Very Cold & Snow

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I woke to bone-chilling cold and a bit of snow on the ground. The sun, before being seen, announced its presence by coloring wisps of pale pink clouds. As the sun continued to rise, the light-floating clouds lost their color against the thin blue of the winter cold sky. The clouds seemed anemic after shedding the weight of the snow they had been carrying.

I sat in my favorite reading chair in my small room listening to the silence. I am familiar with the silence of cold and snow, and this silent cold seeped through the windowpanes to my right, not respecting the boundary between outside and in. The silence of inside was punctuated by the clinks and clunks of the heat ducts as they rested between attempts to push back the cold. I know when it is more-than-cold outside because that cold has more power than any form of heat but the sun. And soon the cold joined forces with a wind that howled and growled around the corner of the house and onto the porch to overpower the promise of sun-warmth. Late morning we ventured out into the battle in an attempt to say we wouldn’t stop our life for nature’s display of brutal strength, but we were humbled.

In the dawning-day hours, though, I enjoyed the silence of the tempered cold as I sat in my chair by the east-facing window. I held my warm mug of chi tea between my hands and against my chest so the warmth seeped into my soul. As I sipped, letting the tingle of spices and softness of cream linger on my tongue, I watched the white light of morning sun, softened through slatted blinds, drift across purple wall and artwork, lamp and bookcase – illuminating memories of a life lived with joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, pain and pleasure, brokenness and redeeming love.

Who Do I Write For?

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Harvested winter wheat field aglow in the morning sun.

I have had a half-baked post in my brain, about summer and time warp, there since Julie and I did a morning meandering down dirt roads a couple of weeks ago. But I haven’t been able to get it beyond the half-baked stage into something worth publishing, even though I jotted down notes in one of the many notebooks I purchased as incubators for those great ideas that aren’t fully developed and to jot down important things I need to remember – if only I could remember in which notebook I committed the ideas that used to be so important.

A few nights ago I lay back on my pillow with Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual and reread a few pages. I was reading from the perspective of writing for my blog and had to stop after he asked who my reader is, as I couldn’t answer. My professional career involved reams of technical writing and I always knew who my reader would be – students, faculty, accreditation personnel, administrators. It was also very clear what my purpose for writing was. But with creative writing I am never sure who would want to read a post about summer and time warp, and even worst I’m not sure why I should even write it – so I fluffed my pillow and decided to sleep on the questions of readers and purpose. But the morning light didn’t bring answers.

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Concord Mill Pond no longer clothed in spring green.

I knew, however, that I wanted to write about how disoriented I felt on a middle of July morning as we stopped to take photos along gravel roads. As I spent time walking around, with camera in hand, I felt the full-summer morning spreading out around me. The trees are a dark green that is vibrant, full of the activity of producing oxygen as it cleans the air of hydrogen. It is quieter on a country mid-summer morning. The birds have finished their noisy mating rituals and now all I hear are a few twitters as birds quietly tell each other the important news of the day. This gentleness is broken by the distant piercing call of a crow, pleasant only because it is familiar and a part of summer landscape. It is my hunch that the crow is calling the corn to grow into harvest time. Occasionally I hear the soft hum or clicking of insects, but when the temp heats up later in the afternoon, summer is filled with the high-pitched buzzing of the cicada. And at each stop we feel the sun a little hotter on our skin, in competition with the cool breeze that is lingering from the nighttime.

When did this summer happen? Why was I experiencing this time warp? My brain holds 70 years of experiences of the joy and freedom of green Julys – against the backdrop of experiencing the exertion and confinement of living in winter. My senses understand the subtle and not so subtle changes that take place as this part of the earth transitions between seasons but this year I missed the transition from spring to summer.

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Blackberries beginning to ripen.

My time-warp was because of a two-week cold with a touch of bronchitis. I felt the cold symptoms disappear on day 14 but the debilitating fibromyalgia fatigue stretched on for another two weeks. I didn’t have symptoms of illness but I would stand up to do something, walk out of the room I was in, and sit down in the next room. As I checked e-mails I would nod off, so I went to bed for a four hour nap in the middle of the day, sometimes almost merging with a late afternoon hour of sleep. I would sit on my purple porch swing, looking over my garden, thinking about the work I didn’t have the energy to do. Maybe it was mental fog that kept me from recognizing the transition between the spring blooms that needed dead-heading and the blossoms of early summer. I was so absorbed by my fatigue that I missed the passing of spring.

I know why summer surprised me, but I am still thinking about why I write and post photographs and who I imagine my reader to be. Sometimes I write something political with the purpose of formulating and expressing my thinking and maybe of influencing my readers’ thinking. It’s the same reason I talk with friends about current events; to validate my perception of what is going on around me, to experience the comradery of having shared beliefs or experiences, or to share alternative ways of thinking and influence others.

Most of the time, however, I write to share my past and present experiences of living, my experiences of pleasure and pain. Kooser writes that people who say that they write for themselves instead of an audience are wrong. I agree somewhat, because if I wrote just for myself I would never post and I would burn all my journals. I do write for the joy I get from finding the words to express what is going on within me, I write for myself to sort out my feelings and to heal. I know that I do it to heal because when I go back to those earlier writings, I recognize that I am reading from a new and healthier perspective. Sometimes I cry as I read the pain and courage of very difficult days in past years. But there is also a joy that comes from finding words written long ago that describe love and friendship, beauty and goodness. I experience a pleasure of recognition and the thrill of enjoying words I carefully selected to express who I was, who I am.

