An Abundance of Moonlight

*Photo taken at Sprague’s Maple Farm in Portville, NY. I know, it isn’t a picture of a moon–my camera takes lousy photos of the moon, so this is the best I’ve got. :/ At least the photo is festive, right?

After a long day at the school on Tuesday, I had to go shopping and get gas, which meant that by the time I got home it was dark. Typically I walk my dogs almost as soon as I get home from work because I prefer walking them during the day. Our road isn’t lit at night, and some parts of the road are narrow and difficult to find a safe place to stand when cars need to pass. It makes for treacherous walking at night, though most people who drive the dirt roads here seem to be watchful of their neighbors. A lot of people have dogs to walk here. In any case, I pulled onto the road which takes me up the hill to our rental home in the woods, and just as I turned around the first big bend, the moonlight blasted me in the eyes. My face lit up like a Christmas tree, because the clear sky, the snow, and the moon waxing toward a three-quarter fullness all meant I could walk the dogs without a flashlight. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love walking by moonlight. It’s not a thing you have to worry about if you live in a town or city, but when you live in the woods, walking by moonlight is enchanting.

When I got the groceries unloaded, I immediately encouraged the dogs out with me (though it didn’t take much more than me saying the word “walk”). Off we went up the hill, the tough slog up a couple of inclines and little valleys that bring out the burn in your legs. Mostly, I chose that direction because the moonlight shone so brightly on that part of the road. I was simply drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Wind blew in the trees, still dragging in the cold Arctic air which kept us inside at school instead of going out to the playground. A constant whooshing of the wind combined with trees groaning in the cold, but the light was about as bright as a distant floodlight shining into a yard, except it was the moon shining across the whole woods. All the snow lit up silvery-blue, and as we walked up the hill, golden lights from houses tucked deep into the woods peeked out from between the bare trees. Despite the moon being so bright, a few stars still managed to compete for their place in the night sky. I happily spotted Mars, still such a bright orange orb it almost looked like it wasn’t real. Usually I can spot Orion this time of year, but he either hadn’t risen yet, or the moon blotted out the recognizable stars. I’m not enough of a sky observer to know; I just like looking up and enjoying the view.

We must have walked between twenty and thirty minutes in the brisk night without a flashlight. Perhaps there are people who think this is crazy, that it’s dangerous because I might run into animals or get hit by a car. I had a flashlight to turn on in case a car came, and I had my two dogs with me in case of animals. Even a bear would probably hesitate to bother me with my two dogs by my side. I can imagine why some people might be afraid to walk in the woods at night, because I think about diving deep into the ocean with nothing but a wet suit and a tank of air and my belly gets squishy with fear. The ocean is not my bag, but get me out in the woods and I feel alive. Some people live for the ocean. Maybe some of those people imagine going into the woods at night and their bellies get squishy. We all have things we love, and fear is part of life. If it really matters to me, maybe one day I’ll challenge myself to go snorkeling or take a trip across the ocean. Or maybe not. If I find a good enough reason, I’ll try almost anything at least once.

By the time I neared the house to get inside to cook dinner, a smile had plastered itself to my face. I felt so refreshed by the magic of my walk in the woods under the stars, I can’t imagine anything that could have made me happier. On Monday, I went to meditation and our Sanga leader shared with us a lovely idea about shifting the way we think about new year’s resolutions. Instead of making a resolution, he suggested we consider making an intention. With intentions, we don’t feel quite the same pressure to uphold a promise, and the mind recognizes it as a more relaxed kind of state. We might be more likely to keep up with an intention, he said, so as I sat and listened to his ideas about intentions, I realized a perfect intention for me was to notice abundance. I have a nasty tendency to notice scarcity, as so many of us tend to do when we take things for granted, and I felt immediately the shift in my own mind when I imagined how beneficial such an intention could be for me. Since then, I have had moments where I swim up from my unconsciously busy thoughts and realize I have a chance to notice abundance. Yesterday as I drove my car up the highway, I realized what an abundance of freedom I have with my car, and to even have a car was a load of abundance. As I cooked my dinner today, I realized what abundance it was to be able to eat such wonderful, healthy food, and that I didn’t need to check my bank account before I went to the store to buy it—I just went and paid for it. Once upon a time, not in the too-distant past, I would have had to count my pennies to scrounge for a meal like the one I ate for dinner.

