Always a frontier

The American West, somewhere between California and Wyoming, 2004

The American West, somewhere between California and Wyoming, 2004

“Where there is an open mind there will always be a frontier.”Charles F. Kettering

I admire the courage of those who venture into new territory.  From the explorers of ancient times up through the astronauts of today, we have always needed trailblazers who are willing to lead the way into an unknown future.  So much that we take for granted was made possible by those who have gone ahead of us and created  paths.

There are all kinds of pioneers.  When our younger son was five years old, special education was relatively new, and normally it was confined to self-contained classrooms in specific schools.  Our son began kindergarten at his home school as one of the first students with significant disabilities ever to go there.  In his way, he too was a pioneer, as were the school administrators who encouraged us to let Matt try “regular” kindergarten, and the faculty who welcomed him and facilitated his learning with creative adaptations in his areas of disability. Today, inclusion is the norm, backed by extensive research that establishes it as a sound educational practice that benefits all school populations. But just a couple of decades ago, it was new and untried, and there were many who feared it.

Whether your frontiers are headline-grabbing ventures, voyages of exploration, or just a quiet determination to find a better way to approach a persistent problem, I wish you the joy of discovery.

Click here for another blogger’s story about some pioneers in her family.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

The thief of joy

The old and new bridges at Penobscot Narrows, Maine, 2012

The old and new bridges at Penobscot Narrows, Maine, 2012

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”Teddy Roosevelt

Which bridge do you like best?  Perhaps you favor the sleek, clean lines of the new bridge, and find the older one unattractive.  Or maybe you like the ornate and romantic construction of the older bridge, alongside which the new one looks bare and cold.  Regardless of your taste, you might find that one bridge suffers in comparison with the other, even though each is beautiful in its own way.

When I read the quote from Roosevelt about comparison, it had the ring of truth to me.  How many times have you known someone– maybe it was even you– who was satisfied with her paycheck until she found out a co-worker made more?  Or who loved his car, until the new model came out?  Do you know tech-loving people who are overjoyed with their new computers…until an even faster, bigger, better one becomes available?  Ever toured a fabulous home that made yours seem tiny and shabby in comparison?

During the years Jeff was in school, we had very little money.  I didn’t really mind that, unless…I WENT SHOPPING! Going into the stores filled with endless clothes and gorgeous linens and housewares, I was keenly aware of how tiny and drab our apartment was.  But when I was home, I was happy.  We had each other, our books, and our own cozy little place, and that was more than enough for me.

Wouldn’t life be happier if we could quit comparing everything from appearances to paychecks to homes to cars to academic prowess?  How much better to enjoy our differences and appreciate the things we have!  Today, I hope you will take note of the unique places, people and experiences that make up your life.  You are the only one who has that exact combination of assets.  Guard your joy!  Don’t let it be stolen by useless comparison.

I was inspired by Michael Lai’s wonderful tour of bridges from all over the world.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

 

 

How happily we listen

Atlanta Botanical Garden, March 2012

“What can Spring say that other Springs have not already told us? And yet each year, how happily we listen!”Joan Walsh Anglund

Familiar yet always new, springtime lures us outdoors with warming sunshine, budding trees and bright blooms.  Whether your March  weather has been more like a lion or a lamb thus far, I hope you will soon experience the mood-lifting promise of a mild, sunny day — the sort of day when almost anything seems possible.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

One of the great helps

According to Winnie the Pooh, "Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon."

According to Winnie the Pooh, “Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.”

“One of the great helps to success is to be cheerful; to go to work with a full sense of life; to be determined to put hindrances out of the way; to prevail over them and to get the mastery. Above all things else, be cheerful; there is no beatitude for the despairing.”
—  Amelia Barr

When I think of my favorite people, a great many of them can be described by the word “cheerful.”  Chances are, you number at least a few cheerful people among your favorites, too.  There’s nothing more encouraging than a person who is able to keep a sincere smile in the most dull or difficult circumstances.  This is quite a different trait from giddy silliness or forced optimism (both of which are helpful at times). The cheerful people I know do not seem clueless or in denial; rather, they seem to possess a deep awareness that gloom solves no problems.  They know that smiles are free, needed and contagious.

