Sunday, June 30, 2013
I'd been feeling tired lately, but still had a long to-do list for my day off. However, when I awoke to a thunderstorm in the morning and the sky remained gray and threatening, my to-do list became far less important. Instead, I replaced my energetic list of so-called important tasks with reading, resting and finally a nap. There's nothing so decadent for me as to succumb to slumber in the afternoon when it isn't brought on by a cold or illness. To simply make a nap a priority is heavenly to me. On that day, I truly needed the nap to take away the overwhelming fatigue from a busy week. It revived me -- mind, body and soul. Unlike the song's lyrics about rainy days getting me down, this one perked me right back up.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
My friends Debbie and Judy invited me to walk with them one evening and I was grateful for time in the fresh air with these two wise and gracious women. They each wear a sense of calm and peace that nourishes and nurtures all who have the good fortune of being around them. I was that lucky recipient of their nurturing that evening as we walked the Tumbled Rocks Trail at Devil's Lake. We stopped periodically to watch fish splashing in the water, the sun casting a yellow light behind a stand of evergreens, the beauty of the Chateau casting a reflection of itself on the lake in the distance. Debbie talked about the power of our own positive energy casting out and reflecting back to us even more positive energy. Judy shared her wisdom about listening carefully to the nuances of our bodies as an ultimate measure of self-care. Their musical laughter, their gentle beings, their wise words and their kind hearts were among the many gifts I received that evening from those two lovely women. I left our encounter the richer from the experience of being with them.
Friday, June 28, 2013
I recently had the opportunity to speak before a group of nursing professionals about the role of intuition in our spiritual maturity journey. I am a big believer in intuition and the importance it plays in my decision making. That deep wisdom has carried me through some difficult experiences with my health and I am grateful for what I call "the doctor within" who has nudged me to pay attention to subtle signals in my body. I have also consulted that same inner wisdom to make other types of major and minor decisions, following that "gut reaction," if you will. While researching the topic of intuition for my presentation, I came upon an amazing quote attributed to Gandhi: “In the attitude of silence, the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” Perhaps the loud, linear mind can only tell us a portion of Truth. Perhaps there is another deeper and possibly inexplicable truth that comes to us when we allow the voice of inner wisdom to not be mediated by intellect. I gratefully and intentionally spend more time in silence these days, waiting patiently for that deep Truth to speak.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
My husband Larry and I don't fish, but we walk by fishermen, women and children a lot while on evening walks along the south shore of Devil's Lake. I enjoy watching people fish, for they always seem calm and meditative, happy to have the quiet of their sport on such a beautiful lake. Fisher-people always seem friendly, as well. It's not uncommon for us to have one person fishing after another smile and say a friendly greeting to us as we walk by them, extending friendship even when we don't know one another. Although I won't likely take up fishing, I envy the moments that these fine folks spend in quiet communion with their fishing poles. I believe we all need those gentle moments of stillness and centering and we need those special places where such acts as casting for fish bring us closer to ourselves.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
It's berry time here in south-central Wisconsin. There is nothing that speaks of early summer to me as much as a red, juicy, sweet strawberry. My husband Larry and I had a taste for strawberries the other night, so we ventured to a local restaurant where we know they make delicious pies. That particular evening, their pie of the day was strawberry-rhubarb, so Larry and I each ordered a slice, warmed with a side of vanilla ice cream. Was it ever delicious! The crust was crispy with a sprinkling of granulated sugar on top and the strawberries and rhubarb were the perfect blend of sweet and tart. We left with full tummies and satisfied taste buds, happy to know that strawberry season was finally here and that our slices of pie were just the beginning of a season for the berries.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
After having worked at Circus World Museum for many years, I developed an appreciation for the skill, talent and constant practice required by circus performers to perfect their craft. While out walking one recent evening, my husband Larry and I came upon two young men practicing some acrobatics on straps horizontally stretched and secured to trees. Two of the trees secured the strap tightly, while the other two trees held a strap that had some slack to it. The young men were practicing walking and running across the straps. We didn't talk with them, so we didn't ever learn why they were putting themselves through such an exercise, but it was fascinating to watch them nonetheless. In a circus town such as ours, one has the excitement of being entertained in the most delightful and sometimes unexpected ways.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Last night, we experienced a large, full moon, what is being called a "super-moon." A local meteorologist described it as the largest and brightest full moon we will see this year, not to be repeated until over a year from now when the moon reaches the closest point to the Earth once again. My husband Larry and I were at a function last evening, but managed to leave just in time to enjoy that amazing, large full moon. Amid the crickets chirping, we watched the moon high in the sky. All was tranquil on that summer night. Even as I tried to go to sleep, I could see the moon out of our bedroom window and I couldn't help but keep one eye on it, studying the nuances of it so very far away. My parents always enjoyed watching the night sky. We lived in the country where the sky's expanse wasn't interrupted by street lights or tall buildings. Mom and Dad would sit outside on summer nights in their lawn chairs, staring up at the sky, pondering its greatness and our small part in that greatness. As I get older, the night sky captivates me, as well, including last night's large, large full moon.