Day 131: Mother’s Day Blessings

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What a lovely weekend, connecting with my kids and grandkids, mom, stepmom and sisters, and the other lovely women in my family! This was not my first Mother’s Day, of course, but today brought a couple of firsts!

My sister, Linda, and I enjoyed taking my mom and stepdad to lunch yesterday, for an early Mother’s Day treat. We enjoyed a leisurely meal and lively conversations. I am blessed to have my mom living nearby in Joplin. I get to see her often…we even attend Zumba classes together… and she never fails to offer love, support and encouragement to me on my journey.

Today I received sweet texts wishing me Happy Mother’s Day from both my daughters and Dayan. I love those girls and that amazing grandson. They bring me much joy. As I was out running errands, I heard from my son, Nate, and his fiancé, asking if they and the kids could stop by. I didn’t see the text when it was sent and almost missed getting to see this precious group! They had already stopped by the house and left a surprise, when I saw their text and arranged to meet them away from the house so I could see the kids and get hugs! This was a delightful first for today, Mother’s Day wishes and a gift from my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Megan, and new grandsons, Joey and Oliver, along with Nate and granddaughter, Aubrey. I’m so excited to be welcoming Megan and the boys to our family.

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After a quick visit and hugs and kisses, I returned home to find the surprise from Nate, Megan and the kids on the front porch, a gorgeous fuchsia plant! Another first, as I have not owned one of these plants before. I immediately hung it from a hook on the front porch, so I can enjoy looking at it as I sit on the porch swing. I love it, and I love Nate and Megan and those darling kids.

Interestingly, I have a special connection to the fuchsia plant. There is another woman who has been a wonderful mother figure in my life, Greg’s mom, whom the kids called Mimi Leta.  She was a gentle, generous woman who, never having had a daughter of her own, showered me with affection and kindness. Mimi Leta adored her grandkids and my children have fond memories of her tenderness, playfulness and her funny sayings. Sadly, she succumbed to Alzheimer’s 15 years ago.

Earlier today, Greg and I had been talking about his mother and reminiscing about her as we looked through old photos. This afternoon, looking at the beautiful plant, I remembered that Mimi Leta loved fuchsias and always had one hanging on her front porch during the summer months. Nate didn’t remember that, and Megan didn’t know. This surprise is a wonderful reminder of their love and a sweet connection to someone who welcomed me into her family with open arms and an open heart. I will think of Nate, Megan and their kids as I water and care for the plant, and remember Leta warmly. I think she would be delighted that I have a fuchsia this summer!

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Leta Davidson Moore

 

Day 130: Meditation Garden

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Today was a beautiful day to spend time with my mom and sister in an early Mother’s Day lunch and a beautiful day to spend time in the garden. For my first today, I purchased and planted a Japanese Maple in the garden and added panels, clematis vines, and uniquely potted plants to the meditation garden.

Abram L. Urban says, “In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.” I love that quote! My garden not only contains my dreams, my garden IS my dream right now, or at least, it is the first step in a series of dreams. Part of the purpose in having my backyard garden is so that it will be a beautiful sanctuary for thoughts and more dreams.

The southwest corner of the yard has been designated as the meditation garden. This is a small, intimate area, partially screened off from the rest of the garden. It is intended as a place for one, or at the most two, to sit and read, relax, sip tea or meditate and pray. A gently curving path will lead to this corner and the interior will be simple, peaceful and beautiful. I have a couple of wooden chairs that my grandfather made a long time ago. They are not in the best shape. If they can be repaired, I will use those in this quiet corner of the yard. If not, I’ll look for plain yet comfortable wooden chairs. A small wooden or metal table will provide a place for a drink or snack. There will be an assortment of plants, both in the ground around the screens and in various containers within the space. The soothing sound of water is a must so I will have a large basin or hollowed out stone resting on the ground for water and later, when an electrical line has been run, a water feature.

