Happy Birthday William

Today is William’s birthday. The son of my cousin Mindy, I’ve known William since he was born, and went by the name Harry. As he’s matured into a tall and handsome young man, he grew as well into his more formal first name. As I looked up his name today, in honor of his birthday, I agree that the name William suits him perfectly. 

William, to express yourself you must follow the divine law of love. You have great persistence and hate to give up. You are a good mixer, charming, magnetic and intuitive. Spirituality is your key to success. You are intuitive and might be interested in the arts, drama or science.

You are very intuitive. You have a reservoir of inspired wisdom combined with inherited analytical ability, which could reward you through expressions of spiritual leadership, business analysis, marketing, artistic visions, or scientific research. Operating out of the spiritual side of your personality can take you to great heights, or drop you if you neglect your spiritual identity. You are always looking for an opportunity to investigate the unknown, to use your mental abilities, to find the purpose and meaning of life. You want to become wise and to understand people and things. You need privacy to replenish your energy. You have a unique way of thinking, you are reflective and absorbing.

This describes William very well. He is charming and spiritual and very intuitive. The arts are important to him. While in high school he was involved in the drama department, as an actor, as one who helped with props and scenery and as an assistant director. 

I love the sentences above that say, “You are always looking for an opportunity to investigate the unknown, to use your mental abilities, to find the purpose and meaning of life. You want to become wise and to understand people and things.” William is a very intelligent, curious man who enjoys learning about a variety of subjects. I cherish sitting with him over a long lunch, discussing movies and books, culture and life. We share an interest in Tolkien’s works and we’ve sat together in movie theaters watching the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. 

One of the greatest joys we’ve experienced together was a trip to Scotland in 2014. I loved everything about that journey through the land of our ancestors. Mindy made that trip happen, for both of us. And the most difficult challenge we’ve walked through together was the loss of Mindy, just a few months after that memorable trip. No one is ever quite ready to say good bye to his or her mother. To have to do so at the age of 19 is especially wrenching. 

William was suddenly thrust into adulthood, with many responsibilities placed on his broad shoulders. I know how difficult it has been. And I also know how he stepped up into that space of running a household and caring for others. He has had to draw from a deep reservoir of innate wisdom and strength. He has had to learn to trust his instincts and rely on his intuition. 

I know his mother is so very proud of him. She raised a good son. I am so very proud of the man he has become…and the person he is becoming. Happy birthday, William. I love you!

Journey 299: A Tree for Mindy

Today is the birthday of my cousin Mindy. Instead of getting together for a birthday lunch or dinner, I’m thinking of her and missing her. Mindy passed away January 8th, near the beginning of my year of journeys. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her or something reminds me of her. 


Last week Greg came across a website that he shared with me. Called Trees for Life, this organization’s core purpose and vision is to restore the Caledonian Forest, and all its constituent species of flora and fauna, to the Scottish Highlands. 

I was intrigued. Scotland is very dear to me, as it was to Mindy as well. Last year we had an amazing adventure in that green country. Mindy’s son William accompanied us and we spent ten magical days touring Scotland. We explored Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the Borders where we toured Thirlestane Castle, home of our ancestors. We stayed in the Lauderdale Hotel in the village of Lauder. 


And we spent a day in the Highlands, surely one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The deep mysterious lochs, the mountains with water trickling down them, the forests so dense that sunlight couldn’t reach the fern and moss covered ground, all enchanted us and made our hearts ache and our eyes fill with tears. This was a land we had not visited before, that felt like home. 

Trees for Life is working to restore the forests that once covered most of northern Scotland, preserving the ecosystem and the forests for wildlife and for future generations. Every year, hundreds of people volunteer with Trees for Life to plant trees, remove non-native species and grow young trees in the nursery at Dundreggan. They have planted over a million trees and are now working to expand the forests with another million by 2018.

