Tuesday, February 24, 2009


It's always a bit bizarre to look out the window the morning after a sad event or circumstances to see that the world is going as usual. No matter how large or small the tragedy, the annoyances, the trials - dawn the day after still happens ... sometimes in a furiatingly spectacular way as though to spite my sourness. The wind still blows, the rain still falls and the grass still grows. Birds are out gathering their breakfast; neighbors are heading out the door according to their normal routine without a single hitch in their step because of my pain or sorrow or frustration!

After the first selfish little pang of resentment that the day is not matching my dark mood, I come back to my senses and I'm so humbled and glad that the world doesn't revolve around me. Thank goodness that this glorious event of Spring isn't being postponed on my account! Seeing that things of life continue without me cheering it on has a way of putting me back in my place and my life back into perspective with the full realization that there are so very many dependable things about it in which to place my trust.

And now that I'm sufficiently over my bad self - I think I'll go out into this wonderful day and examine the rosebush closely for new buds. I trust that they will be there .... and I will offer thanks and be grateful.


Trust that there is a tiger, muscular
Tasmanian, and sly, which has never been
seen and never will be seen by any human
eye. Trust that thirty thousand sword-
fish will never near a ship, that far
from cameras or cars elephant herds live
long elephant lives. Believe that bees
by the billions find unidentified flowers
on unmapped marshes and mountains. Safe
in caves of contentment, bears sleep.
Through vast canyons, horses run while slowly
snakes stretch beyond their skins in the sun.
I must trust all this to be true, though
the few birds at my feeder watch the window
with small flutters of fear, so like my own.

~ by Susan Kinsolving ~

Friday, February 20, 2009

Songs from Some Margin of the Day

The nights have been cold lately but the days have warmed up enough to open the small windows on either side of the window seat in front of the feeders. It's been wonderful to hear the birdsong, the squirrel chatter ...

Cold is coming back again, though, for a few days at least ... probably winter's last hurrah before Spring's grand entrance

Far Company
by W. S. Merwin

At times now from some margin of the day
I can hear birds of another country
not the whole song but a brief phrase of it
out of a music that I may have heard
once in a moment I appear to have
forgotten for the most part that full day
no sight of which I can remember now
though it must have been where my eyes were then
that knew it as the present while I thought
of somewhere else without noticing that
singing when it was there and still went on
whether or not I noticed now it falls
silent when I listen and leaves the day
and flies before it to be heard again
somewhere ahead when I have forgotten

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"...whatever good we did...."

When I was growing up my mom impressed upon us kids a philosophy that has stuck with me ...

"Always try to leave a room, a place, a person, the day - a little better for your being there."

When we left a room we learned to take something with us to put away, wipe a table, straighten pillows on the sofa. Other times we brought something inside to leave there for others to enjoy - a pretty stone or leaf - a funny clip from the newspaper. When we went for a walk or a bike ride and happened upon trash we picked it up. At a restaurant, no matter McDonald's or nice - we were expected to not leave a mess on the table (it makes me shudder to see what others so often leave today) and we were sure to take note and express appreciation for kindnesses and services rendered - more than just a monetary "tip".

When you do these things yourself you tend to notice them more when they are done for and around you, I think and inspires a grateful heart. Living with this philosophy makes for a better feeling at the end of the day - to realize that as you are offering up your own thanks for countless good moments .... your own presence has been a reason for some small gladness somewhere - to someone.

This poem by Marvin Bell is dear to my heart - not only because it perfectly and beautifully expresses my need and dependence upon nature to restore my soul each day ... but because the last lines also express my firm belief in my mom's teaching and says it better than I ever could:

Around Us

Marvin Bell

We need some pines to assuage the darkness
when it blankets the mind,
we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly
as a plane's wing, and a worn bed of
needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind,
and a blur or two of a wild thing
that sees and is not seen. We need these things
between appointments, after work,
and, if we keep them, then someone someday,
lying down after a walk
and supper, with the fire hole wet down,
the whole night sky set at a particular
time, without numbers or hours, will cause
a little sound of thanks--a zipper or a snap--
to close round the moment and the thought
of whatever good we did.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Darn Kool-Aid Drinkers

Darn Kool-Aid Drinkers, originally uploaded by Sparky2*.

