People often ask why I like the East coast so much more than the West coast where I grew up, and I would have to say that experiencing the seasons is one of the things I love best of all.
Living in New England for the past 30 years has attuned me to the rhythm of life in a way I had never understood before, and learning to enjoy each season for its unique blessings and challenges, is a good way to create harmony between us and the natural world.
Being part of the changing circle of creation, forces us out of our everydayness into something flowing and alive. Just when we have reached our limit of cold winter days, the warm tendrils of Spring make their way across the land into our hearts, whispering softly of its promised arrival.
Like the finest of connoisseurs, I can feel it coming from miles away. Waking up from our long slumber, siblings to the trees, bodies stretching up towards the sun, we arrive, rejoicing in our eternal story.
Experiencing both moments of hardship and joy, brought to us on the winds of each new season, strengthens our resolve to live fully and with gratitude, knowing underneath the fertile soil are the miraculous stirrings of new beginnings, wonders never cease.
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; each an opportunity to celebrate the gifts from Mother Earth, and to release any lingering shadows held far too long, inspiring healing choices of forgiveness and love.
The symphony of birds outside my window every morning sing to me of dreams created during long winter nights. Heralding its arrival, robins sent out as tiny ambassadors announce the brightness of a new day.
Every season different, from beginning to end, renews our spirit, offering us a chance to grow and adjust our path. Though the days of time move in a continuous circle, our footsteps, if we desire, never having to be the same.
Spring is in full bloom here in New England, and has been for a couple of weeks. The tulips and daffodils are lovely and already the magnolia blossoms are losing their petals, yet their sweet fragrance fills the air.
A dogwood tree in my front yard has started flowering, and each day on my walk I see something wondrous. Soon baby geese will paddle gently behind their parents on the lake, and I will take great pleasure in spying bunnies nibbling on clover during my morning walk.
Already the young crows are exploring, their voices loud overhead as they call to each other through the trees; under the fullness of the moon I hear the frogs sing across the water, and just today I saw my first butterfly, it’s wings softly painted white.
The arrival of this particular Spring has gently nudged me out from under the umbrella of melancholy I have long sheltered beneath, and into the cleansing rain of a new season.
“Life is brief and very fragile, do that which makes you happy,” is a quote I saved as a teenager. I made it into a collage which I brought with me when I moved here from California over 3 decades ago. I have it hung in my room as a daily reminder.
Despite my uncertainty in the unknown future, I am determined to remain open to all the beautiful possibilities life has to offer. The magic of each season holds a special message for everyone of us, if only we are willing to listen.
Our beloved dog Skadi just celebrated her 5th birthday yesterday, on April 2nd, and we are so grateful to have her in our life. She is a Great Pyrenees, an immensely powerful large-breed dog originally from the Pyrenees mountains located in southwestern Europe, which form a natural border between Spain and France. My well-read children named her after Skadi, the Norse goddess of winter, ice and mountains, who was also known to be a giantess, which is perfect since our Skadi resembles a large polar bear.
She was the cutest little pup ever! Click on any of the photos on this page for a full view.
The Great Pyrenees are working dogs bred to protect sheep from wolves, bears and other predators on snowy mountain tops. Because of this they are known for their independence, patience, and courage. For the Great Pyrenees, their whole intent and purpose in life is to be a loyal and devoted guardian.
They also make great therapy dogs, which my family and friends can attest to, since Skadi loves nothing more than to share affection and to be cuddled; we probably kiss her sweet face at least a hundred times a day, and if she had her way it would be way more than that. Everyone who has been lucky enough to love such a wonderful breed is familiar with the “Pyrenees Paw,” which is what they use to “nudge,” or rather to smack you with in the hopes of gaining your attention: whack, whack, whack, they are very hard to ignore!
Skadi lives to love and be loved.
Her coat is thick and silky, and so soft to the touch, that she’s like a lush teddy bear come to life roaming from room to room, but what I find most amazing is how self-cleaning she is. Our Skadi will race outside, careening around the yard, barking at everything in sight, while tromping through inches of thick, oozy, muddy muck. She will then come back inside with her beautiful white paws covered and dripping with the elements. Once dry again, she somehow returns to her clean fur, with not a speck of dirt anywhere. I am sure it’s all over my home, but it’s no longer on her. Amazing!
