At a time when most of us feel that the country is at a crossroads, it can take some effort to envision a better future. It’s much needed, though, because creating a better society is not just about defeating the bad guys. When we take action from values, we move toward a future in which every choice won’t always have to be a fight. Instead, there will be many roads taking us in positive directions.

Street signs for Hope Ave. and Peace Ave.

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.

October 22, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

The kitchen outbuilding in the tiny village of Channelwood was filled with the delicious autumn scents of apple, cinnamon, and pumpkin. A mostly-eaten loaf of pumpkin bread sat invitingly on the large picnic-style wooden table in the middle of the room. I helped myself to a yummy slice. My younger self Queenie was nowhere to be seen, but her companions Ella and Sara bustled busily about, filling crates with glass jars that held bright cinnamon-brown contents.

“I made a batch of apple butter this morning. We’re taking it to the storage shed now, and after that we’ll take some apples down to the cellar,” Sara explained, cheerful as always. She and Ella each picked up a crate and headed out the door. I took the last crate and followed them.

Walking past a few small sheds on this cool, misty afternoon, I didn’t see anything that looked like the entrance to a cellar. We left our jars in one of the sheds, picked up baskets of apples, and went back outdoors. A leaf-strewn, muddy trail led through a sprawling pumpkin patch just outside the village.

Pumpkin field with trees in background.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

“It looks like you’re having a very good pumpkin harvest this year,” I said. “That pumpkin bread in the kitchen was delicious.”

Sara glanced back at me and smiled. “I am so glad you enjoyed it! We’ve had quite an adventure finding ways to use them. Pumpkin bread, muffins and pies, roasted pumpkin seeds, and even a pumpkin and fish casserole. Yesterday I made pumpkin walnut butter; that’s what was in the crate you took to the shed.”

“Too much of an adventure, if you ask me,” put in Ella, stepping carefully around a puddle as the trail began sloping downward through trees and bushes. Around a bend, there was an opening in the hillside with rough stone steps leading into a narrow cave. The girls started down the steps, and I walked behind them.

Ella put her basket on a shelf along one wall before turning to speak directly to me. “As you can see.”

The dim light in the cave—which was evidently Channelwood’s cellar—revealed baskets and crates of ordinary foods such as apples, pears, and carrots. Much of the space, however, was taken up by pumpkins. Everywhere I looked, there were more of them.

“They aren’t native to this island,” Ella explained, “and we never had them until Queenie got seeds from the supply ship last year. When she planted the seeds this spring, pumpkin plants sprang up all over.”

“By now, we’ve all had more than enough pumpkin to last us forever and ever,” chimed in young Peter, who had followed us into the cave. “Even my turtle won’t eat it anymore.”

Now that Sara and I had put down our apples, Ella led the way as we came back up into the fresh air. A light rain had started to fall, but it was still warmer outdoors than in the chilly depths of the cave.

“Fortunately, the ship came by again today,” Ella continued, “and we helped Queenie take cartloads of pumpkins down to the beach. She’s haggling with the sailors now, trading them for something more useful.”

As we made our way back through the pumpkin patch, Sara observed, “But it has been lovely to see Queenie so pleased with the success of her crop.”

Ella just shrugged in response to that. She looked much more cheerful when, after taking off our muddy shoes in the kitchen’s foyer, we found ourselves welcomed with a roaring fire and mugs of steaming hot cider. Queenie happily showed us what she’d gotten from the sailors: more jars for canning, a kettle, sewing needles, matches, and several other household essentials.

“And,” Queenie announced, holding up a large paper packet triumphantly, “they gave me another kind of seeds, even though I didn’t ask for any. I’m very much looking forward to next year’s crop of zucchini!”

This afternoon I filled out my absentee ballot, and my husband took it to the county board of elections drop box along with his ballot and our son’s. As the day went on, it got darker and colder, with rain showers passing through. My thoughts wandered while I sat at my desk finishing my work for the day. I pictured myself in a sacred cave wrapped in traditional shawls, meditating at an altar while candles burned brightly, silencing my mind’s chatter and allowing the universe’s energy to pass through me and change the world.

I wasn’t really there, of course—but imagination has an energy all its own.

Word-art with candles and words like "Allow" and "Acknowledge."

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.

Sunday was cool and rainy, so I chose a photo for my art display that had trees with red and orange leaves on a cloudy day. My husband looked at it and said, in a less than enthused tone, “It looks like fall.”

