A minute ago, a glance at the woods outside my window was clear and now tiny white specks are falling from the sky like powdered sugar shook through a sieve. All I see is covered in a dusting of tiny white specks. There is a soft sweetness that comes over me when I watch snowflakes that fall in straight and true lines from above.
The snow comes after a sharp cold snap. The bitter cold reminded me to appreciate the warmth in life. In words, deeds, the saffron orange flames lapping at the wood stove glass and snowflakes floating down like powdered sugar.
Below is an excerpt from the book I wrote, Sweet Wisdoms. The piece was written during a grueling period of below zero temperatures that stretched all living creatures to the limits of their breaking point.
Keep a warm heart in a cold world and you won’t become a bitter person.
Here in Wisconsin, it’s freeze-your-nose-hairs-together and turn-your-whiskers-frosty kind of weather. As I make my morning rounds of chores, I keep pulling my hat down and my long underwear up! You can feel the landscape’s bones on these sharp cold days. I delight in the simplicity of winter~ stay warm. Bitter cruel cold, you can’t make me a bitter cruel cold person!
An empty kindling bucket lead to a lesson in mindfulness this morning. It didn’t take long to remember how attentive and alert you have to be when your splitting kindling with a hand ax. I never lost awareness of where my fingers were or the steadiness of the piece of wood that the ax was about to come down on. After filling two kindling buckets I was darn near a Buddhist monk!
It only takes a few minutes of mindful motion to feel a peaceful energetic recharge. Not only does it balance the mind and body but it can make you more aware of when you are becoming imbalanced.
An empty life can fill with meaning as painlessly as two kindling buckets with a mindful practice. Maybe it’s time to ask yourself like the wonderful children’s book, “Have you filled your bucket today?”
You don’t live life standing still. Witness its sacred motion and it won’t pass you by.
As I walked toward the frosty field the crisp freshness of a mid-November morning burst open inside me. The moist air’s sweetness so thick I could taste it on the way in and out. I momentarily felt suspended in the energetic exchange. I felt the breath give me life.
Every breath we take has that sacred feeling within it. We simply aren’t aware of it. Isn’t it ironic that we were created to not give a thought about breathing but that we can’t go without a thought until we think about it?
With the next breath the feeling of aliveness was gone. I tried to get it back but my mind got in the way of my mindfulness. What to do but walk on and as Mary Oliver wrote, “Breathe it all in and love it all out.”
My thoughts wondered, perhaps this breath of air once crossed the sea or through the needle of a White Pine tree and now me. The wind on its timeless travel through the eons carries with it the gift of sacred motion and change. Each breath an invitation to the Spirits of the elements to re-establish a relationship with our soul center. To remember the earth and the stars lives in us. To remember life can change in an instant.
Created within our breath is the sacred space between being and becoming. Honor this place of wisdom by following the feeling of breathing. Breath your Spirit into the world. Let the wind of the soul travel through the Universe. Be inhaled by the cosmic lungs and exhaled into the Great Mystery. You are the breath of life
Rainy fall Saturdays put me in the mood to bake. It’s the rest year for our apple orchard but hidden among the Wolf River and Cortland branches I managed to find a five-gallon pail full. Enough for a batch or two of applesauce and a family favorite, Apple Cinnamon Cake. I don’t know of anyone whose dull spirit isn’t polished to a shine when the scent of apple and cinnamon greets them at the door of home. Perfect choice for the mood my relative, Weather, is in.
While the apple cake was baking, I decided to string up the onions I had laid out on the dining room table to dry for a few days now. I hang the onion string in my kitchen. Easy access and I think they are pretty.
I struggled with tying them at first. But then I began to tie them like my prayer ties. A loop knot slipped over each dried tip. Each onion is now a prayer for our family; good health and well-being, peace, joy, laughter, abundance, good relationships. I’ll probably wonder which prayer the onion I’m using is and cry while I’m wondering. The purest form of prayer is crying.
As I stood back to admire the onion prayer tie’s prettiness a teaching came. I’m going to have to use whatever onion is at the end of the string. No picking through them. Just like life you have to take it as it comes. One onion at a time. Layer by layer.
Thick drop of honey—
What flower do you taste of?
All of them at once.
Like a river of sun, the honey pours from the extruder’s spigot. I’m preoccupied licking sticky places on my hands and forearms but I pause to be fully present during this glorious moment overflowing with gratitude.
From a summer of frequent rain came unrelenting blooms. From unrelenting blooms came an abundance of life’s sweetness. I taste it in friendship, in a sunrise, in a soft-spoken word of encouragement, in a door held open, in a smile… kindness sticks sweet to everything it touches. Bee kind.
* If you look closely at the featured image you will see the honey bee on the sunflower 🙂
On a recent day trip to Door County with my family I found a heart stone along the path we hiked. My daughter Sophie found one a little further down the trail. Seeing a heart shape in anything sends an immediate surge of love through me. Love is a universal language all of creation speaks.
