Climbing out of the cave and shaking off the cobwebs of hibernation
In New England, I think spring arrives slowly, and in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of way. Sure, Daylight Savings kicks in with its sunny evenings, but that's in early March, when we might get a blizzard and even get another ski day in. Then there's the official first day of spring, but I bet the plows will come out at least once more after that. Everyone over a certain age remembers the April Fool's storm (my job interview was postponed and I could jump from a second floor balcony into a five-foot drift).
I think the closest to a singular moment when you realize spring is truly here, when you realize there's no more turning back, when you know it's time to pull out the warmer weather clothes and put away the winter parkas, is with the peepers.
The other night, when I was driving at dusk along some wetlands near my house, I heard them in their glory. I pulled over and listened. Hearing them can't help but make you happy, with the awareness that you'll be able to start shedding jackets and then trading in jeans for shorts. trees will begin to bud, flowers bloom, the smell of lilacs is only a few weeks away. It's a wonderful, fleeting sign of the world coming back to life.
Yes, it's fleeting. But it's also worth pausing to smell the roses. Or, in this case, to listen to the peepers.
Amazed at how much of an impact 11 hours could have on me for a week afterwards
So often, it seems that really unplugging and recharging involves heading out of state for a weekend, or spending a week or two somewhere that requires plane tickets. Then we resume our daily grind. But a day trip really highlighted for me that this doesn't have to be the case.
We spent last Saturday in the Berkshires, and it was merely a day trip, costing a little over a hundred bucks. We arrived in Stockbridge for breakfast, and left Sheffield in time to be home for dinner, with time in Great Barrington sandwiched in between.
Having done some research, we enjoyed breakfast on Stockbridge's scenic Main Street. We were engrossed in the art, history, and the focus on community captured at the Norman Rockwell Museum. We learned about the intersection of science and fun at the Berkshire Mountain Distillery. We perused antiques, browsing for possible purchases and seeing how daily life has evolved based on the purposes of those antiques. We found the oldest covered bridge in Massachusetts. And we listened to a band playing a host of instruments, mostly in a bluegrass style, at a cozy craft brewery off the beaten path.
The day was filled with scenery, history, interactions with people, exploration, and learning. Even the drive was pleasant, with time to chat and reconnect after a busy work week for us both. The day fostered curiosity, a sense of community and shared experience, happiness, and above all, fulfillment.
We ran out of time before we ran out of places to explore. But that feeling of being lost in the moment, and enjoying a "moment" that lasted for hours, has left us both recharged in the week since that day. It highlights that the smaller places and events surrounding us can create powerful, positive impacts. It also challenged us: what else might be so close by, that can leave us so energized and connected? It will be an exciting question to answer.
Perhaps this is a challenge you might also be excited to ask yourself?
Appreciating time with loved ones more than anything that's wrapped and under the tree
Everyone has their own holidays, and their own traditions for those days. For those who celebrate Christmas, I've noticed that, regardless of their particular traditions, it's a period of greater emotions.
The month is filled with more intensity and more activity, between the holiday parties, gifts, times spent with friends and family, mailing packages, and so on. That intensity can be seen from people becoming irate about a fight for a parking space or the last popular toy in stock; it can be seen in the care with which presents are selected; it can be felt with the hugs instead of handshakes, as friends greet each other. That emotion can also be hidden as people privately grieve those no longer with them, for whom any gift would gladly be traded for one more day.
As we get older, I think holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are centered around time with loved ones, become more bittersweet. We become aware of the passing and preciousness of time.
For me, it's become a conscious decision and deliberate tradition to try to be up before anyone else, and to sit in front of the tree and fire with my coffee and to reflect: to remember those I can't spend the day with, and to love the moments I had; to appreciate those with whom I'll spend the day; and to cherish the memories waiting to be made. I'll accept the tears tied to past loss in order to have the laughs tied to the people still with me.
The intensity of both emotions are part of living vibrantly. They're part of the gifts of the season, and I accept both with gratitude, embracing the moment for whatever it brings and all it has to offer. Happy holidays to all who read this.
Being mindful of the things that matter in life
I think it's neat to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving near where it actually occurred, in one of the areas where the country first began, and with ancestors stretching back to that time and place. It makes the various celebrations feel very authentic and personally connected. But in stripping away the pomp and circumstance, the food and family traditions, I've come to enjoy the premise of pausing to appreciate your life, to be mindful in a way life's daily grind sometimes seems to preclude.
For me, the last decade of Thanksgiving has involved some sort of road trip in New England. It turns the meal into a family adventure. Each year we try to find a way to keep it fresh. This year will include Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant in a quiet, nearby village. It will also involve seeing a play, wandering amidst a holiday lights display, shopping at small businesses, and seeing where else our path leads.
The food is the least of my interests; my focus is around the immersive time with family, being able to laugh, share stories, play games, and engage in a way we couldn't do in a single meal or day.
Despite life's inevitable challenges and some years being particularly tough, or maybe being mindful because of those things, I give thanks for the chance to really connect with the people who mean the most to me.
Coming to my senses.
Oftentimes, when I'm photographing a sunrise I lose myself in that moment. But it's focused around a set of factors that are all visual: figuring out my angle, the perspective, waiting for the clouds to shift.
There are times I'm aware of the breeze - especially in winter; or can feel the sand between my toes; or wince against the bite of wind-driven snow on my cheeks. But it mostly is a sight-based effort.
When I stood alone on a dock on Nantucket, taking in the morning sun, it was enjoyably different. The dock extended far out into the harbor. The morning breeze felt refreshing. Yet, it was the lapping of the waves against the dock and the hulls of all of the boats that was most striking. After I finished capturing the scene, I stood and just absorbed the sights, the feel, and also the sound.
It was a reminder that while it's great to get lost in an activity, it's also still worth pausing to allow an alternate experience to occur. That morning, so still except for the perpetual movement of nature, was one of the better little moments of my year.
The Good Life...
is filled with little snippets of time that can disproportionately impact our days. This is a chance to capture and share them.