self improvement, self love

IN THE MOMENT

I woke up at four am this past Monday morning and lounged in bed for what seemed like two hours only to discover that just thirty minutes had passed. Every day this week four am has been an unintended alarm so I indulge its inner ring and get up. Why not, may as well enjoy the quiet sound of the morning.

I put the coffee on and grabbed my pillow lowering myself to the floor for another round of While the Coffee Perks Meditation acknowledging myself with a brief mental clap for sticking with this practice. I started this over four months ago and have barely missed a day. The rewards from this are countless and though hard to define them with words, I am a much calmer and focused soul because of this. It makes me feel good and I want to feel good so I march forth.

As I sat cross legged on the floor and began breathing, the sounds of the rain storm and wind surrounded me. I haven’t heard a good thunderstorm in a while so when the electrifying bolts of lightning came along with the thunderous booms I breathed them in. How often does one get to be meditating and at the first breath in have thunder and lightning join you in the party? Wake up! They yelled. And I welcomed the reminder to pay attention. I am. More now than ever.

And it is a conscious daily choice I make to pay attention. In the luscious moment that is right now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but right now because really this is all any of us have. The older I get the more I realize that RIGHT NOW is all we ever have. We take time and tomorrow and next week and next month for granted. Or at least I have, all ingredients for fretting and worrying and anxious thinking that doesn’t serve me and my creative self well -ever. I am confident that many reading this today would agree, it seems like this is just one of our traits of being human. When I reflect back on anything in my past that I excessively worried about- like actually lost sleep over- it is virtually insignificant today. As I review these temporary struggles of yester year I realize the value in their lessons in the countless hours I wasted.

Finishing my deep contemplative breathing that is now part of my morning routine, I got myself set up on the couch for my other morning ritual, writing. Trying not to be persuaded by the calls of checking Facebook and email, I dive into my happy place that always keeps me locked into the NOW. I start thinking about the moments this past week that I lived in the actual moment. I am fully aware of the irony of this as living in the actual moment means not headed backwards, but for the purpose of drawing the examples to illustrate when IN THE MOMENT works for me, I must head there.

This past #noplanthursday, I am attempting to add to my list of IN THE MOMENT moments, has been an interesting experiment. Three Thursdays later, I have learned that I struggle with not making plans on purpose. I had to return books that I took out at my new favorite spot I discovered on my first attempt three Thursdays ago. The Redwood Library in Newport, RI founded in 1747 with this as part of its mission statement. Nothing in View but the Good of Mankind. Has an old fashioned ring to it, doesn’t it? This library isn’t just any old library, it is a subscription library and the oldest community library still occupying its original building in the United States. You need to have a separate library card for it and must sign up as a member which I promptly did. The Redwood Library is a magical space to sit and do nothing except read or write or sit and stare in silence. There are lectures and music events as well as special exhibits and I was lucky enough to catch one on Claggett Clocks. This may sound like a big yawner to some, but honestly, imagine walking into a dimly lit room with over forty grandfather style clocks made from as early as 1716, many working and ticking and gonging just as the noon hour hit. This is the thing about not planning anything and finding something without looking. Juicy for sure.

I have this list in my head of the places I have said I am going to get to. Like so many women I know who say, I’ve been meaning to get there, the museums, the walking trails, the kayak trips, the flower shows and the exhibits. Those endless lists of interesting things to do, but somehow the endless lists in our head prevail and the days go on as do the exhibits. What better days than getting to these then on these no plan Thursdays?

I walked there from my partner’s house to return the books after having lots of mindpseak trying to convince myself I didn’t need to leave the comfortable couch with my laptop. What is it about that mind speak saying NO instead of YES? Thankfully, though, the books I took out had to be returned on this very day so I had to get up and go. Books in hand, I made my way outside to a glorious day of sunshine and cool breeze, the ocean at my back and the sounds of nature as my private symphony. It was amazing how quickly I moved from the lists to the moment as soon as the first bird chirped at me.

The smooth and vibrant siren sound of the cardinal rewarded me on my walk. As they always do, causing me to look up and look for him. And her. Vibrant sharp shrills calling me, walking with me, following me the entire way to and from. Making me stop in my tracks with my two books in my arms and look up in search for their beauty. And there they were. Again and again. I was reminded of how happy I am to recognize their sounds so easily and to look up searching for them, eyes trying to follow their calls until they land on that familiar bright red spot in the bare oaks and maples with barely a bud on their branches in this early April. Rewarded by my simple walk to The Redwood Library on a beautiful afternoon just because I “forced” myself to follow my plan of wandering.

Our lives have come to the need to actually schedule a day of not planning and in this itself is actually a plan, but be that as it may, this no plan plan is important for this busy active chick. Cardinals, nature, books, writing and maybe topped off with a dish of Peppermint Stick ice cream reminding me again that the moment, this moment is the very best vacation spot.

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FACE DOWN, CAPE OFF


FACE DOWN, CAPE OFF

“Let’s go for a walk,” I said chirpy and wide eyed.

“Yes, great idea,” Michael replied. “I won’t go to the gym. Cliff Walk?”

This past Sunday was a beautiful crisp almost winter day. The use of the word crisp is questionable here. Some of my peers would say freezing cold, but there was no wind on this sunny electric New England day and this makes all the difference in the decision to walk outside by the ocean or not. Michael and I are a robust couple. We like a brisk chilled walk and as long as we are both able to move our legs, we march forth whenever we get the chance. We know that soon enough will be hibernation time around these parts so when nature calls, we listen.

