Stop, Look, Listen

I remember this excellent advice from elementary school, so it seems appropriate for September.  I’ve mostly mastered street crossing these days, but it’s actually not bad advice for life. I had a chance to do all three the other day at the Butterfly House at The Gardens on Spring Creek. Maybe I can tempt you to check it out yourself, if you’re local. Either way, take a deep breath and imagine yourself here soaking in a bit of butterfly peace and beauty—

Butterfly House at The Gardens on Spring Creek, Fort Collins

Plus a bit of hurricane-free tropical foliage—

Remember my misadventures in the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory?  This was nothing like that. I was super calm the whole time. Well, at least until I got back outside and encountered a guy bellowing into his cell phone loud enough that I could hear him from fifty yards away, but eventually he wandered off.

Mostly, it felt like a reward for finally obeying a persistent God-nudge to let someone else benefit from David’s clothing, especially coats, as we head into fall and winter. Not easy, even after nearly five years–and I’ll admit a few favorites still hang in the closet–but it felt right.

Somehow I imagined the actual moment of relinquishing to be a bigger deal, but it took no time at all. I said nothing about David–hard to believe, I know–and the guy simply put everything into a bin and rolled it away. So there I was a few blocks from The Gardens on Spring Creek with time on my hands before my poetry class. I’d always meant to check it out, but somehow hadn’t. I didn’t even know the butterflies were there. What a treat.

I hope you remember to stop sometimes to listen for the still small voice of God, and I hope you respond to his nudges more readily than I do.  Maybe you’ll be rewarded with butterflies. Can’t we all use a bit of gentle beauty about now?

Here’s one more treat to make you smile, little man Brooks discovering the joys of playing music . . .

One final note: If you are thinking of those affected by Hurricane Ian, as I am,  here are a few links so you can help: American Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse.

Summer Simmer

It’s been a hot one. Much as I like the play on words of “Summer Simmer,” it’s often been more of a full boil, even a raging inferno. Several wildfires in France this summer were in areas I visited in 2019 with my friends Pascale and Jacky. One of the worst was in the forest at the base of the Dune du Pilat. Here it is before the fires.

Heading up Dune du Pilat 2019 – photo by Jacky (or Pascale)

This was part of our trip to the Bassin d’Arcachon.  Many thanks to Pascale and Jacky I saw it when I did.

Dune du Pilat – France 2019
Dune du Pilat – France 2019
Dune du Pilat, near Cap Ferret, France (Pascale on the right)

Even here in the states, it’s been hot. No AC at the lake house, but this worked . . .

Booze cruising on Lake Sunapee – photo by sister-in-law Kristl Bridge

I’m home now and my phone reminded me yesterday of another kind of summer simmer: our worst day ever in France. Usually I love slideshows of the same day in years past, but theses photos were of Saintes, 2014, after various boating misadventures and the ensuing heated words. Yikes. This is about as close as David got to me that day . . .

David in the Gallo-Roman amphitheater in Saintes, France – 2014

. . . at least until we had to get back on the boat. We worked it out, of course. We always did. But I didn’t really need that memory today. This is also when David’s cancer was discovered in 2016–discovered the 24th, confirmed the 29th–so reminding me of the date was less welcome than usual.

Time to think of better moments. Beckett just turned three on the 20th, and he’s so much fun.

Beckett with his new French-English visual dictionary

One of the gifts I gave him is a French-English visual bilingual dictionary, and he loves it. He still has trouble pronouncing “L” which complicates learning the proper articles (le, la, les), but he’ll repeat things like, “C’est un serpent.” (It’s a snake.) Chelsea says he even wants it read to him at bedtime, but since she won’t attempt French pronunciation, it’s considerably less interesting, reduced to “Frog, toad, tadpole, . . . goldfish, swordfish, dorsal fin, gill,” admittedly a pretty weak plot line for a bedtime story. 😉 I’m just glad he’s still enjoys learning French, and of course I love when he’s says, “Je t’aime.” That’ll brighten any day.

Here’s hoping the heat lets up, both words and weather. And I’m praying you get to hear and say “I love you” frequently, in any language you choose.

 

Waves

Once more to the lake, as E.B.  White so eloquently wrote, and here I am, back at Lake Sunapee. The waves aren’t quite this dramatic . . .

