Tuesday, November 29, 2011


As Winter descends on our little corner of the world, my thoughts turn to all the wild creatures and what it takes to survive. Yesterday, I saw a humming bird hovering over my hanging strawberry plant. Clearly lost by a recent storm, he was searching for sustenance, attracted by one last frozen strawberry.  I was so surprised to see him this late in the season. Naturally I got out my humming bird feeder that I had packed away for the winter and filled it up. Just in case he comes back. The one word I would give to that sweet little bird is 'Resilience'.
This morning as I went outside to fetch my newspaper, I saw another example of Resilience. This Pileated Woodpecker had found an apple that had been left behind. I don't know if he was eating the apple, or if there were worms inside. Either way, it was another example of adaptation and resiliency.
 What makes one individual more resilient than another?  There are several definitions of resilience; Resourcefulness and the ability to recover quickly from setbacks, misfortune, illness, depression, and change. Strength of character. Buoyancy, flexibility. Speedy recovery from problems.
Resilience is the ability to cope with stress and adversity by 'bouncing back' to a previous state of normal functioning. Using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a 'steeling effect' and function better than expected, much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease.
Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual.

"That which does not destroy, strengthens" - Friedrich Nietzche

Resilience is the ability to work with adversity in such a way that one comes through it unharmed or even better for the experience. Resilience means facing life's difficulties with courage and patience - refusing to give up. It is the quality of character that allows an individual or group to rebound from misfortune, hardships, trauma.
Resilience is rooted in a tenacity of spirit - a determination to embrace all that makes life worth living even in the face of overwhelming odds. When we have a clear sense of identity and purpose, we are more resilient, because we can hold fast to our vision of a better future.
Highly resilient people are more likely to notice positive meanings within the problems they faced; they learn from the experience.

"You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: Make use of suffering." Henri Frederic Amiel, philosopher and writer (1821-1881)

"The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It's the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the wind and rains and the scorching sun."- Napoleon Hill

Each and every one of us has experienced setbacks and heartaches. We have all experienced grief and loss, disappointments and tragedy. Knowing that we all share in these experiences can ease the pain. Resilience is gained only from these experiences and how we deal with them. Resilience goes hand in hand with courage, hope, and faith.

Courage to face adversity. Hope that all will work out for the best. Faith in our own spirit and spirituality.
And when we do come out on the other side, Humor.

"Humor prevents one from becoming a tragic figure even though involved in tragic events."
E.T. Eberhart

" A sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected and smile through the unbearable."
Moshe Waldoks

"The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you refuse to take the turn" - Unknown

Part of learning resilience is in identifying oneself as a survivor, not a victim. Finding positive meaning in trauma can be achieved by helping others in similar circumstances.

"You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces - my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined."
Elizabeth Edwards

Resilience is going with the flow even after going off course for a time.

"Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them."
H. Jackson Brown

"If you voluntarily quit in the face of adversity, you'll wonder about it for the rest of your life."
Former President Bill Clinton

We can all turn adversity into a positive attribute by learning resilience.

We can pick ourselves up and keep climbing those steps to reach our highest goals no matter what adversity we may encounter.

And like the tree in a storm, we bend with the wind, growing strong roots and supporting each other.
With courage, hope, and faith.

And when all is said and done,
 a good sense of humor.
And a sense of pride and accomplishment that we weathered the storms of life by learning resilience.

"For adversity makes artists of us all as we weave new patterns in the fabric of our lives."
Greta W. Crosby

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fall into Winter

For me, the week after Thanksgiving signals the start of a new season. Even though Winter doesn't officially begin for 3 weeks, this is the time for transition. The golden fall leaves are gone, swept into the wind, and now the Holly is bright with vibrant red berries. I took a walk up to see and my approach set off a flurry of feathers, as the birds are already feasting on the bounty. This particular tree stands at least 30 feet tall. Every year she disperses her seeds through birds and we now have a new generation of Holly growing everywhere.

She is beautiful in a little clearing next to Hubby's workshop. In the Spring the last of her berries are always eaten by a flock of Cedar Waxwings. The Waxwings will stay long enough to strip her of her berries, usually a week or so, and we love seeing these delightful visitors every year, with their lovely black masks and red tipped wings.

We always have fresh holly to decorate for the holidays. But I am not ready to snip her branches quite yet. I need a few more days to transition. I am still savoring Thanksgiving and the ending of Fall.

