The Necessity Of Water

“Happy is he who is awakened by the cool song of the stream, by a real voice of living nature. Each new day for him has the quality of birth.”
Gaston Bachelard

The South Fork Rivanna River

The South Fork Rivanna River

I’ve always been drawn to the water. Living on Long Island as a kid I was at the beach almost every day during the summer months. My last home there was located on a high tide inlet where, despite my difficult teen years, the presence of the water helped with my constant anxiety. We had a small skimmer with an outboard motor, behind which I learned to waterski. We gathered clams, oysters, and mussels that thrived in the sand, or the rocks along the shore. My youngest brother, Reid, a born naturalist, constantly wore a life preserver before he could swim. He caught tiny crabs and any other creatures he found in tide pools. We filled a glass tank with salt water from the sound and populated it with starfish, barnacles, clams, snails, small fish, and a host of other creatures we caught in our own watery back yard.

When I moved to Vermont after I graduated from high school, I missed the salt air, but there were plenty of lakes, ponds, and streams to jump into. And later here in Virginia I would spend ten years living on the banks of the South Fork Rivanna River. My mother spent most of her last seven years living there with Bill and me. Watching the daily movements and moods of the river, the birds, beavers, and otters kept me from totally losing my mind as I tried to help make Mom’s life as painless as possible. I know it also helped her and Bill as well.

Getting out on the water in my kayak was always a blessing. Alone in the sunshine, I often just drifted along, taking deep breathes. Some mornings found me totally overwhelmed not knowing how to manage my own life while taking care of Mom. I’d simply sit in my tiny yellow boat, head bowed to my lap, crying. Back on land, I felt peaceful, and knew the steps I had to take in order to make things somewhat easier, at least for the moment.


Last week I heard a fascinating interview with Wallace J. Nichols, author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On , or Underwater Can Make You Happier. He proves what I’ve always intuitively known about water, but always thought it was just me … that the activity of our brain actually changes when we are close to or on water. Just listening to waves crash to shore can be a cure-all.

I was reminded of the week I recently spent on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Bill and I stayed in a rental home directly on the sound where I watched a great blue heron fishing each morning. We saw magnificent sunsets in the evening and twice a day, I took my dogs, Sam and Max for an ocean side beach walk, where they explored and rolled in all of the luscious, smelly things that had washed up on the shore. There were no deadlines, no phone calls, no have-to-do-now-things to keep me from just letting go. Without any effort, I slipped into a completely relaxed mode. I took naps. I ate seafood. I read books, and sat on the shore watching the water. I wanted to stay there forever.

It had been several years since our last vacation by the sea and I’d been feeling a pressing need to get to the water where I knew I’d be able to let go and untangle my thoughts and feelings about what was happening in my life. When I returned home, I was a completely new person, full of energy and ready to jump back into life.

Now reading Nichols’ book, I know that being on the water is a basic necessity for everyone, even if it’s only for one day or an hour. Just as our bodies need to rest, we absolutely must allow our brains to switch channels and rest. Nichols shows that soaking in a tub, or swimming in a pool can do the same thing for the brain as the ocean.

We spent 9 months adrift and growing in our mothers’ watery wombs. Without it we wouldn’t be alive. If we don’t continuously hydrate our bodies, we die. Taking time  to be near or in the water is the natural thing to do. Without that we’ll certainly have a much more difficult life.


I finished up this visual journal piece while I was at the beach and later posted it in my first newsletter. I had painted the pages before I left for the Outer Banks, not knowing that they were illustrating my overwhelming  need to be near the water.

How does water fit into your life?

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Where The Grass Is Greenest

Mary and her baby, Tiffany

Mary and her baby, Tiffany

Back during the hippy segment of my life, when I returned to the land to grow my own food, I was also taken up with a passion for weaving and spinning my own yarn. I decided that in order to do it right, I needed a few sheep and angora goats of my own so that I would have plenty of wool and mohair fleeces with which I could produce fabulous pillows, ponchos, tote bags, and whatever else I thought would sell successfully at the statewide craft shows where I often set up shop.

In preparation for the arrival of my small flock, I called in a neighbor who had a posthole digger on his tractor. He dug holes for the unfenced five acre field next to the barn, and where I would be able to watch my sheep and goats from my kitchen window. Bill and I filled each hole with a strong wooden post, then filled in around each one with the dirt that had been removed. We did the work on weekends and during long, Vermont summer evenings. We were always covered with mud, and when we finished up the work each day, we fell into bed and were fast asleep before we could say goodnight.

The neighbor came back when we were finished and stretched the wire fence all around the perimeter of the field, while Bill and I stapled it in place.  Always tired and sweaty, I labored on with excitement over the arrival of my flock. Bill, on the other hand, wasn’t so excited. He loved me and labored on to make me happy.

A few weeks later, Mary, my first angora goat arrived, along with three Romney ewes and a ram. I knew before hand that the  fibers in both the goat and sheep fleeces were long stapled, strong, and would be heavenly to work with.

A few days after her arrival, I discovered that Mary, like all critters, including humans, had a personality of her own. She quickly made her preference known for what grew outside of her enclosed pasture.

