Monthly Archives: July 2015

We are creative beings

I once went on a solo artist’s date. Julie Cameron’s  The Artist’s Way coined that phrase, aptly so.  She encourages her readers to take time to go out and about,  preferably alone (we are able to more likely hear our inner self when alone), and explore art, nature, and people in settings or locations where we might not typically go.  Art galleries, cupcake shops (oh, there are some fantastical, beautiful cakes on display, my friends!), parks, riversides, museums, festivals; in short, any location where our creative juices begin to flow. She reminds us that ideas are formed when we least expect them: it is in the association and connections that our brain makes in seemingly dissimilar things that creativity seeds itself.

So, I drove myself to the lake (it has to be near water!) with a coffee and a sandwich (I was ready for hours of sowing the seeds of creativity!) and enjoyed my first solo artist’s date. For a first date, it wasn’t too bad. I often go to the water but I have never sketched anything, other than my beloved birds. (And I sketch birds only because a birder recommended the activity as a way of remembering the bird’s details in order to identify it later.) After sketching the beach and the lake, after sketching the grasses that grow haphazardly along the sand banks, and after attempting to draw the horizon which was mind-blowing beautiful (but smudgy and I don’t know how to draw smudgy), I came to this satisfying (for me) insight: sketching is just not my thing.

But, the alone time, the coffee, the mindfulness of my afternoon…that was soul-satisfying. I think my authentic self is creative, just not in a sketch-y, draw-y kind of way.

I truly love to explore the arts and am inspired by them, but that doesn’t mean I want to be a painter. I get some of my best ideas or inspirations when I am out and about. And I enjoy contemplating about the journey of the artists. Maybe that is why I am so intrigued with their diaries and notebooks. (Often beside the works of art, the curator has a display case highlighting the artist’s notebooks and journals.) Those treasures are truly fascinating to me. I’m inspired by the journey.

My husband (who isn’t the least bit interested in art) will often accompany me on a gallery visit and his comments are so interesting – he pays attention to the most obscure things; so obscure, they are creative, I think. (When I tell him that, his eyebrow goes up.)

His home would be the baseball park. Occasionally we take the family to a professional ball game, and I must admit, if one goes with an open mind, the game, the stadium and the fans are truly fascinating. I love to watch the fans – they are so full of joy! Oh, why is it we never see the wave performed at an art gallery or museum? (Hey, kudos to the old masters who gave us this old scroll – let’s do the wave.) To me, I have learned that baseball games are synonymous with joy and exuberance and just being a part of that scene is fun.

My new awareness of creativity has taken me on an interesting path as I am now discovering creativity everywhere – it’s limitless (like the experts told us).

Last week I learned that a camera man in L.A. takes photos of discarded couches that he spies along the street curbs. He finds them, snaps a photo, and is compiling them. He has hundreds already. When I tell this story to people, they look puzzled and ask me, is that art? Yes! You betcha! I think his novel way of interpreting society and its values is very creative. His photos reflect so many societal attitudes – throw-away society, impermanence, homelessness, cheaply made products, etc., etc. I immediately thought of my parents’ couch and its longevity! In their time, products were well-made (with pride and care) and not thrown away as if they didn’t matter. Instead, a sofa represented home, the family gathering place, a safe haven, security and endurance. Oh, yes. I think I get the photographer’s point. And that’s creativity, at its best – his take, his slant on life, or his slant on garbage. I will never look at a couch at the side of a curb in the same way again.

On Saturday, my friend told me that her neighbours had gone camping for three weeks and while camping in the woods that they often photograph chipmunks and send the photos to her. I laughed aloud – chipmunks? My friend chuckled and told us her neighbour sets up elaborate props and scenes (and food) so that when the chipmunks visit, he photographs them – his camera captures the chipmunks in hilarious settings! Well, that’s too funny, but creative. Who would spend time on vacation doing that? Apparently someone who sees the funny side of wildlife, and since I believe that’s novel, I guess it’s creative, too.

When I was much younger, I was always on high alert to find my true calling in life; I spent many a meditation session, contemplating my navel, as they say. When my friends would tell me my strengths, or make suggestions, I dismissed them. (I would think it has to be deeper than that trait.)

I realize now that it is not about the destination or calling, it’s about the journey of life. How I live my life is my true calling. At least, that’s what I have begun to finally realize.