Noticing abundance will hopefully open my eyes to all the good things in my life, and to be grateful for them. I could just try to practice gratitude, but I’ve tried making lists and didn’t stick to it. I think instead I needed to find something a little deeper and more true to what I need to balance in my own life. After enough experiences with scarcity, it can be scary to let go of the feeling that at any time scarcity could return. But I don’t live in scarcity right now, even if I may have to do it one day again. I’ve survived some fairly rough times. I think it’s okay to let go of the survival mindset for now; those skills are still there if I ever need them again. Either way, even in times of scarcity we can find abundance, and I’m glad for the idea to try a new year’s intention. And why bother waiting? I decided to start as soon as I left meditation.

Save the Daylight and Enjoy the Night

*Photo from Nelson, NH as the sun sets.

It’s only 4:30 pm as I begin writing, and the sun is already setting. Daylight savings seems to steal my sunshine, rather than save it for me, as I am not a farmer, nor do I like early mornings. My best time of day has always been afternoon and evening hours, the time of day when I do my most creative, intellectual work. Sometimes it bothers me that the U.S. work schedule is so often geared toward people who like mornings, and that most businesses in rural towns are only open during the day, or even worse, only in the morning. If I need to shop, my preference is always to go in the evening, when most people have already done their after-work shopping runs, and the stores are quiet and free of traffic. For me, night time is enchanting. I love watching the sun set, listening to the night animals begin to waken in the woods, and enjoy the gentle appearance of stars as the twilight turns to dark. When the moon has yet to rise, I could stand outside for hours gazing at the lattice of the Milky Way stretching its arch across the sky. But then when the moon does rise, I take in the beauty of its waxing and waning, the optical illusion of size when close to the horizon, and the surprising amount of light by which to see without another source. What has been most interesting about living in the woods is the lack of street lights, and how readily my body has responded to the natural ebb and flow of light from nature.

For maybe the first time in my life, the time change has not bothered me quite so much. I am working hard at going with the natural flow of things around me, rather than always feeling at odds with my environment. Most of my life I have suffered the environments of school, work, home, politics, society, and any other culture of life as abrasive, always finding the ways in which I wish they could be different. Much like my desire to have society honor those of us who prefer evenings or nights to early morning work, I often struggled to make peace with the many failings of public schools, colleges, corporations, or government systems in my life. No matter what you want to see in the world, it will be there, and when I was always looking at the failings of the systems in my life, I was always unhappy. Instead, I am changing my habits to see the good and to go with the flow. Though I abhor getting up early, I am working at a school again, and early morning is when I must rise. Thus, instead of fighting it by staying up too late and running on a sleep deficit, I now take better care of myself and go to bed earlier. With more sleep, I rise much more readily and happily, and my day at work goes much better. Sleep in general always helps, but it’s taken me over 40 years to learn this wisdom. The lifestyle of too many in the States revolves around working too many hours, sleeping too little, eating nutritionless food, and getting too little exercise or time outdoors. And then we wonder why we’re sick, depressed, and suffering from auto-immune disorders. It’s not rocket science.

Ending the fight with morning has been an eye-opening experience. I have never liked early morning work, and yet I can function, and I can give myself the means for peacefully accepting this aspect of life for now. During the work week, I eat a strict low-carb diet with lots of vegetables and healthy proteins, both in morning and evening, and avoid any junk until the weekend. Though it may seem like a punishment to some, I actually look at it as a kind self-care to support my body’s needs during the week when I am working hard and must fill my day with so much physical and demanding activity. Sleeping enough and eating well are no longer negotiable for me. Since I’ve been sick for a while, due to the petri dish in which I work, I haven’t been able to put as much energy into exercise, but I did my best. If I keep up on getting out to walk and still lift weights every other day, it keeps my circulation up and my muscles strong enough to avoid injury. When I have to lift toddlers all day long, I need a strong back. Not negotiable. It’s a lot of work to be so diligent, but when my spirit responded so readily to taking good care of my body, I find myself convinced that this is the answer to happiness. Stop fighting the systems and work with them instead.