Greg came up with the perfect screens for the meditation garden, panels of welded wire attached at right angles to the wood privacy fence, creating a small outdoor room. I love the look of metal right now and these repurposed panels will create intimacy while allowing air to flow freely through the space. I planted four clematis vines today, to trail up the wire panels. I also bought my first Japanese Maple and planted it near the meditation garden. To the north of the meditation garden will be the Japanese garden. It seems a fitting location as the two types of gardens complement each other well. My grandson Dayan will be designing and helping to plant the Japanese garden. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him on this project!

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I had fun adding flowers to more unique containers, including a small metal bucket, another wonderfully shaped metal watering can, and an old metal minnow bucket! Thanks to Greg for bringing me these great items from Arkansas! Hopefully, dark brown mulch will go down tomorrow, along the path to the meditation garden and within that space as well. I have more flowers, grasses and shrubs to plant. It will take time for the flowers to grow and fill in and time for me to find the right pieces to occupy this soulful place, but that’s okay. This is a process, not a race. I will enjoy the journey. I can stand in the center of the yard and see my dream taking shape, see the vision manifesting as reality. I am very excited and joyful about that!

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My painted chair added for effect!

Day 129: Walk of Silence

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It’s been three years, this month, since Joplin was hit by an EF5 tornado. Much has been done to restore this town and community. Houses and businesses have been rebuilt, with more in process. The mountains of debris are gone. A grassy green knoll marks the spot where St John’s Hospital once stood. The new Irving Elementary School stands nearby as a testament to hope and life going on while south of I-44 the new hospital is nearing completion.

 

Most days, I move through the tornado zone, where I happen to live, and note the progress, the rebuilding, the new businesses. Occasionally, my eyes linger on a misshapen tree or an empty lot, and I remember what happened. My first for today was about allowing myself to remember not the tornado but the people whose lives were lost that day and their families and friends who miss them still. I participated in the Walk of Silence.

 

As far as I know, this is the first year for the walk. Since the tornado there have been many memorial events around the May 22 date. Last year there was a memorial run, which is being held again in the morning. The Walk of Silence was added for those of us who don’t run. Lining Joplin Street, from 9th to 20th Streets, are 161 banners, honoring those who died. Each banner has one name printed on it.

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Hundreds of people gathered at 7:00 pm at Memorial Hall, at 9th and Joplin, to walk respectfully and silently down that corridor of banners. Greg and our grandson, Dayan, joined me in this time of remembrance. As we waited quietly to begin, I thought about those I knew who died that day. I really wanted the walk to be about remembering their lives, not about how they died.

 

As we moved silently down Joplin Street, and I caught sight of the banners disappearing down the long avenue, that intention failed me. It was impossible to see all the names and not feel strong emotion, old and fresh grief, rising for the loss of life. Name after name, representing moms, dads, children, grandparents. I remembered. This one died in a church. This one died with her brother, clutched tightly in the arms of her daddy, who also perished. This courageous man died trying to protect others. This one was a realtor. This one was a realtor’s son. And this one was my friend. At one point, the air was so heavy with emotion that Dayan and I locked eyes and he reached over to pat my back.

 

Because I don’t want to just remember how my friend, Gregan, died, I also choose to remember how he lived. He was a good man, with a gracious heart. He cared for and adored his wife. He loved his son and daughter and raised them to adulthood. He enjoyed nature walks and camping and quiet dinners. I don’t think I ever saw Gregan without a smile on his face. Thinking about his smile made me smile also. Something loosened around my heart and I remembered, too, the impact these dearly departed have continued to have on the community, and on their loved ones, and on me. And they would not have us linger long, stuck in time, at their moment of passing, but desire us to carry their memories forward with us as we live, really live, grateful for them and for the joy their lives brought. I am grateful.

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Day 128: Keller Williams RED Day at Lafayette House

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Each year, on the second Thursday of May, tens of thousands of Keller Williams agents across the US and Canada participate in RED Day. RED Day, which stands for Renew, Energize and Donate, is an initiative dedicated to celebrating Keller Williams Realty’s year-round commitment to improving our local communities.  Agents devote their time, in a wide range of projects, to renewing and energizing aspects of the neighborhoods in which they serve. 

