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Archive for the ‘contentment’ Category

snow in woods (1 of 1)

Are we ever satisfied with life as it is? It seems I am always looking forward to the next thing. At this time of year, I want spring to come. I’ve had enough of the cold, the early darkness, the slippery sidewalks. Then when spring comes, I look forward to summer—camping trips, visits to Pittsburgh to see the kids and grandkids, evening walks. However, summer gets too hot, and I complain and look forward to fall. And then, silly me, I wonder where the year has gone.

sun through branches (1 of 1)

Snow fell this week, very unusual in March in our part of Oregon. When I asked a friend if she was ready for spring like I was, she talked about what a blessing it was to sit by her window and watch the snow gently come down. This friend has suffered incredible grief and pain the past year, and yet she saw the snow as a blessing. She could enjoy the moment for what it was. I was both humbled and encouraged. Surely I, too, could savor the beauty without wishing the time away.

prints in snow (1 of 1)This morning we woke to more snow, a soft white covering over the usual dirt and mud. The sun broke through and made the whitened tree limbs sparkle. Rabbits had left their little trails across the yard. Sounds were muffled, except for the soft chiming of ice bits hitting the ground as they fell from the trees. I grabbed my camera and headed out. This might be the last snowfall of the season, and I needed to capture it. To soak up today’s beauty while it lasted—because today is where I live my life. And this moment is, indeed, a blessing.

snow on trees (1 of 1)

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Newport, Oregon, Nye Beach We sit in the comfy chairs on the third floor of the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, gazing out at the gray sky and the rolling white caps. It’s our 36th anniversary, and we came to celebrate in this wonderful book-filled hotel. But my mouth hurts from the tooth that had to be extracted yesterday, and husband is coughing from the cold he caught recently. In our younger days, this might have ruined our special day.Sylvia Beach Hotel

However 36 years give one a little perspective. Seagulls soar past the windows, pushed by the wind. The sun peeks out briefly to light up the waves. Husband sketches a beach scene; I write these words. The ocean beats a constant rhythm into our souls. We are at peace.

Life needn’t be perfect to be good. So many times our expectations prevent us from enjoying the blessings we receive. We want the perfect job, the perfect wedding, the perfect spouse, house, and kids. But life has more glitches than a new computer system, and perfection is a rare commodity here on earth.

Newport, OR beach with gullsMy husband’s uncle had a stroke. While Uncle John partially recovered, he remained weak on one side and had difficulty speaking. A former outdoorsman, he took up painting with his good hand. He made the most of what he had. And whenever he was asked how he was—or many other questions for that matter—his answer was always “Good enough.”

And what’s so wrong with “good enough?” We all have things that keep our lives from being perfect—whether health issues, money problems, disagreements with family or neighbors, job hassles, whatever. We can spend our days bemoaning our problems, or we can accept what we are given and make the most of it. We can enjoy the blessings we are given.dark clouds at beach

The waves keep pounding onto the sand, an ever-changing, but ever-the-same pattern. Dark clouds promise rain. We sit side-by-side, staring out the window, sharing the beauty of the moment. Thirty-six years. Years filled with smiles and tears, joys and frustrations. Not perfect years, but definitely “good enough.”

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Newport, Oregon beach rocks I love all sorts of walks on the beach: romantic strolls with my husband, energetic hikes to a distant jetty or dune, meandering ambles with a new friend. When our kids were small, I loved watching them as they scrambled around, picking up every shell and turning over every stone in search of something wonderful. However, introvert that I am, nothing quite beats being alone on the beach with a camera.Footprints on the beach, Newport, Oregon

Newport, Oregon: ocean and cloudsEarly morning is the best time; sunset is great, too, if the colors are bright. Any time at all is still nice. Today it was morning: a still morning early enough that the breeze had not yet begun, when the sun rose brightly over the hills, and the freshly washed sand pulled me toward it with magnetic force. After a lovely rest in the Emily Dickinson room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, I was ready.Newport, Oregon: rocks and buildings in mist

Being alone brings a certain freedom. I can sing praise songs aloud with the pounding of the surf both my background music and my disguise. I can stop to watch a bird circling above or stand and drink in the peacefulness of the ocean as long as I want, with no worries that someone else may wish to move on. I can turn aside for whatever catches my eye—a cloud formation, a small pool’s reflection, a tiny shell, or even just the pattern left in the sand by the rushing waves and beating wind. I can take a hundred pictures, trying to capture the essence of the scene, the special beauty of that particular moment.