The day after midterm elections, I think this philosophy is where I need to reside with politics, too. I have no doubt that Democrats are feeling somewhat mollified to have the House back in their court, but probably wish they could have won more. Republicans probably feel frustrated by the loss of the House, and worry that now nothing will get done in Congress. We can see the brokenness of our government, but we can also see the revelation of how much awareness is coming about because of the uprising of new candidates, and newly-charged people in the population who were previously apathetic. If we choose to see this phase of our global shift in politics as a revealing of the darker parts of our human nature, we expose it to the light of day and see it for what it really is: unhealthy, causing suffering, and a fight against the nature of what we need. Rather than fear what is to come, we can see the shift as growing pain which will open up a whole new way to have dialogue, to honor humanity, and to serve and save the planet from our past mistakes. A moment ago, the neighborhood owl awakened and called out to let the hillside know. Recently I took the time to find out what kind of owl it is, and learned it’s a barred owl, a beautifully striped bird with the characteristic white feathers surrounding orb-like eyes. I think about that owl as a sort of friendly neighbor, and I want to make sure we keep the forest healthy and alive so it has a home, right along with all the other animals that live in the woods. If I’m honest, I must recognize I have been fighting the flow of what must be done, rather than seeking a peaceful solution.

No matter what we do to the planet, nature will find a way to deal with us. The earth has survived lots of catastrophic events over the millennia of its existence, and we may become yet another catastrophe for the planet to survive. People who consider themselves environmentalists often argue that we must save the planet, but what we’re really doing is saving ourselves. Humanity is at risk of dying out if we don’t take action soon to preserve our lives, but rest assured that even if we turn this planet into a raging oceanic waterworld of bacteria and viruses, the planet will survive and will figure out how to re-boot life as we know it. After all, the dinosaurs died out, but mammals took their place. If we die out, something else will take our place. It will be up to the humans to decide how much we want to live, but it won’t happen by fighting. We’ll have to find solutions which work with what we have, and fast. Meanwhile, we are getting an action-packed lesson in how to unite and take care of each other because we realize it’s the only answer to hate. Nature provides us the opportunity to change if we pay attention.

Michael and I took a walk on our lovely hill today, enjoying the warm sun as we climbed up to where we could see the view of the rolling hills. All the trees in the woods suddenly turned from a golden green to dead brown after the recent colder weather in Southern New Hampshire. We had storms which poured massive amounts of rain on the region, and for the first time since I have lived here I saw waterfalls in the woods where previously no water ran at all. The whole hillside became a series of small creeks which joined the stream that runs through Granite Gorge on Route 9. It’s a beautiful stream full of boulders, and is one of my favorite parts of the commute to town or work every day. Now the stream is barreling over the boulders after all the rain, and places which used to be fields look more like marshes. The sun today probably burned off some of the water, but it looks like more rain is in the forecast soon. Over the summer, the Northeast experienced a lot of rainy days, too much humidity, and less sun, which is going to become even more common as the planet changes in response to the warming. When the sun shines, I find myself dashing outdoors as quickly as possible. Our walk today served to remind me that I need to get out much more often, and for longer, as I struggled to climb the hill. Illness has taken its toll, but I will gently nudge myself back into health.

