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You think that this is just another day in your life.  It’s not just another day.  It’s the one day that is given to you today.  It’s the only gift that you have right now.  And the only appropriate response is gratefulness.  So I wish that you can open your heart to all these blessings, and let them flow through you.  Then everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you.  Just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch.  Just by your presence.  Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you.  And then it will be a really good day.  David Steindl-Rast

Living in gratefulness takes away fear.  David Steindl-Rast

It’s not a “Please pass the mashed potatoes and a whopping big serving of gratitude!”  It’s not a “Fill me up, oh gratitude, and make me happy!”  It’s not like that at all.  It’s an inside job, this practice of gratitude, an inner Thanksgiving that satiates a hunger that runs deep.  And the prep work is nil.  It doesn’t require the washing and the peeling of potatoes, the chopping and roasting of squash, the stuffing of a free-range turkey.  It can be done anywhere.  Even here, on this Thanksgiving Eve, while sitting on a plane pointed west to Seattle with your husband sprawled out beside you sound asleep.

Why not start where you are on the journey to where you are going?   Why not fill yourself to the brim even before you and your guy drive the five-hours back east tomorrow morning over the Cascades and south to the Palouse and onto your adventure, even before you walk through the door to the home in Moscow, Idaho and greet them all, your two sons, their wives, your two-year-old grandson, even before you scoop them up in your hugs and your kisses?   Why not go for the inner feast before the outer feast?   Because even now, late at night and well past your bedtime, and not even close to your destination, even now when you’re over-tired and a little cranky and your partner isn’t going to chat, even now, there is so much to be grateful for.  Why not fill your plate with heaping spoonfuls of gratitude as you fly over Nebraska and Wyoming and Montana and into the wee hours of the morning?

Because that’s all there is to it.  It’s not hard once you get going.  In fact, it’s downright easy.  All you have to do is say it.  “I’m grateful!”  There!  You’ve done it!  Now feel it.  Feel it in your heart because your heart is a wellspring of gratitude.  The supply is infinite.  “I’m grateful.  I’m grateful for this plane that is sailing westward at 35, 000 feet above the earth, the earth that I am so infinitely grateful for, grateful for a smooth sailing ride, grateful for the hummus and crackers and olives and artichoke dip that I just ate.”  See how it works!  One thing leads to another.  “I’m grateful.”   You say it again and a steady stream of gratitudes flow from you with ease.  “I’m grateful, grateful for the moon and the stars, to be sailing among them, and for the movie that is playing in front of me.  Magic in the Moonlight.  Magic in the moonlight!  I’m grateful for the movie and for a title like that and for the remembering that there is indeed magic in the moonlight, grateful that I’ve watched the silver ripples of moonlight shimmering across the sea, grateful for the sea that I can almost smell right now even as I sit in this plane high above mountains next to my sleeping husband.”

And then there’s your husband!  “I’m grateful, so grateful for this man who I’ve known since we were eighteen-year-old  kids, grateful that I can pull that teenager out of him in a heartbeat, grateful that our hearts are beating, and that they break wide open when we really breathe deeply and  feel how much we love each other.”   And don’t lose your momentum now.  Keep it going!   It is a wellspring, this inner practice of gratitude, a geyser splashing you with happiness.   And now you remember something wonderful.  It was a simple moment really,  just a few hours ago in the Detroit Airport when you stopped in a store where you have sometimes bought clothes to wish the clerk who somehow seems like your friend a very Happy Thanksgiving.  You didn’t expect it, her wide-armed hug and the sweetness of connection.  So say it now.  “I’m grateful, grateful beyond measure for human kindness and human connection, for hearts that press into each other and love that spreads beyond boundaries.”

It doesn’t need to rhyme.   It doesn’t need to look pretty on the page.  There are no rules of grammar, no limits to its possibilities.  You can be grateful for anything.  Maybe your childhood cat.  Why wouldn’t you be grateful for your childhood cat?  You loved her more than life itself!  Her name was Snoozles and she was a petite calico with an inky black nose and her mother was Engine Charlie and it was on a Thanksgiving trip to your cousins’ sprawling suburban home in Wayland, Massachusetts that your parents said yes to bringing her back to Maine and it was the most wonderful Thanksgiving ever that year you were four.  Except for all the other Thanksgivings.  So go on.  Be grateful for the others, for all of them, for the Grandmas and the Grandpas and the mothers and the fathers and the aunts and the uncles and the cute boy cousins and the kindred girl cousins, for both sides of the family, for Cousin Julia’s giblet gravy and your father-in-law’s raw oysters, for your toddler sons and the turkey bones that they gnawed on, for toasts to health and toasts to family and toasts to the pilgrims who once lived pretty close to your cousin’s house in Massachusetts and toasts to the turkey itself  which sits in the center of the table.  It’s all so good!  Do you feel it now?  It just keeps spreading and spreading!  Grateful for the memories, grateful for the anticipation.   Oh, it is such a feast, such a feast, filling yourself up with gratitude!