Barr has a good description of cheer in the phrase “work with a full sense of life.”  When I am most despondent, I am usually mired in immediate circumstances, over-focused on difficulty and oblivious to how much control I can exercise over my own sadness.  As Barr implies, work is a great remedy to this sort of counterproductive rumination.  Today, I plan to keep my hands busy and my mind focused on the satisfaction of tasks accomplished, realizing that even if I do not see instant results, there is meaning and blessing in my diligent efforts.  I’m sending you a smile– take it and pass it along– and be of good cheer!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

The quiet voice

An afternoon in Mykonos, Greece, May 2008

An afternoon in Mykonos, Greece, May 2008

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”  — Mary Ann Radmacher

Enthusiasm and motivation are wonderful, but can backfire on us if we rush in with good intentions and expect too much of ourselves when tackling a new project or difficult resolution.  Forward motion is not always possible, and even when it does take place, it often is not apparent.  At such times, it is vitally important that we remain patient with our own efforts.  I hope today will be a wonderfully productive day for you, the sort of day when you knock out several bothersome things on your “to-do” list, or reach significant milestones en route to a larger goal.  But if the day doesn’t go that way, I hope you will take a deep breath, honor your own efforts, and realize that Scarlett O’Hara was right about one thing: tomorrow is another day.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

Simple, natural, plain

This covered passage at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA, was a refreshing encounter with simplicity. I took this photographed in August 2011, and looking at it, I can almost feel the soft breeze of Southern California.

This covered passage at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA, is a refreshing encounter with simplicity. Looking at this 2011 photo, I can almost feel the soft breeze of Southern California.

“Enjoy the simple, the natural and the plain. Along with that comes the ability to do things spontaneously and have them work.”Benjamin Hoff

I love decoration.  From Baroque music to Victorian architecture to everyday frills and fancies, I am drawn to intricate patterns and abundant color.  I have to admit, though, that there is something very restful and soothing about simple design.  Our lives are so complex as to be overwhelming at times, and a clean, simple construction is a sensory antidote to the continual bombardment of stimuli.  Perhaps Hoff is onto something when he says our spontaneous thinking will be more effective when cleared of unnecessary distractions.

There are all kinds of ways to choose simplicity.  Instead of a packaged processed snack, try a piece of fruit, a boiled egg or a handful of nuts.  Drink chilled, purified water, and relish the way it quenches your thirst.  Try packing up some of your best-loved trinkets for a time; you’ll enjoy the cleared space, and when you get them out again, you will see them with fresh eyes.  Choose a worry-free hairdo or sensible, comfortable shoes.  Leave some wall space free of pictures. Listen to music produced by a single instrument, such as a piano, flute or harp.  Or sit outside and listen to the song of birds.

Today, I hope you will be calmed and refreshed by an encounter with something simple, natural, and plain.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

Gather and transform

I photographed this bee near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, 2005

I photographed this bee near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, 2005

“The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own.”Francis Bacon

I had to think about this quote for awhile to understand its full implications, but I concluded that Bacon had drawn an interesting parallel to human tendencies.  Some of us prefer action to thought, staying busy at various tasks with little introspection.  Others of us enjoy thinking more than we enjoy doing, and turn inward more than we reach outward.

Maybe the ideal balance lies somewhere in between.  If we consider the wisdom and accomplishments of others as inspiration and guidance, then complement our learning with our own unique set of experiences and perspectives, we can create new gifts to the world that can come only from us.  If we strive to think neither too little nor too much of ourselves, to cultivate humility without timidity and confidence without arrogance, we will be free to make the best use of our talents; to gather from the abundance around us and transform what we have been given into our own singular contribution.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

It’s helpful to remember

A genuine stagecoach on display at Marshall Gold Discovery SHP in Coloma, California 2004

A genuine stagecoach on display at Marshall Gold Discovery SHP in Coloma, California 2004

“In times like these, it is helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.”Paul Harvey

Today’s post is dedicated to all of us who are FED UP with:
1. traffic, gas prices and ridiculous parking costs;
2. the hassles of air travel;
3. public bus or rail system problems; or
4. all of the above.