A walk with my seventy one year old partner is no chump change. He moves at a quick fire pace with his super long legs and I find myself with my much shorter legs taking take two steps to his one. It is a workout I love because a walk in nature is more than exercise for my physical self; it is often a spiritual reconnection. The deep breaths of fresh clean ocean air, the sounds of birds and waves create a calm peaceful serenity that a one hour workout at the gym will never be able to compete with, (sorry Kathy Martin). Besides the pace, which is at an invigorating clip, the mileage is also not for the faint hearted. Cliff Walk is 5.6 miles start to end, but that is only half of it because one must return unless Uber is waiting at the end for you. Of course anyone can walk just a portion of this beautiful gem right here in our little state (among so many other gems), but for us we just keep going, right past Rosecliff and Salve and the Chinese Tea House, right past Doris Duke’s house and almost to Bailey’s Beach but we take that pretty right turn instead on to Ledge Rd. past houses I can’t even imagine having to take care of.

The total walk for us this past Sunday was 8.5 miles. Air in our lungs? I’d say. There is nothing like the feeling of this walk. We chat, we walk in silence, we laugh, we negotiate real estate with few other walkers who we notice barely move to the right forcing us to step aside to let them pass on more than a few occasions. This drives Michael bananas, I don’t really notice; I just move, it is easier than getting myself worked up because of someone else’s behavior on a walking path. But I get it too, as we also noticed that the walkers on this day were not making eye contact, not looking at us, not engaging with even a brief smile or hello and this made us both sad. But we marched on as we discussed the political landscape and the ripple effect it may be having on humanity in general. Right along with the physical effects of cell phone use and the perpetual state of looking down for our actual heads, we wondered why people were not chirping back to our Hellos!

These conversations and thoughts all come up on a walk. There is no distraction of cell phone or the radio blaring music or bad news into our ear space giving us plenty of open brain space to converse or be silent amidst the beauty. Silence between two loving people is a gift that I don’t take for granted. I have been on the opposite end of the world of silence in relationships where silence was so loud, it made my heart hurt. I can’t ever have that feeling again. And I don’t with Michael or actually anyone in my life. Those relationships have left the building gradually and mostly gracefully and I march on. Shedding more layers of unnecessary burdens and drama that serves nothing other than making me feel bad. And my choice these days is to feel good whenever possible. Walking makes me feel good.

I recall the walks to school my son and I used to take on occasion. We didn’t really live a traditional walking distance from his elementary school, but I insisted on walking sometimes just to shake things up and teach him on our walks safe walking. How to look both ways, how to make sure that on a busy street that didn’t normally have walkers to always look to your right and left to make sure cars and trucks didn’t pull out without noticing you. Then there were the unintended lessons of conversations that would come up that no car ride could pull out of my son. Like cooking in the kitchen with your child, a walk to school creates an environment that just simply encourages communication because there is space to allow the flow. A walk reminds us how lucky we are we can. That we are not stuck in a hospital bed wishing for one more day in the fresh air like my brother did on his last leg of his young journey, or that we have the ability to actually choose. Do we want to take the bus? One of our two cars? Our bikes? Or a walk? Lucky to have options and this multitude of choices was yet another unintended lesson because I made the time to make it happen. If not then, when? My son is going to be 21 this month and time did fly by. Those walks are like my favorite jewels in my chest that I get to pull out and remember that I have them. Luckily for me, I have lots of these little golden nuggets. I know that losing my brother at such a young age to cancer taught me an intrinsic value of seizing the moment in a way that my son got to benefit from. I don’t know if his memories of his childhood are the same memories I have of his childhood. My mother sometimes used to bring up her memories to me that I had completely different takes on. This is history, perception is reality especially the further way we get from the time we reflect back on.

As we made our way back on the Bellevue Ave side for a change of scenery, in front of all of the mansions instead of the flip side, we felt so happy and cleaned out in a way that walks outside on cold days stir the pot. Down Memorial towards First Beach with a stunning view and finally that last leg down Gibbs headed home. We are lucky because of his house proximity to all things Newport, cars get to stay where they should live, in the driveway as often as possible. Looking at the Christmas decorations and the homes as we peppered our final walking conversations with our health commentary.

“How does your body feel?” Michael asks me. “Are you tired?” “My hips feel a little tight- I’ll roll when we get home.” “I may take a nap,” I say. “I think I’ll finish the paper,” he says back. We relish in our good fortune of simple choice, grateful for the ability to make the observation. Then we continue in comfortable quiet. I look down for a brief moment and my eyes land on a red white and blue and yellow object. What? Are my eyes seeing things? Is that….. Wonder Woman? Holy coincidence. Yes. It was a small plastic toy that perhaps a little one dropped on her or his walk that day, maybe it fell out of the stroller or her hands as she was going on her little journey out into the cold with her parents, but there Wonder Woman was, waiting, face down, prostrate, cape off. Not defeated, but rather waiting patiently for me to scoop her up and give her a new home. She didn’t need her cape, she had me. I couldn’t believe that after that 8. 5 mile walk with the man I love, I would at the end of my walk find a cape-free Wonder Woman. There are no coincidences and perhaps she was there to remind me that yes, Alayne, nature always serves you. The cape is not the power, you are your power. Of course it could have also been just a plastic toy dropped randomly, but I get to choose what my own perception of reality is here. So I marched forth with my new friend reminding me of all I know but sometimes forget along the path.


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A NEW SPOT

A NEW SPOT

Change is good. I say this phrase often and for the most part I am an earnest believer of change being a good thing. I like to move furniture, change places I hang my art, sometimes my dishes and pans and my closets, certainly. I enjoy the notion that energy shifts created by change are great and healing for the soul. I love the feeling after everything is moved and put back into a new place, the zest in my physique after gathering the adrenaline to singularly move bookcases and couches. The calm and satisfaction of the final sit after a hot shower with a cold glass of white wine or a steamy cup of earl gray tea depending on my place in the I am not drinking or I am drinking life I lead. I am a happy soul as I look around at my work and feel the shift that happens as I sit in my newly created space surrounded by the peace it gives me from both my creative side and my get shit done side.

