A Lazy Sunday

Is there anything more lovely than a lazy Sunday? Saturdays, if they are lazy, are wonderful, too. But my Saturdays tend to be more frenzied. There are always errands to run or things to get done or activities in which to participate or friends to see. All of these things are pleasant, and they make Saturdays fun. But I’ve never thought of Saturday as a lazy day. Sundays, though … Sundays seem perfectly made for laziness.

In my growing up years, I hated Sundays. I may have written about this before; I have the distinct and sinking feeling that I’m repeating myself. But there are times when I suspect I don’t have any more original ideas inside my head. And so, off I go: repeating and repeating and repeating. Maybe. Possibly. Or, possibly not. Not that it matters. We are here now, and I want to talk about lazy Sundays. And that’s that.

As I was saying, I disliked Sundays in my growing up years. There was always an early roll call in order to attend Sunday School and church services. I tended to be a bit of a night owl on Saturday nights, often falling asleep around 1 or 2 AM. Being rousted out of a sound sleep at 7 did not make for a happy camper. We had to drive about 30 to 45 minutes (depending on weather and the deer population) to get to church. That drive seemed to take forever and a day. To this day, I swear time died in that car. I thought we would never reach our destination. It should have been a nice time to grab some extra sleep on the way to church, but this wasn’t usually allowed. Nor was sleeping during the hour-plus service. After church, there would be a short time of visiting and then another eternity of a drive home to prepare lunch. Once lunch and clean-up were done, the rest of the day spread out before me like a whole lot of nothing. There were chores to do, of course: dishes to do, horses, dogs, and cats to feed, sometimes some work in my little tack shed or a quick round of cleaning up the horse’s pen. Mostly, though, the heavier chores were done on Saturday.

nov2016-charlottesville-baptistchurch1-sm

Childhood Sundays closed in around me like a blanket, muffling the realities of life. I grew up in the country, so it was quiet. Often, my dad was away for work. But, when he was home, my parents would do their own Sunday things, like reading, writing to friends, work on the car, or small household tasks. We never had the TV on during the day. That was reserved for evenings. I remember the small, background sounds of daily life: the hum of conversation in the other room, the clink of dishes in the sink, the snort and stomp of my horses, my dog barking at something outside my window. At the time, I thought Sunday would never end. It was so mind-numbingly BORING. I couldn’t wait for Monday to come so that I could set off into a new week with new adventures, and so I would be able to see my friends at school. Sunday felt like a never-ending span of nothing stretching out before me, into the far reaches of time.

I’ve lived a lot of years since those childhood days. I’ve been to different places, both as a visitor and as a resident. I’ve lived a different type of life. I’ve had excitement and tragedy and happiness and sadness. I’ve found things and lost things, and I’ve left bits and pieces of myself here and there along the way. There have been adventures, and noise, and just … lots of stuff.

And this is what I have discovered: I miss those quiet, lazy Sundays of my youth. There is a restlessness inside of me, but it’s not a restlessness to move forward. On the contrary, I very much wish I could move backward. Not necessarily backward in time, although there are some things I would love to recapture from my youth — in particular, dearly loved ones who have gone and are terribly missed. I would love to go back to a time when my parents weren’t old, and to when my life felt secure and safe. But, no. That time is gone, and it can’t be recaptured. I know that. But those lazy Sundays of my youth stand for a simpler life. A quiet life. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, and now, it seems like something that is forever eluding my grasp. I can feel it, just at the tips of my fingers, but it slips away every single time I reach for it.

8579150132_c5d04102ba

Today we had a lazy Sunday at my parents’ house. My daughter and I attended church last night, as is our routine. So I was able to sleep in a little today, and then I kept my mom company while she made lunch and we waited for my dad to come home from their church. We ate together, then all went our separate ways: me to finish reading a novel and take a nap, my dad to watch TV with his headphones on, and my mom to nap in her recliner. My daughter is holed up in her room, playing a game on her DS and writing.

