An Ending Season (100 Word Challenge)

This weeks challenge at Julia’s place made me wax a little poetic and melancholy.

What if this was your last year to live?
Will the days speed by even faster?
Will you feel each moment as a special gift?
Will you yearn more for the past?

Will you see each day with brand new eyes?
Spring might seem fresh and daring
a rush of melting-water sighs
a saucy breeze filled with birds who sing.

Summer heat will melt away
concerns about the future
each lazy water-and-flower filled day
making every moment richer.

The flaming fall of crisp red leaves
will warm the fading senses
filled with love one cannot see . . .

And the winter will bring silence

Walking as Meditation

I sat at the bottom of the driveway waiting for the bus to pick Sarah up, listening as she talked to Nathan on the cell phone. A slug made its slimy passage across the driveway behind me, so Sarah kept squirming and checking to make sure it wasn’t coming our way. I suddenly became aware of the peacefulness of the moment: the cool morning air carrying faint summer scents, the warmth of the early morning sun caressing my skin.

The inner voice inside me whispered, “Time to take a walk.”

I went inside, put on some sunscreen, grabbed my wrist weights and began walking. I felt the rhythm of my footsteps, the beating of my heart, the sound of my breath. The road varied between manicured lawns, perfect gardens, and expanses of weeds and wilderness in its wide variety of rich green speckled with red berries, white flowers, purple buds.

I walked and I thought and I found a moment of clarity inside myself. Something shifted and I know that I will find my path, as long as I keep walking, listening, feeling, breathing, and dreaming.

Now the clouds have rolled in and the sky feels heavy. That type of weather has weighed on my heart lately, making me feel doubt, depression, and dismay. But today, something has changed, and I watch the wind blow through the trees sending me a message of hope and possibility.

Today I walked into peace.

The New “Normal” or What is Normal?

I just read a comment on another blog that made me think about language again, and this time I want to discuss the concept of “Normal”.

The comment was this:

What annoys me deeply in many cases is the effort of (some members of) the LGBT group to convince the world that theirs is the “normal” way. What do I mean with this? Male + Male = No Procreation. Female + Female = No Procreation. No Procreation = No Life Renewed. And I don’t speak of modern artificial means — I’m talking about human nature, which has not changed.

I don’t want my child or other people’s chidren get brainwashed into thinking that homosexual is “right.” Homosexual just exists in this world and we have no reason to be mean and dictate to others how they should live their lives.

I get what she is saying in the idea that the laws of nature require a male and a female for procreation. However, in this abundant natural world variations occur, naturally.  I’m not a scientist. But, just my basic high school biology taught me that there is variation depending on genetics. Using the fun and completely nerdy website Wordnik, I found this definition of normal in terms of biology:

. In biology, a species or race considered as a fixed standard which individual organisms may approach by heredity and from which they may recede by variation. The conception of a normal is statistical rather than biological, for there is no evidence that an exceptional specimen of a species differs, as such, from an average specimen in any essential or qualitative way. The notion of a species as a fixed standard belongs to the pre-Darwinian period in the history of biology.

(Click on this link for the many definitions of Normal)

So, if I am reading this correctly, variation is normal.

Yet, there are many people in our world who seem to want to define the NORM as one thing and one thing only. In those minds Normal=Right, and Different=Wrong.

The terms are not synonymous. Right and wrong are moral terms, based off of our individual interpretations of the world. Yes, we can probably agree on some basic tenets of right vs. wrong, but we break those every day. That’s evident.

Normal and different are not related to morals. The are just ways by which we can communicate how we perceive the world, which again relates to our individual interpretations of the world.

There is no truth. There is no norm. There is just perception.

I am the first to admit that I don’t have a”normal” life, whatever that might be. My life, at the moment, seems more like a confusing mess– a carnival ride gone out of control. But, despite my ups and downs, the craziness is part of my normal.

My norm lies in difference.

Perhaps we need to get rid of the term “normal” and use something else. I don’t know what term can replace it, but there has to be a way to celebrate diversity rather than try to make everyone and everything the same.