Grandpa Perry carving the turkey

Grandpa Perry carving the turkey

Thanksgiving at Wayland with the Perry relatives

Thanksgiving at Wayland, Massachusetts with the Perry relatives

Living in my own unfolding novel

She had a strange sense of time tucking inside itself, folding, dovetailing with minute precision.  Mair Ellis, character in Rosie Thomas’ novel, The Kashmir Shawl

Something emerges within you that is deeper than you thought you were.  Eckhart Tolle

I tucked myself in each night with a novel, a multi-layered story that swept through time and place and drew me into its pages with a delicious sense of intensity.  As I allowed the novel to carry me across the sea to Wales and then onto India, a part of me also stayed grounded right where I was, on this side of the Atlantic with the waves whooshing in and out again against the rocky coastline that hugged this cottage’s hedge of  lilies and freshly-mowed lawn.  And each night, before settling into my cozy bed and my good read, I opened the door to the deck and let the breeze blow in — I couldn’t get enough of it, the smell of the sea and the sound of the waves and this novel that I was hungrily devouring.

It was both an exotic treat and a habit, familiar from long ago, this nighttime ritual I followed while staying for a week at the cottage in mid-coastal Maine this past summer.  It is a short drive from this 1950’s-built Saltbox rental property, a mere two-and-a-half miles by car or foot to the land that my grandfather bought back in 1906, the land that included the farmhouse my cousin still calls home, and the spruce and balsam forest with its mossy ledges and the two coves and the point of land between and the cottage that sat at the head of one of those coves where I spent my childhood summers.  Tracing the shoreline by boat, past cottages and through the inlet called the Carrying Place and around the tip of Cap Point, its an even faster jaunt, the trail that links my present-day week of July evenings spent nestled under quilts reading a novel to my childhood summers at Fish House Cove.

Was it the sea breeze and the cozy bedtime ritual, familiar from childhood, or the deliciousness of immersing myself into the story that called to me each night?  I truly can’t say because it was all woven together into a transfixing whole.  It was only a few pages into the novel when I discovered that although the main character was Welsh and her ancestors’ stories were far different than the stories of my ancestors, there were similarities in the present moment where we, the protagonist and I, found ourselves.  The novel begins shortly after the protagonist’s fathers’ death with a bittersweet scene taking place at her childhood farmhouse in rural Wales, on land that has been in the family for generations, with the protagonist and her two siblings dividing up the property’s treasures as they prepare to sell the land to a local sheep herder.  I know what this is like, to gather with siblings and divide up possessions and let go of a piece of property that you have held dear forever.

And it was what happened next in this novel that sent shivers of excitement up my spine.  The protagonist finds, tucked in the bottom of her mother’s bureau, a shawl, an antique carefully-woven Kashmir shawl, and a lock of dark hair and an old black and white photo of three young women looking directly into the camera and laughing.  She is certain that her mother’s mother is one of the women in the photo and the Kashmir shawl must have been hers, too, from the time that she spent as a missionary’s wife in India in the years before the Second World War.  Thus begins the protagonist’s quest, a journey to find out the shawl’s story and to learn about this grandmother who she never knew that takes her to the high mountains and hill towns of northern India, a journey that mingles past and preset for the protagonist and for us the readers.  The grandmother’s-young-woman-story is presented in vivid details, weaving in and out of the protagonist granddaughter’s quest and creating a gorgeous panoramic view that seems to transcend time and space.

I closed the book each night with the taste of India on my tongue and a genuine love for these characters and a curiosity about how it was all going to unfold.  And then, as I turned out the light, there was the screen door rattling and the breeze and the damp smell of ocean and the weight of thick blankets, and then there was a faint sound of a bell-buoy and I was home again in this cottage that felt like home, drifting off to sleep and thinking to myself, “I’m living in my own unfolding novel!”

You see, past and present were mingling for me, too, not just because my childhood home was a few miles away, or because I found my adolescent wings while working at an inn a stone’s throw from this Saltbox gem, not just because it had almost seemed magical, too unbelievable and easy for the pages of a novel, the way that this cottage rental had found its way to me through three friendly strangers met over brunch at the local cafe.  There was more.   There were the family’s back stories, the ones lived out before my memories of family picnics and boat rides and and hikes along juniper-lined paths, stories as compelling to me as the ones that my novel’s protagonist and I were uncovering each night.  There was my grandfather, well-known artist who bought the family land, who lived and etched and painted in this town until he died in a car accident in 1925, grandfather more myth than real, until now, that is, when he was taking up whole chapters in my “novel”, the one that I found myself living in July.

It started a month earlier at my high school reunion, when a friend I hadn’t seen in forty years, an artist- historian-architect, took an interest in my grandfather, and my friend’s curiosities and his searchings were bringing my grandfather alive for him and for me, too.  I began to see my grandfather all fleshed-out, tall and rugged and at the helm of his sailboat or paddling his canoe with his artist tools in his leather suitcase protected somehow from the elements, heading out to an island to etch for the day, maybe to Ragged Island, the one that I could see, a month later, from my rental cottage’s deck.  In chapter’s woven between my present-day gatherings with siblings and cousins and jaunts to the beach during that week in Maine, my grandfather lived in the pages of my imagination’s novel, as did his two wives, the first who died in the 1918, and the second, my grandmother, as did his children, too.

We knew things as readers that the protagonist of my nighttime novel never knew, rich details of her grandmother’s bold and adventurous years as a young woman in India.  And that was okay.  The protagonist solved some mysteries, felt the love and the connection that was there, held dear to the stories that did come her way, and tied tender bows around those parts of the past that have counterparts in the present.  I am doing the same.