The light is gone completely now. My body aches for rest in the darker hours, and wants sleep earlier. After I lift weights and eat dinner, perhaps that is exactly what I should give myself. Worry not, darlings, about the future. Enjoy this moment. Breathe. Rest. Listen. Be at ease. If the future looks dim, remind yourself you do not live there now. You are here in this moment. Embrace what you are doing, rather than fighting it. Find what is working in the here and now, what is helping make your life work. What are you doing to make it worse, and how can you stop the struggle? If you hate, find what you love instead—seek it out and pay attention to it. We are often like children, even as adults, in the way we allow negative thoughts to be our focus. Children will accept any kind of attention, positive or negative, but they are happier when we praise them for what they do right, instead of pointing out all the ways they’re wrong. Do that for yourself by finding the ways you already are doing the right things, the good, rather than all the ways you might be wrong. I am willing to bet most of your day is actually going right most of the time, but you focus too much on what went wrong, even if it was only a few small things. Most of the moments of your day are not negative if you live in a safe place with food and a bed. Be thankful for your food and your bed and your house. Not everyone has those. If you woke in a bed, and it was warm, that is good. It’s a positive start to your day. Some people rise from a cardboard box or a tent in a parking lot. You can take any moment of your day and play this like a game: how can I be thankful right now? I am sitting in a comfortable chair in a warm room with a beautiful lamp on my table. The lamp is the one thing left from my grandparents’ estate, and is one of the most memorable articles of furniture from my childhood. I remember staring at this lamp as a child and admiring it my whole life. Now it is my lamp, a gorgeous knock-off of a Tiffany, and I treasure it. This light glows against the darkness now pressing against the windows of my room while I wait for the moon to rise or the stars to glimmer. Find the light, follow it, and let your body tell you what it needs. Feed your spirit, and the rest will follow.

Life Is Messy. Let in the Light.

*Photo taken in Nelson, NH, with autumn colors still muted in the hills.

Life is messy. Day to day chores and work and errands soak up a lot of time, especially for us poor saps who have to report to a building for work every day. When you get sick, if you are in the US you don’t get the luxury of staying home to get better unless you have a very unusual employer. Our culture encourages us to work through illness, despite the fact that when we come to work sick, we share germs which expose everyone else to what we have. We push ourselves too hard in other ways, too, like saying yes to things we don’t want to do, driving ourselves crazy to keep our houses clean, working too many extra shifts, or taking on projects we can’t finish. Time is a precious commodity, but we give it away to people we don’t know and don’t even like, simply for a paycheck, an uncomfortable request, or to save face. Of course, many of us are in no position to avoid such trades. Bills will come whether you pay them or not, food will not grow itself in your kitchen, and relationships are complicated. So we work, we slog, we give even when we don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. But there are ways to live around that rat race. As Leonard Cohen wrote in his song, “Anthem”: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack, a crack in/ everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

I have been sick for over a month. It’s been miserable. The moment I stepped into the preschool where I currently work, the germs saw me coming from a mile away. They knew I was fresh meat, and they were very overzealous about making my life hell. Fortunately, I didn’t end up in the hospital or come down with bronchitis like I might have a decade ago, but I’ve been down for the count. Mostly I’ve been battling a head cold and cough, but fatigue, headaches, a fever, and upset stomach have all been part of the mix. Meanwhile, I try to chase after toddlers who I believe are sneaking into a secret dimension where they dip into an endless fountain of energy, popping in and out whenever we adults turn our backs. When they finally crash for an afternoon nap, I want desperately to lie down and sleep, too. It’s hard to push myself to then drag out the broom, wash tables, and take out the trash. My diligent writing schedule has suffered somewhat, but I have refused to give up my intention to keep writing Monday through Friday. Some weeks I have to work on the weekends so I can give myself a much-needed break on Friday night, but I do my best to stick to my schedule. It’s not easy, especially when sick and tired. The other day I was moaning to Michael about how I can’t enjoy any of the things I came to New Hampshire to enjoy because all I do is work. This is not true, but it feels that way at times. Really, I am trying to be mindful of the fact that we’re doing a lot of things most people don’t have to do all the time. We just moved to a new state, which means we had to get new licenses, register our vehicles, register to vote, adjust to new jobs and new schedules, and deal with the minutia of things like finding new banks, learning where to go for things we need, and building networks of new friends. It’s a lot.

