Getting Back to Normal

With the recent rains, the air smells of water-logged leaves, moist soil, and hints of wood smoke from neighbors’ fireplaces. Yesterday, it poured all day creating big puddles on the roads. Dry streams are now running full and the moss in the forest is a bright green. The crispy-dry parched earth and smoke-filled skies from this year’s intense summer replaced by what it should feel like here in the northwest.

Yesterday, when I got back from my daily walk, I saw a snowshoe hare hopping across our driveway. Its fur turning noticeably whiter. During winter, snowshoe hares are normally white, helping them camouflage in the snow from predators. Last year, I startled one of those hares holed up under our front porch. Its fur had completely changed to white. When the conspicuous snowy colored hare vaulted out from under the porch and dashed across the brown field void of snow, it was a rare sight indeed. So unusual, like what the whole of this last year has felt like.

My friends all think this will be a “good winter” with lots of snow and much, much colder. I think the forest, the wildlife, the lake, and the mountains all need that, as well as myself. I want to believe things can go back to normal. That we can have an average winter with an average snowfall. Cold enough to wear my down jacket and ski right off my deck. Just an average holiday season where I can meet with friends and celebrate with family. A time to find comfort around the fireplace after a day skiing or snowshoeing, my toes and face numb from the cold. Blowing ripples on my hot chocolate before sipping and relishing in that sweet solace.

You know, trusting in a more natural order where everything might feel a bit more relaxed again. A cold, snowy winter followed by a rainy spring and a warm summer. The extremes and extremism resting for a while to give way to just an ordinary, normal, balanced calm.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Giving Thanks

American Thanksgiving is Thursday and people from all around the country will come together to celebrate with an abundance of food and cheer. Others will volunteer their time to prepare and serve a  meal to those less fortunate. Some will choose not to observe the holiday, while still others may not be able to.

I was born and raised in northern Canada where we observed Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. I remember it as a day off from school, a time to catch up on homework, followed by a nice meal and my mother’s delicious apple pie. Nothing fancy. No relatives. (However, I believe Canada has since adopted some of the more festive elements of the American Thanksgiving.)

My own family and my husband’s extended family have taught me how to enjoy this joyous occasion over the years and I’ve adopted several of the commemoration norms, even creating a new one. It is now part of how we mark Thanksgiving, or our term for the day, Giving Thanks.

Before we sit down to enjoy dinner, I fill one of my large pottery bowls half-way with cold water and  empty one or two bags of fresh cranberries; they float nicely on the water. Next, I place a tea candle for each person sitting at our dinner table on top of the cranberries and return the bowl to its place of honor –the centerpiece. Gathered around the table, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing, we pass around a long stemmed lighter as we each take a turn to light a candle and verbalize what we are grateful for. Usually, it’s about something specific for the year but sometimes we can’t help ourselves and voice many other things we are thankful for. Sometimes my vision blurs as my eyes threaten to leak a torrent of emotion.

Last year we did not get together because of the pandemic and this year we will not be together either. But I will still fill the greenish blue earthenware bowl with water and cranberries and float my candle of thanks.

Thank you to my wonderful family who have supported me without condition. Thank you for encouraging me to find the guts to publish and for always being so steadfast in your love. I am so much more because you are in my life.

Thank you to all my friends and colleagues, my pillars of strength.

Thank you to all the volunteers who supported others this past year.

Thank you to every single medical professional and caretaker and staff who helped more than I can even begin to write about.

Thank you to the service industry who provided meals and food and smiles and encouragement. It helped me get through some rough days.

Thank you to everyone who chooses kindness over malice. Your thoughtfulness makes a difference.

“What if today, we are just thankful for everything?” Charlie Brown.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

A Delicate Changing World

A few days ago, my husband and I took a hike to a place we had not visited in over thirty years. After a long, bumpy ride on a dirt forest service road we found the trailhead, parked, threw on an extra layer and began the climb to the top. Along the way we remarked on how beautiful the valleys looked, filled with the autumn yellow color of the western larch. When we got to the summit, the ribbons of gold stretched as far as we could see –into Montana and Canada. Truly spectacular.

We tried to take a selfie to replicate a photo taken of us there over thirty-seven years ago. However, our cold fingers fumbled in our attempt to do so, the arctic-like wind whipping our hair out of our caps as the cold crept into the tiny openings in our jackets, sending chills down our spines. After ten tries we gave up and later laughed when we peered into the phone photo gallery: half-faces, no heads, out of focus, too close.

We hiked down off the rocks and found a little crevice away from the gusts; a tiny spot with just enough room to sit on our haunches and drink sips of hot tea from our thermos along with a few mouthfuls of peanuts, chocolate, and dried apricots; not feeling too much different from the first time on that mountain top.

