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It was supposed to snow... 

The wind is finally kicking up, gusting and showing a hint of the storm I had imagined. Cars were supposed to be sidelined for the weekend. Errands that needed running were supposed to have to wait. Nagging thoughts were supposed to be silenced by the storm. It was supposed to be a movie-in-pajamas kind of a weekend, the kind that feels like a much-needed time out. I was looking forward to it, but it never got cold enough to snow. 

I love the cold, gray, short days of winter. Maybe it is my introvert nature. Maybe it is the smell of fireplaces and hot chocolate, or the way breath dances in the air. Maybe it is the wonder-look of snow - icing pines, roofs, and empty roads. It could be the stillness, and the memory of 455, and the joy it brought from the radio, signaling a reprieve from school and Mr. Bellini’s tyranny. Winter is a feeling I crave, like love and beach walks on summer mornings, and the sweet voice of a guitar. 

Well…it didn’t snow, but since a cancelled weekend-long class cleared my schedule, I took a snow weekend anyway. I cooked, had a luxuriously long conversation with a dear old friend, worked on a new song, watched movies, and slept until my body was ready to get out of bed. 

Tomorrow life will start moving again and I will move with it, but for a time, it was wonderful to just be. 

I think there is still time for a batch of cookies… 

What is your relationship like with winter?

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Starting again with gratitude... 

"Do the best you can with what you know, and when you know better, do better." Maya Angelou said that, and it is a way of thinking that rings true for me. It is a way to be kind to myself for not always making the best choices in the days when I don't know better. I recently remembered, after some weeks of struggling harder than I needed to, that I do know better.  

I finally remembered, that for over twenty years, I have made a purposeful daily practice of gratitude. I started way back by listing ten things that I was grateful for at night, and then thinking up ten more right before closing my eyes on the day.

It used to be a challenge.

With practice, it became easy. It became fun! Even in the face of grief, fear, and disappointment, I learned to identify multitudes of things to be grateful for every day. It has been life changing. 

Sometimes I am grateful for big things like getting a special gig, or writing a new song, or connecting deeply with someone. More often, it is gratitude for things as simple as a deep breath, the way my cat looks sleeping belly-up in a sunbeam, or the way it feels to take my bra off when I get home at the end of a day. If I allow myself to be present in the moment, there is always a gift in it. It is a powerful thing.

Here are some of mine for today: 

  • My apartment smells like garlic and ginger because I cooked a really good dinner! (and it may soon smell like chocolate chip cookies) 
  • My body carried me everywhere I needed to go today, even up and down stairs with heavy bags
  • I have a deep connection with the wonderful woman with Alzheimer's that I spend a lot of time with, and I know I help her to feel safe, and to have some fun
  • I was thrilled and surprised yesterday morning by Sleepy Hollow, on WXPN, playing one of my songs
  • I finally have deep blue jeans that fit
  • I have been offered several wonderful opportunities to connect with people through my music
  • I reopened my blog today, after being away from it for a long while
  • I feel hopeful.

I hope you can identify things in your life to be grateful for each day. If not, please take a deep breath, and start with that...

(I would love to hear what you are grateful for in the comments below.)

My best to you...

Denise, the grateful

 

An unexpected bit of healing... 

An unfinished piece of my past showed up at my birthday concert and allowed a long ago broken piece of my heart to mend. I got to see a dear old friend who had hurt me badly when I was fifteen. We talked, and I got to feel her genuine horror and regret that she had treated me carelessly in our youth. I got to tell her how I felt, and then like magic, a long buried hurt wasn't buried anymore, it was gone. 

I feel compassion for us both back then, doing our best to find our way through adolescence. It made me think of all of the little, and the significant ways we impact each other's lives, sometimes without realizing it.

It makes me wonder if anyone is walking around with an old wound that I caused. 

If so, I am sorry...

Have you ever had an unexpected chance to heal a long ago broken piece of your heart?

Writing about this makes me think of this song...

From puffy-eyed, day after the election me  

Today has been emotional and hard. I wonder how it has been for you. I wonder how we can all work together to heal  our broken country. I am ready to try...

I just went for a long walk in my neighborhood. The resident Poplar, Ash and Maple trees are showing off their reds, oranges, and yellows. I have been grieving over the election results, and I needed their company. I love the way they look, lit from the inside. I need to kindle my light again too. 
  