And I will have many callings because my journey takes me on many different, divergent paths. One day I am a stay-at-home mother planning the next picnic for my kids to enjoy (just like my own parents would do), and suddenly I find that I am opening a children’s clothing store and feeling very at home as a business woman. On both occasions I was totally immersed in my calling, convinced that life just couldn’t get better. I was made for this, I thought.

When I cared for my father during his illness, I assumed that my calling was now as a caregiver. When I didn’t particularly feel at home in that calling, I felt uneasy. What is my calling? Is this it? Why am I so sad, depressed and anxious all the time, if this is my true calling?

It was only when my father was dying that I found my true gifts. Gifts of love, patience, kindness, compassion, understanding and service. Gifts that flourished within me to help me care for my mother when she, too, had Alzheimer’s disease. Without those gifts (the lessons that I learned) when caring for my father, I don’t think that I would be the person who I am today. I know that I would not feel so blessed and so full of gratitude as I live now.

And, yes, creativity is one of the gifts that I received…no, found, during my journey of caregiving. I accept it and am grateful for it everyday. Not as an artist, but as a co-creator of my own life.

Now it is in awareness and recognition of it that I am learning to feed it: maintaining an open mind is full-time work! I practice it every day – letting go of old routines that no longer serve me; letting go of resistance to change; asking for help and support more often; accepting change as a good thing  and not as a bad thing. Letting go of ideas and perceptions (critical self-talk) that no longer serve me. These are small ways (but profound ways) that I maintain an open mind.

So, you might find me this summer at a ballgame (when I would rather be reading) or at a restaurant that I have never been to…all in the practice of staying open. And you might hear me say yes, when I really would rather say no; or saying no, when so often I say yes.

But the wonder of this journey – this practice of staying open – is that I feel so free and authentic. I am gaining power in saying no. And I am thinking that I always had the power (just like Dorothy finds out in The Wizard of Oz). Creativity, expansiveness, authenticity, power. All gifts.

And here’s another interesting thing about creativity…it’s contagious. Because I like to think that maybe, just maybe, one person reading this post will now go out there…and paint a smudgy horizon.

 

 

 

 

Creativity is about creating oneself

Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it…Chinese Proverb

We create our lives. Most of us have heard that a million times – so many times that it almost sounds trite.

How can that be? If I have a crap life, is that my own fault? Why would I create a crappy existence? Reasonable questions, I think.

But the answer is pretty simple, if not profound. It is in our awareness, our perception. It is in our energy that we put out. It is in how we see the world.

Creativity has been my 2015 intention, along with explore and expansiveness, and so I’ve been reading about creativity these past few months and I have learned that creativity is so much more that a work of art… creativity has many faces, not the least of which is creation. Creation.

Creation of one’s life. We are all co-creators whether we buy into this, or not.

 

Life is about creating yourself

Life is about creating yourself

Our attitude and our energy makes all the difference. An open, curious mind will more easily accept and not judge events so harshly, and an open, curious mind will explore the more difficult, challenging times – delve into the pain and look for answers and meaning.  An open and curious mind will not accept that one is a victim of circumstances.

Our attitudes and perceptions colour our lives – one can either look at the harshness and starkest of life’s events, or soften the hard edges. Our daily choices of how we encounter life is the part we play as co-creator.

What I am discovering (aha! my intention to explore) is that each and every one of us is creative – it’s in our DNA – and it’s our creativity that defines us and makes us who we are. And the funny thing is that the more we become aware of our own unique creativity within, the more it grows and expands. (Aha! my intention expansiveness.)

Our awareness of our own personal creativity leads to more creativity, more growth, more expansiveness and that attracts more, more, more. We begin to grow into the person that we were always meant to be, and we begin to realize that our potential is unlimited. Or, as Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

But  it begins with awareness.  First, awareness of your own gifts. And then in awareness of others. You begin to see the creativity (and gifts) that are in others. And that can lead to acceptance and non-judgment of others. (And in my book, that’s always a good thing.)

I have been reading a number of books on creativity, written by creative people. Some are artists such as Nick Bantock who wrote The Trickster’s Hat; others are writers: Julie Cameron, The Artist’s Way, The Prosperous Heart, Steven Pressfield, The War of Art, Vinita Hampton Wright, The Soul Tells a Story Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life, Jonah Lehrer, Imagine. I read Twyla Tharp’s, choreographer/dancer’s book, The Creative Habit  – lots of insights from her! And I still have an unfinished, to-read book list. The subject of creativity is prolific!

