Little Punkins

Although I’ve been making quilt squares in my spare time during the past year, on the winter evenings when dark arrives early, my perennial urge to knit returns once again. This inner prompting reminds me of the Catskill Mountain days in late winter so many years ago when I’d step outside one morning to find the night’s cool air had warmed and turned humid and my bones felt an ancient wisdom: maple syrup season had returned; time to tap the abundant maple trees for the watery sap that, when boiled down, turned into pure, heavenly maple syrup.

And so it is has become with knitting. This year the nudge arrived after Christmas when, coincidentally I found a delightful little book in my library titled itty-bitty hats by Susan B. Anderson. I took the book to lunch with my writing friend, Rita, one day and showed her the precious hats. She had just welcomed her first grandchild, Jake, and I wanted to make him a hat. Rita chose the “little pumpkin” hat.

One of the little hats below is for Jake and the other for a child in West Virginia I’ll never know. I’ll send the second hat along with several others I’ll make before spring to an impoverished area in West Virginia through a church mission project started several years ago by my friend, Carol, when she learned of a great need for warm winter coats, hats, and mittens by the children. Although Carol passed away more than a year ago, her church continues her wonderful project, now named “Carol’s Coats.”

On these dark evenings as I knit, ordinary time transforms to sacred as I mindfully thread prayers and love into the hats and feel deep gratitude: for Rita’s new grandson, for Carol’s kind heart and devotion to the project that lives on after her, and for the little ones who will wear the hats in West Virginia. I pray each child will be warm and happy and safe in our world. img_20170121_130458744

 

Posted in Community, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Living Mindfully, Peacefulness, Poverty, Simplicity | 3 Comments

Lint and Light

Connie Spittler is a member, as I am also privileged to be, in a dynamic Work in Progress writing group. Recently she shared this story with us and I was so moved by it, I asked her permission to repost it here. Connie’s bio follows her unforgettable story.

***

Years ago, I met a man who noticed lint. After Reinhold Marxhausen watched his wife clean the clothes dryer screen, he began to collect this peculiar stuff. He did not see throwaway material, but rather, texture, color and invention. A Professor of Art at Concordia College in Seward, NE, he layered the multi-colored fibers under glass, forming abstractions that echoed landscape. I bought one, as a reminder to look more closely at my immediate world.

The philosophy of lint, I called it, a way of noticing beauty in the simplest of things, which was Marxhausen’s intention all along. Value the commonplace, he meant. See the abstract cracks in the asphalt. Appreciate the symmetry of dead branches and the last soap bubble in the tub. Watch the pattern of light and shadow playing on the wall.
It was this way of thinking that made my husband and I notice the passage of light in the kitchen, as I cooked supper in the afternoon. The sun journeyed through the paned window, rays casting lingering patterns on old lace cloth or red paisley runner. We watch arms of the sun catch swirls in green glass plates that belonged to my husband’s mother or wash over the oriental designs of chipped blue and white china. Fading brilliance turns the copper bowl of yellow coyote gourds from the nearby wash into a renaissance still life. The effect of sunshine on our table remains remarkable. Transitory. Free.

It took a while, but eventually we noticed the spear of light that began to move through the kitchen to the next room. The more we watched the daily shift of sun, the more intrigued we became. Months later, we discovered that twice a year this piercing light traveled through the kitchen, the next room and down the long hall leading to the bedrooms, coming to rest on the linen closet door. With hints of Stonehenge on Equinox, we reveled in time’s transitions marked in the heart of our house by an intense, narrow beam. Was it planned? Over thirty years ago, did the builder envision this phenomenon before or during construction? Unlikely, but we wondered if other occupants had seen the seasonal ray that split the late afternoon air, seeking the depths of a dark and narrow hallway? We’ll never know. But we see it. The sun in its cycle announces either that summer will soon be over or spring is on the way in celebration of the art of noticing, my philosophy of lint.

I think of the people in the world with no dryer, relying on the sun and wind to do the job. Even without lint, noticing sun and shadow is universal. If you were in my kitchen, I’d empty the dryer screen and offer you its soft treasure. The other option, of course, is for you to have your own festival of lint. Or simply celebrate the light and shadow that falls upon us all, traveling around the world. Cheers.

***

     Connie Spittler’s essays, short stories and poetry appear in over 20 anthologies, journals and magazines. She wrote and produced The Wise Women Videos, featuring multi-cultural interviews on philosophy, the environment, and aging. The series was selected for Harvard University’s The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.

Her latest book, The Erotica Book for Nice Ladies, is an award winning fiction that involves an ancient stolen book of herbal cures. While it may sound like an erotic book, it is not; rather the author uses quotes from classic authors like Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jane Austen, etc. A review of this delightful and unusual cozy mystery is here at Story Circle Book Reviews.

