Onto Houses and My Windowpane

How long has it been since I walked in the rain just for the fun of it?  About 10 hours!  The good feeling that comes to me when raining fills a day goes back to my childhood.  I have no idea how those times got fixed in my mine as so wonderful when I was little, but am grateful they did.  It is an extraordinary feeling.

“Rain Drops” by Ellen Baumwoll (mothergoosecaboose.com)
Rain drops from the clouds and onto trees,
Down the tree trunks and off the leaves.
Down a mountain, into a brook,
Past a chipmunk in a nook.
Into a pond, off a log.
On top of a turtle and onto a frog.
Onto roads, onto the grass,
Onto trains and trucks that pass.
On top of bridges, cars and boats.
Even onto people’s coats.
Onto houses and my windowpane.
I just love to watch the drops,
The drips and drops of rain.

Last evening about 9pm with my rain resistant jacket, boots and an umbrella I set out for a half mile, thirty minute walk through my neighborhood.  The constant drizzle ebbed and flowed with intensity moving from light to heavy moment to moment. Lightning every minute or so painted the sky electric blue-white for a split second followed by the low throaty rumble of distant thunder.  The constant gentle tapping on my umbrella by the raindrops made a comforting sound as I walked.

Walking down my street I noticed was how new and fresh everything looked.  Cars shimmered in street light with a new temporary shine from the rain.  Even the pavement and sidewalk looked less worn with water filling cracks and imperfections.  At least half the homes were already dark and peaceful for the night.  Those houses mixed with the ones still showing the light of life pouring out from within gave the street a peaceful, soft and warm glow.

If plants could make audible sound I am certain last evening there would have been joyful noise filling my block.  I imagined the trees, flowers and bushes might make a consistent aaahhh of pleasure like I might when first slipping into a warm bath. It seemed the very leaves on the trees were upturned inviting the rain and trying to catch a little more.

I noticed the assorted smells of the season have begun.  The scents came and went sometimes as several mixed together into a symphony of delightful smells.  Walking by a tulip tree that is just starting to flower I stopped for a few moments to absorb a little extra of the sweet, pleasing aroma.

Paying attention to the sound of the storm drains I noticed in the flatter areas the rushing water made the sound of a small creek gurgling by.  On the small hill I live the storm drain roared like a river over rocks as at least eight inches of water assaulted the opening and fought to get through.

The entire time of my walk I saw only one car moving and it was simply being relocated in a driveway.  On the street nothing was moving except the water and me.  The roads are never as crowded on an evening filled with rain.  I heard no hum of traffic in the distance, nor whine of a motorcycle; a sort of usually unnoticed peace.

A year ago I moved into the home where I now live and have seen the very elderly gentleman next door only once.  He is in failing health and several times an ambulance has had to come get him.  In recent months 24 hour care givers have been coming and going, but last night the house was completely dark.  That alone made me realize anew what a great gift my health is and how blessed I was to be able to enjoy a simple walk in the rain.

Today is the first day of spring.  I find it fitting that the rain is still coming down, since after all ‘spring showers do bring spring flowers”.  My jacket and boots are still in the entry way drying and my umbrella should by now be mostly dry out on the porch.  More than most I am grateful not only for all life the rain makes possible, but for the spectacular experience of a downpour itself.  My walk last night in the mist and showers will be a long remembered experience; one I am deeply grateful for.

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness
has never danced in the rain.

Beauty Seen Is Never Lost

Last year near sundown the day after Christmas I witnessed an incredible sunset. This morning something I wrote about that stunning spectacle just hours after witnessing it was discovered.  Through one good photograph taken with my phone while driving and the four paragraphs below, he beautiful memory is fully awake within this morning. 

It is late afternoon and near the end of a 750 miles road trip.  My friend and I are heading to visit my son in Boulder and are about 50 miles outside Denver, Colorado.  The mountains are due west directly in front of us.
Near the horizon in front and on both sides of my car, a spectacular display of wind shaped clouds is underway.  Strips of shredded yellow torn from clouds fill the sky almost to the horizon.  Above, the depth of the reds is so striking it appears surreal. The light of the ending day strongly accents the long furrows in the clouds enriching the reds and yellows as the clouds evolve and change in the wind. 
The wind is strong and the clouds are changing quickly.  To the south, long thin strips of red have been blown and tangled together.  A large oblong cloud without noticeable texture lies just above.  To the north there is less light from the fading sun and darkness is reaching there first. 
Within only a few minutes the sun has become a large half-circle directly in front view.  The big red ball is fast disappearing; turning the sky a deeper and deeper burgundy as the sun’s departure nears completion.

