Retreating to Reconnect

A view of the lake and connecting waterway.

A view of the lake and connecting waterway.

April and May are reflective times of year for me. I often dwell on goals and achievements still unreached so I can set new goals, prioritize, and move forward. Interestingly, it has become a time to reconnect with past publishers. Not quite a week ago, I received an email from an educational publisher I worked with regularly for many years. The same happened with another publisher about a year ago. It’s even more interesting (and amazing) that this happened just before I left for a retreat and—perhaps due to the events/activities at the retreat—I received a

Beautiful banyan trees all around the property.

Beautiful banyan trees all around the property.

new assignment from this company two days after I returned home.

Arriving at the retreat house.

Arriving at the retreat house.

Feeling pulled in many directions and needing a moment (or many) of clarity, I made last-minute plans to car pool with a small group of friends also headed to Our Lady of Florida Retreat Center on the east coast. It was the best weekend I’ve had in five

Inspiring architecture. Columns look to me like "monks" holding up the roof and floor of the dormitory wings.

Inspiring architecture. Columns look to me like “monks” holding up the roof and floor of the dormitory wings.

years. (That’s about the time my father became so ill and much of my time centered around writing, teaching, and getting meals to him, or simply spending time with him.) I needed the break. I needed the peace, the fellowship, the downtime (no WiFi and I chose to limit phone use). I had time to think through life (and writing) puzzles and returned home restored and ready to reconnect—on a fresh frequency.

What I saw at the top of stairs before turning left toward my room.

What I saw at the top of stairs before turning left toward my room.

Those who follow my writing and workshop info know that I am drawn to nature to recharge. The grounds of this retreat center were beautiful. So was the architecture and art throughout the retreat house, dormitories, and grounds. I came away fed–physically, mentally, and spiritually. I cannot wait to go back!

Nature-inspired Meditation

It’s Season in south Florida and for me that means teaching a lot of different writing workshops. I enjoy it but life becomes quite hectic.  One of my favorite ways to begin the day is to slip outside while the coffee’s brewing. I have an incredible view of a pond surrounded by greenery—trees, shrubs, and tropical vegetation—and a multitude of wildlife. The sun rises in the front of the building and I’m able to watch as it slowly illuminates the pine trees just beyond my lanai.

Squirrels play tag in the trees, causing the scales of pine bark to crackle and the needles to rustle as they bounce from branch to branch. Meanwhile birds sing and call as egrets and Louisiana heron stalk fish in the pond. I’m grateful for this natural serenade and beauty of dawn.

Once my coffee is ready, I sip it as I listen and watch, allowing my mind to ponder the drape of the long white pine needles or the patterns in the fanned palmetto fronds. It’s sort of a meditation, this routine; a quiet but energizing start to my day. It’s a luxury now, but one I can indulge more frequently during the summer. After this ritual, I’m ready to put pen to paper as I record in my journal the day’s beginning and then turn to filling a blank screen with words.

Watching Wild Life

I absolutely love my condo! It’s bright and sunny so I never need to turn on lights during the day. It faces northeast so I receive sun both morning sun (in the front where my office is) and evening sun (in back.) My favorite part of a “writing day,” meaning I’m home working on projects, is eating breakfast on the lanai.

Breakfast includes entertainment. I get to watch the activity on the 2nd tee-off for the golf course in this community. Most of the time this is simply the squirrels in the white pines and palmettos. Often it includes a variety of waterbirds in the pond. Sometimes it even includes golfers and their colorful language that drifts across the fairway. (During season it’s often quite entertaining! More than a few times I’ve held my breath expecting a serious slice off the tee to hit the building, but the tall trees protected it.)

So, I’ve been wondering: how is it that so much wildlife survives on this golf course? I’m glad it does, because it means the course doesn’t use as many chemicals as others in this area. The egrets, heron, turtles, and–yes, even the the bats–inspire me. And I’m relieved to see that the crushed concrete they added two summer ago to edge the pond didn’t kill the turtles after all.

Now, if only we could do something about those wild golfers.

Listening to the Silence

It’s the beginning of the first full week of a new month. I actually remembered to turn my clocks back, a miracle actually. (I’m usually one of those people who forget and one year I set it forward in November. That was embarrassing when I showed up really early for work!!)

Anyway, though the clocks back to the regular time, my body still isn’t. When I got up super early this morning it was foggy. I like to see the trees and pond through the fog and then watch as the “cloud” lifts. I make a note in my journal. (Never know when I’ll need the description for a story.)

I was surprised not to hear workers on the golf course or even birds chattering among the trees. In fact, it was quite silent. It was a new sound to experience. I know how strange it seems to say I sat and listened to the silence, but I did. I enjoyed the simplicity of the morning. I reveled in the lack of noise. It was peaceful, relaxing, a fantastic start to the day.

