Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You, Me, and the Tree

The tree said.....

"Will someone please have mercy on me and cut me down.  It's so hard for me to stand.  I'd gladly spend my last days as firewood and keep you warm on a cold winter night."

Growing old plays no favorites.  It happens to the king, the queen, and the tree.

My friends agree that aging is a prankster.  One day it jumps out of a box and scares us half to death. It hurts physically and psychologically when we have trouble doing little things like twisting the lid off a jar of pickles and when our feet, knees and hips hurt.  Thus begins our trudge up the steep hill.

We girls create an aging disadvantage for ourselves.  When we were young and cute, we started drawing lines around our eyes, brushed our eyelids with sparkly hues to match our clothes, and smeared on the hottest brand of age-defying goop to raise the bar on Cute.  Then, when we weren't looking, the years trickled away and the day arrived when we actually DO NEED the paint can.  But, by now, the brushing, drawing, and painting has burgeoned into a dreaded daily chore.  It's time-consuming.  It's expensive.  I'm weary of it.    

The only thing to do is come up with a plan.  I'm intentionally making occasional public appearances without my familiar eye makeup.  It's scary, but so far I'm not aware that anyone has died.  I'm coming out with a simple, even lower-maintenance version of Me.

We all try so hard to look our best, just like this poor old tree, but we know the day will come when we just can't anymore.  Up until then, probably our best advice is to wear a smile.  That's definitely the only facial decoration we need to look young, to look happy, and to look beautiful.

"A smile is an inexpensive way
to change our looks."
~Charles Gordy

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
No longer can I ring
No more echoing of my chime

Monday, July 30, 2012

My New Way to Pray

Catholic nuns and priests taught us to pray with our hands folded into little tents with our thumbs crossed.  We were supposed to kneel and bow our heads down when we prayed, were given holy cards with holy pictures and prayers to read if we didn't ourselves know what to pray on our own.  Our prayers were to include morning prayers, prayers before and after meals, and evening prayers.  Forgetting, or just plain not saying them, constituted a venial sin and had to be confessed to the priest in the confessional.  My Mom told me, though, that if I fell asleep before I finished saying my prayers, the angels would finish them for me.

Memorization was key to Catholic prayer.  The rosary is the most beautiful and meaningful prayer to the Blessed Mother. Another critical prayer is the Act of Contrition, because if we pray it right before we die....it guarantees we'll go to Heaven even if un-confessed sins stain our soul.  

In 1983, I suffered an episode that pretty much wiped out my short-term memory.  A nurse sat by my hospital bed all night, and despite my confusion, I was able to pray the Act of Contrition.  I wasn't able to remember what clothes I wore that day, but the words to the Act of Contrition were crystal clear to me.

Life has taught me a new way to pray.  It doesn't require me to be on my knees, have a scheduled time, or any sort of memorized rituals.  Now I pray as I go.  If I see something beautiful, if someone does something thoughtful for me, or at any prayer-moment, I pray on the spot.  It's refreshing to say, "Thank you for letting me see this gorgeous yellow rose," or "thank you for the rain you're blessing our earth with right now," or "thank you for these dear friends or family who are bringing joy to my day."

Being appreciative and thankful should be a priority for us here in America.  Naturally, there are daily occurrences, traumas, tragedies, and frustrations, but, all in all, we are blessed with so much.  I'm finding myself thanking for the miniature fleeting moments.  Prayer is now as much of a joy for me to offer as hopefully it is for My Creator to receive.

Already this morning I'm giving thanks for another beautiful day, my coffee, my two house mates, and, yes, even the squirrel that broke my frog yesterday.  One thing I've learned since my new way of prayer, is that I'm overlooking things that otherwise would have bugged me.  Now, I'm more focused on what's going right instead of what's going wrong.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
 Ole and Lena Must Have Forgotten
One of Their Chairs

Sunday, July 29, 2012

From Peace to War in a Flash


It looks like our bird feeder has sprouted a tail, doesn't it?

Let me introduce you to this little guy.  He has a first name and a last name, neither of which do I dare share.

Hubby is sure we're heading toward bankruptcy if we keep feeding the menagerie of critters that live within the boundaries of our property.  I've heard "pellet gun" mentioned, and even worse.  That's when my feathers ruffle, and the real fun around here begins.

For me, this defines heaven.....surrounded by bushy tails, bandit faces, and colorful feathers.  There's only one creature that I cannot stand and that's the one that wiggles its way through the grass.  Other than that, I'd be okay with an elephant in the back yard.

Oh, I know I go overboard over animals, but as a little girl, they were my absolute best friends on the farm.  Woolly lambs and baby calves, wiry goats that used to jump up on our car, cows that I milked by hand, and faithful mongrel pooches were the first ones I went to with my little-girl cares.  They listened as I fed them, petted them, and loved them.  That's maybe the reason for my painfully high level of compassion today.

Thank goodness hubby is tolerant and goes no farther than playing Outsmart with my bushy-tailed buddies.  Oh, I come from a family of avid hunters, so it's not like I'm playing savior.  Our family table at home was regularly plated with squirrel soup, fried squirrel, wild rabbit, pheasant, venison and all kinds of fish that we ourselves harvested.  My family was poor, and we literally lived off the land.

One of my secret adult games is observing the levels of compassion in others.  It's surprising how often I feel like I'm the only one on the planet who cares for the cat missing a leg or the chipmunk that gets run over by a car.  If I saw a mouse suffering, it would break my heart.


BULLETIN.......
This blog is being interrupted
with breaking news................

Hubby just told me the squirrel is swinging on the bird feeder again. (I giggle.)


AND....that my decorative hanging frog is on the ground, busted to pieces.


"You have got to be kidding me!"


"Come see for yourself."

Due to recent circumstances, there has been an unprecedented turn-around in my self-proclaimed compassion for these brazenly bold bushy-tailed beasts that have quite successfully managed to p__ me off.


