smaller medical facilities quickly overwhelmed with tragic results.

Looking ahead

Looking Ahead #lookforthehelpers- Since my ethereal snow goose experience about three weeks ago I have struggled to write about this experience of living through a pandemic. I see now the hidden gift in that stinging slap down, because it pushed me to find truth in my emotions and here I am pounding out the words which were buried in those feelings.

And there is more to come. If nothing else, I have broken through the anger (which too often feels like a forbidden emotion- a habitual pattern from childhood) and found a way to voice my truth without undue rancor. I have neither the time nor the desire to fuel the critical, angry attitude which poisons social media. I want, I NEED to focus my energy on supporting my students, my friends and family, my creative tribe. My greatest hope is for humanity to come out of this shadow into a better world, one of global cooperation, compassion and connection.  Historically, that has not been the after effect of epidemics and pandemics.

Maybe it’s time we rewrote history.

Walk gently on the path my friends, safe distance apart and may you live to find adventure when this shadow has passed.

**Post edit note: I would like to make it clear the comment I referred to was NOT made by anyone I work with. My colleagues in our district have always treated me as an equal and respected my contributions. I appreciate them deeply for that.

Snow Quest

So fellow travelers, February turned into a long, dark month. 

Winter made a roaring comeback complete with winds howling in delight at our delusions of a “mild winter.” Even leap year’s extra day in this shortest of months seemed an added mockery. Displays of forced spring bulbs in my local grocery stores felt like false promises in the face of so much loss around me. 

So many, too many, grieving friends.


One friend lost his only child, a beautiful young woman just a few years older than our own older daughter. One rushed to be with another friend facing her final hours shortly after receiving a fatal diagnosis. One was blind sided by a sudden job loss. Several friends said goodbye to cherished four legged companions.

And there is our neighbors’ house, which stands shrouded in mournful tarps, scorched black by a terrible fire in late January. Thankfully the young couple, their children and both dogs all escaped without harm but they just found out the house has been declared a total loss. They have lost most of their  possessions and they had to make the heartbreaking decision to give up their dogs for adoption because they no longer have a home. Broken windows and doors have been boarded up to prevent vandalism, still, we keep a watchful eye on the property. Kid and dog toys lay scattered in the yard, the baby’s swing hangs empty, daily reminders of a life so fiercely and suddenly disrupted.

Sometimes there are no words to ease the intense grief of sudden loss. So for five weeks, while I navigated the ice dam of emotions. silence reigned my creative space. Until yesterday, when a message sent me 35 miles west on a quest to find something marvelous.

Those specs in the sky are hundreds, maybe thousands,  of Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) arriving at a wetland north of Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Delilah and I arrived just in time to catch this wave of migrating visitors seeking a resting place for the night. Although I only had my phone to capture photos and a short video*, a good pair of binoculars (which are always in my car) verified these were indeed Snow (not Canada) geese. The vast flock, gracefully swirling back and around, sent waves of calls across the shallow water. Wild music punctuated, by the dissonant squawking of resident gulls displeased at being ousted from the mudflats each time a band of geese would come to rest. As the sun slipped closer to the horizon, the marsh began to glow with a magical amber light and the white wings of the snow geese took on a soft rosy tint.

It was a wondrous, miraculous moment and as light faded, I drove home finally having found words to speak, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

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

*(short video can be found at this link : https://youtu.be/1fhBgofT9OM )

Intention

So fellow travelers, January 1st rang in more than a new year, it’s brought us across the threshold of a whole new decade.

Bypassing references to the previous decade of 20’s ( in which the high point is clearly the creation of Mickey Mouse) for me the main significance of this new decade is it also marks the beginning of the holy grail known as

~ R * E * T * I * R *E * M * E * N * T ~

It will be a few more months (or 140 days, not that I am really keeping track) until I can declare myself free to adventure at will and I have many objectives to accomplish before then. This year, I approached my annual planning process from a different perspective by writing intentions rather than making resolutions.

The difference runs deeper than mere semantics. To me an intention feels more internally driven. When we say “That’s exactly what I intended to happen!” we are referencing something we consciously chose. Intentions give our choices an internally sourced purpose. For example by saying I intend to nourish my body with healthy meals I am creating a more mindful way of making choices about what to eat. It also removes some of the judgement and sense of failure when I might fall short of the mark. When I say “I will eat healthy meals,” as soon as I have french fries and a bacon cheeseburger I have now failed to do what I said I would do, even though I did not say I will “always” eat healthy meals.

