Monday, November 22, 2010

Let's Do Better

I've been away for awhile. I lost my precious pup, Jersey, in October and after 15+ years with her by my side, I felt paralyzed.

We are at the tail end of Fall and here in Northern Michigan everything is slowing down. I still manage to sit on the front porch with my morning cup of coffee, watching the stars twinkle out as dawn approaches. But it's quite a bundling I have to do to make that happen. Over my flannel pajamas goes a down vest and then a fleece jacket. A hat on my head, mittens on my hands and wool socks on my feet complete my ensemble. It's not pretty but it works. One cup of hot coffee and I'm ready to come back in. But it's a morning ritual I'm reluctant to give up. Perhaps the chair will stay on the porch all winter this year. We'll see. Come on over. We'll share a cup. On the mornings that the stars are out, it's really quite spectacular.

Now that we are a few weeks away from elections here in the U.S. I can't help but scream...Let's Do Better! Every year the election process gets uglier as candidates run less on their political views and more on attempts to scare us. The fearful banter that was floating around earlier this month has not dissipated and I'm talking to more and more people who are worried about their future.

Let's do better...

Let's create some space. Let's make room. Let's create some reserves in our lives. Let's do better at living with less instead of suffering in order to live with what we think we need. If it feels overwhelming to count the number of things we own, we've got too much. The less we want, the less stressed we become.

Let's all be super, super productive for a short period of time and then go play, rather than "putting in our time." Let's create a community of people who are having fun, enjoying life and happy.

Let's refuse to be scared. Let's turn off the TV, turn off the radio, turn off the internet and drastically reduce our time with these distractions. If you don't like what you hear or see in the media, do something about it. Otherwise, listening and watching with no action diminishes us. As someone who makes her living using the internet, I have come to appreciate it immensely. But I've also learned that too much time in front of the TV or on the internet drastically reduces my creativity. While we're at it, let's go paperless.

Let's test our assumptions about everything. Chances are that a lot of what we assume is not true.

Let's choose to do the things that give us pleasure without suffering.

Let's focus on what is important. Once we decide for ourselves what is important and not what the unimportant and negative people in media tell us, we can use our own filter. And that's empowering.

Let's let go of perfectionism. Everything we do is perfect in the moment. We don't have to micromanage our lives or those who want to help.

Let's stop being busy. Let's breathe. Let's create a life that is full of joy and cheer.

Let's make the upcoming holidays truly thankful occasions without the pressure to do it all, buy it all, and make it all while hosting numerous events in order to include everyone.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone!

Love and Hugs

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Summer in Northern Michigan is busy. Busier than I like. There are too many people, too many events, the lines are too long, the traffic is too thick and the noises are too loud. In Summer, I crave becoming disconnected.

Being connected is so easy. All we need to do is just call someone up on our cell phone, even while we, ourselves, are on the move. Or, just stop by the neighbors for a visit. Or, just pop into the local grocery and chat with everyone we know or don't know in front or behind us in the checkout line. Perhaps we go to an event where we are surrounded by people we don't know, and still we have the connection of sharing whatever it is we are all there to experience. Daily, most of us just get online and share our life activities with everyone we know on one or more of the social networks to which we belong.

So I go north to fish. And yes, I go north to disconnect. My travels take me far enough that a phone call is impossible without getting in boat and/or a vehicle and traveling at least an hour. I usually have a cabin to myself and make choices about who I will or will not talk with on any particular day; that is, if there is anyone else in camp to talk with. The laptop stays home, unplugged and unused for as much as two weeks at a time. My Jeep, also unused, rests at the furthest point it can go before I must find other form of transportation. At some camps, I can drive as far as the cabin door, but often the boat launch or the train station is the final resting point for the driving part of my journey north. My cell phone, too, has no need to travel north. Phone, cell and computer access are all "technically" possible if I'm willing to travel at least a couple of hours, but my unwillingness means it's just not going to happen.

I sit on a bench in front of the cabin or on the cabin steps and enjoy "twittering" of a different sort as the Whiskey Jacks are all too happy to see me and share my breakfast, lunch or dinner. At 5:00 a.m., a cow moose wanders on the beach, past camp and I feel no urge to wake others to see the sight. I fall deeply into a novel I picked up at my local library in a rush out of town, no thought to its contents or who the author might be. In the moments of my reading, I am consumed. Now, a few weeks later, I can't tell you the name of the author or the title of the book. I eat breakfast with the rain clattering on the metal roof of the cabin, absorbed in a simple meal, thinking it's the best I've ever had, with no desire to share, to pass the recipe on, or even to make note of what I did so differently when I prepared this simple, familiar fare.

