The Veil

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It was a pack of cards with optical illusions printed on both sides, it was a stamp of a skeleton, it was a book about a mysterious girl with a colorful cover, it was a gilded leather jewelry box. It was memories: the memories of times gone past, of another life, of being oh so much younger. Held onto for years, they were tucked in the corners of old trunks and the shelves of bookcases.

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Moving, packing, sorting, organizing: de-possessing. Communing with all of the things in this cabin in the woods: holding each item in my hand and examining where it came from, who brought it, what it meant over the passing of time and asking myself, honestly, whether it had a place in the house anymore. For most things, surprisingly, the answer was yes. Over the past few years, I have done a really good job of shedding the errata, the flotsam of life defined as possessions.

What does it mean to let it go? It is a phrase that we often utter ourselves or hear others utter in terms of life and its myriad experiences. Let it go, we say, not really knowing what that may mean to others or to ourselves. This week is the beginning of spring, although you wouldn’t know it here on the coast of Maine where snow seems firmly planted in our landscape everywhere you look, but nonetheless, Friday is the spring equinox and the beginning of the sun’s warmth beckoning the living things back out from under the ground, under the snow. Shortly, Persephone returns to us and her mother will celebrate by giving us flowers and leaves again. Shortly, the days will become much longer and we will be able to celebrate the feeling of the warm air on our shoulders.

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Let it go….let go all of the stuff that is holding growth, feeling, evolution back. That pack of cards went into the fire, that stamp went to the growing free pile, the book went to the library. Such magpies are we: holding on to shiny objects, putting them up on shelves or in drawers to be gazed upon during the dark moments. What does it mean to really glean from our lives those items that have meaning and purpose, and to slough off that which doesn’t? Does it mean we are losing or gaining ourselves? Does it mean that we are better at the growth, or worse at the remembering? Does it mean we shall find ourselves at some future date wondering where that bit or bob went? Possibly, but after all, it is just stuff. You can’t take it with you, as the other popular saying says.

Spring is a natural time of cleaning, sorting, and developing better habits for the warmer days. It is a time of reckoning with oneself and with the earth as we witness the huge shift that is happening beneath our feet and around our heads. It is an antsy time: a time of intense preparation, hesitation, and promise.

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Where are we all going on this tiny blue planet hurtling through space? What will happen to us in this new year, after the beginnings of it have been so slow and so cold and so dark? The only thing I know is that I don’t know: I feel like I know less as I learn more about this game of life we all are lucky enough to play.

Lately, I have been trying to appreciate something about the place in which I live each day: mostly I notice the mountains that I can see from my front garden: the dooryard, as it is called here. In front of me each morning is a line of graceful, arced mountains that are dotted with trees that appear black and stand out of a uniform field of white. Behind them, during the day, the sky is either white with snow or blue with sun. At sunset, the sky transforms into a pink-purple-salmon wonderland that casts the roll of those mountaintops in beautiful relief. The lake at their base is beginning to melt: the ice is going out, again, as they say here.

As we all make this grand transition, again, as our axis posits us in greater exposure to our central star, my goal is to remember something simple, something about being in the present moment, something that goes something like this:

“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”

Frida Kahlo

At the End of January

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Coming home, I light a fire: coaxing flames and warmth from cold and sometimes frozen wood.

Glowing embers, twinkling lights, and old brass lamps brighten my small home that is blanketed by cloudy yet starry skies and surrounded by a sea of glimmering January snow.

On the stove is a red pot of beef stew, and in the oven bakes cornbread in an old cast iron skillet.

“I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness. In reality those who satisfy me are those who simply allow me to live with my ”idea of them.” – Anais Nin 

Amidst the Blizzard

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Here we are, about 22 hours into a blizzard, with warnings of more to come tomorrow. I am shocked by the amount of snow outside and also dismayed that my epic shoveling attempts have now been completely covered over by more and more snow. After a walk in 40 mph gusts, staring at the snow flurries blowing over my desolate stretch of highway, it is natural that my heart and mind start….wandering.

I spent this evening making artwork for a restaurant in Bar Harbor, a place I truly love and for which I have been given carte blanche this season. During this process, I began researching hobo poems.

This was my favorite:

I’m wondering son with the nervous feet,
That never were meant for a steady beat,
I’ve had many a job for a little while,
I’ve been on the bum and I’ve lived in style;
And there was the road, stretchin’ mile after mile,
And nothing to do but go.

