365 Grateful: Sage Advice … From 1913

365 - 07-05-2015Today, in the midst of organizing and cleaning the computer room, I pick up a slim volume. It’s destined for either the bookshelf for keeping or the Crystal pile for donating, and I’m in a ruthless mood to purge. I consider its fate, flip a few pages in (there are only 41), and my eyes fall upon this passage:

“I offer ‘a way of life.’ ‘Undress,’ as George Herbert says, ‘your soul at night,’ not by self-examination, but by shedding, as you do your garments, the daily sins whether of omission or of commission, and you will wake a free man, with a new life. To look back, except on rare occasions for stock-taking, is to risk the fate of Lot’s wife. Many a man is handicapped in his course by a cursed combination of retro- and intro-spection, the mistakes of yesterday paralysing the efforts of today, the worries of the past hugged to his destruction, and the warm Regret allowed to canker the very heart of his life.”

A page or two beyond, I spy this:

“Let the limit of your horizon be a twenty-four hour circle. … Waste of energy, mental distress, nervous worries dog the steps of a man who is anxious about the future. Shut close, then, the great fore and aft bulkheads, and prepare to cultivate the habit of a life of Day-Tight Compartment.”

Oh, it’s a timeless message, spoken so very long ago, extolling the virtue of living in the moment, neither mourning the past nor hurrying the future. Those words were written (spoken, actually), for an address delivered to Yale students in 1913 by William Osler, a Canadian physician and one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In this slim volume, Osler requested the inclusion of the words of 5th Century Indian Sanskrit poet Kalidasa:

Listen to the Exhortation of the Dawn!
Look to this Day!
For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course lie all the
Verities and Realities of your Existence.
The Bliss of Growth,
The Glory of Action,
The Splendor of Beauty;
For Yesterday is but a Dream,
And To-morrow is only a Vision;
But To-day well lived makes
Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
And every Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!
Such is the Salutation of the Dawn!

Grateful for the reminder to look to this day, not to yesterday or to tomorrow, for a life well-lived. My father obviously treasured this book. I can do no less. It will stay on the bookshelf because its wisdom transcends the years.

365 Grateful: Goose Pimple Index (GPI)


My first vocal coach, exuberant, funny, and wildly talented, always said that when a singer really nailed a performance — I mean nailed the technical, emotional, spiritual essence of the music — the hairs on his arms would stand up as the goose bumps rose. He called it the Goose Pimple Index, or GPI, and it was his sure sign that the planets had aligned at that very moment in perfect musicality.

Tonight, I’m reading this passage from don Miguel Ruiz’s The Fifth Agreement, and I’m stunned. Why did I not make this connection before? The GPI for my vocal coach may have registered musical perfection, but for me, the GPI registers pure truth. When I’m in the presence of something so true and real and breathtakingly elemental, I experience the GPI phenomenon, in conjunction with the involuntary prick of tears that always signals the presence of authentic, honest truth.

As don Miguel writes, “I … know when their words come from truth, and I know because I can feel it.” Oh, yeah. I really get that. Grateful for insights that may lie dormant but that eventually bubble their way to the conscious mind.


365 Grateful: base metal or awesome nature?

365 - 04-05-2015

There’s something fascinating about crystals. Rocks. Geodes. Creations of geology, of Mother Earth. Particularly amazing are the iron pyrite crystals — fool’s gold. They’re not like any crystals you probably imagine. They’re square. Four-sided, square crystals. Super-fine specimens are smooth, others may be striated, depending on how and where and under what circumstances they grew.

IronPyrite2015I picked these up at a relatively local rock shop; since then Charlie broadened my collection with an amazing specimen from Spain, in its original matrix. Awesome.

Perhaps it’s because they remind me of square pegs fitting in round holes. Not a perfect fit … not at all. But just because they don’t match the classic concept of a crystal doesn’t make them any less of one. In fact, it makes them rugged, individualistic, unique — almost as though they’re growing to the sound of a different drummer.

I’m grateful for these solid, square crystals, because they remind me that it’s OK to think for myself, to trust my instincts, to be authentic. Fool’s Gold? Maybe they should be considered True Gold instead.


365 Grateful: Happy Birthday, Charlie


June 10. It’s Charlie’s birthday, and today I’m awash in the joy of time spent with him on the golf course. He loves the game. I like to ride the cart and read a book, coach him a little bit on what he’s doing wrong (seriously?), and enjoy nature as well as companionship  … even if my activity has little to do with the sport.

I used to think riding along during a golf game was a gift I gave to Charlie, but I’ve come to realize that it’s a gift I also give to myself — we both get the gift of time, connection, love, and companionship. It’s priceless.

Of course, a few golf lessons and a brand new driver don’t hurt, either.  Happy birthday, hon. I’m grateful for you and the time we spend together.

365 Grateful: Remembering To Not Rush

365 - 06-06-2015We’ve lived in our new home for six months now. Nearly every day, and sometimes several times a day, we drive this route that’s cut by railroad tracks. Never once have we encountered a train. Until today. Forced to sit, and wait, I’m reminded again of the promise of slowness, of living in the moment, of not hurrying time. Grateful for little reminders — and for discovering that, yes, Virginia, trains do run on that track!

365 Grateful: Tall Grass and Invisible Creatures


Ever notice how gracefully the wind sweeps through a field of tall grass? This morning it’s as though some invisible, playful creature is gamboling through the field, its path so easily seen and yet so wonderfully random, impossible to track. I’ve fallen in love with it; I could watch it forever, it seems, but I must go to work.

I’m talking grass with arching blades and seed heads nodding, the rhythm of nature loving an unmown expanse, not the cropped and manicured lawns of suburbia. There’s no evidence of wind in those shorn locks; they’re sterile; shell-shocked by the mower’s assault.

We’ve just planted grass around our new home and I’m doing my best to figure out how to let it grow and stretch in the wind for as long as possible – all summer if I have my way. Indeed, if I can figure out how to exchange a lawn for an official wildflower meadow garden, tall grass fescue mixed liberally with prairie flowers, I’ll do it. It would mean no mowing but, more importantly, it would mean nature wins one battle against the unnatural human construct of “lawn.”

As I stand here by the back door watching invisible creatures skipping and swooping through unmown grass, I’m grateful … for the awesome beauty of nature, and for the chance to flout suburban lawn rules for a while.

365 Grateful: It’s the Little Things

365 - 06-01-2015So I’m driving past this house, one I pass every day en route to work. Well, technically, I’m riding past it, because Charlie and I are traveling in the same car these days. It’s a tired, little house, desperately in need of some new clothes and a good, long soak in a restorative bath. A new hat to cover its head, a little window dressing, and a manicure would do wonders.

Maybe that’s why I notice — really notice for the first time — its beautiful porch light. The brass gleams, the glass is crystal clear, the glow of light in the early morning softens and pleases. I’m taken aback, because it’s such a juxtaposition of new and old, of fresh beauty and old bones, of — yes, this is it! — pride and neglect.

Pride and neglect. That single glowing addition speaks of pride of ownership. Not the kind of pride that’s ego-based, but the pride that’s deep inside, that says “I value this place, this tired place, and it has much to offer. IT.IS.MY.HOME.” Pride and caring can be found in the most humble of places, and neglect can be found in the most haughty of places. Sometimes that’s easy to forget. and way too easy to judge.

I’m grateful for this lesson. Whether it has brand new bones or old familiar worn ones, it’s home. And if there’s pride in that place, it will show. Even if it’s just a shiny, new porch light that glows with welcome. And that’s just as important as the most well-dressed house on the block.