Sunsets happen every day and probably because they are so common people hardly notice the beauty of them most of the time.  On-line I found a short piece written by Kimbaline Navas of Ft.Collins, Colorado. The feeling she writes about of a sundown over water describes near perfectly how the memory of my late December sunset touches me. 

I close my eyes and I can vision my sunset laid across the water with clouds gently placed on top. 

The yellow is so bright that it consumes my thoughts I fall deeper into the colors of the sun so that I could touch the orange glow; what a soft feeling; my sunset.

My sunset takes me to another place and time where there will be no problem too tall to overcome. This vision is imbedded in my mind; it is like a river running free; a clear thought on a sunny day and it ends with my sunset and me.

My sunset frees my thoughts from confusion; it leads me to believe that I am on top of the world; setting me free to scourer over the waters of my mind.

My sunset places me in a part of heaven where the day comes to an end with the beauty of my sunset.

From John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1876 poem “Sunset On The Bearcamp”:
…beauty seen is never lost,
God’s colors all are fast;
The glory of this sunset heaven
Into my soul has passed,
A sense of gladness unconfined
To mortal date or clime;
As the soul liveth, it shall live
Beyond the years of time.

…I shall see a summer sun
Still setting broad and low;
The mountain slopes shall blush and bloom,
The golden water flow.
A lover’s claim is mine on all
I see to have and hold,–
The rose-light of perpetual hills,
And sunsets never cold!

Whittier expresses a gratitude that I find to be a near match for the thankfulness felt for the sunsets I remember, especially my cherished Colorado sundown of a few months ago. 

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
Places to play in and pray in,
Where nature may heal
And give strength to body and soul.
John Muir

Myself Grandly Related

This weekend spending time in a cabin off the beaten path surrounded by nature, I have once again been reminded of the positive effects the natural world can have. When something is referred to as “primitive”, thoughts of being unfinished and rough are conjured. In the civilized world we value refinement and luxury and view nature as coarse and harsh.  Yet being in the woods it is clear that nature is exquisitely finished and luxurious, while it is “I” who severely lacks finish and refinement. 

The longer away from nature and the less time spent in the natural world, the greater my distance becomes from reality and from my self.  Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold describes this in “God in the Wilderness” when she writes removed from the distractions of everyday life, of cell phones, emails, and to-do lists, we are able to immerse ourselves fully in the moment, in each step, in each breath. As we leave behind the safety of homes and cars, and we step fully into the wilderness to meet nature, we also meet ourselves. As we look outward to the wilderness, we look inward and reawaken to what is essential in our lives, to the core of our being.”

Nature’s presence lends me a healthy perspective in relation to my place in the world.  Out in the woods the reminder is clear that I am just a part of a never-ending cycle of being and passing.  Among the trees, above the lake the wind yanks my thinking from inside dancing with my ego to an external awareness of my perfect fit in the order of things.  Rabbi Korngold described the cure nature can have:  sometimes it takes the stark wilderness to help us face our truth and become our true selves.

Being in nature reminds me that I am not the center of the universe and in fact, am just journeying through in a short finite period of time.  It is a wonderfully humbling experience.  Henry David Thoreau wrote, in the streets and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean.  No amount of gold or respectability would in the least redeem it… But alone in the distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day… I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related… 

This weekend nature did not fix me.  Rather, nature brought me back to center so I could hear and feel myself.  For moments, minutes and sometimes more out with the trees and rocks I am able to stand in symphony with myself in a type of harmony that is not possible in the city.  And in that song of myself I am able to just relax and “be”.    

