About the Journey . . .

If you’re like me, you spend a good deal of time trying to get somewhere. Lots of somewheres, probably. Trying to get to work early. Gunning to get home again. Getting to that dentist appointment on time. Rushing to the grocery store for a few things. Errands, club meetings, committees, activities. Always someplace to go. Someplace to be.

But the more time I spend on the road, the more I’m coming to see that these commutes from one place to another are not parentheses in my life. They’re not filler. Not the in-between-the-real-stuff stuff. Rather, they’re just as much a part of life as the destinations.

Think about it. What if it’s not where we’re heading, but where we are, and who we are, at that moment in time when traffic is crawling and the clock is ticking, that are important? What if it matters how we act and react on that journey? What if those impersonal cars and trucks were being driven by other human beings on their own journeys? I’m saying “what if”, but you know what I’m really saying, don’t you? We’ve forgotten about patience and what it can teach us. We’ve forgotten how to be while we wait in traffic or sit in a waiting room or stand in a checkout line. And we (I) need to remind ourselves (myself) to see these moments as the stuff of life, maybe as a test of character, definitely as the real journey. And sometimes life will even use these moments to surprise us.


Hey! It’s Your Body Talkin’ . . .

As I sit at my keyboard with an icepack numbing my upper arm, I reflect on the curious idea that we spend so much of our lives ignoring our bodies’ gentle communications. We don’t pay attention until they scream at us. And then we have the audacity to blame them for getting old!

You know the joke:

“Dr., Dr., it hurts when I do this!”
“Then, stop doing it!”

Well, it’s no joke. My own doctors and physical therapists have said it to me many times in the past couple of years. I’ve been dealing with shoulder issues (rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulder, bursitis). No surgery, just lots of office visits where I’ve been told to go easy on myself. Healing takes time. And it requires learning to listen to your body. Right? But we resist. We grow impatient. Why? Because we operate under the impression that we shouldn’t have limitations. That life should be fair. That our bodies should be perfect (if not in looks, then at least in health 😉 ). And we complain when they’re not. Like someone’s made a huge mistake inflicting us with injury and disease.

But that’s real life. Messy, constantly challenging, stressful. And each of our unique bodies has its own way of acting, reacting, adapting, and coping. If we pay attention, we notice subtle cues from our own bodies that can lead us to cooperate with, instead of hinder, their healing abilities. Even in the middle of debilitating illness or injury, we can work with or we can fight the process. One path requires patience, perseverance, and awareness. The other path is easier in the short term: impatience and ignorance. But this way doesn’t bode well in the long run.

So, after scraping, chopping, and shoveling a few crusty inches of snow out of my driveway — mostly using my good arm, of course — for over an hour, I’m dutifully icing my shoulder. And hoping my body appreciates the attention. 🙂

A Rose Garden In July

C573E049-78EC-40E6-BDF6-E08A9C49DF8EAt the end of July, I had the unexpected opportunity to visit Beaverton, OR. I accompanied my mother to visit her ailing sister. What a surprise to find a beautiful rose garden just minutes from our hotel!

4910A5CF-0D9F-40F3-B172-DED5D60CC28BThe International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, a multi-level spread of color, captivated me (and my camera) despite the 90+ degree heat.

58E16EFF-EAEE-476A-B73B-B3B332A3054DIt was a bit too hot for my mother, but she found a nice bench!

You’d think that roses would be nothing much to look at in the heat of mid-summer, their best days behind them. But what a treat we found! I’m sure you’ll agree. And can you imagine the splendor of this place in the spring? It might be worth another visit, if it weren’t for the 6-hour plane ride. 🙂


Acrophobia at Yellowstone . . .

Fear is a funny thing. Not so much a conscious choice, but more a thing that lives in the belly, fed by adrenaline bursts, fueling a stampede of electrical zaps to the heart. Hands tremble and knees grow weak: a daunting autonomic roller coaster ride.

Now, I knew we had planned to zip-line during our West Yellowstone vacation. I definitely did agree to do it. Any flinching at the prospect remained decidely imperceptible. But I know myself.