Outer Banks, North Carolina

. . . but enough to make Brittany and Andy’s dog, Bega, very excited as wake from passing boats swells into waves that crash against the shoreline. Also enough that I sometimes use the seated kayak option on my paddleboard, rather than standing, especially when the wind picks up.

Brittany’s post-chemo waves have resulted in hair that’s getting rave reviews wherever she goes . . .

Brittany – July 2022

Andy needs a little help to sport waves . . .

Andy – July 2022

We’re also riding a new COVID wave. Just after the 4th, I had news of 19 friends and family who tested positive within the span of about ten days, including Chelsea’s family. Since I spend a large part of most days holding this little one . . .

Brooks – July 2022 – photo by Chelsea

. . . I was surprised not to catch COVID from him, but somehow didn’t.

Today would have been David’s 70th birthday, so that produces its own waves: nostalgia, wistfulness, and certainly joy and gratitude to have shared so much of his life.

And finally, we all know only too well these days how easily poorly-chosen or poorly-timed words can make waves, even–sometimes especially–with those we love very much. I wrote a poem a while back called “Warm Honey and Daggers” about the trouble and the sweetness of words, the impossibility of “taking back” words, however much we may wish we could.

So today I’m wishing you unsinkable watercraft, good hair days, strong immunities and/or speedy recoveries, comforting memories, and especially unending grace and forgiveness when words run amok.

Praying for you peace like this . . .

Lake Sunapee – July 2022

. . . and this . . .

Brooks – July 2022 – photo by Chelsea

May the waves never take you down!

 

Suddenly Summer

Arcachon Plage, France, June 2019

. . . or maybe not so sudden for most people, but I spent a lot of June with a lingering case of parainfluenza, something I hadn’t even known existed. Ugh. Avoid it if you can, even if it comes wrapped in a package as adorable as this:

Brooks, before we all got sick – Photo by Chelsea

We’re all well now. and I’m finally spending time outside, mostly catching up with gardening tasks.

Le Patio, La Rochelle, France, June 2019

Okay, I had nothing to do with this hydrangea. It grew on the patio of the little house I rented in La Rochelle, but very summery, right?

I haven’t made it back to France yet, but it’s high time I told you about another fab 2019 French adventure with Pascale, Jacky and friends, this one specifically celebrating summer and Châtelaillon-Plage, the beach just south of La Rochelle where the Kite and Wind Festival is held.

Don’t be deceived–these beach chairs were enormous, strictly décor!

Châtelaillon-Plage, France, June 2019

Somehow, I never managed to write about this event, possibly because there was so much to tell. It was a huge deal, including street after street of things to see, including fabulous old cars . . . .

MG at Châtelaillon-Plage Festival, June 2019

Then there was a multi-course moules frites meal for thousands on picnic tables lining streets as far as you could see. Those who had tickets (Thank you, Pascale and Jacky!) were given a specific color scarf and asked to find a table in the correct zone.

Repas de rue – Châtelaillon, France – June 2019 – Personal style encouraged!

Seriously French, right? Americans, let’s be honest, would have had those lame plasticky paper wristbands.

After dinner, we and the hordes headed to a concert with Collectif Métissé,  who had us all dancing. One woman in our group wanted to move a bit closer to the stage, so started dancing her way forward and the next person hung on to avoid losing her, and then the next, etc. Soon we were all linked together dancing and everyone thought we were a conga line and let us through! Genius. I think we even picked up a few conga-line dancers along the way.

June 2019

After the concert, we all headed to the beach for the fireworks. Pascale, Jacky, and I had lost sight of our friends, but found a perfect spot on warm, silky, white sand, right by the music. Bliss.

It was another “Just say OUI” adventure. It had been so hot all day, and we knew it would be crazy-crowded, but Pascale had already bought the tickets and friends were expecting us. I’m so glad we went. It was a perfect finale to my 2019 stay in La Rochelle (and environs). I’m thinking about it now, because . . . summer.

Also, fireworks.

There’s . . . a lot right now. A lot to worry about. A lot to argue about. But in the midst of it all, I’m praying for all of us: civil discourse, kindness, and the assumption–until proven otherwise–of good intentions. Have a safe 4th of July and a wonderful (and healthy) summer of grace and peace.

And . . . baby smiles . . .

Brooks – May 2022 – Photo by Chelsea

Adventures in Wanderlust