Brainwashed, we often think that everything we do or say is dependent on others listening and reacting. And worse, we often think that everything we do or say is important. Only when we dare to disconnect, are we able to enjoy our own company without placing much importance on our perceived value. It's oh so very worth it.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

In The Stillness

May has ended and we are entering June. I'm noticing stillness all around me. This is not the stillness of Winter when much becomes dormant, quiet and in hibernation. This is the stillness of Summer when there is a more lazy and centered movement. It's the stillness of contentment.

The woods around my home are greening. The frenetic activity of the critters has slowed. Birds are sitting on their nest now. There is plenty of food on the floor of the woods and in the trees. Breaks are easily taken during the middle of the day when the shadows of the trees around the creek provide a peaceful resting place to absorb the cooler, darker, moister air. There is a new stillness.

The nights are still noisy. The peepers come out around dusk. But their talk is more like neighbors chatting on the front porch than the calls of those looking for a mate. The owl still makes a vocal appearance each night before the morning sun rises. It's a low, slow hoot now. The whippoorwills get vocal every dusk and dawn, but they seem to be talking of the celebration of Summer instead of the need for attraction. And the phoebes have ceased their incessant calling and tapping on my windows.

Even the thunderstorms roll through with low, lazy, long rumbles, taking their time to pass over and soak my world.

The creek has become slow and vague, veiled by the undergrowth and hosting dragon and damselflies on the sand bars that are starting to appear as the water slows after the Spring rush. It simply trickles now over rocks and downed trees, smelling of sun-soaked cedar and warming summer grasses. It has become another creature entirely, as it meanders through the tall grasses and ferns.

Even the mosquitoes seem less interested in biting, giving me fair warning before they pick a spot on my exposed skin.

Sit back, breathe deeply, rest. It's June and such an opportunity to enjoy stillness. Stillness is not necessarily where activity ends. It can be where creation begins. When you become still, you let go of not movement but, instead, control. Stillness can be very dynamic. But its movement contains no conflict and is, instead, in harmony with the actions you take. It is your truth come home to rest, simply letting go of the thoughts that bubble to your surface, allowing them but not controlling such thoughts.

"Within you there is stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself." ~Hermann Hesse

Saturday, April 03, 2010

In My Wildest Dreams

The hard shell of winter is cracking and the luscious gooey center called Spring is oozing out. My nighttime noggin is doing the same with dreams so rich, colorful and vivid that I feel like I've entered a children's book where all the characters are past acquaintances, human and critter, who have come to tell me a story full of metaphors only I can interpret and appreciate.

This happens to me every Spring. It's crazy. My dreams become so wild that anyone reviewing them would insist these events just don't happen in the day-to-day world. And yet, the vividness, the colors and the intricacy of every moment of the dream only serves to prove the dream must be every bit as real as the world I walk in wakefulness.

I wonder how Spring brings this on. I suppose it has something to do with the beginning of new life. Perhaps it's the slow tilt of the Earth's axis back to the Southern Hemisphere and a more luxurious weather pattern that allows for free time and play and less emphasis on survival.

Maybe vivid and extravagant dreaming requires a sense of the stirring of life, seen and unseen, that is all around me.

Perhaps dreams as extravagant as my Spring dreams are prompted by the constant flow of the season.

Whatever the source, I love my Springtime dreams. As bizarre and outrageous as they are, there's a sense of being more connected with everything, including you.

"I think we dream so we don't have to be apart so long. If we're in each other's dreams, we can play together all night." ~Bill Watterson


It's April. Spring is on the rise, literally, from the ground up. Early morning on the porch with coffee; peepers, pussy willows, phoebes, crocus, sand hill cranes, ... ahhhhh.
Good thing I made a whole pot!

My Jersey celebrated her 15th birthday on April 1. A Noble Dog.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

River Running

As usual, along about the end of February, I find myself musing about things to come. I become a little less present as I plunge my thoughts and emotions into the upcoming fishing season. As the snow begins to melt and trickle from seemingly flat surfaces towards the lowlands of increasingly bulging creeks and rivers, I notice the new swiftness and I can't help but feel the urge to do a little river running.

It's the nature of rivers to drop in elevation over distance. That is, of course, how they flow. Some relaxing and beautifully meditative rivers drop consistently with few or no surprises. I love to travel these wonderful rivers because they give me the opportunity to play with friends or trail a fishing line or lean back in my canoe and contemplate something important or nothing at all. This is the nature of most of the rivers I travel in Michigan.

