Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Courage of Your Convictions

This month I was interview by Megan Raphael, author of The Courage Code, on her monthly call, Conversations with a Woman of Courage. I enjoyed my time with everyone on the call. Thank you, Megan. You can visit Megan's website and listen to her courage conversations at http://www.courageproject.com/workshops.html

So I've found myself musing about courage. My dictionary tells me, that courage is "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear." I don't believe it. Who are we kidding? When did we learn that courage means without fear? I must have been absent that day. Why can't fear sit side by side with the valor and victory we associate with courageous acts? And how did this definition get so distorted? A quick trip to my etymology dictionary tells me that the Latin root of courage, cor, means heart, “which remains a common metaphor for inner strength.” When I am being courageous, my courage comes from my heart in spite of my fear, not instead of it.

In more primitive times, our courageous acts were merely a fear-induced survival instinct to fight or flee from an immediate danger. We survived because of a nice, healthy fear. Today, mostly, we fear the consequences of imagined things yet to come, not anything real and looming. So today's courageous acts are our willingness to move through our contrived fear. That kind of courage comes from a softer more intuitive and “heart-felt” feeling that our conviction about what we desire is greater than our imagined fear. When we have that sense, that knowing from our heart and not our mind that our convictions are right, we don't need to fight or flee. We simply flow.

So as 2007 ends, take a look at your manufactured fears and use them to do something courageous, something heartfelt, for yourself. I’ll smile and wave as I see you bouncing downstream and flowing gently into 2008. Cheers!


Here are a few Courage quotes to take to "heart."

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." Ambrose Redmoon

"Courage is tiny pieces of fear all glued together." Irisa Hail

"Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up anyway." John Wayne

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Boo Boo Antics

Wow. It has been a short month. And a short year, for that matter. Oh, when I reflect on my comings and goings of 2007, it seems very full indeed. It's just that when I remember back to early January without snow, ice fishing in March, Spring and Summer trips to the far north in search of "the big one," and the wane of summer into fall, it all feels like yesterday.

This year we have snow in December. My walks with the dogs take a little longer and a little more effort. I'll have to break out the snowshoes soon. But the dogs will persist in taking me on their walk each day. Their routine rules in this household.

Last Sunday I took off my mittens to use my camera. Later, about 400 feet down the trail, I discovered I was missing one mitten. After traversing that 400 feet many times I could not find it. Now my big black lab, Styx, has a reputation as a thief. In fact, his nickname is Boo Boo because, while he has a big heart and wants to be good, he just can't. So I was pretty sure he was the reason I could not find my mitten. I searched my trail and every spot along the trail where dog prints wandered into the woods. I went home with only one mitten and it snowed heavily that night. On Monday, I gave Boo Boo a stern talking to and we made a beeline for that same spot on the trail. The big brat went right to the base of a pine tree and dug up the mitten he had buried the day before.

I'm never too angry with him. Years ago the vet told me his hips were so bad he'd likely have to be put down by the time he was five- or six-years-old. He'll be eight this coming May and manages three to six miles a day with me. His energy is boundless and I'm so grateful I didn't spend the last few years fretting and in fear of his outcome. I did, however, spoil him rotten and I'm gladly paying the price now.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Waiting

"Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance. Everyone is just waiting." ~Dr. Seuss

My musings in this blog are nothing more than me just reflecting and pondering out loud. Thanks for listening, but don't take me too seriously. I'm not terribly attached to what I say today. It will all likely shift for me tomorrow. If you find some inspiration here, well, don't wait. Grab it! It's yours. Do with it as you please and don't wait for me. I'm wandering on.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Speed of Life

