In the Moment

Today we got the veggies into the garden, And Mother Nature got into the act, coaxing bees into fruit blossoms and sending breezes through the sunlight trees. I admit, when I had to take a break between loads of compost or a stretch between planting rows, I let the siren call of social media pull me out of this long, glorious moment.

The irony was, that however anesthetized I may convince myself I am after a few minutes of doom scrolling, there is no social media post that can generate the sense of peace that comes from simply being in the moment with mother nature and all her glory. 

All too easily, I tend to drift into daydreaming, telling myself that I’m meditating. it’s an act I recognize quite often in my students, many of whom are dealing with trauma or their own mental health issues that keep them from being fully present. As The afternoon sun cast a spell on the forest around me, however, I am reminded that Any daydreams, any veering off into the anxieties produced by focusing on all the things beyond my control, is not meditative or productive.

In this moment, I’m focusing on the bees as they help get spring going, on the new leaves that are fairly glowing. And even though meditating on the wind traveling through the forest produces feelings of utter peace, it also makes me feel blessedly awake.

Maximum Distraction

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m getting my painting kit together for an afternoon of escapism, I feel a little bit like James Bond’s messed up kid sister (yeah I like to pretend I’m that young).

Flipping open my beat up watercolor tin that looks like somebody’s five-year-old got into it and checking in the water pens to make sure there’s enough ammo for a few sketches, I can hear variations of the opening bars of every 007 movie followed by the Mission Impossible theme. I will be the first to admit that they probably don’t carry their high tech items in a Ziploc baggie in their purse, but there in lies the genius. No one would ever suspect this frumpy lady, carrying an even frumpier purse of smuggling weapons of maximum distraction around town.

Not even the housework and homework police doing their regular patrols inside my head.

So what’s in your art wallet?

How to Handle a Day

I love that the animals don’t need a weather report to know how to handle the day. They went out for their morning constitutional‘s, scanned or sniffed the sky, and were back at the window in less than five minutes, waiting to come in.

They’ve been curled up next to and on the couch in my office for hours. Some mystical meteorologist has told them that something big may be on the way, and a good, solid nap is the only way to handle this kind of day.

April Fools

picking-my-battles-all-under-control-web

“The day before spring break is always a perfect day for a snow storm,” or at least that’s what I imagine Murphy was thinking to himself as he thought of all the conditions that might prove his law to be true.

It it actually is a perfect day to dump a bunch of precipitation on our town. The snow had mostly melted. The trees are mostly bare, making potential matchsticks out of the mountains.

So everything that could go wrong did, but it isn’t really a bad thing.

What Us Worry?

Most of our house is buried to save on energy bills. When the wind tears through in the spring and fall, however, I find myself wishing we’d buried the entire thing until I look at the sleeping Sisters from a Different Litter.  

The wind and rain have completely blurred the view from our cave at times this morning. It howls through the mountains, making 100 year old trees dance and sway like a bunch of twenty-somethings doing the Batusi — and it’s just as hypnotic (and occasionally horrifying) to watch. I play Monday morning sportscaster, wondering which tree will twist too hard and go down and which one will live to play another day. Anything that could fly into a window is secured against the house, but every once in a while a gust will come from the south, actually pushing on the glass. A gust will come through the forest at the north end of the house making us wonder if that massive pine tree is too close to the part of the house that isn’t buried. 

But then Monday morning sports turns from Tree Dancing to the Sleeping Sisters competition. Today’s event – who will move from their cushy spot last (with no cheating by the refs by opening the food bucket lid in the kitchen)? Popular wisdom has it that animals can sense when something is wrong, so when the gusts make the entire forest seem to bow to the ground, I always expect a response from at least one of the Sleeping Sisters.


The wind has made the windows heave at least three times, and, so far, the Sleeping Sisters are in a dead heat.  Literally.

So, for the moment, I’m listening to popular wisdom and putting my faith in their instincts over my over-active imagination. 

April In Spite of Everything

Winter in Vermont doesn’t really end in March. That happens sometime in mid-May after a last coating of snow, but in April, just when cabin fever seems like it’s getting critical, we do get signs of hope.

Most years, our first sign of hope has been the email from the Little League coach announcing the first practice schedule. There’s the tipped over composter as hungry bears wake and begin their neighborhood prowls. There are the signs for announcing community Spring cleanup‘s and Sunday brunches.

Our composter was upside down when we went out to the garden at the beginning of April, but, even if our kids were still playing, there will be no Little League this year. There will be no Easter or Mother’s Day brunches or, possibly, even a Green Up day – Vermont’s statewide, community spring clean up.