Good words to think about: ideas to ponder whilst one is stuck inside, listening to the whistling wind and wondering what is in store for us tomorrow…

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Otoño y La Gracia

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This morning, it was autumn. I woke up at sunrise to the sounds of the street sweepers and noticed a copper light cast across the tops of the buildings and caught in the leaves of the trees. Cadillac Mountain, standing so stately at the end of the street, was highlighted by a glimmering sheath of coppery-gold-red-and-yellow very early this morning. The slant, or angle, of the light is so sharp now as the Sun’s light is bending around the curves of Earth! Take heed for soon it shall start to slip away…and away…and away.

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This is my bedroom, or at least, a part of it. I have spent some hours over the last few weeks decorating its nooks and crannies for winter. I have added tropical plants and candles and nicely smelling things. I have stared out the windows, wondering how it will change. I have thought about my own feelings of this house’s temporary feel: never have I felt that I will stay here for long.

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I ended up here on Saturday night: a club called the Oak and Ax in Biddeford, Maine. I watched some friends perform beautifully, and I watched a couple in paisley and beige dance. I watched young people dressed like the Beastie Boys sing space trip-hop. I spoke to a girl wearing a white polyester dress she had bought at the Goodwill-by-the-pound in Gorham. I smoked a cigarette with a man who sang like Stevie Wonder backed by synth beats. I danced, and was happy, because, beside my friends who I was attending the show with, I knew no one and was happy in a brief moment of true anonymity.

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Out beyond ideas

of wrongdoing and right doing,

there is a field.

I’lll meet you there.

Rumi

Fall is a season of overturning: of watching the colors of our landscape change before our eyes. We can feel the energy drain from the surface of the Earth to its undercarriage: the Sun begins to wane and the light disappears, the leaves turn red-orange-yellow-brown, and the wind becomes sharper and colder. We ourselves learn to spend moments feeling the cool wind blow on our faces and the warm sun shining on our backs for just a little while more. We can watch the clouds move in the blustery wind and hear it shake our windowpanes as the cold blows in off the water, and down from the North.

One of the themes of late, for me, is a feeling of letting go, of accepting new beginnings whatever they may be, and to try to say goodbye to a feeling of fighting for fighting’s sake. It is time to transition and to take off the battle garb: to look into your lover’s eyes late at night and see light flash and listen to your souls laughing. It is time to feel one another’s skin between sheets and hold another’s head in your hands: appreciating in moments the beauty of hair and skin and bone. It is time to hold hands while sleeping, and to be tender in whatever moments you are lucky enough to express it.

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“I do not understand the mystery of grace, only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

Anne Lamott

Thoughts for the End of February

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This winter feels long: ever so long, as if it is stretching out in front of us forever. Although I see the lengthening light, the shifting colors during sunset, and hear the birds singing, the cold just…keeps…going.

Winter, and this winter especially, has created opportunities for thinking about people and life: specifically, how do we interact with people in our life? What role do others play in our life? How do we know other people, let them in, support them, and really love them? I keep coming back to the idea that to love others is not to ascribe a specific meaning to who they are: friend, lover, coworker, student, but rather to understand that Love (with a capital L) is the fundamental tenet of why we are the way we are on the Earth. Love governs every action that we take, whether productive and caring, or dispassionate and alienating. We can fear love, we can hope for love, we can give love, we can receive love and many actions in between. We can be disappointed in others, and in ourselves, when our past definitions of love don’t meet our present experiences of how it feels. We can wander, in the dark, or at least the twilight, for such a long time, years even, and not understand how our perceptions color not only how we perceive others but how others perceive us. We can even be reaching out a hand or opening a heart and not fully understanding that what may come back to us may not look like we wish it to, or at least, how it did before. The hard part is understanding how not to shy away from the learning portion of loving our own selves and the others who we welcome into our world. Loving without expectations is….difficult, eye-opening, present, and unconditional.

With that in mind, here are two thoughts that I think focus on this idea….the first you almost certainly have read, the last may be new to you. Enjoy the last week of February…

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Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
  If this be error and upon me proved,
  I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sonnet 116 — William Shakespeare

“NAMING LOVE TOO EARLY

Most of our heartbreak comes from attempting to name who or what we love and the way we love, too early in the vulnerable journey of discovery. We can never know in the beginning, in giving ourselves to a person, to a work, to a marriage or to a cause, exactly what kind of love we are involved with. When we demand a certain specific kind of reciprocation before the revelation has flowered completely we find our selves disappointed and bereaved and in that grief may miss the particular form of love that is actually possible but that did not meet our initial and too specific expectations. Feeling bereft we take our identity as one who is disappointed in love, our almost proud disappointment preventing us from seeing the lack of reciprocation from the person or the situation as simply a difficult invitation into a deeper and as yet unrecognizable form of affection. The act of loving itself, always becomes a path of humble apprenticeship, not only in following its difficult way and discovering its different forms of humility and beautiful abasement but strangely, through its fierce introduction to its many astonishing and different forms, where we are asked continually and against our will, to give in so many different ways, without knowing exactly, or in what way, when or how, the mysterious gift will be returned.