I'm a Baby Boomer. I was born in 1953 and I’ll be double nickels in January 2008. Most of the time I know how old I am. But I was surprised when I heard on the news the other day that on October 15, 2007 the first of the Baby Boomers, born in 1946, were eligible to apply for Social Security retirement benefits. Wow! How did that happen? That same day I looked at my calendar and discovered that by the end of October, I will have fished 101 days and 21 lakes in Northern Ontario this year. Wow! How did that happen? I'm feeling a theme here.
In 2008 I will be sneaking out the back door and messing about even more. I don't feel old. But I do feel like I've lived really, really deeply. It feels good. It feels strong. It feels powerful. The older I get the younger I become.
Last weekend I was walking through the streets of Leland, Michigan and saw a store window full of brightly colored socks. No two socks were alike. And the sign said “Life is too short to wear matching socks.” It tickled me.
So I did a quick Google search and found a few more. Life is too short...
...to drink cheap beer.
...to stuff a mushroom.
...to be little.
...for traffic.
...for reading inferior books.
So I thought it would be fun to create my own. And it was easy! Life is too short...
...to mow the lawn.
...to complain.
...to be angry.
...to have regrets.
...to drive around looking for the best gas prices.
...to ignore great weather.
...to pass up a new lake.
...to miss a starry sky.
...to postpone walking the dogs.
...to pass up a slice of hot, homemade bread with butter!!
Your turn! What are you going to stop doing and/or do more of? Send your "Life is to short" comments to me. I'll share.
"Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you." ~~Annie Dillard
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." ~~Annie Dillard
"You only live once; but if you live it right, once is enough." ~~Adam Marshall

Monday, October 08, 2007

Finding Mom

My mother has dementia. When it first started, I was concerned. Then I was sad. Today I’m experiencing something different. I can’t say I’m delighted or even at peace with her dementia. But I have found a small gift in her condition. I’m finding more of my mother each day as she chooses to share more with me, often because she thinks I am a sister rather than her daughter. Well, we do both have graying hair.

Mom is talking about things in her life she’s never shared before. She’s sharing those things that she has been holding close, some for her lifetime of 88 years.

We all have our secrets we think we’ll take to our graves. But dementia has allowed my Mom to share those things with me. Sometimes she knows she’s sharing a secret for the first time. Most often, the secret comes out in bits and pieces and I have to read between the lines. But over time, I learn more and more as the truth, or rather “her truth,” unfolds.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Side of the Road in Paradise

Our heat wave has ended and cool, crisp, typical fall days are embracing us. This month I've been picking apples in Paradise. Along the side of a country road in Paradise Township, I've discovered apple trees, long gone wild and neglected. The apples are a little puny this year. We just didn't have enough rain. But that does not diminish my delight.
As a child I used to sneak into active orchards and steal one or two apples for a snack. Stolen fruit tasted so much more delicious. Now, there are so many abandoned trees that I can pick a couple of bushels in broad daylight without repercussion. Of course, in my childhood imaginings, the orchard owner was far more dangerous and evil than any farmer can possibly be. But the adrenaline produced by thoughts of an angry farmer made the fruit just a little sweeter. Sadly, the orchards are being abandoned as fruit farming takes a back seat to more profitable endeavors with the land.

During my late teens and early 20's, I picked apples each fall for extra cash. I worked hard, climbing up tall, skinny, and precariously placed ladders to fill a metal and canvas bucket hanging from shoulder straps in front of me. Then, descending that ladder with my burden, I would open the bottom of the bucket and empty the apples into a large crate. I got paid by the crate but now I can't remember how much. It seemed like very good money at the time. I suppose because that hard work didn't feel like work at all. I mean, what's not to love? I was outdoors during the most beautiful time of year, I had plenty of apples to eat and take home, I was moving my body and I was making money.

I once lived in an old farmhouse with a cider press in the backyard. We made fresh cider every October. Once the excess juice and pulp hit the ground, the deer visited my back yard every night throughout the fall. I so enjoyed sitting on the back porch, a hot, spiced cider in hand, watching the wildlife descend upon the remains of my labors.