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Wisconsin's Poet Laureate, Max Garland, visited our community one recent weekend. My friend Ellen and I had the pleasure of hearing him speak and read some of his poems at a symposium at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center. The symposium on land, food and transformation, referred to as the first annual "De-Composium," offered a day of music, food, and poetry, a celebration of art in many forms as it relates to an appreciation of the land. The event was sponsored by the Wormfarm Institute, Center for Integrated Ag Systems, the Aldo Leopold Foundation and Verse Wisconsin. Mr. Garland read thoughtful and witty poems about the likes of bats and squirrels, bringing a new awareness to these creatures and more. The event and his poetry couldn't have been situated in a more perfect locale than a place that honors the work and memory of the great ecologist Aldo Leopold. As I pondered Mr. Garland's words, thought about the importance of the availability of local produce, considered the role of art in our lives (and economy), and appreciated the environs of the event, I realized that I had much good food for thought.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Yesterday marked the first official day of summer and I was grateful to finally say that it was here. After a long, cold winter and a spring that seemed vaguely like winter, it was a relief to say that summer had finally arrived. My husband Larry and I celebrated the special occasion by taking sandwiches to Devil's Lake State Park and then enjoying an evening walk. Others had the same idea, for there were people barbecuing, swimming, fishing and hiking, but not so much of a crowd that you couldn't enjoy the sound of bird song and the flitting of dragonflies against the calm lake. The air was cool, the sky pleasantly overcast and the evening perfect for welcoming this new season.
Friday, June 21, 2013
The night was just too ideal to stay tucked inside after supper, so my husband Larry and I walked downtown for an outdoor concert on the square. The beautiful music, chosen in celebration of Flag Day, was performed on our community's picturesque courthouse green to a large crowd of appreciative listeners. The adults sat in their lawn chairs and on park benches. Families snuggled on spread-out blankets. The children giggled and shrieked as they ran across the lawn, danced to the music and climbed on the big cannon at the east end of the green. Larry and I strolled throughout the crowd, taking in the music and enjoying brief conversations with numerous friends. These are the old-fashioned, simple, delightful joys of living in a small town, where the community gathers in the summer for free outdoor concerts every Thursday night and everyone feels like family.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
My friend Ellen and I took a delightful Saturday drive recently to Four Elements Herb Farm in North Freedom. It was one of those perfect June days when the sky is clear blue, the rolling landscape is every shade of green imaginable, and I realize to the depth of my being why I love living in this beautiful place. Ellen and I joined countless others in taste-testing teas, touring the gardens and purchasing herb plants. I had read recently of the many benefits of eating parsley, so a parsley plant had to come home with me. Now, as I prepare our evening meals, I can snip a bit of parsley to enhance the taste of our food and know that it is also nourishing our bodies in ways I hadn't always realized. A quiet Saturday afternoon with a dear friend in the beautiful summer countryside - I couldn't have asked for more.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I heard a famous singer and composer discuss art while listening to the car radio recently. She suggested that the word "art" comes from the word "artificial." I stopped listening at that point because I was caught up in her statement about art and artificiality. I've never thought of art as having to do with anything artificial. Rather, I think of it as providing us with a glimpse of reality as seen by the artist, a reality that I may not have considered before, but that was created and offered up for others to enjoy. I think of the haunting music, the exquisite dances, the majestic paintings and they give me reason to believe that art is the full expression of the artist's interpretation of reality, whether I fully comprehend it as intended or not. So, for me, art is far from being artificial. If there's anything to be real, it is the art that breathes a new breath into my life.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
It's a bit of a said statement about society today that we have to be reminded to eat mindfully, savoring every mouthful, but that was the topic of a column I read in our local newspaper recently. With the obesity epidemic that we hear about in the news, the column addressed the fact that we should sit at a table, savor each bite, chew it slowly and put our forks down when we're 80% full. I think of my late friend Jane who ate her meals at her dining room table and took time before she consumed them to prayerfully give thanks for the food before her and for those who devoted their efforts to grow it and transport it so that she could enjoy it. When Jane told me about her meal meditations, I started doing so myself and I also started selecting my food differently so that it would provide us with the greatest amount of nourishment possible. With food being delivered to us faster than ever, I believe there is great merit in selecting and preparing our meals with care and consuming our food, slowly, mindfully, with gratitude.