And I said, “Well, it is fall.”

Then he said that he wasn’t ready for the summer to be over yet. He got his wish and had a few more warm days this week, and I’ve been displaying more summerlike photos. The seasons always have to change, though—so we may as well make the best of it.

Word-art that says "Think of raking leaves as Mother Nature's way of getting you in shape to shovel snow."

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.

October 8, 2020 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

After working yesterday morning, I went to get a flu shot. I took the afternoon off, just because the weather was nice and I have more vacation than the one week I can carry over into January.

I was reminded of a post I wrote three years ago on the topic of taking half-days just to relax. Because I had gotten in the habit of rushing around from one thing to another, taking vacation time for no particular reason felt wasteful. To illustrate being busy with chores, I posted this image of my willow hedge, which needed lots of pruning because it wasn’t tolerating climate change well (this year I’ve cut the willows back to a much smaller and more manageable size, hoping they’ll get healthier after a while).

Willows after pruning in October.

Although I’ve mostly recovered from being a time-hoarder, I still wasn’t feeling entirely relaxed yesterday. Having all that extra vacation got me thinking about road trips not taken and, more generally, what a messed-up year this had been for the world.

Then my husband, who is still working from home, has overtime work at present, and doesn’t have vacation because he changed jobs in December, said (while sitting at his desk) that it must be nice to have all those vacation days. That was a well-taken reminder to be more appreciative!

In a conversation on another blog about the hot mess that was the first presidential debate, I mentioned that I am contributing to the Carter Center, which—for the first time ever—will be monitoring the election in the United States because the country now meets its criteria for a democracy at risk.

While it’s not easy to keep a positive outlook in such times, I am grateful for the strong tradition of American democracy; hopeful that our citizens will vote to restore a decent government; and heartened by seeing so many people doing what they can to help.

Word-art that says "Look back and be grateful, look ahead and be hopeful, look around and be helpful."

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.

Author’s note, added Oct. 2, 2020: This entry was posted before the Covid-19 disclosure, and it refers only to the likely result of the election… I would never wish the virus on anyone.

The setting winter sun shone weakly over Washington D.C. on this blustery day in late January. He stormed through the halls of power, angry as always, raging at all the new faces. None of them belonged here. Where were his obedient minions? These people weren’t paying any attention to him at all.

A young woman with clacking heels and a bulging briefcase approached the corridor junction where he stood. She was so intent on getting to wherever she was going, she walked into him—and straight through him. Just as if he had been a…

But no, that was ridiculous. He must have imagined it. He couldn’t possibly be a ghost. Only the insignificant little people caught the virus and died—like the ones who came to his rallies. Anyway, he didn’t remember dying, and there was nothing wrong with his memory. Hadn’t he passed the dementia screening with flying colors? His belfry had no bats in it.

Photo of bats flying at dusk.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Around another turn, down the next corridor, he saw some familiar faces. But they didn’t even glance in his direction when he spoke; and they looked suspiciously happy, instead of scurrying nervously to do his bidding as usual. Traitors! He would soon bring them to heel with a few well-aimed tweets. Nobody could make him give up power because of a rigged election and fake news.

The solid weight of the phone in his pocket, sliding comfortably into his hand, reassured him. Quickly he logged into his Twitter account. Almost at once, he realized something was very wrong. Where were his millions of devoted followers? That low number had to be an error. He refreshed the page while scheming about how he would punish Twitter’s management for their woeful incompetence. When the page came back up, though, the number had dropped even lower.

Losing his temper entirely, he threw the phone at the nearest wall. It smashed into several pieces, which fell to the floor and melted into tiny puddles before disappearing. Wait, that wasn’t right—a phone couldn’t do that! His hands were shaking now. When he looked down at them, he saw that they were disappearing too, becoming less solid with every breath he took.

“Nooooo!”

He woke in a cold sweat, his heart hammering. Just a dream, he told himself—nothing but a bad dream. He hadn’t been able to rid himself of it, though. This was the fourth time in a week.

With everything that we have had to contend with this year, sometimes it’s hard to see how the world is making any progress at all. Staying focused on a better future is a challenge when even the smallest step forward seems to be against the wind.

We’ll look around one of these days, though, and find that all of today’s worries are behind us. When that happens, I expect we’ll be able to see a lot farther.

Word-art that says "When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it." - Henry Ford

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.