Lest our blessings become curses to us, I hope we can get some perspective by reflecting that it could be worse, and in fact, it almost always was.  I’m not just referring to the days some of us can remember all too well, when cars did not have air conditioning and the interstate highway system was far from complete. You don’t have to go back in time very far to read some really harrowing details about travel that have been left out of our overly-romantic movies of the past.

Just for fun, read this article from the California Department of Parks and Recreation. It gives an interesting and fairly detailed description of what stagecoach travel was like. We rode in a stagecoach briefly in Placerville, California, formerly known as “Hangtown.”  I don’t think the account given above is exaggerated; if anything, it probably doesn’t begin to capture what it was like to endure such discomfort for days on end.  Maybe it will help if we think of this next time we’re stuck in traffic.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

Happily ever after

Just another day at Cinderella's castle, Disneyland in Anaheim California, 2003

Just another day at Cinderella’s castle, Disneyland in Anaheim California, 2003

“It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis.”
Margaret Bonanno

Did you ever wonder why the fairy tales end when the happiness starts?  When the character slays the dragon or the enemy, saving the loved one or rescuing the world at large, the story usually ends (or at least stops for awhile until the sequel appears with a new problem at hand).  The details of living happily ever after are never given, and if they were, we would probably be bored.  In other words, living happily does not usually entail nonstop excitement.  I think that’s one reason for learning to savor the details we might normally miss in the rush of life.  When it comes to what we pay attention to, the squeaky wheel may command more than its fair share of our focus.  How much happier to notice the wheels that spin quietly, smoothly, efficiently — functioning so well we take them for granted.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

New possibilities

Jeff frolics with our sons in Maui, Hawaii, 1991

Jeff frolics with our sons in Maui, Hawaii, 1991

Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.”Stuart Brown, MD

If you have a favorite hobby, sport or other recreational activity, why not schedule some time for play this week? On the other hand, if you don’t play very often, or if you tend to default to the TV or newspaper whenever you have a few minutes, think about exploring something more creative and engaging.  If you have children or grandchildren, it might be fun to play along with them at Legos, puzzles, board games or other diversions they love. As the weather warms up, move outdoors for more active games, or check with your local Parks and Recreation department for their class offerings. Whatever our preferences and abilities, let’s all make time for play.  It’s not just for kids.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Every single day

Sunset in the lovely little town of Dexter, Maine, June 2012

Sunset in the lovely little town of Dexter, Maine, June 2012

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”Jo Walton

Have you ever been outside just as the sun was rising or setting, and thought to yourself that you should make it a point enjoy sunrise, or sunset, more often? So have I.  But I still end up missing most of them, especially in the wintertime.  The good news is that the days are getting longer, and we’ll all have more chances to be outside for the morning and/or evening shows that come for free to the whole world every day.  (Note to myself: as soon as it warms up a bit, be sure to schedule at least some daily walks to coincide with either sunrise or sunset.)

And if you happen to catch a good photo of a sunrise or sunset that you’d like to share, post a link in the comments if it’s available for viewing on your blog.  If you don’t have a blog, send me the photo via email as an attached file to defeatdespair (at) verizon.net, and I’ll share it with readers in a future post!  Be sure to let me know something about the location.

Added notes:

Please check the comments for some wonderful links to sunrise/sunset photos!  Also, I’ll post below any photos emailed to me today:

Eric sent these photos along with the following comments:

“one of the first winter sunrises we experienced, as we began to settle in the mountains near Ellijay, GA. The date of this photo is 12-02-2006.”

Elijay Sunrise (from Eric)

Beautiful colors! Thanks Eric.  Here’s the other photo Eric sent:

“I snapped this with a cheap camera, as I drove “home” from salmon fishing, in June. It is taken facing west, with Turnagain Arm (just southeast of Anchorage) on the left. the interesting fact is that the local time of this photo is almost 11:00 p.m.”

