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

Balance Point

So fellow travelers, today is the equinox (autumnal for northern hemisphere and spring/vernal for southern hemisphere travelers)

I greeted the semi annual balance point of day and night hours from a different vantage point this year. A high desert sunrise more than makes up for anything it lacks in colorful foliage.

My time here has become an annual tradition. A gathering of spiritual explorers in a sacred space. We come to renew our connection to each other and to the Light and Peace within us.

On my last walk from the Zen Garden to breakfast I heard the signature hum of tiny wings and spotted a bright Anna’s hummingbird darting in and out as it drank from a fountain . A different offering of color for this change of seasons.

Winged gem dancing
with bubbling healing waters
harbinger of joy

A bright reminder to live from joy and yes, to stay hydrated.

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

Haiku for Autumn

So fellow travelers, this new school year began with so many changes, it’s taken me quite a while to settle into a comfortable routine. Just yesterday, signs of the changing seasons began to nudge at the edge of my awareness~ I noticed darkness lingers longer after I rise and sunset’s glow comes soon after our evening walk. 

Migrating geese trace southbound compass arrows in the crisp blue skies and cool mornings reveal sleeping cloud dragons nestled in the valley just beyond a farmer’s fields

Cloud dragons at the edge of One Tree field

The fields are fading to tarnished gold and many summer songbirds have headed to their winter grounds, leaving only the lazy crickets ticking like unwinding clocks hidden in the grass. This afternoon, I found one deep red maple leaf cast on the edge of the path where Delilah and I walk each day. I brought it home and tucked it into a little jar of zinnias from my garden an image of things to come set with a backdrop of colors which will soon become memories.

As much as I love the luxurious freedom of summer days, autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. There is  a bittersweetness to the joys autumn brings. It comes and goes in a blaze of color, golden warmth giving way to the biting cold of winter all too soon. For now, a haiku to welcome the changes looming on the horizon.

Milkweed wishes fly

flirting with the autumn wind

making maples blush

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

Back to the Beginning

So fellow travelers, back home from the last road trip of the summer, which brought me to the summit of several mountain trails.


Red Hill Fire Tower, one of two fire tower hikes accomplished this week.

Today, a turn of a calendar page, September arrives and just like that, summer adventures give way to another school year.  Back to the Beginning* we go.

Reflecting back on summer, it has packed so many good memories and peak experiences it somehow feels more than just ten weeks have passed. A measure perhaps of coming to the end of 73 days feeling satisfied not only with what I’ve done, but more essentially with how I lived those days. 

New friends

Time with family

Precious memories from a memorable event

.

Even a few wishes granted

Side Stage at the Fillmore, in Philadelphia PA. Watching Switchfoot on stage from the stage was incredible. Best view of Chad’s drumming in 13 concerts! Yes, my favorite humans even staged a snowball fight as a nod to the snowed out concert last February. And finally getting to see one of Jon’s legendary after shows, singing along with so many other people- community, FAMILY at its best.

.

Remarkably, this summer did not feel as if it flew by too quickly, making it unique to every previous summer I can remember.  The pace of life felt just right- a benefit perhaps to a conscious choice I made to live these months as if I am retired.

 Not that every day was perfect; mid-August brought an unexpected challenge in a long standing friendship which caught me off guard. Although the dynamics were not within my direct family, the fallout rippled through close relationships with people as dear to me as family. Navigating the emotional war zone felt like walking through a minefield, one wrong step and the collateral damage could be brutal.  

Or not.

The abandoned Overlook Hotel near the summit of Overlook Mountain

I could instead choose to not engage in the conflict, to honor my boundaries and create space for me to stay true to myself. 

Angry confrontations never resolve conflicts but choosing not to engage in confrontation is often seen as a sign of weakness. “Man-up” people say as if this stereotypical frame for confrontation as being “manly” aka “powerful and strong,” makes it more acceptable. It’s an expression which, if used in ernest, all but eliminates any respect I might have for someone.