The change I have realized I don’t like is when a routine changes that I have come to depend on for most of my life especially since I have been a grownup buying my own groceries and paying my own mortgage. A routine forced upon me because well just because. A routine like buying my beach pass, getting in my beach accouterment packed car on a Sunday morning and driving to the beach lot I am accustomed to and walking to the spot I have been going to for most of my adult life. Do not fuck with my happy place- the beach and everything that goes with the beach. From the first packing of the bag, everything sand-less and clean, new cans of sunscreen, new tubes of the better one for my face and décolleté (yes I know- roll your eyes here), my new books and stacks of magazines I have been saving even if they are from March. Clean fresh towels, my big cotton blanket I got in Menorca seven years ago, a new tube of lipstick, a new hat, all of these rituals are part of my tradition. Like the same dinner I make for Passover every year, there is a predictability I have come to rely on in an unpredictable world.

Last year the entire beach situation was upheaved, a rug pulled out from under my neat little perfect beach world when the Middletown Town Council decided on July 5th to change the parking lot to a residents only. Imagine. Now please dear reader, bear with me, this new “problem” is not at all anything to be fretting about. I know this. I really know this. As I passed the woman with the I NEED A MIRACLE sign standing in the baking sun by the Mount Hope Bridge today, a woman many of us have passed daily for at least a year I realize these are what should be considered problems. Not being able to park my sparkly new car with my one hundred and forty dollar pass at the parking lot I want is not a problem. I shouldn’t even be complaining or making commentary or writing an entire piece about it, I realize this but there is an end to this discourse, I promise.

Today I decided to just get over it. I am never going to be able to park in the lot I have always parked in again and whining about it is not going to change anything except my beach experience for the entire summer. Today I decided to get to the beach at 8:30 am to see if I could stake out a new spot for the summer. In the spirit of total detachment, I chose to leave my phone at home so I could just focus on what the best part of what the beach brings out in me, napping, reading, writing, eating, swimming and meditating, staying present. I found a new space in the new parking lot and walked a very short distance (one positive already) to a spot that shall remain nameless as to not open up its whereabouts. I was almost the first one there, a personal best for me, and plopped my things down. The water was calm, the air was clear, very slight cool breeze; the day was a definitive ten. People started to come around ten but mostly families with little ones, no blaring music, no one yapping in annoying one way phone conversations and mostly there was generally great beach behavior.

I woke up from my nap to one of the dads standing strangely close to me and I realized he was staring at a hawk who had taken up residence about ten feet from me eying some prey below. We all had some quick conversation about whether it was an eagle or a hawk (come on, there was no fucking way it was an eagle), but regardless it was a big bird. I have witnessed a lot of red tail hawks and it definitely looked like this to me. I watched him (or her, not sure, but it seemed very male like, I don’t know why) I stood there with no camera just watching, then a red winged blackbird made its way over to the tree about six feet away from the hawk screaming like she was warning whatever was beneath his gaze. She was not happy and she sounded like a lioness protecting her nest. Watching this for about fifteen minutes was a spectacular moment in my new spot at the beach that wouldn’t have happened if I had been at my other spot. The reward for surrendering. As a matter of fact I had earlier floated on my back eagle spread in the crisp Atlantic water breathing deeply to the words I SURRENDER, I SURRENDER, trying to LET GO AND LET GOD take some of my troubled and sad self into the heart of the universe for a fresh wash in the spin cycle. These words help in times of crisis for me and as my old go to guy Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This change in my new view finder today was rewarded with the beauty of a simple witness to nature today. And I feel better already.



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ON MY BIKE

ON MY BIKE

Besides going to the beach as often as possible, riding my bike and gardening are two of my favorite extra curricular activities I enjoy as soon as the temperature climbs over fifty. After watering and transplanting little zinnia shoots into some pots because even though I know I am supposed to thin out the seedlings, I can’t bring myself to just throw them into the compost, I admired the progress of my garden so early into this early June. Lavender, thyme and rosemary abound, as do numerous other herbs. All of these years later after my first romance with herbs in 1990 when I used them at my wedding, they still make me smile at every turn.

I wake up eagerly and throw on my gardening dress and red rubbery plastic Birkenstocks, throw my hair up into a pile on the top of my head and make my way out with my Life is Good coffee mug to inspect what miracles have transpired in just one evening away. It is miraculous and even though I know things are going to grow with mostly predictable regularity, I am still in awe of everything that does.

The same is true when I get on my bike and I witness cardinals singing to me and I look up over and over and see him in multiple trees, almost like he is following me reminding me like he always does that yes, Alayne, you are on the right path. Keep going. Michael C. and I decided to head out for a lengthy bike ride yesterday as the original beach day plans were kiboshed because the Sunday early june weather can’t seem to get the message that it is ok to be a beach day. The air was cool, cloud covers helped keep the path from ever feeling anything but comfortable and we started our pedaling on the East Bay Bike Path with no destination in mind. No money, no cell phones, no time limit, just a couple bottles of water and some long sleeve shirts in case we got chilly from the unseasonable cooler breeze.

There is great freedom in just picking up and going with no destination in mind. Would we do the entire bike path or just ride to Barrington and turn around? Would we venture off the path and do the Rumstick loop as the sign at the corner of the bike path and County Rd. suggested on its neat little blue lined map? No idea, but between the enormous quantity of nature at every pedal, we just kept pedaling.

Swans and their babies in the far corner of Brickyard Pond that you could miss if you were busy not noticing, geese teaching their babies to waddle like their mamas up ahead in the clearing on the right. A deer in an open space trying to find some chow looking quite vulnerable and lost. A cat hunting for mice on the prowl with a red metal tag around her neck so no one would confuse her with a feral cat and try to rescue her from the wild. Then there were not only the Osprey nests, but the majestic ospreys themselves standing proud and high feeding their babies always taking my breath away at their size, their prowess and their squawking sounds. We kept pedaling never checking in with each other, taking it easy and slow as the extreme bikers flew by us kindly screaming “on your left!” warning us not to make a sudden veer to the left that would cause a bike path pile up ruining an otherwise perfect Sunday.