And, as I sit here in my mom’s quiet kitchen, the small house sounds close in on me: the hum of the refrigerator and dishwasher, the click of the tea kettle on the stove as it cools, the sound of ice dropping into the freezer’s bin, the melodic music of the wind chimes outside the back door, and the gentle, electric hum of a house alive with happiness and memories. It has clouded over outside. The wind is picking up, and I hear the distant rumble of thunder. But I have a glass of iced tea on the table next to me. I have the comfort of these computer keys clicking under my fingers. I feel safe — peaceful and content — locked in the world of the lazy Sunday.

I asked my daughter earlier if she was bored. She gave me a funny look and said, “Of course not.” It seems she has learned to appreciate the small and simple pleasures of a lazy, quiet day at an early age. She’s definitely smarter than her Mama!

A Good Day

Today was a good day. I don’t say that lightly, because it feels like it’s been a while since I could sit down at the end of a day, look back on it with a sigh of satisfaction, and think to myself, “Yep. That was a good day.”

For the past several months (and especially in recent weeks), I feel like I’ve had more than my share of crummy days. Maybe it’s too harsh to call them crummy. But, you know, days that are just … lacking, somehow. Maybe in ways I can’t even articulate. Days that don’t feel complete or comfortable, like wearing a too-tight pair of shoes. I have a lot of days where I feel like life swooshes by me at light speed. I live in an extremely urban area, which means I’m surrounded by a lot of people who can be obnoxious at the best of times. I feel like I don’t have time to sit down and think or breathe, and everything pushes in on me all the time. There is too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. It gives me a fluttery feeling in the pit of my stomach and a feeling of dread in my heart. I don’t know how else to explain the jumble of emotions that have surrounded my life lately. The best thing I can think of is Too Much. Sometimes, life is just Too Much. Lately, that hasn’t been a “sometimes” thing. It’s been an “all the time” thing.

meadowlark-wetland1-nov2016-sm

Not so today. Because today was a good day. Nothing special happened. Really, nothing happened at all. It was a beautifully ordinary day. My daughter has been off from school for the past two days: Monday for a teacher workday, and today because it’s election day, and her school is a polling place. Unless you’ve been living under a rock next to a cactus behind a yucca plant in the middle of a desert, you have probably realized how terrible and contentious the current U.S. election is. And I live right in Washington DC’s back yard, so it’s about a gazillion times worse. It’s been like this for MONTHS. Yesterday, we stayed around the house because my daughter injured her foot in an accident at school. I wanted to give her a chance to rest it a bit. My phone rang non-stop yesterday. And none of the calls were for me. Or even actual, live people. It was a constant barrage of robo political calls. Today, we decided the constant calls were too annoying and stressful, so we left the house.

We went to a local botanical garden. The weather was beautiful: warm enough that we didn’t need jackets, but with a tiny bit of crispness in the breeze. All of the trees around here are turning colors. I felt mesmerized by the array of gold and yellow and red. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the gardens, looking at the giant koi in one of the ponds, looking for birds, and watching the antics of the local geese and turtles. We explored a hidden pathway and looked for fish in the park’s wetlands area. We played Pokemon Go. We laughed and told silly stories and just enjoyed being together. We felt the sun on our faces and the breeze on our skin.

meadowlark-hydrangea1-nov2016-sm

And it was perfect. A good day. I wish I could take this day and save it, like a precious photograph, in a corner of my mind. In fact, maybe I will do just that. And I will pull it out tomorrow or the next day or next week, when I’m struggling. And I will feel a little bit of peace come back into my heart at the memory of a beautifully ordinary, good day.

Randomly Selfishly Kind

It seems the internet world is all about random acts of kindness these days. I think there have been always been kind people out there, lurking around. I remember, even as a kid, doing kind things for others. And, sometimes — if I was super lucky — even being on the receiving end of an unexpected nicety. We didn’t call it a “random act of kindness” back then, of course. We just called it “being nice”, but I suppose we weren’t so great at making up snazzy-sounding names for things, particularly since my childhood happened before the internet and cat videos. We were less clever back then.

