reflection

Many Mirco-Accomplishments

“Never underestimate the power of a girl with a book.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I pulled out my journal this morning to try and recount what exactly we did this year where many days felt the same. I surprised myself, sitting in the sun, as I scrawled twenty pages of reflection on what we did accomplish.

Nothing grand. No big adventures.

Instead, many micro-accomplishments. Harvests of cucumbers. Tiny reaches out of our comfort zones. A new job. Adjusting again to forces outside of ourselves. A basil plant taking in sun from cold winter windows. Witnessing pain. A new vitamin regimen. Striving for beauty. Ten gallons of paint.

2020 wasn’t a grand year. We were alone. Connected through screens, we grew closer to one another in ways I likely won’t understand for awhile. Isn’t it amazing how every human on earth now has this pandemic in common? How many other life experiences will stitch us together like this? The individual living of this year is different in kaleidoscope ways, yes. The tube, the crystals, the spinning disorientation – all the same.

I wonder how long it will take for the scapegoat disaster of 2020 to be reclaimed with something different. The ticking of time tonight can not erase what still lurks. 2021 may hold better. It may hold different. I know it will require processing, patience, and tending to pain.

Back in January I wrote I wasn’t going to be so bold to predict what would unfold on this year’s pages. I couldn’t have fathomed what actually was written in ink. I feel much the same about tomorrow. A new January. A new calendar. Pages to be ripped and discarded from organizational systems and goals to be scratched onto chalkboards in white. How many will be smeared in waiting in June?

This year, I read. A lot. On the floor, in the corner, tucked into my bed with cold bowls of vanilla ice cream. I got new glasses and my squinching face relaxed just a tiny bit as I escaped into story. Words comforted me. Challenged me. Seemed to be a constant companion.

As they lay Ruth Bader Ginsburg to rest, I welcomed with appreciation, all the work she accomplished to make the world a better place for my mother, for me, for women around the world longing for something different.

Never underestimate the power of words. How we absorb them, shape them, use them to search for beautiful things.

On this, the last day of a year we will never forget, I leave the list of books I read with you.

Bridge of ClayMarkus Zusak

Little WomenLouisa May Alcott

Red at the BoneJacqueline Woodson

Nine Perfect Strangers Liane Moriarty

There, There Tommy Orange

Dumplin’Julie Murphy

Counting by 7’sHolly Goldberg Sloan

Still MeJoJo Moyes

Little House on the PrairieLaura Ingalls Wilder

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and FoodAnn Hood

Turtles All the way DownJohn Greene

In PiecesSally Field

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country Helen Russell

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s StoneJ.K. Rowling

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away my Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a StoreCait Flanders

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity & LoveDani Shapiro

Such a Fun AgeKiley Reid

A Tree Grows in BrooklynBetty Smith

The CactusSarah Haywood

Little WierdsJenny Slate

Wine Girl: The Trials and Triumphs of America’s Youngest Sommelier Victoria James
The GownJennifer Robson

Magic HourKristen Hannah

The Hypnotist’s Love StoryLiane Moriarty

The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion

The Scent KeeperErica Bauermeister

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to SurviveStephanie Land

The Secrets We KeptLara Prescott

The Night Tiger Yangsze Choo

RedwallBrian Jacques

Mountains Beyond MountainsTracy Kidder

The Library Book Susan Orlean

The Alice NetworkKate Quinn

The Light We LostJill Santopolo

NeverwhereNeil Gaiman

The Henna ArtistAlka Joshi

The Velveteen RabbitMargery Williams

More Than Words Jill Santopolo

When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War IIMolly Guptill Manning

Fortune’s Rocks – Anita Shreve

The Vanishing HalfBrit Bennett

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Ordinary LifeTish Harrison Warren

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRueV.E. Schwab

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work Seth Godin

The AfterGrief: Finding Your Way Along the Long Arc of LossHope Edelman

Finding Freedom: Harry & Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal FamilyOmid Scobie & Carolyn Durand

Goodbye to All That – Writers on Loving & Leaving New YorkEdited by Sari Botton

Angel FallsKristen Hannah

The Family Fang Kevin Wilson

Bel CantoAnn Patchett

Tomorrow Will Be Better Betty Smith

Reach(ed)

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Photo by Slawek K on Unsplash

My word for 2019 was reach.

As the old dictionary says, there are many definitions and just as many applications of those five letters.

  • to make a stretch, as with the hand or arm.
  • to become outstretched, as the hand or arm.
  • to make a movement or effort as if to touch or seize something:to reach for a weapon.
  • to extend in operation or effect:power that reaches throughout the land.
  • to stretch in space; extend in direction, length, distance, etc.

This time last year I was hoping to put myself “out there” again. To stop retreating and re-enter the world in ways that would stretch me and help me touch new things, arrive in new places, and make bigger impacts.

With my word in mind, I started to live differently.

I walked into new networking meetings and said hellos.

I boarded planes to the mid-west and slept on plastic mattresses or in single hotel rooms as a solo traveler.

I led grieving individuals in workshops with words.

I asked for a desk chair.

I learned to put my own words to my needs with trembling hands.

I said yes more and swatted at my fears.

I stretched my stamina and extended my efforts and tried new things.