The Falka: etching by Ernest Haskell

The Falka: etching by Ernest Haskell




















The Queen of Fearless Comedy

Don’t follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise.  Joan Rivers

What are people going to do?  Fire me?  I’ve been fired before.  Not book me?  I’ve been out of work before.  I don’t care.  Joan Rivers

I have no methods; all I do is accept people as they are.  Joan Rivers

I received a text last Thursday, mid-day, from my husband Cam, a brief four words:  “Sorry about Joan Rivers.”  I was in the midst of a week-long visit with our sons, their wives, and grandson, Viren, in Moscow, Idaho, and was sporadic at checking in on matters of popular culture.  Yet, I had kept up enough to know that Joan Rivers was in a precarious state, that she was hovering in limbo on life support.  And Cam, back at home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, had kept up because he knew that Joan wasn’t just a celebrity icon to me, that I considered her a friend.  As corny as it sounds, I think that Cam considered her a friend as well.

We were kids in the sixties, too young to stay up past midnight for a glimpse of Joan stepping in as guest host for Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, too young to witness her busting down gender barriers and breaking through humor ceilings with her outrageous uncensored over-the-top jokes.  Sure, I remember seeing her now and then during the seventies and eighties on television talk shows and in magazine photos, but this young version of Joan isn’t who Cam and I have befriended.  It’s the old Joan, the plastic-surgeried puffy-haired still-pretty-and-fashion-forward Joan who is as relentlessly and ruthlessly and lovingly funny as ever.  You see, we are Joan Rangers.

I was drawn in because of my love for fashion, but it was Joan who got me hooked, week after week, on Friday evenings.  It has been a ritual for Cam and I these past few years, the five mile walk on the Lakeshore Trail in Marquette, dinner at Sweetwater Cafe, and then the hour sprawled out in front of our TV watching of all things, Fashion Police.  I’m sure at first for Cam it was a husbandly thing to do, to watch what his wife wanted on a Friday evening, but soon, he too was engaged in the action.  How could you not be?!?  As Joan and her three fashion deputies gave us a run-down of the week in fashion, ticketing what they deemed disasters and awarding the-on-the-mark-in-their-eyes-successes, we found ourselves playing along, participating in such games as “Rack Report”, and “Guess Them From Behind”.  You could call it silly and superficial, and yet it left us energized and happy.  And it was Joan at the helm, always on the edge, always allowing that sea of funny and outrageous and unbridled and sometimes offensive to move through her, laughing at us all, laughing at herself, laughing with us all.  And we, the audience in the studio and the millions of people watching in our homes, we willingly and lovingly became the Joan Rangers, saluting with her, playing along with her, allowing ourselves to be outrageous too.

It is outrageousness that energizes me the most, and it is outrageousness that also terrifies me.  When the high school kids perform their improv at Joy Center, my heart beats fast in my chest and I sit on the edge of my seat and I wonder what will come out of their mouths next.  And on some level, I pray that they won’t pick me to be in one of their skits, and, on another level, I pray that they will pick me.  It is brave to allow what is inside of us to find its way onto the page or onto the stage or into the workplace or into our art or into a conversation with a friend or a stranger.  It is brave to be unbridled.  And it is freeing, to let it rip, to let yourself play that fully.  A few years ago, the next morning after an improv workshop at Joy Center, I found myself laughing out loud as I walked around the neighborhood, out loud to myself the way the critical part of me would envision a crazy woman laughing, and I didn’t care if I looked crazy.  I think I was remembering how funny and outrageous we all were the night before, remembering the silly and irreverent and ridiculous things we’d said and done, but it was more than that; something visceral was happening inside of me.  I was feeling free.  Freed up.  When we allow ourselves to let go of what others think, when we release our inhibitions, when we say what it is on our minds and act what is in our hearts, it is pure Source that flows through us.  And it feels good.  And sometimes it feels funny.

One day, a few years ago, in the beginning of my Fashion Police friendship with Joan, I googled her and found a quote that touched me deeply.  She said that she had always wanted to sing gloriously or act with the skill of Meryl Streep, but those weren’t the genes she was given; she was given the funny gene.  And by God, she played it.  In the few days before the procedure that led to her passing, she was still playing it, publicly, outrageously, funnily.  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?!?  To get out there on the stage of our lives and play, play what we’re given to play, full-out and free.  I, a Joan Ranger, salute you, Joan!

Let’s Play!

Play is the exultation of the possible.  Martin Buber

It was the trees that first caught his attention, so many of them, and the colorful signs hanging from their branches and the metal star shimmering in the light, and then his eyes caught hold of something else, something made from deck boards nestled among those trees.  It was a stage!  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  Grandma had a stage and he was free to play on it!  And that’s what he did, back in early June, my just-turning-two-years-old grandson, Viren, on this, his first visit over to Joy Center during his six-week stay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this past summer.  He played on that stage and his Grandma (yours truly), she played too.  They stomped and they jumped and they marched and they sang — they did all this until he spied the rocks, the ones behind the stage, the big boulders hauled in from a gravel pit, big enough to be quite a climb for a two-year-old.  There were mountains to summit and fairy houses to explore and wind chimes to ring and he hadn’t even skidaddled over to those front steps and through the door that his Grandma was now holding open for him, the door to a place she called the Joy Center.

