Category Archives: Nature

The wonder of the natural world

Starting over

In a post earlier this week, I mentioned the idea of starting over. Nature does it every year, when springtime bursts with new growth, replacing a tired-looking world with one of exuberance and promise.

But it can be easy to forget that starting over is possible for us as individuals, especially during the cold down-cycle of winter. That winter may be the actual one of the physical world, or it may be a metaphorical one. Maybe it’s a divorce or the loss of a job. Or perhaps it’s just the rut of doing the same thing day after day and not finding any joy in it. We all have periods in our lives when we feel we’re in some kind of holding pattern and periods when we feel we’re caught in a cyclone.

During those times, it’s natural to think it’s all beyond our control. In many ways, it is. But here’s the thing: we aren’t supposed to control everything around us.  And thinking that we should be able to only stresses us out (because we usually fail). What we can control is our thoughts, our perceptions about what is happening.

Sometime over the last few years, I read something that stuck with me. It was that everything we do is a choice. We are never forced to do anything; there is always an alternative. For example, do you really “have” to get up and go to work? No, you could stay in bed.  But then you could lose your job, your house, etc. So instead of thinking you “have” to go to work, you may want to think about it as you “get” to go to work. You “get” to be a good provider for your family. And just like that—it’s a privilege, not a sentence. Simply changing that one word in your thoughts can make a significant difference in your mood and subsequently the mood of those around you. And changing moods and attitudes can, and I believe usually does, change the course of what happens.

The options we’re offered may not always be the ones we’d like, but there are always options. So we make a choice. And then—and I think this is critical—we need to take ownership of that choice and its consequences. We can’t blame anyone else for what happens to us when we are the ones who made the choices that led us there. That can seem like a lot of pressure, I know. But the saving grace is knowing that life continuously changes; we will always be making another choice and then another and another. So we’re never stuck … unless we think we are.

We won’t always know the right choices to make or the right roads to take, but that’s kind of the point, I think. Life is a journey, not a race.  There is no prize for getting to a certain destination earlier than anyone else. And, as illustrated in a movie I enjoyed recently (“The Switch” with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston), reality is usually messy.  The important thing is to make another choice, to continue the journey, being as honest as possible. Maybe when you feel lost from time to time, you’ll want to sit in the middle of the road and cry. That’s fine. Just remember to get back up and keep going. Don’t feel bad about not knowing what you’re doing; we all feel that way. It’s all a lovely mess, just the way it should be. And every day, every moment even, is an opportunity to make another choice and start on a new path.

This beautiful song talks about the influence of our thoughts and our ability to always start over. Listen to the words carefully. I find it a good reminder, and I hope you enjoy it too.

Start All Over Again, by Dave Koz and Dana Glover

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Spring rain

I don’t know about you, but I actually enjoy rainy days in springtime.

To me, spring rains feel like a gift from the Earth, a kind and generous gift. Unlike the bone-chilling rains of November, these raindrops bring the promise of sunshine and warmer temperatures soon to come. But most importantly, these rainy days bring life with them: that glorious greenness that I love about the Mid-Atlantic and flowers, wonderful flowers, including the delightful-smelling lovelies pictured below.

So instead of groaning (or even cursing) about the rain, let’s try to smile about the beauty it will bring. Happy spring rain! 🙂

White hyacinth blooms
The first of the heavenly scents has arrived: hyacinths.

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Harbingers of spring

Teased by a short, glorious early warmup, many people in my part of the world are wishing aloud for the “real” spring to show up. (Of course, by that they mean sunny days and much warmer temperatures—which is probably jumping to late spring, but you get the idea.)

I have to agree, having had my fill of needing the heat turned on in the house and putting a winter coat on for the short walk to the mailbox. Apparently at some point in my life I became a wuss. But that, luckily for you, is not the subject of today’s entry.

Every year, we eagerly anticipate spring. We rejoice when we see the early flowers blooming: the tiny crocuses peeking through the dead leaves in flower beds, the forsythia bursting yellow in neatly trimmed hedges or natural wild abandon, and, finally, the daffodils, too numerous to count in my neighborhood. These bright spots of color remind us that the crunchy brown of the dead grass and the cheerless gray of the sky will soon be replaced by brilliant greens and blues. Curly lime-colored leaves will soon start filling in the now-bare trees, and once again, we will be surrounded by luxurious awe-inspiring growth. Somehow it makes us all feel better; it reminds us that we too can start again. It is, truly, a wonderful time of year.

But this year I was struck by something I never really gave much thought to. Those harbingers of spring, those first flowers that appear—they tend to be quite delicate, in appearance anyway. Those tiny crocuses with their spindly almost non-existent leaves—how do they survive the cold, even the snow? How is that possible? I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, but I’m more interested in what it can teach us.

It made me think of my mom. I’ll never forget hearing, years ago, a dear friend of the family say my mother was the meekest person he knew. He meant it as a compliment, following it up with a comment about the meek inheriting the Earth. And he was right. She doesn’t make a grand entrance; she is never the loudest voice in the room. But she is also the strongest person I know. Without complaining, without looking for anyone’s pity or usually anyone’s help in any way, she has cared for a husband and five children, co-run a business, and survived hardships with grace. With a smile on her face, she’s always ready to lend a hand and be of service in any way she can. And she does it all without calling attention to herself. Like the crocus, she demonstrates that real strength is modest. It is quiet and can easily go unnoticed. But if we pay attention, we see the beauty: the true beauty of standing strong while being flexible enough to remain in harmony with the life that surrounds us.

Snowdrops
These "snowdrops" are the first to appear at my house and usually end up with snow on top of them.
Yellow Crocus
Crocuses are such joyful little flowers. Woohoo! Spring is coming!

 

Spring harbingers
I can't remember what these are called. I think the bulb package had only the Latin name, which was way too long to commit to memory.

 

Forsythia Adirondacks
A cascade of yellow, fresh flowers and peeling paint, brightens up the backyard.

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