I was thrilled to learn that I could purchase a tree, in Mindy’s name, and that the tree would be planted in the Highlands. That tree will live and grow, along with other young trees, ensuring the continuation of the Caledonian Forests. The timing of Greg’s discovery was perfect, as Mindy’s birthday was approaching. It doesn’t surprise me when these synchronicities happen. Instead I am so grateful. The Divine brings exactly what’s needed. I can’t think of a better way to honor Mindy and celebrate her life than by planting a tree for her in Scotland. 

I’ll receive a packet in the mail with information about the tree that was planted and a certificate that says “In Memory of Mindy Davidson”. I added the words, from Gandalf’s quote about death: “The journey does not end here.” Beautiful soul, my dear Mindy, I’m so glad the journey continues on. Watch over this little tree, planted in your name. Someday soon I’ll return to the Scottish Highlands and stand in silence, soaking in the beauty, and thinking of you. Happy birthday. I love you. 



Journey 131: Mosses for Mindy and the Connectedness of All Things

Mosses with fountain

I have been looking for a thistle type plant to add to my garden, in memory of my cousin, Mindy, who passed in January. We shared Scottish blood and family roots and a wonderful trip to Scotland with her son William last August. It seemed very fitting to grow thistle in the garden for her. However, I’ve looked everywhere for this elusive plant and have not found it in the Joplin area.

This afternoon I seized the opportunity, during a trip to Arkansas to visit Greg’s dad, to enlarge my search parameters. I asked Greg if we could return to Joplin via Bentonville, AR, so I could stop by a large garden center there, Garden City Nursery. With high hopes, I asked the first sales person who approached if he had any thistle or thistle type plants available. I was disappointed when the answer was no. I decided to look around anyway before we left, hoping I would spy something else that I could use.

Mosses Irish and Scottish

As I was wandering about, I saw a display of beautiful, mossy plants. These typically wouldn’t have caught my eye, but I have been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, “The Signature of All Things”, and the main character, Alma, is a bryologist, meaning she engages in the scientific study of mosses. As I admired the velvety plants, I thought Alma would love these. I noticed suddenly that the emerald green plant was called Irish Moss. Oh my! My heart beat a little faster. If only there was a Scottish Moss as well. There was a golden green plant next to the Irish Moss. I turned the container so I could see the name of the plant. Scotch Moss, which is also called Scottish Moss.

I was so excited! I bought one of each. If I ever find a thistle plant, I’ll purchase it too. However, I was quite pleased with my discovery, thanks to Alma! On the drive to Joplin I mulled over where I would plant the mosses when I got home and had a plan when I arrived. I have two fountains that I purchased the year before I started my backyard garden….great bargains at the end of the season. Greg is preparing to run electricity for me along the edge of the Japanese Garden so I can install one or both of the fountains.

Mosses close up

Tonight, I carefully set up the larger fountain, between a Japanese fern and burgundy Calla Lilies that are just pushing up through the mulch. It was a perfect fit. The new plants, which aren’t true mosses but behave and spread like mosses do, earning them the name, hug the ground and put out tiny star shaped white blooms briefly in the summer. They can bear foot traffic without being crushed or destroyed. I planted the mosses in front of and on either side of the fountain. I even poured a bucket full of water into the fountain, watching as the water cascaded from pool to pool, collecting at last in the reservoir at the bottom. I love it. I can’t wait until I can sit in the meditation area and listen to the sound of trickling water nearby. How soothing and uplifting that will be.

As I stood looking at my work, I laughed and thought, Well, I’ve muddled up my Japanese Garden by adding Irish and Scottish Moss. I decided to be okay with that. This was in honor of Mindy. I thought she would approve of my eclectic gardening. As I was preparing to write my blog, I looked up the plants. Scrolling down through the articles Google brought up, I noticed several that stated that Irish and Scotch Mosses are perfect around pools and fountains, tucked between stepping stones and rocks, and for JAPANESE GARDENS.

