Messages from the Brightest Stars…

Golden beams of sunshine through an autumn forest

10-30-19 026cThe garden rests under November’s grey skies and already freezing temps while I practice morning Qigong inside. Looking up, I notice this solitary tree glowing amidst bare woods. It reminds me of my brother, Robert — my last living immediate family member and only sibling, who recently passed.

Years ago, when one of my dogs tragically passed, my brother consoled me by comparing that young dog to a bright star, explaining that the brightest stars have shorter lives. A contemporary Doctor Doolittle, Robert had an extraordinary talent for connecting with animals and particularly canines. He is the one who gave Bess to me.

Bess and Robert’s bookend deaths these last four months, along with too many other friends and co-workers, feels as insurmountable as piles of autumn leaves. So thick, I can barely see clearly on this course of 15 deaths that presumably is meant for deeper understanding. Striving to find meaning in all of this, I seek out any comfort I can find. Too late, I hear Do not let anger ruin a relationship. Time is shorter than we think…forgiveness is key. 
Broken branch
Original photo by Manfred Richter on Pixabay

 

As with the duality of the Tao, my brother and I had another side to our relationship. Several years ago we mutually agreed to sever contact out of opposing values and a need for self-care. After recent minimal communication we were to meet in person but he passed before it came to fruition. It’s come to me that “The soul knows when to go,” and “Everything happens exactly as it is meant to be.” I feel grateful my brother and I requited resolution and forgiveness in the month before he departed.

A caring guy with a zany sense of humor, it’s no surprise that Robert chose to pass three days before Halloween. But, finding Reese’s peanut butter cups on top of a chest containing my own dogs cremains that morning was surprising.
Reese's peanut butter cups

Seeing this orange/black package gave me an odd sort of comfort — my diabetic brother loved this candy…and he promised to give me a sign.  Later on Halloween night, I pulled in a radio station from afar. The guest spoke about Houdini’s wife, Bess, who made a pact with her husband to give a sign from the other side. These seemingly coincidental gifts gave my heart a lift.

Understanding it’s helpful for the deceased and those surviving to express gratitude for their presence in our lives, I offer some sentiments my brother once shared with me…too bad we forgot them in these last eight years:
  • The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.
  • Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of  battle.
  • Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one’s who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason.If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.If it changes your life, let it.Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
  • A sharp tongue can cut your own throat.
Golden red leaf with a heart in the middle
Photo by Rebekka D from Pixabay
  • Friends are like balloons; once you let them go, you might not get them back. Sometimes we get so busy with our own lives and problems that we may not notice that we’ve let them fly away. Sometimes we are so caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong that we forget what’s right and wrong. Sometimes we don’t realize what real friendship means until it is too late. I don’t want to let that happen so I’m gonna tie you to my heart so I never lose you.
  • The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge.
  • One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.
If this post touches your heart, my brother and I encourage you to make amends with the person who broke it.

Nature Teacher: Hanging On…and Letting Go

Two autumn leaves hanging on...one on the window glass; the other on the trim with a reflection of the blue sky and trees.

This little guy was hanging on to my window for the last month. He didn’t want to let go. But I knew he would when the time was right.

window leaf 001BC

I didn’t want to post this photo right away. It made me think about my brother who, only days before, told me his quadruple heart bypass failed. With 30% heart function, I didn’t know how long he could hang on. Strange, the things we think about or tell ourselves when dealing with death and stressful events. Perhaps that fantasy thinking is part of bargaining — if I do this, then that will occur…or we’re fearful to do certain things as if it’s a bad omen.

The little leaf has left my window. And this week my brother left his life here on earth.

Autumn trees reflected in a pond with a memorial to my big brother

 

 

 

 

Halloween’s Other Side of Life

Intricate spider web in black and orange Halloween colors

Looking out my window during morning Qigong practice, I glanced up to see this intricate spider web. Amazing to view its work up close…a meditation in itself.

Intricate gossamer spider web hanging between branches with insect bitten burgundy leaves of a Ornamental Plum tree
Seeing beyond the spider web…

With Halloween approaching, I dug deeper into the curiosities of this scary holiday. I never understood Halloween‘s color combination of orange and black but now it makes more sense. Orange represents autumn, and black signifies death (of summer). I realize, as in how I choose to view life’s transition to death, that this holiday does not have to evoke fear as popularly promulgated. 

And those spiders serving as long time mascots for Halloween? There’s a pleasant tale indicating they are the spirit of a loved one watching over you. How befitting in my summer of bereavement, and a more pleasant thought than frightful ghosts and goblins.

Who knew a simple spider web would give new meaning to Halloween for me? It’s become a holiday for recognizing life’s natural transition rather than scaring me to death.

 

 

 

 

And if You Think You Still Can’t Meditate…

Cup of black coffee alongside notebook depicting hand drum, with tube of paint, a pen, some cloth, threat and needles
Young woman meditating in seated yoga lotus position
Photo by Form on Unsplash

Long ago I relinquished worrying that I “wasn’t meditating right.” A natural nonconformist, my meditation approach expanded from the traditional lotus pose (ouch) to alternatives that work for me — like fixating on the moment, hand drumming, movement meditation, even my morning Qigong practice where I more easily stay focused on the swirls of circular energy than the rhythm of my breath.

