Less is More

When I write poetry, I try my best to convey my thoughts and or feelings with the least number of words. Then, I save, close the document, and let it be for several days, sometimes even weeks, before I return to read it. When I do, I scale it down again, remove anything excessive; save, close, and repeat the process until I capture exactly what it is I wanted to describe in the first place. Some poems make it, many don’t.

My writing space reflects this less is more attitude as well. A desk, a lamp, a whiteboard for to-do lists and snippets of inspiration, thesauruses, a drawer for my favorite pens and post-it notes, a coaster to hold hot tea, my laptop. There are two large windows overlooking the land I live on allowing for lots of light.

I also have a journal to write in because sometimes I revert back to when I wrote everything longhand. You know, before computers, the internet, cellphones. I did have a typewriter then, but I didn’t use that until I had perfected or at least edited the heck out of my poems before typing them and using white-out more times than I want to admit.

Less is more has become a daily mantra; a discipline to get rid of things I no longer need or use and to not let things accumulate into piles of the unnecessary. To be content with what I have. To say what I want to say. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Mare

The path climbs, noises

fall away. Two hawks fly

overhead. To my right,

in a flowering laurel, a bluebird

eyes the terrain

as a wind lifts my hair.

When the path levels

I look down, the lake

in full view. A turquoise gem

in the midst of grey-black rock,

red cedars, blue spruce

a cobalt sky.

Ahead, the path rolls

in undulating waves

of color. I let out a breath

I did not know I was holding

and quietly remember

you.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

A Winter Morning Alone

I found solace this week on a solo cross-country ski close to home. When I got to the trailhead, there were only three cars in the parking lot. I saw only one couple the entire time I spent skiing between trees and rocks and boulders, resting every now again to admire the view or appreciate the moment.

The swish of my skis on the newly groomed trail was the only sound I could hear. My breath made little vapor clouds in the crisp morning air and the early sunlight peeked through two tall spruce trees, glimmering like diamonds on the fresh snow. Sliding across the landscape, my steady heartbeat seemed to be in rhythm with the glide of my skis. It might not have been perfect, likely not even close, but it felt like that. My jumbled-up thoughts, all mixed together like a pile of mismatched paperclips, slowly untangled. The tension and worry waned. My shoulders dropped. My mouth started to turn upwards. 

Whether from the physical workout that cross-country skiing provides, the quiet, the beauty of an early winter morning or the solitude, maybe all four, I found calm in the midst of an anxious world and sometimes an unsettled mind.

The peace stayed with me for the rest of that day, into the evening hours, and even today when I went for a walk.  So, what if I didn’t post on my social media platforms? So, what if I am now behind on my latest writing project? So what?

Maybe I should cross country ski by myself more often.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Daydreams

I learned at a young age that daydreaming about what I wanted or needed not only filled the empty void of my longing, but often satisfied it as well. The small settlement I grew up in did not have much in the way of merchandise stores so I used to spend hours leafing through the free Sears & Roebuck catalog that made its way to our house about twice a year. The spring catalog was filled with trendy swimsuits and lounge chairs and water pistols and classy knickknacks. The fall catalog had all the Christmas toys and warm coats and fashionable kitchenware or household objects. I used to play this game that I could have one thing on each page for free, but if I chose two things, I’d lose, and have to forfeit my wish before I could go on. I spent hours and hours with those catalogs and when I was finished, my hunger for material things evaporated. Which was a good thing because my parents couldn’t afford much.

When I left home, I continued to play that game, leafing through more modern magazines at the dentist or doctor office or on a plane or waiting for the thousands of matters I’ve had to wait for over the years; yearning for a new home, an updated washing machine, replacing timeworn furniture, stylish clothing or buying gifts for my loved ones.

And although my life has improved significantly since those days, I still catch myself playing that game, not to hope for a new living room couch or an up-to-date television or a fancy vacation, but to remember how far I’ve come, how my imagination saved me, and how it still does.