PHOTO OF THE DAY
My Precious Frog
Poor little frog.
I'm going to glue him back together.
After I shoot the squirrel!
There's a moral here.....
how we feel about others depends on how they treat us.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Being Content

When we can think of yesterday without regret
and tomorrow without fear,
we are near contentment.
~Unknown
Contentment is a state of grace we create for ourselves............
I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy.  From the very core of our being, we desire contentment.  In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.  Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease.  It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter.  It is the principal source of success in life.  Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone.  The key is to develop inner peace.  ~Dalai Lama

If one's life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness.  Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements.  And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation.  ~Dalai Lama

The happiness which brings enduring worth to life is not the superficial happiness that is dependent on circumstances.  It is the happiness and contentment that fills the soul even in the midst of the most distressing circumstances and the most bitter environment.  It is the kind of happiness that grins when things go wrong and smiles through the tears.  The happiness for which our souls ache is one undisturbed by success or failure, one which will root deeply inside us and give inward relaxation, peace and contentment, no matter what the surface problems may be.  That kind of happiness stands in need of no outward stimulus.  ~Billy Graham

To have what we want is riches; but to be able to do without is power. ~George Macdonald

He is rich who is content with the least; for contentment is the wealth of nature.  ~Socrates

The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove.  ~Samuel Johnson

A cheery relation is man's natural state, just as nature itself is related.  A waterfall is concerned only with being itself, not with doing something it considers waterfall-like.  ~Vernon Howard

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
The Same Fence
 That Shuts Others Out
Shuts You In
~Bill Copeland

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pretend Flowers

This is a view looking out our patio.  If you look below the oriole feeder, you'll see the creek that rambles through our back yard on its way to a river.  The hardware-cloth screen that you see toward the bottom protects the rest of the patio screen and gives the fuzzy one freedom to jump up on it when she says her farewells to people who come visit us.

If the sprinkling can intrigues you, at first glance it did me, too.  Walking up and down the aisles of a Good Will Store, hunting for a treasure, the mosaic sprinkler did everything but jump in my shopping cart.  Love at first sight is a fore sure thing.

Most of the seasonal flowers that grace our patio and the inside of our home are fabric.  Those born with green thumbs may thump me on the head for this, but we're beyond staying home to water the flowers if we have a chance to go away for a day or several.  Hubby is the one who got stuck with vacuuming up the dried dead leaves and blossoms that fell off my hanging plants onto the floor, and that was an every-day task.  If we say we live by the motto, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify, then that's exactly what we should do.

Our 5-year-old neighbor girl came to visit us a couple weeks ago.  We were out on our screened-in patio eating 4th of July pink cupcakes with white frosting and blueberries on top, chatting, when she reached over and felt the flowers in the mosaic sprinkling can.  "Are these flowers real?"

"No," I said.  "They are fabric flowers, and the reason we have them is because we aren't here all the time to take care of them properly.  If we don't water them, they will dry up and die."

"So, they're pretend flowers, right?"

"Yes, I guess they are pretend flowers."

We kept on talking about other things, and then she paused, looked at me and said, "Someday I'm going to have pretend flowers, too, cuz I think yours are pretty."

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Portable Picnic Table

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zucchini Season

What kitchen doesn't have a stack of zucchini on the cupboard waiting to be grilled, baked, shredded, sliced, or cubed.  We have a bunch of the green goddesses lounging on ours, and the plan is to cube and pack them in zip-lock baggies, and freeze for winter soups.

My mother's way of eating zucchini was to cut them into stix, like carrots, and dip them in Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.  Simple, delicious, nutritional.  An ideal health-happy appetizer.

How do you know when you have too much Zucchini?

  • You hide them in your neighbors mailboxes.
  • You find yourself looking for zucchini breakfast recipes.
  • You start having nightmares of a Wild Zucchini chasing you.
  • Your kids are using them for footballs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Violence Violates

From time to time, when something is bothering me, I like to write from my observation tower......

Is it possible that the recent Colorado cinema massacre was a warning to us?

Is the movie industry successfully destroying our nation's moral foundation?

Why are we tolerating, and feasting on, violence for our daily bread?

We don't go to movies much anymore.  Neither of us can stand violence.  It violates everything we stand for.    If we did go to the movies, I'd be that kooky old broad in the back row, with her head down and hands over her ears, trying to close out the insanely loud hell-fire shooting, killing, and splattering of blood and guts. I'm better off at home, watching The Barefoot Contessa entertain her friends in the Hamptons.

American parents today are up against one heck of a challenge.  How do they, in good conscience, allow their kids to go with their friends to a movie that's going to show them how to blast some one's brains out?  It has to be frustrating for a parent to watch their child be entertained and mesmerized by a gadget that's teaching them to annihilate others.

It's just hard to understand why comedy and romance are considered cheesy.  Why is violence such a fascinating draw?  Most claim to oppose war in the Mid-East, yet the American family can't wait to get to the war zone showing at the movie theater down the street.

Oh, yah, I know the Westerns of our day were a gun-slingers' heaven, and we couldn't wait to get home from school to watch the main street shoot-outs.  But, the westerns didn't show blood or bodies blown to pieces.  We heard the shot, saw the guy fall to the ground, no blood, no nothing.  The movie industry assumed we were smart enough to get the message that the guy was dead.  This was in the 50s, following the war, and Americans wanted good old-fashioned meat-and-potatoes movies.  The good guys won, and the bad guys lost.  Elvis sang on the beach, and Ali and Ryan's love for each other still brings me tears.

Robert E. McAfee, MD, so eloquently said.....
"The impact of violent video games upon children is not as clearly established as the impact of violent television programming.  Young children possess an instinctive desire to imitate actions they observe, without always possessing the intellect or maturity to determine if such actions are appropriate.  Due to their role-modeling capacity to promote real world violence, there is a deep concern that playing violent video games, with their fully digitalized human images, will cause children to become more aggressive toward other children and become more tolerant of, and more likely to engage in real-life violence."