Every life is a book of secrets, ready to be opened. The secret of perfect love is found there, along with the secrets of healing, compassion, faith, and the most elusive one of all: who we really are. We are still mysteries to ourselves, despite the proximity of these answers, and what we most long to know remains lodged deep inside.  We all want to know how to find a soul mate, what career would be most fulfilling, how to live a life with meaning, and how to teach our children well. We are looking for a personal breakthrough, a turning point, a revelation that brings with it new meaning. (The Book of Secrets by Deepak Chopra) 

There are always little breakthroughs when I spend time with Mother Nature.  I am grateful for the reminder that all my possessions will someday pass to someone else.  Even then decay and time will take their place in returning those things to Nature from which they come.  Even faster I will pass from flesh and blood back to the water and dust I am made of.  In nature one can see what is real and factual more than any other place.

Just a little reminder, a small wakeup call gets my gratitude this morning.  It is as if “Mother Earth” spoke to me in an unheard voice reminding me to be a little more aware of life and of its importance; to notice how fragile and temporary my existence is.  The insight makes me feel alive, awake and aware in a near divine experience this morning.  With humble gratitude all I know to do is to say “thank you”.

Only when the last river has been polluted,
and the last tree been cut down,
and the last fish been caught,
will we realise we cannot eat money.
Native American Cree saying

If God Had a Home on Earth

If God had a home on Earth, where would His/Her home be?  Traditional belief holds the all-powerful force can be everywhere at once and at any moment within any person who welcomes the presence.  So my question is rhetorical, yet pondering an answer and beckoning possibilities lends insight.
There are many definitions of “home” and among them is:  a valued place where something is founded; a source.  For sake of avoiding argument, let’s assume God’s home can not be man-made and eliminate any such places we feel He/She has a presence such as a church.  Since God preceded humanity, The Devine’s home on Earth would likewise have to have existed before us.  
Growing up many of us were taught in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  If one thinks of “home” as being a refuge and place of security, in that context God would have a place somewhere not simmering in the trial and tribulation soup us humans are always swimming in.  So if God has a refuge or home on Earth, I like to think it is within Nature or Mother Nature or Father Nature or whatever label you choose to put on the natural world outside of man’s control and creation. 
Yesterday my Love and I took a long drive on country back roads most of the afternoon to take in the autumn beauty of the season change.  What was forecast to be a cloudy day unfolded to have lots of sunshine; a glorious day to be outside.  The feeling always comes of being closer to God when I am close to Nature.  The sense if one of being closer to creation; of seeing things a step more connected to the source.
While I have never seen or heard the voice of my Higher Power in the woods, I notice signs all over of HIm/Her.  There is a trace in the yellow and reds of the leaves mingled with some that still hang on to their green.  Evidence is apparent in the squirrels so busy gathering for winter and the wild flower blooms that still hang on waiting for a heavy frost.  I find the presence of God in the smells of the forest, the musky air that circulates within, the clouds that cause sunlight to scatter and speckle through the trees;  the beauty of  Nature.

From “Had We the Eyes” by James Dillet Freeman
How fair a world
Around us lies,
Heaven unfurled,
Had we the eyes.

If the concept of “God” is difficult for you I understand.  Mine once was also and having been abused with religion growing up made it all the more difficult.  I never understood why my prayers for abuse to stop were never heard even though I was made to go to church several times per week.  My belief was true and my prayer  sincere but that did not seem to be enough.  For a time I just thought God did not like me.  I began the long journey back to a view of something bigger than mankind with a perspective of the world as an amazing organism that had developed and bloomed on its own.  With only that way of seeing my existence was improved by being able to see spirituality in Nature.  More came in time.

It is the way of humans to think of ourselves as self-sufficient, yet we can not survive without the air we breathe. Nor can we live long without sunlight, water, and food. Our bodies are totally dependent on Nature and there is where I found God living.  It is easy for me to see a presence there whenever I look. 
Traditional beliefs confound me and the more I attempt to define a power higher than me the more I find questions and reason to doubt.  Yet, I feel confident there is a Power or God beyond this world, but also think it is beyond man’s ability to comprehend the complexity of it all.  So I just accept that God is and that is enough for me.
Mildred Lisette Norman, also known as the Peace Pilgrim, was an American activist and spiritual missionary who spent the last 28 years of her life walking across the United States for peace.  She was the first woman to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trailin one season. She described what she called her “wonderful mountaintop experience” in this way:  …important part of it was the realization of the oneness of all creation.  Not only all human beings… I knew before that all human beings are one. But now I know also a oneness with the rest of creation. The creatures that walk the earth and the growing things of the earth… The air, the water, the Earth itself. And, most wonderful of all, a oneness with that which permeates all and binds all together and gives life to all. A oneness with that which many would call God.”
If the end of my time comes and I find there is nothing beyond what I have known here, my life will still have been better for what I believe.  I am grateful!  

