Calypso Orchids

This week, whenever I needed to take a break from my writing, I usually went for a walk in the forest near my house, in search of the elusive Calypso Orchids in bloom this time of year. The orchid takes its name from the Greek word ‘calypso’ meaning concealment and only grows to be about three to six inches tall with one single leaf at the bottom. They are petite, delicate plants and are very susceptible to disturbance, even considered endangered in many states. With small pink or purplish flowers, they tend to favor sheltered areas on the conifer forest floor, preferring the moist soil of the northwestern old-growth forest. I have only found these flowers, native to North America, here and there, solitary gems peeking through the moss and fungi soil.

Today, I set out to find as many as I could; careful not to unsettle the soil around them. I smiled every time I noticed one; their showy rosy-pink pointed sepals and two pink petals above a hanging lighter pink slipper. I counted twenty-three.

I’m inclined to think of Calypso Orchids as special somehow –a flower to be revered, never picked or trampled upon. A flower that should be left untouched, kept in its natural state –safe, protected. Last year, whenever I saw one, I thought about my sister who died in December 2020. I still think of her from time to time, and it brings me great comfort when I see those fragile, graceful flowers popping out of the earth reminding me that for everything there is a season – a time to love, a time to weep, a time to die, a time to mourn, a time to heal, a time to laugh, and a time for peace.

For Angel

Eight delicate Calypso orchids

bloom under two large hemlock trees

their fragile pink petals open to the sky.

The soggy, damp moss underneath

yields to my soft touch

and the orchid’s stems tremble slightly in the breeze.

I remember you dying alone in a room

away from family and friends.

To take your last breath in this pandemic

by yourself

gives me no peace.

I watch the wildflowers for a moment longer

before leaving them untouched

to grow and die and live again.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2021. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Solitude

One of my favorite books is a children’s book titled, Island of the Blue Dolphins, written in 1960 by Scott O’Dell and first published in Great Britain by Constable & Co. The book is based on a true story of an American Indian girl abandoned in 1835 on a lonely rocky island off the Californian coast. After her younger brother’s tragic death, she survived eighteen years of great danger and suffering, with only birds and animals for friends. This moving story won several awards and captured my heart as a child. I still read the book from time to time.

I have always enjoyed periods of solitude in my life. A time to put friendship gatherings, conversations,  engagements, social events, and chatter on hold. I usually don’t get lonely or miss the vibrant energy of meeting with family, friends, or colleagues. Just the opposite. I cherish the moments to place my chaos to rest and awaken an inner calm. Perhaps, that is why I loved that little book so much.

After my intense travel week and several social gatherings, many with people I had not seen in years, I longed for solitude. So, I took this entire week to be by myself. I crossed out engagements on my calendar, canceled appointments, and re-scheduled a few meetings.

I have found myself letting out these long sighs for the past week. I’ve slept in. When writing, I make hot cups of tea and leisurely sip them at my desk. I take long walks on the trails near my house in the afternoons.

Everything has slowed down. And as I come to the close of my solitary week, I am already wishing I could keep going. For me, solitude is a great comfort.

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” Thoreau

There is a stillness

on the tops of the hills.

In the treetops

you feel

hardly a breath of air.

Simply wait: soon

you too will be silent.

                                             Goethe

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

The Sky

The airport was crowded, messy, and noisy. The flight attendant announced that we had to give up our carry-on luggage because the flight was too full. So much for packing light. When I got on the plane, I checked twice to make sure I got the seat assignment right –the middle seat in a non-reclining row. A bulky man got up to let me in and I settled in as best as I could between him and another bigger man. I am not a large person. Many would consider me small. I counted my breaths and kept telling myself, “I can do this. It’s not a problem.”

When I transferred flights in Dallas, four gate changes at different terminals resulted in several hops onto the train trams. I got to the right gate in time to board but missed lunch. That’s okay, I thought. I once again had a non-reclining seat, the latrine right behind me. Every time the toilet door opened; I got a whiff of something foul. Missing lunch was probably a good thing.

When I arrived at my destination, I had to wait a rather extended time at baggage claim for my carry-on. I was almost there; again, trying to be as optimistic as I could be. I had been up since 2:30 am for the hour and a half drive to the nearest international airport. After I got my carry-on, I had an even longer wait for a rental car. That’s okay, I thought once more.

