Puttering

I think puttering is grossly underrated.

Puttering is

relaxing,

productive,

engaging,

mind-freeing.

Children spends years puttering. Exploring, tinkering, experimenting, finding out what works, what fits and what doesn’t, engrossed with no result in mind until the next thing comes along to tug their curiosity elsewhere, just bumping along through life…

Adults don’t seem to approach things that way. They usually have a goal in mind. They don’t putter much, but I think that perhaps they should putter more.

Puttering involves no commitment, just a smigen of interest. You can hover on the fringes and shuffle around out there for awhile before sidling into something with nothing but vagaries, foggy notions, and seeing where it leads you. And because you expect practically nothing, the results are rarely displeasing.

I think that there’s a quite a bit of puttering involved in teaching. You start with a little of this, a dose of that, a portion of this, and then see what sticks. It’s never exact and it’s never the same. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to come up with an iron-clad recipe for success. Certainly, intuition is a huge part of it; it’s not good to be strictly by the book when dealing with actual human beings, especially small ones. Somehow it seems to come out just right every time.

In retrospect, I think our whole house was decorated by puttering. There never was a goal, or vision. A thrift shop chair, and estate sale rug, an antique vase, a big mirror from a brownstone sale in the city. Just a little of this and a little of that thrown together over time.

It’s been that way with our garden, too. It started with a small parcel of grass and a donation of remnant bluestone from my sister’s place, and it just evolved from there, through the years. A rock wall over there, a trellis here, some hammock swings and few fruit trees to add something nice and attract more critters.

Puttering is deceiving in the most agreeable way possible. If there is something enormous to be done, puttering is the easiest way to think about it – if you want to think about it at all. There are those who don’t want to think about things of this magnitude, and that’s when this notion of easy proximity is perfect. It comes in handy because it is so non-threatening; it lets you come in sideways through the back door instead of head on.

When you putter, you just dabble on the fringes – that’s all. Just fish around and see what happens. Maybe you’ll start with one easy swipe, one stitch, one stroke, one shovelful, one bolt, one note, one push, and then suddenly there’s a chance and Whoosh! and –

to your great surprise – you may arrive at something that sounds like…

“Oh, my! I finished the room!”

“Holy Cow! I have a scarf!”

“Wow! I made a painting!”

“OMG. It’s a flower patch!”

“Well, whattaya know!? I got it started.”

“I played the whole song!”

“They passed!”

The next time you are daunted by a task – haunted by a task,

don’t don’t dive in head first,

and don’t think about what you wish to happen. Just loiter around the edges and poke one part, tinker one portion.

If the spirit moves, things might loosen and begin to flow and you might just slide your way through the whole darn thing despite you best efforts not to, and you will have done something really terrific.

But that was never the goal.

Nope,

it never was.

Puttering is its own reward.

Musicality

Listening to music while driving is one of my favorite things to do. I’m a regular accompanist for Adele, Frank Sinatra, Pure Prairie League, Norah Jones, Journey, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Marshall Tucker, Dylan LaBlanc, Neil Young, and The Indigo Girls. To me we sound pretty good together, but what do I know?

During one of these mobile mini-concerts, I realized that the songs on my playlist were time – travel conduits, instantly zooming me back to great memories of moments in time. Conjuring up a connection to a person, group of people, or peak experience turns a mundane errand like running to the grocery store – into time well spent.

Music does all that. It never fails to lift me up.

Here are some personally notable melodies, in loose chronological order:

You Are My Sunshine, Bicycle Built for Two, Sparrow in the Treetop, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Erie Canal, and more…(My parents) – random and countless long car rides in the station wagon

Best of My Love (The Eagles) – silk-screening in junior high print shop

China Grove (The Doobie Brothers) – marching onto the field with the twirling squad for my first home football game

California Girls and Don’t Worry, Baby (The Beach Boys) – hometown summer carnivals

How Deep is Your Love? (The BeeGees) – making deliveries on my brothers’ paper route with my sister

Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty) – zipping down the parkway to the Jersey shore with high school girlfriends

Rosalita (Springsteen) – dancing on a rooftop in Morgantown, WV

Into the Night (Benny Mardones) – late night walks home from Sunnyside

Brown-eyed Girl (Van Morrison) – singing with friends in the back of a pick-up truck on a dirt road in rural Abaco, Bahamas

Already Gone (The Eagles) – Kawagama Lake camping trip with with friends, northern Ontario

You’re Just to Good to Be True (Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) – dancing with my husband on our wedding day

Here Comes the Sun (George Harrison) – winter solstice celebrations with neighbors

Just One Look (Linda Ronstadt) – kitchen clean-up dance at Lake Placid with lifetime friends.

