IMG_1643It’s June. Half the year is shot. I was glad to see winter melt into spring, but the worst of Virginia weather is before us with its heat and humidity. Summer is not my favorite time of year here.  Spring and the fall are my favorite seasons at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  On the best of days the temperature is just right, somewhere in the mid-seventies. There’s usually a nice breeze and lots of sunshine. Often afternoon showers water my garden for me.

I rise early, walk the dogs, then I leave the dogs behind and go on what I call a “Hood Hike.”  I pick up my speed and get my heart pumping, rather than lollygagging around every shrub and blade of grass, so that Max and Sam can read the doggie newspaper.

There are lots of hills in the neighborhood. They work just about every muscle in my lower body.  A former neighbor named the worst one, “Killer Hill.” I don’t even like driving up it.  It feels like I’m shooting for the moon.  But it’s rather short and sweet and I try to do it a couple of times a week to really get my heart going. I’ve seen several people run up, but I’d rather die.

This past winter on one of our worst snow days, the kids in the area built moguls on that snowy incline, sliding down on sleds and trays over, and through their hand-made obstacle course. Parents stood at either end guarding the route so that nobody would get hit by a car.  Most of us never use that hill under those conditions anyway. It’s too steep and would be impossible to navigate unless you have four-wheel drive.

With warmer temperatures just days away, I’m beginning to plan my summer exercise strategy.  On hot days I’ll get up even earlier to walk.  But if I can’t get myself out of bed, I’ll use my old cross-trainer in my air-conditioned studio.  I could also walk at dusk, but sometimes it’s even too hot then.

For a few years now I’ve often spent hot days cooling off in my neighbors pool. But they’re filling it in now.  I don’t blame them a bit.  It’s a lot of work to keep a pool clean. They also have two young grandchildren who visit frequently.  Those kids would need to wear life preservers all the time to keep the adults from stressing out. However, there is a very nice city pool nearby that I’ll probably start going to during lap time, when there are no kids making waves.

Exercising my mind, I’ll spend several hours each day sitting at my computer as I rewrite my memoir.  I have already gotten started and am having lots of fun with it. I enjoy this part of the process even more than writing the first draft.  Now I have all the puzzle pieces before me. All I have to do is put them back together again in a new way.  It’s like working on one of those huge, complicated jig-saw puzzles you open up when you visit the seashore during the late fall or early winter and the wind is howling. It’s too cold to walk on the beach and you don’t feel like reading.

It is easier said than done, of course. There is always lots of frustration included in the fun.  But when the puzzle is finally put together in just the right way, it spells out masterpiece.

What do you do to  exercise your body and brain during the heat of summer?


Already Naked

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart.”  Steve Jobs

DSC00761Just over a week ago we had fifteen inches of snow on the ground.  This past weekend we had two gorgeous days, both near seventy degrees. The warmth and sunshine was heart warming after what has seemed like a long, cold, and dreary winter.  Although it sounds like there may be more snow in our future for next weekend, I know spring is on it’s way.

My cat, Lily, was the first to inform me. She has spent most of winter cozied up inside on the couch, only going out to use her favorite flowerbed as her kitty pan.  Just before the big snow, she started her warm weather routine of going out, coming in, going out, coming in, and going out again. She’s constantly at the door or at the window outside our dining room asking for our attention in manning the doors.  And even the snow didn’t stop her.  She tells me that spring’s arrival is guaranteed. Soon. She is much more optimistic than that groundhog, Phil.

I’ve also noticed the build up of the chorus of bird song when I go out for my morning walks with the dogs.  Almost silent just a few weeks ago, the sunrise is taking on music and  it will crescendo into it’s full blown glory as the days grow longer and warmer.  Yesterday I noticed a lawn up the street abloom with tiny lavender croci. Daffodils are poking their sleepy heads above ground, gaining strength and energy as they inch toward the glow of the sun.

And I’ve taken on a new glow myself.  After my last post about loss and grieving, an internet friend, Debra Marrs, sent me the quote above. I’ve spent the last week contemplating its meaning and feeling myself beginning to recharge and get ready for an audacious spring.  I’m certainly helped by the lengthening of daylight hours. I’m now ready to great the sunrise and be outside at around 6:40 AM and am reveling in the added time in the evening to watch the sun sink beyond earth’s edge.  My energy levels are moving upward and now that the work on our house is about done, (They promise today will be the last day) my interest in finishingmy book is growing.  No one ever told me that these last chapters just might be the hardest to write, but the words are flowing again and I just might find my way out of my thicket of thoughts in a timely way. I’m seriously considering going to a creative non-fiction writing conference in May, the first in many years, as a way to get myself primed for what’s next in getting my memoir onto bookstore shelves.

During the dark time of winter, especially when it’s cold, I find it easy for me to sit back and fall into my old patterns of not feeling good enough … that I’ll never get the book done or published … and if I do get that far, no one will care to read it.  But hey, that quote above sent me a reminder.  I’m already naked.   What do I have to lose?

So tell me, is spring on its way in your neck of the woods?  And what do you have to lose if you ignore your biggest dream?DSCF0989

Kickin’ Back

Snow day, January 2012.

Snow day, January 2012.

Excuse me while I take some time off from my blog.  Even though it hasn’t snowed much here this winter, this past January has been the coldest on record in twenty years.  I like to lay low in the winter, taking my time with everything … napping, cooking and enjoying soups, stews and braises.  There hasn’t been time for any of that this past month with the renovations we’ve undergone, so I’m hearby declaring the next week my hibernation week.  It can snow or do whatever it wants.  I’m staying put. I’ll cook a pot roast, and put away all the kitchen things that have been packed away in boxes over the past month. I can’t wait to see all my cookbooks lined up on the shelves that we had especially built just for them.  I’m also rearranging furniture all over the house and setting myself up for the newness of spring’s arrival next month.

