It was a busy summer developing a lot of content, delivering a lot of programs, and burning the midnight oil, night after night. To get a full night’s sleep, I bought some light-blocking curtains for my bedroom windows and slept in, morning after morning.
It also was a hot summer and a menopausal summer, and sometimes sleeping in caused me to miss the fleeting window of cool, morning air most suitable for outdoor exercise. I didn’t feel good about missing sunrises and exercise opportunities. It felt like I was in a rut.
As soon as I got through a particularly busy stretch of presenting up to seven programs a week, I went to Marblehead to visit my friend, Michaela.
When I’m on the coast, my schedule is built around sunrises, sunsets, and tides. To plan for photography and exercise, I consult the local tide chart, The Photographer’s Ephemeris app, and my weather app, in that order. Walking on the beaches in Marblehead is more tide-dependent than some other beaches. At high tide, my favorite Marblehead beach is completely under water.
It’s wonderful when low tide is synchronized with the sunrise, although it’s not always the case. Regardless of the tide status, I get up religiously at the crack of dawn to witness the sun appear over the ocean. In the summer, that means getting to the beach by 5:00 or 5:30 (or even earlier).
In Marblehead, one thing you can bet on is that you won’t be alone outdoors, even that early in the morning. It’s a thickly settled community, and a multitude of people of all ages are out bright and early jogging or walking, often with their dogs. I refer to them as the “dawn patrol”.
There are many more people outdoors exercising in Marblehead than I encounter back home, and it’s truly inspiring. It’s a way of life.
My second morning there, I intended to experience rather than photograph the sunrise. The tide was too high to get a decent walk on the beach, and the day promised to be hot. So instead of waiting for the tide to recede after savoring the sunrise, I headed to the causeway behind the beach. Back Beach is at the other end of the causeway. From there, the Boston skyline is visible in the distance. In the past when atmospheric conditions were right, I’ve enjoyed photographing it with my long telephoto lens. This morning, however, I relished the idea of traveling lightly.
I started walking on the causeway, wondering what the image-of-the-day would be. Every day, it’s something different, and I believe the image I’m most drawn to is a messenger that reveals something I am ready or need to know. Often it’s something I’ve passed by many times before without noticing, and then, all of a sudden, it jumps out and commands my attention.
I hadn’t walked far on the causeway before an inner voice I’ve learned to follow urged me to turn around, go back to my car, and get the big lens. I’m really glad I did because as I walked toward my car, my attention was drawn to an image in the distance that looked like a woman walking on the beach wearing some kind of black and red, flowing garment. My curiosity was piqued.
As I got closer, I saw the woman was dancing with red silks on the beach. Everyone else was walking or jogging, and she was dancing her way down the beach with red silks flowing in the ocean breeze. She was a vision of joy and beauty. I love to photograph women “interbeing” with nature and couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of her from a distance, with my long lens. She filled my heart with joy. I wanted to tell her she was the most beautiful sight on the beach (and wondered if she had any idea she was), but I didn’t want to interrupt her as she danced.
So I watched her for a while, feeling greatly inspired. Then I walked along the causeway, as intended. While walking, autumn leaves appeared on the movie screen of my mind, twirling and dancing gracefully to the ground. They were in contrast to leaves that darted down, reaching the ground as quickly as possible.
Yes! I want to be a leaf that dances the whole way down! I want to embody and radiate joyful, inspiring energy, like her. But there I was walking on the concrete with many others who seemed focused on getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible, to check off the exercise box for the day. There also were some pairs engaged in lively conversation as they walked, which made me wish for a friend to walk with back home. But those who were alone seemed pretty focused on moving along in that driven, New England way.
Back Beach is a small, sheltered area with lots of tall rock formations and no parking area. When I arrived there, I didn’t see anyone else around. And I felt like dancing.
So I allowed my body to move however it wanted to, in concert with the waves breaking on the shore. I felt too vulnerable to dance out in the open, front and center, like the woman with the red silks. But it was a start. And it felt amazing. Liberating. Connecting.