My time back east was fast and furious (at least another blog’s worth), and I once again had to repeat the process to come home, my patience wearing thin.

I had a window seat on my last plane ride. Once we took flight, I looked out the tiny window and watched as the sun dipped toward the horizon lighting up the clouds with tinges of amber, crimson, and lavender. It was a beautiful sight, the sky above a perfect blue.

Whether I had forgotten how to fly due to the Pandemic or how to engage in the hustle and bustle of a family gathering or how to work through the kinks and strains of travel, I found such solace in looking at that sky as it changed from royal to navy blue, a few stars beginning to flicker in the distance. The comfort of something as basic as the sky reminding me once again that for those things that truly matter, all is well, and for everything else… it’s just weather.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Patience

Yesterday, after I taught my yoga class, a student remarked, “I’ve had it with this cold spring. I need it to warm up so I can sit outside and enjoy my lunch instead of still having to wear my down coat.” She fiddled with the rings on her finger.

I nodded because I too would like to sit outdoors at my favorite coffeehouse. Yet, I had to remind her of the heat dome from last summer. “I get it, but I don’t want it to warm up too fast. Remember what happened last year?”

She shook her head. “Yeah, but I’m done with this lingering icy feel of winter. I say, hurry up already.”

This year I do not feel a sense of urgency for anything to happen too fast. I will wait for the deciduous trees to fill the forest with their lush lime-green growth. I will wait to sit outside on my back porch without my winter jacket. I will wait for the summer flowers, the blueberries, the buzz of insects, and the lazy and hazy days of summer. I will wait to kayak on the lake or picnic at the beach, swim, and enjoy all the wonders that happen throughout our best season.

I am in no rush to hasten anything, whether it be the seasons, publishing my new book, increasing my social media following, or getting to those five things on my writing whiteboard. Which makes me think. Have I finally achieved some level of patience in my life? That quality I’ve admired in others –the art of enduring the ups and downs of life with serenity and forbearance, not complaining, enjoying the moment?

I don’t know. Maybe.

However, there is relief in not goading for events to emerge sooner rather than later. To allow things to unfold in their own good time without my tendency to persuade or urge things along, because in the not-so-distant future, I will likely be teaching my yoga class and a student will say, “It’s too hot. I can’t wait for winter.”

“Most pursue pleasure with such breathless haste, that they hurry past it.” S. Kierkegaard

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved.

Eating Out

For the past two years, I have rarely gone out to dinner. The Pandemic was one reason. The other was my favorite restaurants in town closed or went out of business. If I wanted to eat out, I had to drive an hour to the nearest, metro center.

So, this week when my husband suggested we go out for dinner, I enthusiastically replied, “When? Where?”

We agreed on a local eatery, recently renovated and under new ownership.

A young, well-dressed woman guided us to a table near a window. I smelled the hint of garlic wafting off tomato sauce and perhaps onions frying in butter, coming from the back kitchen. Several people sat at the polished mahogany bar. A party of six laughed and talked amiably while enjoying glasses of wine and an array of appetizers. While I glanced over the menu, several more people were seated and before long the place was packed.

When our food arrived, I took a moment to appreciate how lovely the food was displayed on my plate before savoring the luscious cuisine. My husband’s meal looked especially appetizing, grilled halibut with mango chutney, asparagus spears, fluffy rice, and balsamic swirls with basil leaves on the side.

Although I enjoyed chatting with my husband and truly reveled in our meal out together, I found my gaze often wandered to the people clusters around me. A mother chuckled with her teenage son. A group of women placed gifts, wrapped in colorful wrapping paper, near the center of their table. A family of three passed around a platter of bruschetta crostini. A young couple held hands while they fed each other samples from their plate. A boisterous foursome at the other end of the restaurant joked and kept clinking their glasses. My guess is they were celebrating something. Everyone seemed happy.

I don’t know if it was the food, the kind wait staff, the lively atmosphere, the fact that I hadn’t been out for dinner in quite some time, or maybe, just the humble truth that I do well on my own, but community, that sense of belonging, is so much better.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

My Best Friend

There’s this saying by S.E. Hinton, If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky. Which has always been a comfort to me because I don’t have a lot of good friends, but the ones I do have, I’ve known and cherished for a long time. The brightest of stars lighting up my life with their humor, wisdom, creativity, and care. They’ve supported and loved me through my ups and downs, struggles and accomplishments, failures, and regrets. And I’ve tried to do the same for them.

