Tuesday, April 13, 2021

YESTERDAY WAS ONE OF THOSE DAYS

Meadow Wildflowers
Yesterday was one of those days.  Too much ruminating, too many unhelpful thoughts.  Does this ever happen to you?  Like all of us I suspect, things have happened that I wish hadn't. Sometimes one of those is right there waiting for me as I wake in the morning.  As if whatever happened isn't enough, my mind decides to enlarge it, creating unpleasant scenarios against my will.   

Luckily I had signed up for a free course at learning@mindful.org.  I love this sort of thing.  Choose what you want whenever you want.  So I picked the soothing voice of Jessica Morey on the topic of nourishing emotional resilience.  The meditation helped.  It was calming.  Then I went outside.  Outside always helps.  The daisies are just beginning to fill the meadow.  In a week they will look like this, bending with the grasses to follow the breeze.  


Even yesterday there were enough daisies, lavender bugle weeds and buttercups for a bouquet for my breakfast room.  Still, the unhelpful memories kept interfering, some triggered by a short conversation later in the afternoon.  That bugaboo hyper-vigilance was roused.  

I decided to open my prayer journal.  That turned out to be just what I needed.  After writing I began reading over prior entries.  Of course there are prayers of supplication, prayers that arise from need or fear or concern.  All the emotions we feel.  But so much gratitude.  So many reminders of the goodness of everyday.  Of healing, of lessenings of traumas, of the love I receive and hopefully give.  

Life goes on in a haphazardly beautiful way. A way good enough for me and I hope for you too.  That goodness is what a diary of any mindful nature lover should be mostly about.  

                                           from Nina Naomi 

 

 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

I WANT TO LIVE WHERE EVERYDAY THERE'S TIME FOR CREATIVITY

Julius

One time our daughter was reading her toddler a favorite book.  It might have been The Velveteen Rabbit or that wonderful story about Julius the pig who comes to stay with Maya and her family.  Anyway, what he said was, "I want to live in this book."  The same boy, a year later, was with me at a production of Peter Pan where Peter and the children flew on aerial silks across the stage.  He jumped out of his seat and said, "I want to live up there."  I could see what he meant; swinging with taut arms and legs, high up on those silks would be a great place to live.  

Woody Allen once wrote a quirky piece called "The Kugelmass Episode," about a man who by some strange means ends up living in the novel Emma Bovary.  Readers find him there, disrupting the action.  Notwithstanding Allen himself, I like the story.   

Then I picked up the newest bella GRACE  (bellagracemagazine.com) and read an article by Jessica Monet where she wrote, "I want to live in new books with decorative hardcovers and textured pages."  When I was in 5th grade I would have picked Gone with the Wind to live in.  Missing some of the fine points, I pretty much adored Rhett Butler as the first hero with sex appeal I had encountered. 

I identify with a few of the little things Jessica Monet wants to "live in." 

Cedars in the Meadow, Lulu intrigued 

"The joy of coming across a deer on a hike" is one; deer sleep under the cedars in our meadow.  As the sun rises they meander past our windows into the deeper woods.  Once at dusk a fawn came so close I stopped breathing.  "[T]he enthrallment of exploring dusty, forgotten antique stores," is another.  The Tar-Heel Antique Fair in tiny Efland, North Carolina (1.8 sq. miles, pop. 668) was one of my first post-vaccine experiences.  

So what do you want to live in?  I quickly jotted a list.  I want to live in the hearts of those I love and care for.  I want to live in the mind of God.  I want to live in the newness of every season as it arrives: spring mornings, summer nights, fall days and winter afternoons.  Just these words call up your own images, don't they?  

I want to live in my home and the homes of dear friends.  In my memories, as difficult as some are.  And hopefully, if I've helped someone along the way, in their memory too.  I want to live where trauma fades, where acceptance comforts, where thoughts settle.  Where everyday there's time for creativity. . . .  And more . . . and more . . . .

Where does this idea take you?   

   

 

 






 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

OUR DREAM HOME

 

Just before we got our vaccines some friends and I were visiting outdoors.  We got talking about our "dream house."  We agreed we were already, sort of, living in it.  Nothing big or fancy, just something cozy that feels like home.  

We decided that first of all, it's feelings that make a home.  One person said, "I want my home to be a place of love, comfort, pleasure and warmth."  Another said, "What's important to me is the emotional freedom I feel at home.  It's my secure place, a haven, where there's peace and gratitude."  "Staying in such a home long enough," someone added, "and traumatic memories begin to fade."  

I seem to want my dream home to be a little bit of everything:  a place for light and shadows, openness and hiddenness, happiness and sadness.  I want to find the bright and the dark, the beautiful and the mundane.  To be healthy or sick in my home.  To be comfortable there no matter what. Whether dancing, cocooning, or crying.  

