Wildcat Glades Conservation Center is just south of Joplin. The Audubon Center is there also and there are paths to explore that parallel Shoal Creek and meander through the woods and climb up onto the bluffs. I’ve walked there many times….in spring, summer and fall. I’ve never walked there during winter, and certainly not with snow on the ground. It was not my intention to walk there today. I had a different “first” picked out. But the woods called to me, strongly. I was considering changing my plans and driving to Wildcat when I opened a magazine and saw a header on the first page which read, “A Stroll through the Woods”. I laughed. When I picked up a second magazine and opened it to a little article called “Winter Meditation”, which was about walking mindfully in snowy woods, I said okay! It seemed my first for this day chose me.
Still, I had a bit of trepidation about walking at the conservation center today. Our side streets are still mostly snow covered and the road winding into the park goes downhill. And it was 32 degrees out, which was much warmer than yesterday, but still chilly. I layered up, donning wool socks, boots, mittens, stocking cap and a scarf and headed out, a bottle of water in one pocket of my hoodie and my camera in the other. This year is all about pushing beyond what I feel comfortable doing, right?
I pulled into an untouched parking lot, not far from Shoal Creek. Snow covered the ground…and the path! After a few moments of searching, I found the path and headed toward the river. Once there, two sets of footprints appeared, coming in from another path and disappearing into the woods….and coming back out. A good sign! I followed that trail into the woods.
It was beautiful! I had the woods to myself. The snow softened the path and muffled sound. There was only the gentle sigh of the breeze and dry oak leaves rattling on their mostly bare branches and off in the distance, a lone woodpecker attacking a tree. It was peaceful and restorative and although the air was crisp the sun was shining and I was warm beneath all my layers. After half an hour I headed back. A huge oak tree near the path caught my eye and I rested both hands against it and closed my eyes, feeling the subtle hum of energy beneath my palms. As I patted the rough bark and turned away, a strong breeze suddenly sprang up and all around me, trees swayed and their branches danced and tossed. I laughed and waved goodbye to the trees as the trail left the wooded area and my car came into sight. It was a joyous, magical time. I’m so glad I heeded the call.
I saw this idea on facebook: blowing bubbles on an extremely cold day. Having a 5 year old granddaughter, I had a supply of bubble solution. And today, the high in Joplin, MO was 9 degrees, with a wind chill in the negative numbers. Perfect conditions for creating ice bubbles. I’ve blown bubbles many, many times, always on pretty days full of warmth and sunshine. I’ve never stood shivering in the freezing cold, trying to create bubbles. It was harder than I thought it would be to get one to take a picture of! Most of the bubbles blew away in the stiff, cold breeze. The few that swirled around me were slower to pop than normal but pop they did after coming to rest on the snow. One lone bubble drifted gently to the snow piled up on my deck and rested there delicately. I was thrilled! The icy bubble remained for a couple of hours and then became a ring of shattered ice. Such a simple, beautiful First for this day. It made me smile.
Today’s First was selected to take me to the edge of my comfort zone and beyond. When I was four years old, I decided not to cry any more. It seemed pointless. And so just like that, I turned off the tears and have very rarely shed any since. Over time it became difficult, even painful, to cry even if I wanted to. And so I learned to avoid sad situations and sad movies, so that the struggle to cry could be avoided as well. I’ve missed a whole genre of movies. As a child and youth, I’d leave the theater during a sad scene, such as Bambi wondering where his mother was . As an adult, I just refused to go if I knew in advance that the movie was sad. I got tricked into seeing “Titanic” and thought my chest would burst at the end, from repressed emotion.
These last few years, as I’ve sought to integrate all of who I am into a whole person, my avoidance of negative emotion became an issue that I’ve wanted to deal with. I knew this was a First that would address my reluctance and definitely take me beyond what’s comfortable for me.
At both my daughters’ recommendations, I selected “My Sister’s Keeper” for the first sad movie I’ve ever deliberately chosen to watch. It was a beautiful movie. And it was sad. It was also powerful and poignant and I connected with it. I felt for the family as their whole existence revolved around saving the life of Kate. And I admired Kate’s courage in letting go and making it okay for her family to let her go. I loved her “book of everything” that so intricately captured her life journey. Tears trickled slowly down my cheeks. Sometimes the fear or dread of something is much worse than the actual event. My chest didn’t explode. I can see that crying can be a wonderful form of release. It’s not a sign of weakness. Kate said “There’s no shame in dying”. There is no shame in crying either.
There are thousands of blogs about every topic imaginable! I decided to join in and create a blog primarily so that at the end of this year, I can look back and easily see where I started from and how I moved beyond in my journey. I can also flesh out the posts if I want, since I don’t like putting long posts on facebook. So feel free to pop onto my blog each day to see what’s new for the day! I’ll be providing a link.
What goes wonderfully with Scottish Shortbread? Lemon curd from MacKays, of Scotland! Thanks to my cousin Mindy Davidson, who gave me a jar, I got to sample lemon curd for today’s First. We Americans hear “curds” and think of cottage cheese or curdled milk and this is nothing like that. Prepared in small batches in copper pans, lemon curd more resembles the filling for lemon meringue pie. Its tangy flavor is delicious paired with the shortbread.
In case you didn’t know it, I have Scottish roots. And although I have not visited Scotland yet, my homeland haunts me, calls to me. I’ll have several Firsts this year that relate to Scotland and here is what I am leading off with! Easy to make, and it tastes wonderful. I had bagpipes playing on my iPod as I kneaded the dough.
My first new experience for this year was setting off fireworks at 12:01 am, to usher in 2014. I’ve hugged people at midnight, I’ve banged pots and pans, I’ve toasted the new year. I’ve n…ever set off fireworks. I’m very mindful of neighbors and city policies and of being “good”, of not doing anything to bother anyone. I’m nice. And there is nothing wrong with being nice! And yet being nice and being overly concerned with what other people think can be very restrictive. I can’t tell you how fun it was to run outside, light a string of lady fingers and shout “Happy New Year” as they exploded! A sparkler finished off my new experience. Welcome 2014, indeed!
New year, new opportunities for growth and joy! Every year I choose a word for the upcoming year. The last two years, a word has chosen me instead. This year the word that chose me, as my theme for 2014, is BEYOND. I wanted a different word. And yet through synchronicity the word kept showing up and it was confirmed, beyond doubt, that this was my word. Everything else fell into place quickly. The symbol for 2014 had been showing up for months…a bird outside its cage, representing moving beyond that which limits and into freedom. This quote from Michael A Singer’s book, “The Untethered Soul”, states “Ultimately the word ‘beyond’ captures the true meaning of spirituality. In its most basic sense, going beyond means going past where you are. It means not staying in your current state. When you go beyond yourself, there are no more limitations. There are no more boundaries. Limitations and boundaries only exist at the places where you stop going beyond. If you never stop then you go beyond boundaries, beyond limitations, beyond the sense of a restricted self.” That speaks deeply to me. I desire to move beyond my comfort zone and limitations of my own making and into places of freedom and growth and opportunity. I was inspired by Lu Ann Cahn’s journey beyond her fears and limitations and feelings of being stuck. She did one new thing each day for a year. You can check out her story in her book “I Dare Me” and here on facebook at Lu Ann Cahn. I have adopted Lu Ann’s idea and I am excited about what will unfold each day as I too experience new things and in doing so, move beyond my comfort zone! Some days will bring down old beliefs and push me to go where I have never gone before. Other days will be about having fun trying something different. It promises to be an amazing journey. Lastly, while watching the movie “Frozen” with my granddaughter, sister and great-niece, my song for the year was revealed. “Let it Go” captures so beautifully the desire to stop holding back and just let go. The lines “The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all. It’s time to see what I can do, test the limits and break through” underline my intention for this year. I’m excited to see what surprises unfold and where my journey will take me! ‘