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P.S.  Are assault-style BB guns guiding our kids in the right direction? on the right path?

PHOTO OF THE DAY

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bowstring Bridge


We were trolleying down a hard-surfaced road, when an intriguing gravel dead-end on the left coaxed the steering wheel in that direction.  Both of us had the feeling that something of interest was tucked back on the secluded trail.

Sure enough, about a half mile down the road, there it was.....this Bowstring Bridge.  Once an indispensable link, now simply an old bridge all grown up with weeds.  Progress, of necessity, removed it, replaced it, and replanted it....on the outskirts of nowhere.

It's plain to see that the bridge no longer has a sense of self-worth, and its heart has stopped beating.  All that's left are scars of endurance.....years of carrying heavy loads on its shoulders......giving of itself for the safety of others.


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"It so happens that the work which is likely
to be our most durable monument,
and to convey some knowledge to us
to the most remote posterity,
is a work of bare utility...
not a shrine,
not a fortress,
not a palace,
 but a bridge."


~Montgomery Schuyler

Monday, July 23, 2012

Magnet Points North

Browsing through our Up North digital memories, I came across this picture of a classic wooden canoe waiting to be pushed off into the lake waters like the Ojibwa people would have done with their canoes made of birch bark.

Our hearts right now are homesick for the North Woods, a place where nature is still raw and rugged.  Our first awareness of this Eden was in 1968, and we've returned every year since....with few exceptions.

There's a language of the past that echoes the cry of the loon across the waters.  The spires of tall pines whisper secrets we can't understand.  The waters are crystal clear.  As the sun pulls the curtain on another day, a spirituality fires the sky and warms the soul.

Amen

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Simple Sunday Serenity


Come, sit on my porch and visit with me
The rocker is old and so are my chairs
Let's dust them off 
And share our cares.

~ by Nature Weaver

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Story That Ends With An Angel

The goal of yesterday's trolley was 25% errands and 75% loafing.  We left mid-morning so we could picnic at a Mississippi River roadside park.  The weather was ideal, with temps in the high 80s.

Our first stop was the hamburger stand.  Second stop a picnic table.  Families were embarking on a weekend on the river and avid fishermen were anchoring by the wing dams.  Some prefer fishing above the dams, others below.

We sat there watching the weekend open, thinking back to the days we were the ones out there boating and water skiing.  Anywhere from four to twenty-four of us would gather on a sand bar and secure our tent stakes in the sand.  Life was so slaphappy back then, and all we had to do for two days was lay around in the sun, swim, ski, sip cold refreshments, laugh, eat, and go back home with sand in our pants, dreading work on Monday.

Well, it's not such a bad gig now to sit on the bleachers.  Another generation is taking over where we left off, and that's as it should be.  One thing about life, if we live it to the hilt, there's no room for feeling sorry for ourselves. There's only so much juice we can squeeze out of a grapefruit!

We are very much drawn to the magestic landscapes carved by the glaciers of long ago, and we have favorite niches where we return over and over and over again.  One such nook is beside a secluded trout stream, and it's our style to turn off the ignition, roll down the windows, recline our seats, and take a half-hour nap.  It's much like recharging a cell phone.  The trout were swimming in the water, and hubby's first words were, "Can you believe I left my fish pole at home."

Our trolley was on the homeward swing when we heard a beep and a dash light appeared.  "Low Tire Pressure."  What?  Hubby  pulled over to the side of the road and checked, and all four tires seemed okay.  We kept going, and then it was obvious we were in trouble.  A flat tire, and we knew exactly why. Shingles, and nails, had slipped off of a wagon.  We had no choice but to drive over them, cuz there were cars in front of us, back of us, and coming toward us.

Hubby got us off the highway and parked in driveway.  We called Roadside Assistance, which we never had to do before.  Oh, what an epiphany that was.  By the time they determined where our vehicle was stalled and finally understood we had a flat tire, we could easily have driven to Boston.  Then were told to expect a wait of at least 2 hours before assistance would arrive.


Oh, great!  Hubby finally told them to forget it.  We got out of the car to change the tire ourselves.  (Actually, that should be himself.)  Both of us were wearing orange shirts, which we didn't plan, so we must've looked like a couple of misplaced pumpkins pondering a plan for the tire the size of a Kwik Star donut and the jack the size of an egg beater.


Poof!......just like in the fairy tales......a young man driving a pickup, surrounded by a cloud of dust, appeared, "Do you need help?"  He eagerly jumped out of his pickup, smiled, "Here, let me help you."  The first word to fly through my mind was "angel."   What are the chances of a tire mechanic magically appearing!  Yes, he was truly a tire mechanic by trade.


Hubby offered him a tip, but he didn't want to take anything.  He said when he was a little boy his mother told him that if he ever came upon someone who needed help, he was supposed to stop and help.  We insisted he buy himself a treat and thanked him for being so thoughtful.


Never despair.  We're not alone down here!


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is the Life

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let Us Pray.....

Please, let us bow our heads and pray for the families who suffer today from the lone gunman's massacre in Aurora, Colorado.  Dearest Lord, why must such things happen.  Please apply your merciful balm to the bodies and hearts that are now ripped and torn.  May those who lost their lives rest in your Heavenly arms.  Amen.

One can only pray.  How else do we lend ourselves to the human community when they most need us.  Strangers we are not.  Brothers and sisters is what we are, all walking our assigned paths, doing the best we can.  And, then something like this happens.  Families go to see a movie, a crazed gunman pushes open a door, releases tear gas, and walks up the theater aisle randomly ending innocent lives.

Only a tangled and twisted mind could do something like this, and for him my heart aches, as well.  Imagine the amount of human pain or hatred it would take to push someone to do that.  Pain creates pain.

