I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
I had my second Covid vaccine Monday morning around 11:00 AM. By 9:00 PM I was feeling “not quite right.” By 11:00 PM, I had the chills, a fever, a headache like none other than I had experienced before in my life, eye pain, body aches, fatigue and nausea. I went to bed, snuggling next to an additional pillow for extra insulation and lots of blankets to keep me warm, even though I live in Florida.
I woke up at some point in the night with what felt like a fever well over 101 degrees and a throat that felt so dry that it felt like knives were sliding down my throat. With the exception of two bouts of type “A” flu several years ago, I had never been this sick. And yet, I wasn’t really sick at all. It was just a reaction for the second Covid shot I had.
I slept most of the day and finally got up around 8 PM to take a shower. As I stood with my head flat against the shower wall, enjoying the soothing and healing water trickle down my back, I couldn’t help but feel grateful. I was sick but not REALLY sick. I kept thinking of all those unfortunate souls that have had Covid and were ACTUALLY sick. I thought about all those unfortunate souls that have had some type of chronic sickness, like cancer or some other dreadful disease. Little more than eighteen hours later, I was well on my way to recovery.
They say it’s the little things that mean a lot. A husband that comes in to check on me repeatedly while I was sleeping to ensure that I was okay, a daughter to give a gentle hug and a smile, dishes loaded up into the dishwasher in a clean kitchen while I slept, calls from dear friends to check on me, and a husband that made sure I had plenty of water available near by all day long is how I will remember this day. I am grateful for what I have time and time again. Life isn’t perfect, but heck it’s good. Damn good.
-“The Bare Necessities” song sung by Baloo in “The Jungle Book”
For some reason, I thought about this song yesterday. It has been years since I’ve seen the movie, “The Jungle Book”, yet that song has stuck with me through the years. It’s application is universal and very timely. When I think about the song’s meaning for my own life I am constantly reminded about what’s really important to me. Time with family. Friends. God. Laughter. Health. Food for the mind. Food for the soul. Food for the body. Exercise. Free will. Freedom. Perhaps everything beyond that is a luxury, even certain brands of toilet paper, napkins, or paper towels in this pandemic. Certain brands of hand soap, too. All luxuries. The pandemic has taken us back a bit to examine what is really meaningful in our lives to help us get back to basics. For every drop of rain that falls, as it has been said, a flower really does grow……..
Life is good. Find and think about what your own bare necessities are if you haven’t already.
I have an amazing friend who lives in another part of the world. He has a certain “joie de vivre” that I can’t possibly explain. I have been fortunate to have had the chance to break bread with him and share a laugh or two over a short period of time. When he smiles, the world smiles with him. My friend recently went on a bike ride while going for a short get away while he was seriously ill and feeling very tired. He was equally tired of all his body has been through with his illness, yet he managed to find joy that day. An explorer and a traveler, my friend adjusted to his status at the time, adapted to what he could do, and revised his conception of adventure during this week end. A picture of him riding his bike that day is one of my favorite pictures of him, as it captures his essence somehow. This friend makes me smile again and again. The world is a better place, in part, because of him. The world is also a funnier place, too, because of him. He knows how to live well, and I admire that in him. He enjoys the love of his beautiful family, great food, travel to exotic places, and reading. One of his favorite songs is “Oh What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, and it has always been one of my favorite songs, too. My friend is an inspiration to many people, including me. I will keep this photo of him etched in my mind and heart forever, feeling fortunate to have had the good fortune of spending time with him, even if a short time.
Today, thinking of my friend, I decided to get on my bike, as I used to really enjoy riding my bike and haven’t done that in a while. Seems like it’s been a long while since I went for a bike ride in the neighborhood. Too long. Can’t believe I haven’t thought of this earlier as I try to find something new or re-connect with something that I used to do as often as I can during this pandemic and self-isolation. It seems pretty easy to social distance on a bike.
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”
-John F. Kennedy
(photo taken in Amsterdam)
Perhaps I’ll go for a little longer bike ride tomorrow. Perhaps the next day will be even longer. Maybe later in the week I will put the bike on the bike rack on the car to go for an even longer ride. No time like the present. Makes me think of a reply I once heard when I asked someone what time it was. The reply was simple; the person said “the time is now.”
