After taking a long midday break to get my hair done and then going to the optical shop to order new glasses, I had an email conversation with some coworkers about taking a moment to appreciate my “errands of the fortunate.” Sitting at my desk enjoying a cup of tea, while being aware of my small choices, felt much better than rushing around in a mindless hurry.

And, just by chance (or fortune?) I am currently reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, so this word-art image struck me as just right for today’s Nurturing Thursday entry.

Word-art that says, "Fortunate are those who take the first steps." -Paulo Coelho

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.”

To slow down my life and take away those rushed feelings, I’ve been meditating on empty black space, peaceful breath, nothing to do, and nothing that needs to be done. That isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, what with the frantic pace of modern life. This week I feel like I’m doing better, though—enjoying the slow march of the seasons, letting time pass as it will.

Word-art that says, "Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn." -Elizabeth Lawrence

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 enjoy traveling to rowing regattas, sitting in the car on long road trips can leave my rump feeling squashed and the backs of my thighs a bit sore. Stretching exercises help, but they don’t always get me fully back to normal. Last week I made sure to do some stretching and foam rolling, only to have some lingering aches anyway.

One night when I got into bed, I remembered a time, five or six years ago, when I had persistent achy feelings in my upper arms. That went away a long time ago, but I found myself randomly wondering if old worries had somehow gotten lodged in there, weighing me down and generally making it harder for my body to maintain and repair itself. If so, maybe they needed to be gotten out somehow.

Then it occurred to me that my imaginary archetypal self-appointed bodyguard, Dame Shadow, had a history of using annoying aches and pains to get my attention. She hadn’t been around much lately, but that did not necessarily mean she wasn’t a suspect.

The Dame’s long skirts rustled as she sat down on the corner of my bed. “You know what, you’re asking the wrong question again,” she informed me.

I blinked at her silhouette in the darkened room, feeling confused. “Well, I didn’t think I had asked one.”

“What you could do to get those old worries out,” she clarified. “Haven’t you realized by now that there’s no need to wrestle with a heavy load of emotional baggage? You simply need to fill the space with something new, leaving whatever’s bothering you to fall away by itself.”

I heard the click of a large metal clasp as she opened a capacious handbag. “We’ll start with a tasty slice of apple crumb pie. Imagine how delicious it looks.”

Photo of apple crumb pie.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

She reached into the bag as if taking something out, and then she touched my upper left arm. Warmth spread through it, and a delicious apple pie aroma filled the room. Repeating that performance with my right arm, the Dame said, “Here’s a custard-filled donut sprinkled with powdered sugar.”

Continuing to touch one arm and then the other, she told me, “Cherry turnovers just out of the oven. Chocolate lava cake with whipped cream and red raspberries on top. It’s October, so we can’t forget the pumpkin spice cupcakes with leaf-shaped sprinkles. And last, but not least, a fortune cookie, as a reminder that the future holds many exciting discoveries.”

By now, my bedroom was full of wonderful bakery smells. The Dame closed her bag and declared cheerfully, “There’s no room at the inn for old worries!”

Another weekend of traveling to a regatta with my husband and my rowing partner Deb, who rode along with us in our SUV while we towed the boat trailer. Deb and I had a good race in the double, finishing second to our friendly rivals Maria and Mindy. They are faster, but we are improving, and we stayed very close to their pace and were happy with our performance.

The fall foliage along the highways was lovely. I particularly enjoyed going through areas where the hillsides had been dynamited years ago for highway construction. They used to be just rocky ledges, but now trees have grown up through the rocks, and the ledges are starting to break down into ordinary soil. The October colors were beautiful, and it was reassuring to see how well nature can recover from human meddling.

Word-art that says, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." -L.M. Montgomery

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 had my annual eye checkup on Tuesday, early in the afternoon, and took a half-day off from work because it takes a while for my eyes to go back to normal after getting the drops to dilate them. The weather was lovely—sunny and warm, with almost no wind. My husband took a break from his work so that we could go rowing after I came home.

