Making Strides

We just got home from a walk outdoors, our first in many weeks thanks to the frigid cold and icy streets we’ve had for the past two months. This morning, even though the temperature is only in the teens, the sun shines brightly and (almost!) warmly. There is no wind, the streets are dry, both dogs have a definite spring in their step. It felt good to suck in that fresh air after so many days inside the house. 

We have some friends who are leaving today for a month long sojourn in southern Florida, quite near the city where we once had a vacation home. Winter has been extra hard since we sold that house in 2012. Although we were never able to spend entire winters there, I realize now that even spending a few days there every month made a huge different in our ability to withstand the rigors of a Michigan winter. 

Even so, I’ve often thought that were I able to spend a signifiant length of time in Florida (or any warmer clime) I would choose the months of January and February. By the time March arrives, I feel as if I’ve survived the worst, as if I will make it to spring. 

When March comes, I am hopeful. 

Perhaps it’s because March is my birth month, so I feel anticipatory (yes, even at my age).  The calendar says spring arrives this month, although I have seen many a nasty snowstorm come in on March 21. Still there is something in the air in March, a perceptible lengthing of daylight, a definite intensity to the sun that lifts my winter weary spirit.

With those changes come a sense of wanderlust for me, and this year I really feel it. I’ve become aware of a stirring in my own heart lately, something nudging me to fling wide the door and set out, take big strides, see new things. I’ve never been one who craves travel, unlike many of my friends. I’ve always been happiest and home, and most especially so in these past couple of years as we’ve moved and been settling into our condo. Just last year I wrote these words in the Home Life section of Life In General: “I love being home. I enjoy my own company, my own space, and my own time to practice all the homey things I like to do. Sometimes I think I am dangerously close to crossing the line between homebody and hermit. I am so enamored of this house and this place that I must have a really good reason to leave."

I still love my home, still love being in it and doing all those “homey things.” But I’ve noticed a tiny rustling in my spirit, a little bit of longing when I see those commercials for the Viking River Cruises, and slight tug at the heartstrings when I hear the roar of a jet engine overhead. I thought I was immune to that desire. But maybe not.

Maybe my feelings are changing.

The other day I was talking with a young friend who is staying home with her three children after working in a professional career, one she studied long and hard to achieve. “Colleagues keep asking me when I’m coming back to work, but I really don’t want to go back to work. Maybe I should?” she questioned. “But I just don’t, and I’m not sure I ever will."

During the time she’s been home, she’s uncovered an immense creative talent in painting, sewing, and crafting - a talent she never explored or even knew existed until a few years, after a life spent in science and medical field. But this creative work is feeding her soul right now in a way she obviously needs. 

“One thing I’ve learned,” I told her, in a rare moment of motherly type wisdom, “is that the needs and desires for our lives can change drastically during the course of a lifetime. What interests and nourishes us when we’re 25 may be totally different at 35. It’s happened to me, it will happen to you, too.” 

It’s true, the desire for change comes to all of us - even to me, one of the most change resistant people on the planet. It may not occur in the fashion we Michigander’s use to talk about the weather (if you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it will change), but it comes in it’s own way and time. A little over a year ago, I would have said I didn’t care if I ever traveled anywhere, would have insisted that traveling was way overrated, that I was perfectly happy just staying home forever and always.

And yet. That blue sky, that open road. The rolling hills of southern England. The lapping waves of the Gulf of Mexico. The sidewalk cafes of Paris. They are whispering in my ear - come, see.

Ironically, these feelings come at a time when we are less able to travel than ever simply because of our situation. My mother’s health is not good, and she depends on me for so much right now. We have the dogs to consider, our fur babies who have never been left with anyone but my mom who is finding it increasingly challenging to care for them. These were the things I once used to justify my unwillingness to travel, to explain why I never planned trips longer than four or five days. Now it feels more like being held back, when I really want to loosen the reins of my existence. And this is a situation that is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.

The need for change, the desire for change - it comes to us whether we want it or not. Sometimes it creeps up quietly and settles in a remote corner of the heart. Sometimes it rushes in like the March wind. In 2013, I wrote: “There are times when the need for change become palpable, when the yearning for something fresh and new insistently clamors for attention and cannot be ignored."

