After a long string of warm, summery days, the weather turned chilly all of a sudden last night. When I woke up this morning, the heat was running and the view out the window was a gray, cloudy dawn.

In past years I would have grumbled something to myself like “oh, yuck, now it’s going to be dark and cold for ages, no more good weather till spring.” But of course, in today’s world there are always fun things to do, no matter what the season. All we need to do is look around with the expectation of finding them, and sure enough, something fun will come along soon!
 

Word-art that says "Here Comes the Fun." 

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 planted a chrysanthemum next to my mailbox on Tuesday, with buds just starting to open. The mum replaced a wilted little zinnia that never managed to grow much because there was hot, dry weather all through the late spring and the summer.

Photo of a mum, next to my mailbox, with buds starting to open.

Although I know this is nothing unusual and many people change their seasonal flowers as the days turn cooler, in past years I did my seasonal planting in the spring and just left the flowers in place until the frost got them. I generally felt that there wasn’t much to do in autumn and winter besides hunker down in a warm house and wait until spring came again.

Of course, there is no good reason to feel trapped indoors just because the temperature drops. I live in the modern world, after all, and not in a log cabin in a primitive village where anyone venturing too far might get caught in a blizzard or eaten by wolves.

So I’ve decided that whenever I look at the mum blooming by the mailbox, it will be a positive reminder that new growth and renewal can happen at any time of the year, even when the trees are dropping their leaves.

When I was a kid, my mom always was a major stickler for prompt thank-you notes. I remember several afternoons when instead of going out to play, I was sent to my room to compose a neglected thank-you, while grumbling to myself that it was a pointless chore.

Although it took a while, I did eventually develop more understanding of the thank-you ritual. Rather than just being a rote social script, thank-you notes show appreciation for kind acts, which is a way of giving kindness in return. After visiting my mother recently, I sent a card thanking her for showing my husband and me around her current house, which we hadn’t seen before. That might not have been technically a gift, but I did appreciate her taking the time to do it, and just thought I should say so.
 

Word-art that says "Acts of kindness inspire kindness." 

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.

Last week the rowing club was more adventurous than usual, traveling to a large regatta in Florida. My husband and I stayed with another club member at his mother’s house not far from the race course. She is a delightful English lady who loves to have guests and is very outspoken, making blunt remarks such as “Absolute rubbish!” when, for instance, my husband suggested that we might take our clothes to a laundromat rather than inconvenience her by using her washer and dryer.

She is 86 years old and very active, going sailing once a week and doing charitable work regularly. When the heat got to me on the practice day before the races started, she sympathized with me by saying that she recently had gotten rather dehydrated playing tennis for two hours on a hot day.

That evening I still didn’t feel quite right after rowing and being outdoors for a long time in the heat. When I got in bed, I felt as if it might be rocking gently, like a boat. That reminded me of reading Kon-Tiki as a child and pretending that my bed was a balsa-wood raft floating across the Pacific Ocean. So, as I couldn’t get to sleep right away, I decided to populate this imaginary scenario with my adventurous future self, Fannie. I pictured us looking up at the stars from a natural-fiber mat on the raft, with plenty of comfortable pillows.
 

Photo of the Kon-Tiki raft in its museum.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

“So, Fannie,” I asked her, in my best faux-English accent, “would you say that the stories our culture tells about aging are absolute rubbish?”

“No, I wouldn’t actually,” she said, drawing out the vowel into an absurdly long ‘ah’ sound, “and by the way, you are rubbish with ah-ccents, and I never got much better with them over the years. So we might do better to stick with ordinary American conversation, though there’s nobody around but a few imaginary flying fish to hear us embarrassing ourselves.”

Fannie snuggled deeper into the pillows and went on to say, “Putting energy into rejecting a cultural narrative only feeds it more power. What we resist persists; that’s from Carl Jung, a very wise man. When you feel that society has you in a box, there’s no need to kick and beat on the walls. Just look up, and you’ll see the sky and feel a breeze flowing through. The box is not solid. All you have to do is step out of it. Dance and skip out of it. Do handsprings and cartwheels out of it. Oh, was there a box around here somewhere? I hadn’t noticed. Where it went, I can’t say. Maybe it’s in that field over there, behind all those tall weeds.”