So what is delighting you during this time of the equinox, this solar mid-point? Here are comments I've heard from a few of you...
...staying home, evening fires, Indian Summer, bushels of tomatoes, pickling and canning, a new box of crayons, a new teacher, new school clothes, color tours, falling leaves, piles of leaves, burning leaves, acorns falling on your head, hot drinks, the buzz of a chain saw, the rhythmic thud of an ax, camo clothing, bows and arrows, tree stands, muskie fishing, football, warm socks, wool blankets, fuzzy sweaters, cider, fried doughnuts, apple pie, acorn squash, mums, pumpkins, cold mornings, warm afternoons, seeing your breath, morning frost, vees of honking geese, large flocks of birds, ...what else? Have I missed anything? Please share. And enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of your own little Autumnal Paradise.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ~ Martin
Luther


“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” ~Dr. Carl Sagan

“Ever since Eve gave Adam the apple, there has been a misunderstanding between the sexes about gifts”
~ Nan Robertson

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Labor Day

Our Annual After-Labor Day Community Picnic
Labor Day marked the beginning of the end of tourist season here in Northern Michigan. The crowds have diminished. Our fair-weather friends have gone home. For those of us who live here all year, it is the time to lean back in our chairs a little, throw another log on the fire, take a deep breath and a sigh of relief, and once again enjoy the company of those friends and neighbors we lost to the summer frenzy of living in a resort community.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Field Notes

I'm motivated to write by my emotions, not fact or accuracy.  So please forgive me if I've sacrificed verity for a juicier story. I'm not fibbing. I'm simply sharing my truth as it feels. Enjoy my anecdotes for what they are, the big messy puddle I so enjoy wallowing in. Come on in, the water's fine!

The more time I find for my favorite leisures, the more grounded I become. I'm amazed and impressed with my ability and desire to do little and, consequently, more.

I spend a lot of time in the wilderness. Each day I take time to hike close to home or camp. But I won't carry a notebook or notepad with me. I’ll leave one on the house or cabin table, one by my bed, one on the kitchen counter, one in the car, even one in the outhouse at camp. But I won't carry one, no matter how small. My policy for my daily hikes is, if it does not fit in a pocket, I don't take it with me.

Oh, I know all about field notes. They are the notations those more diligent than me take to accurately chronicle a rare or unusual thing or event as it occurs in the field, getting as much of the description as possible at the spot of the sighting. Many field notes feature sketches or photographs with written detail. Some field notes include an opinion or interpretation by the observer. “Proper” field notes can be used as evidence and become part of history.

But I've come to live with the fact that I'm probably less than accurate when I relate a sighting or an event in my life. By the time I get back to paper and pen, sometimes hours, sometimes days, my emotions about the sighting have taken hold. I'm unable to distinguish the facts of the event from my emotionally-triggered imaginings.

Does this mean that much of my recalled life, while not total fiction, is liberally spiced up? Probably. My field notes are unreliable. But I would challenge that we're not accurate about anything we observe when we leave out the emotional impact that observation has on us.
So in the final stretch of sweet, sweet summer, before autumn envelopes us, throw away your notebooks, allow your emotions to run wild and imagine BIG.

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” ~Albert Einstein

"Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field. I'll meet you there.” ~Rumi

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Drought

It's August and I'm stunned to feel my clothes getting a little tighter. But surly I'm not putting on my winter layer of insulation already. I must be having a highly sensitive month. One of the constants in our lives that, due to my sensitivity, seems to have a profound effect on me is the weather. So until it rains here in Northern Michigan, which it has not done in over a month, I'm just retaining water. My body is simply responding to this dry spell by becoming the camel.
Yeah, right! Pass the marshmallows, please.

Monday, August 06, 2007

It's Not Fair

I can't believe that on August 5, our regional fair began. It's not right! Growing up in this area, my recollection of the fair was that of the autumn bounty and harvest. That people and animals were comforted by the cool, crisp days and nights at the fairgrounds. We wore a sweater when we went over for evening dinner. Today, the fair near my home is experiencing drought conditions and record heat. I have not visited yet and I hope for rain before I roam the grounds to choke on the dust.