Despite her largeness, (she’s average size for a female, the males can be as much as 160 lbs), she moves through the house with a natural grace on her softly padded paws. I call her a ghost dog: one minute I am tripping over her in the kitchen, and the next to my great bewilderment, she is suddenly out of sight like a thief in the night. Seriously, she is very sneaky, and I have to quickly go look for her to make sure she hasn’t got into any mischief between my peeling and chopping. Most times I find her laying in the bay living room window, guarding the neighborhood from her high perch from any intruders, or cozy on my bed, surveying her domain from my bedroom windows.
Though sometimes I catch her in action, eating my mail, or holding something stolen in her mouth with a defiant look just to get my attention. Believe me, it is a terrifying thing to see her standing there with a pair of scissors, or some kind of kitchen utensil she snatched off the counter. She will then lead me on a merry chase around the coffee table, while I scream myself hoarse telling her to “drop it now!” Eventually she will, but usually only if I offer her something better in trade. You may wonder who has trained whom, but if any of you out there are blessed to know this breed, you will fully understand that they will do nothing, absolutely nothing, unless they want to. I’ve seen photos of people actually carrying their dog home from a walk during which they have decided they were done and refused to take another step. Laugh if you must, but it’s true.
Skadi loves to sit in chairs, it’s so funny to look over and see her sitting next to me.
Here she is on perched on the back of our couch like a large vulture, or like in one of my favorite children’s book, ‘Horton Hatches the Egg.’
Great Pyrenees are also known for their intelligence, and without a doubt she keeps us all on our toes. Sometimes I look into her eyes and a shiver of awareness floods my body at the depth of knowledge I see shining out. Honestly, it’s like living with a fantasy creature from another world. I am sure Great Pyrenees run with the unicorns somewhere in an alternative universe.
She will stand on everything to get a better view and because she’s so curious.
Over the years, my family has always had pets. I cannot think of a time since I was a young child that we didn’t have some kind of creature companion: cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, birds, rabbits, lizards, tortoises, snakes, frogs, turtles, and let’s not forget the giant millipedes and hissing cockroaches. I tried to be an open-minded, adventurous kind of mother, especially since we home-schooled. I wanted to make sure my children had many wonderful experiences, which is why I allowed the two hissing cockroaches from Madagascar to be in a lidded container in my house. It’s inevitable that one actually escaped, but with the passing of time and perhaps a forced amnesia I soon forgot. Fast forward to many months later, one night for dinner I prepared for my family a bountiful and delicious salad. Later, when I returned to the kitchen to clean-up, there on the pile of vegetable scraps stood our very healthy and especially large missing pet, waiving his little antennas and hissing at me claiming dominance from its leafy mountain. Of course I screamed refusing to go even close, and with much pleading, and possibly some dire threats, I made my children re-capture and place him back into the home with his lonely friend, by this time greatly dwarfing him in size. I shudder to think of the many days and nights in which he apparently thrived living off of who knows what and I don’t even want to think about who knows where.
For all of you fellow pet owners, I am sure you can relate to the immense love we have in common for our dearest companions, whether they be covered with fur, scales, feathers or fluff, (maybe not with antennas, but who am I to judge)! We only get to be with them for such a short while in the big scheme of things, so it’s important to treasure every bit of precious time we have together. The heartache of losing our beloved friends is unbearable and I try not to project myself so far into the future where I live in dread of having to feel that again. Over the years since Skadi has graced us with her presence I have gone through significant heartache and trials, but with her sweet comfort and the happy smiles she brings to all of us, I have been able to persevere with grace. I tell her every single day how much she is loved, and how pleased we are to have her in our family. In the here and now, my sweetest most devoted friend in the world is laying next to me while I type this up, with her big head nestled against my side. I am immensely thankful to be blessed with such a holy being such as herself reminding me daily of the beauty of life.
The many faces of Skadi
Happy Birthday Dear Skadi, Happy Birthday to you….and many more!!!!
My daughter Tiana loves to take photo shoots with her, they are both so photogenic
I would like to add that if anyone is interested in this breed that they do their research first. These dogs are wonderful, but can also be difficult. Many people consider them working dogs and don’t interact with them the way our family does. They are known to bark a lot, and like I mentioned before they are very strong-minded, and hard to control. They need training, and patience. We were rather impulsive and ignored many of the warnings…haha…she is hard to walk because of her strength and doesn’t like other dogs. They also need space to roam, with large fences. For our sweet baby she demands a ton of affection, which we are happy to give. Great Pyrenees are not for the faint of heart, but certainly worth all the time and energy you can invest.
