Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Thousand Words, A Thousand Memories

A picture may be said to be worth a thousand words but I also think a picture evokes a thousand memories.  Since my mother's passing in September, I have joyfully distributed many of her photographs to family and friends, and even to her nursing school alma mater's archives.  It's made me happy to see how pleased the recipients are to receive them.  In addition to giving away photos, I've asked for one specific picture of my mom since her passing.  Thanks to our good friend Ed, I now have two precious color photographs of Mom wearing a dress that I bought for her to wear at her 25th high school class reunion when I was 11 years old.  Those pictures are filled with nostalgia for me.  They take me back to Mom, Dad and me standing in the local women's clothing store where Mom selected a white, sleeveless linen shift with matching white and colorfully striped linen jacket.  I proudly handed over to the clerk the months of weekly allowance I had been saving to buy Mom her special class reunion dress, realizing that I had just enough to pay for it and for some matching jewelry, too.  I love looking at those two photos.  Today, I was in some small way able to pay the experience of receiving priceless photos forward.  I had recently been given a 16"x 20" framed, sepia-tone photograph of two young women from about 1910. Recognizing that the picture belonged with the women's family and not in our hospital's institutional archives, I tracked down the one woman's son.  Fortunately, he lived close by and was able to pick up the photo today.  The man didn't recall ever having seen that image of his mother before.  At age 92, he plans to pass the photo along to one of his daughters as a surprise Christmas gift.  Just as I have received joy in seeing those photos of Mom in her class reunion dress, I saw joy in the man's face today, as his eyes cast into the eyes of his mother as a young woman.  Perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words, but perhaps its worth is even greater as a thousand memories, a thousand joys.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Promise of Spring

The beautiful lyrics of Natalie Sleeth's "Hymn of Promise" came to mind this morning as I looked out our kitchen window and saw that there were buds on our lilac.  Later in the morning, I saw buds on the magnolia tree outside my office window.  "The Hymn of Promise" has become one of my all-time favorite hymns.  My mother loved it, too, and asked that it be sung by the congregation at her memorial service.  Today, those lovely lyrics came to life for me once again, particularly the phrase, "In the cold and snow of winter, there's a spring that waits to be."  Winter hasn't officially arrived on the calendar yet, nor have we had any lasting snow, but we're edging our way there with cold days and raw winds. Only one more day and December will be here. The leaves are stripped from most of the trees and everything seems to be preparing for the long Wisconsin winter ahead. Yet the lilac and magnolia in my view today valiantly showed that they hold the promise of spring.  When I get ahead of myself and am filled with worry or sadness, that hymn is a gentle reminder to look beyond my winter to the spring that waits to be and to trust that God's plan is all I need. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Smoke in the Bluffs

Today, I saw smoke in the distant eastern bluffs and it brought back to me a wonderful memory from my childhood.  There was always summer adventure when Grandma and Grandpa came to visit.  I recall one such visit when I was all of seven or eight years old.  It was after supper and the reptile farm that my parents owned and operated was closed for the day.  All of a sudden, we saw what looked like smoke billowing from the bluffs, as if there was a fire somewhere.  For whatever reason (the details I can't recall), Dad and Grandpa decided to venture out to find the source of the smoke and they allowed me to tag along.  With a sense of complete excitement and anticipation of the adventure ahead of us, I piled into the backseat of Grandpa's car and off we went.  Strangely, I recall very little of the experience, save that anticipation and excitement as we set out into the summer evening.  In fact, I don't believe we ever even found the source of the smoke or sign of fire, but I remember having fun with the two most important men of my early life, a merry trio of adventurers riding around in the Baraboo bluffs until the summer sun set.  It's been some 45 years since that summer night and my extraordinary memories of that likely ordinary evening have yet to fade.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Season of Waiting

Winter is in the air.  Despite the raw wind and the temperatures so cold that we could see our breath, Larry and I bundled up and ventured out to Devil's Lake for a walk today.  In my faith tradition, today marks the first Sunday of Advent.  Regardless of the weather, I needed time after church to walk and reflect on it.  Advent is often referred to as a time of hope, of waiting, of anticipation.  Other than my understanding of the religious connotation of Advent, for what am I personally anticipating, hopeful or waiting?  Lately, I am devoting more of my energy to being present, being in the "now."  I'm less concerned with the anticipation of something to come and more focused on what the immediate moment has to offer.  My quiet, reflective time is teaching me that all I truly have is now.  Rather than a season of waiting, my Advent season is becoming one of openness.  I am gradually opening myself up to the many -- and often unexpected -- gifts that life offers to me now.  If I anticipate too much, strive too much, plan or push too much, I'm not fully honoring the Gift of Now.  My Advent season is filled with beginnings -- Each new day provides me with an opportunity to experience life's blessings with openness and gratitude and to find ways to be of service to others.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Singing' in the Rain

