Lowcountry Zen

 

WP_20180215_004

Over the marsh and the Wando River.

I have the enviable task of helping my parent’s in their house hunt and I went with their realtor to view a few properties this week, and even though this particular house was not the right fit the view was definitely something I would love to come home to.

Last year and this year so far seem so chaotic and fast on every level. I have said before the turmoil in the world and our nation have left me feeling anxious and a news-cycle for just a day or two seems like it surely covered at least a weeks worth of events. Even daily life between my teaching life, my writing life, my home life and social life are overwhelming me and I don’t feel I have a firm grasp or that I’m caught up in any area.

When I see a view like the one above it automatically catches my breath, slows my heart rate and commands me to pause, slow down and regroup.  Makes me wonder is it too late for me to move back in with my parents? A view like this is what they will end up with and I plan on spending a lot of time with their view. . .  I mean them.

I don’t think you need a water view to achieve the zen, a walk in a park, a garden, the beach or even a mountain can get us away from twenty-four-hour connectedness and screens. We have to disconnect to reconnect and refresh.

If you come home to a view each day, I imagine it’s a little easier to practice that on a daily basis. The rest of us might need to take a short drive to a beach or a park or take a stroll each day around our back gardens, assuming part of your stress is not the various yardwork chores you’re behind on.

I think I am beginning to understand the appeal of meditation, although I’m lousy at sitting still and clearing my mind sitting in a room. Give me a Lowcountry view like above and my soul makes it easy to sit still and meditate on the spectacular views all around in this magical place I get to call home.

I know we are over half way through February, but I think I can add one more thing to my New Year’s goal list: Stop each day, find a place in nature to disconnect and reach a few moments of zen.

 

 

Winter Blooms

 

WP_20180128_001

Two of the buds from last week’s Little Miracles have bloomed

 

Last week I marveled at the miracle of one of my orchids as it had budded out in our mid-winter. This week it has begun to bloom and is a welcome shot of color in front of the drab background of a winter and cold battered backyard.

Things that looked at least alive before the snow and ice, are now brown and bent, I wonder if the Camelia’s will bloom.  I did notice today that some of the daffodils are shooting up, so I’m hopeful for the rest.

2018 is not quite a month old and there seem to be so many deaths, people and beloved pets I know and those I don’t through school shootings and the flu.  The world struggles with so many issues, nuclear war, terrorism, flooding and the list of impending doom and disasters could go on. While there is some good economic news, I have to wonder if it will really benefit me, one of the regular people, or just those who were already well-off. There is plenty to dwell on that could drive you down into depression to match the despair of winter.

However, I see this orchid, I see the green shoots of the daffodils, I think I have detected that the hours of daylight seem to be getting longer and I can’t help but have a renewed sense of faith. Life will get better, warmer, brighter.  This world will become more peaceful and cooperative after all the Winter Olympics will bring us together in a few short weeks to strive for unity and understanding through a love of sport.

Winter blooms around us, not in the riot of Spring Color, the lushness of Summer, or the Showstopper colors of fall, but it blooms just the same, with a subtlety that requires you to work a little harder to appreciate it.

A Southern Winter Wonderland

 

WP_20180103_037

Magnolia in the backyard showered by snow

January 3rd brought magic to the South. It began as a freezing rain and icicles formed on branches and patio furniture, then big fluffy flakes floated and blew down not just a dusting but slightly over five inches and our world became white and sparkly. My joy in this event took me by surprise, I don’t care for weather below the 50’s in the winter and long for the warm 80’s and 90’s of summer as a rule. But the collective wonder of it all on the local news and social media swept me up in the excitement.

The local channels covered it like a hurricane with constant on-air coverage, and the businesses and roads shut down. Children and adults alike rushed to don winter garb, some make-shift as we don’t generally have such items beyond a coat in our wardrobe. I myself wore my rain boots. The dogs bounced around like puppies regardless of age and so did the humans.

Neighbors emerged to take pictures and marvel. This is about a once a decade or more event. We greeted it with glee, it meant snow days from school and work. Unlike the northern tier of our country, we can celebrate snow like children because it is so rare. I freely admit that if I had to deal with it every season on a regular basis it would make me grumble and complain, but once in a decade I can truly savor and enjoy.  I have been here for 31 years and have only experienced snow like this twice before, with a few minor dustings not even lasting a day a few times as well. Also, three ice storms that closed thing down, each winter scenario averaging once a decade for my Lowcountry life,  making each one a marvel and a magical experience, secure in the knowledge it won’t last. We will be back in flip flops in just a few days.

 

I’m not especially superstitious but I can’t help but feel this is a good omen for 2018. I felt that way about the beginning of the school year coinciding with the total solar eclipse. A rare event can’t help but seem magical and mysterious. It fills you with joy and hope and wanting to soak it in for all the good luck it might have to offer.

