Anxiety

I have dark green eyes with gold flecks, brown hair with red highlights, and a lot of freckles. I also have anxiety. And so does everyone in my immediate family. It sucks. Mine is generalized. It’s like carrying an extra suitcase around with me EVERY SINGLE DAY. It makes everything I do a little more exhausting than it needs to be. I am pretty good at faking it till I make it, but this act is also exhausting. Watching the people I love struggle with anxiety compounds my own anxiety. And I’m sure I’ve added to their anxiety as well. It really is amazing that we function as well as we do.

Some days are worse than others. Today is one of those days. Thankfully, it’s not keeping me from doing the thing that’s making me anxious, but I’m having a hard time focusing on the things I could be doing while I’m waiting to do this thing. I’ve been pacing and puttering instead, putting off things I could be doing that would give me a sense of accomplishment. God forbid I tell anxiety to go sit in the back seat. He’s riding shotgun with one of his hands on the wheel. Ugh! So I am writing. Writing to take the wheel back. Writing to let go of that suitcase. And feeling my feet on the ground.

Thanks for reading,

Jen

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Sweet Summer Eventide

I am so thrilled with the addition of solar-powered twinkle lights to my secret garden: Hidden Rooms and Secret Gardens.  These lights enhance the gentle quieting of the busy, bright day as it softens into the deep darkness of night. Caught between the last fiery glow of the sinking sun and the rolling dark shadows emerging from the woods, eventide temporarily bridges these two worlds. Isn’t eventide (evening) such a lovely word!? Its origin is Old English and rarely used today, but it is such a perfect word for this in-between time of day that some believe is the portal to the other-worldly where ancient myths, folklore, and fairies live on. I am firmly grounded in the real world, but I still feel the tug of sweet summer eventide beckoning me to join the mysteries of the ages and  return to the wonder of my childhood:

 

“There is such a place as Fairyland – but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know it is Fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of the common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where they once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten their way to fairyland.”   – L. M. Montgomery

 

Good Eventide,

Jen

 

 

 

 

 

June Intention: Lighten Up!

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

 

 

June is here! 30 wonderful days of late spring and early summer delights. During this  month I plan on lightening up and savoring the bounty of this magical time. These are the delights I am most excited about:

  1. Searching for fireflies
  2. Stargazing
  3. Strawberry shortcake
  4. Freshly made strawberry margaritas
  5. Strawberry everything and anything
  6. Peonies!
  7. Puttering around my gardens
  8. Bare feet in the grass
  9. Read, read, read, and read!
  10. Morning coffee on my porch…every morning!
  11. Porch living
  12. Enjoying my Secret GardenHidden Rooms and Secret Gardens
  13. Bird watching
  14. Camp fires and s’mores with family and friends
  15. Hammock naps
  16. Early morning walks and swims
  17. Shorts and flip-flops
  18. Yoga outside
  19. Summer solstice
  20. Creating flower arrangements from my gardens
  21. Ladder ball and badminton
  22. Open windows!
  23. Outdoor fairy lights
  24. Driving with the sunroof open
  25. Sun showers and rainbows
  26. Dining alfresco
  27. Butterflies
  28. Dragonflies
  29. Hummingbirds
  30. The beach!

I am writing this on the eve of June, outside on my porch. Both my bird feeder and my hummingbird feeder are active. Butterflies flit and float across the lawn and around my gardens. The sun is slowly setting behind the trees while a hermit thrush or two call from deep within the woods and a tree frog trills its mating call.  The scent of freshly cut grass sweetens the air and the gentleness of sweet eventide begins to pull its blanket over the earth. I hope you find your own delights of June wherever you live or June’s delights find you.

Happy June!