I was singin' in the rain today -- not Gene Kelly style, but with a group of sopping wet, though jolly carolers attempting to add to the festive atmosphere of our local downtown's holiday shopping experience.  It was an unseasonably warm 50 degrees and drizzling (sometimes out and out raining) -- not our typical late-November Wisconsin weather.  But, with Santa hats and umbrellas, we sang the likes of "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and "Jingle Bells" anyway.  Music and memories are so integral to Christmas that it can be difficult to separate one from another.  Not surprisingly, it's harder for me to get into the merriment this season, having just experienced the loss of my beloved mom in September.  Perhaps "Singin' in the Rain" is an apt description of my Christmas experience this year.  I'll admittedly be in kind of a rainy state of grieving but I'll welcome a little fa-la-la mixed in.  For, as the song goes, "We need a little Christmas...right this very minute."  I know that I do.  Perhaps more than ever.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rethinking My Nest

I was supposed to be making the bed early this morning, but then I caught sight of the light blue sky with pink puffy clouds and I was drawn to the window to appreciate the spectacular sunrise.  A bird sat still, high on the branch of a silhouetted tree in the distance.  Below it were four squirrels scampering in and out of a leafy nest in the crotch of the tree, like so many clowns scooting in and out of a tiny clown car.  The squirrels chased each other, darting from branch to branch.  Larry and I have noticed a lot of squirrel nests in bare trees these days, counting as many as seven in one tree.  It's funny how I worry about our "nest" at times -- Is it clean enough?  Do we have enough insurance on it?  Should we refinance our mortgage to an even lower rate?  Our home is important to us but the joy of this morning's scampering squirrels reminded me to lighten up, acknowledge my nest's to-do list, but revel in the celebration of simply being. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Touching Heaven

"To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven." - Johannes A. Gaertner

I awoke this Thanksgiving to a gray and brown day, which suited me just fine.  The quietness allowed me to awaken slowly and thoughtfully, providing me with the luxury of contemplating my many blessings before rising.  My mind wandered to my good friend, Mary, who visited Mom and me during the last hours of Mom's life.  Rather than deliver the usual platitudes, Mary pressed a small brass leaf engraved with a tiny heart and the inscription "Give Thanks" into my hand and said, "Give thanks that you have had such a wonderful mother and a close and cherished relationship with her."  I thought this morning of how Mom chose to experience life, and even her dying process, with joy and gratitude, grace and acceptance.  She touched Heaven every day with her grateful heart.  Although she was no longer vibrant of body because of her cancer, she was still vibrant of spirit.  While giving thanks for the memory of my mother and thinking about this first major holiday since her passing, I found myself also grateful for what is today.  My wonderful husband suggested that we dine out as a real departure from our normal Thanksgiving routine.  While he ate bread pudding, I ate mince pie, and we both loved every morsel.  We cheered on the Packers to another win and we walked at Devil's Lake where the sun came out and all was beautiful.  I spoke over the phone with family and friends, exchanging Thanksgiving wishes, and I visited a dear friend who wasn't going to get out of the house today.  So, I conclude this Thanksgiving, clasping the little brass leaf, giving thanks for all that was, all that is and all that will be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Blessing of Food