Ode to Youth

Sometime in the morning light

it seemed I was climbing

a mountain

with my memory helping me up

but later

I see my hand

wrinkled with brown spots

and remember

the years

since that time

I raced up slopes

free and full of promise

eager for the summit

my chest to seemingly burst

open like a thousand

migrating birds

leaving me speechless

as the wind played with

my hair

and sunlight danced

into my heart.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

It’s Just a Matter of Time

The legendary Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu (believed to have lived in the 6th century BCE), wrote that time is a created thing with no past and no future. Other philosophers have advocated  for time being a continuous flow, with no stopping or starting point. Physicists have described time as a fourth dimensional reality and Einstein concluded that time is relative, meaning it all depends on your frame of reference. A few scientists have even proposed that time is an illusion. Interesting.

I often look at the clock to see what time it is. Is it time to get up or to go to bed or to make dinner or attend a scheduled zoom call or record a favorite movie? Is it time to tackle a new project or publish my next book or submit those poems I’ve kept hidden? Is it time to go on a diet or trade in my old car for a new one? Is it time to cut my hair or throw out boxes of accumulated stuff I no longer use? Time to be kind to myself and others? Time to be joyful and at peace?

I lost a few family members, as well as friends, and acquaintances over the course of these last few years. Some of my family members said things like, “I always thought we’d have more time,” or “I didn’t expect she’d go so soon.”

Time probably means different things to everyone but the one thing I think we all share is that no one knows for sure when their “time” will be up. And after that, well, your guess is as good as mine.

So, for me, time is about this moment right now and enjoying my life as the days and nights and days and nights tumble into one another, making all the cliché sayings so true. The clock’s ticking. Time flies. Lost track of time. Don’t worry… we’ll be there in no time. Only time will tell. One day at a time. It’s just a matter of time.

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride…”  
James Taylor

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon  Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Carefree

Once, while in Nepal, a spiritual teacher told me that one of the best things in life is to be carefree; “being open from within, not constricted, or tight or bumping up against things.” But rather, to be relaxed, free, unhampered, without the need to achieve something or be someone special. He even went on to say, “even when something isn’t funny, still smile.”

I think what he meant was to embrace both the disappointments and the joys of life with the same equanimity and not be consumed by the need for approval or recognition. Which is easier said than done.

Today, I had two things happen within an hour of each other. I received an email from a professional reviewer who didn’t particularly like my book, even her positive comments where off (at least in my humble opinion.) Feeling disappointed, I decided to go for a long walk. Near the top of a hill, I passed an acquaintance and greeted her with a quick, “hello.”

She stopped, ran over to me, and grabbed my arm. “I just wanted to tell you I read your book and it’s  one of the best books I’ve ever read.” Her eyes had a misty quality to them.

“Really?” was all I could muster.

“Yes, really. It’s right up there in my top five books of all time.”

I smiled and thanked her. My heart that felt small and defeated just a moment ago, lifted; replaced with a willingness to believe everything would be all right. I squared my shoulders and with a slight bounce in my step, walked back home ready to tackle my next writing project. A few blue patches in the sky appeared and a piliated woodpecker flew overhead making everything seem brighter.

I know I probably shouldn’t let one reviewer get to me and be more carefree about the whole writing world because we all go through rejection and approval, being liked and disliked. I wish I had the wisdom of that teacher and could just feel fine when life throws its curveballs. But I have to say, I like the heat that radiates through my chest when someone approves of what I do or compliments me. It feels good too, knowing, that probably most of us, feel the same way. Which makes me think it might be nice if I complimented others more often, and smiled more, “even when something isn’t funny.”

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Change

Snow fell almost every day for two weeks, creating snow piles up to my thigh in places. I did get several chances to ski right off my front porch and snowshoed even more. Then, the temperature rose and it started to rain, all day and all night. By the next morning, temps plummeted and everything, and I mean everything, was covered in a sheet of ice. Ice on top of the snow. Ice on the driveway. A virtual skating rink on the roadways. We stayed at home for four days. Yesterday, I almost made it to the mailbox.

I know it will either warm again and melt the ice, or snow again to blanket the landscape with fresh powder, enough to drive and ski and snowshoe once more.

Change.

One thing is certain, nothing stays the same. Forecast for clear skies might turn into cloudy days. This winter might continue with lots of good snow and cold nights followed by a rainy spring and hopefully, a warm, not superhot, summer. My good health might change for the worse as the seasons turn. Scarce grocery items might become more plentiful in a few months. Closed restaurants might reopen with new owners and a fresh menu.