So far - in our schools - the little ones have been stripped of anything resembling "party" or fun. This year's Valentine thing was 15 minutes of sit-in-your-seat-on-your-hands-no-talking while we pass out a pencil and "acceptable" snack and your pre-approved, standardized, pre-packaged Valentines addressed to whom it may concern.

No more school carnivals with cake walks, fishing for candy prizes or caramel apples. No more birthdays at school where your mom brings cupcakes and the class sings Happy Birthday and you soak up 30 seconds of glory for being the reason for the cupcakes. No more sharing homemade cookies with a friend at lunch without permission from the other parent. All decisions will be made for you, thankyouverymuch.

Well. So far. At home. As long as we're allowed the freedom to do so. We will continue to actually encourage being a kid and at the same time we will teach them how to choose responsibly.

p.s. Before I get notes about the Kool-Aid ... it's sugar-free, I use filtered water, and snacks this time were string cheese and apples ... although to be honest, we do allow the occasional cookie, pastry, ice cream, pie, cake ....

Uploaded by Sparky2* on 16 Feb 09, 7.57PM CST.

Red, Red, Red ...

The older I get, the more I crave it - want to have it around me. A couple of weeks after the Christmas holidays
I began to have the feeling that I was
missing something ...

... then with the appearance of Valentine's Day decorations everywhere I looked - it hit me -
it's the color RED!

I've come to see that the house is never lovlier than during the Christmas holidays when there is red sprinkled throughout and I've started slowly incorporating more of it without realizing that I had actually been hungering for red around me.

A guest bath has been freshened with red accessories. And the kitchen always feels more inviting to me when spiced up with splashes of red - whether it's a dishtowel or something edible -peppers, apples, cherries piled in a bowl or flowers on the table.

Oddly enough, I think the whole "red" thing began for me with my Mom's sudden and surprising passion for reds (which brings me back to wondering if age really does play an important emotional part here and "why"?) After a lifetime of earth tones and blues she bought herself a large, comfy reading-dozing-tv chair in a perfect red ... and then added a delightful row of red canvas baskets to her bookcase - and a beautiful large rug with lots of red. After coming home from a visit my place seemed rather dull and lacking that as yet undefined "something". At that point, it still hadn't hit me.

Then my gutsy daughter painted a wall in her den an amazing Chinese red. She (and everyone who saw it) loved it so much that she painted another in an adjoining room - and from that room a red stairway leading up to the kids play room done entirely in red! It's all so fresh and vibrant - the red leads the eye - windows frame a sky like a painting and important pieces in the rooms pop! - it's full of life ... very satisfying.

So for me now ... Valentine's Day is sweeter than ever - and I don't mean just for the candy or the kisses! I've loved all the temporary red that it's brought back into the house. But now that it's
over I'm more determined than ever to do something to satisfy this craving in a bigger and more lasting way.

I'll keep you posted. ;-)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Priorities and Focus ...

Croton Study, originally uploaded by Sparky2*.

I am so serious when I say that digital photography has tremendously changed and influenced my life. And I'm finding that many of the the things I'm learning can - and should - be applied to daily living.

When my husband gave me my first little digital camera I was instantly infatuated with the way looking through the lens or on the LCD screen made me see a situation differently. I began to focus more on light, background, detail. A big space may be overwhelming - maybe too cluttered or busy and hard on the eye ... but if I turned the viewfinder on just a small vignette within the big space - it became lovely and special - and made a statement to me that I would have overlooked completely if I hadn't looked in a different way.

To take it a step further ... my priorities within that focus will also have a huge impact on the final image. For example if it's all about color and tone, or if it's about the tiniest detail, or light/shadow - whether I'm taken with one object, or one part of that object, the shape, the lines ... or maybe it's the way several objects, shape and color come together to form a whole image, like words in a poem. Priority will change the "language" of the image entirely ... and with digital the choices and combinations are endless and exciting to me.

I'm finding that since my love affair with photography began, I'm more aware of every tiny thing around me, the beauty, the possibilities in every surrounding. Whether I'm in a new place or the same old neighborhood doesn't matter, because the light, the perspective, the seasons all change. Sometimes I simply have to wait for what I'm looking for to happen.