To read Part 9, click here. All parts of this story are consolidated on one page here.

The sliding glass door closed smoothly behind her. Steam rose from the coffee mug on this pleasantly cool morning. A forgotten corner of the back garden beckoned. She had been meaning to get it cleaned up for ages, but she never had gotten around to it. The bench still needed a fresh coat of paint and was overgrown with so many roses that sitting down wasn’t much of an option. Even so, looking at its riotous, unkempt beauty on this lovely morning, she couldn’t help but to smile. All was right with the world.

Garden bench with roses and other flowers.

The tranquil birdsong was interrupted, a moment later, by the sound of someone crying. The terrified sobs sounded like a frightened child. She took a step back from the roses, and the garden abruptly faded to blackness around her.

Ina sat up in her bed in the dormitory; another dream, gone. Something about roses—there were always roses in her dreams, and a quiet, peaceful house. Lighting the candle on her nightstand with a casual flicker of thought, she turned toward the shuddering girl in the next bed.

“Wake up, Phoenix. You’re having a nightmare again.”

Big dark eyes blinked, reflecting the candlelight.

“It was the same place.” Hands trembling, Phoenix tugged ineffectually at the heap of covers that had gotten tangled around her. “Some ugly, grimy building like a dungeon, and they were whipping me again. Maybe I was a slave or a prisoner before I came here. I can’t remember any of it clearly, and I don’t want to know. When Mother Ocean took away my memories, she did me a kindness.”

Farther down the row of beds, another pair of eyes gleamed in the flickering light. Firefly sat up, leaning against the headboard as she twisted back an unruly lock of hair that had escaped from her nighttime braid.

“I dreamed about a goat doing handstands in a field of daisies,” Firefly said, in what sounded like a valiant effort to shift the conversation to a more cheerful topic. “Or maybe that would be front hoof stands, don’t you think? Because goats don’t have hands, of course.”

“Yes, hoof stands, I suppose so,” Ina said absently, still trying to recall at least a few details of the roses in her disappearing garden. Large blooms, an old bench—of that she was fairly sure. And somewhere nearby, a low wall—had it been brick or stone? And was ivy growing on it? Tendrils of ivy danced in her thoughts, mocking her inability to put together a clear image.

After a minute or so, Ina gave up, committing those meager scraps of information to the imaginary shelf in her mental library that held the fragments of a now distant life. She held onto a small, half-formed hope that if she gathered enough of them, one day they might come together into a pattern that made sense. Her lessons had been like that sometimes, made up of little snippets that eventually grew into a coherent whole.

Firefly was still chattering about goats, or something else just as unimportant. Ina hadn’t paid enough attention to give any meaningful response to it.

“Do you ever remember, Firefly? Anything?” Without knowing what had come over her, Ina suddenly found herself asking the one question that the girls never discussed.

“Remember, you mean—before?” Firefly’s usual cheerful expression turned into a ferocious scowl. “No, and I don’t see any reason why I should want to, either. We have a very good life here. It’s fascinating to learn about the creatures of the forest, river, and prairie. Being a peasant girl in some filthy little village would be awful—working in the fields all day, having to marry some nasty man just because he paid the bride price, and then being pregnant all the time. Ugh!”

Her words were spoken with such unexpected vehemence that Ina suspected there might be some memories lurking behind them, despite the denial. Whether or not that was so, it was plain that this conversation was over—even before Firefly turned her back to Ina and pulled the covers up over her head. Phoenix had closed her eyes, probably not asleep, but doing a creditable imitation of it.

Now it is time to rest, Ina communicated to the candle’s small flame, which obediently quenched itself. Staring into the darkness, she found herself quite unable to take her own advice. Her mind was anything but restful as an endless parade of questions stormed through it. Who had lived in the house with the roses and the old bench? Did she have a family waiting for her to come back? Were they grieving her loss? Would she ever find her way home to them again?

As summer’s long, bright days reach their end and autumn’s cool winds take their place, we may want to spend time indoors with a book, or perhaps a journal, and a cup of hot tea or coffee. Or we may feel more inclined to take long, solitary walks through fallen leaves in misty woods. Autumn is about change, about letting go; but it is also about finding, in that it gives us a nudge to become better acquainted with ourselves.

Like the earth, settling in for months of quiet slumber while life goes on under the surface, we’re making ready for new growth.

Word-art that says "Find your soul."

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.