Thanks, Eric – now I know why they say “midnight sun!”
Eric's sunset photo

And Sheila sent in this gorgeous photo with the following caption:

“Bill snapped this early one morning on the beach in front of our house. It is one of our favorites. Enjoy!”

Wow, Sheila…it must be wonderful to have a sight like this so close by!

Sunrise in Garden City SC (from Sheila)

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

Teach your moods

Orchids bloom beautifully at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, March 2012

Orchids bloom beautifully at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, March 2012

“Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes…This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.”C. S. Lewis

The exquisite blooms pictured above are made possible by a carefully controlled environment, and skilled horticulturists who gently train them to grow along much stronger stakes fastened to the stems.  As wondrous as nature can be when left undisturbed, there is a place for the patient cultivation, informed by science, that enables us to enjoy flowers from other climates and regions that we may be unable to visit on our own.

This is a parallel to what I now seek to do with my mind, heart and imagination in an emotional climate that is currently rife with potentially destructive storms and intolerable extremes of temperature.  I try not to be unforgiving of my own moods, especially under the circumstances.  But from a strictly practical point of view, if I am to survive and be helpful to others, I absolutely must learn to teach my moods “where they get off,” to quote Lewis.  You, dear readers, are helping me to do just that, with your supportive comments, kind thoughts and faithful prayers for us.  May your kindness return to you in beautiful blooms from new and unexpected directions.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

When March is scarcely here

These trees flower gloriously, although briefly, every year - here it was March 2012

These trees flower gloriously, although briefly, every year – here it was March 2012

“A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here.”
Emily Dickinson

Along with a recent post about walking, I included a photograph of some trees in my neighborhood.  The photo above pictures those same trees during the all-too-brief period of their flowering, usually in early to mid March.  Perhaps it’s our eagerness for spring that bathes March with such beautiful light, or maybe the lengthening days allow us more chance to revel in its nascent beauty. In any case, I hope this month will bring you many opportunities to enjoy a beautiful March.  If you post (or find) any other lovely celebrations of springtime, feel free to share links to them in the comments.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

The garden of your mind

One of many beautiful Canadian gardens -- this one is in Banff, 1999

One of many beautiful Canadian gardens — this one is in Banff, 1999

“You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.”Fred Rogers

As springtime approaches, there’s no better time to tend to the garden of your mind.  Let’s make our minds into beautiful gardens to enjoy every day!  We can cultivate the soil by feeding it healthy images and words.  We can watch out for, and rid ourselves of, the pests or weeds that so easily take over.  The best part is that every one of us will have something unique; no two will be alike, and we will have so much fun sharing all the different flowers that will bloom in one another’s mental gardens.

Here’s a lovely auto-tune from the folks at PBS.  It always makes me smile and feel happy inside.  I hope you like it as much as I do!

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. As a personal aside– of all the 1100+ posts on this blog, this is one of my top ten favorites, all because of that wonderful autotune song which I still enjoy everytime I hear it. Mr. Rogers lives on!

Try adding some bright

The residents of Mykonos, Greece really know how to brighten up the world! 2008

I love the brightly-colored homes of Mykonos, Greece! 2008

“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors…”Allen Klein

I appreciate people who take the time to add color to everyday life.  Some people plant bright annuals that bloom in spring and summer, others use cheery linens or dishes, still others wear vivid clothing and accessories.  I find that colors really do lift my mood, so I try to take my eyes and thoughts to sunny places, even when the day is gray and dull.  Whether you add color in outward ways, or simply embrace and appreciate the colors others add to your life, I hope today will be a bright one for you.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

Too big to pass

A thoughtful friend sent these flowers on New Year's Eve, 2015. She knew this season was a difficult one for us, so she sent bright flowers to cheer us.

A thoughtful friend sent these flowers on New Year’s Eve, 2015.
She knew this season was a difficult one for us, so she sent bright flowers to cheer us.

“Trouble is a sieve through which we sift our acquaintances. Those too big to pass through are our friends.”Arlene Francis

There are all kinds of reasons why trouble tends to isolate us from others.  Many long to reach out to people in difficulty, but find it emotionally taxing to be present during the trials of others. We may be too sensitive, haunted by sadness after spending time with those who are less fortunate.  Or maybe we have more than enough problems of our own, and thus feel overwhelmed in the face of suffering or crisis in others’ lives.