What I have discovered is that creativity is our own personal portal to our authentic self. But it all begins with recognition or awareness. What are my strengths and weaknesses; my talents and skills; what am I most passionate about; what are my interests and non-interests?  How do I see the world?

l. Mindfulness – pay attention

2. Awareness leads to recognition

3. Discovery: the aha moment

Creativity is your own personal slant or take-away of what you have focused on. (You have turned the spotlight on something…now, what did you notice? What did you discover?) Our personal slant is our self-expression. The act of creation is in the aha! moment – it’s in the discovery. And, it is in that very moment we are truly authentic.

When I see a wild and untended garden, I see nature at her very best. She (nature) has sprawled out because that is what Nature does…she takes back the controlled landscape as if she is proclaiming this is mine and see me grow! When I see the spent blossoms of the cone flowers or rudbeckias, I see seeds (life!) and the return of birds, bees, insects; I see beauty in the untamed chaos. Someone else might only see the neglect and the waste.

I didn’t always see a messy garden as beautiful chaos. I had to spend many hours in my own garden observing the errant anemones growing in odd places or watching the “thugs” of the plant world bully their way into ordered pathways before I became aware that the mistakes in Nature were not mistakes at all. In truth, some of my favourite spots in the garden are now areas where havoc reigns. But, the hummingbirds visit those spots; the bumblebees and the fire flies are frequent visitors; yellow finches and butterflies, too.  I trust these uninvited, but welcome guests! If they favour those unplanned areas in my garden, then I think I’m onto something! I see my garden with a new perspective now and I am enjoying it oh, so much more. I have let go of my need for order and plans. And that is my point…we need to let go of order and control to allow beauty in.

Every author of a how-to-be-more-creative book encourages us to be more open, to clear our cluttered minds, to open and change our old perceptions and misconceptions. An open and uncluttered mind accepts new ideas because it is more spacious.  And new thoughts, new perceptions, and new ideas require space to grow and flourish.  New thoughts, novel ideas, new perceptions…this is creativity!

There is a funny scene in a television series Corner Gas that was very popular here in Canada, in which Brent and Hank are talking. When Brent tells something to Hank, suddenly Hank is seeing an image in his head…the audience sees a truck in a warehouse and it is loaded with filing boxes. The truck begins to reverse. The audience realizes the warehouse is Hank’s brain and the filing boxes are the boxes of stuff (useless knowledge) that is going to the waste. Hank tells Brent that he has no room for any more information.

I love that scene because I think our brains can become like warehouses full of useless stuff and that sometimes we have to let go of the old to make room for the new. (The old stuff in our brains no longer serves us.) I think the metaphor is clever and apt.

We are able to clear out junk in the brains when we practice mindfulness and awareness. Some of us meditate; others sit in stillness. The important thing is to allow ourselves time to do nothing; time to rest our brains.

Jonah Lehrer, Imagine – How Creativity Works, explains it in his book: “Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights? When our brains are at ease – when those alpha waves are rippling through the brain – we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward, toward that stream of remote associations emanating from the right hemisphere. When we become quiet or still, we begin to listen to the quiet voices.”

Ed Catmull (Pixar Animation and Disney Animation) in his book Creativity, Inc. uses mindfulness (and meditation) as another tool in helping him manage and encourage creativity in his staff. He reminds us that in mindfulness, we clear our minds and we let go of control and resistance. Control and resistance are the antithesis of creativity!

For me, letting go of resistance and control is in understanding that life has a flow and when I am aligned with that flow, I am happier, more content, at peace and more creative. I am aware that what is, is.

In all its forms, creativity lives within us and each of us in recognizing our gifts – that is our strengths, our passions, our talents – in essence, by paying attention to them – we begin to be grateful for them. That gratitude expands them. When we truly accept (in awareness) our gifts, we begin to enjoy and share them with others – and that is the true purpose of gifts. What we do with our gifts or creativity is what matters. It makes me, “me,” and you, “you.” How we live our lives reflects our creativity because creativity is in the creating…of our own life.

 

Gifts from our Parents

P1040282During a difficult and challenging time in my life I began to write morning pages as an exercise to shine the light on my emotions and my stress.  (Morning pages writing exercise is from Julie Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way.)

Morning pages is pretty simple: get up in the morning, and start writing three pages. The only rule is not to edit your writing. Let it flow.

According to author Julie Cameron, the mere act of writing three pages helps unblock our unconscious emotions and allows us to understand what is holding us back. To be honest, I go in fits and starts. Just when I make the writing exercise a habit (30 days), I go AWOL. (The smell of coffee lures me to a comfy chair; my yoga and meditation practice takes priority; my husband wants to go for a long walk by the river. Oh, the many temptations. Everything, but writing!)

