Monthly Archives: April 2013

Messages

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Hmmm…

I am setting out today to write about messages.

The ones that come out of nowhere, that point you in a certain direction, answer a question or reassure.

I have downloaded the above photo three separate times. It continues to post sideways.

I took it – a skim of ice over a puddle in a leaf-strewn path – this morning on my walk. In my mind, and then in my camera, the lines run horizontally, like waves. Calm. Serene. Soft waves contrasting with the hard yet fragile ice. Genius, really. In my mind anyway.

Here, sideways, the serenity is gone. In it’s place, there is some kind of wild, unnatural shimmy happening.

A message? I wonder.

I am reading You are Not so Smart by David McRaney. The subtitle includes the phrase, “and 46 other ways you’re deluding yourself”.

One chapter is about “the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy”, which is the tendency to ignore random chance when the results seem meaningful or when we want a random event to have a meaningful cause.

Remember all the parallels drawn between Lincoln and Kennedy after the assassination? Mr. McRaney reminds us:

  • both were presidents of the United States elected one hundred years apart
  • both were shot and killed by assassins who were known by three names with fifteen letters total
  • Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln
  • both were killed on a Friday while sitting next to their wives, Lincoln in the Ford Theater, Kennedy in a Lincoln made by Ford
  • both were succeeded by a man named Johnson, born one hundred years apart

Amazing, right?

Not according to this author. After citing many even more wondrous and spooky examples, he explains it all away. “Imagine a cowboy shooting at a barn,” he says, “over time, the side of the barn becomes riddled with holes…” If the cowboy studies the patterns and then paints a bulls-eye over the area where there is the greatest concentration of bullet-holes, it will look like he’s a pretty good marksman. That’s what we are doing, he says, when we pluck similarities from history, ignoring the differences.

Another chapter deals with Apophenia, which is the misconception that some coincidences are so miraculous, they must have meaning.

Not so, according  to this author.

“Coincidences are a routine part of life, even the seemingly miraculous ones. Any meaning applied to them comes from your mind.”

Bummer.

I may have to set this book aside.

Chapter after chapter, David McRaney seems intent on taking the fun out of life.

I’m not one to bet my life savings based on the alignment of the stars, but I get a lift from a good horoscope reading.

I love synchronicity!

I am heartened by the occasional miracle.

I firmly believe we should pay attention for signs from the universe.

I watch for arrows to point me in the right direction.

I look at every fortune cookie as a chance for new awareness.

Once, in the middle of a particularly sad and lonely winter, I received a card in the mail. It was from Amnesty International, asking for a donation. That’s not important, though I’m sure they do great work.

The card said, “Do not be discouraged. You are not forgotten.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear!

I love Richard Bach’s book, Illusions, and the idea of a handbook that would, when opened randomly, always give you the correct guidance at the exact right time.

This morning, tidying up before a little trip, I moved a box of cereal from its usual spot, in order to wipe down the counter. When I went to retrieve it, the message came clear. Next to the little ceramic votive holder that says “Treasure Each Day” was the Cheerios box, reminding me to “Smile.”

I may not be so smart, Mr. McRaney, but I know a good message when I see one!Image

Tommy

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When I was a child, an envelope would arrive a few days before my birthday, from my grandparents. It contained a birthday card, of course, but also a long, newsy letter, and usually a gift of money, to enable me to pick out my own present.

For most of my childhood my grandparents were in Chicago on my birthday, both working in the city. But sometimes they were on vacation at that time, here on Beaver Island or elsewhere.  Sometimes they were in good health, other times they had issues. Always, they were busy. My Grandmother had a large family in the city, of brothers and sisters and cousins and all of their children. My grandfather had six grown children scattered around Michigan (one in New Jersey!) and twenty five grandchildren.

Yet, never-failing, that card always arrived in time for my birthday.

My grandson, Tommy, turns eleven tomorrow.

I’ve been carrying his card around for a week.

