Monday, September 30, 2013
If Larry's home, there's always some sound around him. He's either listening to music in his office or he has the television on, even if he's not watching it. If he's in the car, the radio or a CD is playing, often at a high volume. He loves music and sound and I believe they fill his creative well. I, on the other hand, crave silence. When I'm home, I prefer to have it quiet. I rarely turn on the television anymore. I often drive in the car without the radio on. Silence has become my companion and I really enjoy it. I heard recently that silence is the "cornerstone of character," the ultimate environment for achieving a balance of mind, body and spirit. Being silent doesn't necessarily mean that my head is full of its own chatter. Instead, being silent leaves me open to hearing messages that have been trying to get through the din of chatter and distraction. I don't need full silence all of the time, but when I give myself time with it, silence truly tells me more than I could ever imagine.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
There was a time when I could sing a high G with no effort whatsoever. In fact, I can recall singing a solo when I was in high school where the very first note was a high G. Time has gone by and with the years, my voice has lowered. Today, while I can make myself sing either soprano or alto, I'm happiest in the middle-to-lower range. The low notes, those low tones have surprising appeal to me. When I sing them, I sound as if I'm enjoying myself, as opposed to the first soprano notes when I sound as if I'm reacting to something really, really scary. I've joined our church choir once again and I'm happily sitting in the alto section part of the time, soprano the other part of the time. Today, we sang during the worship service for the first time this fall. I came prepared to sing alto, but ended up singing soprano instead. Learning two musical parts keeps my brain cells on high alert and my voice in greater range, which are good things. Depending on the piece of music and where my voice is needed on a particular Sunday, like the limbo song, I'll have to see "just how low can I go."
Saturday, September 28, 2013
The condominium association in which Larry and I live has been engaged in the largest project we've ever undertaken: the complete rebuilding of the long drive that leads into our neighborhood and the driveways leading to each of our garages. Our Board of Directors and Environmental Committee are willing to take on nearly any task, but rebuilding a road was a little out of our league. With the invaluable assistance and counsel of professionals who have supervised the reconstruction of city streets and county highways for many years, we were able to prepare for the project and secure the necessary contractors. For the past several weeks, we have watched men at work every weekday, digging out the old drive, digging deeper to install drainage pipe and adequate gravel base, applying the final gravel surface and then the asphalt. They've meticulously created a city street-quality drive that will enhance the look of our neighborhood and provide a safe, smooth entry. I always enjoy watching professionals who do their jobs well. Watching these men at work has been one of those enjoyable moments with a finished product with which we can all be happy.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Fall must be here, not because of the calendar or the Halloween decorations on the store shelves, but because of the woolly bear caterpillars. I don't like to hit anything that crosses the road ever, but it's almost impossible to avoid hitting the woolly bear caterpillars as they make the slow, crawling journey across roadways at this time of year. They're so beautiful, with their reddish-brown and black horizontal striped bristles. I've always heard that old wives' tale that the size of the caterpillar's bands of color can forecast the upcoming winter weather, so I looked it up online the other night. I learned that a scientist studied the caterpillars back in the 1940s to determine if the width of the reddish-brown band could forecast weather for the winter ahead. Although the evidence was inconclusive and even disregarded by other scientific professionals, a contemporary scientist suggested that the width of the band could indeed tell us something about the severity of winter. However, it would shed light on the previous winter/early spring when the caterpillar was born, not the forthcoming one. Whether woolly bear caterpillars can prognosticate weather or not, I enjoy seeing them at this time of year and I'll continue to do my best to not run them over.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
