Great Big Gratitude

David, May 2016, refusing to hold still for a photo!

There’s something about this photo–out of focus, but somehow capturing the joy of spending time with this big man, my beloved. He’s been gone nearly five years now, and I still thank God every day for him and all the memories we made together.

What we focus on matters. I feel the truth of that every day and highly recommend The Book of Delights: Essays by Ross Gay. In his book he doesn’t shy away from  tough subjects, but manages to find delight every day in spite of disheartening, even maddening realities. Truly inspiring.

I was also thinking recently about a book I read nearly a decade ago, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. I remember being challenged–even in the midst of hard times–to start a gratitude list,  presumably with the goal of eventually reaching 1000, at which point gratitude might be almost automatic. One would hope, anyway. I’m afraid I began to stress out somewhere around 200, trying to think of new things, until one day I wrote, “#182–Realizing it’s okay to thank God more than once for the same thing.” Yeah. It took me a long time to come to that genius conclusion. I confess my list never made it past 200, but I still have the journal that holds it, and even that simple list inspires gratitude when I reread it.

I find old photos are excellent gratitude triggers. So in the spirit of thanks giving and Thanksgiving, I am forever grateful for . . .

. . . great big stunning vistas like this . . .

Rocky Mountain National Park (from the top) – July 2013

. . . for Paris and that perfect French blue . . .

Paris – May 2013

. . . for La Rochelle and the inexhaustible patience David displayed for my frequent photo stops . . .

La Rochelle with David patiently waiting, not quite out of frame – May 2013

. . . for sunsets like this . . .

Sunset on Panama City Beach – March 2015

. . . and this . . .

Key West – February 2015

. . . for fields of poppies on Île de Ré . . .

Photo by Pascale – June 2019

. . . and dear friends who would stop the car to let me jump out and get a photo pretty much whenever I wanted and who shared so much of France with us . . .

Pascale and Jacky in Bordeaux – May 2017

There are too many adventures to choose a link, so just check out the France category to find them all. Merci, Pascale et Jacky, pour tous!

I’m still grateful for this amazing tree . . .

The Never-Give-Up Tree – near Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire

. . . that inspired me so much I wrote a poem in which it was featured.

As I continue to spend much of my days with Chelsea’s little ones, especially Brooks, I’m reminded of when our girls were small, and I feel great big gratitude for this pic of some of my favorite people . . .

One of our annual trips to the pumpkin farm — 1988

Praying for you: grace and peace and no trouble at all finding delight and reasons for gratitude every single day.

 

 

Near and Far

Looking up at the beauty of fall at Lake Sunapee

I haven’t been to New England in October since 2015, but my heart is often there.

David and Eb in twin shirts – October 2015

I’m still in Colorado, barely traveling at the moment, but others are. Courtney flew out for a weekend this month, which went by way too quickly.  I do hear about her girls and see a few pics every now and then, like these from Homecoming.

Bailey (right) and friend – Homecoming 2022
Felicity (far right) and friends – Homecoming 2022

Love how smart they are about footwear! Let’s face it, though, they are too far away. I don’t get to see them often enough. I do see this little one a lot, since I’m still his nanny.

Brooks – October 2022

He may occasionally be a bit too near, since I tend to catch every bug he catches. Small price to pay for all the smiles and hugs. I even get a few from Beckett every now and then, but he’s pretty busy.

Brittany and Andy are about to be very far indeed. They’re moving to Australia in a couple of days. It hasn’t completely sunk in yet, but I’m already imagining Christmas without them. Far fewer games, I’m afraid, so I’m grateful for technology, which will allow us to stay in regular contact. And I’m very happy for them to have this opportunity. The adventures David and I had during our nomadic year will always be some of my favorite memories.

La Rochelle 2014

So I’m thinking about dear ones and favorite places, near and far. I’m trying to appreciate the near, while treasuring memories of–and staying in contact with–the far. Even though New Hampshire leaf peeping couldn’t happen for me, Colorado has had an absolutely gorgeous fall, with way more reds than usual. I’ve been drinking them in.

There are a few hillsides on the way to Chelsea’s that this year looked almost like New England. Almost. But I’ll take what I can get. Which is all any of us can do, right?

Here’s hoping you’re finding plenty to appreciate these days!

 

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.

 

Adventures in Wanderlust