Letting Go


When the worried mind takes over and its confusing to know what to do, the first steps are to untangle ones self from anxious thoughts.

An anxious mind is much like a choppy ocean. When we focus on the surface of the ocean, we see the waves rising and crashing. Below the surface, deep in the ocean, there is calm water.

So it is with anxiety provoking thoughts on the surface, everything is confusing. Conscious breathing can slow those anxious thoughts.  It can bring attention to the calmness that awaits below the choppy surface.

It may seem to be difficult to accomplish at first. However, with practice, the process of letting go and untangling from these anxiety ridden thoughts becomes manageable. All change requires action.  Bringing attention to ones breath is an action towards calming ones mind.

If a problem is fixable,

If a situation is such that you can…

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Labyrinths and paper bags

I have walked labyrinths before. These are not to be confused with a maze. A labyrinth does not have dead ends or blind alleys. They are not meant to confuse or frustrate but to clarify and create.

A labyrinth has one path, circuitous but it will eventually lead the traveler to the center, metaphorically following one’s own journey to the center of the mind, or heart, or creativity. Once there sit in silence, contemplative. When ready follow the pathway back out bringing new insight and a transformed spirit into the world. That’s the theory.

I could not find my way out of the produce section.

Honestly. It’s true. I picked up bananas, kiwi, bagged spinach (washed 3 times!) then got as far as the exotic fruits aisle and stopped. I kept looking back as if I’d meant to find something else but my mind was a complete blank. This never happened before.

I know I hit a new decade my last birthday. I know my schedule these days is busier than when I worked. But no one should get stuck in produce. I can normally find my way out of a paper bag. I suppose there are worse places to be mentally lost– a tire store, for example.

Finally a kind woman preparing and packaging chopped fruit looked out at me. “Do you need some help?”

Thinking fast I reply, “I’m having one of those days!” Then went on with some inane story about something else I’d forgotten or mixed up earlier in the day as some kind of validation, laughed it off like it was no big deal and rolled my cart onward.

Maybe that was all I needed. Somebody outside the ball of confusion that presently was my brain to jolt me out of it. Whatever. I managed to get through the rest of my shopping.

Carrying my totes out to the car I realized I’d forgotten eggs.

I remembered the turkey, though.

Things that matter

Not long after my divorce my mother determined I had availed myself of her good graces long enough and she and I set out to look for an apartment for my 2-year-old son and me. We’d been staying in her and Dad’s guestroom for about a month and a half. Mother was never one to enjoy the company of anyone younger than say 23 sadly, so  we quickly found a suitable place to go. A complication: none of my things– furniture, china, etc., had made it from Tennessee where I’d lived a less than blissful life to Charlotte where my parents were. So Mother made a gift of a lovely wrought iron glass-topped table and 6 chairs and a sofa bed to use until I could arrange for my own things to be moved. Dad feeling Mother’s generosity still coming up short decided to take me shopping for a few more things. He, always knowing where to find a bargain knew of a department store liquidation and we set out. At the time I loved bamboo and wicker. We found a small wicker bookcase, two bamboo “arm” chairs and a garish mustard-yellow ginger jar lamp. I was thrilled! Dad said I looked like someone living in a thatched hut.

Eventually my own things came, my son and I left the apartment after about a year and again, Mother found a 2 bed, 2 bath condo not too far away. We moved.

Over the years some of the furniture changed, but that singular ginger jar lamp made every move, including this one. A total of 8 moves over the course of 30-some years. This past week I decided I needed a new sofa. As I pulled the small love seat away from the end table I saw the poor ginger jar lamp tipping. I had looped an extension cord under an area rug so nobody would trip over it and around one of the legs of the love seat. Before I could register how to get around the furniture to save the lamp it crashed to the floor. Not liking loud noises because she might be at fault my rescue dog Lily disappeared. I stood alone in the silence, looking at the smashed little lamp, too many pieces to repair it.

Slowly I set the love seat down wishing I’d asked a neighbor to help me do all of this. I walked over to the remnants of this lamp and remembered the rose-colored bulb Dad had initially used to light the lamp. He knew I was then as broken as the lamp was now and wanted somehow to make life appear rosy, in some way. And now my life is (somewhat) repaired, still a work in progress but the lamp was now irreparably broken.

Maybe it had lasted as long as it needed to. Still, it was one of the few tangible memories I had of a rare time with Dad. I didn’t cry over it, not at first. But remembering all those years where he and Mom did so much to help me put my life back together, I think I might cry now.

