Travel, poetry, and place

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s been a full summer and August was heavy with travel, a weekend at the Newport Jazz Festival, and a trip to Bremerton and Seattle, WA. I had not been to Rhode Island or Washington state before, so they were fun firsts. I’ll write more about Bremerton and Bainbridge in a future post.

Last week, I went to hear Tracy K. Smith, US Poet Laureate, read and give a talk at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN. I have always been impressed by this small college, which has invited so many amazing women over the years. It was at Saint Mary’s that I first saw actress Cicely Tyson, and I can still remember her entrance on the stage, she wore winter white and was positively regal.

Ms. Smith won the Pulitzer Prize and I am a fan of her memoir Ordinary Light but have come to enjoy her poetry too. She spoke about understanding poetry, writing it, and also considers poetry a form of activism. She spoke about the “impossible resilience of black people despite attempts to annihilate us,” and many in the auditorium seemed to understand how these are challenging times. I love how poetry can convey a feeling or emotion or experience with its use of rhythm and imagery, and Smith left us feeling that poetry should not be inaccessible, it is for everyone.

I love summer but I am going to embrace the fall weather that is only a week or so away. On my nightstand is the book Poets on Place by W.T. Pfefferle, and I want to read it to learn how poetry and other writing can be used to express the heart of a place.

Until the next time…

My Life is Like a Garden

Echinacea flower

Over the last two weeks, I made some changes to the shade garden in my backyard and the flower garden in front of my living room window. Even though the plants were thriving, I spent time clearing some of them out. In the back, there are hosta, some with white-tipped leaves, others are more bluish-green, and another has leaves that are enormous (Empress Wu). I have two kinds of ferns intermingled with the hostas, and there are also deep pink impatiens planted in clusters. This part of my yard, on the north side, does not get nearly the sun that the front does, so I use shade-loving plants that like to keep their feet a bit wet because they thrive here.

But my garden also has a plant that is a bit of a bully—a purple iris that sends out a slim flower in early summer and what is left after the flower dies back is a mass of spindly leaves. I don’t mind that the season for the purple flowering is short, everything has its own season. What bothers me is that over the last several years, in parts of the yard, this iris has pushed out the hostas and peonies that used to share its space. So two weeks ago, after a rainy day moistened the soil, I grabbed my shovel and dug a massive clump of it out of the yard.

Normally I might try to find another place to put a plant that seems so native to my yard and grows well, but I knew in a few years’ time, I would have the same problem, too much iris creeping in, other more delicate plants being shoved aside. So I tossed the clumps into the yard waste bin, where they were carried off the next day for pickup. Even though I shook off as much dirt as I could while tossing the plants from one bin to another, I was surprised by how heavy the first trash can remained; it was hard to heave it up and into the yard waste.

The front flower garden is going to take more work, but that might have to wait until September, when I can divide and transplant the purple and red coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) that have gone from a handful of plants to a dense plot of flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and many types of birds. Compared to the irises, this will take more time but the plants are not nearly as heavy to move around.

Yard work reminds me of life – the need to periodically prune, trim, and even toss when I realize I have allowed excess to creep in. Sometimes it is hard work to decide what to keep, what to get rid of, because I want to believe it all belongs, that there is space for everything I think I need to do. But when I sit back and reflect on what is working and what needs to go, or what can be postponed until later, just like the transplanting of the coneflowers to another spot in my yard, I realize that in creating a bit more space in my life, I can enjoy it more. I feel less encumbered, and can move more lightly, and that is a good thing.

There is a bothersome vine that has taken root in this area, and occasionally I see it has popped up in my yard in a space where it is not welcome, twisting through a rosebush or winding through the peony leaves. I don’t ignore it like I did the irises. Instead of tackling the vine all at once, I will pull at it a little at a time, leaving space, and tending to any overgrowth before it takes over.

Walking Away Money

 

Several years ago, I left a job that I mostly enjoyed, planning to take a one-year sabbatical to sort out what my next move would be. I was a development officer, also known as a fundraiser, for a large midwestern university with national name recognition. I believed in the programs for which I fundraised, the visual and performing arts, scholarships, endowments, and I met amazing benefactors, many of whom I still maintain friendships with. But I knew I needed a change, wanted to explore some of the stories that I carried in my head and heart. I had been able to spend time with highly creative people—artists, musicians, sculptors, actors, and writers, while in that position. When we had time, I asked about their processes, how they studied, when they found the time to practice and create. Continue reading

May- early mornings, writing, and ritual

Montpelier bridge

May has been a whirl of activity but let’s start with the 30-day challenge I began in April. My goal was to wake up every day, at 5:18 am, for 30 days. I missed a couple of days, primarily because after the second weekend I asked myself, “Why are you getting up this early on the weekend?” I modified the challenge and did not set an alarm on Saturdays and Sundays; however, even without an alarm, after about four days I found myself naturally stirring around 5:15 am.

