As Leaves Pile Up….

Photo by Devin Lyster on Unsplash

Autumn typically is…almost…one of my favorite times of the year.

Typically? You ask. Well, it is 2020 after all.

Almost? you ask.

My kind “four” readers know the answer to that. What follows autumn is winter and this ole’ gal is not a fan of being chilled to the bone. It’s not that I’ve always felt this way. I truly loved my seventeen-plus years in Colorado and obviously there is, most winters anyway, a lot of snow on those majestic Rocky Mountains and certainly enough in the mile-high city of Denver to make one who is averse to winter to permanently seek Caribbean climes. For me though, the difference between winter in Colorado and winter in northern Virginia is humidity. Colorado winters are, in my humble opinion, infinitely more tolerable due to its arid climate. Simply put, the lack of humidity makes cold temperatures feel less so.

I suppose I should simply live in this moment which is a beautiful autumn day full of sunshine and swirling colorful leaves just beginning to pile up in yards and on street corners. I should enjoy the chrysanthemums blooming, their rich bursts of color competing with pumpkins and Halloween decorations in lawns all around the neighborhood. I should be thinking about pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce…cozy nights on the sofa wrapped in my favorite Pendleton blanket…and new Hallmark Christmas movies sure to come despite Covid up-ending the world.

I should. But I don’t have the energy today….

Alas, the life-quake that has shaken our neck of the woods continues to keep me in both a state of perpetual sadness and unbelievable stress. As I try to remain positive during this new crisis, involving…you guessed it…my son, it’s all I can do to “just be” one moment at a time. It seems impossible to think of the upcoming holidays and the joys that they are supposed to bring while dealing with yet another crisis. We’re navigating through this new storm–which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy–as best we can; whacking my Dammit Doll repeatedly against my desk helps but man would I give anything to have an MMA heavyweight punching bag hanging in the garage right about now.

So yes…I am decidedly not in a positive headspace at the moment and regrettably I cannot pretend, as I often do, to be otherwise. I struggle to find an ounce of fun and frivolity…anything to snap myself out of this shit-storm (no better word at the moment!). As I watch the leaves fall and pile at my feet I feel the weight of our up-ended world heavy on my shoulders. Though I know it is not a panacea, even my simple meditation practice has not eased the pressure as much as I had hoped. I know this too shall pass…I know that change is the only constant…but still…

Uncharacteristically, I have a list a mile long of what I dread as winter approaches (and don’t get me started on politics!). I dread, already, the teeth-chattering cold and fierce winds that will make it impossible to walk around the block without getting frostbite. I dread less sunlight, shorter days, and ice-storms. I dread, silly as it seems, the probability of not being able to spend long lazy weekend mornings over coffee and a good book at the local Starbucks due to ongoing Covid restrictions. But most of all, I dread that this madness will never end.

Argh! I know…aren’t I just a ray of sunshine?!

But hey, tomorrow is another day kind reader and with it promises of less bleakness from me. So….there is bliss in that!

(see, I came around….sort-of.)

Mellow Monday

A view in the Woods

Winter continues in my neck of the woods. I won’t complain as we were spared the wintry mix of snow and sleet that had been the forecast over the weekend. However, I’ll readily admit that I am more than tired of gloves, hats and bulky coats. 

Even though I had on all the aforementioned, including a wool scarf, I grumbled during the first few minutes of my morning walk. A cold wind stung my cheeks as I headed into the woods with The Poodle. As we neared the top of the path that leads down into the woods to our two lakes The Poodle pulled, hard. Something in the air had sparked his entire body into keen attention. A soft growl followed by barking broke my focus on the music I was listening to.  The Poodle had his snout practically glued to the muddy path, sniffing like crazy, as he continued to pull.  “Heel,” I said as I looked all around and pulled back on his leash.

Please let it not be the woman with the two Labs, one black and the other yellow.

My boy is as friendly as can be with most dogs…and humans too. But it baffles me that he’ll go all-out Cujo when he sees those two. And it is just those two Labs; he’s happily cavorted with plenty of Labs over these last ten years.

Thankfully, the Labs are nowhere in sight. Perhaps it was a fox that had  him go all Tasmanian devil on me. It’s happened on numerous occasions during our walks in the woods. The first time it happened, just after we had moved to Northern Virginia, it scared me witless. The Poodle was agitated beyond belief, practically pulling my arm out of my socket. For the life of me I couldn’t see what was causing his melt-down. Images of being mauled by a bear (yes, apparently there are bears living in suburbia!) made my heart race as I all but sprinted out of the woods to “safety.” Yep folks….there’s “chicken” in my blood…..

Whoosh. It was over in a flash. The Poodle slowed, as if terribly disappointed, walking once again calmly at my side.  I stopped to pet him rubbing my hands over the length of his back.

“I don’t know what it was that got you in such a tizzy my love, but you are such a good boy.”  He stares at me intently with eyes that are milky with age. For a brief moment my heart is gripped with a certain sadness: my Poodle love will not be with me forever.

But we are here now…together came the thought, as if carried in on a feather.

