Saving the Wisdom

I think I am writing today to purge my feelings so I beg your forgiveness ahead of time. We are one week away from the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and I find I am going through the classic stages of grief. At first I was stunned. I struggled to believe such a thing was happening. When a friend texted me that the protestors (as we called them then) were storming the capitol, I denied that such a thing was happening, or ever could happen. Then I sat through a series of days where images, like those of 9-11 were burned into my brain, interrupting my sleep, and invading the peace of my days as I struggled to place the events that unfolded into context. Then I grew angry, and I confess I am trying to process that anger now as I watch our leaders bargaining to see who will remain in power. The next stage is depression which I feel is very likely and I hope that stage doesn’t last long. Finally, acceptance. We are not there yet.

As I move through these days I have wished I could be like the birds who flutter cheerfully around the feeders on my deck, blissfully unaware of the turmoil we humans have inflicted upon ourselves. Watching them has been some solace for me. I have walked in the woods and watched the trees who teach me patience gently swaying in air currents far above my head. I have watched the sky clear and become the pale blue of winter, and the watery sun shining down offering its small cheerfulness and warmth. I have been in rebellion in my thoughts, sick of COVID isolation and dreaming of spending time anywhere but here.

And then, I go about my daily round. We are blessed to have animals which need us to care for them and so the hours of my day are arranged around feeding and caring for them in various ways. And as usual the animals are such good teachers. The dogs want fed, walked, brushed and petted. They wake us before dawn each day, joyful to have another day of loving. The cats are imperious dictators, demanding their share of attention and treats, and yet able to curl up peacefully on their mats confident that they will receive their evening meal after a nap. The chickens greet me each morning with soft chatter. They follow me around the coop and the run, hoping for a scatter of sunflower seeds. When I speak to each by name, each cocks a head and looks at me with an inquisitive eye. I watch their interaction in the flock which is much like how humans order their society. A couple are good friends, some really do not like each other, and the oldest limps around still in charge of the flock and getting the respect to which she is due. She is too old to hop on a roost any more yet no matter what the weather, she takes her place at the top of the ramp into the roosting area, ready to protect and defend her flock.

Tonight as I put my chickens to bed for the night, securely locking them in after I gathered a couple of warm brown eggs, I had a thought. I was thinking about how lucky these birds are to be a flock in a backyard where they are fed every day, cared for with love in a clean orderly coop, and locked in securely every night. Even though Buffy is too old to be productive, she is still a valuable member of the flock. Even though Buttercup is at the bottom of the pecking order, in the end she still has a place to roost and her share of food. What if human beings cared for each other like that? What if we could create a society in which each person is valued for the light in their soul, regardless of their place in the pecking order? What if we cared for everyone knowing that each has worth?

Our governor called the first round of vaccine distribution to those eighty years of age or older “Saving the Wisdom.” Think about that. These folks are the elders of our society, and they have a lot of wisdom to share. I am not that old, but I am as David Whyte called “on the threshold of the great disappearance.” What wisdom do I have to share? I certainly hope that I have shared some with my own children who occasionally call me and ask for advice. What wisdom do I have for these days of chaos into which we have entered? I would advise that we stop drawing dividing lines and focus on what brings us all together. Once again, E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. We are all Americans first. Let’s stop the labeling and name calling, and like a feathered flock, work together for the common good.

Last week I lost my dear Uncle David to COVID-19, as the nation rocked with the insurrection. In my grief at his passing, I thought of the loss of this good elder in my life. I thought of how he was slow to speak or give an opinion, thoughtfully considering all sides, a skill we have lost. But when he spoke it was wisdom. I thought of a wise teacher I once had who spoke of a circle of souls, elders, surrounding our planet, guiding it and keeping it safe. I like to think that is so. Our wise ones do not ever leave us, but if we remember their wisdom, it may guide us forward through these tough times.

I leave you with this poem I wrote while feeling sad and hopeful at the same time :

 
 Saving the Wisdom
  
  
 Another wide smile lost,
 another voice silenced.
 And
 as darkness grows across the land
 another bright light fades out
 and passes into memory.
 Not lost, 
 never lost
 behind the veil of death,
 but journeying on
 toward a greater work.
  