This cool, sunny morning, on the day before Easter, however, I went out to the garden inspect my peas and was greeted by vibrant yellow buds about to become daffodils. I’d been waiting for them to appear for weeks and had almost given up hope that they had survived another winter.

In spite of everything, the sun is still shining longer every single day, Mother Nature is still working her daily miracles, the daffodils will still come up, and winter will end.

Watching a Saturday Go By

Working weekends torpedoes your social life, and, when you work at home with most of your work friends in different cities or states your social opportunities are limited to begin with. I compound those factors with a relatively introverted personality — I had almost perfected the shut-in lifestyle before I decided to go back to school to keep my brain from atrophying. So when plans go awry, as they did this weekend, you really feel it. Feelings get spackled over and patched up, but I find what really puts a new coat of paint on the weekend is getting a glimpse of the people and things that make life – shut-in or out-and-aloud — worthwhile.

Thing2, a study in social-butterflying, had his Saturday calendar filled before I knew that someone’s kid had been dropped off. He and his bestie headed out to re-enact their favorite Star Wars battles in the muddy, snow speckled yard. It’s a warmer day – in the fifties, and the boys disappeared into the woods for awhile, reappearing to prove that they were still breathing but dirty, only when I rang the school bell that hangs outside our front door. Katy-the-Wonder-Dog waited for them to tire out and, when they took a break, sitting down on the stoop on the deck, she went over to them to add a few kisses to her social calendar.

I stopped working long enough to appreciate how sometimes just watching that part of the world go by is as satisfying as any day out.

Freebasing Spring


I’m on wheelbarrow load number 10 or 12 full of dirt and fieldstone, Vermont’s unofficial state crop. I’m trying to level out an area where we’re about to put a deck or, rather, where the nice young man who lives at the bottom of the hill is going to build a deck for us.

It’s been hot and sunny all morning, but the clouds are rushing in faster than was predicted this morning. I’m trying to get a few more loads done before rain moves in.

I’m ridiculously out of shape, my belly resembling the shape of the more bulging clouds. I want to get the earth cleared so he can start after the rain, so I keep shoveling and rolling. As I’m pushing load number 14 to the edge of the woods, though, I push pause.

I step outside time and lie down on a pallet of lumber in the middle of the yard. I’m supine on the pallet, and the pregnant purple clouds seem to tumble through the top branches of the trees that border the yard to my bed. I could touch the sky, if I just reach out.

Wind starts to whip across the yard and the first gentle sheets of rain brush my skin, the smell of the rain infusing my brain with spring. The rain cools my sweat, restarting the world of work and to-do’s, but long after the clouds move on, it will still be spring.

Rejoice and Be Glad

It was a sunny six degrees by the time I got Thing2 to the school door, and, after a weekend of sub- sub-zero temps, the sky was so gloriously blue that I had to stop myself from blurted out how much it felt like spring. Knowing the mention of the five-letter S word would scare it off like showing a rodent its shadow in February, I silently ran my errands, making mental paintings of the trees and the shadows on the still-crisp snow.

Even a text from Thing1 reminding me he needed to practice driving stick (in mom’s car of course) couldn’t dim the feeling that it was as close to a perfect day as anyone could ask for. I’m not religious, but whenever Mother Nature is putting on a show like that, the greeting from Psalms that opened services at my parents’ old church runs through my head:

“This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Whether you think a beautiful day was made or just happened, there’s something to be said for the missive to rejoice and be glad for it.

I admit to being a bit of a worrier. I worry about Thing1’s healthcare prospects as he’s starting to leave the nest. I worry about ever being able to retire. I worry about the growing number of displaced people around the world or if we’re moving closer to blowing up the human race with every single day.

I’ve been guilty of not rejoicing for days on end and even contemplating throwing away the rest of my personal collection of days.

My failure to rejoice in the moment — even for just a moment each day — is being rectified. Over the last few months I decided to make a change in my life and go back to school so that, in the long run, I would have more time to work on art and to feel like my life work will make a contribution. I’ve enjoyed school as an adult but as soon as I was immersed in study, I felt as if a fog was clearing.

The world started opening up, and I suddenly started to see the possibilities as well as the dangers. Despite a new mountain of work and all the same worries, I had more energy everyday. Without even realizing it, I was rejoicing.

Even if yesterday had been the last day, not rejoicing in the beauty of sun on the snow would not minimize any current troubles. Acknowledging the gift of that day, however is a recognition that there is always beauty, and worry cannot diminish it, even if it tries to obstruct it sometimes.