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Monthly Archives: July 2011

 

Yes, boxes.  This is not one of those pretty, picturesque, feel-good gratitudes.  Rather, this is more practical, businesslike, real life gratitudes that are a result of unexpected  and/or unwelcome events in life.  One thing I’ve learned in my 58 years is that everything has a silver lining.  We may have to look for it.  The good in the situation may wait to be revealed years or generations later, but there is definitely something to be grateful for in every circumstance.  Family and friends know how much I dislike frequent moves.  Yet, here I go again.  We have lived in this quite-comfortable apartment all of seven months.  By the time we reach eight months I will be packed up and ready to move again. Ugh. . . Moving as frequently as we do however, I have come to appreciate the value of cardboard boxes.  I don’t know what folks did before the cardboard box, but this ubiquitous item is indispensible in our lives.  We box everything up!  Boxes are reusable, too.  Once we’ve moved, and the boxes are unpacked, I flatten them out and store them in anticipation of the next move.  (Actually, the next move I’m getting rid of the things!  Working “the Secret” if you know what I mean!!!  hahahaha) At any rate, with every box that is packed, I am aware that we are moving closer and closer to our moving date.  When I allow myself to think about “the move,” I get a little excited (but don’t tell folks; will ruin my image!)  Every move brings with it new possibility, exploring new places, making new friends.  Boxes help me get there.  So today’s gratitude is not about pretty flowers, nor are lovely landscapes or attractive items of any kind involved with this gratitude.  Rather, I am grateful for the lowly, unappreciated-yet-necessary box!

 

In addition to flowers, I love to photograph trees.  These are a stand of Sycamore trees found in Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring, MD.  Trees are magnificent!  They offer shade from the sun, something we have needed as of late.  Their wood can be crafted into all manner of furniture, tools, or buildings. We burn wood for fuel, or mulch them for our gardens.  One of my favorite places to read years ago, was sitting on the ground leaning against a gargantuan Willow tree growing beside a gentle stream.  Well, I didn’t actually get a lot of reading done, but I was able to ponder nature’s glory while I sat there.  Another tree was a Mimosa tree that my brothers and I would climb in.  It grew in our back yard and one could usually find a kid or two crawling up its branches–us or the neighbor kids.  Here in Virginia, there is a Weeping Cherry Blossom Tree that we pass every Shabbat on our way to shul (synagogue.)  Its branches almost touch the ground, and it shades the entire yard and sidewalk.  As we walk into the enclosure its branches create, the temperature drops and we stand for a few moments enjoying the coolness before we walk on toward our destination.  When we get our house, I want one of those trees in our yard.  There are other trees that I enjoy, each offering a particular characteristic that I like: Dogwoods, Cherry Blossoms, Oaks of all kinds, various kinds of Willows, Beechwood, Sycamores, and the list goes on.  In the autumn I love to see the vivid reds of the Maples, and in the late winter to taste the syrup that is made from its sap.  I am indeed grateful for trees of all kinds!

Amidst the business of studying and packing, Richard and I stole away for one last visit to Burke Lake, just fifteen minutes from our apartment.  Richard leaves later this week to begin a new job in another state.  I won’t see him again for five weeks, at which time I will be joining him in our new home.  Burk Lake is a place we go to when we need to breathe deeply, let go of our cares, mellow out, relax, enjoy nature and just “be.”  This last trip to the lake was a spontaneous “hey, let’s go to the lake for a few minutes” trip.  I will miss this lake, but I happen to know that our new city is peppered with beautiful parks and trails, and that there are state parks and sanctuaries nearby.  For now however, I enjoy the photographs, remember the sweet moments we spent at the lake yesterday, and realize that I am grateful for Burke Lake.