There is comfort in knowing all things must pass. But it’s also hard sometimes … that knowing.

Perhaps

I know you are right

when you say

that nothing lasts forever.

Everything changing, shifting.

Sometimes morphing

into something unrecognizable,

like my face in the mirror.

I know you are right

when you say

we never know our time.

But I like to think we might,

perhaps,

snowshoe our way into the night

side by side.

Find that spot deep in the woods

and sit quiet

under an ancient cedar.

Counting our breaths

in tandem

until darkness arrives.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Being Thankful

There are people I’ve met over the course of the many years that I’ve lived, who seem to have a natural grace for gratitude; appreciative for each day, viewing their cup half full, not half empty. I am not one of those people. I have to work on gratitude.

Many years ago, I read that in order to develop a grateful heart, it was helpful to start with a gratitude journal, and write down five things at the end of each day that one might be grateful for. So, I decided why not and bought a nice journal and pen and put them on my nightstand next to my bed. I remember getting to about three things and having to work at recalling if there was anything else. A teacher I worked with at the time told me to just let the simple things float into my mind and to not try so hard to figure it out. I kept looking for monumental things to write down, like a fantastic sunset or finishing a novel I had put off reading or receiving a present from someone dear to me. No wonder my journal entries were empty at first.

After several weeks of failed attempts to find five things, I started to write down simple things that made me happy: a hot cup of tea, a good night’s sleep, my family, my health, a drink of water, the ability to go for long walks. Many days featured the same entry. And every once in a while, there was something special: a card in the mail from a longtime friend, a day off from work, a bouquet of flowers from my husband, days on a warm beach in the middle of winter.

After a few years, and many journals later, I noticed my mind began to automatically appreciate things and I stopped writing in a journal altogether because every night before I closed my eyes, I easily visualized five or more things. I thought I had mastered gratitude.

But then…

I read the definition of gratitude; described as the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for and kindness to someone. I reread the “readiness to show appreciation for and kindness to someone” part a couple more times and realized I hadn’t grasped the full meaning of gratitude at all. That thankfulness is not something to be learned and mastered in a journal, or in my thoughts, but an ongoing practice of love and care and warmth and openness. Or, as Albert Einstein once said: There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as  though everything is.

Gratitude. Grateful for everything and everyone in my life… including you.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Cold

Deep cold in winter reminds me of growing up in a small rural town in northern Canada. One winter we had an artic front descend into our area and the temperature plummeted to negative forty for several days and one morning, the temps fell to over negative fifty. Half the town lost electricity. Schools closed. The few businesses in town suspended their services. Outside, the only sound was the wind moving through the snow drifts. It had an eerie appeal as if the snow swirls were ghosts.

When the temperature climbed back to zero, it felt warm. Walking to school, I loosened the wool scarf around my mouth and watched as my breath made little vapor clouds every time I exhaled through my mouth. At recess, I made snow angels on the snowy playground, and then, after school, skipped all the way home, delighting in the thought of a mug of hot chocolate.

So, yesterday, when the temperatures dipped into the single digits, and I got a weather alert on my phone – “Dangerously cold weather. Unsafe wind chill factor. Frost bite and hypothermia will occur much faster” – I thought, that’s not cold! I can still go outside and not have to cover my whole face and I can hear a few chickadees twittering in a nearby tree. 

And besides, when it’s really cold, I mean my memory barometer of cold, something extraordinary happens. Animals burrow deep underground or take refuge under an old tree. Owls and winter birds conserve energy and will not hunt or forage for food. It’s as if the forest and everything in it hides and all that is left is silence. A deep all-pervasive silence. The quietness trickling into every living and non-living thing, muting noise and senseless chatter; uniting us all in a feeling of togetherness, a feeling of survival. One earth. One people.

“Listen to silence. It has so much to say.” Rumi

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Health is Wealth

A plastic cup with the words, “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” written in bold black letters was my constant companion when I grew up. By the way, that quote was made famous by Benjamin Franklin, yet to be historically accurate, it came from the Greek philosopher Aristotle. I drank my morning milk from that cup, awful stuff in those days, dry skim milk powder mixed with water. Lucky days were when I could mix in some milk chocolate to at least make it so I didn’t have to hold my nose to drink it.  