I also write for others. I write because I want someone else to know what I am thinking and who I am. I write so we can connect, so I don’t feel isolated. When you read what I write I am hoping you will recognize a bit of your own experience and we can find a thread of our shared humanity. I feel good when you click the “like” button because it tells me that on some level you enjoyed what I shared or it resonated with you. I feel even better when you write comments about how that thread of shared humanity gently tugged at you, and you share a piece of your story. I look forward to these shared moments after I do a post. It is also why I enjoy reading what others write and post. I especially enjoy responding about a memory your post pulled up in me or the excitement of new thoughts that your words triggered.

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Queen Anne’s Lace whispering to me that it is summer.

Most of us have never met but we can connect through my words so maybe I don’t have to be able to visualize your face for you to be my reader because I know you exist. We have become a web of pen-pals and we need each other to make our world a beautiful place to live.

These Words are Haunting Me

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Japanese symbol denying access

“Many people feel powerless in our society, but if you can put 750 to 800 words together in cohesive and intelligent fashion, you can publish your views in the New York Times and influence millions of people, perhaps change the course of events and history.  You only have one vote as a citizen, but with your words you can transform the world around you. It’s a very powerful tool.”   Smith, Molly (2005).  Live & Learn, VOl 4 # 3.

Inspired by Ailsa’s Travel Theme word of Inspiration.

Starting Over

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Wake up Lazy Cat

I think I have to admit that I’m a lazy person. I haven’t always been like this – I worked really hard in my younger days. I accomplished a lot when I was working, building an academic program into a large, respected and accredited educational major. I, along with my wonderful husband, raised three children adults and I earned several university degrees while doing this. But now I feel lazy and this is tearing me apart and tearing me up.

I retired three years ago and life has changed a lot. As I wrote elsewhere, I didn’t want to retire but had to because of low energy and chronic pain, and I’ve come to terms with that. I am very happy being retired and don’t have any desire to work except for doing a little contract work here and there – and my desire for this is diminishing. I’m very selective. But I can’t shake the feeling that my life lacks meaning.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

This was a recent Goodreads’ quote of the day and it speaks to my discontent. The one that says, “What is the purpose of my life… now?” My faith in God has been central in my life for a long, long time and while I was working I looked to God for guidance – I still do. I believed that God’s purpose for my life was to give students a quality education, especially students who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get one and who want to make the world a better place. I looked to God to give me what I needed to make it through each day and to do right – I still look to God but I don’t know what to do that is good and useful and right. I still want to make the world a better place, but…

I had a conversation with friend Kerry, back when I was unhappy about having to retire and he was oh-so-ready. I explained that for me, doing so many of the things people like to do when they retire, like day trips and volunteering, were very difficult. If I had the energy to do those things, I would still be working. I have active days that are happy days but I have to plan on the following day being very quiet and, well, lazy.

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth. (Alan Wilson Watts)

I’ve been trying to redefine myself. I have thought about the lack of meaning in my life for close to a year now. I even thought about giving up and just accepting that life is just about living, nothing more. I had one of my eyeball-to-eyeball conversations with God and I think I heard that I am to enjoy life. Maybe I didn’t hear right – maybe it was just my own voice echoing this nonsense. I still believe I have a lot to give but I haven’t found a way to use those talents in a way that is compatible with how I have learned to live with my body and helps me feel useful. I know that I enjoy thinking, teaching, writing, photography, blogging – all things I have been doing. My interaction with all of you has brought me great joy – but can I find meaning? Is it enough to bring pleasure to people as I share my neighborhoods and travel experiences with you?

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I really have a lot of fun posting photography because it is popular and gets a lot of traffic, especially through the challenges that I participate in. I admit that it is rewarding to see the “likes” add up and to read your comments. I think, however, I need to balance this form of “instant gratification” with some posts that involve writing. I know a lot about the human experience. I have written a few posts on my experience with chronic pain and finding a new way of living – like this post. These posts receive fewer “likes” but also seem to touch those few of you more deeply.

I think I can find meaning in sharing my perspective on life’s joys and challenges as I am starting anew each day. I can draw on my professional wisdom to write about my todays that build on the best and worst of my past. I wrote previously that I remember my past but live each day as a new day. You know, that is what we do every day of our life. We start over, we start anew. And maybe, just maybe, what I have to say about my “new-day-built-upon-yesterdays” will resonate with what you have to say and we will build a dialogue. There, that feels good!

What about the lazy part? Well, this post has been bouncing around in my brain for a couple of weeks but I had been too lazy to put forth the effort to write it. Writing in a way that is clear and concise and engaging is really, really hard. But I am feeling really fulfilled now that I am putting the finishing touches on this post. God never told me life would be easy but maybe she was right – that I am just supposed to enjoy life at this phase of my life-cycle. This means that maybe I can make a difference through my blogging if I am willing to do the hard work that brings joy to my life. I can start over – while building on my yesterdays.

The “Daily Post Challenge – Starting Over” was what got me off my rear end to write this post. You can find out more about it and join the fun by clicking here.