I’ve been enjoying time in the fresh air and sunshine this week, letting winter’s indoor routine fall away. Although I wouldn’t necessarily say that being in the house during the cold months leaves me feeling deprived, rediscovering the natural world can feel like coming back to myself.

Word-art that says, "I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees." -Henry David Thoreau

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

I’m packing tonight for a spring break vacation. A road trip to the South is always fun, and this time of year I enjoy seeing the trees along the roadside change from bare, leafless northern varieties to flourishing tropical greenery. I take it as a reminder that there are always more views of the world to enjoy.

Word-art that says, "Be like a tree. Stay grounded. Connect with your roots. Bend before you break. Enjoy your unique natural beauty. Keep growing." -Joanne Raptis

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

February 13, 2024 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Coming out of the pandemic, I set my ringtone to “Way Less Sad” because that song suited my mood at the time. I still had some anxiety from all the disruptions, and I couldn’t always say that I felt happy; but I was, as the song put it, way less sad.

When my husband mentioned recently that he had some Amazon credits for music or other digital products, I thought it was about time to change my ringtone, and I asked him to buy “Yes I’m A Mess.”

He seemed surprised and asked me why I wanted a goofy song about being a mess. I told him that it’s because the lyrics say, “I like myself like this.” To me, it’s a good reminder that on days when I might, for one reason or another, feel like a mess, it’s OK anyway.

Having been married for almost all of my adult life, I sometimes wonder (as I would guess many people do) what might have become of us if we’d never met each other. I can’t imagine that we would have accomplished as much separately as we’ve done together. We keep each other going in so many ways. Even though our ordinary conversations may not always seem inspiring in the moment, they go a long way toward building perspective and a coherent vision of the future.

Word-art that says, "Be with someone who motivates you to do better in life because relationships are more than just falling in love. It's about inspiring each other to become better versions of yourselves day in and day out."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

This is the ninth story in a series. Click here to read all parts from the beginning.

While Ira washed the dishes, I took off my shoes and folded my dragon-protective suit into a neat rectangle. It made a reasonably comfortable pillow on the rug in front of the fireplace. I stretched, yawned, and listened to the cozy sound of the flames crackling as I watched Ira put the dishes away.

My self-preservation instincts nagged me again that I’d better stay on my guard. After all, this cabin wasn’t a vacation resort; it was an oddly oversized building on a strange planet, currently occupied by my Sasquatch host and whatever small creatures were squeaking in the rafters. For all I knew, they might be vampire bats, just waiting for me to doze off before they pounced.

I couldn’t muster enough energy to do more than turn my head, following Ira with my gaze as he opened another box. He carefully removed a book that looked ancient, with discolored pages. On top of the book, a bright pink flower had a weirdly lifelike appearance, as if it had just been picked.

Image of an old book with a pink flower on top.

(Image credit: The Graphics Fairy)

Setting the flower back down in the box, Ira carried the book toward the firelight. He thumbed slowly through the pages, holding the book wide enough that I could see it wasn’t in any alphabet I recognized. Neat vertical columns filled the pages.

When he found his place, Ira began reciting the words in a slow, measured tone, moving a thick finger beside the letters as if he wasn’t much in the habit of reading. His voice felt soothing to me, although I couldn’t understand the words. After a minute or so, though, I started to pick up a few flickers of meaning. One word that he repeated three times sounded as if it meant “stranger,” and I understood another word as meaning “magic.”

At that point, the warnings at the back of my mind turned into clanging alarm bells. I had come to this world through what I’d been told was a sorcerers’ portal, which meant it was a reasonable assumption that there were sorcerers in the vicinity. And, of course, sorcerers had spellbooks. Ergo, Ira was casting a spell on me.

Before I could collect my muddled wits enough to decide what to do about it, the spell took effect, and I fell soundly asleep by the fireplace.

I never did get around to taking down the Christmas tree in January. Whenever I thought about doing it, we had another dark morning that made me feel sunlight and spring were very far away, and I just wanted to leave the tree and its lights for a bit of brightness and cheer.

There were still a few presents under the tree because our daughter hadn’t yet come by. I also bought a small gift for a friend of hers. Our daughter stopped by yesterday and collected the presents, along with some clothes she had left here. Later, she told us that her friend hadn’t expected a gift from us and was happily surprised. I was glad to have brightened her day!

Word-art that says, "If everything around seems dark, look again. You may be the light." -Rumi

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

Last week, I scheduled my time off for a February spring break trip to Sarasota, Florida. My husband and I enjoyed taking a winter road trip to Sarasota the past two years, and by now it feels like it’s turning into a regular event for us.

Work has been going well for both of us, and we’re not looking to escape from it. In fact, my husband, who has less vacation time than I do, plans to work remotely in the mornings. I thought about doing the same, but then decided against it. Even though I can’t picture myself being retired and spending many long, lazy days on the beach without much to keep my mind busy, I still need to allow myself enough unscheduled time outside the usual routine to enjoy quiet days and let myself unwind.

Word-art that says, "I want days without a schedule to keep. Hours left open for unplanned adventure. Moments of true stillness. I want a life outside of our busy schedule—a life with time to live." -Brooke Hampton

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

I like my new Garmin tracker, which allows me to customize activities much more than my old Fitbit did. In addition to pre-set activities such as walking and running, it has a menu with other options. I added rowing, indoor rowing, and yoga.

