Taking Care of Ourselves

20160827_132319

I tend to think of myself as a fairly unruffled person. Nine times out of ten, when I say something doesn’t matter or isn’t important it actually isn’t, in the sense of rocking my world or my psyche or my mood or even my day. I’m inclined to give things that disturb me their fifteen minutes of fame in my awareness, then I want to put them down and move on. Sometimes I’m surprised when an issue continues to habitate my mental space and I need to take a deeper look to get it sorted out.

Like everyone, there are things that instantly piss me off and things that can sit and simmer for a long time but usually a few minutes to a couple of days is all I’m willing to invest. I really do make a conscious effort not to dwell, dredge, or feed the negative energies. That said, neither am I an overwhelmingly joyful person. I may be missing the boat, but my personal happy space floats on the bay of calm contentment. Please don’t mistake that for “settling.”

I believe joy is something that comes to us in moments and afterwards we live in the glow of it for a while until either the next joyful moment – or trauma – shows up.  It’s in the glow that we find space to catch our breath and relax and rejuvenate and my happiness lives in the quiet peace of knowing everything’s OK for a while. It’s there that I’m able to take care of myself. I write a little and knit a little and watch the endless shows that nature provides. I just saw a fluttering of yellow leaves puffed out of the tree line by a wayward breeze. The other morning I felt the seasons begin to shift. I give myself this time, and to me it’s sacred.

I do other things for myself. I see a chiropractor now and then. I try to eat well and take my vitamins. I try to recognize my strengths and limitations, but mostly I try to live in that balanced zone between being too busy and doing nothing at all; between over-the-top excitement and the depths of despair. My happiness is that place where I’m able to move through my days with a graceful serenity and it happens quite often.  It happens at work when I can do my job at a steady pace without being crowded. It happens when I make good food choices so that I’m not being bullied by cellular gastronomy pushing and pulling me in a thousand directions and moods. It happens when I’ve gotten enough rest and can stay clear on my boundaries and limits. It happens when I give myself enough time to ponder the issues and events that are going on around me.

Does anybody do that anymore? Ponder?  In our world of designer tea and guided meditations, does anyone ever take the time to just sit and think about something to discover how they actually feel about it?  Here’s my thought: we (I) take hands full of pills – prescriptions, vitamins, herbs and supplements – and they are fabulous aides to our health and well-being, but how often do we Just. Take. Time?  Time to smell the roses. Time to dance. Time to love, to breath, to laugh, to sleep.  Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that to everything there is a season and a time. It’s a gift we shouldn’t refuse.

I’m an advocate of time. Can’t afford it?  Don’t have it? Can’t find it?  I get that. It’s hard and usualy there isn’t enough, but it’s out there and sometimes the cost of a little time is a lot less than the cost of doctors, therapists and yes – even suppliments.  I know there are a million ways to approach this whole discussion, but I believe, with my whole heart, that we might discover that a little bit of time here and there is almost as good as chicken soup.

Can you find a few extra minutes in your day and if you do, can you keep from filling them up? Can you find room to take a breath? I hope so and I hope you find healing in those moments of quiet.

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Prayer

20160818_054917

I woke up early this morning and this moon is what I saw. But now I wish for a better camera because this moon was a soft orange color and the sky had a gentle glow to it.  The sun hadn’t peeked over the edge yet and I quietly watched the moon dip slowly downwards. It was beautiful. I felt Autumn for just a moment.

20160818_061820

A few minutes later it looked like this, and I understood the reason for the tornado hole left in the tree line.

20160818_064620_001 Gradually the light increased and the moon faded away in the morning fog and I thought, “Yes. Thank You.”

 

Free Time

I’ve been off work this week taking a lovely little “stay-cation.”  You know those – days off where you just stay home and relax.  I’ve been napping and reading and watching my birds and it’s been very nice and very unremarkable. Just the way I like it. I gave some serious thought to trekking off to somewhere new and exciting but the truth is, it’s just too hot. It’s too hot here and it’s too hot just about anywhere I could get to in the few days allotted me, so, for now, I’ve been pottering about at home.

I finally finished knitting the green socks and have made significant headway on another pair. (Plain vanilla, 3 X 3 rib on cuff, for my knitting friends out there.)

20160817_17100120160817_171039

I vacuumed. A lot. (ok – well maybe that hasn’t been the best part…….)

I’m watching the bird feeders. It’s the time of year when all the Spring babies have fledged (left the nest) and are starting to feed on their own. The feeders are full of these gangly, clumsy, awkward teenagers. Bad hair, bad tempers and no sense of style.  Right now most of them are molting and the poor things look absolutely ragged. For those of you that have been here before, you know that my bird pictures are compromised by having to be taken through a screen door, but even with that I think you can see what a fluffy, drooping mess these little guys are at the moment.  The little ugly ducklings waiting to turn into beautiful swans. I remember that stage. Do you?  If we can get through the galaxy all the way to Mars, couldn’t there be a better way to get through puberty and 7th grade?

