Today concludes a week of focused attention on gratitude, the high frequency feeling of thankfulness. I was inspired to spend this week thus, because of Thanksgiving. Rather that spend a day saying “thank you”, I chose to be mindful of the large and small blessings in my life during the days before and after this national holiday. That desire created a beautiful, soulful week.
My gratitudes this past week were expressed for major blessings, such as family, health, a plant based lifestyle, business, creativity, writing and the life expanding gift of travel.
And my days were full of gratitude for the small things: fall flowers, the beauty of nature, laughter, meeting new people, scoring bargains, finding the perfect Christmas tree, a fun movie with my sister (review tomorrow), and the many nods, winks and love notes from the Divine that assures me that my trust is well placed and my life path true.
It truly has been a joy filled week. And because my attention has been focused on gratitude, I have found much to be grateful for. It is more than appreciation for people and things and experiences. It is also the awareness that gratitude has the power to shift me, and shift my perceptions of the world.
It is difficult to be anxious, sad, indignant, judgmental or angry when I am counting my blessings. Beyond appreciation, gratitude has fostered fun, thoughtfulness, peace, kindness and compassion.
Robert Holden wrote, “The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”
I have found that to be true this week. I’ve looked at the world differently, aware of all the gifts I have been given. In that state of mindfulness, there is no room for mentally shuffling through incidents from the past or projecting into the future. Noticing my blessings keeps me grounded in the present, as my life unfolds moment by moment.
The Week of Gratitude is over, however, I am continuing to cultivate this virtue. And the prayer I whisper all day long truly is thank you.
A simple gratitude post this evening, for a simple joy, bringing home this year’s Christmas tree. Today I packed up the fall decor. This evening, tabletops and shelves are empty, blank canvases awaiting creativity. Tomorrow the Christmas boxes get unpacked.
With temperatures in the 60s this afternoon, it was the perfect time to pick out my Christmas tree at Lowe’s Garden Center. No coat, hat or gloves were required. No shivering in the cold as I sorted through trees. I am grateful for such a gorgeous day and a pretty little fresh Fraser Fir.
I have always preferred a real Christmas tree. While I see the benefits of having an artificial tree, I love the earthy scent of a fresh tree and the feel of soft needles as I decorate. At one time Greg and I cut our own tree each Christmas. It is much easier and quicker to select one that has already been cut at a Christmas tree farm. Selecting a tree at Lowe’s is my yearly tradition.
The only thing that has changed over the years is the height of the tree. I used to purchase a seven foot tree. Then I downsized to one close to six feet. Now, my tree is in the five to six foot range. They are easier to handle, at this size, and easier to decorate as well. They still smell just as fragrant.
Lowe’s always has a great selection of Fraser Firs and Douglas Pines, in a variety of sizes.
I make careful considerations: Not too skimpily branched. No glaring empty spots. Nice shape. Not to big around. Greg stood trees up as I selected them so I could view them from all angles. Tree number three was perfect!
The attendant in the garden center made a fresh cut at the base and wrapped the tree in netting. They always have a bin of cuttings, free for the taking. I bring home green pine boughs, to use on the front porch.
I am full of gratitude for a mild sunny day in late November, fresh, aromatic Fraser Fir trees, Lowe’s Garden Center with its kind helpers, my friend Mike for the use of his truck, and Greg’s assistance in getting my sweet smelling tree home.
Tonight the tree is relaxing in its spot in my living room, drinking in cool water. It is as yet unadorned. However its scent wafts to me every time I walk by or enter the room.
Tomorrow, I decorate.
“O Christmas tree, O Christmas, how lovely are thy branches…”
To many, being grateful for Black Friday may seem crazy. I am though…grateful, that is, not crazy. Do I care what other people choose to believe? Nope. Not only did I save money…I had fun…met new people…shared in an adventure…laughed…and got to order something I’ve been wanting for a while.
I hear all kinds of negatives about this day. And people are certainly entitled to their opinions. I choose not to be negative, even though I don’t always go out and participate. As one who worked in retail prior to real estate, I know how crucial this day can be to businesses, especially small, locally owned shops. For many, their business surviving the next year is dependent on this day and the holiday season. And for people with limited funds, their hard earned cash goes farther when they can take advantage of deep discounts.