 Envision this:
 the souls of wise elders bound together
 to form a band of love
 around a world that looks like it is broken,
 encircling the planet to guide and save it.
  
 Below, we try to straddle the chasm of grief.
 Our aching hearts seeking connection
 found in beauty, laughter, memory and
 steady hearts which hold inner light.
  
 We hold the future by the grace of our actions,
 a tiny seed entrusted to us by these wise elder souls.
 What will grow in this ground
 so well-watered with our salt water tears?
 We place this seed of wisdom in this hallowed ground
 and hope
 that healing will one day take root. 

Winter Solstice

Photo by Simon Berger at Unsplash

As we stand on the threshold of winter, the Winter Solstice has become a time for reflection as the sun appears to stand still on the shortest day/longest night of the year.

I have always felt it ironic that on this day, December 21, the dark, cold season of winter begins at the same time that light returns to our world and daylight hours lengthen. We are held in the sometimes harsh, sometimes nurturing depths of a season which demands that we seek warmth, shelter, rest and reflection while at the same time the light of our common humanity and connection to all beings grows and glows in our inmost core: an outer and inner hearth to which we are called to tend.

We are near the end of what must be one of the darkest years humanity has known in recent times. I recall so clearly the excitement and hope with which I embraced the new year of 2020. The year of perfect vision! I set goals for myself, made a vision board with friends and anticipated celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary with family. I looked forward to a vacation in Maine, and registered for a couple of spiritual retreats.

Before we knew what was actually happening, the COVID-19 pandemic threw the world into chaos and lockdown, racial injustice called us to examine what we had too long chosen to ignore, and an intense and bitter political climate exhausted us. Darkness descended. Death became very close, very possible, very real. We grew used to hovering in the shadows.

As I reflect on 2020, I find that this year has taught me many things. Most importantly to treasure the fleeting gift of life; to let go of what I do not need: business, shopping, meetings, travel, explicit items from the grocery store. And to draw close to what I DO need: walks in nature, silence, animal companionship, the smiling eyes behind a mask of those I love, simple meals, letters from friends, and the music of my husband’s voice. What have you learned? This truly was a year of things becoming clear, and correcting distorted vision.

Our Advent candles

This is the first year we have actually had the time to daily light Advent candles in quiet reflection of the coming winter and light growing in the darkness. We have read daily lessons about how our companion creatures prepare for winter from the book All Creation Waits by Gayle Ross. My chickens molt and grow new feathers so that they can fluff them out as little down layers to trap warmth. They forget their squabbles and huddle together on the roost. The bear and other creatures (including me) put on an extra layer of fat. The painted turtle burrows down into the mud at the bottom of a pond and almost dissolves into its shell. Firefly larvae (glo-worms) are growing and glowing even now deep in the underground awaiting metamorphosis into winged creatures once again.

I have participated in a solstice ritual (via Zoom) where we repeated many names of people who have died this past year in staggering, unbearable numbers. We held their memories in tears and grief. We asked forgiveness for our own faults and failings. We offered up prayers for the healing of our nation, our earth and prayers for the return of goodness, kind speech and unity to our world.

On this most holy of solstices, on this longest night of the year, I hope you pause to grieve, ask forgiveness and whisper a prayer for our world. The light is growing both in our world and in each of us. I leave you with a prayer:

May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night, hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and justice that spans the world.

In the heart of every person on this Earth burns the spark of luminous goodness; in no heart is there total darkness. May we who have celebrated this winter solstice, by our lives and service, by our prayers and love, call forth from one another the light and the love that is hidden in every heart.

Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hayes

Let there be light!