Many of the rivers I travel further north, into the Canadian Shield, are not gradual. These rivers pool and drop and pool and drop, keeping me ever alert. The deep pools of swirling water are where I often find the fish. I love these rivers for their energy. They lift me up and move me forward at sometimes breakneck speeds. The canoe goes forward, up and down, right and left and side to side all at the same time. My paddle becomes a rudder and a brace, slowing and turning me as the conditions demand. My arms hurt. My back is rigid and my butt and legs are an extension of my craft, using body language to direct me. And then it's over too quickly and I'm bobbing on riffles, heading towards calm water where I once again must use my paddle to move forward. Sometimes these rivers even force me to stop and get out of my canoe, wary about a drop I might not be able to navigate.

I don't prefer one type of river over the other. They are both special. It's the variety that is important to me. Moving forward at a steady pace, as in the case of my Michigan rivers, is delightfully energizing in the way a nap rejuvenates me. Moving forward in a chaotic way, shaking things up and amplifying the adrenaline, as in the case of my Canadian rivers, energizes me in the same way a good brawl gets the juices flowing.  

It's March and it's time to rumble! See you on the river or on the bank. Your choice. But I'm not waiting. 

"All rivers, even the most dazzling, those that catch the sun in their course, all rivers go down to the ocean and drown. And life awaits man as the sea awaits the river." ~Simone Schwarz-Bart

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and the river runs through it." ~Norman Maclean

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Moon Shadows

It's cold, very cold, bone chilling cold.

Early this morning, the light from my porch light rose straight up on the ice crystals in the air.

Last night's almost full moon created brilliant moon shadows on the pristine snow. The two dogs and I fell into step and there were 6 of us whenever we were not in the shadow of a tree or bush.

Tonight's full moon is the Wolf Moon. Named for clarity of the wolf howl on a cold night, traveling on the brittle air much like the light from my porch.

I'm torn between immersing myself in the bright silence and the temptation to let out my own howl.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January Thaw

This month we had our annual January thaw, so common in the North that it does not need to be explained to anyone who has lived here for at least a year or two. During the thaw, our temperatures, while not exactly fall-like, are much more temperate. Sometimes even, the snow and ice, as the words "January thaw" imply, melt for an hour or so during midday. Even a string of two or more days, with temperatures only 5 or 10 degrees higher than our usual January fare, is significant cause for celebration. Add some sun, and those of us in the North Country are literally jolly, buoyed by the freedoms that come with the thaw; walking upright instead of bent over in order to watch where we place our feet and protect our face from the blowing snow, driving at the speed limit without worry about an upcoming patch of ice, and moving around the house into areas too cold to visit for more than a minute or two during most of the winter months.

I took a little survey while running errands during this month's thaw. I found no one who could explain to me why the thaw happens, even though we are enveloped in it every January like clockwork. And, there seems to be no guidelines as to how high the temperatures must rise and how long for the January thaw to be official. But frankly, when you're finally walking upright at more than a snail's pace, who cares?

Generally, I learned from those surveyed that a January thaw means temperatures are high enough to create dripping off the roof for at least an hour each day. That the phenomenon lasts at least 3 days but longer is better. And it's a grand year when the thaw is accompanied by the sun. And if we really dare to dream big, the thaw and the sun are best if arrival coordinates with at least one weekend. It does in no way mean we lose all our snow. Some years even, it's agreed, the January thaw is not technically a "thaw" but nearer to high freezing temps.

As I write today, the snow is becoming heavy with moisture, falling off the trees and the banks of the creek, creating new noises for my big black lab to bark and growl at as it splashes into the creek. Lake ice is melting to an inch or two of water on the surface of 12 or more inches of ice. That water will immediately freeze tonight into fine skating-rink quality ice. There's a racket in the woods around my home as those who semi-hibernate come out of holes and burrows and dens and piles of snow to see what's up. I welcome the touch of the thaw for the subtle change in my sights, sounds and smells, for the sun on my face, for one less layer of clothing on our walks, and for the smiles and the change of conversation I get during my travels. I welcome it for the breather it gives me before we enter February and very cold temperatures. And I welcome the thaw for its prediction of the certainty of March. I welcome it for its spirit.

My friend David tells me the English word for spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning "breath." He suggest that during this January thaw, the earth around me is engaging in a spiritual pursuit, breathing in and breathing out, expanding and contracting. And that's the gift, isn't it; to pay attention to just the simple things like the planet breathing.

"Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each." ~Henry David Thoreau.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates and doors, endings and beginnings. The month of January, the beginning of the New Year, is named for Janus. He is most often depicted as having two faces or heads, facing in opposite directions.

So in this new year, my friends, I hope you are facing your endings with satisfaction and your beginnings with joy!