The snow is still solidly here and will not melt much today. I’m going to venture out to shovel the driveway to hopefully prevent the re-freeze sheet of ice and I just might have to make a snow angel for nostalgia’s sake. I have my wooden flexible flyer with metal runners in my garage (It hangs on the wall as decor), if we only had a hill nearby I would take it for a spin.

In a few days time, this will melt away and we will enjoy being outside sans jackets again. But today I’m going to play in this winter wonderland and soak in the magic of the moment.

An Endless Love Affair

 

WP_20171124_002

Looking from Rockville over to Seabrook

 

You would think after thirty-one years here in the South Carolina Lowcountry I would take foregranted my surroundings. When you tend to live somewhere it is typical to ignore the area offerings such as museums unless you have company. I see vistas of marsh, river, and ocean on a daily basis and I adore those views, they instantly calm me and make me thankful for getting to live in this beautiful place.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to ride with friends out to a house in Rockville, which is still a pristine village much like it was back in the 1800’s when this particular house was built. I could easily imagine a life here away from traffic and our crazy suburban sprawl. If only I was retired and didn’t have to think about the practical things such as commuting to work!

The house built in 1829 was loaded with character and a gem by itself, but it was the water views that took my breath away. I never tire of looking across the water and marsh. I often wonder if I had this view from my back porch, would I be too distracted to write or would I just find my creative well constantly replenished?

I’m not sure but I would be more than willing to find out. I think I might have to write a book where a lucky character will get to live in this charming house with this magical view and I can live vicariously through them.

I truly hope that when I’m one-hundred and eight (the age I am planning on living to) my love affair with the South Carolina Lowcountry will still burn with the same intensity it does today. Considering that fire has been steady for thirty-one years I can’t imagine it will ever burn out.

Lessons From the Tide

 

cropped-cropped-wp_20140808_0052.jpg

Low tide

 

I was driving down Longpoint Road today which crosses the marsh in several spots. It was high tide and the water encroached on the road causing the cars to spray water up onto each other and it got me thinking how the ebb and flow of the tide is much like the ebb and flow of time, history, and our personal lives.

When the tide is high we float and flow, think the roaring 20’s, record stock markets and reaching pinnacles in our careers. Those moments are great but hold on to your hat, the tide will turn and ebb, taking you down to the mud and reveal what lies beneath, think The Depression, the recession and days where nothing seems to go right.

While we may crave the high tide moments, I think we grow more from the low tide moments. When we are down to the mud, we can see what’s buried there with us. We see what needs to be fixed or addressed, but we also find nuggets of wisdom and treasures to carry with us as we rise again, think oysters and artifacts.

The biggest takeaway for me from this musing on the tide was it will always turn around. Enjoy the high points while they last, but don’t expect life to stay there. Learn all you can during the low points and know that if you hang on things will head back up.

I love this South Carolina Lowcountry life, I find inspiration every day from this beautiful place. At the moment I think I’m somewhere between low and high tide, I have learned I can’t turn it until it’s good and ready, but I can roll along with it and make the best of whatever stage it has me in.

A Glass Ceiling Not To Break

 

WP_20170630_001

The glass ceiling in my parent’s conservatory

This is not a politcal piece or a feminist piece, so if that is what you are expecting from the title you might be disappointed. This is about the magic of a glass ceiling. A canopy with a view.

I’m currently at my parent’s house, a mostly annual summer visit. I enjoy spending time with them and in the beautiful part of Virginia in which they reside. It is a respite from the daily grind and the dogs and. I love the hilly two-mile route we take for our morning walks.

I especially enjoy the glass room on the back of the house that my parent’s refer to as the conservatory. The ceiling and the walls on three sides are glass. Within those three glass walls are many windows that can open and the space also has a heating and cooling unit, so it truly can be used year-round.

The light in the conservatory is bright but filtered by a great canopy of trees that hang overhead. I love to lay on the sofa out there and strare up between the branches to catch sight of the blue and the clouds floating by. If this were my house I would be tempted to make this my writing studio.

The room feels airy and tree-house like. The light changes as the day passes and you feel connected to the nature that surrounds the space. Squirrels sometimes drop nuts on the roof and that an be a little unsettling, but I love watching the birds, especially the cardinals that flit among the branches and the bird feeder.

This is a room that calms and soothes. It is also a great place to take a nap. I’d like to say I have done some incredible writing in this space, but I have to admit I like to just be in there and daydream or read. Perhaps if I got to enjoy it more than a week each year, I might be able to get down to business in there.

We all need a space in our homes that is a respite from the world. A place to recharge and spark our creativity. At home I would say my room I call the library (because it has tall bookcases full of books and two leather chairs) is that space. Although I find the beach and the waterways through the lowcountry to be powerful places to rejuvenate and inspire.

Here under this canopy of glass I can’t help but feel all is right with the world.

This is one glass ceiling I hope will never be shattered.

 

 

Time To Get Down and Dirty

 

WP_20170410_001

This is what happens when you go to the garden center on a beautiful spring day.

