The day was gray and overcast. However, far from being depressing, the grayness provided an effective contrast for the burgeoning colors and golden light of autumn.
I felt inspired to capture those golden tones by lighting candles throughout the house and on the deck. Not only did the glow from candles warm my home and welcome in autumn, they created their own pools of gold, reminding me of the importance of being Light in the darkness.
Golden Autumn Throughout the House
This Sunday Short is captured through the power of photos, accompanied by some of my favorite quotes about this season.
“Turn your face to the Light, and the shadows fall behind you.” Unknown
“Know what sparks the light in you. Then use that light to illuminate the world.” Oprah
“There will always be a spiritual light that beckons to us, giving us the hope of rescue and relief.” L. Whitney Clayton
“I am struck by the simplicity of light in the atmosphere of autumn, as if the earth absorbed none, and out of this profusion of dazzling light came the autumnal tints.” Henry David Thoreau
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl
Before the light faded from the autumn sky, I slipped outside. The rust and gold colored tassels adorning the ornamental grasses in the garden stirred in the breeze. There was a ripple of energy in the garden, born by the wind but independent from it.
The energy carried the stories of plants nodding off to sleep, after a time of great growth, and falling leaves, and the promise of long nights of rest and contemplation. Autumn marks the beginning of a time of harvesting what we have created and of nourishing and replenishing ourselves.
How appropriate are the colors of fall, to warm our souls and our nights. How necessary the golden light of autumn to illuminate our way through winter’s darkness, until spring makes all things new.
My daughter Elissa and I met this afternoon at Bookhouse Cinema, Joplin’s wonderful indie theater. The newly released film, Juliet, Naked, was playing and both of us wanted to see it.
This romantic comedy stars Chris O’Dowd, Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Lily Brazier. Juliet, Naked, directed by Jesse Peretz, is based on the Nick Hornby novel by the same name. It carries an R rating, for language and adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Annie (Byrne) lives a careful life in a small English sea side town. She runs the local historical museum, a job she inherited from her father, interacts with her spirited sister Ros (Brazier), and feels more and more confined in her relationship with her boyfriend.
Annie and Duncan (O’Dowd) have lived together for 15 years. He teaches classic literature and American films at a nearby college. However his passion, which borders on obsession, is with an obscure US singer and song writer, Tucker Crowe (Hawke). It matters not that Crowe hasn’t performed in years or released new albums. Duncan collects facts, posters and demos and hosts an online site devoted to the elusive singer and his die hard fans.
Too Small a Story
Duncan’s obsession over the rocker is too small a story for Annie to live and thrive in. Chafing within the confinement she’s helped to create, Annie considers having children as a way to expand her life. And then life itself intervenes. An acoustical demo arrives, of Crowe’s early hit Juliet, Naked. Annie attempts to dampen Duncan’s over-the-top enthusiasm for the demo by writing a less than complimentary review of the song, which she posts to his website.
To her surprise, her comments draw a response from the artist himself, who agrees with her statements. Annie and Tucker begin a transatlantic correspondence that deepens day by day. They share openly and honestly about the disappointments and challenges each has experienced the past twenty years.
When Tucker seizes an opportunity to fly to London, he and Annie arrange to meet. Communicating via email and text was easy. In person, life is messier and people and relationships are more complicated. There is much to discover and sort out as new connections are created.
Familiar Story with a Fresh Feel
Juliet, Naked is most definitely a romantic comedy, with an emphasis on the comedic element. Chris O’Dowd, with his strange and singular focus on another man’s life, caused me to laugh out loud numerous times.
This film manages to go beyond the rom com label however. It offers a sincere glimpse at what a stuck life can look like and feel like. All of the characters are caught in small stories of their own making, and challenged to free themselves.
As the film’s storyline unfolds, with strong performances by Byrne and Hawke that balance O’Dowd’s humor, the characters grow in awareness and depth. They figure their crap out…or at least, they begin to. And they realize that past decisions shaped their lives, but new choices shift the future. Bigger stories to live in are possible. It’s up to each person to create them.
This movie can be summed up well by a quote from an older character in the film, Edna. During a museum exhibition, she looks at an old photo of herself with friends and shares, “[This] was George. He was a fast worker. He wanted a bit of fun. I wish I did too, but I fought him off. I thought, ‘Edna, you can never go wrong not doing something. It’s the things that you do that get you into trouble.’ Here I am 84 years old and I’ve never been in trouble in my whole bloody life. Goddammit!”
It’s the things you do that you remember and the things you don’t do that you regret.
