Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

It was only about a week and a half ago that I went out walking … the earth was still slumbering, content in its dried weeds, quiet soil, bare trees. But the warmth in the air, the sun, spoke of a greener time to come.

The river was high and moving swiftly towards the bay at the southern part of the state. Although turbulent and muddy-looking from this view, it was still beautiful.

I walked past what is probably the neighborhood eyesore. It’s a long, low red building, at the end of which are a loading platform and garage doors, awaiting a shipment that has long since failed to arrive. I love the chair sitting there, keeping the faith that someday the neglected warehouse might live again. The red checkerboards above the garage doors tell me that this may have once been a Purina distributor, perhaps for large animal feed, serving the farmers who are just a few miles away. In a tonier town, this would have long since been demolished. We all seem to just take it for granted.

A bed of purple crocus had pushed its way through the dirt edging the road, no grass yet in, looking rather alone, barren, and brave.

Across the street a stream of bright golden grasses filled the space between the old train rails, brilliant in the sun, and threw shadows on what was once a second set of tracks.

A small bunch of snowdrops struggled to announce an impending Spring among dried grasses and old walkway weeds. I couldn’t help but imagine them surrounded by a bed of rich grass or maybe even some mulch, just something more complimentary to their delicate, pioneering spirit.

An old building on the walk to the bridge. I’m sure it’s the same age as some of the other stone buildings I’ve photographed, but I am always puzzled by the doors stacked above one another. Perhaps there was once a stairway down the front, like a fire escape, but there are no clues in the stone or cement. I’ve been told it has housed, and still does, floors of antiques and collectibles. As long as I’ve lived here, someone (I suspect the owner) always places one item in the doorway, there for the taking by whoever passes by.

An old-fashioned doll rests in the corner today.

The Delaware looks stunning as always, its racing south not as immediately apparent as in the earlier view. Here it better reflects the cloudless blue sky, and wears an aura of peacefulness.

At last … the first sheen of green! That sly, subtle wash of the palest green creeping into the grassy areas, letting us know that in maybe as little as a week’s time there will be more of Spring poking its head through the ground – daffodils, more crocus and snowdrops, the blush of yellow on the forsythia.

It’s been a long winter, a long year. We’ve survived and carried with us a great weariness and a need for the promise that a greener season brings. Soon … more hope, more sun, more people about. The simple things that make our hearts grateful that we’re still here and can lift our faces to the warmth.

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Although fall does not technically end until the Winter Solstice, it is often felt to end with Thanksgiving, when all things Christmas and holiday ramp up in earnest. Today is Black Friday with all its manic sales and crazy competition, and one day of the year I am more than happy to stay put where I am.

But Thanksgiving was another story, and the perfect time to make a warming soup. Pictured is the Pumpkin Black Bean Soup I made, vegetarian, healthy, and delicious — onions, garlic, spices, black beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, and finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar. And served in one of my very favorite finds – black matte and gloss stoneware by Pfaltzgraff.

Presentation is an important aspect of food as we eat first with our eyes, so I love to photograph food. How rarely you see this in my posts is testament to how little time I have for cooking and baking nowadays, a sad comment as I truly enjoy doing both from scratch. And those lovely dishes? Though now closed, there used to be a Pfaltzgraff factory outlet, a dish-lover’s paradise, in nearby Flemington. A perfect bowl like this might run $8.00, but due to some usually invisible defect, it sold for $1.00, maybe two. Many mourned the outlet closing its doors, though it was a somewhat dangerous place for those who love dishes and cookware.

So while feeling spectacularly fortunate that I was able to buy such beautiful and durable stoneware for a pittance, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate I am in so many other ways — that in a world where people are shivering and suffering in the cold, I am able to have a safe, warm home; where people are dying of hunger, I can make a nourishing soup with the purest of ingredients; where people are in want of clean water – or any at all – I have what I need to make coffee and tea at the touch of a spigot.

And I am fortunate to enjoy the wonderful change of seasons where I live, golden fall easing into the chill and white of winter, so beautiful. For all these, and so much more, I am thankful.


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Nature XXVII, Autumn

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

~ By Emily Dickinson

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ChildrenReadingTintSometimes I have to stop and realize how incredibly fortunate I am to be living now, and to have grown up in a time and place where reading was always encouraged, and books always available. The two events I wrote about in the previous post are only possible for me because of these factors.

I am so grateful that, as a child, I was read to often and from when I was very young, that our mom read us a bedtime story each night before we went to sleep. Each week she took my brother and me to the library in town, a beautiful 1780’s Dutch stone house, where, after careful browsing, we emerged victorious with stacks of books in our arms. Once at home, we dove into our treasures. We had bookcases in our rooms, and it was a common sight to see our parents reading in the evening, long after the TV had become a living room fixture.