This is a sparrow and a cardinal.  The little sparrow sat there for a long time before slowly tipping forward till his head bumped into the wire mesh of the feeder. I swear he just dozed off. The cardinal is molting and the most red on him is his beak. Maybe he’s a she. It’s hard to tell at this stage.

Speaking of 7th grade, school started here today. Sure seems early to me.  Like many of you, I remember when school started the day after Labor Day and ended the first week of June. Of course, I mostly went to school in Florida where we didn’t have to consider snow days. My first four years of school were in northern Illinois, and I don’t remember snow days there, either – but I was shorter then.

One thing that’s been fun has been having time to run errands and actually browse around a little bit. In my real, non-vacation life I function in “run-in-run-out” mode. Get the task done and move on to the next one, right? It’s nice to have time for a leisurely stroll up and down isles even if it is just the grocery store.

I head back to work on Friday – just in time for the weekend. Didn’t I plan that well?  This is what happens when you have to use those vacation days before time runs out. As I said, it’s been remarkably unremarkable, but sometimes that’s just what we need to regroup our energies, isn’t it?

What would you do with your days off? Are you an adventurer? Are you a napper? Are you a catcher-upper?  What is your idea of vacation heaven?

Opening the Door Just a Little

20160410_080418I was talking to a friend recently about the difficulty of a very private person posting on public media. Well – not exactly that, but that was the point.  I was saying that one of the things I love best about blogs is feeling like I’m learning to know someone when they are brave enough to let the public a few steps into their private lives. Not in a creepy way, but in a sharing way. I admire the people who can post about their family and both the good and the messy parts figuratively and literally. I like being able to keep up with old friends and some distant family because they share pieces of their day-to-day life on Facebook. Twitter is always up for opinions and the various photography sites are amazing as both art and visual journaling.  Kudos and appreciation to all who manage to do it so well.

On the other hand, the question is how to keep up when this kind of intimacy is taking steps far outside all comfort zones.  Is it brave? Is it needy? Is it giving in to all kinds of narcissism?  Or is it, as I hope, simply a means of reaching out and sharing parts of ourselves and our ideas that might ring true to someone?

I’ve been reading a lot of bloggers lately who seem to think blogging has seen it’s day and is on the way out – being overtaken by Instagram or the quicker and easier Twitter and Facebook.  Maybe. Maybe not. I still seem to be able to find blogs on just about any subject I’m interested in.  I happen to radiate towards the subjects of knitting, writing and life journeys. Maybe because I’m not very good at it, I like to read about people who grab the bull by the horns and get on with things.  I like to see photos of homes and gardens and read about decorating or remodeling adventures. Mostly, I like to feel that someone is being open and honest and willing to take a chance on knowing new people.

I’m not very good at that either.

When I started this blog, my first thought was “Who cares what you think?”  My second thought was “Don’t whine!”  Third only to those was the idea that I’ve actually done some interesting things in my life and maybe that would resonate with someone – but not if I don’t open up and share a little bit more. Right?  For instance, did you know I have three grown daughters? Did you know that I’ve driven cross country several times by myself? Did you know that one of my favorite wishes for most of my life has been to do a driving tour of England, Scotland and Wales?   No. Of course not. I never told you that.  But NOW you do and maybe it’s a start.

I would love to continue the conversation. What do you think?

High Wind and Hot Spots

FB_IMG_1470193638209This is the fire just outside of Hamilton, Montana near where I used to live.   It blew up in a matter of minutes, the way forest fires do, and as far as I can find out has already destroyed 14 homes and seven thousand acres of forest land.

I was still in Montana in 2000 and watched as fires surrounded us. The Bitterroot Valley is a beautiful area in western Montana that follows the Bitterroot River north along the western-most edge of the state with mountains on both sides. Living there gave the impression of living in a long narrow bowl, so when the fires took off that year it was like the rim of the bowl burning.

Terrible and interesting things happen when you’re near a forest fire.  That year, with fires all around, the worst thing was that the heat and flames actually sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the valley like a chimney. The smoke left us breathing a lot of carbon monoxide so we were all poisoned just a little bit, not to mention the obvious issues of eye and lung irritation.  Advisories at the time suggested people with heart or lung issues might want to leave the valley for a while if they could. On the worst days doors and windows were shut against the heat and smoke and you could barely see the sun.

Most of us went about our business as usual, tending to work and home matters – but many people’s lives were changed forever as homes and property were burned to the ground. In the southern end of the valley the fires were so enormous and the heat so intense that the ground was actually sterilized.

Many of us did what we could to support the army of firefighters and smoke jumpers that came to us from all over the world. There was a small town of tents set up for several weeks and the sound of the helicopters over the river and lakes was a constant.  My own property was on the river and just a few hundred yards south was a wide deep stretch that was perfect to fill the huge bags with water to be dropped over hot spots.