Baby somethings

We all know this. Everything doesn’t start out full grown, fully knowing its purpose in life. Everything starts as a baby something… insects have larva, bears have cubs, foxes have kits, dogs have puppies. But there are many of these that we never see as a baby.

Anybody who gardens knows what caterpillars do to tomatoes, cabbages, squash. Then they become some sort of harmless moth, but their babies do a lot of damage to become that moth.

Puppies and kittens, though they do some things we don’t like- basically gnaw on chair legs or eat an entire slipper, are so darned cute we don’t really mind.

Other baby things we’d rather just not see like spiders or alligators.

But I had never, until a few days ago, seen a baby squirrel.

I’d been hearing great horned owls every night for several nights. It’s a welcome, comforting sound to me. Thursday morning my rescue dog Lily and I were returning from her walk when I saw her nosing around a tuft of something in the front yard so I went over to have a look.

I spotted a tiny pink thing and as I walked closer Lily backed away giving me a full view of it. I thought at first it might be a mole or a vole but they aren’t all pink. I picked it up… a perfect little creature though by now ice-cold. Who knows when it had been knocked out of its nest. I looked up and sure enough there in the pine branches was a large squirrel nest. My guess was one of those owls likely swooped on unwary mom or dad squirrel for a late-night snack and knocked junior out in the process. This little thing’s eyes weren’t even opened.

So we brought it inside. No bigger than my thumb, perfectly formed little head, tiny ears, curled tail, even little nails on its paws. I wrapped it in a soft cloth and cocooned it inside a rolled heating pad.

An hour later I checked, still stone-cold. Well, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything final with the little thing so left it wrapped in the pad while Lily and I went out for our morning errands. Upon returning I checked again. Still cold. Well, we tried.

Sad to think it won’t have an opportunity to taunt and frustrate Lily someday, but I  imagine there will be others.

pansies, petunias, peonies…

So gardening. This wasn’t something I’d always loved. I doubt I even noticed those background plants in doctor’s or dentist’s offices. My dad’s company transferred us to New Jersey from North Carolina (culture shock! another blog…) when I was around 15. At that tender age my weekends were sacrosanct. Slogging through weeks on end of school, classes, peers, assignments and all that goes with it I desperately needed my weekends to recoup my social life, sleep, and other essentials, and homework.

Gardening, or tending a rock garden was not in the schedule.

We moved in the beginning of 1971, snow all over the place, more than I’d ever seen in my cumulative lifetime. Gradually as seasons do spring emerged from the frozen earth and uncovered a lovely, meticulously manicured rock garden across the front of our new home.

“Every Saturday morning you’re going to weed and tend this garden,” my father announced one morning at breakfast. A time at that age when I was barely conscious, clearly not capable of processing paternal directives.

Was he kidding?

No. So every Saturday I was rudely awakened at 8:00 a.m., sharp. Dressed, breakfasted and sitting on the walkway beside the little garden, trying hard to decipher what was weed and what was not, I carefully picked miniscule plants, one by one. As the garden came into flower– I would later learn the names of these flowers: creeping phlox, candy tuft, pinks, rock cress, blue star creeper –I was more careful to avoid those and soon learned what weeds looked like (though now so many years later I know one person’s weed is another’s treasure). As summer came into focus I found myself at the little garden not just Saturday mornings but whenever I detected an asymmetry or a wayward strand of vine. I soon loved this little garden and this love has since grown to consume the majority of my present waking hours in the forms of herbs, vegetables, annuals, perennials, various vines, specimen trees, depending of course on season.

During my adult life at places I volunteered now and then: the Fairchild Botanic Garden in Miami; Winghaven Gardens, Charlotte; San Juan Nature Center, Farmington, NM, I have heard occasionally the term “master gardener”. This lofty-sounding title always caused a sense of presence, something I wondered how people even began to aspire to.

After I moved here I understood this is a program in every county of every state with the local agricultural extension service, so I applied. Much to my amazed delight I was accepted into the program and, only being a couple of weeks into it, it is clear that though much information is imparted through lecture, handouts, homework, and  field trips I will never, ever, know “it all”. I may barely scratch the surface of even that which is presently known, but plants are continually being hybridized, fertilizers, methods of cultivation are constantly being improved, changed, and the climate of course is in a perpetual state of flux, whether you believe in global warming or not.

So no, I will never know all there is to know. But the fun is in the growing, and learning, both the plants and myself. That I hope will never end.