Juliet, Naked is the kind of movie that I deeply enjoy…funny, sweet, and insightful with characters that open up, explore who they are, and grow as they learn. I left the theater appreciating this indie film and it’s message of creating a bigger life.
Late last year, I spit into a test tube and submitted my DNA to Ancestry.com, curious to discover the origins of my ancestors. A few weeks later, I got the results back. As more and more people have tracked their ancestry this past year, by submitting their own DNA, the better the company has been able to refine the results.
Recently I received updated results that better define the regions of the world that my ancestors came from. England, Wales and Northwestern Europe comprise my greatest ethnicity, followed by Ireland and Scotland. These regions appeared on my first set of results. However my updated report listed several new regions while eliminating low confidence areas. The newly added regions included Germanic Europe, Sweden and areas in Central Africa that include Cameroon, Congo and the Southern Bantu Peoples.
I am in the process of exploring my heritage through the Ancestry website, creating a detailed family tree. I’m back seven generations and excited to learn more about my diverse background and the many unique individuals that contributed to me being the person I am.
The Sound of Ancestry
Just this past week, a marvelous opportunity was presented, through a partnership between Ancestry and the online music streaming service, Spotify. They create, for free, an eclectic playlist of songs inspired by each participant’s origins.
I could choose up to five regions, which is precisely the number I have, and Spotify selected four representative songs per area. This is such a clever idea…and I adore cleverness.
I immediately accepted this gracious invitation and submitted my regions to Spotify, who then created a playlist that uniquely captures who I am.
Inspired by My Ancestry
I spend quite a lot of time in the car. The last few days I’ve been listening to the Unique Sound of My Ancestry as I drive. From African chants to the English group Duran Duran to German jazz, my car is filled with a blend of music that is indeed as unique as I am.
I am enchanted. My heart beats faster and my eyes fill with tears. I am beyond grateful for such a beautiful gift.
And I am inspired. I’m inspired and moved by music that represents my heritage, and I am inspired and motivated to not only learn all I can about each of my regions, but to visit them as well.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind.”
The world is speaking to me through music as well, and it is a siren call, an invitation. My heart and soul are responding.
Greg’s dear mother, Leta Mae Davidson Moore, passed away in 1999. She was a generous, loving, kind hearted woman who never lost her child like sense of wonder for the world. When I married her son, I became the daughter she had always longed for, and we spent many happy hours together over the years, talking, shopping and simply spending time together. She loved being Mimi to her three grandchildren and my kids carry precious memories of her.
A few years after her death, Greg’s dad allowed me to bring home a set of old curling irons that belonged to Leta when she was a girl. Even though her hair appeared to easily arrange itself into natural curls, Leta must have used these irons often. She kept them into adulthood and although she stopped using them on her hair, she had the irons mounted on a bright pink backing board and framed. I am honored to be the keeper of these vintage curling irons.
Curling irons have been used for thousands of years, and not just by women. In Babylonia, Greece, and Egypt men used heated irons to curl their hair and beards. And women have depended on irons to keep up with fashion’s demand for curls for just as long.
In 1866 Hiram Maxim obtained the first patent for a curling iron. These tongs were heated in a fire or atop a stove and hair was wrapped around them, creating curls. By 1890 French inventors Maurice Lentheric and Marcel Grateau used hot-air drying and heated curling tongs to make deep, long-lasting Marcel waves.
Born in 1922, Leta was the youngest of four children and the only daughter in her family. I’m not sure when the curling irons were purchased, however I know Leta used them as a child and teenager. I can imagine her mother heating the irons on the stove and then carefully creating curls in her young daughter’s light brown hair.
From my research I’ve learned one had to be very careful indeed using these old curling irons. Unlike today’s electric curling irons, there was no way to regulate the temperature. The metal irons could become hot enough to scorch the hair, or worse, burn the hair badly enough that it broke off from the scalp. Leta’s mother must have taught her girl how to heat the irons to just the right temperature and how to test the warmth.
Photos of Leta Mae throughout her childhood and youth reveal her beauty and graceful poise, and also her carefully coiffed hair. She apparently mastered the feminine art of styling her hair.
By the time I knew this wonderful woman, she visited a salon weekly, and allowed her favorite stylist to cut and curl her hair. Leta was the only adult female I ever knew who depended on another to wash and style her hair for her. She had the charming custom, however, of adding small pink spongy curlers just around her hairline every night, before bed. To hold those curlers securely in place, she wrapped strips of toilet paper around her head.
My children still giggle over the memory of Mimi Leta in her robe, with her bedtime curlers and toilet paper wrapped head.
