Snow Birds

junco

The Snow Birds are back.

They are actually Juncos. They are a bird that migrates in to spend their winter here, hence their nickname. I know, when I see them, that the first snowfall is not far off.

I look forward to the arrival of the Snow Birds each year, I appreciate their company for the winter months. Most songbirds are long gone, having taken off for warmer climes. They won’t be back until March or April, even May, for some.

The Snow Birds scratch in the snow to access their food. I marvel at their ability to survive in the harsh conditions of our winters. They look soft and fragile, but they are actually very hardy.

As I get older, I catch myself thinking that I am fragile, and I can unconsciously begin to act “as if” I am, falling into alignment with cultural expectations for people of my age group.

I’m not recommending that we get reckless as we age, but I do think that we need to remember how many life skills we have, and how wise and capable we really are, from all the living that we have done. And, how hardy we are.

Sometimes I look at the Snow Birds and think that they must be having a hard time in the rigors of winter. And then I remember that they are built for it.

That is what I wish us to remember too: our hardiness, our resilience, our capability. We are built for it.

Beauty and Dignity

beauty dignity

I look at this tree and see beauty, strength, and dignity.

This tree lived a long time. Probably not a hundred years, like the oaks on this land, but a long time. When I look at it now, I see its history. I think of the many years of growth, and green, and colors changing in the fall.

This tree stands like a sentry at the edge of the prairie. It has stood in many winters, exposed to the blasting winds and snow that sweep down this hill. It has stood for cycle after cycle.

I feel like we can learn a lot from trees, about the cycles of life that are similar to our cycles. Sometimes we feel like we are in dormancy, like something is incubating, and all there is to do is to wait. This is always hard for me to do, but it isn’t hard for the tree.

And then there is growth, and production, and harvest, when the tree is a real work horse. The tree teaches me about sustainability in this cycle.

There is much for the tree to teach me about letting go. In the Autumn, the leaves fall easily from the tree. I could learn about letting go, with ease, and making way for the next cycle of growth.

But most of all now, I feel like this tree can teach me about aging with beauty, and strength, and dignity. This is what I am looking to learn these days, and when I look at this tree, standing alone, I feel this tree radiating these qualities.

It is beautiful and strong, regardless. That is what I want to be.

What do you learn from trees?

Who I Want to Be – Two Ninety-Year-Old Friends

fuzzy plant

Harper The Dog and I were – you guessed it – on a walk at the park when I noticed a man and woman coming slowly up the path towards us. The woman was using a walking stick, and she was moving very slowly.

I asked Harper to sit, as I do for all passerby’s, and when the man reached us, he stopped to talk. Almost everybody stops to talk to Harper; he’s quite the attention getter.

His wife caught up to us, and we had the most delightful conversation. They lived in Woodstock, about 20 miles away, and they said that they come to the park often.

Animated, they told me about how they love living in their house in Woodstock so much that they have hesitated to move into a smaller house, even though they don’t really need all the space they have.

They told me how much they love their walks in the park, and seeing the colors change in the prairie all through the seasons. I love that too.

She told me about a dog that her grandmother had, when she was a little girl, living on her grandmother’s farm.

It was clear to me, just from a few moments of conversation, that they loved their whole lives, and each other.

They loved to stay active, and they loved being out in Nature. They love it so much that they frequently drive 20 miles to the park.

Then, he told me he was ninety years old.

I loved this couple immediately. They inspired me, with their clear commitment to grab life and live it to the hilt. With their commitment to remain active, they were exactly the antidote I needed to counteract all of our cultural beliefs that aging is a slow, painful decline into inactivity and death.

We said goodbye, and they moved at a crawl, up the steep hill that Harper and I had just come down. I marveled at their vitality and their positive spirit. I felt so blessed that they had come across my path that day. What a gift.

They are who I want to be, with however much time I have.

Who do you want to be?

The Dance of Cranes

sandhill cranes

Just as I step out for my walk today, a huge flock of migrating Sandhill Cranes passes overhead, making their distinctive rolling cries.

We are used to the honking of Canadian Geese, throughout the fall migration season. They come through frequently in large flocks.

Less commonly, we hear and see the cranes. It seems that their migration is clustered in a smaller span of time, both in the fall and spring, than that of the geese.

I love the cranes, and the only time I see them is during migration.

This morning they were loud and close. They must have been feeding on the remanents of corn or soybeans in the fields. They had just taken off and were gaining altitude.

I remember the first time that I noticed them. It was a sunny day, with a bright blue sky, in the springtime. I heard an unusual whirring sound, and when I traced it, all I could see were a collection of swirling glints, far up in the sky.

Later I learned it was a flock of migrating cranes, and the glints were the bits of sunlight as it reflected off of their 5 – 6 foot wingspans. When they migrate, they are usually 500 to 2,500 feet in altitude, so they are often barely visible.

