Unfettered…

The long days linger well into the evening now, and now that I’ve been in this house for two years I’m noticing smaller things that I didn’t have time for last year. We have to dwell in one place for a while before it feels like home. I certainly wondered how my son was going to sleep with the bullfrogs who decided to hold a convention in the hidden pond just down the hill from our front door, and I spent hours listening to the creek down another hill in the back. What I missed, because I was in a new place, was the feeling of dwelling among the trees.

I’m not a ranch person, meaning the one level homes so many people enjoy. I love two story homes, and my dream a long time ago was to have a third level magically looking out upon the world. My old house had the most magical maple tree in the back yard that filled our two story room. That tree imbued the room with green hues all summer long, and when brisk October swept into our lives that tree made the room a buttery pumpkin orange. My bedroom looked out upon trees on either side, and I felt happiest on warm evenings when the breeze blew through the room. It reminded me of my childhood days happily reading while the sun swung high in the sky, with a light breeze puckering at the white eyelet curtains my mother had made for me.

That’s not to say my childhood was spent only reading. I spent hours outdoors climbing trees too high, only to discover I had to act brave in front of my brother and his friends and climb down as one not worried about the long fall should I make a misstep. I raced bikes with my friends down hills and climbed though culverts which narrowed nervously to the point where I thought none of us would ever be able to squeeze through. We did, and we never went back there again. I suppose all of us spent our childhood doing some things that weren’t the smartest, but isn’t that how we learned? And wasn’t it fun? At least most of it?

We had our adventures and lived to come home and set the table while begging to have a cookie before we died of hunger. Of course my mom told me to wait, and sitting at the table was almost heavenly as we happily devoured mashed potatoes and spare ribs. Some nights we even had dessert. So how does this have anything to do with the trees surrounding my old house and my new one? Well, I think we carry the happy parts of our childhood with us, and we feel blissfully happy when our lives bring us back to what we felt as teens or much younger children. I once lived in a house with a beautifully green bedroom that had trees hiding my windows. It felt private, as though it were my secret refuge from the teenage world, and I loved it.

What else do we carry forward from younger years? Why do we listen to the music of our high school years? How can a song from junior year bring us to that day our boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with us? Yes, we’ve found new music to enjoy in the ensuing years, but those songs that we played too loudly (according to our brothers or fathers who had very different taste in music) evoke the feelings from back then if we’ll allow it. If music can do that, why not a warm spring breeze or the rustlings of a restless tree outside our window?

As adults we have responsibilities and roles to play, but when it’s our time to do with as we please, then why not pause to watch how far north the sun swings in a late spring evening? My house perches full north, and while I heard the bullfrogs who refused to be ignored and noticed the lilting lullaby sung by the creek on long summer days, I missed the nuances one only notices over time. So while I finally picked up the bestselling Where the Crawdads Sing with tea for company, I heard more than the owl who finally decided to come back. I saw more than the wall of green trees standing sentinel over this house.

I saw the way the trees line the path down the steep hill that my husband made this winter. I step outside to watch the water make its way down over the small falls, and I realize how wonderfully positioned our home is. I wanted a home that ignored the north, since the very word conjures up frigid winters spent in Wisconsin watching in alarm as frost crept up my bedroom wall. In my third summer here, I see how the southern view looks out on woods, cliffs, ravines and that beautiful creek. And I’m learning which rooms look out over leafy green limbs that make me feel like I’m above it all.

I have spent my life finding what was good in every house I’ve lived in, and if we do that wherever we are, we’re bound to find a slice of contentment even in a small apartment. I lived in a room no larger than my walk-in closet in college, and I felt cozy in my burrow with a window peeking out at the yard. In that first apartment of my own, where the couple downstairs made so much noise when they argued, I only had to turn on my fan to block the noise and look at the green plants I had bought one lonely night after work. Far from home, with a stressful job and friends strewn across the country, I found solace in what my mother did whenever we moved: bringing out the ferns, the spider plants, and the green plants she nurtured.

With our world filling in with green and that lovely deep blue that only arrives before high summer, we can find our happiness. I suppose I love evening most when I watch the sun slip below the horizon and yet the clouds above remain lit up by that same sun. An age ago I was making dinner one night when my mom and I stepped out to watch a thunderstorm approach, and I miss my old house where I could sit and see the lightning that streaked through the windows we decided to leave open. I always lit a candle just in case the lights went out, and while I still light candles; I’m still learning where to watch for the lightning. For the wildly beautiful oncoming storms of summer.

We can find happiness in places unexpected. Today while I quickly strode through our downtown “city”, since I had flowers wilting in the car waiting for the bridal shower I’m hosting tomorrow; I stopped back at the shop where I found old white ironstone bowls and still didn’t buy them. And I passed so many people enjoying the bike trail that passes through there, and others who were digging into their cups of ice cream; and the happiness at seeing people outside and together again made me buoyant with hope. I think we’re going to get through this. We can be together again if we so choose.