“It is the unknown around the corner which turns my wheels.”
(photo taken in Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands)
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Life is good. Find something you used to love doing and haven’t done in a while today. Live fully, live life well, and enjoy the moment, using some inspiration as your guide if you have one.
Although it is only May (already), my thoughts turned today for some reason to an anecdote that I hold dear in my heart. When I was first married many many years ago, my husband and I had so many wonderful discussions about how we would begin our lives together. Because we got married in September, it seemed that the holidays would arrive before we knew it. We began talking about our first Christmas Tree together, and we visited a local farm in New England, which has since closed, to find, tag, and cut down our own tree.
It sounded like such a fond memory even before we went to the farm, and it was every bit as wonderful as we thought it would be. There is something so tender about finding a tree together in the snow and dragging it off the field after going on a hayride or sleigh ride to get to the field in the first place. I think we even had the classic Hallmark cup of hot chocolate afterwards.
Some of our compromises that seemed like such difficult concessions at the time really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things I’m thinking now. It is so very easy to get caught up in the mundane at any stage of our lives, to give importance to the unimportant and somehow miss what is right before our eyes. I have learned since then that life is far too important to be taken so seriously. It doesn’t really matter to me whether we have garland or ribbon, tinsel or no tinsel, ornaments that all match or are mis-matched, or even Christmas lights that are all white or multi-colored, as long as we spend our Christmas season together with those that we love, laughing, baking cookies, and creating new memories and traditions while remembering the old ways fondly, too.
We decided somewhere along the way that we would have a photo ornament that represents each year that we have been married, in good times and in bad, and THAT is something I would decide to do all over again.
Our discussion at the time many years ago, however, turned to whether we would have a star or an angel on top of our first tree, as we set out to purchase our first ornaments together to decorate our tree. Growing up in the same city, there were many similarities, as well as differences, to our upbringings, but both households had an angel on top of the Christmas tree. That made that decision very easy, and an angel it was. While we were walking through the store to find the perfect angel to top our perfect tree, I remembered the angel that sat on top of the tree in the house I grew up in. Christmas was a special time for me, as I was the youngest child, and the youngest in our family had the privilege of being the one to put the very last decoration, the angel, on top of the tree. For years and years, my father lifted me up on his shoulders to accomplish this task. This made me feel like I was on top of the world, which I really was because my parents were the center of my world at the time.
Because my parents had moved out of state before we were married, there was no angel from my childhood to show my husband, as my parents were still using it on their tree in another state. I tried to find the words to describe to my husband how very beautiful the angel was, dressed in a gold dress with perfect pleats. The size of the angel was just perfect, too, neither too large nor too small. The angel’s hair, with it’s perfectly flowing and uniformly curled hairstyle was not like any more modern angel I had ever seen, either. The angel was, in fact, the most beautiful angel I had ever seen, and I would be hard-pressed to find anything at all that would compare in anyway to this angel from my childhood. We settled on a pretty angel, but she held no proverbial candle to the angel from my childhood in my mind.
Fast forward to a few years later. My parents sold their home and started using a smaller, table top tree, that many seniors use after growing tired of puttting the tree up and taking it down again in such a short amount of time, after having taken it up from the basement for many years, year after year. My parents decided when sorting through their decorations they would no longer need that it was very clear that the angel from my childhood should go to me. Time to pass down the baton, so to speak. One day when I went to visit them, my parents unexpectedly presented me with a cardboard box, flat and brown. I recognized the box immediately, as I removed the angel gently, very gently, from her resting spot between Christmases, before putting her on the tree each year. When I opened the box, I was surprised to see that the angel from my childhood was a little “worse for the wear” than I had expected, and the perfect pleats on her dress were a little imperfect. Her hairstyle was a little messy, and her arms were a bit bent. Not only was she a little old, my perfect angel wasn’t so perfect after all. In fact, I was shocked to see that she was a bit ugly, too. Her facial expression wasn’t nearly as beautiful as I had remembered, maybe even a little creepy, but I was oh so very grateful for the gift.