I also learned that they have several flight methods, including spiraling and soaring.

What I had seen looked like a spiral dance of tiny particles of sunlight. It was magical.

So, now, when I see the cranes, I am being given the gift of a magical dance, because that is what they represent to me. This is a reminder to me to step back and see the beautiful dance that my life is.

How does the dance of life show up for you?

 

 

Seeing a Different World

same road

My dogs never see their world the same way twice.

I have a lot to learn from them.

My husband Harold and I take our dogs for two to three walks a day on the same stretch of road, about two miles round trip. Yes, we vary it with visits to the parks when we can, but for the most part they are in the same territory a few times every day, 365 days a year.

I’ve watched them. Every day they act like they’ve never seen the landscape before. Never smelled the same smells.

They are eager and excited because it is a new world to them today. They don’t seem to think “here we are again, in the same place, how boring.”

I work in my home, so my universe is much smaller than it is for most people. I often go for a few days without going out of my immediate neighborhood.

Many of us orbit around the same things day after day, cycling through home, work, and community, except for the times that we go on vacation or travel farther afield.

Except that, as my dogs know, they aren’t the same things. People are changing, weather is changing, nature is changing, light is changing. An infinite number of variables are dancing in an infinite number of combinations, which yields a different miracle in every moment.

The trick is to be present for the miracles.

When I’m really present, focused completely on what is right here, right now, I know that my world is never the same. There is always something different in it, in every moment. No matter how many times I have been “here,” I’ve never been here right now.

How do I cultivate that kind of presence? It helps me to deepen attention to my senses.

When I’m out on a dog walk, I tune into my environment with all of my senses, rather than tuning out, listening to a podcast, or going over something in my mind. What am I seeing today? What do I feel on my skin, or under my feet? What are the subtle things that I am hearing? What is catching my attention?

It is so simple to do this. When I do it, I do pick up on different things every day.

It is also pretty amazing how easily I can zone out and miss the whole walk, if something else is on my mind. So, it does take a conscious commitment to be present.

What it yields, though, is a whole different walk than the day before. My world becomes fascinating again.

What are you seeing in your world today?

Waking Up

three trees blow

Mother Nature is giving it everything she’s got today.

Sleety stuff that passes for rain, forty mph winds, with gusts to fifty. It would be a blizzard if the temperature was a little lower. As we all know, Mother Nature isn’t always warm and fuzzy.

I do love the raw power of nature. As long as I am not in immediate danger, it energizes me.

It wakes me up to life.  When I’m out in this stuff, there’s no way to fall into complacency, I can’t slip into a trance while I am out walking. This kind of weather demands that I be fully present in the now moment.

I need things in my life that will wake me up. I think we all do. It is so easy to fall into just putting one foot in front of the other and moving through my life.

I get back from my walk and I really appreciate things that I normally take for granted.

The heat in the house feels so warm and cozy. My cup of tea tastes particularly nourishing.

I appreciate my commitment to take care of myself and my dogs by walking them, even in weather like this.

Most of all, I appreciate being awakened to life again, in such a powerful way.

What wakes you up?

The Tilling of Potential

tilling potential

Today I was walking with my dog Harper on the edge of a newly tilled field. Harper was exploring the field, looking for treasures that might have been churned up when the field was worked. He is a particular fan of corn kernels that didn’t make it into the combine.

I was enjoying the brisk November sunshine.

It was just last week that Al and his son Jordan were tilling the field with a disk harrow.

I love it when they till the fields, exposing the rich, black chunks of earth that will lie fallow until next Spring, when the earth will be ready to receive the seeds of a new crop.

There is such beauty, to me, in all of this potential. The field looks to me like a field of potential.

It is hopeful: what might appear dead right now is actually teeming with life below the surface, and the earth is readying itself to receive the seeds that will spring into life in just a few months time.

This makes me think about how much untapped potential lies within us.

What if we think of ourselves as a field of potential?

Imagine that you are a rich, fertile field, ready to receive the inspiration that will carry you forward into you into the next phase of your journey. Sit quietly for a few moments, and allow your inner wisdom to inform you. What potential lies within you?

Harper Time

harper time

I’m at the park with my dog Harper, and it is a stunning November day. We are blessed with full sunshine and a bright blue sky, on this crisp fall day.

He and I are alone in the prairie, and I’ve chosen the long walk. There won’t be many more days like this before the snow flies.

I have decided to let Harper set our pace today. He meanders here and there, attending to scents and leaping up when the grasshoppers leap across the path.

I was curious about what his pace would be, and even more curious about what would happen if I trusted his pace, for me. He speeds up as we enter the oak forest, and slows down when we get to the meadow. He passes by the bench in the glade.

How many times have I tugged him along, rushing him to my pace? Getting the walk done so that I can get to the next thing that needs doing. Do I really want my end-of-life memories to be filled with all the things I was able to check off my To Do List?

As we finish our walk, Harper’s rhythm has done me a world of good. I can feel, deeply, how important it was to do this, to take our time, and for me to be with him, just being present to every moment. He truly is one of my greatest teachers.

I stop and take a moment just to be grateful for the breath that I took when we arrived at the park, when I tried to “feel into” what this bit of time “wanted to be.”

I’m exploring the idea that life unfolds in a way that is perfectly organic for us, if we let it. Before launching into the next thing, I stop, breathe, and “feel into” the question: What is it time for, now? I have been doing this more, lately.

This practice takes some radical trust on my part, trusting that each moment has it’s own right action, and that some greater intelligence is guiding me in it. And that if I “feel into” the question, I can discern what that action is. It is a way of inviting the being and the doing to dance in the moment.

It’s a powerful way of being in the world, and yet I still have a hard time trusting that all will get done when I come to life like this. I actually think that not only will all get done, but that it will get done more easily, because I am coming to each moment in a fuller, more present way. This is how things flow.

There will be other days, perhaps cold, blustery ones, when what “wants to be” in the time is vacuuming. Today, it was time for meandering.

What is it time for, now, for you?

The Art of Receiving

red leaf in brown

Today as I am walking, a glint of bright red catches my attention.

It’s a bright red maple leaf, amongst all the brown oak leaves, and I know that this was meant for me to see. On my walks, I am always eager to discover what life is showing me, right in the moment.

I particularly love the colors of maple leaves in the fall, and there are very few maple trees in my neighborhood. This one is a tiny seedling, with just the one leaf on it. But it is showing its colors brightly, and it delights me to see it.

My walks have become so much more enjoyable since I have become more engaged with my environment. Part of being more engaged is that I look for things to draw, and drawing helps me see better.

I think it is more than just seeing better, though.

I think it’s as simple as being very present to my experience, and not with my thinking brain, but with my heart.

It is a receiving, more than a seeing.

I believe that what is meant for us is given to us in every moment. What varies in our ability to receive is our attentiveness and our openness.

If we believe that life has an intelligence (and it is hard not to believe that, knowing that the acorn has oakness already in it), then why wouldn’t we have the intelligence that we need, for our full experience of life?

So I have been practicing receiving what is meant for me, in any moment. This is easiest for me to do when I am out on my walks, because I feel very connected with nature.

When I am in nature, it is easy for me to tune in and be present in the moment, and to see what is meant for me. In nature, it is much easier than it is in other activities of my life.

What is meant for me can come on any channel. Sometimes I see it. Other times I feel it or just get a sense of it, or a hunch. Sometimes a picture might come into my mind.

When I give myself whole-heartedly to my experience, and tune in completely, I become aware of whatever is being given to me, or meant for me, in any moment. I do this by surrendering any expectations or agenda that I might have in my mind, and I become a “fertile field” of awareness.

I think this is what makes me open and receptive to receiving what is being offered to me by life, in any moment.

So, I’ve been practicing this art of receiving on my walks, because that is where it is easiest for me to be present, aware, and receptive. Maybe someday I will be able to be this way in the rest of my life.

How do you tune into what is meant for you to receive?

Leaping Through Life

grasshopper

Grasshoppers were leaping across my path with almost every step I took on this warm sunny fall day. It was fun to watch them, and I marveled at the power they seemed to achieve as they sailed through the air, legs clicking, traveling with speed and ease through the tall grasses.

I started to think how many times in my life I have wanted to leap from one thing to the next.

Most of these times were when I was somewhere that I didn’t want to be, and I imagined how glorious (I thought) it would be to be somewhere else. Like the time when I was in a job that was stressful and ill-suited for me, or the time when I was living in the middle of Chicago, and wanted to be in a quieter place. During those times, I really longed to leap.

But I would have been leaping to get out of somewhere I didn’t want to be, rather than moving towards somewhere I did want to be. I would have been leaping just to get somewhere else.

When I look back at all of those times of my life now, I realize how much of life I would have missed if I had leaped. Life had so much to show me and give me, in the journey. It’s a cliche, but it is very true for me. So much of becoming me was on the way from here to there.

While it is always tempting to think that everything would be easier if I could leap, I guess I am just not a leap-er. I’m a journey-er.

I’ve learned a lot about journeying over the years. About that initial stage where you know that something has to change, but you’re holding back, because it’s complicated, and the territory is unknown. And about packing, taking what you need and letting go the rest. And standing on the threshold, in that No Man’s Land of not being able to go back, but also not knowing quite where you are going. And all of that is before you even set off.

As I look at the grasshoppers, I’m a bit envious. It looks so easy, and I wonder how change can be easier in my own life. I don’t want to miss the journey, but it would be great to travel with a little more ease. There is definitely something I can learn from leaping.

Are you a leap-er or a journey-er? Where do you want to be?

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