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Life for the past three and a half years has been filled with demands, deadlines, and all the stresses that go with  graduate studies. Too often I have gotten lost in the whirlwind of expectations and “busyness” of completing assignments, papers, presentations, and making the grade. Today that is behind me. I find myself relishing the freedom of nothing to do, at least for this grace time before starting a new job. Throughout these years however, when I felt burned out “to the max,” I discovered that running away to the woods for a brief respite where I could walk, listen to the sounds of nature and silence, and clear my brain of all things academic was the best medicine for all that “ailed” me. This year the snow came early, so my walks have been through the snowy woods. To my delight, I found once again that snow not only adds beauty and mystery to a scene, but a quietness that calms one’s thoughts while at the same time injecting a sense of wonder and awe to the moment. Wow. Something so simple as a walk through the woods on a snowy day brings peace and contentment that no amount of education or material gain can match. I am grateful for quiet walks in the snowy woods.

 

This drought is the worst in decades. Lakes and ponds are drying up. Rivers are low and running hot. Wildlife and human life suffers in times like these. We pray for rain. I find myself regretting those times I complained about the weather because I had “fun” things to do, and weather interrupted my plans. Now I awake each morning, look out at the sky and hope to see rain clouds on the horizon. Water is a precious commodity. Then, last night I heard distant rolls of thunder. Could it be? The air became heavy with humidity. I opened the doors and watched and waited as the clouds rolled in. By dusk the first drops began to fall. I don’t know how long it rained, but we were having a downpour by the time I went to bed. I awoke this morning to rain. Glorious rain. It didn’t last long after the daybreak, but when I ventured outside everything was wet; wonderfully, wildly, “welcomingly” wet! The skies stayed overcast till late this afternoon when the sun came out again. But there were intermittent sprinkles throughout the day. Did we get enough to replenish our water supplies? No. Not nearly. But every drop we did receive was welcome relief from the dryness and the heat that characterizes this summer. So, today and for many days to come, I am ecstatically grateful for rain!

p.s. If you look at Gratitude 131, it is also gratitude for rain. That was June 17. We were already experiencing drought conditions then. Today’s gratitude is the first rain we’ve had since then (other than a spit or two from the heavens now and then.)

This little critter has visited me regularly this week. I hung suet out for the birds, and some bird food to attract cardinals out on the window ledge. I was hoping to see a few of our feathered friends up close and personal — and besides, I didn’t want them to starve during the cold weather months. One morning I heard scratching and scraping outside our window but when I opened the blinds there was just this little guy feasting on the banquet I left for the birds! I knocked on the window but he didn’t budge, just raised his head, looked at me, then went back to his eating. At first I was a little miffed, but he is so cute, how can one stay angry with the little fellow (assuming it is a male; it could be female). After our first introduction, he (or she) has come back every day to taste the goodies. Now s/he scratches on my windows, climbs the screens, or sits and waits patiently for my attention. Ours has come to be a delightful relationship, one that even Richard thinks is charming. I really like my little friend, as long as there is glass between us! I marvel at the surprised nature presents to us if we just pay attention and enjoy.  I am grateful when wild ones pay a visit.

 

***For more on this squirrel, check my primary blog, Inspired Vision.

 

 

I shot this photograph about an hour ago. The building is in the complex where we live. I have resolved to get out of this apartment and into the fresh air every day this year! But we are in the middle of a winter storm, it is cold, deep snow is getting deeper. On the other hand, many people brave the snow and cold, so I pulled on my boots, grabbed camera and coat and headed out for a walk. I shot some beautiful photographs, but by the time I returned home, I was more than ready to hunker down for the night in my warm, inviting apartment. There is something safe and secure about one’s home. It is like a cocoon at times, a soothing and nurturing place to be. While I sit here though, thoughts begin to swirl through my mind. There are many homeless people in the area. Some folks may have a home but maybe their heating is inadequate. Some have to work out in the cold in order to protect the community from itself (sad, isn’t it.) So many scenarios run through my head of those who are cold, hungry and lonely on a night like this. I hear the wind howling, and imagine the compounded suffering when it occurs in the cold. This minute, I do not know how to help, how to be a part of the solution to homelessness and hunger. But I will think about what I can do. Why? Because to whom much has been given, much will be required. We who can have a responsibility to those who can’t. It seem our nation has forgotten that. I am humbly grateful for the gift of warmth on a cold night, and I will seek ways to share the warmth so that someone else will get a respite from the cold.

If you read Inspired Vision, you know that I am not particularly fond of cold weather, or snow. The older I get the more my body feels the aches and pains brought on by cold weather. I was born in Louisiana and grew up in the deep south (USA). Enchanted by snow as a young girl, I loved playing in it on the rare occasions that we were snowed upon, but over the years I gradually came to dread it. Shoveling the stuff was difficult, and increasingly dangerous the older I get. As I age my balance is gradually diminishing as well, so walking on the slippery stuff is proving to be more challenging with each passing season. Forget driving in snow! Oy vey . . . I can hear you ask, why, if snow poses so many challenges, am I grateful for the stuff? I am grateful for it because snow is beautiful. Snowscapes are eye-candy, a barren  vista turned magical kingdom. I have a little secret: just between you and me, when I see it snow, there is a bit of childlike wonder that still stirs within me. I may not play in the white stuff anymore, but I enjoy gazing out at it. I enjoy snuggling in my favorite robe, sitting in front of my picture window, sipping a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and gazing out on the winter wonderland. Furthermore, despite all the dire grumbling, with very little prodding I jump into my boots, pull on the coat, grab the camera and head out into the treacherous stuff . . . because it is beautiful, and I want to capture some of that beauty to share with you, to keep with me, to remember the season of the year. Yes, between you and me, despite my dislike of it, I am grateful for snow! Who’d of thunk!

 

My friends all know that I love spring and summer. Spring is my favorite time of year because everything is coming back to life. I’m usually not so keen on autumn and winter. How sad because we are now living in Cleveland where there is a lot of the colder months! Having said all that however, it occurred to me earlier this week that autumn is a beautiful month. Yes, it is the harbinger of colder days ahead, but autumn itself is beautiful. Colors are more rustic, but they are brilliant none-the-less, as the photos attest. From what I’m told, the colors will continue to intensify as the season progresses so I have a lot to look forward to. Autumn is a transitional season as the earth prepares for its winter hibernation. I thought about how life is like that, too. I once dreaded the middle-age and old years. Not so much anymore. I’m discovering that life is as colorful and joyful as ever. I’ve really come into my own and I’m far more optimistic than I was in my youth. I can’t do all the things I use to do; I do other things, more meaningful things instead. Young folks look at me and see the added wrinkles — and pounds — and dread this stage much as I once did. But I’m discovering it is a grand stage in life. Autumn mirrors life. I have dreaded its arrival, but this past weekend as Richard and I were exploring new trails to hike, I was struck with the beauty of the coming autumnal season, and I smiled. I can honestly say that I am grateful for autumn.

This summer blessed us with unusually hot temperatures. It seems that the hot weather was felt worldwide, or maybe I should say in the northern hemisphere since the southern hemisphere was in winter. At any rate, many people suffered from the extreme temperatures. As much as I love summer and the heat it brings with it, I found the hot weather oppressive. But autumn is just around the corner. As I halfheartedly tapped at my computer yesterday while listening to the rain tap against my window, it occurred to me to take a photo of the beautiful foliage that grew within arm’s length of where I sat. Also within arm’s length sat my camera, perched in its usual place on my desk. In the moments I pondered the situation, grabbed my camera and swiveled around to shoot a few “wet-weather” shots, the rain stopped, the sun shone, and the droplets on the leaves sparkled. I opened my window and surprisingly a gust of cool~almost cold~wind rushed in. What a delight! I shot off a few frames (through the screen which is what gives the water droplets a star effect) then decided to take a walk. Once outside, I discovered how much the temperatures dropped and actually had to return to the apartment for a sweater! I’m not complaining though. It comes as no surprise to anyone that I love summer. Summer’s end is usually a bittersweet time for me. But this year I welcome relief from the heat. I welcome the cold fronts and the rains that usher in cooler temperatures. It is time for summer to start drawing to a close and for autumn to move in for a while. I am grateful for cooler temperatures which herald the coming of autumn.

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