What’s Next?

The view from upstairs just a few weeks ago

Today is sunny and gorgeous.  Early this morning the grass was cut. But the weather people are calling for snow on Saturday.  Maybe not a lot, but snow none-the-less. On Monday there could be more white stuff.  This is Virginia for heaven’s sake.  What’s up?

Like the weather, the past year has been a muddle of activity focused on constant change. Time has rushed on, dissapearing into the fabric of life. But there are loose ends everywhere. As soon as I tuck one in, others pop up. I search for a place to anchor each one, but it’s not that simple. There are always loose ends. That is nothing new. There is no controlling where and when they will appear and at times the process of weaving them back in is daunting.  Like housekeeping it’s an endless task. We vacuum the floors, then someone comes in with grass clippings all over their shoes. 

I had thought by now I’d be completely settled into my new home.  In the past moving has always been easy, but this time around it’s been a long, slow process. I’d planned on having my studio up and running by now, but some kind of neurological disorder is causing severe pain in my shoulders especially in my dominant arm on the right.  Sometimes it’s fine, other times I have to stop what I’m doing, ice the pain away, and start again.  

Working on the computer is especially difficult at times and I’ve had to quit in the middle of writing, so my blog posts have been few and far between. The beading project I restarted a few weeks back hasn’t progressed. But this morning I’m feeling quite good. I’m doing what I can and hoping to get this post finished before whichever nerve is giving me problems starts screaming.

That same view today!

Like the weather, my moods have been high and low.  But as every cherry tree and magnolia sends forth new blooms, as they do at this time of year, I open up along with them.  I am visiting local nurseries and choosing pots to plant flowers in. I’ve had a tiny area out front cleared of shrubbery and once spring really arrives, will put in herbs … rosemary, sage, basil, lemon balm, and others.  I’ll load up one of my big, new pots with mint, as it runs wild in the garden and easily takes over.

And the birds … oh so, beautiful. Yesterday tree swallows arrived trying to take over several of the blue bird boxes that the blue birds have already started nesting in.  The gold finches are now brilliantly gold, having shed their dull winter colors.  Every day more arrive adding their voices to the morning song fest.

It’s a promising season.

I’ll not let a bit of snow or cold rain stop me
from continuing to move forward, loose ends and all.
After all, that is what life is.

It is not one big, continually blooming rose garden.
It’s an ever changing landscape filled with peaks and valleys.

Sun, snow, joy, pain, and sorrow are always on the horizon.
What we do with them makes all the difference
in how we live our lives.

Autumn Palette

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Bright and early Tomorrow morning, Bill will undergo  complete shoulder replacement surgery. With one knee already done, many friends are calling him “The Bionic Man.” I wrote this poem for him back in 2005, and since it is fall and he’s on my mind as we step into another healing adventure together, I thought I’d share it with you.

Autumn Palette
for Bill

Across the river trees flare
yellow orange gold
the flow of water a painting
awash in late day light
ever changing in intensity
as ruffles of wind eddy the surface
invisible fingers at play

A walk we took years ago
before we became us
in woods of scarlet sugar maples
Vermont air crisp and clear
the lake before us blue shimmering
deep and endless as the sky
we wandered under
projecting our future together
on the white canvas
of a passing cloud

We were young and limber
ready to climb the mountains
flame red in the distance
never imagining this day
you and I burnished by time
settled on a river bank
reflecting in October light

JZR
10/5/05

Change Is In The Air

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It’s September, that time of year when I breathe deeply and am especially happy that the days ahead will be cooler. The dog wood trees are the first to begin turning their foliage from a verdant green to a rusty red and their berries are ready for picking by hungry birds.

Today when I took my morning walk a strong breeze out of the north began shaking tree limbs and old, dried out yellow leaves at the end of their life span fell all around me.  It was lovely.

Here is a poem I wrote a while back to to honor this special month.

September

That yellow bus is back
all shiny and clean
beeping ‘round the circle
every morning at eight
then again in afternoon
Monday through Friday

I recall chalk dust days
blue gingham stained with chocolate
climbing trees and jump rope
books whispering dreams

Hours slip away
dropped stitches
in a Christmas sweater
I’ve been knitting for years
return to every fall
rows of raveled days
purled again to perfection

JZR
9/7/91

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April’s Charm

IMG_0165It’s been a fairly warm winter and we only had one good snow storm — but it’s been a dark one with lots of rain. There were countless days in which all I wanted to do was to cozy up with a steaming cup of tea and somebody else’s book. But work on my own book was necessary. I reread and reread to check for mistakes that the editors, proof reader, and I all had missed. When the first day of spring arrived in March, I felt burned out on my story and wanted to throw it in the glowing coals of my fireplace. Fortunately, there were voices out there that told me to take heart, that many writers feel burned out at this stage of the game.

I’ve been away from my rereads for over a week now and feeling much better about the whole thing. I’m beginning to feel very excited as the back cover is coming together with great blurbs from a few people who have already read it. My airline tickets and hotel reservations are set for my trip to Chicago next month for Book Expo America, and my publicist spent an hour on the phone with me, giving me tips on what to expect along with lots of convention etiquette.

Being one who doesn’t like big crowds, I’ll be stepping way outside of my comfort zone. But, you know what? I’m looking forward to getting one more thing crossed off of the “Big Challenges List,” that I keep tucked away in my back pocket along with my Bucket List. I suppose they’re actually one and the same, but things on my Big Challenges List are more scary than those on my Bucket List. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter what happens. I will have done it and my sense of self-esteem and confidence will be have risen a rung or two on my “Life Ladder.”