-Jen

 

Hidden Rooms and Secret Gardens

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Photo by Little Visuals on Pexels.com

I have these recurring dreams involving undiscovered rooms in my house. At first, these hidden rooms were extra “rooms” in my basement. They often were cold, empty, cement spaces and one of them always seem to have leftover concrete debris from a construction job. I would experience a thrilling sense of possibility and mystery each time I discovered one of these new rooms and there were always many of them. The only glitch was what to do with the heaping pile of broken cement left in that one room. It left me perplexed and a bit anxious, but that disappointment paled in comparison to the rush I felt every time I opened the door to another unknown room. After a couple of dreams like that there was a shift in the appearance of these mystery rooms. They would have some furniture in them that gave some hint of what they had once been or could be used for. They were warmer and homier. And, like the rooms with leftover chunks of broken cement, there would still be this one room that perplexed me. Sometimes that one room would have a lot of junk belonging to a previous family or simply be completely neglected room. Lately, my undiscovered room dreams have moved to the second floor of my house (which is not always my actual real life house). At first, I would open a door and find an extra bedroom followed by a fully functional bathroom and then another. They were rather plain and apparently had not been used in decades, but once again the discovery brought forth a sense of excitement and possibility.  And lately, these dreams have taken on a whole new dimension.  The bedrooms and bathrooms are sumptuously decorated in brocades, turn-of-the-century ornate furniture, antique faucets etc.  And the further up the stairs I climb the more bedrooms and bathrooms I discover.

What is it about discovery, the act of making something known or visible, so enticing? Each door I opened filled me with wonder and mystery and I have never once tired of opening one.  As a young child, almost every experience was like opening a new door. And nothing held my interest more than the nature that surrounded me. Each new plant I discovered in my lawn, alongside the roads, in the meadows, deep in the woods, and along the water’s edges brought that same sense of excitement and wonder. And when a neighbor taught me the names of some of those plants well I just about swooned. That was a revelation to my six year old self. Having a name for all these interesting growing things made them both more real and wondrous at the same time.  And as I ventured further into the woods and meadows I began to notice that nature had hidden rooms as well. I once stumbled upon a secret lower meadow after following a path downhill from a horse pasture. This is where I first saw pussy willows growing among the tall grasses. Surrounded by woods and hidden from the road I was absolutely delighted by my discovery. My brother and I would sometimes forge paths through the tall grasses and play hide-and-go-seek.  The after effect was a labyrinth of “hidden rooms” in the pasture. Hidden rooms also existed under pine trees where you could hide or play house behind the boughs on a bed of sweet smelling pine needles. In the winter we created our own secret places by building snow forts complete with tunnels and rooms. Even just a small patch of grass bordered by a fence and the house made for the perfect secret place to play.  The potential is everywhere and its pull on my psyche has never left.

My hidden room is a secret garden I created a few years ago. It lies between the last ten feet of our outer wooden fence and the first ten feet of another wooden fence that surrounds our pool. They overlap, one in front of the other and this small area opens to a patch of woods on my property. I was always attracted to this secret part of my yard and yearned to create a quiet, hidden retreat. But there was a big problem: a huge honeysuckle bush lived there. And once I learned that this bush was an invasive plant I had the ammo I needed to rip that thing out of my yard. It took me quite a few days and a lot of determination and sweat, but I cut that whole bush out and pulled up the roots.  I then decided to edge the mound where this bush no longer lived with some good sized rocks many of which I dug out of the ground when I removed the bush. The following year I added hostas, astilbe, and native plants from the nearby woods such as Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Solomon’s seal, false Solomon’s seal, and anemone. I then placed a bench for a quiet place to relax and be.   This year I plan on adding annuals once again to fill out the empty spaces. I’m drawn to the color purple right now as I feel it complements green stems and leaves so well.  I’m also wondering if I can add some kind of light feature for the evenings: maybe a set of solar powered fairy lights or lanterns. Isn’t it lovely to just ponder the possibilities!?  I don’t expect it to ever really be finished. I’m certain I will add and take away as I see fit over the course of a season and throughout the years.  Here’s how it looked two years ago:

It is so satisfying to transform a dream into reality, even if it’s just a “hidden room” in your yard – a secret garden to escape the world even if just for a moment. A place to entertain possibility, hope, stillness, and creativity – a portal back to our childhoods.

“I do not understand how anyone cannot live without one small place of enchantment to turn to.” – Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings

 

Thanks for reading,

Jen

May Intention: Connecting with Nature

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Last month was such a beautiful month. Spring arrived around mid April when I had a whole week off for vacation. I used that time to honor my April intention: Connecting with Friends. I unfortunately did not get around to writing about it, but I certainly did follow through with it. I reached out to my mom friends and some dear “old” friends and reconnected after a long activity-filled winter. Since returning to work full-time a couple of years ago it’s been a lot more challenging to stay in touch with everyone, especially as down time spent reading, puttering, gardening, and being alone with my family is equally important to my well-being.