But I wonder: Is it possible for a “random act of kindness” to be selfish? And, if performed out of a selfish motive, is it still randomly kind? Is it kind at all? Or does it become randomly selfish? Randomly selfishly kind?

I ask this because today didn’t start out as a stellar day. My daughter got to bed much too late last night, the excitement of her first band and chorus concert proving too much for her to handle. Because of this, we were severely late for school — like, I had to call the school to tell them we would be late so they didn’t send a truant officer looking for me. Yeah, that type of “late”. My beautiful, loving child with the sunny disposition and cheerful outlook on life was none of these things this morning. Once I managed to get her out of bed and headed into her morning routine, she grumped her way through the morning and entered school with the type of downfallen expression that really should herald the existence of a black raincloud floating just above her head. If she were a cartoon person, I am certain there would have been steam shooting out of her ears. Today was rainy and cold, which didn’t help matters much at all. I didn’t sleep well last night, so I awoke with a headache. I got drenched in a sudden downpour while walking the child-unit into school. Oh, and I broke a nail when my hand slipped on my wet car door handle. This, of course, ruined the manicure on which I spent a couple of hours last night.

hydrangea

So my litany of woe should give you some idea of the type of unhappy, miserable attitude I had as I pulled away from school this morning. I didn’t even have the energy to be mad at the universe. I felt tired and used up, and like none of this thing called “life” mattered any more. I decided to stop off at a favorite drive-through for some lunch on my way home, and I have to admit I spent most of my time waiting in line feeling pitiful and small. A gray mood to match a gray day.

As I pulled up to the window to pay, I told the employee, “I would like to pay for the person behind me, too. Would that be all right?” Honestly, I don’t know why I did it. I’m a very shy person. Interacting with strangers makes me feel awkward and afraid, which means a drive-through is a swampy mess of potentially horrible social interactions. I usually survive my drive-through anxiety by speaking as little as possible. And I never ask for anything unusual. I am too afraid of looking like a moron. Today, though, the words just came out.

As I was pulling away, after having paid for both meals, I glanced up, into the rearview mirror. I saw the employee who had helped me handing food to the woman in the car behind me. I saw her gesture toward my departing car, explaining, I suppose, that there was no charge. And, for just a moment, I saw the woman in that car smile.

sunflower in a blue sky

And I felt … warm. And happy. And hopeful, once again. I’m not saying it was a perfect day. But it went from a rotten, horrid, awful day to something cut from a kinder, gentler cloth.

To you, the lovely woman in the car behind me at the drive-through today, I would like to say thank you. I don’t know who you are or anything about you. I don’t know what kind of day you had. I don’t know if you woke up this morning in the most awful mood ever … if your car didn’t start … if you got stuck in traffic and were late to work … if your dog chewed up your favorite designer heels … if your coffee spilled on your favorite blouse. Or, maybe, you had the best day ever, with clear streets and an easy commute to a job you adore. But, I do know I was having a rotten, toad-sucker of a day. And you turned that around for me, just by being behind me in line at that moment in time. Just because I got to glance into my rearview mirror and see you smile. For that, I am blessed and more grateful than you can possibly ever know.

Snowy Day

yard ornaments covered with snowMoving forward on a snowy day;
Time to laugh and time to play.
Pause to write a few things down
‘Bout the jewels in Nature’s crown.
But words won’t come to me,
Explain the wonder my eyes see.
No words for sparkle, glitter, or shine;
Just can’t seem to make them mine.
No way to tell how my heart sings
At new beauty of everyday things.
And so, what more is there to say?
I’m moving forward on a snowy day.

 

And Then … I Paused

We had our first “snow day” today. I suppose it’s really more of a snow/sleet/freezing rain kind of day, but whatever. Snow fell out of the sky, so, for this winter junkie, it totally counts!

