an everyday sort of magic

“Blue Calyx” by Sulamith Wülfing

I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.
~ Charles de Lint
(Grief One Day at a Time: 365 Meditations to Help You Heal After Loss)

helping hand

RenoufHelpingHand
“The Helping Hand” by Émile Renouf

The first time I ever saw a print of this painting was at an estate sale, not long after my father died on September 19th in 2013. The expression on the man’s face reminded me of my father and the little girl reminded me of myself so I bought it. It’s not in the greatest condition and the coloring is way off. Perhaps the coloring on this digital copy is off, too. Some day I may replace it with a better copy.

He’s been gone for three years now and I still miss him, my favorite teacher. Papa taught me how to wash my hair, how to cross the street, how to trust my own instincts, how to treat animals, how to be compassionate and kind, how to swim, how to ice skate, how to paddle a canoe, how to chop an onion, how to look up words in a dictionary, how to do research, how to enjoy bird-watching, how to garden, how to walk (and play) in the woods — the list goes on. I think of him every time I do any of those things.

It’s almost autumn and I will be eating as many Macoun apples as I can while the season lasts. They were his favorites. He often told me the following story when I was growing up. (It first appeared almost 6 years ago on my blog!)

When my father was a boy growing up on a New England farm during the Great Depression, his family picked as many apples as they could and stored some of them in a barrel in the root cellar. Of course he ate as many as he could while picking them, but his parents had a rule about the ones in the barrel he found exasperating. If anyone wanted an apple later in the fall or winter, he was required to take one that was the least fresh. By the time they got to the fresher ones they had also become much less fresh! So all winter he was having to make do with eating not-so-great apples. If only he had known he might have called on Iduna to keep the apples fresher longer!
~ Barbara Rodgers
(Iduna: Keeper of Apples)

But perhaps I miss him the most whenever I hear a story on the news about a threat from a new virus or other infectious agent. Dad was a microbiologist and was utterly fascinated with microorganisms — viruses, bacteria, spirochetes, amoebas, fungi, parasites. He would never tire of explaining things about them to me and correcting any misinformation the media might be passing along to his fellow citizens. And I never tired of listening. I find myself wondering what he would have had to say about the Zika virus. It’s not easy finding someone so interested in this subject!

I didn’t notice it at first, but my father died on his older brother’s birthday. Jon Stephen was born on September 19th in 1909 in Ukraine. My father, Theodore William, never knew his older brother because Jon died of a ruptured appendix on March 15th in 1919 in New York, when he was only 9 years old. Papa was born three years later on March 13th in 1922. A little bit of synchronicity there I think.

Still missing you, my dear old Papa!

lady patience

3.31.13.5010
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Exploring cemeteries is something we enjoy, even ones in which none of our known ancestors lie buried. They are pleasant places to take walks and get some exercise – we even met a couple of joggers in the 22-acre non-sectarian Stonington Cemetery on Easter Sunday.

3.31.13.5011
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Reflecting on the life stories stone carvers have told with their memorial masonry…

3.31.13.5008
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

In the smaller sculpture (above), which is elevated on a pedestal, the woman is leaning on an upright log. In the similar, but larger sculpture (below), the woman is leaning on a pillar.

3.31.13.5013
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

A close-up of the same statue…

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3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

The following engraving touched me – how much sorrow the simple word “only” conveys.

3.31.13.5027
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

The Stonington Cemetery was incorporated in 1849, expanding a small 18th century burial ground.  A group of Stonington leaders, many of whom made their fortunes as a result of the whaling and shipping trades, came together to design a significant horticultural and aesthetic landscape site responding to the “rural” or “garden” cemetery movement of the time.
~ Stonington Cemetery

3.31.13.5031
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

A majestic tree, waiting patiently for spring to begin in earnest…

3.31.13.5036
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

A bit of architecture to mark the ATWOOD family plot. I wonder if they could be related, as I have so many Atwoods on my family tree, though my branch settled in Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

3.31.13.5039
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

A large rough-hewn stone cross – I love its simplicity.

3.31.13.5044
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Following the custom of Laurie Buchanan over at Speaking from the Heart, I selected the word ‘patience’ to focus on in 2013. In a bit of synchronicity I found another statue of a woman in a newer part of the cemetery, much like the ones in the older part. This stone carver gave her a name – PATIENCE. She is leaning on an upright log.

3.31.13.5049
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

The ship’s wheel (below) indicates a sailor lies buried here, the grave much more recent than most of the others in this cemetery. The surname sounds Portuguese to me – in the mid-1800s it was primarily immigrant Portuguese sailors who manned the local Stonington whaling fleet.

3.31.13.5052
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

A lovely little garden plot by the woods…

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3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
3.31.13.5058
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

This anchor (below) decorates a pile, where sailors would secure their boats to the docks with ropes. I’m wondering if this stone is marking the corner of a family cemetery plot. Perhaps the plot was bought but never used, or maybe it is filled with unmarked graves.

