Astonishing!

For those of you who followed my year of writing daily, you know that it was never a personal lifestyle blog. Other than the About Me section, what you found were explorations of thoughts and ideas. That will not change. But since it has been a very long time since that one amazing year, I thought I should bring my previous followers up to date and introduce myself to new readers. More than four years have passed since I last posted to this blog. Four years filled with learning and growth, accomplishments large and small, love and loss, and always, change.

In the intervening years my mother died and I struggled with how to mourn and remember her.  I loved my second hand rescue dog fiercely right up to the moment we held him as he sighed his last and well beyond.  I learned a lot about mental health crises and family dynamics. My life was filled with long stretches of living alone or effectively so. At the same time I became a rather adequate grower and preserver of vegetables and fruits, I grew in confidence building things using power tools and providing for myself with a chainsaw, a wood splitter, and a strong motivation to stay warm through the long Montana winters.

We are all confronted by life in different ways and even in very similar situations our responses vary dramatically. It seems we pay the least attention when most days are very much like the one before and the one to follow, it is only when the phone call comes, or an unexpected knock at the door that we are compelled to pay attention. In many ways I suspect that living a lifestyle closer to nature and self sufficiency demands one’s attention in ways that other ways of living do not. It is unwise to ignore the incoming storm, or the voracious garden pests, when you have come to depend on wood for warmth and the bounty of your labor for food. It is a little harder to drift through the days, forethought and planning for basics tends to focus one’s attention in ways that a day planner filled with appointments does not.

And then, it what seemed like a frozen moment in time, we sold our home and moved to a townhouse in suburban Connecticut. The last six months I have been floundering  in unfamiliar waters. I was born, raised, and have lived in the West. Whether it was in a suburb or our mountain home, it was the West. In my short experience the East Coast is startlingly different. There is no doubt in my mind that I will ever be anything other than a woman of the West trying to figure out how to make the best of this radical change.

Suddenly there are no attention grabbing demands. The days bleed together and the picture of my life is blurred and uncertain. I am yet again confronted with trying to imagine myself in this latest iteration and wondering how at an age where many are deeply settled and enjoying the investments made in home, friendships, and family, I am rootless and tumbling yet again. Perhaps that is the only way I grow, rip the roots out and begin again. I am an annual in a world of perennials.

We each have our constants though, even if we lose sight for awhile. In my life it is words.  Whether written or spoken, by myself or others, words continue to fascinate and engage me. Word play, word games, simple stories or complex tales, I can give myself over for hours on end. And there at last and again I find the seed to start in this new garden. Join me as I return to exploring ideas and inspirations. As always I appreciate your feedback and look forward to reading  your work as well.

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!

Doin’ Nothin’

There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” ~ Calvin to Hobbes ~ Bill Watterson

Some days it feels so good to put the to-do list away and take time to do nothing in particular.  Of course we still breathe and eat and sleep, so we aren’t actually doing nothing, but the delicious extravagance of unscheduled time is a luxury many do not often allow themselves.  We feel the need to be doing something, anything, that we can look back at and say, I crossed that item off my list.  As we go-go-go we then impose that on our over-booked children as well.  How many times has your child had to choose between one activity and another because there just wasn’t enough time to fit everything in?

Teaching our children the art of appreciating down time, simply sitting and observing and taking in the world around them.  A trip to the park that does not involve soccer, or elaborate preparations; just a walk down the block to swing or not, to mosey rather than hurry, to just slow the pace to know how that feels.  We owe it to our children to teach them the value of quiet that does not involve study, but just the simplicity of being.

At each stage of life these moments of doing nothing seem hard to find.  But in the end, will it matter if the floor was swept 1000 times or 1000 and one?  One can always find something to do, but it may also be an excuse to avoid paying attention to the quiet.  Discovering the inner peace that comes with mindfulness and the sheer joy that comes from free spontaneous play are gifts we give our children when we allow them to do nothing at all.  And in that nothing grows imagination, observation, love of the natural world and the ability to be self- entertaining.

We all deserve our down-time, our doing nothing moments. Breathe and jump in a pile of leaves.

Hello world!

I plan to use this space to create a journal of my life in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, but more importantly to put out some essays that have been languishing in notebooks or making brief but not thoroughly fleshed out appearances in my daily thoughts and conversations.  Stand by for a little of this and a little of that!