Alarm bells sounded high and low, all around the pond. From a distance we heard the persistent screech of the blue jay, then the urgent squawk of a duck, and as we neared the pond, the bong-bong call of the frogs.
What, we wondered, was going on?
Stopping at the edge of the pond, we scanned the water, the trees, and the sky, listening and looking.
And then we saw it. A big owl, a Barred Owl (yes, we had to look that up when we got home), perched in a tree on the edge of the pond.
I'm not sure if the frogs were sounding an alarm, mating, or doing what frogs do, but the duck and the blue jay were visibly agitated. The ducked paddled frantically from one area to the next squawking all the way. The blue jay, in full screech with fanned tail, was swooping down at the owl ... from the left, then right, again and again and again.
But that owl.
Talk about composure. It flicked an ear and spun its head at the bluejay's aggressive fly-by graze, but otherwise it remained still. Focused.
Fascinating stuff ... and the final entry for the day in yesterday's good things journal:
3. the owl in the woods
I started the good things journal last month. A list of three good things I see, experience, do, or feel during the day. Every day.
It's a matter of semantics, really. Like me, you've probably seen the prompts to keep a gratitude journal (and maybe you already do), but somehow that never materialized for me.
Until I read about a "good things list."
It's simple. I keep a small notebook and pencil within ready, on a table in the living room. The idea is to make a list of three different good things you experience every day. Short entries, a few words each.
Here are some of the entries I've made (with the original numbering):
3. clean sheets
4. trip to the library
5. takeout pizza from Otto
2. raking the yard
1. the sun is shining
2. almond flour chocolate chip cookies
4. Wordle in two
1. a good night's sleep
2. got the laundry done
3. the own in the woods
Like the owl, despite the unexpected swoop of outside influences, I've remained focused.
One entry at a time ... on the good.
And yes, it feels good.
Sometimes I write one thing at a time as it comes to me during the day, other times I write my list at the end of the day. And more often than not, once I get started, I'll remember something and add that to the list, coming up with not just three, but four or five, sometimes six or seven good things about my day. Not monumental, over-the-top exciting things, but small pleasures that, in remembering and recognizing them, make it a better day ... today and tomorrow.
If you're working on a project, hang in there. Try something different. But most of all, don't give up. Give it time.
This cactus is my only plant. I'm fairly certain the only reason it survives is that it is a cactus and it doesn't need a lot of water. And that's a good thing, because I forget to water it.
All the time.
Dry as a bone when I take it down off the shelf. So I water it and talk to it and earnestly try once again to remember not to let it go so long.
It was a little starter plant when I brought it home. Just a few sprigs. But it was healthy. It blossomed and flowered ... and maybe even more than once a year, I think.
Is that possible?
When it grew too large for the starter pot, I re-potted it ... and then again when it outgrew that pot. It did well and continued to flower. Year after year.
Until it didn't.
It just stopped flowering and I don't know why. I talked to it, I paid more attention to watering and fertilizing, and did some research. But nothing. For years.
I tried moving it from one room to another, some with more light, some with less, but it never made a difference. Last year I put it in yet another location, high up on the top of a book case.
And something shifted.
It came back to life with a whole bouquet's worth of flowers. More plentiful, joyful, pink, and beautiful than ever.
Was it a fluke? Would it flower again? I wasn't sure.
It was not a fluke. It blossomed again this year with another round of fireworks ... new blossoms opening day after day.
I'm not sure what made it stop flowering, and I'm not sure what made it blossom again, but it reinforces the idea that we have to hang in there. Keep trying different things until something clicks.
Off to a good start?
Do you make your bed? I know my mother encouraged it when I was growing up, but it was my grandmother who found a way to make it happen ... and I think of her still when I change the sheets.
There was no pestering or pleading, she simply set the scene ... with new bedding. It was the best after-school treat I never imagined I might crave.
It was mid-afternoon when I arrived home from school and found the mismatched jumble of pillows, sheets, and blankets I'd left on the bed earlier in the day replaced with perfectly plump pillows and coordinated sheets tucked under a matching comforter.
I was spellbound.
Nothing but the bedding had changed, but there was new order to my small room, and I was all in.
The 11th of this month is Make Your Bed Day (get your calendar of days through the link below). Some do, some don't ... some only when company's coming. But there's evidence that suggests it might be a good idea. It was also a key point in Admiral William H. McRaven's popular commencement address delivered to the 2014 graduating class at the University of Texas.
"If you make you bed every morning," McRaven says, "you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another and another."
He goes on to say that even if you have a miserable day, when it's time for bed, you will be reminded that you did in fact accomplish something that day ... you made your bed.