I expect this is all about money. The fair has become another summer attraction for the many tourists who flock to Northern Michigan. In the days of my youth, the fair was a time to celebrate the end of sumer and that hectic tourist season. It was a time to visit with neighbors and take advantage of the delicious meals the local churches cooked up each evening. Each church had their specialty dinner and over the course of the week I could taste them all.

Did I mention that I could ride my bike to the fair? And that a pass for the week was a reasonable way to enjoy meeting my friends and taking in all the different activities each evening? Today I must drive to the outskirts of town and wait in line to be directed to my parking spot in a dirty, dusty field. I can only afford to visit one day so I miss many of the activities that are spread out over the course of the week.

And dinner at today's fair is carnival food. Oh, I enjoy a good corn dog and Gibby's French Fries once in awhile. But it's a far cry from the fried chicken, hot roast beef sandwiches, fried fish, homemade pies, real mashed potatoes, locally-grown and harvested vegetables and local dairy milk that I enjoyed each night at the fair of my youth.

 

Thursday, July 12, 2007

If It Ain't Broke...

Last month I went to one of my favorite fish camps for a week of very serious fishing. At the end of 28 hours in the boat, my partner, Yvon, and I had caught 447 Northern Pike and Walleye. That's one fish in the boat every 3.75 minutes. Amazing!

The number of fish we caught is, indeed, amazing. Even more extraordinary is that we did it with only two lures. My lure was a red spoon with black dots. Now it is missing a lot of paint. Yvon's lure was a gold spoon with red tips. There's no paint left on his lure and one hook is missing.

One might suggest that both those lures are now broken. And we could repair them until they are perfect and flawless. Today, however, I prefer to think of those two lures as not broken but, instead, excellent. So we're not "fixing" them. They've been retired to the fireplace mantel and we're just being with them in another way. They inspire conversation and whimsical memories. They make me smile. They make me laugh. They make me dance. I'll take those two damaged and excellent lures over a pair of perfect lures any day. To me, they're still beautiful. In fact, I doubt anything we find truly beautiful is perfect.

How about you? Are you striving for perfection or enjoying the excellence in your life?

"Live life fully while you're here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You're going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Find the cause of your problems and eliminate t. Don't try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of being human." ~Anthony Robbins

"If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be." ~Yogi Berra

Monday, July 02, 2007

No Berries in Michigan--Heading North

I'm stunned that it is already July. It seems I was just picking huckleberries and blueberries around my Michigan home. But that was July 2006. This year I'm going to have to pick my berries in Northern Ontario. The berries around my home have suffered from the drought. We're getting rain now. Quite a bit, actually. But for this year's crop, it's a little too late. So I'll just wander farther north. I know where to go. And rain has been good to some of my favorite spots up there. The water level in my fishing lakes is one to two feet higher this year over last July.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. The more time I find for my favorite leisures, the more grounded I become. I'm amazed and impressed with my ability and desire to do little and, consequently, more.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Down to Earth

Often our heads are way too far away from the earth, spending much of our time in thoughts, dreams, visions and plans, intoxicating and diverting us from more present and earthly endeavors. We think too much about other's opinions and seek approval. We think too much about what might be right or wrong for us. From this rootless perspective of our heads, we exaggerate our problems, imagining more and worse than is really there. We become dramatic and obsessive. Our ungrounded minds wander off and create chaos, causing our bodies to feel restless and edgy. We run around in a haphazard way, locking our keys in the car, dialing wrong numbers and leaving our wallets at the last establishment we visited. Our "ungroundedness" disturbs everyone in our path.

The moments of the present, of the earth, the ground, can seem mundane compared to the apparently limitless mind. But being grounded, literally, is what enables us to cast aside our heady visions and embrace our truth at the moment, giving us the freedom we need to be present and more alive.

The earth is there to support us. During these great summer months, find it, touch it and use it. 

