Winter Walk

I’ve returned home from a long walk
in Winter’s night
along the woodland’s dark edge
a place where shadows play with one’s imagination

Peaceful scents of pine escape from emerald green needles
enclosed in the wind’s frosty breath
drifting past my rosy running nose
Every last whiff I sniff

Covered by a moonbeam cloak of sequins,
the mesmerizing landscape twinkles in
the mind’s wide open eye

Wakened from a whisper on the wind
forgotten promises remembered
surely Winter, with its pure white heart,
would not be unforgiving.

Clear and cold, attention starved thoughts
a constant companion
no turning back now
I follow where they go
down and deep
up and away

Winter nights walk stillness inward
where I hear silence speak
in a soft slow voice
of wonderful things

Feeling warm, cozy and comfortable
with myself
I turn towards home
I’ve returned to my heart

Compass

Live water
cradle of life
forever and ever live

Speak wind
voice of Spirit
quiet the mind’s tongue
touch our attention
so we hear your counsel

Reach sun
warm distant souls
turn their faces
towards the light

Love earth
Mother that carries life
all we need to live
forgive us

Think mind
know your thoughts
be free

Open heart
close the wounds
of humanity
heal us

Creator
help us remember
how to be a good relative
help us

Heart Speak

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.

Heart Speak

I see past your words
I feel what you are saying
Shape words into love

Holy Harmony

What ear doesn’t turn towards the winged-one’s song thick in the March air?
Passionate chords strung together on heart strings,
hoping to snare a mate.

On a limb touching the sky I see him.
His crisp crimson outline easy to spot against the drab scenery.
His whole body reverberates the rapture in each note.
The beat found in nature’s pounding chest.
I pause.

Such intensity.

I wonder, could it be a primordial song of survival?
I feel the lifeless unborn come alive.
That’s what spring does.
It saturates the world with fresh life.
Soak in the song of rebirth.

I thought of St. Augustine who said, “He who sings, prays twice.”
Listen for the holy harmony around you.
You will hear singing from your heart.

Ready For Anything

With good reason, many Wisconsinites are agonizing over the blast of Siberian like cold passing through the region. Temperatures with the wind chill plummeted to 50 below zero in parts of the state last night, creating exasperating problems in our daily existence. We have descended downward to temperatures that could surely freeze hell over.

Dressed in the wool of two sheep, I found myself sweating before I finished feeding and watering the horses. At times, being over-prepared can be no better than being under-prepared. Sweating was my body’s voice of common sense, telling me to restore the balance between the outside and inside climates. Taking two sheep’s worth of sweaty wool clothing off was more of a relief than the warmth that consoled me at the wood stove. Extreme cold weighs heavy on the mind and body. Clothing adjustments will be made, a last minute decision to throw on a pair of ski goggles— borderline genius.

I am grateful for the bitter cold’s wide opening to feel compassion’s inexhaustible warmth. Folks are filling bird feeders, checking on the elderly and helping each other, two-legged and four, survive the cold. Duchess my 23 years wise Pinto mare, insists on standing outside. Even though I’ve hung two heat lamps in the shelter and laid down a good two feet of shavings on the floor. I did blanket her, more for my comfort than hers. She spent most of the night standing in the shelter of spruce trees bordering the pasture; out of the wind, underneath the light of stars, in a good two feet of snow. Who am I to argue against 23 years of horse sense?

I am also thankful that the jet of glacial cold is forecast to leave the area tomorrow afternoon. By the weekend, meteorologists predict the temperature to be in the upper thirties. Mother Nature’s playground is the weather and she has two pieces of equipment in it, swings and teeter-totters.

I am walking in two winters, one outside and one inside. How well I can balance the climate changes in each has intense implications on my life. Winter invites us to explore the hidden closets old thoughts get hung up in and forgotten. Temperature fluctuations outside, mood swings inside, both create chaotic conversation within us. We become uncomfortable but they are necessary to “feel” what we’re wearing. Adaptability is fundamental to restoring balance in one’s life. It is the sheer definition of preparedness— for anything!

Recipes for Love

Ever holiday I find myself seated at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, sifting through a drawer of recipes. The search is as much for family recipes as it is for memories. It doesn’t take long before I find them both.

Before my Mom and Aunties passed they gifted me a few of their kitchen secrets and well-used kitchen items. There’s Busha’s (Grandma’s) hand-forged, three pronged fork. The stubby handle fits perfectly in the palm of a hand when cutting in shortening. Busha cooked on a woodstove. Any meal was a laborious monumental task. I don’t think the stove was ever cold to the touch.

I treasure Mom’s solid wood rolling pin and flour sack towels. Mom always rolled out her dough on a well floured flour sack. Thin from two generations of washings, I handle them with extreme care and use them exclusively for rolling out dough. To find one of Mom’s recipes with actual conventional measurement is not the norm. Her measurements were by feel or taste. It’s probably why Mom would call me up to come over and “watch” her make something. She would often tell me, “I’m not going to live forever. If you want to learn how to make this keep watching.” I’m glad I did so her love can nourish the next generation.

There’s Auntie Anna’s substantially cracked and chipped blue speckled enamelware pan. It must have been a favorite based on its condition. I’m so happy she held on to it and passed it on to me. Believe it or not nothing ever sticks to that pan! Auntie Anna’s cooking instructions were loud, clear and concise. Her stern direction carried over from her many years running the kitchen for the local church’s annual picnic.

Then there’s Auntie Rosie’s titanic sized cast iron frying pan. In her later years, arthritis prevented her from lifting the heavy weight. The pan than became a permanent fixture on her stove-top. Cleanup was a wipe or two with a paper towel. Still is.

I can’t forget Auntie Vickey’s delectable dessert recipes. The handwritten recipes have yellowed with age. Torn edges of the fragile paper taped together several times. The tape too has yellowed. A busy farmer’s wife, Auntie Vickey’s countertops and kitchen table held much of the overflow from her cupboards. She could make a meal fit for king in minutes!

If you haven’t guessed, I am descended from a long line of amazing Polish women that knew their way around a kitchen. Ever since I’ve been old enough to hold a  wooden spoon in my hand, they pressed me into service at some task that was age appropriate. Any gathering of the family cooks ended with a meal. Crumbs on the table were never casually wiped to the floor. Licked fingers firmly pressed the bits against the tabletop. The finger with moist crumbs attached was promptly licked clean. Ever last crumb of life’s deliciousness was savored.

The strong Polish women in my life grew up in a generation that didn’t say, “I love you,” out loud very often, if ever. Words of love may have not been shared but what they did share was the recipe’s to taste it. What else could be created in the heart of the home—the kitchen—but love?

Sweet Drops

By the shift in the winds direction and speed I can tell the weather is about to change abruptly. The sky’s sunny disposition is no match for the clouds angry demeanor. As Wally and I make a bee line for the shelter of the shed they come, sweet drops of rest.

I take a seat on an overturned pail near the open shed door, peering through the curtain of rain. Wally waltzes over for a scratch behind the ear then lies on my feet. The distinct odor of wet lab cuts through the scent of fresh rain. I breathe in both deeply. There we sit, work waiting, listening to the peaceful rhythm of the rain. Peaceful because there is no hay cut or seed to put in the ground.  Rain and I have a fluid relationship. To a farmer rain can be a curse and a blessing. Weather is a master at teaching acceptance. Over the years, I’ve learned to move with the rhythm of the rain.

While thoughts tossing and turning in my mind are put to sleep by the rain’s song, I feel content. We control uncontrollable circumstances by choosing how we cope with them. Today, I’m choosing to sit and listen to the sweet drops of wisdom coming to rest in my soul.