Categories
Animals Life Nature

Icy

Yesterday, I watched a video of a polar bear making its way across thin ice.

The bear lay down on its belly and used its front paws and forearms to calmly propel itself forward. There was no kicking or clawing or flailing. Instead, it held its head high while moving, using belly heat and fur to create a slick path for gliding.

The bear didn’t hesitate upon encountering the thin ice. It simply moved into position and kept going. Once across, it resumed its four-legged stride without missing a beat. Just another day, out in the wild, dealing with reality.

Here’s to the instinctive wisdom of polar bears.


Categories
Good Life

Chimes

We have a set of wind chimes in our backyard.

Most of the time, especially this past summer, I forget about them. There’s little to no wind, and the chimes are silent.

Sometimes, however, a breeze will blow, and I’ll hear them. Yesterday, for example. We’ve had a change in the weather, the wind bringing cooler temperatures and perfectly clear blue skies.

Our chimes sound a bit like church bells, certainly not as loud but with the same deep, clear notes. I can’t help but listen, breathing in the calming melody, feeling it in my bones.

Not everyone likes wind chimes. I get it; the sound can be distracting, sometimes harsh, especially if the chimes aren’t designed well.

The right ones, in the right moment, however – well, they can be magical.

Here’s to nature’s music.

Categories
Good Life

Running

Some years ago, I was a runner. I wasn’t hardcore; I didn’t run every day or compete in marathons. I was a casual runner, a neighborhood runner, slowly but steadily wearing away the tread on my shoes.

At one point, I did sign up for a local 5k event, mostly out of curiosity. On a warm, muggy morning, I successfully crossed the finish line, not the first person to do so that day – but also not the last. My “runner’s high” from that event seemed to last for quite a while, bringing new energy to my casual approach.

Gradually, however, I stopped running. My priorities shifted. Work involved new and increasing responsibilities sandwiched between long hours of driving to and from the office. Family schedules often required early mornings and late evenings, juggling clubs and practices and friends. Running seemed inconvenient, impractical, especially on days of blazing sun and sizzling temperatures.

But now, the kids are grown. The work commute no longer exists. Finding the time to run is no longer the challenge it once was. And currently, the hottest days are behind us, at least for a while. Cool breezes invite open windows and outside activity.

I’m older, of course. Creakier. My joints and muscles need extra coaxing and care. It’s unlikely that I can build my running stamina as quickly as I once did. It would probably be unwise to try.

Still, I’ve started looking at running shoes, comparing features and styles. I’ve been thinking about the music that will motivate me on those days when I’m just not feeling it. I’ve been scouting out running paths, reviewing my old route and considering new additions.

It might take a while before I’m back to where I used to be. I may never truly get there; I may need to adjust my expectations. That’s okay. I’m just looking forward to feeling that runner’s high once more.

Categories
Family Food Life

Connection

When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about pancakes. This surprised me. I like pancakes, but I’m not sure why they’d be on my mind right now. I rarely eat them or even consider them now that my sons are grown.

Nevertheless, the more I thought about them, the more I wanted them. So, I decided to make pancakes for breakfast.

Before I could get started, however, my husband announced that he was making pancakes for breakfast. He’s also not much of a pancake eater, and I hadn’t yet mentioned my plans to him. So, his decision seemed especially random, especially remarkable.

We’ve been married a long time and agree on a great many things. We also disagree on a regular basis. I love chocolate; he can take it or leave it. His favorite color is sunset orange; mine is emerald green. We’ve had our fair share of “lively” discussions about world events, house decor, grocery shopping lists, and driving styles.

In the end, however, we always come together. As we will this morning, sharing our unexpected (and delicious) pancake connection.

Categories
Animals Life

Comfort

It’s common knowledge that dogs can bring comfort. Snuggling with a friendly pup can erase – or, at least, mitigate – stress, fear, anger, and sadness.