RED Day initiatives run the gamut from rebuilding homes, refurbishing local parks, giving to local food shelters, hosting blood drives, beautifying beaches and so much more. Projects are chosen by each individual market center based on a need they see within its community.

Recognizing her leadership in guiding the culture of our company, RED Day is held in honor of Mo Anderson, Vice Chairman of the Board, Keller Williams Realty. This event is an entrenched part of Keller Williams Realty’s culture and displays the extraordinary effect a company can have when individuals come together to work as a team for the greater good of everyone.

I have participated in five RED Days since joining this amazing company, however, for my first today, I joined our Keller Williams Team in donating time, energy, products and money to Lafayette House in Joplin. Although I am very familiar with the wonderful services that this non-profit organization provides, this was my first time to visit there.

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Founded in 1978, Lafayette House provides a safe environment for women and children whose lives have been touched by abuse and addiction. Working collaboratively, Lafayette House promotes self-sufficiency through education and encouragement while constantly striving to address the evolving needs of their clients and the community. They also offer alcohol and drug abuse treatment for women, provide behavioral health services for women, children and families and run a licensed child care facility that specializes in caring for children from violent and/or chemically dependent families. Their resale store, Second Chances, gives 100% of the store’s profits toward funding and programs for the women and children staying in the shelter. Clients of Lafayette House are able to get the items they need for their families from the shop, free of charge.

What a wonderful organization, making a huge difference in the lives of many people. Our team tackled several projects at Lafayette House, including an extensive kitchen and utility room makeover, donations of a variety of much needed items and landscaping, fence building and the installation of a swing set. I joined the landscaping group and we worked diligently and quickly to finish before the rain and thunderstorms hit Joplin this afternoon. My office also incorporates an additional event we call Cookout for a Cause, offering $5.00 lunches that include a grilled hamburger or hotdog, chips, cookie and a drink, to individuals and companies, with all proceeds going to our selected charity.  Lafayette House will receive all the money from the sale of these lunches.

Many, many hours go into RED Day, even before the actual day, with extremely dedicated people overseeing the event and the cookout. Local companies and affiliates donate food, materials, money, needed items and in some cases, their time to make RED Day a success. As Mark Ozman, an agent with the Indianapolis/Carmel Market Center said, “RED Day isn’t about cleaning up a park. It is a one-day expression of what happens 24/7 in the Keller Williams culture. It is seeing a need, discovering who can meet that need and then getting it done.”

I agree wholeheartedly, and I am so proud to be a part of a company that lives its culture and gives to its community!

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Day 127: 12 Years a Slave

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Another late evening as, for my first today, I watched number 8 of 9 Best Picture nominated movies, 12 Years a Slave. I had hoped to save this movie for last, since it won the Oscar for Best Picture. But the movie Her doesn’t release until next Tuesday. Although the timing is great, last movie out, last movie to watch, the late release date meant that tonight, I watched this winner.

12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt. It was directed by Steve McQueen. This epic tale was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Costuming, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Fassbender, Best Actor for Ejiofor, Best Actress for Nyong’o and Best Picture.  It won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Picture.  The movie is rated R and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutres.

Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, played by Ejiofor, the movie follows the life of this American born free black man who is kidnapped in 1841, at the age of 32, and sold into slavery. Torn away from his family, friends and life, Northup, who is given the name Platt, is sold or traded among the plantations of northern Louisiana. Treated cruelly by most of his owners, Solomon nevertheless determines that he will do more than survive, he will live. A very intelligent man, raised by free parents and highly educated, Northup struggles to adopt the “be silent and lay low” attitude held by the other slaves, bringing wrath upon himself and often, severe punishment.

He meets and becomes the protector of a young slave woman named Patsey, played by Nyong’o in her film debut. Patsey has drawn the unwelcomed attention of plantation owner Edwin Epps, played by Fassbender. Northup’s care of Patsey enrages Epps and nearly costs him his life. Although he never ceases to think of his wife and family back in New York, and makes several attempts to get a letter back home, asking for help, it isn’t until Northup meets itinerant carpenter Samuel Bass that hope arises. Bass, played by Brad Pitt, is from Canada and is anti-slavery. He listens to and believes Northup’s story and ultimately, is his rescuer.  Sending letters on Northup’s behalf, Bass prompts the legal powers in New York to at last secure Northup’s release, allowing him to return home to his wife and now grown family. In 1853 Solomon Northup wrote his memoirs, 12 Years a Slave. For the rest of his life he spoke against slavery and was active in the abolitionist movement.

