The peace of rain

Schnebly Hill vistaIt was raining when I woke this morning. Not an electricity-charged toad-strangler, but a quiet rain, a thoughtful rain.

I considered not walking at all. I was cranky and stiff after a fitful night’s sleep. It had been a rough week and I still carried stress in my neck and shoulders.

But I grab an old fold-up umbrella and step into the morning damp anyway. The umbrella efficiently snaps open, but I discover two ribs have worn through ties at their tips, and the silk slides back up toward the apex of the crown.

No matter, I am off.

I look back at the house for a moment as I walk up the drive. The nandina bends against the storm, its branches first bowing to the weight of the rain and then springing upward as the wet drips away. Large drops from the eaves hit the porch rail and burst into dozens of droplets that fell to the ground below.

It is a day of novel movement and complex energy. A day of discovery.

I discover that my sight is muted, allowing hearing and touch to push to the fore. The turtle rain against the outside of the umbrella sounds a musical counterpoint, each note altered by the angle of the silk cover. I strive to capture the motif’s pattern as a larger drop hits like the final riff of an exuberant drummer.

Farther away, I hear the rain contacting each leaf of the trees I pass under. Hard. Then soft. Then brittle. Each drop echoes the texture of branch and leaf. A plane passes overhead, its roar muted to a growling rumble. As I stroll, I find that I am moving slower but seeing more. I start to center and my breathing deepens.

The rain blows into my face, softly misting my glasses, and I twirl the umbrella canopy on its aluminum shaft, trying to position the “short side” away from my face. My arms are getting damp, small drops clinging to the short hairs, then running down my forearm in larger streams. As I swing my arms, my fingertips encountered the rain concretely, each finger sharply pinged with rain.

Should I turn back? No, I decide. I can handle this. I won’t melt. I stiffen my back to the discomfort and trudged forward.

Patched asphalt on the road ahead becomes a series of black sightless mirrors that shatter in the wake of a car whooshing past. The car’s momentum scoops up mist from the road, creating a cloud entourage that scurries along underneath its carriage.

As I near one house two Springer spaniels rush to the screen porch in a howling frenzy. I’ve passed them many times before—maybe I have turned into a new creature under this umbrella?

In the mist, the color palette has shrunk to mostly grays and greens. Even the wildflowers—the red of penstamen and the wild white of daisies are dimmed by the rain, their energy cloistered. The sky lowers and the horizon shortens. As I notice more details, I find my mind slowing, calming. I consciously match the pace of the rain with my steps.

I find that I am in a much smaller world than yesterday. Yesterday was sunny, with winds and clear air and wide vistas. And that difference is fine. I seek shelter, here under the umbrella against the world’s hassles and demands. I can hide here.

The birds are hiding, too. The sparrows and finches are silent; the jays chatter in the tree branches, but don’t venture into the rain. Every so often a robin darts to the ground to snatch a grub, and then dives under the drier branches to eat it.

As I approach a small pond, our resident great blue heron takes flight. Usually I can pass quite close to him, but he, too, is spooked by this new shape of human-with-umbrella.

The algae on the water shivers under the onslaught of the rain, and I turn toward home.

The rain is collecting now on the trees overhead. Each leaf gathers rain differently: On a large deciduous trees, moisture runs along the center spine and collects as a drop at the tip of each leaf. Nearby, waxy Pampas grass spires allow each drop to poise unmoving in a mosaic of miniature puddles. In the field beyond, the smaller grasses bow before the rain’s influence like carefully combed hair.

As I near home, I realize that walking in the rain this morning has become a meditation, a gratefulness for gifts given. I stomp my feet as I enter the garage, and collapse the umbrella in a shower of drops.

I feel calmer, more centered.

It has been a good start for the morning’s work, this gathering of peace in the rain.

Best 8 Books to nurture creative people in mind, body, and spirit

West Fork, Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

As a writer, I use the month of January to reorient my life after the craziness of the holidays. That’s when I plan what I want to do during the coming year and renew my resolution to be as nurturing to myself as I can be.