I would love diversity to be the face of the Norm.

The Wonders of Walking

I just took my first real walk in almost two weeks. A walk around a track, heading nowhere but that zone of heartbeat footstep heartbeat footstep.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

I had been walking daily, but my routine disappeared at the advent of spring break and the ensuing parental challenges. My daily walks got pushed to the back. Of course, I could have walked with Sarah, but any time I mentioned that suggestion it met with resistance. She’s not adverse to exercise, but on her terms not mine.

We did go for one long walk through the botanical gardens, which is always a delight. Except when you have to practically force someone to go with you. Sarah eventually realized how much fun it was, and enjoyed discovering her photographer’s eye.

Lovely photo taken by Sarah.

Mystery tree photo taken by Sarah

We also went on a mini-walking adventure as a family on Patriot’s Day, which gave me a few minutes of peace between arguments and complaints.

A Moment of Peace

But, in general, I was never able to reach the rhythmic meditation of walking.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

Without those moments of walking for myself, for my health, for the rhythm for the words, stress built up in my body.

I found myself feeling like this:

Muscles in my left shoulder and the my neck turned into bricks, leaving me to grope for the leftover pain killers from past bad back experiences, and an entire morning sleeping yesterday.

A lovely morning of sleeping, I might add.

Today, the pain is manageable, and I decided I would brave the outside world. I went for a walk around a track.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

When we went on the family wander last week, we walked in an area that had been damaged by tornadoes last summer. We were actually looking to go into a park, but the swath of damaged trees was greater than I had imagined, so we ended up just wandering by a boat launch that we happened to notice. I felt awe at the signs of recovery all around me, despite downed limbs and broken trees.

Green leaves growing from a trunk that refuses to give up.

Being bent, crooked and broken is not obstacle for a tree that wants to keep growing.

Today I went for a walk, and now I feel like that tree. Broken in places, but still fighting, growing and breathing.

Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath. Heartbeat, footstep, deep breath.

Little Bird With A Big Voice

Little bird with a big voice
to whom do you call?

Flying free from tree to tree
your song beckons to me.

I follow, seeking to understand
the message of your song.

I do not know your name
I cannot capture your beauty
even in the frame of my camera.

Yet your call still echoes
and I follow.

A call of joy, of loneliness
of yearning, of peace, of freedom.

My Fatal Flaw

I think too much!

Thinking is getting in my way of accomplishing anything.

Why is this a fatal flaw? Because my thinking gets in the way of my doing.

Every day I read another story that makes me think, “Why is this world so insane?” This morning I started crying after reading a story about Trayvon Martin, shot and killed by someone who has not been charged, even though it sounds suspicious and like racial profiling.

“Why is our world filled with so much hate?” I thought. But, my thinking led me nowhere.

Every day I hear about more of the craziness of this upcoming election and the War on Women and the possibility of war with Iran and so on . . . and my head begins to spin with all the thoughts in it.

I can’t silence the thoughts.

The more thoughts that creep into my head, the less capable I seem to be about getting anything written or doing anything. I just sit and think, and think some more.

Today, in a feeble attempt to get out of my head, I went for a walk, carrying my weights in my hands for extra exercise. That helped, as I did some arm work walking down the street and counted in my head, only alert for cars coming so I didn’t look like a complete fool. You can’t think when you are counting and trying to avoid embarrassment.

Tired of that, I put my weights in my bag and kept walking, trying to focus on my steps and the conversations of the birds around me.

A car pulled into a driveway in front of me. It looked like my friend Jackie’s car, so of course my thoughts wandered to missing her and wondering how to make new friends here. As I approached the driveway, I noticed men in suits walking back to the car. These were older men, probably in their 50s or 60s. One of them approached me and offered me an invitation to a “celebration of Jesus’ death” including a nicely printed pamphlet.

Yes folks, the Jehovah’s Witnesses managed to find me even when I wasn’t home.

