A Year Revisited

I  discovered to my astonishment when I went to update my WordPress account that I had last posted on New Year’s Day of 2013.  Those who have followed my blogging journey know that I have fallen away from writing from time to time, but a year?  Last year was a moment, a lifetime, a daily slog.  In the end I added another slab of clay to a life mostly molded with a strong and recognizable shape.  My sculpture grew in some ways predictably, in others, less so.  My gardening became a massive bounty of produce that I never anticipated; shared with friends and strangers I never met.  I taught myself to preserve that same bounty in lovely sparkling jars now gracing my pantry shelves.  I learned new things about myself and others as well as what makes a great garden grow.

After a patchy go at trying to fill in the gaps for work and personal growth, taking college classes that aided both but never added up to that coveted piece of paper; I charted a course to finally achieve that, until now, elusive goal.  To that end I stepped back into a college classroom a few weeks shy of my 60th birthday and discovered that instead of feeling old, I felt experienced.  I took a single class that set me off in a new direction, with enthusiasm and excitement I lacked during every previous college experience.

For the first time in my life I chose to suspend my disbelief and open my heart to faith.  I learned quickly it is not an epiphany but a way of living; constantly reminding myself to open my heart and ask for grace in all things.  I never realized that the practice of believing can lead to belief, rather than having belief which is then practiced.  I know there are many gifted with the later, but it took a wise man of God to suggest that the opposite might work for a searching, but Doubting Thomas such as myself.

The grand and the minutia and all the daily bits of life sandwiched between; when one reflects back on a year, each has its role and place in memory.  Five years from now, which bits will remain and built upon?  Which bits will drift away into the mist and leave little reminder.  Even though we seek to live lives of value and honesty, it is a perplexing effort, trying to know which things will linger and add to the fabric of our lives. In this especially then, I wish all of you the grace to believe, and the opportunity to offer your experience and wisdom to those around you.

Happy New Year 2014 ~ C

This Moment

“Happiness, knowledge, not in another place but this place, not for another hour but this hour.”   Walt Whitman

So many wait to begin at the beginning; of the New Year, of the week, of the next perceived starting point.  Yet what are we doing while waiting for that perfect moment?  In some cases one actually undermines the future opportunity that lies ahead.  How many times is a diet or exercise program preceded by splurging on rich food and indulging in couch time?

We put off, we set aside, we make poor choices with the promise of doing better; all common behaviors.  Waiting for that perfect time to begin, so many hours and days are left languishing, sliding away, unused, unrecoverable.  Many long for more time to follow pursuits that seem distant, yet killing time is a common device.  More than any other benefit, mindfulness offers us more time.  Each moment that we can maintain our mindful presence is one well used adding to the storehouse of experience, knowledge and memory.  Arriving at one’s destination having seen each sight, breathed the scents of the waiting in lineplace, with the feel of the swirling air of the present on one’s skin, the journey becomes a piece of us.

There are dozens of lists detailing how to make the most of one’s down time; waiting being so much a part of the many errands we run.  Bring a book, write a list, call a friend; each useful and certainly productive.  But could we not also add breathe, listen, look about, dip you hand in the fountain?

As this day of fresh starts becomes the next and the next, let us remember that we can  wait until the next day or hour to become present in this moment.  We are here, we are now, and the storehouses of our lives are filled to the brim with all there is when we give over each instant to mindfulness and intent.

Don’t Panic

My first reaction when life turns on a dime is to swing into action and do something, anything to fix the problem.  Yesterday was one such day and I reacted as I always do, with rapid fire decision-making and jumping in to make things happen quickly.  In the cold light of a foggy fall morning though, I realized that the adrenaline charged decisions I have made in my life were not always the best ones.  And even if they were a good choice or perhaps the only choice, I wouldn’t know because I never took the time to weigh the options, to look forward to the consequences and make a calm, reasoned decision.  That is my goal for today.