In many areas of understanding, none so much as in our understanding of God, we bump up against simplicity so profound that we must assign complexities to it to comprehend it at all.  It is mindful of how we paste decals to a sliding glass door to keep from bumping our nose against it.  Robert Brault

Those Who Have Less Are Many

This morning as I begin a new day writing here, I am curious if I can come up with 50 things to be grateful for in 10 minutes. Here goes:

1. Bed I woke up in.
2. Clean sheets I slept on.
3. Home I slept safely in last night.
4. Alarm clock that woke me up.
5. Electricity to power everything.
6. Lights so I could see before dawn.
7. Coffee pot and ground coffee.
8. Milk and sugar.
9. Glasses so I can see this screen.
10. Ability to see so the glasses matter.
11. Comfy clothes to wear.
12. Coffee cup for my coffee.
13. Morning banana.
14. My computer.
15. High speed internet.
16. Inspiration to write this blog.
17. Being alive.
18. Hands and arms that work.
19. Good health.
20. Email I get from a friend each morning.
21. A good brain that allows me to write.
22. Carpet under my feet.
23. Legs that work.
24. Wisdom to be grateful.
25. Desk and a chair to sit in.
26. Radio to listen to.
27. Pen and notepad.
28. My Bathroom.
29. Indoor plumbing to wash my hands.
30. Comforter and blanket on my bed.
31. Pillow for my head.
32. Those that support my writing.
33. Living in a peaceful country.
34. My phone to get a text on.
35. A window to see the sunrise.
36. The calendar in my office.
37. Art on my walls.
38. Optimistic and hopeful outlook.
39. Nat Geo to read during morning business.
40. A job to go to later.
41. Ample money to support myself.
42. People I look forward to seeing today.
43. A short commute to/from work.
44. The cool fall morning outside
45. Heat to keep me warm this morning.
46. A wide choice of clothes in my closet.
47. Refrigerator
48. Food in the pantry and fridge.
49. Ability to remember.
50. Love of friends and family.
51. Toothbrush and toothpaste
52. All my fingers and toes.
53. The Internet
54. A good night’s sleep.

The last four are bonus entries to make up for any duplication or similarity of entries created by writing quickly on the fly. My progress began to slow down a little after the first 30 but the list above was completed in about eight minutes;   one thing to be grateful for every eight seconds!

Once I began to focus on comparing my life to how it could be, gratitude filled me more and more. I imagined how decadently luxurious almost all waking today up in a third world country would find my list. People who have more than me are few and those who have less are many. Such a way of looking at things is a noble way to put my life in perspective. On what many would call a “bad day” I have a better and easier life than almost all on the planet! The majority of the world’s population spends most of every day on one task: attempting to find enough to eat.

How lucky am I! For my rich blessings I am highly grateful. A great frame of mind to begin a new day with!

Loving the Rain Part II

The rain this morning is a welcome relief from the heat.  Even with temperatures beginning to moderate as Fall fast approaches, the drizzle is a recently rare and welcome occurence.  Instead of attempting to create anew my feelings about the rain, today I am instead offering a “rerun” from the first few weeks I wrote here.  Now, as then, I am graciously grateful for the rain. 


Originally posted May 1 2011:  The ivy on my patio has been loving the rain of the last couple of weeks.  So have I!  For me there is no greater pleasure than a rainy day with a window open so I can hear the rain, then sitting down close by with a good book and spending the hours richly soaking up the minutes.  I absorb more from what is printed on each page and the mental images the writer’s words put in my mind are more vivid and alive than when reading on a sunny day. 

I really do love the rain and the misty, overcast days when the hours are drizzled away.  I feel safer on such days as even the robbers and burglars are not as likely to be active on a day when it is raining.  There is such comfort for me from the constant drizzle and ocassional thunder. I feel closer to life, softer inside and memories flow easier for me with a sweeter taste on such a day. 

 I believe my thoughts and feelings are  rooted in my childhood and being on my grandparent’s front porch in the rural south on damp, wet days.  When a couch became too worn for the inside, it became a fixture on the front porch until the outside exposure did it in.  Usually about the time a new couch appeared inside and another old one was ready for the porch.  There on the couch and and under a quilt or two I borrowed from inside the house I sat, watched, sometimes read and often took a nap.  The porch was one of these BIG Southern front porches long and wide enough that the rain rarely reached anywhere near me on the couch.  Watching a good thunderstorm from that vantage point was extra special!  I always felt safe.  I never thought much about the fact that sometimes the dogs slept on the couch too.  I don’t remember ever getting fleas! 

My top of mind gratitude this Sunday morning is for the rain… the beautiful showery drizzle that I enjoy beyond my ability to express it.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s loving description of the rain is far better than any I could ever write:

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!
How it clatters along the roofs
Like the tramp of hoofs!
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!
Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is. 
Albert Einstein

Oklahoma Weather: Frozen and Fried Gratitude

When I moved to Oklahoma almost 14 years ago from Ohio, one of the things noticed and first enjoyed was the amount of days that were sunny.  Of course, there are tornadoes, but mostly in other parts of the state and not here in Tulsa.  My first summer included discovery of regular temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  I learned there is usually less than a dozen days such days each year.  I was consoled though by being able to get rid of my almost new snow blower before moving.  In Tulsa they convinced me I would never need it.  Yea, right!   

A realization within a few years of relocating was letting go of the snow blower was a mistake.  Four to eight inches of snow multiple times a year became common by my third winter on the plains.   Then there was the ice storm in 2007 that paralyzed the city as most people lost electric service.  Schools were closed and many businesses could not open.  Where I lived electricity was out for five days.  For many others it was much longer. 

Early this year so many 2011 winter records were set it is difficult to keep track of them all.  Here’s a sample:
* -12F  in Tulsa (a first time below zero in 15 years)
* -26F  in Bartlesville (45 miles north)
* -31F in Nowata (50 miles northwest) 
* Record snowfall for one day (14 inches)
* Record snowfall for one month (23 inches)
* Record snowfall for winter season (26.6 inches)
* All Oklahoma counties declared a disaster 

OK.  We made it through the winter with a bit of complaining and wishing for summer weather.  For people who live where it snows a lot each winter like Boston or Denver or where it gets really cold such as North Dakota or Minnesota, we probably appear to be wimps.  The difference is such winter weather is expected and normal there.  Here that is not so.  We have very limited snow removal equipment, homes are no insulated for below zero temperatures and in general we don’t know how to deal with serious winter weather.  A foot of snow in Tulsa brings the city to a screaming halt for days! 

Winter passed and spring arrived and set new records for rainfall.  May contained hellish tornadoes for nearby cities a hundred miles away in Joplin and Oklahoma City. 

On June 28th, seven days after summer began,Tulsa set a record temperature of 106F and that was just the beginning:
Summer of 2011 Tulsa has been the 4th hottest city in America (behind Lubbock, Oklahoma City and Raleigh).
* 40 days over 100F degrees, so far (average is 11.4 days)
* Record high temperature of 115F degrees in Tulsa
* Average Tulsa high in July, 2011 = 107F (average is 94F)
* Severe drought
* 74 of 77 counties receive disaster declaration

One of the jokes here about the summer weather is God sent it because we complained so much about the bad winter.  I assure you there were days in the last few months when we wished for a record snow fall or a record low to revisit.  

One may wonder, what do these weather stats have to do with gratitude.  There is something about being shaken out of my comfort zone that causes me more awareness of being alive and what is going on around me.  During those times I become more highly cognizant of what I have to be thankful for.  The extreme weather has been a catalyst for much gratefulness this year. 

