Last week’s heat wave in this area has finally broken; today was much cooler, and a light rain was falling all through the day. Although I stayed indoors and there wasn’t a bit of sunshine to be found anywhere, I felt cheerful anyway when I looked out the window because the grass and flowers, which had gotten parched in the heat, were visibly greening up and looked so happy to be alive.

Wishing everyone visiting my blog a happy Thursday too!
 

Word-art that says "Be so happy that when others look at you, they become happy too." 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Last weekend my house felt like it had gotten totally overrun with dogs. My daughter, who has two dogs, came to visit while she was dog-sitting for a third. They were all very well-behaved the entire time, so I can’t complain; but the house did feel kind of crowded.

We played a game of Monopoly while sitting on the floor and managed to avoid having our little plastic houses, etc., knocked off by playful dogs wandering onto the board. Then I thought about how fortunate we are to have such a close family—pets and all.

For Nurturing Thursday, here’s a dog picture for all my awesome readers.
 

Word-art with a dog that says "Who's awesome? You're awesome!" 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

This is a continuation of a story that began on the blog Nuggets of Gold.
 

Somewhere across the lake, a rooster crowed. The sound carried clearly in the still air before dawn. She blinked, startled; the lake now reflected pale pink clouds instead of moonlight. It seemed that only a moment had passed since she closed her eyes, but somehow she must have dozed off without knowing it.

Rising to her feet, she brushed grass and twigs off her long, full skirt, which came down far enough to brush against wooden shoes fitting tightly over thick homespun stockings. But no, that wasn’t right at all—she had been wearing jeans and gym shoes when she walked through the woods to the lake.

When she turned around, she couldn’t see any path through the tall grass and midsummer wildflowers. Farther back, instead of the familiar patch of woods, a large old-growth forest loomed, with trees much taller and broader than she’d ever seen.
 

Old-growth forest with large tree trunk in foreground.

(Photo credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli)
 

The air felt invigorating; it was fresh and pure, filled with the scents and sounds of nature. She turned back toward the lake, only then noticing how easily her body moved, without the aches and stiffness that she’d have expected from falling asleep outdoors at her age. Although she was in fairly good health at 67, camping in the woods would not have been on any list of her favorite activities.

The landscape on the other side of the lake had changed, too. Where was the new subdivision of expensive lakefront homes that she’d driven past, and the state highway not far behind them? Now there was only a small, tidy log cabin, surrounded by vegetable gardens and—yes, that was definitely a chicken coop.

“Hello.” The little voice came from a girl, also wearing an old-fashioned dress, who was walking across the grass to her left. “My name is Mabel. Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

None of this could be real, she thought. There was only one sensible explanation—she was still asleep in the grass where she had dozed off listening to the bullfrogs in the moonlight. “I am in a dream,” she said, more to herself than to her young companion.

Mabel smiled, showing a gap from a newly lost baby tooth. “You’ll have to come and meet my Mama,” she declared, setting off toward the cabin, where a woman had just stepped outside with a wicker basket.

By the time they reached the cabin, the basket was full of freshly collected eggs. Mabel announced cheerfully, “Mama, this is my new friend, Miss Ina Drim. I found her on the other side of the lake.”

The woman had light hazel eyes and a kindly smile. “Good morning to you, Miss Ina. You can call me Nellie. Have you traveled far? You’re very young to be walking through the Wild Forest by yourself—why, you can’t be much over sixteen. And today, of all days!”

Her first reaction was to open her mouth in surprise, thinking that she’d better set matters straight as to both her name and age. But her hands looked young and smooth at the end of her long, billowing sleeves, with no age spots or swollen knuckles. How old was she, really? And what had her name been? The more she breathed this lovely fresh air, the harder it was to remember.

Seeing that she looked confused, Nellie clarified the last sentence. “I meant, today is the summer solstice. Folks say that the witches who live in the Wild Forest use their magic every Midsummer’s Eve to bring girls here from far away, so as to train them in the secret ways of witchcraft. The magic is said to be so very strong, the girls can be summoned from distant countries or even through time itself. They forget everything about their old lives.”

Ina, who by now couldn’t recall if she’d ever had another name, shook her head in denial. She couldn’t possibly have been summoned by witches, could she? No, of course not, that was ridiculous. She’d come here to the lake because of—something about family, and memories, and an old woman. Surely it would all come back to her soon.

“I was visiting my grandmother,” she said finally, not sure whether that was quite right, but concluding that it must be close enough. “And I lost my way in the woods.”

Nellie looked horrified. “Lost and alone in the Wild Forest all night—you’re lucky the wolves didn’t get you! Of course, you’ll have to stay here for now. It would be much too dangerous for a young girl like you to travel through the forest alone, especially today.” Her tone made clear she wouldn’t stand for any argument.

Although her first inclination was to argue anyway, Ina decided that was silly. After all, the invitation plainly was well-intended, and there didn’t seem to be any reason to leave just yet. She might as well stay for a little while—at least, until she could remember where she ought to be.

