Monday, September 25, 2017

Witnessing A Wonder Of Nature - Starling Murmuration

A few years ago I saw a starling murmuration video somewhere online and thought, oh, how wonderful it would be to see such a thing, to have the birds flying over and around you. Well, guess what? This very thing happens in my own town. How I never knew this for so many years baffles me. Nevertheless, since finding out about it, I've been parking by the river in hopes of seeing the birds gather in these spectacular cloud formations. Most of the time it just looks like large flocks of birds flying together, rather aimlessly, but once in a while it's pure magic.

The conditions were really perfect last evening: clear sky, calm, and still warmish. The birds begin their sky dance about half an hour before sunset. Then, once the sun begins to fall below the horizon, the clouds of  birds dissolve, falling like rain onto the trees below on the small islands in the river. It's the most remarkable thing.

As I was filming, a small flock of birds was flying over my head, landing and taking off from a tree nearby in the park until they finally flew across the river and joined with the rest. The sound of their wings was like the sough of wind through trees, and I envied them their freedom.

So, I hope you enjoy the video. I feel so privileged to be part of one of nature's wonders. These are the sorts of things that make my heart sing, that create a feeling of oneness with life...that feel real.

p.s.: I've left the sound on, even though I sound kind of dorky and there's lots of traffic, since it gives a more "spacious" feeling to the video. My husband was in the car, and I was talking to him. (Note: if you look at the water, you can see the reflection of the bird-cloud as it moves in the sky - very neat.)


Friday, September 22, 2017

Protected By Moonstone And Silver

For much of my adult life I've had difficulty sleeping, for various reasons, most especially after turning 40-ish. Being a light sleeper in a noisy, stress-inducing world is a constant struggle, which makes it hard to function well each day.  I've tried any suggestion that seems practical, but a cup of chamomile tea right before bedtime is just asking for trouble.  
Last spring it was getting to the point where something had to be done - the nightmares and unpleasant dreams were making nights a torment. So I looked through my books of traditional/alternative wisdom, learning that moonstone is believed to help with sleep by calming the mind, and is protective, among many other beneficial qualities. Silver is also considered to be protective. Because I believe that there's some form of energy in everything, using stone magic sounded like something that could help.
Moonstone set in heavy silver.
Coincidentally, (or was it more than luck?) an event took place in our town later that month at which several vendors were selling stones and minerals. As soon as I held this beautiful full-moon-shaped faceted pendant, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for ... it felt right, emotionally as well as its reassuring weight in my hand. Watching the iridescent-blue shimmer across the surface is mesmerizing, reminiscent of moonlight shining through wispy clouds on a windy night. (What a lovely word, shimmer: 'to shine with a soft, tremulous, fitful, wavering light'.)
faceted moonstone and silver pendant to help with sleep 
Beautiful faceted moonstone and silver pendant, 5/8" in diameter. 

faceted moonstone in a thick sterling silver setting
Back of the pendant showing the thickness of the silver setting.

A few days after buying it, at the next full moon, I cleansed and charged the stone, and have been wearing it most days and almost every night. Blessedly, the bad dreams have been much less frequent. Whether the stone has these inherent abilities, or whether the change is activated purely by my belief, doesn't really matter. I feel protected from negative thoughts and dreams, it's helping me to sleep through the night, and that's what matters. 

Farewell Summer - Autumn Equinox

Even though it's felt like autumn for a couple of weeks now, today it's official.  All the long winter, my soul craves the sunshine and warmth, but we've had such a hot, dry summer this year that it's a relief for it to be over.  Now is the time to look forward to the long evenings, being cozy inside. The first of the autumn rains came earlier this week, and today we're having the first snow of the season (well, just a few flakes, anyway, nothing serious).

The nights have been cold, so I've made up the bed with soft flannel sheets and warm blankets.  It's one of those seasonal nesting changes that I love. When we turn on the lamps early in the evening, and the house is lit by their warm golden light, home feels snug and comforting - truly the best place in the world.

These are some images of the spring and summer just passed. I've seen so many beautiful and amazing things from this one small plot of Mother Earth, and realize how extremely fortunate I am to have spent so much of my life here.

May sunset with fiery colors
May - A fiery sunset.

a wet spring means lots of lilacs
May - Because of a wet spring, it was a good year for lilacs.


rosebush with dark pink, spicy-scented roses
June - an abundance of spicy-scented pink roses, with salvia (light blue flowers), speedwell/Veronica (dark blue flowers), and thrift (little pink flowers).

bountiful harvest of strawberries in July
July - The first strawberry harvest. By the end of the second harvest, we ended up having made 13 pints of freezer jam. The white colander was my grandmother's. And the deck needs painting, a job for next summer.

July - Summer morning looking north, the view of our back yard and vintage 1970s swing.

a young white tail buck in tall dry grass
August - A young buck in the field behind our back yard. We've watched him grow up in this safe place.

