Monday, October 31, 2011

Rejoice And Be Glad

My mom truly lived her favorite Biblical Scripture passage:  "This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24).  While out of town on business recently, I threw open the curtains in my hotel room and was met with a sunrise that was bold, orange red and magnificent.  As the light bounced off of the myriad glass surfaces of the surrounding skyscrapers, I could hear Mom's soft, sweet voice reciting her favorite passage to me, as she so often did.  There is indeed a glorious promise for each day, a newness that offers bright opportunity, an ability to start fresh each morning, and the opportunity to see life with gratitude and openness.  I ask these questions for each of my new days: What will I do with this blessing?  What will I give?  What will I receive?  What decisions will I make that will honor the gift of being blessed with this new day?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Too Nice To Be Inside

Yesterday was just one of those days made for being outdoors. Though chilly (bordering on crisp), the sun warmed the day, beckoning me to the fresh air.  My friend Kitty and I took our sub sandwiches and apples out to Devil's Lake State Park for a picnic on the South Shore beach.  The sun bounced off of the west bluff, giving the russet oak leaves an orange cast and making the rock outcroppings appear more silver than gray.  A late afternoon walk through my neighborhood revealed others' similar passion for being outside.  With rakes in hand, they were beautifying their yards and preparing for the inevitable winter.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Food for Thought

My friend Ellen and I saw the documentary "Forks Over Knives" last evening and it shed a new light on the old adage that you are what you eat.  The movie focuses on the work of two medical doctors who have devoted their professional careers to research and clinical work with patients here and in China.  Their findings?  A whole-food, plant-based diet keeps us healthier longer.  According to the documentary, the Western diet is killing us.  It lays out the case that processed and animal-based foods cause most degenerative and chronic diseases.  Conversely, they claim that eating a plant-based diet prevents and can even reverse such diseases.  As one who eats a vegan diet 90% of the time, "Forks Over Knives" was preaching to this choir but it still gave me much food for thought.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Green Cleaning

Vinegar, especially white vinegar, is the most amazing substance, with more uses than I'll likely ever have the chance to try in my lifetime.  I use vinegar as a multi-purpose cleaning agent -- in the kitchen, in the bathroom, even on wood laminate floors.  I've discovered some outdoor uses for it, as well.  White vinegar is great for washing windows and, when sprayed on weeds, is just as effective as herbicides.  White vinegar is such a simple product, yet it is rather miraculous -- and so inexpensive.  I wonder how much money I save each year by replacing expensive, toxic cleaning agents with my inexpensive, green-cleaning methods.  I started the quest to use environmentally-friendly products in lieu of the more toxic alternatives back in the 1990s and I've not looked back.  I have an overflowing file of clippings and pamphlets about cleaning with such everyday products as white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and salt.  I also make my own powder laundry detergent, which costs me pennies and drastically reduces containers and packaging.  There are so many simple things we can do to positively affect the health and well-being of our planet and ourselves.  I'm sold on green cleaning as one of those simple, yet effective things.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bend and Flow

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of sitting under a sun umbrella on a hotel rooftop patio. The day was warm and breezy, and I was in the heart of a city where all around me were privileged views of the upper-scale part of town.  There was an abundance of architectural wonders, including a dazzling array of glistening, towering skyscrapers.  My eyes, however, kept going back to the gently blowing ornamental grasses on the patio.  The carefully groomed area allowed for just a hint of strategically placed greenery to suggest a garden -- big planters filled with small trees, bright flowers and those lovely ornamental grasses.  Perhaps those grasses are a metaphor for how I should live my life -- sometimes feeling confined but determined to bloom where I'm planted, bending and going with the flow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Backyard Camping