Thanksgiving Thoughts

It has been a long time since I have posted so I have a lot of catching up to do! In this time of staying at home, I have actually had the time to enjoy my chickie girls and really harvest my garden before putting it to bed. I am down to four chickens now, having lost two this summer. I have two young hens, Masie and Daisy Sunshine. They have plenty of energy and it did not take them long to destroy all the grass in their paddock. They are diggers as well so I have to watch my steps to avoid stepping in one of their dust bath holes. Buttercup is a little lost soul. She has lost all her original flock mates and is like a middle child with no real friend to call her own. She wanders around trying to stay away from Masie, who chases her and bullies her. Buffy Orpington who is almost eight years old tries her hardest to keep up with these youngsters. She has a slight limp though which slows her down. She has also taken to napping a lot in the pine chips. She is still the leader in the flock, though, not hesitating to peck Masie on the head when in competition for a choice tidbit. I have recently been allowing the little flock into the garden now that they cannot destroy it. We go out almost every day close to dusk, a time when I hope the hawks have finished hunting. They have a fine time exploring. Buttercup has developed a taste for red fruit, which was always something Henrietta preferred. She discovered tiny little tomatoes on a volunteer plant and even raspberries on my one lone bush. Who knew I would have red raspberries in November! But I did have a few.

Note Buttercup on the left, and Buffy hiding in the asparagus ferns on the right.

As for the garden, I have fallen in love with Juliet tomatoes. Look them up in the seed catalogs which are arriving now. I found seed at Johnny’s. They look like small Romas, but have clusters of tomatoes like cherry tomatoes and so are quite prolific. They also do not have a ton of juice and so are perfect for quick sauces. I made loads of sauce and froze many bags to enjoy this winter. Basil did well too and we made weekly batches of pesto. So bring on the pasta this winter! For once I actually planted short rows of beans so that one picking would work for a meal. I did not freeze many of those. A-n-n-n-d I am proud to say that not even one zucchini went into the compost, although I did give away a few! I even got a nice harvest of little picnic sweet peppers which were so pretty in a blue and white bowl and tasty as toppings for pizza. We still have chard and I have discovered a delicious way to prepare it: Slice the leaves away from the middle stem. Chop the stems up and cook them too if you prefer (I give mine to the chickens). Roll the leaves up and slice them into thin strips with a good knife. In a skillet heat a little olive oil. Pop in a couple cloves of minced garlic and let it just warm up for a few seconds. Add a handful of sliced red peppers (I used those little picnic beauties) and then toss in the chard. Saute till just wilted throughout, and enjoy!

Last Harvest

How are Y’all doing eight months into this pandemic? We are staying pretty close to home. I do miss seeing family. We talk weekly and Facetime some. One time my grandson gave a Zoom piano concert which was so fine. He has become a gifted pianist and plans to pursue this talent in college. I am getting used to the new normal. Oh, there are moments of angst, but largely I have found that my new simpler life suits me just fine. Now that I am not running all over the place to meetings and such, I find I have time to complete tasks, like all summer I actually hung out the laundry on a line. Who knew sheets could smell so fresh! I felt like my own grandmother! I also have learned to knit and am really proud of what I am turning out. I have taken a few retreats via Zoom. I have found that the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. has some fabulous events online. Check it out, friends! The latest one which I attended via Zoom was an Art as Spiritual Practice workshop. I painted this holly wreath for Advent:

One of my new hobbies is watercolor art. I love it because it takes me totally out of my head and becomes a meditation. I am certainly no prodigy and you won’t see my paintings at any art show, but I do send a piece occasionally (notecard size) to people I cherish.

I find that in living more simply I do not spend time wishing things were different, or even just wishing for THINGS. I look around me and find that I have enough. I can now treasure what is around me: the beauty and generosity of our Mother Earth and her many natural treasures, my loving husband, good neighbors, sweet friends, animal and plant companions, and my breath. Let’s not forget how precious breath is when so many are struggling to breathe in this pandemic. I call these blessings “pandemic silver linings.”

What silver linings have you discovered in these past months? Please share in a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

ONE Nation: E Pluribus Unum


E Pluribus Unum
Out of Many.  One.
Many states.
One nation.
Joined together.
creating something stronger
than the individual parts.
Country.

Individuals.
Many hands joined together
to form one long line.
A chain of joined hands
to express unity of belief
that people from all countries,
races, religions are welcome here.
Community.