After all, I was there when Blarney Castle caught me by surprise and brought me to tears. Luckily, halfway up my Castle climb, a small doorway led to a momentary respite from the narrow staircase. I had to practice breathing in and out to let my heart slow down before I could continue to the top. Up on the roof, I passed on the opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone, skirting the area cautiously to find the stairs leading back down.

A few years later, I managed to make it up the Eiffel Tower, once again accompanied by a genorous supply of unwelcomed adrenaline. I spent much of the time, when not in an elevator, plastered to the center wall.

Two years after that, I climbed to the top of St. Stephen’s tower in Vienna. Talk about steep, narrow staircases! It wound in a tight spiral, 343 stairs, about 446 feet, straight up. An adrenaline field day! My husband dutifully stayed behind me all the way up. My pitiful equilibrium could not be convinced that the world hadn’t tipped sideways. All I could do was stare straight ahead and keep one hand in constant contact with the outside wall. One turn of my head would certainly have sent me tumbling to an untimely death!

The view from atop the tower was nothing short of breath-taking. But the knowledge that I still had to climb back down colored my ability to completely enjoy it. My husband stayed in front of me on the way down. Staring straight ahead again, with my hand on the outside wall, I checked each descending step with the back of my heel before stepping down. The sound of other visitors coming up from below released a fresh bolt of panic. My weak legs turned to jelly. Unlike Blarney Castle, this was a 2-way staircase. And I made the poor ascending tourists pass me by toward the center of the spiral. The outside wall was mine! But I survived to tell the tale of another height conquered. 🙂

Although I climbed trees as a kid, somewhere along the way my body decided that heights were not my friend. All I can do is keep trying to teach it to chill a little! So, today I went zip-lining.

It’s easy to anticipate and fixate on how scary something will be. It gives the body a running start towards full-blown anxiety. But it’s also possible to remain calm, to refuse to even think about a pending encounter with a zip-line. Either way, the first climb straight up a ladder to a crowded platform hugging a man-made tree told my body it was showtime. My hands shook, my legs practically dissolved, and tears welled up out of nowhere. My sole job became breathing. Slowly. Trying to counter that nasty adrenaline monster.

Then, I was supposed to ask my feet to step off the edge of that relatively safe platform into nothing but air. Maybe even jump off. It’s safe, I assured them. But they didn’t believe me. I can’t say enough about the patience of our zip-lining guides (Kyle, Cole, and April) who encouraged each of us along the way. They suggested that I sit first and get a feel for the seat-like harness and to trust it. Which I did. Eventually.

After a couple of ladders and suspended rope bridges, the third zip-line, which brought us back to earth, gave my legs slightly less pause and my heart-rate barely blipped out of rhythm. My body decided to trust me. But would I do it again? Let’s not push it, shall we?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered…

“Weathered” usually conjures up images of water-worn rocks or sun-bleached wood or time-worn skin. But the howling winds of a New England blizzard can carve the snow like desert sand…

In response to this week’s photo challenge: Weathered

First Lines…

Sometimes, hearing a well-known opening sentence can immediately conjure up the rest of a famous story for us. That’s all it takes. One sentence. For example: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,…” (Anyone NOT know what book that’s from?) Or how about “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” (Yes, I’m a Harry Potter fan!) I’m sure if we thought about it for a few minutes, we’d come up with plenty more examples.

Everything one reads on the art of story-telling stresses the importance of grabbing the reader right off the bat with that opening sentence. I’ve got both a novel and a children’s picture book manuscript in progress. One of them starts with the line, “R—- kicked hard at the cardboard box that blocked her bedroom doorway.” The other starts, “F—– the Frog had nothing to do.” Hopefully, they’ll lead the reader to ask questions like Why was there a box in her doorway? Why did she kick it? Or Is something going to happen to the frog since she’s got nothing to do? Either that or they’ll lead this writer to ask How could I make these introductions a whole lot more interesting?? 😉

Anyway, I’ve got two questions for you…and I’d love to hear your answers! First, can anyone tell me what children’s book starts with the line, “It was a dark and stormy night.”?  (A great book, by the way!) And second, can you share the first line of one of your favorite books? Let’s see if the rest of us can guess where it came from…