I’ll be back next week with something useful or knowledgable to tell you about … or not.  In the meantime go sledding, bake cookies, read a good book, or clean out a closet. Let’s simply the enjoy the next week as it is … rain, sleet, snow, or sun.  It’s good for our health to just slow down and breathe deeply.

October Adventure


Gusts hurry clouds
Large as icebergs across unlimited blue
Unclothed limbs thrash beneath shadows
Afraid the sky will burst

The gray squirrel
The one that limps  fusses at the cat
Seems thin like the light slipping
Over the edge

I fill the feeders
To overflowing  rake the path
Blanketed with summer’s remnants
Moldering through expectant afternoons


Though temperatures will be rising today to eighty  plus, and the humidity will soon make the air heavier, fall is here. At bedtime, I open a window in my room, leave the blanket in place and sleep more soundly than I do in summer. It is hibernation time.

Although I’m a morning person, it is difficult to get out of bed when it is so dark outside.  At this time of year I want a rise with the sun and go to sleep when it falls off in the west.  But that doesn’t leave enough time during the daylight hours to get enough done.  In another month the time will change and I’ll find it easier to get out of bed earlier. But night will encroach sooner than before and the evening chores in the garden will be done in strong afternoon light or wait until the days start lengthening again.

Though I haven’t finished the first draft of my book, it’s time for a change of scene.  Next week, I’m off on an adventure. I’m off to London, where a bridge has been falling down for centuries and a new born prince resides not too far away.  I’m very excited but at the same time having difficulty getting myself ready to go.  Packing has always been a chore for me.  I either pack too much or too little and then complain that my bags are either too heavy or I don’t have enough clothing to keep me from looking like an old, wrinkled wanderer.

After I leave the the house, the dogs and cat behind, I’ll become my traveling self, eager for something new and ready for change.  I’ll see some sights I haven’t checked out before, visit with old friends, see a few plays and listen to beautiful music at St. Martin’s in the Field.  I’ll check out Harrod’s and other stores that catch my interest and wander through the many outdoor markets looking for some small object that doesn’t cost much but  would be perfect for one of my works of art.

At this time of year, we usually go to the beach, just five hours away, where the tourists are mostly gone for the season. There I take in the sound of the ocean, walk barefoot in the sand, and simply rest.  But this year I decided on something different. I haven’t been to the other side of the pond in a number of years and decided it was time to return. And England is one my favorite places.  The years pass too quickly and though there are other places still on my bucket list, returning to special places is particularly comforting.  And having Frequent Flyer Miles to get me there certainly helps.

I may or may not show up here during the next couple of  weeks, depending on what I’m doing and how I’m feeling. Sometimes a body just needs a break from old routines. Other times life is so exciting I just may have to break my silence and fill you in on what’s happening.  In any case, I’ll be back in three weeks. Enjoy this wonderful season and the changes that lie before all of us.

Meditation On Fall


turns the field bright yellow
the moon is full

We’ve had a very tolerable summer here in Virginia. There’ve been a few short heat waves that have been replaced by glorious cool spells, lower humidity. Weekly rains of half an inch or more have kept me from having to water the garden. Temperatures in the eighties have been manageable. The garden is looking a lovely green. I’m not a “Summer in Virginia” fan but this one was certainly delightful compared to so many others I’ve lived through.

cool night air
trace of frost on grass
toad sleeps deeply

My favorite season is upon us. Nights are cool enough to open windows, turn the A/C off, use a  blanket. The yellow school bus is back, picking up and dropping off neighborhood kids wearing light sweaters in chilly morning air. The dogwood leaves are deep red. I can see the green of other trees and shrubs fading as I travel up and down neighboring hills. Walking in the early morning is a perfect way to honor each new day.

leaves drop
scratching the window pane
wind from the north

I’m interested in cooking again.  My favorite things to make during cold months are soups, stews and braises.  I’m tired of salads, though late winter will find me longing for spring greens and juicy, red tomatoes. Local peaches are about gone and if you can find them, are mealy, unappealing. At the farmer’s market bins overflow with apples, winter squash, potatoes, onions, aromatic garlic, beets. As the days cool further, cold weather crops like broccoli will return with brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach, and kale.

feather quilt
pulled over my head
bear hibernates

 Soon we’ll be raking leaves, stacking firewood close to the house. Hot steamy cups of tea replace the iced variety I brew every day in summer. I switch to PJs with sleeves, keep a quilt nearby should nights grow colder than expected. Max and Sam cuddle closer. Through the open widow I smell wood burning in my neighbor’s fireplace.

from the chimney
smells of oak and poplar
fox hunts nesting mice

 Early morning walks with Sam and Max in the dark. It’s harder to get out of bed before the sun rises. I’ll take more naps. Evenings will find me heading for bed earlier as the light dies.  My eyes want to close as I read.
Every night the same paragraph over and over again without moving forward.

tea grows cold
book open on the bed
afternoon nap

     Energy surges with brisk walks. It’s time to shut down the garden. Cut back dead flower heads, prune this and that. I make notes of what to replace in spring. Plan on ferns and woodland flowers as tree canopies spread.

autumn rain
my feet cold and damp choose
soft woolen socks