On the way back, we didn’t talk much, too engrossed in the beauty of the day. The saying “we only pass this way but once” kept popping into my head. I never thought it would have taken over thirty years to return to this incredible place. But it did. We agreed to come back next year and the year after and the year after that. But who knows what will happen between now and then? In the meantime, I quietly promised myself to absolutely enjoy the passage of time. Today. Now.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

The Joy of Cooking

Cool, rainy fall days have replaced the intense heat-filled days of summer. The sun rises later and later and sets earlier and earlier. My driveway is covered with fallen leaves and the forecast is for rain and more rain. I’m not complaining.

Yesterday, after yoga class, a friend stated, “Love this rainy weather. Makes me want to just curl up with a good book and make soup. A big pot of it to last the whole week.”

I agreed. I often find refuge in cooking something as ordinary as soup or hours making a special dish.

Once home I rummaged around a bottom cupboard for a couple of recipe books, thinking to make one of my favorite casseroles. Hidden underneath the ones I usually use was an ancient recipe book I hadn’t opened in a while, filled with handwritten notes and recipes that truly are from a different era. Reading a few made me laugh out loud:

“Yaghurt – The latest French food craze – 1905

Have you tasted any yaghurt yet? It is the latest food craze in France and has reached its popularity because it’s a sure remedy for the disease of growing old. Yaghurt, it is explained, is a curdled milk of a special kind, prepared after a Bulgarian recipe. It can be obtained in tins in Paris. It is supposed to be fatal to all sorts of hostile bacteria in the intestines, while friendly microbes thrive on it. It is said to look like ordinary cream cheese gone bad and tastes similarly. People who wish to live to a hundred eat nothing else for breakfast; but many who have sampled it prefer to die young …”

What a hoot! The recipe goes on to describe how to make it at home. Since, we can now all easily buy yaghurt, known today as yoghurt, in any grocery store I didn’t think anyone would want to know how to make it from scratch.

Instead of making the casserole, I ended up re-reading the cookbook containing many other things besides recipes: health tips, remedies, canning instructions, and how to dry herbs for instance, and found myself immersed in old timer tales and sayings: “3 meals a day makes your mind cloudy,” or “cook when you feel relaxed and unpressed for time,” or “cook only once every day or two…”

Or how about this one, written in 1954: “the little ways of cooking in our daily life remains the least subject to change while society rises, collapses and rises anew…”

Happy Autumn everyone. Here’s to the joy of cooking …

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Cat Nap

In the whirlwind of post book launch, I decided to take a day and do nothing; just be quiet for several hours. I didn’t turn on the television or listen to music and purposely turned off my computer and phone. My home seemed to breath a sigh of relief or maybe it was just the echo of my deep exhalations.

Several decades ago, when I lived in southeast Asia, I bought a small book called The Miracle of Being Awake by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book, a series of essays, is about basic mindful meditation practices; how to let go and truly relax.

I like many of the exercises the Venerable Hanh recommends but one in particular: letting go in a lying down position. So easy.

The instructions are something like this: Lying on my back on a flat surface without the support of a pillow and keeping my arms loosely by my side with my legs slightly apart, I just gently breathe in and out, allowing my mouth to open in a half-smile; letting go of every muscle as if I am sinking into the floor. Thich Nhat Hanh compares the relaxation exercise to a cat, completely relaxed before a warm fire, muscles yielding without resistance. Just breathing in and out.

Sometimes I fall asleep. Not a deep sleep, more like a nap. But when I wake up, I feel refreshed; restored somehow as if I went to a special place. I like to think it might be a secret or magical place just for me but it’s probably just my imagination.

The word nothing in the French language translates to la nullite´ meaning uselessness or nobody. It’s comforting to know the simple practice of doing nothing need not be productive or something I need to excel at.

Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Nobody home.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Poetry

I tend to express myself best through my poetry –finding the fewest of words to convey my deepest feelings. Some people tell me that poetry is hard but I think it’s the easiest form of writing, especially contemporary poetry where I can freely create without worrying about syntax or structure.

Growing up I wrote poems on envelopes, receipts, paper bags; anything I could find really to jot down words popping into my head like describing the taste of the snow melting in my mouth or walking to school one very cold winter morning. All the bare trees were covered in a layer of ice. When the sun rose, low on the horizon that time of year, everything exploded in a sea of diamond light. It was so spectacular I spent the rest of the day trying to find the right words, even missing lunch with my friends, too engrossed in the flow of words stemming from somewhere inside me.

And sometimes I find the best way to express my love is to, well … you know, write.

My Faith in You

with honor and loyalty

embellished

in your heart

like the old television series

Lassie,

I believe everything

you tell me

and though sometimes I should

know better

and not take you so seriously

maybe even laugh

let my fingers ruffle through

your hair

I can’t help myself

for always believing

in you  

the way your eyes mist

over when I read

a recent poem

the kindness you show

to strangers

the love you shower

me with day after day

as we grow old and older

and older

and if you were to tell me

that there is indeed a place

where we will meet after death

I would believe you.

I would believe you

as I’ve always done before.

Sharon

How did you find solace this week?

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

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