Category Archives: Peace

A perfect weekend

As 2012 draws to a close, we spent the weekend simply enjoying life. Saturday we met Cathleen for a delicious breakfast at Nick’s, returning home before the snow began to fall, fast and deep.

This morning we used showshoes to make pathways in a foot of snow, looping around the yard and through the woods so we could do it all again on cross-country skiis. I hope 2013 will see many such peaceful days.

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Snowshoeing with dogs

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Vegetable garden in snow

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First x-c ski of winter

Pausing

Lately I have become acutely aware of contradictory sensations related to time. On the one hand, time passes at an alarming speed. One season collides with the next: summer disappeared before the fall crop of seeds got planted; fall was replaced with dropping temperatures and snow, freezing unfinished garden beds. Holidays whip ferociously by; Thanksgiving overlaps with Christmas and then it’s New Year’s—when was there time to live an entire year?

And yet each day is so packed. When I was younger, and time seemed infinite, work and getting together with friends filled every day to capacity. On a Sunday, a bike ride along the Charles River followed by a snooze in the sun was a day well spent. I enjoyed myself then, and have few regrets, but time seemed in such plentitude that looking back it feels squandered. Now I plan lunch or dinner with friends two months out, schedule exercise, carve out time for volunteer work, orchestrate a Saturday’s errands to maximize efficiency. Always a list maker, I have one for each day, another for the week and a third for the weekend…and a monthly calendar to keep track of upcoming events. All of this activity actually makes me feel more alive and engaged than in my younger days. The more I experience, the more interested I am in learning. Still, the one thing I wish for is time—to sit quietly and read, to write with my head not racing through a “to do” list, to observe: the dynamics of the chickens, the garden growing, the sky changing.

Thanksgiving…a week ago now…I read the paper over breakfast, before cooking up the sweet potatoes to bring to my aunt’s Thanksgiving dinner.  One piece on the OpEd page stopped me, “On Being Not Dead.” The author, Bill Hayes, wrote about time, friends, and noticing life. Talking about degrees of “aliveness” he said: “One can be alive but half-asleep or half-noticing as the years fly, no matter how fully oxygenated the blood and brain or how steadily the heart beats. Fortunately, this is a reversible condition. One can learn to be alert to the extraordinary and press pause—to memorize moments of the everyday.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/opinion/on-being-not-dead.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1354308928-pJtnwQ493owySPFX3yJBqA

December is almost upon us and with it comes three family birthdays: my mother’s, sister’s and then mine. Followed by Christmas. Added to our regular activities will be a tree to cut down and decorate, presents to choose and wrap, cards to write and send, cookies to make, friends to celebrate with, holiday events to attend.

This is a big birthday year for me. To mark it, I hope to press pause more frequently. Maybe then December will feel like 31 days, and 2013 will be 12 full months. Plenty of time to learn, to grow, and to notice.

Memorial Day

You can plan all you want, but life charts its own course and sometimes you have to go with the tide. Memorial Day weekend was to be dedicated to the garden, in an effort to catch up with planting (and weeding). Saturday, however, was consumed by the bee swarm. When we woke Sunday, the bees were still on the rock—not in the super. The migration which had begun before the thunderstorm on Saturday seemed to literally have washed away. Later Sunday morning the bees swarmed again, and this time we saw them swirling higher and higher in the sky, until they were lost in the woods. No doubt they clung in a mass to some branch, but we couldn’t see them, and we wouldn’t have been able to retrieve them anyway, they had gone so high. We hope that the scouts found a new home, and then relocated the colony, and that everyone is safe and pollinating some other area. For the remaining bees in the hive, we need to see if they will make a new queen, or we will need to buy one quickly and install her.

Cherisse spent a good part of Sunday building new deeps (larger hive bodies) to give both hives more room, and assembling frames to go into the hives. I was helping a friend in the afternoon, and so it wasn’t until 5 pm that we made it into the garden, planting tomatoes, summer and winter squash, and cucumbers.