One day, I had the card, but forgot the address. The next day I addressed the envelope but then left it sitting on the dining room table. Two days I missed the post office. Another two days I ran in for my mail before going to work, but forgot to bring the envelope in to post. Tomorrow I will mail Tommy’s birthday card, without any hope that it will reach him on time.

So, today I’ve been trying to call, so far without success.¬† To wish Tommy a very happy birthday. To tell him that I love him. And to explain that his card will be late.

This isn’t the first time.

Though I have only five grandchildren, and I know all of their birthdays by heart, I am often late getting cards and letters in the mail.

It has happened often enough that I know the response I’ll get.

First my daughter, Kate, will say, “No problem.” She’ll have some assurance that it will be here in time for the party, which is on the following weekend, or that he has so many cards and gifts to open, better that it come later when he can give it his full attention. She’s very good at it.

Then Tommy. He’ll be happy for the call, glad to talk to his Grandma Cindy, and will mimic his mother’s “No problem.”

He’s a good, kind boy!

He deserves a more thoughtful, punctual grandmother!

Unfortunately, he’s stuck with me.

Which is very fortunate for me; I’m lucky to have this sweet young man for a grandson!

Happy Birthday, Tommy!

Awake!

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Sleep does not come easy for me lately.

This has been an ongoing problem for much of my life.

As a child, I battled bedtime, and then fought sleep, as if my very life depended on it.

My sister, Brenda, and I chattered away under the covers through all of our teen years. Dad’s arrival home from his second shift around midnight was the only thing that forced us to stop talking, so we could fall asleep.

During my first pregnancy, my sleep patterns flipped wildly back and forth. The first weeks, I felt like I could sleep twenty-four hours a day. I’d often crawl into an empty bed for a nap during Sunday visits to my parents house. I’d drop off to sleep whenever I was a passenger in a car. I didn’t dare sit down in the middle of a project, or sleep would overtake me while dinner burned or water overflowed the sink.

Then, suddenly, I could hardly sleep at all. For months.

Apartment living prevented me from noisy endeavors like vacuuming or machine sewing, but I’d scrub and wax floors through the night. I patched my husband’s blue jeans by hand, and sometimes embroidered the patches. I crocheted for hours. I played hundreds of games of solitaire. When the alarm went off in the morning, my husband would find me wide awake with coffee waiting. I’d kiss him off to work, then settle in for a nap on the sofa.

There was a time, when my oldest daughter was a baby, that she and I would rendezvous every night at three AM. She’d have a bottle; I’d nibble left-overs from dinner. Together, we’d watch old episodes of Charlie Chan.

Generally, though, having a working husband, children, classes and jobs forced a schedule on me that helped to diminish the problem. I still had the occasional sleepless night, and suffered through the effects of it in the following days, but insomnia did not have the same hold on me.

Now, once again, it does.

Often I can cite too much caffeine, unresolved issues or legitimate worries as the cause.

Some things are within my control, some are not.

It’s hard to shut down a busy mind.

Lately, it’s very hard to fall asleep.

Last night was a perfect example.

I had worked in town, walked the dogs morning and evening, wrote, made dinner and tidied up, worked several hours in the studio, answered a couple letters and went to bed exhausted at eleven o’clock.

And lay there, wide awake.

I try all the regular things: I tense, then relax my muscles one by one, from forehead to toes. I allow every thought to enter my consciousness, then gently release it until my mind is clear. I count backward from one hundred, to keep concerns and worries at bay. I toss. I turn.

I lay there.

At one AM, I turned on the lamp and read a couple chapters.

Could hardly keep my eyes open.

That’s the way it is these days. Though I could vacuum to my heart’s content without anyone complaining, and heaven knows my floors could use a good scrubbing, I don’t have the energy. I wish I could roust myself to at least accomplish the chores that I know I’ll be too tired to tackle the next day, for lack of rest. Awake in the middle of the night, all I want is sleep.

I turned out the light…and sleep would not come.

At three-thirty I came downstairs to let Rosa out.

Tried the sofa…no better for sleep.

Turned on the computer.