During the month of May I am turning towards my Connection with Nature as it starts to show off all its glory. I am constantly and greedily stalking my yard for signs of the newest plant and bird arrivals. I especially love to walk through the woods to see the native woodland plants and flowers. One of my favorite woodland plants is the Jack-in-the-Pulpit. It is such a striking and whimsical looking plant. It conjures up magic and a sense of wonder every time I see it. I even dug a few up from the woods on my property and transplanted them into my secret garden. (More on that in another post.) I also spend a lot of time looking for non native plants (invasive plants) that threaten my yard and yank them out.  Mostly I’ve been scanning for garlic mustard, Oriental bittersweet, young burning bush plants (they are so easy to pull out of the ground), and barberry. I’ve learned that garlic mustard releases a chemical into the ground that makes it inhospitable for native plants like Jack-in-the-Pulpit to grow. I will not be having that in my yard. It takes everything in my power not to sneak into my neighbors’ yards and pull these plants out. You should see me peering into my neighbor’s wooded lot on the edge of their field. The temptation is killing me! Well, once I’m old and I stop caring what people think I will most certainly be THAT old lady. The one who rips invasive plants out of your yard in broad daylight. or at least nags and threatens you to do it. I’ll have to conjure up my inner Frances McDormand and all her sass to pull that off.

If the weather cooperates (it has been very uncooperative) I hope to get at least two hikes in this month and a visit to the Wildflower Woodland Garden at Stanley Park in Westfield, MA. Many native wildflowers will be in full bloom this month before the tree canopies fill out and block the sun. I also hope to visit the Becket Historic Quarry in Becket, MA for one of my hikes with my father and my son. It’s an open air museum of an abandoned granite quarry that was in operation from the 1860s through the 1960s. Much of the machinery was just left frozen in time along the trails. My great grandfather worked at this quarry when he was a young man and the house his father built is not too far away.  The owner remembers how my great grandfather would drive out there on Sundays to check on the Turner homestead when she was just a girl. So I guess I can check off family history too for the month of May.

I am also patiently waiting for the arrival of the ruby-throated hummingbird, (He returned before I finished writing this!) the Baltimore oriole, and the gray catbird among others. It’s the simple things in life that bring me happiness. I keep track of all our animal/bird sightings on a chalkboard in the kitchen. May is a great month to start this as so many animals are out and about and the birds are returning from their wintering grounds. It’s fun to look back and see all the critters that share our neighborhood; however, I do wish the woodchuck would move on to someone else’s yard. He ate ALL of me black-eyed susans last year and I haven’t forgiven him and I don’t think I ever will. But, during my walk this evening I heard the tranquil song of the returning wood thrush calling from deep in the woods and all felt right in the world. I even forgot about the woodchuck. Another spring has sprung.

I hope May is beautiful where you are too.

-Jen

 

 

The Gifts of Spring

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Last Friday a huge rainstorm marched across western Massachusetts and erased most of our snow cover exposing a mostly brown, barren earth. It seemed as if Mother Nature was preparing her canvas to contrast against the lights and brights of emerging spring. But Mother Nature will take her time with her spring canvas here in New England. She may even decide to bring us a Nor’ester if she gets bored with her dirty brown backdrop. Her final brush strokes won’t be painted on until mid June. While she is adding her colors here and there, week after week, I will be both listening and looking for, breathing in, and enjoying the gifts of spring as I do year after year. I will be inspired by the return of life after another long, cold, gray winter. And without further ado I bring you the gifts of spring:

1. Songbird songs: I find listening to songbirds a great way to escape the ceaseless thinking of my mind. Starting some time in late January I noticed an increase in birdsong from our native songbirds as the sun crept slowly over the mountain earlier and earlier. Now, about seven weeks later, they were all trying to outdo one another with their signature melodies as I pattered about the kitchen preparing lunches and coffee this morning. The house finches and the gold finches, I think, are in a battle for the top spot with their sweet up and down whistling music. If you haven’t filled your bird feeders yet now is a great time.  (Unless bears are common backyard visitors.) You may find that some of your bird friends have decided to nest in or near your yard. And watching the young fledge is quite a treat.

