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Archive for April, 2014

An Exuberant “Hi”

Take the world lightly and see how easy things become.  message on inside of greeting card

His little hand was wrapped tightly around my index finger as we scampered at a toddler-fast clip on our downtown adventure.  I don’t want to forget how fun it is to scamper like this, how fun it is to see the world through fresh eyes, how fun it is to feel free and unbridled on an early Saturday morning, this past Saturday morning in Moscow, Idaho as my almost-two-year-old grandson and I explored the waking up world while his sleep-deprived parents enjoyed some much-deserved shuteye.  Others also were enjoying the world waking up on this sunny April morning — a man on a bike, a couple sitting outside a breakfast cafe, a young couple pushing a stroller, college students walking in clumps — and each person we passed, each and everyone of them, was an invitation for Viren to do what he loves to do.  His hand, the one that was free, would shoot up in the air, and his stubby toddler fingers would open wide.  “Hi!!!” he would say.  “Hi!!!” he would sing. “Hi, man on a bike!!!”  “Hi, baby!!!”  “Hi, girl!!!”  “Hi, doggy!!!”   And then, because he is almost two, and language is sweeping through him and clicking into place at a rate that takes my breath away, he would add a sentence or two, a chortling sentence or two in an English that sometimes sounds like bird call.

And the birds were there, too, the real ones who were singing along with Viren!  And the leaves that were unfolding before our eyes!  And the tulips that were ready to blossom!  And the daffodils already in bloom! I got into it; I began to initiate it.  “Hi, Robin in the sky!”  “Hi, Rock lying on the ground!”  We greeted the world together, and Viren taught me not to discriminate.  “Hi, Statue of Girl in window!”  “Hi, Bike sitting outside store for bikes!”  Viren embraced it all, this downtown world of Moscow, Idaho, embraced it with joyful equanimity.  He saw that it was all thrumming and thriving and deserving of an early morning welcome call.  My heart was singing as I walked along, attached finger to hand with my exuberant buddy, and I think my buddy’s heart must have been singing as well because our scamper had become a sort of a skip.  And by the time we arrived at the town’s small square and the play area that Viren held dear, a trip down the slide was simply the frosting on a morning that already had set our spirits in motion.

When I returned home from my Idaho weekend jaunt, I shared, at my Joy Center yoga sessions, the story of my three-hour Saturday morning adventure with grandson, Viren.  And in the midst of the Tuesday class, as we were making our way into table pose, a friend piped up that she, too, had enjoyed a fun-filled weekend, an afternoon walk on Marquette’s shoreline path, an Easter dinner with new friends, and a Friday evening dancing at Marquette’s Ore Dock.  “The bands were awesome!” she exclaimed.  “Two women had painted themselves in colorful paint!  Men were wearing wild hats!”  And it was there in her sharing, the same  enthusiastic shooting up of a hand, the same exuberant”Hi!!!”.  It’s open to us all, this invitation to remember our sense of wonder, this encouragement to let loose with toddler glee.  And I admit that it is easy to sing out a chortle-filled “Hi!!!” when holding the hand of an adorable little person who is also singing out a chortle-filled “Hi!!!”  Somehow that toddler-hand-holding is a safety net.  And yet, I find myself free-flying, too, reveling in my own ability to shout out a “Hi!!!” to this world.

Yesterday, the sun was shining and the temperature rose up into Upper Peninsula shirt-sleeve weather and I couldn’t help it.  I drove my car up County Road 510 to the high ground and the corn snow, and I snapped on my skate-skis and, for one last time this season, I pushed off on that corn-snow surface and I skated my way up and down those wild hills of the Upper Noquemenon Trail.  And a few minutes into that one-hour afternoon ski as I pushed and panted my way up the first steep incline, I found myself saying it, “Hi, Coyote Tracks in the melting snow!!!”  “Hi, Balsam Tree that is beginning to smell!!!”  “Hi, Sun that is warming my face and soaking into my bare arms!!!”  “Hi, Running Water that is reminding me that spring has indeed sprung!!!”  I found myself lifted up by the warm wind, even as I sunk down at times into the caved-in snow.  I found myself thanking the day.  I found myself thanking the toddler, too, who I hold dear, the little guy who is always reminding me to thank the day.

Happy spring everyone!  And come play with us at Joy Center!!!