And with a beckon and a call, this two-year-old king of play was drawn in because the door was open and there was more to explore.  A kitchen with snacks and water from a well.  A living room with a ceiling as high as the sky.  There were rainbow-colored banners sweeping across that sunlit expanse and a wooden floor and no furniture at all and a perfect place to slide on stocking feet and to plod like an elephant and screech like a monkey and to order your grandma to hop like a bunny.  This place was made for playing, with stairs to practice careful-climbing and a loft that was lofty and a room filled with hats in all shapes and sizes.  This place was made for playing and Grandma, she was feeling quite puffed up, quite ready to it show off in its full-blown glory.  So down they went, down the two flights of stairs, grandma and grandson, to the lower level, to soft comfy chairs and books to read and a whole room dedicated to glue sticks and glitter, to paper and crayons and paints, to so much stuff that by now, this Grandma, she knew that her grandson must be dazzled.  She herself was dazzled seeing all this through the eyes of a two-year-old.  “Grandma must be the coolest grandma in the world.  Grandma works in a playhouse.  Grandma plays for a living.  Grandma plays at living!”

Grandma works at a playhouse!  I delighted in saying this to Viren each time I would leave my home and walk the short distance to Joy Center this past June.  “Grandma’s going to work!” I’d say as I scampered off to a yoga session.  “I have to work now!” I’d sing as I waved good-bye on my way to Out Loud’s open mic night.  Thank you, Viren, I say now as I remember all of this.  Thank you for reminding me that Joy Center indeed is a playhouse.  Thank you for reminding me of what I’ve always known, that play is a noble vocation, that it is expansive and high vibe, and, most of all, that it is downright fun.  Thank you for being the inspiration as Joy Center buddies and I planned this year’s anniversary party.  “Why not set up play stations?” Amber suggested.  “What would Viren want to do?” Raja asked.   So that’s what we did the other day as we celebrated the six year birthday of Grandma’s community playhouse.  We set up play stations, created a nursery school for grown-ups and kids alike, with art and book-making and coloring and writing centers, with a market place of handmade treasures in the loft and a stage outside where we could hula-hoop.  And snacks too because every playhouse worth its weight in fun needs to have a snack station with Sherri’s out-of-this-world-amazing finger-food meals and Adonna’s homemade chocolate!

And then we played.  All afternoon and into the evening.  We played in clusters around the art table creating books and collages.  We played alone surrounded by the trees on the downstairs’ deck.  We played in deep conversation and while shopping for the perfect item made with the loving hands of a friend.  We played while cheering on the hula-hoopers and while taking a turn ourselves.  We played while listening, while talking, while laughing, while eating, while singing, while breathing.  We played in reverence and we played irreverently, and it all felt holy to me, this way that Joy Center was filled to its brim with the power of play.

Joy Center is a playhouse.  This summer, Viren reminded me of that.  And he also reminded me that there are a multitude of ways to play.  Some are rousing and foot-stomping, and some are quiet and contemplative.  Some take you deep inside yourself and some are expansive and wide-winged and as light as a hula-hop twirling through the air.  And at Joy Center you are welcome to experience it all!  Let’s play!

Magic in the Moonlight

Life’s enchanted cup sparkles near the brim.  Lord Byron

Enter the enchanted woods, You who dare.  George Meredith

It felt magical, that walk home around the block from Joy Center last Thursday evening.  The air was balmy and the moon, filtered by a thin layer of clouds, lent a warm glow to the trees and to the road and to the sky above me.  And as I looked up, I wasn’t certain what I was seeing.  Was it clouds that were dancing across the nighttime sky or was it something else radiating out in wispy pinwheel patterns — the northern lights, perhaps?  And what was that sound that I was hearing carried in on the slight breeze?  It was a howling sound, I was sure — coyotes howling at the moon and the pin-wheel dancing sky.  And my heart, it was a happy open-hearted song it was singing and I felt in love with it all, the howling coyotes, the dancing sky, the air I was breathing.  I felt in love with life, rapturously in love with life, and with chocolate, too.  Yes, I felt in love with chocolate too.  Not just any chocolate.  Pure organic fair-trade chocolate, in roasted beans offered in a pottery bowl, and in a steaming blend of water, cocoa powder, and cayenne pepper served in handmade mugs, and in concoction after concoction of chocolate nibs and cocoa blended with spices and honey and coconut in exotic variations.  I was filled with chocolate as I walked that short magical route from Joy Center to home.

And was it the chocolate that made me feel so good, so open, so appreciative of life?  Adonna, our professor/facilitator and magician-extraordinaire of chocolate concoctions at the evening’s Chocolate as Medicine workshop had told us that, along with the antioxidants and the long list of healing properties, chocolate was filled with endorphins and I certainly was filled with rich dark pure chocolate.  So maybe it was the chocolate.  Maybe I was on a chocolate high.  Whatever it was, it stayed with me through my short night of sleep and onto the plane in the wee hours of the next morning as my husband Cam and I flew west to Boulder, Colorado for a four-day adventure celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary.  And Boulder is 5000 feet above sea level and the air is clear and sweet and the trails we hiked on each day took us through juniper and pine-scented forests and even higher into that clear thin air, and is that why the good-feeling stayed with me?  Did the altitude take over when the chocolate wore off?  Was it a Rocky Mountain High causing my euphoria?  Was that the reason I was in love with my beating-in-my-ears heart and my huff huff huffing breath and my limber legs and my sturdy big feet that stepped from Rocky Mountain rock to Rocky Mountain rock?  Was that the reason that I loved the blindingly blue sky and those snowcapped peaks more than words could ever say, why I loved that guy, too, the guy I call “my guy” who was hiking right in front of me?  Was it the altitude that had my heart all a’flutter and my head filled with euphoria?