I had a good year.

What if, however, my reaching was instead grasping and my attempts to stretch were pushes (to press or urge to some action or course)? I was pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, pushing myself to take up space, pushing myself to live again when parts of me still feel the pins and needles of coming awake after loss makes your limbs turn to dead weight.

My kind yoga instructor often walks around her studio and places her warm palms on my shoulders, reminding me to relax the shell of protection I’ve created as my muscles inch closer to my ears. As we move our limbs into the next posture, she returns, same palms on the small of my back inching me closer to the floor in a forward fold.

Pushing would suggest success. A clear tick mark in the empty box.

You can’t push past pain to get release. You have to ease into it.

In recovery programs, people repeat “progress, not perfection.”

This year, I made space, I stretched, and I extended.

I made progress. I did not arrive.

I reached.

Our society waits at the end of that sentence and in the pause asks, “For what?”

At the end of this year, I’m still not sure.

Awakening wasn’t found in my accomplishments. Emptiness still lingers in my limbs and my ever-tight hips suggest I still have work to do. Healing isn’t found in over-extension. I’m still easing into my pain.

Deep breaths expand my life force lungs. I learned in my reaching, I’m still here.

Push, grasp, reach.

Move, hope, release.

The journey continues. What a beautiful thing.

The Beauty of Everyday Adventure – Guest Post by Joey Holmes

I love when other writers approach me with beautiful ideas to share. When Joey emailed from Europe and asked if she could write something on the adventures we create in our daily lives, I jumped at the chance to see what she had to say.

Read along and start adventuring. Bonus points if you guess which of her suggestions I am going to do in the next few weeks!

Author: Joey Holmes

Her Website: www.coolofthewild.com

“In every walk with nature, one receives much more than he seeks.” – John Muir


I often question why being outdoors is such an important thing to me. Maybe being born in December and being cooped up inside for the first 6 months of my life has something to do with it. Or perhaps it was that, when the weather permitted, my mum would be outside with me on every given opportunity. But whatever the reason, there is something about getting outside and embarking on adventures, no matter their size or ambition, that lights a spark in me.

Recently I have started to take note of the things I say when I’m outside adventuring, and the way I feel or react to my situation. And on reflection I’ve come to realize just how important it is for me to be surrounded by the beauty of nature: an ancient woodland, a colorful bug, a stunning view, the dying light at sunset. These small, seemingly insignificant things are what drive me to get outside as much as possible and to open my eyes to the beauty that is out there.

Last year I challenged myself to cycle 70 miles across Wales, sleep on the beach and cycle back again. I loved the physical and mental challenge and the feeling of independence and strength that it gave me. But I was on a schedule to get from A to B before the sun went down, and I found it really frustrating that I couldn’t take the time to stop and enjoy the waterfall, or to lie down for half an hour to listen to the silence and take in the sense of freedom that my adventure presented. So I promised myself that, moving forward, I would always try to allow for that time of reflection and appreciation of what amazing things nature offers me on my adventures.

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This got me thinking about how adventure is so different for everyone. Stepping out of ones comfort zone and embarking on something new, unusual and exciting can be all sorts of things, and doesn’t have to be grand or significantly life changing. Anything from cooking your dinner on a hill after work, to spending weeks at a time exploring far-flung corners of the earth. Regardless of the scale, seeking out adventure always uncovers beauty in one form or another: in your surroundings, in the actions of your fellow adventurers, or in the feeling, emotions and thoughts within you.

With modern life getting busier and more hectic every day, it’s easy not to make the effort to get out adventuring. And even easier to forget to appreciate all that beauty when adventures do happen. So for a little inspiration on how to get some adventure into everyday life, here are a few simple things to try each week:

Dining out

  • Cycle to work instead of your usual mode of transport
  • Cook your dinner on a campfire – even if it’s in the backyard!
  • Take a walk along a river at sunrise
  • Climb a tree in the park
  • Have a sunset picnic at a place with a stunning view
  • Take a night hike
  • Go for a swim before work at your nearest wild swimming spot
  • Take a run to your nearest park on your lunch break
  • Climb a hill and do some yoga at the top
  • Build a den and read your book in it – even if it’s inside
  • Take your camp stove to work and make your own coffee in the park at lunchtime
  • Hang your hammock in the park after work and enjoy listening to noise of the city

Planning and then embarking upon mini-adventures is a great first step to getting out more. But to truly reap the benefits of all that adventure has to offer, I believe that it’s essential to take the time to sit back and pause. To really breath in all the elements of the beauty that is uncovered through seeking out the unusual, daring and exciting.

So whatever adventure is to you, make sure you do it with open eyes, arms, ears, mind, heart and nostrils(!), to fully absorb all that beauty that’s yours for the taking.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Joey Holmes

Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, or hitting the trail in her running shoes .

You can connect with her here:

 Facebook    Twitter     Instagram    Pinterest

 

If you are interested in contributing to 52 Beautiful things, send an email to 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com. 

Thursday Reflection

Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Stop on Gold.

I saw this poem in my Facebook feed and just wanted to share it. I love it and I think it is thought provoking. Thinking deeply and critically can be beautiful things. What do you think?

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“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”

Naomi Shihab Nye