Monday, June 17, 2013
I read a quote attributed to the late Steve Jobs recently where he compared the heaviness of being successful to the lightness of being a beginner again. I am in that heavy versus light conversation with myself these days. A few weeks ago, I left a job that I believe I had a certain degree of success doing. It gave me meaning and I enjoyed the type of work I did and the people with whom I worked. There is great joy in such an unusual employment experience that combines purpose and passion. But, I knew that it was time for a new path, just I had done a couple of other times in my professional life. Each time, I've given up what I've known and embarked on a new journey, a new beginning, a new industry. New beginnings bring opportunities to explore important, little discovered facets of ourselves. As Steve Jobs said, there is a lightness in being able to be a beginner again. You shed the so-called baggage of your past, including the possible heaviness of having found success in something, and you start again with very little in your luggage other than the optimism and hope for an exciting and meaningful tomorrow. As one who craves some certainty, I almost shock myself each time I leap out of my comfort zone and start anew, but my wings are light these days, just like the summer breezes, and I realize that the things I am learning about myself right now are among some of my greatest lessons.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
I've seen some great photos of dads on Facebook over the past 24 hours -- young dads, older dads, all with faces of wisdom and love looking into the camera. My father, Chuck Naidl, has been gone for 29 years, so it's been a long time since I celebrated a Father's Day with him. However, as I spend time today reflecting on my dad, the decades melt away and I think of the Father's Days we spent together. Often, our celebration would include swimming and picnicking in the evening at Devil's Lake State Park after our reptile farm closed for the day. I can see Dad barbecuing steaks on the grill. I can hear him tunelessly humming when he was happy. I can see him doing his little signature dance when he was trying to get a rise out of Mom and me. I recall his joyful laughter that seemed to erupt from deep inside him. I see him doing that familiar gesture of running his hand over his hair. I can see him lighting his pipe, an exercise that involved more of a series of steps than actually time spent smoking it. I think of Dad's patience and his respectful demeanor toward everyone he met, regardless of age or station in life. I think of his reverence for the natural world and I recall his dedication to his life's work to educate people about the value of reptiles in our ecosystem. I remember Dad's caring and sensitive heart that ached for the less fortunate. I sort through the saved letters and postcards that he sent me during his business travels and I run my hand over his signature, along with the cartoony rattlesnake penned next to "All my love, Dad." My dad's father passed away as a young man and my dad didn't have the benefit of years with a father to set an example for him. However, on this Father's Day, I think lovingly of my dad for whom being a wonderful father seemed to come naturally. What a lucky daughter was I.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Important messages seem to come to me at the most unexpected times and from the most unexpected sources and places. However, recently while listening to the Christian gospel quartet, The Messengers, and their musical ministry during one of our church's worship services, I realized how important it was for the musicians, during their introductions, to invite the audience to take away messages from their musical selections' that might benefit their own lives, contemplations and considerations. I listened intently, enjoying each musical selection, wondering just what those particular messages might be for me. Of the many observations I made that morning, I realized that one is to shine your light for others. The Messengers have been singing together for 30 years. Despite changes in the composition of the group and life's happenings along the way, they kept singing, shining their light for others to grasp and glow. Another observation I made is that it is important to spend time in quiet reflection, meditation or prayer each day. By quieting the mind, we open up space for solutions and new ways of thinking. And yet another observation was the universal power of music to uplift us, give us joy, make us ponder and even walk away with a message of hope. I was fortunate to receive many messages that morning listening to The Messengers. Such important and affirming messages are given to us every day, if we only open ourselves to receiving them.
