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.”

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

A narrow stone hallway curved in a long arc toward a dark and featureless end. Torches lined the walls at regular intervals, but they had not been lit. After one glance, Ina set them ablaze with a casual thought. Puffs of dust rose from the stones under her bare feet, and she scowled.

“Yes, I would give it up.” Echoing from the dry, close stones, Ina’s voice sounded overly harsh and brittle to her ears, answering a question she had not been asked. “To go home to my family—and why shouldn’t I want to go home? I never asked to become a witch, or to be given any magical powers, and it’s only fair that I should have the freedom to walk away if I so choose.”

Somewhere far behind her, Ina heard the raven’s harsh caw.

The outline of a door came clear at the end of the hallway, gleaming in the reflected torchlight. It had no knob, but it swung open easily as Mother Ocean extended a hand toward it. Cool air blew into the passage, making the torches cast wavering shadows.

Ina followed the older woman into what looked like a disused courtyard, overgrown with vegetation, in the dim light just before dawn. The glare from the hallway left her without much night vision, and she irritably commanded the torches to go dark again. They obeyed, with sullen flickers of reluctance.

“Only two weeks remain before we celebrate Midsummer’s Eve again.” Turning her soft, lined face toward the coming sunrise, Mother Ocean spoke as calmly as if her words were only another daily lesson. “Then you will have been here fully a year, and your training will be complete. All memories of your previous life will be restored then, if you so choose. That is our custom.”

“Why should I care about your custom, when I never chose to follow it!” Ina was shouting now, far beyond caring whether her voice was loud enough to disturb anyone’s morning meditations.

Indistinct winged shapes passed by in the faint light, swooping to glide through an arched doorway ahead. High-pitched squeaks came from the other side of the wall. Ina flinched instinctively before realizing that they were only bats, flying home to roost for the day.

“One final task remains to you.” Mother Ocean still faced straight ahead, with her gaze uplifted. “I cannot speak more of it now, but you will know it when the time comes. Act wisely, remember what you have learned, and trust your best instincts. Allow the strength of fire and earth to flow through you—always, always tempered with kindness.”

Ina shivered in her bare feet and nightdress, feeling very far from wise and strong. The bats had gone silent as the sun rose over the horizon, brightening the courtyard without yet giving much warmth.

Photo of a stone doorway in an old building with a window and greenery.

“Do you see it all? I mean, everything in the future?”

Mother Ocean turned toward her now, with a gentle smile. “No, Ina, I see only the points of awareness on which I choose to focus my attention—just as you did, months ago, when I instructed you to close your eyes and watch the ships entering the bay.”

Pondering that response, Ina reached with her mind toward the colony of bats on the other side of the wall. She felt their slow breathing as they drifted off to sleep, comfortable and secure in the warmth of their kin. Somewhere, only a little farther away, roses grew beside a garden bench, their fragrant blooms swaying in a gentle breeze. They were in shadow now, with the morning sun behind the house. Within the walls, she would find her kin, just as the bats had done…

“Not much longer, Ina, dear heart. You will see them again.”

The image faded, never having quite come clear.

She still could feel the bats, their heartbeats slow and relaxed. In part, she envied them for being able to sleep so easily, without wondering if they would wake up again as themselves. Even if—when—she found her way home, Ina knew her life would never again be that simple.

I meant to post another installment of the “Lost in Time” story yesterday or this morning, but I got busy with other things and did not finish it. Then I thought maybe I’d get to it after my workday, but after I did the rowing intervals that were on my exercise plan and took a shower, it was already late enough that it was time to cook dinner—and the garbage is still waiting for me to take it out.

Of course, being busy or not is a choice, as is setting one’s priorities. Rather than feeling deprived of time and stuck on a never-ending treadmill, it’s better to find constructive ways to change the narrative.

Word-art that says, "People too often forget that we have a choice in how we want to spend the rest of our life." -Rachel Wolchin

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 got my mind stuck in a less than optimal place this afternoon, while taking a break from my work to get some exercise on the rowing machine in the basement. Some “what’s the point anyway” thoughts started getting to me. Most of the time, I can ignore that stuff pretty well because I know that the point is to be stronger, healthier, longer-lived, and generally better able to explore the future and see what kinds of interesting adventures happen. So, usually I’m not inclined to give up. But today, I felt like it would be helpful to give myself a reminder by posting this image for my Nurturing Thursday entry.

Word-art that says, "I want to see what happens if I don't give up."

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.”

September 22, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

The willow cutting that I planted this spring, as previously shown here, is still alive and healthy. The stump from the willow that it replaced, which died last year, already had rotted enough by last weekend to come up easily when I tugged on it. Now I just need to spread more mulch to cover the base of that stump, and the replacement willow should look pretty good next year.

Photo of a willow sapling next to the rotted base of a stump.

There seems to be a lesson in all of this for me. When the willows started dying back because of climate change a few years ago, I felt gloomy about it, like all my efforts to keep them alive were useless and I would be stuck with a backyard full of ugly stumps forever, or I’d have to pay some huge amount to hire a landscaping company to dig them out and totally replant everything.

But of course, that wasn’t true. No matter how bad things may look in the moment—whether in the natural world or in life more generally—there’s often going to be space for improvement after allowing some time for the unwanted stuff to rot away.