And I wonder about the Boulder evenings too.   After our days of hiking, sun-soaked and fresh-filled with mountain air, my guy and I would head downtown, to Boulder’s pedestrian-only tree and sculpture-lined Pearl Street where the people promenade and the buskers perform their magic acts and the kids climb the rocks and scamper through the shooting-from-the-ground fountain.  And it was here, in the midst of this hustle, that the five young men and women would take out their string instruments and in front of some store would begin to play.  It was as good as chocolate.  It was as uplifting as the upward thrust up those mountain trails.  This music that washed through me in a glorious buoyant wave, swept me to a place where once again I was in love with it all:  the yogi on the other side of the rock sculpture garden twisting himself into a pretzel and squeezing himself into a tiny box, in love with the scampering kids, the lovers walking hand in hand, the guy with the cardboard sign asking for money, the crowds of people, the full moon rising up above that sweeping sound.  I’ve heard that violin music has the power to open your heart, and the full moon certainly can pull at the inner tides — and is that why I felt so good sitting on a bench on Pearl Street at the end of each day?

And who cares if it’s a chocolate high or a bout of euphoria induced by the thin air in the Rockies?  Who cares if it’s the outward gift of a string quintet or the full-rising moon?  Who cares what it is that sets are spirits flying ?!?  Aren’t we supposed to feel good?  Aren’t we supposed to sing with the coyotes and lift our eyes up to those pin-wheel spinning clouds and to the moon that is super full on a Saturday night?  Aren’t we supposed to fill ourselves up with wonder, with pleasure, with rich-tasting high-in-antioxidant treats?!?  Cam and I scrambled up the last hundred feet of jumbled rock to Lily Mountain’s ten-thousand-foot-summit, to its tiny cramped spectacular summit with its 360 degree view of snow-capped mountains and green valleys and the whole of Rocky Mountain National Park.  And as we sat there on that cramped summit, eating our lunch, admiring the view, our eyes caught something in the air, hovering in the wind, something unexpected and unbelievable.   It was a hummingbird fluttering in front of us, no flower in sight, no logical reason to be there.  The Native Americans believe that the hummingbird is a sign of happiness, an invitation to open to pleasure.  I’m glad to remember this gift that flew into our summit moment.  I’m glad to accept its invitation.  Pleasure is here for us in our foods, our music, in the very air that we breathe


Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado: August 2014

Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado: August 2014


InTune String Ensemble: Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado, August 2014

InTune String Ensemble: Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado, August 2014

Rocky Mountain High: Celebrating Our Anniversary, Rocky Mountain National Park, August 2014

Rocky Mountain High:
Celebrating Our Anniversary, Rocky Mountain National Park, August 2014


The perfect creative stance is satisfaction where I am and eagerness for more.  Abraham-Hicks

It was the weekend after Fourth of July, a Saturday evening, and the sun had just dipped over the horizon as the plane sped down the runway in Minneapolis, on this, the third leg of my travel adventure to Moscow, Idaho.  And then, just like that, the plane was airborne, its nose pointing skyward before leveling off on this perfectly-clear night and offering us, the packed-in passengers, a wide-angled view of the Twin Cities, the Mississippi, and something else, something wonderfully unexpected . . . Fireworks!!!  I couldn’t believe my good fortune!  A week earlier, my husband Cam and I had joined our son, daughter-in-law and two-year-old grandson Viren at dusk on a grassy field for our local display of fireworks, and the two of us, who hadn’t witnessed Fourth of July fireworks in years, oohed and ahhed and traced the bursting and blossoming fountains of sky-shooting color with our fingers with as much delight as our toddler grandson.  And now here they were again, first flower-shaped and large — and then we were above them and I was looking down at bursts of color and then they were gone and we were on our way.

But that wasn’t the end of it.  As we, in our Boeing 737, sailed westward through the nighttime sky among the stars and a full round moon, the country below us remained clear of clouds, and each time that we passed a town of twinkling lights, in North Dakota and all through Montana and into northern Idaho, there they were, the tiny bonfire bursts, more and more and more of them — the country lit up with post-Fourth of July fun.  Just when I thought that it must be over, that there couldn’t possibly be more, it would happen again, the sudden explosion of light, tiny now, but big enough to make me happy.  It was nearly midnight when we landed in Spokane, Washington, too late for the boom boom boom of fireworks, but not too late for another display of wonder.  As I waited for my motel shuttle outside the Spokane Airport, I looked up into the warm summery sky and there it was, suspended in front of me, that full moon that also had followed me across the country, the biggest and roundest moon I’d ever seen, something else to ooh and ahh at, something else to appreciate

Grandson Viren doesn’t quite get it yet, that there is a full moon to admire when the fireworks are over, that a good night’s sleep after witnessing that full moon is like gold in our pockets, that the sunrise the next morning can fill a person with wonder.  He dives into his present moments with gusto.  A trip to the park is heaven on earth to Viren — the curvy slide and the fast straight one, the toddler swings and the swings made for bigger bottoms, the kid-sized dragon with the friendly eyes that rocks each time you climb on its back, the metal bars that are perfect for dangling.  Why would a guy who has just turned two want to go anywhere else?!?

