Monday’s Meanders/Photos: Dilly Dallying Snow in Green Places

White lace lays upon the usual vibrant greens in the Northwest and contrasts with signs of a slow but certain spring. I know this spattering of snow on the ground doesn’t impress, but that it is there at all is not so usual in the Willamette Valley. It snowed perhaps two inches or more 3 days ago but I grew up in Michigan…snow isn’t a major event to me. Since it has been warming to the 50s and higher, I didn’t expect it to last three days! My walks have been a bit slick and frigid–and then today it reached 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I still required a medium weight jacket, unzipped and flapping in a wind that often slices through the woods here at a whopping 800 feet.

Cascade Mountain Range

Since everything is shutting down around here, I treasure even more my long meditative–or not so meditative–walks. I found some pretty spots and a couple of comical ones.

A few families were out and about–not as many as I expected with schools closed. May all the kids stay safe, be fed, and make good use of this time despite the constraints and worries.

Ivy, ivy everywhere–looking more like usual

I was tickled to find that snow people–near pretty cherry blossoms– built a couple of days before were still standing, as if engaged in a sort of paused pantomime or mock battle, or perhaps an interrupted conversation. One snow fellow/gal was slumped on a stone bench, contemplating trials of spring–or, perhaps, simply snoozing. One never knows–they may do a few things after created by enthusiastic but we quick-to-discard-toys human beings… and then surrender to the sun.

Mt. Hood in the distance

Here’s hoping for good health for you and yours, and that you can find some peace during these troublesome days and nights. We will carry on the best we can manage and try to keep ourselves and others safe, I do pray. Seek fresh air; look for small wonders. It always helps.

Monday’s Meander/Dreaming of Snow

I haven’t been meandering afar since I had the Auto Accident on Thanksgiving Day. Caps are used here due to the effects seeming highlighted as if it was the event of the year. Which it was not–my daughter’s twins’ arrival with immediate and subsequent amazing baby-ness won that prize. I just didn’t know it’d take so long to get everything tied up around this car loss. Egads.

For every day errands I’ve been using my husband’s newer, sportier Mazda (my old Hyundai was, alas, quite pedestrian in comparison yet loved) while he was on a trip, thankfully. But no interesting jaunts have occurred–too busy talking to insurance adjusters often every day, and recovering from neck and shoulder pain…yes, I am addressing my irritation and seeking more gratitude. Because I can walk, I can talk; no one else was really hurt!

BUT I find good moments and today I’ve dug into photo archives and looked about. This is what I found from about the same date but in 2016: snow! More blanketed the area as weeks passed that winter, a real windfall of a snow year.

We’ve had far less precipitation than normal for early winter Portland metro area- finally it has begun to rain more. But since we now live at 800 feet versus about sea level, I expect the snow to arrive. The roads are hilly, sinuous and wooded out here so I’m not sure if I’ll welcome it as much as I think. Especially after the Auto Accident. Have to put on my suit of bravery when behind the wheel of my new car when I get it–and take it slow and easy. As an old Michigander, I know NOT to brake hard or fast in snowy and icy conditions. Still, please drive safely during the upcoming holidays, wherever you are.

These few random shots from the old neighborhood cheer me, and nudge me more toward Christmassy things. I am about ready to get on with the joyful parts, and I am keeping track of blessings, praying for stamina and guidance, giving lots of hugs–and getting quite a lovely bunch, too.

Saturday’s Passing Fancy: This Wintry House

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This sturdy house of seven,
how it gathered close snow and people,
the ice-light of winter a magic reveal;
how yellow circled thrumming life, a
collective heat of its dense center:
such music, affection, courage, prayer.

And she lept into the beauty of it,
dove into wide, steep snowbanks,
rode the glistening waves on her
Radio Flyer or creaky toboggan
which transported her to Alaska
or Antarctica, toward the edge of dreams.
On her tongue snow melted sweet-sharp,
water for the thirsty child
who could have been lost but was given
doorways to joy, exploratory powers to
forge freedom in December treks.

Oh, such dancing flakes sparked air, drifted
in tenderness to kiss her face,
wind sang out, trees waving bared arms;
her mittens and boots grew encrusted with snow,
feet were certain of their simple fate as she made her way.

This house with simple Christmas greetings
on door and porch goes blood deep,
felt like our hearts worn on our sleeves.

And I confess each year my spirit strengthens:

how the God of Love reaches to uphold us,
how the winters can rescue a woeful child
how wonders cannot be separated from the living
and those gone weave a music of their own

how Christmas still carries hope of peace,
a great promise of healing that cannot be undone,
a blessing of mercy folded ’round broken hearts,
how good will can reign when all else has fallen away

Friday’s Quick Pick/Photos & Poem: Advance, Retreat, Reveal

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Like a woman, spring offers glimpses
of secrets with calculated abandon,
loveliness just a hint until ready,
then as you move in to discover
the mysteries there is more waiting,
a few required shifts, a pause unexpected,
one last flourish before its unveiling.

Treat even these moments as small gifts,
for such restraint of exemplary beauty
brings sweet virtues to finest completion.

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Notes From the Edges of Sleep and the Day After

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It was that fine velvety stillness which held my attention. No mechanical clangs or motors roaring, no ebullient voices ballooning in the darkness after bar closings. The crows had taken a hiatus, were asleep or perhaps frozen stiff on their perches after the evening’s steady snowfall. I peeked out the window once more: nothing but rapid accumulation of an almost florescent snow upon rooftops, fences, tree limbs, parked vehicles. A January night’s attire arrayed itself with grace. Nothing stirred amid the restful snow, or pounced on blowzy flakes as once my calico cat had zealously attempted.

But why was I thinking of feisty Mandy, she of snappish meows and fast claws, dead and gone for a decade? I didn’t miss her warmth at my blanketed feet since she hadn’t been allowed there due to ending up a nuisance, though I loved her. No, it was another sneaky thought from nowhere. I lay on my back, blankets pulled up to my chin. Why did I think of anything at this time of night? I ought to have been snoozing, traversing vaporous realms at the most or loosely tethered to a wakeful consciousness at the least.

It was way past two in the morning; I didn’t want to check again. I had had my usual herbal Sleepytime tea while watching some innocuous television, headed to bed to devour many pages of an engaging novel. Tried to think sleepy thoughts. Let the day’s work and play be put aside. Worries offered up to God as well as a few suggestions that might be helpful, then humble retractions and surrender once more.

Closed my eyes. Ignored familiar inroads of pain that crept from neck to shoulders to head to back. Visualized warmth and healing in each spot, fell toward restfulness. In thirty minutes: fully awake again. This time, heart skipping about as if deep darkness was the best time to change things up, do a little sidestep, try on a galloping jig and then a waltz. A long pause or two and a swing step. Be at ease, I counseled the muscle that drives this flesh, fuels this life.

But beyond the bed, the vibrant quietude of snow carried me first to blizzards of my Michigan childhood and youth. The snow houses, sledding, ice skating, tunneling into the depths, falling into sharp sweetness with a boisterous shout. All that force of beauty and opportunities for fun; the ways it shaped the flow and tenor of my life for sometimes five or six months of each year. It gave me fortitude, more room for imagination and pure happiness.

And I thought, too, of a time in the north country with my first husband, our children gallivanting in brilliant snowdrifts, the skittish and graceful deer living right alongside our lives. The wood stove tended all day and night to keep us warm enough. That last winter of complicated snowstorms and love, more snow and loss. As I tried to let sleep come, I greeted him somewhere, wherever he is since body failed. But why was this necessary to revisit? Because the snow is made of memories. A unique elegance, freedom; it smells and shimmers of wonder and sorrow.

Music came forward from somewhere far away inside my mind– kept awakening me with chords, clear and robust. Giant icicles used to shine at the windows of my parents’ home, the music house. That was then and this snow was now but they were superimposed as I lay there half-awake. Trees must have shivered, as just like childhood I felt their aliveness, my eyes closing tighter against seepage of sky through the blinds and that far away past. I hummed a melody almost recalled as it melded with a sudden wind. Chimes jangled on the balcony, sonorous, comforting.

Three forty-five a.m. I sighed, re-positioned, fluffed the pillows. Thought of Marc on the East coast after flying all day. Was he awake, too? Sleep is often more elusive in hotels. He would likely be at work already.

Wait, a few poetic lines floated across mind’s eye…the slight of a slivered moon left behind, a pale cascade of stars nudging my waking… I grabbed pen, slip of paper.

Flopped back down. My heart rat-a-tatted over and over– electrical messages, small circuitous interruptions. That prescience of shocking mortality. We are not only memories and dreamings. But I know to wait it out, breathe well. It was persistent, then passing as mercifully, I fell asleep for awhile.

That night was a winding road. Long, crammed with bits and pieces that entertained, annoyed, jolted, intrigued and even soothed as each moment leads to another unlike what is expected or needed.

I am not alone with such night voyaging. All who experience insomnia for any reason know how it goes: it starts to feel long and unreasonably temperamental, then to feel more like floating in ineffable space and finally it feels like nothing but weariness. That waiting for dawn. It can be survived if you are friendly with it, acknowledge it as a terribly stubborn guest, and behave as if it is not unexpected and not despised.

And I finally awakened to full light. Looked outside. The snow was more immense, lay in high mounds and cancelled grayness with its reflective light. A foot of it? (Fourteen inches in places, I heard later.) Where did all this come from (an Arctic front via Canada, likely) and why to this valley saturated with a cold rain each winter? This was our second real snow so far; it was by far the biggest. I got up but it was as if my body came forward first, my self came second while, in between, I wavered. Then, steadier on both feet, it was time to greet another day properly despite the specter of exhaustion after four hours of sleep.

The pain in my neck had dug in. My eyes burned with bleariness. A daughter asked to come by as she usually does, using our computer (hers being broken) to search for another job. I dressed, put on the teakettle and toasted a bagel. I had things to get done. And I longed to walk into the snow. Discomfort does not usually excuse me from a daily walk, though it can be tempting. It’s better life management to keep going. I find such good moments, an infusion of strength–and it’s a good work out. Fresh cold air was surely a perfect antidote to poor quality sleep and a tenacious soreness.

And so we did walk for over an hour, good daughter and I. We clomped about in our heavy boots and I took pictures. Neighbors and passersby were chatty; it was satisfying to compare pleasures (and inconveniences) of such a rare snowstorm. Contentment filled me during that hour.

But this is all I have to offer today. No philosophical musings or insightful anything. Just this bout with a trying companion, insomnia. A glimpse again at my resilient but touchy heart. A sharing of bounties from an energizing winter mosey. Pain lessened, heart rhythms more settled. I’m quite tired out. Happier.

Time to sleep again, I so hope, And for all who traverse that oddly mysterious landscape of stony nights when trying to snooze: I wish you good rest.

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