Letting Go

The book launch has come and gone. It went well or as good as can be expected during these times. I scheduled the book launch before this recent covid surge and spent the last weeks before the event vacillating between canceling or following through. I didn’t know which one was the best option and I still don’t. Several people did not show due to their concerns of gathering with people who may or may not have chosen to vaccinate. Some came for a few minutes, just enough time to wish me well and buy a book. Others stayed for a while to enjoy the appetizers and visit with friends. A few strangers stopped by as well.

One woman walking by the venue noticed the crowd and decided to come in and see what all the hubbub was about. She bought a book, found a small corner table, ordered something to drink and started to read. Later, she found me.

“I’m just visiting and will be flying back to my home in Florida,” she said. “I picked up your book and have read the first four chapters. I can’t put it down and will be reading this on the plane.” She held up my book and asked if I could sign it. “Oh, and I just recommended the book to my book club.”

Wow. You mean someone actually liked my book? “Thank you,” was all I could think of to say.

My family, friends, and publishing team all tell me I should be proud and bask in the glow of a “job well done.” But I still feel vulnerable showing my work to the world. For years Sylvie was all mine. A story I created and lovingly nurtured; developing the characters that at times felt like they lived in my home.

The tagline for my book is sometimes, holding on means letting go. I thought it a catchy phrase when I first wrote those words but they’ve come to mean so much more to me. The truth is sometimes I do need to let go and hold on to the truth of what Sylvie really is –the accomplishment of a lifelong dream.

How did you find solace this week?

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Maya Angelou

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Clean Freak

My maternal grandparents had twenty-one children, which was always difficult for me to admit to anyone because usually when I told people this fact they’d guffaw or make a sarcastic remark or raise their eyebrows as if in disbelief.

“Twenty-one? You gotta’ be frigging kidding me?”

More often than not I changed the subject and omitted the other detail that my grandparents lived on a farm in a secluded area of northeastern Canada, logged their land, planted potatoes and blueberries, built everything by hand and rarely got sick due to my grandmother’s strict adherence to the saying, “cleanliness is Godliness.” I only visited my maternal grandparents’ home once and was completely blown away by the polished floors, the gigantic hand-hewn wooden table and benches gleaming in the morning light, and the sparkling glass so spotless I wondered if it was truly glass.

My mother inherited this trait of keeping a hygienic and dirt-free home and maintained that every weekend should be spent in the pursuit of “neat and tidy.” And even though there was disorder in other areas of our lives, our physical home was by most standards immaculate.

I too am like this. My husband and kids have teased me, sometimes relentlessly over the years, for my need for clean. As I age I’m trying to not care so much if things are out of place, left to gather dust or not quite right.

However, when I take the time to vacuum the inside of my car layered with a six-month coating of dust,  hose down the car mats, wash the windows and wipe the steering wheel, a certain calm seeps in as I hum or even sing a popular tune out loud.

I’m not sure if it’s the satisfaction of working hard or that things look better or the connection to grandparents and parents who have died many years ago now or maybe it’s just that when I clean house, I just clean house. I’m completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my thoughts. Not planning what I need to do next. Not sucked away reliving the past. Just very present. I wonder if my grandmother did this too or if it was just a way to keep twenty-one children busy and occupied.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Autumn

There is a definite change in the air when I lace up my running shoes, put my earbuds in, and head out the door for my morning run. Whether from the colder temperature or listening to the Top 40 hits, I run fast picking up my knees, even climbing a few hills as if I was thirty, okay forty. There is light frost on my neighbor’s roof.

I’m a four-season gal. I try not to pick favorites but fall, or autumn as they call it in Australia and Canada, has a special place in my heart, especially this year. Gone are the tourist crowds and the smoky, sultry days of summer. The air quality is excellent. Forecast is for rain all weekend. Yes! Never thought I’d say that living in the Pacific Northwest but here I am cheering on gray, gloomy days.

The cedar trees around my house have red-brown tinges on their leaves. I think they might’ve given up trying to grow and have succumbed to letting go of anything they might not need. I imagine them saying “Enough already, bring on winter”. We planted two maple trees and although we watered them all summer, they too have begun to shed, a beautiful carpet of rosy reds on the forest floor. Four tiny aspen, fenced in to protect from the grazing white-tail deer that roam through our property, now stand barren waiting until the spring to blossom again.

When I empty a large planter that sat on my front porch all summer, I hear the distinct honking of a flock of Canadian geese on their migratory route and breath in a lungful of refreshing air, grateful to live in a four-season land where I embrace and find comfort in change.