We had some of the last sweet potatoes from the farmer's market for dinner tonight. Their vermilion skin and bright orange flesh are sweet and tasty like no others I purchase elsewhere throughout the year.  Our county's university extension gardening agent wrote about sweet potatoes in her local newspaper column published today.  I learned from reading her article that sweet potatoes belong to the Morning Glory family.  They root at the points where the vine touches the soil.  I also learned that I've been storing my sweet potatoes incorrectly all of these years.  The gardening agent wrote that sweet potatoes are a Southern crop and they do not like the cold, even in the refrigerator.  She recommended storing them on top of the refrigerator instead.  Our sweet potatoes are now in a bowl on our kitchen counter, and I must say that I like them better there.  Now, I can enjoy looking at their smooth skin and beautiful color until they become supper.  As I ate my sweet potato tonight, I reflected with gratitude that we have such healthy, locally grown food to enjoy for our meals and that we have food at all.  Television news stories last night and tonight have told of the increasing cost of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner and how much more difficult it is this year for people to afford to prepare one without the assistance of food pantries.  In a country as great as ours, it saddens me deeply that people should have to be uncertain whether there will be enough food to feed their families. I pray that everyone who is hungry tomorrow will have a meal.  Now, that would be a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It's a bittersweet time of year - literally.  The vibrant red-orange of bittersweet berries brings a pop of color to the subdued late-autumn landscape and to our home.  I can't resist having a fall bouquet of bittersweet on our dining room table. I'm always grateful when one of my country-living friends shares her bittersweet bounty with us.  It's also a bittersweet time of year more figuratively as we transition to the hush of winter.  A part of me longs for summer's green lushness and the bold spectrum of flower colors.  I saw some brave pink petunias still blooming in a planter this morning and our sedums -- mavericks that they are -- are stubbornly hanging on till a serious blast of winter quiets them down.  We're in a constant act of bringing the outdoors in at our house. Curly willow, gourds, pine cones, acorns and stones litter nearly every surface.  Soon, evergreens, red dogwood, winterberry and more pine cones will accessorize every room.  How glorious that Nature provides us with such beautiful gifts!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad

My dad would have turned 93 years old today.  As I reflected about him throughout the day, I thought of his amazing work to educate children across the country about the value of reptiles, arachnids and amphibians in the ecosystem.  I thought about what a great husband he was to my mom, always signing his cards to her, "All my love, Chuck," and meaning it.  And I pondered the many wonderful memories I have of my father who died so long ago when he was only 65.  Dad was sensitive, hilarious, creative, intelligent, independent, and devoted to Mom and me.  He was nearly 40 when I was born. Consequently, he always treated me as kind of a little adult.  One story that reflects our special father-daughter relationship takes me back to when I was 10 years old.  That was when Dad taught me how to drive.  He picked me up from school one June day so we could go black widow spider hunting in the hills.  While on our journey, Dad pulled the car off the quiet gravel road and invited me to get behind the wheel.  Although barely tall enough to reach the pedals and see over the dash, I drove the car slowly, proud of my accomplishment and amazed that Dad would offer such an unexpected, adult-like opportunity to this elementary school student.  With no traffic in sight, I drove only a little distance but the adrenalin rush was huge.  Dad always allowed me to be a child but saw the potential adult in me.  He encouraged me to improve myself, have confidence, develop my skills and celebrate whatever talents I had.  I was the only 10-year-old I knew with steering wheel experience.  Thanks, Dad, for always believing in me.  Happy Birthday.  I love you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Give Thanks Always

A gentleman in our community provides joy to passersby in a unique, creative way.  He has an extraordinary talent of taking ordinary stick figures that he's made of wood and hinges and turning them into clever tableaus in his front yard located on a busy local thoroughfare.  The stick-figure scenes are changed on a regular basis, usually every week or two.  Sometimes his creations make me laugh.  Other times, they make me think. But, always, they make me smile with appreciation.  His themes run the gamut but quite often, the focus is on seasons and holidays.  His latest yard creation depicts a man and woman seated at a table, heads bowed praying.  A sign accompanying the scene reads "Give Thanks Always."  What a wonderful reminder to us that Thanksgiving is not a day but a state of being.  By giving thanks always, we recognize that there are blessings to be appreciated each and every day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Made With Love By Talented Hands