“Once upon a time, long, long ago,” I said, getting into the spirit of it, “there were people who thought they had to stay in boxes; or at least, that’s what my great-grandmother told me.”

“Lost in the mists of time,” Fannie agreed cheerfully. “And while we’re on the subject, maybe instead of picturing the archetypal Crone just sitting and telling stories, you might want to invite her to play some tennis. Yes, I know you are rubbish at tennis, but the Crone hasn’t played in many years either. Of course, I’m no better at it, since I am you, so that’s nothing personal.”

I thought that I heard Fannie chuckling quietly to herself, but a fish leaped out of the ocean just then and landed with a particularly loud splash, so I couldn’t be quite sure.

I was talking with my husband recently about how it’s good that we have an adventurous family. Even though we might not always look at ourselves that way, and our travels are not as exotic as some, I’d say that adventures are more about the mindset rather than the destination—staying open to new experiences and valuing what can be learned from them.
 

Word-art that says "Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling." -Margaret Lee Runbeck 

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.

This morning I dreamed that one of the rabbits in the backyard decided it wanted to be a house pet, and so it kept trying to follow my husband and me into the house. Of course, that would never really happen because they all seem to have normal bunny instincts, meaning that they scamper when they see us, or stay very still and hope they won’t be noticed.

And of course, because our daughter visits often with her dogs, the house would not be the most comfortable place for a rabbit to live in! As silly as it was, though, I woke up smiling after that dream—so it’s all good.
 

Word-art that says "Good vibes only!" 

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.

As summer comes to an end, the shorter days generally mean less time spent outdoors. Although the weather may still be hot and muggy, like it has been around here for the past week, the angle of the sun makes clear that it’s not July anymore. Still, I enjoy the peace and calm of September evenings. Even on days when I don’t go down to the river to row, I like to post sunset photos on my digital art display and imagine that I’m looking out over the water in some new and exciting place.
 

Sunset over water with tree branches. 

I suppose the peaceful feelings that people get from pictures of calm rivers and lakes must go back to prehistoric times, when such landscapes usually meant that all was well—plenty of water to drink, along with fish and other food to hunt and gather. Probably there’s something deep down in the primitive parts of our brains telling us that we need to spend time in such places.

Wherever it may come from, I definitely feel refreshed when I walk by the river—or imagine myself looking out the window of a beautiful lakefront vacation home—as the evenings come earlier.

The rowing club’s fall regatta season starts this weekend, with a race in Cleveland on Saturday. Not many of the club members are making the trip, though; it’s just me, my husband, and another guy. Some other people thought about going, but they couldn’t get their plans together.

It does take some commitment, as well as organization, to travel regularly to the regattas. I don’t have quite enough vacation days this year, and rather than taking off all the Fridays before weekend trips, I’m planning to work some extra hours during the week and leave early on those Fridays.

I can’t complain, though, because it is helpful to have that flexibility. After all, not everyone has the option of rearranging their workweek when they have things to do.
 

Word-art that says "At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

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.

This is Part 23; click here to read Breaking the Ice from the beginning.
 

Reluctance to help was one thing; a flat refusal was quite another. Woods couldn’t make any sense of it. Although he did not actually say so, it must have shown on his face because Hioki gave an exasperated sigh. Sitting back down in his desk chair, Hioki turned it to face his visitor and indicated with an abrupt hand gesture that Woods should take a guest chair in the corner, which he did.

“Quit looking at me like I just kicked a puppy. I’m trying to save your silly idealistic ass, Woods—and mine too, while I’m at it. Yeah, okay, we’re supposed to be explorers serving the greater good of science, and all that. And you know, I don’t even disagree that being the first to communicate with a sentient alien species would be amazing. It’s not going to happen, though, for a very practical dollars-and-cents reason. Think about it. What happens if we make a public announcement that we’ve found intelligent life on Europa?”

This was about money? Woods felt even more confused now. Why would the agency not want to spend money studying sentient aliens after it had paid for this exploratory mission? Wouldn’t success mean a lot more government funding? Not having any idea what Hioki was getting at, Woods simply put together a response to the question he’d been asked.

“Well, first of all, the linguists would get to work on translating their language accurately, and other scientists would study their biology and culture. I suppose government officials would negotiate a treaty of friendship and send an ambassador to Europa. Maybe Tiny Leaf,” and Woods paused to reorient his thoughts, just now remembering that Hioki didn’t know the name by which he called the alien traveling aboard their ship, “er, I mean the one here—she might become an envoy on Earth for her species.”