During the week that I spent in Idaho this past month, as Viren’s parents took possession of their new home, as Viren’s aunt and uncle — our other son and daughter-in-law — drove into town and moved into their rental cottage, it was my “job” to hang out with the little guy.  And we had a blast, Viren and I, not only at that park with the rocking dragon, but downtown, dipping our feet, then our legs on the hot hot afternoons into the icy cold fountain at the town’s center square, and on a hike at Moscow Mountain picking thimbleberries and collecting feathers and stones, in the toy store playing with the well-equipped train set, at the Food Co-op eating scrambled eggs and slurping on the smoothie called “monkey”.   We had a blast, until it was time to go, time for the next thing to emerge.  Sometimes it worked to explain to Viren that we’d be back again and that it was going to be fun, this next adventure that we were pointing our noses toward.  Sometimes we’d just wave our goodbyes and call out in our sing-song voices, “See you later, alligator!”  And sometimes we wouldn’t.  Sometimes there was flailing, and crying, and full-out refusals to budge.  Sometimes it just wasn’t easy moving forward to the next display of fireworks.

And I get it, this not wanting a good thing to be over.  At the end of the eight days in Moscow, Idaho, I said my goodbyes to our sons and their wives and that beloved grandson of ours and I headed back through the Palouse Valley to the airport in Spokane to take off on the next leg of my adventure.  I didn’t flail and I didn’t cry and I didn’t throw myself down in a refusal to budge.  I kept on driving through those ambers waves of grain, but, as I moved forward, I could feel it, an inner resistance, maybe similar to the resistance that Viren feels.  Why would a gal want to be anywhere else but here in the northwest with her family?  I called husband Cam, who had flown home to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula the day before.  “We need to buy a cottage in Moscow!”  I exclaimed into the phone.  And I meant it.  And someday we probably will.  But as the day moved forward, I did as well.  I got on that plane from Spokane to Salt Lake, and the next one to Atlanta, and, finally, as the sun was setting over Georgia, onto the third plane that headed back north up the coast to Portland, Maine, and, in the wee hours of the morning, I climbed into another rental car and traced the coast northward to the peninsula I’ve known my whole life, to a cottage that was mine for the week just two miles from our family land.

And what a week it was!!!  The ocean was at my doorstep and the salt breeze blew in through open windows and I read a whole novel and I wrote with my friend Muriel and we swam in the river and I waded each day in the waves at the state park beach.  I ate dinners on the deck of the cottage with friends and family and we watched the changing sky and the sea birds and the boats bobbing on their moorings. And at the end of the week, Cam joined me and that was sweet sweet time too and my siblings came to town and we shared raucous meals and we laughed and the sea entered my bones and I relaxed in the way that I only relax when I’m by the sea in Maine.  And why would I ever want this to end?!?  When Cam and I closed the door to the cottage that last time and headed toward the airport, I could feel it again, the resistance to what’s next.  How could it possibly be as good?!?  How could there be another display of fireworks?!?

And now I’m home again, and yesterday, the air was sweet, the way it can only be sweet in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, smelling of ferns and pine and the fresh fresh lake.  In the afternoon, Cam and I hiked the shoreline of Lake Superior from Wetmore Landing to Little Presque Isle under the tall red pines and on the sandy beach.  Cam dozed on a smooth bed of rock and I waded in the waves that were slapping the shore.  And, as I looked up into one of those pines that rise above the beach, an eagle lifted off and flew above me and I felt it, the ooh, the ahh.  There it was, something else to appreciate.  The fireworks just keep on coming!


Hanging out in downtown Moscow; some of the family, July 2014

Hanging out in downtown Moscow, Idaho; some of the family, July 2014


Maine Cottage, July 2014

Maine Cottage, July 2014


Little Presque Isle: Marquette, Michigan, Early August

Little Presque Isle: Marquette, Michigan, Early August, 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.



Fun with Fashion: 100 Day Project Update

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only.  Fashion is in the sky, in the street.  Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.  Coco Chanel

The last thing I want is to become one of those talking heads where everything is satiny smooth and you know what the next question is going to be.  Isaac Mizrahi

I tried.  I bought a sturdy square box large enough to hold the watercolor paper that I cut in various shapes.  And then I splurged on an even larger sea grass basket that could fit anything that was too bulky for my sturdy square box.  And I made up rules, to carve out time for creative play with the focus being fashion and the expectation being that something — a quote, a photo, a collage, a story, something, anything — would end up in that sturdy square box each and every day.  And, in late January, I hoisted my creative sails and set forth on the 100 Day Project, a community-wide challenge to nourish our inner artists and relish the creative process.  Although my journey is unique, my focus and rules, my own, I am not alone.  Well over one hundred other people have also signed up and are in the midst of their individual 100-Day adventures.  I’m not sure how the rest of my fellow sailors are faring as they navigate these creative waters.  I can only report from the deck of my own creative vessel.  And I can tell you that I was way off course to think that the fun that I’m having could be stuffed into a sturdy square box or a larger sea grass basket.