No matter what each of us has planned for this Friday, the 20th of July, 2012, let's us look within ourselves and make sure there are no festering, unhealed wounds.  If there are, bandage them in whatever ways are possible, and go on caring and loving.  Every pair of eyes mirrors the Self.  Kindness, understanding, and good old-fashioned friendship are the Super Glues that help us stick together.  None of us has an easy walk through life.

May the Great Spirit cradle in His arms those who suffer with intolerable pain.

  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Weathering the Weather

We had the fixin's for a thunderstorm yesterday, but all we got was a wet sidewalk.  At 7:30 this morning the sky was clouded over, but someone must've turned on the sun switch.

Trivia:  In Honduras, Central America, there is a snow white bat with yellow nose and ears.  It cuts large leaves and bends them into tents to protect their colonies from the jungle rains.

Now, how sweet is that!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cherished Coffee Memories

This morning I reached up in the cupboard for an unopened can of coffee and ceremoniously removed the foil. Ahhhhhh, the aroma that escaped was positively delicious.  It is my fervent hope that Heaven serves coffee, cuz there's no way my soul will tolerate Eternity without it. (Maybe I'm being a bit presumptuous.)

Have you noticed the price of coffee in the grocery stores?  A large can ranges anywhere from $8 to $15, and the brand we buy depends entirely on the price of the day.  My only unwavering requirement is that it be a dark roast, rich, and strong, with a hefty kick.  No fairy pee for me.

Coffee Creamer Glass
My First Coffee Cup
My Maternal Gramma introduced me to the taste of coffee.  When I was maybe 4 years old, she first took me to a small-town bakery where we sat in a booth across from each other.  The bakery served coffee and soft pastries from their display case.  Gramma let me choose whatever I wanted, and then we'd share it.  Back then, coffee cream was brought to the table in tiny glasses.  Gramma poured the cream out of the little glass into her coffee cup, gave it a stir, and then she'd spoon coffee back into the tiny glass and pass it to me for little-girl sipping.  Migod, talk about feeling like a princess sitting across from the Queen Herself.

In 1996, I trollied to Italy with a girlfriend.  The first night of our stay in Rome, she and I went for a walk and stopped at an outdoor restaurant for coffee.  My naive eyes about fell on the ground when the waiter handed me a bill for $10.  Yup, $10 for one cup.  All I could think of was "thank God nobody from back home is here to see this."  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  Memories like that are worth a King's ransom.

Life is sprinkled with these moments, these blessings, or presents without bows.  No matter how insignificant they may seem at the time, they leave heavy footprints on our hearts.  We never forget them, and we never tire of sharing them.  That's how we keep them alive and with us.

Rome in Our Home
Our last afternoon in Rome was a sunny one, and we girls split ways to shop.  I needed to whisper my secret Arrivederci to Roma, because I was seeing it for the last time.

It was a side-street jewelry shop where it found me.  The remembrance that begged to board the plane to America.  This exquisite set of gold mosaic espresso cups.

We don't have to cross the ocean to find our special moments.  They are everywhere that we are.  The trick is knowing them when we see them.  If we look at life with child-like anticipation, blessings will sprinkle down in places we least expect them.  Even in our own kitchens as we open a new can of coffee.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
The Unseen Wind  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Bright Side

Imagine yourself sitting on a star, looking down on Earth, and watching six billion personalities bumping into each other. Personalities of all types, traits and temperaments that are constantly morphing from one to the other with every spoken word and tiny interaction.  One instant we laugh, the next  minute we cry.  We tease and joke, we snarl and sneer.  We kill and we caress.  We mope and we mingle.

Pessimist?  or Optimist?   Once in awhile it's good therapy to pause and take a close look at the Self to see where we're at with this outlook-on-life business.     

Look at the ordinary #2 yellow lead pencil.  Notice how short the eraser is compared to the length of the lead.  It's a nice symbol that proclaims that we do more things right, than we do wrong.  If I had to choose one morsel of advice to pass on to those younger, it would be the value of concentrating on what they do right instead of what they think they do wrong.

Some years back I went through a time when I thought I was simply taking up space and breathing someone else's air.  Off to Walmart I went, bought me a 10-cent spiral notebook, and started writing down what I did each day.  Every little thing, whether it was go to work or brush my teeth, or stop for groceries, or visit with a neighbor.  At the end of two weeks, I turned back the pages and re-read the stuff I had done, and wowza, it was obvious that I'd been fretting over some silly notion that snuck inside my head when I wasn't looking.  We can be so hard on ourselves.....and, why are we like that.

A river of flowing circumstances and moods mold our personalities.  It's so hard to see the bright side while  sitting under an umbrella of despair.  I've been there. We need to be kinder to ourselves. Each of us six billion are here not because we asked to be.  We are here because we are supposed to be.  It's in our best interests to do our best, look for the best in others, and make the best of every day.


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
A Little Corner of the World

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bluebirds Bring Happiness


A 70-something man from our village, before suffering a debilitating illness, built a trail of bluebird houses and monitored them religiously.  He kept written notes of his morning ritual, and the bluebirds didn't mind him lifting the roof tops to check if nest and eggs were okay.  The bird kingdom suffers from intruders the same as the other kingdoms.  It's so nice when one kingdom polices the other.

My father-in-law built birdhouses in his wood shop.  Many birdies flying around today find a home in the spring as a result of the scraps of wood nailed together and painted in his shop.  The wren houses hanging in our yard were made by him, and when they need a bit of repair, hubby tends to it.  No way will they be replaced so long as we live here.  

Rarely do we see bluebirds, but they are a rural bird and tend to stay out in the prairies and meadows.  Tucked away in a box somewhere in the house I have two glass Bluebirds of Happiness.  They are a gorgeous cobalt blue and should be perched on my kitchen window-sill picking up the sunshine.  Glass bluebirds make simple and sweet gifts that thoughtfully convey wishes for happiness.

It was George J. Carroll who authored the poem, "Bluebird of Happiness," ........