I get stupidly excited about snow. I’m not sure why, but it seems to grab hold of that little kid who lives deep down inside of me somewhere. I usually keep her hidden, but snowy days drag her out into the light, where she promptly starts squealing in excitement and dreaming of making snowmen.

My truck  yard light, covered in the first snow of the winter. Dec. 8, 2013

 

I suppose it’s terribly cliche of me, but I think the thing I like most about the snow is how quiet it is. I love to watch the flakes fall from the sky, drifting and twisting on the slightest breeze. They seem so fragile and delicate, and, yet, they obliterate everything in their path, turning even the most rank and disgusting things into something new and beautiful. A surreal landscape decorated with the winking sparkle of nature’s diamonds.

There is something peaceful about it. So often, life is too much. It’s too busy, and it moves too quickly. It’s full of people who are grumpy and rude, or, even, just plain cruel. It seems we are all crammed up against each other and all fighting, tooth and nail, for the same little tidbits life tosses at us. We all want the same parking space … or the last item on the shelf … or to be first in line … or to get home faster than anyone around us … or to make sure we’re the ones the world notices, that everyone knows we are the ones who count. We scratch and claw and honk and spit at each other, until life comes to resemble one of those ridiculous Black Friday videos that go viral, showing two ridiculous people punching each other over who should get the cheapest crappy TV set.

My neighbor's rose, covered in the first snow of the winter. Dec. 8, 2013

I often feel overwhelmed by life and by this place where I live. I long for a quieter, simpler life — perhaps in a smaller town — and I find myself ending most days feeling a bit shell-shocked and beaten up by those around me. But, as the first snowflakes tumble to earth, I hold my breath in anticipation. It feels like, all around me, the entire world does the same, as if my universe decided, just at that moment, to step off the tilt-a-whirl for a little while. The very air around me feels heavy with expectation and the deliciously painful struggle of waiting for the change that, soon, will come.

I stand at my window and watch as the familiar view in front of my house shifts and changes. The curbing around the flower beds disappears. The metal bird beneath my cherry tree becomes some new and mysterious beast. My beloved roses go into hiding beneath a blanket of fluffy white.

I listen as the sounds change, too. The rumble of the train deepens as it rolls over tracks laden with snow. The sounds of people honking at each other on the highway seem more distant, and I can even begin to believe they no longer exist. The sounds of traffic on the street in front of my house fades away, replaced by the quietly comforting shush of tires against a snowy street.

my azalea bush, covered in the first snow of winter. dec. 8, 2013Tomorrow will probably bring a return to normality. It might herald the pressing rush of trying to accomplish all the things I didn’t manage to do today, as well as all the things I am supposed to do tomorrow. It might bring with it gray skies full of rain, a muddy yard, and the smell of wet dog all over my house. And that’s all right. I suppose tomorrow is going to have to take care of itself.

For today, there is peace. And quiet. And space to breathe. And that’s enough.

 

A Happy Day

It’s easy to get so caught up in the rat race that we forget why we ever started running, in the first place. This is how my life has been recently. A never-ending stream of appointments and lessons and practices and errands and just … stuff. Stuff on top of stuff on top of stuff, until I’m so mentally and physically exhausted that I feel I can’t handle even one more day. It’s the simplest things in life that make or break us. But those are the things that seem to get tossed aside as soon as we become trapped in this manic dance of schedules and activities and jobs and wants and dreams and desires.

Today, I went out to lunch with my daughter. It was an amazingly, amazingly beautiful day. All the leaves around here have turned, and the sunlight seems to have that special something it gets this time of year, so that it turns into a sort of transparent gold. It catches the edges of everything, no matter how mundane, and dresses it up so that it sparkles with a special kind of beauty. It was crisp and windy, with the leaves blustering across the road in flashes and swirls of color. And the sky … Oh my gosh, but the sky was so blue. I couldn’t look at it without squinting.