Newport, Oregon sand patternsFinally I must wander back to join the others, to eat breakfast, to plan our day. But those moments alone on the beach with my camera have given me images to share, as well as a peace inside that is all my own.

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Family is one of the most important things in life. I’ve heard that many times, and I really believe it. But often I get so busy that family gets ignored, particularly family that doesn’t live in the same house. I intend to call or visit, but time flies, while I crawl along, loaded with the chores of everyday.

Last weekend I spent time with family. My brothers, husband, sister-in-law, and I took our father to the beach for two nights to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday. It was the first time I’d been to the beach with my brothers since we were kids. And it was wonderful!

We spent a lot of time remembering adventures—and misadventures—we’d had when we were little. “You know,” one brother said. “I can’t blame any problems I have on my childhood.” So true! We had a good childhood. Our parents weren’t perfect (although they didn’t make any more mistakes than I did with my kids!), but we always knew we were loved, and that they would be there for us anytime we needed them. That sense of security made childhood a safe place to explore and learn and grow.

We walked on the beach once the sun cleared out some of the clouds—at least all of us did except for my dad. Legs no longer steady enough for beach walking, he sat by the picture window, content to watch the crashing waves and kaleidoscope sky.

If any man fits Paul’s description in Philippians 4:12, it is my dad: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” He has been widowed twice, survived four types of cancer, been on three-times-a-week dialysis for years, and yet I rarely hear a word of complaint. “The secret to happiness is not feeling sorry for yourself,” he told me.

I’m so glad we could all spend the weekend together. It’s good to be with people who know and love me just the way I am. Not all families are like that, I hear. I feel so blessed!

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Squirrels can be a nuisance at times—knocking food out of the bird feeders and gobbling it down before the poor little birds get a chance. However, they can also be pretty amazing to watch. Today’s squirrel first appeared running along the phone wire from our house. How it kept its balance on such a thin line I don’t know, but it appeared quite at ease on the high wire. It stopped as it reached the kousa dogwood brimming with ripe, red fruit.

 After munching on the juicy dogwood fruit, still balanced on that narrow wire, it was ready for a snack of sunflower seeds. We try to hang out feeders where birds will at least have a fighting chance for the seeds. However, those limber squirrels have no trouble getting all they want, even if it means hanging upside down to eat. A couple chestnut-backed chickadees attempted to join the squirrel for supper, but didn’t seem too comfortable with the tilting table.

 After several minutes of sunflower seed chomping, our friendly neighborhood squirrel needed a rest. Up the light pole, it scooted, easy as strolling down the street. Perched serenely on a wire high up the pole, the critter surveyed its domain contentedly. Below, robins pecked at dogwood fruits and chickadees zipped to and from the feeders, enjoying the short respite our lordly squirrel deigned to allow—because we all know who controls the feeders.

 Anybody have any good squirrel tales to tell?

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Mt. Hood from Owl Point

On a clear day I can see Mt. Hood from my street, standing so majestic in the distance. I’ve made many trips to it–to hike, to fish, to pick huckleberries when I was a child, to cross-country ski in the winter. We visited it again recently to check out a new hike, new to us anyway. My little red car bounced over miles of gravel roads, finally resting at the end of the line where the hike began. Up we hiked, the dusty rock-filled path giving way to soft humus under tall trees, the trail steepening as we approached our destination: Owl Point. There boulders spilled out from the path and climbed to a peak, where we stood, top-of-the-world high, or so it seemed.

I love looking out from high places, seeing everything spread out below like a map. I love mountain grandeur. But I also appreciate the smaller slices of beauty like the little mountain meadow we passed on our way to the top. Grass mellowing in the late summer warmth, little evergreens growing while they could, before snows bury them deep for the winter. A butterfly flitting from flower to flower, never stopping long enough for me to get a clear picture. The meadow felt like home, tall trees forming dark green walls, bright sunshine glowing around us. I couldn’t live on the mountaintop, but I could live in a meadow. I could live with the butterfly and the small white flowers and the shelter of the trees, all the time knowing that the mountain was just over the hill, waiting for me.

Mountains, meadows, valleys–all have their place in life. I see the grandeur, I pass through valley shadows, and I come home to the meadow–somewhere in-between. Because that’s where most of life is lived, somewhere in-between.

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From The Diary of Anne Frank:

Wednesday, 23th Feb 1944

“As long as this exists,” I thought, “and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy.” The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, admidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.

Salmon River

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