Friday, June 14, 2013
I had the pleasure of watching a TED video on the Internet the other day featuring author Susan Cain and her February 2012 presentation about "The Power of Introverts." I'm not exactly an introvert. I think I probably qualify for what Ms. Cain called ambiverts, those who are somewhere in between extroversion and introversion. I love my alone time, but too much time devoted to solo flights of thought is simply too much of a good thing for me. Lately, I've been dividing my time between action and contemplation. The quiet and solitude have been gifts to my otherwise busy head. But, I'm also grateful for the opportunity to toggle back and forth between my solo flights of thought and interaction with others whose energy gives my own wings.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Saturday nights are meant for dancing, ballroom dancing in the Chateau at Devil's Lake State Park. Larry and I ventured out to the lake last Saturday evening for a brisk walk and then a glimpse of those dancing gracefully around the Chateau to the waltzes, two-steps and more. I love to dance, but Larry prefers to watch, so we "danced" from a bench outside of the Chateau, watching with appreciation the silhouettes of couples moving to the music. With ice cream cones in hand and nice conversation with others who joined us, it was a delightful evening. The swallows and bats made an appearance, dancing a dance of their own. Whether you make or dance to the music or are simply appreciating its loveliness from a bench on the shore of a cool lake, Saturday nights are indeed meant for dancing.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Last Friday evening, my husband Larry and I attended the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Baraboo. For the first time in many years, the event had returned to the high school track. My late mom and I used to attend the event every year and I volunteered on the planning committee at one time. However, after mom's last cancer diagnosis and then her passing, I just couldn't bring myself to think about cancer. Both she and I had experienced cancer three times, but this last time for Mom was an end-journey and I couldn't accept that cancer did that to her. Yet, with the loss of Larry's mom and mine to cancer, we headed to the event last Friday night and bought the luminaries to bear their names. Once it got dark, the meaningful luminary ceremony began with the names of every person remembered with a luminary being said over a PA system. After my dad died and she moved into town, Mom lived in a lovely apartment for many years that was located across from the high school track. Mom used to talk about awakening in the night during the Relay, watching from her bedroom window the individuals walking the track to help raise money for a cancer cure. As we heard Mom's name listed during the luminary ceremony, I looked up at what used to be her apartment and I could almost see her standing in the window, smiling approvingly at what she saw.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
We have had an incredibly long stretch of rainy days. The gloomy sky, the constant drizzle, the damp cold have not been signs of our typical June. I usually look upon June as one of the most glorious months of the year. Yet, this year, this month's weather has acted more like that of the last three months: kind of gloomy and depressing. In fact, if I didn't know what month it was, I'd say that it was already autumn. In fact, many people have commented, with disgust in their voices, that it feels much more like October than June. Several people have lamented having to turn back on their furnaces to ward off the chill in their homes. With all of the recent rain, I struggle to remember last summer's devastating drought. Certainly, we wouldn't welcome such a horrible experience to return, for all living things were compromised to their limits. This year, I'm looking for a happy medium. I crave those delightfully light days of June when all feels right with the world. So, I'll ask for the rain, rain to please go away and be replaced by true blue June days with sunny skies, puffy clouds, warming temperatures and the joyful anticipation of the summer to come.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Late spring colds have been going around and one seems to have caught up with me. I first came down with symptoms a little over a week ago. That familiar, nagging scratchy throat was enough of a calling card for me to know what was to follow. I did all I could to sleep through the days and nights of coughing, sneezing and sniffling. I'm now on the down side of this experience, truly sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Having a cold, though, can be a gift. For me, it served as a reminder that I had been overdoing and that it was time to slow down, take care of myself and savor the moments. My cold also allowed me to cancel some of my many appointments and give myself permission to chill out a bit. So, all was not lost during those lost days of activity. In many ways, I do believe I gained something good from the experience -- a fresh perspective on the importance of self-care.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
