Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I did not go on an exciting vacation. Instead, we spent much of the weekend doing yard work. Even though I wrote a blog post last year about why it would be good to think of gardening as play, like a child would, there was so much to do that I wasn’t having any success whatsoever in not thinking of it as work.

My poor sad backyard willows, which do best in cool rainy weather and have been dying back for the past few years because of hot and dry summers, had a lot more dead branches this summer. That was kind of depressing, and I didn’t even want to look at them anymore. Usually it’s my chore to do the pruning with a hand saw, but it felt like too much to deal with, and I didn’t get to it over the summer.

Thankfully, my husband came to the rescue and bought a pole-saw attachment for his trimmer, which made short work of the dead branches on Saturday. We stacked them in the side yard, rented a big utility trailer on Sunday afternoon, and piled it full of dead branches to take to the county dump, which had holiday hours on Monday morning. We had time to go rowing afterward, though we made no effort to row fast.

The backyard looks much better now, and I’m glad that we took the time to clean things up, even though it wasn’t fun. Because the long weekend was so notably lacking in adventures, I put a colorful image of waterfalls on my art display today.

Waterfalls under colorful clouds.

I have no idea where that picture came from or if it’s a real place, but it does look like somewhere that would be fun to explore while on vacation.

This afternoon I had a rather frustrating conversation with a person who was making so many assumptions, he couldn’t even begin to wrap his mind around the actual circumstances. Rather than letting it get to me, I went out after work and ran around the block in my neighborhood several times.

While I was still outside, my husband got home, and he immediately came out to run a few laps with me. It was very nice to have some company. Afterward we walked around for a little while to cool down. By the time we got back home, I was feeling pretty cheerful.

Word-art that says "Breathe in peace. Breathe out stress. Repeat as often as necessary." -Purple Buddha Project

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 cleaned off my desk this week and put away some small decorative items I’d had sitting there for more than a decade. They were gifts from my employer to recognize high-quality work. During the recession, unfortunately, such freebies went the way of the dinosaur.

Although the economy has improved in recent years, almost all of the gains have gone to shareholders, and showing appreciation for employees’ work now seems like a quaint bit of ancient history. While I was ruminating on that fact recently, it occurred to me that leaving the old freebies on my desk amounted to a daily reminder that I wasn’t currently getting as much recognition for my efforts as in the past. So I boxed them up, put the box away in my basement, and left the space empty.

Empty space on a desk with cords and a telephone.

Because life always finds ways to make use of empty spaces, I am hopeful that leaving space on my desk will attract better work circumstances. Maybe that will mean more recognition and better pay raises in my current job, or maybe I’ll find a worthwhile opportunity somewhere else. At this point I am not making assumptions in that regard, nor am I trying to visualize anything in particular; I’m just leaving space for appreciation and inviting the Universe to fill it.

Last weekend my husband and I took a mini-vacation and rowed in the USRowing Masters National Championship Regatta, which was held this year in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Every year the regatta moves to a different city, so this was a good opportunity to attend while it was at a reasonably convenient driving distance.

As the name suggests, it is very competitive and draws top-level rowers from all over the United States. So we weren’t expecting to win any medals, and in fact we did not; but we were pleased with ourselves for mostly staying close to the leading boats and finishing with respectable times. We enjoyed meeting rowers from all over and taking part in such a high-energy regatta. And who knows, maybe next year we’ll win something.

Word-art that says "Try. For who knows what is possible?"

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.

The late-summer heat wave finally seems to have broken in my area. Today was much cooler, overcast with light showers passing through. Although the lawn definitely needed the rain (it just got aerated and overseeded), there’s always something melancholy about the sunny, hot days ending and the dark days of autumn and winter approaching.

So I decided this would be a good time to perk myself up by going on an imaginary adventure. I chose a picture for my digital art display showing the Great Wall of China on a rainy day, complete with a tourist walking under an umbrella.

The Great Wall of China on a rainy day.

The sky in the photo matched the natural light in my house well enough on this cloudy day to give the impression of looking out a window while traveling.

By the time my husband got home in the evening, the sky had started to clear, and we went out for a walk around the neighborhood. Not as much fun as going on an extravagant vacation abroad, perhaps, but we enjoyed getting outdoors anyway.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I am doing too much and just running around in circles. It helps to be able to laugh at myself, though. At least I’ll always be amused!

Word-art with a dog that says "Today is the day, I can feel it. Today I will catch that tail."

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.

On Friday after work I started feeling gloomy, as if there had been many times when nothing would go as I wanted it, despite my efforts. To cheer myself up, I got a cup of vanilla caramel tea, and then I sat down to relax for a little while. The gloom didn’t seem inclined to go away, though.

Hmm… maybe the present-day me wasn’t the one who needed cheering up.

I visualized an old-fashioned tea service that had two settings in a floral pattern, a basket with a loaf of hot bread wrapped in a white cloth napkin, and a jar of apple butter. Then I pictured all of that sitting invitingly on a wooden outdoor table in the imaginary long-ago village of Channelwood, and I looked around for my often-troubled younger self Queenie.

Tea set for two with floral pattern.

At first I didn’t see her, but then I heard a grunt not far away. Turning around, I saw Queenie in thick cotton gloves, busily cutting up a small tree that had fallen across a nearby path. She had sawdust all over her gingham dress, her bonnet was askew, and a ferocious scowl made plain what sort of day she was having.

Then she saw me and tried to get her face arranged in better order. “You know I didn’t mean it,” she said, before I had even greeted her.

“No accusations here,” I told her mildly, with a nod toward the table. “I’ve just brought some tea.”

A severed branch fell to the ground with a thunk. Queenie put down her saw and took off the sap-stained gloves, not looking much happier as she did so.

“It’s not fair, at all,” she complained, throwing the gloves into a pile of branches, “that when I have a bad day, which of course I didn’t want, you show up to remind me that I’m also making my future selves miserable. Why should I have to be responsible for what goes on in your life? It’s hard enough to deal with my own feelings, without having to worry about yours too.”

A cool breeze blew in from the cliffs above the beach, smelling of salt and washed-up seaweed. It set the leaves to rustling and carried the cry of a lone gull, high and plaintive.

I started to say something, thought better of it, and instead picked up the teapot and poured for both of us.

“Actually, you’re right,” I acknowledged, after a minute or so. “And, you are doing much better when it comes to recognizing and expressing your feelings. You knew exactly what was bothering you just now, and you were able to put it into words and explain it to me clearly.”

Queenie sat down across from me, looking somewhat mollified, and took a slice of bread from the basket.

“Well, I couldn’t say much before I came here, you know,” she told me, still sounding a bit defensive. “I would’ve been laughed at or yelled at—or both—if I talked about my feelings. Besides, it didn’t seem like anyone cared.”

“I’m not here to blame you for how you handled things before,” I reassured her, as I put some bread on my plate and took a sip of tea. “All I wanted to do was cheer you up a little, if I could. What made today such a bad day?”

“That tree.” Queenie gestured toward the fallen wreckage in frustration. “I cut firewood all the time, of course, now that I live here in a small village. And usually I don’t mind, but that tree was one of my favorites. It had lovely blossoms in the spring. I pruned it carefully, expecting that it would look even better next year; but we had a storm last night, and now the tree is gone and all the work I did was wasted.”

“But when you pruned it,” I pointed out, “those branches were used for firewood too, right? Or maybe some of them went to the compost heap, if they were small. So you did get something useful out of your work.”

“Well, yes, sort of,” Queenie said grudgingly, “but we always have plenty of compost, and firewood can be found all over. So it was mostly a waste.”

“The tree isn’t completely gone either.” I glanced toward the jagged remains of the trunk. “It still has a few small branches around the base, and next spring there will be more growth from the roots. Give it a few years, and it will be full of blossoms again.”

Spreading another slice of bread, Queenie looked skeptical, but she didn’t say anything else. The gold necklace that I had given her two years ago glinted in the sunlight.

“And of course it’s not fair,” I continued, “to blame the tree for making you have a bad day, when it didn’t want to have one.”

That finally drew a smile—if only a small one—from Queenie, as she poured more tea.

A few years ago, I bought a small water fountain to put on my front porch. It brightened up a shady area and made the house look more cheerful. Birds and chipmunks occasionally drank from it, although I didn’t often see them. Here’s a photo that I posted when it was still fairly new:

Small ceramic garden fountain decorated with butterflies and flowers, in a corner of my porch.

It didn’t have the best luck, however, in that it kept getting kicked over by pizza-delivery and package-delivery people. Last year, inevitably, a wing broke off one of the ceramic butterflies. I didn’t notice right away, and it was nowhere to be found. Buried forever in the bushes, probably.

I looked online for a replacement but didn’t see anything similar. Then winter came, and I didn’t think much about it. My husband surprised me at Christmas with a new fountain—a big sturdy one, much too heavy to kick over, with a pot to hold a seasonal plant. It sat in the box till spring came, and then we put it in the same area where the old one went.

We soon discovered that the new fountain had become a favorite gathering spot for small birds. They’ve been chirping and chattering to each other all the time, sounding much like office workers at the water cooler. The porch is certainly much livelier now!

Two birds drinking from a water fountain.

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.

A few days ago, my husband and I looked up the origin of the word “skinflint,” just out of curiosity. We knew a flint was a rock that people kept in a fire-starting kit before matches were invented. But what might it mean to skin a flint, and how did that relate to saving money?

The explanation turned out to be quite simple: after a flint had been used for some time, it lost its sharp edges and became too dull to make a spark. Usually, people would throw away a dull flint and pick up another; it was nothing but a common rock, after all. But in large cities, a flint couldn’t be found in nature, so it had to be bought.

Some city-dwellers didn’t want to pay the tiny amount it would cost them to buy a new flint. Instead, they would keep on sharpening the same old flint again and again, until there was nothing left of it. That was how an overly frugal person came to be called a skinflint.

I was thinking about that in relation to the vast amount of consumer items we have nowadays. Before the modern era, people often had to repair and make do with worn-out stuff because most of their household items weren’t as easy to replace as a flint. Clothing had to be made by hand, as did many other things. It made sense to fix whatever reasonably could be fixed.

In today’s world, though, we have a lot of cheap little things that can quickly be replaced. When something goes wrong with one of them, maybe it just needs a simple repair, but often it’s not worth the trouble of keeping it going. Whatever the best choice may be, there’s generally no good reason to waste a lot of time and energy—either on fixing it or on worrying about the replacement cost.

Word-art that says "When things go wrong, don't go with them." -Elvis Presley

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.

August 1, 2019 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I was putting things away in the basement of an apartment building. What they were I can’t remember, but getting them tidied up felt like something I needed to do.

Then it occurred to me that I had left my purse upstairs in a common area. I started to hurry back and get it before a thief noticed it was there.

“Wait a minute,” I thought, “this is just a dream. That means I can finish what I’m doing, and the purse won’t have gone anywhere.”

So I got everything put away neatly, in its proper place, before I went upstairs. Sure enough, the purse was exactly where I had left it.

Purse on a rug next to a white wall.

But as I got closer, I saw that the purse was open and my wallet was empty. A thief had gotten to it after all.

“It’s a dream,” I declared in exasperation, giving a nasty glare to what appeared to be nothing but a blank white wall. “When I look down again, that money had better show up back in my wallet where it belongs.”

I gave it a moment and then looked down. The small amount of money I’d had in my wallet was still gone—but instead, my purse now held a big wad of 50-dollar bills.

“Well, that’s more like it,” I said, as the dream faded.

Then I spent some time afterward sorting out the symbolism. An apartment building is a place where many people live. A basement is where old things are stored. So, perhaps the dream’s setting had to do with tidying up memories of past relationships and social interactions.

The forgotten purse likely represented anxiety about leaving behind something of value. Realizing that it was just a dream could have been my subconscious mind’s way of reassuring me that I am in control of my circumstances. Even when I feel vulnerable, I don’t need to worry about losing small stuff; instead, I can feel confident that there are better things coming my way in the not-so-distant future.