Silent Retreat

I have been thinking that I need a retreat from the world. With the grief that’s accompanied my dad’s passing, my worries about my husband’s health decline, and my general malaise with the current leadership in these United States, I need a break. The long, cold Northeastern winter does not help.

A fantastic think piece this week in the Wall Street Journal about Tapping Into the Sound of Silence by Anne Kadet who took a silent retreat within the framework of her own day-to-day life, got me thinking, ‘Hey, I don’t have to actually do any big whoop to retreat. I can simply turn down the volume.’

Incidentally, since getting hearing aids, I can literally turn down the volume. During the school day as I help to monitor middle school lunches, this turning-it-down feature really benefits me in the noisy dining hall. I can still hear boys’ conversations near me, but I don’t have to take in the whole big din. The dining hall becomes a bit more civilized when it’s not so loud.

When we get silent, there is a “freedom from self-preoccupation,” according to Richard Rohr. His message popped up in today’s emails. It is as if the world is trying to tell me something.

When we recognize something as beautiful, that knowledge partly emerges from the silence around it. It may be why we are quiet in art galleries and symphony halls. If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence and space, it is hard to appreciate it as singular and beautiful. If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its particularity does not stand out.

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
From the Center for Action and Contemplation

To get quiet, one needs to focus, to control the kneejerk reaction to respond to every stimulus — whether it’s the red flashing breaking news update or the ping of a new email hitting the inbox.

The reward for this focus, this silence, this mindfulness, this absence, is the gift of noticing the world around you — be it the beauty of this winter season or the humor of children.

I know that I can be a little chatty. I love to joke around with my coworkers and family. But by freeing myself from the need to make noise, I am giving myself the gift of focusing more deeply on the natural world and on the people in my world. I am opening myself to all that is beautiful. I love to look at art and appreciate the specificity of words.

I’m tuning out, but not to drop out; my purpose is to drop in, go deeper, take time, listen better. Create a silent retreat right where I am.

Join me on the winter writing retreat where we will spend time in silence, in looking at art, and in noisy meal times.

I’ve been having a lot of fun playing around with acrylics and mixed media this winter.

Winter Westport Weekend

We walked for a while.
We stopped at the school house. I’m happy when I’m with my kids.
And I’m always at home at a schoolhouse.
We visited our old beautiful home. Memories of winters gone by.

Some people vacation in the Adirondacks in the summer. Yet the cold winter months in the New York mountains offer a beautiful and stark landscape, perfect for taking stock and taking time. How often do we pause to simply exhale and inhale the beauty of nature?  

Getting out of your home comfort zone and into nature, even in the winter weather, refreshes your soul. During the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, my family went up to Westport on Lake Champlain. We took a couple of long walks on Camp Dudley Road. Nothing makes you feel so alive as a brisk winter walk. Breathe. Feel the bracing fresh air and notice the big sky.

Don’t be lulled into the belief that the only way to socialize with family and friends is to dine at home or go out to eat together. I contend that walking and talking and making art together offers a more fulfilling connection. Don’t get me wrong: I love sitting down to a delicious meal with family and friends. It’s a great way to share time and stories. But it’s not the only way.

Walking together makes memories too.

During one of my long winter walks, I hit upon the idea of offering a winter writing and arts retreat in Westport. I, for one, am looking forward to getting quiet, slowing down, going for long winter walks, and, okay, yes, dining together. Telling stories through art and writing.  

Check out the February 14-18 Winter Adirondack Retreat. Take a walk. Take in the weather.

Write it Down

I do not know what is on my mind until I write it down. I journal every morning and sometimes I write gratitude lists at night.

Why write? This is a difficult national and personal time. My husband Chris’s health is declining. And our democracy may be unraveling. My small contribution — whether I jot down my feelings or write to my congresspeople — feels futile.

The world is falling apart. I’d prefer to write about the joys of female friendship or my take-aways from the Press Club journalism conference? I wonder, Who cares what I think and why bother?

Usually in October, I’ve tried to post on this blog every day. The more I write, the more engaged I feel and the more I engage with other bloggers. New York City is so beautiful in the fall. I feel an uptick in civic and personal contribution when I write on a daily basis.

The impulse or compulsion to write fuels me, provides me with greater resilience to cope with worries, be they about work, family, or country.

I want to write:

  • essays
  • poetry
  • grocery lists
  • goals
  • to do lists
  • dreams
  • money matter musings
  • resume and cover letters
  • emails to far-flung family
  • witty status updates on social media
  • biting commentary on twitter
  • handwritten letters

I want to write about the smell of flowers at the bodega – how they’re trying to be fresh despite their lengthy stays in the refrigerator.

The world is roiling. The anger of the young environmental activist Greta Thunberg is justified and righteous. She does not censor herself. Her words and spirit remind me to not suffer in silence and to speak out about my fears and hopes.

Unashamed to work for Hillary Clinton, I will not be ashamed to work for whomever the Democrat party presents as their candidate — although my top choice is Elizabeth Warren.

The unethical and immoral behavior of our current commander in chief shocks me. I am not afraid for the future because young people – okay, yes, some are obsessed with their own selfies and videogames — but they are also leading the charge for justice and for full inclusion for all people. For after all, the government is supposed to be run by the people for the people.

And that is why I write. That quote from brother’s company, Field Notes, sums it up, ‘I’m not writing to remember it later, I am writing to remember it now.’

I snapped this pic as I was heading via ferry to my friend’s place in Hoboken – sometimes you need to get away from it all and see the big picture. Writing helps me do that.