I read those words every day and naively believed they were written just for me and often thought that I had to be healthy first in order for the other two, wealthy and wise, to work. So, the word “healthy” really stuck. Still does. And, as I’ve grown older, even more so. For without my good health, how can I enjoy all the things I want to do like snowshoeing on a beautiful winter morning or planting bulbs in the spring or going for a long hike on a warm summer day?

When I’m sick, which doesn’t happen that often, I don’t feel like doing much. Usually, food doesn’t taste too good and I tend to get grumpy. Okay, sometimes more than just grumpy. The mantra, “I can’t wait to feel myself again,” rolls around and around in my head.

Usually after a few days, when I feel better, I’ll once again take my good health for granted, until the next time I get sick or… worse… when a loved one gets ill enough to be hospitalized. Which happened recently. It threw me for a loop and for whatever reason it got me thinking about that plastic cup I drank from decades ago and wishing I could just give that cup to my loved one. He’d read the words, then go to bed early, and wake up young and full of all the get-up-and-go he’d ever need. He wouldn’t even need to drink milk. Health is wealth.

“A life without health is like a river without water.” M. Lagace´

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Wind Gusts

It’s a blustery day. The wind has blown all day long, the trees swaying with the gusts. I tend to like the sound the wind creates as it snakes its way through the cedar and spruce boughs. When the wind really picks up speed, I sometimes can hardly hear anything else at all. It can also cause a lot of havoc as I watch the grill cover and the plastic covering for the deck furniture blow off.

Last year, we had what we are all now referring it to as “the big blowdown.” Super strong blasts of wind howled down the mountain valleys tearing up century old trees, knocking out power lines, ripping through fields, plucking up roadside trees and depositing them across the highways. We were without power for a few days. Some friends lost their power for a week. Some for longer.

Still, I like the wind. It reminds me of the power of nature and of those things that are out of my control. I can only try to bend and shift and sway with the tides of change. Accept what I must. Do what I can. Love well. Appreciate what I have and do my best when the wind knocks me off my feet.

Wind blows through the trees

as twilight descends. The snowbanks

as high as my waist crunch

under my boots. The mountains

silhouetted in the distance seem

to lean in close, as if to whisper

a blessing as darkness descends. One

by one, the stars come out, bright

then brighter, like lupine

in spring, small lavender buds, then magnificent

violet blooms. I hear a lone

coyote, then the hoot of a distant owl. A moon sliver

peeps up behind the tallest spruce creating fingers

of light dancing on the snow. My nose

tingles in the cold and I smile. Then walk

home to warmth and all I love.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Happy New Year

The new year begins on Saturday. 2022!

It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by. It feels like I lost a year because I keep saying things like, “remember that kayaking trip we took to Canada?” only to be corrected with, “That was two years ago, my dear, not last year.”

Last New Year’s Eve, I think I watched the ball drop in Times Square on television, and then went to bed. But I don’t know for sure.

Anyhow, this year I’m determined to truly let go of the past year (or two) and embrace the new year with a bright, fresh attitude. A clean break from the I-should-haves, the failed promises, those pounds I wanted to lose and for not reading all the books I bought; all the goals I somehow just didn’t have the time or the energy or the passion to achieve.

Actually, I might not write out any goals this year and just be more spontaneous, carefree. Let my tendency to be productive and creative and to finish things slide. Take out my skis when it snows and spend the morning moving silently through the forest. Not plan dinner and instead, go out somewhere in the middle of the week. Check our local listing for a live music event. Just today, when I went to get ground coffee, I noticed a sign for a Sunday brunch with a live cello player. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

With that in mind, I’d like to end 2021 full of hope for a new beginning without the hard edges of planning things and limiting possibility and clinging to the past. Appreciating the movement from old to new and wishing for all of us the absolute best for our new year.