The point is that regrets are built on the steps we don’t take to live out loud. I figure that I’ve been birthing this book for a long time and I must do everything I can do to bring it to life. If an infant isn’t breathing when it comes into the world, nurses and doctors don’t give up on it without trying to save it’s life. I’m not about to let my book die in the delivery room. I want her to be breathing nicely when she hits the first book shelf.

IMG_0162In the meantime, it’s April, and I have about six weeks before I need to worry about all of that. The days are longer and sunnier, I think the robin who kept me company in the garden last spring is back, and the greening of the new season seems greener than ever.

I celebrated an unusual happening this past week when two, yes that’s 2, handwritten letters arrived in my mailbox on the same day. One was a three page missive from grandson, Noah, to his grand dad, about a trip they are planning together, but he sent me his best wishes and love as well. The other was a thank you note from a friend who had recently visited me in Charlottesville.

How many handwritten letters get delivered to your mailbox in one day, week, or year? Once this book thing is done, maybe I’ll start writing letters to friends with a pen on real paper like I used to. I believe there is something very precious about someone taking the time to write me note using their hands, putting a stamp on it, and sending it through the mail. No one does that anymore.

I’m also celebrating my garden which is more beautiful than ever this spring. On Friday I went to myIMG_0163 favorite garden center to find some plants to in fill a few empty spaces. The varieties of flora took my breath away as I ambled up and down the aisles of ferns, hellebores, columbine, early blooming irises, and peonies. What to choose? How many? Which color? I came home with a variety of things that I’ll have to cover for the next few nights. It seems that winter isn’t giving up it’s hold on the weather just yet. Last week’s 70 degree weather will be gone for a while, but will soon return. At least we’ll not get snow like so many places north of here are promised.

There is lot’s going on in the future to worry and think about. But for now April charms me with her promises of a garden full of flowers, the first butterflies of the season, and birds singing their heart’s out in the early morning light.

Do you have a Big Challenges List and how do you keep yourself grounded in the present moment?

Another Lesson From The Garden

IMG_1630Monday morning. Feeling rushed, overtired, and foggy headed, I look out the window at the garden. Brilliant leaves of red, gold and orange cover the patio pavers. Those still hanging on silently drift down on a gentle breeze. Maria and her gang put the garden to sleep for the winter this past week, leaving only a few red roses and one lone, beautifully pink echinacea to remind me that life is still there, even when it goes underground for the winter. Brown, crusty leaves of Lenten Roses, are dying back and new green leaf shoots are beginning to show. Their flowers will fill the dark days of February lasting into March, April, and maybe even May, before they give way to summer blooming plants.

It’s cold this morning and heavy rain is promised later in the day. I remove my shoes and socks, wander barefoot through the leaves, listening to their crunch, examining their outrageous colors, and letting my feet taste the cold that the coming months will bring.

I ask myself, Why must I rush about? My eyes had a hard time opening this morning. The warmth of my quilt, along with Sam and Max’s warm bodies snuggled up against my legs kept me from wanting to throw the covers back and jump into morning. Can’t I stay here just a few more minutes?

But unending lists and necessity pried away my comfort. Closing the window that keeps my bedroom very cool, I rushed into the bathroom. The litany of when and where I have to be played over and over again in my head. An old record stuck in the mud of have-to’s.

As I walked the dogs and had my breakfast of hot tea, yogurt, walnuts and berries, I reviewed the things I would be unable to do because I had too many other things to do. I wouldn’t have time to take a nice long walk, sans dogs. There would be no time to finish reading that book I’ve had a hard time closing at night, and taking a nap would be out of the question. Forget the idea of doing some visual art.

IMG_1624It’s got to stop, I thought. Would I be living this way if I knew I only had a month to live? Isn’t it time to pay attention to the time I fill with more and more things, making it sometimes impossible to do what I have at the top of my priority list? Like taking time to stretch my body and let it rest when it’s tired?

It’s a chronic problem of mine. I’m just too damned interested in way too many things. I love learning and want to know why the world is the way it is.  In the stillness under the quest to know more I think, Maybe if I can figure out why I’m so tired all the time, I can do even more?

In early September I made the mistake of signing up for two OLLI classes offered at the University. I chose, Elephant Sense and Sensibility, and How to Be an Olympic Swimmer in the Aging Tsunami. I love elephants, have seen them up close in the wild, and wanted to learn more about them from a man who probably knows it all and has a book or two to prove it. As to the second class, I thought it would be useful to learn more about where I am on the aging curve and what to expect as I move on down the road.

IMG_1626Both classes started last week, one on Monday, the other on Wednesday. I had other things to do those days. I rushed here and there, feeling unsatisfied and angry. The weekend passed by too quickly, filled with too many more things to do and not enough time to catch up on what I neglected to do last week.

Now, as I traipse through the leaves, freezing my toes off, I know it’s time to be honest with myself. I can read those books about elephants anytime. And I’ll figure out where I am on the aging curve as I go.

I throw out the idea of going to class, allow time for a long, leisurely walk around the neighborhood (with shoes), an hour to finish that book I am reading, and another hour or two for sitting and writing this blog post which I tried unsuccessfully to put together yesterday.

The glue is gone from my eyes. I no longer feel exhausted and my day is spread out before me. The mud where I was stuck has dried up. I’m no longer angry.

Being in the moment, knowing how I’m feeling, and what I need to do to take care of myself is what I need to do more of. Like the garden, I’m settling in as the days shorten and the wind blows colder.  Spring really is just around the corner and after resting for a few months I’ll be ready to spring into action once again.

Does the arrival of fall and winter make you want to settle down and rest?