There are organizations dedicated to this truth, bringing trained “comfort dogs” to hospitals, natural disasters, and other difficult situations. The people in these groups recognize that domesticated dogs instinctively want – and want to provide – trusted companionship. They thrive through connection and the giving and receiving of affection.

One of these groups, the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, was present yesterday morning as children returned to school in Uvalde, Texas. The group brought ten golden retrievers to support the students, educators, and families. The dogs will be in Uvalde for the next few weeks, helping the community through the trauma they’ve experienced.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time the comfort dogs have been to the site of a school shooting. It’s also unlikely that it will be the last. Amidst the finger-pointing and polarization, this is the painful, shameful reality of things today.

In most ways, humans are the smarter species. We train dogs; dogs obey us. Sometimes, however, humans aren’t the smart ones. Sometimes, dogs are more adept at figuring things out. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean stupid.

Fortunately, we humans do have the capacity to learn and improve. I choose to believe that we can, and one day, we will. Until then, here’s to the comfort dogs, their instinctive wisdom, and the help they give to those who need it.

Categories
Family Life

Home

My childhood home is for sale.

It was designed by my father, an architect. He and my mom imagined it together, planned and coordinated the construction and details for close to a year, and then moved us all in when it was complete.

I vividly remember my first entrance through the front door, a five-year-old excited by the newness of it all, being greeted by my mother in the entryway and told to look around and tell her what I thought. I told her I loved it.

My parents decorated our house in the colors of the times – brown and yellow, rusty red, avocado green and white accents. It would have been easy for them to overdo it, but they managed it well, creating a classy balance of hues and tones. They included personal elements from their lives; large wall hangings from South America, pieces of art they’d created, reminders of their travels together. The house had a distinct personality that was warm and inviting, unique yet comfortable.

After my sister and I grew up and moved out, my parents sold the house. As happens, the new owners made changes to fit their preferences. When they sold, the next owners did the same.

I get it, I understand. The privilege of ownership allows for these decisions, regardless of what was before. But it’s a hard thing, seeing the changes.

Viewing the carefully-staged online photos, the ones intended to attract buyers and encourage showings, I felt cold. Where was the wet bar where my father crafted Pisco Sours while family friends filled the living room with music and dancing and happy energy? What happened to the walls of wooden bookshelves, the ones with a warm glow that perfectly sheltered the collections they contained? Why were walls and doors moved and colors erased? Why did everything seem bland and boring, perfectly perfect yet lacking the personality that I knew so well?

Perhaps if my father was still alive and if my mother wasn’t nearing the end of her life, it wouldn’t matter as much to me. It’s possible I’d look at those photos and be able to focus on the improvements – the extra kitchen space and the hardwood floors and such – and simply be glad that the house exists. Perhaps I could be happy that it is cared for and a place where new memories are being made, even if I don’t like what’s been done to the place itself.

I’m unable, however, to do that right now. All I see is what’s missing. All I notice is that it’s not the house that I remember, the house that I knew.

Not all of my memories are pleasant. There were sometimes troubled times within those walls. And, I have since created my own home, the place where my children grew up and where my adult memories live. When I think of “home” now, that is what first comes to mind. Nevertheless, I will always feel a deep connection to the house my parents built.

Here’s to accepting that life is full of change. Here’s also to allowing for the sad ache that comes from missing what used to be real.

Categories
Family Good Life

Companions

Not long ago, my husband surprised me with a new copy of one of my favorite childhood books. I’d lamented the fact that my copy, saved for decades among my most beloved possessions, was tattered and missing sections. He quietly took note, searched for a replacement, and gifted it to me.

The book is I Go By Sea, I Go By Land, written by P.L. Travers (yes, the Mary Poppins P.L. Travers). It tells the story of Sabrina Lind and the journey she and her brother make from their home in England to the United States during WW II. It’s told from Sabrina’s perspective, a journal of days detailing the people, events, and emotions she feels as she lives the experience. It’s a children’s book, but it’s not a childish story.

