28 May 2008

After the rain...

"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

26 May 2008

Rewards of the simple life.

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter...to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life."
~John Burroughs

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking and being thankful for my simple life. It's amazing what having a garden - big or small - can do for your spirit. Sometimes you need to be quiet in nature, in a secret, covered place. And I've not only found this in my backyard, but also at the Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve, which is only 25 minutes from my house.

When I left Nashville, I never thought I'd find another place like Radnor Lake, with its glass-like lake that was a centerpiece for the mulch-covered trails that winded around it. It was my haven in the city (a city that seems like little more than a town now, compared to Dallas…). I've lived in Dallas for almost 4 years, and not until 2 months ago did I discover what I was missing nearby. Cedar Ridge Preserve is like Radnor times ten - with multiple trails and prairie flowers and exotic succulents and birds and cattails and rocky paths winding down cliffs to lead you to bridges over the clearest creeks filled with sandy stones. My friend Bonnie took me there the first time, and we did a trail run that left me practically crippled for a few days but after that, I could not get enough. I've gone back 4 or 5 times now, mostly just by myself to have some quiet, simple time alone in nature.

Sometimes I walk; sometimes I run. On a running day recently, I needed to let off steam and went barreling down the hills at full speed, leaping on my toes down the railroad-tie steps and dodging rocks that could twist an ankle if I wasn't careful. And then, almost involuntarily, I suddenly came to halt when I saw a brilliant flash of blue just ahead on the trail. A bluejay. Fluttering from one tree limb to the other, he welcomed me to his little neck of the woods. I started walking ahead again, slowly, and he was gone.

I continued to meander down the mulch path between the towering trees with limbs that through the years have bent and crisscrossed one another as if to form a cathedral ceiling. The light crept through the "windows" and covered me and the ground with dots of light. It was the best church I had experienced in awhile...

I walked on, and came upon a clearing in the trees, a space where everything opened up to blue sky and the cool breeze hit my face as I found a pocket of sun. I stopped. I stood there with my face pointed upward, letting the sun wash over me. I breathed in deeply to the scent of evergreens and fragrant jasmine. I listened…and there were no sounds from people or cars or interstates. Just the trees peering down on me from up above, waving and showing off their new spring leaves with a swish-swish-swish. It was an August Rush moment.

Sweaty and happy, I finished the trail and made my way to the butterfly garden to cool off. I meandered the gravel path amongst the wildflowers and found a solitary bench in a back corner under a tree. I sat and held my knees to my chest, closed my eyes, and was thankful for a place like this so close to my concrete jungle. It was put here to be enjoyed. It was put here as a reward for those who stop long enough to see the beauty of simple life.

24 May 2008

The welcoming of Summer.

"A Moment of Clarity" by Eric Zener
"Then followed that beautiful season...
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Memorial Day weekend, although not technically summer yet, always rings in the summer season for me. Of course, it's the inaugural weekend of the Madison Community Pool in my hometown of Madison, NJ. It's the weekend that throngs of children and their weary parents have been waiting for – ready for a break and some freedom splashing, doing handstands, playing Marco Polo, and eating ice cream while sitting on a wet towel. As I lay here in my hammock writing this, my parents are probably there at the pool now, living out another one of thousands of warm summery days they - and I - have spent there. Yes, at this moment, my dad is probably floating on his back flashing my mom a goofy grin as only his toes and head stick out of the water. And surely my mom is doing her water aerobics, the ever-present side ponytail bouncing in the wind.

Usually Steven and I travel up to New Jersey in autumn now (a season which is equally memorable there in its own way), and it's been several years since I was in Madison in the summer, for one of my mom's impeccably-planned Moonlight Swims, as she is the pool's social director. But this year, I get to travel home in June, and the main thing I'm looking forward to is going to the Madison Pool. I'm already imagining how wonderful it will be to swim underwater exploring the thousands of square feet of underwater caverns, just like I did when I was 10.

You see, a few weeks ago, we found out my dad's health was threatened, and I am going home to New Jersey to be there during his surgery. It's not the greatest reason to return home, but I'm really anticipating this trip in an odd way. It's scary to face one of your parents potentially being ill, and there's something about it that forces you to see life differently, to say the least. The wonderful news is that after the surgery, my dad should be well. But now, I hold even more tightly to memories of him. Swimming with my dad, bracing myself on his slippery back as he toted me around the pool like a submarine, is one of my favorite memories. And I hope I get to enjoy summer with him for many more years until he is old and his Cheech Marin mustache is gray and he can still carry me on his back in the water.

"Metamorphosis" by Eric Zener

As you can probably tell from the absence of posts here lately, I've felt mostly uninspired. When I have felt inspired, I haven't been able to get out the words that are floating around my head. But somehow I can always write about this. Summer runs deeply in my blood, and the enjoyment of it will never fade until I'm 90 years old, wearing a Granny bathing suit and bathing cap with a plastic flower over the ear. In between now and that time, I want to live my life excited about summer each year, as I am now, and as I always have been.

"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."
~Henry James

I'm off to my friend's pool with Steven, to drink some icy cold cream soda with my feet dangling in the water. Wishing you rest and joy this weekend as you anticipate summer, wherever you are.