I found comfort in their company. They are gorgeous and transforming. The rain tapped a gentle rhythm on my umbrella, and it smelled like the moment. November is a dear friend, and she soothed me today.
  
I also found comfort in the hugs and conversations I shared with stranger women in the grocery store, all of us on the hunt for comfort food, and in the phone calls and emails from friends who knew I would be distraught. There was much to be grateful for today, even in the midst of sorrow and fear. 
  
Today, my eyes are puffy from crying and lack of sleep, but tomorrow I will do what I can to move forward. I don’t know what that will look like yet, but tomorrow I will dry my tears and look to the future. I will do my best to heal my little piece of the world. 
  
What has today been like for you?
(If you leave a comment, please check back. I always respond.)

Photo and recording are from my walk in the November rain. I thought you might find them soothing too...

Sarah's Woods (flash fiction) 

Sarah comes here alone. She doesn’t remember exactly when this became her spot, but these woods comfort her like a grandmother. It’s the place where her heart relaxes enough to open up and play. Sarah’s feet crunch along the path. It is a sound she waits for like a birthday. 
  
She is silent with the brittle leaves, and with the smell of November. She breathes it in, and imagines herself inside a living painting filled with falling leaves, gray skies, and busy squirrels. She wishes she could stay here forever. 
  
The steady rhythm of her feet takes her back to the autumn she stopped caring about trick-or-treating. She used to love dressing up and going door to door to the neighbors for Hershey bars, Kit Kats, 
and company. She stopped caring about everything that fall. Well, almost everything… 
  
The move was unexpected. Her dad said they would still be close, but he stopped coming over to tell bedtime stories, and to protect her from the long-armed monsters that lived under the stairs. 
  
She still hadn’t gotten used to living in an apartment. She missed her old back yard, Roberta’s tree house, and the apple tree she named Rosanne. 


(Scroll through my blog for more peeks into Sarah's world. I have been writing about her for years... If you leave a comment, please check back. I always respond.)

Ode to the Night (flash fiction with Sarah) 

The last of the day’s light glowed orange through the maple leaves. Sarah loved that tree. She had only known him for a spring and a summer, but she trusted him. She knew his faces, and his kind presence felt like a friend. 
  
Crickets and cicadas were singing “Ode to the Night,” and she felt her heart relax and soften to the gentle rhythm. Nature was her favorite composer, and she loved this song. 
  
“Why are you just sitting there in the dark?” Her mom flipped on the overhead light, and she was pulled back into the room. “Go in the kitchen, and pack your lunch for tomorrow. There won’t be time in the morning.” 
  
Everything was new: her room, the neighbor walking around upstairs, mom’s moods, packing her own lunch, and tomorrow – Brooklawn Elementary.

Sarah wished she could build a house in her Maple tree, and live there forever… 


(Scroll through my blog for other glimpses of Sarah)

Joy and fear and the Hudson Valley 

There is a place on the NY Thruway, between exits 18 and 19, where the road turns to the right and offers a first glimpse of the Catskill Mountains. Every time I see it, I feel my blood pressure going down and my joy increasing. It feels like a homecoming. 
  
When I was a kid, my parents had a business that transported people to and from the Catskill mountain resorts; places like The Concord, Grossinger’s, and Nevele. I remember the ride up, and the majesty outside the car’s windows. I loved the mountains! I still do… 
  
My recent Hudson Valley tour brought back those old memories, and created wonderful new ones. I loved meeting the kind people at my gigs, and folks like the photographer who owns an art gallery in Red Hook, dedicated to images of horses. I am still thinking about the gourmet chocolate I wish I had bought at a fabulous Kitchen Market. 
  
I was grateful for the opportunity to introduce my songs to new people, and am happy to report that they made new friends. It was thrilling to reconnect with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in forty years, and was fun to make a Facebook friend into a real flesh-and-blood person.  
  
There were also scary times in cars! My friends and I broke down on a dark road after my first gig. I was deeply grateful to have them with me. We were stranded without tow or taxi, and it worried me to think what could have happened if I had been alone there on the side of the road. 
  
There was also a bad choice of route home that led me onto five-lane-high-speed roads that scared me. I had listened to Siri when I knew better. I will try not to do that again… 
  
Whenever I leave the Hudson Valley, I feel like I am leaving home. I look forward to my next visit. I just wish that I could beam myself there, Star Trek style. 
  