And in the valley beneath the mountains of my youth,
lies the river of my tears.
As it wends its way to the ocean of my dreams,
so long ago they have gone.
And yet, if I were but to think anew,
would these dreams evaporate in my mind
and become the morning dew upon a supple rose
whose beauty is enhanced with these glistening drops,
as the sun of life peeks o'er the mountains 
when youth was full.
Then I must not supply this endless fountain
that creates the river of my tears
but look beyond those mountains
where the bluebird of happiness flies.  

Our 100-degree days have been too stifling to sit on our screened-in porch, but our friends with feathers just keep on dropping by for a snack and then off they fly again.  

As my mentor Henry David Thoreau said, 
"The bluebird carries the sky on his back."

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Birthplace of Baby Bluebirds 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Living in the '50s - Again

This morning the gentle paw tapped my head to say, "time to get up, Mamma."  So, we did.  She and I toddled downstairs, she pottied on her paper, I got the coffee brewing, she went to sleep, and I'm drinking coffee.

Late yesterday afternoon the three of us were getting restless, so we went for a trolley.  The temperature had fallen to 86 degrees, we needed a couple things at the grocery story, so off we went.  We call ourselves the snoopers, cuz our eyes are peeled for all things unusual.  Change is constant, so what we saw yesterday in one place may be entirely different today.

One thing we noticed was the levels of our local rivers.  They're so low, in many places there isn't enough water to go tubing.  Another sign of how badly we need rain.  These are the same rivers we swam in as kids, swung from ropes tied to branches, with enough depth to safely let go of the rope and pile dive into the water.

An icy spring ran through our yard on the farm when I was little, and I remember in the summertime I'd go and stand barefoot in the cold water.  Sometimes I'd splash cold spring water from the cow tank on my face and all over my long hair.  Living on the farm gave us tons of privacy, visitors were few, so it didn't matter how scruffy we looked.  It was common as pie to pee beside a building, or sometimes out in the open.  Who cared.  No one.  Life was as free as a bird for us kids.

Now that I'm in my 60s, I can close my eyes and picture our farm yard.  It was pretty crude by today's farming standards, with lots of rocks and inclines and declines.  There was no such thing as a lawn before we moved out of the old stone house into the new ranch-style house.  A pump sat a short way from our kitchen door, and my mom would take our water pail from the kitchen cupboard, fill it at the pump, and bring it back in the house.  That was our drinking water.  We used a common dipper to drink water.  That is one of the sweetest memories I have.  And, I can still see daddy coming in the house after a day in the field, all sweaty with straw chaff glued to his skin, sun burned, heading straight for the water pail and drinking till water ran down the side of his mouth. He sometimes took a dipper of water out on the porch and poured it over his head.   As the little girl, I must have just stood there freezing every sight of him I could.

We had a pantry in our old stone house, too.  Pantries are so cool, and if we'd have a bigger house I'd be sure to have one.  I like things that remind me of the 1950s.  Back then, I didn't have to harbor any responsibility, was only a curious little newcomer to the world, and roamed around getting to know how things worked.

My Gramma had the neatest thing in her kitchen.  She opened a door in the wall, and out unfolded a wooden  ironing table.  She'd do her ironing and then fold the table back into the wall and close the door.  That was way cool, and to this day I can't understand why homes nowadays don't have that feature.  I know we don't iron clothes like we did in the 50's, but still there are times we need to iron.

So goes the business of remembering how things were when we were kids.  The older we get, the more time we spend in the days when our families were whole.  I suppose that's why Our Creator gave us the ability to remember.....so we can close our eyes and spend time with those who are no longer here.  How in the world is our brain, or mind's eye, able to relive and remember 60+ years of living and life?  And, some say we simply evolved from a fish?  Nah, I don't think so.  There are too many phenomenon inside ourselves and outside of ourselves that perpetually and rigidly march to an invisible Master, that I'm not yet ready to place my "X" in the Evolution column.

Here I go again, getting philosophical on a quiet Sunday morning in July.  Time to get another cup of coffee, but I hate to wake up the fuzzy one who's sleeping soundly with her head on my feet.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
The Heart of the Old Mill

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Family Is Blessed with Twins

Two players have been added to the G-clan's roster.  Identical twin boys joined the team a few days ago, and we're sending our best wishes to the proud parents, the really proud grandparents, and the really really proud great-grandparents.

It's double the giggles
and double the grins,
and double the trouble
if you're blessed with twins.
~Author Unknown

Twice  as much to love,
two blessings from above.
~Author Unknown

God touched our hearts so deep inside,
our special blessing multiplied.
~Author Unknown

Life is two-riffic with twins.
~Author Unknown

Hearts entwined
Twenty fingers, twenty toes,
Two sweet babies with cheeks of rose.
Born on the same day, two gifts from above,
Lives entwined, two babies to love.
~Author Unknown

What's cuter than one baby?
A precious set of twins!
With matching little outfits,
And matchless little grins.
With twice as many babies,
How very busy you will be.
Just think of all the loving
They'll bring your family.
~Author Unknown

Two faces to wash, and four dirty hands
Two insistent voices, making demands
Twice as much crying, when things go wrong
The four eyes closing, with slumber song.
Twice as many garments, blowing on the line
Two cherubs in the wagon, soaking up sunshine.
Work I do for twins, naturally comes double
But four arms to hug me, repay all my trouble.
~Author Unknown

We came into the world like brother and brother.
And now let's go hand in hand, not one before another.
~William Shakespeare


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Fuzzy One's Friends

Friday, July 13, 2012

Detours and Angels

Road-closed and Detour signs are frustrating, especially when time is of the essence.  Just the other day we were trolleying to a dental appointment when both of those signs appeared in front of us.  Our only choice was to follow the arrows until we could squirm our way around the road construction and get ourselves back on track.

As a couple, we've been driving around now for close to 50 years, and hubby has a doctorate in Exploration.  He's got a knack for finding the most charming places in the most out-of-the-way places, and detours hold high potential for such discoveries.