Long before sta-cations were in vogue, I was a backyard camper.  Our house didn't have air conditioning, so our camping tent staked in the backyard kept us comfortable on steamy summer nights.  Such a treat it was when Dad, Mom and I would roll out our sleeping bags and make the evening a tented, family slumber party.  Before we got the tent, Dad would pull the station wagon close to the kitchen door and lower the car's tailgate and backseat.  The three of us would slither into our bedrolls in the back of the car and settle in for a night among the stars and summer night sounds.  We couldn't roll over, let alone move, because we were jammed shoulder to shoulder into the back of the station wagon. But we were so happy.  Such simple, joyful times are usually captured somewhere in the recesses of my memory.  Fortunately, these particular happy memories were flooded back to me recently while I was taking a refreshing, deep breath of the cool evening air at Devil's Lake.  The layers of decades were peeled away and once again I was a small child of endless summers, reveling in backyard camping with my fun-loving, nature-loving parents.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Now-peace.  My friend Clyde used that term in a recent letter to my husband and me.  I love the term now-peace because it makes the concept of finding peace accessible and achievable now, not some elusive, hoped-for event for the future.  After all, now is truly the only time we know that we have (although my plans, worries and fears would trick me into thinking otherwise).  The ability to find peace and embrace it right now is worth the effort.  Now-peace will become my personal meditative inhale-exhale.  Now-peace: I'll repeat it to myself whenever harried, hurried, angry or upset.  Now-peace is with me right now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Autumn Splendor Out My Window

Most of the perennials have had their moment and the last of the annuals are ready to cash it in.  But autumn is still a brilliant and beautiful season in the St. Clare Healing Garden.  Fiery red burning bushes, jewel-tone mums, autumn joy sedums, and tall, plum-colored native grasses bring color and texture to the fall gardenscape.  I'm blessed to say that that is the view from my office window.  Even when I'm deep into a project, it's hard not to turn my chair to the window for just a glimpse of the beauty each season presents in the Healing Garden.  Just a moment of looking out into the garden grounds me and reminds me of the striking and subtle rhythms of life and where I fit into them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Can't Beat Pickled Beets

A chance conversation about pickled beets with my friend, Laura, at the farmer's market took me back to my childhood.  I was a very fussy eater as a kid.  I went through a phase from age 4 to about age 9 when I had very little interest in eating.  I'd rather play, read, even dance around the dinner table -- anything but eat, much to my poor mother's frustration.  Each winter during my elementary school years, I was prone to some bout after another of pneumonia, bronchitis or a horrible cold.  I didn't seem to have the ability to fight off those bugs, so Mom worried doubly about my eating and getting proper nutrition to nourish my little body.  Oddly, despite my pickiness, I loved our good friend, Barb's, pickled beets.  I even asked for jars of them as birthday and Christmas gifts.  To this day, I still love pickled beets and I always think of our friend, Barb, when I eat them.  I no longer dance around the table.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Discovering Beauty in the Ordinary

I love to read well-written prose.  Sometimes, I discover such writing in unexpected places.  I was recently given a magazine that featured writing so beautiful I've been re-reading it ever since.  Each time I open the pages, it's as if I'm receiving a warm welcome from a beautiful and eloquent friend who always knows just the right thing to say.  One well-chosen word woven with another and another form harmonious sentences embroidered with beauty that somehow pull me in and won't let me go.  I keep studying the word choices and phrasing, as if I'll tumble to some formula.  But, alas, the beauty of it all comes from the surprise of these extraordinary compositions about ordinary things.  Perhaps there's a comparison about life to be had in all of this, too.  We often find beauty in the unexpected places, word by word, encounter by encounter, moment by moment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Some Summer Still To Be Savored

The thermometer registered 39 degrees on this mid-October morning, but as I gazed out of our kitchen window, there were still signs of summer to be had.  Our azalea bush was in late-season bloom.  The shrub's yellow flowers were like warm sunshine to me on this chilly day.  Even my breakfast was summery.  It included red, plump, juicy strawberries from the local farmer's market.  I've never seen strawberries -- really, big, tasty strawberries -- available at our outdoor market this late in the growing season.  Our recent, unseasonably warm weather may be the explanation for these last precious sights and tastes of summer, but I'll take them for as long as I can.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Made Me Want S'More

Larry and I had s'mores for lunch yesterday.  It'd been years since I'd roasted marshmallows over a fire and spread the charred, gooey blob over a square of chocolate between two graham crackers.  I'm a "serious" marshmallow roaster:  I like them charred, not just golden brown.  As I bit down, the black and white goo oozed out of the sides of the graham cracker sandwich.  I eagerly licked my fingers to capture every tasty, sweet morsel.  We sat with good friends around the fire pit, roasting marshmallows while sharing stories and time under the dappled autumn sunshine.  Leaves fell gently around us, making a crunchy path for our walk in and out of the woods.  The swish of dry leaves underfoot, the smell of campfire in our nostrils, full marshmallow bellies, hugs from friends.  Made me want s'more.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sallying Past the Sallyport

