"Begin as you intend to continue," my Scots grandmother, Christine Faquharson Tweit used to say. (She was a Highland Scot by birth--that's the Faquharson part, who married a Norwegian, hence the Tweit.)
It's an old-fashioned piece of advice that seems almost self-evident, but it's easy to forget how powerful setting the tone and intentions at the beginning of any endeavor can be, whether a New Year, a new task, or a new path in life. Start on your best foot, and you'll give yourself the best chance for success.
For many years, Richard and I celebrated Winter Solstice by inviting friends and family to help us "light the darkness" by filling and lighting dozens of luminarias to glow through the year's longest night. The little candles on a scoop of sand in a fragile paper bag lined our half-block of reclaimed industrial property, and their light shone until dawn.
It's been a challenging month on the national scene, and in my personal life too. I'll leave the analysis of the insanity that is our current political environment to those who are good at that, and likewise the rants. After being flat-out-sick for ten days and then straining my rib muscles working out at the gym, I don't have the energy for either.
Sunday night, after the latest mass shooting at a small Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, I went to Evensong at Christ Episcopal, the church I attend.
I sometimes feel guilty because I don't comment more on politics and current affairs. Politics and current affairs are not, I remind myself, my beat, my area of expertise. The truth is, I shy away from that kind of commentary because it seems to me that the tone and tenor of public discourse leave no space for my voice.
The verb reckon, says my dictionary, means to calculate, be of the opinion of, or be sure of. It comes from the Old English (ge)recenian, meaning "to count up."
At this time of year, when summer has given way to autumn, I like to spend a little time reckoning with where I am in life. In that, I am using reckon in the old sense: to count up. As in, count up what I have achieved in the year as fall slides toward winter, toward shorter days and longer nights, my time to be more contemplative.
Back in March, I started two new projects: my running practice, and a total rewrite of Bless the Birds, the memoir I've been working on sporadically for the last, well, six years.
The running's going well. I've settled into a routine of running two mornings a week, and I'm up to 3.7 miles now. I'm not fast, but I am running regularly, and that's what counts.
Sometimes you just need time to do tasks where your mind can let go and wander.
Shantel Durham, my house-painter, made that wise comment this afternoon when she was in the floor-to-ceiling closets in my guest bedroom, painting the dingy grey walls and shelves a clean white.
I didn't blog last weekend because I was in western Washington with my family. It's so rare that the whole Tweit clan can gather (only Molly was missing) that I wanted to soak up every moment. Even my middle niece, Sienna, and her husband and kids were there from Germany, where Matt is on detail with the Army Corps of Engineers. I haven't seen them in three years!
In times when the human world seems to have gone crazy, I head outside for the balm of nature nearby. I always return inspired and energized, humbled, and remembering (again) that life, the capital L kind, the web of interacting species which make this planet a vibrant sphere, is an astonishingly creative and tenacious community.
I had a lovely Mother's Day, and I hope you did too. Mine was quiet and mellow, just the way I like it: I spent time with friends, caught up with my family, and then worked in my yard, planting new plants, grubbing out invasive weeds, and seeding in the beginning of a native meadow in the backyard that last week was torn up for my new underground electric line.
After I finished playing with plants--something that never fails to make me happy--I headed out for my usual Sunday evening run.
For the past week, I've been caretaking a retreat center and its resident cat, which means I drive out to the center twice a day, first thing in the morning to feed and play with Talks-A-Lot, the cat (she does talk--a lot!), and to check on the buildings. I drive back out again at the end of the work day to either let Talks in and feed her if it's been nice enough for her to be outside all day, or to hear her meow! meow! meow! lecture if the weather hasn't been nice and she's been stuck inside.
My word for this year is gratitude, chosen to remind myself to notice and appreciate the good in the world even in--especially in--the tough times. For me, one of the best ways to prompt myself to be grateful for this life and my place in it is to get outside, preferably out of town into wilder landscapes nearby.
Which is why after several weeks of difficult news personally and in the larger world, I went for a run yesterday afternoon instead of writing this blog post.
Back when Molly was in middle school and high school, we lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in the Chihuahuan Desert just 35 miles north of the US-Mexico border. (There we are in the photo above in grove of native Mexican elder trees in our backyard. My hair was still red and long then, Richard hadn't started shaving his head, and Molly had a cat named Hypoteneuse.)
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead
To soothe a sin-sick soul.
Those lines in my favorite spiritual are running through my head tonight because I sang them Sunday morning at the early service at the Episcopal Church.
Last Thursday, Red and I hit the road promptly at eight-thirty am, and I envisioned clear roads for the 490-mile drive to Denver, where I was scheduled to speak at ProGreen Expo on Friday and the Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference on Saturday.
I am writing this from my new desk in my newly painted, trimmed, and book-shelf-lined office. My desk, a sheet of melamine counter material that Jeff, my contractor, cut to fit and trimmed with nice wood edging, is perched it on two clean sawhorses in the window bay with a view of one of the huge old spruce trees in my backyard.
I am writing this post from the breakfast nook off the vintage kitchen of my new old house in Cody, in the northwest corner of Wyoming. Late-afternoon sun pours in through windows that are gray with at least a decade of grime, but no matter.