I’ll be traveling to the Independence Day regatta in Philadelphia this weekend with my husband and some of our teammates. I haven’t rowed there before, and neither has my husband, but we’ll be racing both our singles and our double.

Rowing on an unfamiliar river in a single is rather daunting because it is so small and tippy, compared to larger team boats. My women’s double partner Deb will be rowing her single too. She is better in a single than I am, but she still says she is nervous. It gets a little better each time, though.

Word-art that says, "Courage doesn't mean you don't get afraid. Courage means you don't let fear stop you." -Bethany Hamilton

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.”

June 30, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

After waking up to a cloudy morning on Sunday, I deliberated for a few minutes about what kind of image I wanted on my digital art display. I chose a photo from the online library showing a garden path through a window, with flowers blooming on both sides. The shade from a wooded area in the background went well with the ambient light in my house on this overcast day.

Photo of garden path through a window.

Something about this cozy, refreshing view of a garden in bloom reminded me of the illustrations I had used for blog posts about imaginary conversations with my future self Fannie. This image didn’t look at all like the view from Fannie’s futuristic townhouse, however. I came back to look at it again in the afternoon, still not sure what kinds of associations my subconscious mind had made.

“I take it you don’t think of visiting with me as cozy and refreshing? Now I’m feeling slighted.”

The voice in my mind came from Kass, another version of my future self, who—at age 76—was both younger and snarkier than Fannie. Instead of her usual T-shirt with jeans or shorts, Kass was wearing a plain, modest, long-sleeved burgundy dress befitting an elderly lady welcoming a guest for tea and—could that enticing aroma be fresh-baked blueberry scones?

Conversations with Kass could always be counted on to prove interesting, but cozy and refreshing—not so much. I decided to ignore her trolling and greet her as if this really had been a friendly social visit.

“How lovely to see you again, Kass. Your garden looks beautiful. Shall we go for a stroll before tea?”

“Not today. It’s about to start raining, any minute now.” Right on cue, thunder rumbled in the distance.

I turned away from the window and surveyed what looked like a comfortable, old-fashioned parlor. A long oval table of dark wood, with chairs upholstered in forest green, held the tea service and scones. Ornate floor lamps stood sentinel on either side of the room, burning dimly. A parrot in a gilded cage squawked something that sounded like, “In the world!”

Kass poured the tea while I settled into one of the comfortable dining chairs. She had chosen Earl Grey instead of my usual vanilla caramel. I reached for a scone from a generously filled platter.

“You know, I never meant that you couldn’t do cozy,” I said, as Kass took a seat across from me. “It’s just that whenever you show up, except for now, you’re always outdoors and doing something active.”

Rain spattered on the window, and lightning flashed.

“Maybe you should think about why you see me that way,” Kass suggested.

“Just because I’ve spent more time working on my fitness, probably. I haven’t had as many cozy afternoons.” I took a bite of my scone, which, in all fairness, was delicious. “And this scenario is a bit of a stereotype, wouldn’t you say? A little old lady sitting quietly in the parlor, looking out the window at her flower garden and waiting for a guest to arrive. The only thing it needs is a cat, or several.”

“Herbert would be very unhappy if I had a cat.” Kass gestured toward the parrot. “He would much prefer that there be no cats anywhere in the world.”

Bobbing his head and echoing, “In the world,” the parrot hopped from one wooden bar to another in the cage. He kept looking at the scone that Kass had put on her plate, evidently hoping for a treat.

“Let’s unpack some of those assumptions,” Kass continued, leaving her scone untouched for now. “Why do you feel that coziness has to be such a major production that it can’t fit into an active life?”

I pondered that question as thunder sounded, not far away. Meanwhile, in real life, the sky had brightened a little, and I had finished my tea (vanilla caramel, with a healthy whole-wheat muffin). Putting this post aside for the time being, I decided that I’d write the rest of it later when I came up with a good answer.

Kass showed up again on Thursday, while I was standing in the kitchen.

“So, have you thought of anything more to say about coziness? Not to nag, but the storm outside my window has blown over, and your tea and scones have gotten cold.”

“No, I’ve been too busy with work and rowing,” I admitted. “And that, of course, is the problem. Cozy afternoons and rushing from one activity to another just don’t go together. I wouldn’t really say that coziness has to be a major production, but it does need a reasonable amount of unscheduled time.”

“Do you need to rush off and do anything right now?”

“Well, sort of. This is a regular workday, and I am on the clock. I just came into the kitchen for a minute to get some water.”

Kass tilted her head slightly. “Tell me what you see.”

I followed her gaze, wondering what she was up to. “Not much. Sunlight coming through the blinds.”

“Stand in it for a moment, and just breathe.”

Feeling a bit silly, I took a step to the side. The sun-warmed linoleum felt comfortable under my feet. I took a deep breath and let it out again just as slowly.

“There, doesn’t that feel better?” Kass smiled encouragingly. “I don’t disagree that rushing, when you do it all the time, is indeed a problem—but coziness can be found in small moments.”

This was a somewhat rushed Thursday — nothing major, but I’d had to reschedule a hair appointment, which ended up being close enough to a work meeting that there wasn’t time to do the grocery shopping. So, I defrosted some ground beef, assembled a lasagna, and put it in the refrigerator to cook later. After I got finished with my work at 7 PM, it was time to go down to the river with my husband and do the workout that our coach had assigned; it had 200-meter intervals.