One bird.
A golden Buff Orpington,
scratches happily for bugs,
secure in the midst of other
roving hens.
Feathers glowing in the sunshine,
protecting each other,
better as one group
than one vulnerable, single member.
Flock.

One cousin.
Joined on the deck steps
by five others,
then mothers, fathers,
uncles, aunts,
grandmas, grandpas
at a holiday celebration.
Family.

One lone drum beat.
A silver flute trills,
woodwind melody,
brass harmony,
batons twirl and flags whirl,
a marching tempo.
Band.

One maple tree.
Rooted deep into the earth,
holding strong against storms.
Roots entwined with many others,
providing shelter, food, oxygen,
sharing nutrients and protection.
Forest.

One drop of water,
becomes a mist, then a drizzle.
Now a downpour, now a stream.
Eroding its banks,
making its own path,
thundering down the valley.
Its voice louder and louder.
Flood.

One teacher,
wearing a mask.
Showing up every day,
no matter how scared, weary
and beaten down.
Custodians, cooks, 
bus drivers, aides, 
principals, students
Working together to learn.
School.

Many states.
One nation.
Joined together,
creating something stronger
than the individual parts.
Country.

Out of Many.  One.
E Pluribus Unum.

Yellow Feet, my sweet warrior

Yellow Feet, R.I.P.

I write this through tears. Today I said goodbye to my dear Yellow Feet. We had her euthanized this morning after a trip to the vet and x-rays revealed a large mass in her abdomen. Ovarian cancer. This cancer can appear in hens 2 years of age or older. The better layer a hen is, the more she is likely to get it, ironically. Also I read recently that hens are the only animal to get this very female and human cancer. Yellow Feet was almost seven and a half years old. She had a good, long life for a hen. We buried her near Henri in the rose garden. I am not a big fan of the Rainbow Bridge thing, but I do believe that somewhere out in the universe, Henrietta and Yellow Feet are happily hanging out together. I sure hope they check in on me once in a while. Meanwhile, I want to take the time to recall the life of a very precious flock member, my little warrior, as we came to call her as she bravely fought this cancer until it got the better of her.

Over seven years ago, in April, my love affair with chickens began. I have told this story when I wrote about Henrietta. But here is what I haven’t told you. I came home with three baby chicks. I was certain one was going to die so I went back to the feed store and got one more chick. This one was a bit smaller than the other three. From the start she eyed the world with wariness. She was NOT a people lover. She did not like her flock mates and preferred to keep to herself. She was difficult to catch and having a nice cuddle was her idea of torture. All four chickens lived and became my original flock. I named this little feisty one Amelia Chickenheart because it was clear she intended to forge her own way. Eventually, though, she named herself. Because she was smaller than the others, and had the most dainty yellow legs and feet, she became Yellow Feet.

As Yellow Feet grew, she became quite a little bully. She terrorized Miss Roo until Miss Roo became good at hiding from her. Her only friend was Buffy Orpington. Yellow Feet and Buffy were the first to lay eggs and they would strut their stuff around the chicken yard, lording it over the others. We had to put Yellow Feet in “chicken time out” more than once. This was a little chicken tractor in our garden, surrounded by a makeshift fence. She LOVED chicken time out because it meant she could live by herself for a few days. One could see her happily pecking and digging away out in her own little space. She could have lived there happily forever.

Once back with the others, Yellow Feet became a brilliant escape artist. She daily inspected the fence for weak areas and quite often she would come up missing along with Buffy, her partner in crime. I would find them happily in some other area in the garden. When I put her back in the repaired fence, she immediately stood sizing my repair up and measuring the height of the fence in her head so she could fly over it. Which she did.

When new chickens came into the flock, Yellow Feet appointed herself chief intimidator. She would strut back and forth in front of the grow out coop, chest puffed out like The Little Colonel,” giving them the evil eye. She quickly put them in their place in the pecking order.

For all her sassiness, Yellow Feet did have some good qualities. She consistently laid the most perfect rather small brown egg. And at the end of that first terribly cold, snowy winter, she started to sing. It was amazing to hear such a sweet song come out of this little scrapper. But sing she did, when she was happy. However, if Yellow Feet went broody, which she did often, we quickly learned not to mess with her. One was likely to get a nasty peck if one ventured anywhere near the nest box. She could growl and scream like a banshee too.