Mosses in Japanese Garden

I love these reminders of how life flows and everything is connected. I had come full circle in my thoughts because I was back to Liz Gilbert’s book, The Signature of All Things. The central theme of the story is the connectedness of all things and how nature has the signature of the Divine coded within it, offering proof of our Creator’s love. I believe it. I can’t believe otherwise when events happen as they did today, leading me ever onward if I am willing to follow. When I am aware, when I am paying attention, I am rewarded with glimpses of the Divine everywhere…even in my search for a plant to honor my cousin. There isn’t anything in my life, in all of our lives, that is too insignificant, or that does not matter. I will remember that, and dear Mindy, every time I look at my Irish and Scottish Mosses.

Mosses with bird

Journey 93: Afternoon Tea with William


What a treat today, to be invited to afternoon tea. My cousin not only graciously extended the invitation but prepared the tea and the sandwiches. I contributed mini scones and William completed the meal with thin chocolate wafer cookies, called biscuits in the UK. 

It’s been a busy and emotional week. I can’t think of a better way to relax, and at the same time feel refreshed, than by sharing a pot of hot tea. William even had a tiny pitcher with milk at the ready. 

I formerly called this young man, son of my dear cousin Mindy, by the name of Harry. I realized as we navigated together through the shifting and sometimes challenging landscape that appeared after Mindy’s passing, that he was referring to himself as William. I like to call my family members and friends by the name they prefer the most. William was using his legal first name. I have shifted to that name as well. And it is a fine name, meaning “strong, resolute warrior-protector”. What great qualities. I see William growing into those with ease. 

This afternoon, we chatted and caught up on each other’s news and journeys. We talked and laughed and sipped our hot tea. This ritual became a daily practice when William, Mindy and I visited Scotland last year. This son was very indulgent of his mother and me as we wandered about each city and village that we visited, searching for the perfect spot to have tea. The memory, though tinged with sadness, makes me smile. 

Sitting across from him on this day, I smiled as well. William has grown through so much these past three months. I’m very proud of him. And very touched that we shared this tradition today. I sensed Mindy nearby, her love and pride almost tangible in the room. She approved of the fare included with our afternoon tea. As did I. I returned to Joplin uplifted and restored in body and spirit. Thank you, dear William. 


Journey 23: Until I See You Again, Mindy

Mindy and Harry

Today family and friends of Malinda Jo Davidson…otherwise known as Mindy, Mom, Friend, Cousin, Sister, Niece, Coworker, Healer…gathered to share memories of her and comfort each other as we miss her bright presence. As per Mindy’s wishes, as honored and carried out by her son, Harry, the gathering had less the feel of a funeral and more the feel of a reunion, minus an important guest of honor.

This wasn’t a formal sit down and listen to someone speak type of service. Mindy’s friends and family mingled and visited and told stories, each of us attired in brightly colored clothes as Mindy would have preferred. Classic rock songs played through the speakers and the murmur of voices flowed around the room, occasionally punctuated by laughter as another funny Mindy story was shared.

Lest we forget why we were gathered, we only had to glance to the front of the room to see a simple table set up, bracketed by beautiful floral arrangements. Behind the table hung a sampling of Mindy’s wool hooked rugs, a testament to her creativity and skill. Pictures of Mindy adorned the table, along with flowers, a stuffed Pug dog, and mementos of a life lived in joy. A Davidson Clan tartan scarf graced a framed photo, taken in Scotland, both reminders of our recent trip. In the center of these sacred symbols rested a beautiful burgundy urn with bands of pewter encircling it. If I found myself in danger of thinking that that was all that was left of Mindy, I had only to look around the room again, and see her son whom she has raised so well, a tall, handsome young man who is discovering how very capable he is. And her brother Jeff, who dwells richly in the present moment. Mindy’s spirit and life touched and impacted each person present today in that room. We hold memories and stories tucked within our hearts and we will carry her healing work, her creativity, her sense of humor, her kindness forward into the world.

