Birthday

Lee took this photo last week on the morning of my 46th birthday.

We were in Lake Placid, NY, vacationing with my entire clan.

A big, celebratory dinner was planned, but as I do every year, I longed for some quiet, reflective, soul-nourishing time.

Lee set his watch alarm early – 6:30 am – and after waking our big dog, Meg, filling thermos with creamy coffee and wrapping egg sandwiches (mine gluten-free) in aluminum foil, we snuck out of the house before anyone woke, driving to the marina where we’d rented a boat slip for the week.

There’s something so magical about feeling like you’re the only ones awake, which is just how we felt, slowly driving the boat out onto that still, silent lake.

Lee drove, I sat in the bow, and Meg had the large back seat all to herself.

We cruised in silence, taking in the rustic cottages, stately adirondack pines and rocky shores lining the island around which we drove.

Without need for consultation, we arrived at a cove on the far end of the lake and Lee cut the motor.

We floated and looked around.

“Is that a bird?” I whispered, pointing to a light brown object close to shore, “or the top of a rock?”

Meg sat up at the sound of my voice.  Lee squinted ahead.

“Bird, I think,” he whispered back.

And a moment later, our eyes caught the pair of loons that had emerged from the shadows.

“Mama and Papa,” Lee whispered.  And as if on cue, one of the loons let out that hauntingly beautiful loon call and the smaller brown bird swam to their side.

We landed the boat on the dock at the nearby trail head which leads up the back of Whiteface Mountain.

Typically a four hour hike, we walked just a half hour or so, our usually slow, lopey Meg, full of vigor and joy, leading the way along the moss lined paths.

Lee took the above photo when we arrived back at the dock, after I’d asked for a few minutes more to just sit and be.

Just sit and be.

It was a wonderful beginning to a new year.

What are some of your favorite things to do on your birthday?

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Summer Inspiration

This summer, I’m treating myself to an online writing/photography course.  The class is called Unraveling: Ways of Seeing Myself, and taught by the wonderful, Susannah Conway, with whom I took my first online course, Blogging from the Heartearlier this year.

Our first Unraveling assignment was to think about our feet.  Susannah encouraged us students, 90+ women from all around the world to “Look down at the ground and see where you are in the world.”

Each week we share four of our favorite photos.

These are mine.

The second week’s task was to focus on our reflections; to catch glimpses of ourselves reflected back to us in the world.

Here are my photos from that assignment.

In the meantime, Tucker is reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s book, The Namesake for his summer reading assignment.  In particular, he’s been asked to focus on the advantages and disadvantages of being raised bicultural.

When I came across this poem, I was struck by how it so aptly captured all three; feet, reflections and life between two cultures.

My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears

BY MOHJA KAHF

My grandmother puts her feet in the sink
        of the bathroom at Sears
to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,
wudu,
because she has to pray in the store or miss
the mandatory prayer time for Muslims
She does it with great poise, balancing
herself with one plump matronly arm
against the automated hot-air hand dryer,
after having removed her support knee-highs
and laid them aside, folded in thirds,
and given me her purse and her packages to hold
so she can accomplish this august ritual
and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares
Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown
as they notice what my grandmother is doing,
an affront to American porcelain,
a contamination of American Standards
by something foreign and unhygienic
requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray
They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see
a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom
My grandmother, though she speaks no English,
catches their meaning and her look in the mirror says,
I have washed my feet over Iznik tile in Istanbul
with water from the world’s ancient irrigation systems
I have washed my feet in the bathhouses of Damascus
over painted bowls imported from China
among the best families of Aleppo
And if you Americans knew anything
about civilization and cleanliness,
you’d make wider washbins, anyway
My grandmother knows one culture—the right one,
as do these matrons of the Middle West. For them,
my grandmother might as well have been squatting
in the mud over a rusty tin in vaguely tropical squalor,
Mexican or Middle Eastern, it doesn’t matter which,
when she lifts her well-groomed foot and puts it over the edge.
“You can’t do that,” one of the women protests,
turning to me, “Tell her she can’t do that.”
“We wash our feet five times a day,”
my grandmother declares hotly in Arabic.
“My feet are cleaner than their sink.
Worried about their sink, are they? I
should worry about my feet!”
My grandmother nudges me, “Go on, tell them.”
Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see
at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,
all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent
in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum
Even now my grandmother, not to be rushed,
is delicately drying her pumps with tissues from her purse
For my grandmother always wears well-turned pumps
that match her purse, I think in case someone
from one of the best families of Aleppo
should run into her—here, in front of the Kenmore display
I smile at the midwestern women
as if my grandmother has just said something lovely about them
and shrug at my grandmother as if they
had just apologized through me
No one is fooled, but I
hold the door open for everyone
and we all emerge on the sales floor
and lose ourselves in the great common ground
of housewares on markdown.
So what’s inspiring you this summer? Have you ever taken an online course, or thought about doing so?

 

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Feelin’ the Love?

You may have noticed that I’ve been playing with photos over here on the blog quite a bit lately.  I’ve been incredibly inspired by an online course I’m taking called Blogging from the Heart with Susannah Conway.  It’s my first go at an online course.  I was skeptical at first, but it’s proved not only to be inspiring, but an amazing value.  5 days a week for 6 weeks – 30 classes, for 99 British pounds, which the day I signed up translated to about $157.

I came across Susannah’s work through Tammy Strobel’s blog Rowdy Kittens.   Tammy is the author of the book, You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap) that took my “organizing-decluttering-surrounding myself with the things I love” kick to a new level.  On her blog, Tammy often shares photos she’s taken.  In a recent post she mentioned having edited her photos using Snapseed.  I downloaded it myself and have had a ton of fun editing many of my photos.

Needless to say, my creative juices are flowing, and I’m getting geared up to make some changes to the appearance of my website to reflect just that!  I’m working on a new banner for the top and rather than having my picture up there, I thought I’d put a new one in the sidebar.

This is the one I’m considering…

What do you think?  Are you feeling the love?

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