Often, too, the experience of trouble can change us, making us less reliable, less agreeable or harder to tolerate, thus driving away former or potential friends.  I speak from experience here. I feel as if the past three years have left me ill-equipped to have much to give to anyone, even in my immediate family.  A significant percentage of the time, I feel exhausted, irritable and negative.  Other times I long to retreat to a quiet room and just be by myself with a book or some music. While this solitude is essential and beneficial in reasonable doses, it’s not a recipe for making or keeping friends.

Fortunately, I am blessed to know many who understand these facets of struggle.  Most of you who have been here with me, through all of the ups and downs of the past three (or thirty!) years, have been through various seasons of loss yourselves.  You know, seemingly by instinct, what to do; how to remain loyal and supportive even when doing most of the “give” in the give-and-take that constitutes friendship.

To all of you, my heartfelt thanks. Whether your bouquets have been composed of literal flowers (such as pictured above) or of loving thoughts, prayers, cards and other tokens of support and affection, please know that your presence and kindness make a crucial difference in helping me get through each day, and week, and month.

If you are facing any sort of trouble right now, I wish for you some golden people who are too full of love to pass through that sieve. “Big” is not a description most of us would choose for ourselves, but in the sense that Francis intends in the quote for today, I hope we all experience the joy of knowing– and being– people who are too big to pass through the net of circumstance that separates true friends from acquaintances.

This post was originally published four years ago today, because seven years ago, there was no February 29. As an aside– the four years that came after I wrote these words in 2016 proved beyond my worst imagination how true the theme of this post really is, and how few remain after the sifting of sorrow upon sorrow.

The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

Tea will

My kind of store! In Bar Harbor, Maine 2012

My kind of store! In Bar Harbor, Maine 2012

“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
If you are depressed, it will cheer you;
If you are excited, it will calm you.”

― William Ewart Gladstone

My day would not be complete without tea.  For those of us who grew up in the South, iced tea was part of everyday life, but I did not start drinking hot tea regularly until about 14 years ago.  I got really hooked on it when my British pen pal made me several cups one chilly, wet afternoon in 2001 after we’d been exploring Waltham Abbey and got chilled to the bone.  Since then, my tea consumption has steadily increased, partly because I keep reading how healthy it is, and partly because my aging brain really adores the caffeine, but mostly because I simply love it.

I know green tea is supposedly more nutritious, but I prefer the taste of black tea, in all its magnificent flavors and variations.  So I solve that problem by mixing green tea with black (steeping the black tea in boiling-hot water, as my British friend taught me, and then adding the green tea to steep after the water has cooled slightly).  If I’m in a hurry or lazy, I’ll just mix the two loose teas together or use one teabag of each.  And if I’m going to be home all day, I’ll fix two small pots, one of each, and just pour some of each into my huge tea mug, enjoying it throughout the day.

To tell the truth, tea is almost like a hobby for me, as well as my drink of preference.  My favorite thing is to share a cup (or many cups) of tea with a friend, along with some good conversation.  Wish we could share a cup right now!  But as an alternative, leave me a mailing address in the comments (I’ll edit out your info before posting, and I won’t sell it – I promise!) and I’ll send you a tea bag from my embarrassingly large collection.  Or just take a few minutes to sit down now with a nice cup, while you relax with the paper, a magazine or your favorite blogs.  It’s a great way to make any day a little bit brighter!

p.s. if you request a teabag, let me know what kinds you like — herbal, decaf, fruit-flavored, Earl Gray, etc.

Read more about the health benefits of tea here

This post was originally published seven years ago today, but the offer of a free tea bag is still good. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

Give thanks

A Captiva sunset, January 2013 -- no digital alteration; it really is this beautiful.

A Captiva sunset, January 2013 — no digital alteration; it really is this beautiful.

