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

The icy wilderness beyond the oversized door looked eerily empty. It wasn’t altogether devoid of life; a few scrawny conifers clung to the rocky slopes on either side of a frozen lake, but I saw no animals or birds. Sunlight brightened the scene but gave little warmth.

frozen lake and rocks

I didn’t see any sign of dragons, either, which was one advantage of suddenly finding myself in a bitterly cold wasteland. Dragons, like all reptiles, preferred warm climates. Still, if I froze to death here, it wouldn’t matter that nothing was trying to eat me.

Going back the way I came wasn’t in the cards, though; not with dragons and sea serpents in the way, and of course I had no clue how to reopen the portal to my own world even if I could reach it. Lacking any other choice but to go forward, I let the big door swing shut behind me, but not until after I checked to make sure the knob would turn from this side. No sense locking myself out when I had no idea what I’d find here.

I took off the hood of my fire suit to get a better view of the landscape without the visor. Looking up, I saw no flickering magical portals anywhere, which didn’t surprise me. After all, nothing was ever that easy. I did see two blood-red moons that hung near the horizon, both large enough to give the unsettling impression that they might fall out of the sky at any moment. The sun was low enough that it didn’t look like I could walk far without losing the daylight.

The cold wind in my face was strangely constant, without lulls or gusts. It smelled of ice and rock, with maybe a trace of woodsy scent from the trees, but that was more likely my imagination. Putting my hood back on so I wouldn’t lose too much body heat, I decided to start walking to my right, toward the setting sun. If I didn’t find shelter in that direction soon, then I’d have to turn around and come back here. The hard stone of the passageway inside the door wouldn’t be the most comfortable place to sleep, but it definitely beat freezing in the open air.

I picked my way carefully along the rocky shore, feeling very thankful for my sturdy shoes. A clump of conifers nearby offered a windbreak and more level ground, so I headed toward it. There were no paths, which suggested that no predators were likely to be lurking, but I kept a close watch anyway.

After a while, the trees grew more densely. Calling them a forest would still have been a stretch, but they could at least pass muster for a respectable woods, of the sort that lakeshore cabins back home in Tennessee might’ve had. The sun was just about to sink below them, which would have been my cue to turn around, when I saw the bright glow of a lantern through the trees.

Wonderful turkey day wishes to all! I’ve been happily spending a quiet Thanksgiving reading an excellent fantasy novel, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. Inspired by the Rumpelstiltskin fable and set in a dukedom in long-ago Poland, it tells the story of a moneylender’s daughter who bargains for her life with a magical winter king. I was so engrossed in the book that it wasn’t easy to take a break just to write this short blog post. Good books are rare treasures, and I am thankful for a world that has them.

Word-art with a turkey that says, "Happy Thanksgiving."

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.”

There is something about November’s short days and dark, heavy skies that makes the past feel weightier. I’m not sure what it is, but there are days when I feel like a squirrel with a big hoard of memories set aside for the winter. They bounce around, sometimes taking me back to places that no longer exist, and distracting me from thoughts of the future. When that happens, I gently remind myself that there are many more stories yet to be told.

Word-art that says, "You've got a new story to write and it looks nothing like your past."

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.”

A snowy Saturday morning left the grass and trees covered with plenty of the white stuff. The ground was still too warm for any snow to stick to the roads, and by Sunday it was all melting. I browsed through late autumn landscapes to choose one for my digital art display. After a while, I settled on this image of a brook with colorful autumn trees in the background.

Photo of brook with autumn trees in background.

(Photo credit: Jim Lukach)

My younger selves in the imaginary village of Channelwood approved of the choice, or mostly so. Seven-year-old Ponch had put on a warm coat over her dress instead of her usual poncho (no doubt begrudgingly). The coat’s weight and thickness did not deter her from skipping across a narrow ford where flat-topped stones spanned the brook.

“That water is cold,” warned twelve-year-old Sara, sitting on a blanket in the grass, as she glanced up from the needlework in her lap. A marshland scene in progress, with very realistic cattails, decorated a large square pillow. “You wouldn’t like it if you fell in, would you?”

“Mother hen, cluck, cluck,” retorted Ponch, flapping her arms rudely. She lost her balance for a moment and teetered precariously above the brook before making her way across.

On the near bank, my five-year-old Peter Pan alter ego, wearing a favorite green jacket, was building a fort out of twigs and moss. A formation of smaller twigs with yellow leaves looked ready to launch a pebble from a catapult, while the defenders stood behind a palisade with brown leaves for their uniforms.

Sara turned toward me. “Did you come here to play?”

I thought about it and realized I didn’t have a good answer. “Well, maybe. I just happened to show up here, and I’m not really sure what I want to do.”

“That’s the trouble with being grown up,” Sara told me sympathetically, as she took another neat stitch. “You get so used to doing everything on a schedule that you forget what it’s like going out to play.”