This, of course, led me to thinking about how so many of the problems of the world come from religion. They come from the desire for people to THINK that somehow we are special, unique, designed by a higher power to fulfill a specific purpose, one that makes us superior to everything else on earth.

As I was thinking these deep thoughts, a gray creature crossed the road in front of me. I stopped and tried to quickly and quietly pull my camera out so I could get a picture. The creature turned its face toward me, saw me in the distance, and casually walked away before I had my camera fully out.

I think it was a gray fox.

Urocyon cinereoargenteus, Panama English: Gray fox

Urocyon cinereoargenteus, Panama English: Gray fox (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I walked up to where the animal had been, hoping to see some evidence and be able to get a picture. Nothing. As I turned away, my friends the JW’s pulled into the driveway near me.

“Is this your house?” They asked.

“No, I was just trying to get a picture of something I saw. I’m not sure what it was.”

“I had to buy a camera because we saw a turkey vulture,” the driver said. “How often do you get to see one of those?”

We talked for a few more minutes about seeing animals in nature, and the fact that this mysterious creature was heading over the ridge toward this man’s house. We did not discuss Jesus.

“Don’t get eaten,” I joked as I wandered along my merry way.

As I continued to walk, with my camera out and ready for anything I might see, I realized that for a moment I wished I were that fox, or one of the birds that seemed to be having delightful conversations all around me. They weren’t worried about women’s rights or religion or racism. They didn’t think about whether or not they were successful, or were talented enough to write a book, or would ever feel like they were achieving their goals.

The fox’s life is simple, I thought. Eat, drink, find places to be safe. Kill or be killed. Lie in the sun, or curl up in a warm den. They don’t have to think all the time.

The birds’ goals were simple, to live each moment, to enjoy the gorgeous day, to find food and/or a mate, and perhaps to sing their lovely songs.

I came back, hoping I had found a sense of peace, a place where thinking did not interfere. But then I began catching up on some reading for this writing course I am taking. And of course, the inevitable happened: my thinking brain and inner critic started saying wicked things like, “You will never be a writer. You could never be as good as this person. This is all just a waste of time.

See, I told you, I think too much.

Maybe I need to stop thinking and go watch some more birds.

Walking Toward Life’s Lessons

I have been having a difficult week in my own mind. The INNER CRITIC has been screaming loudly, telling me that I am wasting my time.  The GREEN EYED MONSTER has been popping up, as I compare myself to other’s even though I know I shouldn’t.  QUEEN SELF-DOUBT has made loud pronouncements, trying to banish Queen Esther before she could even make her voice heard. LORD LONELINESS laughed at me as he partied with his friends.

I sought solace and solutions away from the written word. I went for walks. On Wednesday, I took myself to the nearby botanical garden, hoping to find inspiration in the flowers of the greenhouse. I was greeted by a woman who said, “You look like you are ready for a day of stress relief and beauty. Enjoy! But first, feel this.” (She hands me a bud that fell from the pussy willows decorating her desk). Her smile and encouraging talk began to break through my shell. Wearing  my “butt shoes” (my sneakers that are supposed to help with getting in shape) instead of boots I found myself crunching through snow to wander paths I thought would be closed. Yesterday, as the temperature soared into the 60s and the snow disappeared, I walked against the brisk winds down my street, listening only to the beat of my feet and the songs of the birds. I didn’t bring my camera. I didn’t bring my music. And in the silence of being alone, I rediscovered something along the way.

The following is what I discovered.

I

Greeted by pussy willows.
Touch a whisper of softness
like a baby’s blanket
floating in air.

II

Being alone does not have to be lonely.
The crunch of my feet in the snow.
Bird song, at least three different types, though the birds remain hidden.
I breathe deeply of the fresh air, the breeze sending a scented message of spring.
It is not cold, despite the snow.
The wind fills me with the potential of life.
I wish I could paint the scents in the air, and fill my words with pictures.

III

The true beauty and power of life can be found in the tiniest of details. It is not about  the grand moments or grand gestures, but finding joy in the finite details and tiny miracles that surround us.