And so, I’m driving along … my mind on getting to lunch because I was hungry … but still noticing all the natural beauty around me. My daughter and I aren’t talking, but the radio is on. She is singing in the back seat. Just singing … her voice cutting through the quiet in the car, a little off-key but still beautiful in the way that only children’s voices can be. And I felt … something.

Something deep inside of me seemed to open up and start to glow. It was warm and unexpected and entirely wonderful — kind of like that feeling when you’re a kid, and you’re coming home after school on a cold day, and you open the door to the smell of freshly baked cookies, and you know your mom has been in the kitchen, baking and thinking of you. Just think about that for a moment. Feel it? Yeah. That’s it. That warmth of love and beauty and perfection just welling up inside of you.

In that moment, I realized what it means when people say each day is a gift. I know, I know … We’ve all heard this. We hear it all the time. We’ve heard it so many times that it’s become almost meaningless to us: an empty platitude people say when they can’t think of anything else. But today, in my car … on that street … with the blue sky open above me and my daughter singing in the back seat of my car … I KNEW what this meant. I felt it to the very depths of everything I am. I felt it so much that I wanted to cry from the weight and the happiness of it. I felt how perfect and delicate this moment was, and I wanted to cling to it, even as I knew this was impossible. And yet, I know I will carry this moment in my heart forever. When I am an old lady, I will sit in my chair and close my eyes. And I will smell the fresh bite of fall chill in the air. I will hear the leaves whisking across the road in front of my car. I will see the endless sky, so blue that I think it might swallow me whole. I will hear my daughter’s voice, hear her singing in the back seat of my car.

And I will know: I am blessed.

hydrangea macro: toronto union station

 

Lazy Days

When I was a kid, I often dreaded weekends a little bit. Or maybe a lot. I look back on things now and realize how lucky I was to live in the country. Now, I long for space and peace and quiet. Even as a kid, there were things I loved about living away from the nearest town and neighbors — things I wouldn’t have traded. But the weekend presented a bit of a challenge for my restless spirit.

fountain, meadowlark botanical gardens

My parents were not people who went anywhere on the weekends, other than church. My dad, especially, is a homebody. Even now, he hardly ever goes anywhere. My mom, if she feels the desire to see something other than the four walls of her house, will head out without him. He has mellowed over the years. When I was growing up, he was absolutely in charge of where we went, when we went there, and how long we stayed. At least, during the weeks when he was home from work. Even when he was gone for work, though, he was still kind of in charge because there was a very strict budget to follow. We didn’t dare step outside its lines.

The weekends seemed to stretch in front of me: this block of time, with a space carved out for church, that seemed almost impossible to fill. TV wasn’t allowed, especially during the day, and we lived in a four room house. Four rooms: two bedrooms, a tiny bathroom, and a combination kitchen / living room. It’s not like there were places to go for a change of scenery.

Instead, I changed the scenery inside my head. I read a lot. I wrote, although I was too shy to show my work to anyone. When the weather allowed, I rode my horse. I played with my dog and my cats. But I felt jealous of my friends, who lived closer to town or who were allowed to venture into town from the country. I felt lonely and bored and, often, more than a little bit trapped.

a frog reading a book, meadowlark botanical gardensToday, it often seems as if my life is too busy. I live in a large metropolitan area, where I am forced to deal with traffic and rude people — sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis, it seems! There is no quiet here. Our house is near the metro tracks and a highway. Even with the sound wall nearby, we hear honks, screeches, and the click-clack of the train well into the night from our bedroom upstairs. We live in a townhouse, so there isn’t much space. Our yard is the size of a postage stamp, and our house is connected to our neighbors’ houses. And we can reach restaurants, shopping, school, church, movies … and any variety of entertainment options … within less than an hour, depending on traffic. I am coming and going all the time. Some weeks, it feels almost as if I am never home, between school activities, church activities, and errands.