September - A male American Goldfinch fading to winter colors, on the sunflowers in our yard. He and his flock have been here eating seeds for weeks now. It was raining at the time, making streaks of white in the background.

All of the years that I've watched the seasons come and go from my home have given me a deep appreciation and love for the natural world.  I've come to feel that I belong to the land here. When you tend a place, care for it and nurture it, it becomes part of you ... you understand it, and cherish that connection. Through all of the windy storms, the rainy afternoons, the starry nights, and glorious sunny days, this land and this home have been my anchors, my solace, and my joy.  I'm so grateful.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

On Being An Introvert And Deciding To Open Up

As an introvert, I've always struggled with feeling secure enough to open up my true self to people. Yes, I've had friends over the years to talk to, but only rarely has there been anyone who could really understand the deepest thoughts. My husband, bless his heart, has always accepted who I am and has encouraged me to be myself.  Being a Cancer adds another level of emotion, too. Some days the weirdness runs rampant in our house!

rocks, minerals, and fossils on my nature altar
An altar to the beauties of nature in its current form on my desk. Things are added and subtracted every now and then.

Though art and making have been my main areas of creativity over the last 30+ years, the idea of writing a blog has been intriguing for some time.  I've held back on giving it a go because of the fear of sharing too much or being misunderstood. Having a thin skin for criticism hasn't helped, either. Though I love being part of a community, I value my privacy very much, and don't even share everything with family.

Crystal, amethysts, fossils, and interesting stones on my altar.

But you know, I've just turned 61, feel pretty good about it, and have decided maybe it's time to be brave and open up a bit more. I know there are others out there who feel as I do, who see the world the same way, and have the same interests - women my age who are living life grounded by a feeling of consciousness, of awareness of our connections to All, and a loosening of the ties to the consumerist world as we get older.  For me, it's a joyous way of looking at life, not solemn and serious (though there is that part, too). And while I don't feel fanatical about any of this, it's always a comforting presence there in the background as I go about the day to day.

Statue of Bastet, Egyptian goddess of cats, joy, protection, dance, love, and music
Statue of Bastet, Egyptian goddess of cats, joy, protection, dance, love, and music.

When I started this blog, I did want to share things from the vintage magazines and books I've collected, and probably still will. But having this space as an extension of the things I write about in my journal seems like a more authentic use of whatever writing energy I have.
I AM happily old fashioned, at ease with the way things used to be - always have been and no doubt always will be. Living a simple, slow-paced life is my particular comfort zone, and I'm perfectly happy here, no need to step outside.




Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ironing as Meditation

I've been feeling unsettled and restless the last few days. Nothing seems worth doing, and I've been too much in my head. At times like this,  a repetitive activity is calming, so I ironed my handkerchiefs. I like ironing at any time, but especially on days like today. It's so satisfying to iron carefully and mindfully, pressing out all the wrinkles and making these squares of pretty cloth even nicer. Too bad I can't iron out my life as easily.

Ironing hankies is calming to the mind.

It helps to let my mind wander and imagine the stories these hankies could tell: how many pockets and purses have they been tucked into, where did they come from originally, were they bought by the owner or received as gifts?  Or to not think at all, and only enjoy the designs and the soothing motion of the iron over cloth. 

Hankies all ironed - a job well done. 

I also have a collection of vintage pillowcases, which we use all the time. Some are printed, but many others have embroidery, and it's enjoyable to iron these as well, smoothing out the thick white cotton made soft from years of washing. I like thinking about the women who stitched the designs, and the pleasure it gave them to make their homes pretty, the way I do with ours.

Ironing doesn't solve every problem, but seeing a pile of orderly items when you're done is a nice feeling of accomplishment.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Wheel of the Year Turns Again: Dressing The House For Autumn

One of the things I've always loved about homemaking is changing the decorations to suit the seasons. It's a way to feel more in touch with the wheel of the year, as the days shorten or lengthen, the cool nights or warm days roll around again. Now begins my favorite season of all: autumn. After the hot, enervating days of summer, the crispness of the air brings new inspiration and more energy. I love the shorter days, the long, cozy evenings by lamp- and candlelight, the colors of the leaves and the bright, blue sky. It seems as if the sky is never so intensely blue as in autumn.
October 23, 2013 - the yellow leaves of our cottonwood tree, and deep blue sky of autumn, a perfect combination of colors.
We spent last week and the first part of this one doing odd jobs outdoors, putting away what we could, tidying the yard, emptying the compost barrel, painting sheds, and those end-of-summer things that require attention - it's been exhausting. By far, the most enjoyable of all has been decorating the house over the past two days. 

The sideboard decorated for autumn with a beautiful handmade antique embroidered net runner with fringe.

Vintage mirror layered with an antique pale-yellow-painted wood frame that once held a mirror over a dresser.
Most all of the decorations were bought over many years of  treasure hunting at thrift stores or yard sales. I try to do things a little differently each year, but always with the goal of making our home as cozy and warm as possible. Winter usually lasts a long time where I live - at least, it seems like it does! - so having a comfortable home is a priority.

Candles on top of the TV cabinet, with a string of multicolor lights around the dining room window in the background.

For as long as I can remember, I've been strongly affected by my surroundings, especially at home. A home, to me, needs the things that give you comfort and express your personality, layered with meaningful items that have been gathered over a lifetime and show a home that's grown with you and reflects your spirit.  My desk has a collection of feathers, rocks, minerals, and fossils I've collected from here and there, and I love the memories associated with them - they're so much more special than anything I could buy from a store.

It's gotten to the point in my life where it's time to start letting things go, paring down to just what I love the most. In aid of this, we've spent the last few years donating things and having yard sales. Hopefully we'll live here for many years yet, but the thought of having less to take care of as we grow older is very appealing. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Always Looking Up, and A Cat Lives Here

Living where we do, our home looks out over fields and the yard is open to the wide blue sky. I've been witness to some of the most beautiful sights: cloud formations, sunrises and sunsets, birds and wild animals, all sorts of things. We've had clear views of eclipses of the moon, and amazing storms. Photographing nature is one of my hobbies, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos.

Full moon rising over town, 9/7/17. It's orange from all the smoke in the sky.

Close up of full moon, 9/7/17.
7-1-12, 5:21 a.m., sunrise from our back yard. Well worth getting up for.

9-23-11, 6:29 a.m., sunrise from our back yard. These are the actual colors, Mother Nature does it best!

7-9-17, 9:35 p.m., sunset rays in smoky skies, from our back yard.

6-4-12, a supercell thunderstorm moving in from the west. It was incredible!

7-12-17, 10:24 p.m., looking north, sitting on the deck enjoying the beautiful blue evening.
The outdoor space has always been one of the best things about our home. Though we have tall trees near the house, most of the back yard is open to the sky, and faces north. Luckily our yard is mostly dark at night, and we can even see the northern lights sometimes, though not nearly as often as I'd like.  Every day there's something interesting to look at.

Speaking of interesting things, here's something I noticed yesterday. My husband and I went out of town on an errand, and this is what I saw in the parking lot:

This is where the cat lives?
I love that someone thought it was important to make sure this hole wasn't boarded up so the cat was able to come and go. What a thoughtful thing to do; makes me feel that there is hope in the world, when one person takes the time for such a sweet act of kindness.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

On Journal Keeping And Documenting A Life

Journaling has been a part of my life since the Christmas I was 11 and received a 5 year diary with lock and key. There are a few dozen entries in the diary, and then no evidence of any other writing until age 22, when a few months' worth of entries in a spiral notebook documented a time of change in my life: wondering what the future would hold, and feeling unhappiness with the relationship I was in. Writing about all of that helped to work out the problems.

My journals, including two that I hand made. Currently working in the green book, center of bottom row.
A few years later there are several pages from the early, happy years of our marriage, when life was full of fun and being too busy to write. Then, when the babies came along, I began to write again, keeping track of their growth and progress, writing down funny things they did and said. So glad I did, because now each of them have a story of their childhood filled with things I'd never have remembered otherwise after all these years. Dad also wrote on their first-year baby calendars, so they have the things that he thought were important to write down, too.

For each year from 1994 to 2016, I kept a separate daybook for our family, with appointments as well as a short overview of each day, with our activities, visitors, what kind of home and school projects we were working on, weather ... basically a day-to-day record of family history. It's fascinating to read them now (all 22 volumes!) and see how much we accomplished.  Don't know where we got the energy for it!

Foil embossed journals.

The first volume of my personal journaling began on April 11, 2005. Again, it was a period where I had things to work out, so turning to a blank book was a way of dealing with the worries. But to my delight, it also became a place to write down the happy things, the amazing things of the natural world that I saw out the windows as I worked from home, views and opinions, just anything really. It was so freeing to be able to write about whatever I wanted to without worrying about justifying myself to anyone, or whether my words would be misunderstood, or boring someone. It became addictive. And so, after that first short entry, I'm now beginning the 12th volume.

Two journals that I hand made, with pages of wallpaper liner, cloth covers, and Coptic stitch binding.

As if writing wasn't enough, I also made some journals. The first one was in 2004, the brown book in the last photo, then the blue linen one with a tree, and most recently the chartreuse silk book. They're all made from wallpaper liner, which is thick and has a somewhat rough surface for writing on, which I love, and covers made of book board covered with fabric from old clothing, stitched together with a Coptic binding. They're enjoyable to make, and even more fun to write in.

Two handmade journals.

Handmade travel journal.
Being old fashioned doesn't really preclude the use of all technology, so in addition to keeping handwritten journals, having an online outlet for writing seems like an interesting experiment. It wasn't really on my bucket list, but it's an adventure nonetheless!