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

I woke up on a dark, rainy morning and got a cup of Chocolate Glazed Donut coffee from the K-cup carousel on the kitchen counter. That turned out to be an easier decision than choosing an image for my digital art display. I generally pick a different image each morning and try to match it to the ambient light, so that it looks like a window onto a new landscape every day. Usually I match the season, too, unless I’ve had enough of winter and decide that I’d rather see a tropical vacation picture.

Because winter wasn’t here yet, I went with an image of a forest in late autumn—thin, bare trees with only a few red leaves still in place. Something about it left me feeling sad, though; so I changed the picture to a winding stream with autumn trees, some of which still had green leaves.

Winding stream with autumn trees.

(Photo credit: Finn Terman Frederiksen)

This one felt like a better match for my mood. I sat on the couch reading a Kindle book for a while. As the day went on, I spent some time reading blogs and thought I probably ought to write something, but wasn’t sure what. I did a load of laundry, played a game on the computer, went back and sat on the couch again, and thought it was a dull and boring day. Even a cold, damp November afternoon had seemed a lot more exciting when I was a kid…

When I glanced up at the art display again, the winding stream image expanded in my imagination to take in a nearby playground. My 12-year-old self was hanging upside down by her knees from the monkey bars, waving to me.

“Hey there, dull and boring grown-up person! Wanna come play on the monkey bars with me?”

That wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind for exciting childhood adventures, to be honest. I pictured myself walking over damp squishy leaves and standing between the monkey bars and the swings, with my feet firmly on the ground as I looked up at her.

“Don’t you think that’s a rude way to talk to your future self?”

Younger-Me, looking entirely unconcerned, swung back and forth a few times before taking hold of a bar and dropping to the ground next to me.

“You sort of called yourself that, didn’t you? And it’s not my fault so much of your imagination went missing when you grew up. That’s what happens to old people—they get so totally stuck in their routines that they can’t do anything if it’s not on their a-gen-da.” She drew out the last word’s syllables mockingly and then, for further illustration, mimed writing on her left hand with an imaginary pen in her right.

“Kids get bored sometimes too,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but kids don’t stay bored. There’s always something else to do. Or, at least, something to imagine.”

I thought about that for a moment, and then I walked over to the swings and sat down.

“Okay, give me a push.”

Like many of us, I am still decompressing from the bizarre presidential election that just won’t come to an end. As each day goes by, though, I am starting to feel more confident that America will once again be a country that has some dignity. As we go into Thanksgiving week, there are indeed reasons to be grateful.

Word-art that says "She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." - Proverbs 31.25

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

Ina slid easily down from the white gelding’s back and tied his reins to a nearby branch, which was still wet from the morning’s light snow. The temperature had been rising steadily all day, and the snow had melted hours ago. Gray clouds hung low over the bay, not quite obscuring the hills beyond the far shore. A narrow spit jutted out, with a lighthouse occupying its tip.

Lighthouse on a cloudy winter day.

Dismounting somewhat more carefully, as might be expected given her advanced age, Thalassa tied her dun mare beside the gelding and turned to look out upon the bay.

Although Ina had taken short journeys with other instructors fairly often, this was her first time traveling in the company of the venerable Mother Ocean, who rarely left the witches’ compound. That had worried Ina somewhat, as their mounts’ hooves clopped softly over the forest’s damp and muddy paths. Was she seen as a poor student in need of remedial work, or perhaps as a troublemaker?

That line of thought had sent Ina into a mental loop of replaying what felt like a long list of deficits. She’d gotten upset in the library on the very first day of instruction; her carelessness had been responsible for starting a forest fire and killing an ancient oak tree; and she still felt unsettled about not knowing her origins, unlike the other girls, all of whom seemed much happier with their new circumstances. Maybe she had been judged unworthy and was being sent away.

When Thalassa spoke, however, there was nothing critical in the older woman’s voice, but only a simple question.

“Look at the bay. How many ships do you see?”

