Yesterday’s major snowstorm, which was mostly to the east of my area, did not leave much snow here because the ground was warm enough that almost all of it melted. It’s not snowing at all today, but the dark clouds still haven’t shown any sign of moving on.

This time of year, staying cheerful can be a struggle because the lack of sunlight makes everything look so gloomy. Old limiting thoughts and their associated feelings are quick to pop up. But, one good thing about the long nights is that when the clouds blow away and the stars come out, the universe in all its glory reminds us that we have many wonders yet to discover.

Word-art that says "Reach for the Stars."

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 woke up to a sunny morning and felt cheerful, but the daylight hours felt like they ended all too soon. That got me thinking about the ancient custom of lighting candles at the winter solstice, which I’m sure must have helped our ancestors to trust that light and warmth would return to the world.

My husband came upstairs after working out on the rowing machine and went to take a shower, while chatting about various things that had happened during his workday. He said that if I thought he was talking too much, I should feel free to tell him so. I said no, it wasn’t bothering me at all. Having some cheerful conversation on a dark, cold winter night is a very good thing!

Word-art that says "Trust..."

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.

December 8, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Over the weekend, I had a dream that didn’t make much sense to me at first. I was in a supermarket with a cart full of groceries, but instead of going through the checkout line normally, I was standing at a small counter off to the side. My cart was somewhere behind me, and I was holding a pack of three steaks and arguing with an employee who said I couldn’t buy them. I got angry, threw the steaks down on the counter, and told the employee she could put all the groceries in my cart back on the shelf because I just wanted to leave. Then she said, in an apologetic tone, that she didn’t want me to feel I had to leave with nothing.

No incident like that ever happened to me in real life. Although the supermarkets were limiting their meat sales earlier this year because of the pandemic, my husband was doing almost all of the grocery shopping at that time, and he is enough of a carnivore to make sure we always had meat for dinner. And even if I had been caught trying to buy too much meat when supermarkets were rationing it, which did not happen, I certainly wouldn’t have been obnoxious enough to yell at an employee who was just doing her job by enforcing the rules.

So, I interpreted the steaks in the dream not as actual groceries, but as a symbol of keeping my family well fed and cared for (the steaks were in a family pack). But who, or what, was trying to interfere? I pondered that for some time and finally decided that the employee and the groceries represented this year’s disruptions. If my subconscious mind just wanted to put 2020 back on the shelf, I wouldn’t be the only person with such feelings! Sometimes it felt like an endless walk downward on steps leading nowhere.

Steps leading down through a foggy brown forest.

(Image credit: Philip A. Benyola, Jr.)

But as I understand the dream’s ending, it had a more straightforward, literal meaning—that I shouldn’t feel I was leaving this year with nothing. This has been a year in which I’ve gained more appreciation for the simple comforts of home and family. Also, I feel much better grounded. Last year’s worries have mostly faded to insignificance. As the year comes to an end, I have many reasons to feel blessed.

In the year since my husband and I bought our Hydrow rowing machine in the 2019 Black Friday sale, we have been doing the rowing workouts regularly. The online library also includes Pilates, other flexibility exercises, and yoga, which are all in a category called “On the Mat,” but we hadn’t done anything with those—even though we bought mats when we first set up the machine.

I decided to try some of the pre-row and post-row mobility exercises last week, after the five-mile run for the virtual Turkey Trot left me feeling a bit stiff. I also did a beginner Pilates session today. They both seemed helpful for loosening up my body. Not sure if I’ll be adventurous enough to try the yoga classes, as I can’t quite picture myself standing on my head. Either way, I appreciate having so many options for fitness, health, and connection in today’s world.

Word-art with a dog in a meditation pose that says "Inhale love... exhale gratitude."

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 winter’s first snow started falling in my area on Monday. Very little of it stuck to the roads, and I didn’t have to go out anyway because my husband did the grocery shopping. Still, it looked yucky when I took the trash out to the curb, and the lack of sunlight left me feeling a bit gloomy when I brought in the garbage can after Tuesday’s pickup.

I decided to cheer myself up with an imaginary visit to the small village of Channelwood, which I envision as having a pleasant island climate for my younger selves to enjoy. When I arrived, though, it was plainly late autumn even without the snow. The sky was overcast, and the breeze felt chilly. Brown leaves floated in the still water of the pond, not far from where I’d found Peter skimming stones in June.

Still water on a cloudy autumn day.

(Photo credit: Maja Dumat)

Looking at the quiet landscape, I didn’t see my younger selves—or, for that matter, much life at all. No birds could be heard in the drab brownish trees, and no ducks or geese swam by in the pond. The only sign of wildlife was a pile of rabbit droppings. I suspected that some mischievous gremlin in my subconscious mind was having a good laugh at my expense.

“It’s so peaceful.”

The soft voice came from my younger self Queenie, who had come up behind me while I was gazing out over the pond.

“I love this time of year,” she continued. “Nature is clearing away the distractions and leaving plenty of space for us to breathe, ramble, and dream. You were daydreaming just now, weren’t you? I saw you jump a little when I spoke. I’m sorry about that—I wasn’t meaning to startle you. What fun things were you imagining?”

Queenie sounded so earnest and hopeful that I didn’t want to disappoint her with the mundane truth of my mental grumbling about rabbit doo and a drab landscape. Sifting through my recent thoughts for something more positive—and falling short—I told her simply, “I was looking for ducks and geese, but didn’t see any.”

“There were ducks here yesterday morning,” Queenie informed me. “I saw them just as the fog was lifting. Don’t you love to go for a walk on a foggy morning? Everything looks so mysterious and magical. Sara told me that when she lived in London, it was easy to imagine fairies around every corner in the fog. Sometimes their silvery wings would come clear, just for an instant, and then they would dart away again after realizing they’d been seen.”

Once again, I couldn’t help but to feel that my imagination left a lot to be desired. Although I’d noticed the low clouds and mist on Monday when I took the garbage out to the street, my focus had been entirely on getting the chore finished before the snowstorm blew in. Visions of fairies or anything else had been very far from my mind.

“I like Sara’s way of looking at things,” I said. “She makes ordinary days seem fascinating.”

“Yes, she does.” Queenie glanced toward the pond again. “Look, there’s a pair of ducks coming toward us.”

“Where I came from, there’s snow on the ground today,” I told her, much more cheerfully. “After I go back, I’ll pretend that I’m living in a cozy gingerbread house with vanilla icing all around it.”

Queenie smiled. “Sara would like that.”

Thanksgiving is unusually quiet for my family this year, like it is for many families. Instead of waking up early to run in the Turkey Trot road race, my husband and I will go for a run in the park with our son this afternoon, as part of the virtual event. Our daughter won’t be home because she is a nurse and the hospital where she works—again, sadly, like many—has become overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. Although she is not among those taking part in their care, she will be filling in to do the regular work of other nurses who have been scheduled for pandemic duty.

Even so, my family has many blessings for which we are thankful. We have food on the table, a comfortable home, and good jobs. After my husband was laid off, he found a better position quickly and now feels happier and more relaxed. We have better fitness because, without much else to do, we spent more time exercising on our rowing machine. And, last but definitely not least, we don’t waste our time worrying about small annoyances now that it has become clear how trivial they are.

Wishing you many blessings this Thanksgiving also!

Thanksgiving cornucopia with harvest fruits and autumn leaves.

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.

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.