The book I had originally scheduled for release in August is still not finished. A poetry book I started is nowhere near done. The print version of my nonfiction is waiting for finishing touches. I need to make a cover for my sequel. A marketer would be nice, but only if I can get my shit together and finish my projects. Don’t even get me started about the lovely children’s book I started with my niece, which is now living in the ether until I can find time to go for a visit to work with her on drawings. If only I could monetize my books, but that’s not how it works. The only real measure of wealth is the actual work I put into my words, the care I give to my craft, the love which drives me to make the time, no matter what else happens. Ursula LeGuin famously talked about the importance of craft, because she knew that making her writing the best it could be was far more important than any prize, fame, wealth, or notoriety. Those rewards only come about because we give ourselves to the craft, knead into our paragraphs the emotions of our lives, coaxing our feeble, wimbling thoughts into full-grown novels. Because I am driven, I am a writer. It’s where I feel most myself. When words spin out of my head and into a narrative, I am most content. I know people who feel that way about adding columns of numbers, or arranging closets, or growing gardens. When we do what we love, a place of pure magic spirals away time, and even if we only have minutes to nurture that love, we breathe ourselves into it. No matter what else happens in my life now, my writing has taken the highest precedence of my time. Aside from taking care of my physical and emotional health, my writing is a pillar of keeping myself happy.

Speaking of happiness, I believe many of us overestimate how happiness is achieved or earned. I know I do. Those of us struggling with money and battling debt often have the sense that if only we had more money, everything in life would be better. Maybe. I mean, a million dollars would solve a lot of problems for me, but the parts of me that still need to grow, the aspects of my personality which still cling to unhealthy thinking or feeling, the habits to which I return so often when things get stressful are not going to stop simply because I have money. No matter how much money I have, my problems will travel with me. The only way I am truly going to be happy is if I stop beating myself down when life gets tough. Even rich people have problems. Even rich people are unhappy. Money helps alleviate some stress, but only if you manage it well. Money comes with its own problems, even if I still believe having more money would make my life easier, and it would. Don’t get me wrong, I would love a load of cash to pay off my debts, have the house of my dreams, and enjoy the second half of my life without having to break my back for it. If I could live in a hut in the woods writing books for the rest of my days, that would be a dream come true. However, what really has been the single most helpful thought for me lately is to remind myself to stop living in the future or the past—to be aware of right now, appreciate what I am doing in this moment. Here I am, typing on my computer, doing what I love. Words weave through my thoughts and into my fingers, like a trance. In this moment, I honor my true self. Such a majestic notion gives me chills, and I hope to do it more. Living in the moment takes practice for me, since my childhood was full of experiences I needed to escape, which I often did by imagining how wonderful the future would be when I could be doing something different. The future has come, and yet I still find myself dreaming about what can happen someday in the future. Wishing my life away, my father often used to say. Truth.

I have hope that I am finally getting healthier now; today’s plentiful sunshine helped immensely. It’s been so gloomy and rainy lately, I’m realizing I might need to go dig up the full-spectrum light bulb I stashed somewhere, though I don’t know if it really helps that much. My dogs are snoring while they lie snug in their kennel together, happy to have been walked and fed dinner. My tea is getting cold in my mug, and the darkness outside my window has blossomed into an inky black, impenetrable with human eyes. Now that the hours of daylight are waning toward the solstice, I’m glad that I took the time to visit my local library to get my card today—I learned from the librarian that the town hall in Nelson hosts the longest-running contra dance in the country (I think that’s correct, but I might have that wrong), and on the solstice it’s an extra-special holiday affair. It sounds like a delicious New England celebration, and I am looking forward to meeting people. Of course, I am extra delighted to now have a library card again, since that was an aspect of traveling which left me feeling deprived of one of my favorite things: going to the library for books to read.