It was on the detour that we caught a glimpse of this small church.  Instinct had me reaching for the Nikon that we keep on the console between us.  The blue sky testifies to the day's grace, and the flag's stillness mirrors the serenity surrounding the sacred sight.  A voice whispered for me to get out of the car and genuflect.

In my March 18, 2012, blog I shared another church sighting.  That day we were parked by the side of the road admiring an old stone church when a man wearing a cap stopped his pickup beside us and offered to explain the church's history.  How perfect the timing.

Well, the same thing happened when we were stopped at this little church.  A well-seasoned man wearing a hat and driving a pickup pulled up beside us, rolled down his window, and shared the church's history.  How perfect the timing.

Call me crazy, but could these two guys have been angels that appear out of nowhere, fulfill a need, and then "poof" disappear like magic?  Our vehicle stops countless times on our trolleys to take photos, but it's only been when we're by a church that a man wearing a hat and driving a pickup has stopped to enlighten us.

Regardless, the gentleman explained that this miniature church is a replica of the original, built out of its salvaged bricks and materials. Its pulse continues to beat all these 116 years later.

Across the road a modern-day church welcomes everyone to a 9 a.m. Sunday service.  We talk about returning to attend a Sunday service there.  It would be the absolute perfect place to express our gratitude for the sweet and simple miracles that keep unfolding for us, every day.

"The unlikeliest people harbor halos beneath their hats."


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Twins

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Surprise In the Garden

Me:  Where did you plant the butternut squash?

He:   Right there.

Me:  Well, where are they?

He:  That's what I'm wondering.

Me:  What are these funny looking things?  They look like gourds.

Crookneck Squash
That's pretty much the substance of our garden chat.  There's no point including my cussing, cuz that would only serve to mar the little bit of lady that's left of me.  Suffice it to say, we won't be harvesting my beloved butternuts.  Instead we'll be harvesting what looks like a goose with warts.


My plan today is to gather one of these wart hogs, throw it in the oven, and see what it tastes like.  I'm the first to say one should never judge by appearance, but this is pushing my limits.  


Should I decide the crookneck doesn't hold a candle to my tasty butternuts, then the whole frickin' lot of 'em is going over the ledge into the creek.  And, you might as well expect there to be cussing.  Most definitely cussing. 


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
You'd better watch your step!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Remembering Aesop's 'The Fox and the Crow'

A coal-black crow once stole a piece of meat.  She flew to a tree and held the meat in her beak.

A fox, who saw her, wanted the meat for himself, so he looked up into the tree and said, "How beautiful you are, my friend!  Your feathers are fairer than the doves.

"Is your voice as sweet as your form is beautiful?  If so, you must be the queen of birds."

The crow was so happy in his praise that she opened her mouth to show how she could sing.  Down fell the piece of meat.

The fox seized upon it and ran away.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Recycled Tires



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nighttime Vandals Identified

A few blogs back I wrote about nighttime mischief at our bird feeders.  Well, we know who the culprits were, and I can't wait to tell you about it.

Last evening, in broad daylight, a Mama Raccoon took her four kids out for supper.......right beside our screened-in patio.  The whole family leisurely dined on the bird seed that had fallen to the ground.  Mama stood up on her hind legs and looked at us through the screen door as if to say, "Hi, this is real nice of you to set out supper for us!"

Here's the kicker.......Hubby's reaction was to reach for a cannon, and mine was to reach for a camera.  Wouldn't you know it, the settings were screwed up on the camera, so we weren't able to get a photo so I could show you.

The furry family of masked bandits were soooooooooooooo sweet and so cute and so adorable.  Hubby may perhaps describe them differently, but, to me, it was one of those magic moments that happen when we least expect them.  When the furry family finished eating, Mama led her little ones back down toward the creek.

That pretty well closed the pending case on the bird-feeder vandalisms.  If we hadn't moved the bird feeders away from the crime scene and re-hung them under the patio eave, we may not have caught 'em in action.  Hubby did say something that kinda scared me......"You might think they're so cute, but wait till they rip through our patio screen."  Whoa!  Should that happen, court may have to reconvene, and these simple-misdemeanor invasions may have to get reclassified as class "A" felonies.  Things could get ugly.

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 PHOTO OF THE DAY
My Back Hurts

Monday, July 09, 2012

Nazareth Sugar Cookies

Now that the fireworks are over, we wait for Labor Day, the one day dedicated to our working class who march to the beat of an alarm clock and a time clock.

Every day dedicates itself to one thing, and July 9th targets the Sugar Cookie.  Yup, it's National Sugar Cookie Day.  Man alive,what I'd give for a plate of sugar cookies to dunk in my coffee.  I'm a dunker from way back.  Sometimes when I dunk my cookie, half of it soaks off and falls into my coffee.  Then I use a spoon to scoop out the mushy cookie to eat it.  It's part of the dunking ritual.

In the 1700s, German Protestant settlers near Nazareth, Pennsylvania, created a round, crumbly, buttery cookie that came to be known as the......

Nazareth Sugar Cookie
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1-1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Butter should be soft but not melted.  1 to 2 hours at room temperature should suffice.
  2. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture reaches a uniform consistency and the butter is the size of small pebbles.  Add the eggs and continue mixing.  This will help combine any remaining butter.
  3. Combine dry ingredients and add to egg, butter, and sugar mixture.  Mix well until all ingredients are combined into consistent dough.
  4. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  Dough should be firm and cool.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. On floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  (also flour the rolling pin)  Cut into shapes using cookie cutters or biscuit cutter.  Continue reshaping the dough left from each cutting until all the dough is used up.
  7. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with colored sugar if desired.  Bake 7 to 10 minutes until cookie edges are firm and bottom is lightly brown.
  8. Cool, decorate, and enjoy.
Mixed in with these old recipes is a cup of baker's reverence.  It's like passing a torch, only in this case it's passing a plate of sugar cookies from one generation to the next.