It’s easy to forget what an abundance of riches this truly is. We search the internet, e-mail, write and visit blogs and social media, and read books in a variety of 3-dimensional and electronic media with nary a thought. But that is not, and has not been, the case for many people in this world.

RichardWrightAwhile back, a fellow blogger shared this sentiment and gave me a link to a story by an author whose name I had not heard since I was in high school, Richrad Wright. He grew up in the deep South and in 1944, when he was 36, wrote the book Black Boy.  A particular chapter is titled The Library Card, and in first person relates Wright’s discovery of the vast reading material and knowledge to be had and to which he had no access because of his color. The books he longed to read only became available surreptitiously through the use of one trusted white man’s library card, and this depended upon Wright’s maintaining his attitude of ignorance and subservience to those around him.

For me, The Library Card eloquently makes the point of how blessed we are to be free to read, to learn, and to explore at will. There are people all around the world, including right here in our own country, predominantly children and women, who do not have access to books, nor can they, nor in some places, are they allowed or encouraged, to read.

There are plenty of ways we can bring books and reading to those who need and would benefit, but it has to start with this – the realization of how wonderful a gift we already have and frequently take for granted … a light that shines into the darkness, a transport to other worlds, an endless source of inspiration. Lucky, lucky us.

See you at the book sale.


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Is there one small spot in your home that makes you happy? Perhaps more than one? This is one of the spots in my home.



It’s a collection of items that all make me feel happy, calm, and grateful. An oak washstand I bought in Brooklyn on Atlantic Avenue back when I lived in Park Slope; a rather poorly matted, (by me), and framed photo of my Mom and Dad when they were married; a rusted crow sitting atop a real piece of branch; a couple candles and some fall leaves in a heavy opalescent dark brown pitcher …

I change these items around regularly, but for now, this is what speaks to me of Fall. Warm, simple, woodsy. Home. I am grateful to have these small reminders of where I’ve been in life and with whom, what holds memories for me, and how blessed I’ve been in so many ways.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.” 

― Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Aiq’ij of the Eagle Clan  

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At my house, it’s the appearance of my favorite Dollar Store Christmas plates and German Christmas mugs. I find them so simple and festive that I can’t help but get in the holiday mood when having coffee or serving up something good to eat, like a slice of yesterday’s Thanksgiving apple pie. Yum.

How much better is a cozy moment with good food on some pretty dishes than being jostled endlessly while competing with swarms of shoppers on Black Friday? I leave the shopping marathons to others and content myself with oner tasks. It was rather unsettling, to say the least, to find that a number of stores out this way had decided to one-up their competitors who traditionally opened their doors at 4 a.m. Friday morning – by opening theirs at 7 or 8 p.m. ON Thanksgiving. People, people, is it really all about money?

So snuggle up with your loved ones, your yummy leftovers, a good book – whatever inspires you – and protest. That’s right – stay home and actually enjoy some holiday time. Spend a few moments in gratitude and leave the shopping olympics for someone else. Feels so much better, doesn’t it?


My apple pie cooling in anticipation of Thanksgiving.

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The last few days I have been intuitively drawn back to read my friend – though I have never met him – author Mark Nepo. I find such comfort in the kindness and wisdom of his writing, but moreover, the ability of his words to help center me.


Work, and its sometimes seemingly endless demands, can pull me farther and farther away from my self until I feel lost. Especially with Thanksgiving upon us, I wish for my mind, heart and spirit to be in a far different place. This morning, tuning into Nepo’s The Book of Awakening helped me rein myself back into a place where I want to be … calmer, more content. He writes:

“The goal of all experience is to remove whatever might keep us from being whole. The things we learn through love and pain reduce our walls and bring our inner and outer life together, and all the while the friction of being alive erodes whatever impediments remain.
“But the simplest and deepest way to make who we are at one with the world is through the kinship of gratitude.”

He asks that we sit quietly and meditate on what keeps us from knowing ourselves, inhaling gratitude and exhaling what stands in our way. I know that when we are feeling most whole, when we have separated what we “do” from who we are, that we experience greater peace. And when we are at peace, we love more easily, breathe more easily, give more easily. So beautifully connected.

Knowing ourselves and releasing all that we are not taps us right into the magnificence of spirit, our Oneness. This Thanksgiving I share peace and thankfulness with you.

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You know how when you’re really busy and/or distracted and/or not feeling 100%, (or whatever), something can happen and you shrug it off, chalk it up to “it couldn’t be helped?” But then the next day you’re kind of bummed about it?

