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

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.

Adventure Calls

So fellow travelers, our morning walks these past few days have been blessed with crisp blue skies and cool, dry air .  Indeed there is a hint of autumn in that air, a brisk reminder I have only a handful of days left to squeeze in any road trips before work intrudes on my freedom.

The view at Seventh ( or was it Eighth?) Lake in the Adirondacks

Every summer since my Spirit of Sixty Road trip I have journeyed to at least one new area in New York. Last year I hiked my first of several Adirondack Fire Tower trails, a challenge I found both exhausting and exhilarating. The experience opened  an inner well of motivation I was glad to tap in to and I was grateful to discover my body was still capable of persevering through the short but steep, rugged inclines I encountered on the “moderate” trails I had chosen to try first.

Fire Tower at the summit of Blue Mountain, ADX

In the month since returning from my trip to the West Coast, I have not been able to fit in another road trip. I was first occupied by my commitment to help coordinate the wedding of two close friends and then focused on a series of diagnostic processes designed to keep my trusty RaVan on the road.  The term “RaVan” is how I refer to my little 2002 Toyota Rav road warrior, which my husband has been helping me convert into a camp-able vehicle. He has built a bed, a small storage table, custom made blackout panels for the windows and will be installing a power station with a deep cycle battery wired so I can run small electronics and keep my phone charged without running down the main vehicle battery. All I need now is to solve the mystery of the “check engine” alert.  How lucky am I to have a brother-in-law who is one of the best mechanics (and owns two repair shops) in town?  One component at a time we’re getting there.

Oppressive humidity has also kept Delilah and me off all but the shortest of local trails. You know it’s bad out there when you come home drenched in sweat just from a ¾ mile walk around the block at 7am in the morning. So the change to cooler weather is most welcome, even if it is a harbinger of the coming change in seasons.

Time to fire up the RaVan and hit the road for new vistas from summits yet to be explored…..Stay tuned.

Post walk treats for my best trail buddy

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

Relentless

So fellow travelers, the rain this Spring has been relentless.

I tell myself I can’t complain if I truly intend to move to the PNW, so, I take it as a kind of meteorological training program and I say things like, “At least we don’t have to shovel the driveway or brush off the car.”

Persistent optimism. It annoys people as I am frequently reminded by the eye rolling, snarkiness going around .  It rolls off my consciousness like the rain sliding down my driveway, washing the abundant maple and elm seeds into the roadside ditch. Away they sail in the rushing water to who knows where, perhaps some will take root and grow into their own little forest.

To dwell on the negativity thrown about too easily thanks to the sparsity of verbal moderation (perpetuated, I believe, by the anonymity of social media) is to allow oneself to become mired in the other peoples muck. 

No thank you! 

My own spiritual guidance pushes me to see this negativity as coming from the storms within these people. Their feelings become so uncomfortable, they project them outwards to rid themselves of the pain and anger.  I can see this compassionately without sinking into the same quagmire.

Restless storm clouds race

Dumping rain then dashing off

Leaving muck behind

Proceed mindfully

The Buddha may teach “No Mud No Lotus” but I prefer to choose what seeds bloom in my consciousness. Making mine an attitude of gratitude has over the past few years truly changed my perspective, which in turn has created changes in my life I would never have predicted.  So let rain, I’ll splash in the puddles to wash the mud off my boots.

 

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

 

Late Bloomers

So fellow travelers, those reluctant lilacs I wrote about several weeks ago have finally come out of hibernation.

Given the constant rain and chilly temperatures I surely do not blame them for holding out as long as they could. For goodness sake, it was 45° this morning! Refilling the suet feeders my hands were so cold I almost dashed back inside to grab some gloves!

I snapped this quick shot with a bit of poetry in mind. With overcast skies it’s not the best of lighting,  but sometimes we just make do with what we have in the moment.

Blossoms bursting free
Flooding my senses with joy
Grateful once again

With the school year coming to a close, I too feel ready to burst out of hibernation. The promise of summer adventures is as heady a rush as the perfume of my late blooming lilacs. All in good time,  they tell me, all in good time.

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

Mixed Messages

So fellow travelers, this has been quite the week of mixed messages.

A few decades ago, in my more pugnacious days I would have exerted tremendous effort in sorting the squabbles out. Presently, being in a transitional phase as work wanes towards retirement, I’m leaning towards an unusually benign state of letting the babble die down.