Keeper of the Curling Irons
I am happy to have Leta’s curling irons. I stood many times with my mother-in-law, in her bedroom, looking at her childhood keepsakes hanging on the wall. She spoke fondly of them and the long ago days when they were used.
I wish I had asked her more questions about them. Or that I had sat on the bed or the carpeted floor and asked her to tell me stories of her childhood. I heard a few. But now, with her gone almost 20 years, I’d love to hear more, know more.
I think of Leta every time I look at these vintage irons, and I miss her. I hope she knows how precious they are to me. My own daughters have a bit more wave to their hair than I do, and they have certainly spent time before a mirror, coaxing their long hair into curls. Someday I will pass Leta’s curling irons on to her granddaughters, perhaps breaking the set apart and giving one to each girl! I think Mimi Leta will smile about that, and reach up to pat her shining curls into place.
With some other things requiring my time and attention this evening, I’m posting tonight under a new category: Wee Wednesday Thoughts! Similar to a Sunday Short, I’m offering a couple of thoughts around a favorite meme. In this case, there are two quotes that inspired me. Bringing them together, in my mind and in print, in turn inspired the title…Wandering Traveler.
Becoming New Again
The first quote that snagged my attention and my heart is posted below in a fresh meme that I created.
Those words resonate deeply with me. I travel for those very reasons…to expand my perspectives and my soul, and to experience routine things in new ways. The “eating vegetables” appealed to me especially, as one who embraces a plant based lifestyle. The meme above features a plate of veggies that I enjoyed in Italy last year.
As a wandering traveler, having new experiences tops my list of why I seek out other cities in far away lands.
Making New Things Familiar
The second quote that filled me with joy became my second meme tonight.
These words capture why I write and why I share my thoughts. My great desire is to inspire others to see the world in different, bigger ways. I do that by making familiar every day experiences fresh…I’ve been told I can create a story around the most ordinary routines and offer a different way of seeing them…and by making new adventures feel familiar, in an invitational, you-can-do-this-too way.
In the space between those two ways of viewing reality, a magical life unfolds and reveals itself.
My being thrives best where those two memes overlap…leaving the familiar to create new experiences, and writing about them. That’s the life that calls to me and where the Divine is leading me.
I am becoming…a wandering, traveling, grab life by the horns…writer. I’m creating the life I want, one adventure at a time.
Although I watched Queen of Katwe last week, I saved the review until after the Hygge Challenge, for a reason. I needed time to unpack the truths. This film, based on a true story, found its way to me in an unusual fashion. Not only did the story inspire me, it underscored that something magical is occurring in my life.
This trek down the rabbit hole began when my daughter Elissa sent me a quote:
“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place where you belong.” From the film Queen of Katwe
She had not heard of the movie, nor did she look it up. Elissa loved the quote and thought I would appreciate it. Plus, there was the intriguing word queen listed in the source of the quote. The queen chess piece is my symbol for 2019 and the word and image continue to show up daily in my life.
I loved the quote too. And being unfamiliar with the film, I looked it up. This is what I read, as a summary of the storyline:
A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.
Amazed, once again, I had to watch the movie.
Queen of a Film
Queen of Katwe stars Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Kabanza and Hope Katende. This biographical drama, directed by Mira Nair, is based on the book by the same title written by Tim Crothers. The movie carries a PG rating, for adult themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.
A young Ugandan girl, Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga), lives in the slum town of Katwe with her mother and siblings. After the death of her husband, Phiona’s mother Harriet (Nyong’o) struggles to feed and provide for her four children. She moves them from house to dilapidated house, barely able to survive.
The children are removed from school and help their mother by selling maize on the litter strewn streets.
Changing Her Life
Life is difficult and the future bleak, until Phiona follows her younger brother Brian (Kabanza) one day to a neighborhood mission. There she meets Coach Robert Katende (Oyelowo) and watches as children from Katwe play chess. The boards are hand painted and the chess pieces rough, however Phiona and several of the other children discover that they have a knack for the game of strategy.
In fact, Coach Katende quickly realizes that Phiona is a chess prodigy, able to visualize eight moves ahead. He and his wife Hope (played in the film by the real life Hope Katende) alter their plans and make choices that allow them to help Phiona and the children of Katwe have a chance at a better life.
From the poorest of the poor families struggling in the slums, Phiona learns to read, studies books about chess and yearns to become a master of the game. This brilliant and amazing girl moves step by step, from a mission house to competitions to international tournaments, her life shifting to parallel the game she is mastering.