Spread out in a freshly mowed lawn

Nap on the pine needle bedding of a pine forest

Wiggle your body through the warm sand of a summer beach

Lay back against a sun-warmed rock

Smear on some cooling creek or river clay

Plop in a mud puddle

Lounge on a bed of moss

“God owns heaven, but He craves the earth.” ~Anne Sexton 

“My soul can find no staircase to Heaven unless it be through Earth's loveliness.” ~Michelangelo Buonarroti 

Friday, June 15, 2007

Grounded

It's the beautiful month of June in Northern Michigan and Northern Ontario. This summer, I'm pretty much splitting my time between the two. The more time I find for my favorite leisures, the more grounded I become. I'm amazed and impressed with my ability and desire to do little and, consequently, more.

Lately I've been appreciating the Earth, literally. The lower I get, the more I like it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Surprise!

As a coach, it's always gratifying to hear a client enumerate all the things he or she has accomplished. But last month, when one of my clients told me, “I've become accustomed to being surprised,” well, it just made me thrilled and proud. 

Surprises, yes, can be as unwelcome as waking up to three inches of snow in the middle of May or some other hurtful onslaught. But most often, a surprise is an unexpected feeling of wonder and astonishment that has been triggered by something we have come upon suddenly. Sometimes it can be startling, but generally we think of surprise as something good. There may be disbelief, but surprises are usually enveloped in amazement. And what a great way to be, expecting and becoming accustomed to being surprised. Surprises make our life so much more special.

For me, May is the month of surprises. It's morel mushroom season and so I spend even more time in the woods around my home. Any other month of the year, you can find me walking the dogs for an hour or two each day. During May, I clear the calendar a couple of days each week and take to the woods from sunup to sundown. So while racking up all that time and all those miles in the woods, I have plenty of opportunity to be surprised by wildlife, both flora and fauna, rarely seen. And I'm on the hunt for the elusive morel, never knowing when I'm going to walk around the other side of a tree and be surprised by a jumbo white morel. Or a whole patch of them!

There's something instinctual or intuitional about finding morels. Most often, I have a sense, a physical feeling, in my gut and heart, just prior to making the discovery. I notice I slow my pace and breathing and become more alert. I've noticed the same intensity just before a fish hits my lure. I've learned how to detect the oncoming surprises at a cellular level that does not take away from the surprise but, instead, enhances it. 

You can too. We're all capable of having these feelings or “hints” prior to being surprised. Most of us, however, don't notice them because we haven't practiced. When we practice an activity that involves hunting or searching for something, we more frequently have the opportunity to notice what we were feeling and sensing just prior to the discovery. Go on the hunt, I suggest. And become accustomed to being surprised. 

“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” ~Ashley Montagu 

”Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.” ~Boris Pasternak

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fishing Focus

I'm leaving on Wednesday for fish camp. The car is almost packed with fishing gear and clothes. All that's left is to toss in the cooler and the dogs. The house sitter notes are complete. I may or may not get the lawn mowed but I don't much care. 

I talked to the camp yesterday and the big surprise was three inches of snow and a high of 27 degrees. The camp owner's truck slipped on the icy two track into town, missed a turn and went airborne for about 12 feet. The damage was a couple of dents in his pickup and one shot tire. The water pipes to the cabins and shower house are frozen.

I, on the other hand, am looking for more pleasant surprises. I know of a couple of hot spots for morel mushrooms. And I hear from those who are already at camp that the walleye are biting fast and furious and averaging 4-5 pounds. Yummy!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Success

While I was looking for some inspiration from anything but this weather, I noticed my friend Rasheed had a birthday on April 8th. I remembered that I had edited some of my previous writings into an article for a book he was compiling on the topic of success. Happy Birthday, Rasheed!