Hioki gave an impatient nod, running a nervous hand through his carefully sculpted hair without even noticing how rumpled he made it. “Right, and would there be any tourists going to Europa? Anything like what we have on Mars?”

“Tourists? No, that certainly wouldn’t happen—or at least, not for a long time. We couldn’t interfere with their world by building hotels all over it. Maybe sometime in the next century, if a treaty allowed for tourism, but of course it would be very limited…”

Hioki interrupted with a loud snap of his fingers, startling Woods. “Bingo. And who stands to lose trillions of dollars by not being allowed to build those hotels?”

That question made more sense to Woods; after all, only one company had successfully brought tourists to Mars. Nobody else had the know-how and the resources. He started to answer while still thinking through the implications.

“That has to be Splotz—but, if everyone knew that Europa had intelligent life, what could Splotz do? Even if they could somehow avoid an outright ban on commercial activity, public opinion would be so strongly against any sort of exploitation that just mentioning tourism would likely cause millions of angry people to stop buying their products.”

“Exactly.” Hioki leaned forward, elbows on knees, his tone low and earnest. “And that’s why they would do everything in their power to prevent such an announcement from being made.”

“How could they? Even if Splotz had, I don’t know, mafia enforcers or something, we’re traveling through space many thousands of kilometers away. There’s nobody on this ship but a few scientists and astronauts. You don’t seriously think any of our crewmates would harm us on orders from some corporate boss, do you?”

“No, they wouldn’t, or at least not physically. What I’m saying is no more than you already know. If you tried to make a report like that without solid proof, it would be discredited and your sanity questioned. Splotz would see to it. Even though Rita Mastroianni looks nice and friendly, she was a company doctor for many years, and you can be sure that’s where her loyalties still lie. You haven’t told her anything about—well, any of this, have you?” Hioki sat up straighter, and his voice took on a note of worry.

“Not really.” Woods glanced down at the tablet he was still holding in his right hand. “I asked her if there were scientific ways to test the existence of telepathic communication. She didn’t seem to take it seriously—told me a story about her aunt who talked to cats, and then suggested that I keep my notes about telepathy in a journal…”

“You’re keeping the notes on this tablet? Not in your official log, and not backed up in the ship’s system? Good. That’s very good.” Hioki reached out a hand that showed evidence of recent nail-biting. “Let me have your tablet for a few minutes. I’ll encrypt the notes for you, so that if Mastroianni does any snooping through your personal things, she won’t find them.”

That sounded at first like a reasonable suggestion made out of friendly concern, and Woods had almost started to hand over the tablet before he thought more about it. Then he pulled the tablet away. “No, you might destroy them.”

Sitting back in a more relaxed posture, Hioki laughed as if he had just heard a good joke. “Not quite as innocent as you seem, are you, Woods? I have to admit that yes, it did occur to me. On second thought, erasing your notes would be pointless because you could easily create them again. So, I’ll just warn you once more to be careful. And to be clear, I don’t mean to suggest that Splotz or anyone in its management is evil. My parents work for the company, after all. It’s probably no worse than any other. But I will say this much: Growing up on Mars taught me that if you do anything the company wouldn’t like, you had better keep it hidden because if you don’t, there will be consequences.”

Woods looked down at his tablet again while a few possible replies came to mind, most of which had to do with courage or the lack thereof, and the fact that it had consequences too. He knew all too well, though, what could happen to anyone who did not conform to expectations. Letting his thoughts settle for a moment, he gave a mild answer while reminding himself that most decisions were better made after reflection and without judgment.

“I learned 35 years ago that there can be other ways besides hiding.”

I’ve never been among those who hurry out and buy pumpkin spice products as soon as they show up on the store shelves in late August, but I can understand the feeling. As the season changes and the days get shorter and darker, we need to surround ourselves with fun little things to keep us feeling cheerful, even on stormy afternoons when we can’t get out and do much.

So, I’m sharing a harvest tapestry image for Nurturing Thursday, even though it’s not quite fall yet:
 

Seasonal word-art with leaves, pumpkins, and autumn-related words such as "harvest" and "thankful hearts." 

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.