Tag Archives: balance

speechless

I imagined starting off this post with all the reasons excuses I haven’t been writing. My computer broke. I’ve been crocheting. I have more. If you’re interested, just let me know. But I highly suspect you aren’t.

The truth is, I’m speechless. At a time when I feel like I should most find my voice, I’m embarrassingly mute. It’s not that I’m disconnected; quite the opposite. I’ve become a news junkie. I go to bed at night wearing wireless earbuds and wake up in the morning wondering what I missed after I fell asleep with them in. It’s that bad.

I’ve always maintained that I can’t change what goes on in the vast world, and so I’m just going to pay attention to those things that I can change. Someone’s day. My outlook. A corner of the garden. That worked for me because I believed, and still do, that the majority of people in the world are good. I believed things would all work out in the end because good conquers evil most of the time.

So now I’m a news junkie and I can’t claim blissful ignorance anymore. I understand that the good majority is poor, and that money buys the world. And what does one do when her voice is small and peaceful in a world that is screaming injustice at the top of its lungs?

I became speechless.

It’s not that I have nothing to say. It’s just that there are others saying it so well and so loud with all the best words. (That’s funny, right?) I can’t compete. Nor should I. Just because I have opinions on the news doesn’t mean I ought to write about it. That’s like somebody who admires and critiques art feeling guilty for not painting.

In the words of one of my favorite millenials, I need to do me. And if my voice is small and peaceful and speaks of wholeness, balance and love, there’s room for it. And maybe someone will hear it and smile. Because if all I do today is make someone smile, that’s enough.

I’ll never rid the world of injustice, prevail over all evil, or move millions to march. But I am enough. For that one person who just needed a hug or a smile or to be seen, I am enough.

So maybe you’ll be hearing more of me again. But you may need to take out your earbuds and listen closely over the roar of the protesters.

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So proud of the women my daughters have become. They love deeply. They think critically. And on this day we became not just mother and daughters, but women standing as one with millions across the globe against injustice, fear, hatred, and bullshit.

Peace . . .


What’s a Hugelkultur?

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!
–Sitting Bull

I’m keen on experimenting in the garden.  My friend Mary says I’m a horticulturist.  I like that thought, but I’m not sure I’d use that word to describe myself.  Maybe just a goofy plant lady who gets bored seeding in straight lines.

Last fall I planted eight garlic cloves for the first time.  In their place, eight tender green shoots reach up through the otherwise neglected soil.  There is something about coaxing nature that satisfies me.  One year I tested straw bale gardening.  If I can find some good bales, I’ll try it again.  I’d like to give keyhole gardening a shot in the front yard.  The one thing I can’t grow is grass, but grass is on the way out anyway.

I’m just ahead of the curve.

My yard could also use a few rain gardens.  I live in the middle of a big hill and there is an underground river that would like to flow right through the middle of my basement.

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Bubba helped me fix the drainage.

Bubba helped me fix the drainage so we no longer see any water in the house.  But here’s the deal.  If I and all my neighbors up the hill would do our best to keep our water in our own yard, fewer homes would have drainage issues.

The old adage is to divert the water away from the house.  This is sound advice, but to most homeowners this means draining it from the yard and eventually to the street where it flows freely through underground systems to our natural waterways, fertilizer and all.  We now know this has harmful effects on both the environment and those of us who live in it.

When I moved into my home, it was April.  After some unusually long hard rains, I realized I was now the proud owner of lakefront property and a couple of ducks.  My first instinct was to dig a little trench on the downhill side of the yard and let it all drain away.  That worked great.  This was the year of the foreclosure, and the houses on either side of me were vacant.  The growing pond below me was a great solution.

Then the house uphill from me sold.  A builder came in to flip the house.  He had no interest in neighborliness, only profit.  He used my water hose without asking and parked his trucks in front of my driveway before I had to leave for work.  He pointed rain spouts right at my house, and all of the pavement drained my way.  A call to the city resolved nothing.  After the first good rain, there was a river through my basement, the garage, and the backyard.  The little trench I dug out to drain the yard was quickly eroding and becoming a waterfall.