And for some, the thrill of the hunt is plain fun for them. My sister Debbie and niece Ashley excel at finding bargains. For me, I don’t typically shop on Thanksgiving Day, or stand in line in the dark before stores open at 5:00 am. I wait until noonish to venture out, if I have a reason for shopping. However those who enjoy Black Friday shopping and make an adventure out of it or create a family tradition around it…you go…and have fun.
My own adventure was precipitated by the need for a new blender. Mixing a fruit smoothie daily, plus additional heavy use since going plant based, has killed off my ancient blender. It was time for a new one. I purposefully waited until today to purchase one, sure I could get a great deal. I was not wrong! With the Black Friday sale at Kohl’s, plus a coupon I had received by mail, plus $30 Kohl’s bucks to spend later, I bought a top of the line $199.99 Ninja Blender for $105.99. I am so excited to create with this awesome kitchen appliance!
Also at Kohl’s I purchased six other items, spending $41.27 for items that normally would have totaled $159.08. My total saving today at Kohl’s: $211.81. That’s awesome…and certainly something to be grateful for. But the best part of being at that store today? Standing in line with positive, joyful people that I had never met before.
I started my shopping at noon. Apparently others had the same idea about beginning later in the day. The store was packed and lines stretched to the back of the store. You know what? If you are going to shop on Black Friday you’d better just be prepared to stand in line and make the best of it. Of the hundreds of people I encountered, I only heard two shoppers complain. Shhhh…they were both males.
The two ladies in front of me in line and the one behind me were of like minds. We decided we might as well have fun while we waited. Our thoughts create our reality. So guess what? We had a blast. We chatted like old friends. We told stories. We held the place in line for each other and took turns darting to displays to pick up something else. I grabbed a sweater in the right size for one of my new friends. She tried it on and asked how she looked. She looked beautiful. The staff at Kohl’s did a great job at managing crowds and had every register open with two sales associates per check out. Cheers to all of them!
The woman in front of me, who had an adorable little daughter with her, shops Black Friday sales out of necessity. Her money goes farther. She can spend less and accomplish more. The woman behind me was elderly. She was purchasing clothing for herself. Same motivation. Her limited funds can do more. This is a yearly event for her, when she buys essentials for herself.
Greg, who had dropped me at the door, came into the store to find me. One of the ladies waved him over and called out, “She’s making new friends!” She was right. Cheers too, to Greg, who had a wonderful cheerful attitude as well and chose to make it a fun afternoon.
Back home, I went online and picked out this little beauty for me, from Boho Style, at a $20 savings. Check it out HERE. This silver feather ring has significance for me, and I was deeply touched that it popped up on my newsfeed today. More about that later. Let me just say this was a playful wink from the Divine.
And then another delightful surprise. I’ve been wanting to order the Ancestry DNA kit and have my DNA tested. I know I am primarily Scottish, Irish and English. Or am I? I can trace my Lauderdale roots back to Lauder, Scotland. But lots of families have married into the Lauderdale line down through the centuries. Where did they originate? I am so excited to get a map of my heritage.
I intended to order the kits last Wednesday, one for me and one for Greg, as our children will then have a complete heritage background. Normally $99 each, the kits were on special for $79. I use a special loadable debit card for online purchases, for security reasons. When I went to load my card Wednesday, the lines were long and I had cooking to do at home. I decided to wait until today to order. Today through Monday…Black Friday through Cyber Monday…the Ancestry DNA kits are reduced to $59 each. I purchased three, including one for my college aged grandson. Savings: $120. More gratitude…more joy…great excitement!
As a bonus, I joined Ancestry.com. I am in the process of transferring the info in my overstuffed-pages falling out-genealogy notebook into Ancestry’s easy to use online family tree system. I am already discovering more valuable info.
What an incredibly fun day. How tender my heart feels for those who dared to shop today, whatever their reasons for doing so. How empathetic I feel towards those working today. I worked Black Fridays in retail for years, alongside Greg and all three of my children. We can tell stories that make listeners laugh, shake their heads…or cry.