East Bay Bike Path is for most of part flat and easy. (http://www.dot.ri.gov/community/bikeri/eastbay.php.) It runs for 14.3 miles making a round trip of almost thirty miles. Every single time I am on it’s flat trail and I am on it a lot, I am never bored because the plants change, so does the perfume of them, so does the color. Nature never disappoints and nature is even brighter without the distraction of a cell phone close by. The sights and sounds of the people riding also never changes. All shapes and sizes, all forms of dress, helmets, no helmets, runners, walkers, roller bladers, dog walkers, training wheels, first time family rides, first time bike pathers and everything in between, the bike path is a welcome Sabbath from a busy week of work, play and volunteering that made up my last week.

A good old fashioned bike ride on the East Bay Bike Path that is less than a half a mile from my house is a perfect Sunday on a day that is not a beach day. One I needed for my body yes, but one I needed more for my soul. As we continued to ride and kept riding I could feel the pull of the end as our destination and Michael and I realized that we had both only done the entire bike path once or twice. As we made our way to India Point Park in Providence, we realized we could have continued on and ridden to Alforno or the East Side without having to cross 195 because of the brilliant path allowing us a safe journey over it. We didn’t have our wallets so we instead, just found a place at the park on a bench, gulped our water and rested. After a few moments, a kind gentleman visiting from Atlanta wandered over and asked us about great places to eat Lobster. He was planning on taking the ferry to Newport the next day and was looking for some recommendations. He hit the lottery with the two of us since Newport and Bristol are our self proclaimed expertise and we began singing the praises of our beautiful East Bay. After a lengthy discussion, we realized that we still had a fifteen mile ride back and the wind was against us giving us a little extra resistance for the ride back.

We had plans to celebrate our long and fulfilling journey, a good cold glass of white wine for me and an IPA for Michael, some fried oysters at Christians. After that we made our way back to the front porch for a cup of tea and some dancing and in bed by nine. Sleep and whatever else came our way was a perfect way to end a perfect Sunday. As I reflected on my day, my weekend, my life to this point, I once again felt humbled and happy with everything that has happened to me to lead me to this present moment. #LUCKYINDEED.

buying my bike with my old friend Sten, in Denmark almost eight years ago. not one regret for this crazy purchase because the stories surrounding it make the bike ride every time so much sweeter.
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UP WITH THE BIRDS

UP WITH THE BIRDS

Silence. Darkness. Should I check the time? Do I have to pee? The thoughts start darting in this early morning wake up. I am awake. I mean AWAKE. For an early bird riser like me, I just know that I am not going to go back to sleep; it is a feeling. I get up to pee, why not, kill some time as it could be midnight, it could be four am or the dreaded three am. I decide to take a look, 3:49. I quickly add the numbers together, a weird pattern I have gotten into since I bought this house and the number 11 started showing up everywhere. 3+4+9=16. 6+1=7. Nada. No meaning to me right now. Well it’s a stretch but today is June 1. 6+1=7. Ok. Whatever. I lie in bed for a little while longer taking some deep breaths and thinking about my sleep last night, what I ate before I went to bed, trying to determine if anything I te is the root of my early morning wide eyed and bushy tailed wake up. At about 4:15 (4+15=19, 1+9+10, 1+0=1, okay, it’s the 1st?), I get up to pee. At this point, I decide to be up, so I brush my teeth, wash my face, spray with a new Rose Toner I am trying out and layer up some oil also from another company I am trying out. I get dressed in my morning PJs aka flannel bottoms and a Life is Good Tshirt, (super attractive, I know), find some cotton socks and find my way into the kitchen.

Take my vitamins, make my coffee and like magic the early morning symphony begins. It is 4:30am (there is that 7 again) and the cardinals are cheering me on. The sliver of light is only a glimpse since I am on the south west side of my town, and the birds have decided that it is time for my part of the world to wake up.

The magic of the morning never disappoints and it speeds by in an accelerated fashion. The early sounds of the few cars and trucks making their way to work begin. It is 5:02 when I glance at the clock. Mmmmm. 7. Again. Let me distract myself for a moment and look up the symbolism of the number 7. As I make my way to Google, “what is the meaning of the number 7?” I notice it is now 5:06. (5+6=11) there is my beautiful number 11 that feeds me and gives me peace. But 7? Holy 7! A boatload of symbolism. This summary comes from Medium Mara on Linked In (so it must be true. 🙂

“Associated with divine perfection… (7 days of creation, 7 chakras, 7 days of the week, 7 colors of the rainbow, often considered a sacred number, beneficial and protective. Because it is the sum of two numbers it finds a place between the two worlds, the world of life and the world of death. It refers to completeness and the aspects of things well done.”

The aspects of things well done. I like that. Just looked at the clock again, 5:15. Yep 5+1+5= you guessed it. 11. In case you haven’t realized by now, I am the type of person who likes to find meaning in my surroundings. If I am in serious thought, mulling something over and over in my head, I usually see a cardinal and this always means everything is going to be alright, to me anyway. These are my thoughts that are my reality so I just go with it. What is the alternative, to go south with negative thinking? That is not me. I am positive patty for the most part and I enjoy this part of my personality. Up with the birds gets me to accomplish my morning routine, a morning routine that is chock filled with tasks before 8:30 am (8+3=11). Write, workout, walk the garden, water the garden. This is a lot to get done and I can easily get sidetracked if I make the fatal mistake of checking my email or Facebook. I try to wait on that but it sometimes lures me into the fated oblivion ultimately disrupting my morning energy field.

This is my sacred church, the morning. I worship its alter available to me every single day I get to have another every single day. This in itself is a divine blessing, waking up. It’s so easy to take waking up for granted, isn’t it? I sit here windows open, birds really revving it up, cool morning breeze making its way into my living room. The first of June smells of the ocean, an evening before rain filled air wafting in, cooler than usual, it almost feels a little like fall. The plants are going to look brighter and greener this morning when I get out there. I am careful of my morning routine because I cherish it so much, I don’t like to make a lot of plans that take me away from it. I miss a lot of early morning network business breakfasts I should probably be at, but I just can’t bring myself to veer from my am alter.