That’s the story. The movie was gripping and very well acted, especially by Chiwetel Ojiofor, whose performance was powerful and gut-wrenching, at the same time. And although I haven’t seen the last movie, Her, for comparison, I can see why 12 Years a Slave won for Best Picture. How can anyone watch this film and not be affected? All that being said, this was a very difficult movie for me to watch. I cannot stand injustice. I cannot understand how one human being can treat another human being in such horrific ways. From his kidnapping until he secured his freedom, I watched Solomon’s story with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Northup was a good man, a talented musician, a compassionate friend. Having spoken this week about living as our shimmering self, rather than hiding behind false selves, I noticed how Northup, in spite of his attempts to disappear behind a blank expression and unassuming demeanor, couldn’t help but shine. His magnificent self would rise, a true testament to human dignity, courage and perseverance. He did do more than survive, he lived. He lived to become a free man once more and emptied himself in fighting for the freedom of all people.

I was deeply impacted by this movie. And lest I point a finger at another and cry “injustice” and “prejudice”, I examined my own heart and thoughts. To see anyone else as “other”, whether because of skin color, gender, age, accomplishments, ability or for any reason, is to isolate myself and label someone else. To grow and learn from this film is to glance inward to abolish any critical spirit or thought that I am more deserving than anyone else or that anyone is less than I am. We are One is more than a sentiment to me, it is my belief. To love myself is to love another. We are the same.

Day 126: Farmer’s Market Bok Choy & Chinese Broccoli

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I love our local Farmer’s Market, located under the pavilion at King Jack Park in Webb City. The sights and scents of the market always inspire me to eat healthier. And the general busyness, the vendors showing off their fresh produce and homemade goodies, and the live music near the front of the pavilion creates a fun and lively atmosphere.

The Farmer’s Market is open three days a week: Tuesday 4:00 – 6:00, Friday 11:00 – 2:00 and Saturday 9:00 – noon. This is the third week the market has been in spring/summer operational mode and yet today was the first opportunity I’ve had to make it by. My first for today, since I’ve visited the market many times, was to purchase and prepare something new…something I’d never tried before.

I enjoyed wandering up and down the aisles on either side of the pavilion, looking over the spring produce and searching for a vegetable I’ve not purchased or eaten before. I saw a variety of lettuces, spinach, kale and onions. One vendor was selling strawberries. Another had greenhouse tomatoes. I stopped to admire hanging baskets full of petunias but decided not to purchase any plants today.

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At last I stopped before a table with the usual spring produce. However, a couple of not so usual vegetables had caught my eye. The Chinese broccoli, with its long stalks and yellow flowers, looked more like an herb than a vegetable. Also called Gai Lan or Chinese Kale, this dark green veggie is high in dietary fiber and potassium and a serving contains 41% of our daily recommended vitamin C  and 28% of vitamin A. It also contains iron, magnesium and vitamin B-6. This is one healthy food!

I had heard of bok choy, but I had never bought it, prepared it or eaten it before. Also called Chinese cabbage, a serving of bok choy provides a whopping 62% of the daily suggested amount of vitamin A and 52% of vitamin C. It is also high in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin B-6. As I stood there, I was imagining the health benefits of preparing these two powerful vegetables together.

I asked the friendly young woman behind the table how to best cook these vegetables. She suggested several methods but when she said “stir fry”, I said, “I’ll take some of each!” I also purchased a couple of red tomatoes and then headed home to try my new veggies. After washing and chopping the bok choy and Chinese broccoli, I stir fried them together in a little olive oil. Seasoned with salt and pepper, I added them to my dinner plate along with the sliced tomato and cold left over chicken.