Whether a friend is in my life for a short time or a long time, I’ve come to appreciate them more and more as the years tumble into one another: a reading group friend discussing a recent book; yoga friends meeting for lattes after yoga class; a leisurely lunch with a friend; listening to a fellow poet share a recent poem.

Friends are wonderful. Good friends are precious. But the absolute gem is a best friend, a very best friend who listens to just about everything I have to say and never judges. That person I go to when I have great news and not so great news. That person I share my secrets, hopes, embarrassments, worries, and more. My very best friend who brings me comfort and joy every day.

The Bond

In the woods I come upon a wild turkey

skittish and untrusting

fleeing here and there

clucking like a mother hen

trying to get me to follow

further away from a deep stream

where a possible nest

lay hidden from the sun

it’s cry reminding me of standing

near a sharp-edged cliff

and looking down onto treetops

brush, fallen logs, a river running madly

splashing over its banks

in a rush to get home

the ache in my belly rising to meet

my fear of falling

of no longer knowing who to ask

what to ask

jumpy uneasy

hiding from the truth

of always wanting you

by my side 

guiding me in the dark

in the light

with my choices

holding my hand

showing me the way.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Return of the Bird Song

One of the things I have appreciated this week is the return of birdlife, filling the air with their distinctive calls and song. Few birds stick around for the northern winter, preferring to fly south to warmer lands, and so for the past several weeks, I have heard a new bird call almost daily, each bringing a smile to my face: the chicken-like cluck, cluck, cluck of the sage grouse; the vibrant weep of the American robin; the soft phew of the mountain bluebird; the harsh chook-chook-chook of a stellar jay; the warble of the finches; the very deep hooo of a great gray owl.

It might be my imagination, but it seems the forest welcomes their arrival as well, as the trees start to blossom, release their pollen, and grow millions of new leaves. A time to begin again, as if everything shakes off the harshness of winter or the severity of unusual weather patterns like the heat dome last summer. Ready to embrace a new season. Witness the birth of fawns, chicks, kits, and pups.

The promise of lazy summer days basking in my lounge chair, reading one of the many good novels I hope to get to, running through the sprinkler to cool off from the heat, eating lunch in my screened-in porch, watching the sunset, and listening to birds salute the end of day and the beginning of night. Finding solace in simple things.

Dawn

Dawn breaks for no one

drifts over the hill

spills into my home

sneaks past the curtain

dances on the feather comforter

before flying on

to the forest

as the sun rises

suggesting a blue-sky day.

Colors mingle

the world wakes

sunlight drops from branches

warms the earth

melts a spring frost

a bluebird sings

then two more echo

the joy

of a new day.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Truth

Growing up, to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth, was a big deal in my family. Honesty is the best policy and keep your word were constant phrases. Lying was considered a sin and as a priest once told me: “sinners go to hell.” When I was young, images of an eternal life in a demonic realm of fire and agony always kept me trying to tell the truth, at least most of the time. And when I did tell a lie, even a small one, I’d get an upset stomach or lose my appetite, fearful I’d get caught.

As I’ve grown older, honesty has become a facet of moral character I’ve come to value more and more. When someone is honest with me, I trust them and the things they say. I believe in their promises and commitments. And because I appreciate that wonderful quality in others, I work at honesty myself. Fact check when I want to stretch the truth, especially to impress someone or widen the truth just a wee bit to gain a bit of edge.

“How many books did you sell again?” my book consultant asks.

Even though I know better I want to say, “Oh, about 1500.” Truth, I sold only 1387. But 1500 sounds more like I know what I’m doing, a first-class author. And if I’m really being truthful, I’d prefer to blow that up by at least double that amount, say 3,000 or 5,000.

So … I work at it. Stop myself from exaggerating. Uphold the truth even if I wish I did better at something like selling books or getting an award or understanding the complexities of modern technology.

And in an age where truth seems to be harder to come by these days, keeping my word, staying grounded in reality, and knowing the facts before I speak, brings more comfort than money or fame.

“Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.” Albert Einstein

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Doubt

This week, working on final edits for my memoir –Wandering … a long way past the past, I’m faced with  important decisions. Do I accept my editor’s directive to split a long chapter into two, consequently upsetting the flow and creating a domino effect of juxta positioning other chapters? Do I agree on a change in some chapter subtitles? Do I insert callouts to enhance the text?

These directives, which seem simple and straightforward, cause a flurry of doubt and what-ifs to flourish in my mind. Book consultants, editors, designers, and illustrators do their best to help authors like myself. But in the end, it is up to me to make the best decision.

In my last book, I accepted most professional opinions and advice, only to receive a review that some of my characters needed more backstory – exactly what one editor strongly suggested not to do. So, who’s right?

Doubt, hesitancy, uncertainty are familiar friends. They visit me often, conjuring up all sorts of mischief. Did I put that credit card back in my wallet? Did I leave the stove on or close the garage door when I left the house? Should I have attended that book group in person rather than virtually?

Doubt, that string of words associated with a subtle feeling of fear and resistance, can sometimes leave me feeling flustered. My mind considering possibilities and remaining indecisive. My thoughts running all over the place. And, when doubt lingers, just like an unexpected guest staying too long in my home, it starts to stink and I want it gone. Preferably, right away, so I can be at ease, see clearly, and be sure of my decisions once again.

Easy to say but hard to do. Doubt, quick to arrive, leaves slowly.

The only way I know how to weaken doubt, is to simply let go; getting outside, many times a day or as often as needed. Taking several long strolls in nature. Drawing a hot bath while listening to my favorite tunes. Not pushing myself to decide on anything until I’ve allowed things to calm down and settle, just as mud stirred up from the bottom of a pond can settle if left alone. And more often than not, once that beast known as doubt has left the building, room for confidence blossoms, bolstering the belief that I just might know the answers to my questions both great and small.

DOUBT.

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” Seddeki

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved.

News Fast

As of late, newscasts have been filled with all sorts of worrisome stories with words such as war, invasion, bombing, fatalities, bereavement, downfall, refugees, collapse, crisis, overthrow, ruin… This barrage of negative information from around the globe, with reactions, replay and analysis here in America, have triggered a certain disquiet in my life, spilling over into other areas: a restless sleep, a lower ability to handle little stresses like a bill I forgot to pay or a public speaking event or doing my taxes. I wish it were different, but truth be told, I end up worrying about things I really don’t have much control over.

So, this week, when I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep because images of a recent broadcast kept popping in my head, an elderly couple crying over the loss of everything they owned, a child missing her father, or worse, I decided it was time for a News Fast.

In the same way I fast from food to cleanse my body from time to time, I sometimes go on what I call a ‘News Fast’ –abstaining from viewing or listening to all news reports, news flashes, bulletins, and updates. Usually for a few days. Sometimes less. Sometimes longer.

This time, I fasted from all news for three days, and today when I woke up, I felt refreshed and energized, ready to get back to my writing, to tackle a full laundry basket, and even bake a batch of cookies (yeah, I know, about that food fast so I’ll try to stick to something healthy like oatmeal raisin cookies or a light breakfast bread.)

I don’t want to “put my head in the sand” as the old cliché goes. Being informed and educated about the world most certainly has value. But too much is, well, too much; that constant accounting of conflict and gloom eating away at my well-being and joy. Maybe it is just me, but there seems to be a growing shortage of happiness these days, which really is something every human being should have, even just a little bit. So, I think I’ll hang on to mine and read or listen to the news in small doses.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

The Beauty of Color

With the melting of the winter snow and increased sunlight, green shoots are popping up everywhere. The buds on the deciduous trees are beginning to open. A few crocuses have emerged, along with a rare early spring wildflower or two.

Although I love the stark beauty of winter when everything can be covered in a hushed blanket of white, the first colors of spring are truly wonderful: bluebell blue, orchid pink, moss green, fiery crimson, pearl gray, smoky brown, topaz tan. I think I discover new colors every time the days warm.

