Rosh Hoshannah is here! The new year brings with it a time of reflection and commitment to improving our lives, improving our character, improving the world around us. It is a season of asking forgiveness for the times in the past year when we have failed in our efforts to be better people or failures to increase the health of the world around us. This is a time of celebrating possibilities that lie ahead of us and of embracing that which is holy and life enhancing. Today I bake the bread that we will enjoy with the apples and honey, symbolic of our hopes for a happy, sweet, healthy, and prosperous new year. Rosh Hoshannah reminds me that as long as I have breath in me, I have opportunity to renew my spirit, rejuvenate my energy, improve my character, and contribute to the mending of what is broken in this world (tikkun olam). So, on this, the eve of Rosh Hoshannah, I am grateful for endless opportunity to renew and improve in every way imaginable! L’Shana Tovah!
It’s late at night (oops…early morning) and there are few words left for me to say on this day other than I love to watch birds. I love to photograph birds. This is a mindful, restful hobby and I urge you to give it a try. I am grateful for the hobby of birding, or birdwatching as many say.
Good night and sweet dreams.
Fresh fruit at one’s fingertips year-round is a luxury I too often take for granted. Tonight however, as I was “fiddling” around with the camera and playing with shooting still lifes, it occurred to me how blessed I am to have fruit in my diet every day. Makes for healthy living. I am grateful for fresh fruit year-round.
Winter is a harsh time of year for me. Since childhood i perceived winter to be a “dead” season. Everything went into hibernation: plants, animals, color, warmth, all of life! I viewed the landscape as barren, transformed into a dull monochromatic palette. Grays and whites depressed me. And I dreaded snow once it came because I knew that I would not see the ground again until spring thaw. But as I’ve aged my perception has definitely shifted. The shift may be due to the fact that I have become more mindful as i’ve mellowed with the years. Now I walk the wooded paths, listen to the crunch of my boots on snow and ice, and watch for the flutter of wings as winter birds take up residence. This past week as I wandered my favorite trails, I noticed that the leafless forrest branches were alive with birds of varied species: titmice, nuthatches, sparrows, dark eyed juncos (see above photo), cardinals, finches, various types of woodpeckers, starlings, and even a hawk. As I stood still and listened, watched, and breathed deeply, I felt an enormous sense of gratitude to have come to this stage and age in life when even in winter I am aware of the vibrancy of life. The birds help. I am grateful for birds in winter.
Mary, our youngest daughter, sent a self-care package to me on my birthday. Included was a box of Tulsi organic Sweet Rose tea, a tea that has quickly become my favorite. There is nothing more nurturing, comforting, or relaxing than sipping a cup of that Sweet Rose tea and reading poetry before retiring to bed at night. Ahhh. Sweet dreams. Sound sleep. I am grateful for Tulsi Sweet Rose tea and poetry just before bedtime.
When we bought this house about two and a half years ago, we knew that improvements would have to be made along the way. For instance, the furnace was 32 years old at the time of purchase and, we discovered, quite cantankerous. We made it hobble through two winters however, and always counted our blessings that we never had to go more than two days without heat. Although living in Cleveland, OH on the shores of a really big lake (!), two days of no heat can be quite “icy”. Repairs were frequent. In fact we called in the professionals three times thus far this season alone to keep the old furnace working. And we are just now moving into the harsh winter weather common to this part of the world. By all appearances, that old furnace was nigh-on next to dead!
Without too much discussion (actually, we have discussed the old furnace and its impending demise since we purchased the house) we finally “bit the bullet” and bought a new one. Sal’s Heating and Cooling installed the new furnace yesterday! So on this first day of the year 2015, we now have a reliable, efficient furnace to keep our home warm as the temps plunge into the teens and below (fahrenheit for all my friends living outside the USA). It appears we purchased the furnace in the nick of time! I am grateful for our new furnace and the warmth it provides.
Pets have been a part of my life most of my life. Whether cat or dog or hamster or lizard, each has a personality that becomes part of the family dynamics. Each animal we adopted exhibited traits we found to be annoying, adorable, aloof, contented, playful, grumpy, mischievous, and the list goes on. But as with any family member, we loved them and they were simply family.
Seven or s0 years ago I lost my beloved “Possum,” an 18-year-old Russian Blue. About four years later, Pele, a Norwegian Forrest mix, also left this world. For a while it seemed too difficult to welcome another pet into our home. I could not bear the thought of experiencing yet again the grief that the loss of a pet brings. But we were lonesome. One day my daughter who was trying to help a friend find a home for the pet she had to give up, posted a picture of this cat–the spitting image of our Possum. I commented that if we lived closer (we are in Cleveland, daughter and cat in Chicago), I would love to take the cat. It was just a passing comment on a Facebook photograph. That is all. Nothing more.
