Blog

Tools to nurture your creative spirit.

A Tree Told Me

zoefrontdoor

It’s been a busy week moving into Three Dog Farm. Zoë, our half-pint Doberman girl, has stationed herself at all entry points to supervise the comings and goings. This mainly involves getting underfoot at all times-with the attendant admonishments, “Zoë, will you please get out of the way!”

The Man of the Place and I agree that it still feels surreal to own our beautiful plot of land and barn.  We keep looking at each other and saying, “Do we really live here?!” 

In between moving boxes and prepping our former house for sale, I’v been grabbing little bits of time to walk the property and familiarize myself with the trees and gardens. I’ve verbally introduced myself to most of the perennials and a fair bit of the trees on the property. The exchange goes something like this, “Hi butterfly bush, nice to meet ya! Hey maple tree!” Clearly, I have no problem being that “Crazy Gardener Lady” who talks to the plants and trees. I’m all for anything that strengthens my connection to the natural world, and like to choose actions that reinforce my place in the larger Order of Things.

My favorite moment from today’s walk occurred when a grand wind blew through the four-story pines in the woods behind the barn. Unlike deciduous trees that clatter and flap and rattle in the wind, when faced with an ocean wind pine needles produce a glorious whoosh.

 What would happen if there were no pine needles for the wind to blow through? Would the wind still make a sound? How do we know there’s wind if it doesn’t have something to blow against?  Maybe the wind tells us where we are, and we tell the wind where it is. 

Or maybe I’m just the crazy lady at Three Dog Farm who likes to talk to the trees. 

In defense of black coffee

At 5:30 this morning The Man of the Place surprised me by bringing me a mug of coffee in bed. I had just woken up and for the first time since we moved to Three Dog Farm a few days ago I felt relaxed and refreshed. Maybe I felt so good because I did yoga before bed, or maybe it’s because we got internet established in the house yesterday (I’ve got a bit of a connectivity addiction). With Zoe the Half-Pint Dobe prancing at his feet he handed me my favorite black and red mug. I brought the steaming cup to my lips and inhaled the scent of roasted chocolate. I take my coffee straight-up black: earthy and bitter. 

As I sat on my bed and watched the rising sun begin to warm the leaves and flowers of our dogwood I couldn’t help but notice how my taste in coffee has changed over the last two years. I used to drink lattes but after I realized the milk was making me feel all bubbly-tummy I began to get espresso with a liberal dose of cream. Over a period of months I tapered back the cream until one day I noticed I was craving the bitter sweetness of black coffee.

Drinking black coffee isn’t some great feat, but it helped me notice that making small changes can add up to big changes over time.

Some of the most useful changes occur in our lives when we allow ourselves to take our time. 

I’ve found this same principle to be true with my yoga and meditation practice. A regular and continual dedication to spiritual discipline and inquiry helps me be more patient and more kind.

So with changes we want to make it goes like my coffee; small steps and gentle curiosity. By enjoying each moment of the process, we find ourselves exactly where we need to be.

Hot Dog!

Last week it was 45 degrees and raining and blustery. I wore fleece in layers and Zoë napped in front of her “nanny”, aka the space heater.

This week it is 90 degrees and humid and sun-sun-sunny. Springtime in New England!

Thank goodness 3 Dog Farm has a pool!

The only chain that does not bind

peonies

It was the last thing I expected to see, but their beauty stopped me in my tracks. A simple vase of pink and white peonies, cut that morning from the garden, sat on the kitchen table in a pool of afternoon sunshine. I had seen their vase several months before, full of flowers that I had brought to this same house. On a cold and damp Sunday,  hubby and I had visited the owners to learn about the history of the 1850 Gothic Victorian we were purchasing. I had brought some flowers as a token of gratitude, and joked with the owners that they weren’t obligated to pack the vase and haul it to their next place. We had all chuckled, then settled down into the dining room where we poured over historical maps, photos and learned the detailed renovation story of this gem of a home. Now, several months later I’ve been welcomed into my new home by a beautiful gift of showy peonies on the kitchen table. The business of moving is no easy feat; sorting, packing, finances, logistics. The simple gesture of taking time to fill the vase speaks volumes about the kindness and care of the loving former owners of what we now call Three Dog Farm.

As I write this I can pause to brush my nose into the petals and feel their softness on my cheeks. 

Small acts of kindness can surprise someone into gratefulness. This gratefulness can spread to the next person, and on and on in a chain of gratitude. Chains of gratitude do not bind us; they strengthen the energy we need to navigate the difficulties of our world. 

A Quiet Moment at Pond’s Edge

This morning I pulled into the cranberry bog to run my dogs. It was a sticky eighty degrees and the air that hung over the pond was heavy and palpable with humidity. As the sun glinted through my windshield I noticed a gaggle of geese and their goslings. For the past month I’ve been watching them every morning. On the first days of spring that begrudgingly emerged from winter I noticed them pairing off, sailing deliberately around the pond in couplets. A few weeks later their goslings appeared as tiny fuzzy spots on the water that paddled between the bulk of their protective parents. I watched over several days as one adult pair had three, then two, then only one baby left and I wondered what had happened to the small babies in the twenty-four hours since my last hike. 

    A few days ago I noticed how big the goslings had grown, they were still awkward with big round bellies but they were about half the size of their parents. Their puffs of down were replaced with tawny feathers that shone sleek and glossy in the spring sunrise. From their nesting spot in the tall grass they ran in front of my car and towards the safety of the pond. Zoë, my half-pint Dobe, began yipping excitedly in the backseat. The goslings had tiny wings that stick up from their backs when they run, they look like a waddling version of a football with antennae. I burst into laughter at their awkward gate as Zoë kept up her excited yips. 

    But today was something different. They sat easily near the tall cattails at pond’s edge, and as we pulled in they lazily turned their heads towards the car then went back to grooming and eating. Like most wildlife at the bog, they had grown accustomed to our presence. Plus, they probably figured out that my Dobermans have a propensity to sink rather than swim, so they felt safe at waters edge. I’m grateful and proud that they feel comfy around me and my pack.

   I’m hoping that the wildlife at Three Dog Farm will feel the same way. Hubby and I are closing on our new house today-a Victorian home with a barn that is set on eight acres on the South Shore in Massachusetts. When our rowdy pack shows up, I wonder what the deer and squirrels and hummingbirds will think. I hope that over the years as The Man of the Place and I cultivate and nurture our garden and woods that all the wildlife, animal and human, that visit will come to know Three Dog Farm as a place where they can sit at water’s edge and relax, safe and comfortable and loved.

 Zoë the Half-Pint Dobe sprinting by the pond this spring.

Zoë the Half-Pint Dobe sprinting by the pond this spring.

Feeling overwhelmed? Try this technique to keep going!

We’ve all got things we want to or need to do that remain undone because it just seems to overwhelming to begin or to continue. My favorite quote by Edwin Land (the inventor of the amazing Polaroid camera and film) sums up the importance of our epic dreams.

“Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.”

Whether its a work project, a big cross-country move or starting your own business, sometimes we stop before we start out of fear and overwhelm.

The only way to get enormous projects done is to follow two steps.

Start. 

Keep going.

 

Along the way I have to give myself incentive to keep going. Things get easier when they are broken down into small chunks. A ticking clock works wonders; most of us can convince ourselves to do something for a set period of time. 

Pick your magic number-the amount of time it takes you to get your butt in the seat. Set a timer. Go

For me the magic number for meditation is five minutes. I set the timer and go. Most days after five minutes I set it for more…some days not. And either way it’s all good.

 At my writing desk with my collection of tiny boxes marking twenty minute increments...this is how to get a book written!

At my writing desk with my collection of tiny boxes marking twenty minute increments...this is how to get a book written!

My magic number for writing is twenty. I can commit to sitting and writing for twenty minutes. That’s how I got the draft of my book finished. Twenty minutes at a time. That-and checking it off in little boxes to keep me motivated!

So. Start. Keep going.

The power of a pause

For moments when you need a reminder that stopping doesn't mean stopping your progress...think of your pause as the moment of rest after the archer pulls his arrow back. Just before release, there is a pause where the power of directed energy gathers. It is in these pauses that we can gather ourselves and move forward with directed grace. Onward. xox

A brief haiku

Being sick has made

Writing very difficult

But not this haiku

 

Steal this for relief from sinus pressure

Relentless sinus pain from allergies, a cold or sinus infection? Check this out!

It was a wrenchingly cold day today-the air clawed and bit through my down coat, it slinked through door frames and and down the chimney. My dogs curled into their beds and refused to go outside. I finally peeled them out of their cozy nest and walked them a bit through the single-degree arctic blast. The relentless pain of a searing sinus headache pushed me from the inside while the cold seared me from the outside. A small head cold that began last week had bloomed into a nasty cold, which by the weekend seemed to abate. But, it was biding its time and waited to push it’s way out a few days later, sinuses so swollen I could feel my cheekbones vibrate when I talked. I slathered myself with essential oils, inhaled eucalyptus-scented steam, downed gallons of chicken soup with lashings of oregano and lemon. I did gentle yoga, which mercifully released my headache. Although my headache was gone, the internal sinus pressure continued to expand and my mood fouled. Sour minded and wincing against the sunlight, I somehow made the commute to teach yoga and back home again, biting and snapping at my husband as soon as I dropped my defenses at our cottage door.