I was hoping I liked these healthy veggies. After a careful forkful the verdict is….I do! The bok choy reminded me of brussel sprouts, which I also happen to like, and the Chinese broccoli had a mild broccoli like flavor. The Chinese broccoli was especially fun to cook, flowers, leaves and all and even more fun to eat! And I swear, I felt healthier immediately! I will be a frequent visitor to the Webb City Farmer’s Market. With my new emphasis on eating whole foods, this is the perfect place for me to shop. Here’s to a healthy, bountiful summer!

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Day 125: Lunch with a New Friend

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For today’s first, I had the privilege of having lunch at Club 609, in downtown Joplin, with my new friend Nina Johnston. These delightful firsts of connecting with new friends is such a wonderful and unexpected benefit of doing a year of new experiences. I certainly didn’t have “meet new friends” down on my list of possible firsts for the year. I feel blessed, as I journey, to be encountering fellow travelers walking the same way!

Nina and I first met when we both showed up at Local Color Art Gallery & Studio to paint chairs. Sometimes I am accompanied by friends or family members when I do a first. Often I go alone, out of the desire to step out of my comfort zone and move Beyond. Attending the chair painting class was one of my ‘alone’ firsts. I was immediately drawn to Nina. She had just arrived also and we claimed chairs and a table to work at. Painting by dribbling paint directly from the bottle was a new experience for both of us. We laughed and chatted as we worked.

Last Thursday, Nina and I once again attended a painting class at Local Color. It was so good to see her and share in another new experience. The Art Pieces class was fun and we enjoyed talking and encouraging each other as we created our unique works of art. At the end of the class, we made plans for meeting today for lunch at Club 609.

And what a great lunch it was! After admiring the beautiful interior of the restaurant, I ordered something new, a vegetable flat bread pizza, and then settled in for a visit. With a few people on this earth, I’ve met them, seemingly for the first time, and there is instant recognition and a sense of reunion. It’s like that with Nina. This is only the third time we’ve been around each other yet we fall easily into conversation like we are old friends who have known each other forever. She is funny, creative, talented and cares deeply about her family, the well being of others, and animals.

Nina grew up in a town near Toronto, Canada, in a large family, with a father and mother who originated from Poland and England, respectively. They met in England after WWII and later moved to Canada to raise a family.  I wondered how one moves from Canada to Joplin, MO, leaving behind friends and family and all that is familiar. Nina shared how her husband began working for a company while still in Canada and eventually accepted an offer to move to Joplin to work for the company here. What a brave man and woman to cross borders and move to a town where they knew no one. Nina is someone who understands what I am doing this year, in moving beyond my comfort zone!

That is another area that we have in common. We are women who are growing and becoming all that we are meant to be, leaving behind old beliefs and limitations. Nina shares a passion for life and trying new things and offering out of her generous heart. I love her authenticity and bright, beautiful energy. Ram Dass says, “We are all just walking each other home.” I am so thrilled to add Nina to my little group of travelers who, arms linked and hearts connected, are all in the process of doing just that….walking each other home.

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Club 609

Day 124: Plant in Metal Containers

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Another beautiful day meant another day working in the backyard garden. Record high temps, in the mid 90’s, made me grateful for the wind though. Today, for my first, I enjoyed grouping together metal buckets, a watering can and an old wash tub and filling them with flowers.

I love how the backyard transformation is progressing. This morning a new back gate was installed, offering privacy and security. This afternoon I spent a couple of hours browsing at local lawn and garden centers, searching for the right plants and flowers for the assortment of metal containers that I collected on a recent junkin’ expedition. When I’m in creative mode, I carry a mental plan and as I search for items, I am continually matching what I see with that picture I carry in my head.

Sometimes, though, a new plan develops or the mental image shifts slightly. That was the case today as I looked for flowers in hot colors such as reds, oranges and yellows. As I added selections to my shopping cart, I realized the colors had shifted to pinks, whites and purples. Once I put the yellow flowering plants I had picked out back on the rack, the new color plan rapidly came together.