First I need to breathe, and find the inner calm I know exists when I turn off the fire alarm reaction and look directly at what I am facing.  I suspect that the impulse to charge off in one direction or another is in part a way to avoid looking the dragon in the teeth.  The next step then is to look at the dragon.  What is the very worst that can happen?  And if it is the very worst, what will I do to adjust to that reality?  If I am to do something now, what does that look like?

I have received advice over the years when confronted with any choice to look at the short-term and then the long-term.  How do the choices I make today to cope with what may very well be a short-term crisis affect my long-term goals?  The cusp of this decision rests on the essential question of my priorities.  In the end, how do I want this to look?

Instead of making lists of things to do, which was my plan of attack; I will instead look at the options and weigh them against the goals I have for myself and the shared goals of our family.  Once I have a clear picture of our priorities for the coming months and years I can decide which option makes the most sense today and then down the road.

In many ways this crisis at a crossroad is a good thing and I suspect I would have been less likely to take the steps to really analyze the most critical choices if not confronted with the need to stare hard at the components.  By taking the time to sit with my life picture I will take yet another step towards choosing my life path instead of it choosing me.  Ah, I feel better already!

I’ve been a SLACKER!

Okay, so I thought I would post weekly but life has overtaken me!  It all started innocently enough when I was volunteering at my community garden with the Library Kids In The Garden project and got to know the Master Gardener, Colleen.  From her I learned that I did not need fencing to have my own garden, that I could make a compost bin from items I had on hand and thought I would burn (eek) !  It went from there.  So now I have a quarter plot at the community garden and one about the same size here.   The one here is my writing slacker excuse du jour.  First I had to haul railroad ties from else-where on the property, uphill of course!  And I had to mow down the grasses and weeds; oh, and build my compost bin from old broken down pallets that remained from  when the house was built and thus pre-dating me.  And, and, and….created a writing furlough in my mind.

Did I mention the rose bush?  I found myself busy and productive, the good stuff; but yet again leaving my life’s passion in the dust.  I am over and over regrouping to find that balance in my life.  It seems I live on a teeter-totter rather than a balance beam and I need to find a way to migrate to the better location.

Tonight is my first step in finding balance, which means that I cannot leave my passion for writing behind; I must make room for things I value such as the gardens and library; and lose the time wasters.  Distractions are so easy to come by and so hard to set aside, but that is my goal.  Identifying the distracting elements and focusing on the productive ones.

You will find me circling back to writing more, but maybe a bit about gardens, kids, the library, composting and weather instead of the more philosophical topics, but then again all of those things can generate a bit of philosophy or at least some homespun wisdom.  Like all things in life, blogging evolves and we shall see where this goes.

Stay tuned……

Knowing Your Path

“You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need.”

What if the right path presented itself as a dazzling staircase that we only had to climb to find ourselves exactly where we needed to be?  Would we do it?  Or would we look at the amazing path and tell ourselves; it is too high, it looks too slippery, I’ll come back to it later when I am not so busy, it might be an illusion?

We have  myriad ways to convince our-selves not to do the thing that we know is best for us, meant for us to do.  I just finished a book that I cannot more highly recommend, “SWAY, The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” by Ori and Rom Brafman.  It delves into the question of why we would do or believe something that makes absolutely no sense, and yet somehow we convince our brains, or vice versa in some cases, that it does.  A fast-paced read on a topic that could change how you operate and best of all, how to get unstuck from a behavior or relationship you have tried to escape.
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2118114.Sway

If today the thought of one activity, one person, one idea, creates that spark of energy and imagination, then it is time to seize it with all you have.  Don’t climb that staircase, run up the staircase, shout from the top, slide down the railing and run up again.  Embrace this moment and give it your full attention and heart.  All of the paths are there, the bright sparkling ones, the cool deep ones that lead into the enchanted forest, the precisely laid stone, the overgrown tangled vine laden paths.  Which one intrigues you and calls you further along?  The path that resonates inside is not the same for each of us, rather it is the connection we feel to that path that has grown inside us as we have passed by so many others knowing they are not the right one.

