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.

DSC_0346

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.

DSC_0433

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.

DSC_0383

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.

Fleeting.

The sunsets here in New England have been stunning lately. During the day the sky is a crisp, clear cobalt blue. Then as the sun slips down in the evening it paints everything in shades of pink, orange, and gold. For a few fleeting minutes the whole world from land to sky is on fire with brilliant color. The leaves are gold and blushing. The sky is gold and blushing. And we are gold and blushing standing in the same brilliant light.

DSC_0199

100_2256

I chase the sun and the light around with my camera trying to capture and tame them in my lens but they’re rebellious and always run ahead of me. The sun and the light are not meant to be captured or tamed, just soaked up and enjoyed instead.

The other day I was at the beach at sunset and the sky was showing off again. I had to catch it. It was too pretty not to hold onto. I was with my brother and his family but I just took off running for the sun and left them without explanation standing on the beach. I held tight to my camera and ran across the sand, crossed the road holding up traffic, down the sidewalk to the end of the houses and out to a clearing where I could get an unobstructed view. But the sun wouldn’t obey. The colors were perfect—and gone before I could rein them in and save them to show you.

DSC_0151

So I walked back up the sidewalks, back across the street, and back through the sand to the water. When I came in view my nephew came running and pulled me along by the arm saying I must see what he’s done. I must see the hole he dug. He was digging for gold, you know, and his work must be reviewed. He ran ahead of me on the beach and I followed his little footprints in the sand.

DSC_0157

I praised the hole he had dug that was now filling with water. And I thought—this moment, these babies, those little footprints in the sand, a tug on my arm to come see what he’s done—all this is just as fleeting and perfect as the ever-changing sun.

DSC_0049

DSC_0053

1375975_10151851378171072_1779867856_n

Then & Now

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

DSC_0366

DSC_0363

This year {above}

Last year {below}

DSC06406

DSC_0457

This year {above}

Last year {below}

DSC06416

DSC_0427

DSC_0384

DSC_0526

DSC_0467

DSC_0527

DSC_0530

DSC_0563

DSC_0390

DSC_0562

DSC_0567

DSC_0568

DSC_0576

DSC_0546

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.

So Long Summer

You won’t believe it but summer is almost over. I tried pretending for a while that it wasn’t true but I’m afraid it’s so.

The other day I pulled a lawn chair outside under my favorite tree and let the warm summer air dance through my hair.

DSC_1076 crop

I looked up at the canopy of leaves overhead and noticed how very freckled and tired they have become after months under the summer sun.

DSC_1065

DSC_1067

I told them not to worry, I’m pretty freckled too from my own time in the sun. Then I saw all the leaves on the ground and realized that a few of them have given up entirely.

DSC_1053

And I thought about being sad but then I remembered that it’s okay—no really it is—because fall is lovely too. And those leaves know the best is yet to come. Soon they’ll all be robed in gold and orange and red and a fantastic show it will be.

As a peace-offering for the end of the season, football will start and we can all feel better about that. There will be pumpkin lattes for everyone and the apples at the orchards will be ready to pick and bring home for lots of yummy, spicy apple things like pie, and bread, and my favorite—apple fritters like my mom used to make.

So don’t you dare be sad—fall will be lovely too :]

The Cat Was Right

DSC07191

Every day at work I sit at my desk looking at the computer. I sit until I can’t hold still anymore. I fidget and stretch. I slide down in my chair and back up. I lean forward against my desk and lean back into my chair.

I’ve never been very good at sitting still.

After a while I can’t take it anymore so I walk over to the window in the office and stare outside at the vehicles zipping by on I-391. I’ve watched all the seasons come and go through that glass. The summer green burns into the oranges and yellows of autumn. The leaves fall and the flakes fly. Spring pounds the glass with rain and the leaves timidly come back. I always want to go outside and feel the weather on my skin. I like it best when the weather is just so and we can leave both the heat and the air conditioning off and let the breeze come dancing in through the open window. But those times are few and I get in trouble all summer long for turning off the air conditioner so I can hear the wind and the cars go by outside.