Too often, we see success as an outcome. When we have amassed a certain number of toys, dollars, possession, then we are successful. But true success is not our possessions. Our success comes from our choice of rhythm. As we learn our own rhythm or cadence, changing it in a heartbeat when we feel the urge, we learn to listen and flow. When a creek encounters resistance, like a rock, a downed tree or a beaver dam, it does not go through that block. The creek changes its rhythm and stays in flow by going around, over and underneath the resistance. What is my suggestion for true success? Go stand in a creek and …

…Surrender:
Surrender control rather than seize it. Let go and trust. A life full of preparation for situations that are yet only imagined is not much of a life at all.

…Step into the Unknown:
Step fully, freely and without hesitation into the unknown. To become comfortable with the unknown is to experience freedom. To make the leap without all the answers, to step into the darkness without expectation of what is to come, to embrace the unknown as a place in which we wallow, rest and soak up our inner essence is incredibly powerful. The unknown is where your imagination can take hold. And it's imagination that transcends time and place.

…Focus on Enough:
When enough truly is enough, what we desire moves in and out of our life naturally. There is enough for us; there is enough for everyone. We have the ability and freedom to nurture others and ourselves. When we appreciate the enough-ness in our lives, our enough-ness appreciates.

…Be a Child in Nature:
Nature is authentic. It is exactly what it seems to be. Be a grownup if you must. But be a grownup who knows the secrets children know. Go to the wilds.

…Be Without Goals:
If you're saying, “I’ll be dancing lightly when I achieve my goals,” you're missing out. Dance lightly now. Step into your delight, happiness, joy and let success find you. Life is a process, not a product. No stop along the way or altered path is a mistake. Turn your back on the product, the outcome, the goal, and pay attention to enjoying the process, the hunt. Then the elusive will present itself. It always does. It has no choice.

…Hone Your Skills at Being Lost:
The gift we receive from being lost is new, unexpected and random things like unforeseen circumstances, interesting people and odd surroundings. It stimulates us. If we can let go of being threatened simply because we are lost, we learn to not waste our energy panicking about the direction we should take.

…Take on Opportunities Rather than Musing about Possibilities:
Yes, we can remain on the creek bank and discuss and wonder at the possibilities. But the creek is going somewhere. There are trees, streams, rocks and trails on the other side waiting to be explored. There are fish to be caught! There are people along the creek who have stories to tell about their own opportunities taken. Find the opportunity in the possibility and take it.

…Relish Imperfection:
When we let go of perfection, allow ourselves to do things imperfectly, we come to see how perfect we are, just the way we are. It's a subtle difference but it's true. Our lives can be more perfect when we let go of perfection.

…Be Freely Vulnerable:
What excites me is the freedom inherent in every new beginning. What scares me is that I am vulnerable. Yet I can't separate the two. If I'm to be free, I'm to be vulnerable. I become energized by the possibility of freedom that a new beginning brings. When I seek to lessen the inherent vulnerability in a new beginning by trying to cover all the contingencies, I actually diminish my freedom and the new beginning becomes too small for me. Our lives and work must envelop vulnerable freedom or they come down to nothing more than a means of providing.

…Become Intuitive:
Trust your intuition and your dreams. See the unlikely. Think the unthinkable. Imagine the improbable. Life's biggest opportunities are often hidden to all but our intuition.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Still Snow


Last month I mentioned the many ways I enjoy Maple Syrup. I want to add another to the list. I've met an expert crepe maker. Who'd have guessed there were so many hidden talents hanging out at fish camp? I spent nine days ice fishing in Northern Ontario. The lakes were well frozen and there was little snow in the bush. It was seemingly perfect. What more could I ask for? Then I discovered one of my fishing partners makes the best crepes I've ever eaten. Now, crepes smothered with fresh pineapple and maple syrup has bubbled to the top of my Maple Syrup List.

I brought home from Canada another load of rocks. I can't bring back many onany one trip because I pretty much fill the Jeep with fishing equipment, clothes, food and dogs. But I always manage to bring a few and slowly I'm getting a nice rock border around the front flower garden. I’d take a picture of my rocks and show you how pretty this batch is but I had not yet unloaded them from the Jeep when our most recent snowstorm hit. Now there's no place to put them. They're still in the Jeep and as soon as we get bare ground I hope I’ll have them placed.