And the following songs remind me especially of my kids:

I Am Light (India Arie) – for my daughter, Joy

Bennie and the Jets (Elton John) – for my son, Ben

Fly Me to the Moon (Frank Sinatra) – for my son, Luke

There is so much more music both before and after these snapshot memories because to me, the music never ends.

I wonder –

what are the songs you live by?

Maybe Find Comfort in This

I think that comfort has very little to do with what one might think.

It doesn’t need softness,

or a big space,

or quiet.

Sometimes it goes hand in hand with familiarity, but

that is not always necessarily so.

Even if it’s a first –

you can find comfort there, if it’s the right thing.

Oh sure, it may be about repetition, but not always.

A smell, a sound, a rhythm, a task.

Pulling a paddle through water,

the zip of your sleeping bag in a tiny tent,

the click of needles coaxing yarn,

the stretch of your calves in downward dog,

the strike of your stride hitting the path,

or

the flick of the wrist as you peel potatoes –

there is comfort there.

The carve of the skis,

the push of the pedals,

the turn of the key,

the strum of the chord,

the roar of the surf –

it is there, too.

The arc of the seven-iron,

the ache in garden knees,

the creak of the stairs,

the cradle of your hands around a mug…

Extravagance is not there,

nor is opulence.

Comfort is merely an exhale

of the essence of you.

It is

healing.

It is

who you are –

confirmed.

Beaming

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

And I say it’s all right.

Thank you, George Harrison, but in all humility I’d like to modify the last line of your refrain:

And I say – WOOHOOHOO! I wasn’t sure that we’d be coming around again.

It’s more than alright – it’s fantastic!

Let’s call it what it is, folks – it is the best regularly scheduled day of the year.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I joyfully acclaim the start of Daylight Savings Time, which begins 2:00 a.m. Sunday, March 14. In other words – tonight.

Tonight.

On this eve we put the clocks ahead one hour, pushing daylight sixty minutes into the darkness.

What could be better, I ask you?

Sure, sure, I know. some will lament the loss of an hour of sleep tonight. To those folks I give a resounding, “Pish!” Which basically means, are you kidding me?

Are you honestly – for even one minute – thinking that losing an hour of sleep for one measely night is not worth a whole summer of lingering twilight barbeques, long after dinner walks in the gloaming, and days filled with sunshine that give you that really good kind of tired because you’ve been out in it all day and there’s still more of it leftover feeling? More of it left over to finish it all off with a lavender, pinky orangey sunset sky at 8:30 p.m.?

No? Still not worth it?

Well, don’t even talk to me, then! We’re not even on the same planet.

To sit in the summer sun is to be a sponge soaking up water. That is honestly how it feels to me – like I can’t get enough of it. Sure, I sit under a UV floor lamp in the dark months to bridge the gap, and that helps, but it’s not the same. It’s not like sitting on the front steps with evening light still falling on you, warming you while you have those last few sips of coffee (or maybe a glass of wine), blissfully assimilating radiant solar power into your being.

I know that not everyone feels this way about the sun. My husband revels in cloudy days and cool weather. He seeks the understories of trees, large overhangs, and wide-brimmed Tilley hats – going out of his way to reside in shadowy fringes to AVOID the sun at all cost (he is Canadian, so that helps to explain some of his idiosyncrasies). From our polar extremes on this issue we somehow meet in the middle and strike a balance that works. Our perrenial summer challenge is to find a spot on the patio where he can be in the shade and I can be in the sun while still sitting together. No kidding.

Yes, I am well aware that these contrary people exist, but I do not understand them, and today I am not even thinking about you-who-are-in-this-group-of-shade-mongers because today is OUR day. To those who are with me on this, to those of you who turn your face to that golden orb in a sea of blue and mark this as the best day, I revel with you.

We’ve come around again, and

I’m beaming.

Go Mute Yourself

Mute yourself!