Even at home, there always seems to be something to do. There is something to clean. There are dogs to tend to. There is a cat box to clean. There are hamster cages to wash. There are meals to fix. There is a child to mother. There are expectations to fulfill. And laundry — of course, there is always laundry, laundry, and more laundry! Even writing devolves into some kind of chore, instead of the escape it used to be. It becomes harder and harder for me to turn my brain off to let the words flow, especially when people are counting on me to finish my writing projects. It’s a lot of pressure when people expect things from you. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I’m  saying it’s something I am not yet skilled at dealing with regarding my writing.

fish eating cherry blossoms, meadowlark botanical gardensIn many ways, I now have the life I thought I wanted in my youth. Now, of course, I long for many of the things I used to have. I suppose human nature is like that. The grass is always greener on the other side, as the saying goes. But, one thing that has come out of growing up is that I appreciate a free weekend more. Now, when faced with a long Saturday — a day with no appointments to keep and nothing in particular to do — I no longer feel restless or annoyed. Instead, I think to myself, “This is Bliss.”

Rain, Rain … Go Away

Today is a gray and rainy day. This is the kind of day that, when I was a kid, would leave me groaning and feeling sorry for myself because it meant being cooped up inside, instead of going out to play or have adventures. I suppose there is something to be said about exploring a world gone gray and wet. Walking under an umbrella can be a bit magical, as the material filters the weak sunlight, enclosing you in a wonderfully colorful make-believe world. Needless to say, I don’t see the point in using an umbrella made of “basic black”. What’s the fun in that? Also, it’s important not to discount the enjoyment of splashing through puddles. Few things in life are as fun and as satisfying. In spite of those little wonders, rainy days of my childhood meant cancelled recess at school, no trips to the park, and having to figure out a way to entertain myself for hours.

As I got older, after we had moved to the country, rainy days meant a lot of extra work wiping down horses and covering feed and hay, all done with the accompanying odor of “wet dog”. I love dogs, and, even as a kid, wouldn’t have traded my loyal pooch for any human companion. Even so, few smells stick in the memory quite like that of a dog that has been out frolicking in the rain and mud.

azaleas in the rainIt’s funny how time changes things. As we grow and learn and age, our perspectives shift a bit, too. Maybe this happens to accommodate the things we experience and the people we encounter along the way. Maybe it’s a natural sort of evolution — part of growing from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood. Or, perhaps it’s a factor of meeting ourselves, here and there, throughout the years.

Whatever the reason for it, I find I quite like rainy days now that I am firmly entrenched in my middle adulthood. Truthfully, middle age often feels more like a second childhood than anything else. There are days when I can’t wait to get outside in the rain. I laugh as I twirl beneath the gray sky, my face lifted up to feel the droplets falling onto my skin. And I am convinced no kid ever managed to stomp through a puddle with more enthusiasm than I can summon up for this activity. It’s fun to grab my flowered umbrella and dash out and about on a drippy, gray day. I love the way the sunlight just manages to squeeze through my umbrella, lighting it up just enough so that I can pretend I’m walking beneath my own, personal sky filled with flowers. It never fails to put me in a good mood. Sometimes, I even giggle a little bit, which usually earns me more than a few strange looks. Nothing is more suspicious than a chubby, middle-aged woman giggling like a loon on a rainy day. It’s the stuff of which epic poems are made. Or, at the very least, a limerick or two.

rose bud in the rainSometimes, though, I don’t want to head out into the rain, and that’s quite all right with me, too. Unlike the petulant, bored child I was in my wayward past, I savor my self-imposed solitude. It’s a time for curling up on the sofa with my dogs to watch a favorite movie. It’s a time for reading that book I’ve put aside for too many days in a row as I struggle to accomplish everything on my massive to-do list. It’s a time for thinking and tea. It’s a time for writing — letting go of the world around me so that the words can flow.

journal and penAt other times, rainy days provide quiet moments for listening. I sit at my table or my desk, and the rain patters down onto the roof. Cars go by on the street outside my window, and their tires make a soft shush-shush sound as they pass. My dogs sigh as they settle into their beds or curl up at my feet. The wind rustles the leaves of my cherry tree, scattering droplets against the window panes. This is when I know what it means to be safe and warm. I feel cozy and cheered by the simple fact that life has its golden moments, and I am blessed to be living through one of them right now.