This snow has slowed me down. Usually the ever-changing weather and my environment prompt me to write. I love the forward movement from month to month. In December, snow piled high excited and encouraged me. In April, I'm not so enthused. On my walks, I can't believe I'm still slogging through knee-deep snow. I want to walk lightly and see a crocus.

But then, weather like this means anything can happen. And that's the kind of life I want to live; one where anything can happen.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Yikes!

My Backyard on April 8
Well, I thought it was Spring. But here we are in early April and I'm sitting in about 2 feet of snow in 48 hours. What's that all about!? I was just beginning to think about some Morel Mushroom hunting. Now it feels more like Christmas than Easter. Just April Fools a few days late, I guess.

The dogs and I are warm and somewhat happy. We're hunkering down. I've put a fire in the fireplace and I'm cooking some venison chili for dinner. Not my normal April activities and fare but, alas, when in Rome...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sweet, Sweet March! It's Maple Syrup Time!

One of my favorite quick changes in a Northern Michigan March is the rise in temperatures during the days that launch the maple syrup season, when maple sap runs through the sugar bush to strategically placed sugar shacks. In the very old days, native people cut a hole in the Sugar Maple. They attached a wood shaving on the bottom of the hole in order to direct the maple sap towards a bark container. Later, sap dribbled into covered metal buckets or pails. Today, most sugar shacks are equipped with sophisticated plastic tubing. The maple sap follows the tubing from tree to tree and ultimately into a storage tank. At the sugar shack, the sap is boiled down until it becomes maple syrup.

Maple syrup is a true treasure because the maple sap can only be collected during the cold and brief six weeks from early March to mid-April. And, on average, a Sugar Maple will yield 40 gallons of maple sap each year, which boils down to only one gallon of maple syrup.

I'm looking forward to my annual spring binge; namely, maple syrup on my morning pancakes, waffles and French toast, maple syrup drizzled over cooking bacon and breakfast sausage, maple sticky buns, maple glazed carrots, maple butter, and the traditional March treat, hot, thick maple syrup drizzled over snow.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Quick Change

The very cool thing about March in the north is the incredibly quick change in the weather, wildlife and woods. One day it's blustery winter with freezing temperatures, snow and ice. And a few days later, the roads are bared by 50 degree temperatures. One day, I take my walk in silence, noting only the animal tracks upon the snow. A few days later the racket is deafening, as the forest comes alive with darting forms emerging from dens and trees and brush piles. One day the trees and bushes look dead, and only a few days later there are green buds emerging. One day the snow banks are piled high around my home, and only a few days later the driveway has turned into a real gully washer.

These days I look forward to dramatic and quick changes. To me, quick changes always mean things are going to crack wide open and get even better, fast! I no longer dread and avoid quick changes, even though they require that I catch up, sometimes adjusting who I believe I am and what I want, on a dime. The feeling is a bit like being swept into the next change, rather than taking charge and making it happen on my own timetable. I lose control. But what a relief that can be, when changes are spontaneous and things bigger than I can conceive of or would have planned happen.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Standing Out

Ah, February. I look out my window and see nothing but white. Or so it seems in this frozen month. But that's impossible I say and so I challenge myself to see the color. And ever so slowly, the whole host of browns that have been there all along emerges as I notice tree trunks. Then, immediately, my eyes are drawn to the pines and firs and I notice the green that has also always been there. Nothing has changed except my perception of February and the way I choose to notice. The birds of my yard this time of year are mostly chickadees. But with my new eyes, their black caps stand out. Not quite color, but certainly a contrast to all the white. And oh, yes, down by the creek, still hanging on to their branches, are some dried, but red, Michigan Holly berries. And for at least today, the sky is bright blue.