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Keeping One Eye Open

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Blog Topic

This morning my brain feels like someone put it in a vise and squeezed the juice out of it.  What I'm saying is, I don't know what to write about.

Oh, well, I'll simply let my fingers push keys and make words to fill my blog space.  It's okay to divulge the secret that blogging isn't as easy as it may seem.  Having an idea is #1, and that's my problem.

Nobody cares to know that my cup of coffee is absolutely delicious, dark and strong.  Nobody cares that I'm wearing black Capri pants and one of hubby's short-sleeve shirts. The yellow one that reminds me of a lemon.  And, I doubt whether anyone cares that my hair is uncombed.

Today's blog will have absolutely no substance.  Nothing to offer to my readers.  Am I going to fret and fuss?  Nah.  My brain is yawning and needs a break.  This happens to all of us.  We tucker and tire, but we keep plugging along, best we can, doing what we need to do.  Some days we do it better than others.  It's that business of balance.....one good  day needs one bad day to keep our life in sync.

Is today the tick?  or the tock?

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Goin' North   

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Village Celebrates Freedom


Today our village celebrates 
America's 236th birthday!

Trivia

"America the Beautiful" was written as a poem by Katherine Lee Bates in 1893.  After she rode to the top of Colorado's Pike's Peak, she was inspired by the "spacious skies" and "purple mountain majesties."  Her poem was later set to music.

The Liberty Bell cracked the first time it was rung.  In 1846, it was repaired and cracked again.  The bell has not been rung since.  Every 4th of July the Liberty Bell is tapped...not actually rung.

The first Eagle on an American coin appeared on a Massachusetts penny in 1776.

A lucky person in Philadelphia bought a $4.00 picture at a flea market.  Behind the picture was an original 1776 printing of the Declaration of Independence.  It was sold to TV producer Norman Lear for 8.1 million dollars.

According to the Department of State.....
Red stands for hardiness and courage.
White is the symbol of purity and innocence.
Blue is the color of vigilance, perseverance and justice.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Roasty and Toasty
Marshmallows
Hot Dogs &
Smores


Friday, July 06, 2012

Don't Second Guess

The instant all six pounds of me slid into the world of the living, expectations were placed on my baby shoulders.  My Creator assigned me to serve as daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and cousin right off the bat.  As I grew, the roles of friend, classmate, wife, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt,  great-aunt, employee, co-worker and neighbor were added.

When one thinks of the various roles we play in a lifetime, isn't it remarkable that we do them as well as we do?  It's so easy for me to second guess myself.....did I do the right thing.....should I have done something else instead.  Often was the time I was my own worst enemy, piling on pointless worries and concerns.  We magnify our worth to the point that we imagine ourselves to be the almighty peacemaker and healer of all hurts.  We self appoint ourselves as mini gods.

Well, like most things, we have to get in our sixties to realize how silly we are. Everybody is responsible for paddling their own canoe, and if they tip over, well, then they'll learn how better to paddle the next time.  Not only that, but the times we tipped our canoe and fell in the water.....we ended up having a blast.   The more we do for others, the less they will do for themselves; and, chances are they will miss out on some unexpected fun.  There's a point where we can over-protect.

This business of second-guessing ourselves is wearing.  It's so easy to mentally rehash situations, but we can't do that with any degree of accuracy.  Every time, place, and moment has its immediate elements that can't ever be reconstructed. Therefore, we can never rehash our actions to be the same as they were.  We do what we feel is right at the time.

This poem is for the back pocket......for those times we get bogged down and second guess ourselves......

"I'm only me.
That is all I can be.
No more, no less,
Don't second guess.
I love, I live, I cry.
Some days I'm funny,
Others I'm not.
Sometimes I'm in overdrive
And I can't stop.
You may not like me
But that's okay.
Because this is me
And how I'll stay."


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Leaving Shore

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Please Send Us Rain

It's time we organize a rain dance.  The cornfields, lawns, gardens and flower beds are stressed and sobbing for water.  Our need for rain is serious.

Without any fooling, maybe we should check into the ways of the Native Americans and what they did to make the skies open.  I've read about their rain dances, spiritual rituals, appealing the gods to nourish the crops that sustained them.  Feathers and Turquoise were the two main symbols in their dances.  Feathers represented the wind.  Turquoise symbolized rain. The movements and steps to the rain dance were (and still are) done in zigzagging steps and movements.

Native Americans honored Mother Earth and incorporated Her elements as symbols on their clothing, their weavings, and jewelry-making.  Each symbol stood for something and had a special meaning......

Bear - power, protection and courage.  The bear is a ferocious animal whose mere presence brings fear to its enemy.
Wolf - cunning, intelligent.  Its intellectual ability is extremely high.    
Eagle - keen eyesight.  The 'master of the sky' has a sharp eyesight that can see its prey from a far distance, five times more powerful and sharper than a human can see.
Buffalo - generosity.  Native Americans revered the buffalo because it gave them food and clothing.
Arrow - protection.  The arrow protected them from wild animals and other tribal enemies.
Rain Cloud - good prospects.  A rain cloud is a good sign that soon rain will fall, which means better crop production and prosperity to the people.
Cloud, Rain, and Lightning - symbolized love.  Native American love was not only between man and woman.  They had immense respect and love for nature (the clouds, trees, and mountains).  Clouds, rain, and lightning ensured better crops, and they believed they received these gifts because of their love of nature.
Turtle - healthy long lifespan.  Turtles can survive for up to 150 years, and their tough shells signify protection  from harsh weather.
Sun - growth.  The light and heat from the sun helps sustain life on earth.  The rays of the sun represent the main directions, North, East, South, and West.   Native Americans had the highest regard for the sun.
Dancer - festivity and celebration.  Dancing symbolized a joyous event.
Deer Marks - shelter and safety.  Deer hunting was a main source of livelihood.  Marks from a deer indicated the environment was prime for hunting and providing their basic needs.
Thunderbird
Bearer of Happiness Unlimited
Dog - loyalty and protection.  The dog is the most faithful animal that remains loyal and protects its master in good times and bad.