January Thoughts
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press”

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Emptying out the tiny house…

Falling Down

I am copying and pasting a poem by Rumi here today that was sent from a wonderful woman to her friends a few years ago. This beautiful lady died in a car wreck in 2008. The amazing speed at which accidents can happen and can take beautiful people’s lives is shocking, and her sentiment of cherishing the moment is expressed perfectly in this poem. I hope you enjoy it and it means something to you, as it did to me.

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The New Rule

It’s the old rule that drunks have to argue
and get into fights.
The lover is just as bad. He falls into a hole.
But down in that hole he finds something shining,
worth more than any amount of money or power.

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Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing,
falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks. Everywhere is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.

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Here’s the new rule: break the wineglass,
and fall toward the glassblower’s breath.
Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You’re covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.
The speechless full moon
comes out now.
I used to want buyers for my words.
Now I wish someone would buy me away from words.
I’ve made a lot of charmingly profound images,
scenes with Abraham, and Abraham’s father, Azar,
who was also famous for icons.
I’m so tired of what I’ve been doing.
Then one image without form came,
and I quit.

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Look for someone else to tend the shop.
I’m out of the image-making business.
Finally I know the freedom
of madness.
A random image arrives.
I scream, “Get out!”
It disintegrates.
Only love.
Only the holder the flag fits into,
and wind. No flag.

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Endings and Beginnings

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“I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings there never will be an end. “

– Jo March in Little Women

A year and four months ago, I moved to the small town of Northeast Harbor after a month-long trip around the country. In two weeks, I will leave Northeast Harbor for the much larger town of Bar Harbor. Twenty minutes away and boasting a population of almost 1000, my new town is the big city of these parts.

I am conflicted about leaving this little town, because I love its quirks and characters. I love its beauty and its quiet.  I met several great friends here who have since moved out, too, and soon I will go and move into an old house and still be able to see the ocean. But my new ocean will be facing north, while this one faces south.

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New directions and opportunities have to be the themes of 2014 based on all the tumult and tumbling going on. For Valentine’s Day this year, I made flags spray-painted with red hearts. There are ten of them, and I installed them on snow mountain: the pile of dirty snow that sits beside my house in the parking lot. The snow plow guys scoot all the snow over here during every snowstorm, of which there have been many this winter. The flags were flipped and flapped all day yesterday by gale force winds, but maintain. This morning they wave more gently in the winter sunshine.

Tonight another snowstorm descends upon us, another 12-18 inches of the white stuff will drop downward onto the ground and into the branches of trees. My friend just told me that she has never seen anything like this winter, and I have to agree. In moments it is beautiful and inspiring and scary with its stark nature, and in other moments, it is somewhat defeating. The winter is so powerful here, just like the summer was in Texas. The difference is that the summer in Texas was just hot. Winter in Maine is dark, cold, snowy, icy, windy, and very, very long.

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I am trying to motivate myself to take care of business, but have a case of the Februarys. This is why I made the flags over the last couple of weeks, when I was working on two Valentine’s Day commissions for clients. I learned today that one of the pieces that I made with an old typewriter ball was met with tears and love, because said typewriter ball was found in my friend’s mom’s house shortly after she passed away. I love that there is so much love in the things that are important to us, even if those of us who transitionally handle those things don’t know the back story.

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The flags to me mean love for Valentine’s Day for everyone in my town: they are a prayer of sorts. The town seems to be changing but no one can see what the changes will look like. As the year round population shrinks again, as I move and a few others do as well, this town needs love and brightness. The flags mean appreciation for my friends here, for the family that I have found. They also mean gratitude for the safety of the four of us who were in the accident two weeks ago. The flags also mean focusing on endings and beginnings and being aware of the give and take of transitional times. I, historically, do not like change and have a hard time accepting that endings actually exist. I try and try and try to keep energy flowing in my spheres of influence so that life is a creative process rather than a destructive one, even though I acknowledge that creation and destruction, like the sides of a coin, are a yin-yang of sorts; you cannot have one without the other.

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Right now I am sitting in my bedroom, my favorite space in this little house. This room reminds me of a train car due to its size, cramped nature, and lack of windows (there is only one). My house is steadily being taken over by boxes. The funny thing about moving out of a tiny house is that there is nowhere to put the things you are packing. The tiniest of houses begins to feel absolutely small when stacks of boxes are pushed up against any nook or cranny of (non-existent) extra space.

