“One Of These Mornings You’re Gonna Rise Up Singing”*

I haven’t been writing much for the past two months for reasons I hope to blog about soon. Basically, life has gotten in the way. This is a post from a couple of years ago that still makes sense. I’m surprised by how consistent I am. I edited a little and the photos are new.

WE ARE RACING TOWARD SUMMER, AREN’T WE?

It’s feels to me, after such a long and difficult winter, that spring lasted no time at all. April seemed to go by in the blink of an eye and incredibly, we celebrated the unofficial start to summer last weekend with Memorial Day.

When I realized we were quickly coming to summer’s front door, I initially had an anxiety attack thinking of all the springtime activities and chores I haven’t yet gotten done. (As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a list maker.) But then I relaxed and allowed myself to think about the things I have enjoyed this spring, which is a much healthier exercise.

I was fortunate enough to watch the progression of buds to blooms to leaves on the trees and the pushing up of flowering plants from inside the ground to up  toward the sun.

I put the first of this year’s tomato plants and herbs into the garden. While planting the herbs, I held some aside to make some air fresheners, teas and lotions. I naturally have more energy come spring so I’ve been walking in the nature preserve to bird watch and I got to see goslings make their initial appearance at the pond’s edge.  Also, after talking about it ALL winter, I finally got to take the little people to the playground for a game of Hide ‘n Peek Seek. I engaged in each of those activities and enjoyed them completely in the moment as they happened. So if it seems that the springtime flew by, it is only in retrospect.

I hope you enjoyed your spring and that summer will be an equally wonderful set of precious moments for you. I hope you’ll find the recipes below useful. And lastly, I hope you had a great Memorial Day and thanks so much for reading.

*Lyric from “Summertime” by DuBose Heyward from Porgy and Bess

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Baking Soda Air Fresheners

Mason jars
Baking soda
Essential oils, I use lavender, rosemary or lemon
Dried herbs (optional)
Fill the jars to 3/4 with baking soda, leaving a little room on top. Add about 5 or more drops essential oils and stir. Sprinkle on top about a tablespoon of matching herbs to whichever oil you’ve used. (Some people punch holes in the jar lids and screw them on. I never bother, preferring to leave the jars topless.) Shake gently occasionally to reactivate the oils. The lingering aroma will be subtle but fabulously fragrant.

 

DIY Lotion

2 oz Shea Butter
2 oz Vitamin E oil
1 oz Jojoba oil
1 oz Lanolin
1/2 tsp essential oil
All of these measurements are approximate. I find its good to play with the proportions so you get just the right mixture for your skin type. Also, I cut the amount of Lanolin from the original recipe because I don’t care for the smell.

Schedule for A Journey of Fulfillment

I’m joining Susan on this journey. I’ll be using some quotes from Richard Rohr’s “The Naked Now” as guiding thoughts on some days. (See Center for Action and Contemplation link.) I feel the same as one of Susan’s other respondents; amazed at the perfect timing of this opportunity. Thank you, Susan! Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes.

SusanWithPearls

A Journey of Fulfillment, a 40-day Consciousness Journey, begins at susanwithpearls.com on Monday June 16, 2014.

The schedule for the journey will be as follows:

Monday June 16, 2014: A brief overview of this journey– “Why a Journey of Fulfillment”. Find out if it sounds like something you’d like to do for yourself.

Tuesday June 17, 2014: The commitment statement will be posted. This is the statement that focuses and dedicates the journey.

June 18- July 27 : 40 days of guiding thoughts for consideration and contemplation; 40 days of sharing about the contemplation. 40 days of shifting my consciousness into a higher understanding and experience of Fulfillment–maybe yours too?

July 28-August 3: There will be one or two posts of an afterword, and some concluding thoughts. Processing myself, thinking about thinking about the thinking.

The structure of the Journey is:

Minimum:

  • Spend 5 minutes reading and thinking about the guiding…

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Wrap It Up

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NEW YEARS.  It’s the time we use to mark the passing of the old and the beginning of the new. I don’t go in much for traditional rituals so I do my year-end assessment a little differently. First, I don’t think of a year as being “gone”. I like to think I bring every precious, previous minute into the one I’m living right now. In that way time is never “lost”. Secondly, I don’t make resolutions. I feel that’s a sucker’s game and I try not to set myself up for failure. What I like to do instead is reflect on the best lessons I’ve learned in the past year. I have no doubt that the best lesson I learned in 2013 was disciplined anger.

Last August I wrote about a conversation we had in my church group about anger. We were considering whether as Christians we can ever accept anger as justified. It took place a few days before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and I admit, I had righteous anger on my mind. I was loud and adamant in my opinion. I blogged about it and even made a video to bring home my point. In the post I said, “I think anger and a thirst for justice are at the forefront of movements for equality and non-violence is not so much a belief system as it is a political strategy.” Well, I was wrong. I made a mistake by framing the question in foot-stamping emotional terms. I was childish and churlish. I didn’t take the opportunity to reflect maturely in a deeper spiritual way. Then a wise friend of mine sent me a link (http://www.inc.com/hitendra-wadhwa/great-leadership-how-martin-luther-king-jr-wrestled-with-anger.html) to an article about Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. (Thanks Janie!) Here’s the quote from it that was the eye opener I needed, 

“…the words of another great leader, the one who taught Martin Luther King, Jr. his signature technique of peaceful struggle, Mahatma Gandhi. “I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world.”