2. Peepers: Suddenly one evening you will notice their chirping if you’re lucky to live near some wetlands or a stream. These little amphibians signal the thawing of the earth and emerge to lull us into the evening hours with their steady song. Every evening I either pause when I get out of my car or open my front door and listen. I cannot wait to hear their sweet spring chorus.

3. Spring smell: There is nothing better than breathing in the scent of wet, warm earth after a rainstorm. It’s not quite warm enough yet to experience this sweet invigorating perfume here, but I am anticipating its arrival. It makes me want to start digging and planting.

4. Tree bud haze: I love when you’re driving along the highway and there is a soft wash of light reds and greens covering the trees up and down the valley and along the sides of all the roads. On sunny mild days I like to inspect the buds on the trees in my yard anticipating this beautiful display. Patience is required as it’s only late March but the transformation is worth every cold day.

5. The very first crocus: I’m still waiting to see this harbinger of spring. I know all the exact places in my neighborhood where I might see these little guys, and you can be sure I’ve been stalking them on my walks. I remember the very first time I took notice of them. I was probably about 7 years old skipping about my great-grandfather’s property when I suddenly ran into them in his backyard.  There were dozens and dozens of them broadcast throughout the lawn. I remember standing there transfixed by the sheer delight of discovery and beauty. That was just the beginning of the very magical place his backyard was for me. The very first crocus brings me right back to that time of youthful mystery and magic.

6. The arrival of the tropical birds: Soon our native birds will have to make room for our summer visitors. Throughout April and May birds from South and Central America will flood our neighborhoods like the tourists in Cape Cod every summer. Some will have flashy colors like the scarlet tanager, the rose-breasted grosbeak, and the Baltimore oriole. Others will spend most of their time high up in the treetops such as many of the warblers. It is an adventure to go looking for them.  There are too many to write about here, but spotting one of these birds always brings me joy and excitement. One of my favorite visitors is the wood thrush. They are rarely seen and never come to bird feeders, but if you live near a significantly wooded area you will hear their beautiful song every morning and evening. They call out from the mountain near my house and I am momentarily transfixed into a state of peace. Henry David Thoreau said this about the wood thrush:

“Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; whenever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.”

And I leave you here with these gifts of spring. Has spring arrived where you live? Are you still in the depths of winter like my neighbors in the Berkshires? What are you looking most forward to this spring?

Thanks for reading,

Jen

 

March Intention: Self-Compassion

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Photo by Kasuma on Pexels.com

I felt the warm rising sun on my face this morning as I drove to work realizing that just a month ago that sun was barely over the mountain at that same time. Day light is increasing but the warm weather will be slow to follow. It will appear in fits and starts starting in late April…if we’re lucky. My husband and I call the season between March 1 and April 20 Sprinter. It’s basically just more winter during spring.  (Yes, I realize it’s technically still winter and I shouldn’t expect mild sunny days, but I am so done with this fierce cold.  Spring takes a LONG time to reveal itself around here and I’m afraid my patience is waning. There are only three things to look forward to this month: maple syrup, corned beef, and knowing that the following several months will contain delights that only warmer weather can bring forth.

My intention for March is to practice self-compassion. As illustrated by my previous post Feeling Like the Worst Mother in the World I am sorely in need of this. I was in a state of self-loathing. If any of my friends had treated me the way I treated myself I would have been very hurt. I just could not stop beating myself up. I tried box breathing, praying, reframing, exercising, but mostly I just succumbed to my worst thoughts and moped around the house. IT WAS AWFUL! And it turned out that my daughter’s passport was not in the envelope I tossed. But no. We still never ever saw it, never mind found it.  It’s probably buried in a snowbank next to the mailbox.  Anyway, back to self-compassion. In support of my quest to grant myself a little more grace when my humanity comes into full bloom I’m reading Kristin Neff’s  Self-Compassion book. Yeah. I think I opened a can of worms because this is not something I will fix in one month. But I like to think that’s I’ve planted a seed and created an awareness that didn’t exist before.

And my first act of grace will be to not commit myself to a thirty day goal. I simply don’t have the energy for the commitment. Instead, I’m going to take each day as it comes and do what I can, and let the rest fall to the periphery.

Take care,

Jen