Sunday, November 15, 2015

In the Blink of an Eye

It was odd that it caught my attention at all, but at the same time how could it not? It was so completely unexpected and foreign to my eyes that, even though it was nestled unobtrusively among the still-green leaves, it literally took my breath away.
About five inches long, it hung as a tightly-packed group of dark-colored, woody pods, each one containing a brilliant, shiny red, plump, bean-shaped seed suspended from the pod by a single, white strand. I'm not kidding about the color - identical to the red of M & Ms, I'd say! If this plant had produced this dramatic show of fall seeds before, I somehow had missed it.
The plant is a saucer magnolia tree, which we planted back in 1988 as a memorial to my mom whom we lost that year.
It is slow-growing - only about eight feet tall after twenty-seven years of growth - but faithfully produces huge pink blooms each spring.
Whether it was the unusually warm, dry summer, the tree reached some certain level of maturity, or other unknown factors, it lavishly produced five or six of these hanging seed clumps this year. Maybe I just happened to be working in its part of the yard at the right time. Whatever it was, because I think of it as "Mom's tree", it stirred up all kinds of memories of her.

It is often so easy to take those closest to us for granted. Precisely because they are so near and dear to us, they become a part of the fabric of our everyday lives, woven in so tightly and secure that we forget how precious they really are.
If we are fortunate, and fully aware, age and experience teaches us that life can change in the blink of an eye and we should NOT take anything for granted - least of all those we treasure. I have been reminded of this time after time, but more so recently...

·         My loving husband - best friend ever, stalwart partner, robust worker, now facing physical challenges.

·         My sister - living close by for the first time since I was two years old, facing failing eyesight, hearing, and the fragility of aging.

·         Our adult son - struggling with mental illness, substance abuse, and unemployment.

·         My youngest niece - dealing with health issues, unemployment, her Alzheimer's-affected dad, and a sister with mental illness.

·         Our dear friend - solid presence and confidante, widower with young-adult children, who recently escaped serious injury from a falling tree.

·         My "Coffee Klatch" ladies - each facing their own unique challenges with family members, health, disability, and aging.

·         My community volunteer friends - dealing with family issues of dementia, addiction, failed relationships, worries for grandchildren, spouses, and their own declining abilities.

·         All of YOU - whom I know, love, appreciate, and consider part of the greater family.

I am not alone in this; I only listed those above as a reminder that all of us carry burdens of concern for those we care for and love. Let us remember to be thankful now for those we hold dear - circumstances can change in an instant and tomorrow may never come.

I view the magnolia's brilliant red seeds and remember my mom's bright red lipstick, geraniums, and apple pie. I'm ever so thankful to have had her in my life...
I always thank my God
as I remember you in my prayers..
Philemon 1:4

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Keep Your Tail Waggin’

Entering the woods this day, I am once again intrigued by his single-mindedness. That being to fully take in and enjoy every single bit of ground that we cover and, looking forward only a limited distance, that which lies ahead. I observe his steady gait – the little trot-trot with a bounce in every step.
The alert expression on his face – head and tail held high, ears forward, nose twitching, eyes continually scanning.
Rather small, he is close to the ground and the grass is high, so his vision is limited. But for him the nose rules all, and his senses are constantly inundated with scents I can only imagine: mice, moles, squirrels, deer, raccoons, and dogs – always there are dog scents… To him, they are all good and exciting!
This little rescue dog is new to our family and in some ways he had changed our lives. Sure, he has some “baggage” – some we know about, some not. There have been challenges – some we have overcome, some training is in progress, some we are still figuring out how to deal with. The upside continues to be his unique little personality. So often, there is a joyfulness about him that defies explanation.
He enjoys playing with his toys, but the small rubber ball trumps all. He would go to the moon and back to retrieve this ball, chews on it, rolls it around with his nose, squeaks it, and holds it between his paws to keep it from being taken away.
Each morning, or on our return from being away, he greets us with such enthusiasm – tail wagging his entire body.
He enjoys his cuddle time, curling up tightly against each of us in turn, sometimes under a quilt or blanket.
He loves to be brushed, stroked, scratched, or to have his belly rubbed - yawning, stretching, rolling onto his back, and surrendering to the enjoyment. I swear this dog actually smiles with pleasure at it all!
Anyone with a dog understands and I think we all could learn something from these loyal companions. That would be to simply welcome each day as it comes and to make the very most of it; to have a true interest in our immediate surroundings and the people we encounter.
To take life in with all of our senses: to clearly see the eyes of those we meet, hear the nuances of the music we listen to, smell the mudflats at low tide or the fresh air after the rain, taste the dinner someone else has prepared, touch the shoulder or hand of someone who needs to know we care.
To be aware of our demeanor and what it says to others, whether we look fretful and busy, or enthused and energetic.
We should not ignore the future, but also not look too far ahead, as we can only adequately deal with today. If we enjoy our leisure time to the fullest, throwing ourselves into whatever our interests are, could we not do the very same with our work?
What if we gave those we associate with our full attention and those we’re closest to our total commitment? When was the last time we really ENJOYED this life – every single day of it?

Of course, not every day is pleasant for us because life is full of hardships, uphill battles, pain, and grief. No one ever promised us that it would be easy. All these trials can wear us down and before we know it we can become locked into the negatives more than the positives. I think it is important not to forget that there are always some positives and that it would be good to celebrate those while we have them.

As you head out on your path of life today, remember that you will never pass this way again. Although the trail may be rutted, rocky and muddy, there are many interesting surprises along the way.
As best you can, try to keep your head up, your step lively, and your senses fully engaged. Don’t forget to walk with those who love you and keep your tail waggin’… there is rest later and tomorrow is indeed another day.

 This is the day the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24