Back home, I got to visit with my son, Nate, his fiancé, Megan, and my granddaughter, Aubrey. That allowed time for the temps to fall slightly as the sun began to sink toward the horizon. When I carted all my newly purchased plants into the backyard, it was perfect planting weather!

I love getting my hands into the dirt and gardening. I also love creating vignettes and groupings, so what a delightful evening for me! I am so drawn to gardening. I think my Scottish ancestry has something to do with my deep love for the earth and green things. I truly am most at peace, most blissful, when I’m creating in my garden and moving among living, growing trees, plants and flowers.

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I had fun grouping my metal containers on and near one corner of the brick seating area. The wash tub I purchased at a flea market was a little wobbly on its legs so Greg graciously made it secure by attaching copper wiring to each leg and bringing the wires together in the center, beneath the wash tub. It is very secure now. I had searched and searched for a couple of old metal wash tubs. I was thrilled to find one at the Fancy Flamingo Flea Market at a great price. I’d like to have at least one more.

As the sun was setting, I completed the plantings in all the containers. Stepping back for a look, and mentally comparing what was before me with the image I had carried in my head, I was pleased! The plants and flowers are young, however, in a few weeks the containers will look wonderful. In each container there is at least one upright plant and at least two trailing plants. I look forward to seeing the plants grow and fill in. It will be beautiful!

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I enjoyed relaxing on the brick patio as darkness fell. My eyes often glanced over at the new grouping in the corner, and I smiled, feeling content and satisfied. As the wind stirred the plants, a mixture of delicate scents drifted by. That was the other part of the plan that shifted today. I realized as I shopped that I was picking up plants that smelled wonderful. How amazing it will be to sit on the patio in the mornings and evenings and not only delight in how the plants look as they mature, but breathe in deeply and inhale the fragrances of lavender, petunias and sweet William. Bliss indeed!

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Day 123: Leaning into Silence

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This morning, for my first, I met with 4 other lovers of nature and writing at one of my favorite places, the Wildcat Glades Audubon Center, located just south of Joplin right off of 43 Highway. Writer and teacher Susan Nunn led the group through a study of place, and what a wonderful location for the class to meet!

My friend, Cate, invited me to this study and I was so excited to take a writing class that involved time spent in solitude on the trails at Wildcat. Susan shared about the importance of really knowing a place, of moving deeper into what we think we know about the landscape we are in, or that we are creating for a fictional character, and discovering all that is true about a location and the people that might inhabit it. Using the examples of three different authors, she showed how each wrote from different understandings of place, and how that understanding molded their literary work.

We did a fun and eye opening exercise. Partnering up with someone in the class we didn’t know, we each wrote about our hometown on one side of a blank piece of paper. We then traded papers and wrote what we knew about our partner’s town, drawing from facts or our imagination, depending on how much we knew! I wrote about the city of my childhood, Tulsa, OK, while my partner wrote about his hometown of Pittsburg, KS. This was a very interesting exercise, as our perspectives were very different. Those who grew up in a town saw it in much deeper ways than those who wrote from little or no knowledge of the place. I noted also that my perception of Tulsa was from a child’s viewpoint, since I moved from there when I was 12. An adult would perceive that sprawling city much differently.

We then headed out onto the Wildcat Trails for an hour of solitude and three exercises. The first 20 minutes session was spent in observation, mentally noting what our five senses were recording. I found the tree that I first “met” on my winter stroll through the woods. I quieted the chatter in my mind and allowed myself to open to all that was going on around me.  The sun was warm on my upturned face. The breeze caressed my skin, carrying to my nose the scents of earth and flowers, even as it stirred grasses and rustled through the leaves on trees. Birds chirped merrily and squirrels frolicked through the underbrush. I noticed that the area I was standing in, near my oak tree, teemed with life. The oak tree itself had vines growing on it and ants and other insects moving busily across the bark.