One morning, as I was weeding my vegetable garden, I heard her bleating and voicing displeasure, letting me know something was amiss. When I went around the corner of the barn, I saw that her head was caught in the fence. Woven of heavy duty wire, the fence was made up of small rectangular holes, about 3” x 5,” near the bottom. On each tier above the bottom one, the holes got larger. Mary had been able to get her head, horns and all, through one of the largest holes so she could reach the irresistible greenery on the other side of the fence.

Down into the field I went to get her out. When I grabbed her horns and tried to guide them out of the hole, she struggled, moving her head up, down and sideways. After five minutes of me cursing and her bleating, I figured out that there was no way I was going to be able to get her out … unless … I cut the wire between the hole she was stuck in and the one next to it. After I cut the wire and got her unstuck, I tried to find the difference between the grass and weeds on both sides of the fence but saw none. For a while, Mary happily ate what was in her own pasture, but still was occasionally tempted by some tasty morsel on the other side of the fence.

At least once every few weeks, I’d be called to the pasture by her persistent bleating, to get her untangled. She, of course, would never use the same hole I’d enlarged before. As I cut more and more wire to get her out, my displeasure grew, not to mention Bill’s. He saw dollar signs every time we had to cut the fence.

Over time as I spun Mary’s fleece into beautiful yarns I colored with natural dyes, I decided I wanted access to more mohair and decided to breed her to a friend’s buck. When tiny Tiffany was born, I was thrilled by her even finer, silky hair. I wanted to breed Mary again. I kept wanting more and more mohair!

Months later, when we visited a friend’s newly renovated home, I had a major attack of kitchen envy. I wanted to go home and demolish my kitchen and start over. For days I dreamt about nothing else, until Mary got her head caught in the fence once again. As I cursed her, I had to ask, “Wasn’t it my envy of a friend’s flock of sheep that got me started on this path?”

I try not to go looking for greener pastures anymore. The grass is greenest right under my own two feet. If envy does creep into my life, I remind myself that wanting what’s on the other side of the fence isn’t always a good thing for me. I never know what I’ll find out there and when I’ve finish whatever it was I thought would be so delicious, I may have to cut my way out of what I spent my precious time and money on.

Have you, like me, every suffered from greed and envy? I’d love to hear your story.


Changing The World, One Person At A Time!

DSC01663It’s spring! Here in Virginia, bird song fills the air and everything is in bloom.  This is one of those years when the dogwood, redbud, and fruit trees are all blooming at the same time. The brilliant greens of spring  are amazing and I notice each morning how the leaves on the trees around me have grown larger.  My strawberries are blooming. I’m looking forward to having them with my yogurt for breakfast.

Spring is always a time of hope and I’ve been filled with a wonderful sense of wellbeing and gratefulness for all that has been gifted to me. I’m especially grateful to my daughter, Lisa, who got me started on getting rid of the large amounts of sugar I was unwittingly consuming on a daily basis.  I knew I was addicted to sugar, and had been trying  to stop using it, but it wasn’t until Lisa started on the 21 Day Sugar Detox that I got serious.

I am personally watching many of those around me changing and making their way to a more healthy lifestyle.

My husband, whom I never thought would give up his carbs, joined me on this sugar-free road and has lost 17 pounds since we started.  He had blood work done last week just to check his blood sugar and cholesterol levels.  We were blown away by the results. His blood sugar levels are the lowest they’ve ever been and his cholesterol levels are also down.  He feels great, has more energy, and he isn’t as forgetful as he used to be.  AND, he has halved his blood pressure meds and his doctor said he might have to halve it again.

But there’s more.  My housekeeper and friend, Bobbie, saw my 21 Day Sugar Detox book in the kitchen one morning and asked about it.  She went out and bought the book that afternoon. A few days later, she had her family doing the detox.

She in turn told her sisters about it and they are giving it a try.  One of them told some of her friends at work about it and now all of them detoxing.  That’s just a small part of the big picture.  I know we’re not alone and that there are many more people out there who now realize that sugar, which is much more addictive than cocaine, is public health enemy number one.  Let’s keep it going!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bring peace to the world in the same way?

They Call Me Batty



There’s a gentle sweetness to this term for crazy: it conjures up an elderly woman pottering harmlessly about the garden, hair coming undone every which way, talking to herself (or the plants or the birds), oblivious to creatures of the human persuasion. It is closer to eccentric, or deeply peculiar, than to the harsher nuts, wacko, bonkers, or bats. It is not clear why bats (or nuts) are synonyms for crazy —considering that bats have radar, their flight is anything but. Still, before people knew about the radar, bat flight must have looked, well, nuts. Batty may derive from the phrase bats in the belfry, or from the name of the prominent English physician, William Battie (sometimes Batty), who wrote a Treatise on Madness in 1758, and advocated therapeutic asylums rather than prisons for the insane. –JS


A while back, as I was doing some writing, using Scrivener, I used the word “batty” and while looking for another word to use in its place, the above Word Note flashed up on the screen. I like that about Scrivener and only wish I could master the rest of the program. I’m not terribly computer savvy. I can’t even figure it out with “Scrivener For Dummies,” parked in front of me. So later this month I’ll be taking a class with a real human being so that I’ll be able to use the program for my further writing.