December Slump

I’ve lost my mojo. Is it under the table? Maybe in the kitchen? Is this normal? Or maybe hormonal? Seasonal Affect Disorder? The empty nest?

Oh, screw it. I have to dig myself out of my slump. Walking to my Via, the $3.25 car service this morning that takes me to work, I tried to give myself a pep talk. ‘Walk tall — remember the old adage, “Have the confidence of a mediocre white man.”‘

I reminded myself that I used to produce and star in — yes, star in — a Manhattan talk show. Sure, it was on cable access. But I was a star. Now, I’m a bit player. Maybe the dresser. Maybe the bartender at intermission. In any case, I’m definitely no longer a star. I feel like a has-been who never really was.

‘Tis the season for the December slump. I made a list of things To Dos and it includes making doctor appointments for family members and them gifts.

Whaaaaa! What about me?

Poor me, poor me. Pour me some egg nog. How to overcome this? I googled tips on SAD from the Mayo clinic and read the suggestion to use a light box. I bought one last Christmas for someone’s gift so will drag it out again.

Beyond increasing your light, the Mayo Clinic suggests you exercise, socialize, and meditate. I found this postcard in my bag. And I share it with you:

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And then, at lunch time, I remembered the secret task of the Artist’s Date from the Artist’s Way path.

I felt compelled to swing over to the Guggenheim down the block for 20 minutes and was BLOWN AWAY by this show featuring Hilma af Klint. OMG!!! A spiritualist and an abstract artist from Sweden produced these mind-bending paintings in the early 20th century  — moved by the spirit, joined by four other women (the Group of Five) and dismissed by the likes of Rudolph Steiner.

When I see Abstract Art, I like to pretend to fall into it. And I really fell into and for Klint. She is cool af. (Actually that’s part of her name, I gather, and not just that she’s cool as  f*^k.) A true prophet, way ahead of her time. New York never fails to lift me up when I’m feeling down.

So, yes, I’m in a slump, but I took in some culture. Now, feel cheered immensely.

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My Commute: Bordering on Joy

Commuting by bike to the Upper East Side from the Upper West Side is a pleasure. Last year at this time, I was working two part-time jobs and commuting between Morningside Heights and the Financial District. I spent way too much time on the subway. I tried to remain centered and calm despite the subway crowds. I tried to follow a path of mindfulness.

I’m not alone. I dig this story from today’s New York Times on how to meditate on your commute by Jonathan Wolfe:

Can you listen without attributing a positive or negative emotion to the sound?

Take it one step further, Mr. Gelles said: Practice metta, or lovingkindness, meditation by silently wishing well to the people around you.

Sometimes the subway’s too hot; people get cranky. My daily bike commute, riding through Central Park, is just lovely. No one’s in a bad mood.

I try to practice lovingkindness from my bike. I mentally say “Good for you” to the people I pass. (Or the lycra-clad bicyclists who pass me!) I find it especially easy to say ‘Good for you!’ to the birders, the children walking with their parents, or the old people.

And occasionally I hit a solitary patch on my ride, especially if I ride through the Ramble. It is totally quiet and peaceful. It is as if I am in the country woods, not in the center of the hustling bustling city.

Ladies, if you want to start Citibiking, you can link to Women’s Bike Month for a free ride. Once you try commuting by bike in the city, it’s hard to stop. But sometimes it’s hard to start and you need a nudge. Take it from me. When December and January roll around, I will not be so lucky to ride so much. Until then, I’m enjoying every minute.

one-fifth

via Daily Prompt: Border

4th of July Picnics

 

 

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What ever happened to our picnic table in Riverside Park?

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A while back, with my sister in law Nicole

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Last year with my nephew G, H, JCJ

There is nothing like a picnic in Riverside Park. The green on an early July evening. Central Park is for tourists, but Riverside is for New Yorkers.

For 20 years, my backyard has been the grassy slope in Riverside Park. We used to spend endless hours in the Elephant Playground. Then, the path between 79th and 96th, riding our bikes around that loop and taking in the garden near the Hippo Playground.

Although our recreation spots have changed, our picnicking spot has not. This field.

The girls are at camp. I miss them, but I console myself with friends and family. And picnics in the park.

For picnic recipes and to meet my Nicole, check out My Delicious Blog.

last night

Shear Madness

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Joanna and me at the first preview of Shear Madness tonite.

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So balmy, people just hung out in the outdoor cafes, drinking in the evening.

On a beautiful warm night towards the end of October, what is more fun than citibiking it over to the theater for some Shear Madness. Tonite was the first preview but the cast had the slamming doors and silly business down pat. The small ensemble was perfect. I found myself laughing out loud when I should’ve been groaning.

The script had a ton of contemporary references (Hillary’s emails and the Mets win!) But the cast never stumbled. Sure, they stuttered. But they were guilty – or were they? You decide! That’s the fun of this production. It’s a beauty shop whodunnit with the audience asking questions of the cast and deciding the identity of the killer.

Funnily enough, I was sure I’d seen this show before — a million years ago in New York, but I was told that it’s only been performed in D.C. and Boston. Maybe I dreamed it. Or maybe tonite’s play was a dream too — A Mid-Autumn’s Night Dream.

***

Thanks to the people of Serino/Coyne and Shear Madness who gave me the ticket and a sip of champagne. But that did not impair my judgment. I still know who did it! And if you go, you’ll know too. But you might have a different take. Go see it, then tell me who you and your fellow audience picks as the killer.

Only the hairdresser knows for sure. But which hairdresser?