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Archive for September, 2016

Peak Days

Every moment is filled with something to savor.  Helen Haskell Remien

Always be on the look out for wonder.  E. B. White

Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees.  Rumi

“This is the best-feeling day of my life thus far!”  These words are the exclamation mark at the end of my start-the-day journaling ritual.  And later, each evening, as I reflect back on the hours I have just lived, I can honestly say, “This has been a good one! —  because every day is packed with peak moments and precious connections, with so many “somethings” to appreciate.  There are days, however, that reign supreme, the sublime of the sublime, days where every moment seems to be a mountaintop peak, where you find yourself exclaiming over and over again, “I am happy!  I am happy!”, saying often and out loud, “This really is the best-feeling day of my life thus far!”

And it is easy to conjure them up, these peak mountaintop days, to bring them back to life in the present moment, especially when you are hanging out in their same high-flying vibration, when you are enjoying a day that mirrors their feel-great altitude.  This happened to me in the beginning of September when I actually was hiking at altitude under the impossibly blue sky of the Colorado Rockies, feeling my own Rocky Mountain High — they came rushing back to me, other days that had felt this magical.  There was the one time back in my thirties that came tumbling forward into the present moment as I clamored from rock to rock on the Colorado mountain path.  It was a high-flying one all right, mountaintop expansive, this day I had spent all those years ago, down at sea-level on the coast of Maine.

It was the summer of 1991 and I was entering the thesis-writing part of a Masters program, and immersed also in parenting two elementary-school-age-sons who were galavanting around house and neighborhood on summer break, immersed in this role of mother mingling with the role of wife mingling with the role of freshman college teacher.  And where did the thesis writing and my sense of self fit into this summer of role-mingling?  On this particular day, this delicious day that I am conjuring up twenty-five years later, I had jumped the role-playing ship all together and was focused heart and soul on myself and my passion for writing.  I was spending a week, a whole week, in Maine, housesitting for my dear friend while her family was on vacation.  And alone I was, spaciously alone for the first time in months, a forty-five minute drive from my mother’s cottage on the coast, so the mother-daughter role was on the back burner, as well.

And why did this day stand out as I hiked along the red rocks of Colorado two weeks ago?  I remember it was sunny that day in Maine, and warm, and the beach was calling to me, the state park beach that I had loved as a child, and that nothing was holding me back — not the kids’ schedules or the cleaning of house and office or a dog that needed walking.  All my usual responsibilities were more than a thousand miles away and I was free, free to do whatever I wanted.  And that’s what I did.  I packed my bag with beach towel and thesis notes, with a novel and a backpacking chair, and I drove downriver to the state park of my youth.  And I stayed there, on that long stretch of coastal sand; all day I stayed there, from morning until evening with the sun on my face and the splash of the waves and the novel that I read from cover to cover, a novel called Housekeeping that was quirky and haunting and not the least bit about being a perfect housekeeper.  I remember traipsing to the nearby island at low tide and sitting on its rocks and feeling the power of the ocean on its seaward side and then walking for miles along the beach’s shoreline as the tide crept back in.  And I remember buying a paper sack full of fried clams and eating every single one of them. It was a wonderful day, a day that felt as expansive as the sand and the sea and the sky, a day in which I felt connected to it all, to the author of the novel and the throngs of people playing in the waves, to the sea itself and the sky that was turning the soft blue-pink of dusk as I, sea-soaked and happy, climbed back in my car, ready for the next adventure, perhaps a movie at the independent theater or an ice cream cone — on a day like this anything is possible.

I ask it again, why was this day the first of a long string of “best days” to spill out of my consciousness and into conversation as my husband and I hiked along our Rocky Mountain trail all these years later?  In many ways this beach day was mundane, a day of doing very little, a day of allowing for a much-needed inner space to grow bigger so that younger version of myself, the frazzled gal with a full plate of responsibilities, could relax, truly relax and breathe into a part of her that she had forgotten, into an inner cathedral connected to the whole of the cosmos.  And perhaps, that’s it.  Perhaps, it doesn’t matter where we find ourselves on the Peak Days, “the truly best-feeling days of our lives thus far!”  Walking along a goat-path on a cliff above the Aegean with poppies sprinkled at your feet and a husband, the guy you, at forty-two, are remembering is your best friend, at your side, or kayaking along the shore of the mightiest of lakes just miles from your home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or sitting on the grass with a group of fellow writers at a weekend retreat, words flowing from pens, eager voices sharing stories — I have experienced these days of amazing high-flying grace in all these places and more.

And two weeks ago, it was on the mountain trails outside of Boulder, Colorado that I found myself calling out to my husband with an exuberance equal to that of the flock of bluebirds lighting off from a bush beside us, “I love this day!  I love this day!”  Was it the clarity of the air and the strenuous hikes and the delicious heart-pumping vigor of our sixty-year-old bodies and the expansive views of the highest peaks of Rocky Mountain Park and the people we met along the way that raised my endorphins and set my spirit flying?  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!   This time, it was all these things that worked together to create this particular best-feeling day, that brought me to my deep breath cathedral place of appreciation and connected me to the Arapaho who rode their horses on these same trails centuries ago and to the red rock beneath my feet that had been present for eons and to the sky above me that is beyond comprehension in its eternal bigness.  And it will be something else and somewhere else next time.  These days are a gift, all mountain, no valley.  They set our spirits soaring and remind us that we are a part of a spacious holy magical-feeling whole.  And the wonderment, the absolute wonderment, is that they are available, alive and present and ready to be called back, into the present, on any day.  So I’ll say it right now, “This is the best-feeling day of my life thus far!”