This week I’ve been looking for a few quiet moments during the day, here and there, to just relax and do nothing. It’s intended as an antidote to the modern habit of scurrying busily from one task to another, which doesn’t actually save time because getting overscheduled and stressed makes people less efficient.

Habits can be useful when we cultivate them for a purpose, such as staying fit by exercising every day. More often, though, habits tend to be mindless; we fall into them rather than choosing them. Life can feel much more peaceful when we take a little time to reflect on where we want to be.

Word-art that says, "Live life less out of habit and more out of intent."

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.”

My husband and I went to Chicago over the weekend for a half-marathon row. Although we’ve done half-marathon road races before, this was our first time rowing that distance. With younger and faster competition, we were mainly just sightseeing rather than contending, but rowing through downtown Chicago was a sight well worth seeing. Here’s a photo that I found online, taken a few years ago:

Chicago Marathon and Half-Marathon

(Photo credit: vxla)

I lost count of the bridges we rowed under—there were so many. At first the weather was pleasantly cool, but then a rainstorm blew in, and we still had a long way to go. The boat had a lot of water sloshing around in it by the time we got back to the dock. Other than a few blisters on my hands and a sore rear end from sitting in the boat for so long, I was no worse for the wear. After changing into dry clothes and getting coffee and a bagel, I felt pretty good.

We could’ve done without the adventures of Chicago traffic on the way home, though. There was one tollbooth that took almost half an hour to get through because some drivers didn’t feel like waiting in four clearly marked lanes, so instead they formed five lanes and jockeyed for position while rolling down windows and yelling at each other. We noticed a car with the license plate “PRVRBS29,” which definitely suited the circumstances.

Because of the tollbooth delay, we got stuck driving in the rainstorm most of the way home, rather than being out in front of it. That was okay, though, because we got ahead of the storm enough so that we had time to stop at our club’s boathouse, take the boat off the SUV’s roof, and wash it and put it away before the rain caught up with us again, just before we got back to our house.

I bought a birthday card for my mom at the supermarket where I usually shop. While I was taking my groceries to the checkout, a ridiculous worry popped into my head—what if the same card had been on the shelf years ago, and I’d bought it again without noticing that it was the same?

Of course, that is not likely ever to happen, and I don’t expect my mom would be annoyed even if it did. So, I just reminded myself that forgetting about cards and gifts would be a better way to go through life than keeping score of who gave what.

Word-art that says, "Always give without remembering and always receive without forgetting."

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 read Part 13, click here. All parts of this story are consolidated on one page here.

Hamburgers sizzled on the backyard grill. The roses hadn’t yet overgrown the garden bench this year, but they were on the verge of reasserting their claim. For now, her daughter sat comfortably on the bench, with the Goldendoodle puppy in her lap. In a far corner, the bright green leaves of a Japanese maple cascaded over mossy stones like a galaxy of tiny stars.

Japanese maple leaves in sunlight.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

“Mom, I’m feeling so blessed to be here with you and Dad today. Traveling abroad last month was fun, and I’m very glad to have had the chance, but there’s nothing like coming home. Happy birthday, Mom!”

She was just about to answer when the beautiful sunlit garden suddenly went dim. The breath she had just taken swirled dizzily through her, and she struggled to stay upright.

“Mom? Mom!”

The panicked shout sounded very far away as she fell.

Her own voice crying out was the next thing she heard. “No!”

Ina woke abruptly, her heart thudding. It wasn’t totally dark in the dormitory—a faint gleam under the door told her that the hallway torches had been lit, which meant that it was not long before dawn. Soon Petra’s raven would caw, telling the women it was time to rise for their morning meditations.

In the next bed, Phoenix stirred sleepily. “You’re all right, Ina. Whatever you were dreaming, it wasn’t real.”

“No.” The word came raggedly, in a half-sob. “No, I’m not all right. And it was real—it was!”

She had thrown her feet over the edge of the bed and made her way to the door, still in her nightdress, before she gave a moment’s thought to what she was doing. The stone floor of the hallway felt cold under her bare feet, but she wasn’t about to go back for her slippers. Without a conscious plan, she made her way through the familiar passages toward the meditation room.

Candles burned softly in wall sconces, their herbal scent filling the room. Mother Ocean sat cross-legged on a cushion beside the wall, with two other women close by. Although Ina’s bare feet made no sound as she crossed the smooth floor, Mother Ocean’s eyes opened with no apparent surprise, as if Ina’s arrival had long been anticipated.

The meditators always observed strict silence, but Ina had a strong feeling that wouldn’t be the only rule she was about to break.

“You tore me away from a loving family and home.” After nearly a year, the words finally came to her, certain and precise like a string of hard, polished stones. “Why?”

Mother Ocean got to her feet, slowly, with one wrinkled hand on the wall for balance. She did not dispute the accusation as she looked up to meet Ina’s gaze.

“Walk with me, Ina.”

I am glad to be coming up on the long Labor Day weekend because I feel that a mental reset would do me a lot of good. Work has been fairly quiet—nothing there is stressing me. Still, it’s always good to have some unhurried time to rest and reflect, just letting the days go by without being crammed full of the usual schedules and obligations.

Wishing everyone a happy and relaxed holiday weekend!

Word-art with an image of a brain that says, "Reset your mind."

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.”