I made mine. Did you? (Tucked or untucked?)
p.s. The same could be said for any project or goal you're working on. Try to work on it early in the morning, at the same time of day, or the same day every week. The routine/scheduling can help you move forward. Try it and let me know how it goes.
Nineteen clues and my first symmetrical crossword puzzle.
I'm patting myself on the back, it feels like such an accomplishment!
What's the big deal? The black squares. If you were to flip the puzzle, the placement and number of the black squares on the top half mirror the placement and number of black squares on the bottom half.
Making the blocks symmetrical makes it more difficult to develop clues. Especially where two or three words run alongside or across one another ... like with clues three down, and four and seven across.
I've made word search puzzles and wanted to try the symmetrical crossword, but always gave up before getting too far. My mum loves a crossword puzzle, so this one's for her.
I hope you'll try it. Let me know if do, and I'll make another one.
You can download and print the puzzle (a one page sheet with the clues and answers(!) by clicking on the crossword image above).
At the end of the block on the corner there's a garden planted on the edge of the road. It's tucked between the street and a stockade fence. It's so small, and jammed into such a small space, it seems more than a garden. It's a declaration. A fertile sign of determination and grit.
Someone wanted a garden and they were not to be deterred.
They wanted to grow peas, and tomatoes, and peppers. We know that's what's growing because they impaled the empty seed packets on sticks to mark what was in the ground. And we've watch them grow for weeks now.
There's a tradition in New England ... peas and salmon on the Fourth of July. Why? The salmon swim upstream this time of year, just when the peas begin to sprout.
I'm not sure the neighbors will pair salmon with their peas, but the garden's bounty is proof there's plenty to be savored when the seed of determination is planted.
Figuring out what works Collage work has become my go-to art form. After trying a bit of watercolor, line drawing, pencil, and more, collage is it.
It's the perfectly imperfect nature of collage that works for me.
It's not that things are sloppy or unfinished. No, I pay attention to detail and form, but its more conceptual than precise.
Finding the rhythm
All of my collage work is done with painted sheet music. No other papers: no book pages, receipts, or found paper. Just sheet music.
That, too, took a while to figure out.
There are no distracting words on the page and I like how the music adds texture to the pieces I cut.
And I've learned it best to keep a supply on hand. A stack of painted sheets. An assortment of reds and yellows, blacks, grays, and greens. Blues, purples, and pinks. Each with varied amounts of paint, rough edges, and dry brush strokes.
Ready when the ideas are
If I have an idea, I like to sit down and start in. If I have to begin from scratch, to paint the colors I want or need, I risk losing some of my enthusiasm, some of the spark that comes with having a new idea.
Having an assortment of colors on hand helps me stay with the idea, to keep my momentum.
I've been running on scraps for a few weeks now and I can feel it holding me back. Little bits of paper cut from larger sheets. Yesterday I ran out of the green I wanted. Lots of scraps, but not enough to finish what I started.
It's time to take stock ... and restock.
Painting the sheets has become part of the process. Part of the preparation.
Be sure you've got what you need to get started. It could make all the difference.
Yesterday I became the reluctant fixer when the hose on the back of the dryer disconnected. I couldn’t get it reconnected and it started a string of lefty-loosey, righty-tighty missteps, YouTube videos, and a trip to the hardware store where a patient and far-more knowledgeable expert put and end to my cycle of frustration.
Are you handy?
Most of the time I would say I am. But truth be told, it depends when you ask.
Yesterday when I was in the middle of trying to attach that hose, I would have answered with a resounding no. Today, basking in the satisfaction of a job well-done (well, done anyway), I’m more likely to say yes.
It’s a truth most of us can relate to. Doing something for the first time comes with unique challenges:
The key of course of course is pushing through.
Though I wanted to give up, and nearly did, I knew it wasn’t an impossible task. Connecting a vent hose requires minimal tools and supplies ... there’s no rewiring of electricity or other element involved that would best be left to a professional. But I couldn't do it alone.
It took seven YouTube videos, two hours of trial and error, and two trips to two different hardware stores before I figured out what was missing and found what I needed:
A missing element and some guidance.
It also meant letting go. Of a quick fix, of all I had planned for the morning, of perfection, and frustration.
Though I won’t been installing dryer vent hoses on a regular basis, it’s a good, and constant, reminder that while there can be a quick fix here and there, it’s not the rule.
We’re better served, it seems, to recognize things will take more time and effort than expected. That frustration is part of the deal, and a little help from an expert goes a long way.
That even though what we’re trying to accomplish may not always be easy or fun, what we’re left is increased confidence, a bit more know-how, and a deep sigh of satisfaction.