Viuren, Easter Morning:Moscow, Idaho, 2014

Viuren, Easter Morning:Moscow, Idaho, 2014

Birds of a Feather

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.  Henry David Thoreau

It was the cattails, single cattails, perfectly-formed and poking through the ice in the snow-melting marsh, that stopped me in my tracks, invited me to pause after two-hours of the most delicious of skate-skis this past Sunday afternoon.  I hadn’t expected the conditions in mid-April to be so good.  And yet, here I was, like a kid in the toy section of Macy’s Department Store, sliding and gliding and skating along on a bounty of settled snow in the wilds of the Noquemenon Trail off of County Road 510.  Here I was in my shirt-sleeves, breathing in the moist smell of pine and snow and the vastness of an afternoon/early evening ski alone in the wilderness.   Here I was listening to my own heart as it beat a steady thank you thank you thank you, listening to the silence, too, that filled this winter-melting-into-spring air.  Here I was happy in the moment as I paused at the marsh. And that’s when I heard it.

I think I heard it first, before I caught a glimpse of it.  And the sound startled me.  It wasn’t a whoop or a howl or a honk — it wasn’t quite a croak either.  It was more of a croaking honking scream, something otherworldly and ancient, and it seemed to rise from the pines and the birches that lined this small marsh.  And then I saw it — its broad wings flapping as it lifted off, its neck long and stretched out straight.  It flew over the marsh and headed in my direction.  And I had no doubt as I looked up at it.  This majestic bird that was flying above me, it was a sandhill crane.  And, as if a sandhill crane isn’t gift enough in mid-April after one of the best-feeling skis of the season, there’s more to the story, so let me back up and explain.

It was in Maine a week earlier while driving across a bridge over the New Meadows River that my friend Muriel and I had spotted it flying high above the road.  “What was that?” Muriel had called out.  We squinted, the setting sun in our eyes, trying to make sense of this bird that was now heading over the ridge of trees and out of our sight.  It was its shape that had befuddled us.  Its neck, stretched out straight, seemed to go on and on forever.  It definitely hadn’t been an eagle or an osprey, two birds that might have been nesting somewhere along the New Meadows.  And geese and herons don’t extend their necks like that.  “I’ll make a sketch of it, then look it up later,” Muriel had said.  “I’ll call Cam,” I had added.

My husband Cam is a bird geek.  I’m sort of a bird geek, too, am one by osmosis, know the names of many birds because I grew up under my mother’s wing and she was definitely a bird geek.  But Cam, he’s a walking encyclopedia when it comes to identifying birds.  I think he always has been.  We were still teenagers when we met forty years ago, in the lunch line at York Hall at University of Maine.  He was wearing a red chamois L.L. Bean shirt and Levi jeans and around his neck hung this wooden whistle-thing that I had never seen before.  And so, that was our beginning, right there standing among his friends and my friends while waiting for our meal tickets to be stamped, our very first conversation — a demonstration by Cam of a mallard duck call.  And sure enough, forty years later, he had the answer for Muriel and I when I called him later that evening, a definitive no-doubt-in-his-voice-two-word-answer: “Sandhill crane.”  We had seen a sandhill crane, the first one that I had seen in Maine and one of the only ones I have ever seen.

So, the next Friday evening, two days before my mid-April ski into the wilds of Marquette County, with my trip to New England still fresh in my mind, I found myself once again immersed in the pleasure of bird-thought.  I was already slowed-down as I sat in the audience at Joy Center, primed for the moment when my mind drifted to a love for birds and for the lovers who love birds.  The poets, Tim and Regina Gort, brilliant and bright and generous in their personhood, adorable as a couple, were drawing us in, seducing us with their lush use of language, their rich imagery, their play back and forth in wholehearted poems that they had written together.  And then there was the bird poem, from these self-professed bird geeks,”I loon for you.”  Oh my goodness, I was  present with Tim and Regina as they tantalized each other with their bird talk, “I warble for you in yellow and blacks” and I was back there too, with my guy in his red chamois shirt and his wooden duck call.  I was filled with the songs of birds and an uplifted heart and love spilling over when I found my way back home again after the Gort’s reading and I didn’t want to break the spell.  And that’s when I found this gem of a movie that kept me flying high:  A Birder’s Guide to Everything, the sweetest of coming of age stories that matched my mood perfectly.

And on Saturday, the momentum kept building.  I spoke of sandhill cranes.  And I don’t think I’ve ever spoken of sandhill cranes before.  I was at Joy Center again, this time with Amber and Raja, another adorable couple who are also poets and self-professed bird geeks.  I told them of the crane flying high in the sky over the New Meadows River in Maine and how quick Cam was to identify it, and they told me that they see them often in fields by their house, described to me their gray coloring with the patches of rust, and the sound they make, ancient and otherworldly.  So that’s what I brought with me to County Road 510 the next day, that’s what was present as I snapped my boots into my skate-ski bindings, that’s what was wafting through the air as I pushed off in corn-snow glides — it was all of it, the movie that I loved with every fiber of my being and the poems that lifted my wings, and the appreciation for my birder-geek of a guy and the memory of our beginnings, and the smell of the coast in Maine and gratitude for friendships, and an image of this particular bird.  And when you bring all of this into your moment, how can it be otherwise?  Of course it will appear.