As the birds continue to rally me and the world, I am once again humbled my the simplicity of what the day can bring when I just make myself available to it. It begs the question that is a constant in my mind. Is all of this social media that has become a daily grind in my business world even necessary? Will I be less connected with the world? What I know is that when I gauge my spirit after writing, or listening and watching birds, cooking, gardening, exercising, or reading a real book, it is uplifted and energized. I feel depleted and low energy when I have been on Facebook or whatever else I have allowed to unintentionally drain my energy away from rather than flood me with the goodness that nature brings. This of course poses the question why have it? Will I miss out on some connection I won’t know about?

The irony is that on my deathbed, the only connection will be with me and me alone and the world that lies ahead. This pseudo connection will mean nothing and I surely won’t have my phone with me recording every last breath. What I see for myself when I live my real truth is a social media free world. I relish the day I can just step away from it. The irony these days is that going off the grid doesn’t even seem to mean what it use to mean to the average Jane like me after all, I am not planning on moving into the mountains anytime soon. Going off the grid means removing myself from anything that does not energize me and leave me with a feeling of love and happiness. The grid I see for myself sooner than later is the grid of shutting it down and enjoying what I work really hard for, my home, my gardens, my interaction and conversations with clients and friends, my health and the privilege of waking up on the right side of the grass.

Meanwhile as I live in the fantasy world of getting to that place I will continue to find the balance of controlling its power rather than allowing it to control me. We all have choices, this is what makes us human and for me, this means finishing this essay today and getting my ass in the garden with my freshly manicured fingers in the dirt and my nose in the peonies.



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A FLOCK OF FORNICATION

A FLOCK OF FORNICATION

I have been an avid beach enthusiast for most of my life. It is my Pieces calm, I am drawn to the water, the sand, the waves crashing, the screaming children and their parents trying to get some rest along with keeping a watchful eye. I am drawn to people watching, reading, writing with an actual pen and paper to shake it up a little knowing that whatever I write, I am going to have to type hoping later I can read my sunscreened oiled and water dripping on the page writing.

I love having all of the proper beach accouterments with me, great beach eating food, plenty of tubes of sunscreen, a pile of books and magazines and plenty of beach towels. At the Siesta Key beach which is like my second home, there are plenty of birds too. Pelicans diving, sandpipers and of course seagulls. Black faced, grey faced squawkers making an inordinate amount of noise all grouped together like they are their own island. This past week, as usual we got to the beach super early and claimed our spot unbeknownst to us unsuspecting beach goers right in the middle of the soon to be flock who in a sweeping motion decided that where we were sitting would be there new home for the duration. They surrounded us. For the amount of beach paraphernalia we traipse to the beach we decided we would just suck it up and be part of their party. The only good point of it all was that no other beachgoers really wanted to sit next to us and so it was us and the flock.

The flock of fornicators. Yes. In all of my years of beaching it summer after summer in New England and winter after winter in sunny Florida, for the first time in my life, we somehow managed to be right in the center of their mating season.

But let me backtrack just a minute. Just a few moments before, we watched groups of people stop and stare at the seagulls temporary habitat, the fornicating hadn’t started yet. At this point, the birds were just standing there almost in a trance, making some squeaks and squawks, but it looked like almost any other day at the beach. Kids weren’t around too much yet to disrupt them so they just stood there kind of sleep standing. But there were throngs of people in an almost matching trance with the birds watching them. My partner and I couldn’t understand what they were watching so we just shrugged our shoulders and read on.

Their sounds and shrieks soon to follow got our attention, though and we couldn’t stop watching them as we tried to come up with what all of the ruckus was all about. It seemed like they were trying to pair up; I watched them peck at each other’s beaks like the male was trying to steal a kiss or wow the female with his prowess. (I presumed it was a male, there were no noticeable markings that this amateur could decipher, sorry bird watching aficionados). We both sat in amazement as we watched one seagull bring a small fish to feed maybe as a dinner bribe to a potential candidate. She ate it hungrily without a blink of an eye or a care in the world and she surely didn’t look like she was obligated to give a little nookie in return, but her potential mate kept trying. How did I know this? Because he jumped right on her back like it was a wild rodeo- his feet firmly planted and his body girating because of his wing flapping motion to maintain his odd off kiltered balance smack on the left and right side of her spine. She just stood there like if she had a nail file she may have used it to file her nails with a big yawn basically saying, alright already, get on with it.

We couldn’t believe our eyes actually. First off we never imagined seagulls screwing their brains out for all eyes to see in broad daylight. Of all the times I have been to the beach, I have never seen this happen. After we wrapped our heads around the fact that this was actually happening, we became entranced with what should have otherwise been their private moments, but it was an amazing (no pun intended) birds eye view into basic primal behavior. I couldn’t stop watching as male bird after male bird circled around each of the females trying to prove their worthiness so they could catch a break and make their literal jump.

Once the male bird found the balance he needed, the she-gull (haha) lifted her tail ready for entrance, old school style. Yes for real. The only romance was the brief fish delivery and we didn’t see this in many of the other interactions.

It was like seagull porn, totally weird I know, but we couldn’t take our eyes off the spectacle. The odd thing was now no one was stopping and watching, it was like front row seats at our own private viewing of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

The bird on bird orgy fest was in and out in less than two minutes. The sea-gal (I’m full of them, aren’t I?) was disinterested, unaffected almost in the whole she-bang, (yep another one, can’t stop) frankly. As soon as he was finished with his business he flew away leaving her to clean up whatever mess he left, baby, delivery, motherhood, it didn’t seem like he was planning on returning and helping out the little mama anytime soon, perhaps off to his next conquest. This continued for a few hours in the midst of their flock of at least one hundred seagulls, probably more, males circling, mounting, flapping, and flying away.

We finally had to move because all of their spastic sounds and movements combined with the pumping sounds of a cacophony of humans and their speaker systems blaring a variety of horrible music were getting to be noise overload. We decided to pick up and move away from them leaving the frolicking seagulls for other observers if they decided for just a moment to look up from their cell phones.