I checked the news and e-mail and a social networking site, played two games of on-line scrabble and researched a children’s art project for Cinco de Mayo.

At six AM I went back to the sofa where I slept like a baby for almost two hours.

I’m up for the day now, but without much stamina for the day ahead.

Though a nap sounds lovely, I force myself to resist, so that sleep will be possible tonight.

For now, onward…I’m awake!

On the Edge of a New Season

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We took our walk yesterday – the dogs and I – off the road and through the woods to the east on trails that have been impassible since December, clogged with deep snow.

Some winters the temperatures drop and stay cold long enough to let a hard crust form on the deep snow. Then, I can walk far into the woods, to places I’d never dare venture without my footprints to guide me home.

Not this year.

We got plenty of snow this Winter, here on Beaver Island. We had cold, too, of course…but not extreme temperatures for days on end. The snow stayed soft, often slushy. Sometimes the little dog would run gleefully across the surface, chasing some scent or another, teasing me by refusing to come when I called. The bigger dog would usually break through, and find herself in snow too dense to walk in. Me, too.

Certainly it’s a workout, trudging through deep snow, but it’s not the type of exercise I want. It’s hard on the joints, and travel is too difficult to go any great distance. I prefer an easier walk at a better pace, where I can enjoy the fresh air and the antics of the dogs, and not be too exhausted to do anything else when I’m done.

The snow is melting, though.

There are pools and puddles where the snow has turned to liquid faster than the earth can absorb it. There are huge swaths of bare ground. In fact, I carried my camera in order to document the last of this winter’s snow.

It may have been a bit early; the forecast is now calling for more of it this weekend.

Still, it was a nice walk through an area I haven’t seen for a few months.

We took the trail that runs parallel to my house, back through the woods on the old logging road to the little hunting camp. There’s a pond behind the cabin, where a pair of Sandhill Cranes spend their Summer. I was anxious to see if they’d arrived yet this Spring. In the Fall, the course grass grows so tall and densely around the pond, it’s not possible to get close to the water. Summer, the mosquitoes keep me out of this area most days.

Spring is the time for this walk.

The pond is still covered mostly with ice. There is still snow in the woods. I did not see the birds that I was looking for.

Yet…the trees have buds at the ends of their branches that will soon open into leaves.

Two robins kept me entertained as they hopped around the yard.

Squirrels chattered and dashed around from tree to tree, keeping the dogs busy with chasing games.

And…near the pond, I’m sure I heard the frogs!

Whatever the forecast brings this weekend, Spring is close upon us here!

Found!

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In early December, the title was “Lost!”

The subject was my red notebook.

I was planning to write about my friend, Emma Jean. She was one of many on a list of “60 most influential women in my life” that I had compiled at my sixtieth birthday. The list was in the notebook, along with other lists, poems, quotes and ideas.

The notebook was lost.

It seemed that everything hinged on information it contained.

Should I start reading just any book, when the notebook contained a list of books I want to read? How can I finish a letter without the quote I had planned to include? Could I write a blog without notes and ideas collected for inspiration?

I was stalled, for the loss of my red notebook.

Finally, I had to resign myself to the idea that I might never find it.

At last, I had to move on without it.

I managed. I bumbled forward. I got by without it.

But I never stopped noticing the loss.

Last week, getting ready to go away for a few days, I pulled my little suitcase out of the attic.

Inside, along with the little travel slippers I keep there, was my red notebook!

Contained within are all the things I knew were there, the bits of information that I’d felt the need for and sorely missed all these months.

Here, the notes on the diet plan I knew would change my life, the lists of books and websites and movies!

Surprises, too!

Here, a poem I had forgotten about…a quote that brought tears to my eyes…the notes for my sister Sheila’s eulogy, jotted down on a tearful drive nearly two years ago. Here, a bundle of old photographs tucked between the pages…a recipe for home-made sidewalk chalk…my menu for Christmas dinner, 2011.

It’s such a joy to find something that’s been missing, I have half a mind to start hiding things on myself!

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”

~Helen Keller