From Pawn to Queen
I was so deeply moved by this film, which is available on DVD and Netflix. What an incredible impact chess had on Phiona and the other children of Katwe. And how life changing was the love of Coach Katende and his wife Hope, for families whose lives appeared hopeless. Coach showed great respect for Phiona’s mother, honoring her as he recognized the difficult sacrifices she made for her children.
This feel good movie is cheer worthy. I was in tears by the end and literally applauding. As I usually do after watching a film based on a true story, I fact checked and found the events and portrayals in Queen of Katwe to be accurate. To my delight, an added bonus during the end credits brings together the actors and the people that they played.
I don’t yet fully understand what is going on in my own life, however it revolves around this idea of moving, step by step, from being a pawn to becoming a queen. It’s more than an idea. It’s a Divine invitation to learn, to grow, to leave some things behind and enter into new territory. Queen of Katwe inspired me and challenged me to step up my game, so to speak.
The rest of the quote that Elissa sent me is this:
“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place where you belong. You belong where you believe you belong.” Queen of Katwe
The last day of the 7 Day Fall Hygge Challenge brought me full circle, activity wise. This morning I drew this slip of paper:
Create a Fall Themed Front Porch
The challenge began last week with creating my first fall vignette, and ended late this evening with a reset on the covered porch. I was grateful for the illumination from the porch light!
Summer to Fall on the Porch
I cleared away summer décor with the realization that 2018 was quickly “clearing out” as well. The slightly cooler weather this week is welcomed however and brings with it the promise of leaves changing colors, mild temps and crisp evenings.
The summer palette of blues, greens, yellows and pinks disappeared, making room for the earthy hues of autumn.
Summer begonias are still doing well. Annie’s red box stays the same.
I love the fall colors of red, rust, orange and yellow with hints of green and black. A multicolored rug across the bright yellow entry table sets the tone for ceramic pumpkins, bird cages, scented candles and the perfect word for the season…thanks. The flower wreath above the table echoes the colors of the cotton rug.
Cozy Front Porch
Beneath the table I grouped together a vintage metal gas can and a small bucket filled with berry sprigs at one end. On the other side a green plant remains, partnered with a spice scented jar candle.
Because of my late start on the porch, my reset ended with the entry table. Tomorrow I’ll finish this task by converting the rest of the space. Tonight however, I lit candles and basked for a moment in the cozy glow of flickering flames.
I typically begin my fall decorating with the front porch and then move indoors. The Fall Hygge Challenge reversed that process. I began with a vignette in the dining room, the center of my house, and moved outward.
How very hygge-like, to begin with the interior, the heart, and move outward to the exterior. Coziness is more than a comfortable feeling. It is an expression, a way of life, that does indeed radiate outward from the world I envision to the world I create.
I’m grateful for the Fall Hygge Challenge that helped me to welcome a new season, in my home, on my front porch, and in my life.
I’m racing the clock as I create this post this afternoon ahead of the Day 6 hygge activity. After a full week, I drew this much needed action:
No electronics for the evening.
I define evening as 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM, and by saying “no” to electronics, I’m saying “no” to my cell phone, iPod, TV, and computer.
That makes this evening’s post interesting to write, as I am sharing what my intentions are, and the activity I will carry out, rather than capturing my actions after the fact, through words and photos.
Putting the Electronics Away
It is amazing, in today’s culture, how dependent we are on electronics. My cell phone is never far from me. And it is so much more than a phone. It is a mini computer that I use to take photos, play music, movies and games, save recipes, keep important notes and info, correspond with family, friends and clients, look up property and perform other real estate tasks, stay in touch through social media, check the weather and shop online. And what would I do without Google and the ability to quickly look up info?
I’ve already laughed at myself as I contemplated an evening without electronics and considered working on my family tree (nope that’s online), listening to a podcast (on my phone, so no), trying out a recipe…which was on my phone (can’t)…and watching a movie (leave the TV off). I did write out the recipe by hand, gasp, so I can putter in the kitchen, but I’ll postpone the other activities.
What to Do Apart from Using Electronics
So how do I intend to spend my time this evening? I have delightful and cozy hygge options.
• Cook or bake a treat, without listening to music or scrolling through online recipes.
• Get into cozy clothes and really unwind after this very busy week: walk in the garden, meditate, stretch.
• Brew a cup of hot tea and savor the flavor as I inhale the scent and cradle the cup.
• Light candles in my bedroom and burn dried herbs to clear energy in my room and fill it with a delicate, earthy scent.
• Write in my journal.