Ina turned her head to peer farther in both directions but still saw only empty waters. “No ships are nearby, just the lighthouse.”

“Indeed—but there are ships about to enter the bay, and the lighthouse will guide them when they arrive. In much the same way, we have an inner sense of direction that guides us when our eyes cannot. So close your eyes, Ina, and look again. How many ships are entering the bay?”

Ina had no idea where the entrance to the bay might be; this journey, which had taken much of the day, was farther than she had ever traveled from the Wild Forest—or at least, farther than she could remember traveling. With the little shake of her head that had become her habitual response to such thoughts, Ina brought her attention back to the question of what might lie beyond her closed eyes. She felt water dripping down the back of her cloak and heard one of the horses softly nickering to the other; that wasn’t much use.

Widening her inner focus, she brought to mind the cloudy expanse of the bay as it had appeared on her left. She couldn’t sense anything in motion there besides a few tiny specks flitting about on the periphery of her consciousness, which she guessed might be seagulls or fish. Still, not useful. The lighthouse cast a warm glow in Ina’s imagination, welcoming the new arrivals—wherever they might be.

Mentally following the rays of light as they spread out over the water on her right, she became aware that there was something larger moving her way. Two somethings. No, they weren’t things, not really; instead, they were clusters of feelings and intentions. They were people, in fact, two distinct groups of them, moving calmly and purposefully as they went about their work.

“Two ships,” Ina said, keeping her eyes closed as she responded to the question she’d been tasked to answer. “But what I’m sensing is their crews, rather than the ships themselves.”

“Yes, Ina. The world is full of things, and some of them are quite large; but much of the energy lies in the tiny points of consciousness that we call our lives. You may open your eyes now.”

Ina blinked, entirely losing her awareness of the ships’ crews as a distracting thought came to mind. “Was that how you found me and took me from…”

Once again, she couldn’t bring forth either the name or a clear mental image of the place that had seemed, for just a moment, to be within her mind’s grasp. Roses, Ina told herself, almost as if repeating a mantra. Roses, and a warm and welcoming home.

Thalassa’s faint smile held a touch of sadness. “All in due time, my dear.”

This weekend I’ll finish the Row the Great Lakes Challenge, which I mentioned in a post in August. As the weather has turned cooler, I’ve mainly been working out on the rowing machine; but last weekend was gorgeous, almost like summer, and my husband and I rowed on the river both days.

Getting exercise, whether indoors or out, is a good way to feel healthier and more balanced. We could all use more of that, especially now.

Word-art that says "Balance."

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.

Now that it looks like the US presidential election is all over but the shouting (of which the apparent loser has been doing quite a lot), I am among those feeling much relieved. Just walking around the house today, I felt lighter, somehow—as if stress had lifted away after sinking deeply into my bones for such a long time that I almost forgot what normalcy felt like.

Much still needs to be done, of course; but after a long, hard slog through a parched landscape that sometimes looked like there wasn’t a drop of decency or civility to be found, we’re finally making our way out of the desert.

Word-art with a camel saying "Yes, today is that day."

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.

I ran a Halloween road race on Saturday afternoon with my husband. Because of the pandemic, that meant we ran our 5K at a nearby park by ourselves and uploaded our times to the race website afterward. We missed seeing the usual crowds and costumes, but it was at least nice weather for a run, with plenty of sunshine and colorful leaves on a newly repaved path.

By Sunday morning the weather was not so nice. The first thing I heard when I woke up was howling winds, and the temperature was forecast to drop steadily all day. I got myself a cup of coffee and some toast, and then I sat down on the couch and changed the picture on my digital art display to a country lane with falling leaves on a windy day.

Autumn leaves falling on a country lane.

(Image credit: Elizabeth Wallace)

Because I hadn’t done any other running this year, my legs felt a bit stiff. I have been rowing regularly, but that works the leg muscles differently. While drinking my coffee, I thought about the common New Age advice to visualize future circumstances as a way to bring them into one’s life. Maybe I ought to be visualizing myself as having wonderful future fitness?

At that point, my imaginary older self Kass suddenly popped out of my subconscious mind and into the country lane picture. She was dressed in the black tights and purple shirt that I had worn in the park on Saturday. Unlike most of my encounters with past or future selves, I wasn’t in the picture but was observing it in a split-screen way, with Kass under the trees and me still in my living room.

“Or, you could get up off the couch and walk around the house for a few minutes to loosen up your legs,” Kass suggested, in a tone midway between helpful and snarky. “Besides, what more do you need to visualize when you already have perfectly good future selves—including yours truly. And my fitness is nothing to sneeze at, if I do say so myself.”

A gust of wind sent leaves tumbling along the lane as I imagined it (although in reality, the picture on the art display was not animated). Kass tugged at her shirt and unfurled a superhero cape, which hadn’t been part of my ordinary, non-costume clothing on Saturday. The cape billowed out behind her.

“Well, okay, Kass, I didn’t have you in mind at all. No slight intended,” I said. “You’re many years into my future, and when I thought about fitness I meant something more near-term, like a few months from now.”

“Seriously, you’re in that much of a hurry? What’s wrong with having great fitness when you are older? You know, it’s a good thing I developed more patience since I was you. Sometimes I really need it to deal with a younger self who is so lacking in basic logic.”

With an exaggerated sigh, Kass turned away and started walking along the lane, making sure to tromp heavily through the leaf drifts and make the most noise. A tailwind flattened the cape to her back. When she got around the bend, the wind abated for the moment, and she turned to face me again.

“The trajectory of small changes is the main determinant of where you’re going to end up,” she observed. “That’s not rocket science—well, it is actually, if you happen to be calculating a rocket’s course. But while we’re talking about fitness, you have been getting more exercise regularly all year because of the new rowing machine. Therefore, you have better fitness now than you had last year, and in a few months it will be more improved. No magical visualization is required. If you really need inspiration from a future-self superhero, though, I’m always happy to oblige.”

“Thanks,” I said, with less than robust enthusiasm, while making a mental note never to ask for anything of the sort. I figured Kass knew what I was thinking, anyway—but, of course, that was her problem.

I still have landline phones in my house, although that has become less common. Most of the time, I would say that the convenience of having phones in several rooms is worth the expense because I am not among those who feel compelled to carry their mobile phone at all times, even when they’re just walking from one room to another.

Landlines are a bit of a nuisance when the phones are ringing with political robocalls, though. Or more precisely, I assume that is what they are, but I can’t say for sure because I never pick them up. Anyway, the phones are quiet now, and I just made myself a cup of my favorite vanilla caramel tea, so all is well with my little corner of the world this evening.

As for politics, I’ve already voted, based on such factors as integrity and values—which, I hope, are not going to become as rare as landlines.

Word-art that says "Integrity" in a cloud of similar words.

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.

Early this morning, while it was still dark, I woke up with the Carly Simon song “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” in my head. That song is almost 50 years old, but I’d heard it recently on XM radio when I went to get my hair done. The lyrics are about married couples who do not live happily ever after.


Usually songs don’t get to me that much, but it seemed like I was lying awake for over an hour, feeling profoundly saddened by the lines “Their children hate them for the things they’re not. They hate themselves for what they are…”

According to my Fitbit, which I regularly wear at night to track my sleep, I was dreaming most of that time and wasn’t in fact awake for more than a few minutes. But, however long I was really awake before morning (another dark and chilly almost-November day) arrived, the song left me brooding about how harshly our culture teaches us to judge both others and ourselves.

Maybe it’s the political situation right now that has my thoughts running along such paths. When so many people feel that they are always being judged and falling short of expectations, no matter how much effort they put into doing what they “should,” then it’s no wonder they feel angry about life being unfair.

I am not going to judge anyone for being angry, as doing so only compounds the problem. Still—from my own perspective on the way things should be—I’d like to believe that most of us, both when voting and more generally, can set aside that anger and instead look toward what’s needed to heal.

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!”