While enjoying an evening walk at Devil's Lake last week, Larry and I thought we were alone. We stopped momentarily to take in the spectacular view of the lake, the setting sun reflecting on the water, when all of a sudden we heard fluttering. A lone Great Blue Heron that had been enjoying the evening in the tall grasses that dotted the water's edge was disturbed by our company and flew away just a few yards down the lake. Seeing the heron up close was a treat. They're majestic, beautiful birds, comprised primarily of long legs, an equally long neck and gigantic wings. As it flapped furiously, it stretched out its legs and neck and flew right past us. We wanted to follow the bird to examine it even more closely, but decided that our blue companion preferred a solo experience. A few evenings later when we were at the lake, once again, our blue companion was there along the water's edge. And once again, it flew away from us. This time, however, it eventually stood still allowing us to get closer, to observe, I would imagine, if we were friend or foe. Larry, the heron and I all stood there in silence for a while, studying each other. We may have looked different from each other, but we were really quite the same, each enjoying a lovely evening at Devil's Lake.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
My good friend Kitty is a masterful quilter. Her creations always astound me, for she is meticulous in her design choice, her color and fabric selections, and her work with a needle. I, on the other hand, feel more comfortable admiring than trying my hand at such a huge task. When Kitty suggested that we take in the recent Quilt Expo in Madison, I jumped at the opportunity, for it would give me an opportunity to ooh and ahh at the talents of even more quilt artists. And that we did. We slowly followed the snaky route in and out of curtained walls, designed to allow us to see the more than 200 quilts entered for competition. With so much talent, so much diversity, so much beauty, how could one ever select a Best of Show? Yet, there was a winner selected, along with numerous others that received recognition in their various quilt categories. We were handed a ballot to make our own favorite selections, but alas, my little purple ballot came home with me, for I simply couldn't select my favorite. Just when I'd think I'd selected it, another beautiful entry would catch my eye. It's a good thing I wasn't asked to seriously judge them, for they would have all received Best of Show!
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
While driving in our lush Wisconsin countryside recently, I traveled past a barn on which there was a large sign affixed to the roof with the one-word message: "Harmony." I don't know the reason for the sign, but I was taken by the message all the same. As I drove along, it gave me something to ponder. Just how much do I seek harmony in my life, a simple balance of work and play, seriousness and silliness, activity and rest? When I start feeling overwhelmed by the business and busyness of life, I now recall that barn in the country and the sign that brought clarity to my everyday need for Harmony.
Monday, September 23, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of touring three gardens with my Aunt Ellie. All three were lovely, but I was particularly taken by one that was nestled along Lake Michigan. This hidden treasure revealed magnificently landscaped floral beds, pruned trees, edged walkways, a perfectly mown expanse of lawn and a spectacular view of the lake. If I could create the perfect vacation for myself, it would consist of touring historic homes, museums, art galleries and gardens, lots and lots of gardens. Whenever my friend Kitty and I have taken a garden tour, I get nearly giddy with anticipation of what we will see, smell and experience. And so it was with my recent garden visit along Lake Michigan. Many thanks to Aunt Ellie for knowing that our little garden tour was the perfect way to spend a delightful afternoon together.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
I'm a summer kind of person. I love the warmth, the light, the greenery, the farmer's market, the outdoor activities. Yet, on this first day of Autumn, I find myself falling for Fall once again. I always think that I'll cling tenaciously to the last vestiges of summer (and perhaps I do), but once the leaves start changing, the apple orchard is open, the acorn squash and gourds are at the farmer's market, and the air has that crisp touch to it, Fall has a way of getting my attention and pulling me right in. Already, I'm seeing signs of the leaves changing color, with a brilliant red tree dotting the landscape here and there. There are conversations about the number of acorns and pears this season as possible signs of a harsh winter to come. I'm pulling out my sweaters from the back of the closet and thinking about any winter work that needs to be done around our condo. It's that bright, beautiful, bountiful time of the year and, once again, I'm falling for it.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
While walking at Devil's Lake, Larry and I could hear the steady beat of drums in the distance. The sun was going down, so all we could see were the silhouettes of a circle of people along the lakeshore, drumming. Their cadence sounded like the heartbeat of that beautiful lake. I thought of the native people who visited that spot some 10,000 years ago, the mound builders who inhabited the area some 9,000 years later, and the circle of people sitting on the shore that evening of our walk. How many circles of people over the years have communicated and celebrated there with the beat of their drums? The shared rhythm of the drum circle that evening gave the drummers a synchronized, communal experience with each other. I'd like to think that they also shared something special with others who came long before them. The beat goes on.