Today, my only time to garden was during the hottest part of the day. In my big straw hat I hacked away at weeds so I could plant a row of sunflowers. Usually when I garden I feel a harmony with the the plants, seeds and earth. Instead, in a negative frame of mind I dwelled on fleeting time. Then my thoughts turned to Memorial Day, and finally, to what the day should mean. Thinking about the men and women who gave their lives to serve this country, and those who are in harms way all around the world, extinguished my minor complaints. I am grateful to them, and thankful for a full and happy life, with all its surprises.

Sunday run

As we run down our road, drivers in the few cars that pass give a friendly wave. An occasional dog races out, barking to ensure we keep moving by. On this sunny Sunday afternoon, many neighbors work outside, splitting wood, making repairs. One man stokes the fire at the forge in his blacksmith shop.

We run past houses with smoke curling from chimneys, past the state police academy with its metal gates locked for the weekend (or perhaps until the next session), and past the shuttered sawmill, where Cherisse got the lumber for our shed and for our garden’s raised beds, before a fire put it out of business.

Running up and down steep hills in a cold wind, taking deep breaths of clean air, it feels good to be alive, healthy, and living on this quiet country road.

A quiet mind

Maureen Dowd has an excellent column in today’s New York Times about silence…or the lack thereof in people’s lives. With all of the gadgets demanding our attention, she posits that we have lost the ability to be still, to appreciate what is around us,to pay attention.

I have thought about this often. Walking the streets of New York, you see most people connected to some device: listening to music, tapping out messages, or talking on a cell phone. Growing up, I remember people glaring at someone blasting a boombox (what a ridiculous device that seems!), but it was a fairly rare occasion. Now almost everyone thinks nothing of having a loud phone conversation on the bus.

The city bombards us with sound. Cars, buses, trucks, horns, sirens from police, fire engines or ambulances, people yelling, subways rattling. Yet even in the cacophony, I have almost always been able to quiet my mind. Perhaps growing up in Manhattan forces one to learn how to tune out the noise.

More importantly, this ability was—and is—an essential part of the learning and creative process. When I sit with no distractions, my mind travels across my day, sorting, analyzing and making sense of it. I think of what I could have done better, what I am pleased about. Problems get turned around in the silence, and I look at them from different perspectives, often finding solutions. My work involves thinking creatively, and so it is invaluable to allow my mind the freedom to roam, trying out, discarding or reworking ideas.

Listening to music on my ipod, watching television, talking, reading…these are all things I love and spend a great deal of time doing. Yet many activities are more relaxing because they offer few distractions. Gardening is one where I can lose myself in the plants, the soil, and my thoughts. Our house has plenty of distractions, but it is wonderfully quiet, especially in winter with the windows closed. It is easy to sit for a while and be still. Or to look out the window, watching chickens run by. These moments are among the most productive of my day.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/opinion/dowd-silence-is-golden.html?hp

Time

There is a beautiful Cheryl Wheeler song she wrote for her father’s 75th birthday called “75 Septembers.” Introducing the song in concert, she remarked on how the passage of time accelerates as you get older, so that eventually it becomes “Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.” I have an image in my mind of Superman (George Reeves in the TV version) spinning the earth so fast that time speeds up, until we are propelled into the next year’s holiday…all those intervening months having passed by in a superhuman blur.

I thought life was slowing down to a reasonable pace, only to discover that six months have raced by; a lovely summer slipped into a crowded fall, and then suddenly became the holidays. But the days are full and happy. Maybe the speed is irrelevant.

Another beautiful sunset

Happiness is…

…a brisk sunny fall day.

…the companionship of joyful dogs.

…the sound of rushing water.

…planning the weekend’s menu for good friends.

…glimpsing the twitching tails of the neighbor’s Arabian horses through naked trees.

…chickens racing after you to see what you’ve brought them.

…the warmth of a purring cat.

…the overwhelming love and support of family and friends for a marriage 26 years in the making.

…filling an egg carton with your own eggs.

…finding new creatures in unexpected places.

…hanging clothes on the line to dry.

…savoring a clean house.

…admiring a giant pumpkin that overcame its adversaries.

…planning the future.

 

And that’s just today.

RiverFrogPumpkin