During the winter I am thankful my home was warm and cozy as was my work.   I am grateful to have plenty of clothes that kept me warm when I had to be out in the cold and snow.  Through all the bad weather I remained safe, as did those I care about.  In general the season passed without incident and was only an inconvenience for me.  Now it remains only as some remarkable weather I will talk about for years. 

As for the summer, a close friend lost an aunt in the Joplin tornado which is an abrupt reminder of how fragile life is.  I am grateful to be alive to write here today.  I am thankful where I live and work is well air conditioned, as is my car.  I have a more than ample supply of cool summer clothing. The grass and landscaping at my home will grow back given time.  And so on my gratefulness goes…. 

Over time as I have made self-inquiry of what I am grateful for a daily practice, what I find to be thankful for increases steadily.  As corny as it sounds, I am even learning to be grateful for the difficulty and challenge that comes my way.  If not so at the moment during it, certainly afterward in reflection, gratefulness always comes.  

To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action.  Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course.  Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you.  Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.  Albert Schweitzer

Mother Nature Gone Crazy?

Dear Mother Nature,

I am writing this letter only to express my thoughts and ask a few questions.  In no way do I intend to express disrespect in any way.  I love you as the Mother of Earth you are to all of us here.  My trust for your wisdom is deep.  I try my very best to keep my belief strong that you always have in mind what is best for the long-term.  However……  

When a few years ago one of your winter’s storms brought so much ice that the city shut down for over a week, it was not a pleasing adventure.  Yet, I accepted that time with an open mind and drew upon my Boy Scout training in my youth to cope.  I did get through it OK, but Mother Nature I ask you to please not bring another of those for a while.  Surely one of those lessons per lifetime is enough, Right?   

The drought you sent us a few years ago is fresh in my mind.  I will never forget all the brown lawns and the burned places from fire on the side of the road.  Waking in the morning and seeing what I thought was fog only to find out it is smoke from a fire 50 miles away is still a fresh memory.  Were you mad as us for any particular reason then? 

The time spent inside a closet timidly hiding from the tornadoes that you spun this past spring is a fresh memory.  Until recent years I was never afraid of your tornadoes, but now seeing the damage done in cities less than a hundred miles away I am pointedly aware of the harm possible by some of your creations.  Mother Nature we are well aware and are in awe of your spectacular power.  You’re scaring us.  Can you stop showing off now? 

The rain is something I love, especially one of your steady downpours with a bit of lightning and thunder.  I think these are some of your best “fireworks” and enjoy them very much.  However, this Spring it rained and stormed for weeks without let up.  We were drowning.  Why could you not have saved some of that rain to bring to us now when we need it so much? 

Only once while living somewhere else do I recall experiencing a large, rare hail storm.  It was one for the history books that took snow removal equipment to clear the roads.  I was impressed as I believe most people were and understand your need to remind us of your power and strength once in a while.  I accept that.  However, what is with the numerous reminders this year with the frequent golf ball, even softball, sized hail?  Mother Nature, are you pissed off at us?  

When I moved to this more southerly location over a decade ago, I was told it only snowed a little bit each winter.  One person here described it as “getting dusted with snow a few times each winter”.   So I sold my snow blower to a neighbor back in the Midwest thinking I would not need it again.  Of course, now I wish I still had it.  I think you are just showing off with all the record snows you have been gifting us with the last few winters.  This last one caused me more than once to think about moving to a more temperate climate.  What’s with all the snow Mam?  

Until the last few years, I could not have even spelled the word “tsunami” but have now read it to the point it is common in my mind.   I know we human beings have made a mess of things here on Earth, but some of us are trying to do better.  So, Mother Nature, are the twenty and thirty foot walls of water and all the destruction something you have to send so often now to try and teach us?    

Oh, yes!  Then there are the massively strong earthquakes that are happening more and more frequently.  I can’t comprehend the reason for the destruction and death that has come with them.  Are you remodeling, experimenting or just plain angry? 

Crystal clear in my memory is my ride through one of your awesome category five hurricanes.  I did not realize how afraid I should have been until afterwards I saw the wreckage and destruction.  I suppose there is logic I don’t full grasp in clearing out the old to make way for the new that such storms cause.  But, Mother Nature, is it really necessary to be redecorating so often now? 