Friday, September 20, 2013
I was on a bit of a long drive recently, ready to take a brief stretch break, when I drove past a large white farmhouse with a wraparound porch. The front of the house was positioned pleasantly under the shade of mature trees. It had a spectacular view of a large lake in the distance. For a split second, I could see myself sitting on that porch, whiling away the hours reading, napping and enjoying the view of that sparkling lake. I spent the rest of my ride thinking about front porches and what they must have meant to neighborhoods in the past. Front porches were places to gather, places to watch the world go by, places to catch a cool breeze on a hot summer day, places to connect with the world outside of our homes. I've never lived anywhere with a front porch, but if I had, I would have wanted to spend a lot of time out there, whiling and watching. What better place to be on a summer day?
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Larry and I spent a recent Sunday afternoon hiking at Steinke Basin, one of our favorite places. The temperature was cool and the sky overcast. Fall was in the air, at least for that one day. For some reason, my eye was drawn to the trunks of the trees surrounding us. As if I was seeing it for the first time, I began to notice the difference in the bark of the various trees. Some of the trees featured bark that was ragged, while others were smooth. Some had deep striations, others narrow. Some were "decorated" with climbing vines, while others were covered in lichens or moss. I usually occupy my view and thoughts with the tree canopy -- the leaves, the blossoms. But that particular day, my concentration was on the bark itself and how very beautiful it is.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
While traveling near Fox Lake, Wisconsin recently, I came upon field after field of giant, white windmills. All of a sudden, I realized that their movement was timed perfectly to the classical music I had tuned in on my car radio. It was almost as if the windmills were waltzing, slowly swirling and twirling to the music. While diligently keeping an eye on the road, I still found myself somewhat mesmerized by the combination of music and movement all around me. There was an elegance in those fields, an enchanting moment when art and science intersected perfectly, beautifully.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
As a younger woman, I used to wonder why older couples often ate out at restaurants barely uttering a word to each other. I thought it odd that they didn't speak, but often sat gazing away from each other's eyes. Recently, however, I believe I gained a greater understanding. Larry and I were relaxing in our sun porch in companionable silence. Occasionally, Larry would comment on the activities of birds. Then, we'd sit silently. I'd comment on the moodiness of the overcast sky. And then we'd be silent some more. The sound of happy conversation took place in our neighborhood, but we continued to sit quietly, happy to be in each other's presence, but not needing to say a whole lot. There is a peace in being with someone you have loved for a long time, someone who knows you so well that he can finish your sentences or utter the same thought at the same time that it happened to be rolling around in your head. Sometimes, words are unnecessary. Sometimes, words risk getting in the way of a moment when simply being together is far more important than anything that could ever be said.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Larry and I have been together for 20 years, but we finally tied the knot four years ago today. Recently, while exiting church, I picked up some paper that was blowing around on the church grounds and found that it was a program from a wedding that had taken place there just the Saturday before. According to the program, the bride and groom exited the ceremony to "So Happy Together" by The Turtles. Just like the song's lyrics, I truly can't see me loving anybody -- but Larry. He is the point to my counterpoint, the one who makes my life complete. Larry is creative and calm, patient and quiet, philosophical and introspective, zany and serious. Happy Anniversary, my love. I'm so happy we're together.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
A recent prayer I heard asked that God help our eyes to only see the good. Those words stopped me in my tracks because I wondered just what percentage of the time my eyes see only the good. We human beings seem to be programmed to see and possibly enjoy the bad, even the worst, of life. Turn on the evening news and you see story after story of dismal, heart-wrenching and desperate drama. Think about the times you choose not to walk away from listening to a juicy morsel of gossip. Count the times when you've complained of petty annoyances. During none of these times are my eyes seeing only the good. As a result, over the past several weeks, I have been watching television news less and less. It isn't that I want to be ill-informed. It's just that I don't want to be brought down by scary and sorrowful stuff. I've also been going to bed each night making sure that I end my day by counting at least three blessings. And I've been surrounding myself with people who spread joy and share love, rather than hurtful words. These small acts on my part are helping my eyes to see the beauty around me, the good that is present in life. I still have a long way to go, but little by little, I'm getting an eyeful -- of the good.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
I really don't like turning on the air conditioning. I take any opportunity to open the windows and welcome in the fresh breezes and summer sounds. After a short stretch of running the air conditioning, I was grateful for the weather to shift, allowing me to open the windows once again. Just having them closed for a few days was a few days too many for me. I have a friend who lives in the south who said that she goes from one air-conditioned environment into another, for the summer is too hot there to open windows for any reason. I couldn't live there. I crave the sounds of summer -- the cicadas, the birdsong, the crickets. Lately, the night sounds have been particularly enjoyable. It gets dark earlier these days, so I find myself sitting on our sun porch at around 8:30 p.m., rocking in the chair, listening to the evening chatter. Summer may be winding down as we move closer to the autumnal equinox, but the sounds of summer are still speaking to me.