Yellow Feet invented social distancing. She was a master at it. She never did anything with the rest of the flock. As she got older, her favorite thing was to sleep alone atop a large plastic bag of leaves. She came every morning to the run door for a handful of sunflower seeds, but that was her only social interaction.

We always thought that Yellow Feet would outlive the other members of her original flock. In all the time she was with us she was never sick. This last week has been rough for her. I guess the tumor was pressing against her other organs so she couldn’t eat, or drink. It is the only time she ever allowed me to pick her up. The last two mornings I took her out to the rose garden and she went right to the little stone statue which stands over Henrietta’s grave. I think she was telling me she was ready to quit this earthly scene. Well done, good and faithful warrior.

The vet presented me with this, this morning.

Take Joy

I have not posted lately mainly because there has been little new to say. These days mostly blend into each other and it becomes difficult to recall what day of the week it is. My daughter and I started an “isolation journal” on Google docs and we eventually abandoned it in early May because all our entries started sounding alike. We have been self isolating almost four months. I have been nowhere except for an occasional foray into curbside pickup at Tractor Supply or the grocery store. Health issues and an extended course of antibiotics lowered my immune system so doing more than that seemed and still seems risky.

I have been taking delight in my garden because in spite of everything, it has been a delightful Spring. Sometimes I could blink my eyes and swear I was back in Scotland where the weather persists in mists, rain and cool temperatures. My roses have been loving this extended moist spring. They usually struggle in early scorching heat but this year they have bloomed beautifully! I even have larkspur which seeded itself in my flower bed and in the coolness grew to heights over my head, and shouted glory to the sky.

Sadly, I lost a hen at the end of May. My Nellie, died suddenly and mysteriously. She was perfectly fine one minute and the next my husband found her dead in the run. She was just one year old. I cried. We buried her in my rose/daylily garden beside dear Henrietta. We repurposed an old bench from our basement family room and placed it in the garden among the roses and day lilies which are just now in full bloom. I sit there on sunny mornings with my tea and feel grateful that I have had the companionship of my hens over the years. I feel they are with me still in the spirit world which is so closely intermeshed with this one which we think is real.

Buffy Orpington decided to go broody in April, and because it was cool and she is over seven years old, I thought, “Why not? Just let her stay in the nest.” Stay she did. For way past time to be over broody. For over thirty days I had to go out three times a day and lift her off the nest so she could go down to eat and drink. When she finally stopped being broody, she started sitting at the top of the ramp into the henhouse each night near dark and preventing the other hens from going up to roost. So I had to go out at dark each night and remove her from the ramp so the others could go up to roost. To say she is a difficult personality is an understatement! About two weeks ago, just when summer heat was starting, she went broody again. This time I put her in a crate below the nest boxes where she could stay cool and protected from the weather. Day after day, Buffy held court from her crate as her flockmates kept her company, dust bathing near her or just quietly talking. This time she kept the broodiness up for about a week before she abandoned it. She probably figured it was not worth the effort to stay broody in the heat.

I have been working in the garden in the morning while it is still cool and resting in the afternoons. I am usually busy all through the day, but lately I have been using my rest time to absorb the vibrant beauty around me. The chickens seemed happy to have Buffy back to normal. There is real tension in the flock when one chicken is “off” for some reason. So I watched them do everything together as a flock. First they gathered in the big run for a dust bathing session. Each hen rolled about in ecstatic delight, thoroughly coated in dust. After that they all paraded out into a grassy area to preen, thus cleaning and polishing their feathers much like I might blow dry and style my hair. All that effort called for an afternoon snack, so I treated them to a pan of chopped apple. They dug into that with little squeals of excitement. Once the apple was devoured, one of the hens jumped on a stool at the side of the coop and began to sing. One by one the other four joined in and the whole flock was singing in glorious cacophony. Now I can’t say it was lovely. Chickens only know one song: their egg song. And it is not exactly melodic. But it is JOYFUL. And to observe these five hens all singing together so joyfully touched my heart. They only rarely do this. The last time it happened was over a year ago when Henrietta was still the flock leader.