I meant to dispute that point, but before I had my thoughts clear on what to say, I went off to do some household chores. After that, I was busy for much of the day. Monday morning showed up before I knew it, and by the time I got back to composing this post it was Wednesday afternoon.

“Well, okay, it’s true that schedules can get in the way,” I had to admit. “But I certainly haven’t forgotten what it’s like to get outdoors and be active. I go rowing with my husband most days when the weather permits, and we also run road races like the Turkey Trot.”

“That’s not the same as going out to play.” Sara gazed toward the other side of the brook, where Ponch had sketched a hopscotch grid in the dirt with a sharp stick and was tossing a pebble into it.

“When children go out to play,” she continued, “it’s a free-flowing adventure, in which they never know what they’ll discover. They may expect to play tag or marbles, but then they decide to join in when they see someone playing hopscotch or soldiers. They don’t feel obligated to keep on with it for very long, either.”

On my left, Peter already had abandoned the little fort and was sprawled comfortably in the grass, about to doze off.

“And that’s another difference,” Sara observed, following my gaze. “A child feels perfectly free to lie down for a nap when the need arises. If the pretend battle never happens, there’s always something else to do later.”

I tried to remember the last time I’d taken a nap on an ordinary day when I wasn’t recovering from an illness, and I came up blank.

“Of course, what I’m doing right now is different from going out to play, too.” Sara put down the pillow and reached into her yarn bag, taking out various brown and green hues, which she inspected with a careful eye. “I may discover something unexpected, such as that a turtle has decided it wants to peep out from among the cattails. But when I start adding the turtle into the picture, I’m committing myself to finish it, unless I decide to rip those stitches out entirely.”

She chose a muddy green and threaded her needle.

“Arts and crafts are also good for a healthy mind and soul, but they are more structured than play. The mind has to be given time for playful wandering, without need to reach a goal, so that it feels safe enough to let creative thoughts come out for a romp whenever they’re so inclined.”

A trip to Chattanooga last weekend with my rowing team turned out to be the end of my fall racing season. My husband and I had planned on going to another regatta this weekend in Augusta, but it has been cancelled because of tomorrow’s forecast of heavy rain, which is likely to leave the Savannah River full of debris and not safe for rowing on Saturday.

Rain is forecast here in Ohio as well, and colder temperatures. After rowing our double this afternoon in warm sunshine, we probably won’t get out again for a while. It’s already starting to feel like we are settling in for the long, cold nights of winter. That is all right, though—winter is a cozy and restful season, and afterward, there will be time for many more journeys.

Word-art that says, "The sun will rise and set regardless. What we choose to do with the light is up to us. Journey wisely." -Alexandra Elle

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 started to write a draft of this post on Wednesday evening, but the words just wouldn’t flow. I meant to write about how rushing around makes people feel stressed, which puts our brains into survival mode and makes it harder to concentrate on everyday tasks. The subconscious mind gets so busy scanning the environment for possible threats, there’s not much mental energy left over for productive work.

Because I’d been rushing through the day too much, without taking time to relax, I felt tired on Wednesday and didn’t have any focus left in the evening to work on this post. Instead, I went to bed and woke up feeling much refreshed. That seemed like it proved the point I’d been trying to make!

Word-art that says, "Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax." -Mark Black

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.”

November 2, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Last week, after I went to the optical shop and ordered new glasses, it occurred to me that this was the first time I’d ever bought new glasses when my prescription hadn’t changed significantly. My current glasses are three years old, a bit scratched, and have sparkly decorative dots at the corners that are starting to fall off, as shown in this photo:

Photo of old eyeglasses with missing decorative dots.

I can still see reasonably well with them, however, and in past years I would have kept wearing them because of frugality—or perhaps more accurately, because of a failure of imagination. Replacing glasses that weren’t broken and didn’t yet need to be replaced was an extravagance that never crossed my mind. After all, glasses were expensive and always had been.

That, in turn, got me thinking about some of my past conversations and blog posts about automation, jobs, falling birthrates, and consumer demand. I have to admit I’m a bit leery of making predictions after I wrote an overly optimistic post last year anticipating that stocks would keep going up because the pandemic hadn’t put an end to the party, so what would? Obviously, I didn’t foresee that the Russians would come close to starting World War Three, which was more than enough to snarl supply chains and rattle the markets.

Still, I’d say it is a fairly safe bet that consumers will always find something more they want to buy, so the economy isn’t likely to grind to a halt a few decades from now, when the world has fewer people and most of today’s jobs have been automated. Instead, I expect many of us will be working in careers we never imagined and buying stuff we never thought we might want.

In a wealthier economy, I might have ordered several pairs of glasses in different colors and styles. I can imagine that becoming just as ordinary as having several pairs of shoes. Of course, when shoes were made by hand a few centuries ago, people would have thought it was wildly extravagant to buy more shoes than they needed. And so it goes…