Words spoken from anger rise from fear and people given to confrontation are always driven by their fears. Everyone is afraid and if we refuse to face those fears they become our Achilles heel.  Like an untreated wound, unknown fears will fester and eventually poison our choices with toxic dysfunction. Fear also blinds us to the goodness in our lives. It can harden our hearts and prevent us from giving and receiving love.

View from Overlook Mountain Fire Tower, a 1450 ft ascent, 3hrs 5min of hiking, 5.1 miles roundtrip and worth every step.

Sometimes the hardest crossroads are the ones where we must part ways from someone we care for deeply, yet we can continue to love them even as we move forward on our own journey, knowing they too can make a choice to change and healing will come. Standing in the shadow between then and now, I am grateful for the peace and strength gathered on this summer’s journeys. 

New season, new beginnings, let the adventures begin again.

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

*Back to the Beginning is one of my favorite songs by ( of course ) Switchfoot. I may not surf but it has carried me through waves of many changes.

After the Storm

So fellow travelers, it has been a week of intense storms.

This afternoon a dark, violent outburst flung powerful cracks of lightning with thunder claps close enough to rattle windows throughout the house. Thankfully a quick survey of the yard revealed no damage other than a few large branches down here and there.

As sunlight breached a gap in the dispersing clouds, raindrops glistened everywhere in my garden while chirping goldfinches descended on a patch of diamond studded sunflowers.

Rain storms cease and now

Only soothing bird songs fall

From newly washed trees

There have been storms of a human nature around me as well, fall out from long standing issues with which I am not directly involved, but find myself deeply concerned for the emotional well being of people I care for as much as my own family.

Just like physical injuries, neglected emotional wounds fester and mar our ability to engage in healthy relationships. Unresolved trauma and grief give rise to fear which often explodes as anger. Anger blinds us to the consequences of words spoken in fury; trust shatters, hearts fracture, bonds break. Only the power of love can call us back from the brink and only if we stop raging long enough to hear and heed that call.

Someone has to dare raise a voice, perhaps more forcefully than expected, to be heard above the raging storm. Stop! Listen! Anger, like thunder, is a warning to disengage, seek refuge, find safe haven. Let the storm pass, let tears bring relief, so the wounds of the past can finally begin healing and love shine like diamonds of cleansing rain.

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


Through the Eyes of Love

So fellow travelers, some thoughts born from recent human interactions.

When I was a little girl I would see batches of Rudbeckia (commonly known as Black eyed-Susan) growing in empty lots along the side of the road. Growing up in the Bronx, you don’t get to see many fields of wildflowers, so these bright yellow flowers dancing in the breeze of passing cars, really caught my eye. When I asked if we could please stop and pick some I remember being told,  “Oh those are just weeds growing in dirty places.”

My gardening friends often post memes about weeds and two of my favorite quotes are:  “Weeds are just flowers growing where we don’t want them” and “God sees flowers where we see weeds.” The memes always have pretty images of  flowers like thistles and dandelions (which are actually healthy for lawns because their deeper tap roots bring minerals closer to the surface, replenishing what shallow rooted grass needs.)

Our judgements about other people bear similarities to our attitudes about weeds. 

We have expectations about how people should look, dress, behave and live their lives. Much of this is driven by culture and as the world has become increasingly connected through social media, those cultural boundaries are tested often to breaking points. Shifts in social norms also test generational boundaries and just as Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s 1970 book “Future Shock” predicted “too much change in too short a period of time” has created massive disorientation. Ironically, the more connected we are on-line, the less connected we feel individually.

True connection requires going beyond the quick “scroll, click thumbs up or down” patterns of social media feeds. The relative anonimity and illusion of safe distance makes it too easy to spout off a bit of vitriol, hit “comment” and move on without having to take responsibility for our words. Authentic connection requires us to take the time to understand the hows and whys of other people’s behaviors. Those behaviors are outward expressions of how humans feel about themselves. This is particularly true of children, whose ability to express themselves with raw, unfiltered honesty usually triggers a negative response in adults. Acceptance of differences is hindered by our fear of “otherness.” This is where bullying begins; bullies are terrifying because they are terrified. 

