The Seeds We Plant

It’s getting cold here in New England; it even snowed a little the other day. Today when I went outside it felt so warm I thought it must be in the 70s but the temperature read only 48°. Regardless, I celebrated the heat-wave by leaving my coat home today :]

As warm as 48° feels, winter is still inching in around us and Darren and I were busy for a few days trying to beat the frost and get hundreds {or a billion} daffodil, crocus, and tulip bulbs dug up and transplanted for spring. That’s the thing about flowers and spring—you have to plan ahead if you want to see color and results when the world finally thaws out months from now.

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We got all the bulbs in the ground where we wanted them and then a few days later it was really warm and pretty so I kicked off my shoes, rolled up my pant legs, and went around the yard filling the wheel-barrow up with pretty round rocks to use as a border around the flowers. It took a lot of loads back and forth to wrap all the way around the area I wanted but it felt good to be outside tramping around in the dirt and grass. Darren called me Tom Sawyer the rest of the day but I think he meant it affectionately :]

I’ve been thinking a lot about those little bulbs we put into the ground and all the work and planning that goes into having a pretty yard and garden come spring. And I’ve thought a lot too about all the other seeds we plant, not in the yard and garden, but in our hearts and lives.

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Words, actions, thoughts, decisions—these are the seeds planted throughout our lives that carry with them the power to grow either beauty or weeds in the soil of our hearts and souls.

I think about the words we hear growing up and how those little seeds grow in us and shape us for better or worse all throughout our lives. I think about all the decisions we make and how they too take root and grow into either weeds or blossoms in the tender sod of hearts.

Once weeds take root, they are hard to pluck out; they hold on and keep coming back up over and over again. It doesn’t seem fair that just the opposite is true of flowers—they are tender, delicate, easy to root out and kill. Beauty and blossoms have to be nurtured or they will suffer and die.

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It’s just the same with nurturing beauty in our hearts and lives—you only need be told once that you are stupid or unwanted to have that weed planted in your heart—and plucking it back out will likely have to be done again and again as the weeds keep springing back up. But it seems we must be told many times throughout our lives that we are loved and wanted and worthy before those tender seeds take root and are finally settled into our hearts producing fruit.

So be careful of the seeds you plant—the words, the actions, the thoughts and decisions. Be careful of the seeds you plant in the lives of others and careful of the seeds you let take root in your own heart and soul.

Because once weeds take root they are hard to pluck out and blossoms easily die.

Then & Now

Sometimes it feels like everything has changed. Sometimes you look back and realize nothing has changed at all.

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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We chase the sun across the waves.

We taste the salt water kisses on our lips.

Summer won’t get away from us, not today.

I Fell Asleep Under the Stars

We pack our things and run away to wide open spaces. We zip along from Massachusetts to Vermont. The people grow fewer and the trees multiply in number and variety and I always think it looks like God poured a packet of mixed seeds along the landscape and now trees and wild flowers pop up in colorful abundance.

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We set up camp and sleep outdoors and it feels good to be close to the earth.

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We sit under the trees and the sky and breathe in the outside air. The campfire smoke swirls around in our lungs and we are alive in this wild, outdoor space.

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We gather around campfires and relax in the warmth of the mesmerizing flames.

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We swim in the cold mountain water and tip toe along the river bed filling our pockets with river glass.

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We ride bikes and stretch our legs and souls—shaking off the dust of life lived away from the woods.

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I caught these sneaky little ninjas poking around my tent…

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…And I couldn’t seem to shake the little savages….but as it turns out—I really, really love them.

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God kissed the sky and it blushed pink at his touch.

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And the sun set on our outdoor adventure for one more year and we all fell asleep under the starlit sky that seemed poked through with the light from another world.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thoreau, Walden Pond

Happy Birthday, America

A brief intermission from the Europe posts to say—Happy Birthday, America.

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Yesterday, we took the train to Boston to see the fireworks light up the city.

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You hang a ribbon with a prayer written on it…many, many prayers for Boston in these days.

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A burger and fries for dinner at Cheers….because what is more American than a burger and fries…from Cheers?

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And then we found our place by the Charles River and listened to the Boston Pops playing live in the background.

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And we laughed at all the perfectly normal grownups dressed in their crazy patriotic outfits :]

And then….

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The sky lit up over the Charles River and the music soared around us and I was happy to be home, happy to be a part of this place, and happy to wish America a very happy birthday.

Life Lately.

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Two of my dearest friends came to visit for the week.

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We talked and laughed and explored the streets together and were reminded why we have loved each other so much from the start

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Who couldn’t love a friend with penguin socks?