After all, when even the weather is befuddled, one might as well pour a cup of tea and wait for clarity to resurface.

Snow kissed blossoms fall

Fragile crystals glow then fade

April ends confused


Yes, those are tiny snow crystals with maple blossoms landing on my car .

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

Eggs-istential Hunt

So fellow travelers, it seems this morning’s little haiku has opened a gateway to a lot more words and an awareness of what was missing.

As more experiences in my daily life connect to my inner journey, it has become impossible to filter Spirit out of my writing. Close friends and fellow creatives tell me my writing has always been infused with spiritual perspectives yet I have often been hesitant to write about my direct relationship with Spirit, lest it be mistaken for religious sermonizing. Reflecting on my recent drought of creativity I’m aware this essential aspect of my experience has to be expressed if I am to write from my heart. Going forward I will tread carefully as if navigating a path through newly sprouted wildflowers. Light and Love are gentle, patient energies found in quiet spaces and I wish to be respectful of the beliefs others hold close.

~~~~~

I have a muddled relationship with religious observations.


Sacred altar in Luzerne Vally CA

Bear in mind I am that little girl in Sunday School who wanted to know why; for example, if Jesus had risen from death, why was he still dead on the cross in church. Fortunately Lutherans do not ex-communicate, but I did obey the directive to stop asking questions. One can say the most important lesson I learned in Sunday school was to keep my spiritual inquisitiveness in check at least until I was old enough to seek answers in my own. Meanwhile the Lutheran church has graciously adopted the Cross of Resurrection as its focal point in their churches.

Even as a very young child, the Christianity I was taught made no sense to me. How on earth could one put faith in a Father who would sacrifice his “only son” to save people who seemed bound and determined to keep acting in ways which required such an extreme measure in the first place. There was also quite a bit of conflict between what I was taught and what the Voice I heard in church told me. Yes, you read that right- in moments when focused on the beautiful music, mesmerized by the colors of the stained glass windows** there would sometimes be a Voice which spoke in my head.

Before we call for a psych eval know that this Voice did not “speak” in words so much as impressions or thoughts and always spoke of the importance of love and kindness. It was a Voice which, even at a very young age, I knew did not originate from my own mind. It is the Voice which, when I choose to listen, guides me to live from my heart, to choose compassion over judgment and continues to lead me to profound, if fleeting, experiences of the Presence of Light and permanence of Spirit.

Yeah, I know

Pretty wHeird.

And trust me, as an adult, for many years, I did everything I could to disprove the existence of this Voice. Except the more I did, the more the things this Voice told me proved to be true. Things like~

~ forgiveness releases you from the prison of holding others guilty

~ hatred is toxic and accomplishes nothing; it can and will kill you

~ most anger is self directed; letting it go brings healing

~ gratitude increases joy

~ peace is possible, see all of the above

So, in this season where tradition would have us reflect on the meaning of sacrifice and the concept of resurrection, I came back to those unanswered questions from my Sunday school days. The celebration of Easter itself has a complicated history, interlaced with pagan traditions of decorated eggs and an 18th century mystical egg laying “Osterhaus.” Much like the secular garb of Christmas, these are glittering distractions which we must go beyond to find deeper meaning.

In the spring season we grapple with resurrection and rebirth, two significantly different concepts. Rebirth is a new form of life, generated from something other than itself. Resurrection on the other hand is raising what was once dead to live again as itself. Easter, which always occurs after the Spring Equinox, is a time to be mindful of what we might resurrect in the annual cycle of rebirth. Awakening lost memories, buried wounds or guilt entombed long ago can create shock waves which unnerve our resolution to move forward. Yet, much like the contemporary “Easter eggs” of digital media and video games, these hidden elements can reveal new levels of awareness which help us live more fully in the present. To live our dreams, we must emerge from the shadows of the past and embrace the person we have become. In essence, while the past has shaped us it need not continue to define us. We can resurrect lost dreams infused with the energy of who we have become.

So fellow travelers, whatever beliefs you hold as truth, I wish blessings of this holy day to you . May the Easter eggs you find on the path bring gifts of joy as sweet as jelly beans .


Favorite Younger Daughter circa 2005

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

**Photo Note: WordPress new block format randomly refuses to place some of my photo captions where I want them, so here is the caption for the window photo: The beautiful stained glass windows at Rupert United Methodist church. Several times a year I have the blessing of visiting this wonderful faith community where my friend Tom is minister. You can find his blog Two Tiny Churches at this link.