I’m making a concerted effort to focus my gaze on activities and topics that bring joy rather than churning anxiety. Today, along with Zippy and Emma, I went out in the BLOWY sunshine to hike/run on the trails. I felt so much better as a result, even if I did have to carry my running hat that would NOT stay on my head.
Yesterday’s act of self-care was to photograph lovely shadows on the patio. Here are two of my favorites (the one on the right also contains sunflower stalk shadows):
So much going on in the world demands our push-back, but sometimes I need to lower my gaze and focus on the small stuff. Sunshine, wrought-iron patio furniture, and shadows. Who knew?
Grand Island, NE. June 2, 2020
These are hard days and I’m trying to find joy wherever I can. This photo lifts my spirits not only because I love the composition, but also the memory of taking it. I sat outside my little KOA cabin last June, watching the birds and bunnies moving about, and was completely engrossed in my surroundings. I remember the joy I felt aiming my camera at all that activity. So much life on display.
It’s a beautiful planet.
April 17, 2020.
It’s only Monday and I’m feeling anxious about various family members and all I want to do is hunker down with tasty snacks and forget about the rest of the week and everything that comes with it. Alas, life doesn’t work that way. Even this squirrel, who appears so content in the photo, was moments later focused on my intrusion. None of us are allowed to just be. Or, are we?
“There is a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. You see this even in insects and animals and birds. All of us are the same. A much more interesting, kind and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our curiosity is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is. If we are committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.”
This funny little tale unfolded as I sat on the patio with my camera. I was too tired to continue gardening and hoped that focusing on something beside the thoughts in my head would improve my physical and emotional state.
It did. Not a lot, but some.
I’ve been trying to work on my revisions this afternoon. I’m listening to Beethoven through my earbuds in an attempt to drown out the present reality and it seems to work in short bursts. I’m focused and then . . .I’m not. So I decided to look at some photos to find something to put here, and began examining pictures of birds, flowers, waterways, and other typically calming images.
May 3, 2019. Clearwater, Florida.
Well? Right now, my heart is racing. Adrenaline is pumping and it’s as if there’s no escaping my anxiety.
Rather than try to (unsuccessfully) distract myself from these feelings, I’m going to try another approach. I’m going to sit with my anxiety. Because maybe it’s like how you’re not supposed to run when you encounter a bear: if I don’t run from my anxiety, maybe it’ll quit chasing me.
This afternoon I packed notebook, binoculars, camera, blanket, and camp chair, and walked up the street and out into the open space. I’m still not feeling great so only “hiked” a short distance before settling in. I spent that time outdoors doing much and also very little.
I sat in the chair and watched birds through the binoculars. I rested on the blanket in the sun, welcoming the heat baking into my black shirt. I explored the immedate area with my camera, jotted in my notebook, and eavesdropped on hikers talking on the nearby trail. When my stomach growled, I fantasized about snacks. I photographed the moon in the blue sky. I rolled onto my back to watch this uncharacteristically mellow Dark-eyed Junco in the tree above me.
Those two hours outside were balm for my soul. I’m very grateful for the luxury and ease of walking up my street and out into the open. Next time, I’ll know to bring something to eat.
When I was in first grade, my teacher sent a note home to my parents. Mrs. B was concerned I wasn’t taking time to color within the lines and included a worksheet as an example. I’d filled in whatever blanks were there with the correct words and then scribbled with crayons across each of the pictures I was supposed to color.
Maybe my fine motor skills weren’t that well-developed. Or, perhaps I’d already caught on to the busy-work aspect of school. Either way, I wasn’t interested in coloring inside the lines.
My attitude has changed. Today, I’m sitting in my self-isolating bedroom (upright in a chair, rather than in bed), and just finished this Sea Dragon picture from the coloring book I bought months ago. This time around, I found it very soothing to focus on staying within the lines. No time for anxiety while trying to follow the complex paths of green foliage! I suspect I’ll be coloring more pictures in the days to come. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend.
Backyard steps. March 26, 2020.
“If you find yourself worrying, go outside, take three breaths, address a tree and quietly say, ‘Thank you.’ If you can’t find a tree, a dandelion will do… Nature is magic.” ~ Robert Bateman
Hidden bee in lavender. July 16, 2016.
We’re months away from lavender blooming in our yard, but just looking at this photo brings calm. And when I breathe deeply, I can almost smell the flowers.
Must remember to breathe . . .
February 5, 2018.
You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness — perhaps
ignorance, credulity — helps your enjoyment of these things. ~ Walt Whitman
Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed. ~ Indra Devi
House Finch. January 25, 2020
At noon today, I was getting focused and situated at my desk for the afternoon’s revisions when I received a text from a climate friend with a request that blew up those revisions plans. And guess what? I’m totally cool with that because sometimes To-Do lists are overrated.
Sometimes we gotta let in the spontaneity and chaos. Sometimes those elements are the purest reflection of my true Self.
Great Egret. May 5, 2019. Clearwater, FL
Last night I met with the young leaders of the Sunrise Movement in Colorado, and heard some tough news. As I listened, I slouched lower and then lower in my chair. At the same time, I noticed the young woman across from me sitting straighter, back erect and strong. It was as if I was a cautionary tale. The lower I went, the higher she sat. No caving in for her. It was a beautiful sight.
I’d like to be more mindful of sitting and standing tall, no matter the situation.
A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind. ~ Morihei Ueshiba
Lilac bloom on May 17, 2018.
The thermometer currently reads 18 degrees. The sky is gray. It’s snowing and blowing, and is forecast to continue like that through tomorrow morning. I try to live in the moment, to be mindful and present in my life. But right now, in this moment, I’m looking ahead to spring and lilacs in bloom.
Fight me, Pema Chödrön.
May 25, 2015
The work day’s over?
I’m free to step away from the computer?
Free to do some yoga and then have a beer?
Free to switch off my brain and just BE?
(And in case you need permission,
please feel free to do the same!)
Hustler Gulch Hike. July 26, 2018.
Our bloom is gone. We are the fruit thereof. ~ Wallace Stevens
let’s hoop it up, yo.
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. ~ Wendell Berry
Just went out on my patio which I mostly avoid because of my overwhelm regarding invasive weeds, cherry tree stump, and the general vibe of gardens run amok. But the anxiety I felt when I saw all the bind weed busily choking out my preferred plants disappeared when I tuned into the buzzzzzzzzz.
Yes, I have a weed issue. However, my gardens are full of bee-butterfly-bird-friendly flowers. And they’re out in force today.
Here is my very favorite bee. This one, unlike the others I photographed, didn’t hide behind the flowers or fly off before I got focused. This bee was very accomodating.
Thank you for coming to my garden, friend.
Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away. ~ Barbara De Angelis
I travel light. I think the most important thing is to be in a good mood and enjoy life, wherever you are. ~ Diane von Furstenberg
Okay, my suitcase is a wee bit larger than the one in the photo but I am determined to be in a good mood and enjoy myself on my upcoming trip.
In fact, Ms. von Furstenberg’s outlook is very sound and I’d like to adopt it every day, no matter where I roam. Look out world, well-adjusted adult coming through!
A few minutes ago I was working in my front yard, sowing death and destruction via my homemade weed killer (white vinegar, salt, and dish soap), while feeling frustrated and worn out by neverending garden demands. I was dreaming of a full-time gardener. Or better yet, a tiny house and one pot of geraniums. Or maybe a barrel of gasoline and a match to make it all go away.
Then I hit PAUSE on my grumpiness and focused on some blooming tulips.
It really is a wonderful thing to survive a long, dark, cold, snowy winter and be rewarded with colorful flowers. I’m still dreaming of my own gardener, but in the meantime I’m gonna try to appreciate the beauty poking through the tangled, weedy mess that is my front yard.
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.”
~ Mary Oliver
I believe carrying a camera helps me see what I might otherwise overlook. Yesterday I spotted a mighty oak tree, blue sky, and clouds reflected in a puddle and now I can’t stop looking at this photo.
The way we experience the world around us is a direct reflection of the world within us.
~ Gabrielle Bernstein
If the sun’s shining
close your eyes and soak it up
cloudy days ahead
It’s Sunday evening.
And it’s cold, gray, and snowing.
The entire landscape appears to be either dead or frozen.
I realize it’s best to live in the moment, fully embracing the “now,” but honestly? I’m not at all in the mood for that here’s-the-best-way-to-stay emotionally-healthy nonsense.
Right now my “now” is all about looking ahead to the vibrant warmth of my garden in bloom.