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…

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.”