I make a point of surrounding myself with cheerful images, particularly in my house, because I believe that the things we regularly encounter in our environment go a long way toward creating who we are. Even though we may not be fully aware of what is going on around us from one day to another, the subconscious mind notes the smallest of changes and looks for new ways to put those perceptions together, updating the stories it tells about life in the world.

When my husband bought me a digital art display as a Christmas present in 2015, I thought he understood me very well and was being especially kind and thoughtful. Recently he said that he hadn’t entirely understood my beliefs in that regard, but just thought it was an interesting gadget that I would probably like. Still, it was a much appreciated gift; and it goes to show that kind acts often have unexpected ripples. In keeping with the water metaphor, I’m displaying a bright, colorful image of boats in a canal today.

Wishing my readers many cheerful sights and ripples of kindness too!
 

Brightly colored image of boats docked in a canal between buildings. 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I’m still wearing the Fitbit Alta that I got in April; it’s helpful for reminding me to get up from my desk chair more often, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. There is one thing it doesn’t do, though; I often row on the river, and the Fitbit is not programmed to identify rowing motions, so it doesn’t include that when it counts time spent exercising. It recognizes other activities such as walking, running, and bicycling.

That left me wondering if I should turn off the icon on the Fitbit phone app that counts days of exercise, so as not to be annoyed by it. After giving that some thought, however, I decided that walking more would be a healthy, nurturing thing to do, whether or not I row. Now that the warm summer days are here and getting outside for a walk feels refreshing, it’s another way to take better care of myself.
 

Word-art that says "Be kind to everyone, including yourself." 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I got outdoors a lot over the long weekend—rowing and bicycling, and the hot weather was just right for the swimming pool. My daughter and her husband came down from Cleveland to visit. Their Labradoodle puppy still hasn’t quite figured out how to walk up the pool steps, but at least he has discovered that he can stand on the bottom step and leap out of the pool.

There wasn’t really much time for blogging, which was okay until an annoying self-critical part of my subconscious began to draw unfavorable comparisons to my creative output in the past. Maybe you’ve lost your mojo, it suggested nastily. You haven’t written much in months. What happened to the days when stories just popped into your head all the time, no matter how busy you were?

At first I tried to dismiss the voice, but then I started wondering—did I really have that much more creative energy in the past? Maybe this was just selective memory playing tricks on me, highlighting times when my younger self bubbled over with new stories, while skipping over the mundane stuff. How would I know?

Then it occurred to me that an imaginary visit with one of my younger selves might help me find an answer to that question. I decided to call her Butterfly because there was a time, many years ago, when I pictured one as my animal spirit guide, carefree and flitting easily from one place to another.

I tried to construct a mental image of this younger self sitting comfortably with a pen and notepad in hand, busily scribbling away. She had her own ideas about that, however. The comfy chair stayed empty; and when Butterfly finally showed up in my mindspace, she was pedaling cheerfully along on a three-speed bike from the 1970s, with her bell-bottom jeans rolled up so they wouldn’t catch and rip on the chain.

I was riding next to her in the same workout clothes I wore on Sunday in the park, on my Made-in-the-USA fifteen-speed Huffy bicycle from 1994. It still works just fine, as does my husband’s matching bike. (Over the weekend he upgraded both bikes with nice modern carbon-fiber water bottle holders, which, needless to say, is the only bit of carbon fiber to be found anywhere on them—but, at least now they’re not 100% ancient.)
 

Photo of Meg Evans on an old Huffy bicycle 

“Hello,” I said to my younger self, as we rode slowly along a quiet, shaded path in the park. The fast-paced real world seemed very far away.

“Hi,” replied Butterfly in a distracted tone, just before stopping her bike in the grass beside the path and exclaiming, “Ooh, look at the pretty flowers!”

I stopped next to her, and yes, the flowers were pretty—wild roses and honeysuckle all tangled together like a bright, living curtain that swayed gently in the breeze.

“If I had my phone with me,” I said, talking more to myself than to my companion, “and this was a real place, I’d take a picture of these flowers for a blog post.”

Butterfly turned to face me, frowning slightly, as if she thought I’d said something very peculiar indeed. She inquired, “Don’t you ever do anything just to do it?”

Now it was my turn to feel perplexed. “Well, of course I do. I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors this spring. But lately I’ve been feeling like I haven’t had as much creative energy as usual—so, I thought I’d ask you about that. How do you manage distractions and stay creative?”

“Manage distractions?” she repeated blankly, as if I’d been speaking in a foreign language. Then, apparently losing interest in the flowers, she hopped back on her bike and pedaled briskly away, leaving me to catch up with her.

Wondering what I’d said to confuse her, I tried rephrasing the question. “I meant, how do you stay creative when you have a lot of things happening that distract you?”

“Well, usually they’re all different things, aren’t they?” Slowing down for a moment as we rode through a bumpy spot of dried mud, Butterfly raised her left hand in a vague gesture that seemed to include trees, grass, a squirrel, and some cottonwood fluff drifting softly to the ground. “And creativity has to do with fitting a lot of different things together in ways that make sense in the story, right? So, distractions should never be a problem, in themselves. If they aren’t naturally coming together into stories that make sense, then maybe the question to ask is: What other random thoughts have been wandering into the picture?”