“Potayto, potahto, tomayto, tomahto” Ok, I hear you. Perhaps a seemingly insignificant change of wording, but it’s been my experience the shift in how words feel makes a meaningful difference in how consistent and persistent my follow through will be. Breaking our own word is the ultimate betrayal to ourselves and we are not likely to persist in pursuing a broken promise. But if I did something other than what I intended to do, that simply becomes an error I can strive to correct with a different choice next time. The potential for fulfilling my intention still feels possible and I do not waste any energy “shoulding” on myself. “I could’ve, would’ve or should’ve” is a cycle stuck in blame and judgement; “I can, I will and I shall” moves me forward beyond a misstep.

One important intention I set for myself is to write everyday, not all of which will end up as blog posts, but an element of that intention is to post here as close to once weekly as possible, even if it is a simple photo and haiku. So thank you for following along, I believe the path ahead looks quite promising.

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

Christmastide

So fellow travelers, Christmas morning dawns today with radiant Light

Although our kids will not be with us this year, I am profoundly happy they are celebrating together in PDX and we will open presents with them via Skype later today.
And I am deeply grateful to be at my parents’ home for Christmas this year.

It has been over thirty years since I opened presents with my parents on Christmas morning. Back in 1986 they joined me and my husband for our first Christmas in our new house in Upstate New York- the house we still call home, where we raised our daughters creating so many special Christmas memories over the years.

This afternoon our kids will join the family gathering at my brother’s home to share Christmas greetings via video on our phones. I am grateful for the technology which will make it possible to be connected when I might otherwise feel so far away from them. It is a distance which I plan to bridge in the coming year.

As I watched the sun rise through the window where my parents little tree glowed surrounded by many presents, words of gratitude began to speak from deep in my heart.

Of all the gifts beneath the tree
I know the best is yet to be
For later on our family
will gather with much revelry
Joy and laughter will resound with
presents passing all around and
warm thank you hugs we will exchange
and pause to reach for who remains
as memories within our hearts
be near or far, no distance parts
for Love transcends and outlasts time
the greatest gift to yours and mine.

Walk gently on the path my fellow travelers and may this season of Light bless you and yours with peace and love and joy.

First Light

So fellow travelers, I woke early on the morning of the Winter Solstice to watch the sunrise and witnessed a beautiful cascade of changing colors. The waning crescent moon seemed to smile as darkness gently gave way to light. This first day of winter, marking the return of Light.

Moon smiles morning blush
First Light brings solstice blessings
Winter pause begins

It took a few days to translate the moment into words- the first two lines came immediately, however expressing the essence of winter in five simple syllables required a bit more pondering. For me Winter has always been a time to synthesize the lessons of the previous year, to gain perspective, set goals and gather resources for the intentions set for the New Year. It is an essential pause in my ongoing journey to wherever it is this adventure of life is leading me.

2009-2019

Reflecting on this year, which also marks the end of a decade, I find myself ready to let the lessons of the past become the momentum for my new intentions. We don’t move forward if we always look back and I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life. Adventure calls and I intend to be ready.

Blessings of this season be with you all. May Light grace your holiday celebrations and carry you into a bright new decade of hope and joy.

The Hole in the Sky

So fellow travelers, as so often is the way of this world a wave of busyness took over almost every spare moment of the past three weeks. 

accidental artistry

The irony of this following my last post was not lost on me. I was acutely aware, even a bit distressed, about not taking time to continue writing for the final four days of Michelle GD’s #GratitudeWeek2019 project. To be honest I hit a wall at the prompt about five things we consistently experienced every day which we were grateful for. Three came easily to mind but five ? 

I finally created an honest list:
*The first sip of coffee in the morning
*The welcome home yips and wiggles of our dog
*The light of golden hour
*Birds seen at my feeder or heard when walking
*Water as a cool drink at lunch or a warm comforting shower at day’s end

As I realized it contained nothing from work, I felt disappointed.
Then the next prompts connected more dots, as I was directed to find one “sliver” of  good in a difficult time and after that to be aware of our feelings at different times of the day and to find a bit of gratitude in each. The sum total of these exercises revealed how little enjoyment remains in what I do each day because my job has changed so much in the past three years. No small wonder I have felt disappointed; I do not want to become one of “those” people  “just” counting the days to retirement.