In 1983, my mom and I took a 3-week trip to the west coast.  My favorite keepsake to come home with me was a silver ring made by the Hopi tribe in the design of the Thunderbird - the bearer of happiness unlimited.

I'm pretty sure I'm gonna have one heck of a time rounding up enough people here in the village to put together a true blue rain dance.  But, I'm not afraid to go solo, stick a feather in my hair, put a turquoise ring on my hand, and start zigzagging around the house yard.  Wouldn't it be a hoot if, while I'm doing the dance, the sky would cloud over and a soaking rain would bless us?  Maybe CNN would call to interview me, I'd get to be on the Today Show, 60 Minutes would have to get in on it, blah, blah, blah.


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Flea Market Fare

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Andy Griffith Tribute

He earned our respect as gentle Sheriff Taylor and our amazement as Matlock, the crafty defense lawyer.  Yesterday was a sad day with the announcement of Andy Griffith's passing at age 86.  Another legend has left us.

Andy influenced the baby boomer generation, and I wonder if he knew to what degree.  His part as Mayberry's Sheriff taught us the virtue of taking things in stride.  His Deputy Phyfe, on the other hand,  was rattled every time he turned around.  We all probably laughed more at the antics of Barney Phyfe than any other actor of the era.  His facial expressions were priceless.  When he thought he had done something right for a change, he'd puff like a peacock, and that made us laugh all the more.

Andy played the part of a single parent to Opie, but Aunt Bea was there to provide the maternal sustenance for Opie as he grew up.  Every episode made us laugh.  Every episode centered around Andy's down-home approach to family life.  Then there was the town drunk, Otis.  Poor Otis was cared for like the village puppy, given a jail cell to sleep off his benders.  Only Andy would have done that.

As we say our final good-byes to our legends, chunks of ourselves fall away, too.  There's a real sense of loss with Andy gone.  He really ought to still be with us, that good guy and smart lawyer.  We knew him so well without ever meeting him.

Life is that way.  We make our difference and then, one by one, we drop like the leaves off a tree.  The ones left hanging on can't help but feel heavyhearted.

Thank you, Andy Griffith, for all the good things you presented to us through the characters you played.  You gave us what we needed while we were growing up, and we're really sad that you're gone.  Be in peace.  Job well done.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Anybody Home?


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

We Pray

Our county is one of ten under an excessive heat warning today.  Our vehicle will remain parked in the garage.  We don't need to add more heat and emissions to an already stifling atmosphere.

Some places are wisely banning fireworks this 4th of July.  Fear is that the sparks might ignite destructive wildfires.  Our niece's family lives minutes away from the raging fires in Colorado, and they opened their home to evacuees this last weekend rather than come home for the family reunion.  How admirable is that.

Millions across the nation are suffering from the heat, the wildfires, and results of catastrophic storms.  Millions are struggling to get by without electricity.

Great Spirit,
 we ask that You bring out the best
 in the victims of Nature's harsh elements.
Bless them with stamina and compassion. 
Comfort them when the stress is more than they can bear. 
Give them friends who will share their tears
 and console their heartaches. 
 Amen.    


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Chipmunk Buffet

Monday, July 02, 2012

A Poem From My Past

Late last night I was going through my journals and found this free-style poem that I wrote in 2001, following a tragedy in my family.......

CASTLE IN TIME

Days evaporate into invisibility--
Yet, our memory keeps their events alive.
They reappear over and over,
Again and again.

When we allow ourselves to dwell
on a particular yesterday,
We don't actually live our
Today.

Try, try, to go onward,
Wait hopefully for the next gift to arrive.
For, each day holds a positive element
That may be wearing a clever disguise.

Think only upon the contented
And undisturbed times
That bring sun beams to our hearts
And serenity to our souls.

Take time to pick the sweet and humble wildflower,
Place it in a crystal vase.
Nothing more pleasing than nature
In our very own private space.

Sip the tea of today, 
Tipping the cup slowly,
Tiny swallows if need be.
For the Creator has perfectly apportioned
Its flavor to sustain you and me.

Do any of us leave this Earth without knowing
The pain of a broken heart?
I think not.
Cry, create, and console.

The answers to our questions, I believe,
Are around us in obvious view.
Seasons switch places,
Assuring us that changes will surely take place.

Nature hugs us with warm sunshine,
Cools us with soft rain,
Nature fires Her engine
And can change the finest human plan.

Nature, the Lady of Power.
She thunders, she roars, she pours.
Yet, she shines.

I dream of a place that will give my heart
Perfect contentment.
Therein lies my vision of Heaven.

Life is the inhale.
Eternity the exhale.
One breath, only one.
Dwell on its splendors.
Dwell on its goodness.
Dwell on its passions.

One lifetime brings to each of us
A private world of enccounters.
They develop in ways only a
Supreme Artist could ordain.

Mirrors live between us.  Reflections.
All so different.  All so the same.
Part of the wonderment of....
Individuality.

Do you sometimes feel a Hand guiding you?
A voice out of the blue whispering a notion or inspiration?
Do you feel a sudden interruption?  An intuition?
An eerie sense of warning?

Try as I may, I cannot discount these spiritual sensations.
A magnificent Force is generating my destiny.
I feel it.
It's as invisible as yesterday.

I'm trusting in The Life Force.
The amazing Order of the Universe.
I crave to be embraced, lifted and carried
By It to my end.....and,
Beyond my end to a new beginning.

Accepting what comes our way,
No matter how it hurts,
We have got to trust that the Great Force
Is silently structuring our
Castle in Time.
Built of strength and daring.
Towers and pillars of stone.
Fashioned  to fit around
The niche where we exist.


by Nature Weaver


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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Love Me for the Way I Am