I watched the presentation on the television, Mindy’s life captured in pictures. There she was as an adorable baby, there as a curious toddler. Her school days flipped by, picture by picture, culminating with her nursing school photos, including her pinning ceremony. Then she was getting married, and next glowing in her pregnancy. Beautiful, poignant photos appeared, with Harry, intimate pictures that showed the bond between mother and son. Her joy and her pride in her only child was so evident. Harry aged up as well, as the presentation continued, and there were snapshots of Mindy creating her rugs, a huge smile on her face. A few pictures of the Scotland trip highlighted that delightful vacation. The photo of Mindy and Harry, included with this post, is one of my favorite moments captured in the Highlands and frozen in time. A few more photos and then it was over, too quickly, her life flashing by, on the screen and seemingly, in reality.

And yet, we did not gather today to focus on the brevity or to say good bye. This day was to celebrate a precious life and rejoice over a soul that lives on, free from a failing body. Her glorious spirit was all around us this afternoon, felt as heightened joy and deep abiding love. We joined together, instead, to wish her safe journey, until we meet again.

I will miss lunches with my cousin and talking about everything under the sun, watching movies together and reminiscing about Scotland. I have never known a more peace loving, people accepting, kind hearted person. I am so thankful that she walked beside me on this earthly journey and allowed me to walk with her, until she reached a point where I could no longer follow….for now. I am sad, but I am not bereft of hope. This is not farewell, dear Mindy….this is see you later.

Mindy and Cindy Edinburgh Airport

Journey 15: A Tiny Treasure

tiny treasure acorn

A week ago today, my cousin Mindy left us, following a different path on her journey. It’s been a busy week, interspersed with sadness and joy, celebrations and reflections. She’s never been far from my thoughts. I’ve been able to spend time with Mindy’s son Harry this week as well, watching this bright, soulful young man literally grow up overnight as he has assumed responsibilities most 19 years never imagine.

I spent time in Neosho today, staying at the house while Harry was at school. These early anniversaries of loss are tough. Every Thursday, for a while, Harry will remember. I will remember. Mindy’s friends will remember. It’s part of the grieving process. Then the 8th of each month will bring a fresh wave of sadness and memory, and finally, each year January 8 will be a day of sorrow, mixed with more and more fond memories as time marches on.

Today, the loss is still fresh. The house was quiet and yet Mindy’s presence was strong and signs of her life were everywhere….the wool hooked rugs that she crafted so beautifully, her coat flung casually over a chair, a box of tea in the kitchen. Mindy’s pugs, which were her fur babies, watched me with big eyes.  Mindy loved these little dogs, calling one Bella and the other Rudy.

tiny treasure bella and rudy

It was a beautiful day, cool but with brilliant sunshine and just the tiniest promise of spring. Gathering leashes, I took Bella and Rudy for a long walk, savoring the warmth and the bright light that slanted through the trees in the park near Harry’s house. I let the dogs set the pace, so we ambled, stopping frequently, and that was fine with me. It fit perfectly my somber, reflective mood. In my heart, I talked to Mindy, telling her how proud I was of Harry. The dogs snuffled around the base of a large tree and as I stepped forward, something crunched beneath my feet. Looking down, I saw the ground covered in acorns. I was beneath an old oak tree and acorns and their tiny “caps” were scattered in a wide circle around the tree. My heart beat a little faster and I searched among the dried leaves for a perfect acorn to pick up.

The dogs came over to see what I had found as I at last spied what I was seeking. Smiling, I held the small brown nut in my hand. There is a deeply moving scene, in the final Hobbit movie, that made me smile even as tears filled my eyes. Thorin sees Bilbo holding an object in his hand and demands to see it. Bilbo opens his fist to reveal a small acorn. He picked it up in Beorn’s garden, he tells Thorin. He intends to plant it when he gets back to the Shire. Bilbo says he will care for the tree that grows and every time he sees the oak tree he will remember his journey, all of it, the good and the not so good. Thorin says it is a poor reward for his adventure but to Bilbo, it is a precious treasure and one he has carried and cherished for a long time.