Each morning an hour or two before daybreak, I hear the loud chatter and chirping of birds outside my bedroom window.  Contrary to what you might think, I love being awakened by their warbling and fussing with each other.  Oftentimes I will open the window shades, then crack the window open a bit in order to better hear their sounds as I watch them flit about with the rising sun in the background.  When I am home with Mom and Dad, I sit on their back porch for hours and watch a variety of birds vying for their turn at the bird feeder planted within easy eyesight of those of us who enjoy watching.  This photo was taken when we last made a spontaneous trip to the seashore.  I watch in awe as birds soar overhead with complete abandon and marvel at their grace, beauty and variety of vibrant colors.  I even have an app on my iPod of the different sounds of various birds.  I refer to it when trying to identify a bird that I can hear but not see.  Birds are delightful (and yes, at times obnoxious), beautiful creatures that enhance the natural world.  I am grateful for birds!

What would our world be without color.  Splashes of color make the most mundane, dreary landscape look beautiful and cheery.  Color brightens a room.  Color affects our moods.  I am grateful for color in our world.

I love flowers.  Always have.  I am drawn to them like a bee to honey.  All three of my blogs are filled with flowers.  Flowers play an important role in propagating the species. We all know that pollination is crucial in the reproducing process, and in sustaining life on this planet.  But that is not why I’m in love with flowers.  I love them because they are beautiful.  They brighten up a dull landscape; they add color and fragrance to all aspects of life.  I love to have flowers in my yard and in my home.  I photograph flowers from every angle imaginable, just so I can share their beauty with you.  Many men refuse to buy flowers for their wives because they don’t see the purpose of buying something that will wilt and be gone in a matter of days.  Many women don’t enjoy flowers because there are too many other demands in life to fool with such trivial things as flowers.  Personally, I am convinced that a simple thing such as a beautiful flower can brighten a day, lift someone’s spirits, imply love and adoration, and more.  Such a simple act as giving someone a flower is a holy moment for giver and receiver. (For instance, a dandelion from a child–my child–is the best gift I can receive–have received!)  Flowers are magical.  I am grateful for flowers of all kinds!

The whole concept of zoos is controversial, I know.  On one side there is the argument that caging animals so that humans can come and gawk at them is cruel and unusual punishment for the animal species.  On the other hand, zoos help educate us about geography, animal habitats, communication, health, ecology, etc.  A great deal of research is conducted by major zoos the world over and life is enriched by zoological discoveries every day.  As you might guess, I am of the latter camp.  Zoos have alerted us to problems within the ecological chain, informed us of a world unknown to most of us, created avenues of cooperation world-wide, helped us understand people of different cultures and climates, encouraged intellectual learning and growth. And finally, zoos are fun, especially when shared with a friend (or grandchild, see here)!  They are a fun way to learn, and by learning about the animal world, we become more conscious of our human world, the inter-/intra-dependence of humans and animals, and the necessity of maintaining a healthy, respectful balance.  I am grateful for zoos!

See also here for a recent post on wildlife and zoos.

 

 

As long as I can remember I have loved seeing waterfalls.  In fact, as a child camping with my family, one of the “draws” to just about any place we pitched our tent (tepee) was the allure of waterfalls.  Some were magnificent, some little more than a descending trickle.  But no matter, something about falling water touches our souls.  Not too long ago I read a photo-essay showing that animals in the wild are drawn to waterfalls, too.  One series of photos were particularly poignant. A chimp in the wild was sitting on the edge of a jungle river mesmerized by the waterfall before him.  (see here for a similar story)  The caption read that when it approached the falls, the chimp became excited, danced and flailed about.  Once there, the chimp just sat and gazed upon the sight. Later he actually swung from vines to and fro out into the mists that billowed up from the falls.  The essay noted other animals, too, that were attracted to waterfalls.  Even this small koi pond waterfall can keep my attention for hours.  I don’t know what it is about falling water, but its beauty mesmerizes me.  I am grateful for waterfalls.