Posted in Grace, Living Mindfully, Mystery, Simplicity | 2 Comments

A Sliver of Light

Following this debilitating post-election week, I found myself aching for solitude and solace.

The autumn day is sunny and bright, with few white clouds slowly drifting across the pale blue sky. Below, sun rays brighten the dwindling yellow, orange, and browning leaves that remain on the trees. The slight breeze is tender, inviting me into the day to share what I know are exquisite delights that I cannot feel.

A bicycle rack has been strapped to my car much of the summer. My bike rolls easily through the basement door onto the grassy driveway to the car. A squeeze on each tire reveals a firmness that will not need extra air today. Good. I’m anxious to be on my way.

One hand firmly grasping the bar beneath the handlebars and the other beneath the seat, with my knees bent, I straighten my legs and elevate the bike to the rack. It’s heavy and sometimes I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to be independent with this particular task. It’s an important question for a woman in her seventh decade who lives alone and cherishes that solitude. And loves biking.

Soon, the Trek is securely in place, the helmet, gloves, and water bottle tucked in the front seat, and my car starts out on the twenty-five mile journey to Piney River. In all of Albemarle and Nelson Counties, Piney River is my favorite place to ride. It is off highway and thus safe from traffic on the narrow windy country roads in my area. The drive is pleasant as I pass by some of my favorite landmarks along the way—the antique shop; the yard with a front garden filled with brilliant red canna lilies; a favorite café, Basic Necessities.

Half an hour later, I reach the sharp turn that unveils the Piney River trailhead entrance on the left side of the road. I park, unload my bike and accessories for a ride, and soon  pedal over the concrete path onto the soft grassy path alongside the gently flowing river. In another lifetime, this path was the railroad track for the former Virginia Blue Ridge Railway that closed in 1981.

piney-river-entrance

As I leave the busy road behind and enter onto the six-mile hiking, biking, and horseback trail, I am quickly embraced by silence broken only by the gentle trickling of the river, occasional lovely birdsongs, and the whisper of my tires circling over dying fallen rust-colored leaves. My body relaxes and I become more aware of the sensations I always experience in this place that is sacred to me. As I pedal on, I savor the feel of bright sunshine warming my body, the muscles in my legs pushing the pedals of the serenity of the pastoral scenes everywhere I look as I travel on. A mile iint0 the ride, I pedal over a wooden bridge where the river then moves to my left.piney-river

I notice something dark on the trail ahead and, as I approach, see a black snake curled like a garden hose basking in the day’s heavenly warmth. We notice each other without alarm.

Piney Bridge.jpg

A few miles later my tires thump across another wooden bridge beneath which the river crosses to my right side now. Then I break out into  country, with a fifty-or-so-acre meadow on the river side and multiple trees on the other bank. Several former and at least one active farm border the trail now and in the next meadow several black cows dot the green pasture grass.

When I cross the third bridge, I remember the summer day a small pink pair of flip flops lay on the bridge edge. I looked around for the little person who wore them but no one was in the area. Ever Miss Marple seeking clues, I parked the bike and looked under the bridge where silence greeted me. I sent a thought of safety to the child and envisioned her playing happily along the trail, barefooted.

I ride next beneath a huge bridge supporting a large, noisy major highway above me and quickly pedal on until I return to the serene, sweet solitude ahead. In a little while, I’ve reached the end of the trail, apparently privately owned land behind the fence that stops me. Paused, grateful for this place and the feel of my body filled with increasingly pleasure, I sip some water, then turn around and begin to ride back. The occasional hikers and bikers I pass acknowledge my presence with a smile or a nod, silently conveying their gratefulness for their moments here with Mother Nature, as I am.

In awhile, I stop near a middle-aged couple who are sharing their granola bars with an orange tabby who approached them as they rested by at the river. We talk briefly about the beauty of the day, the sparkling loveliness of the river, and friendliness of the cat, then say good-bye. These contacts buoy the silent shadows of concern for the people of our country.

When, about an hour after starting out, I return to the trailhead entrance, I’m tired. On my best days, after resting briefly, I again ride the full trail round trip, tallying up 25 miles for the day. Other days, I ride until my body signals it’s time stop—like today, a low energy day. Reluctantly, I walk my bike out to the parking lot, remove my helmet and gloves, and prepare to leave for home. I don’t want to leave… my heart aches to remain here…. Yet as I drive back into the world, I slowly realize that today’s respite into the sacred refuge that is Piney River has ever-so-gently reminded me again that our world is embraced by a greater power than we. I gratefully open to that flicker of light slicing into the darkness that pervaded my soul three days ago.

