Seeing the Happy

Ever hear the saying, “look at the doughnut, not the hole”? This means that the focus should be on the doughnut, not the hole where there is no doughnut. Same thing with happiness; when you look for it, it’s there.

Too many times in my life I’ve looked at all the bad, frustrating, anger-making things and not paid enough attention to all that is GOOD in my life. And there is so much good in my life, past and present. Goodness and happiness are always around us; we just need to take the time to see it.

For example, I’m a big fan of clouds; they make me happy. I make it a point to take a good look at them each day to see what they’re up to. The big puffy cumulus clouds can look like so many things; teddy bears and running dogs and angels with huge wings. The thin and wispy cirrus clouds stretch silvery-white strands in all directions and patterns. Then there are those colorful clouds in the morning and at dusk. They are never the same, and are always beautiful.

Sometimes the Crankee Yankee and I, accompanied by some of the cats, sit out on the screened-in back porch and watch the fire flies come winking their lights at dusk. Around that time, our resident skunks like to come out and feast on the kibble we leave out for them underneath the bird feeder.

We enjoy the evening show, and, like the walrus and the carpenter, we like to sit and:

“*Talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

It makes a pleasant end to a good day. And that’s part of seeing the happy.

*From Lewis Carroll’s poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”


Messenger of Spring When You Need It

Yesterday I was looking out of one of the side windows in the living room. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the tree limbs were bending and waving in the cold wind. It was about 20 degrees outside, but with that wind, it felt like 20 below zero.

Shivering, I pulled on another sweater. Since Dad moved in with us a few days ago, I have been hoping for a warmish day when I can take him out for a ride. But it just hasn’t been warm enough, so we all are still hunkering down and bundling up.

And then I saw it—a fat and beautiful robin flew by the window and perched on the fence. I’m sure he was eyeing the bare patches in the snow, dreaming of fat juicy worms to dig up sooner or later. He didn’t know it, but he was my much-needed harbinger of spring.

March in the Northeast is a vicious clown; it plays with your hopes of warm weather by teasing you with a few fairly good days. Then, when your hopes are up, it cruelly smacks you with strong and bitterly cold winds. It shakes the tree branches just for fun, and, if that weren’t enough, it’s apt to dump a foot or so of fresh snow on the ground just for the hell of it.

The word “fickle” doesn’t even cover the mayhem and sheer cruddyness of March. One day can be balmy and beautiful, and the next will bring snow and freezing gusts of wind. The day after that, the snow will melt, meaning that in the night it will all freeze over. Just a peachy time of year.

But then, there are the robins. They always bring me hope in March, knowing that the Earth is slowly turning its face closer to the sun. There can’t be much more winter left at this point.

The robins know this first before we do. It won’t be long until the bluebirds show up, along with the much-beloved blue herons (my favorite of all birds), the red-winged blackbirds scouting out future nest sites along the pond, the tiny gold finches and the little brown sparrows, and the magnificent cardinals with their repertoire of gorgeous songs.

Spring is just as inexorable as March; it will come and be damned to winter for another year. The crocuses, snow drops, lily of the valley, lilacs, hydrangeas, daffodils, peonies, roses, forsythia, irises; all are patiently waiting in the cold ground to pop up into spring sunshine.

Our eight raised beds are already getting themselves ready for seeds, and our compost pile is full of all the good stuff that makes rich nourishing loam. The tomato cages that the Crankee Yankee built years ago are all ready to go into the garden. The tomatoes will shoot up to incredible heights, protected by these cages.

The tomatoes will soon be followed by tiny and sweet cucumbers, hiding in the twisty spirals of their vines. The pea plants will be ready to climb the wire fences with their delicate green fingers. Our two mint bushes will spring up just in time for us to dream of iced tea freshened with crushed mint leaves. All this is prelude to corn, beets, radishes, herbs and lettuces.

March doesn’t know it just yet, but sweet April is just around the corner. I swear it’s true—the robin told me so.

Hope and Love and All Good Things

Hope is hope and love is love,

Shining down on us from above—

The hope we feel for no good reason

Has its roots in every season.

The love that wraps itself around us,

Is free and endless and unboundless!

We come to Earth with ribbons trailing

Of all that’s good with joy unfailing—

Every soul has its purpose and place

Every baby comes with a laughing face—

We do not see the angels who guide,

Comfort, direct, encourage and abide

With us until our very last breath—

Then we finally see the depth and breadth

Of the lives we lived with those we’ve cherished,

Those we’ve been with until they perished

In order to join the circle once again;

Soul to soul and back again.



Look! See! Be Amazed!

Did anyone see that beautiful full moon last night? It was a huge silver coin suspended in the sky, just begging to be admired. The moon at any stage is lovely; but there is something special about the full moon.

This one was especially special, being that it coincided with a minor lunar eclipse, also known as a *penumbral lunar eclipse. It is the first lunar eclipse of 2017.

How many times do we say that we have to be more “present?” Notice more? See more? Feel more? It doesn’t take a lot out of our day to really look at the amazing things all around us.

I may have mentioned this before in another post, but it is said that, when an artist dies, he or she is given the gift of painting that day’s sunset. The day my mother died, the sunset as I remember it was shot through with gold and flamingo pink fire, blazing down into lavender and peony embers.

If you live near the water, take time to admire its particular beauty. Right now there is ice on the lakes and ponds, and amazingly, in the open areas, ducks serenely paddle. If you live near the sea, you can be mesmerized by the rolling gray-green-blue water, the hypnotic sound of waves grumbling to shore, and the icy sand under foot. The raucous screech of seagulls wheeling overhead and the salt on the wind all play a part in the whole experience.

If you live in or around the mountains, then you know what ‘purple mountain majesty’ means. You can watch as the sun and clouds play over the mountains and changing color as they go. If you have ever climbed a mountain, then you can recall when the vegetation turns to outcropping rocks and tightly woven moss. This means that you are coming to the top; a reward for all that climbing.

I remember the time I was in Arizona and went to see the Grand Canyon. It was a cloudy day, and I was disappointed—until I looked down into the canyon. I could see the dark and light areas kaleidoscope as the clouds chased across the sun. Brilliant colors in the canyon flashed red, orange, ocher, black and brown, and deep below was the clear blue Colorado River.

Let’s remember that, wherever we are, there are sights and sounds all around us that we should not miss. Let us not be too busy with errands, tasks, have-tos and must-dos that we miss out on all that beauty. When life gets tedious or scary or riddled with grief and worry, we can summon forth those sights and sounds that open our hearts and minds to amazement and joy.

*Penumbral: per Webster’s dictionary: a :  a space of partial illumination (as in an eclipse) between the perfect shadow on all sides and the full light b :  a shaded region surrounding the dark central portion of a sunspot.


Remember this poem by Emily Dickinson?

“’Hope’ is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.”

I think of this often when things look dark. I am always amazed by how much hope can fill a human soul, even faced with everything the world can hurl at it. It is too easy to feel the crush of the worst side of people instead of the good.

At these times I try hard to remember that everyone has a story, a grief, a hurt, a feeling that they are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough or whatever it is they hold in their heart.

The REAL truth is that everyone is here for a purpose and a reason. Even if it takes all of our lives to figure out what our own mission is, we are meant to be here at this time.

This is why it is imperative that we remember all that is good and hopeful and kind and loving, even if we don’t see it around us. The smile you give a stranger may be the only one they see all day.

I follow the Kindness Blog, and enjoy the many stories of hope, love and kindness. Just reading one or two inspires me to initiate hope, gratitude and love.

During this season of Christmas, keep your eyes and ears open for hope; it is all around us. Believe it; it is there, just waiting for us to notice it.

The Miracle of Mackerel

Back in the ’70s, I felt I wanted an adventure. So I signed up for a week-long windjammer cruise out of Camden, Me.

I climbed aboard the Stephen B. Tabor, and the adventure began. Our captain told us that our ‘itinerary’ would be wherever the wind took us. It sounded fun and exciting! We enjoyed the sights and sounds all around the Penobscot Bay area; the wind in our faces, the smell of salt, and the camaraderie of the strangers who would quickly become friends.

I met a man on board who loved scrimshaw, and had brought his kit with him. I was interested, so he showed me how to carve into the ovals of ivory he had. With his help, I painstakingly carved and inked a miniature of the ship, a few wavy lines for the ocean, and two seagulls off in the distance (easy; just two arches for wings). He gave it to me as a remembrance, and I still treasure it to this day.

The cook was a 19-year old girl who could make the best meals in the smallest cooking space I’d ever seen; the galley below decks. The first night we ate fresh haddock with roasted vegetables and chewy, crusty loaves of bread with sweet butter. Dessert was homemade apple pie with ice cream.

We all helped out as directed by the captain and crew. It was fun; one day we would help the cook clean up, another day we would help fold down the sails, and so on. It was enough to occupy us for an hour or two, and then we were on our own. We stopped on a few islands and walked into a couple of towns. On the boat, we swam, sunbathed, read and dozed. We slept in bunks on the other side of the galley or up on deck under the stars.

One day the captain announced that we were going to have a lobster roast on the rocks of one of the islands. As the sun set, leaving a burning gold path on the water, we cracked open our lobsters by the fire and ate like wolves.

In midweek, some of us went out in one of the little dingies to fish or to just enjoy being out on the water. I was sitting in one with two other girls, and suddenly the water was filled with flashes of blue and silver.

It was a huge school of mackerel, all boiling up to the surface. They were in a feeding frenzy, all trying to eat as many tiny fish as they could. We sat there silently, taking in all that teaming life, with its ravenous hunger and breath-taking beauty.

Finally, as one mass, they disappeared into the deep water, taking all their color and life with them. They left us breathless, and somehow richer for that brief blue and silver miracle.

When I came home a week later, my hair full of salt, my skin roughened and rosy from the wind, my mind was still full of all the sights, sounds, smells of that adventure. I missed being on the water, and I missed the new friends I had made. It really was an adventure, and one I will always remember.

Sometimes at night these days when sleep is hard to find, I go back in time to that wonderful week on the windjammer.

Soon I am rocking in the narrow cradle of the bunk under the deck, hearing the smack and slap of the waves. I can still smell the salt breeze, and as I drift off, the blue and silver mackerel wait for me to come to the water and admire their dance.

Don’t Forget to Look at the Sky

As my dad and I visited the other day, we talked about noticing things; for instance, how the sky changes from hour to hour, day to day. We talked about what a gift it was to have the time to take in all the beauty around us.

When the last storms rumbled up the East Coast, the sky was amazing. We went to Hampton Beach to watch the surf come charging in, and the waves were big enough to bring out a few brave surfers. But more incredible than the waves was the sky. Where the horizon met the ocean, the sky was a luminous silvery blue with flashes of gold. It was breathtaking.

We are fortunate that we can enjoy the sunsets by simply looking out of the front porch door. They have been gorgeous; peony pinks, golden peach, lavender blue; then they softly fade into darker blue. Later on, we can  look straight up and see the Big Dipper. At this time of year, the stars are lambent and feel somehow closer.

On the back porch, we can watch the moon rise in a deep blue velvet sky. In the morning, we can wake up and look out of our bedroom window to see the sunrise; splashes of pearl pink and red-orange over the golden corona of the sun.

When I was a little girl staying over night at my grandparents’ home on a summer night, I would sleep on the old porch swing on the sun porch. Before falling asleep I could watch the moon rise over the lake, making a silvery path all the way to shore. It was about that time that the frog chorus would begin, and I would drop off to the comforting ‘chug-a-rum, chug-a-rum’ concert.

There is something magical about the sky, whether clear or cloudy, rainy or sunny. I can’t help but see pictures in the clouds as they scud by; puffy elephants, bears, whales, horses, angels, cats and more striding across the sky. My favorite clouds are what we always called “mares’ tails;” those long wispy, trailing clouds that look as though a child has taken silvery-white paint in both hands and streaked it generously across that vast eternal blue.

On warm summer nights when the Crankee Yankee and I have sat out on the front porch, we have enjoyed watching the sky sink into deeper blue as the little brown bats flit off to catch bugs. At that time of day, the birds gather in the trees to gossip about the day’s events before they settle down for the night. With the moonrise, the stars begin to wink and sparkle, and time seems magical.

As cold weather begins to set in, the sky changes to an icier blue, and the stars appear to be sharper and more defined. When I see Orion striding across the sky, I know that the cold weather is on its way. What a wonderful thing it is to look out at the sky and appreciate all that glory!

I read somewhere that, when an artist dies, he or she gets to paint the next sunset. My mom designed and made beaded jewelry, and her color sense was incredible. She put amazing colors together in her jewelry; turquoise and cobalt, candy pink with gold and amber accents, black with aqua and periwinkle, silver and lime, ruby red with crystal and purple, lavender with peach and pearl, and so much more.

The evening of the day she died, the sky was splashed with gold, purple, peach, and pink; a beautiful tribute to a beautiful life.

Dad said, “people should look at the sky more often.” I couldn’t agree more.