That scene flashed through my mind as I cupped my own small acorn in my palm. What a significant find today. I will cherish this treasure as a reminder of my journey this year…all of it…the good and the not so good. I won’t plant the seed, as Bilbo did, however every time I see this acorn, I will remember, and smile. Bilbo’s treasure grew into a mighty oak tree that later in the story, became known as the Party Tree. Bilbo hosted his birthday party each year beneath that tree and memory and celebration become entwined.

And so it shall be for me. The memory associated with this small acorn, with the passage of time, will sprout into a mighty framework beneath which, I will celebrate… this year, this journey, Mindy. On January 8, of each future year, I will hold my treasure, and remember and rejoice. The pugs gave me quizzical looks. However, I felt Mindy’s approval, and the light around me shifted and brightened and the warmth was surely from a source beyond the sun. With quiet joy, and an acorn in my pocket, we headed home.

tiny treasure memory

Journey 9: Birthday Blessings

Birthday 2015 Keltic Knot 2

I have to admit, I almost cancelled my birthday this year. After the sudden loss of my cousin Mindy yesterday afternoon, the likelihood of celebrating today seemed remote.  I knew Mindy would not agree with that thought. She would have encouraged me to find the joy in the day. Through a variety of people and throughout the day, joy did arrive.

My day started early with picking up my six year old granddaughter to take her to school. After she climbed into the car, I noticed her staring at the stocking cap on my head. Aubrey rarely sees me in a cap, even when it is very cold. “What?” I asked. “It’s my birthday. This is my birthday hat.” I told her. With a look of delight on her beautiful little face, she piped up, “How will we celebrate?” I chuckled over her enthusiasm. “Really….what will we do to celebrate?” she insisted. How I love this little girl. I promised her we would celebrate after I picked her up from school in the afternoon. And like that, the day shifted. Yes, I was sad. However, I decided I wouldn’t wrap the sadness around me like a cloak, shutting out the world.

The day offered an endless stream of surprises. Arriving in Neosho to accompany Harry to the funeral home, he presented me with a gift from Mindy as soon as I walked through the door. Wednesday, after I took Mindy home from doctors’ appointments in Joplin, and saw her settled in for a nap, she sent Harry searching for a surprise she had ordered for me. The package wasn’t where she thought it was. She was so tired and needed to sleep. I told her not to worry about it and I would get it later. Harry found the gift…two Keep Calm mugs with English tea. I was so touched. How like Mindy. And what an acknowledgement of our shared love of tea time. I cherish this last gift from her.

Birthday 2015 tea

And I have to say, I was so proud of Harry this morning. I went with him to the funeral home to be supportive of him while he made decisions and choices. Everything he did was honoring of his mother and full of love. This young man, who has suddenly found himself responsible for so many things, is stepping up into a new level of adulthood with grace. Mindy raised an amazing son. My heart sang as I drove back to Joplin.

My dear friend Garen invited me out for a birthday lunch at Ichiban.  I tried the New York, New York sushi for the first time. It was delicious with crunchy bits of chopped apple sprinkled on top. Most of all, I appreciated and enjoyed the conversation and the sharing of ideas that flowed between us. Garen has been a wonderful friend and a fellow traveler on the journey and I am so grateful for him.

As promised, when I picked up Aubrey from school, we had our own little celebration. Greg joined us and we had a treat at Chick-Fil-A. My precious granddaughter presented me with a gift that she made in school today. Crying out “Happy Birthday” she handed me a beautiful picture she made of herself with her head tipped back and a perfect snowflake landing on her tongue. What a wonderful representation of joy. The artwork has a place of honor on my refrigerator. Aubrey and I paid my mom a visit and she too made my birthday special with a lovely card and a birthday check.