We had a lovely Holiday, with the table set for 10. I must admit that it was all a blur for me, as I am head cook and hostess and although I do enjoy it all, every bit, I do get a bit tired and need time to recover. And now the leftovers are gone, the pie crumbs swept away, all the dishes washed and put back into place and I can finally breathe a happy sigh of relief that it all went off without a hitch. The turkey was delicious, the gravy wasn't lumpy, the pies were really good, and it was absolutely wonderful having my precious family all together and around the table, laughing, happy, and full of thanks.

So I will gradually start my transition to Winter by bringing in some red and green.

I need a little time between Holidays. I just add a few colorful touches here and there to put me in the right frame of mind.

I always change the art hanging over the daybed every season.

I've replaced my fall scene of fallen leaves and quail.....

With this simple painting of a quiet Winter activity. The colors are so rich and warm.

Gradually I will add some Holiday decorations. Little by little. Time flies by. I want it to slow down, just a bit.

So I can savor the memories. And enjoy each new day. One day at a time.

I hope you had a Lovely Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks

All week I have been busy preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. To put me in the mood, I always bring out my little antique turkey. This year he sits on my moss wreath hanging on the kitchen door. He is very small but with a big personality. I wonder if anyone will notice him.

He has kept watch while I have been busy, busy.

This year I have a new apron, seen here hanging on my pantry door. My sweet sister-in-law 'T' sent it to me for my recent birthday. It has just the right colors to wear on Thanksgiving. She sent me out a little box filled to the brim with wonderful surprises. Don't you just love getting gifts in the mail?

Something to be thankful for.

This darling serving set just came in the mail, too. This is from my other sweet sister-in-law, 'D'. She knows I love the color blue and that my favorite flower is 'forget me nots'. Is this not the most charming little server? Just in time for Thanksgiving.

Another reason to be thankful. 

Today I baked pies, and as I peeled apples and made pie crust, I thought of all the reasons to be grateful this year. At the top of the list is my wonderful family. I couldn't ask for a more devoted husband or more loving children. I am truly blessed.

I thought of my Mother and my Grandmother before her. I remembered all of the Thanksgiving dinners in years past. I have so much appreciation for these women that came before me. My Grandmother had 8 children (7 daughters and 1 son) and every year she hosted Thanksgiving in her big white Farmhouse. I remember her pantry shelves loaded with pies. This remarkable woman would bake each one of her son-in-laws their own favorite pie. I remember my Dad's favorite was chocolate cream pie. All baked from scratch. Those pies would melt in your mouth. I don't know how she did it. Not only did she bake 7 pies for all of her son-in-laws, but she also baked pies for the rest of us. There were about 14 pies all together. My favorite was her lemon meringue.
 My Mother was also an excellent pie baker and she would make me lemon meringue. I miss your lemon meringue pies, Mom.

I am thankful for these wonderful memories.

As I busy myself with these loving tasks, I realize that now it is my turn to make beautiful memories for my own family. So this year we are starting a new tradition. We are starting a gratitude journal. Each member of the family will write about something they are grateful for. It will be nice to look back on in years to come.

In this year of hardship for so many, it is especially important to appreciate all that we have.

And losing precious family members this year, reminds us how important it is to show how much we appreciate one another.

So once a year, on this one special day, we take the time to realize what is really important. A meal shared with loved ones, beloved memories, old and new traditions.

 Now that's something to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

First Snow

We had our first snow during the night

Transforming the landscape to black and white

And sugar coating my little world

With sparkling magic as the morning unfurled

The fire glows brightly to ward off the sleet

While loyal friend sleeps at my feet

With flowers to cheer me and remind me of Spring

I keep my hands busy crocheting with string

(My hilarious attempts at poetry)
Here is some real poetry

'Dust of Snow'

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a Hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
of a day I had rued

by Robert Frost 1923

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Imperfect Life, Embracing Wabi-Sabi

Every day we look at ourselves in the mirror. Some of us see faces marked by time, by experience, by sorrow and joy. We see the inevitable evidence; the laugh lines, the little lines caused by worry, the scars that never quite faded. All of these things can make us feel less than perfect. We all have our own uniqueness from a combination of experience and genetics. The crooked little smile, the cowlick that makes our hair stick up in a peculiar way, the not quite perfect profile.

Rather than feel bad about these self-imposed imperfections, we should all adopt a way of looking at life that celebrates these things, that gives a name to this state of being.

Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection, of accepting the natural cycle of life. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered and it reveres authenticity above all else. It is modest and understated, the kind of quiet undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered.

Wabi-Sabi means flea markets not mega malls, aged wood not laminate, patina not new, bright and shiny.

Cozy Cottages not Mansions. Country roads not Interstates. Family dinners not Fancy Restaurants.

It celebrates cracks and scratches, weathering by time and loving use. It reminds us that we are all transient beings, destined to return to the dust from which we came.

Through Wabi-Sabi, we learn to embrace laugh lines, rust, and frayed edges, and the passing of time that they represent.

It is humble and accepting of life's inevitable wear and tear.

It's the fragmentary glimpse of the moon reflected in water, the branch that represents the whole tree, Autumn leaves filtering the sun. It's the subtle, mellow beauty of something that has been around for a long, long time. It's the difference between being merely 'pretty', and what the Japanese call, Omoshiroi, the interesting characteristics that turn something ordinary into a thing of beauty.

An old stone church not a glass sky-scraper.

It's the mossy clay pot, the musty smell of fallen leaves, the subtle sounds of rain falling. It is finding beauty in the simple things of life.

Wabi refers to harmony, peace, tranquility, and balance. It means simple, unmaterialistic, humble by choice, and in tune with nature. Someone who is perfectly herself and never craves to be anything else would be described as Wabi.

Sabi by itself means 'the bloom of time.' It is the natural progression; tarnish, rust, the understanding that beauty is fleeting. It means taking pleasure in things that are old and faded. Sabi things carry the burden of their years with dignity and grace. An old truck left in a field to rust, as it transforms from an eyesore into a part of the landscape. An abandoned barn, as it slowly leans toward the Earth.  There is an aching poetry in this process.

But there is a difference between patina and just plain dirty. Wabi-Sabi in the home is never messy or unclean. Worn things become worthy of being poetic only because they have survived long enough to bear the marks of time precisely because they've been so well cared for throughout the years. Cleanliness implies respect. Spaces that have been lovingly cleaned are much more welcoming. When the bed is neatly made, you can appreciate the romance of an old and frayed quilt. An old and faded handmade rug is a thing of beauty on a neatly polished wood floor.

Similarly, as we age, as we all inevitably do, we can all add to our own subtle beauty by eating healthy, exercise and fresh air, good grooming, and tasteful attire.

I once knew a woman 'of a certain age' whom I greatly admired. She always had fresh flowers on her table, used hand made pottery on her table, collected art that she rotated around her small cottage to keep things interesting, and had a closet full of her 'signature' style; earthy colors and natural fabrics. Every time I came to her modest but stylish home, she had rearranged her collections and art to give her home a fresh new look. She had frequent dinner parties, all with an ethnic 'theme'. As I got to know her better, she revealed her secrets to me. She shopped vintage and thrift stores for all of her treasures. She grew a 'cutting garden' for her flowers and everyone who came to visit went away with a little bouquet in a vintage tea-pot, glass canning jar or unusual vase, all from thrift shops. This allowed her to save her money for travelling, and also gave her a way to constantly update her elegant and tasteful style, and give heartfelt and charming home made gifts. All of her friends had much more money than she did, but she had the most style and everyone considered it a special treat to be invited to one of her amazing dinner parties. She was completely herself, humble, and appreciated the simple things in life.

She embodied Wabi-Sabi.

Wabi-Sabi is living modestly, learning to be satisfied with life as it can be once we strip away the unnecessary, living in the moment, embracing who we are for our own unique beauty. Being content with things exactly how they are.

Wabi-Sabi is seeing the beauty in nature. Seeing the beauty in age, in simplicity, in our own uniqueness.

And as the frenetic Holiday Season approaches, I have made a vow to keep things Wabi-Sabi. To keep things simple. To use what I have, old and tarnished, chipped and weathered. To decorate with nature. To take the time to enjoy the beauty of the season and family moments. To cherish old traditions.  

After all, isn't that what life is all about? 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Falling Leaves

The skies were turning dark. The storm was coming in.

The wind was getting stronger.

Blowing the leaves from the trees.....

which fell all around me and swirled at my feet while chimes played haunting fairy melodies.

Wind and Rain lashed at darkened windows all day and night.

Leaving behind Nature's cloak upon the Earth.

And a glimpse of blue skies in the morning.

To light up the remaining golden leaves

While I clean up the aftermath.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...