With the Weatherman’s Cooperation

Ah, people in my neighborhood were all smiles when I took my dog India out for a walk this past Saturday.

The calendar told us we were into December, but the thermometer told a different story. The mercury was approaching sixty and the wind was manageable.

Everyone seemed to be taking advantage of the good weather day to put up Christmas decorations on the exteriors of their houses.

Can’t expect it will be so nice in January when you want to take everything down, I’d joke as I walked past someone trying to untangle strings of lights or wrestle with oversized red, all-weather bows they were hoping to place against a cupola or attic window.

Here, in the Midwest, where we’re accustomed to the changeability and dynamic nature of the weather, we’d refer to this kind of day as one when the weatherman cooperated.  

Not that the TV or online messenger of atmospheric phenomena has much control in the matter, this kind of day is welcomed with special delight, a kind of gratitude, which is so palpable we want to have an actual person to thank.

It’s always great to enjoy sunshine or be able to make a Goldilocks-like pronouncement that the temperature, being not too hot and not too cold, is JUST RIGHT. Still, it feels like an act of grace when the outside conditions support what we have on the agenda for the day.

During June, brides, ready for their big walk down a garden path, pray for no rain. During the summer, people planning outdoor events, from family reunions to music festivals — even baseball teams – have to make contingency plans for rain-outs.

During the winter, we don’t plan so many outdoor events, and we rarely have to make contingency plans. But, the temperature or wind might create a rationale to postpone…and postpone…and postpone…something like decorating our houses for the holidays.

We might postpone things until we have NO CHOICE. Maybe we have to get something done by a certain date and we can’t just wait for the perfect conditions.

Seeing my neighbors out with their ladders and lights and fake icicles and reindeer kits on a sixty-degree day in December is a wonderful reminder to take advantage of any opportunity when it presents itself.

I loved looking at the houses on Eastwood. I saw fake snowflakes hanging from the awning of a front porch trim, over-sized white boxes tied up with colorful ribbons on another lawn, and a blow-up smiling Santa under brightly colored spheres, like antique ornaments, near the end of the block. Ho ho ho.

These little signs of the season would probably find their places before the holiday itself, but, because the weatherman cooperated, the process was easier for many.

Taking advantage of opportunities when they come up and appreciating something BECAUSE it has been made easier for you, is no small thing.



Flow Moment

Last week, when I was taking my dog, India, out for her morning walk, I found myself stopped in front of a modest Chicago brick two-flat.

I wasn’t sure why I stopped.

It was 7:00 AM and quiet. Very few cars were moving along the narrow street and commuters were not yet scurrying off to the nearby train station. India was not curling her butt down in preparation for her toilet routine, nor was she stationed motionless in front of a tree, waiting for a squirrel to come down and rejoin her on the earth plane.

I felt compelled to stop as if some invisible force wanted me to notice something –- and damn if I could figure out what was special.

Unconsciously, I took a deep breath in. I tried to decode the mixture of fragrances of springtime flowers my neighbors planted along their small, neat front lawns.   I scanned the street for activity, looking for other dogs (and their people) that we should try to navigate around.

A small bead of sweat rolled down my back. I thought about the dew point and conjectured that it would be getting uncomfortably humid as the day wore on. I mean, if I was sweating already this early in the morning….

What was special? Nothing and EVERYTHING.

I don’t take the same route every morning. And today, I found myself looking at an odd sort of fountain in front of a home on Eastwood.

The fountain itself was noticeably out of place. A stone figure, like a 15th century Botticelli angel, poured water from one pot into another vessel. It belonged in Rome or at Versace’s ornately decorated mansion in South Beach.

But here it was in 60625.

I tuned in to the sound of the water flowing. Ah, what is it about the sound of water?…

I thought about people who like to sleep near the ocean so they can hear the sound of waves. I thought about my own childhood in Melrose Park.

There used to be a small channel that ran along the perimeter of the modest shopping center on the corner of North and 9th. We called it Silver Creek and, to some extent, it was more of a dumping ground than a body of water.