I went in for a few ivy plants . . . as you can see I came away with much more. That is the risk you take when you visit the garden center on a beautiful spring day. Between the allure of the plants I also had time, it is Spring Break this week and day one was almost perfect.

I say almost because I started the day with a mammogram, but then I treated myself to a latte and then went to get my hair cut. On the way home I decided to pick up the ivy so I could replant the pots by my front door. Once there I had planned out my raised beds and my patio pots. So a car load later I made my way home.

I am on a deadline to finish book three and I diligently sat down and spilled about twelve-hundred words from my soul, before taking a gardening break. After an hour of mowing and playing in the dirt, I returned to write another thousand words before taking a pre-arranged conference call about an upcoming author’s panel I’m participating, in Greenville, South Carolina in May. Then I went back to the chapter and around a thousand words later, I was satisfied with Lizzie’s progress on her journey and I was drained of my creative juices. Another hour and a half in the garden and I feel charged again.

Charged and filthy dirty.  The only thing that could make this day better is if someone of the handsome and kind variety was whipping up dinner in the kitchen.  I love days like these when the ordinary things are enjoyed and savored. This is how I imagine the days will be when I move from teacher and writer to full-time writer.

There is something in the ancient part of my genes that responds to the garden. I don’t think my ancestors were city dwellers. I still yearn to be a genteel gardener whose gloves never get dirt on the inside and manages to still look presentable at the end of a session amongst the flowers. I blame Hollywood for this unattainable ideal. I’m happy to settle for dirt streaked limbs and face with my hair plastered against my head.

Gardening is life affirming. It stimulates the senses and inspires the artist within. I can hardly wait until I get to do it again tomorrow.

 

Cone of Uncertainty

 

wp_20161004_001

The hurricane’s cone of uncertainty

I am a veteran of hurricanes at this point in my life here in South Carolina, my first experience with Hurricane Hugo back in 1989. Each time we are threatened what causes me the most anxiety is the cone of uncertainty. I am by nature a long range planner. I like to know what is going to happen well in advance and I like to believe I have a modicum of control over events.

You can stop  laughing. I have learned that control of this life is an illusion or delusion depending on how cynical you are. Surprisingly, I truly began to understand that after teaching first graders for years, how we are flying around space on a rock as we travel around a burning ball of gasses.

I still like to plan, I begrudgingly admit those plans need to be flexible. As I have matured, I even handle the changes with a much better attitude than in my youth. Still, I  find a rise in my anxiety level as I adjust and adapt.

Even my writing career began because I was anxious about what I would do when my teaching career wrapped up in a decade. Now Four and a half years from winding down the teaching, I am growing more comfortable with the  transition.

The truth of the matter is we live in a cone of uncertainty all the time. We can plan a path, but at any time, it truly could veer to the left or the right, perhaps it could even u-turn. Whatever the course, if we have what truly matters as our resources: our integrity, our loved ones, our faith and our intelligence, then no matter what happens we will be just fine.

 

Oh, deer. . .

Scan_20160327 (2)

Me, in the 1970’s in deep conversation with a deer

 

For as long as I can remember I have always loved deer. I am sure Bambi cemented the idea that they are noble and intelligent creatures in my mind. I have also had an affinity for all of God’s creatures, the exception, reptiles. (Sorry, but I am fearful and just can’t find them cuddly, though I do like the little lizards and frogs and toads from a distance) from an early age.

So it is understandable that I still get excited when creatures like deer, birds and butterflies come to visit my garden. In fact my plant selection in the back, in part, has been to support the bees and the butterflies.  My backyard is fenced in, but I back onto woods, so I purposefully had the fence along the back low, to integrated the woods into my view. The deer love this. For them it is easy in and easy out.

I have had a regular doe for the past few years as a visitor.  I am not sure she is the same doe each time, but I like to think so.  I named her Genevieve and I fancy she represents the spirit of my Grandma Sawyer, who also liked to spy the deer from her windows. My two golden retrievers love her too. They never bark, but sit enraptured at the back door, noses pressed against the glass and tails wagging.  They would love to frolic with her, but she is not as keen on the idea.

In fact some mornings, as I am up before the crack of dawn, she is grazing and I have to put up the window and talk to her.  I say things like, “Good morning Genevieve, I need to let the dogs out. Can you come back later?”  She always pauses, calmly looking at me while I speak. Then she nods her head and with ease, walks over to the back fence and hops over.  The dogs of course race off to the fence hoping to glimpse her. This scenario has played out many times, so I don’t think it is a fanciful coincidence.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the human part of the world, we forget we share this planet with many other creatures. It is a humbling reminder to pause and appreciate the great web of life and ponder the fact we are just one part of it.  One of my favorite hymn’s has that line “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful, the  Lord God made them all.” ( Cecil Frances Alexander).

So I urge you to appreciate all of the creatures that cross you path, honor and respect them as a fellow creature. There may be a bit of a Dr. Doolittle in you too.