• And…read. I picked out a book, Children of Earth and Sky, by an author that is new to me.
Hot hibiscus tea
As I am finishing this post, a couple of hours earlier than I typically do, the evening stretches before me, full of promise. I’m going to turn off the TV and power down other electronics and then tuck my phone away, out of sight.
I know that I’ll instinctively reach for a phone that isn’t there. But that’s okay. This break from electronics allows me to experience the simple pleasures of good, healthy food, a hot beverage and intentional activities, free from distractions.
Electronics aren’t bad. I’m grateful for technology that allows me to easily access information and take care of many details of my life. I’m equally grateful that I control how these gadgets impact my life.
I’m offering a departure tonight from the Fall Hygge Challenge, because today I got to experience a first. I’ve heard of escape rooms but I’ve never participated in one before. Ten family members met at Escape Zombie City, located downtown at 106 S Joplin Avenue.
An escape room, also known as an escape game, is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy to complete objectives. Players are given a set time limit to unveil the secrets hidden within the rooms. Games are set in a variety of fictional locations, such as prison cells, dungeons, and space stations, and usually the various puzzles and riddles follow the theme of the room.
Tonight’s fun escape scenario involved zombies invading the city. The building we were in is a warehouse repurposed into a mock police station. So rather than escaping a single room, our task was to work our way through a 10,000 square foot building, divided into multiple rooms.
This is the story, as posted on the group’s Facebook page:
First room in the challenge. Photo from event Facebook page.
I don’t want to reveal any of the clues or the supplies that need to be found to escape the zombies. I will just say that we had so much fun as we worked out an escape. The storyline was well thought out and developed as we played, the props were wonderfully realistic and the clues challenging. We thoroughly enjoyed the edgy experience.
We screamed and ran in circles in the darkened rooms. Zombies were shot. Ultimately our group of ten came together, working well to solve clues and locate supplies. Laughter rang out as often as shrieks.
We didn’t escape. Time ran out. But we had such a great experience. Hours later we are still talking about how much fun Escape Zombie City was. The event runs weekends through the first week of November. It’s recommended for ages 12 and above.
Today I came so close to skipping the hygge challenge activity. After an extremely long and full day, I stood staring at the covered dish that holds the slips of papers. I had not even drawn one out yet and my phone showed a time of 6:30 PM. I hesitated, feeling how weary I was.
My hesitation was warranted. I know what activities are within that dish. Some require more preparation and time to complete than others. This game teaches me trust, however. I stirred the folded papers, and drew out this activity:
Make a new soup recipe.
Finding a Soup Recipe
I was happy with the “random” selection. Although I felt it was too late to make up a pot of soup, finding a new recipe was very doable. Saturday is already full however by Sunday I could make time to cook.
I gathered several plant based cookbooks and thumbed through them while eating a simple veggie roll for dinner.
Soups are among my favorite meals and fall is the perfect season for creating big pots of soups, stews and chilis. Suddenly a recipe caught my attention. Chunky Red Lentil Stew had a relatively short list of ingredients and two wonderful spices: garam masala and curry.
I had found my soup recipe. And remarkably, the cookbook happened to be Vegan Pressure Cooking. Prep time – 10 minutes. Cook time – 6 minutes. I could do that. With a cup of hot lemongrass tea to fortify me, I made soup.
Chunky Red Lentil Soup
Here is the easy recipe:
2 cups + 2 tablespoons vegetable broth, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon curry
1 tomato, cut into large chunks
1 cup dried red lentils
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sea salt to taste
In uncovered pressure cooker, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable broth on high. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes, until onion is soft. Stir in carrots, garam masala and curry and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add tomato, lentils and remaining 2 cups of vegetable broth. Stir to combine.
Cover and bring to pressure. Cook for 6 minutes. Use quick release.
Remove lid and stir in lemon juice. Taste and add sea salt as needed.
Soup, it Does a Body Good
As the soup cooked in the pressure pot, I cleaned up the kitchen. The incredible aroma of garam masala and curry teased my nose and energized me. I am grateful that I did not let weariness keep me from today’s hygge activity.
Preparing and eating simple, nutritious food is foundational to the hygge lifestyle. And soup is such a warm, comforting and healing meal. Today fall appeared in the form of cool rainy weather, and I can’t think of a better way to practice coziness than preparing a pot of flavorful soup.
I only had a spoonful of the Red Lentil Stew, since it was quite late, however it tasted as wonderful as it smelled. A beautiful soup sits in the fridge, ready to reheat this weekend. Day 5 of the Fall Hygge Challenge turned out to be a rich blessing.