Eventually the fires settled down or moved further away from our town and in the end the fire was measured in square miles instead of acres. It stretched 80 miles up the valley from below Sula all the way to Missoula.  That winter was a time of clean-up for those who lost homes and property and a time of grateful prayers for those of us who didn’t.

The Bitterroot Mountains are a long stretch running north and south and ribbed with canyon after canyon. In the spring the high altitude snow melts with the rain and each canyon has its own river or stream that flows down into the main artery of the Bitterroot River. That Spring the runoff took with it whole sides of mountains and hills since there were no trees or undergrowth left to hold the soil. Several people who escaped property loss from the actual fires lost everything anyway to mudslides, and all that ash flowing into the river poisoned the water.  You know how you make lye soap by running water through wood ash?  Same idea. Later in the Spring things had settled down and a bit of new growth came, and with it the mushrooms.  The next year after a forest fire the ground is prime for morel mushrooms – a little gift after the ordeal.

Fires happen every year in the west and they are never the same from year to year – and yet, they are. This one will cause no less fear or concern or damage.  The high altitude dry air and dry land are tinder to a bolt of lightning or a tossed out cigarette or a careless campfire. Lightning strikes are a natural occurrence, but the fires caused by carelessness are heartbreaking in every way. I have a deep respect for the men and women who face these monster fires and the chances they take. I also have a deep respect for the fires. There is no rage like that of a firestorm swallowing an entire mountain in a matter of minutes.

This week my friends and neighbors in Montana are in my prayers. If you think about it, maybe you could keep them in yours too.

Summer Sky

When I drove home from work last night the sky looked like this through my windshield:20160727_125923

Looks like something serious ought to come out of that, doesn’t it? It rained a little and thundered a little, then went away.

I love the sky here. Sometimes it’s scary but it’s never dull. You should know this about me – I love a sky like this. I love the interest of it and the power in it. I love the movement and color and energy of a storm. Well, maybe not a tornado, but definitely thunderstorms. I like crystal clear blue skies in the winter – in the mountains when it’s cold.  I like rainbows (who doesn’t?) and sunsets (who doesn’t?) and skies filled with soaring birds.  I like con-trails leading away to new places and adventures.

I’ve seen amazing things in the skies. More than once I’ve seen daylight meteors fall all the way to the ground – one even exploded when it hit in a remote part of Montana.  I’ve watched the meteor showers in August and the Northern Lights dance in undulating streaks.  I’ve watched the Blue Angels at air shows and watched fireworks over Washington DC.  I’ve seen lightning in the mountains that started forest fires and lightning in a city that danced off the giant power lines and blew up the transformers. I’ve seen eagles and falcons and hawks float on high currents and songbirds find their way in lower altitudes. I’ve watched snowflakes drift both gently and frantically through frosty air. I’ve seen the sky pierced by tall mountains and expand to the bottom of the horizon over oceans and plains. From the sky itself I’ve seen the tops of clouds and the last rays of a sunset over a darkened landscape. In the end all I can say is that it’s worth looking UP.

I hope your sky holds something special for you today!

 

Knitting Mojo

20160724_082055I’ve been working on this pair of socks for the last couple of months. I’m getting close now, half way through the gusset of the second sock and hopefully it won’t take another month to get it finished. I’m not actually sure what the hold up is but as any long-time knitter will tell you, there are times when the mojo just goes on vacation for a while.  Mine seems to be taking an extended leave of absence, because I think it’s been a year since I knit anything significant. Anyway, it’s much too hot right now to worry about it very much.I’ve sent a couple sets of baby booties out into the world, and on a whim one day started a little sweater, but I don’t think I have enough yarn to finish it, and I may have to rip it back quite a bit to be re-proportioned.

20160724_10441320160724_082019

I think what’s happened is that I vowed to bring my yarn stash down to fit in one box, which means I need to get cracking and knit up a few skeins before I let myself start drooling over new yarn again.  If you’re a knitter, you know how it is when you go to the yarn shop and the fibers start calling out to you and randomly jump into your basket and trick you into buying them and taking them home.  They make such beguiling promises, and you know that you just HAVE to adopt them, if for no other reason than to take them out to pet them once in a while. It can be very inspiring.

I actually have some beautiful yarns.20160724_082126  Two long skeins of 100% cashmere lace-weight.  Some BFL crying to be turned into mitts. Silk blends with no purpose whatsoever other than to look beautiful. Alpaca! Merino! More cashmere!  What’s a knitter to do?  What am I to do when I can barely get the socks done?

I think I’ll get all the yarn out and spread it around on the sofa and spare bed and then get the pattern books out and spread them around too.  I bet something will come together and the yarn and I might be back in business.

Or maybe I’ll go make some ice tea and watch a movie and the socks will finish themselves.

What do you think the chances are?