Unmute yourself!

Click out and

Click back in!

Pull your mask up!

Please sanitize.

I need your link.

Do you have my link?

Attach the link.

Just click the link

and sanitize!

Are we synchronous?

Asynchronous.

What’s the difference?

Just sanitize.

Is this my class?

Where’s my class?

Am I in the right class?

I’ve lost my class.

But did you sanitize?

Does this sound familiar to you? A year ago we did not use this language. A year we did not have this language. A year ago seems oh-so-far away. A year ago we could not have dreamed up this reality. To say that this year is unique is probably a gross understatement. Friday will mark the one year anniversary of our altered reality at school. As a result, this banter has become our ongoing, well-worn vernacular. These exchanges are repeated so often – and we know them so well – we probably mumble them in our sleep. They do make sense in context, but out of context – and sometimes even in the moment – they are really quite hilarious.

So, while we’re still in the fray – a little self-deprecating humor never hurts. Just listen…

I can’t hear you.

Can you hear me now?

I can hear you.

Am I frozen?

You’re frozen.

Am I frozen now?

You’re still frozen.

Always sanitize.

Am I virtual or in person?

Is this A or B?

I can’t see you.

Can you see me now?

Please turn your camera on.

TURN YOUR CAMERA OFF!

Click the link!

That’s the wrong link.

THAT LINK! CLICK IT!

Why not sanitize?

And while we’re at it, do you have your:

doc cam

head phones

ear buds

wipes

divider

face shield

six-foot distancing radar

gator

and mask?

Wonderful!

Thank you for remembering,

One last thing,

Don’t forget to san-

OH, GO MUTE YOURSELF!

Adoration

It is cold and dark but still I step out of the car, drawing my coat tighter around me while crossing the mostly empty parking lot. Ascending three stairs and pulling open the heavy door, I slip inside.

An hour a week, set apart.

Monday nights, although it could be any day or any night – any time at all, really.

Whatever works.

Once inside, a hush envelopes as I exhale into silence. Dimness casts geometry shadows on domino pews edging the aisle to the altar, bathed in light. I pad noiselessly past the other people who stopped here, too.

Maybe for life, for light, for silence, for answers, to speak, to listen.

Who knows why?

There are as many reasons as people.

I slide into a worn pew, soft chanting from somewhere wafts around me and I settle onto the kneeler. Before me is the monstrance – haloed in light and just

perfectly still, perfectly quiet, perfectly there

for you who might step into that space and wrap its essence around you like a comfortable cloak, and think about what you may.

Dynamic Duos

under over weaving

inhale exhale breathing

ticking tocking gears

assuming, assuaging fears

ebbing flowing tides

pro and con – two sides

to and fro-ing trees

stillness? maybe breeze

count and counter points

bending – straightening joints

sinking low : rising soar

getting some, giving more

awake or deep asleep

too shallow or too deep

bit quiet or smidge noise

ache sorrows, holy joys

frenetic time or rest

horrible or best

Piece of cake or challenging,

these the changes life will bring.

darken lighten

soothing frighten

black then white

sure or might

high – low

come. go.

What?

You say it isn’t true?

Hey, look –

perhaps the change is you.

Dying Three Times

‘Creation of Humanity’ by Salma Arastu

I once heard that every person dies three times.

The first death is physical, when your body ceases to function.

The second is the last time your name is spoken aloud.

The third is when the last person who remembers you dies.

I encountered this notion some years ago – from where, I can’t recall – and it has remained with me since. I think about it from time to time, not in a morbid way, but with curiosity and fascination. It prompts me to consider those who walked the planet before me that no one here-now can conjure up. I wonder about the conglomeration of unknown people for which there is no record – who they each were, what they were like, who they were important to, and how many of them there must be.

I think about the loss of my mom six years ago. It was her first death, because we still talk about her often and remember her vividly. In time though, all of us who talk about her and remember her will pass on. When that happens – when her name is spoken for the last time – she will die again, and when she is no longer remembered by anyone, she will die her third death and be gone from the earth, in permanence.

Eventually, this will happen to me, too. I will be a person – and a life – that the ones to come long after me will never know. I will die three deaths: in body, in name, and in memory.

That’s okay.

If what I believe is true, we will regain the chance to know, somewhere on the other side – forever.