Enter serendipity, a kind friend on Facebook posted a video of self-massage to drain pressure from the sinuses via the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels through which lymph fluid drains. One of the roles of lymph is as part of our immune system, in which lymph helps distribute infection-fighting white blood cells through our body. Lymph gets pumped  when we move our skeletal and smooth muscles; which explains why yoga helped me feel better. I moved my body in a slow and gentle manner, which helped the lymph to drain from my head. But is wasn’t enough, so I tried the techniques in the video my friend posted.

At first, I felt nothing. Until five minutes later, then ten, then fifteen, when I noticed the pressure down by fifty percent. Another internet search and I found this amazing video by Heather Wibbles, Licensed Massage Therapist from Kentucky. God Bless Heather and her clear instruction. Within one minute of following her technique, fluid began to drain from my sinuses, pouring down the back of my throat. It’s twenty minutes later and I’m still draining, the pressure is abating with each passing moment. 

But don’t believe me-try it for yourself. Moms and dads, try this on your kiddos when they’ve got a cold. Before bed tonight I’ll combine this technique with some jojoba oil and a pain killing blend of essential oil (Panaway from Young Living). Western medicine protocols are remarkably inadequate when it comes to sinus infections; there is growing evidence that the use of antibiotics in sinus infection is not only inadequate, it possibly contributes to the trend of antibiotic resistance

I believe that it is in our power to constantly move our bodies towards health, try some gentle self massage to help your lymph system drain effectively. As for me, I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep! And thank you, Heather!

http://www.massagebyheather.com - Learn to drain your own head! Use these lymphatic drainage massage techniques from Louisville massage therapist Heather Wibbels, LMT on yourself to reduce congestion and sinus pressure in the head. This is great for allergy sufferers and people with head colds.

p.s. Check out this YouTube video for a quick visual explanation of the drainage of the lymphatic system, this is the video that got me started! Great stuff by Dr. Mark Lynch, all gratitude!

A brief lesson in how to wisely spend your time.

I spent thirty minutes on my laptop. I ordered a few pair of winter pants and a sweater that was on sale. I drooled over a writer’s retreat, fantasized about the lake view I’d have from my desk. I twiddled on Facebook then surfed through a list of online yoga classes. I got hungry for a snack and closed the laptop. 

After my snack…

I spent 10 minutes outside taking my dogs for their pre-bed piddles. The moon shone bright off our fourteen inches of snow, the darkness of the weekend blizzard replaced by moon-glow. As we crunched down the lane my dog pressed his nose to the earth and I raised my gaze to the sky. A scrim of clouds passed the clawing branches of an old oak, beyond which the faint light of stars battled with the moonlight for my attention. My breath vapor rose to great the clouds. The snow crunched underfoot. My dog snuffled. I stopped. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe.

When I went inside I had no doubt about which minutes were better spent; once again strengthening my resolve to pay more attention to how I spend my time.

How Stopping Helps Us Go Forward

Are there ways that we can build moments into the rhythm of our days that help us stop? Small moments to stop and ponder the beauty and majesty of being alive?

In stopping and noticing, perhaps we can find a kinder and more joyful way forward.

Every morning I run my dogs, they romp around the woods of Massachusetts while I trod along the sandy path. As we roam under the pine trees and next to the bogs, my mind vacillates between noticing the weather, ruminating on this problem and that problem, notices a bird and tries to figure out what it is, then back to my anxious monkey mind. Occasionally, something stops me in my tracks.

 Deer prints from this morning's run, Zoë romping in the background.

Deer prints from this morning's run, Zoë romping in the background.

Like this picture I took this morning of deer prints frozen in the sand. Whenever I notice tracks, my mind stops whirring and I feel a sense of surprise and delight; Oh Look! Deer were here! I stoop down and check how frozen they are; did they come before the rain last night? Or are these two days old? I notice the depth, size and distance apart and try to imagine the size of the deer. Were here toes splayed out, indicating running? Or are her toes together, indicating a casual stroll out of the woods and down to the water for a cool sip before that crazy lady and her smelly dogs come barreling through the woods. 

I like to touch the ground where her feet have been, connect myself to something larger than my incessant whirring thoughts. Looking up from the prints I notice the sun, feel the cold air crackling against my cheek, feel my body nestled inside the wide open space. 

Stopping, we return to ourselves. Stopping, we notice. Stopping helps us move forward with grace.