Friday, September 13, 2013
My mom, Barb Naidl, had a pale pink bathrobe -- floor-length, lightweight velour with three-quarter length raglan sleeves and a hidden zipper down the front. The color complemented her pink complexion and her snow-white hair. Mom passed away two years ago today. After she died, I kept that pink bathrobe of hers. It quickly became my bathrobe of choice. Every time I wear it, I feel close to Mom, as if she's giving me a hug. I count my blessings every day, but especially today, that I was so very lucky to have had such a lovely and loving mom.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Summer night skies are magical. Larry and I walked along Devil's Lake's south shore one recent evening and then sat on a bench on the north shore, listening to big band music wafting from the Chateau. Couples were dancing elegantly to the music, swirling, turning and deftly avoiding stepping on toes or backing into other dancers. Larry munched on popcorn he bought at the nearby stand. We cuddled on the bench, Larry, his popcorn and me, swaying to the music and casting our eyes upward at the stars in the sky. It was all so magical, so lovely that a brief wave of grief washed over me as I realized that this was the last Saturday night big band concert for the summer and there would be no more of watching the graceful dancers until next June. But, then, I thought of the starry skies yet to come this fall, the crisp air, the scent of drying vegetation, the taste of apples, and the autumn color that leaves one speechless. Each season has its wonder and beauty. However, I'll hang onto summer as long as it is here for me to do so. That evening, I was glad to have experienced one more magical summer night sky.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Larry and I started driving by Ski Hi Fruit Farm about three weeks ago. I was getting antsy for apple season to begin. The sign said that the first crop would be ready Labor Day, so on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, my friend Kitty and I ventured onto Ski Hi Road. It was still quiet at the orchard store, with Paula Reds and Ginger Golds for sale. I heard a clerk tell a customer that if she called the orchard's number, she'd hear a message telling which varieties of apples were available each week of the season. I happen to like Macoun and McIntosh apples best, but will buy just about any variety, for they all have their virtues. Biting into a Paula Red grown right at Ski Hi was a treat beyond measure. I grew up near Ski Hi, so anytime I head there, I feel as if I've gone home. And every time I bite into one of their delicious apples, I recall a lifetime of memories of juicy, sweet and tart goodness. Ah! Apple Season has arrived!