The rewards are endless when we look up and around. This day was no exception to the nature around us every minute of every day.

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THE MORNING CONDUCTOR

THE MORNING CONDUCTOR

Good Morning.

said the silent statement from a sun speaking its early light from the east

as we lay in bed.

This morning.

After I read More Mary Oliver to Michael.

Magnificently timed in its courageous attempt

to rise and interrupt the strongest of a dark grey cloud cover.

Competitive between them.

Who would win the struggle?

When the sun speaks, you can feel its force;

This energy can force a person to shed their clothes

From the heat.

This is power.

This is strength.

The windiest day has strength too, but it can’t make you take your clothes off.

So there.

Then the birds.

First it was the chirp chirp of a bird I am embarrassed not to recognize.

After all this is a bird that is my daily morning companion

And I was unsure of its name.

Oh well, I shall just bathe in its sound,

in the repetition and ability to show up in my morning wake up.

Then it was the crow squawking,

standing on its feet like Stalin would

in the winter stripped maple tree in the front yard.

WAKE UP, sleepiest of heads.

LAZY ONES.

GET UP.

GET OUT.

He was demanding in his commands.

But we did not obey.

We rested.

Holding hands.

Listening together.

Then the Geese.

Those screaming winged birds,

with the tribal barking sounds of flying dogs

whizzing by like a carnival coming to a small town with all of their noise.

Then.

Quiet.

I wait patiently, expectantly, for the next sounds.

Cardinal?

No. Like trying to find a heart rock, Cardinals never sound on demand.

Only when you are not looking and listening.

That is their surprise.

Their specialty in my heart.

Nancy told Melissa when she was a child

that the birds sang to help the rise the sun.

Today it felt like the other way around.

The Sun was The Conductor.

Rising and organizing the tweets, the coos, the squawks, the whistles.

One after another.

For the waiting ears of two lovers in bed

on a lazy Saturday morning

unconsciously considering

whether to move or to continue just being.

Listening to the symphony

outside their window

with the delicate background noise

of their shared breath

under the sheets.

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NO PHOTOS PLEASE

NO PHOTOS PLEASE

The day started off as a rainy damp Wednesday. After spending a good portion of it inside the house not feeling myself, a walk in some fresh air was calling my name. My old high school friend dying as quickly as she did has awakened my pragmatic outlook on mortality and I am not even her family, her closest of friends, her husband. The need to honor my heart this week was a certainty and I went with it yesterday as my lovely team rallied to take care of my business and my schedule to allow me some time. I parked myself on the couch after completing a few errands to get a nice dinner ready for Valentines Day prepared to eat popcorn and watch sappy movies all day. As the sun peaked its pretty face taunting my decision to partake in a sorrow fest in the curtain drawn living room, my brother’s face actually appeared before me as he lay in his hospital bed not being able to go outside. I remember like it was yesterday him saying to me that he just wished for one more ride around the block on his bicycle, one more breath of fresh air. These words have become both a simultaneous lift and a burden as I struggle with the permission to give myself a day of lying around on a couch on a day that started rainy and became sunny.

More often this is the privilege of health and these decisions are not a struggle for the masses. For me though, unexpected sunny beautiful February days becoming a cross to bear is as annoying to me as it is likely annoying for anyone reading this, but nonetheless here I am. Full exposure of my brain. I made my way off the couch after a few hours of watching a depressing movie called Revolutionary Road. I thought this diversion was going to be a love story between Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio. Instead it was more like the movie War of the Roses drudging up relationship disappointments of yesteryear, not a great theme on a day of love and an already sad sack of heart.

A walk would do me a good turn so I took a warm shower to get the grayness of the day off me to brighten my spirit, layered on the clothes and stepped off the porch into the light. As I began the walk towards the pond that overlooks Newport’s First Beach, I had to control my decision to leave my phone behind. The conflict of shutting the texting and the phone down and the desire to capture the light with the built in camera was nagging at me once I walked into the literal light of the scenery.

As I marched forth, the light took my breath away. The peninsula-esque Tuckerman Ave neighborhood filled with converted summer homes built before anyone considered the ramifications of zero zoning rules, captured the light of the soon to be five pm setting sun. The homes looked like they were simmering on a low fire with the warm pink glow that could have been Menorca, Spain in the middle of a hot August summer. And I didn’t have my phone that contained my camera.

And I liked it.

I liked it because there was no distraction of having to reach for it, having to put my thumb on the button to have my phone magically read my print that seldom works for me. Of course, I often try again like when I am vacuuming and a piece of something doesn’t get sucked up so instead of picking it up, I go over it five more times thinking the hose will get it at some point. I liked it because there was no need for me to end up having to type my no longer four digit but six digit ID that Apple made me change at my last forced upgrade that I didn’t ask for. There was no distraction of trying to take a photo to capture what I observed with my two eyes on the clearest of Valentines days, taking the picture then looking at it to prove or disprove its worthiness of what I was seeing shaving precious minutes from a setting sun. I walked and breathed and prayed. I smelled and felt. I witnessed the moment I had taken for myself. I walked towards the beach surrounded by water and geese and pinkness of sky feeling my heart beat. I felt the brisk salty air on my skin with my thoughts stirring with ideas and peace that only an outdoor walk alone gives me.