“Every sunset brings a new dawn.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

This spring, for whatever reason, I’ve been appreciating the sunsets. The way they light up the sky with bright yellows, soft oranges, deep blues, dark violets, and every now and again, intense reds. I sometimes sit outside, wrapped in a cozy fleece, and watch the colors alter and change, deepen, and darken, and eventually fade to dusk. It’s like meditation, sitting there in the quiet, not talking. Observing every detail of how the day ends and the night begins, the way colors mingle and hide. A simple practice of appreciation, finding peace in the ordinary, in the beauty of color, in my inbreath and outbreath, and in the extraordinary harmony of our earth and our exquisite existence.

Sunset

From behind a high hill

mad orange fools

race across the sky

bump into

bursts of lavender

dance among

the clouds

as the saffron king

holds high court

before sinking

into crystal glass.

Then…

soft shadows

a scarlet band

and two lone stars

stand guard

watching day

morph to night

witnessing the natural

order of things

the absence of nothing

complete and whole.

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

Spring!

For many of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, spring is a special time. The snow melts and the earth thaws. The bitter cold retreats. Where I live, the deciduous trees blossom into a luscious lime-green color. Migratory birds return to nest and enjoy the north’s summer abundance. Hibernating animals wake from a long winter’s nap. Rivers and creeks run fast and powerful, filling lakes with snow melting off the surrounding mountains. Skis and snowshoes are packed away, replaced with kayaks, canoes, boats, and camping gear.

And one of the best things, more daylight. The sun rises from the east earlier and earlier and descends into the western foothills later and later. In summer, there are mornings I wake up to birds singing with a little bit of light peeking through the curtains, and when I look at the clock, I moan. No! It’s not even 4:00 am! On beautiful late spring evenings, the sun sets after 9:00 pm and at the height of summer, there is often enough light to enjoy the evening well past 10:00 pm.

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

You’d think I wouldn’t get so excited that once again spring is here. After all we all know spring follows winter. But I can’t help myself. Almost wanting to coax the flowers out of the ground. Uncover the patio furniture and sit outside, even if I still have to wear my down coat.

Just writing the word spring brings a smile to my face as I wait for the first bluebells to bloom. Delighted I will once again see the exquisite cerulean blue of an excited flock of bluebirds gliding through the tall mullein. Witness this year’s fawns gambol in the meadow, trying to catch up to their mothers.

And very best of all, this spring, after two and half years, I will finally get to see my son who lives on the other side of the world.

Spring! What a glorious season!

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved.

Fasting

Years ago, when I lived in India, I used to fast one day a week as a way to maintain good health. When I returned to North America, I continued this practice for a couple of years, then switched to fasting one time every six months, and then once a year, before abandoning the ritual altogether; only fasting when I thought I needed to give my body a break.

During the Pandemic, I tried to keep up good eating habits but inevitably bad habits have seeped back in; one dessert a week became two, then three or more. A square of dark chocolate seemed to sneak into my purse more often than I care to admit. Honestly, how does that happen? Anyways, you get the picture.

So, this week I decided to go on a two-week “detox diet” to boost metabolism and get rid of fattening toxins; avoiding sugar and all its relatives like maple syrup or honey or all products ending in “-ose”, artificial sweeteners, refined carbohydrates, gluten, milk and cheese and any foods made from milk or cheese, alcohol, overly ripe fruits, caffeine, sodas, teas, excess fats from processed and fried foods, and soy protein isolates found in such things as energy bars. Leaving me to eat things such as a fresh berry smoothie for breakfast or a Farmer’s Market salad at lunch or broiled salmon with steamed broccoli for dinner. And drinking lots of fresh water.

Day eight is coming up… and yep, you guessed it, it’s a fasting day with nothing but water for twenty-four hours. Although it is a physical challenge of sorts (hunger pains are no joke), I find fasting more of an emotional cleanse than a physical one, as I once more discover other ways to find comfort besides eating or preparing food or partaking in a favorite beverage: meditation, writing in my journal, watching a movie, taking a long walk, a hot bath, time for myself, slowing down. Fasting is not easy but I do appreciate how well I feel the next day.

And then…

Food choices will yet again be a delight as I savor those first bites of things I had to stay away from, basking in the detox diet afterglow, with the promise to sustain healthy selections before the tendency to hide chocolate in my shoulder bag unsurprisingly slinks back in.

People who love to eat are always the best people”. Julia Child

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

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