Wow, “heat conserved, “peaceful struggle”. I guess that’s why Martin Luther King could admit he was angry that his home had been bombed and still move forward; he learned the lesson. How spiritually well grounded does a person have to be to transform anger into a positive power, including the power to understand “the other” and practice courtesy? And how mature does a person have to be to then use that energetic power as a tool for positive action? I had to sit with that and be honest enough to say I was lacking. And I’m still working on it because I realize the lesson doesn’t just apply to social justice. I had to look at the behavior in my personal life and admit I have a pattern of seeing my anger as justified. As we all know, it’s easy to be an ass when you feel righteous. I’m very good at rationalizing my opinion as fact in order to feel superior or feel I have “won”. Even knowing that, I have to remind myself of the power of disciplined anger constantly because I forget so often. (Sorry to the apartment management and the daughter who gave me the gift certificate for Christmas.)

There are other lessons I learned in 2013 but that’s the best one. I’ll take it and the others, along with the cumulative moments of my life gratefully into the time to come. I hope you look at the days past, realize the good and go forward wishing for the best.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Hunger Action Month

Yesterday my church group helped serve at Open Table, a feeding program for the homeless run by Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, DC. During the following debriefing session, one of our members talked about how the experience slapped her in the face with the reality of her privilege. She eloquently talked about the privilege of food security and permanent shelter. Later last night, I found out that this month is Hunger Action Month. I was slapped in the face with the reality that I’m privileged enough to have been unaware of this until the middle of the month.

I’m going to try to spend the rest of this month staying mindful that hunger is a huge and unnecessary problem in this country. I watched a very good documentary last night on Netflix that I recommend, if you haven’t already seen it, called “A Place At the Table”.

Also, you can go to Feeding America.org  for more information.

Super Moon Mania II

Photo from Wiki Commons

I was afraid I’d missed the Super moon tonight. I couldn’t imagine how I could have since I love the moon so much. I was all over last year’s Super moon like white on rice. I posted about it then too. (wordpress.com/2012/05/05/super-moon-mania-2) ) I was pissed at myself for letting other things distract me from watching it rise tonight.

Anyway, I took off my pajamas, put my clothes back on and ran outside. None of my neighbors were out walking the dogs so it was very quiet.  It was 9:30, 81 degrees and the air was perfectly still. There it was, the moon, shining gloriously. Small veils of clouds drifted past it but I could still make out the details of it. I stood on the sidewalk for a good long while staring up at its largeness and beauty. The wonder of the moon makes me feel connected to the essence of nature like very few other things can. Thanks Super moon!

To Market, to Market……

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Is there any thing better than the fresh produce available at this time of year? I certainly don’t feel there is.

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Going to the farmers market: the colors, smells and interacting with other people. It’s a complete experience for me.

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Preparing the produce is a lesson in mindfulness: slowing down time, listening to the birds while I cut and chop.  I try to really taste the food and appreciate it.

Where I live in the mid Atlantic area of the United States, it seems as though the winter offers only limited agricultural products; apples, oranges and the roots of plants. They are wonderful in their own right, they’re just not my favorites. I gravitate toward the kinds of produce available during the warm seasons. I love the abundance and variety of fruits and vegetables like strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, tender lettuces and lots of fresh herbs. It’s one of the many, many advantages of summer. One of my favorite recipes that uses vegetables available now at  farmers markets is Pasta with Greens and Tomatoes. I’ve added to the Heaven’s menu page.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Ouch!

I had major dental surgery last week. And by major I mean 3 hours worth of work, gums split ear to ear and heavy sedation. And by sedation I mean out like a light, don’t remember a thing including how I got home. (Don’t judge, someone else drove me. Lol.)

I bring this up because the surgery caused me to reflect on pain, or more precisely, enduring pain. I was thinking that I’ve learned a lot over the years about what it takes to endure pain. It’s one of the life lessons that this blog is supposed to be about.

I’ve learned that although it seems counterintuitive, sometimes it’s better to accept pain than to fight it.

I was having a baby the first time someone tried to help me understand that. My nurse was wonderful when I had a C-section to deliver my youngest daughter. She came in the first night and told me not to fight the pain because I’d never win. She told me not to instinctively go into a defensive mode so I could stay aware of my body. She explained the need for pain as messages from the body pointing to the places that need attention. She said that pain is an ally not an adversary. She was very smart.

The next time I heard the lesson was from a therapist. She told me that what we perceive as the negative of pain is mostly fear. She told me to stay aware of my body tensing more at the memory of past hurt than the real pain itself.  She said the worst part of pain, the memory of it, has already happened so there’s no reason to be afraid of it. She taught me to relax, breathe and that if I tried to focus on the center of the pain, I’d find it was much smaller than I’d feared. She was very wise.