Working with differently-abled students and having transgender children within our own circle of family and friends has granted me the opportunity to become more aware of my own judgements (many of which, I will admit, focused more on the parents than the kids.) This in turn has allowed me to be more mindful of my judgements towards all other people. When I find myself  upset, disgusted, hurt or angry about someone’s words or actions it is a reminder to stop and ask myself what my feelings are telling me about myself. Those feelings alert me to something about myself I am either ashamed or afraid of. 

Fearful of our own imperfections, we are quick to point out the flaws in others. Our judgements are a diversion tactic, “Quick look over here at the terrible behavior of this other person lest you notice this other terrible flaw I carry inside me.” God knows I’m no saint, judgement comes to my mind just as quick as anyone’s. I am particularly adept at judging people who are judgemental.  There’s a poetic irony in that trait isn’t there? What I’ve learned is judgement of others is really about our own feelings of unworthiness. At the core of judgment is this fear our errors are unforgivable and our flaws make us unlovable. Judgement separates us from the grace of God and by this I do not reference the “God” of any particular religion. My experience of God is the Universal Power of Love which flows in, through and around all life here and beyond. 

Clover blossom

Our fear of being seen for who we are, in all our imperfection, with all our hidden secrets and shame, prevents us from seeing others as God-who-is-Love sees them.  If we allows ourselves, we too can learn to see flowers where we once saw weeds.

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

Morning Glow

So fellow travelers, this morning Delilah and I headed out to walk just after sunrise to beat the heat.

Dew drenched grass sparkled in the early light. Cool, moderately humid air felt reminiscent of morning walks in my older daughter’s neighborhood.  Their house is located near the foot of Powell Butte (Portland, OR) so the air is blessed by mist which descends every night from the forest above. 

Early light has a radiant quality, hard to capture but oh so wondrous to behold, giving rise to some gentle words of gratitude 

Geraniums glow

Morning dew blesses the grass 

Birds sing hymns of joy

In the midst of diligent attention to the many details involved in coordinating a wedding for two very dear friends, this moment comes as a gentle reminder. The gift of peace can be found in the simplest things.

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

Tidal Wave

” A tidal wave is a regularly reoccurring shallow water wave caused by effects of the gravitational interactions between the Sun, Moon, and Earth on the ocean. The term “tidal wave” is often used to refer to tsunamis; however, this reference is incorrect as tsunamis have nothing to do with tides. ” NOAA Ocean Facts

So fellow travelers, the weekend has been filled with the sound of surf and woodland bird songs. The unique combination has stirred thoughts of both home and my week in California with my Switchfoot Family.

Bird songs familiar yet not quite recognized, rise from the pines and seagrasses like images from a dream fading all too quickly, things almost known but not quite grasped before waking.

“Back home” feels more here than where I will be returning in a week.

The sound of surf grows louder with the incoming tide. Emotions rise and swell in waves, my thoughts drifting like pieces of seaweed pushed and pulled by the force of changes underway.

and through it all runs Switchfoot’s music, songs which have become the soundtrack of my journey.

These are songs which over a decade have made hope “the anthem of my soul” and the week I get to spend with the band has become a time for renewal of Spirit punctuated by bright notes of joyful moments with old and new friends. This community becomes more like family each time we gather. It is a reflection of the honest, generous, compassionate, fun loving band of musical brothers who live their faithby example rather than preach from a stage. These guys remain truly humble through success and solidly rooted in family values. And suddenly, in the heartfelt conversations, there it is

Family

the beacon in the harbor where I have set my sights on dropping anchor in the coming year…

and thanks to the inspiration of these five amazing humans I know I will be able to navigate the tidal currents between now and then.

Some favorite moments

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