I visit these eight authors to find new inspiration for the coming year:

Julia Cameron Finding WaterJULIA CAMERON. To nurture my creative spirit, there is no one better than Julia Cameron. She has written a series of books, including one for women in transition, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond involving three techniques for self-growth: handwriting morning pages, taking a walk in nature, and making an “artist’s date” where you take yourself to someplace new.

She’s best known for her Artist’s Way trilogy, and my special favorite is Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance

Your money or your life

VICKI ROBIN. Even though each year I resolve  to lower my holiday spending, I’m not always successful, and as a result January can be depressing! That’s when I turn to Robin’s seminal work, Your Money or your life. It’s been called, “the best book on money period.” I like it because it is practical and not preachy. It talks about the best ways to get out of debt, saving money through being more mindful, living well for less.

My kind of advice!

 

 

Paul Wilson - Finding the quiet

PAUL WILSON. About December 24th I think if I hear one more rendition of Jingle Bells I’ll scream. That’s when I yearn for silence and I turn to Finding the quiet: Four simple steps to peace and contentment—without spending the rest of your life on a mountain top.

(Although the mountaintop wouldn’t be bad, either!)

 

 

 

Meditation on the Go
PADRAIG O’MORAIN. Meditation calms me down and gives me clear thinking, which is absolutely essential for good writing. O’Morain is a master at giving ways to be more mindful, even on days when I am crazy-busy. According to the author of Mindfulness on the Go,  inner calm can be found “on your morning commute, during your coffee break, or in line at the super market.”

And he’s right!

 

Strong Women stay young
MIRIAM NELSON. Strong women stay young. Sometimes when the words are flowing, I spend long hours hunched over a computer keyboard, barely breathing, much less moving. I get up hours later moving like a jerky robot!

I’ve found much better way is to intersperse—with a timer set way across the room so I have to move—periods of writing with short bursts of physical activity.

Strong women stay young describes just six exercises using a straight back chair and a set of hand weights that can keep you limber, strong, and young.

 

Simple Steps

LISA LELAS. When deadlines loom, marketing rears its ugly head, and there is just too much to do in my life, I turn to Simple Steps: 10 weeks to getting control your life: Health, Weight, Home, Spirit.

What the author suggests is a step-by-step way back to sanity when stress threatens burnout.

I’ve bookmarked several strategies, and use them often.

 

 

 

Omnivore's Dilemma

MICHAEL POLLAN. The Omnivore’s DilemmaI like this author’s common sense approach to eating.

I’m a stress eater and a comfort eater and a convenience eater when I’m on a roll, plotting a new novel. Set something in front of me and I’ll eat it. Especially if it contains caffeine or chocolate, or even better, both!

Michael suggests instead, “eat food, not too much, more plants.” I agree.

 

 

The healthy writer
JOANNA PENN

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a brand new one just out, The Healthy Writer. Joanna knows all too well the kinds of stress that creative people subject themselves to in the pursuit of their art.

Here she teams up with a medical doctor to give some practical tips for escaping the unhealthy habits we sometimes construct for ourselves.

A positive read!

 

And that’s my favorite eight writers on best practices that help me start my New Year in a nurturing way.

What about you?
Who are you reading for inspiration right now?

 

Finding peace in a frantic world

West Fork Trail, Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

West Fork Vista, Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

“I want to be able to live without a crowded calendar. I want to be able to read a book without feeling guilty, or go to a concert when I like.”
Golda Meir

Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel for ten years and active in public service all of her life was described as strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.

She used to say it was a blessing to be born plain; that the pretty girl had a handicap to overcome, because people saw the beauty first, not the person. She also mentioned the lament of all working mothers: when you are at work, you feel guilty about your children at home; when you are home, you feel guilty about the work left behind.

Time, then, is precious. But time to do what? For Golda, it was time to read a book whenever she wanted, or to attend a concert. I like to think a walk in nature may be the very best use of time ever, but reading a good book comes in a close second!

When we are doing what we want to do, whether it is spending time with our children or pursuing a hobby with passion, time slows down to accommodate us. It obligingly stretches and conforms to the task at hand, giving our creativity not only time, but space as well, so that true joy can be expressed.

How would YOU spend your time, if you had enough to do exactly
what you wanted?