When I look out my front window, I see those small flags coursing in the wind: red against the white and blue and green of their surroundings. I remember moving here two autumns ago, when I knew nothing of living here or of its people. Now, I know more, and am beginning to understand life here. But just beginning.

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Taking a Tumble or Two…

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It was on a dark Sunday night: winter, February, in Maine. We skidded on black ice, shot to the left, then to the right, hitting a guardrail head on. We launched into the air, spinning and flipping, skidded along the guardrail, landing on the driver’s side, stopping, hanging half off and half on the road. I remember a moment of silence, and then the sight of the windshield shattering into a thousand pieces, and landing, quiet, and we stopped.

I remember asking my friend if he was ok and he asking our other friend if she was ok. Our driver, our fourth friend, stayed quiet for a minute and we worried, but then she too spoke to us. Somehow that first friend opened a car door, pushing himself upward. He unhooked our second friend from her seatbelt, she fell, and he helped her climb out. Our fourth friend climbed out, too, and then I stood up from my crumpled position, fell once, and clambered out onto the road. We all looked back at the truck, on its side, hanging, and all said something to the effect of: “Look at the truck!”

Standing there in the cold we were accompanied by two strangers who had stopped to help us. They called 911 as we stood, dumbstruck. A policeman and an ambulance arrived, and both skidded to a stop in the ice. We were asked if we were all okay, and we said,”yes.” “How are you all okay?” asked the EMTs, random strangers, our kind policeman, the firemen. One of them said to my friend who had been driving, “Here you’ve been having a go of it.” She nodded.

My friend and I who had been sitting in the backseat were not wearing our seatbelts, and were surrounded by the tools of a long-standing landscaping and stone business: wrenches, saws, a chainsaw sharpener. None of them had flown and hit us, and even the careening of the truck had not shaken us too badly. Somehow we made it out onto highway 198 with not even a scratch, despite the glass that we kept shaking out of our clothes.

I have had a bit of a go of it in terms of driving in winter this year: this was my second accident in two weeks, both due to icy roads. I now consider my first wreck a fender bender, and not serious at all, despite my hitting two trees at low speed. This crash, this tumble, was a big one.

For the last two or three days, we have been talking about it a lot together. It seems as if we were given a new lease on life, or at least an illustration of how it can all be taken away so fast. The accident took, probably, less than ten seconds to happen.

As an ex-science teacher and avid lifelong lover of anything science-related, I can explain a couple of things that happened in terms of survival and physics. I believe that the spinning action of the truck kept enough centrifugal force (the spinning force that keeps our planets in orbit, and our bodies in place on that crazy carnival ride with no floor or ceiling) to glue myself and my backseat companion almost still, and also held the tools that could have hurt us against the walls of the truck. This “sticky” force was probably what kept us from hurtling all over the inside of the truck and becoming seriously injured. The moment of silence is explained by our fight-or-flight survival response that causes us, in times of serious threat, to feel as if time slows down or stops. This is because our brain is seeking any and all possible escape route and our awareness is heightened to recognize a way to survive. There is a wonderful Radiolab episode on falling that explains this much better than I can here. I believe we were all silent at that time because we were attempting to process what was happening, not knowing the outcome, and preparing ourselves for all those potential results.

This huge, intimidating, frightening, and death-defying tumble was the scariest experience of my life, and I think my friends would agree with that. It is hard to imagine a large truck like the Tundra being launched into the air, spinning and flipping, by something as simple as a patch of ice, but that is what happened.

When events like this happen to us, traumatic ones, they often cause us to re-evaluate our lives at the moment and what we are doing with life at any given time. For myself, this accident made me think about things that I have put off, problems I am ignoring, goals that I am not 100% engaged with. I have, unfortunately or fortunately, had quite a few traumatic events over the past couple of years. I have had my house broken into, wrecked my car, and then a horrific accident with three of my closest friends here. We are neighbors and friends in a very small town: we have been, for a time, each other’s close social group due to living in this very tiny and quiet place. This drive was our last drive back to the Northeasy, our neighborhood, because three of the four are moving out in the next few days. When we left the party, it felt warm and as if everything was melting in the short thaw of a few days previous. Never did we think that it was cold enough to freeze all the water on the road, but, it was.