I woke, early

on an autumn morning

a slight shift of color

deep greens fading

faint tinges of red amid the wild rose

and yellow amongst the lowest leaves of the alder

the lost cries of the geese overhead

miles away from the lake

beginning their way

to warmth

away from cold

away from me.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Loving Well

When I get close to the end of my life, there will be one question I hope to answer with an affirmative yes.

Did I love well?

It will not be how many books I wrote or how much money might be in my bank account or the number of places I visited. It will be about how much I unconditionally and wholeheartedly loved my family, cherished my friends and community, appreciated and respected the earth we live on, and managed those changes in my life with grace and compassion.

I think I will also ask if I watched enough sunsets and sunrises, said yes more than no, wrote cards to friends, remembered to thank those who were kind to me, and if I let go of grievances, regrets, and what-ifs.

In undertaking publishing a book and writing more regularly, I’m reminded how irrelevant things like success and recognition are without loving well. For without it, nothing really matters. It’s that simple don’t you think?

Mother Theresa once said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

There’s a comfort to those words as my book goes live and I’m filled with nervousness and shaky uncertainty.  Will people like my book?  Will I get negative reviews?  Will anyone even read it?  I keep reminding myself, that’s not what’s important. Remember why you wrote the book …

Because of my love for one person.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Finding Solace when Things are not Calm

For the past week I’ve vacillated from feeling nervous to edgy to agitated with little room for stillness and tranquility. All the ways in which I find solace have not helped relax my internal shakiness, leaving me more tentative than I’ve been in quite some time. It’s as if the rug has literally been pulled out from under me.

I got the proof for my book and it looks different than I thought it would. I forgot some things. My acknowledgment page is too short. I failed to mention some important people in my life. My misses and mistakes are long and I can’t help but chastise myself for my whoopsies and oh-ohs which have spun my romantic view of being an author on its’ head –the throbbing quality of groundlessness forcing me to stand in the middle of my vulnerability.

Pema Chodron wrote a book called When Things Fall Apart. In it she discusses how we don’t really know how things will turn out and when there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that will be the end of the story or just the beginning of a great adventure. Things are always in transition and nothing ever sums itself up in the way we like to dream about. She goes on to explain how important it is to stick with this uncertainty, to relax in the midst of chaos and to compassionately love ourselves with all our flaws and limitations.

I think remembering solace when it is not calm is just as meaningful as when things are all hunky-dory, maybe even more so, and sometimes comfort is as simple as recalling the sky when I can’t see it or the sound of the river in spring or the steam rising from my tea on a winter’s night.

It seems all over the world, everyone is striking out against someone else, so, I’m not going to war with myself and will practice peace instead; sit right in the center of my Achilles’ heel and loosen up. Solace in finding calm where there is no calm.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Laughter

I tend to be a serious person and forget how wonderful it is to laugh; chuckle when I make a mistake or to “lighten up and relax already” –a comment I’ve heard more than just a few times over the years.

Today, the owner of the local venue for my book launch kindly offered a chance for my husband and I to taste the appetizers  they hoped to serve at the celebration – on their day off no less. We sat around a nice table and sampled three delicious hors d’ouevres: cheese, tortellini, basil, tomatoes with balsamic vinaigrette on crostinis and yummy skewers with prosciutto, olives, and different soft cheeses. The staff asked questions about the book, eager to please, excited for the event, wanting to make a good impression. Everything felt a bit apprehensive-ish; the owner politely refusing to eat anything.

At one point, I caught my reflection off a glass window and startled. My lips were pursed together and my brow seemed to grow into one line. My hair looked a little wild from the hot yoga class I just came from. I looked around at these thoughtful people and realized they were taking their cue from me.

I tried to crack a joke, not really one of my fortes. “You know I’ve never done this before; book launch I mean. So, I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

Everyone at the table paused in their eating as if someone had just pressed the stop button on the remote control. Then the owner smiled, one of those big soulful smiles that made her eyes dance. “We’ve never done a book launch here either!”

We looked at one another and burst out laughing.

From then on, everyone started to chatter about nothing in particular; the weather, the changes in our town, a new book someone had just read.

The owner picked up one of the crostinis and complimented the chef, “You know, these are quite delicious.”

We laughed some more. I bought a few things for the celebration give-away basket: a bottle of their signature wine, a stemmed glass with their logo. She threw in a package of paper napkins with the inscription well red and we ended our time together with heartfelt thankyous.

The owner let us out through their large, heavy wooden door with sizable window partitions that shown brightly in the afternoon light and where I could catch my smiling face. I think my eyes might’ve even held a hint of joy. Laughter is a gift. Truly.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Unplugged

Yesterday, I did not turn on my computer or my phone and left my house for the day, traveling up north about twenty-five miles or so; first on the highway, then onto a dirt forest service road for several bumpy miles until I reached the trail head –destination, a secluded high mountain lake.

Before I swung on my daypack, I checked the outside temperature: 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The narrow earthen path had several puddles and the rain drops on the underbrush indicated it had indeed rained the evening before. The sunshine warmed my legs as I headed up the first switchback.

Several miles later, I came to a rock slab and began a vertical climb to a ridge. At the top, breathtaking views of a distant mountain range appeared from the north. I stopped only for a moment or two before continuing my way to a lake nestled among three mountain peaks, the grey-black rock in sharp contrast to the soft blue hues of the water.

I found a flat boulder overlooking the lake and decided it was the perfect lunch spot. First, I removed my sweat soaked t-shirt and snuggled into a warm fleece pullover; then, poured a cup of lavender-chamomile tea from a thermos I seem to always insist on bringing whenever I head into the high country.

I think I must’ve sighed a dozen times, letting my thoughts drift. A golden eagle flew overhead –my guess, searching for an unsuspecting pika. I watched the bird make several dives seemingly right into the rock crevices and admired its’ tenacity and razor-sharp focus –something I’ve come to appreciate more and more as my book launch nears and the cover of my book grace the pages of Amazon and Target and posters and social media pages.

After my return from the solitude of hiking in the hills, I resisted the temptation to turn on my computer or check my phone, hopeful that the peace of the day would stay nestled in my heart for a few more hours before answering the author call to duty. I’m no expert about raptors, but I do know that eagles eventually rest as well.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved.

Book Launch

When my book consultant asked, “So, what are doing for your book launch?”

I shrugged and responded, “I don’t know.”

She hates those three words. “Not good enough! Think book launch party, book signing, book clubs.”

Images of balloons, party favors, a cake, gifts, champagne sailed through my head. “Okay,” I replied weakly. I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about but I began to research and read and asked questions and more questions, writing everything down in a journal I’ve dedicated to publishing.

Then she asked the hard question. “How will you measure your book launch success?”

Gulp. What? The words were out of my mouth before I could catch them. “I don’t know.”

Her eyebrows lifted and she let out a long sigh before replying, “Figure out what you want!” and quickly ended our Zoom call.

I’m learning that to launch a book literally takes a village –designers, illustrators, editors, consultants, manufacturers, printers, advertisers, website design, appropriate venues. And that having the book published is only a small piece, albeit an important piece, of the whole picture.

My book launch celebration is on September 29th at one of my favorite local venues: free appetizers, a cash bar, a drawing for a $50 gift basket with of course a signed copy of my book, Sylvie.* Several boxes of the signed limited 1st edition copies from an offset printer will be available. I know it won’t be the end but just the beginning of my author trek. My book consultant will likely congratulate me but will also be quick to add, “Which book clubs did you connect to? What’s your market? Did you post pictures of the party on your social media?”

“Already on it,” I’ll say somewhat proudly. I think she’ll like those three words better.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

*Sylvie is a tender, poignant novel exploring how the delicate threads binding a family together can unravel when faced with an unexpected tragedy and how they find hope, inspiration, and forgiveness to continue. It took me years to write this first novel; a labor of love highlighting my long career in the mental health field.

Yoga

Yoga is part of my daily life; get up, drink something hot, do yoga. I started my yoga practice when I lived in India in the latter half of the 1970s and then continued to practice in my home when I returned to North America; discovering that I just felt better when I repeated the asanas day after day. There weren’t many yoga studios in those days ‘nor was there such a thing as ‘registered yoga teacher’ or ‘yoga teacher training courses.’ Now of course, yoga classes are everywhere –online, at in person studios, on the television, streaming from my phone, podcasts to listen to, Instagram, and so on.

Although I have all these choices, I still prefer to run through the sequences learned over forty years ago in the comfort of a small yoga room in my home; feeling invigorated when I repeat those postures day after day.

My first teacher, an energetic 94-year-old, who did not speak English very well always remarked, “only young as spine is stretchy.”

I think he meant flexible or supple but stretchy is a nice word; kind of like one of those malleable bendy toys. Remember Gumby?

There are days now when I don’t feel too “stretchy” yet I carry on; approaching each new day with renewed commitment and teach one yoga class a week. My students always thank me for teaching, but I really thank them because they give me the opportunity to pass along the tradition, to welcome every morning of my life, and to not give up. Or should I say not give in, letting my body become taut and unyielding.

I’m launching my book at the end of next month, soon to be live on Amazon, and my daily practice of yoga gives me more comfort than I have words for; my breath in sync with my movement, releasing tension, softening the edges, letting go of the unnecessary, appreciating the moment. Simple practice. Great refuge.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Water

The extreme heat continues to plague the Pacific Northwest causing record drought conditions. Wildfires are igniting and spreading quickly. We are in our third month of no measurable rainfall. The trees around my home look stressed and the tall grasses have already turned yellow brown. Usually, this time of year everything should be an emerald-green color.

We’ve taken to turning on a sprinkler every evening to prevent the land from turning into a dust bowl. Yesterday, around dusk, I went outside to turn off the water and noticed a mama deer with her fawn munching on some of the newly watered grasses. They didn’t run away but kept eating, the mama watching me ever so carefully as her newborn suckled. No sooner had I sat down on my back deck, thinking to watch the deer for a few minutes longer, when a snowshoe hare hopped out of the woods and made a beeline for the wet grassy places; then, two gray squirrels and a small flock of flycatchers. All wanting a drop or two or three of something that I think is becoming more and more precious. Water.

As a young woman hiking trails in our National Parks, I never thought twice of drinking water from a stream in the lush backcountry. If someone would have told me then that fresh waters would become polluted and I would have to either carry or filter my water whenever I hiked, I would not have believed them.

Now, I read about how once filled lakes and streams and aquifers are drying up; even climate predictions of how water will become the world’s number one greatest commodity.

I don’t think I can take the clean, clear water coming from out of our well for granted anymore; or when it rains or when I take a long drink of fresh cool water right out of the kitchen faucet. Maybe, water, once a small thing, is now a great thing.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Handwritten Letters and Cards

When I went to get the mail yesterday, the bundle contained the usual junk mail, a bill, and a card addressed to me in a lovely cursive script I recognized. I thought for a moment, when was the last time I received a handwritten letter or a card or even a note? Months? Years?

In our age of social media, with quick to very quick to very, very quick flashes of correspondence, I think the art of taking time to write a handwritten letter to someone we care about might be fading or maybe it already has been replaced by the stream of so many new ways to communicate: emojis, likes, dislikes, photos, images, links, texts, and many more I’m not even aware of.  Maybe emails are thing of the past?

Sigh….

I guess my preferred way of connecting with my loved ones are a little outdated –still preferring to sit at my desk and write a letter filled with details about the weather, what I bought at the farmer’s market, a book I just read, my hopes and inspirations; all those mundane minutiae that somehow make me feel closer to my son who lives on the other side of the Pacific Ocean or my extended family or those friends I haven’t seen for years.

Standing in line at the grocery store this morning, I eyed a new display stand full of attractive cards; photos on the front of each of them depicting beautiful images of local flora and fauna. I bought several, thinking of who I might send them to, and later, wrote a card to my son who I haven’t seen since before the pandemic began and likely will not see for another year, taking so much joy to write about my life here –almost as if he was in the next room. It’s not the same, I know, but that little bit of comfort made my cup feel half full instead of half empty. What a great thing.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Empty Spaces

When I was younger, a common phrase could be heard with groups of friends or colleagues or to loved ones: “I need space.” Space from activities and worthy causes and interesting people and things to get done or days filled with appointments and meetings and dates.

Yesterday, I used this old line when my husband asked if I wanted to get together with some of our friends.

I drew in a long slow breath and replied. “I just need some space.”

Space from talking with my book consultant about the many things I have yet to complete for my upcoming book launch, space from the details surrounding changes needed on my website, space from all the zoom meetings I’ve been on, and even space from myself for already planning my next book.

I’ve realized there is beauty in space, in nothingness. Like the tall hemlock tree near my house standing alone against the empty sky. Is it the tree that is beautiful or the space around the uneven branches? Or the sculpture in my home of two herons against an otherwise completely empty white wall. Or the pause between two beautifully sung musical notes.

I find when I have time to think or watch a butterfly land on a lofty lavender bush or time to look at the stars, the space between thoughts is a refuge. The silence allowing me to bask in moments of comfort and happiness, balancing my need to be productive and just keep creating.