Caressing those two heart shaped stones in my pocket made me stop and think about all the experiences, people and beliefs that have shaped my life. Some were wild scribbles. Others intrigue beautiful designs. None of which can be erased. The shape of my life effects everything around me. Whether that’s positive or negative is up to me.
As Sophie heads off to college I know the shape her life takes is in her heart. She just needs to follow it.
I see past your words
I feel what you are saying
Shape words into love
Early in its life a rabbit nibbled away the tender bark at the trunk base. Exposing a swath of naked wood, the length of a fully extended rabbit body nearly all around the tiny trunk. I did my best to care for the wound. No apples this year but she lived.
A late Spring cold snap brought snow. Delicate blooms fragrant and supple the day before were now vacant of scent. Frozen stiff. Some leaves anxious to begin again followed the sun’s subtle cue to unfold. The cold hardness of the world nipped the new growth. When touched the scarred tips disintegrated into a brown powder. The potential to taste pie crumbled like the dry brown leaf tip pressed between my fingers. I witnessed the vulnerability of opening. I witnessed how not to let the hardness of the world stop you from growing. No apples this year but she lived.
By all appearances last summer seemed to be the year we’d taste pie! July brought pests of biblical proportions, hell-bent on devouring every last tree in the orchard. The August sun melted summer’s green into the earth. Each day the mother tree struggled to continue her simple life. Beneath her laid the enormity of her sacrifice to do just that. Dozens of immature apples carpeted the ground. To sacrifice is to make sacred. I knew one day I’d harvest apples. The only question was when. The horses appreciated the taste of apple. No apples for pie this year but she lived.
Last week I made two pies with apples from the Prairie Spy tree in our orchard. As I peeled and sliced the sweetness of life in my hands, I reflected on the tree’s many teachings over the years. What I saw was pie. Potential In Everything life takes from us to give us what we need to grow.
And that first bite…heaven never tasted so good.
I woke before the sun kissed the sky good morning. Picked the blueberry patch at first light. Deep blue bodies shrouded in a soft silvery veil covered the bushes. Raspberries ready to burst dangled on tall stems in wide rows barely hanging on. I willed them to wait until I finished the blueberry patch. Here and there an impatient branch bowed over the guide wire as if to say, “Pick me first, pick me now!” Dew drops heavy with wetness washed me with cool refreshment. Every other day for the last 8 weeks I’ve began my day in this patch to ponder thoughts. Any thought about anything that was ripe and ready to be picked.
This year’s berry harvest looks to be a bucket buster. Easy pick’n. As I gently fingered and freed the soft blue beads hiding among their Mother’s maze of twigs and leaves, gratitude ripened in me. Like the plump berries, gratitude has to be harvested, picked and plucked in an untroubled manner from our day to nourish our Spirit. It feeds our heart sweet juicy joy — a heart harvest.
My heart harvest is for…
my horses for feeding the earth what they could no longer use
a strong back bone to pile up what my horses piled up over the winter
the creepy crawlies that feasted on the compost transforming it into rich ground
all the natural elements for breaking down to build up
a strong backbone to haul the rich ground to the bushes
the magic of bees to turn blooms into berries
water living its life through all of us
hours of conversation shared between a Mother, the bushes and her almost 20 year old daughter—pure delight
the time spent with the Mother bushes to pick patches of thought to ponder
that Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake on the countertop
that taste of summer frozen in the basement freezer
Don’t let a patch of gratitude go to waste. Make your heart harvest a bucket buster.
It has been an unusually soggy summer here in Northeast Wisconsin. Both in rain and humidity. Instead of making 2nd or 3rd crop this time of year, most farmers are just getting off 1st crop. The worry that comes with the struggle to harvest hay was getting real. That was until a four day break in the weather was forecast two weeks ago. How quickly lack can turn into abundance if we are willing to cease the opportunity….even if it means a whole lot of hard work. The inspiration for this piece.
Bronze skin leather tough
Drenched in salty drops
I drink in the sky
Prayers pour out of my heart
Machinery and God be merciful
Long windrows lay ready to make perfect hay
Keep breakdowns and tears of dark clouds away
Bound tight with twine square bales bulge
Full wagons waddle over the bald field
Winter’s hunger aches for your green
As stars usher in night’s moist breath
I walk up to the house feeling spiritually quenched
Exhausted muscles and mind rest peacefully in gratitude’s joy
Hard work fears me
What I am is a short, stocky white women of Polish descent with silver hair. The what is external. Who I am is a strong women that knows her worth, whose Spirit travels the Red Road with an open heart and mind. The who is internal.
Understanding the distinction between the two can be difficult. The mind only sees the what in our relatives. To know who people are you have to open the eyes in your heart. Those eyes are accepting and compassionate. They give us keen (in)sight.
Vision from this powerful place of perception, where the eyes of our heart and mind see as one, we see through humanness. We begin to appreciate others for who they are.
We remember how to be a good relative.