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We ransacked the dessert section in my favorite Italian coffee shop

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And explored all the beautiful streets and corners of some of my favorite towns. I could take a picture of every perfect little piece of New England architecture

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And perfect little bird houses too

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The other day after exploring my favorite bookstore I came home with lots of old maps, a book printed on a letterpress with raised words you can feel when you run your fingers over the page, a stunning book of American poetry with a bunch of my favorite authors all wrapped up between the same two covers, and a little bitty book of Shakespeare too :]

The trees are blushing crimson in the warm light of spring

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And the sunshine is warming everything up

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And these two are warming my heart up :]

To Fresh Woods and Pastures New

Yesterday, Darren and I closed on our new home. And by new I mean new as soon as we rebuild it kind of new ;]

We bought a little Colonial built back in 1860—you know, the year Abraham Lincoln was elected President and the Pony Express was still delivering the mail. So yes, she is old and she is a fixer-upper. But we love all the old New England charm about her and even though I’m certain we don’t yet fully know what we’ve gotten ourselves into, we are excited and thankful for this new road we’re on.

I was starting to feel like we had looked at every piece of real estate in the whole entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts and there was nothing for us. But here we are. Now we own an old Colonial in a quaint little New England town. We have a big yard and woods behind and before us—I can’t explain how much the yard and woods mean to me. I have a nice sunny spot picked out to plant my first garden and we are within walking distance to the lake where we can swim and canoe. There’s a nice flat road for riding bikes and my very favorite book store is just a few miles away. I’m really, really thankful.

Please remind me of these pretty words come the middle of this project because I will probably be threatening to burn the whole place down once I’m covered in paint and sheetrock dust. I’m moody like that. Oh, and I give up easily so this should go really well ;]

Seriously though, I’m excited about preserving this old house that has seen so much and adding our own lives and memories to her walls. I’m excited about walking out into the yard and working in the garden, excited about jumping in the lake, excited about watching the trees blossom and the leaves fall as we work away on making this very old house our home.

I’m thankful that old things can be made new and that so much of what’s broken can be fixed…not only in old houses, but in our lives too.

Here she is. I call her Abigail. Don’t judge her–she needs a touch of lipstick and rouge–most ladies do, you know.

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And the view…

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“And so you sign a mortgage but also body and soul, spouse and children over to an idea that will soon become a joy and a burden, a black hole that devours every molecule of your time, money, and spirit. Yet even when you discover that the only thing keeping the place from blowing away is the weight of the mouse droppings in the attic, you wouldn’t have it any other way. If this is the case, you might be one of those old-house people, a peculiar kind of maniac who is one part ability, one part inventiveness, two parts determination, three parts romanticism, and six parts damn foolishness.”  {George Nash from Renovating Old Houses}

I think maybe we fit the part? ;]

“Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.” {John Milton}

Behind the Clouds

On Thursday a winter storm rolled in. Winter weather is always disappointing this time of year when our hearts are set on spring. Apparently Mother Nature does not care if she’s a heartbreaker and was happy to shower us with snow and cold.

We couldn’t get our car up the hill we live on with all the snow on the road so we ended up abandoning it in a parking lot a mile from our house. Darren and I walked the rest of the way home at midnight with the snow still coming down. We were a sight with Darren wearing my fur-lined hood and each of us wearing one of his gloves. We were also carrying a box of ice cream because, snow or not, you don’t want to leave a perfectly good box of ice cream behind.

The next morning we grabbed a shovel and loaded backpacks up with rock salt hoping we would be able to get the car out of the snow. We bundled up and began marching back down the road to the car. We took about five steps before we started falling on our butts. Darren was walking along and fell flat on his bum. I try to be supportive so I laughed at him. He fell two or three more times and I started telling him he would have to walk alone if he was going to be so embarrassing and then I fell right flat on my bum too; that’s what you get for running your mouth and teasing. Every time one of us would get up the other would fall down and we slipped and slid the whole way down the road. It was very funny really, and there is nothing you can do but laugh at yourself in a moment like that.

We made it to the car and were happy to see it hadn’t been towed; we were very worried about that. But it was very, very buried in snow. Honestly, you could hardly even see it in the snow drift. Darren started shoveling it out and I started cleaning it off but the snow was coming down so hard that all my work was covered right back up. We got in the car dripping wet with melting snow and after a couple tries, we were back on the road.

When the wind and the snow are blowing in your face and the whole world seems buried beneath a veil of grey and white, you can’t imagine that the snow will ever melt or the sun will ever shine. But we woke the next day to a clear blue sky and mild spring temperatures.

It is just like Robert Frost said in his poem:

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
From the poem Two Tramps in Mud Time

The warm temperatures quickly melted the snow off the roads and Darren and I actually went for another walk the next day—only this time it was for the pleasure of the warm air and sunshine and neither of us fell down. I kept looking at the cobalt sky and I was a little amazed that it had actually been there all along, only hidden behind the clouds and the snow. The blue sky never exactly went away; it was only veiled by the weather.

Life is like that too, I suppose. Life gets stormy and we fall down and it’s hard to imagine that the sun ever shone or will ever shine again. But it does. The clouds clear, we get back up, and the sun continues to shine. Even though we could not see it, the sun never stopped shining and the blue sky never failed. Our vision was veiled but nothing was ever really lost to the storms and clouds.