I have spent three days wondering what this accident means to me, what the other accident also meant, and then remembering my home invasion. I find that all three events make me very tired when I think of them too much, and that they make me feel confused as far as what they “mean” in terms of my life. I know that the events themselves mean nothing in and of themselves, but the effect on my life has been profound. When my house was broken into, almost two years ago, I decided to sell most of my possessions, my houseful of furniture and accoutrements, and move to Maine. The last two are too recent to really understand what the effects will be, but all I can say, as I have discovered during times of duress before, that the only thing that crossed my mind was how much I care for the people in my life, and that love is the strongest human emotion. Everyone that helped us was so kind, and so delicate with us on that roadside. There was nothing but smiles and care and quiet jokes. I remember thinking, in Philadelphia after the break-in, how thankful I was for my friends and coworkers at that time, who simply came over and helped and brought pizza and tried to be understanding and giving my roommate and I time to mull it all over. She chose to sell everything and go to South America, where she is still is, somewhere, living an amazing and colorful and educated life. I chose to move to my childhood summer home, went through some hardships, and now, also live an amazing and colorful and educated life. Clearly, the benefits of the break-in greatly outweighed the costs.

I am choosing to try to look at trauma as an opportunity to live the attempts at a realized life that I have been cultivating since moving here. Trauma is physically and mentally painful to us all, and can take quite a while to process, digest, and release. But holding on to it like a crutch is the wrong way to deal with it, and I know I have been guilty of that in the past. The reality, to me, is that I am quite a sensitive person who is highly emotive. I can choose to let things affect me personally quite deeply, but am beginning to discover that if you make it out in one piece, with just a few bruises for the experience, trauma is like a window into the universe, and it can help you hone your thoughts, sharpen the blade of your approach to living in a highly beneficial way.

I wonder, oh readers, whether any of you have had experiences like this one and how those experiences changed you? Did a “new lease on life” inspire you to greatness? How did you manage the upheaval of it all?

If we choose to see them this way, do all of our tumbles manifest great and good changes in our lives, or do we just recognize them as moments passing in time?

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Eaten By Wolves

 

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Today I went on a sunset walk with a friend. As we walked, the light changed from gold to blue and then became complete darkness, lit by a gibbous moon that rose quickly over our heads, to hang in the sky, over the path, back to a bridge over rushing, snow-melt water.

She joked that if we were caught in the dark that we would be eaten by wolves, and just after the sun disappeared, we heard their calls just off to our right, in the woods. Yipping and howling together, it was no doubt a group of coyotes living large in the forest. Their calls waffled between high-pitched, human-like screams and howls, and seemed to be very close to us.

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She grabbed a large stick from the side of the path and we formulated plans including climbing trees and calling for help and standing on the bridge and making ourselves larger than life. The moon, luckily, lit our way with its white light: shining down on snow and ice.

As we walked, a bit faster now, we saw the first one as it leapt across the path in front of us: a black streak with a long tail. We stopped, dead in our tracks, not knowing what to do as coyotes will circle people and dogs in the woods. It was then that we saw the second coyote run across the path, just a bit farther down than the first one.

Grasping each other and the stick, we forged on, beginning to yell at the coyotes to scare them off and looking back to see if we were being followed, but we weren’t. They simply were there when we were, and we were lucky enough to not be very interesting to them.

As we reached the stone bridge, the one that we had crossed earlier while staring down at the stream, full of roiling waters and lined with rocks, we breathed a sigh of relief; we were within eye shot of the car, and therefore, far enough away from the coyotes in the forest.

It is a magical and sometimes unnerving thing to live in nature; this place has very little separation between the wild and the domestic, outside and inside. In the times when the light fades, at the end of another winter’s day, and you find yourself in the woods, walking along with a friend, it feels better to walk softly and carry a big stick.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

John Muir

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A Winter Storm

Having survived the first of what promises to be many winter storms, I spent all day today being lazy and making a winter storm mix. This is my first foray into the world of 8tracks.com…I have learned that these things take time to make! Anyway….I hope you enjoy it and it makes you cozy and thoughtful on these deep winter days.

Links por vous:

Vogue.com shares with us the Winter 2013/2014 Fashion Trends….something to gaze upon and then look at the four feet of snow outside and just throw on the ol’ Bean Boots after all….

Gayla Trail of YouGrowGirl.com shares some photos and reflections on a garden covered in ice from last week’s ice storm. I wonder how much snow they got in Toronto?

When one is stuck inside, it helps to look at other peoples’ amazing interiors and seek inspiration for one’s own. My two favorites at the moment are BLOODANDCHAMPAGNE and Rooms For The Revolution.

Buzzfeed.com put together this great list of movies on Netflix that are good for cold, wintry days. I was surprised at how few of them I had seen!

Enjoy the cold, y’all…..it just started. 🙂