I have said before, these chickens are a part of my spiritual practice. They have taught me so much! Yesterday they reminded me to take joy in simple everyday routines. So much of the time we are burdened down these days with concern about the growing pandemic, the seeming unwillingness of community members to do something as simple as wear a mask to protect their neighbors, the ignorance and even spitefulness of our elected leaders, and fear for the future as this world struggles to recreate itself between two polarized points. One can feel pretty helpless and hopeless. It was good for me to be reminded that I have very little control over these big issues, but I can control my JOY by focusing on simple daily routines, much like my chickens. And when I am right here, right now, I can be surprised by joy. So TAKE JOY!!!

April: Isolation Thoughts

Hello, dear ones. How is everyone doing out there? We have been self isolating here since the week of March 15. So we are almost ending our third week in what promises to be a long, LONG time period of hunkering down and waiting things out. This promises to be a rambling post because I don’t have anything written out beforehand but do have some thoughts I want to put out there. Just my reflections of this time.

First, I feel so lucky that this happened when we were entering Spring. Spring flowers are blooming all over our little bit of earth: daffodils, glorious forsythia, peach trees, lenten roses, and Korean Spice viburnum. Lilacs are budded out. Each morning I awake to a chorus of birdsong and can’t help but feel happy that the dear birds are going about business as usual. Weather is warmer so we can get outdoors a bit. I have seeds started in my basement light garden: spinach, lettuce, pansies, tomatoes, cottage pinks and hollyhocks. I jumped the gun (so to speak) a few days ago when the soil was warm and workable and planted snow and sugar snap peas and poppies in the garden. This is the work of hope. Hope that I will be here to tend a summer garden. Hope that seeds will sprout. Hope in the ability of nature to nourish and heal us.

I have decked the old Christmas tree out with yarn so that the birds will have nest building material.

I thank heaven for my husband and my animal family. I realize that so many do not have that comfort and my heart goes out to them. This week my young “girls” are one year old, and I plan to make a chicken birthday cake for them. They deserve a nice treat. They have been laying well and I feel so much gratitude to have fresh eggs every day.

What is self isolation meaning for you? For me it is a time of introspection. My family (all three children and us) are all introverts so at first we joked that we were born for self isolation. And indeed that first week felt almost like a vacation or retreat from people. I thought greedily of time spent reading books, quilting, practicing my watercolor art, writing letters, taking long leisurely walks. However, as the news grew more disturbing with every passing day, I did little of these seemingly indulgent pastimes. In fact I spent much of my day staring out the window. Pondering how we got to such a point, and feeling quite helpless. I ordered a puzzle, which sits unopened on the table.

Week 2: the week of kindness. The world seemed to glow with acts of kindness. We saw videos of people singing and clapping from balconies, enjoyed concerts from people’s backyards or living rooms, listened to lessons on kindness each evening with Steve Hartman from CBS and his children, on Facebook live. People started using Zoom for family celebrations and get togethers. People started writing poetry and posting pandemic poems full of hope that the world would emerge from this ordeal as a better, kinder place. I still hope that.

Week 3: beginning to dig in. Ok. The newness has evaporated. Television has lost its appeal. The news is frankly, terrifying. I begin to realize that perhaps the only way through this is to keep up my spiritual practice. For me it is meditation and yoga. This is when I really begin to listen to my inner voice and admit that this is going to take quite a bit more effort than I have been putting into it to remain centered and mindful. This is where I need to be gentle with myself and my partner and wade through the waves of powerful emotion that come over me suddenly.

I am hanging on to signs of hope: the sun still rises, the backyard Norway Spruce is forest green and waves its pine cones gaily in the breeze, people who drive by when I am in the front yard are waving and they never did that before. In the grocery store I lock eyes with a stranger. We greet each other and smile in acknowledgement that we are in this together. We are doing what we can. Staying in so the world can be healed. A worthwhile effort, I do believe, for us all.