Traffic was re-routed recently during a local fire department exercise.  The detour took me past a sign that read "Prisoner Sallyport - Not A Public Entrance."  Having never heard the term 'sallyport,' at first blush, it sounded like a rather happy place -- sort of like, "Let's go sit on a bench on the sallyport, sip some lemonade, gaze at the bluebirds and smell the roses."  Add the word 'prisoner,' however, and I knew it wasn't a verdant, relaxing place for hanging out or even the destination for a little jaunt.  So, I headed home to look up the term in my trusty dictionary and learned that it's a gate or passage in a fortified place, usually for troops on a sortie.  Therefore, the one I drove past is likely where prisoners are first detained, a safe and secure place until they can be moved elsewhere.  I may be somewhat curious but I'll likely not be too concerned if I never know the intimate details of what a prisoner sallyport is or know anyone who ends up there.  I'm content to simply drive by it and just keep on driving, no looking back.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chop Chop

My friend Donna is right:  Fall means lots of chopping.  With the harvest still at its peak, every meal is filled with fresh produce these days and with it comes lots of chopping.  Lately, an average meal can include chopping green beans, the stems and leaves of rainbow chard or kale, garlic cloves, heirloom tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, broccoli, apples and cabbage.  For all of the work, though, our meals are delicious and nutritious -- and locally grown.  The effort is definitely worth it. Soon, we'll be chopping squash, turnips, potatoes and other root vegetables for some great roasted vegetable entrees.  Then, alas, we'll transition to the frozen varieties with an occasional treat of organic vegetables from the produce aisle.  All the while, I'll dream about the growing season ,and chopping and chopping and chopping.  It'll be my endless-summer dream all winter long.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Recent Weather Was Music to My Senses

The weather appears to finally be catching up with the calendar.  But there was one day recently during a stretch of sunny, unseasonably warm weather when I observed that if the day had been put to music, it would surely have been a Telemann trumpet concerto -- vibrant, bright, spectacular.  It was what I would call the Perfect Autumn Day: sunshine, temps in the 70s, light breeze, everyone wanting to get outside to soak up that oh, so perfect day because we knew in October such days would be numbered.  At Devil's Lake State Park (where Larry and I walk nearly every day), the sun-soaked east bluff boasted brilliant fall color while the west bluff, shrouded in shade, was somewhat more subdued.  The two bluffs seemed to be in competition with each other as to which side could brag about its fall wardrobe the loudest.  The boardwalk was covered in the usual sand, but commingled with acorn fragments, fallen oak leaves, rusty evergreen needles and crunchy maple leaves.  One maple along the boardwalk was an amazing combination of green and mottled yellow and scarlet.  Autumn was displaying her most vivid finery that day and I was fortunate to be there to watch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Crispy Crunch - It's Apple Season

Macoun apples were my mom's favorites.  So, in remembrance of her, I bought two bags of Macouns at Ski-Hi Fruit Farm last weekend.  Being a beautiful, sunny, unseasonably warm Saturday, the orchard was abuzz with apple shoppers of all ages.  The orchard is always such a happy place, especially on a day as exquisite as that one.  Children were running throughout the grounds, giggling, shrieking, chasing each other and enjoying all abandonment of worry or cares, as only children can do.  The crispy crunch of biting into a locally grown, tart Macoun took me back to the joy of my own childhood when my mom and I would visit Ski-Hi.  Priceless.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Human Being, Not Human Doing

Time to be.  Why call my blog by that name?  Because I enjoy the peaceful act of simply being as much as doing.  I've learned that it's necessary to set aside regular time for solitude, reflection and introspection.  With this blog, I'll focus on being, not just doing.  I'll express opinions and observations, offer thoughts about items in the news, reflect and ruminate, reminisce and ramble, dream.  I will look to see life for all that's good and report on the simplest tasks and most fundamental of relationships with nature and others.  With a deep respect for the gentle steadfastness of my beloved mom who passed away four weeks ago and with a nod to her favorite author, Gladys Taber, I will write of joy, of loving and of living in the moment.  Time to be.