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear Parking Lot Hog,

Yes, I’m talking to you, person who pulled right into the space next to me, shoving your car grossly over the line separating our spaces until your car and mine were touching noses. Really now, are you in that much of a hurry? Are you incapable of seeing how badly you have parked? Or is it that you just don’t care about the fact that, due to your crappy parking, I will barely be able to exit the space I am occupying.  If you are in such a hurry that you can’t be bothered to park properly, I would respectfully suggest you not sacrifice your precious time by going to the grocery store / ice cream shop / restaurant / clothing store which this parking lot serves. None of us would be offended if you decided to take your presence elsewhere in order to attend to the pressing business that, apparently, has you so flustered. If you genuinely can’t see and, thus, are unaware of the utter mess you’ve made of your parking attempt, you might want to think about taking public transportation in the future. I am not sure the road is safe with you on it. However, if — as I suspect — you just can’t be bothered to take the couple of seconds necessary to straighten out your car, it would behoove you to pull your head out of your butt and look around you. You are not the only person in the world. You aren’t even the only person in this parking lot. We’re all in this together, and life would be so much nicer if we all attempted to get along.

And you, gentle person who willy-nilly decided to straddle the parking space lines — thus taking up two spaces in an already-crowded lot — don’t think I have forgotten you. Perhaps it seems like a small thing, but your one thoughtless act has inconvenienced every person who comes into this lot behind you, until you finally decide to do all of us a favor by leaving. You have made each of their days a little bit the worse for wear. Congratulations. You must be very proud of your accomplishment.

As for you, person who MUST have my parking space, I am not sure if you realize this or not, but I need to exit the space before you can ram your oversized vehicle into it. I am no physics expert, but I am pretty sure two cars cannot, in fact, occupy the same space at the same time. I realize it is stressful and a bit frightening to find the entire parking level occupied. After all, if you have to circle the lot one more time or — even worse! — travel to another level to park, your head might explode. That would be unpleasant and messy for everyone. I am not unsympathetic, but you were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back of my patience this morning. Once I had convinced you to move your car enough so that I could exit my parking space, I am ashamed to admit I drove away thinking pleasant thoughts of whopping  you over the head with a two-by-four.

The thing is, I am not that person. Unlike all of you, I fully realize I am not the only human in existence in this world. I even realize I am not the most important person around — no matter how many times my mother might have told me otherwise. I managed to get through grade school and even middle and high school, so I learned, a long time ago, that we all have to share. I will not let you ruin my day, no matter how determined you seem to be to do just that.

And so, I shall take a deep breath and seek inner peace by thinking of things that bring me happiness.

Like a cute turtle with a cherry blossom on its head (and back):

cherry blossom turtle: meadowlark botanical gardensOr a busy bee, humming to himself as he searches out the sweetest flowers:

bee and purple flower: meadowlark botanical gardensOr cherry blossoms, which haven’t yet been blown away by the wind:

cherry blossoms: meadowlark botanical gardensOr bright blue beads in the springtime sunshine:

beads in a pot of cactus: meadowlark botanical gardensWith that task completed, I shall take a deep breath … ask forgiveness for my uncharitable thoughts … and go about my merry way.

With love and kindness,

Me

 

 

 

 

Sounds of Silence

We live in such a noisy world. There’s all this stuff roiling around us, demanding our attention: mobile phones, games and apps, the internet, muzak … and people. People, people, people everywhere we turn, it seems. They stand around the aisles at the supermarket or chat loudly in the doctor’s office waiting room — and, sometimes, even in the restroom! I think humans are more constantly “in touch” with each other than ever before, which, at first, seems like a wonderful and incredible thing. After you get past that first glance, when the “honeymoon period” with technology is over, that wonderful blessing seems to be more of a double-edged sword.