Birthday 2015 Aubrey gift

Greg provided the final celebration for today. He discovered that the Irish band, Keltic Knot, was playing this evening at The Woodshed in Carthage. After dropping Aubrey off with her dad and stepmom, we located the venue within Cherry’s Art Emporium on the square. What a unique and interesting place. Dinner was available too and we had the Shepherd’s Pie. It was wonderfully filling. What a great night of music. The band was talented and fun to listen to. The 18 year old lead singer had a rich, lilting voice. Her dad played bass guitar and sang. Tim played the mandolin and a variety of other instruments and the young drummer was phenomenal. Playing traditional and contemporary Irish and Scottish music, Keltic Knot entertained the crowd with haunting melodies and lively drinking songs. Of course, I thought of Mindy. This is our kind of music! Then the bass player brought out a set of Highland bagpipes. My heart swelled and tears stung my eyes as he played several songs, including Amazing Grace. I know without a doubt that I have Scottish blood when the sound of bagpipes makes me teary eyed.

Birthday 2015 Keltic Knot

In between those beautiful blessings today, I received hundreds of messages via texts, phone calls, emails and Facebook posts from around the world. Friends and family wished me a happy birthday and also condolences and the mix was exactly what I needed today. I know it is not easy to offer into the grief of another. And how much more complicated it becomes when a day that should be celebrated falls immediately after a day of shocking loss. Yet the messages from these dear souls, of joy mixed with sorrow, of empathy and encouragement, were genuine and uplifting. I was blessed indeed by the outpouring of love today. Thank you from my overflowing heart.

Birthday 2015

Journey 8: Another Path for Mindy

Mindy and Cindy Edinburgh Airport

Today’s journey was not one I would have chosen. This afternoon my cousin Mindy, more my sister and definitely my friend, passed away suddenly. The shock of that news has not quite worn off. I immediately went to be with her son, Harry, at the hospital. I got to say my goodbyes, and caress her face, even as I was wondering how it was possible this funny, sweet, good hearted woman was no longer present in the flesh. I just saw her yesterday. And although I was concerned by her state of health, I didn’t know that it was my final hug when I told her goodbye and left.

I’ve known Mindy all her life, of course. Her mother and my father were sister and brother. She is a few years younger than I am. What I remember from our childhood is an intelligent, bright-eyed, curious girl who loved animals, the outdoors and her family. As we grew up we saw less of each other, even though we never lived very far apart, distance wise. Then about 20 years ago we reconnected. I saw her occasionally in Joplin, her young son Harry in tow. I always enjoyed our visits, but they were more random occurrences rather than planned get togethers. That all changed when our family began to experience loss. First our Granny Grace passed on. Then, sadly, two of our cousins. We realized, when we would gather for another family funeral, that life was short and time precious. Our visits became more intentional.

Mindy and Cindy and Harry

And our relationship deepened. Mindy walked with me through the illness and loss of my father. We talked about all kinds of things and came to understand that our family shares an intuitive gift that pops up strongly in some of us. Mindy journeyed with me through some of the most challenging years of my life, always offering encouragement and a smile and a hug. I in turn walked with her through her mother’s illness and death, not quite two years ago. We became very close during that time.

Mindy was an amazing mom to her son. I watched Harry grow from an inquisitive toddler to a smart, talented young man. He often joined Mindy and me for lunch or dinner and we all loved watching a good movie together. I have seen all of The Hobbit movies with these two and Mindy’s brother, my other cousin, Jeff. We just watched the final Hobbit movie together two weeks ago. Mindy’s love for Harry was expansive and nurturing without being smothering. She encouraged him to pursue his hobbies and passions. And Harry loved his mom. He cared for her with such gentleness and such compassion during her illnesses.