Posted in Change, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mother Nature, Mystery, Peacefulness, Simplicity | 12 Comments

Those Ten Pounds – Three Months Later

Remember those ten pounds I talked about three months ago that transformed into my wake-up call? The pounds that caused my A1C (a 3-6 month average of blood sugar levels) to elevate high enough that my doctor put me on diabetic medication. I was horrified, since I’d been controlling my Type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise for the past twenty years.

That day I decreased my portions and increased my walking to roughly 10,000 steps a day, about 4 miles for me. My beagle-wippet, Beau, loved all our walks together! Me, too.

Three months later, I requested another A1C test, after losing fifteen pounds. My doctor called the day after to tell me my A1C was the lowest she’s ever seen for me. Discontinue the glucophage, she said, and keep working on lifestyle. I was, of course, thrilled.

Am I bragging? Not at all.

So, then, why do I write this post? Simply, once again, I’m stunningly reminded that we are sometimes graced with the ability to improve our health simply with our choices. How awesome is that?

the-final-glucophage

The final glucophage tablet is on the placemat. I no longer need the medication.

 

Posted in Change, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Health | 8 Comments

Gratitude

Gratitude

For time to cherish

a lovely autumn day

on a country road

with a good dog,

equally as appreciative.

   img_20160920_161017138

Posted in Animal friends, Change, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mother Nature, Peacefulness | Leave a comment

Parallel Journeys

I’m on the homestretch of a deep, final edit of my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life, and have found this the most fascinating part of the entire writing journey. The draft topped out at 115,000 words and my goal has been to reduce the manuscript to about 95,000, or less, words.

Today I broke through the 100,000 milestone and closed out the day at 99,902 words. I cup-of-teacelebrated with a cup of tea! Now, with seven chapters remaining to edit, I know I’ll meet my goal. As the words melt away while I focus on one paragraph and then the next, my writing becomes more concise and I can both sense and see the story transforming  from an adolescent phase of writing into a mature form. It’s exhilarating.

On another note, some of you know I’ve been working at losing weight. (That story is here.) As I worked out on my treadmill yesterday morning, part of walking my ten thousand steps daily, I had a sudden thought:  my manuscript and I – we are both slimming down.

Such a good feeling!

Wishing you each a fine weekend.

Posted in Grace, Health, The Writing Life | 6 Comments

Missing, Presumed

Always, it’s wonderful to discover a new author in one’s favorite genre. Mystery has long been my favorite genre until memoir stepped in some years ago and now shares my top spot with mystery.41sp1sXYFrL._AC_US200_

Susie Steiner is a new author for me, although Missing, Presumed is her second novel. I read a review of the book that intrigued me and ordered it from my library. Today I’m nearly done and am enjoying this book so much, I want to share that, if you have enjoyed British mysteries such as the Elizabeth George series with Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers, I suspect you’ll enjoy Missing, Presumed as much. Her Detective Inspector is Manon Bradshaw and her partner DC Davy Walker.

I point out this book, in particular, because Steiner has crafted an outcome unique to any mystery I ever remember reading.

Steiner has written a previous book, Home Coming, that I will order, set in a rural town, which I particularly favor. As I write, Steiner is crafting the next Bradshaw and Walker mystery which I shall be watching for.

Nearly a hundred reviews appear on Amazon, to learn more.

Posted in A Wonderful Book, Mystery | Leave a comment

Remembering “Stories from the Heart I” – February, 2002

I’d been writing life-stories for about a year in 2002, when Story Circle Network announced its first National Conference: Stories from the Heart in Austin, TX. I, a shy  writer and rare traveler, made plane reservations to fly to Austin-Bergstrom Airport. I knew I needed to go–a strong nudge from the universe, I’m certain–and that my quiet life-style was not going to keep me home as it often did. Some women from my online writing circle 2 would be there–Marie Buckley, the facilitator, Kara Flathouse and Tricia Stevens, with whom I felt connecting threads–and I looked forward to meeting women in person that I knew, until then, only from the internet.

A heady three days well-describes my experience with the attendees, the workshops and leaders, the energy, the Open Mike readings, as well as seeing a little of Texas for the first time. I still recall many moments from that conference from arrival to airport departure. Yet, there is one now-favorite moment that I am reminded of each day when my eyes once again enjoy the beauty of these ceramic pieces in my living room.

IMG_20160420_135339591_HDR

As door prizes were awarded during one of our luncheons, we applauded as each woman’s name was drawn and she stepped to the podium to accept a gift-wrapped package. Several gifts were presented and then I was stunned when my name was called. With delight, because I never won gifts, I walked forward to shyly accept my prettily wrapped gift.