I’m trying to remember this, that the sky is always blue…right behind the clouds.

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A Winter Wonderland

Eleven inches of snow fell flake by flake into our yard last night. We woke up this morning to a winter wonderland. We tried and tried to get out of the drive, but alas, we are stuck. Since we are snowed in and I have nothing better to do, I decided to treck out into the snow for some pictures.

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DSC07129“Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast

In a field I looked into going past,

And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,

But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

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Are you snowed in too? :]

{Fall} My Personal New Year

{A hike up Peeked Mountain, Monson Massachusetts 2009}

Yesterday we officially slipped into fall. I love everything about this time of year. I love boots and scarves and warm cozy jackets. I love hot drinks and hardy soups, crackling fires and cobalt skies. I love snuggling up on Sunday afternoons watching football and sipping a hot pumpkin latte every morning on the way to work.

{New Hampshire Pumpkin Fest 2009}

There is something about this time of year that always makes me reflective. The air is cooler, the days are getting shorter, and the whole world feels like it’s wrapping up in a warm, cozy blanket.

{The Height of the Land, Maine 2011}

Every day I notice how many more leaves blush in crimson or show off in gold. I watch them fall to the ground, one by one today, ten by ten tomorrow, and I think about how quickly the warmth and reflection of this season will pass us by. Soon enough we will be watching the snow flakes fall rather than the leaves.

I used to dread the transition from fall into winter. I used to think of winter as the end when everything is dead and over and there is nothing left to enjoy. But after long busy summers, I’ve started looking forward to the quiet days of winter. Instead of thinking of winter as the end, I see it now as a time of rest. The snow I once used to dread is now a welcome reprieve if it means life will slow down and leave us with nowhere to go for a while.

{Maine 2010}

I have learned to love this rhythm of the seasons. The leaves fall and we drift into winter. The snow flakes fly and we gather around warm cracking fires. Soon enough winter melts into spring and new life buds and blooms all around us. We soak up the summer sun until the leaves fall again and the world goes to sleep once more. The ebb and flow of the seasons is the quiet beating of the earth’s heart…tick, tock, tick, tock.

{A warm cozy fire to chase away the chill}

Today I sit by the open window with the cool breeze blowing in. I bid farewell to the hot days of summer and embrace the cool days of fall and winter. I reflect on the year gone by and plan for the year to come. I don’t cry over what we lose with the end of a season; I embrace what we gain with the next…with the ebb and flow of life…with the rhythm of the seasons and the tick tock of the earth spinning round and round through the seasons of life.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace

He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 & 11

Moments in Time

I spent Labor Day weekend up in Maine with Darren’s family. My brother and sister-in-law, their two little boys, and Darren and I decided to go for a walk through the woods and pastures. The hot sun was showing off its power for the last days of summer but as soon as we ducked into the woods under the canopy of trees, the heat broke and the cool Maine air gave us hope of fall coming soon enough.

I love the woods.

I felt like Lucy stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia—welcomed by a whole world of sights and sounds just beyond us as we live our lives among cities and highways. How can the woods be so quiet even as they bubble over with the sound of bird’s song, crickets, streams, and the rustle of leaves? How can they smell so good? The sod mingles with the moss, wild flowers, and evergreens filling the air with a sweet, earthy aroma. The light filters through the leaves and everything feels soft and hushed, calm and quiet.

It makes me happy :]

We walked the muddy path hopping around to avoid puddles, crossed the broken little bridge over the stream, balanced along a fallen tree, and popped out of the woods into the open pasture drenched in sunshine. I told my sister-in-law that between the shadowy woods and pasture covered in wild flowers, I felt like we were in Twilight together…only we’re not vampires and we’re not in love…because that would be weird.

We all trekked across the pasture together through the knee-high prairie grass and milk weed. The boys took off in search of blueberries. The sun was hot and I didn’t feel like trekking anymore. Maya and I sat in the grass talking.

I sat there thinking that I would probably remember this simple moment forever.

It was just an ordinary day. Just a walk in the woods. But it was all so magical. The blue mountain peaks sticking up behind the trees. The smell of evergreens. The grass up over our heads as we sat talking. The yellow wild flowers drenched in the yellow sunshine as far as we could see.

It was ordinary and extraordinary all at once.

Maya and I noticed we had settled right next to a big fat yellow and black garden spider and we were very pleased with our bravery for sitting there beside him, letting him listen in on our conversation, without panicking or running for our lives…that’s what I usually do around spiders…panic. kill. run for life.

The boys came back without any berries and I was a little sad they didn’t take longer; I was enjoying that moment…sitting in the grass over my head, talking with Maya and taking in the magic of the wild Maine mountain side.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said to “Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” I think he was on to something, that Emerson.

{Darren is always getting into trouble with the littles…I love him for that}

{The End}