3.31.13.5061
3.31.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

All true stories begin and end in a cemetery.
~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(The Shadow of the Wind)

two cats in the yard

"Two Cats" by Suzanne Valadon
“Two Cats” by Suzanne Valadon

Is owning a cat good for the heart?

Compared with cat owners, people who never had a pet cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack over the 20-year study period. They were also 30% more likely to die of any cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart failure, and chronic heart disease. The results held true even after the researchers took into account other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including age, gender, race, blood pressure, and smoking. The researchers found no such link for people who had a pet dog. The findings were presented here at the American Stroke Association’s (ASA) International Stroke Conference.
~ Charlene Laino
(WebMD)

After I happened to hear this fascinating snippet of information on the radio just before the summer solstice, I couldn’t help mentioning it to my husband as we were having a nice dinner out to celebrate the change of seasons. As many of my readers already know, Tim survived a major heart attack almost five years ago, and is likely to have another one sooner or later, which is why this finding is so interesting to us.

We love cats, but we said good-bye to our last one about twelve years ago because I learned I was allergic to them. My sinuses have been 100% better without having them in the house, but I do miss having them underfoot terribly. And Our House has always been our song, and keeping cats has always been part of our dreams together…

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
‘Cause of you
~ Graham Nash
♫ (Our House) ♫

It’s funny how things happen sometimes. Recently I saw the documentary The White Lions on Nature on PBS, and a friend recommended a book, Mystery of the White Lions, which I devoured. Cats, big and small, have been popping up everywhere lately. Since that dinner in June we have been discussing at great length the pros and cons and feasibility of bringing two cats into our lives again. It’s a big responsibility.

We discussed removing all the old carpet to keep allergens to a minimum. And the probable need to add antihistamines to my regimen of drugs. (Although… I’ve been learning about quantum healing and am thinking it might just work on allergies, too.) Tim even made a secret trip to the vet to check out the financial aspects of routine medical care for a couple of kittens.

One day as we were driving along a cat sauntered across the road in front of us. Tim had to bring the car to a complete stop while the cat stopped too and stood his ground in our lane, staring up at us intently. This made us wonder because most cats scurry and scramble out of the way of an approaching car. After he held our attention for a while he slowly continued on his way across the street. There is a lot of synchronicity at work here!

For now we’ve agreed to wait until the fall to make a decision, but in the meantime thoughts of petting purring kittens and cats keep going through my mind…

a thorn in the foot

rose thorns by Xosema
rose thorns by Xosema

I went to the hill and I got it.
I sat on a knoll and I sought it.
And if I would get it I would leave it.
Since I did not get it, I took it with me.
~ Scots Gaelic Riddle
(The Celtic Spirit)

As I sat down very gingerly on the chair for my breakfast this morning, I opened my Caitlín Matthews book of daily meditations for the turning of the year. As I started to read I began to smile over the synchronicity I found there in her words as she elaborated on the riddle above. A thorn in the foot, an irritation. A thorn in the foot that hurts when one walks on it. Pains in my back and my legs when I sit.

There is no surefire way to avoid irritations, no magic formula that will ease them out of our way. They arrive without warning to plague us, and we have to get on and deal with them. Some of the tiresomeness can be alleviated, however, if we see many of our irritations are reminders of neglected areas of our life. … The universe has its own way of getting our attention and making us attend to what is important.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit)

Well, this bout of sciatica has certainly got my attention!!! Yesterday I wound up puttering around the house catching up on little chores and the constant movement kept the pain at bay. But when I sat down for lunch the pain returned and so for the afternoon I reclined and listened to three more Adyashanti CDs, which nourished me spiritually.

No magic formula, but an idea occurred to me while lying there to help me deal with this “irritation.” I dug my old exercise ball out of the closet and Tim pumped it up with air for me. We tested having me sit on it for a few minutes. No pain. He moved my laptop down here to the coffee table and this set up seems like it might just work!

This has been a painful reminder to me to pay more attention to how long I sit in front of the computer screen. I tend to have these marathon days where I visit a lot of blogs and catch up responding to comments on mine. On top of that, as the day wears on, as it did Saturday, my posture gets more and more sloppy and as a result the nerve gets irritated. If I’m honest with myself, most of these flare-ups occur after I’ve sat too long and incorrectly, usually during a long trip in the car…

Do you have a figurative thorn in your foot? What do you do to deal with it?

winter winds

Last week I had the fun and wonderful privilege of writing a guest blog at my friend Kathy’s blog, Lake Superior Spirit. I’m still “recovering” from all the excitement! Thank you, Kathy!