The Forest Speaks

A few weeks ago I started a practice of spending long, meditative time in the woods. It is a practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which I believe originated in Japan. The idea is to really commune with the trees, birds, and all of nature. This is outlined in a book I recently purchased entitled your guide to Forest Bathing by M. Amos Clifford.

As it states on the back of this book, “simply being present in the natural world – with all your senses fully alive, can have a remarkably healing effect. It can also awaken in us our latent but profound connection with all living things.” The book describes forest bathing as an experience which is not a brisk walk or a hike, but rather a type of communion, entered into with intention. And it gives guidelines on how to enter into this experience along with suggestions for invitations, or exercises one can do when spending this type of time in nature.

I wish to describe a recent forest bathing experience which simply blew my mind, and proved to me that the forest does indeed exist in relationship with humans. I entered the forest behind our house, which is a fairly recent (about 70 years) bit of woodland in succession recovering from being a corn field on my family’s farm. I first set an intention for my journey. This was right when the COVID-19 pandemic was taking off and the first cases were reported in nearby states. I was troubled in my mind about my response to this clear and present danger. Also I was grappling with the idea that I was now considered one of the elderly, at risk to die from the virus. The elderly were encouraged to stay at home and away from people in order to not contract the virus.

I have always been active especially in my school community, and it really bothered me that I could not be out there volunteering to deliver lunches to children or help in some other way. We were being told that the best way we could help was to shelter in place. Also, as a mother, I was concerned about my children and grandchildren who live far away. So my intention was a question: what is my response to be to this virus, and how can I be of service? I asked this of the trees.

I slowly walked the trail, silently observing the woods coming alive in the spring. I had a backpack with me. In the backpack I had a copy of the forest bathing book, a journal, some art supplies and a snack. I found my sit spot, which was a rock along the trail where I could look down on the oldest tree in the forest, a giant oak which was there long before my family cleared the land. I did a silent meditation, wrote a bit in my journal, ate my snack and after about ninety minutes, prepared to walk back.

I bowed in gratitude for the beauty of the day, and greening of the forest and the singing of the birds. Even though I had emptied my mind and remained open, I had not received any answer to my question I had asked upon entering the forest. I signed and decided that the answer would come in time. If you have ever talked to a tree, you will know that they are very patient. At the end of the trail, where I had entered the forest, I bent down to pick up a stick I had placed across the trail, signifying that I was stepping over a threshold into sacred space. My purpose was to replace the stick by the side of the trail until the next time I would be there. When I picked up the stick my eyes fell on a piece of paper by the side of the trail. It was a brown piece of packing paper with one word stenciled across the paper in large red letters. The word was LOVE.

No kidding. I was simply astonished. I took a photo of the paper with my phone and this is it above. The forest had answered my question. I was to love. Simply that. To me, this is the answer to every question. How shall I proceed? How can I participate in the healing of the world? How do I live with my fears for the future? I am to LOVE. To dwell in LOVE, to live each day in LOVE, to LOVE my neighbor and also the person drumming on Facebook whom I have not met. To LOVE this earth, our garden home. To spend my days sending LOVE into the world. I can think of no better task. The emptying of oneself for the LOVE of the world. Perhaps this is a message for us all.

Welcome March!

Today I sit at my desk overlooking gray skies and bare trees. From this vantage point it would seem that we are still caught in winter’s chill embrace. But from the ground level I know better. Buds are swelling on the branches of my lilacs, roses, and honeysuckles. My primroses are putting on a blush of green. Spiked daffodil leaves are pushing their sword like foliage straight up from their underground slumber as if their sole destination was to pierce the sky. Soon the maples will wear a flush of red on the tips of their branches. I am awakened in the morning by birdsong again. I feel I am riding a wave of energy as the earth around me begins its process of rejuvenation – rebirth. It holds so much hope, even in these somewhat discouraging times. I invite you to keep an eye out for signs of hope! Here are some examples from my world of Windy Hill Farm: the unfurling petals of a purple crocus, a prancing young puppy full of curiosity, my Maine coon cat sitting alert at our French doors, face to face with a racoon on the deck; each calmly regarding the other. Perhaps best of all are my chickens’ warm brown eggs nestled in my coat pocket on a chilly morning. These are all reasons I am feeling hopeful.