So in a nutshell ... some of my life lessons from photography:

I've become more aware. I've learned to change my perspectives. I've learned to look in more directions - whether more broadly for the big picture or more closely for important detail. I've learned to be more patient.

And after seven years of digital and an entire lifetime of living ... it feels like the learning has just begun.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I love it when faith and hope are rewarded.

It's happened so many times in my life that it's getting easier to have the patience that is sometimes required to allow a satisfactory ending.

This time it was just a simple little thing. Plants I've loved and nurtured for years were caught outdoors in an unexpected freeze last November while I was having an unexpected surgery. Three types of ferns, a monster begonia, jade, mums, impatiens to name a few. I was too heartbroken when I first discovered them to deal with tossing them ... just moved everything up to the patio and out of sight.

Later, when I felt up to it, I started to clear away the mess and decided to wait and see if anything came back. I did cut away most of the obviously dead matter ... and placed all the ugly, stub-filled pots back into the sunny areas -- though it was hard to look at them remembering how lush and lovely they were before the freeze. I continued to keep the soil moist throughout the winter and was extra careful to move or cover them during freeze temps ...

... and happily at last look most everything is putting out new growth. In fact this impatien has already graced me with one tiny, perfect little bud.

If I look back on my life experiences I've had this same
"hold-on" stubborness at other times. I just can't seem to let go of things and people in which I've invested part of my heart. More than once"You just can't let go, can you ... ?" has been shouted in my direction.

Well, frankly ... NO.

Friends behaving badly? ... hang on, they'll come around. Romance in a funk? ... so what, it's not dead; breathe some life into it! Job going nowhere? ... push it! Thankless volunteer tasks in the church/community hitting a wall? If we quit now, we'll never know what seeds were planted!

So it's just my way it seems - to hold on and have faith. And it's workin' for me. Why change now? ;-)

"My job is to take care of the possible and trust God with the impossible."

~ Unknown

"Faith is a bird that feels dawn breaking and sings while it is still dark. "

~ Scandinavian Saying

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A grand and lazy Sunday morning ....

My beautiful grandaughter, now a grown up nine, made this cross suncatcher for me when she was five. It hasn't left my kitchen window since. Truly, it's on my short list of "things to grab in case of fire."

Sometimes when I'm doing dishes or making dinner, or just watching the birds beyond the windowpane, it somehow catches my eye and my more complete attention. After a moment of contemplating on the cross ... what it really stands for beyond the cute flowers and girly-girl pink... thinking about the sweet little hands that made it ... the fact that she and her mom knew me well enough to know how happy it would make me - and understanding "why" .... oh, it sounds like so much thinking and processing -- but, actually it all seems to come in a rush - complete and wonderful and so simple -- and just like that!! The dishes, or the dinner or the birdwatching ... becomes a hundredfold more sweet.

So. The sweetness of the day brings me back to this lazy Sunday - one of those very rare ones with no family obligations like birthdays, holidays or planned events. Plus, we've had a stomach bug running through the house which seems to work like vampire garlic to "ward off" invitations or visits. With no plans or perimeters in place everyone was left pretty much on their own and it was interesting to see what developed.

Waking for the day was a little like watching an upturned line of dominoes fall ... each waking bumped another. One's breakfast aroma woke another who started cooking something and in stumbled another with different ideas of what sounded good ... and for once I just sat back as interested observer rather than doer. I should totally do that more often.

Everyone seemed incredulous that there was nothing "planned" for the day ... but adapted well. There were impromtu computer games - a Monk marathon watched (while the Bond marathon recorded ) -

birdwatching (and photos) from the window & patio between dozes and pages from the last of a wonderful detective novel ....

a quick and easy tuna salad sandwich lunch ...

long hike to the park, bikes and Krypto the Superdog in tow ...

culminating in a lasagna leftovers dinner ... no pressure (neighborhood kids invited.)

I think we all needed a wind-down day like this. Next weekend is filled with the firsts of baseball practices and scouts and all sorts of stuffs. Somehow, this easy, pleazy day made sure we'll be refueled and ready.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sophie Sweet Feet on Saturday ...

I watched her moving througout the day - throughout the house from one sunny spot to the next ... much like I did in fact. It was a beautiful, lazy Saturday. But with crazy wild winds - not so great for photos.