As I read my new copy, I felt warm and content, like I was in the presence of a friend. I think of this kind of reading as “comfort reading.” The excitement that comes from reading a book for the first time is wonderful, but the re-reading of a favorite book creates its own special magic. I was grateful for the happy spell made possible by my husband’s loving gift.

Coming to the last sentence, I reflected on how the story, the characters and events, has gently accompanied me throughout my life. It is always present within me, ready to supply an image or a sentence. I can go for days or sometimes weeks without thinking about it and years without rereading the words. Yet when fitting and needed, it is there.

Today’s cuppa celebrates companions – the living ones who listen with their hearts and respond with love, and the ones within our souls, ready to give whenever they are needed. May we all have the good fortune of having both in our lives.


Categories
Animals Life Nature

Coyotes

Early this morning, before the sun was up, I heard the sound of coyotes, yipping and yapping and howling. They weren’t directly outside of my house, but they were close.

It’s the second time this week I’ve heard them. So, we are now at Coyotecon level 5, meaning that the pups are supervised in the yard, even for short periods of time, and the cats aren’t permitted out at all.

Most likely, the full-on daytime hours are safe; coyotes aren’t typically active when the sun is up. And, we live in a typical suburban neighborhood, with houses and fenced yards and concrete sidewalks. It’s unlikely we’d encounter a carnivorous hunter in the middle of the day. Nevertheless, a hungry coyote can’t be expected to follow the rule book.

I don’t fault coyotes for doing their coyote thing. But – coyote howls are creepy. They echo and fade, casting a warning, sending a message to those in the vicinity: fear us. Run. We have your scent; we are on your trail. I can allow for instinctive animal behavior while at the same time acknowledging the need for human precaution.

Here’s to doors and walls and the safety they provide. Here’s also to vigilance and wisdom, to watchful decision-making and careful awareness. All may be necessary when the night is full of howls.

Categories
Life

Invitation

I’ve read hundreds of books in my life so far. I hope to read hundreds more.

Some were fun and frivolous and made me laugh. Others were darker, containing madmen and their victims, monsters and the suffering they created – but also full of hope and the battle to preserve good, and truth, and love.

Looking back, I realize that they all shared a common thread: the experience of empathy. Each book was the author’s invitation to join not only in the dialogue and action on the surface of the story but also the feelings and thoughts within.

Each time that I accepted an invitation, I added a layer to my personal awareness and increased my capacity for respect, trust, and gratitude. I liken it to the way a pearl develops within a shell; blankets of time and knowledge gradually building into a quiet (and not always perfect) glow.

I think about my reading past a lot these days, likely because the topic of book bans keeps popping up in the news and in conversations and in social media. Perhaps book banning really is becoming more prevalent, or perhaps it’s simply being noticed more often. Either way, I can’t help but wonder: what’s really driving the action?

Is the goal to forbid the words and pictures, the tactical elements that make up the story, because of their potential to offend? Or is the writing itself so terrible that the only solution is to deny access, lest a reader erroneously believe that is how stories should be written?

Or is the true motivation a fear of empathy? Is the real catalyst a desire to prohibit the sharing of emotions and the outcomes that doing so may create?

As I ponder these questions, I raise today’s cuppa to all who offer, and all who accept, the invitation. The journey may require courage to start and wisdom to finish, and there are no guarantees that every story will have a happy ending. Still, I hope the opportunity will always be available for those who want to participate.

Categories
Good Life

Air

My earworm this morning was (is) The Air That I Breathe by The Hollies.

I woke up with the usual internal chatter, questions and thoughts and ideas rolling through my brain, the kind of stuff that makes it impossible to sleep. But there was also this song in the background. Gradually, it moved front and center, draping itself over the words in my head like a warm, cozy blanket.

Here’s to the music that brings us calm delight and reminds us that, sometimes, all we need is the air that we breathe.