I’m thankful for my job, truly, but I am not cut out for office work, not at all. Like I said, I’m not good at sitting still. I’m always so tired when I get home from work. I feel like all the life has been sucked out of me and I always wonder how a person can get so tired from just sitting in a chair all day. But it wears you out, it wears you down, these four walls.

When we were in Europe, we had family come stay at our house to watch our cat. The cat likes to go outside; he walks around the yard smelling the flowers and chases butterflies. He’s buddies with the cat next door and the two of them run the streets and try to act like tough lions instead of domestic little ginger toms.

I worried about that crazy cat the whole time we were overseas because that’s just how I am. I have no idea how I’ll ever fall asleep when I have children—I’ll worry so much.

We got back from our trip late at night after a very rough flight and lots of delays. We were jet lagged and exhausted. But I didn’t care because we were almost home and I wanted to squeeze that crazy cat that I had spent so much time worrying about.

But we found out on the drive home that the cat had run away a week before and hadn’t been seen since. That tore me up; I love that little guy. We looked all over and couldn’t find him anywhere. We put up missing signs and waited and prayed that he would turn up. I was sick worrying about what might have happened to him. And then, late one night, a neighbor called and said Mr. Katniss was at their house {eating their spare rib dinner, mind you}. I couldn’t believe it; I was afraid to believe it in case they were wrong. Darren jumped in the car and went to bring him home. I can’t explain the joy and relief when he walked in the front door with that little guy in his arms.

For a long time after that we kept the cat inside because we didn’t want to risk anything happening to him.

He hated it inside. He would meow at the door and meow at the windows. He would behave very badly and was ripping the whole house to pieces. He broke all the blinds {okay, I broke a couple of them} and was being a terrible little menace. He would get so mad he would wrap around my legs and chew on my ankles and the two of us were getting very tired of each other. We started calling him Tiny T…short for tiny terrorist. I kept telling him we were just trying to keep him safe and happy, that he belonged inside and we couldn’t bear him running away again. But he wouldn’t listen. He was miserable…and so were we.

DSC_0102 (2)

So we decided to try something different; we decided to let him go back outside. It scares us of course, because anything could happen. But you know what? The cat is his happy, healthy self again. He goes outside all day long and comes sauntering back in for dinner every night. I hear his little meow in the kitchen and know he’s decided to come home to us again. He climbs up in my lap on the couch and lets me pet him and love on him and he falls asleep happy instead of terrorizing everybody.

The thing is, he belongs outside. Even though it scares us because we love him and want him safe, we have to do what’s best and that means not locking him up. He’s meant to be wild and free…it’s the only way he can be happy.

I understand how he feels. I understand because I spend a lot of time looking outside through the glass. We work to have money to have things but the work and the money keep me inside away from the things that matter most to me. And watching the cat makes me wonder if I’m making a mistake with myself and the time I’ve been given.

Maybe the cat is right about smelling the flowers and chasing the butterflies, maybe he’s got life all figured out.

DSC_0087

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.

DSC_0594

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

DSC_0837

DSC_0835

DSC_0742

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.

DSC_0710

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

DSC_0900

DSC_0821

DSC_0815

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

DSC_0877

DSC_0878

DSC_0861

DSC_0787

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

DSC_0853

DSC_0857

I caught these sneaky little ninjas poking around my tent…

DSC_0715

DSC_0718

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

DSC_0806

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

DSC_0730

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

Beginnings.

Today I wondered what the first thing was I had written about on this blog so I went back and looked. My first post was on May 10, 2011; I put three posts up that day to kick the blog off. It’s funny looking back now and remembering how and why this blog started.

I’m always jotting down my thoughts and trying to capture what I was thinking and feeling in a particular time and place. I wanted to share those thoughts and moments of inspiration with others–and that right there is how this little blog got started.

In May 2011, I remember sitting at a desk by the window watching the cottony fluff of pollen float down from a tree in my back yard; it looked like it was snowing in the middle of spring. For some reason that day watching the cotton fluff float around outside moved me to start this space and start sharing the words and pictures that make up my little world. At the beginning I intended only to write about nature and the outdoors–that is why I named this space Outside Air–because the outside air was exactly what I wanted to talk about.