But there is good news from this procrastinator: Some writing is better than no writing. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

But this I know: When I write morning pages consistently for a few weeks at a time, I always learn something new about myself. So many insights and self-awareness. And that is the point of the exercise.  (And, of course, to practise writing.)

When I was a little girl, our family often spent the summers camping in a tent.  Many mornings my father would rouse us from our comfortable, warm sleeping bags and insist that we trek down to the beach to watch the sun rise. We’re talking dawn, people. When you are very young, rising before dawn is not really your number one goal in life. Staying up late around the campfire, roasting marshmallows? Yes. Sitting on the beach in the dark before the sun comes up? Not so much.

But over the many years (My father has gone now; my mother was in a long-term nursing facility until recently. She died a few months ago.), I look back on those memorable moments on the beach with awe and deep gratitude. How lucky am I? My father gave us such a gift – nature transforms a navy blue sky into a golden, red glow each morning – a miracle to witness! My father honoured and savoured such moments. In his own indomitable way he shared with us all the beauty that he knew, instead of the ugly things that he had witnessed in his lifetime.

Sunrises, sunsets, camping in the woods, eating dinner on the beach (hot food kept warm in newspapers), standing in line to peer into a telescope to see a solar eclipse, jumping into the family sedan to drive to a better location to see a rainbow. While writing morning pages, I am flooded with memories of family outings, all outdoors. To this day, my sister and I relish nature in all its glory – we both often quote John Muir, “Nature is my Church.” For us, nature is the way (the portal) to our spirituality.

In retrospect, I often think of the many gifts that our parents gave us and I am always humbled that my father’s simple act of introducing nature transformed us.  It matters to me that the words and affection that he couldn’t show then, I now understand that his deeds and actions clearly reflected love. Only a loving father would share a sunrise or a sunset with his daughters. Only a loving father would recognize that nature (in all its beauty) would open our hearts and our minds to joy.

Gifts. In the beginning of a writing exercise, I didn’t intend to write about gifts, or my father, but that’s why this morning pages exercise is so powerful – it leads to self-discovery, themes, repetition, and insight. Oh, yes. It leads to answers to the great question, “What do I want?”

I want for nothing. I have what I need. I have so many gifts. Now, I just want to share them. As my parents did.

Compassion in Communication

blue butterflyKindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
Kindness in giving creates love. ― Lao Tzu

When I am visiting at the long-term care facility where my mother resided, I am often privy to conversations between family members who are visiting their loved ones.

I am sometimes saddened to hear how families communicate with their loved ones who have a dementia. As I have journeyed down this road, not once, but twice, with both parents who had dementia, I recognize the underlying tone in their voices and in their words: Fear!

When we speak with compassion, our voices and our words are filled with care, kindness, and understanding.  We may carry on a conversation with someone with dementia and the conversation is lost; the words are not resonating with the person with dementia. Once we understand this (that often the person struggles to follow your words) we can make changes in how we talk to someone with a dementia.

I call it learning the new Alzheimer speak.

People with Alzheimer’s or a dementia-related disease lose their ability to speak and understand language because their brains are damaged. One Alzheimer expert once coined the irreversible damage to the brain as “their brains are broken.”

If one visited a person with cancer and the cancer had travelled to their spine and  into their bones, would one ask them to lift a heavy object, knowing that the person would not be able to do that? And knowing that the person would be in great pain? Obviously, not.

But in ignorance of the disease, many people ask people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia to perform insurmountable tasks. When people with Alzheimer’s have damaged areas of the brain… memory, attention, alertness, communication, judgment, initiative…all are affected (and many times, severely lost).

In understanding the disease and its symptoms, we can let go of our expectations and adjust to their new reality.

When we recognize that our loved one cannot understand nor follow our conversation (too many words to understand; person has lost his train of thought; cannot organize the words properly), then we can learn to adapt and adjust how we converse.