After we rounded a curve, a straight, level pathway stretched before us, cool and pleasant in the shade of the overhanging trees. All I could hear was the chirping of the birds and the humming of our wheels.

“You know,” I said finally, “that way of looking at it does kind of make some sense.”

Butterfly, whose attention now seemed to be focused mainly on a woodchuck munching clover on the other side of the path, didn’t answer; but I thought I saw a little smile forming as she glanced away from me.

My husband and I have been getting out on the river a lot and enjoying the pleasant weather, which is why I haven’t done much blogging recently. The wildlife is always fun to watch. When we rowed our double yesterday, there was a goose standing on the bank watching us, next to a pair of ducks. I couldn’t take a picture because I never bring my phone in the boat, just to be sure I won’t drop it in the river; so, that’s why my post today is not called Duck, Duck, Goose.

It’s a beautiful Thursday morning here, and a fascinating world all around to explore. Wherever you may be off to, let your day be full of adventures!
 

Word-art that says "You're off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way." -Dr. Seuss 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

A coworker who enjoys sending upbeat word-art to perk up our team attached this cute cat picture to an email recently, and my first thought was that it would be just right for a Nurturing Thursday post:
 

Cat picture word-art that says "Kindness is difficult to give away because it keeps coming back." 

When I started writing this entry, though, I wasn’t sure how to relate it to anything I had done this week. My workdays had been pretty quiet, and it didn’t seem like I had given away much kindness or that anything in particular had come back—at least, not that I could think of. Mainly, I’d been trying to get more sleep and to give virtual hugs to my insecure younger self whenever random memories of old mistakes came to mind.

Then I realized that kindness to oneself is central to Nurturing Thursday, so it was just right after all!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

My husband always does the mowing, while I am responsible for anything that grows in the yard and is not grass. Planting annual flowers in the spring is fun, but weeding—not so much. It didn’t really bother me at our previous house, which had well-established perennial flowerbeds and very few weeds. When we moved to this house, though, the neighborhood still had several vacant lots, and plenty of thistle seeds and other annoying weeds blew into the yard.

Digging those thistles out of the flowers often left me feeling achy the next day, unlike when I did the easier gardening at the other house. I started to wonder if I was getting sore because I was older. After all, I was turning 40, which had seemed quite far in the future when we were 30 and moved into the previous house. As time went by and I got busier with such things as the kids’ sporting events, I rushed through the weeding, with the mindset that it was a miserable chore and probably would always give me aches and pains.

This year, however, I decided to test the hypothesis that whatever aches I got were caused mainly by too much rushing around, rather than anything to do with my age. I did some weeding on Saturday while my husband mowed the lawn. Instead of rushing through it, I slowed down, taking a little time to walk around and stretch every few minutes. I also alternated weeding with a little pruning, so that I wasn’t in the same position the whole time.

A more leisurely pace didn’t actually take much longer; my husband was putting away the lawnmower at about the same time I finished the weeding. I felt fine afterward and spent a few minutes browsing through and uploading Creative Commons photos to the library for my art display. I particularly liked the photo shown below, entitled “Old Loggers Path.” I’m sure that must mean an old path used by loggers, but it gave me a mental image of a group of brawny guys with gray beards walking along carrying axes.
 

Loggers' path with sunlight filtering through tall trees.

(Photo credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli)
 

When I woke up on Sunday morning I wasn’t at all sore. I had to conclude that I would have avoided years of aches from weeding if I’d taken the time to consider possible causes and solutions. It seems simple enough in hindsight, but our culture doesn’t encourage a mindful approach to health. Instead, the prevailing assumption is that the body naturally falls apart as we get older and there’s not much to be done about it.

While it’s certainly true that the body, like a machine, sustains some amount of wear and tear as time passes, I suspect that much of what gets attributed to age is not really inevitable. Sometimes, all that’s needed is to make a few improvements in maintenance.

Now that the weather is warming up, my daughter decided it was time to teach the Labradoodle puppy how to swim. Not so much how to swim, since that’s mainly instinctive, but the survival skill of how to get out of a concrete swimming pool by walking up the steps. He is almost a year old and looks full grown, but he still acts young and is nervous around water. She put him in the shallow water across from the steps, walked around to the steps, and called him while holding out a treat.

He didn’t quite get the concept, though. He was so afraid of the pool that he just stood up on his hind legs, put his paws on the side, and stood there looking like he desperately wanted someone to rescue him. After a while, he did manage to find his way onto the bottom step, but he didn’t seem to understand that he could walk up and out of the pool; so he’ll have to try again another time.

Often it’s like that with many things in life. We feel stuck in a situation that we don’t know how to get out of, we keep trying the same approach that didn’t work—and after a while, we figure out how to walk away.
 

Word-art that says: When life puts you in tough situations, don't say "Why me?" say "Try me!" 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.