All of my life I have been a book worm, and all of my life I have loved libraries. To me, they are the gems in the crown of any community. No matter what your interest, the library has a book for that. Libraries are hubs of incredibly interesting activities, like book clubs, quilting bees, coffee houses, movie nights, poetry readings, author talks, workshops on any topic…and these only touch the surface of all the fabulous offerings at any library. Even the tiniest of libraries have loads of activities, both strange and mundane and everything in between. If you ever find yourself bored, go find out what the library has planned on their schedule. I found out that tomorrow night the local library is showing the Mr. Rogers documentary, and I was thrilled to learn about it so I can go. Since I missed it in the theater, I now get to enjoy it at the library. I will probably need a box of tissues, but that’s okay—lately I need to be spoon-fed good stories about inspiring people. Too much bad news is bad for the spirit. The library will let the light in. I hate ending sentences with prepositions, but for Leonard Cohen, I will make an exception. As luck would have it, I found Leonard Cohen in a library while I combed through the shelves and sat down in the middle of an aisle. His poetry pressed itself into my soul like wildflowers in a book, a gift that gives fresh insight with every read. Some authors never get old, even if they die.

In the shorter days of the Northern Hemisphere, I hope we all find the light as it shines through the cracks of our imperfect and beautiful lives. Even though I have work to do on myself, I can appreciate my growth. You, reader, are perfectly imperfect, too. Where your armor is cracked, I see your light streaming out in a line, a guide to who you really are and what you have to contribute to the world. We all contribute, whether for good or ill. I do my best to make my contributions positive, but I know they aren’t all good. This morning I was cranky with my husband because I didn’t feel well and didn’t get enough sleep, and even though he cooked breakfast and made coffee, I didn’t thank him until later in the day in a text. No matter how grumpy I am, I could have remembered to say thank you. Luckily my husband is forgiving and patient. We do that for each other. No one is perfect. Let the cracks show. Let the light shine through. Let the bells ring. Be who you are. Apologize for mistakes, be present, and do what you love, even if the time for what you love is as slender as a slip of paper. Slip the paper through the cracks. It will fit.

Trees I Leave Behind Me, Trees Ahead

*Photo taken in Nelson, NH.

I’m posting a little later than I normally like, but going back to working with young children again is taking the strap out of my molasses. Also, I lost track of what day it is. Oops. The leaves are beginning to change. Fall promises to bring a welcome relief from sweaty, hot summer days with the light waning toward the equinox this week. Now that I drive from the woods to town for work every day, I get to watch the daily transition from green to bright yellow in the trees, with the occasional splash of red sumac or brush beneath the forest canopy. The hills around Keene provide a captivating backdrop for the color transfer, and I hope to find the energy for baking pies soon. This time of year holds all of my favorite aspects of living in the North, with pumpkins, mums, apples, winter squash, cider, and leaping into piles of raked leaves. My brother and I used to keep ourselves busy for hours when we raked leaves as kids. We loved heaping the leaves as high as we could, and then hopping into the pile over and over. Of course, we also often did other things like raking the leaves into mazes in the grass, wading through them like we would with snow, and eventually climbing atop the pile to lie in them when we finally got tired. Our yard in one of our childhood homes in the country was rather large, and we got used to having giant stacks of leaves in which to play. When we moved to Olean when I was in high school, the yard seemed like a postage stamp, and the leaves were nowhere near as plentiful. Raking then became a chore instead of fun, and neither of us enjoyed it much at that point.

Such is the way of life. We have times when life is a grind, and then other times when it can feel almost effortless and free. Over the summer, when Michael and I went to an amusement park with our families, it seemed so free and easy. Then we returned to the grind of working on our house and falling into bed every night completely spent. When we arrived in New Hampshire I had an idealistic hope that life here would somehow be easier, less grinding, but it’s still proving to be exhausting. Right now, though, I can look up at the view outside my window and see nothing but trees, hear nothing but sounds of the woods, and live by the light of what nature provides. It’s fascinating to me that when I come to the woods, my body acclimates to the sun and moon so readily. When the sun sets, I am tired within a couple of hours, and when it rises again, the light draws my eyelids open like shades on a window. A few nights ago, the moonlight cast its silvery-blue glow and provided the gentlest nightlight when I needed to use the bathroom during the night. And for several nights last week we had a few owls hooting in the woods, once in the trees right outside our door. I geek out on that kind of thing. Weirdly, I get excited when I get to hear or see wildlife so close, and I sort of think of animals and trees and plants as friends I look forward to seeing.

