bananas

I knew it was not going to be my best race. Diane really wanted to do this 5K with a buddy though, and how could I say no? I laced up and tried to get my head in the game. 

Just like that, we were off. After the initial rush of the start, Diane pointed out a runner ahead of us, and we silently agreed to overtake them. Once that was done, she picked another one.

Before I knew it, we could see the finish line ahead at the top of a rise. We knew what we had to do. Diane and I had a longstanding pact that we must pick up our pace for any hill. We grimly glanced at each other, then laid on the coal.

Breathless, we sailed across the finish line. Panting and sweating, we gratefully grabbed the bottles of water held out to us. As we walked off the race, we each snagged a banana, too.

Finally, we tumbled down onto the cool grass in the shade of a big tree. We looked at each other with goofy smiles. 

Diane held her banana up in the air.

“To your best personal time ever!” she proclaimed.

I held my banana up, too. “And to yours!” 

We clinked our bananas together in happy celebration.

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Many thanks to Eugi’s Causerie for another great prompt!

the well-read cat

There is nothing my wonderful best friend cat likes better than to curl up with me and a good book, or even a mediocre book. As long as he can comfortably situate himself, Tippy’s reading appetite is nothing short of voracious. Together, Tippy and I have delved into a fantastic array of places, people, and ideas as we turned the pages and allowed ourselves to be transported.

My tabby friend and I have had wondrous escapades like flying over Africa or sailing the North Sea or exploring beyond the planet. We’ve studied maps and pictures. We’ve figured out how to do things. We’ve pondered philosophical issues and romantic ones. 

Tippy has purred his way through many delightful pages, and sometimes sat on them. He has also patiently listened when I’ve tested the words on the page, reading aloud. We’ve explored rhythm and imagery. We’ve counted syllables.

True, with such a diverse catalog of reading, we have on occasion disliked a book, even found ourselves scoffing. We have, however, never found ourselves in disagreement.

Unlike my beloved Biddo, Tippy is not a book biter (a little bit on that here). No, although he does enjoy exploring the physical depths of a book shelf from time to time, he respectfully leaves the books intact. He is not, however, above taking a swipe at a bookmark.

Tippy’s joy in books seems to lie in the shared reading experience and, most important, the cuddling. In fact, from his nestled perch in my lap, he often insists that other tasks be put off, while we enjoy yet one more chapter. 

Yes, a well-read cat is a true treasure. Beyond words, really.

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ukulele: fun and friends

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Little did I know on that snowy January day when I wandered into the music shop that the ukulele would come to figure significantly for me. And I am so glad it has.

I have faithfully been attending my ukulele club every week. I’ve gotten to know several wonderful people as a result, and enjoyed many awesome evenings strumming and learning together.

As the months go by, folks experience the ups and downs that life delivers. At ukulele club, we are able to share some of that and then set it all aside while we get lost in the music. We are always all smiles at the end of an evening playing together.

We have a fantastic leader and teacher who is just as excited about our progress as we are. He always brings us some challenges and theory along with some music we can jump right in with and party. I have learned immensely.

As the weeks have passed, we’ve gone everywhere from The Beatles to Phil Ochs, the Grateful Dead to the blues (ridiculously awesome!).

Last night, we played songs ranging from Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” to Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” to The Band’s “The Weight.” Our wonderful teacher also has us working on The Beach Boys’  “God Only Knows.”

The other delight from last night was a finger-picking version of Patsy Cline/Willie Nelson’s “Crazy.”  Wow, is this fun! I’m still amazed I can even read the tablature and make sense of it, much less play it. This one’s going to take some practice though.

Other perks that resulted from landing in the world of ukuleles include my first-ever attendance at a drumming circle and a dulcimer-led jam session, and multiple invitations to camps and festivals — hopefully I’ll actually attend one before the summer’s over!

I’ve been inspired by the people in my group. I love their many interests and the way they fuel themselves on music. No one can walk through the music shop on club night without testing out a new instrument. Last night, one of our club members showed up a little late because his cello lesson ran long. Several members are also very active in harmonica groups.

I admit, lately, I find myself drawn to percussion, too. We’ll see where that leads.

I am so grateful for this group and the ukulele. During a few stressful months, it remained a beacon of joy for me. Fun, learning, friends. What could be better?

❤️ for creative community

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Friends, I wish you a Happy New Year! I would also like to express my gratitude to you for reading my blog, liking, following, for your comments, and for being my creative community.

I am grateful every day for the WordPress community. When I decided some months back to make blogging a regular sort of practice, I did not realize all that I would find. A few of the things I have discovered:

Inspiration: I am inspired by so many others here. I appreciate the glimpses I receive into other folks’ thoughts and experiences all around the world. I love the fearlessness and the honesty with which so many of you write, and on very meaningful topics. You open doors in my mind and my heart that hold many possibilities. You so often inspire me with your determination and courage, too.

Connection: I love the sense of creative connection I feel in this online community of writers and thinkers and doers and adventurers and life explorers. I appreciate the wonderful diversity of minds and experience here, and I love that I can be part of the gang. When you like one of my posts or comment, I recognize that happy moment of connecting.

Laughter: I cannot tell you how many times my fellow bloggers have made me laugh or smile with their stories or photos. That always makes for a better day.

Encouragement: I am truly encouraged by your likes and follows and comments, but I am even more encouraged by your examples. I see so many of my blogging companions actively committed to their paths, and exploring life in their unique ways, and it emboldens me on my own journey.

Insight: Not a day goes by that I don’t read something that helps me somehow or broadens my understanding. Perusing my WP Reader is a moment to which I look forward. It’s always an enriching experience.

Discipline: My own blogging is a practice. I am learning many things from it. Part of the purpose is discipline. It makes me look at things differently. It makes me think with purpose, explore ideas, be more observant, stop and take a photo. Knowing that someone out there will read what I put together infuses the practice with meaning and intent.

So, so much for which to be grateful!  Thank you, dear readers and friends! I wish you Wonder, Love, and Joy in 2019!

smiles

veru12_15_18Smiles are pretty awesome.

They generally come to us spontaneously, a happy, observable expression of joy or pleasure or contentment. A genuine smile touches anyone on the receiving end, too, usually evoking a similar response of happiness or pleasure. Good for everyone!

Even alone, perhaps reading a book or working on a project, when a smile comes to us, it is a small moment of transformation or illumination – an irrepressible flow of goodness that expresses through our face.

My best friend cat smiles at me. I don’t quite know how he does it, but he does. When he smiles at me, I just kind of melt with my own smile of love and happiness.

A dog that I visit regularly smiles, too. It is a ridiculously goofy, extravagant smile and simply wonderful to receive. There is no being down in the face of that smile.

Out and about, we come across strangers, some of whom acknowledge us with a smile, and many remaining aloof. The smilers change our day for a few moments, just lifting the spirit for a little way.

I have a couple of acquaintances who are big smilers. They smile all the time. There’s nothing fake about it, either. Their smiles are an expression of their personalities – positive, forward-looking, accepting, generous, fun. Their smile is kind of a habit. It affects everyone around them.

That’s not to say that people who don’t smile all the time are not all those things. I know plenty of non-smilers who are warm and fun and generous, too, and their smiles are all the more precious to receive.

I remember sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office years ago. I was kind of miserable. An older woman came and checked in. She was smiling. She took her seat in the waiting room, still smiling. Time passed, she smiled the entire time. I have no idea who that woman was, and I never spoke to her, but all these years later I remember her simply for that constant smile. I marveled that her inner state of being expressed itself outwardly like that. Even though we did not overtly communicate, she brought some peace and reassurance into the room with that smile.

No one likes a forced smile, nevertheless, I’ve been working on being a little more conscious about smiling. As a ridiculously introverted, overthinking sort of person, I don’t think I am much of a smiler. I tend to rather seriously and intently listen to other people – I am trying to remember to smile more during those times. That would be a true reflection of my feelings, too, because I am generally very appreciative of others and all that I learn from them.

Even when I’m alone, I’ve noticed I can change how I feel by smiling. Tasks are a little easier to do with a smile. I can make myself feel more optimistic or adventurous by smiling. I encourage myself when I smile.

Hey, it’s free and it’s easy. Why wouldn’t I?

Maybe I will have to tie a little string around my finger, just to remind me for awhile, while I develop my practice.

a bigger picture

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As a vegan, it is my policy to tread gently with others. I have been where they are – for most of my life. I understand that the concept can feel weird, uncomfortable, and threatening.

At the same time, I feel no reason at all to be apologetic for my own perfectly valid, considered, non-harmful lifestyle choices.

So, recently, when the topic of bacon came up during a casual conversation with a friend, it took an interesting turn.

Now, I understand how deeply committed to bacon many folks are. I get that this is a love affair.

Thus, when the topic was introduced by my friend, I innocently and with a chuckle observed that all that bacon eating might not be such a healthy thing. I did not launch into an impassioned vegan rant, I was just making conversation.

Nevertheless, one thing led to another with an increasing level of challenge and defensiveness on my friend’s part – despite the fact I was not challenging them for their choices.

To my dismay, in the space of about ten sentences – it was a brief discussion – my friend managed to become all upset and wanted to know why I would choose to distress them.