Soon afterwards, however, I received private messages from both my daughters in Chicago. They took me seriously and were hell-bent on getting the cat to Cleveland. And sure enough, a week or two later, my youngest daughter and her family show up at our door with cat in tow! Since then Willy has brought us nothing but joy. His name started out as Willard but was soon shortened to Willy and then quickly morphed into Willy-Nilly-Wonka. He has stolen our hearts. I did not think I could own another cat after losing Possum and Pele. But after two and a half years, we were ready to expand our family and welcome a cat once again into our lives. I am grateful for the love and joy that pets bring to our lives and especially grateful for our Willy-Nilly-Wonka!
We take so many things in life for granted; a trite but true statement. Our refrigerator went on the blink this past week. It simply stopped working sometime during the night Tuesday/Wednesday. I noticed it when I went to get my morning yogurt and discovered it was room temperature and tasted. . .funny. So while I was at work my husband called an appliance company to come repair the thing. And as is often the case, no one could make it that day but we were put on the schedule for the next available appointment; Thursday afternoon. Thankfully we live in a cold climate, so we salvaged what we could by putting the frozen food in the trunk of the car that sits in the driveway most of the time. The rest of what could be saved was placed in a cooler on our back porch. We made do. Unfortunately when the repairman (yes, it was a “he”) took a look at the now empty refrigerator, he discovered the controls were broken. How? We do not know. But thanks to modern technology, the nice repairman ordered the part that very moment via his handy dandy “notebook.” He told us the replacement part would arrive late Friday afternoon, but since he does not work on weekends, we would have to wait till Monday for the fridge to be repaired. But hey, we are campers–sorta. We are managing well despite the irritation of an occasional urge for something from our makeshift refrigeration setup late at night. To satisfy the urge, one of us has to bundle up, go outside and rummage through a car trunk to find the “necessary” food item. All of this has helped me recognize how much we take modern conveniences for granted. Today it is the refrigerator. Another day it may be electricity, or gas, or a bed to sleep in, or even food on the table. I have clients who have had to do without the things I have just listed, as well as no refrigerator. That is another whole story, though. For now, I am grateful for our refrigerator and the convenience it affords us.
I usually prefer to post photos of birds in their natural habitat, but this weekend marked the beginning of the annual Feeder Watch program that is run by the Cornel University Lab of Ornithology. That means every week from now til April, I and thousands more people like me throughout the US and Canada will be watching and documenting the numbers and types of birds that come to our back yard feeders each day. Each week we submit our data to the lab where they will interpret the results to use for a variety of purposes. For over twenty five years Cornel University has been following winter migration patterns of birds of every kind. The fun part of their research is that they use ordinary people like myself to gather and submit data on the birds that frequent our yards. Each year those of us who participate and contribute to the research receives a quarterly publication chock full of information on birds, how to identify them, what the research reveals about climate change and irruptions (when brids fly far out of their normal migratory patterns, which usually suggests a shortage in food supply forcing birds to search outside their normal range.) Besides feeling like I am doing a little something to contribute to scientific research, I have found bird watching to be a mindful practice that calms me and helps me focus on the present moment. When watching birds, especially when I’m concentrating on identifying and counting them during my scheduled “watch” sessions, I forget about the cares that weigh me down. Birds are beautiful warblers and hooters and screechers, and if one watches over a period of time–a season–one begins to recognize personalities of individual birds as well as characteristics of the diffierent species. If you are interested in bird watching, or if you have young children who may be interested in birding activities, google Cornel University Lab of Ornithology to find the many programs they offer. Also check out http://www.ebird.com to help identify birds. This is a fun hobby, one I have enjoyed for a few years now. I am grateful for the Cornel University Lab of Ornithology and how their feederwatch program has helped me develop a deeper enjoyment and understanding of birds.
At times Autumn proves to be a difficult time for me. I love the spring and summer and want to make those seasons last for as long as possible. Autumn means we are heading into cold dreariness. Yuk. But since I’ve been practicing mindfulness on a daily basis, I’ve noticed a measurable change in my perceptions. One day this week when I got home from work, I was struck with the stunning beauty of trees that line the back of our property. As the sun was dropping lower in the west, it’s rays lit up the tree in all its brilliance. I was so taken that I ran inside, grabbed by camera, and shot a few photos. Even afterwards, I sat on our porch (bundled up due to the dropping temps) and gazed at the tree, the leaves as they decorated our lawn (yes, decorated!) and let my mind wander. Those few minutes–less than fifteen–from the time I got home to the time I finally went in for the night, were the most calming I’ve had all week. It occurred to me that if we stay present in the moment, we see things in a different light. It’s all about perception, and perception is what breaks or makes our days. Yes, the cold is coming (is here), and there will be snow. But today, now, the leaves are brilliantly painted in reds, oranges, and golds. And they are beautiful. And I am reminded that there is beauty and wonder in every season as there is in every age. Today I am greatful for Autumn leaves and the lesson they teach me.