Photo of Garmin tracker showing activities: yoga, meditation, row, row indoor.

Meditation is one of the pre-sets, but I have not used it because I never track the length of time I meditate. Although I know that many people do, for me it seems to go against the purpose of meditation, which—in large part—is to free the mind from its cluttered thoughts of plans and schedules. When meditation becomes just another scheduled task on the to-do list, with every minute precisely tracked, that feels like a counterproductive approach.

So, after taking a photo for this post, I decided to delete meditation from the list of tracked activities. If, after meditating on any particular day, I feel that my mind has not been suitably refreshed by whatever amount of time I put into it, I probably would do better to take a walk outdoors or do some yoga, rather than fixating on the tracker and judging my meditation time as inadequate.

Sometimes it can be hard to stay confident in a world that seems full of challenges. I just did a rowing machine workout this evening with 25 fast intervals and not much rest. Even though I did the same workout last winter and got through it okay, it still felt daunting to sit down on the machine and get started. As it turned out, everything was fine, and my time was a little faster than last year.

Then my husband went to do his workout while I got in the shower. We follow the same exercise plan, and I was thinking about how much better off we are to have each other’s encouragement. Without it, we likely wouldn’t be pushing ourselves to do as much.

Because the modern world is so full of scheduled tasks with work, exercise plans, household chores, obligations to family and friends, and other duties that crowd in on us, we can easily lose sight of what matters. Every day, through ordinary interactions with family members and others, we are shaping their future as well as our own. We may not see it in the moment—but that is a truly awesome superpower.

Word-art that says, "You were born with the ability to change someone's life. Don't ever waste it."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

This is the eighth story in a series. Click here to read all parts from the beginning.

I hadn’t been walking much more than ten minutes before I saw a cabin through the trees, but by then it was nearly full dark. The two moons, which had taken on a greenish hue after sunset, had risen enough that they no longer seemed perilously close. Their light helped me to stay on the path when Ira, with his much longer stride, got well ahead of me with his lantern. Snow had started falling and already coated the frozen ground near the cabin, where the trees were sparse.

Photo of a snowy cabin at night with a greenish sky.

(Photo credit: US Bureau of Land Management)

The word “cabin” seemed to suit Ira’s house because it was a simple wooden building with the dimensions and general appearance of a hunter’s cabin, although sized for giants. The doorknob, which was barely within my reach with raised arms, came to shoulder height on Ira’s sturdy Sasquatch-like body, leaving me to wonder what sort of people might have lived here originally.

Inside, the cabin felt wonderfully warm after my sojourn in the frigid woods. A fire burned brightly in the large stone hearth across from the door, and a stewpot hanging above it gave off an enticing aroma. I hadn’t eaten since grabbing a quick breakfast at the Bucharest airport in what seemed like another lifetime, and I sternly reminded myself that I’d better keep my focus on looking for potential dangers.

Nothing looked ominous when I surveyed the one-room cabin. The furniture, all made of wood, consisted only of a table, two chairs, and a footstool. Boxes of various sizes were scattered along the walls. A rug covering the floorboards by the fireplace was the pelt of a large animal I might have taken for a brown bear, except that its paws were absurdly oversized and had seven toes. In a corner, another rug on a raised platform apparently served as Ira’s bed. It all looked spartan in the extreme. I heard squeaks and flapping wings from somewhere far above in the darkness of the rafters, but otherwise there seemed to be nothing of concern. Walking across the room, I held out my hands to the fire’s cheery blaze, trying to get some warmth back into my icy fingers.

Ira picked up one of the smaller boxes and the footstool, setting them down next to me and gesturing for me to sit on the box. When I did so, the footstool came to a reasonable height for a small table. Rustling around in the other boxes, Ira took out two chipped ceramic bowls with mismatched patterns, two dented metal spoons, and a ladle that I thought at first might be a shovel. I brushed some dried mud off my makeshift table while Ira ladled stew into the bowls.

When he put a bowl in front of me, steam rose from the bubbling stew in the firelight. Mushrooms were recognizable, and there were chunks of a red root vegetable that looked like beets, along with the mystery meat. No, rodent meat, I corrected myself, noticing part of a tail. Doing my best to look on the bright side, that at least meant Ira probably wasn’t a cannibal.

I hadn’t quite gotten up enough gumption to start eating my big helping of alien rodent stew when Ira, now seated at the table, spoke. Although he was looking directly at me, his voice had the cadence of a ritual chant. Guessing that he might be saying grace, I stayed still, politely waiting for him to finish. Not having grown up in a religious family, I then mumbled awkwardly, “God is good, bless this food, amen.” I picked up my spoon and silently added a more fervent prayer that it wouldn’t kill me.

Ira’s chant had left me feeling calmer, though, as if his words—even though I couldn’t understand them—had somehow brought peace to the cabin. I managed to relax enough to eat the stew like it was an ordinary meal. It didn’t taste half bad, honestly. I wasn’t adventurous enough to eat the tail, however, and left it at the bottom of the bowl. So that Ira wouldn’t feel insulted, I rubbed my belly and let out a loud belch to make clear that my skinny little body had been very well fed.

Chuckling, Ira gathered up the remains of the meal, took a pail of hot water from the hearth, and poured some water into a basin to wash the dishes. The familiarity of that simple chore left me, for just a moment, nearly forgetting that he wasn’t human.