I attended a holiday craft bazaar and bake sale at our local hospital today and, as always, was impressed with the generous sharing of people's talents.  I looked with awe and appreciation at each handmade item, thinking about the time and talent that it took to make such beautiful creations.  The women on my mother's side of the family have all been very skilled with their hands.  If you were to have put them all in a room together and encouraged them to work on their latest projects, you would have found my maternal grandmother, mother, aunt and cousins all displaying their creativity in myriad ways.  I, however, would have sat there with idle hands, wishing I had been born with the inclination and interest in such things.  Instead, I would've grabbed the closest book and stuck my nose in it, or I would've looked out the window, or I would've taken a walk.  The same thing is true with baking.  I'm an everyday type of baker (the few times I bother to do so, that is -- my husband and I lean toward a healthy diet with few sweets).  My maternal grandmother, aunt and cousin Amy could bake circles around me.  I knew it was Christmas, for instance, when entering my grandparents' house because it would smell of mouth-watering, commingled aromas of holiday baked treats.  Grandma Carrie would have made a holiday stollen decorated with white icing and candied green and red cherries for our breakfast.  She would have baked a wide array of Christmas cookies, with each variety housed in its own large coffee can in a corner of the kitchen.  My favorites were the Russian Tea Cakes.  I asked for them one year as the only Christmas present I wanted from Grandma and Grandpa!  As the holidays approach, I think of all of those wonderful women in my family who have brought so much beauty to my life through their loving hearts and talented hands.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Heavenly Thoughts

When we speak of loved ones who have passed away, my family, friends and I frequently look or gesture upward, as if to suggest that they now reside in a heaven located high in the sky.  While flying in a jet above the cloud cover recently, the sun shone brightly and all was sunlight and blue sky.  I could see glimpses of farm land, cities, even moving vehicles far below between the puffy white clouds, and I wondered if this was the heaven to which we so often refer.  With the passing of my mother recently, I have changed my mind. I now see her not far up in the sky among the clouds but very close to me.  She and my dad are perhaps in another dimension that isn't visible to me but I believe they are still very nearby. My former thoughts about that distant separation of heaven and earth are no longer comforting to me.  Having my loved ones close to me and carried in my heart is my new definition of heaven.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bohemian Rhapsody

This morning, I ate a poppyseed kolache and I was transported back to my childhood when Mom, Dad and I would visit my paternal grandmother in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.  Kolaches are a traditional Bohemian pastry -- a not-too-sweet dough formed into a round, with an indentation in the center that is filled with a couple of teaspoonfuls of canned filling, such as poppyseed, prune, apricot or raspberry.  Poppyseed has always been my favorite.  My Grandma Josie was a wonderful baker, as was my Aunt Norma.  It's unfortunate, but I never thought to learn how to make kolaches.  I just spent my time eating them.  My cousin, Sally, however, did ask and she learned how to make them at my aunt's elbow.  Sally now has my grandmother's spatter-ware mixing bowl and she has used it to make kolaches.  She's even sent them all the way from Washington State to my mother and me and they were delicious, just as I remember them from childhood!  It's amazing how taste can affect our memories.  Biting into that soft, doughy, poppyseed-filled kolache this morning brought back such a flood of wonderful memories of family, holidays and visits to Two Rivers that I carried the thought and taste of that splendid kolache with me all day.  Truly, a rhapsody to this Bohemian!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day at the Museum

Larry and I visited the Milwaukee Public Museum recently, and what a magnificent museum it was!  After hours of touring its many floors, we attempted to name our favorite exhibits as we sat down finally for lunch.  While everything was grand, I was fondest of the broad leaf forest exhibit with its audio recordings of bird song and squirrel chatter and Wisconsin landscape dioramas filled with wildflowers.  I could have stayed there all day.  Another favorite area was the solarium filled with butterflies.  The delicate, lovely beings of every color, size and design flitted merrily around us, occasionally landing on an eager hand.  We saw more than one butterfly draw nectar out of a flower, using its tiny, precise proboscis. My third favorite experience at the museum was the IMAX presentation about Cleopatra. There I learned new information about the powerful, multilingual and well-educated female Egyptian leader of so long ago. There was so much to experience at the Milwaukee Public Museum.  Being there reminded me that the world is to be explored and enjoyed with wonderment and awe.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nature Stills Me

While traveling with colleagues today, I was captivated by their enthusiastic and good-humored conversations about their busy lives.  Their comments ranged from the hectic pace of their children's before- and after-school activities to deer hunting plans to hosting large numbers of guests around the upcoming Thanksgiving table.  I used to love a sense of busyness in my life but I now appreciate much more a quieter, more measured existence.  As the conversations swirled around me, I found myself staring out of the vehicle window at the stunning sunset over the Wisconsin River, the deer that were placidly eating in a hollow, a hawk flying over a cornfield now stripped bare, and the silhouettes of trees and silos on the prairie.  Busyness and merriment have their place, most certainly, but I am satisfied to be quieter right now, just as nature is quieting down, preparing for winter.  Truly, nature grounds me and stills me, no matter what is happening around me.  Now that is something for which to be grateful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Letting Go