When I came to the realization that the angel wasn’t quite what I made her out to be in my mind all these years, I smiled. I realized that she was the most beautiful angel in the world on top of any tree that I had ever seen, mainly as a child, because of all the love, laughter, and happy memories at Christmas with my family that made her beautiful to me. While I can’t quite bring myself to put the angel on top of my tree now, I keep her in that same flat, rectangle, cardboard box from many years ago, among my present-day Christmas decorations. She serves as a reminder of where I have come from, who I came from, and what makes Christmas, and life, meaningful. I also have come to appreciate the need to see as much as we can through child-like eyes to see the beauty from time to time. Even if the angel is quite ugly, she is still so beautiful in so many ways, because of what she represents. And timeless memories of years past with those we love, even if deciding on unimportant things which seemed so important at the time, are priceless.
Today after seeing the partially assembled pergola in my back yard, I sat under it right after a rain shower and noticed a beautiful rainbow right above my eyes. I am so grateful to see such beauty developing right before me.
As I continued to sit under the half-constructed pergola, I couldn’t help but feel the world of possibilities developing before my eyes in my mind. How exciting it is to envision a big project such as this. I am thinking of all the ways to transform the pergola into an oasis of peace and tranquility. I’m picturing lights hanging from the pergola, maybe a candle chandelier, along with some hanging pots of orchids or new guinea impatiens. I want the pergola to evoke a sensory experience with something scented, colorful, and something I can hear. Perhaps a new set of wind chimes, too. Should I have a counter-height bistro set or a low comfortable L-shaped sectional. Should I have a few chaise lounges? There are so many possibilities to consider.
As I sit here, I remember getting excited like this when we bought our first home about a few millions of years ago. It has been quite a long time since we’ve done a project like this in our own backyard, and it feels nostalgic quite honestly.
I continue to sit, watching the darkness crawl in before my eyes while I remember a poem that describes the fog crawling in similarly on little cat feet (“The Fog” by Carl Sandburg). Sitting in front of the pond behind our house, I notice all kinds of noises and sights I don’t normally see when I sit in the screen deck by the pool. I see gnats swirling around en mass in a frenzy within some sort of twirling and twisting cloud. I see various birds taking off from the water, barely disturbing the surface as they glide gracefully into flight. I hear splashes in the water as some long-necked birds swim underwater, but it is growing too dark to tell what type of birds they are. I’m thinking they are likely either cormorants or anhingas. Both birds swim in the water, but cormorants are usually found in salt water, and anhingas are usually found in fresh water. Both have long snake-like necks, but the tell-tale sign is the beaks, which would help me identify them if it were not quite so dark. Cormorants have roundish hook-like beaks at the end, but anhingas have straight beaks, although both hunt and eat fish.
I consider myself lucky to have this little sliver of time of solitude and peace while the world is in turmoil from the pandemic around me. It helps me to find a little slice of “normal” within each day, and that means finding a little smattering of beauty before my eyes.
Life is good; life fully and completely, and find a reason to be grateful today. Try to see the beauty in something today and enjoy the moment.
Life is good; carpe diem, friends………………
Feel free to comment below with any suggestions, pictures, or ideas about how I can transform my pergola into an oasis of peace and beauty.
(Note to self: ask the landscaper trim the shrubs AGAIN)
It has been said that a good practice is to keep in mind the things for which one is thankful. To that end, I start each day whenever I think about it with an “attitude of gratitude”. Some days I forget, but most days I start the day thinking of all the wonderful things in my life for which I am thankful. I task myself to think of ten, just ten. Most times, I find myself listing many more than ten in my mind or even on a piece of paper some days.
Amidst the uncertainty that the novel coronavirus has brought to our lives individually as well as within our society, it helps to think about what is going RIGHT in our lives right now. Stop, look, and listen to all that is good in your life at this very moment. The distraction this exercise brings you might help you seize the day.
“The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.”
“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.”
Life is good. Rest for a moment and be thankful. Develop an attitude of gratitude today if you don’t already have one. It helps us to see that that glass really IS half full.