My yoga teacher is young but she’s good at guiding a bunch of us Boomers gently through our poses. She tells us to breathe through our pain. (In our hips, knees and backs.) Breathe in to the center of it, breathe out and release it. It really does help when I’m trying to creakily hold a pose. She is very sweet.

So, when I went to a Buddhist dharma talk last year and the presenter discussed  “being the pain”  it resonated with me. He was saying the same thing as the other women were saying. And the lesson can be applied to emotional and spiritual pain as well as the physical.  Staying with it and giving our “self” over to it is the only way we really know what pain is and what it means. And if we know that we can bear it, use it and won’t waste precious energy trying to beat it.

I’ve Fallen And….

I’ve had a tough time since the beginning of the month when I took a few emotional hits. I tried to get back on my feet but I wasn’t able to do it. That was until a reader unknown to me commented on a post I wrote a year ago. He reminded me to remember where I want to be. So, I’ve reblogged that post below this one and I’m going to start a new post with a mindful attitude tomorrow. Thank you again, Gerardo.

Summer’s Loose Ends

So Long Summer

Tomorrow is an uber-symbolic end of summer. It’s September 1st and the start of the Labor Day weekend. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking ahead with excitement and/or anxiety to the fall. Before I start writing about what the southern autumn is like for me, there are a few things I feel the need to mention.

Hey, movingmuse.wordpress.com, I do love it here in Virginia and yes it is warmer than Boston! Urbanwallart.wordpress.com, see you in Williamsburg!

I’ve added my Twitter address to the sidebar. I’ve held out until now because I felt safe to unleash my meaner side there. Now I see that I wasn’t all that mean and more importantly, I’m a whole person whatever and wherever I write. (Thank you Anne et al for the insight.) I feel all right with myself as I am so I don’t need to hide an aspect of my personality. I’m mindful that feeling all right is a blessing as well. So, on Twitter I was Snarkyhere but now I’m SnarkyNoMo.

Lastly, I had the wonderful fortune to see the rising of tonight’s “Blue Moon”. (If you’ve read this blog before you know that I consider myself a moon maniac.) My friend the moon was stunning tonight.Of course the moon itself wasn’t blue. It was a deep cream-colored orb against a dusky blue sky. As it was explained in today’s LA Times,

A blue moon doesn’t mean the moon will actually change color–it’s the rare occurrence of two full moons occurring in the same calendar month. (The first full moon in August happened on Aug. 1.)

Next month’s full moon on September 30th will be the “Harvest Moon” and it doesn’t get more autumnal than that.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend. Throw a little something on the grill for me.

History Lessons

I’m taking advantage of being in the southern U.S. this summer by giving myself some American Civil War history lessons. I’ve decided that rather than WWII, the Civil War is the one that should be called “The Big War”. Although it didn’t involve other countries, I think it had more of a lasting impact on this country. Maybe it’s because I’m African-American that, in my mind, it’s the war that is the most significant in U.S. history. We still live with some of its obvious and not-so-obvious symbols.

Civil War Cemetery in VA

But it’s a hard war to completely understand. Multi-layered, prickly and complex, it was a briar patch of a war. I don’t know about you but I was only taught the superficial ” blue and gray, we freed the slaves” aspects in primary and secondary schools. (I was too busy partying and trying not to flunk out  to take challenging classes in college.) The biggest hole in my knowledge though, and the reason I’m undertaking these lessons is because I come from a family that ran from the enormous effects of slavery and the Civil War. I don’t just mean my family was part of the Great Migration although they were. I mean that the familial response to this part of American history was to deny and detach from the effects. All African-Americans have to face the legacy of slavery and we have varying ways of doing it. Some in my family chose to detach because they believed in the American Dream and so to believe they had to deny the things that made it untrue. They wanted to endeavor, achieve or fail and believe that the outcomes were the result of their own doing. I’m of the “Outliers” school of thought. “It’s not enough to ask what successful people are like…It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”* I believe that the American Dream has a subtext in which slavery is a large factor. But some of my family who were actually from the south (but who have passed on) denied that subtext, choosing instead to detach from the past and redefine themselves. Some went so far as to change the birth cities to ones in the north on their birth certificates, much like when Jews anglicized their last names. They didn’t forgive or tolerate those who acknowledged what history had done to them. And so, much of my family history was concealed and then forgotten.

I choose not to deny and detach. I want to uncover and learn as much about the history that was too painful for many of my ancestors. So while I’m here in the south I’m visiting the sites, reading, reflecting and trying to understand more about the Civil War. And I’m honoring family who lived here before me. I don’t think they had the choices that I do.

Next week I’m going to a living history program. They’ll be asking attendees their thoughts on the effects of the War. I’ll let you know about the responses in a future post. What are your thoughts?

(Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Galdwell, Little, Brown & Co., 2008. * I did read the book but to be honest, the quote is from the summary on Wikipedia. I left my copy at home.)