Well, after running around on Saturday, I was pretty tired at night, so decided to leave my front earrings in, no big deal. Didn’t bother even checking them. Small studs rarely come out overnight. Except … I woke up Sunday morning, and one of them, indeed, was missing. I did a search of the likely places it could have gone, and then, just chalked it up to “whatever.”

But as the day wore on, I was bummed about it. They are these cool little Celtic knots, and had become my “go-to” earrings when I couldn’t decide what to put in my ears, or needed something simple to complement a busy shirt or scarf … my back-up earrings. Damn. Now I was really bummed at the prospect of never having them to wear again. Who knows when or where I got them? OK, so be it. Life goes on; this is the small stuff.

So now it’s Monday morning, a boatload of stuff to do, and I lean over to see how the stain on my “Berber” living room carpet is coming along – the cat vomit one I had Nature-Miracled to death – and there’s the earring, hiding in plain sight. I still find it bizarre how such a tiny thing – quite literally, too – can so brighten a day; I was grinning from ear to ear, and felt like I ought to be thanking somebody. Was I just plain lucky? (Since I don’t believe in coincidences, I tend to doubt that.) I could go on with my own personal conjectures, but I won’t. What it seemed like to me – as these seemingly insignificant instances in all our lives can be – was that it was a sign – a teensy one – that all was well.

And you know what? I’ll take it.

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Accepting Now

I’m always a big fan of good quotes, and this one came up on my metaphysical flip calendar on Friday.

You cannot live on earth and avoid lessons;  but you can learn them easily and with joy rather than struggle.”  – Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer.

I’m thinking that learning them easily and with joy IS a big lesson no? I’ve been observing and talking to others and thinking about my own experiences, and realizing how much of our stress and anxiety is attached to outcomes, i.e. our having a lot invested in our own expectations coming to pass. Sometimes our expectations are based on “reality” and are reasonable. But sometimes they’re really what we want to happen. Or not to happen. In the latter two cases, the result is the same; we are not living in the present world of possibilities or accepting what is and we become messy balls of anxiety.

So in accepting the not-knowing, it might seem like we’re spending our lives walking on a tightrope of uncertainty, and in a way, I suppose we are.  But if we believe that there is a reason why things happen, whether we can see it or not, that there may be a bigger picture that we don’t know about, or a lesson we have yet to discern, then the tightrope has an infinite safety net. We’re really always OK. It’s our own attachment to outcomes that prevents us from walking that sparkling tightrope called life with confidence and perfect balance. And leaping with joy. Yes!

Accepting Now and being grateful for all we have in this moment, can bring us joy and help us learn our lessons without struggle. It can be a challenge. I’m right on the journey’s path with the rest of you, trying to grasp the lesson a little better,  on a deeper level each time, and coming back to joy. Happy travels.

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Here you see something I’ve wanted for quite some time … a handsomely carved Komodo dragon. I spotted him probably two years ago in one of my favorite stores, Two Buttons in Frenchtown. At the time, they had one that was probably 5′ long. I really wanted that one, but didn’t dare look at the price tag. Each time I’ve been in the store, I’ve been powerfully drawn to one of these Komodo dragons.  They are hand-carved by an artist in Bali, (I believe), and each is unique. I would hold one, or several in turn, in my hands, feeling a connection I cannot explain.

On the occasion of my birthday this past summer, I was given a check. I was asked to please spend it on something that I really wanted, something special. My immediate thought was of the dragon. And yet I have dallied, contemplating all the things I really need and should do with that money. Do you ever find yourself doing this? You are invited to do something or buy something that is unequivocally a treat for yourself, but instead you spend it on something practical, or wrangle endlessly with yourself over it? Like I have. You know, we really need to be good to ourselves, kind to ourselves, to believe that we are deserving of all that is good.

So about a week ago, doing some Christmas shopping in Two Buttons with a friend, I picked up a Komodo dragon, as I had so many times before. He had a different attitude in his posture than I had previously seen. He seemed reflective. And as I held him, once again considering my still unspent birthday money, one of my very favorite Christmas songs played through the store, John Lennon’s So This Is Christmas. And I knew that that Komodo dragon was meant to be mine.

There are no coincidences.

And then this Saturday I met a longtime friend for breakfast. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and she returned a book to me that I honestly had forgotten I’d lent her — Gratitude, A Way of Life by Louise Hay and other luminaries. It’s easy to forget sometimes how much we truly have to be grateful for, and I felt that this book returning to me after such a long time was also no coincidence. Perhaps I really needed to re-examine how much I have to be thankful for in my life. So I’ve decided to read one of the author’s essays on gratitude each day. We can never go wrong being thankful and making it a daily practice.

Most likely you have your own Komodo dragons appearing in your life. They are opportunities to be kind to yourself, to be thankful, to even find moments of peace. Take them.

Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me.       – Jill Jackson Miller

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