 

This beautiful sight greeted me this morning around 5:30.  This is the view from my bedroom window.  Mornings are my best time of day.  For years mornings have been my “quiet” alone time as I slowly wake up and get stirring.  Without that alone space in my day, I can be quite cranky, grumpy, and cantankerous.  Each morning I look out to see the first rays of the sun peering over the horizon or through the clouds.  Birds are quite loud at this “quiet” time as they scavenge for food and chat back and forth.  When I step out on the balcony, dewy surfaces give a sparkling sheen to everything.  Simply put, mornings are a glorious time of day; I am grateful for glorious mornings!

Dad found this desk in some odd place (junk yard ?).  It was pretty beat up with missing drawers and doors and knobs, etc. Other than the fact that the thing was falling apart, Dad saw its utilitarian value and began work crafting facings and hand-hewn handles for the drawers, a slanted lift-up top to sit on the desk (it is a draftsman desk after all), etc.  He sanded and varnished it until he was satisfied that it wouldn’t look to atrocious sitting somewhere in our home (hidden from view in some back room corner.)  We drove into town and found a swivel-seat bar chair (Sears ?), and found an old chair pad at a yard sale that almost fit the seat. . . almost. . . good enough! Once completed, Dad used this desk for years.

Some years ago I noticed that the desk was pushed aside and had become more of a catch-all than a desk-in-use.  I commented to Dad that when the day came, I would be interested in getting the desk. His ears pricked up, and then he began to tell me how cumbersome it was, not as useful as he had hoped, took up a lot of space, was ugly, etc. Did I still want it?  Being the romantic that I am, YES, I still wanted it!  In no time flat, Dad moved the desk to my apartment. (In retrospect, Dad acted a little too quickly on that cue!) I was thrilled for all of thirty minutes!  It became a catch-all for me, too. And just like Dad had warned, it became a cumbersome, bothersome, hideous piece of furniture that took up valuable space in small apartments.  And as often as we moved, carting the desk from place to place was proving to be a pain in the neck.  I was bummed, but what could I do? The only reason I kept the thing was because my son expressed interest in it “when the day comes.” With Dad’s words in my head, I began issuing warnings to Tim.  Just like me, my romantic son still wants it. . . “when the day comes.”  (Maria, don’t feel obligated to take the thing into your home.  Or, if you do, it fits nicely in a basement.)

But then I read about some interesting research confirming the importance of standing and walking upright on our feet and moving a lot through the day. And just as importantly, sitting for long periods of time is truly bad for our health. Furthermore, once the damage to our sitting-for-long-periods-of-time-day-after-day bodies is done, it cannot be undone! In other words, the lifestyle of this techie world is bad for our health.

I got to thinking about the desk and how I might use it to improve my health (I am a very sedentary person–reader, writer, dreamer, ponderer–ask my kids.  Heck! Ask Richard!).  I removed the slanted “draftsman” top, bought a 2′ x 4′ x 2″ piece of walnut instead, and placed it on top of the desk to create an even surface for my laptop and other “desk-type” items.  I found a tiny book shelf that fit on top, and also discovered a bar underneath the desk in the leg-room area that was and is a foot rest when sitting on a high chair.  I can stand, lean against the swivel bar-chair, sit, walk away from the desk when I need to move, and more.

While working at a rehab center as an assistant (rehab tech) to a physical therapist, I learned many simple exercises that are performed while standing. They are moves (leg lifts, marching in place, raising up on toes or rocking back on heals, etc.) that work to keep joints flexible, build muscle strength for maintaining balance, burn calories, and more. Best of all, they are all easy to do while reading, writing, dreaming, pondering, etc.  So, now I have my “healthy” work space where I can do all the “sedentary” activities that I am quite good at, while at the same time standing and doing simple exercises that add movement and health to my life.  Thanks, Dad, for this wonderful, beautiful, utilitarian monstrosity of a desk! 🙂

I am truly grateful for Dad’s old draftsman desk that was found in someone’s barn or junk pile or something like that!

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