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
I was recently offered a new job. I tend to weigh these types of invitations, checking in with my intuition to get an opinion before making my decision. Sometimes, my intuition shouts "No!" At other times, it whispers, sometimes even cheers "Yes!" Such was the case recently when I was asked to become the interim director of the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Eagle Country/Baraboo office. My intuition immediately provided me with a resounding "Yes!" A few days later at church, our deacon read words that included the statement, "Right now, I am where God wants me." Indeed, I feel that I am where God wants me to be right now. When I allow the flow of life to take me along with it, good things happen. As a wise friend says, "If it's not meant to be, you can't force it. If it's meant to be, you can't stop it." I'm joyfully ready to take on this new chapter with great people who do wonderful, worthy work at the ADRC. I feel that it is meant to be and that I am where God wants me right now.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Although yesterday was National Grandparents Day, I've been thinking about my grandparents a lot lately. When my maternal Aunt Ellie asked me what I'd like to do while visiting her and my Uncle Bob in Manitowoc, Wisconsin last week, I had only two wishes, one of which was to find the graves of my paternal grandparents, Frank and Josephine Naidl. Our journey took us to the nearby community of Two Rivers to Holy Cross Cemetery, a huge, verdant and serene place with towering trees. It seemed at first as if we would be searching for hours, yet we found their shared headstone within a few minutes near a large white cross. I'm not sure why I was so driven to find the graves of my paternal grandparents, but it meant so much to know and to see where they had been laid to rest. And with National Grandparents Day right around the corner, the timing couldn't have been better.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
My late mother, Barb Naidl, and I were so close that people always expected to see us together. When they didn’t, they inquired about the well-being of the one not present. Mom and I were so close that I used to describe us as taking the same breath. So when Mom was diagnosed with end-stage cancer a couple of years ago, my world reeled. During the final months of her life, in an effort to temper my grief, I began to write in a small journal. I set a goal of writing one short essay about joy each day. My goal of one daily essay was quickly realized and turned into multiple short essays about finding joy in everyday experiences. Each essay forced me to live in the moment. After Mom passed away, I started writing my daily essays in this blog that I call Time to Be, a phrase taken from a quote by the late Gladys Taber, my mom’s favorite author. I have now published an electronic book based on my blog. Time to Be: A Seasonal Almanac of Short Essays About the Extraordinary Joy of Ordinary Moments is a collective of selected blog posts, presented as a series of essays divided almanac-style by the seasons. The e-book of approximately 150 pages is available on Amazon for $2.99. Thank you for reading my writings and for your support of the notion of living in the moment and embracing the blessing of time to simply be.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Last Sunday, the deacon at our church talked about caring for everything we touch and touching it reverently. As she stated those words, I thought of the man who had washed my car the day before. I admittedly don't wash my car very often, but that day, I was struggling to see out of the windshield, so I knew it was time to wash off some of the dirt and grime that had accumulated over the summer months. I headed to a local car wash where it is part automated and partly done with the human touch. The man who washed my car that particular day was new to me. I must say that I have never had someone wash my car so carefully (not even when I do it myself). I watched from inside the car as he methodically, carefully, slowly and meticulously wet down the vehicle's exterior, scrubbed at the windshield, headlights and front grill, and turned the mirrors inward so that the slapping of the whirring cloths wouldn't disturb them. After my car traveled through the automated portion of the cleaning process, the gentleman was there to meet me, towels in hand to wipe the car dry. Again, I watched how carefully, reverently he cleaned every surface of my vehicle, using his fingers to carefully extract some pine needles that just wouldn't wash away from the depths of the area where the windshield wipers lay. This man lived our deacon's words: caring for everything we touch and touching it reverently. This gentleman came into my life over Labor Day weekend. What a shining example he was of taking his labors seriously and touching everything he did with reverence. My car has never been washed quite so kindly.
Friday, September 6, 2013
Over Labor Day weekend, Larry and I decided to act on the short home-project list that had been assembling over the summer months. We visited a local large store where we knew we could get the supplies we needed. Once we had the tools, we knew that all we required was our own elbow grease and the tasks would be done quickly. Such large stores often bewilder us because there are so many items and so much space in which to place them. Knowing that it would take us forever to find what we needed, we approached a group of three gentlemen who worked at the store. One responded right away to our question and not only told us where to find all of what we needed, he personally guided us to each location throughout the store, expertly weighing the pros and cons of each product to help us match the most cost-effective solution to our obvious lack of experience and skill. We monopolized his time, bombarding him with questions; yet, he didn't act hurried or impatient. Instead, he kindly explained things to us in terms we could understand, making suggestions not only about products and implements, but also how to best use them. When I asked him how he got to be such an expert about so many home projects, he explained that he used to be a handyman. He was humble in accepting thanks and compliments from us. He simply replied that he likes helping people. As I reflected about Labor Day and what it means to have the blessing of work, I thought with gratitude about this man who was the epitome of customer service. Through his labors that Labor Day weekend, he was graciously being a blessing to others.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