Do not be cautious, do not choose with care!  Fling yourself at your path with all the daring and courage that you can muster.   The time for care and caution will be when you think you want to veer from that path to find another.  Be sure you have explored this one fully and allow yourself the time to reflect whether you have merely come upon a log you must climb over or if it is the end of this path and time to find the next.

And each time, let yourself light up, feel the thrill and magic of travelling exactly where you belong.  It is not luck that one finds oneself on the right path, all that you need is being open enough to see it and brave enough to take it.  Step quickly now, your path is right ahead!

Technology….it giveth and it taketh!

This blog comes to the Internet via the wi-fi hotspot on my cell phone from my home on the upslope of the Bitterroot Mountains.  It is the sole source of Internet connectivity here.  Yesterday as I was getting ready to write, my phone shut down completely.  It would not even react to trying to restart…so frustrating!  I fiddled for a few minutes, wrote some notes for the blog that wasn’t, and went about my day, which was one of heavy physical outdoor labor.  By the time I was done and I came back to my home office to see if my phone had repaired itself, it had, I was too exhausted to do anything more than shut everything down and hope for a better start today.

One of the blogs I follow, Health Demystified, comments in part on our striving to be more efficient.  I have used the concept of efficiency in my daily activities to try to do more in the same amount of time.  Never go upstairs without taking something that needs to go up and vice versa.  When I started to wear the FitBit tracker I realized that I was saving time and saving steps but to the detriment of my overall health and fitness.  Keeping those trips up and down the stairs to a minimum, trying to do every task with the fewest trips to gather supplies, seemed the best way to accomplish the task related goals I had set.  Suddenly, aided by the awareness the FitBit gave me, I was looking at not bringing a tool I needed to the location I was working as an opportunity to add more steps to my daily total instead of berating myself for forgetfulness.  I have not become obsessed with my step count and activity level, but it has added a layer of mindfulness that I did not have before.

There can be amazing benefits from technology used wisely and with restraint.  It is like so many other things in life; just because “some” is good does not make “a lot” better.  I can read about the thoughts and ideas of people in places I may never visit, I can share my ideas with strangers I will never meet.  I have more information than I could ever process at my fingertips.  The trick is balance; to keep the technology and the devices as tools to learn, to grow, to stay in touch over distances.  One must guard against the over-reliance, the anxiety of being disconnected, the use of technology to replace human exchange.  Used as a tool for awareness, as my FitBit lesson taught me, it is useful in achieving other goals.  Spending hours surfing mindlessly, or feeling compelled to check every connectivity account constantly, moves our devices from the category of tools to that of unhealthy habit.

Even though I was frustrated with my lack of connection yesterday, I was able to set it aside, work hard and accomplish the goals for the day outdoors without giving my temperamental phone another thought.  And missing my first daily post but coming back today to continue where I left off gives me hope that I can stick with this for the long haul even when life and technology get in the way.

It’s A Riot

Of birdsong that is!

Last spring I was so lost in the gray days that seemed to stretch on forever that I would just look outside in the morning, sigh, and prepare for another nothing day.  But choosing happiness, I look out at the gray day, step outside and tune in to the natural world.  The birds are returning at a furious rate and the songs have gone from a symphony to a battle of the bands.  Stepping out on the deck I breathe in the cool mountain air, laugh at the cacophony and allow myself to feel the world around me reawakening.

A benefit of blogging is being able to compose on the computer, rather than in notebooks, which has been my customary practice.  I still keep a journal at hand when I am reading just to jot down quotes or ideas that strike me, but I am able to move to the computer and do the real work here.  As a result I am continuing to refine my workspace and bring together the items that allow my creativity to flow on to paper.  This has been such a fun and exciting process, it keeps me focused on my goals and I look forward to the time I can spend on my projects.

Today is my WordPress class at the library, hopefully I can get some tips on making this blog more interesting and connected with the rest of the blogosphere.  If not, I will run home and sign up for the adult education classes offered this spring.

Words to focus on today: mindfulness, joy, learning