Sure, I’ve complied by my rules.  As of today, when I peek into the 100-Day box, I see the stack of sixty-five sheets of watercolor paper, each one adorned with a daily dose of creativity.  There are quotes on some, collages cut out of catalogues on others, photos I’ve taken as near to home as Joy Center in my own back yard and as far away as Paris.  There are packing list-mini-sketches that I’ve drawn for each of the trips that I’ve journeyed on in the last sixty-five days, and there is an article torn from the pages of the New Yorker that inspires me to see the whole world as fashion.  And therein lies the challenge.  I do see the whole world as fashion.  And how can you press that into a page and stuff it into a box with a lid?  My project has turned out to be so much more than my daily snippets can possibly illustrate.

A trip to a boutique, either my favorite hometown outdoor shop or a store I discover while venturing forth on a trip faraway opens up a whole ocean of possibilities far too big to express on a piece of watercolor paper.  As soon as I climb into my rental car after landing in Portland, Maine, I steer myself down to the waterfront, find a parking spot, and walk up the narrow cobbled street to Bliss, one of my favorite boutiques in the world.  I do this every time I travel east to visit family and friends, and I did this in late January just days after starting the 100-day project.  When I enter the space and see the way the clothes, gorgeous clothes in natural fibers, are displayed, I am in bliss.  I can hardly contain myself.  Boutiques are like treasure chests for me.  I don’t know what I’m going to find, but I anticipate that it will be wonderful and I know that the journey is going to be fun.  There is the perusing and the choosing and the trying on.  There is the connection with the people that I meet and I always seem to meet the most fabulous of fashion playmates.  On that wintery trip east, I not only played at Bliss, but at a boutique a few days later in my birth town of Bath.  It was my maiden voyage to this particular store and the treasure was bountiful, in the displays of sweaters and skirts and dresses in soft wintery wools and gem-like hues, and in the interchange with the store’s owner.  We bubbled as we spoke, and that bubbly good feeling, it’s a breath of fresh air on a salty sea and how do you paste that onto a page and put it in your box of fashion clippings?

Some things do make it into the box.  There are the photos — the ones that I’ve been snapping with my trusty cell phone’s camera.   Many of them have found their way into my project.  But what about the energy and the stories behind these photos?  How do you bottle that up?  I photographed my Writing Sister, Holly, at our five-women retreat in Healdsburg, California, just days after the trip to Maine.  Her hair swept back in a carefree ponytail, she is smiling into the camera and looking fit in her brightly-colored boldly-patterned Desigual-designed long-sleeve T-shirt, the T-shirt that she bought at the airport in Barcelona.  It is a photo of a strong empowered woman.  However, her story, the one of walking, one step in front of the other, all the way across Spain last September, one challenge, one joy, one hardship, one moment and then the next, for 800 kilometers on the El Camino pilgrimage route, the story that she shared in her own snapshots and poems and vignettes just moments before she posed for my photo, that’s what set my sails flying, that’s what made me feel alive.   And that’s just one example, one photo.  I’ve taken dozens.

One day back in February, I found myself watching a Ted Talk over and over.  I do that sometimes, watch something in repetition until it soaks into the very fiber of my being.  I call it my artistic/autistic mode.  I couldn’t get enough of of this particular talk.  As I puttered in the kitchen, I immersed myself in this presentation by the fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.  And what I was so intently drawn into with my single-focus was his multiple-focus.  He was all over the board, scattered like a sea breeze above a choppy sea.  It was alive, this talk, and his life seemed alive too — funny and poignant and full of creative movement.  The talk wasn’t boring and his life wasn’t boring.  He wasn’t just designing clothes.  He was creating talk shows and cabaret acts.  He was dabbling and dashing and splashing color into his moments.  His life and his projects, they certainly didn’t fit into a box.

And my life and my projects, they don’t fit into a box either.  There is just no way to make this 100-Day Project neat and tidy.  It is as windy-day scattered as Isaac’s Ted Talk, and it certainly isn’t boring.  There’s the quest for the dress.  I’ve searched the teeny boutiques in Paris’ Marais District and the local winter farmer’s market for the perfect-feeling mother-of-the-groom dress for my son’s May wedding and I have found two contenders, one Paris loose and flow-y, one Upper Peninsula wool and silken and handmade stunning.  I’ve rolled down my car window on wintery snowy days and hollered out to people walking by that they are looking great.  I’ve even walked the red carpet.  That’s right.  The red carpet.  In Moscow, Idaho, in early March, with a stuffy nose and very little make-up and the clothes that I’d worn on a hiking trip just hours earlier, I, along with my daughter-in-law, seized the opportunity of a lifetime as we stepped out of the car and into a Hollywood moment.  We gave it all that we had.  And then we, along with college professors and cowboys and students, made our way over that red carpet and into the local downtown theater where we watched, on the big screen, all the glitter and the glamor of Hollywood at the Academy Awards.  And there is just no way to stuff any of that back into a box.