There is no doubt you are a record setter and are always looking to better a previous achievement of the past.  All know that from time to time you will achieve a new benchmark as your way of reminding us all of just how complete your control is.  So what is going on with all the frequent records of the last few years?  Are you showing off?  

Do you know how grateful I am for each sunrise and every time the moon climbs into the sky?  Are you aware of my thanks for each raindrop, snowflake and breeze that blows by?  Can you understand that I appreciate the artfulness in each of your clouds above, in each sound your sky makes and the momentary painting your lightning gives to nighttime?  Mother Nature, what I have written here is done with gratitude and with questions like those a child might ask.  I hope they are received with the intent they are sent.  And oh, by the way.  Lots of us need some rain right now.  Can you wrap up some in a bunch of big, ole white clouds and send that to us soon?  We’d sure appreciate it!   Thank you.

She moves in a mysterious way,
Her wonders to perform.
She plants her footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.
adapted from a poem by William Cowper

Searching for Gratitude in 100° Heat

The weather forecast for today indicates the temperature will be 100.  It would be easy to complain about that.  My sweating is more profuse than most people and its gets annoying on the really hot days.  I worry that I smell like a goat as the day goes on!  But my doctor says my sweating is a healthful thing and the perspiration removes toxins from my body.  So these days I try to perspire in peace without complaint with some measure of gratitude for the good health contribution my doc says it contributes to. 

The winter weather the last few years has been just as extreme as the heat in an opposite manner.  Record snow and low temperatures were set several times.  When it is hot like today I try to imagine those winter days when the temp was double digits below zero or I bring to mind the massive snow storm last year.  In memory I try to conjure up shoveling snow last winter when I was thinking about the summer heat and wishing for it. 

Having screwy weather does lend a consistent subject for conversation.  What Mother Nature is doing is always the fallback topic for casual talk.  That’s a little feature of weather to be grateful for; an easy topic for light conversation.  (Have you noticed I am digging for reasons to be grateful for 100 degrees today?  If so, you are “catching my drift” as us children of the 60’s and 70’s like to say). 

When the first snow of the year arrives and the white stuff is falling slowly to a light accumulation of 2 or 3 inches, I love winter.  The flurries seem to make everything beautiful and after a snowfall even the sound of walking in snow is more resonant.  (OK, that helped me feel a little better about the 100 degree forecast for today.  The air conditioning vent with cool air blowing on my feet helped.  I promise I will be more grateful for cold weather next year!). 

Now in early summer, the flowers, grass and trees are vibrant, alive and un-bothered by a heat wave of a few days.  As long as rain comes with some regularity all the green seems to relish the hot days and happily makes the landscape beautiful.  (Chalk up another point for gratitude!) 

The clouds of summer are different than any other time of year.  I read there are over one thousand types of clouds and in warm weather we see a greater variety than at any other time of year.  Laying in the edge of the shadow of a big tree and watching the cloud shapes dance in the sky was a favorite summer pastime as a child.  (I have found another gratitude point!)    

I went looking for more to add to my gratitude scales this morning to tip them in favor of the heat that will be upon me today.  And I found a little jewel in a grammar school poem used to teach little kids about the weather: 

I like to watch the way the wind
can spin a weather vane.
I like to wear my big blue boots
to splash with in the rain.
I like to ride my bright red sled
on cold snowy days.
I like to feel the sun’s warm rays
when I wade in the ocean waves.
Wind, rain, snow, and sun
Every kind of weather
is wonderful and fun!

OK, OK.  I am getting there.  With a little more help from oldies from the late 60’s I think I can finally arrive with real and full gratitude for the 100 degrees today. 

Cool town, evening in the city
Dressing so fine and looking so pretty
Don’t you know it’s a pity
That the days can’t be like the nights
In the summer, in the city.
(Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer in the City) 

Just a few more lyrics from another song and I think I have arrived at the feeling of gratitude I was looking for this morning. 

Oh, the sun beats down
and burns the tar up on the roof.
And your shoes get so hot,
you wish your tired feet were fireproof.
(Drifters – Under the Boardwalk) 

There now, I have it.  I found my gratitude today for the summer heat.  I used several routes to get there:  old memories, favorite song lyrics and old-fashioned counting my blessings.  