Here are a few tips for the family member:

  •  remind the person who you are
  • state his name (Hello, Dad; its me, Marilyn.)
  • when people walk into the room, help your loved one to remember them – say, “Oh, Dad, here’s Uncle Jack visiting you.”
  • speak slowing
  • use fewer words
  • smile while you are talking (our loved ones recognize and sense loving energy)
  • get his attention: look into the eyes of your loved one (make contact; you might have to lean in or stoop or kneel if person is in a wheel-chair)
  • if you are asking the person to do something, break the instructions into small pieces
  • be very clear and precise: state the steps of the task – one step at a time
  • allow the person to hear you and understand you
  • ensure the person is looking at you, and is not distracted
  • do not talk over him (when speaking to others in the room, do not ignore your loved one)
  • avoid answering for your loved one (it’s easier and quicker to answer for them, but avoid that. Instead, turn to your loved one, and repeat the question slowly and clearly. Wait for a response before you chime in.)
  • avoid using vague words or sentences (be precise); when my husband instructed my mom to jump into the car…she would look puzzled. We realized that she assumed that he truly wanted her to literally “jump in.”
  • repeat important information
  • ensure your loved one understands the words that you have used (my mother did not use the word “hallway,” instead, she referred to the hall as “the street”)
  • become familiar with the person’s new language (they often substitute words and make up new words for everyday objects)
  • stop and listen (allow the person to respond)
  • don’t take things personally
  • ignore wild stories, or fabrications (your loved one might suffer from delusions or hallucinations or depth perception – it’s real to them) or, as my sister used to say, “Go with the flow. If Mom sees a dog, say hello to it.”
  • offer plenty of reassurance
  • stay calm (try not to be emotional…our loved ones pick up on all of our energies, especially emotions)
  • above all, be patient and LISTEN (stop talking)

Learn to use their new language so that you can communicate more effectively. When I wanted to visit the sitting room with my mother, I substituted her words for that room which was “the place at the end of the street.” She understood that.

When I wanted her to enjoy the entertainment in the main activity hall, I would invite her to “the big mall where people sing.” Those were her words. She understood that.

She called the coffee or social room, “the bar over the river.” In her mind, she was correct – the coffee-room was a bar for an hour each day in the afternoon. She didn’t go to the bar, but she understood that drinks were served. She also referred to that area as “over the river” because the area was down the hallway and around the corner…for her, far away down the street (the hallway). Ha! Are you confused yet? Well, imagine how persons with dementia feel? They are confused and bewildered because everyone around them doesn’t understand what they are saying. They think they are making sense, but when they watch our faces…they realize (and later, sense) that we are not understanding.

That must lead to deep pain and fear. No one understands me. Worse, people now ignore me. They act as if I am not here.

When we become informed (and information is key!), we become more compassionate. We become kinder. We act with more love and understanding and that can make a difference in the world (and reality) of the person with a dementia and in your own world. This leads to acceptance.

When we can open our hearts and minds to accepting  that our loved one has Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease, we make space for love, understanding and compassion; more importantly, we can slowly let go of the fear. (Remember, we do not have to like that our loved one has a dementia. Just accept it.)

Fear! It is behind every sharp and hurtful word that I hear at the long-term care facility where I volunteer. Fear is behind the unspoken, but dismissive acts and shrugs I witness every day. Fear is behind the family member’s voice rising, getting louder and louder with frustration. “Mother, stop that. You are making a fool of yourself.” Oh, how those words hurt. It is so painful to listen to, and more painful for the resident who doesn’t understand. (And just so you know – the staff, volunteers, and many family members at a long-term care facility understand the symptoms of a person with a dementia – so when someone speaks abruptly to a resident, that reflects poorly on them, not the resident!)

What’s truly sad is that we miss out on a thoughtful and loving visit with our loved one when we allow fear to sit down in our conversation.

When we can let go of our fears, and change our energy to loving energy when we visit our loved ones, everyone wins.

Our loved one recognizes the loving energy. That alone can transform a visit from ordinary to extraordinary. Just loving energy. Remember: The person cannot understand your words or your language, but he does recognize your energy.

Let us all try to understand this disease and transform our expectations and our energy…to compassion and kindness. Because we are not here to heal our loved ones, nor are we here to take away their pain and frustration. We are here to do our best – and we do our best when we visit (and communicate) in love and in understanding.  That is what our loved one wants from us…just love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red foxes

Victoria by the Sea, PEIWe have just returned from one of my favourite places – Prince Edward Island, Canada. PEI is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and separated from mainland Canada’s Nova Scotia and New Brunswick provinces by the Northumberland Strait.

Our rental cottage was situated on the Hillsborough River, where we overlooked the harbour of Charlottetown. To say the least, the views were spectacular and ever-changing from day to day. Any cottage on the water is always my safe place – the place where I feel I am home. Rental makes no difference to me…I am home.

