Time and Quiet

Sometimes I need quiet to free my brain of daily distractions to put pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard. There’s certainly a lot to distract us as we search for good news amongst the mostly bad news about COVID-19 that is on TV, social media, and in newspapers. The reader will see a few random “quiet time” photos from my collection in this blog to break up the text.

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In retirement, I work two days a week and live alone. Before the recommendation to shelter at home, I’d spend my workday breaks running errands and/or meeting friends for lunch. On other days, I attended volunteer organization meetings, planned dinner parties, and went out to local bars and restaurants to hear live music and eat out.  Nearly everything is now canceled or closed. The State Department just announced that US citizens should not travel abroad during this pandemic and everyone abroad should come home. I canceled a trip to Ireland planned for the end of this month.

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This blog entry is a celebration of the enforced quiet many of us are experiencing due to our time at home. There’s a real benefit to social distancing. I wrote copious journal entries in my adolescence. After I started college, studying took all my time and I let it go. During graduate school, I read The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.  I credit that book to a personal awakening and renewed interest in writing. A new job, then children, again put the idea on the back burner. A painful divorce eleven years ago freed me to consider writing again.

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I read an article recently that likened writing to a form of worship. I’m more inclined to think of it as a daily meditation or therapy. Writing with a writing group helped me recover from divorce. I established a daily writing routine that I continue to maintain.

The writing group’s monthly meetings keep us all working to bring new work to a shared critique. I’ve made longlasting friends in the process. As a decidedly nice side-benefit of my writing time, I’ve published poems in journals, magazines, and anthologies. I’ve published two chapbooks and a full-length poetry collection has been accepted for publication.

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My take-away from enforced solitude, listen to the quiet and allow your inner voice to guide you forward.

Transitions

September Sunset

September is glorious sunrises and sunsets, warm days, open-window cool nights, and a sense of time stretching forever. It’s a time of transition from summer to fall, air conditioning to heating, garden harvest to preserving food for winter.

I had a large apple harvest this year. I made a lot of applesauce.

http://dish.allrecipes.com/how-to-make-applesauce/

Weather changes affect mood

In Autumn, September’s warm, balmy days switch to October’s variability. October can be a glorious display of tree colors, visits to pumpkin patches, and bountiful fall harvests. October can also turn into soggy, overcast dreary days stretching into an early winter. October is a time of Halloween parties, fun decorations, and playing dress-up for kids of all ages. October is usually a combination of all those transitions moving us gradually or suddenly toward winter in the northern hemisphere.

We move from fourteen hours of daylight in August to ten by the end of the October. I move my houseplants back in the house after a summer in the bright light. Most of them have adjustment issues in the dimmer indoor light. When plants have difficulty adjusting to less light, drop their leaves, and become semi-dormant, it’s an alert that people face the same challenge.

Depression is a difficult mental health condition for many. With the lowering of light levels during the winter months, depression can heighten for those already challenged. Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, winter depression affects people who feel fine in the summer months but lapse into depression in the winter. These folks often dread winter for many reasons. Getting up in the dark, shoveling snow, traveling on icy roads, and coping with everyday challenges is heightened during the dark months ahead.

Help is available

Counselors can help their clients make these transitions and prepare for low light conditions. Knowing that last’s years depression can return with the change in light level, helps people know that it’s time to check in with their mental health professional, begin to care for themselves, and consider adding extra light to one’s routine; e.g. setting a timer to your bed side light so it lights your room before the alarm begins your day.  Each person’s situation often has multiple challenges. It’s always a good idea to talk over your issues with a professional.

How to be happy in January

I’ve been thinking about selecting a good topic to discuss this January, but the grey sky, wind chills, and snow are like a blizzard in my brain, obscuring creativity.  Some days, when the sun shines on new snow, however,  my mind clears and I appreciate that nature is  beautiful.

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Many other days are gloomy when the sky is grey, the fields are grey, and even the trees’ brown bark looks grey.  On those days, just a smidge of sunshine through the clouds pinpointing a building is charming. The scene visually and emotionally brightens the day.

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I don’t want to wish away a quarter of my year hiding from cold and waiting for spring.  I venture outside at least twice a day to feed horses, barn cats, and check other critters. The sound of horses snorting as they munch prairie hay improves my mood.