So yes, the remainder of our walk had me centered inward more than usual.  I’ll attribute my lost-in-thought walk to Hearts of Space (a streaming music service that my brother-in-law got me hooked on several years ago). For the fourth time within a twenty-four hour period I found myself pulled in by this weeks’ music compilation: Specifically program number 1207, titled A Fragile Beauty. This particular playlist features “ambient chamber and choral harmonies for the winter season.”  Eleni Karaindrou’s Love Theme and Johann Johannsson’s  A Pile of Dust compelled me to stop and gaze at the seemingly weak winter sun as it struggled to shine through a thick haze of gray clouds. A shiver shook me awake. I must have mellowed inward far too long as The Poodle had decided to plop himself down on a mess of muck and who knows what else as I stood in the morning quiet.

Oh dear….we’re gonna freeze if I have us stand here any longer. Let’s get home. Kibble for you and coffee for me awaits.

The serene, melancholy and ethereal playlist was really a perfect accompaniment on a cold winter morning but it made me pine mightily for spring.  And so, the universe delivered for on the walk back towards home I spied the beginnings of tulips and crocuses too, pushing up through frozen earth.  Yes! There is the promise of color in the weeks ahead and this lifts my spirits on this, my mellow Monday.

Then around another bend, there’s a pop of color which seals the morning walk with not a promise but a fact.  Winter, as in all things…shall pass.

As torn as one can be about the nature of impermanence, there is bliss in that.

A sign of Spring!

Winter Day Bliss

As usual, I am up before the chickens….before the sun. In the kitchen, I shiver as I reach for the espresso pot. Brrr!. This house is cold! It leaks like a sieve. Sigh. Just one more issue we will have to address at some point.

The sound of my wind chimes break the pre-dawn silence as a fiercely strong arctic wind whips them into a frenzy. One chime is pleasantly melodic while another–the one I brought back from my mother’s garden in Carefree–reminds me of a cow strolling in green pastures, on a hillside in Germany, perhaps. And then there is the one with a tin-can clank and another with a sound reminiscent of the old west, when a wagon train’s comical old cook would call folks to supper around the campfire using a triangle dinner bell.

As I set the pot on the burner The Poodle walks into the kitchen. Usually, while I get coffee–and for some time afterwards– he stays in his bed, curled in a tight ball, slumbering away oblivious to even neighborhood dogs barking. Under my lovely down comforter is where I’d like to be too; alas my wretched internal clock will not allow that indulgence.

The Poodle continues to stand in the doorway looking at me intently. It’s too early for kibble. Could he want his handsome sweater off?

“Oh no, no, no!” I croak, my voice still gravely from sleep. He can’t possibly want to go out now! Going out this early in the morning was not a problem in Southern California (for obvious reasons!) nor even middle-earth-land Alabama; we had a fenced yard.

“It’s not even 5:30,” I tell him. “The wind is fierce. And, I might add, my espresso is brewing.”

I look out the kitchen window and see snow.  Relief washes over me.  The “beast of the east” snow cyclone forecasted for the northeast has effectively missed us.  Nothing major has accumulated; We’ve only got enough of a dusting to cause all sorts of havoc in schedules.   Still, I murmur to the only other ears in the room.  “There is snow my poodle love which would be another reason to hold on, if you can.”

My sister will be over-the-moon delighted when she wakes to see the white stuff. My nephew will be doing cartwheels because of snow-day school cancellation. Moi? Torn. Yes, there is an aesthetic pleasure in a snow-covered landscape where a blanket of white makes even junky yards beautiful. But the bitter cold and driving headaches damper my enthusiasm considerably. Not to mention having to don proper attire to actually walk The Poodle first thing in the morning since our back yard is not fenced-in.  The Poodle would be off in a New York minute to chase those very squirrels that tease him into fevered barking most days of the week.  I suppose blinds to the back deck door would significantly reduce that problem!

The sound of espresso bubbling jars me back to the present. The Poodle continues to stare at me, still as a statue…patient. My heart melts. He looks so handsome in his Pendleton sweater jacket…..

“Please, please let me have my coffee before we head out into this arctic blast,” I implore.

As if he understands, he heads straight for his bed which is near the kitchen table.

How lucky am I?

I pour my cup of coffee and take a seat on the floor next to my four-legged love.  I gasp in mild surprise: Wow! This tile floor is cold!  My poodle love in his smart little sweater is once again curled in his bed and seems fast asleep.   “You are the best “puppy” in the whole world! Thank-you for cutting me a break so early this morning,” I say as I give him a pat.

As the wind howls outside I’ve got time now to enjoy my coffee and a page or two of my current read: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. It’s a story about nine Americans and their quest for the Olympic gold medal at the Berlin Olympics….made all the more heart-thumping because these men–as one review puts it– will literally upstage one of the worlds most notorious monsters, Adolf Hitler. I’m only twenty-one pages in and it’s a riveting read.

I’ve got a million things I could be doing; taking down and storing all the Christmas paraphernalia for starters.  But a day like this seems to scream for endless cups of strong tea and curling up with a good book with a Poodle at my side.

Bliss on a frigid winter day. ❤