cactus and glass beads, meadowlark botanical gardensEventually, I think most of us turn around to see all of this stuff and all of these people crowding in on us and realize, “I am never alone.” It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Of course, we’re never alone. Why would that come as a big shock or surprise? I guess it shouldn’t, but I find epiphanies are sometimes like that for me. I can go along my merry way, living in situations that are less than ideal for my spirit without truly realizing this is the case. I’m  not sure if I willfully ignore the truth of my life, or if I search so hard for the silver lining in things that I end up fooling myself. Whatever the reason, there are times when I look around, and it hits me like a brick right between the eyes: “Wow … There are a lot of people around here. And a lot of stuff going on. All the time.”

I had one of these pops of reality a couple of days ago, when I was waiting in my dermatologist’s waiting room. Doctors always run behind, and I arrived about fifteen minutes before my appointment time, as is my habit. I knew I would have to wait, so I brought a book with me. This is a book I recently started reading, and I like it a lot. I look forward to moments during the day when I can take a bit of a break from life in order to lose myself in its pages. Needless to say, I typically don’t have trouble concentrating on this book — at all.

blue morpho butterfly: niagara falls butterfly conservatory

And you know what happened? I could not manage to read anything because the waiting room was too loud. There were people sitting near me, who were discussing their varying skin problems (all of them icky-sounding). If I had been on the opposite side of a crowded room from them, I would have been able to hear their conversations clearly. Instead, we were in a small space, which was designed for quiet. It felt like these people were talking inside my head. There was background music, which, if it had remained in the background, would have been pleasant. Instead, the music had been cranked up to the point where it was obtrusive — probably in an effort to drown out the loud-talkers. After I read the same paragraph five times, I gave up on my book, resigned to spending the remainder of my waiting-room time without entertainment.

And it got me to thinking about how hard it is, in our society, to find true silence and solitude. We are never alone. Even when we think we are alone — in the privacy of our homes, for example — we aren’t. Because our “smart” phones are always there, leaving the world just a quick call, text, or email away, binging at us with cheerful reminders that the world is always out there, waiting for us.

cherry blossoms on water, meadowlark botanical gardens

I grew up in the country, and my only sibling is nine years older than me, which, virtually, made me an only child. Silence and solitude were not hard to come by during my childhood. I had a horse, and I can remember riding out on a spring morning. My horse and I would cross our driveway and the dirt road in front of our house, and, within a short distance, we would be “nowhere”. If you’ve never been there before, let me tell you: Nowhere is a great place to be.

Our little dirt road wasn’t well traveled, but, once we arrived at “Nowhere”, there wasn’t any chance of seeing or hearing a car. Depending on how hot it was, I would hear insect noises and the rustling of the tall grass around us. If my dog had followed me, I would hear the clinking of his tags and his happy snuffles as he followed his nose to seek out rabbits or armadillos or any other little critters that might be nearby for a fun chase. I would hear birds singing and twittering from low-hanging branches as we passed by. The creak of saddle leather and the steady clopping of hooves against the ground seemed loud compared to the nature sounds around us, but they were comforting noises. It was hard not to fall in love with everything around me: with the world, with nature, with the huge and amazing wonder of it all, and with life. I often felt I was the luckiest person in the universe, which probably explains why I spent so much time out there with my horse, because I didn’t feel particularly lucky or grand in other parts of my life.

orange trees reflected, somewhere in VAI didn’t realize, at the time, how lucky I was. I didn’t realize how precious silence and solitude were. I think I took it all for granted. It never occurred to me that my life might not always be that way. I’m not sure I really thought about any of it; I was a kid, after all. But, if I did stop to think about it, I probably would have believed I would always live in the country. I expected to have that kind of life: small, but in a good way, and close to  nature. It is not the kind of life I ended up with, that’s for sure!

Now, I look back on those early morning rides and I realize how blessed I was to experience such peace and beauty. As an adult, I realize what an incredible gift it all was, and I wonder if I’ll ever find my way back to a place of solitude and silence. Because I miss it.