A friend recently suggested that we consider discussing aspirations around the holiday dinner table as a way of deepening relationships. In our house, we have spoken of things we are grateful for, and of resolutions for healthier living, but aspirations? That challenge took me some time to think about.
Aspirations are defined as a sense of resolve to achieve an objective, be it a desired experience, acquisition, or accomplishment (similar to a resolution, but perhaps with a little less judgment and a little more hope?) For me, the goal seems better directed at present to who I think I wish to be than to what I wish to do. Who am I if I am not defined by what keeps me busy?
I believe we are all beginners on earth, who grow in understanding of ourselves over time as we are challenged by life’s demands. While later years may lack the energy and optimism of youth, they seem to offer a clearer view for assessing the true value of time spent. It has been much more gratifying for me to think about what’s important from the perspective of spiritual values than from a physical interpretation of life tied to achievements, material gains, and peak experiences.
In a largely impersonal and frenetic world, I am nurtured by the bonds of a faith community which offers me a sense of home and family, peacefulness, and the opportunity for spiritual growth. I love feeling as though I’m walking as a pilgrim on a sacred journey with fellow travelers, charged to serve as a steward to others and the earth.
Beyond “busy-ness”, this is how I want my life to count now: through kindness and curiosity, with an effort to be mindful of the divine in all things, in deep appreciation for natural beauty, and in usefulness whenever possible. I aspire to live thankfully for the gift of life, as fearlessly as I am able, in gratitude for the very simple joys available to each of us every day.
May you achieve your aspirations for the New Year!
I’m one week into recovery for a hip replacement and have to say it’s going well. I’m learning to appreciate concepts like “well managed” and “assistive devices” and “staying ahead of the pain.” “How’s it going” has to be met with “just fine thanks,” right? Who wants to be around a whiner?
OK, so its been harder than I expected, and I know how that happened. I have learned from this experience to walk quickly away from anyone who says to me “I have a friend who…” I’m sure the intention was to encourage by telling me what a rapid recovery Joe had, and how Nancy wasn’t nearly in as good shape as I am and thus how much better I’ll do, and how Martha didn’t miss a step on her tour to Antartica. Stop already! Anything short of super woman achievement and I’ve had a serious setback!
I’ve learned instead to ask about what expectations the doctor and therapist have in mind for me, what additional challenges I may face because of the specifically personal elements that are involved in my care, and how little, if asked, I benefit from hearing about the experience of strangers.
I must be getting better because I’m grumpy, and grumpy meets my recovery expectations.
’Tis the season. The weather has changed, and countdowns are underway for gatherings around extraordinary meals. But days seems to contain fewer hours as more tasks are added to them.
I need restoration time, and have found a way to create some. While waiting for sleep, or in the morning when awake but not yet required to be out of bed, I use my phone and earphones to connect to a meditation app, and let myself be led into a more restful place. I’ve been amazed to discover how much more relaxed it is possible to become, and how helpful it is to begin the day with a positive frame of mind when distanced from the thoughts that otherwise occupy that time. The kinds of meditations available on line, free with wifi, are endless. It is possible to choose voice preferences, music and general ambient sound preferences, topics, and length of meditation. I have grown fond of Yoga Nidra practices, which help one relax the entire body through directed, gentle instruction. It is truly astonishing to discover that, even when believing oneself to be still, it is possible to become even more so.
I have not altered my schedule in any way in order to incorporate this practice into my life, but I am, as a result of it, learning to slow down, and be more appreciative of that which matters most to me.
Many months ago when I planned for a long weekend getaway to see the autumn color we miss where we live, I chose Park City, UT as our destination. I miscalculated their fall season by several weeks and forty degrees of temperature. The higher elevations of Utah had already welcomed their first snowfalls, and most leaves were long gone from the trees. We saw lots of color nonetheless, just not what I had imagined. If winter looked and felt like this more consistently, I would happily include much more of it in my life.
Now I personally know what one looks like. After a nice Sunday evening concert at church, we started for home as light rain began, which within minutes turned to hail and high winds tearing tree limbs and popping street lights, alarming us enough to detour into a shopping center parking lot away from electric lines to wait out the storm. We had no clue a tornado had been developing and was deciding to take its unpredictable path to coincide with ours, or that the shopping center at Preston/Royal where we parked was going to undergo terrible destruction. There was nothing to do as it arrived but hang on and pray. It worked. These photos were taken the next morning by Dallas Morning News and D Magazine staff photographers and Instagrammers at the location where we experienced a few minutes I hope never to do again.
And yet we were unscathed. The windows of our car held against a battering by flying missiles, and we were actually able to drive home that night, through blocked roads and downed wires. The car was totaled, but I have to credit it (a Lexus GX460) with superior service to us.
Our experience was of little consequence compared to what we’ve since seen in photos of nearby home destruction. And no one lost their life anywhere along the paths of the several tornadoes that touched down in and around Dallas Sunday night. You can’t call that anything but a miracle.
It isn’t easy to get to the Thousand Island area of the Canadian lakes, but happily we were invited by old friends to see their fabulous lake home there, and then enjoy their expertise as tour guides in Montreal and Quebec City. It was a delightful experience with good companions, and we were grateful for the opportunity to see these special places. We found Quebec particularly charming with its riverfront setting, an Old Town on two different elevations connected by a funicular, good cafes and shopping areas, gardens, funky districts with lampshade street lights, wall murals, and shiny tin roofs on old houses. It wasn’t quite fall yet, but chilly rain told us that change was coming, and the city lifestyle would be different soon.
I am enthralled with Richard Powers’ 2018 book “The Overstory”. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction so I’m not the only one who likes it a lot. I’m not finished with it yet, so can’t guarantee that it won’t let me down in some way before I’m done, but I don’t see how it could. The writing is gorgeous, the characters interesting, and the “overstory” itself is about trees.
I’ve always loved trees, but Powers has educated me immensely about them and their contribution to our life on earth. I’ve even been driven to look back through some of my photographs to see how frequently I focused on trees, and what miraculous things they are. Their variety, sizes, shapes, textures, and colors are only the visible evidence of their beauty; what they DO is nothing short of mind-bending. The recent news of the number of trees being lost in the Amazon and the devastating environmental effect of that loss to the world makes this book even more timely and important. And besides, it’s an imaginative, descriptive and thought-provoking wonder. It’s been a long time since I felt that way about a book.
You really have to want to see this place to go to the trouble of getting there; it’s off the beaten path in the southeast corner of Colorado. The drive from Breckinridge offered different topography and more wildflowers than we had seen elsewhere so the time passed quickly, but even when first catching a glimpse of the dunes, there are miles to go before reaching them. They sit against a mountain range with eerie visual impact that only increases as you walk through the grasses, cross the riverbed at its seasonal trickle and stand on the hot sand at their base to gape. It’s an alien world, and those little black dots seen here and there are hikers and sand surfers undertaking moonscape sports. Clouds casting shadows change the landscape and make the dunes look particularly dramatic, and they must be spectacular at dawn and dusk, and when the river runs high and the cottonwoods share their color.Rain teased us as we left the park, and we finally aimed our compass towards home.