It seems there is always fear mixed in with joy. Is that true for you too? 


 

A lesson from a tree 

Before I moved here, one of my new neighbors scared me. She told me that she wouldn't live on my side of the building, because she was afraid that the tree outside my new home had potential to break and fall on my windows. The fear was not ungrounded, as a tornado whirled through here some years back and took down mature trees. 

I started to worry. It was an oddly shaped tree, and it did lean in my direction. I moved in anyway, and now I would be heartbroken if anything happened to "my" tree. 

I started to tell you about him in my last entry. As I have gotten to know him from my living room window, I see that he has many faces. I have lived with him for a month now, and I keep finding new ones. I have watched him go from being leafless, and presumed dead, to being dressed in light, new-spring-green, soon to be darkening into summer.  

There is something distinctly special about him, and that is his beauty. I wouldn't trade him in for any other tree. He made me think about what it takes to be lovable. 

Its not about being pretty enough, or thin enough, or "successful" enough, or anything else that ends with enough. It is about each of us being uniquely ourselves. It is about being authentic, and embracing our own essence.  

I have a feeling there will be more lessons from this tree. He is my favorite new neighbor.  

Do you have relationships with the trees around you?


(If you leave a comment, please check back. I always respond...)


All Moved in! 

Sometimes it feels like I live in a tree house! Sitting on my sofa, all I see looking out my windows are trees. My favorite one looks a bit scrappy from the ground, but up here, I can see his many expressive faces. I watch the squirrels nesting in his hollow places and listen to the birds singing songs of new beginnings. I like it here. 
  
There are traffic sounds and lawn mowing sounds, and children playing. I hear the neighbor walking around upstairs, and although people kept warning me about living below someone, so far, she just makes me feel like I am not alone here. 
  
The cats were initially horrified that moving was a thing that could happen. They broke my heart on moving day, but they like it here now too. We feel at home.

I am reaping the rewards of my pre-move winter of purging. It feels lighter here. It is spacious, kind and hopeful. Moving gave me a deadline to get rid of what was not bringing me joy, and I am grateful. I know there is still more to let go of, but I am proud of how deep I allowed myself to go as I decided what to bring forward. (I kept the biker jacket...)
  
I want to share the feeling here! I am hosting an all-day retreat for women in my new apartment on Sunday May 22nd. There are a couple of spots still available. If you are interested, please email for details. The spirit of the day: to be, and to play, in the heart-centered moment, through creative activities - group singing, writing, art and making a vision board. I will even cook a vegan lunch for us.
  
What does your home feel like? 

Facing forward... 

My friend Jane (not the one in the song) once told me that I was always looking backwards. It stung, because I knew she was right, and I felt powerless to change. At the time, I wasn’t ready to turn on my heels and face forward. There was beauty and love and security in the past, and I wanted to live there. 
  
My early life was divided into before and after, and I spent much of my life trying to get myself back to before. I attracted people and situations that felt like after, and I would try to turn them into experiences that felt like before. Of course, it never worked... 
  
These days, I find myself releasing the past more and more, not only in my heart, but in my home too. I have been saying, for years, that I am going to go through all of my stuff and shed what doesn't bring me joy, but it has been hard to part with things.  Most of these things are tucked away in boxes and closets, and really don’t bring joy. They actually feel more like a burden. 
  
I am moving in six weeks, and that has been a gift of a deadline. I have to touch everything to pack, so it is a good time to assess and discard. I am on a roll. 
  
Yesterday, I donated ten big bags of books. Although the parting stung a bit, I love the thought of the pages coming alive again for other people, instead of living silently on my overcrowded shelves. 
  
I am touching everything, and if it doesn’t bring me joy, it’s out. This is actually fun! 
  
The thirty-year-old leather biker jacket I bought in my twenties, because it looked like the one Kate Bush used to wear, is up next…   
  
(Somehow, it doesn’t feel like a coincidence, that at the same time, I finally booked a mini tour in the Hudson Valley. I have wanted to play there for years. Rhinebeck and Rhinecliff, here I come! There is even the prospect of an additional show. Things go, and make room for the right things to flow in…) 

Are you facing forward?