Then the final prompt offered a shift in the process; Michelle wrote:
“Maybe you don’t want to make a traditional list, so perhaps try one of these:
Draw a big circle (or a little circle) and write your gratitudes inside. Write your gratitudes in a spiraling circle, starting center and working out (or the reverse.) Draw a flower and write gratitudes in each of the petals. Make a star-filled sky of gratitudes by sketching out stars, then painting in a wash of color for the night sky, then filling each star with a gratitude.Have a little fun…just get your gratitudes down

The drawing I created brought such joy, my eyes stung with tears. So, in between the busyness of the weeks leading up to our annual Thanksgiving marathon of cooking and road trips to take in much cherished time with family, I began to reclaim my art studio space from the clutter of other projects.  More significant, I reclaimed my perspective at work.
Each day my only expectation of myself is that I show up ready to do the tasks required for that day with a positive attitude. Let all the systemic issues be taken care of by those more invested in the process going forward. I have my sights set on new goals and this shift leaves space for more moments of joy and laughter. Even as the weather turned greyer and darkness fell earlier each day, I began to reconnect with the little moments of beauty ~ 

and peace ~

 

and hope

The hole in the sky
where the Light comes shining through
is how Love finds us

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

November Zen

So fellow travelers, as Michelle #GratitudeWeek2019 continues the prompt for today is to think about what (or who) we might take for granted.
What came to mind was time. 

What came to mind was
……. time……
Today I had a dentist appointment and even though I ended up having a filling repaired I felt grateful. Because I had to take time off for the appointment I was given a chance to take our dog for a longer walk when I got home.

Bracing cold November winds gave me this view and haiku.

Deep arctic blue sky
Oak leaves rattle acorns fall
Sunlight hugs my soul

As the novocaine wears off and a little ache sets in I realize it is simply a reminder of how precious just a few extra hours can be.

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

Tag

So fellow travelers, todays #GratitudeWeek2019 prompt from Michelle GD was to slow down and practice noticing what she calls “the tiny moments.”

Sunlit Autumn path

This is something I have become more attuned to since my Spirit of Sixty Road Trip, two summers back. Actually, it is a habit I feel I am really reclaiming because I remember myself as a kid always wanting to stop to look more closely at things yet being told to stop day dreaming. 

Today, I set out on my afternoon walk with our dog being mindful of the prompt to practice awareness. Fall colors have peaked and recent storms have blown most of the leaves off the trees. I watched the wind toss neatly raked leaves all about the neighborhood. I thought about how grateful I am to have seen the miraculous colors of Autumn here in Upstate New York for over four decades.

And as I did,  a line of leaves began to swirl around as if chasing one another in a big spiral. Right on cue this little haiku danced around my head.

Swirling in circles
Leaves play a mad game of tag
Last romp before snow

There is a decided chill in the air and snow in the forecast for later this week. The change back to standard time brought darkness by dinner time. Winter is on it’s way. I’ll need that practice of noticing the little moments to get through our longest, darkest season of the year.

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

Reclaiming Perspective

So fellow travelers, this journey has taken some wild and strange turns since we crossed through the equinox point. 

It has left me  too stunned for words, a state those who know me will claim is a true rarity. Week after week I sat down on Sunday morning to write and nothing evolved. To be honest plenty of words have come to mind but none of them postable*. So silence ( a plague bloggers dread) has ruled until this morning when my first writing prompt from Michelle GD’s gratitude project arrived in my inbox.
Gratitude (exhales deeply)
One simple change in focus and the perspective of everything shifts and the one bright point in the past six weeks (the one I intended to write about before chaos hijacked my days at work) is reclaimed and I find the words I needed to speak

Fears rage my heart waits
Faith is safe harbor in storms
Love will sail again

Exactly one month ago we traveled to Philadelphia to for a family celebration. It was the first time my entire family gathered together since Favorite Oldest Daughter and Favored Son-in-Law were married seven years ago and the story about this photo taken that day is in a previous post. We had all come to Philly to celebrate my nephew’s wedding. It was a wonderful weekend and in addition to the joy of new beginnings we also toasted my parents 63rd anniversary.

Patience, devotion, thoughtfulness~ the foundations of my parent’s relationship which has stood for decades as the benchmark for our own marriages. And a beautiful reminder of how much I have t be grateful for.

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