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Rising early set me up for the next goal for May. I had been accepted for the Vermont College of Fine Arts Novel Retreat, which took place May 15-21. This experience was positive and affirming for me as a writer because I was able to accomplish a few goals I established for the retreat:

  • Spend hours a day writing, starting a new (and lengthy) project that I want to write,

Continue reading

Morning Routine

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I started a 30-day challenge to get up each morning at 5:18 a.m. Why? For the past few weeks I have felt a creeping discontent with my ability to stay on track with some of my priorities. Around three o’clock or so, I would consider my day and end up frustrated because I had not made progress in the areas I told myself were most important—writing and wellbeing. Maybe I would get a little writing done, but not enough movement, or I would be so determined to get in the Orangetheory workout that I would piddle (this means dawdle in southern Ohio speak) when I got home, never really working on the essays that swirl around in my head. Continue reading

Winter Walking through Grief

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This afternoon I did something I seldom do when it is cold outside—I went for a walk in my neighborhood. The snow crept in overnight, and when I got up this morning the lawn was blanket of white, and the intersection near my house had the fresh tire tracks of the early risers on their way to work.

I had planned to walk today but when I first saw the snow, I was resistant and did not want to go through the routine of bundling up so that I could walk. So I put it off, one hour, then another, until it was noon. And then I remembered what I learned during my retreat last month. Continue reading

Superheroes and Simplepowers

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We live in an age fascinated by the notion of superheroes and super heroines. It seems as if half of the movies and TV shows are based on comic book characters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, after all, we like to see people use their special powers to prevent disaster and save the world. Even I am excited about the release of the Black Panther movie this weekend, enthralled with the representation of black and brown characters who display superior intellectual and physical prowess that they use for good.

What is your superpower? What is the skill you possess that can change the world for the better, or the attribute you tap into to get ahead? This is a question I often see in social media, where people refer to their gift as their “superpower.”

I am less interested in the idea of a superpower—I’d rather tap into my simplepower. What do I mean by that? A simplepower is your unique skill, which can be used at will, makes you better simply because you share it with others, and can be harnessed in circumstances calling for compassion and bravery. Even better, unlike the heroes in the movies and comics, you don’t have to hide it. Quite often people know you have this power and seek you out for it. A simplepower doesn’t require a costume change, a life-threatening situation, or a villain. A simplepower can be an act of kindness when someone needs it, good advice for the searching, or a quirky sense of humor that helps a sad person laugh.

Everyone has a simplepower.

My simplepower is encouragement—I like to encourage people, to help them see the magnificent possibilities in their lives. Decades ago, after I knew I was an encourager, I came across a verse in the bible, I Thessalonians 5:11—Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

After I read this, something in my spirit said, “Yes. That is who I am and who I want to be.” I wrote it down, tucked it away in my brown leather planner, and although the days of paper planners have been replaced by smartphone calendars, I still refer to it from time to time when I need a reminder of one reason why I am on this planet.

I love a snazzy outfit and admit that clothing and the right boots can alter my mood. But I don’t want to depend on a cape or a superpower when a quiet reminder will do. We all have a unique gift, some of us are blessed with multiple gifts, that we can share to uplift, encourage, or help another person.

What is your simplepower?

 

Don’t Stop Now-Weight Loss Goals

Get Healthy Green Road Sign and Clouds

 

We are about three weeks into the new year and I hope you are off to an inspired start. This week I wrote a guest post for Don’t Stop Now and it is about losing weight after 50, although the tips can apply regardless of your age.

Don’t Stop Now: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life is a forthcoming book geared to the specific challenges of baby boomer women.The book helps women determine ways to continue to grow—bringing vital, creative contributions to the world. Topics include physical wellness, emotional health, finances, relationships, behaviors, appearance, learning something new, giving back, and leading a balanced life.

You can find my post here—it is called The ABCs of Setting a Weight Loss Goal. Let me know what you think and if you have tips to share that are helping you lead a healthier life.

 

 

 

A Snowy Day

A snowy day here in northern Indiana. Days like this are perfect for writing, and if it warms up, venturing outside, even if it’s only to open the front door and take it all in. Stay warm!

 

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