My horoscope read recently that I should take it easy and trust that things will fall into place without my added input. It went on to say that pushing to close a deal could make matters worse.  I don't hang onto every word of my horoscope but this one spoke to me.  Knowing when to push on and when to let go takes discernment.  We're reminded time and again to never give up, not ever.  But there are those times when we need to stop, listen and then proceed with openness for signs of the next right thing as it comes before us.  Such openness to newness may involve risk, re-invention or an energy we may not be certain we have.  But it can also be that something we need in order to reinvigorate or redirect us onto the right path.  Pushing on or hanging on may stall us while letting go may be the true, liberating watershed moment.  I witnessed an elegant letting-go a couple of days ago that exemplified grace, peace and calmness.  It was a blessing to see this wise individual accepting what is to be, with openness.  I learned from her that letting-go can indeed be the right decision.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Right Where I Belong

Over the past four weeks, I've had the experience of visiting three major Midwestern cities.  While there are myriad opportunities and a wonderful energy in urban settings, like the late John Denver though, I feel like singing, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" (or Girl, in this case!).  I am meant for life in a rural setting.  I belong in a small town with ready access to the outdoors where instead of backed-up traffic on the hot pavement, there are hay bales dotting the land.  Instead of the glare of city lights, there are the stars in the infinite sky.  Instead of the large, fast and impersonal, business is still done slowly, genuinely over a handshake with someone you've known all of your life.  I always enjoy cities because they have so much to offer, but I enjoy even more my departure from them when the cityscape gives way to expansive green space.  That's when I feel liberated to be my true self.  Such was the case today after my third city visit in a month.  I had a great time during each visit but I am thrilled to be back in the comfort and familiarity of small-town, rural life.  Right where I belong.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset Offer Spectacular Light Show

There is no more spectacular light show for me than the daily rising and setting of the sun.  Yesterday morning, as we traveled east in darkness, the subtle mauve cast to the sky in front of us, that slip of light along the horizon, welcomed us to a new day.  Once again, I was reminded of my mom's favorite Biblical Scripture passage from The Psalms:  "This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it." As the sky brightened, silhouettes of lacy, leafless trees illuminated by the early-morning light, brought an elegance to the landscape.  With each breathtaking moment, the sky changed in color.  From mauve and dark violet to orange and cadet blue to an eventual cream and light blue, the day unfolded before us.  What a great way to start the morning -- with color, light and beauty, setting the stage for a lovely day to come.  This evening, we were transfixed by a brilliant sunset -- blazing orange and bright yellow blending into the ever-darkening sky.  Such drama is there for us to enjoy -- free of charge -- every morning and evening.  What a light show!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Orange Barrel Lessons

It was still dark when we traveled on the interstate this morning.  As we navigated a construction zone, a myriad of orange and white striped barrels seemed to pop up everywhere in the darkness.  It seemed difficult to know in which lane we should be driving, let alone where the lane was even located.  If I focused on the area right in front of our car, the way became clear.  If I looked out too far, everything was confusing and the right path too complicated to discern.  Our way became even clearer when we saw tail lights of vehicles in front of us.  Isn't that like life?  If we try to focus too far ahead, the way seems confusing and unclear.  If, instead, we focus on the moment before us, we can more easily see the path and it's far more enjoyable.  Along the journey, others may shine their light to help us find our way.  Living in the moment and giving our full attention to what's in front of us -- I believe that's the way to go.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where Am I Going? And Why?

Who am I?  Where have I come from?  Where am I going?  Why?  These questions are fundamental to my life's journey, but how often do I ask them in order to shed light on my path?  The questions originated from my friend Don's encounter with security at an airport in the UK.  When taken in a different context, they can serve as a metaphor for life's bigger questions and our continuous quest for fulfillment and happiness.  I dare say that the answers are not always easily found and they will likely change with the seasons of our lives.  But I appreciate the act of pausing, asking, listening and reflecting on them, all the while having faith that I'm where I'm supposed to be right now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Power of Electricity

We got our first big snowstorm of the season today. Three inches of heavy, wet snow came down from early morning until about 3PM.  I thought I was prepared for it.  My snow brush had been moved from the trunk of my car to the floor of the passenger seat.  I had placed the rugs and boot caddies by the front and back doors.  I got out my boots and scarf and warm hat and had zipped the lining in my raincoat.  But mid-day while I was home for lunch, our electricity went out.  The heavy snow was weighing down utility lines and trees.  Likely, something finally snapped and poof! our electricity went out.  It's amazing how one takes things like electricity for granted.  Out of force of habit, Larry attempted to warm up his coffee in the silent microwave.  I tried to turn on a closet light.  Finally, we got out the hand-crank weather radio and settled in to the situation.  Fortunately, whatever went wrong was repaired quickly but, meanwhile, it made me realize how much I appreciate all that electricity does for us.  While at a natural history museum recently, we saw exhibits about the lives of long-ago Native and European peoples, none of whom had electricity in their abodes.  But I'm a modern-day creature who likes her comforts.  As I run our dishwasher and clothes dryer tonight, watch the television, open the garage door, and warm up something in the microwave, I'm doing so with gratitude for the gift, the power of electricity in my life.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Things In Common With Ariadne

I've decided that I'm the Ariadne Oliver of my day.  OK, perhaps not, but we do share some interests and beliefs.  Ariadne Oliver was a lesser known, but delightful, recurring character in Agatha Christie mysteries.  While we aren't soul mates, Ariadne and I do share a love for apples and a belief in intuition.  Ariadne was forever eating apples. I find myself doing the same thing this fall.  I can't seem to get enough of them.  Our refrigerator is rapidly filling up with bags of apples from Ski-Hi Fruit Farm.  My fear, it would seem, is that the orchard will close for the season and I won't be prepared with an ample apple supply to last me far into the winter.  As for the shared belief in intuition, I do indeed believe in and rely on that innate wisdom.  When we stop long enough to listen, really listen, I believe we have the capacity to hear that wise voice from within and to allow it to guide our decisions and choices.  Sometimes I don't want to hear that wise voice because it seems contrary to the louder voice in my head, but when I pay attention and allow myself to follow those nudges, right things happen.  Apple is my fruit right now, intuition is my guide and as I get older, I think I'm becoming more and more like Ariadne.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Living Up To Its Name

I love weeping willows.  They remind me of the country property where I grew up.  As a young girl, at a time when I was reading enough British murder mysteries to know that properties could have elegant names, I thought our rural land should have been called The Willows.  Alas, it was not.  These days, weeping willows and oaks are some of the few trees still valiantly hanging onto their leaves.  Recently, Larry and I drove past some of those brave willows and oaks, as well as a variety of trees that had spilled their brilliant leaves in bright yellow puddles around their trunks.  Those trees are especially beautiful to me when they hold onto just the lower half of their yellow leaves, the luscious fall sun illuminating them and their fallen brethren on the ground.  Fall is living up to its name.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our Voices, Ourselves

In King Lear, Shakespeare wrote, "Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low -- an excellent thing in woman."  My mom had a soft, gentle and low voice.  It was lovely -- calming, patient and kind.  While Shakespeare may have approved, my grandfather -- Mom's father, who wore bilateral hearing aids -- used to jokingly call Mom "Whispering Hope."  In his witty way, he would explain that Mom whispered and he hoped that he could hear what she said! Seriously however, I really wish that I had Mom's vocal qualities. But, alas, while her voice was a bell, mine is a gong.  A couple of nights ago, Larry and I heard a musician in concert who has his own style but strikingly bears the singing voice of his famous musician-father.  The next day, we visited with a young relative who is living her own adventures but shares her late mother's speaking voice and laugh.  I must admit that I envy these two talented young people in that they have been gifted with the qualities of their parents' voices, yet have their uniquely own stories to tell.

Darkness Cometh

It's that time of year again when Daylight Savings Time ends.  For a brief period after we turn the clocks back, I'll awaken to daylight and leave work in darkness, but soon I'll wake up to the dark, as well.  The days will grow shorter and shorter until we reach the Winter Solstice in mid-December.  As Mom's favorite author, Gladys Taber, wrote in Stillmeadow Calendar (J.B. Lippincott Company, 1967), "I really prefer the long summer days, for I love light with a passion."  Like Mrs. Taber, I, too, want my days brimming with sunlight.  My favorite days are the sparkling ones in May and June when there's more daylight than I know what to do with.  I awaken early at that time of year to a morning that feels as if it's already begun without me and I linger outside as long as I can to soak up that last glow before the sun sets. For now, however, I must flow with the rhythm of the seasons, be one with the positions of the planet and sun, and get used to the darkness once again.  I'll be dancing on the Winter Solstice, however!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wind Power

While heading to the eastern part of the state where the rolling hills dissolve into flatter land, giant windmills sprouted up to our left and right as far as one could see.  At first blush, they looked like big, white flying birds.  Upon closer examination, they became perfectly synchronized dancers or cartwheeling acrobats.  Harnessing the power of the wind, these huge monuments to humans' innovation and intervention stand like sculptures, like sentinels across the fields.  The landscape will not be the same with the erection of these windmills.  Whether they seem to be beauty or blight, we can only hope that they will help us conserve our precious resources and preserve our planet.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Goodness Abounds

There is a lot of goodness in this world.  Watching the evening news on any given night might make you think otherwise because only the most violent, horrific, extraordinary and disgusting seem to be worth a sound bite.  But I witness generosity, goodness and thoughtfulness every day in my ordinary life.  Much of that generosity is seen through my work for a nonprofit.  But I also see it evidenced in other aspects of my life -- a neighbor reaching out to another neighbor, adults giving of their time to benefit a children's cause, folks of all ages organizing food pantry drives, and people visiting our local nursing home to bake cookies, clean eyeglasses, and fluff hairdos.  The world truly is a good place.  Surely, there are bad things happening, but doesn't it nourish our spirits much more when we focus on the good, instead of the dreary or alarming?  I am blessed to see generosity and kindness around me each day.  We all have opportunities to learn from the example of others so that we can lighten another's load and contribute in our own way to the greater good.  For that, I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Let It Snow! But So Soon?

The season's first snowfall arrived today.  As I left work, a wintery mix of rain and snow stung my face and coated my car's windshield, rapidly turning roofs a pristine white. The wet snow clumped up on our lawn - the kind of snow that you know will melt just as soon as the temperature rises, even just a little.  I'm of two minds when it snows.  On the one hand, the inconvenience of the cold wind and the slick, icy surfaces irritates me.  But, by contrast, a sense of coziness envelops me that is so perfectly portrayed in the Bing Crosby movie, "White Christmas," when Bing is joined on the train by Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen in the singing of "Snow."  The arrival of snow brings the hub-bub and hurry-up of the other seasons to a standstill, a literal chill-out that complements the temperature. There's a blessing in having to slow down now and again.  A local meteorologist is forecasting between 60 and 70 inches of snow here this winter, greater than the average.  That prediction may give us numerous opportunities to slow down and maybe even stop a bit.  However much snowfall we do get, this season -- like all others -- will be a series of moments where we can choose to embrace and even thrive in the midst of what we've been given or we can gripe about it.  We might as well choose to thrive, for just as quickly as the snow arrives, spring will come.  Nothing is forever on this Earth, not even an irritating, early-season snowfall.

Good Friends

For me, a sign of good friends is the ability to pick up the conversation thread with ease, even when months have passed since you were last together.  So was the case last weekend with my friends, Donna and Gloria.  We met at a favorite downtown cafe and nestled into one of the antique wood booths, each of us taking our familiar places around the table.  Over eggs, pancakes and oatmeal, we coasted from topic to topic -- gardening, politics, family, local events and home improvement -- as if we had all just been together the day before.  Our conversation flowed effortlessly as such conversations do among good friends who have known each other for a long time.  Laughter, a hot meal, communing with forever friends -- what a great way to start my day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween at the Pumpkin Patch

I drove by a pumpkin patch yesterday.  What more appropriate day to do so than Halloween?  It was one of those Linus and Charlie Brown "Great Pumpkin" kinds of pumpkin patches that stretch far and wide, rows of bright orange orbs as far as you can see.  It was made even better because the daytime sky was overcast with clusters of dark clouds to give a moody, almost eerie Halloween-esque look to the landscape.  'Tis the season of the pumpkin, as well as the winter squash, sweet potato and carrot -- those great orange foods brimming with the anti-oxidant beta-carotene.  In addition to the produce delivered in Nature's own packaging, I recently bought pureed, canned pumpkin at the grocery store, ready to add it to soup, pasta, and vegetable lasagna (in the place of tomato sauce).  Pumpkin is beautiful in color and rich in nutrients -- no trick, all treat.