life lessons, NATURE

WAITING FOR AN ANT

I have an unstoppable amount of energy that propels me, daily, into a whirlwind of activity. This energy is a force  I have always had, one that when I lasso it, I can have such joy from the satisfaction it brings me. At times it can also cause an intense feeling of failure and fragmentation in my soul.

Today I woke up after a week of incredible accomplishment, finishing a to do list of cleaning and organizing that would make Marie Kando smile. I finally straightened up a basement filled with enough frames and glassware that I could probably open my own IKEA. This cleaning of the basement was nagging at me for months as I had done this already once before when I began my love affair with J’s Junk. This time, though, these things I had accumulated were from another basement, my Providence business location, that I had cleaned out over two years ago.

Rather than throw perfectly good reusable items away, I had decided to bring them to my basement and reorganize them for a yard sale or reuse some other time. Two years later, there they sat, gnawing at  me like an old scab on a wound that would never heal until I left it alone. Not a pretty sight, but kind of the last hurrah of many years of over purchasing along with disarray from having two businesses and everything that happens between them over time.

I love the feeling of saying to myself, “Let me just move this one thing.” And before I knew it, like Samantha twitching her nose on an episode of Bewitched, the entire basement was pulled apart and reorganized. I am not finished yet, but it is almost there. This caused me to redo a spare room in my business that had become a catch all for anything needing to be out of sight from clients. This led  me to clean a shelf removing my Wonder Woman collection from my living room and placing it neatly away in a storage bin.

Checking things off of my list, cleaning, organizing, moving and shifting energy, learning, reading, writing, growing, changing, this is who I have always been and I seldom tire from it, except when I do. Then it is that time. To stop. To stare. To sit.

So this is where I found myself today when I woke up. No plans, no to do lists, just me, my garden and my book and laptop. In the garden, under the umbrella, a plentiful array of birds at the feeder, butterflies and hummingbirds, cardinals and bunnies. A virtual gorgeous symphony of sound and a simply lovely environment to do nothing.

I watch an ant carry a dead ant on its back. As I get up to inspect this, I accidentally sweep them with a honeysuckle branch and split their funeral walk interrupting what may have very well been some type of ant ceremony. I scold myself and apologize to them knowing that I have disrupted a simple but likely complex natural life cycle of two little ants. I watch for the alive ant, who rushed off from the disruption, to return to pick up the dead one who was left behind from my insensitive curiosity to no avail. And I think, this is life too. I think, “When was the last time I watched ants?”

When my son was about four and I was opening my first business, I was moving things in and out of the space. He was sitting outside the stairwell using a stick to playing with dirt and an anthill. He was ensconced in the present moment  as only little ones can offer to us busy moms when we actually  just stop and notice. There was an annoying fly buzzing around his eye and he kept swatting it away. Frustrated and taking big sigh, he yelled out to the fly, “Fly! What do you think, my eye is your home?!” Truth serum out of the mouths of babes. I will never forget that tender moment all these years later. It was the reminder of the moment. To be in the moment for that actual moment that has stuck with me and one that I sometimes forget even when I am in my relaxed zen state.

There is always something to do. But sometimes it is important to listen to my brain and not do something. The not doing is doing and doing it is difficult. I am sure this is something that Winnie The Pooh must have said at some point. I watch nature, I wait for the ant to return and I check my phone. This causes me to lose sight of my intention to be in the moment and wait for the ant to return.  Instead I talk to my aunt on the phone for a bit and wander as I speak.

When we hang up, about twenty minutes later, I look down and notice that the dead ant is no longer there. I missed its departure and will never be sure if it was a fly that picked it up, or if the ant came back to continue its walk with it humbly on its back.

I sigh, thankful that I even noticed this and remember that I must slow down sometimes to notice. This is not something that comes easily, but rather than berate myself, I find myself just simply noticing the simple act of noticing. And the in between of not. Maybe the ant today needed to grieve the loss of its comrade privately without the prying eyes of a human giant. Perhaps this is nature at its truest core.

Meanwhile I work on my time alone with myself and nothing to do, trying to stay here in the nothing and not make my beautiful nothing into a busy something. Only time will tell.

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AGING, NATURE

THE MAGIC HOUR

“No, I will not look at my phone. I will not look at Facebook,” I said to myself on this early morning. I use my phone to listen to podcasts before I go to bed and for the clock when I arise. It seems as if everywhere I look these days word is out that keeping a phone charging by the bed or anywhere in the bedroom should be off limits as it impedes sleep.

My sleep is seldom impeded unless there is a full moon or I have a crazy dream. The phone is always turned over so there is no blinking blue light getting into my pattern. I also never have my phone on for sound, so consequently, I never hear a ring, a bing, or a swish or any other cell phone sound that is part of what seems to be a fully accepted surround sound wherever we are.

Today, though, I woke up with a circling brain- scattered thoughts, hard time concentrating. Maybe the phone by my bed is causing this and I should buy an old school clock. Maybe I don’t even need a clock anymore since I wake up with a, no pun intended, alarming regularity. Five, five thirty, sometimes four, occasionally six, seldom seven. For my whole life, since I was in ninth grade, I have never been a late sleeper.

The morning is my magic hour.

Without my morning time, I lose my balance. As a matter of fact, now that I think about this, I have unconsciously designed my entire life around keeping my mornings sacred. I am fortunate- lucky, some people would say, that I have this glorious option when I wake up.

Should I work out, go for a bike ride, write, tinker in the garden, sit, or listen and stare at the world? This is not luck, this is choice. I have built a business to support my life and my lifestyle. Owning my own company for almost twenty years has given me this ability to control my own way I spend my time.

This is ironic in some ways because being a business owner usually means that work is 24/7. No question. I am always working. At least my brain is- there is no luxury of locking up at the end of a day, walking away and not thinking about the job. But even when I had “a job” I thought about work. I always had owner brain which is why I likely turned into a business owner.

But this writing today is not about work; it is about the morning, that magic hour of five — seven am. When sounds are just nature, not traffic, only car doors opening and the truck engine of my neighbor starting so he can leave for work. The morning is the routine of my day which is about the only stable routine I follow. Wake up, take some slow deep breaths, open the curtains to take a peek at the weather, head to the bathroom for some teeth brushing, face splashing and moisturizing, throw on my old lady clothes consisting of a gardening dress, a Life is Good tee shirt, socks and Ugg clogs, no fashion show here, but pure fifty four year old, live alone comfort. I then make my way to the kitchen to start the coffee. Most mornings these days I make myself sit on the pillow and meditate while the coffee perks, but today, the sounds of my yard were calling me.

I poured my coffee in my new favorite mug given to me by a new favorite friend and made my way to my garden to greet the new blooms with a big happy “Welcome!” I talk to my entire garden. “Hello!” I joyfully exclaim to each of the plants that are my old friends. “Good Morning!” to any plant that decided to bloom for my personal pleasure. I walk around the garden noting what is in need of some assistance. Some of the lavender and thyme I planted last year is struggling. “I must trim the dead wood,” I say to myself, always having a checklist popping like rice crispies. Owning a magic kingdom from 1865 commands a perpetual checklist. Worth every bother most days, though, when I am able to allow patience to prevail, a constant source of work and pleasure.

The fragrance of the morning blossoming honeysuckle puts me in a trance. The rose bush each year that, according to my eight four year old neighbor, was planted over sixty years ago, is blooming like it is coming of age and just discovered its own beauty. My forty packets of zinnias and cosmos I threw cares to the wind and sprinkled like fairy dust are popping up everywhere. No systemic gardening design now, just wild color everywhere is my hope for August if all goes as planned.

All goes as planned…. What does that even mean? Planning is all I have ever done. I never tire of planning and crafting ideas and parties in my head. But nature is the counter balance for this busy spirit. Without it, I would be way off the rails instead of just partially a little wacky.

I stand in my gravel driveway after inspecting my pots of zinnia sprouting like magic. I look up to find the song sparrow singing to me again as she does every single day like clockwork, happy to have her serenading me. I listen for my familiar cardinals and as I look up, I see five or six seagulls headed towards the sound of a motor boat on the bay likely a quahoger out on the water at his job, hoping for some free breakfast. (Not the quahog, the seagulls). I look towards my bright fiery pink roses starting to wind down, wishing I had planted more, and notice out of the corner of my eye, one of the two baby bunnies that now reside on my property.

I stand as still as a mannequin. I watch, thinking for a brief moment that if anyone saw me at this moment, they may think I have lost my marbles in the get up I have the balls to stand outside in. I notice the petals of the roses that have fallen to the ground and watch the bunny sniffing them. She then takes one in her mouth where I am sure she will realize it is not the food she was looking for and spit it out, but to my luscious surprise, she eats the entire petal. Then another and another. My thoughts are this. “She likes the taste of rose as much as I do!” followed by, “I am so happy I didn’t let Mike, my landscaper to spray round up in my driveway.”

This is what i call self confidence.

I watched for a few more minutes appreciating the stillness of this magic moment and thought how happy I am that the honeysuckle’s aroma this morning traveled like the swirl of a magic Genie coming out of her bottle the way Barbara Eden used to in I Dream of Jeannie back in what seemed like a simpler time in life.

Nature in the morning is gift that so many pass by and take for granted. Just a brief stop to smell a rose blooming or taste the smallest drop of the sweet honeysuckle on the way to the car to work can be a day changer. We are running and running. Nature is our excuse to stop and smell the roses. Let’s do this. #Timetolookupindeed.

6am. yep.
NATURE, WOMEN'S HEALTH

IF I DIDN’T

I decided to head out for a walk on Friday morning instead of the gym because I was reminded while reading information by a new practitioner I just met. She wrote about the equal importance of outdoor fitness- connecting with nature and your body- along with gym workouts. I know this to be true because there is nothing like nature to settle my overactive brain. Working out at the gym does this too, but in a much harder way. The vigorous pounding and accelerated heart rate, literally, beats it out of me.

Nature is the opposite; it is settling, calming and acts more like a slow, steady paddle on a calm morning. It is the yin to my souped up yang. Souped up yang as my heart lately has been racing, my brain has been in overdrive and all of this leaves me with feelings of inadequacies and not good enough thinking that makes me feel super shitty.

Is it the full moon? (yes), the approaching intensity of the glorious summer solstice? (yes), is it the fast approaching seventeen year anniversary of being in business? (I hadn’t thought about that, but YES). Yes to all because I can feel a big, bad ass shift happening, but I haven’t figured the ‘it’ out yet. Me and not figuring ‘it’ out is an awkward dance that creates undo stress. I don’t like not knowing. Which is exactly why I am here. Not knowing is where I am supposed to be and this is something I definitely know.

Ironic. My grandmother would say, “Alayne, sometimes no decision is the best decision.” I don’t know why this gives me an immediate sense of comfort, but it does. I bring the need to make decisions on in a way that causes pressure on this overachieving mind of mine. This is the challenge of a creative soul, for sure. Always moving and shaking and if things are not moving and shaking, well, then I must move and shake them.

So the counter balance is to cease and desist, not completely, but to use nature as my guiding light as the opposing force to settle my ass down in a chair and stare. To walk on a path by the water with no phone and no companion except my beating heart and my Serena strong legs to propel me along the beauty I get to call my place on this earth.

The first step is usually the one that causes me procrastination for no apparent reason other than the call of my house. Writing, cooking, typing, organizing, working, are all little parts of the why I may not always make time to go for that casual stroll alone, but I did anyway.

If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have seen an elegant shimmery white egret fly over me, full spread wings, headed for his landing pad of the harbor. The sound of his movement was what caused me to look up and stop in awe to watch. While I was looking up, I heard the familiar sound of the Osprey who has the prime real estate address of Poppasquash Rd. in Bristol, Rhode Island with his family and saw him carrying a fish. What a sight! Like the sounds of cardinals, I can always recognize the Osprey’s high pitched whistling sound. This is a rewarding lesson that keeps giving as their majestic wing span soaring over my house is a sight to behold.

If I didn’t take that walk, I wouldn’t have noticed the baby bunnies foraging for food, looking so vulnerable as they learn the ropes of finding nourishment. I wouldn’t have had the conversations with my friend, Greg down at the harbormaster’s office as I passed by on my way towards the path along the water about the new ferry service from Bristol to Newport to Providence. I wouldn’t have picked up the schedule to learn the times that it runs and subsequently made plans yesterday to head into Providence on the new ferry service. This led me to be part of the all inclusive and heart warming welcoming to all who come in peace, Pride Fest. I found my way to a brand new vegan, but you would never know it, restaurant called Plant City.

On my walk, I saw people out doing the same, business owners getting their storefronts ready for business. I enjoyed the rich aromas of the glorious seaside town I get to call home and feel and hear my heart beating because of my pace. I felt the bay air and wind through my hair and on my skin as I got a nice sweat going from the speed in which I am privileged to keep my legs moving forward with. My olfactory system would have not smelled the beginnings of the summer roses opening, coupled with the aromas of flowers, herbs and freshly cut grass as the good people of Bristol are in their happy place, getting their homes ready for July 4th.

I wouldn’t have noticed the bird with the bright red breast and the grey head on the top of the pillar on my front porch after my walk was complete as I took the time to sit there with a nice cup of coffee. I had never seen a bird like this and though it pained me to break from my trance of just simply admiring without having to take a picture, I went in to my house and got my phone to capture him or her. It wasn’t for posterity as much as curiosity and being able to remember the description so I could find out what bird this was. She let me take a picture almost posing and we had a lovely connection before she flew away.

This brief encounter caused me to open up an Audubon bird book collecting dust on my shelf that some dear friends of my grandmother had sent as a gift to my son. I spent a half hour looking for a picture of this bird to no avail. a few days later, I walked next door to ask my bird loving friend, Dottie, and she didn’t know either. This caused me to head yesterday on my quest to find out the name of this bird to a new favorite spot, The Redwood Library in Newport, RI to look for some bird books and see if I could get to the bottom of this little sweet bird’s name. I couldn’t find a picture that fit the exact description, but while perusing the shelves, I come across a paper thin book of poetry by Audrey Silcox, a poet who lived from 1890–1944, she died at the age I am now. This was next to another book by Ruth Whitman called The Testing of Hannah Senesh. Hannah Senesh was a famous heroine of WWII who was captured after parachuting into Yugoslavia because an informant turned her in. She was executed after spending nine months in a concentration camp at 23 for trying to save her Hungarian Jewish friends and family.

This book of poetry captured my attention and I became so ensconced in the writing that I ended up sitting there for two hours to finish it. Yesterday at the library was like a live version of internet surfing except I was sitting in the sunlight at my back in a comfy old dark green leather chair with the only sounds being the crinkling of the opening and closing of library books instead of the tapping of the keys and the bings of text messages at every second.

I know that the actual reading of a real book of poetry, a real walk in the rain on the way home with my umbrella that my partner reminded me to take and the time it gave me to be myself was significant for my health. I don’t know the science of why, I am sure there is science, but I don’t really need this because I go with the feeling. Surfing the internet vs being in nature gives me two completely different feelings, the latter always soothes, awakens me from my slumber and calms that nothing else can compete or compare with.

If I didn’t go outside for that forty minute or so walk a few days ago, I wouldn’t have known what I might have missed, but I didn’t miss anything because I said yes to me. I walked and glided along and kept the promise to myself to get outside and enjoy the day. All of this nature took me on a weekend journey I hadn’t anticipated, but I allowed its guidance.

Nature never disappoints and it always rewards me. I don’t know why I would even procrastinate ever again. Though I didn’t find out the name of the bird until I texted the picture to my friend, Julie, who knows all things birds. I realize the irony of this and what humbles me is that, perhaps, I can allow room for both. Nature and technology. There are some time saving aspects to the brilliance of the Google search, for sure. I just have to make sure that I am in the drivers seat instead of letting it take me for the ride of incredible time wasting- looking down, missing what’s up.

The cardinals were with me on almost the entire walk this past Friday, egging me on, telling me that this is always the best remedy for a busy mind. My life and my brain is calmed, my world feels better and I am ready for my day. All because I did instead of didn’t. And by the way, the bird according to Julie is a house finch. “Yep, that’s a lovely little house finch,” she texted back. “They’re beautiful color and have the best song. They’re common, but really special.” #luckyindeed.