Sweater Weather

Standard

people-2590555_640

The other day I bought a scented lotion called “Sweater Weather.” The description on the bottle promised notes of “Sun Crisp Apples, Autumn Leaves, Orchard Woods.” The weather has turned appropriately autumn-like, and I’m sitting in my warm kitchen, my feet encased in cozy socks.

Yesterday I was a shade underdressed as I went about my errands in temps that never broke above 60. I thought about the sweaters in my closet that have lain dormant, waiting for the turn of the seasons. At this time of year, my laundry basket is a hodgepodge of shorts, tank tops, leggings, jeans and long-sleeved tops. It’s the transitional period when the weather never knows what it wants to do.

I found a meme on Facebook that I love: “The weather just went from 90 to 55 like it saw a state trooper.” That perfectly expresses life in the Midwest. One moment in flip flops, the next in snow boots.

At home, I’ve embraced the change of season by making pumpkin bread and my first pot of chili for the season. I’ve stocked the fridge with apples and apple cider. I’ve started snacking on mellow creme pumpkins, those cloyingly sweet candies that no one I know besides myself loves.

Around town, the Halloween decorations are coming out. The tips of leaves are starting to match them in their oranges and deep reds. There are days when thick gray clouds loom overhead, yet never does a drop of rain fall. That is so typical of autumn here. In contrast, there are sparkling, sunny days that belie the chill in the air.

I love this time of year. Love wrapping myself in warm clothes and shuffling through the fallen leaves, smelling their burnt scent. Love resting a blanket on my legs while plowing through the stack of books I’ve gotten from the library. Love an extra cup of coffee to ward off the chill in the air.

Sweater weather.

Letting Go

Standard

Unknown-12

On this day of the autumnal equinox, we welcome the season of fall. There was a bit of a chill in the air during outdoor yoga this morning as our instructor encouraged us to draw energy from the Earth on which we posed – and at the same time, emulate the autumn trees shedding their leaves by letting go.

I’ve seen this metaphor quite a bit this year, and it’s a lovely image. The trees let go of their leaves, returning them to the earth where they rejuvenate the soil and nourish the very tree itself. Likewise, our minds and hearts can practice letting go of all that is dead in us: thoughts, prejudices, worries, anxieties, anger and fear.

What a graceful release it can be to let go. In child’s pose, we curl ourselves toward the ground. With every breath we surrender control of our bodies, and in doing so give them renewed energy and peace as we sink into Mother Earth.

It can be liberating to let go. So much of our lives is spent with clenched teeth and held breath. We worry about our children, our health, our finances, the weary world. But as Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:27, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

I once heard the mantra, “Let go and let God.” That simple advice has run through my head many times in days of stress and heartache. If you believe that there is a force greater than yourself, a force for good, you will be able to surrender to that force and stop trying to control everything around you.

I know. Easier said than done. Yet I’m confident that if we can let go of our burdens as the trees let go of their leaves this fall, we will be able to move forward with great joy.

Savasana Among the Trees

Standard

Unknown-11

I have practiced yoga in nature before. Sunrise yoga on the beach was a wonderfully relaxing and fun part of a few past vacations. But today I got to practice my asanas under the trees.

My local arboretum holds outdoor yoga classes, so I decided to sign up. The morning was overcast and humid but not exceptionally hot. I found the location, a patio facing an expanse of grass ringed by trees, and put down my mat. Our instructor, Natalie, was young and sweet-voiced, and she encouraged us to take an affirmation card from a pile of them she’d provided. I selected one at random. It said, “Everything I touch becomes a success.” I smiled.

Natalie took us through the poses, all the while encouraging us and reminding us that it’s okay to fall, to not be perfect. The trees presided over our movements, and when I closed my eyes, I could hear the birds chirping. It was one of the most enjoyable yoga classes I’ve ever taken, and I have to believe it was due to the fact that we were communing with nature.

Every yoga class ends with savasana, or “corpse pose.” The complete and total surrender it entails makes savasana my favorite part of the hour. Afterwards, my mind, body, and soul felt rested, yet invigorated. I slowly gathered my things and started heading toward the parking lot.

On the way, I found a fragrance garden with a bubbling fountain. I sat on a bench and enjoyed the quiet gurgling of the fountain, the flowers and plants, and the emergence of sun from behind the clouds.

Like anyone else, I have my share of worries. My mother-in-law is undergoing a surgical procedure as I write this. My senior in high school is immersed in college applications and trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to become. My other children are living their lives in far flung cities across the U.S. But yoga among the trees has given me an inner peace that helps me know all will be well.

After all, everything I touch becomes a success.

Summer Song

Standard

Unknown-4

A summer morning is the best time to hear the birds. High up in the trees, they tweet and trill and shriek their secret language while I walk along, out early to beat the August heat. Summer mornings in suburbia are quiet. Many of my neighbors are off on summer vacations. Kids sleep in, and parents enjoy the unaccustomed hush. The only other sounds I hear on my morning walk are the hiss of lawn sprinklers and the occasional whoosh of a car on asphalt.

The sounds of summer are pretty much the same ones I remember from my childhood. As the day gets going, lawnmowers roar, garbage trucks squeak by, and air conditioners hum. (Well, I guess some sounds are newer. No air conditioning in my childhood!) Kids come out and play, and their laughter and chatter can be heard on the breeze, as well as their splashing at the local public pool.

One of my favorite summer sounds is the rumble of thunder in the distance as heavy clouds roll in and a storm heads our way. Of course, I only enjoy these storms when I am safe inside with a good book. But when we lived in California, thunderstorms were one of the natural phenomena I missed most. They’re so fleeting, yet so dramatic.