Before everyone was concerned about environmental impact, people threw all sorts of things into Silver Creek. It was rumored to have gotten its name because Sherwin Williams, which had a manufacturing plant nearby, used to dump paint into it, giving the water a grayish tint.

As a twelve year-old, when hanging over the rail of the tiny pedestrian bridge that crossed it, I’d see crumpled soda cans, store flyers and coupons soaking in maybe 6” of water, tree branches, large stones, abandoned shopping carts other kids pushed in on a lark…

And still the current flowed. The direction and force of the stream changed depending on the curves of the channel at any point and the randomly landed objects, the garbage, the water had to move around.

Silver Creek was basically full of crap –- and yet it flowed.

There is something so comforting about the way water flows… despite obstacles, despite limited volume. Its movement is purifying and generous. Whether coming from mountains, or from larger bodies of water, it flows until there is no more.

I know the flowing water of the small lawn fountain in front of me worked with the help of electricity, but in its own magic, I could feel the pull of gravity and the pull of my own conscious focus. The sight and sound of the cascade brought me to so many different places while I stood still in one place. I felt so grateful.

I feel grateful for anything that makes me stop and take a deep breath; listen with unexpected openness; think of journeys instead of destinations; marvel at the notion of movement — even if it’s subtle, even if something is traveling only inches or from one container to another; grateful to be reminded of ways to refresh myself…

Stopping in front of a fountain, and basking in a flow moment, is no small thing.

Dream On

Describe an experience you had recently as if it were a dream. Maybe you can describe a time you were stuck in traffic or a time you were eating a meal at a restaurant or a time when you were in a meeting or in a class.  How did you feel about the experience?  How would you feel about the experience if it were a dream?  What do you think the dream means?


Windows and Doors

back door 2…. Close the language-door, and open the love-window. The moon won’t use the door, only the window.   (From Some Kiss, Jalal ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi)


I saw a play the other week. It was about an impetuous cross-cultural love affair between a self-absorbed, slightly brash American do-gooder woman and a seemingly gentle Tibetan physician.  The story of their relationship was dotted with references to famous Rumi lines, including a few from one of my favorite poems, Some Kiss.

As an audience member, I wondered a little what Rumi’s words about sacred union had to do with the characters’ actions. As a fan of Rumi, I was reminded again about his wonderful indirect way of speaking. As a writer, my head filled with thoughts about windows and doors.

While there are many categories and styles of windows and doors, I’d venture that most of our associations involve metaphors.  We’ll often use use images of doors and windows to represent other things.  And how we speak of interacting with windows and doors, in the physical world, seems to crystalize turning points in our paths or important perspectives.

Definitions describe both as concrete structures that can be opened or closed to control access. Each structure has different styles. Doors can be hinged or sliding or revolving, overhead or overlapping styles.  Windows can be stained glass, casement style, double paned, transom style, louvered or made for vehicles.  Skylights are also considered windows.

Doors can be swung or cracked open, slammed closed or simply shut tightly. Windows can be clear or foggy, ventilating or stifling, protective or flimsy (as barriers).

Doors and windows are unique types boundaries. And don’t we tend to define ourselves nearly as much by our boundaries as we do by our qualities? Windows and doors are thresholds to different experiences.

There are doors to … one’s heart, to consciousness, to wisdom, to freedom. Open doors can signify hope, new opportunities. Closed doors can signify mystery, or privacy, or punctuate our decisions as reaching points of no return.

The image of a window is often used to suggest fresh air, moving in a new direction, curiosity or the ability to see the essence of something.  Images of windows often are used to represent people’s psyches. They can be fragile or transparent or without guile and pretense.

Now, as I am thinking about doors and windows, I am thinking about the metaphorical and the concrete. Sensing there is a window or a door between me and something or someone or some understanding seems only to matter relative to my position and my beliefs. Am I inside or outside? Can I traverse the threshold at will or do I feel bound and restricted by it?

Sensing the significance of a boundary is important. Believing I’m capable of moving beyond one is no small thing.