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” Tecumseh

Long before we had any idea Jeff was sick, we planned a quick January getaway to Captiva Island, Florida.  I had never been there, and always wanted to go.  When we began to re-structure our lives in the wake of Jeff’s diagnosis and the intensive treatments planned for the coming year, he wisely refused to cancel the trip, insisting that he wanted to go unless he was absolutely unable.  So his chemotherapy schedule was altered to allow us this respite.

What a blessing!  Our three days in Captiva underscored the immutable truth of Tecumseh’s words; there are always reasons to give thanks.  Even when we know this truth in our minds, it can be difficult to feel it in our hearts during times of great pain.  But like all truth, it is eternal and remains despite our temporary inability to grasp it…so even when we do not feel it, we can have faith that it’s still there, waiting for our awareness to return.

Related Posts:

Gratitude Made Easy  (from The Presents of Presence)

When each day is a blessing  (from Sydney Fong)

Unknown blessings (one of my posts)

…and read about the 365 Grateful Project here.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.

Welcomed and recorded

Our Robins prepare for spring, 2005

Our Robins prepare for spring, 2005

“Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg, by the side of which more will be laid”Henry David Thoreau

For me, writing is an effective way to train my thinking.  I find that most people give more thought to what they write than to what they say, and this may be why some are more fond of talking than of writing.  Others are naturally silent, neither speaking nor writing much other than what is necessary to get through the day.  But either way, Thoreau’s analogy is an apt description of what happens when we take the time to record the best of our thoughts.

A number of authors have advised keeping a gratitude journal, wherein one records specific items that inspire feelings of thankfulness each day.  I have done this at times, and do find that it is helpful, particularly during stress or grief.  No matter how bad things get, we can always list reasons to be grateful.  These notes might mention anything from a sunny day, to a reliable appliance, to a loving and supportive friend who visits in person or by email.  It’s especially helpful to note what one tends to take for granted, such as electricity or hot and cold running water; conveniences we don’t notice until a power failure takes them away temporarily.

In recording happy details, we capture and preserve fleeting glimpses of the everyday joys that enrich our lives.  Years later, reading back over gratitude journals, I discover forgotten blessings and moments of grace that would have been lost to me if I had not recorded them.

Even if you do not usually write much, try keeping a record of welcome thoughts.  As Thoreau suggests, one thought will lead to another, and in time will produce beautiful songs and the freedom to take wing and fly.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. You can view the original with comments here.

Within our reach

Light shines into a dark corridor in Castillo San Cristóbal, San Juan, Puerto Rico 2010

Light shines into a dark corridor in Castillo San Cristóbal, San Juan, Puerto Rico 2010

“The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
Take joy!”
Attributed to Fra Giovanni Giocondo

This blog gives me an excuse to spend time reading from the wealth of inspiring, encouraging and remarkable writings that have accumulated over centuries.  Much of what I read — probably most of it — was written by people who faced situations as dark or even darker than what we are facing now, yet refused to stop believing that joy is not only possible, but readily available to those willing  to seek it out.  The darkness is real, the troubles painful…but truth lives, beauty shines, and so much that is good is still with us.  Wherever you are today, whatever difficulties you may be facing, I pray that you will be encouraged by these words to see your own future with hope, and take joy!

This post was originally published seven years ago today. You can view the original with comments here.

The last refuge

I caught our son dozing with his canine companion, sometime around 2001

I caught our son dozing with his canine companion, sometime around 2001

“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”Oscar Wilde

I know very few people who do not lead complex lives, and most of us yearn for simplicity.  Yet the complexity is also a blessing; a rich fabric woven with countless threads that add color, durability or utility.  Thus I have mixed emotions about clearing distractions from my life; I can’t really say that I would be better off without the many people, interests and responsibilities that fill my days.

Perhaps the answer lies somewhere between simplicity and complexity. If we keep places of retreat in our lives, corners where we can find quiet and serenity, we will be better equipped to navigate the more difficult terrain where we encounter challenges that reward us with different gifts.  Today, I wish for you a retreat to — or discovery of — a safe, warm refuge of calm amid the inevitable busyness of life.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. You can view the original with comments here.