Green, red, blue, yellow paint pots with small, medium and large size artist brushes
Photo by Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

 

Recently, through another fellow blogger who shares some of the most mesmerizing photographs of color and texture, I learned of a woman who meditates (and journals) through her art. I hadn’t heard of this concept before but  proffer it as yet another avenue for reaching that quiet space within.

 

 

 

 

Feature photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Nature Teacher: Challenges

Shovel caked with clay on top of pile of stones next to work boots, work gloves and a large tree

Digging through clay caked soil to plant something somewhere in my yard I usually hear that familiar clang. It’s my shovel hitting rock. I work it loose, sometimes easily freeing it, sometimes needing other tools or adjusting my approach. Soon after I often hear another clang or scrape and then another, and usually more — depending on the size of hole needed. Some rocks are larger, some smaller, some pebble size like the tiny annoyances in a day.

I work around colossal rocks, accepting that the tree I wanted in that particular spot is not going to thrive in that particular spot. I move on. Shift my focus to another area, a solution.

Usually, about half-way through clearing rocks, I’m chuckling at Nature’s metaphor for life’s challenges.

 

 

Original feature photo by 15299 on Pixabay

It IS the little things

Living consciously — paying attention and appreciating what is around me — feels like living in sync with the Universe. More easily I see, understand, and feel grateful for what comes my way. It’s not luxurious, expensive gifts that make my heart smile, it’s the little things.

Just this week…

I looked into the veggie garden to see a colorful garden spinner turning in the wind. While it’s actually a tuxedo cat riding a bicycle with a cardinal in a flower pot, it’s black/white form and silliness reminds me of my border collie Bess and gives my heart a lift. Each time I look out the window, I smile because it feels like Bess is still there.

While digging holes to transplant mums, I discovered several dozen bulbs. I forgot about these beauties, so it was a gratifying surprise because they obviously needed dividing too. The bulbs, what sweet treasure like finding rubies in my garden.

Spring flower bulb gems

Chuckling to myself I thanked the Universe for both of these small but meaningful gifts that bring the greatest joys.

I’ve read about gratitude at various times and in various ways. It all seems true…


Gratuity for Gratitude

The more I am the grateful, the more I will have to be grateful for.
When gratitude becomes an essential foundation in our lives, miracles start to appear everywhere.” Emmanuel Dalgher
“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” Neale Donald Walsch
“Gratitude opens the door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. You open the door through gratitude.” Deepak Chopra
“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything.” Alan Cohen

What are the seemingly small joys in your life?  What does gratitude mean to you?

 

Constancy is Unnatural…

Tornado touching land from storm clouds above

…and will change. At some point.

Dark skies with objects hurling in the air and a collapsing house from a cyclone
Photo by Jonny Lindner on Pixabay

This summer of exhaustive change whirled like a tornado snatching dear ones from my path. In three months I’ve experienced rapid and complete loss from news of 14 deaths — nine of them close to me. Barely catching my breath, we’ve also just lost the healing space where we’ve hand drummed for over 15 years.

I admit, change often feels like a blustery, cold wind in my life rather than a soothing, summer breeze. Raised in a dysfunctional home, I became an ACOA and HSP — frazzled by chaos and discord, and craving stability and harmony.

If I continually resist change, though, the Universe sweeps in, eliminating any more chances or choices to get on board. Suddenly, (at least it feels that way, even if I’ve dilly-dallied for ages) I’m hurled with hurricane force into new situations — whether desired or not, whether I like it or not, and whether I feel courageous or not. So, instead of latching on tightly and refusing to let go, I’m more inclined now to accept and release. Note:  it’s not always immediate and it doesn’t mean I always like it.


Change is welcomed when we are the ones initiating it.

 But, when it’s thrown upon us, our response is often quite different.


The calendar indicates when I can reasonably expect to see leaves falling, snow flying, buds blooming. Even if it isn’t exactly on schedule, I feel comfortable knowing that the next season is around the corner, hence, what to expect next. It’s the unanticipated adversity —  like tornadoes, Nor’easters (and precipitous deaths) that jolt me.

Rocks Jutting through the Water
Photo by Frank Winkler on Pixabay

Still, I’m learning like everyone else on this journey called life. My headstrong adolescence pressed through storms, and my unguided young adulthood blindly maneuvered rocky, melodramatic situations. In mid-adulthood, the fog began lifting, offering clearer, smoother sailing — but only through a widened perspective and attitude of enhanced acceptance.

My Five Stages of Acceptance

By that I mean growing out of questioning, “Why me, or us or this?” to lamenting disappointment, to bemoaning perplexity, to the sighing resignation of “It is what it is,” to realizing the changing nature of the seasons is the flow of life. Change is the perfectly natural progression. For it to be anything otherwise equals stagnation and death.