But back to where I was going with this wonderful note about the word “batty.”  My grand kids call me Batty, instead of Grandma, Nana, Ma maw, Granny, Gram, or any of the other names that are assigned to most grandmothers.

Zoe, almost thirteen now, started calling me Batty as soon as she started talking and then Noah, who will be ten next week, picked it up as well. I am now known to the entire family as Batty. Even my little nieces, Anya and Julia, call me Aunt Batty.

I don’t know what made Zoe pick that name for me, but I remember that when I found out that Lisa was pregnant, I was extremely happy. Besides asking for a healthy grand baby, there was one more wish I put out into the Universe: “I just don’t want to be called ‘Grandma.’ I’m way too young for that.” I guess the Universe heard me.

Zoe and me before my hair turned grey.

Zoe and me before my hair turned grey.

I was not in the room when Zoe was born, but  waiting out in the hallway, pacing back and forth, anxious because it had been a long and arduous labor, resulting in a C-section. Later I got the chance to hold eight pound plus, baby  Zoe.  She wasn’t one of those sleepy eyed newborns that just want to be fed and go back to sleep. She was wide-awake, seemingly noticing everything around her.  When she looked up into my eyes, I thought I heard her gasp, “I know you, but can’t remember from where.” Later on I began to think she recognized something very different about me and though we’d never met before, we were members of the same clan. When she christened me, Batty, I was sure of it. I think she is the only person who truly gets me.

And about that word note up above? Yes, I do potter about the garden, talking to the plants and the birds. I am getting elderly, but I’ve still got a whole lot of living to do. My dear neighbor, Harmon, is called “Gaga,” by her grandchildren. I often suggest we write a book entitled, “The Adventures of Batty and Gaga.” I think it would be a great kid’s book about grandmothers and how magical they can be. I would love to have purple hair in the book. And Harmon’s hair has to be fuchsia with yellow highlights! 🙂

June, 2013

June, 2013

P.S.  I just had the pleasure of spending the past week with both Zoe and Noah here in my home without their parents. It was a great time. We swam, saw movies, laughed, giggled, and even disagreed once or twice. I could relate to Noah being homesick. I clearly remember the painful days when I was a kid and was sent to spend time with my grandparents. I so wished I could make his pain go away.  On our last day together, while Noah went to see “Super Man,” with Uncle Mark and Granddaddy, Zoe and I went to lunch, had pedicures, and did some shopping.  When we got back into the car she said, “I’m soooo happy.  Thank you so much.”

It is to Zoe and Noah that I owe my thanks for stepping into my “Batty” world for a week and allowing me to observe life through their eyes. When Bill helped with a few extra dollars so that Noah could buy a book he wanted badly, he asked Bill to call me, so that Zoe and I might have the same deal.  He deeply believes in being fair, and doesn’t want his sister to lose out. I just love it!

P.P.S. Some may say I‘m a bit peculiar and a bit eccentric, but I’m far from crazy. Zoe is not yet “batty,” but one day, when she grows into the wild woman she’s destined to be, I’m sure she will be as batty as I am. But never crazy.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

P.P.P.S. After reading this Lisa reminded me that Zoe weighed in over ten pounds.  It was my son, Mark, who was 8+ pounds and his birth was also by C-section.  Must run in the family.



Bird Watching

RobinSitting in a public garden, under the shade of a garden house, I look up to see a robin sitting on the nest she built under the eaves just off to the left. I apparently do not disturb her, sitting only a few feet away.  Nor do the number of people who pass nearby or the Siamese cat that wanders in and out of the spent azaleas lining the edge of the brick walkway.

The robin is just sitting … her intent, I’m sure, is to keep her two or three heavenly blue eggs warm so that the babies growing inside of them will enter into the world in perfect health. She simply stares into space, occasionally moving her tail over the edge of the nest a bit, dropping a small black and white speck of feces. She then moves back in place over the eggs, continuing to sit in what I decide is the way the Buddha would sit had he been a bird.

I wonder what she is thinking about. Is she concentrating on her breath the way I do when I meditate, going with the ebb and flow of air in and out of my lungs? Is she listening to the songs of the other birds around her? Contemplating tiny movements in the eggs she is guarding with her life? Do birds actually think? Or do they simply follow the natural rhythms of life; ancient messages that send them from continent to continent in search of warmth and abundant food as the seasons change.

What made me choose this spot, on this particular bench to sit upon?  I was looking for a quiet place where I could contemplate my life, the day spreading out before me, and to receive those unspoken messages about where I will go next. Is there actually a destination I’m yearning for or shall I just move forward one or two steps and see where my legs take me? The question of “why” pops up every time another thought comes to mind, and the process stops dead in its tracks.

I take another deep breath, noticing how it feels as I slowly let it go. I wait a moment before inhaling again. Where will I go today and how will it be as the sun goes over the edge and the stars begin to appear?  Does it matter as long as I move? Or shall I sit beside the Robin, following her cue?