Then we talked about what Things make for these feelings.  That was easy too.  We all like a comfy chair, a cozy corner, a blanket and pillows.  We all want clothes, old or new, that make us feel good; shoes the same.  

We want ways and places to keep our memories stored.  We agree on journals to write in, books to read, a computer and a TV (although we don't agree on how often to watch it), and plants.  For three of us, lots of plants.  We all agree on access to music and two of us added art and craft supplies. I want a few of my favorite magazines to reread.  We all like outdoor rooms of some sort: a hammock or patio or quilt on the grass, a chair by a hanging fern, or a window box.  One friend has a water feature in her yard we all enjoy.  I have a bird feeder.  

Finally, we said, the pièce de résistance would be enough food in the pantry and fridge to cook a good meal. Oh, and clean sheets on the bed, someone prompted.  Nothing feels better.

Doesn't this kind of inventory make you feel grateful?  Because mostly we have what we need.  Not all the time of course.  And it's impossible to list what we're thankful for without acknowledging the pain of those who have less, or even nothing.  I'm thinking of refugees at the border and those whose homes were flattened by this week's tornadoes.  We can't be satisfied with ourselves without helping others.  

But we also have the right to recognize our blessings.  There's no mental health without that. To admit that we've come to a good place in our lives where we've learned how to find peace in the homes we love, filling them with the small things that bring comfort to all who enter.  

That's what we were talking about on that day as we waited for our vaccinations.  

                                                 In peace, Nina Naomi




 

 

 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

SEVEN STANZAS AT EASTER

 


John Updike wrote the most famous Easter poem of the second half of the 20th century.  If you believe, or want to, it is worth rereading.  

SEVEN STANZAS AT EASTER (1960)

S1                                   Make no mistake:  if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.

If I'm not in a hurry, I find God in nature every time I walk outdoors.  But loving God's creation isn't a belief.  A belief is knowing that the tomb was really empty and that the man Jesus showed his pierced palms to Thomas.  Updike's "if" in line 1 is not hedging his bets, and we don't need to hedge ours.  

S2                                       It was not as the flowers,

each soft Spring recurrent;

it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled

eyes of the eleven apostles;

it was as His flesh; ours. 

His flesh rose and ours will too.  That's the promise of Easter.  We won't turn into Monarchs floating among the Lantana.  Our very bodies will walk (or stand or sit or lie) with the risen Lord.  

S3                                 The same hinged thumbs and toes,

the same valved heart

that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then

regathered out of enduring Might

new strength to enclose. 

 More anatomy.  As His heart re-beat, so will ours.

S4                               Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping, transcendence

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the

faded credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

The Resurrection is not a parable.  Not a puzzling little narrative where one thing might stand for something else.  It is simply, literally, true. It needs no interpretation. Jesus rose from the dead.  That's why he is the Christ.  Take a breath.  Open the door to the room of faith and walk in.

S5                            The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,

not a stone in a story,

but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow

grinding of time will eclipse for each of us

the wide light of day. 

It's all literal.  The wounds, the death, the grave, the stone.  And next comes the angel, literal too, wearing a garment that somebody wove!  No one imagined the angel.  We don't need our imaginations here. 

S6                                And if we have an angel at the tomb,

make it a real angel,

weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,

opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen

spun on a definite loom.

S7                           Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are

embarrassed by the miracle,

and crushed by remonstrance.  

I remember (always) when our son died.  Instead of harming my faith, his death made it more logical.  We wouldn't be created in all our complexity to end on the 9th Floor of Duke Medical Center.  Now that would be ridiculous, not eternal life.

Let's have a wonderful death and resurrection.  Happy Easter!  

                                                    Nina Naomi 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

THE WORLD AS ONE: "I DANCE FOR ME.'"

 

 Degas, The Green Dancer, 1879

The World As One: 

Since our US Presidential Inauguration this January an entire layer of stress has been lifted. We are no longer smothered.  We can breathe.  Our president cares about the country, the world, the future and the climate.  He cares about the poor.  The daily news has a rationality to it that at least 78 million of us (the vote tally for President Biden) had missed.  Presidential policy is no longer hostage to whim, or worse.  For this every day I rejoice.  Never again will something as basic as decency be taken for granted.  

I wrote about this in "There's a Reason to Linger in America Today," posted on Nov. 8, 2020, about how Democratic and Republican poll workers sat masked side-by-side in every state counting votes late into the night.  This was before the January 6, 2021 invasion of the Capitol Building of course. That, like the pandemic, changed us.  We realized even more how precious our democracy is. Since then our ex-president has continued to become more irrelevant, as in every country in every age, former leaders do. 

Then today I checked blog audience statistics.  Readers for the day live in Peru, Turkey, Belgium, Japan, the Philippines, India, Portugal and the US. It's been a different combination every time I've looked. What this says is that far and wide there is a commonality of interests.  It says that although all readers may not be interested in the politics of my country, most of our concerns, including political ones, are not unique to America or any other country.  Large changes in any land can abate stress or increase it.  Small changes in our lives can do the same. Someone in Portugal shares an interest with someone in Turkey in "living simply, loving nature, staying in the present."  Someone in Peru like someone in Belgium, seeks "being mindful each day, nesting, keeping healthy attitudes, and taking time to live well." Someone in Japan is savoring Spring the way someone in India is.  In the Northern hemisphere the world greens; in the Southern the stars leap from the sky toward our astonished eyes. Spring or Winter we reach for calm, for goodness. 

We live day-by-day in worlds we didn't create, under governments we inherited, the lucky of us doing jobs we love or at least tolerate.  Trying as hard as we can, which is always good enough.  

I read a poem published in BellaGracemagazine.com by a young dancer named Emma Smerud.  It reads: 

I do not need to be in the front row 

because I don't need the world to see me.  

I dance for me. 

. . . 

I do not need to be talented to be happy 

because I try as hard as I can.

. . . 

 I try as hard as I can and that is good enough for me. 

. . . 

I don't need the world to see me.

I dance not for them but for me. 

If this is us, if in our world as one in the place wherever it is we live, we try as hard as we can, then we too are lucky.  We won't be smothered.  We can breathe.                                   

                                                                Nina Naomi



 

 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

YOUR HEART'S WISDOM AND MINE

 

I wake to music now because here in North Carolina the window can be cracked.  The Winter Wren is passing through.  The Gold Finch and the Purple Finch--a deep raspberry hue--will stay around for the duration. Warblers too are doing what they do.  It makes the day a symphony.  As I sit here at my computer there's an antiphonal chorus. It's warm enough for an open door.  

It's the rich beginning of a new season.  Glorious abundance lies before us. Whether we are going to make this day a wonderful part of our story is open to us now.  Because each season has a story and every day we are creating it.  It won't be perfect; but it can be good. 

So while I listen to the outdoor choir I like also to tell myself:  be still and listen to your heart.  It has so much to say.  My heart reminds me that prayer is the path to peace.  It reminds me that those I love deserve forgiveness for past hurts, and that forgiveness includes myself.  My heart keeps me fresh, so that I, like the moss, green with the rain. It beats with gratitude for surviving this year so terrible for so many. 

If you listen to your heart what will it tell you? It might whisper that you are deserving, kind, and true; of that your heart is sure.  What else might it say?

Our hearts might promise that, if we want, this is our season to shine. From deep within out across all boundaries. For me, not a glare, but a soft mellow light, full, I hope, of tenderness and purpose.  For someone else a beam, honed in on fairness and justice.  Or a laser, focused on championing a cause.  Or bettering the world for our children.  Or reaching a deserved goal.  

I do believe that wisdom enriches age.  For the creative or the thoughtful, for those not constrained by ego or vanity, for those who give what they can, wisdom follows.  I have learned that my heart and my intuition do not fail me.  They don't make life easy but they do make it true. 

So let's do it.  Let's be still and listen to our hearts, with as much eager anticipation as the morning birds outside our open window.  Why ever would we not?  

Every Day Counts

                 

 

 
 

Friday, March 12, 2021

IT'S SPRING FOR US, TOO.


Hellebores grow wild in our woods so we brought some closer to the house. When they bloom in Lent, like now, they're the Lenten Rose.  Blooming mid-December, they're the Christmas rose.  Baby violets are starting to dot our composted beds too.  They vie with the grape hyacinths for the bluest hue. The deer leave all of these and the cheerful daffodils alone.  Funny how happy the change of seasons makes us. Buzzing summer bees, golden-leaved fall trees, newly fallen snow or damp spring mornings--all equally welcome.  

The wonders of another spring go perfectly with the other wonders of this month.  Now that we're vaccinated we have grandchildren-sleep-overs; the first on-the-porch restaurant visit tonight; a timed, spaced family museum outing earlier this week.  We've planned a fall trip to D.C. to visit friends and my husband promises he'll join me in a road trip.  "Not now but soon" is becoming a reality. 

This is happening to you too, isn't it?  A happiness I've heard called the endorphins of possibility.  A spot of scientific jargon for our rising emotional health; I like it.  It's so wonderful not to fear every encounter.  We are hugging new people daily. 

I know many people have been more open to activities than I have. I just got my first professional haircut in a year.  And a pedicure so long overdue that my feet have been feeling like donkey hooves.  

All in all, no matter everything we've been through, it's an auspicious spring.  Full of lightness and optimism. Are you feeling this too?  I want to paraphrase:  This is the season the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  

                                      With thanksgiving, Nina Naomi