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Cozy in my bed, I woke up this morning to read the weather report stating we would be getting 3-5 inches of snow starting at 11 a.m. Many of you must know by now that taking my daily walk is very important to me, not just for my health, but also for my emotional well-being. Because of severe weather this year I have already missed eight days, breaking my walking streak. Reluctantly, I forced myself to leave my nest of fluffy blankets to take my exercise early, even before my tea and morning oatmeal. I figured I might end up with a little snowtime, but it sounded like fun to me.
Feeling adventurous and a little proud of myself for being such a maverick to walk in the snow, off I went.
Bundled from head to toe wearing my new ivory fleece pants (after all, how dirty can one get in the snow), my thrift-store find of the century, a hooded, black, faux fur coat, my gray scarf and gloves, my black beanie covered in white dog fur, and the best snow boots ever, in black of course….. I am only now realizing how fashionably coordinated I was. Considering my usual pandemic wardrobe has been the vibe of an eclectic unemployed wandering-forest-river-hippie, this was an unexpected feat.
It was only 10:15 when I left my driveway. Apparently the weather report was off by 45 minutes as there was already snow drifting down at a steady rate. The roads were covered in some areas, looking like yards of white satin ribbon, and everything sparkled in a magical-fairy-land kind of way.
Growing up in Southern California, the weather was mostly the same. Here in New England I have completely embraced the seasons, and winter is no exception, especially when it means there will be less people out. I don’t mean to sound like a walking snob, but I have been taking my daily jaunts around the lake for about 10 years now, and it used to be that I was the only one around for miles. Even on beautiful days, it was just me, the bunnies and the crows, it was a wonderful life!
Everything has changed since the pandemic, and I find myself sharing scattered bits of walking time with people of all ages, some with dogs, some alone, some with family or friends. Since we don’t have sidewalks in my neighborhood, we use the street instead. With only a few cars now and then it’s quite safe, plus there’s extra room for social distancing when necessary.
Aren’t these two couples so cute, holding hands and walking together.
I love the freedom of the wind in my face while sauntering down an open road. My only goal in life is to put one foot in front of the other, to keep on moving. Don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely happy for the house-couch-people who have discovered the joy of walking, especially when I see an elderly person slowly making their way up the very same hill I am soon to be striding.
I sincerely hope to encourage everyone to begin their own walking practice, but it’s always a gift when I have the streets to myself.
So there I was on this beautiful, snow stormy day, sashaying down my path with nary a soul in sight. I felt a little self righteous thinking I was the real walker of the neighborhood, the other wannabes were probably home in their pajamas, sitting by a fire with fluffy socks, drinking their coffee or something vanilla like that. Hah! I still got it I thought, as the cold bits of snow fell gently on my face, completely covering my coat. Protected and snug under my hood, in that moment I felt invigoratingly wonderful.
Just as I was heading into the first quarter of my 3 mile journey, my foot gave a tiny slip on the pretty snow. I regained my balance easily but realized I better be extra careful. Suddenly the white satin ribbon I chose to follow had a decidedly ominous glow shining from underneath the surface. Having the first of many second thoughts, I quickly altered my usual course and made the decision to avoid going down any hills just in case it became slippery.
A long and most assuredly slippery hill I chose not to take
When I arrived at the first beach; the lake was a vast sea of snow covered ice, in the distance I could hear the crows, but nothing more, no people, no cars, it was beautifully peaceful.
To leave the beach area I have to walk up a very steep hill, and no matter how many times I have done this, I am always a bit winded when I reach the top. I began my strenuous climb and immediately felt grateful I was going up and not down such an incline, imagine how disastrous that could be I was thinking, when suddenly all my jauntiness flew by the wayside as I hit the ground. One minute I was determinedly trudging up a hill, counting my blessings, and the next minute I was on my knees. Thankfully my gloves are thick, so it didn’t hurt too much. I innocently tried to stand up again on the sheet of ice, and promptly slipped. With zero purchase, I did what any sane person would do, I began inching my way, some might even call it crawling, to the side of the road and into a deep bank of snow so I could safely be vertical again. Finally, standing in over a foot of snow, I considered these new circumstances from my vastly altered perception. Somehow I had to miraculously make it to the top of the hill, walk another 2 miles through a winding, up-and-over kind of neighborhood, and arrive home without falling. I was lucky I landed like a cat the first time. Hopefully no one saw me from their drinking-coffee-by-their-fireside-view as I crawled across the road in my new ivory fleece pants, now covered in black icy asphalt.
I had no choice but to climb out of the snow bank, and continue my journey as carefully as I could. There was no one to call, I was on my own.
When I was a little child growing up in California, my dad would often get us up at 5 in the morning and take my siblings and I to the beach to go fishing. I would look for seashells, and eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches with my sticky hands. These are happy memories for me. Being so early it was usually cold, and we would have to wait a couple of hours until the sunrise. I have always loved words, even though I didn’t know how to use mine until much older, but still I remember standing with my bare feet in the chilly pacific ocean looking out into the darkness, and chanting a simple prayer-rhyme I made up, it went like this:
Sun, sun, sun of gold. Come on out because I am cold.
I would whisper this over and over until eventually the Sun would hear me and come out. It was foolproof and worked every time!
Now years later, standing knee high in a snowbank, I quickly came up with a new prayer-rhyme to help get me home in one piece. I imagined I was wearing the special snow things you slip on to the bottom of your boots to provide more traction in icy conditions. The ones I meant to buy before winter. Anyway, it went like this:
Sticky shoes, standing tall. Keep me upright so I don’t fall.
And this is how I got home without falling; by repeating my prayer over and over, walking like a super cautious person who wants to grow old gracefully, one careful step at a time, avoiding the biggest hills, knowing when to keep to the middle of the road and when to zigzag myself into a snow drift.
It was a fine and slippery line guessing exactly where to place my feet, but I made it, my prayer worked. Indeed, if you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, you are more than welcome to use it. Personally, I suggest buying yourself some winter bootie slip-ons, and maybe thinking twice before heading out into a snow storm.
I hear it’s real nice to be inside, sitting safe by the fire on a winter wonderland kind of day.
In Snowy Peace, Raven
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I woke up early this morning and walked over to my sliding glass door and looked outside. I am blessed to live on a lake, with my bedroom facing the water. My door opens out into my yard, making it easy to escape whenever I want, especially at night when I visit the stars.
For any other exit, I would have had to walk right through my daughter’s room, interrupting her dreams. Our home was built in the 50’s and was meant to be a vacation place. When the previous owners decided to live here full time, to make it more habitable, they added on my bedroom, with a half bath, and a great family room overlooking the lake. They nicely built three large windows up high to let the light in. Often I can see the moon at night.
Because of this my house is small, with an interesting layout, which is why I have to walk through another bedroom just to get to mine, but we are very cozy. We can see the water from several rooms, so the peace and beauty of living here makes up for any longings for extra storage, and bigger spaces. I am grateful for all that I have. Living next to a body of water is soothing to my soul, and with the added benefit of being surrounded by wildlife, I find it always healing.
Beavers, snapping, painted and musk turtles, serenading frogs, muskrats, giant carp and other fish, eagles, great blue herons, turkey vultures, crows, and many other creatures, have all become my daily companions.
I frequently find myself with my face pressed against the glass, without any remembrance of how I happened to arrive. My feet seem to know when I need a little peace, and they bring me here often to gaze out.
Many ducks live on our lake, including a new breed that has migrated here from Canada called the Bufflehead. A flock of seagulls hang out with them, as well as the local mergansers and wood ducks. They meander together, a fine feathered community, seemingly without destination, looking for food. Canadian geese are frequent fliers, they live here year around, and are beautiful to observe. I love to watch them fly in overhead only to splash- dive in perfect formation on to the lake, loudly proclaiming their arrival. My winged majestic friends.
This morning when I peered out, two swans were swimming by, I haven’t seen swans on the lake for over a year, maybe longer. Time is a blur since I have become a pandemic hermit. I grabbed my phone and ran barefoot outside in my nightgown. The ground was frozen and rough under my feet, it was 27 degrees.
The swans were singing together, something I had never heard before. Trumpeting softly, taking turns, they welcomed the light of the rising sun, while celebrating their devotion to each other. Swans are known to mate for life (some will say it’s to raise their growing family, but I think it’s more). Nature is our reflection, and I believe we are here to not just coexist, but to learn from each other. Swimming in the same direction, moving in harmony, sharing beauty, enjoying companionship, and trusting our loved ones will remain by our side. That all sounds lovely to me.