What’s more, I now had a neighbor downhill from me too, and I was feeling really guilty about draining into his backyard.  But it wasn’t just his yard.  Mentally, I mapped the route the water on my property had taken.  Twenty houses uphill were all emptying their run-off downhill.  Once it hit my yard, it went on to reach other basements, garages, the sewer and eventually our waterways.

Wishing the uphill properties wouldn’t drain into my yard wasn’t enough.  I was a neighbor to those below me.  A change had to occur somewhere with someone.  And that was when I decided it might as well be me.

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Mandi Bunny with an i

I stopped using chemical fertilizer and pesticides.  What used to embarrass me, is now an emblem of pride.  My dandelions feed the pollinators in early spring when other foods are hard to find.  I also have a rabbit who loves for me to forage the chemical-free greens for her breakfast.  As the gardens take over the lawn, maybe someday I can even get rid of my gas-powered lawn mower.

I filled in the drainage trench.  Even if it means living lakefront once a year, I want to keep the water that comes into my yard from leaving my yard.  If we all thought that way it would be an easier task.  And we would be better stewards of our neighborhoods, cities, and the planet.

I built a hugelkultur.  A hugelwhat?

A hugelkultur.  There are right and wrong ways to say it.  I say it hoogle coolter.  That, I believe, is the wrong way, but I’m sticking with it.

I suppose there are also right and wrong ways to do it, and things to plant in it the first or succeeding years.  As I am a dubbed horticulturist and stubbornly self-sufficient, I will learn as I go.

The word hugelkultur translates to the term hill culture.  Typically, a hugelkultur is a raised bed with an inner filling of rotting wood and other composting materials.  I highly suggest, if you have more than a bizarre interest in the word hugelkultur, you do your own research, and not use my trial as your reference.

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Here, the small impression is retaining some of the spring run-off that would normally run quickly through my yard.

Last fall I scooped out some earth to create an indent that will eventually become a rain garden.  The sod and dirt, along with dead wood, was piled on the down side of the indent as a type of dam for heavy rains or spring thaws.  The dam doubles as a raised bed with fertile, moisture-retaining compost inside.

I’ll plant the rain garden this year, making it larger after seeing how well it performed this spring.  Once I add soil and prepare the hugelkultur for planting, I’ll share more photos and you can all watch from your armchairs without getting dirt under your nails.

The hard part will be keeping the dog off of it.  The hugelkultur is in the direct line of Frisbee flight, and you may remember my past challenges with that.

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Peace . . .


The Gift of Now

"Seize the day" (Horace, Odes) Franç...

“Seize the day” (Horace, Odes)                                                  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like most parents, I recorded every first of my children’s early years.  There are pictures of first trips to Grandma’s, first steps, first solid food, even taking their first poop in the toilet.  A post by Emily at The Waiting, reminded me how easy it is for the lasts to slip by unnoticed.

Do you remember the last time you were picked up and cuddled?  I have four children, and found myself searching the dark corners of my memory for any recollection of the last time I lifted each of them into my arms.  There is none.

We acknowledge the achievements, the going-forwards, the milestones of where we are headed and not so much where we have been.  Maybe it’s because we don’t appreciate the significance of what we leave behind until it’s gone.  Or maybe it’s because we just never realize it’s the last time . . . until it is.

Firsts, like lasts, are not eloquent or refined.  The last step we take will most likely be much like the first — feeble and clumsy.  Each brings with it a demonstration of progress.  But one is a beginning and one is an end.  One is noted and one is forgotten.

Humans, unlike animals, carry the burden of understanding time.  We romanticize a past we strain to remember.  We grieve its loss.  The future is hope and wonder, even amidst uncertainty and trepidation.

Between the first and the last is the present.  It is the center.  The now.  We forget to stop and live in this moment.  And this one.  And this one.  Each tick of the clock is another gone by.  The present moment is as steadfast as time is fleeting.  Always here, for better or for worse.

A moment in the present is not reliant on memory, nor hope, nor wonder, nor dreams.  There is no uncertainty or vagueness.  The instant you are in right now is as real as anything is ever going to be.

If we could know the last time we were picked up, or rode in a pedal car, or fit in the shopping cart seat, that it was our last, would we have enjoyed it more?  Would we have whined less?  Would we have grieved the loss?

Probably not.  Children don’t perceive the elapsing of time.  A baby lives in a constant state of “now,” his only concern if he is hungry, wet, or sleepy.  Eventually, he will understand time by experiencing it — what is a minute, an hour, a year?

Maybe this is what allows children to move forward at the speed of light.  If they knew all the wonderful things they leave behind — naps, strollers, wagons, wearing pajamas in the middle of the day and yes, being lifted high above someone’s head — maybe they would want to stay children forever.  Maybe the lack of grief is what allows them to grow.

. . . And maybe our grief of the past is a gift we are given that allows us to relish the present.  It permits us to cuddle their round little bodies one more minute, or stop and watch them as they nap, or slip into their world of imagination, or pick them up just once more before they are too heavy and we too weak . . .

Peace . . .


A Sharp Turn in Life

"Always fasten safety belt" - NARA -...

“Always fasten safety belt” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a kid, we never buckled up.  The cars were big, and the seats were hard and flat.  If the driver took a sharp turn, we’d slide across the back seat until we pressed up against another passenger and flattened them to the door.  Cloverleaf turns were the best because they went on forever, and you just couldn’t right yourself.

Sometimes life is like that.  I’ve taken a big turn, and I’m giggling.  It’s exciting and fun, but I’m pressed up against the side of the car and I can’t seem to right myself.  In the chaos, my purse tipped over and all my belongings are strewn across the floor.

If you’re not a woman or don’t carry a purse, you have no idea what kind of catastrophe it is to have it empty on the floor of a car.  There are cosmetics, credit cards, pills, scraps of paper, keys, and candy that will melt if lost and forgotten under the seat.  This is how my life feels.  It is an upside down purse on the bottom of a car, careening around a cloverleaf off of Interstate 94.  And I’m smooshed against the window giggling so hard I’m in danger of peeing my pants.

I know you were wondering why I hadn’t posted in a while . . .  You were, right?

The car is finally starting to come out of its turn and I’m thinking about how to put my purse back together without stepping on any of it first.  I chose to write here, because it seems to clear my head.  It’s some type of conscious meditation, connecting brain fibers, inducing deep breath.  It feels familiar, like soil under bare feet.

I see that there are two ways to go with this.  I can pick up the most important things first — the credit cards and pills — or toss the scraps of meaningless papers out the window.

No, I don’t litter in real life.  This is all metaphorically speaking.  Try to stay with me, here.

Isn’t there some saying about swallowing your biggest frog first?  Yuck.  It reminds me of a nightmare I once had.  I’m going to pick up my credit cards and pills first, which will make the rest seem like tadpoles.  Gross.

So here’s the plan.  It’s not etched in stone, but the internet is close.

  1. Pick up the credit cards.  I’m going to pay my bills before I forget them and they become overdue.  While I’m doing that, I can check my bank balances.  I’ll put all the tax documents in one obvious annoying place.
  2. Chase down the pills.  Take a walk.  It’s a beautiful day — the sun is shining and the dog is eager.  The fresh air is the medicine I need to complete the rest.
  3. Put the cosmetics back in the case.  Clean myself up — get dressed, from my makeup to my shoes, to gear up for the rest of the day.
  4. Throw out the scraps of paper.  Clutter is caving in on me.  I still have Christmas stuff out for God’s sake!  I’m going to pick up, tidy up, clear out, and throw away!
  5. Pick up my pocket calendar.  I’m pretty sure my son’s birthday was this week.  What was it he requested?  Vegetarian lasagna . . .
  6. Find my keys.  There are errands to run.  Groceries need buying — soy sausage, noodles, sauce, maybe cupcakes . . .
  7. Fish out that bit of chocolate under the seat.  Lastly, I’m going to treat myself.  Maybe I’ll watch a movie with popcorn or find a pair of shoes at the mall.

Another fun thing I remember about the old bench seats is a sharp turn followed by one in the other direction.  I never knew if Mom or Dad did it just to hear us laugh, but sliding from one side of the car to the other was a thrill I will never forget.

One best left to memory, and not encountered in metaphor!

Nowadays we have seat belts, helmets, shin guards, face masks, and anti-lock brakes meant to suck the fun out of everything keep us safe and extend our lives.  When they come up with one for the sharp turns in life, let me know, will ya?

Peace . . .


Are You Living a Life of Balance or Control?

 

Balance is a condition in which an object is subject to equal forces or weights, enabling it to remain steady.  The world is in constant flux.  Nature is in an endless state of rebalancing itself.  Humans, being more of nature than we are willing to admit, are drawn to the never-ending endeavor to balance.

Chances are, in the past twenty-four hours you have thought about balancing at least three the following:

  • Workload vs. Personal Time

    Yin and yang stones

    Yin and yang stones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Relationships vs. Solitude
  • Spending vs. Saving
  • Weight Gain vs. Weight Loss
  • Sleep vs. Wake
  • Exercise vs. Rest
  • Perfection vs. Acceptance
  • Beauty vs. Function
  • Work vs. Play

Since the beginning of time, we have pontificated the meaning of balance.  Think yin and yang, buddhism and dualism.  The ancient Greeks, Chinese, and the Aztecs all had great philosophers of balance.  Give the word balance a go in your search engine, and you will see that nothing has changed in over two thousand years.  Humankind still seeks the point of balance.

The problem with being human, is that we not only strive for a thing, we believe we can conquer it.  We seek to achieve balance, as if it is something that is owned and kept.  However, balance is only present for the fleeting moment between too much and too little; on the border between light and dark.  The point of balance is so fragile that a soft breeze or speck of dust can overcome it.

A world with true balance would be one without wind or heat or rain.  The cost of balance is monotony.

Life is not meant to be balanced.  In our struggle to own balance, we have moved away from the natural ebb and flow of equilibrium.  We have shifted toward a desire to rigidly control it.  We believe that if only we could control everything (see the above list), existence would be a breeze.  In a balanced life, we are prepared for any situation, there is time for all our duties and passions.  We are healthy, happy, financially secure, and love what we do for a living.   The natural world is not one of total control.  It is fluid, in motion, swinging one way and then the next.

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot "It's a ...

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot “It’s a Small World”, 1957. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spent too many years trying to devise the perfect menu plan, budget, schedule, diet.  I tried to control the motion around me.  Each day was a new chance and every bedtime was another failure.  Friends hear me say that June Cleaver was my idol, and we joke about that, but it was real.  Many of my best years were lived trying to be a fictional character in a time period that no longer existed.  The time with my children — the laughs, what I learned, the privilege — I wouldn’t trade for anything on earth.  If only I hadn’t felt such a need to control it all . . .

While the cost of perfect balance is monotony, the cost of maintaining control is turmoil.  A person believing he can achieve balance is one fighting against the natural movement around them.  He is trying to stand still in the surf or stop the wind from destroying a house of cards.  It is not the peaceful existence he had hoped for at all.

I am learning to enjoy a life of natural balance — shifting when the tide rolls in, regrowing after the fire dies out, appreciating the warmth of the sun before nightfall . . . because I cannot tell the sun when it is time to set.

I have found life is more peaceful this way.  Sure I am still drawn to making the compulsive list or two.  They can be found tucked in backs of drawers or folded between the pages of books.  And so I allow myself these occasional fits of contemplation, pen in hand, eventually admitting that the balance is in the imperfection.

Peace . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Like having forgotten why you went in . . .

Gray PrairieIt was like walking into a room having forgotten why you went in.  Life gets like that sometimes.  You come to a place and all you see ahead of you is work, pain, and decline.  Of course there would be good days, moments, funny stories.  But there comes a point where colors are just words and everything looks grey.

Then one day I emailed a story to a friend.  She really enjoyed it and asked if she could post it on her blog.  She wondered if I had ever considered blogging.  She thought I might be good at it.  Maybe it was just the lure of something new, but I felt a thing I hadn’t felt for much too long.  I felt excitement.