On that first day I posted three entries I had originally taken down in my journal when I was at the ocean and Walden Pond. These were my first words and pictures:

Hampton, New Hampshire

The dark, water-laden clouds billow above taunting with stray drops of rain. The wind is strong, violent, driving and throwing the sea. The temperature is perfect; the beach is our own. The sky and the sea are the same threatening shade of blue-gray, tossing and reflecting off each other as they make the tempestuous transition into spring.

Hampton Beach, April 2011

Westerly, Rhode Island

The ocean rumbles, crashes, swirls, and spins. The waves lap, roll, build until they smash against the shore. This is a place of constant motion, constant churning sound—and yet it is quiet, peaceful. The ocean with its billowing waves sings a lullaby of rest. It breathes it briny breath and kisses my face with saltwater kisses. A tiny bird hops and frolics on the beach in the shadow of the violent crushing waves. A ladybug works on her tan. The water rolls in undulating, ever-changing shades of green then brown before morphing against the sand into perfectly white sea foam.  The ocean is timeless and yet never the same.

Misquamicut Beach, July 2009

Concord, Massachusetts

Walden Pond

Even the birds are quiet in this quiet place; they sing below their breath, in a whisper, as if showing respect for the beauty of quiet. The wind rustles through the woods, across the water making the trees sigh and yawn with the motion—that is all, the rest is silence. The wind is cold but the trees flirt, taunting the warm air to come—blushing crimson in buds ready to bloom.

Walden Pond

Those three posts on the same day were my only entries in May and I didn’t write again until the end of July.

You see, on June 1st 2011, a tornado came through our town and over our house. We had moved out of a downtown apartment in a not-so-safe city just a year before and were looking forward to our first summer in our home in this small town. We had a backyard for the first time and it was wooded with lots of big trees and a little stream running through it.

I loved our yard. Every morning when I came down to the kitchen I would look out the kitchen window at the yard and the trees and honestly thank God for allowing us to live here. I soaked up the morning light reaching through the woods across our lawn and I was really, very happy. That morning Darren and I went for a walk around the neighborhood before leaving for work. By the time we came home from work that night everything we loved about this place was gone.

Nearly every tree in our backyard was taken down and the brush and debris buried the little stream in the woods. Our entire road was badly hit with many of the houses having to be taken down and a huge area of woods completely gone. Everything looked different without the trees and woods. Instead of enjoying our first summer here we ended up using it to clean up our backyard and put everything back together around here. Even after cleaning it up it has never looked the same.

I was frustrated and disappointed and for a while nothing about the outside air inspired me anymore. I had no thoughts on nature and the outdoors that I wanted to share here. I kept waiting for the inspiration to come back but after a while I just gave up and decided to write about other things instead. I started writing about my thoughts on life in general and opened up about my faith and family. These weren’t the things I intended to share here but that’s the direction life took me that summer.

And so here we are now. Two years later and I think in some ways this space has come full circle. I’m back to sharing my words and pictures of the beautiful outdoors and still continue to share about life in general. I never imagined this space would turn into what it has but I’m thankful for each of you who come along with me on this journey and allow me to share my little world with you here. I am so very thankful for the ways you both challenge and encourage me along the way with each post. Some of you have been here from the beginning and some of us our new friends…I’m thankful for each one of you.

This space has been good for me. Here I have been able to articulate and share my thoughts and feelings and find out what others think of the same things. I have made friends all over the world and grown closer to people who have been a part of my life for years. I have grown as a writer and learned a lot about photography too. So thank you for coming along with me each step of the way. I hope I can continue to share with you for a long time to come.

Here are my latest pictures of the lovely, inspiring outside air ;]

DSC_0820{Lilacs in the front yard of our new house}

DSC_0836{Stopping to smell the flowers on a walk yesterday}

DSC_0740

DSC_0729{Our first garden}

Thank you for reading along with me, friends :]

The World is Waking Up

“i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
DSC_0142

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

DSC_0346

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

DSC_0433

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”

The poem  i thank you God for most this amazing by e. e. cummings

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.

DSC06321