The only moment captured was the actual moment by my eyes not my phone. I reflected on just a short time ago when the world was not captured second by second, minute by minute by every single person because we all did not have a phone with a built in camera. Are we better off or worse for it all? I don’t know, but what I do know is that without the camera and the distraction of its presence in my pocket, the choice to be with my own thoughts rather than with the direction of the phone was a good choice for that moment. We all have choices on our movement through our days. Looking down, looking out or looking up. Phones and their bells and whistles have become a force in our lives like nothing we have seen in previous generations. I know for me and my need to ground myself, the phone is not helpful for my need to center and I have to consciously choose or not choose it as my companion. The beauty of the walk reminded me why these decisions have become more important in my own life as I navigate nature with technology. I am guilty of over photoing as my partner will attest, as my son will attest. Food, moments on mountains, beach, life. I have actually been taking less photos but what is less? Photos and videos have become a routine in our lives posting for my business and intermixing it all with my life. Digital footprints as they are called. I am not sure where all of this leads, but what I am sure about is that as I move closer towards the midpoint of my fifties, I am happy that I am not of the generation born now as a parent who has to try to control its invasion in my young child’s life. Years from now, what will the studies be? Will our children have any privacy? Even if we consciously choose to stop the madness, it does not control the need for others to take photos and videos of us when we are not looking. The social implications are for the researchers, for me now in my world, I am happy I get to make the choice.

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NO SERVICE

NO SERVICE

Words that could send some into a tailspin, surely these days with our cell phones now a new extension of our fingers, an added digit to our very busy brains, when I saw these words on our drive to one of the many trails along beautiful Route 302, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. NO SERVICE meant that my busy and now new and big breasted life had no excuse but to shut down. Absurdly, I have two phones- one is for mostly business and daily texting with many as well as an app for this an app for that. That phone, the phone I consciously left behind and turned off for eight days, the one that consumes an inordinate amount of time creating a sense of importance and busy-ness in my life sat comfortably on my night stand patiently waiting for my calm and serene return. I needed a vacation and my phone and I needed one too. I am not going to mislead, though, I struggled with the decision, but in the end, my rational self won, the example of my grandfather’s world he lives in easily techno free won. The other phone I own is my emergency phone. This is the one I chose to bring with me on my annual trip with the man I love to spend hours every day in nature hiking and biking in total silence amongst the intense foliage. This is the one that I brought with me in the car because photos are a must, but service isn’t and when the two glorious words of NO SERVICE popped up as we climbed past Mount Washington, I felt free.

Let me first clarify the word hiking. I am a casual hiker. First off, I have an intense fear of getting lost, some people have a fear of heights, or spiders or snakes, I have this weird fear of getting lost. As I write this, I am struck with an epiphany of sorts that I will explore later as this essay today will surely lead somehow back to an inner realization, but later on that. This fear coupled with my love of hiking does not make for good bedfellows, but there is such an opposing intense love of nature and silence that I am a willing participant in challenging my fears. The old cliché of feeling the fear and doing it anyway applies here. I love the challenge of feeling a little scared, then seeing the trusty old yellow or blue or red dot that signifies a well marked trail. I am the type of person who really wants to climb Mt. Washington because physically I know I can handle the eight hour climb, but the fear of not knowing if the trail is well marked for my fearful self keeps me from the otherwise magnificent climb. (another epiphany in the reread-BAM)

I would be just as happy doing the climb up the road that the cars climb knowing that the way up is as well marked as Disney World. I am embarrassed to even write this as I know this misses the entire point of the climb. As I reread this, I know that I wouldn’t do that, but I am just trying to demonstrate how deep this fear goes for me. The peace and calm of the hike is the main point and clearly the tarred road with the never ending family dreams of placing “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper stickers looming as one 40k SUV after another passed by surely would miss the point.

I have learned over the past four years on this annual fall trip how to read maps, how to navigate enough so that we find the trails that are both challenging, but also are marked enough so that I am comfortable enough to continue the climb. There is always a stunning reward at the end. This is the bonus of a good hike on a great trail, the climb up to the surprise at the top-usually a breathtaking view and one that takes my breath away. This is worth all of the fear and this is why I climb. We all climb in our own ways. Some more literally than others. In my case, leaving my busy world and leaving my business phone behind to be off the grid as best as I can is challenging enough. I realize many nuggets as I am traveling quietly alone with my thoughts toggling ahead or behind my partner.

I love a good walking stick and I have found two on my travels this week. There is something balancing and meditative about using one both up and down. There is a rhythm to the walk with a walking stick and in addition, my eyesight perception is off so it helps me find my way up and down rocky and leaf covered terrain. I have big badass bold thoughts about my life and what I want to do with it when I am hiking and biking.One thought was how much i would love to have my son with me as I have taken him up in these Great Woods many times. As he gets older, I love him more. I didn’t realize how much more I could love my child every day. This is an incredible gift of nature, these gems of poignant realizations. I also realized this week that owning my own business has so many gifts and one is that I get to direct it, it doesn’t direct me. Sometimes in the mire of day to day operations, I forget this. I have always been an opposite thinker when it comes to “what I am supposed to do” because I own a business i.e. be attached to a cell phone 24/7, social media 24/7, email weekly blasts with this promotion or that promotion, the ‘shoulds’ of day to day entrepreneurship. What gives me pleasure is not that part, what gives me pleasure is the day to day personal and real physical connection with people, mostly women. Hiking in the mountains grounds me. It serves my soul a big plate of centering and creativity. It releases my brain from work and it allows expansion. Without this, I am lost, how ironic but not really that my fear of getting lost is exactly what serves me the most.

The climb we were on was pretty steep and as I traipsed up the third trail of the week after a twenty-five mile bike ride the day before having to pause an unusual amount of time, I said to Michael, “Maybe I am having to stop so much because we didn’t eat breakfast before leaving.” He and I are on this twelve-hour between dinner and breakfast intermittent fasting plan in our perpetual quest for the perfect nutrition balance. (I know- a big yawn for those of you who know us).

He starts laughing and turns to look at me and says, “Maybe it is because you just had surgery three weeks ago, Alayne.” I seriously forgot that this could possibly be a reason for my slowness. I laugh at myself and I cry at myself because I consider in that moment of clarity how infrequently I give myself a break. Merge this with my occasional teary eyes as I walked and stopped as a twenty five year old couple climbed by us and stopped to chat for a moment. As they moved on I said to Michael, “I am a little teary eyed.” He, with his intuitive beautiful soul, said back, “I am guessing their age reminded you of your brother, honey, let the tears flow.” And they did because yesterday, October 20th would have been my brother’s 47th birthday and I realized that before he died he answered my question of “What is your advice to me as I go forward on without you?” Meaning of course how will I climb without you, how will I not get lost without you in my physical world. His not quite twenty five year young cancer ridden skinny soul said, “Live life to the fullest, Alayne.” And so I do. And so I will.



finding a beaver damn and my walking stick, never mind those braless tatas just sayin… and me and my man at 2 of some really nice trails this week. highly recommend before the snow starts to fall. Love this hat too… thank you Grasmere of Bristol, RI.
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NOTHING LIKE NATURE

NOTHING LIKE NATURE

I rode with the birds today. I saw the birdhouses at the bird sanctuary and smelled the horse manure trampled by car traffic and the cow manure freshly mixed with the soil on the local farms. I was part of a bird flying practice as the wind whipped through my ears and hair looking up trying to decipher the thousands of black specks in the blue sky on this clearest of days. I berated myself but only briefly for not immediately being able to identify the type of bird swarming from beach shore to marsh practicing for takeoff as the cool air enters our New England lives. I tried finding out what their names were when I got home, but couldn’t find the answer. Some type of sparrow, I am guessing, but the funny thing is what difference does it make, the view looking up at this marvel made me stay right there with them and their name became insignificant in this present moment. I blocked my ears from the noise of the deliberately loud truck mufflers like they were roosters getting ready for mating and I opened them to the silence of the breeze and the sounds of the ospreys so proud that I was able to differentiate their callings when they screeched.

I felt the power of my strong thighs reminding me of the beautiful Serena Williams and her power on the tennis court with her mighty rear challenging every body type we have ever seen on those all to0 often all too white shimmery courts. Pure power in these bad ass thighs on my bike ride this morning on my no speed old school Schwinn with only foot breaks never having to stand up to make it up a hill. (thank you Kathy Martin and Kyle). Gloriously immersing myself in the air of the morning simply because of my speed back down the hill. Cruising at a pace that made me feel like a child flying down the road on my yellow Schwinn banana bike way before pink became the mandatory go to color if you happened to be a girl buying your first bike. I saw the thatched roofs of some of the converted summer homes charming them into less campy style and more year round and old beauties before the megatrons took over and changed the landscapes. The white brick chimney on the right side of a front porch with a big old fashioned H on it that had an old familiar style about it reminding me of a Leave it to Beaver episode. I heard the cardinals and the waves and I smelled the beach that has a smell way better than any anti depressant could ever make a woman feel.

The glorious witnessing of active lives running and walking or flying by me on their five thousand dollar bikes in complete gear like they were on a road race in the south of France, racing past me trying to finish their workout for the beginning of their Sunday. Helmets everywhere, I am sure they were judging me with disdain for my choice in not wearing one. Each time someone rode past me and I sing songy chirped, “Good Morning!” the sound of my voice almost visual sparkles exemplifying my complete joy in this spectacular moment, most didn’t reply because they were either plugged into some music or were I am guessing here judging my lack of helmet choice. I applauded myself when two millenials one female tattooed and adorable and the other one, male and shirtless with long bleach blond hair flying in the wind rode past me helmetless, and judgment free as they too were experiencing the same glory in the freedom of a bike ride on an early Sunday morning.

Since the cold days of this past spring, every time I have driven down Third Beach Road in Middletown, RI past Norman Bird Sanctuary, past the hundreds of birdhouses in the grassy field with St. Georges steeple in the back drop to the right and the chilly Atlantic Ocean to the left, I have thought of this as a perfect bike ride. Summer comes with an inordinate amount of fantasy availability of time and hopefulness of “best -laid plans” like an open road with no traffic. Then just like a nose twitch of Samantha Stevens in Bewitched, it is the last weekend before Labor Day and just like that, the lists of kayak trips, day hikes and paddleboard excursions get added to the ‘I’ll get to it list.’ I have found as I am getting older, it seems as if there is less time in the day or in the week. It always seems like it is Monday again and I am not sure what I did that added to my need for spiritual centeredness.

So this early Sunday morning as Hurricane Harvey blasted Texas, Washington DC pardoned criminals and I am getting ready for my final fill before my last upcoming surgery, I took that bike ride alone and with no plan, no helmet, in a skirt and sandals like I was riding around Copenhagen. My dear friend, Morgan, reminded me about the no helmet choice in her nurturing commentary since she passed me on the way to a tennis match. I am sure the many riders out there sat in judgment of my decision, but it is my life. I am a very aware bikerider and I like the wind in my ears and the sounds of the world flying by me and with me. I love the feeling like I am in high school again before my world changed before I got my license to drive a car. Once this happened, the bike rides, once the only form of transportation unless you had a friend who had a car, became an unlikely choice in favor of the more convenience of the mechanical one.

As I traversed this beautiful spot I am lucky to reside in, I realized in my moment in morning nature finally doing something this summer I had on my list how simple it is to add beauty to our busy lives. We spend so much time surfing bland and uninteresting stories on social media and reading about stuff that seems like it matters at the time until all of a sudden an entire hour has flown by and so has that chance to take that bike ride. When I am out in nature moving, no spin class, no circuit training and weight pounding exercise gets me to feel like I just participated in a come to Jesus moment. Nature is God to me. When I am participating in its sanctuary, I often wonder why I ever hesitate to do it again. Today was magic and I will cherish its loveliness and my decision to get off my ass away from the TV horrors, the news, work, and the noise of my busy brain for the delicious hour I allowed my healthy body to enjoy.

This was my holy moment today. Praise the Lord indeed, whoever she is, wherever she may be, for sure Mother Nature is the divine for my personal spirit. AMEN or AWOMAN however you want to think about the word, nature is the gift that keeps on giving and I never want to take it for granted especially after this morning ride.



the birdhouses at Norman Bird Sanctuary and my old school style Schwinn I keep in Newport. #solucky