At the Oscars: Moscow, Idaho, March 2, 2014

At the Oscars: Moscow, Idaho, March 2, 2014

A Weekend in Paris

If we rush through life, we’re likely to miss the sweet moments that offer the only real thing we are here to experience: joy.  Ellen Yeoman

Every step I take in the light is mine forever.  Vivekananda

“We have all the time we need!”  I say it in yoga, session after session, and I feel it in a genuine full-bodied way as we lie on our backs, knees bent, feet planted in the ground, legs swaying side to side.  We have all the time we need, no reason to rush through the poses, to leap ahead to something that isn’t even present in this present moment.  I say it and I believe it and yet there are times that my days are so packed that I can’t imagine how I’m going to fit it all in and I often don’t and it never really matters anyway.  And perhaps it takes a weekend away, say a weekend in Paris, to remind a gal that what is true on the yoga mat is also true while living and breathing and moving through the moments and hours and days and years of a lifetime or two lifetimes  or three lifetimes or more.  “We have all the time we need!”

“It’s not long enough!” some of our friends exclaimed when we told them about this getaway to Paris that my husband and I had planned for the last weekend in February.  But it never seemed that way to us, this four-day jaunt across the Atlantic.  And perhaps that is one of the mind games that we humans can play to create a spacious life.  Cam and I  knew, for some reason, just knew that we were going to have all the time we needed.  We expected the two and a half days in the City of Lights  to open up for us.  And they did!  And frankly, even with this expectation, I was amazed at how they did.

Our initial flight this past Wednesday was set back a few hours, our connections messed up, and we didn’t even arrive in the center of Paris until the early evening on Thursday, and, yet, those hours on Thursday evening stretched out wide and slowed us down and glimmered with light and somehow we fit it all in, the list of things that we didn’t even know we had compiled.  We strolled along the banks of the Seine as the sun sunk down and the city lights sprung to life.  We stepped through the massive entry into the Cathedral Notre Dame and hushed our voices and felt the centuries slip away.  We wandered through the medieval cobblestone streets of the Ile St-Louis, gazed into the windows of the gray-stone shops, oohed and ahhed at display after display of candies and pastries and stuffed animals and puppets and hats and sweaters and scarves and shoes, each one, a magnificent work of art.  And, after a dinner on the Isle, we bought a lock from a young man on the bridge, wrote our names, “Helen and Cam”, in blue marker on the lock’s gleaming surface, clasped it shut onto the chain of millions of clasped locks woven through the bridge’s metal sides, tossed the keys into the gleaming nighttime river and kissed just as the young man instructed.  It was wonderful, this kiss on the bridge, this evening in Paris.  And the next day, there was more, the miles and miles of walking, slow and easy at times, brisk and spring-like at other times, a morning exploring the Marais, a noon-time meal at a cafe, another jaunt along the River Seine and through the grounds of the Louvre, winding and weaving and making our way over the river on Pont Alexander III to my favorite spot of all, the one that I’ve known my whole life, the Eiffle Tower.

And you might say, “Well, of course the time is going to open up for you in a place as magnificent as Paris!  Of course, life is going to be magnificent in this City of Magnificence!”  And I would say back to you that it wasn’t all magnificent, that there were moments of minor horror.  There was the moment, a shared moment for my guy and I, at the little restaurant of crepes, a place we thought we had remembered from our first visit to Paris seven years ago, that moment when we, hungry after a day of travel, bit into our buckwheat crepes that looked so good on the outside, only to discover that wrapped on the inside of each was an almost raw and very slimy egg and a layer of creamy canned-seeming spinach, and, in Cam’s case, a long skinny hot dog that was totally unexpected.  Do we still  have all the time we need when our food choices miss the mark?  When our life choices miss the mark?  Can we remind ourselves that there is another cafe, another bistro, another meal, another chance to get it right?  On this trip or the next or the next?  And, can we allow those moments when we don’t think that we’ve gotten it right, can we allow them to be perfect just as they are?  Can it become a highlight of a trip to laugh at the meals that disappoint?  At the moments that aren’t up to our feel-good standard?  Why not?!?  And can we bring this reminder home with us in the bags we’ve packed with the goodies of Paris?

And what about the two full days of getting there and getting back home again?   When a guy and a gal commit to a weekend trip abroad with the expectation that they are going to have all the time that they need, then the hours, the many many hours spent in airport lounges and in the airwaves better be a positive part of this experience.  We’re good travel companions, my guy and I.  We know how to charge through airports when charging is required, how to be silly when over-tiredness is begging for a deep full-bodied laugh, how to haul out the chocolate when a jolt of endorphins is the ticket to happiness.  We know how to play together and how to give each other space.  And all of these things came in handy during our weekend adventure.   And so did the sky lounges on either side of the trip.  Dare I say that two of our best meals were at European airport sky lounges, that the adventure of watching the Olympics from a European perspective in the lounges was a thrill?  Dare I say that it was fun, this time in airports and in the air, that we watched a movie together as we sailed through the sky toward home, that we got downright stupid in our silliness, that it’s with us now a day later, all the richness of this trip?

I do dare to say it, that we can we can tell ourselves that we have all the time we need, that our moments can open up, full-bodied and spacious and fun, that we can be gentle with ourselves, relax our shoulders and soften our to-do lists, that we can allow our days, the ones spent at home and the ones spent traveling to faraway lands, to unfold in ways that surprise and delight us.

Our first selfie:  Cam and Helen at Eiffel Tower: Paris, February 21, 2014

Our first selfie: Cam and Helen at Eiffel Tower: Paris, February 21, 2014

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