So, when I found out today that my books would not be delivered until the second or third week of September, pushing back my book launch by a month or more, I decided the space between where I am today and where I will be in a few months’ time is just what I need.

Time for empty hours in my day or aimless rooms in my life in which to be by myself and know the river moves by itself. I don’t need to push it.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved.

Moccasins and Old Friends

I’ve worn moccasins around the house for decades, preferring the ones made with soft suede leather and lined with sheepskin; wearing them until the lining has thinned to nothing, the sole has two or three holes, the stitching ruptures or the heel pad is threadbare. Then, I inevitably leave an opened catalog, at the slipper page, in an obvious place hoping or rather knowing my husband will get the hint and order me a new pair for my birthday or our anniversary or for under the tree.

There’s nothing quite like placing my feet in a new pair. Oos and ahhs can be heard throughout my house as I marvel at the craftmanship and beauty.

And even when I have my new pair, I don’t rid myself of the old ones quite yet preferring to slip them on every now and again –like meeting up with an old friend who recognizes my idiosyncrasies and yet doesn’t criticize or judge or fail to love me.

As the years go by, I find moccasins and old friends to be two things that bring more comfort than I have words to describe but I’ll try: comfort and ease and luxury and coziness and relief and wellbeing and security and relaxation and contentment and solace…

Moccasins once lined with

thick fluffy soft lambswool

are now ghosts of what they were

laces gone and falling apart

worn out and looking

dog-tired

holes on the bottom heel

a thousand days of warming my toes

and comforting me

like my old friend who

out of the blue

wrote an email message filled

with love and missing me and wanting

to connect and remembering

our young selves

dancing on the rocks

in the Himalayas.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

The Best Horse

Many years ago, I bought a book from a small bookstore in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. The book was called Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryi Suzuki and cost $2.50; which at the time, seemed like a lot of money for an almost out-of-my-teens young woman living on a meager income and attending a few college courses.

I’d always felt a bit like a beginner in almost everything I did due to where I grew up –in an end of the road tiny town in northern Canada where the one movie theater received their films way past when most every other town and city in North America had viewed them. Consequently, fashions and trends were late too. So, I thought the book could help me overcome my feelings about being behind.

In the book, there’s this passage about four kind of horses: excellent ones that run perfectly in step to their rider’s will; second best ones that run almost as good as the excellent ones; the third best who will run when they feel the snap of a whip; and the worst ones that will only run after it has been flogged.

Most of us, including me, want to be like the excellent horse; always getting things right, in step with the rest of the world, admired, cherished.

The chapter goes on to describe that sometimes the best horse may be the worst horse and the worst horse might actually be the best – those who think they are the worst but always trying to be better might be the best horse.

I picked up that book the other day, feeling a little out-of-sorts with my publishing journey; wondering about next steps, indecisive about things my author friends tell me are “no brainers.”

I don’t know if it’s true or not that the worst horse can be the best horse but it sure does gladden my ole’ heart that maybe, just maybe, struggles in life are worth it.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

The Moon

Many of my friends have favorite moon phases –the full moon or the half-moon or a new-moon, even no moon. Some tell me their creativity flourishes under a full moon. Others say they don’t sleep well when the moon is full. And a few are convinced that the best time to begin an innovative project is on the new moon.

The one thing I like about the moon is that everyone can see it and no one owns the moon – at least not yet. I can be anywhere in the world and see it, know it’s there somewhere behind the clouds or about to rise or set on the horizon.

Years ago, when I lived in Asia, I saw my first lunar eclipse, staying up until the wee hours of the morning watching the full moon wane completely until it was just a shadow and then wax again. Only a wisp of a cloud obscured the view as my Asian friends and I talked about the significance: would the next year bring us closer to our dreams or further; would there be some sort of a world disaster; would we meet someone special? We fantasized about the island we were on being suddenly hit by a tsunami or a volcano erupting and sending rivers of hot lava down the mountainside into the villages. 

Nothing happened. The moon waned and got full again. I left Asia to settle back in North America and have watched the moon for years now: reflecting off the snow on a clear, cold winter night; sparkling over the lake on a summer evening; a perfect sliver crescent resting on a mountain peak; rising in the east just after sunset taking on a golden hue.

Whenever I can, especially on cloudless nights, I take a moment –maybe 15 seconds, to admire the moon, thankful for its calming presence in my life and reminding me what a great thing it is to have eyes to see and a heart to feel.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved