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.

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.

Uncategorized

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.


Uncategorized

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.