Because my eyes were still sensitive to light after being dilated for the exam, I was wearing black plastic over my glasses, but I enjoyed getting outdoors on such a perfect day anyway. We rowed the double, with my husband in the bow doing all the steering. I had nothing to do but row, while breathing the fresh air and letting all the everyday worries fall away.

Word-art that says, "She took a deep breath and let go of the would've, should've, could've that had been weighing her down. She smiled at how light she felt without them."

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.”

All parts of this story are consolidated on one page here.

A narrow stone hallway curved in a long arc toward a dark and featureless end. Torches lined the walls at regular intervals, but they had not been lit. After one glance, Ina set them ablaze with a casual thought. Puffs of dust rose from the stones under her bare feet, and she scowled.

“Yes, I would give it up.” Echoing from the dry, close stones, Ina’s voice sounded overly harsh and brittle to her ears, answering a question she had not been asked. “To go home to my family—and why shouldn’t I want to go home? I never asked to become a witch, or to be given any magical powers, and it’s only fair that I should have the freedom to walk away if I so choose.”

Somewhere far behind her, Ina heard the raven’s harsh caw.

The outline of a door came clear at the end of the hallway, gleaming in the reflected torchlight. It had no knob, but it swung open easily as Mother Ocean extended a hand toward it. Cool air blew into the passage, making the torches cast wavering shadows.

Ina followed the older woman into what looked like a disused courtyard, overgrown with vegetation, in the dim light just before dawn. The glare from the hallway left her without much night vision, and she irritably commanded the torches to go dark again. They obeyed, with sullen flickers of reluctance.

“Only two weeks remain before we celebrate Midsummer’s Eve again.” Turning her soft, lined face toward the coming sunrise, Mother Ocean spoke as calmly as if her words were only another daily lesson. “Then you will have been here fully a year, and your training will be complete. All memories of your previous life will be restored then, if you so choose. That is our custom.”

“Why should I care about your custom, when I never chose to follow it!” Ina was shouting now, far beyond caring whether her voice was loud enough to disturb anyone’s morning meditations.

Indistinct winged shapes passed by in the faint light, swooping to glide through an arched doorway ahead. High-pitched squeaks came from the other side of the wall. Ina flinched instinctively before realizing that they were only bats, flying home to roost for the day.

“One final task remains to you.” Mother Ocean still faced straight ahead, with her gaze uplifted. “I cannot speak more of it now, but you will know it when the time comes. Act wisely, remember what you have learned, and trust your best instincts. Allow the strength of fire and earth to flow through you—always, always tempered with kindness.”

Ina shivered in her bare feet and nightdress, feeling very far from wise and strong. The bats had gone silent as the sun rose over the horizon, brightening the courtyard without yet giving much warmth.

Photo of a stone doorway in an old building with a window and greenery.

“Do you see it all? I mean, everything in the future?”

Mother Ocean turned toward her now, with a gentle smile. “No, Ina, I see only the points of awareness on which I choose to focus my attention—just as you did, months ago, when I instructed you to close your eyes and watch the ships entering the bay.”

Pondering that response, Ina reached with her mind toward the colony of bats on the other side of the wall. She felt their slow breathing as they drifted off to sleep, comfortable and secure in the warmth of their kin. Somewhere, only a little farther away, roses grew beside a garden bench, their fragrant blooms swaying in a gentle breeze. They were in shadow now, with the morning sun behind the house. Within the walls, she would find her kin, just as the bats had done…

“Not much longer, Ina, dear heart. You will see them again.”

The image faded, never having quite come clear.

She still could feel the bats, their heartbeats slow and relaxed. In part, she envied them for being able to sleep so easily, without wondering if they would wake up again as themselves. Even if—when—she found her way home, Ina knew her life would never again be that simple.

Click here to continue to Part 16.