As I stood there beside the marsh, looking up, I saw the gray and the rust patches that Amber and Raja had described.  And I heard that ancient otherworldly sound.  And this bird, this bird that I am sure that I drew to me, this bird with its broad wings flapping, didn’t disappear over the horizon and into the trees, not yet.  It circled around me, as if in slow motion, as if to say, “Remember me.  Don’t forget.  Don’t forget this feeling that you’re feeling right now.”



Find Your Stability

We’re always under construction — and we never get it done!  Abraham-Hicks

The sun was pouring in through our home’s east-facing windows on this particular morning a week ago, and the temperature had risen to above freezing and I could almost hear the bright-colored walls singing a springtime tune.  After running the vacuum for room to room and swishing clean the entry-way tile and swiping the dust cloth over winter-weary furniture, I was singing a springtime tune as well, admiring this house with its carefully-placed and well-loved objects.  I was in the midst of this delicious revelry, this my-life-and-my-home-are-in-perfect-order-moment, when Cam walked in after a morning at work.  I practically sang my greeting to him and he, with a smile on his face, seemed as uplifted as me — for a moment, that is.  Until he walked over to the fireplace.  “Shit!”  I was pretty sure that’s what I heard him mumble.  “Shit!” for certain, I heard him exclaim.  That lovely sensation of melting, that delicious release of winter, that sound of dripping water, it was dripping right into my perfectly-clean and perfectly-ordered moment.  And horror of horrors, it had even stained our perfectly-painted living room’s cathedral ceiling.

That’s what happens in this forward-focused ever-expanding universe.  Things are always dripping and morphing and melting into something new.  Our beloved friend and miracle-worker Paul came over later in the day, shoveled the snow and icy build-up from our roof, cleaned the gutters and will paint the spot on our ceiling once the snow has completed its melting for the season.  And then, there might be another moment when I sigh and breathe deeply and feel the perfect order of things . . . before the next moment when the grass needs mowing and the walls that shined so brightly for a while cry out for a fresh coat of paint.

Earlier on that ceiling-stained morning, I had been watching a live stream seminar sent over the airwaves from a spa and conference center in Sedona, Arizona.  The facilitator of this seminar had carefully planned ahead, chosen this particular spot because of its primo location nestled among the sacred red rocks of the area and because of the attention to beauty in its design.  So it jarred her usual sense of grounding when she arrived the day before the conference began to discover that the facility was in the midst of a renovation, in the hammer-pounding, tear-down and build-up bedlam of construction.  She regained her stability before addressing the participants the next day, and throughout the two-day event, she and the others involved used the construction as a metaphor.  We are all under construction.  And we never get it done.  And it is good thing, this forever being under construction, this way that we are always transforming and expanding.  Even we snow lovers, even we people who choose to live in the far north where winter drags on for five months, we who skate-ski and winter-bike our hearts out daily, even we rejoice at the first sight of a robin and that trout lily that springs up through the carpet of last autumn’s dead leaves. We are all under construction and new desires are springing up for us daily and it is up to us to find our stability in this ever-expanding life we’re living, up to us to catch-up with these springing-up desires.  And sometimes, when the snow is melting and the roof is leaking, sometimes the world can feel wobbly as we search for our stability.

This past Saturday, a blue-sky sunny Saturday, in which the temperatures rose into the forties and the woods were still fresh-snow white and the trails groomed with mid-winter care, I set forth on a long afternoon ski.  And in celebration of the balmy day and the blue sky and the foot of fresh snow, I wore a skirt over my usual black ski pants, a new little skirt made of wool and silk that I had bought that morning at the indoor farmer’s market from Libby, a skirt that was spring-fresh-green and wood-sprite-perfect for this glorious sunny day.  And as I skate-skied in confident strides, my skirt swishing this way and that along with the motion, I passed a group of six young guys and gals, standing in their rental skis on the side of the trail, their faces basking in the sun.  After a jovial hello, I skied on and on, feeling alive and vibrant and filled up with this blue-sky day, skied on and on and around again on another lap where I met these young people for a second hello, and, this time, I stopped for a minute as they asked me about my skies.  They, who were new to the sport, admired my finesse, told me that I sure was fast, and with a “thank you” and a “have fun” and a “see you later!”, I pushed off again, my back to this group, pushed off again into snow that was half-icy half-melty, pushed off again and strided a stride, pushed off again and was all arms and legs and skis sprawling forward.  I wiped out, skirt catching the wind.  And that’s okay.  Sometimes we just lose our footing.  Sometimes the world feels wobbly and melty.  Sometimes we haven’t quite caught up with the new season.  And it’s a no-brainer.  We just pick ourselves back up, brush the melting snow off our springtime skirt and push off again into the next moment, into the next adventure.



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