Thursday, December 31, 2015

First Winter

The first winter, in our new house, in a new town,  is a brisk, chilled, powder-white outdoors.  Inside, it is warm and cozy, with a kitchen that perpetually smells of good things to eat.  The kitchen, that true heart of the home,  beats steadily with a circulation of aromas signifying health and satiety.  Roasts in the oven, stews on the stove-top, hearty bread.  

January will be here soon. Janus was the Roman god, with two faces, who could look back upon the past while simultaneously looking toward the future. And so, it is not uncommon to look over our shoulders at the landscape of our past year, remembering the seeds we sowed in spring, the harvest of autumn, and the reflections of deep winter.  Did we create? Did we love? Did we give the world our best? And what, then, of our future? Will we worry ourselves and borrow trouble from tomorrow? Instead, let us put our best foot forward, every day, one step at a time.
My beloved's visits home are always a race against the calendar.  There is a list of tasks, the requisite and hopeful efforts to be reacquainted, the discussions of intentions and plans and dreams. And at some point, there is a realization that it will soon be over. He will depart toward tyrannies of the urgent, his work in the world, and I will resume my work, my care-giving, my offering, whatever that may be.
My thoughts, this New Year's Eve, turn toward being here now, appreciating the warmth of a fire. I think about marriage and my commitment to working side-by-side even when we're apart.
My role in parenthood is always changing. My adult children share their time with me. I have decided warm greetings and fond farewells, small courtesies, and sincere attention to their stories are my personal best at this stage.
As this year comes to a close, I release any attachments I have to clutter, mental and otherwise.  My intention is to celebrate the simple pleasures, opportunities, and possibilities of my future. 
Bring it on!

Janus looking to the future and the past.

Make peace with yesterday and let it go. Move forward today with confidence and appreciation for the strength you've gained.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Cold November Morning

First Year.  We asked for four seasons.

We arrived in Spring to Nevada, the most mountainous state in the contiguous U.S., to an area near rivers and lakes.  I traded rattle-snakes and vultures for deer and hawks. I put plants into the ground and was pleasantly surprised that they flourished. I watched weeds grow and spread. We built trellises for honeysuckle.

In summer, we walked the streets downtown, microbrews in our cups, and listened to free jazz concerts. I traded 113 degree summers for a slight increase in humidity and comfortable nights.  I traded swamp coolers for air-conditioning.

By the time October arrived, Carson City was engaged in the fun of Halloween. New homes in the sub-division decorated their front yards.  I hadn't seen trick-or-treaters for decades; this year they came in droves. My favorites were the little lady bug, the bumblebee, and the superheroes.

Now is the beginning of winter and the maple tree, my barometer of seasonal change which I view from my office window, has lost all its leaves and the cold wind has ripped the protective covering from the tender bark. The local deer will be looking for that when food is scarce.

The rainwater clings to the chin of my gargoyle rainspout.  Gargoyles make me smile; what can I say. My rainspout is a token of appreciation for the gargoyles I saw at Notre Dame.  The ground here is covered with powdered sugar. My boots make tracks.  While not as cold as the Wisconsin winters I spent my childhood surviving, there is still some relearning about how much damage frozen water can do. We had our first shattered water pipe, an abrupt lesson on battening down the hatches in preparation for the cold.  Christmas gifts are leaning toward snow-shovels and long underwear.

You know how your computer or phone automatically updates to the most current and appropriate version of your apps? Reminds me of the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence; nothing stays the same. I've updated my life: Gave up my shot-gun for hand-gun. Work-boots for mud-boots. Dirt roads for asphalt. Caliche and sand for sidewalks. Scorpions for ground-squirrels.  People ask where
I'm from and I tell them I just left 30 years in the middle of nowhere. It was an amazing ride, but I'm glad to be making my life easier on my body, a gesture of self-empowerment.

In the desert, I hunkered down into this time of year with soups and stews, warm bread, wood fires, and good books. In this season of life and of year, I feel less like a hibernating bear and more like a witness. Observe, notice, appreciate.

That said, I think a I'll make a pot of chili and some corn bread.


Ways to beat the winter doldrums, seasonal affect disorder, and other cold-weather melancholia:

1. Put on some Billy Holiday or Bessie Smith and sing the Blues.

2. Tap dance.

3. Learn some good jokes and tell them while you're waiting in long shopping lines.

4. Get cozy in the kitchen. Put a stew in the crockpot, a casserole in the oven.

5. Buy some flower bulbs (Narcissus are nice) and place in a bowl of rocks and water. Set inside your kitchen or near a window. Watch the roots and green shoots get a jump-start springtime.

6. Practice self-kindness. Get a massage. Go for a walk. Curl up with a cup of tea and a good book.