Once I got outdoors and breathed in some fresh air, the hectic feeling went away. The heat of the afternoon was mostly gone by the time we started the workout, and we did pretty well. Then we rowed a little more to cool down, and we returned to the dock just as the sun was going down. Back home, we did an online post-row stretching exercise for five minutes while the oven was preheating, and the lasagna was done by the time we took our showers. I’m sitting here at 11:59 finishing this post, but it’s all good.

Word-art that says, "Happiness is itself a kind of gratitude." -Joseph Wood Krutch

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.”

It is Sunday afternoon, so this is certainly the most belated Nurturing Thursday entry I’ve ever written. I worked later than usual on Thursday, and we had dinner late because my husband was at the boathouse, teaching a Learn-to-Row student who couldn’t make the usual class time. He is always very flexible and helpful. So, I thought I would write a blog post after dinner, but then I got a database error message. I told my husband, who maintains my blog on a virtual private server; but I also said that because he’d had a long day, I was not asking him to fix it right away. The post could be written just as easily on Friday, after all.

After he restarted the database program, my blog seemed to be back to normal; it got some comments on Friday. We went rowing after work. It was windy, but we thought that was good practice because we planned on racing Saturday morning in the Indianapolis regatta, which is held on windswept Eagle Creek and known to rowers (not so affectionately) as the Windy Indy regatta. We needed to get enough sleep to be well rested, so I thought I’d write my blog post after dinner and then go to bed. The database error showed up again, however—and once again, there was no post.

We woke up early on Saturday and gave my women’s double partner, Deb, a ride to the regatta. My husband also towed the boat trailer with his SUV; he is the club’s usual trailer driver. Our race results weren’t the best because the water was choppy, as usual for Indy, and we were struggling. After we finished rowing, my husband took some time to help rowers on another team, who did not have much experience traveling, to secure their boats properly on their trailer. Then we took our club’s boats back to the boathouse and, with our other teammates, put everything away where it belonged.

When we got home, I cooked dinner while my husband updated the database program; upon investigating, he had discovered that the version he’d been using was buggy, and that was what had crashed my blog. He also updated WordPress after dinner, although of course he was tired from the long day. By then, I was pretty tired myself, and just fell into bed after cleaning up the kitchen.

I am better rested today. Now that I’m finally sitting down to write this post, I feel gratitude for having a kind and helpful husband and, as well, for being privileged to know so many friendly and generous people. Even in times like these, when it often seems like the world’s ties have frayed, our communities are stronger in many ways than we know.

Image of hands holding a seedling.

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.”

June 15, 2022 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Although it may seem foolish in today’s overly hot world, I am still stubbornly trying to maintain the row of willows along the back line of my yard. They were lovely 15-foot trees before climate change started getting to them in 2016, and since then I’ve had to cut them back so far that the survivors are not much more than bushes. Most of them are staying alive, though, and I recently planted a cutting next to a dead stump.

Photo of newly planted willow cutting.

It looks healthy, though small, and the rabbits haven’t eaten it yet, so there is room for optimism. I’ve been reminding myself, whenever I look at the willows, that almost anything has the potential to change for the better as time passes. Just because they’ve had a few bad years, that doesn’t necessarily prevent them from coming back strong and tall after some good years.

This week I’ve been reminding myself to frame everyday situations in terms of allowing for improvement, rather than fixing problems. The latter wording implies a binary state, in which things are either fixed or broken. While that may be accurate if we are talking about machine parts, most of life’s issues are more complicated and do not have quick fixes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. When we regularly leave room for improvement, we can find ourselves in much better places—often unexpected—than if we simply tried to fix things to get them back the way they were.

Word-art that says, "Room for improvement."

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.”

Although I’ve enjoyed going on road trips this spring, I do need to balance that with time to relax and unwind. My coach says that a travel day puts enough stress on the body that it should be treated like a hard workout, with some rest needed the next day.

Sometimes it’s not immediately obvious when I’ve had too much going on. I didn’t have much energy on Saturday night after traveling to a rowing regatta, however, and it has been slower than usual to come back. A peaceful week with no rush to do anything—just living in today—has been good for me.

Word-art that says "Cherish yesterday. Dream tomorrow. Live today." -Richard Bach

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.”

June 1, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I had a rather unsettling experience on Monday night when I tried to meditate before going to sleep. I have a favorite meditation that I’ve written about here before, in which I imagine myself turning to the four directions and asking what advice they have for me. I’ll usually see interesting scenes and picture myself walking through them while kindly voices offer guidance.

On Monday, though, I felt like I was rooted to the spot and hearing only my internal dialogue, which sounded tired and frazzled. As far as I knew, nothing in particular was causing me to feel stressed at that moment. I had been traveling more than usual this spring, a long weekend was over, and something had been irritating my sinuses, but I felt that none of those events should have bothered me much.

When I imagined myself looking to the East, where I wanted to see a refreshing springtime scene, nothing came clear. I heard myself saying “Just breathe,” as if trying to calm myself down. After another minute passed without any images coming to mind, I turned to the South; but rather than its usual comforting warmth, it felt stifling. My inner voice whined, “It’s so hot!” Then I tried to visualize birch trees with autumn foliage in the West, with a little more success, but I still couldn’t picture myself moving toward them.

Photo of birch trees with yellow leaves.

(Photo credit: Rachel Kramer)

I finally tried to create a mental picture of a cool northern landscape to complete the meditation, but nothing happened there either. I tried to tell myself that I was half asleep and shouldn’t worry about it, but I felt that it had all gone wrong.

After giving myself a couple of days to reflect, however, I came to the conclusion that the “failed” meditation was a perfectly valid message from my subconscious mind. It was simple enough—too much time in motion, without enough rest, had left me needing to stand still and just breathe.