Gratitude is not always something on the tip of my tongue or a first thought.  Yet, when I stop and focus for a short while I find I am grateful even for things that at first seem like nuisance.  There is a saying used in recovery groups that works and fits my occasion this morning.  “Fake it until you make it” worked just fine this morning to deposit me at my destination of thankfulness.  

PS:  My thanks to Stuart W. Cramer who is credited for inventing modern air conditioning without whom I don’t believe this blog would have been possible! 

The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.  Patrick Young

Sound Pictures

About a decade ago I stumbled across an idea I call taking “sound pictures”.  I was sitting having coffee in a little European cafe and Iwas struck by how different what I was hearing was from home.  With most countries having their own tongue and with nations being closer together than many US states, speaking several languages is a necessity.  It is not unusual to hear three or four languages being spoken simultaneously.

While a portion of the music I heard in shops, bars and restaurants was songs I knew, much of it in Europe was foreign to me.  I learned about several artists and groups I would never have known about had I not traveled and paid attention to what I was hearing.  On each visit my music taste has broadened a bit more.

The sounds of the streets in European cities are unique.  The trams are different than trains here and often run right down the middle of streets where cars drive and people walk.  Mostly running on electricity the trams make much different noises than I’m accustomed to and the bells they clang sound unique in each country.  In some Euro-nations bicycles are everywhere and have their particular clatter.  Buses make distinctive noises and even car horns make sounds unique to European countries. 

Then there are the emergency vehicles that have sirens and warning sounds that are unique to Europe.  Most people in the United States have knowledge of them though movie exposure and recognize the sirens instantly as “foreign”.

It was in Europe where I first began to close my eyes for minute or two at a time while listening very closely to what sounds I was hearing.  I let what was in audible range soak into me until I had captured a “snapshot in sound” and stored it within my mind securely.  Even though those initial “sound pictures” were made over a decade ago, I can close my eyes and focus on a particular place and almost instantly the sounds of being there come back to me clearly.  Sometimes the images in sound I recorded mentally contain more detail and memory than actual photographs I took!  Further, it is not unusual that seeing any image of a place I visited will cause a “sound picture” to instantly pop into my head.  It is a unique experience.  

Being in New York City on business for the last couple of days I have had the opportunity to take a few “sound pictures”.  The street soundsare distinct in their intensity and frantic nature.  Human voice on the street in the Big Apple is noticeable in its absence.  People just don’t talk much on the streets in NYC unless they are tourists.  Here and there people do yell at each other, but they don’t talk much on the sidewalks and in the streets.

Restaurant ambience in general is louder in New Yorkand is a match for the overall high volume the great city has in general.  Then there are the street performers, while not particularly distinctive to NYC they lend dintinctive sounds to life in the big city.

I am grateful to have spent a morning on the 3rd floor pool and spa level of the New York Athletic Club where I was staying.  The institution dates back to the last 25 years of the 19th century and is a classy old world kind of place.  There I sat with my eyes closed taking in the varied accents I was hearing.  The moving water from the swimmers in the huge pool echoed off the cavernous walls and forty foot ceiling.  There was voices of attendents taking care of the guests and the sound of doors opening and closing.  As those sounds surrounded me I captured a mental “sound picture” of my morning experience that is now part of the memories in my mind.  That new “snapshot” is now cataloged with all the others safely in my memory.

The more I have participated in the practice of taking “sound pictures” the keener and more discerning of individual sounds I have come to be able to be.  I notice nuances far better over time than I ever did originally.  I am grateful for this unique practice even though I have no idea exactly where the idea came to me from.  Thankfulness for the wonderful places I have gotten to visit is greatly enhanced by my memories in sound I have carefully filed away.   That added dimension helps to keep recollections vibrant and alive.

i am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit New York City on this trip for just about the right amount of time for me which is three days.  I am ready to head westward toward home, but now have new Big Apple “sound pictures” to take home with me.  They are more of the simple gifts of living that I am grateful for. 

 We do not remember days; we remember moments.  Cesare Pavese