Today, I saved a total of $351.81 by shopping Black Friday sales, both in stores and online. Monday is Cyber Monday. I already have items waiting in a shopping cart on Amazon. I expect to save big there too.
And Tuesday? That day is Giving Tuesday, a national day set aside for corporations and individuals to give to the charities and organizations of their choice. It’s a day to make a difference. I participate every year. The money I saved today…and will save Monday…at least part of it will be distributed to several organizations that I support. Saving money on Black Friday let’s me make more of a difference on Giving Tuesday. This year I have a new organization to help people through. I’ll be giving to them in my name and the names of my five grandchildren.
And for that opportunity , I am extremely grateful.
What a beautiful day, spent with a few members of my family. We enjoyed a casual meal together and celebrated my son-in-law Nate, whose birthday was today. And we tried out a new game, a birthday gift to Nate from his sweet wife.
Today’s gratitude overflowed…and included celebration and rowdy family fun.
I love the ease of meals where everyone contributes. We kept it easy, picking up smoked turkey and brisket from the Billy Sims restaurant yesterday. And we tried new recipes. Elissa supplied apple pie and pumpkin pie and drinks. Dayan made his first batch of brownies. I was told they were very good!
Adriel had dinner rolls on hand and prepared a hash brown casserole, deviled eggs, and a relish tray. She roasted asparagus for the first time, and it was excellent! She also made Nate’s favorite spice cake for his birthday. And I carried in the food I prepared last night: raw cranberry relish, mixed veggies and brown rice, and sweet potato casserole.
Everyone had plenty to eat!
My Thanksgiving meal. Good food! I am grateful.
Today was my son-in-law’s 36th birthday. We celebrated by singing to him and spending a good part of the day with him. Lucky Nate! I am so grateful for this young man. He and Adriel are such a sweet couple. Nate is a kind, good hearted man. We are privileged to have him as a member of our family.
Adriel and Nate have fur babies, and they love attention. Watching how Nate cares for these pets, I know he will be an excellent daddy someday.
Adriel bought Nate this game as a birthday present. Our family enjoys playing board games. This one, which is definitely for adults only, uses cards with photos from memes on them. Each player looks through the seven cards he or she is holding, and selects a phrase that seems most appropriate for the meme. They are handed to a judge, face down, who shuffles the cards and then reads them aloud and chooses a winner. The person whose phrase is selected wins the meme card. The person with the most meme cards at the end of the game wins.
We played this game all afternoon, until well after sunset, and I laughed until my face hurt. Desserts were sampled, and stories told, while we played round after round. Elissa was the ultimate winner!
I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with family today, share a meal, laugh and chat, and play a game together. The holiday season is officially launched, and in the past five days I have expressed gratitude and celebrated with all of my children and their families. I will begin unboxing Christmas decorations tomorrow and spread joy and merriment throughout my home…an outer reflection of my joyful heart.
Day 4 of Gratitude Week falls on Thanksgiving Eve. I am doing what I usually do on this night before Thanksgiving…I am preparing food for tomorrow’s meal. We had our big family Thanksgiving Sunday, while my son was off work. Tomorrow is a more casual meal with my two daughters and their husbands, Greg, and grandson Dayan.
We are all contributing to the meal, which will include smoked turkey and brisket, for the carnivores in the family, and an abundance of veggie side dishes, for the plant based eaters.
My gratitude today is for the delightful fact that holiday meals and a plant based lifestyle are not exclusive of each other. I will dine well tomorrow and enjoy spending an afternoon with family. We will share food, talk, laugh, play games and celebrate a birthday.
I am grateful for a wealth of healthy recipes to try out. Tonight I made three dishes for tomorrow, trying out two new recipes and recreating a favorite from last year.
The foundation of the recipes was plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Here is a peek at what I am contributing tomorrow:
I made Raw Cranberry Relish, from Life Changing Foods, last year for the first time. I like cranberry sauce, even the blob of stuff from the can. This relish, made from fresh cranberries, apples and oranges is amazing. And it is so easy to make, using a food processor. The recipe calls for coconut sugar, which is a natural, unrefined sugar. Last year I substituted raw honey. Tonight I had coconut sugar on hand. This is seriously so delicious, that even people who think they don’t like cranberries might be surprised.
Cranberries are full of antioxidants. They not only aid in healing urinary tract infections, they reverse gallbladder disease, cleanse the liver and help with kidney stones. They also help heal cardiovascular disease and draw radiation out of the body.
I wonder why I only make this around Thanksgiving? While cranberries are plentiful, I should be making this relish once a week!
I am super excited about this Sweet Potato Casserole. I found the recipe on Pinterest, posted by Nutritional Foodie. I made a sweet potato casserole for years. That one was full of butter and brown sugar and used canned yams. This one started with fresh sweet potatoes that I cooked myself and then mashed with coconut oil, spices, coconut sugar and unsweetened almond coconut milk. The topping, which I’ll add in the morning before baking, has pecans, coconut sugar, coconut oil and garbanzo bean flour.
After I poured the sweet potato mixture into the casserole dish, I tried a bite, from the bit left in the pan. It is so wonderful! And this version is good for me. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and promote productive bacteria in the stomach while starving out unproductive bacteria and fungi. They help regulate hormones and promote sleep.
Look at this colorful dish! The Mixed Veggies with Brown Rice features fresh carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini, along with organic peas and red kidney beans. Combined with the brown rice, this will be a wholesome, protein rich dish that will be the main part of my meal tomorrow. This recipe comes from a little cookbook called Slow Cooker 100% Vegan.
I have the raw brown rice in the slow cooker and the veggies prepped and seasoned with mixed Italian herbs, sea salt, coarsely ground black pepper and fresh garlic. I’ll stumble into the kitchen at 3:00 am to add the veggies to the slow cooker, along with two cups of water, and turn it on low. It will finish cooking just in time to cart it to Adriel’s house. I’ll bet it will smell wonderful as it simmers.
I am so full of gratitude as I sip on my turmeric milk, all my food preparations completed. During my healing journey I have realized this truth, and accept it wholeheartedly…
What I eat becomes the fuel that my body uses to live and thrive…or exist and struggle.
EVERYTHING I eat and drink matters. Poor nutrition results in poor health, illness and pain. Good nutrition results in good health and an immune system that can fight off invaders and heal itself, maintaining well being.
I choose carefully what I nourish myself with. During celebrations or the holidays, I am not missing a thing by holding to my plant based lifestyle. What I gain is continued health, not extra pounds or an upset digestive system.
I know it is still two days before Thanksgiving. And I have devoted time this evening to pouring through plant based recipes in preparation for Thursday’s meal. However, the magical thing happened today, that finds me about this time every year. I never know quite when it will rise from the corner of my heart, where it resides the rest of the year, and flood my being. I am grateful for it and it is my gratitude today.
The Christmas Spirit awoke in me.
I love this time of year…from mid October to my birthday in the new year, January 9. The cooler weather and colorful leaves signal the approach of the holidays. It is my favorite time to decorate and cook and nest. Love and joy and yes, gratitude overflow my heart.
These are the events that triggered Christmas Spirit today.
Greg sent me this photo from Lowe’s this morning. These fresh beauties have arrived! Ill be purchasing mine this weekend. Years ago, I cut trees out in the wild. Ask me sometime about THE Christmas Tree incident that ended in disaster. Now, Lowe’s Garden Center is my tree destination and I receive much joy from selecting the perfect tree.
I received my first Christmas message from a friend, via Facebook Messenger today. It made me smile.
I visited the arts and crafts store, Michaels, to check out the feasibility of an idea I have. Of course, the store is in full Christmas mode, with holiday music playing overhead and shoppers already getting a head start on gift buying. This is where I began humming Christmas songs and a smile first appeared. Christmas was stirring within my heart. I nodded and spoke to other shoppers as I browsed. I don’t mind crowds at all, especially this time of year. I love the feeling of being on a shared adventure, rather than viewing it as a competitive one. Even though I don’t need more Christmas decor, I was captivated by a little gingerbread house with matching trees and a tiny gingerbread man. I bought it!
And Christmas thus Christmas began, for me, on November 21. The humming turned into singing. While cooking dinner, my iPod played through holiday songs. And after dinner, I set out the items I’ve already purchased for this Christmas season.
I buy myself a heart ornament every year, to represent my shiny Mithril heart. Mithril is a precious metal referred to in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit stories. It is strong, silvery and valuable. My Christmas tree is adorned with many heart ornaments. I like this simple metal heart for this year.
I also add a Christmas mug each year to my collection. This is my first owl mug. He is adorable. I found the wooden sign in a vintage shop. It will find a spot in my snowman village.
And this tartan ceramic Scotty dog ornament came home with me from Scotland. I purchased it in a gift shop near Loch Ness. It will remind me of my travels this year.
I am so grateful for this beautiful season, when love and joy, peace and wonder overflows. For me, it is a time of sharing with others, and a time of personal reflection as the year winds down and a new one approaches.
The boxes of Christmas decorations will come out of storage this week, and my house will be transformed. My heart already is. My life reflects that.
I don’t care what anyone says about welcoming Christmas too soon. When the Spirit moves me…it moves me. I would not bid it to wait. I agree with Charles Dickens’ well known character, Scrooge, after the Spirit of Christmas was born in his heart and made manifest in his life. I keep a reminder of Ebenezer’s words hanging year around in my house. And I too honor Christmas in my heart.
With this being Thanksgiving week, I have decided to very mindfully celebrate a week of expressing gratitude.
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, of showing appreciation for gifts, large and small, especially those freely given. I have a choice. I can feel and express gratitude or I can choose to be ungrateful. Living a life of gratitude means I notice the gifts I’ve been given, from flowers and sunsets, to real estate closings and a grandchild’s hug. Nothing is taken for granted and life itself is a gift. I can feel gratitude even for the challenges during the journey, seeing them as opportunities to grow and shift.
Johannes A. Gaertner said “To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.”
Day 1 I felt gratitude for my family, all of my family. I am blessed to have mother, stepdad, stepmom, sisters, brother, daughters and daughter-in-law, son and sons-in-laws, grandchildren, nieces and nephews all living within an hour and a half of Joplin. I get to spend time with them and be a witness to their lives.
Today I considered what I wanted to express gratitude for. There are so many things that I am grateful for. Without overthinking it I opened my heart and went with the first image that popped up.
For Day 2 I am grateful for the opportunities to travel this year.
The travels this year were so much more than planning a trip and then hopping on a plane. I have wanted to explore the world for a long time. Nine years ago, on Mike Dooley’s TUT website, I wrote out my desire and expressed it this way:
I gave my heart’s desire to the Divine…and let go of the outcome. It’s not that I sat back and did nothing. I dreamed. I looked through travel brochures. Five years ago, when my grandson expressed a desire to go to Italy after graduation, we dreamed together and released that shared goal to the Divine. Last January we met with a travel agent and the dream began to become a reality. Amazingly, the funds poured in as needed, to meet the expenses for the trip.
What a beautiful lesson for me in dreaming, trusting, letting go and receiving.
Taxis to Venice
A year ago, my sister Debbie asked me about going on a trip to Scotland and England. We decided to include Ireland as well, and our group grew to include our mom, sister Linda and Ashley, Debbie’s daughter. If I had wanted to play it safe, I would not have agreed to two major trips, three months apart. I am so grateful I said yes. And there they were, the three countries I wrote about visiting, with Ireland thrown in, all in one glorious summer.
Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands, Scotland
Again, the funds arrived for the UK trip, exactly on time. And for the second time this year I boarded a plane and followed my heart. There were other elements that came together, to express gratitude about, connected to these travels. Six family members were able to journey with me. My health improved dramatically, by way of Anthony William and a plant based diet, so that I could walk freely and enjoy these trips. My mother experienced improved health as well. Little and not so little details fell into place. Protection was given for all travelers.
And my wanderlust was truly born, set free. I have other places I hope to visit. More corners of the world to explore. The Divine knows the desires of my heart. I am grateful for that as well.
I recognize that this year of travels, these adventures, are representations of my life journey. The dreaming, the playing, the letting go and trusting, and the birthing of dreams into reality…my life is shaped by these components as well. And I am full of gratitude that traveling deepens my awareness of these connections between my wanderings around the globe and my journey through life.
Perhaps most of all, I don’t want regrets. I don’t want to be sorry that I balked at an opportunity to travel or hesitated when I could have grown. I am grateful that traveling enlarges my soul and exposes me to other people and other cultures and teaches me important truths about who I am.
Dr. Steve Maraboli sums it up well.
“Your ability to see beauty and opportunity is proportionate to the level at which you embrace gratitude.”
I deeply appreciated the opportunity to spend the first day of spring outdoors. With summer-like temperatures and clear blue skies, it was the perfect day to work in the yard and soak in the sun. I stayed open to receiving the gifts that the day offered. Trimming back plants, clearing away last winter’s dead vegetation, intentions for a late afternoon outdoor tea with tender lemon balm just sprouting in the garden…I knew one of these experiences would become the focus of this evening’s blog post.
And then an unexpected event shifted the day. It would be insignificant to many people, but it wasn’t to me. Greg had a man stop by to look at the huge old maple tree in the backyard. In two hours Brian the tree guy was back, in his bucket truck, chainsaws ready. Maple tree was coming down.
This tree has had a long life, and it has a story. At least 30 years ago it began as a volunteer seedling, snuggled against the fence on the north side of my backyard. Technically on the neighbor’s side of the fence, no one could ever determine exactly whose property it was growing on, and the tiny tree was left alone.
Seemingly overnight, that little maple became a massive tree. Whatever thoughts there might have been about cutting it down, it was now too late.
I didn’t mind. My children didn’t mind. They climbed the tree and sat on its leafy boughs. Their sandbox rested in its shade, as did a swingset. My younger daughter Adriel especially loved the maple tree. She would climb the fence and scamper up with her best friend Tresha, each of them claiming the tree for her own.
Due to its tremendous size, and branches that overhung the house, the maple tree became a concern over the years. During a winter ice storm nine years ago, I lay awake all night, listening to the sharp crack of tree branches breaking all over my neighborhood. The weight of accumulated ice shattered limbs and pulled trees down. Not my maple tree though. I knew if one of the heavy branches fell, it could easily go through the roof, causing great damage. But it withstood the weight, the branches drooping low but never breaking.
When the EF5 tornado churned through Joplin in 2011, my house was in the storm’s path. Again, the maple tree could have destroyed my house, or the neighbor’s, if its branches had become projectiles or if the tornado had pried it from the ground. Most of the trees in my neighborhood were destroyed that day and I lost a redbud in the front yard.
Once more, this steadfast tree withstood the forces of nature. This time, however, maple tree was hurt. The roots gripped the earth, and held, but assaulted by winds that exceeded 200 MPH, the tree twisted, the grand truck spiraling, splitting bark and fracturing branches.
Greg had the tree trimmed back after the storm. I wasn’t sure if it would survive, in its new corkscrew condition. New growth appeared eventually, small branches stretching out toward the roof of the house again. Yet, the tree was scarred, and great patches of rough bark fell off, exposing wounds that never quite seemed to heal. The big old tree became a greater and greater risk, especially during the spring storm season, threatening my house and the neighbor’s house.
I understood maple tree needed to come down. I was sad about it, nonetheless.
Brian was efficient as he took the maple tree down in sections. He worked carefully, explaining what he was doing as the chainsaw bit into the tree. I was surprised to see that much of the tree was hollow inside. Brian was right. The tree was dying.
I watched the process as a witness. Living, this tree had offered a place to hide and play. It sheltered birds and squirrels, covered us with its shade, stayed strong in the most challenging of circumstances. Now as maple tree fell, I silently honored its life and felt gratitude for its many gifts.
In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, there is a sentient tree creature named Groot. He is noble and wise, and he sacrifices himself to save his companions. He is not entirely lost however. Groot reappears as a tiny sprig, an offshoot of the original being.
I thought about Groot as maple tree lay scattered in pieces on the ground. Who is to say whether this tree sacrificed itself, twisting fiercely as it clung to the ground, rather than crashing through the house where Greg and I crouched in a tiny closet? That was a noble act.
The severed branches held bunches of bright green seeds. As the seeds dry mid-spring, they break free of the parent tree and spiral like miniature helicopters to the ground. Maple tree’s life is gone on this first day of spring….a season of rebirth and new growth. However, the promise of life trembled there on the tips of its branches.
I gathered seeds, collecting them in a mason jar. I’ll spread the seeds out and allow them to dry thoroughly and then return them to the jar. I don’t have room in my yard for another massive tree. But my children may want a baby maple, to create fresh stories and their own memories with. I’ll keep some of the seeds as a reminder of my maple tree and its beautiful story, which lives on.
Today is the birthday of the late actor, Alan Rickman. Alan passed away on January 14, 2016, and as happened on this day last year, I wavered back and forth all day, on whether I would write a blog post in honor of this insightful man.
The truth is, the only reason I hesitated is because of the concern that others would perceive my post to be the gushing of a fan girl. If that is the worst thing ever thought about me, I decided, that’s okay! Far from being star struck, I have deep appreciation and gratitude for Alan Rickman, who has greatly inspired me.
After Alan’s death last year, following a short battle with pancreatic cancer, I keenly felt his absence in the world. A bright light flickered and went out. Reading about Alan, in the days following his death, I discovered a quote of his that became an invitation to learn more about him.
I wanted to know more about who he was. I accepted the invitation to discover Alan through his vast body of work. It has been a soulful and amazing journey, this past year, watching Alan’s films and shorts, interviews and late night tv show appearances. In addition, I’ve read his words, primarily through collected quotes, and the words of his friends, colleagues and interviewers.
This is what I have learned from Alan Rickman, who became my teacher though we never met, who walked alongside me, sharing his wisdom, though none but me knew he was there.
It is never too late to do what you are created to do.The heart and body know the way. Although he was always interested in acting, Alan came late into the profession. After working as a graphic artist, he at last followed his heart and his passion, performing for years on stage before breaking into film as Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Alan said that when he made that shift, “My body finally sighed with relief at being in the right place.”
Don’t let others decide who you are. Only you can do that. Because of villainous roles such as Hans Gruber and the Sheriff of Nottingham and Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, Alan could have become typecast, continuing to portray darker characters. He refused to allow that, expanding himself and his viewers in such diverse roles as Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply, Alexander in Galaxy Quest, and King Louis in A Little Chaos. He played, with equal talent, villains, romantic leads, doctors, heroes, businessmen and kings. In one of his final films, Alan stood behind the camera as well, as the director.
Help others along the way. Over and over, I have read how Alan helped other actors that he worked with on his many films and projects. He graciously offered encouragement, support and suggestions to his colleagues, from helping a young Kate Winslet in one of her first films, Sense and Sensibility, to attending other performances and plays of Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliff. Friend Ian McKellen paid Alan tribute, calling him “a constant agent for helping others.”
Travel and see the world. I discovered that Alan loved to travel, calling it one of his favorite things to do. He saw the value of experiencing different locations and cultures. Alan wrote, “Nothing gives me as much pleasure as traveling. I love getting on planes and boats and trains.” Relationships are important. Treasure them. Not only did Alan help fellow actors, and build friendships that lasted a lifetime, he was also in a long term relationship with one woman. He met his wife Rima as a teenager, and their love story spanned 50 years. He acknowledged that their long years together were due to Rima’s remarkable tolerance, saying she deserved sainthood.
There are so many other lessons from Alan that I could list. One of the most crucial has shaped this year, and my life, in a profound way. Alan’s quote, “If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust” is my focus for 2017. I have taken Alan’s words to heart. As I move through each day, having asked the question of the Divine, How shall we play?, I stay open to the opportunities to be tender toward others, to create robust art in my life. This year is shifting me in huge ways.
From his perch on my writing table, Absolem the caterpillar, whom Alan voiced in Alice in Wonderland, reminds me daily of this extraordinary man and his gifts to the world, as he asks the question…Who are you? In considering that question and answering it for myself, I have studied Alan’s journey, learning about who HE was. He has encouraged me, as surely as he did his colleagues, to follow my heart, to declare my truths, to cherish my relationships and help others, to travel and see the world…and to make life a little more tender and art a little more robust.
I am full of gratitude for this man who is so much more than an actor to me, whose life has impacted so many, including me, and whom I will love and miss…