Posts by Jennifer Johnston Crow

365 Grateful: humor and love

365 - 11-22-2015

So, I had much in common with my dad: my mouth, my brown eyes, my dark hair that whitened early … but what I recall the most is how neither one of us liked to wear shoes. First thing off in the evening after work? Shoes. Maybe we liked the feel of earth beneath our feet, that connection with a living force. I don’t know. He was (usually) good about picking up his shoes. Me? Not so much. Every once in while I’d be suddenly bereft of shoes and have to make my way to the basement. There, I would find them all, scattered among the dirty clothes in the big wooden laundry bin where they’d come to rest after a quick trip down the laundry chute.

Today, what I’m sure of is that old habits die hard. I generally have to search the entire house for shoes, and more often than not, they can be found in the computer room, the first space you encounter when arriving via the garage. Sometimes, you can find ALL of my shoes there, plus a few in the living room and, yes, the less popular ones in the closet. Maybe.

I’m also pretty sure that my husband Charlie is a smart-ass. Because I woke up today, stumbled out to the computer room to check the weather, flipped on the light, and there, leading the way to my desk, were my shoes, well some of them, anyway. The ones that were living in the computer room.

They led the way like sentinels — like guardrails or berms. I laughed out loud for a long while, all alone in the early morning. And you wonder why I love this man? That’s why. Grateful.

365 Grateful: a cookie is a berry is a truffle is a blade of grass

365 - 11-14-2015So, a friend on Facebook recently posted an observation that caught my eye:

When my husband brings me milk with breakfast I drink it because it is so kind of him and because research says it is good for us, but have you ever considered that humans are the only animal in the kingdom that continues to drink milk into adulthood?

A friend of hers replied:

Yes but as I read somewhere, we are the only ones that have cookies!

I laugh. It makes me wonder if humans invented the cookie just as a way to justify drinking milk. I love that thought because, well, cookies.

But who’s to say that other creatures don’t have cookies, too? It seems to me that something another species considers a delicacy or a treat is just another way of translating cookie. To a cedar waxwing bird, the ripe, luscious berries from my Mulberry tree surely translate as “cookies” in its brain. A pig, unearthing a truffle in the forest, surely feels as though it’s finally broken into the cookie jar for a delectable treat. For my dog, I suspect cookies are none other than fragrant, fresh, delicate green grass, among other interesting things.

We humans don’t actually get that, with the possible exception of the truffles, but then we’re probably not supposed to. For many of us, our cookies have chocolate chips or icing and taste sweet and yummy. They go well dipped into a tall glass of cold milk.  (Of course, there are those among us who eschew the sugary cookies for fresh fruit or other healthful alternatives. I think they probably qualify as cookies, too.)

For all the species that share our planet, cookies may carry the same meaning but differ vastly according to each perspective. A snake’s cookie (which may look like an egg to us) is no less a cookie than a freshly baked sugar cookie (with icing) is to us.

So I’m grateful for this fun exchange in the early morning. It broadens my awareness to how we humans bring the world into compliance with our awfully narrow perspectives – how we think and operate and exist. The truth is, we’re just one of many species that live here, and we each have our own viewpoints and definitions of such things as cookies. Sadly, as humans, we even subdivide our own species – by race, by religion, by nationality – and a cookie to one is not necessarily a cookie to another.

Thanks for this early morning Facebook reminder to co-exist with other species – animal, mineral, vegetable (and cookie) – on this green and white ball that’s hurtling through space. And in light of the recent events in Paris, Syria, and countless other places across the globe, may we learn to extend that co-existence to our fellow humans, too.

365 Grateful: of moonlight and clouds


365 - 11-01-2015Right now I’m slipping through three times zones on a flight from Ohio to Seattle. It’s still pitch black out there – my flight ascended at 6 a.m. I swear time’s standing still because it’s still 6, and I’ve already come a long way.

I stare out the window and think that it’s much too early for serious cognitive activity following a restless night spent waiting for the chirp of a phone alarm. My sleep-deprived eyes prove it; they’re slow to recognize the vivid tundra of puffy white clouds out there. Not much wonder, though. This morning I’m gazing down at them, which is nothing like my everyday earth-bound view.

Eventually my brain fires. Ah, these clouds are otherworldly lit, with texture and shadow, light and dark, all glowing and ethereal. I crane my neck and there it is: the Full Hunter’s Moon silvering out the clouds all around us. Ironic, too, for this moon is also the Travel Moon and I, of course, am traveling.

Oh, I wish I could capture that view with all the nuances my eyes see, but plane windows and cameras are not so compatible. Still, I can’t help but think that this moment cups the promise of a different perspective on life.

From our ground-level tunnel-vision perspective, clouds just block the sky, don’t they? They hide the sun. They bring rain – necessary, yet at all the wrong times, it seems. They depress spirits and spoil best-laid plans. When we say something clouds our vision or our judgment, we really mean our thinking’s skewed, occluded: We can’t see clearly.

But here, awash in the soft light of the full October moon so high above the ground, a different perspective emerges – one where silver linings are real, not imagined, and clouds seen from above offer the hope of new insight. Earthbound, we catch glimpses of it in the clouds, but only when the light of the sun or a brilliant moon illuminates.

Grateful for the reminder at this eternal 6 a.m. moment that clouds in any form — in the sky or in our lives — may at times obscure but, if we expand our vision and really look, also hold perspectives to help us uncover an Aha or two. And that’s something worth exploring.

365 Grateful: clouds, sun, and sky

365 - 10-14-2015I stepped out into the middle of a conspiracy the other day: the sun and the sky and the clouds all conspired to create a breath-taking sunrise.

As I stood there just soaking in the view, I realized something …….

Without each of these three entities, there would be no achingly beautiful vision to start the day. That view required the cooperation of those heavy, dark clouds to serve as a foil to the radiance of the sun’s rays. And without the rich blue backdrop of the sky, there could be no canvas across which the sun might spread its rays into the world.

Life’s a little bit like that, don’t you think? The glow of our spirits is never so apparent as when we overcome roiling clouds of adversity and setback, trouble and vexation. Even so, the culminating piece is the backdrop — the living of our lives — that provides the canvas upon which we can see what makes us human, and makes us glorious.

Grateful today for nature’s reminder that what we make of ourselves depends so very much on how we overcome whatever clouds life orders up for us. And that it’s not until we view it across the the span of our lifetime that we truly can appreciate the stunning beauty that emerges.

Grateful for the lessons found in everyday moments.

365 Grateful: katydid

KatydidI thought it was a leaf, looking down, all flat and veined and green there on the concrete. At least until it waved an impossibly long, slender antenna, capturing my attention. Nestled up under the garage door, it must have sought shelter from the encroaching cold of an Autumn night only to find itself precariously perched behind the projected trajectory of the Honda’s tires.

It was my first-ever katydid sighting, surely something not to be taken lightly. I was not about to be a slayer of this curious, green visitor. I hustled it up onto a magic carpet — a handy scrap of paper — and transported it to the hillside so it might find its way back to greenery, to the trees where it likes to spend its nights in concert with its kind, singing, “katy-did, katy-didn’t.”

Grateful for its visit to my garage this morning.

365 Grateful: what makes me smile

365 - 10-16-2015So, I walk into Artsbridge’s offices for the monthly board meeting. It’s often cut-and-dried and business-like, but tonight there are dozens of pieces of art propped up in chairs and ready to go on the walls for an art show. I wander around to look at them, all variations on themes: Two Fish, Truck, Horse, Dog. The coolest part is seeing the different ways to color and design those fish, trucks, horses, and dogs. It’s just awesome.

Artsbridge is great about providing space for emerging artists who might not land a show in a more public space. And, since our mission includes a huge push into education, we also showcase student art, from preschool through college.

These pieces might be right at home on refrigerators, of course — they’re all created by the preschool class at the local Art Center — but I love that we’re putting them up in what may be their very first (hopefully not last) art show. What a potential turning point for a child! We never know when some event in life winds up propelling us through a door to a whole new world or point of view or talent or even career.

My choice (and I’m probably going to have fight off another board member for it) is “Truck in the Sun.” I mean, how cool is that? It’s a happy yellow truck, with a smile (I think), a lovely blue sun, and huge wheels that look sturdy enough to take it smoothly through life.


It speaks to me. And isn’t that the point of choosing art? That it speaks to you and begs for a spot on your wall somewhere?

Today, I’m grateful for two things: Truck in the Sun by Izzy (age 4) and Artsbridge.

First, I’m grateful for the happiness that painting evokes, for how Izzy augmented the truck with an unexpected blue sun, and for the creativity that jumps out at me.

Second (and here’s the best part): Izzy’s helped me reconnect to something elemental in Artsbridge’s mission — the one about bringing art to children and firing their passion for it. What I know is this: while Izzy may or may not become an artist with shows on the walls of galleries and a huge following of fans — that spark of creativity will fire passion and fuel success in life: as an engineer, maybe, or an analyst or a cook or a volunteer or … well, I guess that’s pretty limitless, isn’t it? Which is a good thing for Izzy.

365 Grateful: a fungus is but another name for a universe

365 - 10-11-2015

Parallel universes exist. I found three of them today, and I’m calling them the Crow Trio.

They exist on the local golf course, on an old stately tree with roots tapping into the nearby creek. These worlds are home to spiders and mites and insects and beetles — some so specialized they can only live inside a single pore on these fungi universes. While the Crow Trio may appear small to the likes of humans, they are each complete, life-sustaining habitats. And that’s pretty awesome.

Here’s the thing. Once shelf fungi, also called woody shelves, show up, it’s pretty much the beginning of the end for the host galaxy, or tree. Why? Because they’re a sign of rot. Not that it’s all bad, and that’s really part of the reason I’m grateful. Because it’s just a sign of life, going along as it should. Shelf fungi may signal rot, but they also provide nesting sites for birds and squirrels — nests that are easier to excavate thanks to the softened wood. And while limbs and trees buckle, sag, and break, bunches of woodland creatures find protective habitat and cover amid its rotting body. It’s symbiotic.

So today, I’m grateful to have seen these woody shelves at all, hidden as they were down an embankment. But even more than that, I’m grateful for the role they play and the life they sustain, not only for the denizens of their very specific universe, but also for the creatures who benefit from the fact these tiny universes exist at all.

It’s a crucial lesson of inter-dependency. We are not alone in this world, in this galaxy, in this universe, although we act as though we’re the only things that matter. I am grateful for this message: I may simply be a resident of some small galaxy stuck to the side of some dying galactic tree. And that’s a humbling thought.