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Feeling Blue

April 19, 2015

I woke up this morning in a blue mood.

imageNot the down-in-the-dumps despair sort of blue, but blue skies blue. After a long spell of gloomy weather, the sun shone at last in a sky of postcard blue. The grass – as exuberantly green as only spring grass can be — sparkled with morning dew. I pulled on my favorite blue t-shirt and ventured out into the warm day. I stepped onto a lawn carpeted with violets, and noticed that my little woodland garden was filled with blue flowers.

imageAlthough the squill and anemone have already spent their blooms (or been eatenby deer, take your pick), today’s garden boasts an abundance of Virginia bluebellsbehind the birdbath and Jack Frost near the serviceberry tree. Even the blue hosta peek out of the damp soil, ready to unfurl their large ribbed leaves. My walk through campus this morning was lined by gardens filled with pansies — many of them blue.image

It is a blue morning indeed – the kind of blue one only sees in spring.

On Writing

April 16, 2015

My plan this week was to write. Something. Anything. That has not happened, at least until now. I have myriad excuses – funeral, meeting, new class at the Y, visit with a contractor, weather too nice to stay inside, and too engrossed in a new cozy mystery series. These are not really reasons for sloth – just excuses. The truth is that I have plenty of time to write, but not much will to write.

pWhat is the will to write, anyway? I’ve read countless motivational quips and quotes and stern advice from various authors over the years, things like “If you wait for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter (from Dan Poynter), or this one from Louis L’Amour: “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Ah, that faucet. If I turn it on, the writing will flow like water. And so here I am, faucet on, waiting for the words to flow.

I think one of my problems with writing is stopping before I even start. I cast about for ideas, believing that I need a plan, worrying that I have nothing to say. The truth is I am scared to begin. I am worried that the finished product won’t be any good.My teacherly self scolds my writerly self to just write. It’s easier to fix something than it is to fix nothing. Enter Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, who explains that “this is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”

“Until it’s done,” he says. Clearly, Gaiman is interested in a finished product. Again, my teacherly self argues that a finished product is one that can be revised, rewritten, and improved to the point that the writing is, finally, worth reading, if only to myself. What counts, after the faucet begins to flow is to finish what I start. Again, Neil Gaiman: “Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.” And I have written, and I have finished writing – at least for today. Tomorrow, I will write again, and I will continue to write “until it’s done.”

Qigong Exercise

April 9, 2015

I have been practicing qigong (sometimes spelled chi kung, pronounced chee–gong) since 2002. It is a health practice related to tai chi. I find the practice to be both relaxing and energizing. Practitioners find that the quiet, meditative aspects of the practice are refreshing to mind, body, and spirit.

There are many types of qigong, some more complicated than others, some energetic, some quiet. None is better than others. Kenneth Cohen, in his book, The Way of Qigong, refers to the varieties of qigong as many tributaries of one great river. The “tributary” I practice derives from the lessons of my teacher, Jody Curley, now of Madison, Wisconsin.

As I prepare to lead qigong exercises at an adult day center for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, I have been exploring several of the tributaries of the great river qigong. One practice that is similar to my own can be found in the video below. It demonstrates an energetic qigong exercise session, but many of its movements are similar to the slower, meditative movements I practice.

The video lasts approximately 47 minutes, and if you follow along, you will find yourself energized and refreshed.

Trail 7

April 6, 2015
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The guys were at a baseball game yesterday afternoon. It was sunny, in the mid-60s, and a perfect day for a game of ball. It was also a perfect day for a walk in the woods, and that’s what my friend and I set out to do.

IMG_1315 (2)We chose to walk McCormick’s Creek State Park Trail 7. The trail begins with a low, root-tangled, rocky slope from the trailhead to the creek, which it then follows until the path meanders uphill to a point from which you can see the White River. It’s a reasonably easy walk if you are wearing sturdy shoes, and perfect for finding woodland flowers.

Our purpose yesterday was to look for the earliest wildflowers, and we found them in abundance on the sunny slopes beside the trail. White IMG_1313trillium, bloodwort, dutchman’s breeches, and yellow dogtooth violets peeped out from the leaf litter. These are all tiny plants which do not announce themselves to the casual hiker – you have to look for them.

The woods in early spring are full of small delights and the occasional small peril. Drooping ferns from last year’s abundance mark the spot where new fiddleheads will soon peep out. Beech trees rustle their ghostly leaves in the breeze. The creek rushes over rocky shoals with a roar that will turn to a quiet ripple in late summer. I looked for evidence of spring with every step I took.

IMG_1321

What I didn’t look for was evidence that a dog had recently walked the trail before me. As I walked, I was scouting everything but the trail itself. Just as my walking companion shouted “look out for …” I stepped in it. I spent the rest of the hike scuffling along in the loose gravel and damp leaf litter trying to clean the bottom of my shoe. It didn’t work.

We saw more flowers, heard and found a tiny woodpecker, and marveled at all the downed trees at an old campsite. It might take all summer to clean out the debris from the tree falls, we mused. And all the while, I scuffed and scraped my way down the trail. I began to think it might take me as long to clean my shoe as it would to clean the campsite.

Before we got into the car for the trip home, I was encouraged (well, urged) by my companion toIMG_1322 pull a plastic grocery bag over the foot wearing the offending shoe. Today, I will figure out a way to make the shoe clean again. Meanwhile, I have a few photos to enjoy as I think back on our walk in the woods..

All in all, it was a good day on Trail 7.

April Surprises

April 2, 2015

IMG_1303 (2)It’s been dreary and raining off and on all day. The forecast was for thunderstorms this afternoon, but the storms didn’t materialize. Instead, the sun broke through the clouds and steam began to rise from the streets and sidewalks. Warmth returned to the day, and I ventured outside to see what the sunshine had brought. I didn’t expect to see much more than mud, but our morning shower and afternoon sun have brought a sudden eruption of yellow surprises. Jonquils and daffodils are blooming amid a scatter of tiny blue flowers in the leaf litter of my little woodland garden. Welcome, Spring.

After Boot Camp

March 30, 2015

I participated in a ten-week writing bootcamp recently, and came away with the habit of writing at least 300 words a day. Or so I’d hoped. The truth is that, without those daily prompts in my inbox every morning, I quickly fell out of the habit. Clearly, I needed a good kick in the pants to make me keep going. Enter WordPress and their Daily Post’s Ebook with its year’s worth of prompts. I like the little book so much that I thought I’d share it with my fellow writers. Some days we all need a little boost to get us writing in the morning.

Ebook: 365 Writing Prompts.

Night Lights

November 15, 2014

nightlightLately, I’ve been in the mood to read at night. The sun sets early now, and lounging on the back porch sipping gin and tonics or mai tai cocktails has lost its appeal. It’s hot toddy season – perfect for curling up in a comfy chair, dressed in flannel pj’s, reading a cozy mystery.

Two problems have arisen, however, and I must solve them before I can sink into a toddy-induced fantasy of nighttime reading: first, I need a book with a good story, and, second,  I need a lamp with good lighting. Finding the book should not be too difficult, but a good reading lamp is proving hard to come by.

Said lamp must be tall enough to cast light over the book in my lap. It must cast a soothing, warm glow without shadow or heat. I dislike roasting while reading. It must blend in with the decor – that is, my husband must not notice its addition to the furnishings (he is picky about lamps, which means he usually sits in the dark). Finding a lamp that blends in with the decor and avoids spousal detection is more difficult than it sounds. Lamps fashioned in the Arts and Crafts style of our living room furniture tend to feature stained-glass or hammered copper shades – they are decorative, but cast only small pools of light on tabletop or floor. They are much too weak to  brighten a room, let alone illumine something as small as a book. In short, an Arts and Crafts lamp is not much use for reading, unless one is a bat.

If a proper reading lamp cannot be found soon, I may have to resort to using a miner’s lamp. Surely I am not the only reader who has yielded to the peculiar-looking but serviceable hardhat with lantern fastened to its front. Its only drawback is that my husband just might notice it.

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