I’m so glad I was up early enough to listen to the morning awaken.

Good Morning, Season!

It’s officially here. “Season” in southern Florida. The grocery stores are crowded with people trying to find the aisle they need. It now takes twice the time to travel down the road than it did just last week.

Snow birds have landed in my town! With them they bring “paradise weather.” The mornings are cooler with lower humidity and warm breezes. This is welcome relief after the thick and heavy humidity and brain-melting heat of July and August. The best part is the sunshine and the rising warmth–around 20 degrees by late afternoon.

Arrival of “paradise weather” is equivalent to the anticipation of spring’s arrival in the northern states. When I was growing up in Michigan, I recall my mother throwing open all the windows at the first of the sunny, warmer weather of April and May. She then commenced “spring cleaning” after being “cooped up” during the winter months. The same is true here, though delayed by months. Everyone retreats during the heat of summer and, now that the climate changes overnight (weather and influx of people and vehicles), we throw open doors and windows, allowing the breeze to blow through the house. Then, sigh with the knowledge that this is the beginning of several months of beautifully sunny days.

So, as I make plans to reorganize my house, commence a thorough cleaning, then a purging of closets, I am also revising my attitude and schedule. Thank you to the snow birds who have alerted me that “season” has arrived. I may need more time to commute to the workshops and classes I teach, but I certainly no longer need to confine my “office hours” to the desk and A/C. I’m looking forward to venturing with notebook and keyboard to the lanai, the pool, the beach, the café, and the many outdoor seating areas at local restaurants.

Good morning, Season. Welcome to Paradise.

Equalizing Attitude

Today’s the fall equinox and it’s as good a time as any to re-dedicate my goals and projects. It’s been a chaotic and stressful year so far and to help maintain my sanity I’ve pushed myself to focus on the things that keep my life balanced. When family issues–or life in general–get in the way, it’s far too easy to allow creative endeavors to slide. “I’ll write tomorrow.” “Tomorrow I’ll have more creative energy.” “Tomorrow I’ll make time.”

I’ve pushed myself to do creative projects such as painting, sewing, and even cooking and baking (during which I always “edit” recipes) to keep in tune with my creative self. I’ve also  made short-term goals for little side projects; for example,  a poem decorated with colored-pencil art, or a seasonal craft to cheer up a blah work space. Throughout the summer I’ve celebrated these little artistic victories and tried very hard not to get discouraged when yet another day passed without the opportunity to even write in my journal.

This morning I felt that all that plodding along was worth it. I’m sure it has something to do with the autumnal equinox since I woke feeling more at peace and calm than I have in a long time. It was a true day off and I started it with coffee on the lanai. The air was damp and still. Not a ripple marred the surface of the lake and for once no golfers were out in the early morning. It soon began to sprinkle, and then rain steadily. It was beautiful! The rain seemed to have cleansed away the noise and chaos of typical Saturday mornings around here.

Peace! I poured my thoughts into a very long journal entry and then sipped coffee and watched the rain drops plop into the lake. And soon, I was transported to the world of one of my works-in-progress. Two hours later I took a break, ate breakfast, and then . . .

. .  . joy! I had thoughts for scenes to a different project! This was such a luxury in a challenging year. But I know that the turmoil will pass. I made a few new goals to help me get from today to the end of this year. I feel relaxed and stronger now. I’m confident I can maintain balance. And, I’m looking forward to the adventures — and creative journeys autumn has in store.

Happy Autumn and happy writing!

Meditating, Naturally

One of my favorite ways to begin the day is to slip outside while the coffee’s brewing. I have an incredible view of a pond surrounded by greenery—trees, shrubs, and tropical vegetation—and a multitude of wildlife. The sun rises in the front of the building and I’m able to watch as it slowly illuminates the pine trees just beyond my lanai.

Squirrels play tag in the trees, causing the scales of pine bark to crackle and the branches to rustle as they bounce from branch to branch. Meanwhile birds sing and call as egrets and Louisiana herons stalk fishes in the pond. An occasional foursome interrupts the natural serenade–some silent except for the crack of the club to its tiny round target, and others whose curses or conversations echo the second tee.

Once my coffee is ready, I sip it as I listen and watch, allowing my mind to ponder the drape of the long white pine needles or the patterns in the fanned palmetto fronds. It’s sort of a meditation, this routine; a quiet but energizing start to my day. It’s a luxury I can indulge more frequently during the summer. After this ritual, I’m ready to put pen to paper as I record the day’s beginning in my journal and then turn to filling a blank screen with words.