I'm inspired. The vibrant colors of spring and summer remain buried deep. But all is not lost in this month of February. So I go to my closet and don the most colorful winter clothing I own. Teal green long underwear, a bright red turtleneck, my yellow sweater, and my yellow and purple knit hat and matching scarf immediately create in me joy and delight. And look, there are my yellow sunglasses!

I'm off on my daily walk, today in search of more color. Perhaps I'll see a Pileated or Red-Headed Woodpecker, a Downy or Hairy Woodpecker. And should I find nothing more colorful than my February attire, perhaps then it's my lighthearted obligation today to bring to the world around me the color I seek. After all, unlike my ancient ancestors, I am no longer the prey of things bigger, wild and ferocious. I can afford to stand out.

"It amazes me how over the years we are repeatedly aware of the need to be reminded, or to come again with fresh, or new or developed eyes to the sense of 'Who am I?', and 'What do I stand for?', 'What matters?', 'What is the gift that I bring to bear on what matters?'" ~Liana Taylor www.lifeintelligence.com.au

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How Low Can You Go?

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. ~Chinese Proverb

What a strange winter it has been so far in Northern Michigan. We only have two inches of snow, which we acquired just last night. And we have not had any snow on the ground since around the first of December. As I waked through the woods each day, the paths made by me and the dogs are so very clear. And the paths made by the deer are even more evident. Without the snow and with the undergrowth dormant, the earth around me is experiencing low-level stress. It's sad. The stress is nothing the earth won't survive, but it's there. And the impact on vegetation will last long into this new year.

So as I walk, I think why would it be any different for us? We all know immediate and sudden stress when we experience it. Our body rises to a challenge and prepares to meet the situation. But lasting low-level stress can sometimes be elusive and go unnoticed for a long time until we find ourselves, like the little patch of earth around my home, exposed. Signs that we have low-level stress in our life often manifest in the form of feeling constantly hurried, moodiness, allergies, and sleeping problems. The earth around me this winter is definitely having a sleeping problem.

Some of the common causes of low-level stress are relationship problems, crammed schedules, a minor health problem as simple as a sore body part or a change in vision that has not been addressed yet, and constant but subtle noise. These can be little things, but they eat away at us each day.

I've said it many times. And at the risk of being overly repetitive, I hesitate to say it again. But you all know me well enough to forgive my rants so here it is. Resolutions tend to cause stress. So if you're going to make one in 2007, make one to reduce the low-level stress in your life. As 2007 unfolds, take a stand:
Leave loads of open space in your schedule.
Allow yourself to be imperfect.
Get more than enough sleep.
Notice your little thoughts and make them good ones.
Solve little problems quickly.
Breathe deeply.
Tend to a little patch of earth around you. You both will benefit.
And blow the stink off by walking the path less traveled.

Have an outstanding 2007.

As I like to do, I thought I would share with you a quote or two about the topic. So I went on a quick search for quotes about stress. Oh my, there's a lot written. So here's a little reminder for each month of the upcoming year.

January 2007
The man who doesn't relax and hoot a few hoots voluntarily, now and then, is in great danger of hooting hoots and standing on his head for the edification of the pathologist and trained nurse, a little later on. ~Elbert Hubbard

February 2007
Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. ~Etty Hillesum

March 2007
Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down. ~Natalie Goldberg

April 2007
Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow. ~Douglas Pagels, These Are the Gifts I'd Like to Give to You

May 2007
The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it. ~Author Unknown

June 2007
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. ~Will Rogers

July 2007
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. ~J. Lubbock

August 2007
To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace. ~Milan Kundera

September 2007
Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you. ~John De Paola

October 2007
How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward. ~Spanish Proverb

November 2007
Loafing needs no explanation and is its own excuse. ~Christopher Morley

December 2007
There is precious little hope to be got out of whatever keeps us industrious, but there is a chance for us whenever we cease work and become stargazers. ~H.M. Tomlinson