During the next 20 minutes we were instructed to focus in on one object and follow that thread of thought to see where it would take us. I settled onto the ground, next to the oak tree, and leaning back against it, allowed my heart and soul to connect to the tree, feeling its energy, feeling the rough bark against my back. Thoughts fluttered into my mind that this was an ancient oak tree, nearing the end of its life. It had weathered many storms, survived pests and drought. The landscape, or place, around it had changed greatly over the years. Where once only woods existed, now people walked or jogged by, some more aware of their surroundings than others. I imagined roots growing from the soles of my feet, burrowing deeply into the earth, and my body lengthening, growing upward, arms outstretched. I could feel myself as a tree, there next to the oak, swaying gently in the breeze, feeling the permanence that being root bound would bring, and yet also feeling the swift passing of time that belied that permanence. What an amazing 20 minutes!

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The last 20 minutes were spent sitting quietly on a sandstone rock, near the river. I listened to what my heart was telling me about myself, in relationship to the time spent in this beautiful place. I thought about how I am like an oak tree, still growing, having not yet reached my full potential. I thought about how important it is for me to be mindful of the moment and not spend time rethinking the past or worrying about a future that hasn’t happened yet. My attention was directed to the river, where in the center, the current ran strong, and the water flowed freely. Near the edge of the river, the water slowed into stagnant pools, bits of debris clogging the surface. I saw, as I observed the river, that as I stay centered, my life flows, and as I move away from center, I get bogged down with junk littering my life, becoming stagnant and stuck.

At the end of our solitary hour, we gathered again at the Audubon Center to unpack for each other what we had observed, focused on and heard our hearts say. Each person had an amazing experience to share! And in the sharing, I learned more about my classmates and their stories and perspectives.

This was a wonderful study! I am grateful to Susan Nunn for leading us. I better understand the importance of knowing the place that I am inhabiting and writing about. I look forward to capturing more of today’s experience in my journal…and to future writing classes!

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Day 122: Create a Fire Pit

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On this bright and glorious spring day, I enjoyed spending the afternoon and early evening outside, working diligently in my backyard. The brick seating area was recently completed, thanks to Greg! Today, for my first, I built the fire pit.

As I’ve drawn up plans and sketches of the backyard transformation, this section was designated as the gathering area. I wanted a patio or courtyard big enough so that friends or family could easily sit together to visit or eat. I can also practice tai chi or yoga here or even hold a small class in this spot. I am very grateful to my friend, Kevin, for donating the brick pavers that he salvaged after his business building was destroyed by the 2011 tornado. These pavers have character, and a history, as Kevin bought them years ago after a building in St. Louis, MO was demolished. Greg has spent many hours in the backyard working on the seating area, with some help from a good friend, Tim. As I stand or sit on these sturdy bricks, I love that they have come through a demolition and a powerful storm, intact, and have now been placed into service again, as a gathering place. I love that Greg, Kevin and Tim all played a role in creating something so beautiful and functional.

I had the fun role of building the fire pit. Greg picked up the blocks, but I asked him to let me assembled the ring by myself. He was okay with that! It wasn’t difficult at all, yet I felt a great sense of satisfaction in laying those blocks. A metal fire pit that got banged up during the tornado found new life inside the circle of stone.

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I can sit quietly and stare into flames for hours. The crackle and warmth of the fire, the woodsy scent, the way the flames move and shift and dance, all captivate me. There is an almost hypnotic quality to flame watching as the mind turns inward, in a reflective state. I could hardly wait for dusk. Later, sitting there on those softly hued bricks, watching the flames leap into the air as darkness fell, I felt blissful. This is the beginning of my backyard Rivendell, which will offer peace and joy to all who enter.

I look forward to the weekend and spending more time in the yard. As Greg builds a gate for the back portion of the fence, I will be laying out pathways and starting to plant around the brick patio. The metal buckets, wash tub and containers I picked up a couple of weeks ago, while out junking, will be arranged around the brick seating area, filled with soil, and then planted with greenery and flowers. In the next week or so I’ll add seating and small tables.

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I’ll also begin detailed plans on the next section of the yard that will be developed, the Japanese/meditation garden. While the gathering area is designed for a few or many, the more intimate meditation garden will be for solitary use, intended for reflecting, reading, meditating or sipping tea. I’m excited about the transformation, and while I look forward to spending time in the finished garden, the joy is in the journey and the fun is in the creating.

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