Mindy and Harry

Mindy and Harry

As Harry neared the completion of his senior year, he knew what he wanted for his graduation present….a trip to Scotland. Mindy had already fought and won two battles with cancer. She was not going to disappoint this young man or postpone the trip. When she asked me to join them, I was thrilled. We made plans and secured our passports and on August 6, 2014, we began the adventure of a lifetime. I couldn’t have had two more amazing traveling companions. Their passion for Scotland equaled mine. They understood how seeing Scotland for the first time felt like a homecoming instead, because they felt that way too. We shared experiences and tours, breathtaking views and cozy hotel rooms. Harry was gracious about the daily quest that Mindy and I had of finding a new spot for afternoon tea. That custom became one of our most treasured memories of our 10 days together. The afternoon that we stood before Thirlestane Castle, in the small village of Lauder, we knew we had journeyed home. Mindy and I allowed Harry to get ahead of us and trot back occasionally to find us while we slowly explored the castle. We sensed so much there….ancestral family, faded grandeur, ancient history. We whispered as we stood in a paneled study, feeling all that was present with us there and knowing that we were surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses”.

Mindy and Cindy at Thirlestane Castle

I am so thankful for that trip. So grateful that Mindy and Harry asked me to accompany them. I will never forget the experience or the closeness we shared. Shortly after our return, Mindy discovered that the cancer had returned. She was quiet about it, only telling a few people. She didn’t want others to worry about her. She had fought this battle before. She intended to fight it again, and win. Sometimes victory looks differently than what we imagine. Mindy and I discussed a word for her, for 2015, at one of our lunch meetings, after she learned the extent of her illness. She chose the word Hope. I loved that choice. I love it still. There is hope. She did win. I know I will see Mindy again. And, I know she is present in spirit. Even now, as I type, I feel her here with me, making my scalp tingle as she watches over my shoulder while I try to capture what she meant to me in a short blog post. I love you, girl. Thank you for enriching my life. Your son, is my son now. Your brother, my brother. I will watch over them. I know you are watching over them too.

I am reminded of this quote from Gandalf the White, when Pippen the Hobbit thought the end was near. Says Gandalf, “End? No, the Journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.” That sounds a lot like Scotland. Enjoy that far green country, my dear Mindy. I will meet you there someday.

Mindy a far green country

Day 355: Winter Solstice & Look on the Bright Side Day

Look on the Bright Side Day Winter Solstice

It’s no coincidence that these two celebrations share the same date. This day marks the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. It is not only the beginning of winter, but it is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Look on the Bright Side Day encourages us to look for the light today, and find optimism on what could be a dark and gloomy day.

That is certainly true in Missouri today. It was very overcast, chilly and breezy. We’ve had a lot of overcast days lately, which is typical for December in the Ozarks. It sure makes me appreciate the occasional sunbeam that punches through the mass of grey. I tilt my face upwards, like a flower seeking the light, and let the warmth and brightness wash over me. Today, not even a feeble ray of sunshine made it through the heavy clouds. I decided to be aware of both events by seeking the light and holding on to optimism and this evening by lighting candles inside and outside the house.

The seasons are marked by equinoxes and solstices, which relate to the tilt of the Earth. The equinoxes herald the beginning of spring and fall and the days and nights are about equal in duration. The solstices for winter and summer mark the points at which the Earth’s poles are most tilted away from or toward the sun. During summer solstice the day is long and the night short, just the opposite of winter solstice. This year, the precise moment of the winter solstice occurred at 6:03 pm. At that moment, the north pole was tipped the farthest from the sun.

I couldn’t think of a better way to combat a gloomy afternoon than to meet my cousins, Mindy, Jeff and Harry, at the Neosho Cinema 6 to watch, what else, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. This was another first, as I have never been to this theater before. And it was Mindy’s first viewing of the movie. I was looking forward to watching the film together.