My friend Kitty is wise and eloquent. In a recent email, she shared her insights about the temporary nature of life. Truly, most things are temporary, possibly nearly everything but love. I got to thinking about how the days can seem long, the day-to-day changes small. Yet, when looking back, one can see with new eyes the rapid passage of time and the changes that happened perhaps without our even noticing them. Such thoughts of the fleeting, temporary nature of life make me redouble my efforts to appreciate each moment, live in the present, give of myself with generosity, and let go of the perplexities, worries and fears that can mar my day (or at least my thinking part of the time). Instead, I will fill those fleeting moments with joy, gusto and appreciation. At some point, we may have the opportunity to look back on the entirety of our lives. If and when I have the opportunity to do so, I want it to be a review of all that was good and giving, fully aware that each fleeting moment, each fleeting thought was a gift of immeasurable value. I am reminded once again of my late mom's favorite Bible passage: "This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." So be it.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
As I went to bed the other night, I noticed two small white moths perched on the outside of our bedroom window. The light from the moon and the backyard security lights illuminated them as they rested on the center pane of the large three-pane glass. They were so still and so lovely that I called Larry to the window to observe them with me. The two of us took turns studying the delicate, little creatures, their opaque wings, their minuscule bodies. Larry is not one to utter religious or even spiritual talk, so I was quite surprised when his last words of the night before we closed our eyes was that the moths were there as angels to watch over us. With those gentle, affirming words, I ended my day, watching the two white moths on our window until my eyes grew heavy and my awake-thoughts were transported away. I fell asleep smiling, happy with my place in the world, grateful for my gentle and kind husband by my side, and secure in the thought of having two angels watching over us.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
A few Sundays ago, my husband Larry and I had the fun of traveling to the eastern side of the state to attend the 80th birthday party of my aunt. I hadn't been with my family since my mom passed away nearly two years ago. I was pleased to spend the day in celebration of a momentous birthday, but I was also celebrating that I would get to be with family for the greater part of a day. As a now parentless, childless, only child, I have learned that there can be a loneliness in such a distinction. I've found that I increasingly crave the experience of being with those who are part of my family tree. That day, I no longer felt the rather isolating feeling of being out on the small limb. Instead, I was enveloped by the much larger branch, surrounded by loving people who are a part of me and I a part of them. I believe it is a common human experience to want to be part of a greater whole. That day, I found that experience, that greater whole to be just what I needed. I'll make sure that I foster continued and more frequent interaction with all of those lovely and loving people who I have the privilege of calling Family.
Monday, September 2, 2013
On this Labor Day, I reflect on work and, specifically, the work I have done this summer. Last Friday, I completed a 12-week, limited term position with Sauk County government. I was sorry to see it end, for the experience was challenging and educational and the people kind and caring. It was as if my summer was a time of discovery and exploration, learning new things and being with new people in a new setting. For the past four months, I have been recuperating from many years of constant work that were dotted with personal trials of illness and loss. While a difficult choice to make, last spring I chose to leave a rewarding position that I had held for 12 1/2 years. By doing so, I gave myself the almost unheard-of gift of time to refresh and start along a new career path. We rarely have the luxury of making time to examine ourselves, learn what is really in our hearts and minds, and then embark on a new direction to suit the people we realize we have become. That has been my summer -- learning and growing while freelance writing, volunteering for our Baraboo Big Top Parade and working at Sauk County. I thank the good people of Sauk County government for helping me with my exploration and giving me invaluable insights as I chart new waters.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Our pastor spoke of the weight of life one recent Sunday. I thought about the term and then thought of how it could also be the wait of life (same pronunciation, different meaning). Either way, each of us likely has experienced the weight or wait of life. In the first instance, we are bent -- or sometimes broken -- by the weight of our responsibilities, sorrows, worries, fears and challenges. In the second instance, we are plagued with impatience as we wait for news, be it good or not. I think of the times when I have been ill and waiting to find out if the diagnosis was cancer or not. Those were times of the weight and wait of life. Lately, I've been experiencing the latter, as if I'm in a holding pattern, waiting for the right thing, the clearer path to be revealed to me. While the weight of life can be unbearable, I've found the wait of life to almost be the opposite. When I let go and trust, there is no weight in my wait. There is only goodness, growth and gratitude to be found along the journey.