Back at my luncheon table, I loosened the tape (yes, I’m one of those slow un-wrappers!), removed the paper and folded it up to probably use again, then opened the box, which was weighty. I peeked into the tissue within and lifted out one of the ceramic pieces in the photo.

Member Rebecca Roberts had crafted those pieces. Each contains seeds that are noted on the back: ginko, maple spinners, and the third has unfortunately fallen away. When I shake one as if it’s a rattle, the seeds within give a pleasant, unique sound, depending on the size of the piece and type of seeds within. I was initially thrilled with the beauty of these pieces and still am, noting them as another of the abundant gifts Story Circle Network brought me in those early years and during each year that followed.

When I arrived home in 2002 and continued to become more committed to writing, I grew to appreciate these beautiful pieces on a much deeper level. These days, when I pick up one of Rebecca’s pieces and shake it, I’m reminded that these beautifully-crafted pieces of nature, clay and seeds, are rich reminders that within myself are also seeds: for many more stories to write as part of my legacy.

 

Posted in Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mystery, Simplicity | 5 Comments

Talent – A Book Review

I enjoy writing book reviews for Story Circle Network for so many reasons: I keep up with the latest books by women indie writers; the reviews support the finest Book Review site on the internet for these well- written books by women authors; it’s always a challenge to write one, and I always know where to go when looking for a good book to read and review.

When I attended Stories from the Heart 2016 Conference in Austin last April, I returned home with nearly a dozen books to read. Last month I pulled B. Lynn Goodwin’s young adult novel Talent from the pile. Although Lynn is a SCN member, I hadn’t planned to review her book because our book review site already had a great review of it.

Every now and then I read a book that I enjoy so much that I write a review of it outside the ones I normally write. Talent is one of those books. I wish every parent, teacher, police officer, clergy person, and other community members who connect with the lives of our children/adolescents could read this book. It provides a stunning road map to recognize when our young people are hurting and how to sensitively help and support them.

The review is posted here. index

 

Posted in A Wonderful Book, Book Reviews, Change, Compassion, Courage, Grace, Kindness | 2 Comments

Crikey, It’s Only Ten Pounds!

Twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Horrified, I opened the door into this disease to understand it. I learned, for starters, that I had to begin eating differently and that I had to exercise regularly. In time I would examine the other dis-eases in my life that, if they had a volume button between 1 and 10, would have sounded out at 20. Hello! Wake up call! You are a mess, girl! I hung my head. Well, yes, I was.

I was deeply stressed at work, (running through MacDonald’s for a quick lunch most days), in the throes of a devastating personal crisis, and had recently separated from my spouse after we agreed our marriage had sadly, dismally deteriorated. It was beyond time to wake up.

I do urge you to be compassionate with diabetics. (Well, I urge everyone to be compassionate at all times.) It’s hard to learn how to eat properly if you’ve never studied this science. Do you know that all carbohydrates transform into sugar, the diabetic’s worst enemy? Or that ½ cup of rice or pasta or potatoes is the maximum amount to eat in one meal if you’re diabetic? Or, how about this: since healthy fruits and juices contain a high level of sugar, ½ banana or apple or ½ cup of orange juice is all you should eat or drink in a meal.

n-WOMAN-WRITING-628x314

You may know all this. Back in 1996, I did not. I sat with paper and pencil so many evenings, agonizing over portion sizes, daily meal plans, what food to take to work, and shopping lists. It was laborious yet, in the end, I transformed my eating habits from horrible to healthy. When I re-committed to exercising regularly, I realized how worn out I felt on days I didn’t exercise. I changed my lifestyle as well as other aspects in my life that were suffering.

It was such an awakening to understand how much control I had over my health; I’ve never forgotten that. For the next twenty years I managed my diabetes with diet and exercise.Not long ago I was telling a friend about this.

I can give you many reasons for why the following happened last winter, but I won’t: simply, I slacked off on exercising and got lax with those freshly-made local tortilla chips most evenings. By early spring I’d gained ten pounds. I didn’t like my expanded waistline but there it was.

When I went for my six-month health check recently, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was stunned. My A1C, the six-month average for blood sugar measurement, had climbed to an unacceptable level and my doctor prescribed diabetic medication twice a day. I was so frustrated with myself for backsliding that badly. I drove home determined to lose those ten pounds and more by the time I see my primary care provider next time. To date, I’ve lost 9 pounds. How? By walking 10,000 steps/3-4 miles a day and decreasing portion sizes. Well, okay, I stopped ordering those chips too. No new fad diet, just common sense.

My goal is to end my diabetic medication regime. I have to add, too, that I’m feeling a lot less sluggish these days…. Crikey, what a difference nine pounds less makes!

Posted in Aging, Change, Compassion, Grace, Health, In the Kitchen | 10 Comments