“In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Happy Holidays

Most of us know the Story of the Magi, a short story written by O. Henry and first published in 1905, about a poor couple’s struggle to buy Christmas gifts for each other. On Christmas Eve the wife, Della, visits a hairdresser who buys her long hair so Della can buy her husband a chain for his watch. When the husband, Jim, comes home that evening, Della tells him she sold her hair to buy him the chain. Jim then gives Della her present, a set of ornamental combs he bought by selling his watch, which she won’t be able to use until her hair grows back. While the gifts that Jim and Della give each other couldn’t be used, they knew how deep and true their love was for each other which, I think, is all that truly matters.

Last year, many of us did not or could not mark that holiday season in traditional ways with family, loved ones, and or friends. I can’t even remember now if I put out any decorations or if I prepared a special meal. The one thing I do remember –it just wasn’t the same.

I wrote in one of my blogs about how great it would be if everything just got back to normal; an average winter followed by a decent spring and a wildfire-free summer. A time to celebrate those annual observances like July fourth or New Year’s Eve or Kwanzaa or Diwali or Eid al-Fitr with joy and shared camaraderie. I’d give up receiving any gifts if it was possible for my family to be together this year because, for me, the greatest gifts are not wrapped in paper.

“Family is the life jacket in the stormy sea of life.” J.K. Rowling

Happy Holidays everyone and of course,

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Winter Wonderland

Several inches of new snow fell overnight covering the landscape in a blanket of white. Snowflakes as big as nickels continued to fall all day muffling the sound of a distant train. A deer family, that usually passes through our property, did not; and other familiar visitors such as a snowshoe hare, a grey squirrel, and a reddish chipmunk stayed inside their prospective burrows. Even the snowplow did not show.

Although it is not officially winter per se, by all natural indicators, winter is definitely upon us. A season of frost, ice, twilight, cold, snow, and the colors of blue, white, and grey. Some of the many things I like about this time of year.

Another thing I really like about winter is that when it does snow, I can see the animal tracks of any creature that may have visited the land. Like today.

Instead of shoveling, I decided to walk down past our burn pile and into the forest. There, I noticed a set of animal tracks and crouched down to gaze at them for a while, even walking alongside them deeper into the woods. The fore and hind prints were about two inches long, slightly longer than wide, with four toes, and no claw marks. The heel pad was lobed at the rear and concave at the front. The trail it had made was narrow as if it was a two-legged animal with overlapping fore prints. Bobcat? I pictured the animal roaming noiselessly over the land, hunting as it traveled. I took a photo of one of the more distinct prints and headed back to the house.

Beside the fireplace, with a steaming cup of tea, I read through my Field Guide to North American Mammals to be assured I was correct in my assumption. Sure enough, the photo I took and the one in the field guide matched perfectly.

There is a certain comfort knowing a bobcat can still wander free and wild here. For how long, I do not know. But for today, to see bobcat tracks in the snow, possibly hunting a snowshoe hare just as they have done for thousands of years, brightens my outlook on our fast-changing and often tenuous world.

Snow all day and then

yellow bands of light warm my

undemanding heart…

How did you find solace today?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Music

When I write, I usually listen to music; different genres to help create a scene, develop a character, a plot, or deepen the protagonist of my story. I tend to appreciate movie soundtracks that go on for long periods of time to keep pace with the way my brain works: Interstellar, The Hours, The Danish Girl, or The Theory of Everything for example. Right now, I’m listening to a melodic new age piece with the background sound of ocean waves.

I can write for hours when my writing space is filled with melody. My body relaxes. I breathe deep and long. Other important things in my life are suspended for a while.

Scientists state that music is “medicine for the brain” and if one listens to music regularly it can reduce anxiety, blood pressure and pain, improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. There are even studies about the possibility that listening to music can lengthen one’s life. It seems like such an easy thing to do –undemanding, simple, trouble-free. A song to lighten my mood, encourage me to write, let my mind drift away on a sea of memories or to simply enjoy the moment.

I like songs with words too and I’ve enjoyed many over the years. Certain ones still evoke emotion such as when the song played at my wedding comes on the radio or ones that remind me of all the wonderful times with my children when they were growing up.

Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish author of the infamous Andersen fairy tales –Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling to name a few, once wrote:

“When words fail, music speaks…”

Music. What a gift.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

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