The Great Blue Herons are nesting once again in our area and I am drawn to the rookery to watch and listen to their comings and goings. By now, the babies are growing up and their voices are loud and raucous. Their prehistoric-sounding cries to be fed resound throughout the woods, bouncing off of every surface and magnifying as they hit my ears. Today, I introduced my friend Donna to the rookery. She and I happened upon a man and woman viewing the birds' nests through a high-powered scope. They cordially invited us to view the activity through the lens. What a magnificent sight! Then, shielded by the shade of a nearby building, Donna and I stood, without the benefit of a scope, watching the birds fly in and out, landing on their nests and managing to stay upright as the tall trees swayed in the breeze. As Donna said so wisely, our lives are all connected. We both felt a deep, almost inexplicable connection to the herons, the land and to each other in profound ways that morning.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
It's that time of the year when everywhere you look, someone's in a cap and gown, crossing a stage to collect a diploma, signifying the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. Three special young people from our church were celebrated recently as they graduated from high school and moved on to the next chapters in their lives. Each has chosen to go to school to pursue more education in order to fulfill their dreams. As they graduate, I have these words for them: Be prepared to learn at every stage of life. The collection of a diploma is truly the beginning of many additional important lessons that will come your way. Don't be afraid to pursue your dreams. Others will have grand ideas for you, but only the small wise voice inside of you will know your passions. Pursue those passions so that you can reach the greatest potential that was meant for you. As you move along life's journey, always remember to be kind. There will be rewards of many types that will come to you -- new jobs, career advancements, bonuses and the like -- but taking the time to be kind to everyone, even when it's downright hard, will give you some of the greatest satisfaction and happiness. Remember to be grateful along the way. It's so easy to get caught up in worries, concerns and what-ifs, but they hold little power over your path or destiny when you stop to be grateful for what you already have. Am I any kind of sage for imparting these tidbits? No, I've just lived a while. And during those years, life has taught me that the lessons will never end, we all carry dreams in our hearts, our passions tell us who we really are, being remembered for our kindness means more than any accolade, and being grateful makes every today a gift to be cherished. Happy graduation!
Friday, June 7, 2013
It's been a while since we've had a houseguest, but we were blessed that our good friend Donna stayed overnight with us recently. Donna and I can go without seeing or talking with each other for months at a stretch and when we see each other again, we pick up the conversation threads as if it had only been yesterday since we last conversed. Donna is one of those easy houseguests. She fits into the flow of everything, is loving, kind, intelligent and witty, and doesn't require any special handling. Her visit was a most delightful slumber party. I'm so glad that she could rest her head at our home, if only for one night, because the joy was all ours to have such a special time with her.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
I absolutely love basil. If I had my choice, I'd add it to every dinner dish that I prepare. I love the taste and texture of it, but even more, I love the smell. Just rubbing my fingers on a basil leaf gives me great pleasure. This year, I decided to buy a couple of basil plants and put them in pots near the door so I can simply snip a leaf here and there and add it to whatever I'm cooking. In previous years, beetles had a way of dining on the leaves before I could get to them. But, being optimistic, I decided to give it a try again this year. So far, we've had quite a yield and I'm loving every basil leaf I pluck. My two little basil plants help me to better understand the great joys and challenges that farmers and gardeners face as they plant food that will be threatened by weather and bugs. There is such satisfaction in knowing that you're eating something that you planted and tended. And it's even nicer for me that it gets to be my beloved basil.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
It must be summer (or very close to it) because I've been drawn once again to read Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I tend to re-read the book at this time of year. Perhaps it's the symbolism of the seashells in her wise writings that makes me think warm weather and sandy beaches, but there is something about the book that draws me back to it each June. Although I've read it countless times since I was first introduced to it so many years ago, each June, I seem to be surprised by Mrs. Lindbergh's wisdom and her ability to tell so much in so few pages. I soak up each word, reviewing what it means to me. This year has been one of change in my life, so I find her essay about restlessness applicable and her essay about remaining open and choice-less liberating. If you have never read Gift from the Sea, I highly recommend it be added to your summer reading list. Like the seashells to which she refers, there are many wise thoughts inside the book, just waiting to be collected and studied.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
I'm one of those people who catch the little details. It's sometimes irritating how I see all of those little bits and at other times, they're vitally important. One recent evening, as I stepped out our front door for my evening walk, I noticed something small and dark behind an evergreen shrub. My first thought was that it might have been a "deposit" from a skunk or raccoon and I didn't want to get too close to find out if the depositor was still around. After my walk, I bravely approached the spot and saw that no depositor had returned, so I hosed down the spot. I was still mystified as to what had left its mark until the next morning when our neighbor called and said that she had seen a fawn curled up by her front door in the night. It was so tiny and on such spindly little legs that she wondered if it might have been a newborn. The fawn was strong and sturdy, however, and ran swiftly away to the woods when approached. When it left, she said that it also left its "calling card," similar to what I had seen behind our evergreen. The tiny little creature was evidently finding comfort and security nestled in spots around our front doors. I don't mind if it returns, but perhaps it can visit without leaving its calling card next time.
Monday, June 3, 2013
My husband Larry and I have had the opportunity to spend evenings with various dinner companions over the past month. Some of them were people we had never met before. Others were comfortable, old friends with whom we could talk about anything. Yet others were people we hadn't seen in a while, but the threads of old conversations were brought up from our yesterdays and we carried them on as if the conversations had never stopped. I really enjoy having dinner companions. It's so much more fun than dining alone. Even when Larry and I have a simple dinner together at our table at home, we can enjoy quiet moments of wholesome food and stimulating conversation. Throughout the past month, we've talked with dinner companions about a wide range of topics, all of which have enlightened me and provoked thought, from the arts to banking to politics to writing to gardening. We've learned about people's passions and concerns, their creativity and what they consider everyday. It's been great to come to the table with such a variety of dinner guests and leave feeling fed from more than just the meal.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
A good friend has just moved 1,000 miles away and I am thinking a lot about her today. For me, it's the end of seeing her on a regular basis and knowing that we could get together readily. For her, it's a new beginning, a time to start afresh with a new state, community, home and neighbors. She is entering a new life, a time of discovery for her in every way. A part of me envies her ability to pick up and start anew, wondering what that would feel like at this stage of my life. And then I think of all of the great reasons as to why I prefer to remain where I'm firmly planted. There is nothing so affirming for me than to see familiar faces on the street downtown or to be able to converse on a first-name basis at the bank or in the grocery store check-out lane or to have such a shared history with a community and its people that where you end and they begin blurs. Now that our parents are gone and our small families are spread from one end of the country to the other, the people of this small town become family for Larry and me. They know our histories, they care about our todays and they accept and even embrace us, flaws and all. So, while a 1,000-mile trek has a certain appeal, I realize that being firmly rooted here is just what I need.
Saturday, June 1, 2013
It's the first day of June and I can't help but think of that zippy number from the musical "Carousel": "June is Busting Out All Over." Last evening, Larry and I walked at Devil's Lake and commented on how everything was so lush, green and beautiful. Truly, the place was busting out all over with late spring vegetation. It was a wondrous place to be last evening, as always. My favorite months are April, May and June. That's when everything wakes up, leafs out and turns green. The temperatures moderate and it's so pleasant to be outdoors. It's rather hard for me to believe -- and accept -- that we're now entering the last of that trio of beautiful, favorite months already. I wait so long for them to return and then, they're suddenly behind us. The lushness of the countryside isn't the only sign that we're entering June. The farmer's market is reflecting that we're there, too. Each Saturday, there is a greater array of produce from which to choose. I shop each week with anticipation of what delicious and healthy food I'll find to bring home with me. I welcome June today, busting out all over.