Back in Olean, I had certain walks I would take to restore myself, and one of those walks took me along the Allegany River. Ever since I first lived in Olean I loved walking there because it was fairly peaceful and quiet, and a track along the top of the dike allowed for a nice, easy walk. At one point along the river where the dike curves away from the river’s edge, a spit of forest grows along the riverbed—the place where there is now a paved trail which crosses over the dike and into the woods. In a triangular-shaped grassy bed at the forest’s edge stands a large, gnarled oak. Its girth is large enough that probably two adults could wrap their arms around it and not touch. As a teen I loved that tree, and every time I passed it I felt a warmth for its presence there. Sometimes I would sit under it and enjoy the shade. It was a nice spot to sit and think. For more than 30 years I have walked past that tree and been so happy to see it standing there in all its mossy, twisted majesty, and I hope to be able to return to see that tree still there for the rest of my days. That may not be possible, since the last few years have been hard on that old oak, and it’s showing signs of waning in its life. My fondness for that tree runs deep, and I worry for it like I might worry about a sick friend.

Going back even further in time, when my parents finally sold the home where my brother and I so enjoyed raking leaves, shortly after that the house was renovated into apartments, and then the yard was bulldozed, much to my horror. I will never forget the first time we drove past the house where I used to pick berries from a massive raspberry patch behind the barn, climbed a pine tree taller than our house, ate vegetables straight from our garden, and picked flowers from the many beds which bloomed over the seasons; it was devastating. That yard with all its many flora was a place of wonder for me as a kid, and I had grown attached to all the trees and plants which I could recognize: a dogwood which bloomed white and fragile over the courtyard next to the house, tiger lilies nestled into a stacked stone dividing wall in a section of the back yard, a jack-in-the-pulpit which popped up its head from a patch of ivy surrounding a lone birch tree, and our raggedy apple tree in the “very back yard” (as we called it) where my father attempted to build me a treehouse. Having all of that beauty lost made me terribly disappointed. All those lives I came to love as a child—gone. I was similarly upset when a tree in front of one of my homes in Savannah, GA was cut down. The tree once masked the balcony porch outside my room, and I loved the way the light filtered green into the windows. After that ugly incident, I felt like the subway might as well have been taped off like a murder scene. Is it strange that I feel such kinship to the plants and animals? I used to look forward to catching glimpses of a pair of mallards, a rabbit, a pair of finches, and a few red-winged blackbirds along one of my walks in Olean, too. They felt like little acquaintances I had made on my walks, like neighbors.

Right now, the sun is slipping toward the horizon, and its orange glow peeks through the leaves which are just starting to turn. The weather felt cooler today, and the woods is almost ready to take on the scent of falling leaves, that crisp, woody, mouldering aroma only fall delivers. Soon enough, we’ll catch the scent of winter in the air, too, but not yet. For now, we get to enjoy a slipstream of light jackets; bright, flame-like vistas rolling past our car windows; and the return of baking comfort food in the oven again. I may be exhausted from the grind of work and settling in a new state, but the woods cradle me to sleep every night in a magical whispering of birches and pines and oaks and maples all talking to each other in the wind. As soon as we get a clear night when the moon shines near full, I plan to take Michael and the dogs for a moonlit stroll under the trees. If you’ve never done so, I recommend it. When the moon is full or even a few days away from full, the light is bright enough to walk without a flashlight. Seeing the shadows of leaves on the road by moonlight is a treat. My lovelies, do yourself a favor and make a romantic evening of a walk by moonlight in the woods. To heck with the beach. Listen for the owls instead. Next week, I hope I have had time to explore the woods and share some fun from a trail. Be still my heart. Wouldn’t that be nice? Until then, my dears. Be wonderful, be loving, be true to who you are, and think kind thoughts to the trees for me.