It’s been almost a year, which seems like a good time to reminisce, doesn’t it?  That first post was frightening, and I’m not sure it’s gotten much easier.  I put a little bit of myself out there on the internet every week, and wait to see if anyone else relates.  The curious thing is that every week someone does.

Most of my posts include images.  I dream in color, and to post without it would be deceiving.  Whether I am using my Nikon Coolpix S220 or my Motorola Droid Razr, I like to illustrate my own story if I am able.  Toting a camera has caused me to start looking for the things I’d forgotten were there.

Humans crave surprises.  It’s what makes our heart soar when a melody changes key.  It’s why we hop on a haunted hay ride.  It’s why the best films don’t end like you thought they would.  As I looked through my lens, wonderful surprises came into focus in the most routine of places.

There are friends I have met along the way.  And I remind myself they are not real friends, but friends who know me only through what I share on the pages.  Yet, when one of them shares some humor, I laugh.  When one hurts, I shed tears.  When there is bad news, I worry.  If there is another definition of friendship, I do not know it.

Even more curious is this relationship I’ve reignited with myself.  Like taking a step onto the yellow brick road, color seeped into ordinary things.  Everyday tasks became metaphors.  It took me only minutes to come up with the tag-line, “Seeking all things peaceful, balanced, whole and precious,” after deciding I needed one.  Of course!  It was not that these things did not exist.  It was that I had failed to keep looking for them.

And this is the moment, after having forgotten, that I remembered why I had gone into the room.

Peace . . .


Lost and Found

latteFinding a place to sit, I balanced my chai tea latte toward the table.  I flung my bag on the booth, slid my coat off my shoulders.  A deep breath relaxed me as I lifted the hot drink.  Its warmth radiated through my chest as if someone had laid a shawl over my shoulders.

There was too much on my mind.  The plan was to upload everything from my brain onto paper.  Another deep breath as I opened my bag to dig out my notebook and pen.  I fished in one side, then the other.  Fruitlessly, I repeated the search until I finally resigned myself to having forgotten them.

No matter, I would pull out my phone and jot down a few tasks on a checklist.  Neither side pockets nor inner compartments revealed my phone.  Here I was, for the single purpose of organizing my thoughts in a peaceful place, and I had no tools with which to do it.  I looked at my latte.  I could ask for a to-go cup, go home for my notebook and return.  I could go home and try to recreate the atmosphere there.  I looked at my latte again.

After one more breath, I decided to take this rare opportunity to just . . . be.

Agitation fought relaxation.   Thoughts would pop into my mind, my head would jerk, as if by reflex, looking for my phone to text, tweet, or post it.  Deep breath . . . there is nowhere but here.  There is no time but now.

Slowly, my surroundings came into focus.  The child at the neighboring table being prodded to eat more quickly.  The colors of the walls.  The fading light outside.  Could it be this was all here just moments ago?  My head jerked to text, tweet, or post my thought.  Deep breath . . . nowhere but here.

A baby cried, out of view, but not out of earshot.  The murmur of the people.  The music too soft to notice unless the tables are empty.  How strange to think I was probably the only one hearing it.  I smiled to myself.  No where but here.  No time but now.

I was practicing mindfulness.  Engaging my senses one by one.  Releasing my grasp on the past and future.

I love my gadgets.  My smartphone is my umbilical cord to the world.  But in the process of becoming more connected, I recognized had become disconnected.  In the process of managing more tasks, I had become mindless.  I am, at times, blind and deaf to the life that surrounds me.

While I won’t be discarding my gadgets any time soon, I definitely learned from this experience.  I need to be mindful, not only of the present, but of those times when I have gotten lost; distracted by places in which I don’t reside, worrying about things that don’t exist, speaking to people who aren’t there.

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You may also be interested in these articles:

Hold Onto Your Pants:  this one goes out to the one i love . . . 

grevilleacorner:  Bargaining with life

Beauty and the Borderline:  Mindfulness: Notice Your Surroundings


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