The unceasing effort

Oleanders accent architectural beauty in Athens, Greece 2008

Oleanders accent architectural beauty in Athens, Greece 2008

“Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers– and never succeeding.”Gian Carlo Menotti

Humans can create stunning works of art, but the best of these only imitate, echo, enhance or complement the beauty found in nature.  Art is usually made, at least in part, from materials found in the natural world, and is most appealingly displayed in combination with nature — paintings hung in elegant wooden frames, sculptures adorning colorful gardens, buildings surrounded by landscaped grounds.  Whenever you find yourself admiring the work of a painter, sculptor or architect, note how the beauty is accentuated by the inclusion of something that cannot be made with human hands.  How blessed we are, to be surrounded by many forms of mastery!

This post was originally published seven years ago today. You can view the original with comments here.

The safekeeping of enchantment

Just one of the many enchanting cottages of the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, photographed in September 2012

Just one of the many enchanting cottages of the Martha’s Vineyard
Camp Meeting Association, photographed in September 2012

“I have always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly or unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost.”E. B. White

The unforgettable writer who gave us Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan certainly fulfilled his sense of responsibility for preserving enchantment.  Those of us who loved his stories can honor his legacy by handing it down to our own children, nieces, nephews or neighbors.

But what, exactly, is enchantment?  Perhaps it is the state of being attentive to, and fascinated by, the countless delights that surround us, and being readily drawn into the realm of imagination where almost anything can happen. Today may be an ordinary day in your life, but you can travel to enchanted places in your imagination, guided by books, blogs, photographs, poetry or just an engaging conversation with someone you love.

Today, I wish you enchantment.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. You can view the original with comments here.

Patience and faith

A beach on Captiva Island, Florida, January 2013.
Anne Lindbergh loved Captiva, and wrote Gift from the Sea there.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient…
Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Few women of any generation could claim a life as full of adventure, triumph and tragedy as Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  Yet her concerns were similar to those we often face today: how to find stillness within the chaos of balancing impossibly complex demands, and how to endure unbearable sorrow amid great blessings.  Her classic work Gift from the Sea has inspired millions, and seems only to grow more relevant as time passes.  If you can put your hands on a copy, I highly recommend you enjoy this wise and calming work.  But in the meantime, visit the sea — if not in person, then go there via the many blog posts, photographs and words so readily available online — and meditate on its timeless lessons, conveyed with patient repetition in wave after wave of unceasing beauty and rhythmic motion.

For some stunningly beautiful photographs of the ocean as seen from Antarctica,
see this post from Cindy Knoke!

This post was originally published seven years ago today. You can view the original with comments here.

Travel the back roads

This charming Cape Cod, MA street, which I photographed in 2009, is just one example of many attractive small towns throughout America and the world.

This charming street on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which I photographed in 2009, is just one example of many attractive small towns throughout America and the world.

“To read the papers and to listen to the news… one would think the country is in terrible trouble. You do not get that impression when you travel the back roads and the small towns do care about their country and wish it well.”Charles Kuralt

Recently I’ve had to sharply curtail my exposure to news reporting in both online and print versions (I haven’t watched TV for years).  With all our current challenges, I simply could not afford to add discouragement to my life.  “If it bleeds, it leads,” the saying goes, and the advent of 24/7 news stations has only made this worse as production teams scramble to find titillating sound bites, worrisome speculation, or outright gossip to fill their airwaves and bring in viewers.

Since I travel a good bit, I cannot help noticing that what I see and hear is in marked contrast to the supposedly accurate press I read.  Wherever I go, most of the people I meet are courteous, friendly or at least benign.  Increasingly diverse populations live together, for the most part, in cooperation and peace.  Attractive, well kept homes and appealing towns adorn almost every place I visit, and I return from my travels feeling encouraged about the state of my country and the world.  Yes, there are many bad or disappointing experiences, but there are still far more blessings, if we seek and notice them.  I often wonder whether people who lived even a century ago would think us mad to be unhappy with such abundance and opportunity.

Next time you find yourself feeling low, try unplugging from the constant barrage of largely irrelevant news hype that creates so much noise in our world and inside our heads.  Get out, reach out and find out how much there is to celebrate.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. You can view the original with comments here.

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