Afterward, I sat on the rocks for a little while, savoring the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of the seashore (as my camera silently recorded video). Then I made my way back to the main beach. But this time, I skipped the causeway and walked on the rocks instead. I couldn’t go as fast, but it allowed me to stay close to the water, which was more fulfilling.
The dancing woman helped me to realize that when the tide is high, there are other alternatives to walking or jogging on the causeway with everyone else. You can dance your way down the beach even if the tide is not low enough to walk on a smooth, sandy beach. There’s still enough space to dance. When you dance through life, you don’t have to cover so much ground or go so far. What matters is the quality of being you bring to each step.
When I got back to the main beach, I didn’t see the dancing woman anywhere. I wished I could express my gratitude and share the pictures with her and was determined to find a way to do so.
The next morning, I again got up at the crack of dawn and headed to a new spot Michaela had introduced me to during our evening walk, to witness and photograph the sunrise. The tide was still too high to really walk on the beach, and I considered postponing my walk. But then I noticed the dawn patrol out and about getting their steps in and decided to return to the beach I was at the previous morning.
I pulled into the parking lot and immediately saw red silks at the edge of the water. It looked like she was just getting ready to dance. So I ran up to her and showed her a picture I took of her the previous morning and asked if I could send it to her. We ended up talking for about 10 minutes, and I told her how much she inspired me the previous morning and that I danced on the beach totally because of her. I told her she awakened joy in me, which I then radiated to others throughout the day.
She told me a little about herself (holistic nurse, drawn to meditation and yoga, originally from Estonia). She spoke of wanting to start a ripple of joy, and dancing on the beach was part of that. Her eyes were shining, her energy was radiant, and she seemed to be about my age. A kindred spirit for sure. We exchanged contact info and decided to keep in touch.
While she danced that morning, I took some more pictures of her as part of the ocean landscape, and sent them to her after I got back home. She said they put tears in her eyes.
Being in Marblehead was inspiring in many ways. It was great to spend time with Michaela, for whom I usually cat-sit. (Mr. Butters is the coolest cat ever!) Seeing so many people of all ages exercising outdoors renewed my commitment to prioritize exercise. And witnessing the ocean sunrises inspired me to question why I’m so gung-ho on getting up early when I’m on the coast but not when I’m back at home on the river. Seeing the woman dancing on the beach reminded me that we get to choose how we move through life and inspired me to do so with more joy and creativity.
So I made some changes when I got home. Every single morning since returning from Marblehead, I’ve gotten up to experience the sunrise. And not only that, but I have started a year-long project of photographing every possible sunrise (except when I’m not home or cloud cover is too thick to see the sun), from the exact same perspective. I envision showing how no two river sunrises are alike, and how the position of the sunrise in the sky shifts across the river and back throughout the course of a year.
Every morning while waiting to take the sunrise picture, I set an intention for the day and practice being present as fully as possible. It’s an incredible way to start the day. And then I think of the Marblehead dawn patrol, put on my sneakers, and head outdoors.
I often recall my kindred spirit dancing on the beach, and the image of her inspires me every time, all over again. So far, I’ve done yoga on the riverside and walked the labyrinth barefoot. I also want to dance on the riverside and have a number of spots in mind. And it occurred to me this morning that although it is deeply enriching to imagine kissing the earth with every footstep when I walk the labyrinth, I might try skipping or dancing the labyrinth or playing an instrument as I walk. Or bringing instruments to the riverside and making music with the river.
Because we get to choose how we move through this world. There are a lot of variables that are out of our control, but that is something we can choose.
I love to think of others who dance or make music or art with streams and rivers and oceans and that some of them are doing it at the same time or in the same spirit as me, and we are co-creating with the more-than-human world and starting ripples of joy together.
When I walk on a trail along the river (or any other trail, for that matter), I remind myself not to experience myself walking through the landscape but to feel connected with it, with every step. I want to notice and connect with what’s around me instead of being like an arrow or dart zooming through the air, focused on a destination or checkbox.
When I think of my new acquaintance dancing on the beach, her joyful energy reaches me through space and time and puts more of a spring in my step and a smile on my face and in my heart. I’m so grateful I ended up on the beach when she was there, to be so inspired. And I believe it was no accident. That inner voice never leads me astray.
Yesterday I took a walk in the woods. A question had been lingering in my mind all day regarding someone dear to my heart who is going through a challenging time: If I could converse with their higher self, what would it have to say about my role in their life and our relationship? What’s most important for me to know?
This is something I’ve contemplated in the past with regard to other close relationships. It’s like when you’re not getting anywhere talking with a frontline worker, so you go over their head and speak with the manager. When you’re able to tap into something greater than the personality, higher wisdom can come through.
I can’t say for sure where it comes from. Maybe we connect with our own higher nature or the other person’s, or perhaps at that level we’re not separate anyway. Nonphysical guides? Who’s to say? Seems to me it’s not necessary to have that part figured out to receive useful guidance.
I decided to take a trail I was less familiar with and after a while wondered if it would take me where I wanted to go. At one point, I considered turning around and taking the road back to where my car was parked. However, intuition kept me on the path.
Eventually, I encountered a tree that was absolutely bursting with birdsong—the liveliest bird-music I’d heard so far this year. It was so intoxicating that I stopped walking to marvel at and record the songbirds.
A couple minutes into recording, a car came within earshot. A young man in the car was belting out a song. He had a decent voice, but after a few lines, he began shrieking out the lyrics, and I stopped recording. Until the shrieking began, I didn’t pay much attention. I was more interested in the birdsong. However, the shrieking drew my attention and curiosity. I realized it was a song I knew well.
I continued walking—a little faster now, aware of and grateful for others on the path because this guy seemed a little unhinged!
When I got home that evening, I listened to the recording and pulled up the lyrics for the song (“You Say” by Lauren Daigle). The part of the song I recorded (before the voice became completely distorted) seemed like clear guidance concerning the question I carried in my heart:
“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And you say I am held when I am falling short”…
I’m actually blown away by this because I had prayed for guidance. And there it came, drifting through the air in a moment of stillness and deep listening in the woods. Although I hadn’t intended to end up where I was when this happened and felt a little lost, I was exactly where I needed to be to experience this.
How perfect that the birdsong was enchanting enough to stop me in my tracks and keep me in that spot long enough for me to be in the right place at the right time so the words could reach me!
My husband and I had planned to walk together, but I felt drawn to this particular trail rather than ones closer to home. He had a lot to do and decided not to go with me. Which felt right. Had we been walking together, I probably wouldn’t have stopped to listen to the birds. The pieces wouldn’t have come together.
I’m amused by the idea of the young man who had given in to a crazy outburst in the company of his two friends. He was completely unaware that he was serving as a messenger for a woman he didn’t even notice walking on a nearby trail. It makes me think of how we might be entirely unaware of the roles we inadvertently play in someone’s life—even strangers, as we pass through their field of awareness, however briefly. How many times have we been an unwitting messenger or catalyst?
By the way, the song is amazing. The first time I heard it, I found myself annoyed by yet another “codependent love song” during the second verse (not part of the above excerpt). But as I kept listening, I realized it carried a powerful message if I imagined it being sung to the higher self, not to another person. Later, I learned that was actually the songwriter’s intention. Lauren Daigle is a Christian artist, and she wasn’t singing about a codependent relationship.
If you’re interested, here’s the birdsong recording (with singing at the very end):
Yesterday was a gorgeous, warm, fall day: the kind that we’re keenly aware are numbered at this time of year.
That’s what I love about October: Its vibrance seizes the senses and teaches us to be here now and really experience and savor it rather than just autopilot through it. And if we’re really aware, we realize that presence kindles inner peace and satisfaction and that it isn’t limited to beautiful, fall days when the foliage is at peak. Or beautiful days in general.
On my drive home from work, only a few minutes from home, the light of the sunset sky bathed the already colorful, autumn leaves in beautiful, golden light that illuminated the trees magnificently. There was one piece of land in particular that commanded my attention. It was a spectacular landscape with a house and a red barn surrounded by the blazing trees.
I pulled over at a spot that required a brief walk for the best view. Although my intention was to photograph the farmhouse, the angle of sunlight was changing quickly, and I realized I might not make it in time.
Then I noticed where I was, right next to a cornfield. When I got out of my car, I was drawn to the sunset colors over the cornfield and decided to skip the farmhouse landscape and photograph the cornfield, instead.
After composing some shots and savoring the moment, I continued on, filled with the radiance of the sunset and the satisfaction of witnessing its golden-pink glow. Listening to magical handpan music as I drove, it hit me: Happiness. I am happy. Satisfied. Peaceful. Content.
It occurred to me that for the first time in my life, I’m not chasing anything. Not a relationship, a career, spiritual growth, anyone’s attention, financial prosperity, a slimmer body, home ownership, or anything else. It’s not that I received everything I wanted or threw in the towel. Rather, I learned somewhere along the way that I didn’t need what I thought I needed and had been pursuing in order to be happy.
In other words, I realized I’m already good enough. My self-esteem doesn’t hinge on any conditions or outcomes. I can just be without needing to impress anyone else to feel good about myself. I don’t need others to act differently for me to be happy. I can carry contentment and boundless compassion within me like an inner sun and not be so needy in relation to the rest of the world. I can experience inner peace even when the outer world feels like it’s spinning out of control – without disconnecting from it.
It’s the best feeling ever, and I’m writing about it not to brag but to communicate that it’s possible. Happiness is possible. By that, I mean deep joy and satisfaction, not the fleeting, conditioned, circumstantial variety.
When I pulled into the driveway, I sat in my car for a while watching the sunset sky with tears of joy and gratitude dripping down my face. I realized that every single step was part of the journey that got me here. The photography that helps me to find beauty and experience gratitude every day and uplifted me during some very difficult times. The trauma of losing close loved ones and supporting others through mental health crises. Feeling invisible on social media. Challenging relationships. The list could go on and on. Yet, every step mattered and carried blessings. Every step brought me to this moment of feeling so full and whole and complete.
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I was born privileged, nonetheless. I’ve experienced so much that I never imagined “someone like me” would experience in life. Tough and humbling stuff but also tremendous beauty. Because of it all, my heart is so full of compassion, gratitude, and joy. It wasn’t always that way. I’ve worked hard to rewire my neural programming.
For the past few years, I’ve felt an unconditionally loving presence growing stronger in me. I don’t know where that presence comes from – whether it’s Divinity, loved ones who have crossed over, my teachers, or my own Self. (Is there a difference?) However, I no longer berate myself with judgments and expectations of accomplishing more than I already have in this life.
Experiencing this kind of inner peace doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing from now on. There will be challenges and suffering. Life will still send inevitable curveballs. But there are peak moments when the light shines through so brightly and seems to swell up from the truest depths and fill us with luminosity and grace. We might realize we have grown through all the trauma and heartache and unconditional love and resources we’re blessed with and say thank you. For all of it. Even when the story is still unfolding, and we don’t know how it will all turn out.
Thank you. I trust that this, too, serves awakening.
Even after these peak moments have faded like sublime sunset colors, memories of them can cut through the gravity of our earthly dramas and remind us that we are so much more than the myopic desires and aversions of our ego consciousness. We can perceive challenges and curveballs as opportunities to develop inner resources we didn’t even know we were capable of. We can still have aspirations, but they are unclenched. More spacious. For example, I aspire to be a healing, loving, uplifting presence in this world. At the same time, I don’t need to accomplish anything in particular or help or change anyone else to feel I have worth. I have worth because I exist.
Being less dependent on this shifting world and all its personalities, I wonder (with curiosity rather than a sense of obligation): What’s possible now that wasn’t before? What is possible when we set ourselves free from the prison of our own making?
I’m sure you’ve experienced it: The 3 A.M. wake-up. All shields are down. You are like a turtle without a shell, vulnerable to the thoughts and feelings that seem so urgent in the darkest hours when everyone else is asleep. Thoughts that keep running in circles inside your head like a cat, high on catnip, chasing its tail. You want to go back to sleep, but the thoughts won’t stop.
I woke up recently in the middle of the night gripped by fear. To be honest, fear is a visitor that has not shown up much recently, and I’ve appreciated its absence. But there it was again, strong as ever.
In my daily meditation, I practice noticing and naming emotions that arise. So when I woke up overcome by fear, I noted, “Ah, fear. This is what fear feels like.” It’s like when you pick up the phone and recognize the voice of a familiar acquaintance at the other end.
This fear was financial in nature and whisked me into poverty consciousness before I even knew what hit me. It fell into the “Forbidden Forest” category of thoughts that don’t lead anywhere productive. Although I work diligently to retrain my brain away from those kinds of thoughts, it caught me off-guard in the middle of the night when my defenses were asleep.
The way I saw it, I had four options:
Focus on where the fear is manifesting in my body
Ask for help.
I’m a big fan of developing inner resources. However, I was really tired at the time. So I chose the fourth option.
Calling All Angels
Recently, I’ve sensed an angelic presence in my life and believe there is a great deal of help available to us. We just have to remember to ask for it. At the risk of sounding totally woo-woo, I believe there are legions of unemployed angels just waiting to be asked. They love us and want to help but cannot interfere with our free will and therefore need to be asked. Even so, they won’t work against our highest good, which we might not be aware of in a given situation.
So I asked the angels for help. I disengaged from fear and became still. From that stillness, a warm light arose and engulfed the darkness of my fear. It carried the realization that insight and intuition flow to me in abundance and are great sources of prosperity in my life. The flow of this kind of wisdom provides the answers I need. I just need to trust in it, open to it, and not block it with fear!
That thought was like a soft blanket of peace. It was as if an angel jumped right into my heart and shined a spotlight on what I needed to know and where I needed to put my attention.
I learned that if it’s hard to feel good about money, focus instead on a form of prosperity that is easier to buy into. The closest approximation that brings you a feeling of hope and abundance.
Inside the Tank
Something similar happened during my most recent float therapy session. There are no distractions in the silent darkness of the float tank. It’s just you and your mind. Usually, my float sessions consist of 90 minutes of very deep relaxation and meditation. Thoughts tend to lose their hold when I float because there’s nothing to reinforce them. When I’m that relaxed and undistracted, they dissolve like soap bubbles that pop within seconds of becoming.
However, a compelling thought managed to take root this time. It was about how my mom must have felt when she knew she was dying of pancreatic cancer. How hard it must have been for her to let go of absolutely everything that was important to her in this world. And everyone she loved. I also really missed her as I floated in the darkness.
This time, it wasn’t fear. It was the pain of separation that seized me. Feeling apart from. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. However, I stayed with it, knowing it wouldn’t last. I felt both the pain of separation from my mom and the emotional pain she presumably experienced during the weeks and days before she transitioned out of this world.
Then I experienced an inner sensation of light and warmth, just like when I was gripped by fear during the night. Two memories emerged from that light.
One was a synchronicity that took place after a Reiki training, when I wanted to know which archangel(s) I have a strong connection with. I sensed green light and the presence of Raphael but wondered if I was just making it up. The next day while working at the library, a patron approached me because he had an appointment with a co-worker. He announced in a strong, clear voice, “I am Raphael.” As if that weren’t enough, on my break I got takeout from the natural foods café, and the bill was $4.44. The cashier exclaimed, “That’s a good number! It means angels are with you!”
The second memory was from the earliest weeks following my mom’s death. Lying in my bed at night, I felt myself enveloped by an indescribable sensation of love and golden light that pushed happiness into me. It started at my feet and worked its way up to my head until I was embraced by it completely and immersed in it from head to toe. It seemed to be associated with my mom. Perhaps it was a non-physical hug or a glimpse of what it feels like on the other side? I sensed she is with us and able to tune in to our thoughts. But that wasn’t all. Another family member who is much more skeptical than I experienced the same thing in their bed.
Those two memories engulfed and dispelled the sense of separation that seized me in the float tank. They were much greater than the pain of separation. In the silent darkness of the float tank, I felt deeply connected to and part of the universal life energy that my mom is also part of. For the remainder of the session, I floated in peace and joy.
The morning after fear paid me a nighttime visit, I got up and meditated first thing. During meditation, I understood that help is available when I need it. Answers about the future are not available now because it’s not their time yet. We cannot foresee what choices, possibilities, information, understanding, and assistance will be available to us in the future.
Instead of getting stuck in fear, we can trust that the best path will be revealed to us with every step we take, if we tune in to our inner guidance system. We can trust that we will learn, grow, and expand more between now and then and make choices that have not shown up yet on our radar. We don’t have all the necessary information at this time to pass judgment on how the future will be. In our journey toward the future, we will receive more useful guidance from a state of inner peace and trust than fear or anxiety. Fear blocks the good stuff.
Then I got zapped with an inspiration. Something I couldn’t believe hadn’t occurred to me before. All of a sudden, I envisioned my home in a completely different way that included space for something my heart yearns to do more of. This opened up a new world of possibility and was specific evidence of the insight I had moments earlier.
Basically, my fear dissolved when I understood that insight and inspiration create new possibilities that haven’t come into view yet. I realized my job is to trust that I will be led to the best paths by following intuition, making time for stillness, and acting on the wisdom that arises. One step at a time.
Such a better alternative to thinking too much, trying so hard, and doing too much work that doesn’t produce desired results. It doesn’t have to be such a hard and fearful journey when there is so much help and light available!
Yesterday would have been my mom’s 80th birthday. Well, I suppose it still was. She just wasn’t around to celebrate with us – in the physical sense, anyway. Instead of going to my parents’ house (which was sold earlier this year) for a birthday celebration in the evening as we would have in a parallel universe, I lit up her miniature Victorian Christmas tree in my living room, sorted through a bag of her clothes, and shared some memories with others who loved her. And not just family. Facebook is pretty great for things like that.
Something kind of magical happened on my drive home from work last night. My mom LOVED Pachelbel’s Canon in D. She always made sure it was played during family weddings. We played one of her CDs with many different versions of it in her room at the hospice house the night she was dying, and it created such a peaceful, sacred atmosphere. I can’t recall ever hearing it on the radio, but when I turned on my car radio during my evening drive home, it was playing – which brought me to happy tears because it was her birthday, and I felt her presence in that music.
Music, dreams, and license plates are the biggest ways I feel my parents’ presence, as if they are popping in to say hi. Over the weekend, I turned on my car radio, and “Frosty the Snowman” was playing as I sat at a traffic light in town. I don’t tend to linger on Christmas music stations, but my mom loved everything Christmas, including Frosty (which I remember her playing on piano), and before I had a chance to change the station, I noticed the license plate on the car in front of me read: FROSTY. I kid you not.
Even though it’s a silly children’s song, it was a compelling synchronicity. It wasn’t until a couple days later that I thought about the lyrics:
Frosty the snowman Had to hurry on his way But he waved goodbye saying, “Don’t you cry I’ll be back again some day.”
And then I cried tears of yes because those simple words touched a nerve. When pancreatic cancer struck, my mom did have to hurry on her way, and I know she wouldn’t want us to grieve and cry because she was such a jolly, happy soul who spread joy and kindness everywhere she went.
Was there a message in that song and something more to it than pure coincidence, or do I think too much? Prior to considering the lyrics, I just couldn’t stop thinking about the synchronicity – kept coming back to it – because, even though I originally attributed it to coincidence, it wouldn’t let me go. It seemed like there was something more to it. Something personal. It was a nagging feeling I had. At any rate, hearing a few seconds of the song made me think of my mom, and that brought a smile to my heart. And that’s good enough. But in my heart, I think there was more to it than that.
A couple weeks ago, I finally took four huge bags of my mom’s clothing out of my storage unit, and they have been taking up space in my studio (a.k.a. the enclosed porch) ever since. I’ve had to navigate around them countless times a day. Last night, I finally dragged one of the bags into the living room to prepare the clothes for donation.
They still carried the scent of my mom’s fresh, clean laundering. As I looked at and smelled each article of clothing I took out of the bag (while the Pachelbel Canon played in the background), I really felt her presence. I examined each article of clothing carefully and considered whether I would want to keep it. Virtually every item was from her favorite store, Talbots, and she had really nice clothes, but nothing I’d wear (aside from one Christmas sweater and two jackets I set aside). So I took my time buttoning every button, checking every pocket, and feeling my mom’s energy in each blazer and blouse I held in my hands. Some of the clothes brought to mind certain photographs or memories, which I paused to remember: her working in her garden, celebrating Christmas, going to work, dressing up for parties and social events, vacationing with my dad. I wanted to make sure every piece of her clothing was in good shape before delivering it to the next stop on its journey. Because my mom’s clothing meant a lot to her.
This afternoon, I delivered the clothes to a bustling consignment/thrift shop that donates all proceeds to the local hospital where my mom used to volunteer, playing guitar and singing for the patients she visited on her rounds. She’d always wanted to be a nurse and started nursing school when my children were very young but enjoyed the career she was in and wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren, so she didn’t finish the program. After she retired from her career with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, she took up guitar, and it quickly became her passion. Her volunteer work at the hospital was a fusion of her lifelong desire to work in a health care setting and her lifelong passion for music. Donating her clothes to a place where they would benefit the hospital felt right and filled me with the joy of giving.
My rented storage unit is filled with my parents’ belongings that I didn’t want to dispose of in a mad dash when we sold the house earlier this year. It allows me to take the time to go through their things mindfully and let them go in a way that feels right, one bag or box at a time. This is the week to give my mom’s wardrobe a proper sendoff. And that is how I spent her 80th birthday. By the end of the week, all her clothes will be gone and hopefully will make a lot of people happy – just like she did.
This will not be a wordy post. I don’t have anything deep or philosophical to share today. I just want to share a simple, seasonal pleasure that I find so lovely and peaceful.
This time of year, mornings tend to be quite dramatic on the river, often featuring mist. The calm river becomes a dark, sprawling stage on which the steam fog performs a spirited ballet. I sit on my dock for a front row view and take in the graceful movement. It reminds me of the countless New York City Ballet performances I’ve seen at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center throughout my life. It’s that graceful and unified. The musical accompaniment features the sprawling, seasonal ritardando of the last few crickets and a variety of birdsong solos.
It’s as if I can make out individual mist dancers and watch as they break away from the mass and twirl on their own or in small circles with other misty dancers, as part of a unified choreography and rhythm. One dance with different parts. Another dancer breaks away for a vigorous pirouette, like a tiny whirlwind, before rejoining the rest. When sunbeams shine through spaces between the leaves of taller trees, they look like spotlights shining on certain groups of mist dancers twirling in circles.
Sometimes other music arises in my mind when I observe the dancing mist, such as the romantic waltzes of Johann Strauss. But I suspect that if I were to become even more still and free my listening from any filters or memories, I’d hear the misty river’s authentic music, as has happened a few times in the past.
At some point, I can’t resist anymore. I get into my kayak and glide across the dark, reflective stage decorated with clusters of lily pads and aquatic grasses, as the dancers continue to move, lift, and twirl all around me. It is sheer delight and is always best when I am facing the sun with the mist in the foreground.
One morning, already enraptured by the mist dancing all around me, I paddled under the bridge and noticed a great blue heron standing like a statue amidst all the activity, a striking counterpoint of stillness. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring my camera that morning.
And then there was another recent morning when I was all alone on the misty river except for a solitary goose that was moving gently in the direction of the sun. I don’t often see a lone goose on the river, as geese tend to stick together. As I “read” this image with my heart, a number of metaphors came through.
That morning, a poem arose in me:
I am grateful
For the full catastrophe
Grateful for blessings
I’m not even aware of
And only can sense
The existence of
Where patterns seem
To be shifting
Like a kaleidoscope
By a heart
Tuned by poetry,
Stillness and gratitude
To be in harmony
With a greater Self
Rather than the usual
Misty, autumn mornings on the river are a special gift. Engaging with the cool morning air, the sunrise colors, the stillness of the water, and the dancing mist is such a peaceful way to begin the day in harmony with my environment and my greater Self. I feel so blessed to live here and so grateful for this time of year.