I’ll miss the sweatpants and t shirts. I might even miss not feeling guilty over sitting and watching another episode of The Waltons. I know! It’s an addiction. Though I just discovered The Great British Baking Show, so there’s hope for me yet. But think of all we’re gaining! We can hopefully have the wedding with no masks needed while we dance. The bridal party can be stand at the altar with their smiles in full view. We can fly to see my parents again. The freedom is spacious and happy, and I’m so waiting to take that trip to Scotland the minute Americans are allowed back in.

I found this in a shop when I went out with my bride-to-be daughter. We were back in her old neighborhood for a dress fitting and decided to wander into the shops that had flung open their doors, beckoning us to come inside. I missed the cute boutiques that didn’t make it, but we happily shopped at the stores that remained and bought a few things for ourselves. It’s been so long, and it felt like the world was on their best behavior and sweet as pie.

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you’re enjoying the greens and blues that make this time of year so pleasant. I hope you venture out to your old haunts and find new places to enjoy too. Find those songs from your teen years and listen to them one night, preferably as you sit outside drinking in the lingering twilight. Maybe it’s time to buy a green plant for outside, and while you plant in the warm dirt, look up and marvel at the clouds sailing past. This is the season we easily embrace, and while I’m going to go back to my book, I’ll think about how tomorrow the sun will stay out one minute longer. Enjoy those minutes. Enjoy as much as you can. Look for the little things that bring a smile to you. And maybe to others.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart and hands can hold…

Until next time,
Deanna

Sweet September Surrender…

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I woke in time to witness the dawn, with the swirls of mist snaking through the low places on our land. The verdant green of the trees and swaying grasses play tricks on my mind, and I believe summer might last forever. On a lazy September weekend anything feels possible, so I pretend for a while that the sun beating down on our cabin/farmhouse (take your pick) is as strong as June sunlight, but I’m fooling myself. It’s time to wake up from daydreams and wishes and look this month straight in the eye.

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Give in to this beautiful month of what is technically still summer. Autumn will arrive, and then we can find our blankets and socks. But now is a wonderful time to hike without the scorching heat of summer swallowing you (hopefully). Take a bike ride or linger for a morning outside, drinking in the quiet, since many birds have left for their southern nesting grounds. I have a friend who naps on a cot on her back porch. Doesn’t that sound wonderfully indulgent?

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Do you see the school busses rambling around the roads, collecting children and think about the start of a new year? Does your heart catch for a minute, thinking you missed the bus? Only to realize those days live in another time and place?  This feels like the right time to begin anew. And we can, you and I. We can take stock of where we are, how far we’ve come since those rosy January resolutions, and adjust. Maybe you need to rest on a porch in the afternoon sun, with a blanket and book by your side, but only if you open your eyes long enough to see them. Maybe you need to work on that project you so wanted finished by the end of spring. Do it! Get it done! Time’s almost up…

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See that tree above? The oak? That is my favorite tree in the world. The new sun, slanting more each day, runs her fingers through the leaves, and I hope for plenty of acorns for the fawns and their mothers this fall. I have many favorite trees, just like all my kids are my favorites. I think it’s good to love something so much that you enjoy life that much more. Find your favorites, especially going into the turn of the year. Take time to love this time in your life. The hard times and the good… Give in to it. Accept. Surrender.

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We have so much to learn, and if we only had good times, then we’d never learn how to find the beauty in the middle of a cubicle on a Monday morning. Right now there is so much beauty everywhere you turn your head. The farmer’s market, and the grocery stores both hold new tomatoes, zucchini and yes, mini pumpkins. Grab one for your apartment and celebrate. Hold this time close to you. Go about your work, but open the door and marvel at the sunset. I do that so many nights, saying good-bye to this day before welcoming the next.

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Surrender to September. That beautiful month of transition. And enjoy this day.

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Our pool closes this weekend and I want to take a dip before the preschoolers stake their claim. Early morning might be best. So while I take one last summer swim, why don’t you say bye to your summer in your way and enjoy it?  Take time away from studying, working, cleaning and whatnot, and enjoy the beauty of a September sun. Be happy. Find beauty. Until next time…

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(My dream home just north of Seattle.) Hey, a girl’s gotta dream!

Summer’s Bliss…

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Well, I’m back! I left for two weeks in Europe and fell off the wagon, so to speak. Let me explain. I’m going to be super transparent, so hopefully you’ll appreciate my search for happiness, here, in this world we all live in. I have lupus. It was no big deal for years. I could do as I pleased until two summers ago at the beach. I sat under my umbrella, with 50 SPF coating my limbs, but that ocean called to me, as she always does, and I, unable to elude her allure, waded in. For hours. Dumb me. I spent the rest of vacation in bed, joints screaming in pain, with my body reacting wildly to the sun.

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Since that last beach vacation, I have been managing my new life with this strange illness. See, I’m very affected by sun. On those blissfully sunny days when I choose to run errands, in short sleeves (hey, it’s 90 out there!), even with sun block the sun reaches my hair, my face, and toes and it’s back to bed for me. So I haven’t felt like writing about finding happiness. Why read about a woman who’s dealing with things that get in her way to happiness? And then it made sense. After three months of flailing around, I think I can get us there. To my happy place. And to yours…

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I went to Munich in April so I could stroll around in a jacket, in coolish weather, with no fear of beach sunshine, and it worked. That river above is in Munich. Beautiful, right? Munich mesmerized me.  I had a Starbucks right across the street from our hotel, and we walked miles each day, soaking in the city’s vibe. When I came home, some people asked about every sight in London and Munich, clucking their tongue in disbelief when I relayed, that, no, we did not run around ticking sights off a tourist’s list. We discovered the city at our pace. We took our time. And that made all the difference in the world. It made me happy.

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When I came home I brought out my plants and pillows for the summer, and I found ways to love the long days. Under the shade of my maple, I can read or work and still glimpse that sunny sky. I love to wander out in the evenings. I need to look up at the sky to see how she’s feeling. Do you notice the light and how it changes  from week to week? I forget to feel sick when I’m looking up.

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I’m learning to love the rainy days. I didn’t much, growing up in Syracuse. But a day like the one above gave me the chance to roam around with my daughter. We took her dogs along for a very long walk, and we talked about everything and nothing at all. People like that make me happy. The ones who are easy to be with. The happy people in our lives.

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Warm summer rain is a pleasure. As a child I would run out to play in the puddles and little streams forming in my yard.  The rain felt like little warm kisses. Take a walk in a warm rain and see if you like it. Feel it. Raise your head to the sky.  Revel in a summer’s rainy day. (This is the other pond at our farm. The North Pond.)

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Summer is here! You can find the beauty everywhere in this season of plenty. I’m learning new ways. I look out of many open windows these days. I have to. If you’re blessed enough to revel in the sunshine, do it. Go outside. Walk. Sit outdoors and enjoy a chilled white wine. Or tea. 🙂 Find happiness in these effortlessly sunny days. Open your door and find a slice of happiness. I might be inside if the sun is bright, but at night, I’ll join you. We have fireflies to catch. And smiles to share with the people we love.

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Breathless Wonder…

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I’ve been waiting weeks for today. The first day of spring. Not calendar spring, but that undeniable mist of green covering every bush, ready to burst forth with tender leaves, and daffodils nodding their pretty yellow heads that, yes, it’s here. My daffodils are trusty and stood up in defiance of an early spring snowfall, whereas my magnolia tree? She waited and now those creamy white blooms reach out heavenward and I know it. I’m in love with the world again.

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How can anyone feel ill on such a beautiful day, I once asked myself, about a hundred years ago. Because I was. I thought twenty year olds stayed healthy until old age dawned. You know, like, around age forty at least. I smile at my younger self. I can laugh at her too. Especially on days when happiness is the creek running fast, gurgling songs that make you pay attention to her. And did I mention the bluebirds I’ve seen in my yard?

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How can you not feel gloriously happy when bluebirds show up at your bird feeder? The gentle spring rains are adding their music to my day, while I sit here in the quiet and listen to the pattering on the roof, snug underneath, thick socks still keeping toes cozy. Don’t days like this feel wonderful? Happiness, like love, is so much easier when hope blooms. And it is. Some of you have already thrown open your windows to catch the warm whispers of spring breezes, while others wait patiently for old man winter to finally move out for good.

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Happiness looks you in the mirror in the mornings, because that sun is starting to shine so brightly, that even wrinkles look good. Yes, I am that enthralled by spring. Aren’t we all lured outdoors to bear witness to the dawn, and the gold-hued world she offers on sun drenched mornings? I’m called out in the evenings, the colors feel more muted and soothing, and I love holding tea in my hands, while drinking in the purples, chasing the pinks, that follow the orange in the sky.

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Even if you’re sick, in body or heart, take time to be outside in the freshness of this spring. You need time out for you, and ten minutes of sitting on your front step is pouring life and love back into your body. Share the moment with others and add to your happiness. I like to pick out the evening star and remember the night my father taught me the basic constellations. If you can get away from city lights, look into the night sky and be filled with stars and planets.

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On a late spring evening when I lived farther south, I stood under the whisperings of a willow tree with several friends, ready to head home. My best friend’s brother reached out to my thirteen year old self, to catch my attention, and I’ll always remember him saying with a measure of wonder in his voice,”Your skin feels so soft.” It caught me off guard. Was that a good thing? Soft skin? Because a thirteen year old girl back then didn’t know if she was pretty or pretty enough. At least, I didn’t. I wanted dark hair and dark skin, but had been handed very light hair with almost blonde skin, so I didn’t know if what I saw looking at me in the mirror was okay. When the guy I secretly liked said that to me, I felt beautiful and light, as though I had drunk a glass of wine.

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Why do I bring that up? Because most of us are lucky enough to have had springs of discovery, where we found our footing in a precarious world. We only have a handful of springs before responsibility calls our name and we enter the race. Busyness claims us, one by one. But don’t let the cares of this world keep you from feeling love, wonder, happiness and hope. We were made for these days. May wide-eyed wonder fill your days (and evenings) this week.

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Until next time…