From time to time in my life I’ve been called upon to write an autobiographical sketch and as I wrote this one for Kathy it occurred to me that every time I write one it comes out a little differently. Probably because I’m always growing and changing, and each time I look back over my life my perspective has changed and some events take on new and deeper meanings. And other events are left out entirely because even though at one time they seemed so important, they no longer seem worth mentioning.

Within our whole universe the story only has the authority to answer that cry of heart of its characters, that one cry of heart of each of them: “Who am I?”
~ Isak Dinesen
(Last Tales)

A couple of weeks ago I figured out how to write a blog and not just save it, but actually schedule a publication day and time for it! Great! Now I can combine quotes with art and schedule them to go out on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Still, I was surprised Saturday morning when I saw the quote for that day published already and realized that I hadn’t written a regular post here all week.

Yikes! Oh no, I thought, my readers will think I’m doing nothing but posting quotes from now on… However, I’ve noticed these quote/painting combos are collecting more comments than I thought they would! It’s been so interesting, for me anyway, seeing so many varied kinds of responses to the same words and images.

This morning Tim and I went out for breakfast – it’s been a while because he has worked at home a lot on recent weekends – and it felt very good to get out of the house together. It snowed a little last night… After breakfast we headed to Starbucks for a coffee treat and saw a Mumford & Sons CD there, Sigh No More, which we eagerly purchased. We first heard them perform at the Grammys a couple of weeks ago and both of us like them a lot.

Then we drove down to Eastern Point and Avery Point and found a new sculpture on the Sculpture Path by the Sea. It’s named “Pig Iron” by Timothy Kussow. Looked for the sculptor online and he doesn’t seem to have a website of his own, but he lives on the same road in the same town where Tim’s family used to live. Small world and a bit of synchronicity as well! A little music and a little art – a very nice morning date!

But if your strife strikes at your sleep
Remember spring swaps snow for leaves
You’ll be happy and wholesome again
When the city clears and sun ascends
~ Mumford & Sons
♫ (Winter Winds) ♫

praying mantis

8.29.10 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.29.10 ~ Sound Breeze

This morning when I woke up I told myself, okay Lazy Bones, you are not turning that computer on today until AFTER you get some work done. Since the house got a real good cleaning last weekend I decided that weeding the garden would be a good project to tackle. Problem was, it was still dark, early bird that I am. So I decided to read until the sun came up.

A couple of weeks ago we saw the movie Eat Pray Love, and I enjoyed it so much I bought the book the next day and started reading. The spiritual journeys of other people are always of great interest to me. Many critics panned the movie, but I loved the subject matter and didn’t notice all the supposed faults the critics picked out. So be it! The book is even better than the movie because Elizabeth Gilbert shares her internal thoughts more intimately than can be done on film.

The book (and the movie) is divided into three sections, the first (Eat) focuses on Pleasure and tells of her experiences in Italy. The second (Pray) focuses on Devotion and tells about her time in an ashram in India, and the third (Love) focuses on Balance, and how she found it in Indonesia. This morning I finished the Pray portion and took some time to meditate on what she had learned about spiritual seeking. Then a phone call from Auntie woke Tim up and the day was beginning, so I headed out to the garden.

Tim left to do a couple of errands (coffee, newspaper, organic free-range farm-fresh eggs) and I started weeding with gusto and great determination. The moon was still out in the blue sky – welcome company. I filled one laundry basket with weeds and had another half filled when I happened to notice the huge insect in the picture above. He was six inches long!!! Not wanting to disturb him, and frankly, quite awe-struck, I stopped weeding and then realized it was a praying mantis! The synchronicity of a creature with this particular name appearing in my garden when I was immersed in thoughts about prayer filled me with wonder.

Tim came home to find his over-excited, hot, sweaty, filthy wife jumping up and down on the porch urging him to get the camera, get the camera. It was all I could do to point with my blistered finger at the cause of all this delirious joy! He went inside and got the camera and tried to hand it to me but I said my hands were too dirty he was going to have to get this picture for me! And I think he did a fantastic job capturing the well camouflaged creature with our undependable little camera!

Earlier this summer while sitting outside with Dad on his porch, I spotted what looked to me like a tiny green inch worm with legs. Next time Beverly passed by I showed it to her and she said it was a baby praying mantis! It was so tiny the pictures didn’t come out…

2006 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

And back in 2006 we found a praying mantis (pictured above) on the side of Dan & Fran’s house in Virginia.

There are about 2,000 species of these carnivores world-wide! They eat insects and spiders so I hope ours will be staying in the garden – perhaps I should leave a few weeds for him to hide in. By the time I cleared away all the tools and swept off the porch he had moved backwards down the iris leaf he was on, but he was still there. Will be checking on him every time I leave the house!

So, here I am at the computer again, after a nice long shower, of course. Step away from the computer now, Barbara, you still have laundry to do. But maybe a little Scrabble first… Starting to keep an eye on Tropical Storm Earl – it might be around here as a hurricane mid-week if it keeps to its present course… Step away…