Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gratitude Within Reach

No man is an island. ~John Donne

I was feeling irritable this morning. No particular reason. Just out of sorts. “Gritchy.” My spirit felt heavy. I read some inspirational stuff, but nothing was really shaking loose the dark cloud weighing down my shoulders. So I looked around.

I decided to be grateful for whatever I could touch within arm’s reach without moving from where I sat. If I were to do it right now, this would be my list: my computer, the table, the chair, a cup of hot tea, the coaster the cup is sitting on, my calendar, a pad of sticky notes, a lot of sticky notes with ideas written on them stuck on the computer and the table, a pen and pencil, a letter opener, my clothes, my glasses, some books, my body.

Then I decided to take one of these items and extend the gratitude. Let’s take the coaster, for example. I’m grateful for the coaster, for the people who work in the store where I bought the set it came from, for the people who designed it, for the cotton it is made of, for the people who grew and processed the cotton, for the people who manufactured the coaster, for the people who transported it and the vehicles they used, for the money I had to buy it,...

You can see that this could go on indefinitely. I could have expanded my gratitude just in the category of the cotton, for example, by thinking about the farmers, the equipment, the fertilizer, the water, and so on.


By the end of this little exercise, I was astounded by how many people and things were connected to just the few items that are within arm’s reach. No kidding that no man is an island. It is humbling to consider how many hands have touched most anything I can look at around me, how many people have contributed to my comfort and well being.

The dark cloud lifted. I felt calmer and quiet inside. I just sat there breathing in the energy of all those hands, breathing out my gratitude.

Want to give it a try? It just takes a minute. If you like, please share your gratitude within reach experience in a comment.

In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. ~David Steinal-Rast

related posts: I’m Grateful for That!; An Ordinary Day

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Little Car That Could

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened. ~Montaigne

My last post ended with a cliffhanger – did I get snowed in or not when I drove my little city car (a friend calls it my “toy” car) up to my cabin? Some of you remembered that I have no Internet up there, so you properly surmised that I had made it home in order to post something on my blog. But there is a bit more to the story.

Although I had a lovely afternoon taking a long walk in the virgin snow, going down by the creek, and reading by the fire, I remained on the fence about whether to pack up and go home or stay overnight. After dinner and some more reading, I took one more look outside as the fire died down. There were a couple of inches of powdery snow on the ground, but the snow had been melting all day almost as fast as it came down. I went on to bed.

Friday morning I awoke early and looked out of the window by my head in the sleeping loft. Oh oh. Snow covered everything. I came down the ladder and looked at my car, completely covered with four to five inches. The snow on the ground reached up and touched the low riding bumper. The car looked disgruntled, and seemed to be saying to me, “I could be safe and warm in the garage right now, but nooooooo.” I felt guilty.

And anxious. I had gambled, but had I lost? Being snowed in on many days would not be a big deal. I could just wait it out. But I wanted to be back in town by late morning to meet up with a friend passing through town on business, a friend I had not seen in many years. This was my one window of opportunity to see her before she headed back to Europe.

I reassured myself that the worst case scenario was that I would have to do some shoveling to get the car up the long driveway to the one lane road, where I hoped the plow had made a pass through in the wee hours. I put on my coat and boots and walked up to see. Yes, the road was plowed, so once I got that far, I could get to the highway.

It was still snowing, and just in case the snow shovel was going to get some use, I decided to forego breakfast and get moving. I downed some juice and called it good. I swept the snow off the car and scraped the windows. I was packed up in no time.

Ignition on. Shift into drive. The car inched forward a few inches, and then a few inches more. Easy on the gas. Up the drive we went without hesitation. As we got to the top I saw that the plow had left a small ridge of snow across the drive. The plowed road was just beyond. A little more gas to get a running start. My toy car pushed right through, and soon I was on the highway headed home.

Now I felt foolish about the time I had wasted thinking about whether I would get snowed in and about what I would do if I did. Instead of a relaxing time at the cabin, I had spent a lot of my time uneasy. Fretting even though I knew that I would be able to get out one way or another. On top of that, I had skipped breakfast and I was hungry. All that thinking had no effect at all on how much it snowed or whether I would make it home on time. The only effect was to interfere with my being fully present, fully grateful, fully peaceful, fully joyful. Lesson learned.

If a problem has a solution, there is no need to worry. If a problem doesn’t have a solution, there is no need to worry. ~The Dalai Lama

related posts: It Is Not So; Expecting Ponies; You Have To Be Present To Win

Friday, March 22, 2013

Snow Blessing

Yesterday morning, I was feeling restless and decided on a whim to go up to my cabin for a quick overnight. I quickly gathered some food and books and headed up to the mountain. It isn’t far, just over an hour’s drive. In my haste, I neglected to trade cars with my daughter. When I bought a tiny “city” car a few months ago, I let her take the old “anywhere” car, which I kept because when the family is all together, we still need the bigger vehicle with eight seats. Because the old car also has all wheel drive and higher clearance, I usually take it up to the cabin.

Before I got halfway there, I began to doubt my confidence in spring’s early arrival. As the altitude rose, the rain turned slushy, and then to snow. I wavered, thinking perhaps I should turn back and have a quiet day at home instead. Yet I drove on. Soon I was at the cabin. The logs were crackling in the stone fireplace, and I was in my favorite chair, sipping hot tea and trying to choose which book to read first.

But the release and relaxation I usually feel in my mountain refuge continued to elude me. I fidgeted. I felt melancholy, sad for no reason I could name. Ill at ease, unable to yield to the embrace of the forest, unable to listen to the counsel of the creek. Indecisive. Anxious. Should I pack up and leave, or stay and risk being snowed in by morning?

So I sat. not in my chair but on my meditation cushion. I sat and breathed. And waited.

And watched. The snow that had seemed vaguely ominous before became soothing. Pure and soft, falling so gently, so calmly. Unperturbed. Serene. The snow lovingly caressed my spirit, cradling my raw places, kissing my sorrow. This is why I came, I thought. To receive a blessing from the snow.

I put the tea kettle back on and chose a book.

Be still and know that I am God. ~Psalm 46:10

[Did I get snowed in? Stay tuned for the next post!]

related posts: You Are Here; Cradling Our Feelings; Inviting the Demons to Tea

Monday, March 18, 2013

Breezes at Dawn

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you; don’t go back to sleep. ~Rumi

Dawn’s first faint gleam this morning found me up and dressed with nowhere to go. I thought about going back to bed, about reading, about getting online. Instead, something drew me outside. So I put on my coat and went for a walk.

An occasional car, a jogger or dog walker here and there, a light on in a few houses. We few quietly shared the magic of the hour while most slept. The birds called the light to come. My soul thrilled.

A daffodil invited me to lean over. The fragrance of spring stirred the still chilly air. The eastern sky slowly brightened. Shades of gray blossomed into color. A new day – so pure, so fresh, so full of mystery and promise.

How can a day that begins thus not be blessed?

i thank you God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
~e.e. cummings

related posts: Show Me the Miracles; Wow

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Best Friend...Again

It has been almost two years. Two years in which a lot has happened. I retired, had two grandchildren, and published a book. Two years missed. A friendship grieved.

A friendship that began almost forty years ago. We were so young then. Our friendship spanned decades, decades full of the evolution of our lives, decades that we shared with each other. There was absolutely nothing that I could not tell her, nothing that I did not tell her.

Distance didn’t matter. I moved to countries far away, in the days before email and Skype. We wrote letters the old fashioned way, and when I came back to visit, we picked up where we left off. There was never a time when she was not my best friend.

Then it changed, so gradually that it was several years before I really noticed. Phone calls not answered or returned. Conversations leaving me feeling that something was off, but not sure what it was. I finally told myself that whatever we had was gone, and I tried to let go. But I missed her.

Then yesterday I read a post on Vishnu’s Virtues about friendship, old friendships, about treasuring them. And I thought of her. What would it hurt to call? Maybe nothing would happen, but maybe....

She answered. It was a surprise to both of us. It was a little awkward, but not for long. We found our way back to each other. We cried. We caught up. We regretted the time lost, all the things we didn’t know about each other now. We spoke of what we meant to each other.

She is going to come visit me this summer. My best friend...again.

Thank you, Vishnu, for being my friendship angel.

related posts: Angels Among Us; Forgiveness Sometimes Just Happens

The Results Are In -- Thanks to All

Thanks to all for your help with this comment option experiment. Although most of you were able to leave comments on the last post, it doesn't work for everyone. [For those just now joining in, I tried a different comment option on my blog which blocks most spam comments. Unfortunately, it also blocked some legitimate comments, or at least blocked the link back to the commenter's blog.]

Part of the value of leaving comments is to have a link back to your blogs so we can all meet new folks and connect with each other. If this comment option blocks the link backs for some then it's not a good option here. (Wordpress blocks my link back on some blogs and that is a disappointment, so I understand that!)

Besides, Vishnu ended up appearing as "Unknown." Oh dear! He is anything but!!

So I am going back to the most unrestricted option. This opens the door for anonymous spam comments, so I will once again rely on comment moderation so that I can delete the few that get past the spam filter before they appear on the blog. I appreciate your continued patience with  the short delay in the appearance of your comments.

Well, it was worth a try, and I got lots of good information thanks to your help. If you want to see the information for yourselves, please check out the comments on the last two posts.

Stay tuned for a regular post soon!

With much gratitude for my most excellent blog friends,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Comment Experiment -- Please Help

Thanks to all for you for your wealth of observations and advice on my last post about balancing the greatest access to commenters while trying to block spam. If you want to see the results, please go back to the last post and check out the comments.

Some of you use word verification, but my own experience with that on other blogs makes me hesitate. The Blogger verification is especially hard to read, I think. I would rather not use that barrier.

Some of you use comment services that require registration, like Lifefyre or Disqus. I don't know if those are available on Blogger, but before making more radical changes, I would like to experiment with the Blogger options.

I'm still not sure I fully understand option #2, which allows comments from registered users (registered for what?), including open ID. A couple of folks thought this was worth a try.

So for this post only, I'm going to try it. I'm turning off comment moderation also, to see what will turn up in terms of spam.

This is how you can help me. Would you please leave a comment on this post? It doesn't have to be substantive. You can just say "test" or "hi" or anything. Since comment moderation is off, your comment should appear right away. If you are unable to comment, please email me so that I will know that some folks are blocked by this option. My email is

Thank you for helping me give this a try. I so appreciate my readers and I want to make commenting as easy as possible.

I'll get back to regular posting next time.

Many many thanks.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oops! Not Paying Attention!

[This is not my typical post. I’m looking for some information and advice here. Thanks.]

It finally happened. I use comment moderation because I get so many spam comments, mostly from “Anonymous.” Comment moderation means that I see the comments first, and I have to click on them to publish them. As you know, this results in a delay between the time that you write them and when they actually appear on the blog.

I set it up this way because I wanted to allow anonymous comments from real readers, as opposed to spammers. But as it turns out, I’ve gotten only a very few legitimate anonymous comments. So I end up wading through hundreds of spam comments for nothing.

Another filter option would be using the word verification. However, I find this very cumbersome, and often the letters and numbers are so hard to read that I often get it wrong when I’m trying to comment on someone else’s blog and have to go through the process more than once. Sometimes I just give up. So I don’t want to use that on my blog.

Why am I telling you this? What finally happened? The other day, I was distracted while I was deleting spam comments, and I accidentally published one. And what was it about? This comment was advertising some product to enhance a certain part of male anatomy. It was very specific. Yikes! It was actually published on my blog for the brief time it took me to realize what I had done and delete it! If you saw it, you were probably very surprised. I was, too.

Anyway, that woke me up and got me to thinking about comment options. I went to my Blogger settings and found four options. 1. Anyone, including anonymous, 2. Registered users, including open ID, 3. Users with Google accounts, 4. Members of blog.

#1 is what I have now, with comment moderation enabled. Does that exclude anyone? (If this excludes you in some way, would you email me at and let me know that you can’t leave a comment? Thanks.)

#4 seems prohibitively restrictive. #3 is less so, but would still exclude anyone who does not have a Google account.

So I’m trying to decide if I should try #2. If I did, I think I could dispense with comment moderation so that your comments would appear immediately. The problem is I don’t really understand what #2 means. What is a registered user and what is an open ID? Can anyone enlighten me? Would that allow anyone to comment who is a real reader and not a spammer?

I appreciate your patience with this post about blog logistics, and of course I appreciate any information and advice you have to offer.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Angels Among Us

All God's angels come to us disguised.  ~James Russell Lowell

Someone near and dear to me was in a car accident a few days ago. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but there was significant damage to both cars. The woman who was driving the car my young friend hit was so incredibly gracious that when he told me this story, I thought that she must be an angel.

The accident was clearly my friend’s fault, as he immediately acknowledged. The driver of the other car, who was on her way to work, could justifiably have been annoyed and even angry. Many of us, after being surprised and shaken by such an accident, might have reacted with fear and blame. At the least, she was greatly inconvenienced by being late to work, and then having to deal with getting her car repaired.

But instead, she reacted with compassion and reassurance to my friend, who was shaken himself and desperately apologetic. She even hugged him after they exchanged information and before they parted.

Would I have such composure and grace in that situation? I’d like to think so. She has modeled for me the way I would want to act.

Accidents happen. I’m sure my friend will be an even more careful driver now. But the biggest lesson, I think, is about how we treat each other. The other driver taught us all that no matter the circumstances, we always have a choice about how we react. Her generous spirit will shine on in our lives for a long time to come.

You never know when you are going to meet an angel. I feel blessed.

Life is short, and we have little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. Oh be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. ~Henri Frederic Amiel

related posts: A Shining Moment in the Darkness; The Kindness of Strangers

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Only Gold Medals That Matter

I saw this video a couple of days ago and I’m still marveling over it. In the video, an able-bodied middle school wrestler is in a match with another student who has cerebral palsy. Watch this short video to see what happens.

Click here to watch video.

This represents the best of sports, and is what I wanted my kids to learn by participating in sports when they were growing up. I think one of these wrestlers deserves a gold medal for courage and the other one deserves a gold medal for compassion.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Everything Is Impermanent (revisited)

I wrote not long ago about lessons that life was teaching me about the impermanence of, well, everything. I just got another reminder.

I was looking for something in a box of old papers. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did find an old college paper that I must have thought was brilliant at the time because I saved it. I never save anything. As best I can tell, it was a philosophy paper. I’m quite sure it definitively answered all the deep questions of life once and for all.

But...I can’t read it. Back in the dark ages of my college education, apparently we were allowed to write our papers in pencil. And in an unintended scientific experiment, I have now discovered that papers written in pencil and then stored for decades in boxes in the attic will fade until the writing is so faint that most words are illegible.

Sigh. Like a supernova, my solutions to the universal questions burned brightly and were gone. And I can’t recreate them because I’m not half as smart now as I was when I wrote them.

Here today gone tomorrow, so don’t get attached to things. ~Maude, in “Harold and Maude”