Friday, July 26, 2013

House to Home

Our Arkansas home sits in the middle of five acres at the end of a rural road.  The loudest sounds we hear come from frogs, crickets, cicadas and our nearest neighbor's lawn mower, once a week.  A "far cry" from New York City, where Drew and I live when we're not here. The peacefulness of Springhill slows us down, invites us to rock a while on the front porch, smell the freshness of a much-needed rain shower, tend flower beds, re-connect.   

As we drove up the winding driveway to the house six years ago, we immediately knew it could be a home.  A place for family.

For daughter Elizabeth and Ben's wedding
For son Jason and Kate's first home in Arkansas
For daughter Katherine and Andy's engagement party 
For Thanksgiving dinners
For Christmas mornings
For pancake breakfasts
For sleep-overs
For jumping into leaf piles and
 off diving boards
For giggling grandchildren and
For Happy Birthdays 
For Happily-Ever-After bedtime stories

And just this week for. . .

 Katherine and Andy's baby shower

Drew's mother's (Lyla Lee) visit

"Construction time" with Granddad and grandsons, Luke and Nate

"Swim time" with Grandmom, Elizabeth, and grandchildren Nate, Ruby, Luke
                                                                                                                               and Anna

                                                                   A House
Our Home 
     Because of a family


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Counting Bicycles in Manhattan and Mailboxes in Arkansas

I recently renewed a goal that I've renewed so many times, even a library would lose patience with my perpetual renewals.  Some days, some moments, I think I've got the hang of it, then totally forget I'm working on it.  It's scary what "a mind of its own" my mind has, especially when my goal is Mindfulness.

One minute I'm living in the present moment, paying attention to the flowers in the vase in front of me, the next I'm miles away reliving a conversation I had two weeks ago or imagining one I plan to have two weeks hence.  I can walk the length of the Brooklyn Bridge for my morning exercise without noticing that I've passed under both arches and that it's time to turn around.

Sound familiar?  In a selfish way, I hope so.  There's a skewed kind of comfort in knowing I'm not the only one walking around in a mindless fog.

Over a year ago, I heard two authors discuss their recent book, Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World on NPR.

Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford and Denny Penman, biochemist and author, got my attention when they mentioned "autopilot," a role my mind loves to play.  Before I know it, the autopilot has taken over, and I'm just along for the ride.

"When you cede too much control to autopilot, you can easily end up thinking, working, eating, walking or driving without clear awareness of what you're doing," the authors write.

"The danger is that you miss much of your life in this way.  
Mindfulness brings you back, again and again, to full conscious awareness: a place of choice and intention." 

So, to renew my efforts once again, I decided to try an experiment, to periodically switch off the autopilot, to tune into "real" life. I decided to count bicycles. Morning commuters pedaling their way to work across the Brooklyn Bridge would be my signal to break the cycle of "elsewhere" thinking and pay attention as they passed me by.

The first morning I counted 41, the next 42, the next 26 (sprinkling rain), and on. . .
I found myself noticing people, some of the same people every morning. I even spoke to two or three, and to my surprise one person spoke back. Engaging with life felt invigorating!

Now I'm back at our home in Arkansas for a month, with no bicycles to count on my morning walk, to awaken my mindless wanderings.  But there are horses, mailboxes. . . .



 scenes of beauty
secrets among the grass

May they each remind me to notice what is before me, to disengage the autopilot and be mindful of
the moment.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Labyrinths and Their Creators in IL, WI, MI, IN and OH!

LaGuardia to Chicago Midway
Rent a car

Garden Prairie, Illinois
Edgerton, Wisconsin
Middleville, Michigan
Indianapolis, Indiana
Baltimore, Ohio

Dayton International Airport
Return to LaGuardia

Five labyrinth visits in 3 1/2 days.

Not that my goal was to blaze a trail through five states in record time, but because of the graciousness of five women, the one-state-right-after-another adventure was possible.  They each said not only "yes," but variations of "absolutely," "delighted," "honored!"

The World Wide Labyrinth Locator helped me piece together the route, much like fitting together the crooks and turns of a jigsaw puzzle.  Five labyrinths met my criteria within a doable distance from each other, with no drive being more than four hours. (Except when my GPS decided to take the scenic route through back roads of southern Michigan before pointing me towards Indiana.)

Susie, Dianne, Kay, Kathe and Linda shared their stories with me of why and how they created their outdoor labyrinths.  As I listened, then walked each labyrinth, I was the one who felt honored.

From Susie's Illinois labyrinth with grasses so tall, the path lays hidden, awaiting discovery . . .

To Dianne's Wisconsin labyrinth with perennials so abundant, their colors greet walkers at every turn. . 

To Kay's Michigan labyrinth, with eleven circuits so clearly defined, they invite openness. . .

To Kathe's Indiana labyrinth with mowed path so plush, it feels like nourishment to bare feet. . . 

To Linda's Ohio labyrinth with setting so peaceful, it calms both body and spirit . . .

Labyrinths connect each of these women to one another, and to the others on this journey, even though they have never met.
They inspire me to continue, one step at a time.
Puzzle pieces for the next journey are already spread across the kitchen counter.  Towards North Dakota, perhaps?

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