IV

I walk away from the computer and the grading and the pressure to accomplish.
I walk away from the frustration of words, of not finding the ones that work, or having too much to say.
I walk away from the house, and the dishes, and the dogs begging for attention.
I open the door and walk down the steps, without music, or camera or notebook or phone.
I walk and my feet take on the rhythm of the road.
I feel my legs stretch, and I push myself into the joy of the movement.
I walk for my health.
I walk for myself.
The sun feels warm and bright and happy.
The breeze is strong, and pushes against me, but I walk stronger.
The wind howls through the trees, yet I am in a brief space of calm.
I walk by the grandfather and grandson clearing the yard.
“How are you?” he asks.
“I’m great!” I say, and I surprise myself because I mean it.
I walk by the grandmother and granddaughter walking a frisky puppy.
“He’ll jump on you,” she says.
“That’s OK,” I reply, and I smile.
I smile, and I smile, and I smile.
I walk and my smile grows, although nobody is there.
I walk away from the worry and rediscover

 My smile.

Earth Magic (100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups)

This week’s prompt over at Julia’s Place is the following picture. It seems to me to come from the land of the Storyteller, so here goes. Please check out some of the other contributors at Julia’s Place.

“You must learn the earth magic,” the ancient crone said. “Use your vision to reach deep into the earth and use its bounty to create.” At first I saw only darkness, but then I saw myself moving through the soil smelling the richness of the earth, seeking out the buried roots of the tree lying dead next to us. They still thirsted for water, but had no way to drink.  I eased the roots up, out of the ground, to find new meaning. Their rugged dryness creaked and groaned, twisting together to become the image of life and power.

The Healing Power of Nature

Sometimes the world gives you answers even when you don’t know the right question to ask.

I was trying to get a picture of the moon, but for some reason it refuses to be seen on this photo even though it was there. Still a gorgeous sky.

I love the old beauty here. I think you might find me sitting in the gazebo next summer, dreaming or writing or simply being.

If I'm not at the gazebo I'll be swinging under this tree, reading a book.

Perhaps I will simply plant myself under a perfect tree.

A secret hideaway in one of the greenhouses. I could write there.

This will be wonderful to visit on a cold snowy day as a reminder of the sun.

I took a lot of closeups of plants. I loved the contrast of colors here.

I love this shot. Even though it is all brown and tired it is just rustically beautiful.

Sarah's coming toward me down a wonderful curvy path. I bet it is gorgeous in summer.

The colors of autumn warm my heart despite the lateness of the season.

A Little Seasonal Magic

A bit of nature's magic.

Despite my somewhat Grinchy posts of late, there is something I love about the season.

It’s not the “true meaning” of Christmas because I can’t believe. It’s not Santa Claus. It’s not the buying and giving frenzy which I find utterly repulsive.

It’s what I call the magic.

This is the time of year when people seem to believe anything can happen. When twinkle lights fill the air, and the world takes on a festive look. This is the time of year where tiny villages decorate homes, in nostalgic reflections of times gone by where people sang carols and visited in horse-drawn sleighs.

It’s the time of year when the magical tinkle of bells rings everywhere, and you truly believe that another angel has just gotten wings.

It’s the time of year when people, or perhaps elves, create beauty out of almost anything imaginable. For example, Kathy (a blogging buddy turned dear friend) creates these spectacularly beautiful holiday ornaments out of recycled materials. Or these fantastic creations I saw on display at a nearby botanical garden (which I wish I had discovered this summer, but will revisit often throughout the year).

Sleigh full of simple loveliness.

A bucket full of magic berries.

All natural decorations all for the cost of some creative magic.

White twinkle lights must be magic.

Looking for an appropriate and natural holiday outfit?

A Victorian Christmas done the natural way.

A close up on a magical red tree.

But still, the most incredible artist of all, who makes the season truly magical whether there is snow or not, is Mother Nature.

Decorations only Mother Nature can create.

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