As the sun goes down on a late summer day, the symphony takes to the trees once again. This time the sound is the pulsing whistle of hundreds of cicadas hidden in the upper reaches of our giant maples and elms. It’s so mysterious. You seldom actually see one of these hideous creatures other than the occasional cicada carcass that falls on the ground or the shell left behind as one grows. Yet they are undoubtedly there, singing and mating and enjoying their too-short lives.

By the time darkness falls, I am usually safely ensconced indoors, away from mosquitoes and their blood-sucking ways. Inside I’m surrounded by the sounds of modern life: the drone of TV voices, the hum of the fridge, the gentle clinks and sloshes inside the dishwasher, and nowadays the occasional ping of a smartphone receiving a text.

Tomorrow there will be the same nature songs to enjoy even as summer starts to wane and my daughter heads back to school.

Thinking about the sounds of summer reminds me of an old Chad and Jeremy number titled “Summer Song.” “They say that all good things must end some day,” sing the pop duo. So let’s enjoy them while we may.

Stupid Things To Do In Summer

Standard

Screen_Shot_2017_07_03_at_1.34.23_PM.0.pngWith Memorial Day around the corner, our fancy turns to all things summer. In the spirit of the upcoming season, I’m happy to provide a PSA on what NOT to do this summer. You’re welcome.

This summer, please don’t:

  1. Leave children or pets in hot cars.
  2. Take kids tubing on a lake without a spotter to watch them constantly.
  3. Go out into the woods without being covered in DEET.
  4. Go outside after dark without being covered in DEET.
  5. Leave anyone in a hot car.
  6. Go on a diet during barbecue/ice cream season.
  7. Drink and go boating.
  8. Drink and drive.
  9. Drink and slice watermelon.
  10. Leave mayonnaise-laden foods outside for long periods of time.
  11. Leave children unattended in any body of water.
  12. Play with fireworks.
  13. Go out in the sun without sunscreen.
  14. Fail to hydrate.
  15. Touch any three-leaf patterned plants.

I’m sure there are other potential hazards looking to spoil our summer fun. Lawn mowing, for instance, can be extremely dangerous, especially if you do it in flip flops. Sports related injuries also increase in the summer as the warm weather encourages weekend warriors to get out and run, bike, swim, rollerblade and play frisbee.

With a little common sense, though, we can fully enjoy the glory of long, warm summer days, balmy evenings roasting marshmallows by the fire, and time spent outdoors with family and friends.

So break out your white shorts and start summering it up this Memorial Day! (Safely, please)

Water Torture

Standard

Unknown-6

I have a long-standing, deep-seated fear of water. My husband likes to joke that I’m afraid to take a bath. But my discomfort in the deep end of the pool, in lakes or oceans, has been with me since I was a child.

Like many kids, I spent most of my summer hours at the local public pool. Cavorting in the kiddie pool or splashing around in the three feet deep end once I was tall enough was fun. But I was terrified of making my way into the deep end. The feeling of not being able to touch bottom while my head was above water was unsettling.

My mom signed me up for swimming lessons for several summers, but I could never relax enough to do more than flail across the width of the pool in panic that I was going to run out of breath. In college, I took a swimming course and managed to pass. But the ease of gliding across the water never took hold.

Needless to say, natural bodies of water are even scarier. My idea of the ultimate horror movie is The Deep or The Abyss or any Jacques Cousteau special on PBS. It’s frightening enough just to worry about drowning; imagining what kinds of creatures are lurking below the surface of a lake or ocean is positively terrifying. Once while I was in a small motor boat with my family, the engine stalled not far from shore, and I had a near meltdown. Never mind that I could have walked to shore without getting my hair wet. On any boat trip, I am always the one with the bright orange life preserver around my neck while the rest of the passengers loll in their swimsuits, unafraid.

Lately my fear of water has expanded to include heavy rainfall. What I’m afraid of in particular is possible flooding and the thought of my car descending into what looks like a puddle, but is actually more of a lake. Recent trips in heavy rainstorms have been white knuckle driving affairs for me.

Deep water has even been a feature of my childhood nightmares. In one recurring dream, I am swimming underwater searching for something but never finding it. In another, I am poised on a balcony above a pool and forced to jump. That dream played into my other big fear: heights!

Water is supposed to be a source of peace, a reminder of the womb, and a symbol of life. I do enjoy the sounds of a gentle waterfall or gurgling fountain. The view of waves crashing onto a beach or the placidity of a lake are calming. Just don’t ask me to venture into any of those bodies of water. A landlubber is what I will always be.

One Man’s Weeds

Standard

Unknown-3

The dandelions are popping up all over a field near my house as spring finally makes an appearance here in the Midwest. On the less tended lawns of my neighborhood, the profusion of cheerful yellow gladdens me.

Why are dandelions considered weeds, plants that need to be eradicated with toxic chemicals? They look so lovely, at least until they go to seed. Even then, the fuzzy grey tops are fun to blow on and scatter.  And you can even make wine out of dandelions!

Walking around our yard with an expert in horticulture, my husband and I will point to plants and ask, “Is that a weed?” I sometimes feel that if you have to ask, maybe you should just leave it be.

As in other areas of culture, deciding what makes a beautiful or desirable plant is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. For instance, we have a Japanese maple in our front yard that my hubby despises. But one would hardly call it a weed. I realize that some plants take over and kill grass or other plants. So I understand why you might want to get rid of such weeds. And truth be told, the foliage of the lowly dandelion is nothing to write home about.

Still, after a long hard winter, I am ready to welcome just about any growing thing around my yard and my neighborhood. Even the cheeky dandelions.