As my perspective changes, so does my life.


ishant-mishra-K8hLK2M1ZBw-unsplash
Photo by Ishant Mishra on Unsplash

So now, when immense change occurs, I endeavor to exchange fear or disappointment with faith and acceptance that everything is working out exactly as it’s meant to be. While intellectually understanding death as transformation eases the loss, it doesn’t completely erase my feelings. For other changes, I remind myself that space is being created for something better…and that the gift may not always appear how I envision it — another reason for due diligence in living consciously and welcoming doors of opportunity.


Each of us processes life and change differently, and at different times in our life.


While still feeling an emptiness from losing Bess and other friends this summer, my heart slowly mends by shifting focus from loss to fulfillment. Having more leeway to be away from home now I’ve planned two bucket list journeys for 2020 — Turks & Caicos and Cotswolds, England.

A close friend processed her loss quite differently when her dog suddenly died this summer. (He was panting at 7PM and dead by 10PM.)  Feeling so distraught, she brought home brother and sister puppies a week later. While they are adorable, she forgot how much work they are and is now so tied to home, she cannot leave even for day trips. Change comes in all sizes, just like pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters…

How do you process change? Has it been the same throughout your life, or evolved one way or the other? Do you welcome change or close your eyes and shut the door on it, only to have it forced open later?

 

 

Scotland’s Ecclesiastical Blue Skies

Perthshire Mountains Scotland

“It was a beautiful, bright autumn day, with air like cider and a sky so blue you could drown in it.” — Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

 

Scotland's Perthshire Mountains

Oh so true. I took this photo of the endless blue sky and Perthshire Mountains on my recent visit to Scotland…

Star Pyramid in Scotland near Stirling Castle

…and this one too, of the Star Pyramid, pointing to Scotland’s heavens. Also known as the Martyrs Monument, it stands just beyond the southeast side of Stirling Castle near the Valley Cemetery.

Two large grey ashlar sandstone spheres are carved with lines of latitude and longitude and flank a set of steps leading up the hill to the monument. Each side of the structure is aligned 33 degrees off a perfect north south alignment. A large bronze eagle was part of the sculpture until it disappeared in the 1970’s.

Erected in 1863 as a memorial to all who suffered martyrdom for civil and religious liberty in Scotland, the monument was commissioned by nurseryman William Drummond who was obsessed with religion.

Close up view of Star Pyramid in Scotland near Stirling Castle

Each side of the Star Pyramid contains a white marble crown, thistle, rosette, and an open bible. Each of these items is one-third the distance from each other which some suggest are masonic connections particularly since masonic symbolism uses the pyramid to represent stability and endurance, and the rosette for love, joy, and silence. A different sunken relief text with reference to verses from the Psalms appears on each side:  Union Banner, Rock of Ages, Covenant Rest, Thrown of Right.

As it neared completion, William Drummond supposedly sealed in the monument’s hollow confines a Bible and a Confession of Faith to recall the principles of the Scottish Reformation. Eternal blue skies often feel like Heavens’ embrace to me and no doubt to William Drummond too.

Tomato Companions

Well, they may not be very mannerly — inviting themselves along — but they can be cheery company.

I didn’t plant tomatoes this year and had no intentions of doing so — either before or after my early June trip to Scotland. My gardening enthusiasm this season was lost with Bess, knowing she would no longer be with me. For the last 14 years, we cherished our outdoor turf together — she bringing her Frisbee to me while I tended the gardens. Being outside now felt too empty without her.

But, Mother Nature had other ideas. When I returned to discover tomato seedlings all over the asparagus patch — undoubtedly from seeds hiding in the compost, those unsought tomato plants beckoned me. After replanting the strongest ones in their own section I thought That’s it. If they can thrive on their own they will. I’m not going to spend much more time out here this summer…

Soon though, I mixed up Epsom salt fertilizer for a few weekly treatments and let Nature take its course. Sufficient summer rainfall eliminated my need for watering every day. As the plants grew taller and taller, I got the stakes and ties out. In a few more weeks, the green fruit gladdened a little part of me. Basil went in next as a companion plant and also for the makings of bruschetta, caprese salad, and a tasty pasta dish (although I’d cut way down on carbs, at least before Scotland).

Baskets and trays of cherery, grape and plum tomatoes
This week’s tomato harvest…and there’s still more.

For the last month I’ve been inundated with tomatoes.  Cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes. Half dollar size tomatoes that I don’t recall planting in previous years.  Some plum tomatoes and a few beefsteaks also appeared. I’ve given away baskets, bags and trays full and still have more on my counter, in the freezer, and on the vine. I never intended to grow tomatoes this season but they apparently intended to accompany me.

There’s something to be said for nature’s curative energy. Whether it’s the thrill of getting my hands in the dirt after the spring thaw, or the excitement of watching something grow, or the serene feeling of sunlight and fresh air, the only dialogue from bees and birds in the quiet of the day. In mourning Bess, I turned away from the solace of the gardens, disremembering it is their natural nurturing that made me a gardener in the first place. And when there’s a bountiful harvest? Well, the joy of giving brings about a smile — for the receiver and for me.


Featured image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay