Wonderful Winter Fog

winter fogA few days ago, in my neck of the woods, we had a morning of rare thick fog. It hovered deep over rooftops and created frost linings along wires and tree branches. The sky was white, with no hint of sun through the haze, just the glow that bathed everything. It was utterly magical.

On this frigid Saturday morning at 8:00 am, I wasn’t concerned about throwing on my yoga pants and a t-shirt to go buy some groceries since I’d be mostly hidden beneath my black parka anyways. As I hopped in the car and backed out of the garage, the awe escaped me in a gasp of wonder. If you live in a northern clime and have experienced a hoar frost in the making, you know what I mean. If you live more southerly and haven’t experienced this incredible wonder of nature, it’s difficult to describe how beautiful it is. Photographs, no matter how artfully taken, fail to grasp the beauty of this natural phenomenon.

My local grocer is only a few blocks away but I kept on driving. I’m very grateful to live near a huge wild park preserve with a network of paths, some that run along the river, and picnic table areas scattered among the acres of old growth forest. It was definitely a ‘selling feature’ when we were house hunting.

As I drove past the grocery store and into the wild preserve, I was pleased with the lack of traffic. Indeed, everything seemed hushed and in slow motion. I found myself driving under the speed limit just to gape and marvel at the incredible sight of the trees frosted with white, their tall tips melting into grey fog. Luckily the speed limit is already very slow into this family-friendly park as I kept inching along. Keeping a close eye on my rear mirrors, I saw that no one was coming, or going, on this incredible morning.

Then I saw one person, with a small dog on a leash, walking out of the fog in front of me to cross the road. I happily stopped and leaned forward to look up at the exquisite splendor of the tall trees being painted with hoar frost icicles on every surface. Glancing in my mirrors I saw, again, no one behind me. I drove slowly deeper into the park, approaching the lake and the turn-around where the road ends.

The beauty of nature always feels like a painting by God to me, and the more beautiful the sight, the more deeply I am moved. This particular morning I was moved to tears. Perhaps that I was listening to Amy Grant’s ‘Better than a Hallelujah’ might have something to do with it, but mostly I was just overwhelmed with gratitude for life, and the gifts we are so freely given, every day, if we but open our eyes.

hoar frostAs I finished the drive and looped back towards the grocery store I realized, I wasn’t finished. Not yet. I wasn’t done admiring this incredibly beautiful and rare event of nature. I had to go back! Pulling a careful U-turn on that deserted road, I drove back to the one parking lot in the middle of the main cluster of picnic areas, a place I visit often in the warmer months. A place one can easily walk down to the river. I pulled in and parked not too far from the only other vehicle, a mini-van.

As I turned off the engine, wrapped my scarf around my neck a couple of times and pulled my wool hat and gloves from my bag, I saw the occupants of the van slowly heading towards the river. From their sizes I guessed one adult and three young children, all bundled in snow pants and parkas.

Seeking solitude, I headed the other way along a path following a creek that feeds into the massive river. The hush upon the forest couldn’t hide the occasional squeals and joyful shouts from the small gathering behind me, and it made me smile. I looked up at the treetops in the blanketing fog and quietly recited a poem aloud, knowing no one was around to hear and wonder about this woman speaking to herself.

There was tremendous duck and goose chatter at the river, and I was compelled to stop walking away from the commotion and instead go and see what kind of bird action was happening. As I turned around I noticed that the family hadn’t gone far, and instead were playing in a small copse of trees just beyond the parking lot. I walked past them towards the river, pausing at a small cluster of young aspen beside the path to touch the intricate frost icicles that formed along their thin branches.

As I approached the river I noticed more birds than I’d ever seen on this section of river before, and seeing as some were on this side of the river, I stopped well back since I didn’t want to disturb them. For several minutes I stood and watched this massive display of wildlife. There were Canadian geese intermingled with black Coots, and ducks of various species, and I estimated their numbers to be in the hundreds. Shuffling about for position, drifting into the swiftly flowing, deep river to glide to a new spot, these waterfowl were busily settling in for something, or conversing with relatives, re-establishing friendships… who knows for sure. But their noisy bustling was a wonderful sight and it helped swell my already happy heart up to nearly bursting with joy.

Google search forest+fogWith a smile on my face I turned to head back towards my car, since I hadn’t dressed appropriately and my legs and feet were getting quite cold. Seeing the mother and children (I’d heard her voice so now presumed the adult under the parka to be ‘mom’) slowly spreading onto the narrow footworn path I’d taken from the main path towards the river, and not wishing to interrupt them, I turned to the left to follow the main path. After several feet of walking I realized this route would take me much farther from my car before I could head back towards it, over a bridge.

I was too cold to walk the further distance so I turned around, deciding to head back through the family gathering on the pathway. They were climbing up out of the lower ground amidst the copse of trees they’d been in. I was about 20 feet away when the tallest child turned and saw me, a boy maybe 5 years old. He reached his arm out full length to point towards me and exclaim excitedly, “Look Mom! A PERSON!!”

I laughed out loud with the most joyous love overflowing from every part of my being. It was already a magical, meaningful morning for me, but NOW to be someone’s sighting! How fun is that?!

I waved as I laughed again, and said, “Yes, it’s me. A person!” and the mom smiled at me, undoubtedly having known of my whereabouts ever since I arrived in the park, just after them. The youngest one at her feet, about 2 years old, slipped and did the cutest little slide in his snow pants, down the one-foot embankment the snow-blower had left beside the paved pathway. He was smiling at me as he laid there. I said ‘whoopsie-daisy’ and his mom gently asked, ‘Are you alright buddy?’ to which his smiling face, still looking at me, replied, ‘Oh yes, that was nothing.’ My heart melted even more.

My walking had now brought me right amongst them, and I smiled at the mother and said, “This fog is really rather magical, isn’t it?” waving my hand in a sweeping motion, and she replied immediately “It IS rather magical! That’s why we’re out here.” “Yay. Good for you. Have a wonderful day!” “You too” she replied. The five year old ‘wildlife spotter’ called out, ‘There’s a great big hole to play in there!’ indicating the hollow in the wooded copse they’d spent much time in, and where I was walking past. I called back ‘Yay! What fun!’

I was someone’s sighting! I felt like Bigfoot, or better yet, Buddy the Elf in the forest when he was ‘spotted’ during his assistance of Santa’s crashed sleigh in that sweet, funny movie “ELF”. I chuckled and smiled all the way to my car… and all through the grocery store actually. That sweet child, and his enthusiasm at spotting ME coming out of the fog, made my day. How wonderful that I’d chosen to go beyond merely admiring the fog’s beauty from my car, and decided to actually walk in it, correct clothing or not. God gifted my choice with the pure sweet joy that radiates from happy children, and just remembering that moment makes me smile. And the chorus was playing in my mind, ‘We pour out our miseries… God just hears a melody… Beautiful, the mess we are… the honest cries of breaking hearts… are better than a hallelujah’

Yes I wasn’t dressed perfectly for a winter outing. Yes I felt overwhelmed with grief and sadness much of the time, but the beautiful fog captured my imagination and I forgot everything else. I went for it and was rewarded with a most joyful gift. This helps me remember to go with the flow and be open to whatever might happen. Things don’t need to be preplanned or perfect. I am not perfect and that is perfectly alright. God loves me, and all of us, just the way we are… hurting or not… right here and right now. He knows we’re working on it. We’re trying to get better, to be better, but we’re already good enough. Right now.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my frosty and magical morning foray. May nature’s beauty gift you always with joy, love, and learning. And may we embrace the understanding that we are enough, just as we are.

This is what I felt like…


Okay… who am I kidding. You know I’m more like this!

Elf sighting

Blossoming Holiday Smiles

be SO happyYesterday as I entered a grocery store I received a nice smile from a silver haired woman who was leaving the store. I broadened my smile in return and it was then that I realized I was already smiling. Just a small, closed mouth smile that softened my eyes and my whole demeanor, and she noticed. She offered a smile in return for my pleasant countenance.

zig ziglar - things u can giveAs I walked into that grocery store, list in hand, my warm smile was from anticipating all the holiday baking, meals, and appetizers this store would help me make. I was imagining my loved ones’ smiles as they enjoyed the treats I’d be preparing. I smile because I notice my blessings, like how I enjoy easy mobility, I have a vehicle and can drive to a nearby grocery store, and I have enough money to purchase (most of) what I want. I have a cozy home with a good fridge and stove with pans and utensils to assist me in lovingly preparing foods for my family and friends. I am grateful for every detail of my life.

sunbeam smilesMy heart beams with gratitude that I have enough to share with others. It’s not surprising that I decided to buy yet another Food Bank bag for the donation box, because in acknowledging my own blessings I’m reminded of those who are less fortunate.

Okay, I might not smile quite as broadly as Buddy the Elf here (I mean, who can?), but I too like smiling! Let’s all smile. It not only makes you feel better, it brightens up the world around you. Blessings, Gina

Additional Reading:
[Images not mine; sources unknown; notify of info: sidebar link]

Pleasant Countenance

There’s an oval mirror standing on my desk next to my monitors. It was originally placed so I could see the door at my back for Feng Shui but it has taken on an new purpose. I’ve found myself checking my reflection and noticing how a smile on my face not only reflects a pleasant mood but also fosters it.

give up perfect be yourselfMonths ago, during an especially difficult time, I’d catch my reflection frowning or having an expression displaying inner hurt. I would gaze at my reflection, realizing I hadn’t noticed I was frowning. I’d choose to be gentle with myself, acknowledging the inner pain occurring, and then I’d soften my face. I could literally watch my emotions change as I let go of the hurt I was holding, and melt into gentleness. Gentleness with myself… my situation… my process. Taking a deep breath, I consciously release tension in my back and shoulders and look at my reflection with kind eyes.

Using this desktop mirror as an exercise to monitor my feelings has provided me with a source of great growth. By becoming aware of the expression of hurt on my face I was able to move through the pain of my heartache, heal more quickly, and let it go. Checking my countenance in the mirror helps me remember to smile… to be gentle. When we consciously soften our face and our features, even with the slightest of smiles, our heart and mood cannot help but follow.

The interactions with my mirror are always changing as my moods change through the weeks and months, but it is always enlightening. This reflection of my face has become a monitoring device, like a kind friend who tells you the truth. And the lesson I have learned the most deeply, so far, is that softening my features as I release previously unknown tension actually helps lighten my mood. It’s a validating lesson to that wise adage of ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. This mirror-practice has helped me internalize that wisdom even more as I experience how softening my face with a smile actually brightens my mood.

be gentle with yourselfI encourage you to try this out for yourself. Place a desktop mirror next to your computer monitor. Rather than avoiding mirrors as I used to, or only quickly glancing in them to ensure there’s nothing in our teeth, let’s take a moment to look deeply into our lovely eyes and really see our own reflection. And then soften your features. Think of something nice. See what it looks like when a kindness makes you ‘melt’. You can actually see the transformation.

While I am still working on doing actual affirmations in the mirror, or saying things aloud to myself, I feel like this is a step I can honestly maintain. Just by having this mirror here I can conveniently look at my face, my eyes and myself with kindness. And even without saying words aloud, I can feel the meaning of the sentiment, “I like you.” And what a powerfully healing sentiment that is!

“Take a minute. Change your perspective, your mind, and the content of your life. See God, Jesus, Mary, Buddha, or Muhammad touching your shoulder and saying aloud: “You’re valuable and important, and you’re on this planet for a reason.” Then commit to remembering and carrying out the special mission your soul came here to do. You’re a child of the light. Feeling blessed and protected is beyond words, but words are an important part of the blessing. Tell yourself you’re safe. Move through life with ease. Remember how blessed your soul is. Ask for a blessing whenever you can, and bless everyone you meet.” ~Melody Lynn Beattie, Finding Your Way Home
[Images not mine; unable to find sources; notify of info: sidebar link]

Kindness, and the power of one person

John Quiñones, an ABC News correspondent, hosts the show “What Would You Do?”. He and his team of camera operators and professional, yet unknown, actors and actresses present what they call “Social Experiments” and film the reactions of the general public when presented with unethical and uncomfortable (or downright dangerous) situations. Here I am sharing two incredibly moving segments, each just a few minutes long, to help me in expressing the message of doing the right thing.

Homelessness (Linda Hamilton) – It may be filmed in Newark, New Jersey but it’s a pretty good snapshot of all big cities. While just over 7 minutes, it is especially at the 4 and a half minute mark that it strongly pulls at my heart strings and fills me with hope and encouragement that angels truly do come in all sizes, colors, ages, clothing – you name it!

Add to that the fact that the (real life) heroine’s name is the same as the actress who I am a fan of, for playing the heroine in the first Terminator movies, as well as the late 80’s Beauty and the Beast TV series. Also she starred in a touching movie called Home By Christmas about a down-on-her-luck divorcée who becomes homeless through a series of misfortunes and has to re-build her life. This video may introduce to us a very different woman with the same name, but she’s as powerful to my heart as any hero I’ve ever seen.

A wonderful quote attributed (possibly falsely) to Abraham Lincoln is: “No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.”  He was an amazing man and, regardless of who coined this phrase, these are wise words. Their wisdom goes beyond assisting only children, for indeed we never stand so tall as when we stoop to help anyone.

wrong is wrongRegarding the kindness, or blindness, of strangers, may each of us choose to be like an angel on earth. Let’s all make the decision to offer to help with every opportunity that we are presented with. Every urge we have to share a polite compliment, or offer a smile, or a hand to someone reaching for something too high for them, listen to that urge! Let’s all endeavor to listen to those highest callings and help whenever we can. It will make you feel better. And it just might save someone’s day. Or even their life.
[Updated Feb 2017; removed a video that was deleted from YouTube.]

You Are Loved

Climates of Feelings

Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Source – Wikipedia

“It is terribly amusing how many different climates of feelings one can go through in one day.”  ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I adore the writings of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. With this particular one of hers running through my mind today, I can imagine her sitting in the front seat of her husband’s plane, goggles on and white scarf flapping. Or of course flying it herself as she too was an aviator! I easily imagine that her moods fluctuated at times, like the takeoffs and landings in those planes of old. This quote brings me comfort when my own moods are fluctuating into different climates rather drastically.

Today I was out and about with errands and tasks, bringing my love with me to my favorite grocery store. The store was quiet and I was served in the only open aisle by a new cashier I’d not seen before, a woman about my age. My warm greeting and friendly chit-chat could not elicit a smile, hardly even eye contact. I stopped after a few friendly comments and fell silent. I felt my mood take a dip, and just observed it happening. Took a deep soothing breath, gave myself an inward smile, and decided to view this unhappy woman with the eyes of love and tenderness. She kept swinging the items over the scanner and watching the screen as I silently observed and consciously changed my perception. What if being new at this store had her feeling unsure? What if she was under the weather in a way that’s not obvious? Or what if cheerful people like me just grate on her nerves? When viewing her this way my heart blossomed back open, and that is a gift to myself. As the debit charge was completed and she handed me the receipt, I met her eyes and gave her a warm smile and saw a hint of one in return.

My mood has been a bit all over the place today, granted I am a bit under the weather on this drizzly day. This new (to me) world of blogging, experiencing joyful heights tempered with nagging doubts and occasional lows, reminds me of how I felt when I was first falling in love with the man who is now my husband. The early of stage of love is a type of ‘madness’ pursued by countless poets for adequate description. The highs, the lows, the worries, the excitement! I am delighted to be in a more stable and mature stage of married bliss now. I look forward to the next stage of blogging as well. Less intensity and more comfort, less ups and downs of moods and more stability. Although I can already see that blogging is like gardening in that it’s never finished, I’ll remain focused on what touches my heart for each post. Like Anne, I will come through this changing climate into a more temperate zone.

Family is not always blood

My thoughts today are about how I can feel so close to those across the world yet still feel so separated from those who share my bloodline.

I laughed when Wayne Dyer shared, “Your friends are God’s way of apologizing for your family.” I was not from a close, jovial, generous family. I recall admiring a good friend from elementary school and wishing that I too could enjoy being a part of an extended Hindu family. I knew they got together every weekend (if not more) and ate together, laughed together, and played games together.

I was raised Christian in a liberal ‘United’ family. I memorized the Lord’s Prayer at a very young age and remember hiding my bedtime prayers after my mother caught me reciting them on my knees beside my bed with “What are you doing?! We’re not Catholic!” So I hopped under the covers and continued my prayer silently. She was a lovely woman and only knew what she was taught. For whatever reason I was born with a drive to learn far beyond what I was taught. I was drawn to reading the bible and learning about the word of God completely on my own. My mother noticed this about me and it means so much to me that she decided to gift me with my grandmother’s bible. My 11-years-senior sister introduced me to Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones when she was 22 and I was 11. At 12 I discovered Jonathan Livingston Seagull and I read it over and over and over. That book made me feel normal, how I longed for a connection but felt unaccepted in my outer world. Soon afterwards I read Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. From there my reading exploded. I began to read everything I could get my hands on about Eastern philosophy, Buddhism, Native American spirituality, and more, all the while continually reading my grandmother’s bible.

When I was 13 I looked 20, due to my height and serious demeanor. I recall a pivotal day in my life when I decided to ride the bus to a neighboring town. Quite the adventure! It was an early Saturday morning, cloudy and quiet. I had no real reason for travelling other than the journey itself. While the bus trip would end in an hour and turn back at the large mall, I had already decided I’d simply head back, since malls had no appeal to me. This journey was purely for enjoying the view of looking out windows, feeling like I was a grown-up and really going somewhere, and being independent. It made my heart sing to ride that small town bus to the neighboring town.

There were only about half a dozen of us on the bus that morning. I was on the right for easier viewing of the fields and forests as we passed by. Being only a couple of rows back from the front, it was easy for me to witness a senior gentleman on the left side of the bus in a seat facing sideways ask for the time from a person in the first row, right next to him. He was so polite, ‘Sorry to bother you but if you don’t mind, what is the time?’ I was horrified that the person asked turned away and mumbled grumpily ‘I don’t know’ when I could see their watch from here! What? Really? I was shy but I knew this was a moment ‘bigger than me’. I happened to have a watch on, so I bravely stood up and walked the couple of rows forward to say ‘Excuse me?’ with a smile to this lovely senior man who had sat back down after his rude rejection, “My watch shows 8:45am. Just so you know.” His face lit up. I will remember it for the rest of my life. He burst out, ‘Thank you! Thank you very much!” with a smile that split my heart right open. Somehow I knew, even at that young age, that doing the right thing was all the reward one ever needs.

However the story doesn’t end there. When we all exited the bus (all half-dozen of us) at the Guildford Mall in Surrey BC on that quiet Saturday in 1979 I had no interest in waiting for the mall to open. I just wanted to disembark and hang around until the next bus came to return me to Langley. My new friend, the kindly senior man of East Indian descent in the snow-white robes, smiled warmly at me and asked if he could speak with me. I smiled and welcomed him to please sit.

Such were the beginnings of a pivotal conversation with a very wise old soul who recognized in me a deep kindness and reverence that he wanted to encourage. We spoke of Oneness, and Nature, and Family, and Destiny. We sat together and spoke for over four hours. I never wanted to leave his side. I felt honored and delighted and truly heard by this wise man who honestly communicated with me as an equal. He shared of his family, his children, his grandchildren, and the ones I reminded him of. He asked me my age, and after a hesitation, I shared with him the truth. He hid his surprise that my nearly 6-foot frame and wise demeanor was wrapped up in a 13-year-old shell. I remember when a hot-rod car filled with young men drove by, slowing to jeer something about ‘quit bothering that girl’ and I did not remove my gaze from his face and his story, but he stopped to ask me if I knew them… if they were friends of mine. Certainly not, I exclaimed! I would rather spend time learning with him than be anywhere else. I wish I’d got his number. He took mine though, to call my parents and tell them about what an exceptional child they had. They didn’t ‘get it’. Got worried. Scolded me. No matter. I will always remember that wonderfully wise teacher and the hours we spent together, and will forever cherish his memory.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” ~ Richard Bach

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.” ~ http://www.atti-tude.com