And then I was distressed. I had no intention to distress my friend, nor was I judging them. Neither did I feel good about being challenged and judged for own my personal, reasoned choices.

Inasmuch as someone else can unabashedly proclaim their love of bacon, how can it be somehow inappropriate for another to gently demonstrate their thoughtful abstinence of it?

And how in the world is it that those who choose to quietly act on compassion for animals should be ridiculed or judged negatively for that?

But I have observed this phenomenon before.

It comes from a gut knowing that causes an uncomfortable dissonance in a person. They don’t like to confront the conflict – the conflict within themselves. It is inherent compassion coming up against known cruelty – and not being able to reconcile that. 

Most of the time it’s not a problem, because we simply keep it hidden from ourselves.

There is no blame in this. Our culture demands this dissonance of us. It tamps it down by normalizing everything and hiding the evidence.

Every now and then, though, it can rise to the surface and we see it for what it is. And that doesn’t feel so good.

Those are the moments that offer possibilities, though – ones that ask us to look at the world with a broader perspective – opening our eyes not only to difficult practices in our culture and our world, but to the beautiful depths of our own compassion. The implications go way beyond food.

I am grateful to my friend for reminding me of all this, for reminding me of my why, for helping me to keep my eyes open and to look at the bigger picture. Maybe my friend is seeing it, too.

answers

 

veru12_2_18I was searching.

I was exhausted and frayed and a little frantic.

I thought if I could just get moving, I could move toward some kind of answer, something to mollify at any rate, a little peace.

I was already cold and tired. I could not bear the thought of more cold.

I pulled on my coat anyway. I practically fled, pulling on my gloves as I went.

I charged, desperate for answers. I kept walking and walking, through my fatigue, searching, frenetic.

Nothing was working. Everything was dysfunctional.

No answers.

So I asked.

As I barrelled along in the cold, I spoke out loud.

I can’t see them, but I know they are there, somehow.

They are there. Aren’t they?

I walked and I cried and I argued and I pled for help, and finally I sang.

It was the chant I learned oh so many years ago. I sang the chant as I rushed through the messy, snowed-up sidewalks. I could just begin to sense the edges of peace.

And then, suddenly, there it was.

The one voice in all this universe from whom I needed to hear right then.

And the dam loosed, not answers, but the warmth and the peace to find them.

Everything is a mystery, and nothing is a mystery.

kindred spirits

veru11_30_18I enjoyed a happy moment yesterday with the discovery of a kindred vegan spirit.

Chance threw us together. We were making friendly small talk. As time passed, we discovered more and more shared likes and experiences.

Finally, as the conversation somehow turned toward food, he quietly started a sentence, “ I’m a vegan, so…”

I stopped him right there. “Wait. You’re vegan?”

“Yes,” he replied with a tentative nod. He was probably bracing for the inevitable well-how-do-you-get-your-protein question.

Instead, what he heard was a very delighted, “So am I!”

With a look of happy surprise, up came the hands for a high five.

Gotta admit, despite the fact the vegan population is definitely on the rise, coming across vegans in the wild is a pretty rare experience for me. Wandering as a vegan through the heart of meat and potatoes country can be a rather lonely and sometimes alienating experience.

The alienation has its roots in the defensive posturing that some people feel compelled to launch once they discover you’re vegan. Sadly, it’s also the case that sometimes you fly quietly under the radar just to avoid to the predictable, tiring challenges that you are occasionally forced to gently work through with insecure, heels-dug-in meat-and-dairy eaters.

So when you chance upon a kindred soul, it’s a pretty cool thing.

Then, you can happily chat about fave dishes and books and apps and oh, just all the other doors this shared choice opens up. Because the choice to be vegan is not fundamentally about food. It is a very deliberate, practical choice toward exercising compassion. It is an ethical stance about animals, people, and planet.

All the healthy side effects of such a choice are icing on the cake, so to speak.

Online, I see that there are more and more folks on the vegan bandwagon all the time. In the stores, it is clear that corporations are working to tap into this growing market as more vegan processed options keep popping up. Restaurants, too, seem to have a budding awareness with more of them including a vegan, or at least vegetarian, option on their menus.

Estimates in the United States indicate that the vegan population might be roughly three percent. Who knows, though? I think some other countries are definitely ahead of us in this lifestyle.

The numbers are still scant. Working through those uncomfortable conversations is worth the effort when you have the energy for it, since you might touch another soul in a way that winds up mattering some day.

But when you actually discover a fellow traveler out there, there’s just a little moment of heart sparkle. You find both recognition and connection, and, even better, inspiration.