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Sometimes, the very act of walking in crisp January air is invigorating in unexpected ways.  It’s possible to experience beauty in a brief glimmer of the sun at a particular time of day at a specific location. For example,  indoor Christmas lights reflected on this wishing well in late afternoon to create an unusual effect.  I would have missed this moment if I stayed indoors.

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Sunrise is often inspirational in winter, just as finding the photos to create this blog inspires me to spend more time outdoors today, and in the days ahead.  These unexpectedly beautiful moments help me be less worried about cold weather.  Happy January everyone!

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Seasons

There’s been a little snow here early this fall after weeks of wet cold, and now late October warm sunshine.  As the season progresses, I’m progressing toward retirement.  I selected a last workday, and turned in a letter to make the retirement official.  It is a really difficult decision to walk away from students and long-term coworkers.  I’m hopeful that it’s the right time to finish this  part of my life and move on to the next stage.

Today  was a good day to scurry around finishing fall chores.  My son built a horse feeder that will make it easy for me to feed the horses this winter.  He is also sawing and splitting enough wood for me to make it through the coldest part of winter.

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The summer garden produced potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, and turnips.  Tomato cages are cleaned and stacked in the garden shed.  I hauled dead tomato vines, pruned branches, and frosted pepper plants to a compost pile. The warm-season part of the garden is finished for the year.

However, the fall lettuce crop is doing great.  Chard keeps its brilliant color through cold nights. There are also volunteer cilantro and dill plants that survived the early snow.

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Harvesting fall veggies made all the summer work worthwhile.  I expect retirement to give me more days to play in the garden.  Gosh, maybe I’ll have time to start garden plants from seed next year. https://www.seedsavers.org/starting-seeds

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onions & potatoes

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carrots

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turnips

 

 

Animal Friends

We make commitments to each other in our marriage vows, to our children when we decide to become parents, and to the animals that share our lives.   Dogs and cats sometimes live 15 years, but horses can live 25 or 30 years.  Marriages end through death or divorce, as mine did.  Commitment to my animal friends has been more enduring.

Today’s blog is about the horses that have “peopled” my life.  My husband loves horses. He was the driving force to buy our first horse.  The Appaloosa mare was pregnant.  She gave birth to a big spotted foal.  We provided a home for Jody and Cheyenne until they passed about twenty years later.

Our next horses were another mare for him named Rose, and an old gelding for me named Blue.  Blue was old when we bought him, but he was just right for me.  He was tough to catch, but very gentle to ride.  My kids and many friends enjoyed riding Blue. He lived until he was over thirty-years-old

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Rose gave birth to six babies over the years; two fillies and four colts.  One of the foals died after a few weeks, but the rest grew into big beautiful mares and geldings.  The last addition to the group was an Appaloosa gelding for my son.  My son was 13 years-old, named his new horse Apache (even though the Appaloosa breed is associated with the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho, it seemed right to name him for a brave Native American nation) and broke him to ride.  https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/appaloosa_horse_breed/#.W46IqPZFyUk

Apache & Rose horses 2005

When my husband and I divorced, we divided the horses.  He took four and I kept three. Apache, one of those three, belonged to my son.  Apache was the “go-to-horse” for new and inexperienced riders.  Like Blue before him, Apache taught many people to ride.  In the drought year of 2012, grass was sparse and dry.  The horses pushed their noses under trees and bushes searching for fresh greens.  Apache punctured both eyes on sharp grasses or tree branches.  We treated his wounds as much as he would allow (a month in the barn alone,  inserting lotions in both eyes is a challenge when the horse patient doesn’t cooperate). We finally turned him back to pasture with the other horses.  He adapted wonderfully, even running blind across the hills with his mates.  He came to the feed bunk when I called him, walking carefully till he first touched the bunk with his nose.  [Apache is the mostly-white Appaloosa in the center of the photo below]

Apache & Jody 2013

This summer has been a tough one for Apache.  He lost weight, became  unsteady on his feet, and as Labor Day approached, went down and couldn’t labor to right himself.  The wonderful veterinarian (the same one that treated his eyes six years ago) said his heart was barely beating.  She gave him something to peacefully end his life .  We said goodbye to this faithful friend of twenty-five years this weekend and buried him on a grassy knoll.