I tried to settle and read, but could never get far before that restless feeling took over and the day called me out again. Before I knew it I found I had cleaned off the patio ... cleaned the birdbath. And soon I was setting up the water fountain .... setting out fresh seed and suet ... examining the rose bush for new growth. Amazing to me how the years finely tune our bodies and spirits to the seasons - and somehow we just seem to know. Spring. It is almost time for the miracles of it.


Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

~ by Walt Whitman

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cricket helps me greet the morning ...

This is my all time favorite coffee mug. It's handmade by Follette Pottery in my home town of Ruston, La. www.follettepottery.com/

I love the way it fits my hand with that neat little thumb rest ... and it seems to keep my coffee hot forever. But I love it, too, because of the memories made with my mom on several visits there - and even once we were four generations represented, as my daughters and grandaughter came along.

“What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.” -George Eliot

Kent Follette is a hoot! On that particular visit he used one of his lovely cups to scoop up fish food for my 3yr old grandaughter to feed the koi in the large pond behind the studio. He's a charmer, and quite the entertainer ... he made me promise to really use the Follette pieces every day because it makes them more special and the kids who inherit them someday (pointing at my little one) will remember. I have his wonderful cookbook (which he signed for me with great flourish and a hug.) In the intro Kent says,

"Nothing breaks our heart more than to hear people say our pottery is too pretty to use. That's why we have the world-famous "Follette Pottery 3,000-Year Guarantee." If a piece of our pottery breaks under normal use, we will replace it. This offer is null and void if you drop it or throw it at your boyfriend or husband. "

Over the years I've acquired such a nice collection (Thanks, Mom!) and indeed ...I do use it everyday!

This mug was actually bought for my mom on one of those visits together ... because we thought the little thumb rest might be comfortable for her arthritic hand. But on a later visit home she said that her hands were so "sleepy and weak" in the mornings (she had neuropathy) and she'd found the mug a little heavy. She feared that she'd drop it and wanted me to take it home and use it and love it for her. So I do.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Facing the First Blank Page ...

I'm blogging! Finally got a "round tuit" ... (those rascals are hard to come by!) Actually, my car is in the shop today, so my run-around list of errands is on hold and here I am. The laundry is started; the cats are occupied elsewhere for once, rather than lying on my keyboard; the dog is sleeping rather than barking and chasing the poor birds away from the feeders; hub is working from home today and jammin' with his headphones on in his office .... soooooo .... here goes.

One of my many hopes for change in this new year is to carve more time for creativity. I've found that if I go too long without indulging in that side of myself I start to feel empty and slow. Creating, changing, improving, renewing - all those things fill and energize me - so I hope to do more of it. Maybe I'll use this space from time to time for doing that. The older I get, it seems the more urgently my muses whisper ...

"There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. "~~~~~~Martha Graham

Something else that I'm working on is awareness. Ok, I'm totally and always aware of the big things ... like family and friends and passions and hobbies. But ... I want to notice - to pay closer attention to the little things that give me joy and truly realize that joy while it happens.

I did two chores today that I've done a million times in my life - but it's been a long time since I focused on the pleasure I derive from doing them. So I made the effort today and found that I honestly enjoy folding freshly laundered towels. There is something very satisfying about gathering an armful of warm, fluffy towels ... (I'm very precise about my folding method - thanks, Mom) and it's nice to see a neatly constructed towel tower rising before me and to later stash them at the ready on the shelf. I smiled to know that a loved one will have a little (yes, very little) flash of appreciation when they reach for a clean, sweetsmelling towel - knowing they'll always be there for them.

Ok. Maybe it reads a little like a cheezy country song ... "I Found My Joy, Now I'm A Taa-owl Foldin' Toy" .... Not every chore is such the delight. Yesterday, even when I tried ... I simply couldn't find much to love about cleaning the ceiling fans or the litter box.

But then today was just the right sort of weather - felt very much like spring - for cleaning windows. I love making things sparkle and shine and joy happened for me again ... and it felt good to really notice it. And I carried these little joys with me throughout the rest of my day. And I found it helped with the not-so-joyful stuff. As a side bonus, I got a shot of this sweet little cardinal from my sparkly clean window:

Maybe if I work at this I'll eventually find something pleasurable about cleaning the litter box. Or not.