Sunset over Charlottetown HarbourWater is restorative. It calms me and nourishes me. I am drawn to water and often declare that I was born to live on the water which always makes my husband jokingly retort, “You do. We live in a city that is located on a river and a lake. What more do you want?” He knows that what I mean is to live on the water with a deck or a screened porch or sun room facing the water, windows (of course) with panoramic views – that is my true intent. But his point is taken as water is water and I am grateful for what I do have.

At our rental cottage we enjoyed the serenity and calm that only such a vacation spot can give.

cruise ship coming into Charlottetown harbourWe were graced each morning and early evening with a Great Blue Heron who only visited us when the tide was out. There, amongst the blue mussel shells and clam shells and strewn remains of kelp, she would land on the shore and stay for hours, always still. Her slight movements were measured and few. She would lift her legs slowly, so gracefully, and allow each to hover in the air before she placed it down. It was a show of elegance each and every time.

On most days, at any time of the day, any kind of inclement weather, we would sight double-crested cormorants – their constant diving for fish  true entertainment value. A black bird with a yellow/orange patch at the base of its bill, we could easily spot them with our binoculars.

On another occasion we were lucky enough to spy seals (harbour seals) swimming by our cottage…a whole family of them. How effortlessly they swam; no, glided by us. So close to the shore of the river that we didn’t even need binoculars to sight them. Bliss, yes? Yes!

Red Foxes in PEIAnd yet in spite of all the daily bird sightings, one of our most memorable visitors was a family of four red foxes who apparently seem to roam freely in Prince Edward Island, and especially in the area where we were located.

Our assumption that foxes were nocturnal was incorrect! They visited the lawn in front of our cottage (we watched them from the sun room, literally three to five feet away) numerous times throughout the day. Sometimes they would gambol and frolic on the grass as if putting on an afternoon matinee. (Okay, let’s be honest. How often have we wanted to use the word gambol and never had the opportunity?) And although we were fascinated by the family, we were also a little unnerved of their constant presence. (They might be fascinating, but they are also wild.)

The fox family or group is called a skulk; the male, a dog; the female, a vixen; the young, pups. A fellow cottager, a permanent resident, informed us or warned us not to feed them (no, thanks!) as some summer visitors do throw them scraps, and she feared that only emboldened them, not to mention spoiled them of their natural hunting instincts. On a couple of occasions, we did notice the father fox (the dog) prance by the cottage with a couple of hotdog wieners in his mouth; another time, a shoe.

But after a few days of entertainment, the show ended. They disappeared. Perhaps they were aware of the week-end approaching – an influx of more people.

Our vacations are often remembered by such moments. We don’t give a second thought to the flight, or the car drive, or the hotel room…unless such a moment occurs. Red foxes in PEI; a fishing history museum in Twillingate, Newfoundland; puffins in Nova Scotia; sheep bells resonating on a hillside in Portugal; the early morning fog rolling out on the Costa Del Sol in Spain; the beautiful, intricate scrolls and filigree in wrought iron gates in Savannah and Charleston – oh, the small details that, for me, are indelibly etched forever in my memory bank. Nature is a prevalent theme in my memory photo book, but creativity, art, and the kindness of people are recurring images, too.

I am drawn to creativity (because it is the best of people) – the beautiful works of wrought iron of Philip Simmons in South Carolina; a ceiling in a tiny church or a cathedral that knocks your socks off; a row of red Adirondacks that flank a cobalt blue sea – that’s a photo album that I cherish internally.

A perfect V of Canadian geese flying overhead and I am instantly remembering a kite’s ribbons, undulating in the sky – an image from last year’s vacation.

It’s these small, but significant, details that inspire me and push me to travel more.  No, not travel more – take more notice and be mindful (wherever I am).

The older I get, the more I turn inward to assess and review my authenticity. Who am I? Why am I here? What is it I am meant to do? Questions that Deepak Chopra urges us to reflect on when we meditate.

And every year that passes, my contemplation or reflections become more and more simpler.

I am. I am meant to love and be loved.

I am here to just enjoy the moment. All of the small details matter.

I am connected to all. If I am connected to all, then I strive not to judge others. And I am meant to be kind and compassionate. That is love.

I am here to see the beauty – in everything. And if I love and am loved…then I love myself, too.

I matter. You matter.

Just as we are. We do not have to do anything else – just be. And love ourselves.

The more we love ourselves, the more we can (and do) love others.

It’s really pretty simple. We are gifts.

Red foxes remind me of all that.