As I open the door to March and to the promise of “something fresh and new” in the natural world, I want to open myself to these new feelings, notice this change of heart and find ways to satisfy these urges within the set of limitations I have. 

When the need for change begins to clamor, it does no good to ignore it. 


The Sunday Salon: Of Wind (and Windbags); Closets; and Special Places

Blustery. That's the best word to describe the general state of our weather this winter, and it seems to be carrying over into this makeshift of a spring season. This morning the wind whipped around the north side of the house like a twister, rattling the very window panes like the angriest of March lions.

But wait - it's APRIL.

I wonder what the climate change experts are making of these prevailing winds?  Perhaps we should be investing in wind turbines after all.

Today's temperatures are somewhat seasonable, but yesterday was winter redux. Thirty-seven blustery degrees for a high, with not a whimper of sunshine in sight. Nevertheless, I took a leap of faith yesterday and flipped my closet, meaning I transferred all the winter clothes to the the winter closet, discarding an entire 30 gallon plastic sackful in the process. Haven't worn it all year? Gone. Worn it but unhappy whilst wearing it? Into the sack.

Then I did the same with my spring clothes.  The remaining pieces are now hanging, color coordinated, in my closet. And if I have a moment's panic that there are only half a dozen t-shirts left instead of three dozen, I remember that for most of the winter I wore the same four shirts over and over again.

I have become ruthless - RUTHLESS, I tell you -  when it comes to paring down. I do believe my husband and dogs are frightened of me when I get into "pitch it" mode. They huddle up together on the couch, trying to disappear as if afraid they too will get tossed into the nearest bin.

Of course they're safe, but I really have completely embraced the concept of less-is-more, especially since moving into this house. We have lived here over six months now, and I figure that anything I haven't missed yet I'm not going to miss. Yes I only have one set of dishes, but that's really all I need. Instead of 30 different coffee mugs stacked precariously in the cupboard, I have six and that has been plenty. I feel lighter all over without so much stuff taking up space in every corner of my house. (Yes, Deb Smouse, you are spot-on again!)

There are two things that I have trouble tossing - one is books (although I give A LOT of books to our local library book sale) and the other is pictures. Even though nearly all of our new photographs are stored digitally, I have hundreds of old printed ones that I can't bring myself to throw away. I know I could have them digitized, but I like having them in their original format. Happily, they've all found a home inside a wicker storage chest in the basement.

As for books..well, even thought I have plenty of empty shelf space in the "library," there are some books I won't have any qualms about consigning to the book sale. I am reading one right now (well, I was reading it until I finally said 'enough') in which the "hero" is such a slimy, self-serving windbag that I can hardly wait to drop it into the big wooden bin for donations at the library. "Pitch it" mode, indeed.

Now I'm cleansing my mind's palate with the latest Peter Robinson mystery, featuring DI Alan Banks. If you've never read this series, I highly recommend. My husband and I both enjoy these books (which is a rare occurrence - usually our reading tastes never intersect). Watching the Dark is the 20th volume, and it's starting out to be just as well-written and compelling as the rest. Robinson masterfully weaves a lot of stories together in his books, and the narrative of Banks, his family, and his colleagues carries through from book to book which I always enjoy. Plus, they're all set in Robinson's native England - another plus for this closet Anglophile.

englandThe thought of England brings me to thoughts of special places, which I've been contemplating this morning at the behest of my friend Bella Cirovic, and her lovely online group 30 Days in April. "Where is the place that you go outside of your home that is your special spot?" Last year that questions was easier to answer - our home in Florida was always a retreat from the world, a place where everything was pretty and clean and new. And even though I couldn't get there every day (or even every week!), just knowing it was waiting for me got me through some rough times.

Bella's right -we need "special spots" to go when the winds get too blustery and life is too cluttered. Spots where the air is calm and clean, and there is space to stretch your arms out wide and breath deeply. I've claimed that kind of space inside my house by clearing away clutter and making room to be still.

But there is value in having a place outside and away to retreat and renew, because those concepts work in tandem. And so I am on a quest now for a new place that fills my spirit with calm and peace and hope. Maybe it will be as close as the pond behind the house, or as far away as the undulating green hills of southern England.

Maybe the wind will take me there.