My three young girls are happily laying now, gifting me with eggs every day. They run happily to greet me each morning pausing to allow me to pet their soft feathers, and begging for sunflower treats. My three older ladies are much more dignified and reserved! I delight in having chickens. Each morning I hurry out to see how they are doing.

As for the garden, I have ordered all my seeds. I need to lay all the colorful packets out and photograph the array for you! I am planting more flowers among the vegetables this year, but I have not planned how I will arrange my garden just yet. More to come!

Stress Away Bath Bombs

This year I made several attempts at bath bombs. And failed miserably! Finally, success! Thanks to a recipe from my daughter-in-law, who has made them with my granddaughter and her elementary school class. Practice makes perfect, and these are absolute heaven for a soak in the tub. The recipe comes from this source: https://www.busybliss.com/bath-bombs-kids/

March is the perfect time for looking for rainbows. I saw a brilliant rainbow just yesterday during a brief moment of sunshine right in the middle of a terrific downpour. Another reason to hope and believe there will be a better tomorrow. Wishing many rainbows to YOU!

I Can See Clearly Now?

Pardon me, but I wrote this after a series of gray, depressing days. It is not exactly sweetness and light. But needed, I think. You decide:

What shall we choose to do as the year moves forward? Shall we let the darkness prevail, or “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (from “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas). Shall we whimper or shall we roar? I think one of the worst feelings by which one can be imprisoned is a sense of helplessness. I see it in so many people. It truly drains all the joy out of one’s existence to feel helpless. What can one do to ward off this pervasive sickness of helplessness – feeling one can do nothing to stop war, slow climate change, improve our democracy? What good does it do to throw up one’s hands? To do this is to embrace nothingness. To be filled with self pity is an excuse to indulge in behavior that is self gratifying and only provides a temporary release. It is getting drunk on misery only to wake up the next morning with a terrible hangover. And then the world looks even darker.

What can one do to bring light into the world? I can light a candle. Seemingly a small, perhaps pointless gesture. Yet if we all would light a candle, we could become a beacon of light. This is 2020, the year when so many people are embracing a clearer vision of our world, our past, present and future. What can I do as I embrace new vision? When I was in fifth grade, a wise teacher and also my dear sister noticed I was squinting a lot to see. So it was recommended that I have an eye exam. This exam revealed that I was extremely near-sighted, and the optometrist (Dr. George – remember him?) prescribed eyeglasses. I will remember all my life getting those glasses. My parents drove down Main Street and I, in the back seat with those new glasses perched on my nose, gazed out at a world I had not known existed. I could see storefronts, which had only been a blur. I could read signs! Colors became clear and vibrant. I could see faces. Simply, my life changed, as my vision changed.

Now, in 2020, perhaps we can put on new glasses. Take off the shades which filter the light and keep us in darkness, and take a good look at ourselves and our world. What choices can I make to create a better world? Perhaps I can light a candle or one small lamp instead of a whole houseful. I can choose not to support factory farming of animals and cook more vegan and vegetarian meals. If I do eat meat, I can buy it from local farmers. I can reduce or almost eliminate use of plastics by refusing plastic straws, investing in glass containers and beeswax coated storage covers. I can use shampoo bars instead of bottles, and washing powders which come in pods or cardboard boxes. In short, I can be a conscious consumer instead of a sleepwalker. Consumers have a lot of power to force change. I can choose to be kind, and support causes I believe in rather than spend money on things I do not need. I can choose to live consciously and deliberately. I can exercise my right as a citizen to VOTE. If more people did that we really could be a force to change the world.

I have found a really good resource for living more sustainably at this source: https://mightynest.com/

I have a monthly subscription there. I have discovered sustainable hair shampoo https://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com/

and laundry soap https://meliorameansbetter.com/collections/laundry

I do what I can. I am sure you do too. To me it is better to make choices that affect change while we still have enough resources to make choices rather than wait to change our lives because no choice remains. Grist for the mill. What do you think?