Look on the Bright Side Day

I had a funny incident at the theater, involving the word of the day: Light. Mindy thought the movie started at 12:30 and we had planned to meet at 12:15 at the theater. I arrived in the parking lot, having driven south from Joplin, at 12:14. As I got out of the car and snapped a pic of the theater, I saw that the marquee had the time for the movie listed as 12:15. I spotted my cousin’s small blue car in the parking lot and rushed inside to purchase my ticket. The kind person behind the counter assured me that the previews had started but I had time to get to the correct auditorium before the movie started. The only problem was, the lights were already dimmed and it was very dark in the auditorium, even with the preview playing. I paused to allow my eyes to adjust but I still couldn’t see well enough to make out who was who. I quietly crept up and down the aisles, trying to scan faces in the gloom. I thought about calling out my cousin’s name but didn’t want to bother people any more than I already was! Finally I stood still, toward the front row of seats, and thought, “I need more light.” At that exact moment, a very bright scene appeared on the big screen, during a new preview, and for a moment, I could see the entire auditorium clearly. My cousins weren’t there! I had beat them to the theater. Apparently, that was NOT my cousin’s car in the parking lot. I was grateful that I had refrained from yelling out Mindy’s name. I sat on the back row and was able to see my cousins as they arrived.

This evening, darkness gathered by late afternoon. I lit eight candles on my front porch, to send beams of light into the darkness. Inside, I lit candles in every room, their tiny flames creating pockets of warmth and light. It is homey….and beautiful. Tonight, before I head to bed, I will spend some quiet time reflecting on all the Brightness in my life. It is not hard for me to find the bright side in situations, although expressing gratitude is vital. More amazing for me, is that the darkness of this long night will not bring a chill of fear into my heart. Beyond the light of overhead fixtures and lamps and lit candles, is the Light around me and within me that leaves no room for darkness or for fear. That glow shines brightly, even when the candles are snuffed out and I’ve flipped off the lights, as long as I keep my heart open and cleared of the clutter that can, unchecked, block or distort the light and invite darkness. May my light shine, a pure and brilliant radiance, on this, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. And tomorrow I celebrate, for the days are growing longer again.

Look on the Bright Side Day candles

Day 219: First Day in Scotland


After long flights and 3 hours of sleep, during the past 2 days, I have arrived in Scotland with my cousins. The plane had a great feature, a map that could be pulled up on the screen attached to the back of the seat in front me. Mindy, Harry and I could watch our progress as the little plane on the screen flew across the Atlantic. The feature also gave updates on distance traveled and estimated time of arrival.

I tried to sleep but it was impossible. In between watching a couple of movies I’d check our progress. As the little plane symbol moved closer and closer to its destination I got more and more excited. The sun that had just set a few hours before greeted us again as we flew east. Harry opened the window shades and we caught glimpses of Ireland below us. At last Scotland came into view with her coastline and fields and plentiful bodies of water. She called to me so strongly.

We stepped out of the airport and into the crisp morning air. It was about 8:30 Glasgow time although to our weary bodies it felt like 2:30 am. The sun was shining and I fell in love immediately.

While waiting for our room to be ready at Hotel Indigo we walked around the area, marveling at the mix of new, very modern architecture and ancient stone buildings with statues and imposing facades.

Our lack of sleep began to wear on us. We gratefully entered our room, and once we learned to put the room key into the appropriate slot so that the lights worked, we gave in and slept for a short time. The Hotel Indigo is charming and perfect for our needs.

After restorative naps and showers we were back out exploring Glasgow. The people here are friendly and helpful, especially to visitors who don’t know yet what they are doing! We found a variety of shops and restaurants in our area. The Glasgow Kilt Company caught our eye and we made our first purchases there. The friendly proprietor suggested we visit The Horseshoe Pub, just around the corner, for an authentic Scottish experience and to soak up atmosphere. That’s exactly what we were looking for!

We had a great meal of fish & chips and a glass of Guinness. We chatted with more friendly locals and did, indeed, soak up charm and ambience.

It was a wonderful first day in Scotland. It’s going to be an early night for us as we catch up on sleep however tomorrow is another day to explore further out in this fascinating city.

Last night as I watched the plane on the screen, arcing over the Atlantic, I thought of Samwise Gamgee from Fellowship of the Rings. At the edge of the shire he paused, telling Frodo “If I take one more step, I’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” Watching the plane near Scotland I realized how far from home I was. And yet how near to my great adventure I was as well. Like Sam, I took that next step, at least, in my heart and mind while on that plane. And today, I stepped on Scottish soil. The adventure continues!