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A Rocky Mountain high for my husband and I:  Labor Day Weekend, Colorado, 2016

 

Treasure

(Transcribed from handwritten journal entry while sitting at shore of Lake Superior.)

If you are not enjoying the present moment, you are all closed off from the possibilities of what is coming your way.”  Abraham-Hicks

I have discovered a cove along Lake Superior’s shoreline, a tiny inlet carpeted with pebbles and stones and surrounded by sandstone cliffs.  And I am here now, my bottom cupped in my backpacking chair as waves splash my feet on this day, the last day of August, a day where the air is crisp and the breeze is hinting that summer is tipping into autumn. What a gift to find such a place, one of many spots I have deemed sacred and perfect for my summertime office on writing afternoons.  And this particular inlet reminds me in its shape and essence of another cove that I loved when I was a child.

On summer days, our mother would pack us a picnic — sandwiches and ripe plums, juicy cherries and cookies — and would send us off, my younger brother and I, free to roam our property in coastal Maine.  We would say our good-byes to mother and  cottage and the safety of Fish House Cove, and we would head out into what felt like the wilds, two Huck Finn kids in search of adventure.  We traipsed through the spruce and pine tree forest, past the tiny marsh of ferns and mosses we called Fairyland, and out onto the rocks to the very tip of Sister Point.  It was there on the great granite rocks that we ate our lunches and plucked the starfish from the teeming-with-life tide pools and lifted up the strands of rust-colored seaweed to find the baby crabs wedged in the crevices.  It was there, on the point, that we could feel it, the whole ocean stretched out before us.  We loved the point and played in its expansiveness for hours.

And although Sister Point was our destination, the tiny inlet etched along the shoreline on the way out was always a fascination and often a stop along the way.  It was called Deadman’s Cove and its name both frightened and excited us.  There was treasure buried in that cove, we were certain.  And when the tide was low, we searched its minuscule beach for pirate’s bounty, finding cobalt and emerald-colored beach glass, shards of pottery, soles of cast-off sneakers, all sorts of things.  But the treasure, the one we imagined buried somewhere beneath the mussel-shell and stone beach, remained a delicious elusive possibility, a dream we someday might manifest.  And, I don’t remember our mother joining us in our quest to find the Deadman’s Cove treasure, but I do remember her appreciation as we brought back our bounty from the point, both the stories of our day, and the physical things too, the handfuls of dried crinkly sea moss for her summertime pudding, the yellow periwinkle shells that we poured into empty bottles for lamp stands and the stray buoys washed into shore on the last heavy sea.  Our mother loved the sea and its shores and its amazing bounty of gifts.

It was years later, many decades after I had moved to Upper Michigan, when our mother was well into her eighties, on a trip back to visit her and the same cottage home, that I received a hint that she too might have been seeking the pirates’ gold.  I was sitting at her kitchen table looking out at the morning-calm sea when she, pushing her walker, scuffled around the corner from her bedroom.  “I had a dream last night,” our mother, who until this moment had claimed to never remember her dreams, told me.  And then she proceeded to share this rare gift from her nighttime sleep.  She found herself in a cove, on a beach, maybe her own beach, she said.  And she was searching, digging, not just for the gray clay that we knew lay beneath the sand, but for something else.  And then, with a solid clink from her shovel, she struck it, quickly uncovering the motherlode, a treasure chest!  My mother had found a treasure chest!  And it was full to the brim, overflowing when she opened it, with gemstones — emeralds and rubies, garnets and tourmalines — all glimmering and shimmering and there for her to receive.  My mother had hit the jackpot and she was sharing it with me!

It is a gift to remember that the treasure is alway present, present in the delicious details of a day spent on the point, in the tide pools and smooth quartz stones and the sun-kissed noses of two little Huck Finn kids, and in a mother who set her kids free.  And it is present in the dreams of these kids too, in the possibility of treasure hidden beneath the sand.  And it is here with me today, a bounty of treasure, Lake Superior waves building in momentum, stones under my feet, one shaped like a heart, a maple tree on the shoreline, its leaves flickering as sun breaks through the billowy gray-colored clouds, treasures I can hold onto in this moment — and the feel-great possibilities of things to come as I sense that hint of autumn in the air.  So, I wonder on this last day of August, as our northern world tips into a new month and season, what treasures will shine brightly in the light of our present moments, and what treasures will lie buried just beneath the surface, their glimmer contained, waiting for us to uncover their gifts.  The world is abundant and rich and it is ours to explore.  Let’s put on our Huck Finn shoes!  Let’s embrace our adventuresome spirits!  Let’s appreciate the treasures we find along the way!

 

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Summertime “offices” along Lake Superior’s Shore: Summer 2016

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