Sometimes magic hides in the most unlikely places. Found this sparkling itty bitty pondlake with glimmering trees in the back of a restaurant parking lot.
Happy Mother’s Day! Find your magic.
I decided to do the Whole 30 “Abridged” version.
Which is to say, I’m cheating already.
In my defense, I have a nearly full carton of organic half and half just sitting in my fridge and since I no longer waste things, I have to use it. There may have also been a couple pieces of chocolate left too.
I’m also not completely prepared. I need to purchase a few provisions to make this as easy as possible.
What’s interesting to me, is that the Monday after Thanksgiving I quit it all: dairy, alcohol, grains of any kind, sugar. And it was easy. A switch had been thrown that would not allow me to stuff garbage into my pie hole.
That lasted nearly a month. Then someone found the switch and threw it in the other direction.
How does this happen?
I jumped off the junk train then because I felt disgusting and lethargic.
I no longer gauge if something is working by the scale but how I feel. What my energy level is. If I’m sleepy mid-day I know there’s way too much sludge in my veins and they need a nice clean-out with some juicing and/or water. NOT coffee or chocolate, as much as it pains me to write that out loud. And longer term, just better, cleaner eating habits.
I tripped back onto the sugar bus because I clearly wasn’t paying attention. I forgot that I was feeling great. Or, more likely, I succumbed to the ideal that a little won’t hurt.
But I’m back. And committed. 90%.
I have been reading the front of the Whole30 Cookbook and I’m becoming inspired. Enough to order the original Whole30 book with all the secrets for moral support. Thus far, it sounds suspiciously identical to the 21 Day Sugar Detox + 7 days. Either way, just reading about it will help me stay on task.
And either one of them will get me back to that energy sweet spot.
Next Monday 100%.
I’m gonna need all that sustained energy to finish counting all the things in my house.
So much secret stuff.
I began on my back patio, seated on a glider at one end I simply looked around. On the whole there’s a lot of empty space to walk around the furniture, but there are silly things lurking inside some of the pieces that have drawers and other hiding places.
I counted all the furniture, potted plants, lighting (lamps that could be moved, not hard-wired fixtures), wind chimes, hanging tea light holders and gas grill. All pretty reasonable. I could probably do without the bar stools, hutch and small desk. I don’t need the grill, it was given to us and we’ve never used it, it should go to someone who will appreciate it.
As far as decorative items go, I have some cool pieces from Bali and other exotic places, but most were procured from a design firm/store I worked for and not from my own travels. Still, there are some keepers among them. For now.
Now for that hidden treasure…
Aside from all the furniture things can sit on, there are three pieces that contain mysterious items inside. Let’s take a look.
In and on the Teak hutch:
In and on the Desk:
In the bench seat:
In all the 675 square feet that is my back patio oasis, holds 366 items. Not for long.
I have to say, if someone came along and stole everything on my patio, I would be okay. There are no sentimental items or precious pieces. I love my patio and spend a lot of time on it, so I would miss somewhere to sit, and obviously some of the items, but I’m not at all attached. Good start. It’s not all gonna be so easy.
I know there will be some sticky places and some things will take forever to count – I have been making jewelry for over 15 years and playing with art and photography forever – but I’m committed.
Mostly I am curious to see what I learn about myself and what I’m ready to let go of. And really, how I will feel with less stuff. I’m imagining lighter, but I’ve learned the heartbreak of anticipation and expectation too many times, so I’m open to whatever the experience is here to teach me.
Here’s to a year of purging, playing and practicing mindfulness.
Oh, I forgot the curtains – make that 382.
Okay. So I’ve made this decision: The Year of Living Mindfully or Consciously. Or The Year of Counting All My Stuff. Or The Year of the Purge. Now where do I start? How?
As I meander from room to room in my not at all large home I become overwhelmed with all that I know is hidden. Desks, chests, cabinets, closets, even vintage suitcases are home to “things”. And some stuff is flat out mocking me by boldly sitting out for all to see. I have to start somewhere.
This is where most people get stuck. Where I am in danger of procrastination.
The whole mess put all together, especially if I start thinking about the black hole that is the garage, pushes me backward onto the couch in analysis paralysis. I look around for clues. Stare blankly at a plant. Gaze outside hoping for a distraction. I can clearly see the organization necessary, the putting back of things. I see that this needs to go here and that needs to go there, but the thought of pulling stuff out of their secret little hidey-holes and exposing them to daylight makes me sleepy.
I could start the old-fashioned way: pick a drawer or small closet to tackle first. Use a timer so I don’t overwhelm myself. This would be the advice of the Fly Lady and countless other organization gurus.
I could take the advice of Marie Kondo in the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and compartmentalize my stuff. Start with clothes first, then papers, books, etc. Her strategy is to pull all the pieces of one category together, touch each one, hold it up and ask yourself if you love it, or something along those lines. I did this with my clothes, books, papers, then shifted to spaces like the kitchen. Mostly it worked but I got a little stuck when it came to art supplies, artwork, and memorabilia.
Or I could use the Minimalists tactic of boxing up everything I own. Everything. And as I need something take it out of the box. After a month or two, whatever I didn’t pull from the boxes gets donated or otherwise released.
Or I could simply keep researching the best way and avoid the actual work.
I need to think and start small, the garage IS NOT the place to begin, or even look, until I get this project underway.
I will start with my master bedroom. It’s a simple space. Clean. I’ll begin with the contents of my bedside table drawer. I never open it except to retrieve my Nook charger. But there are other treasures in there.
Or, no. As I contemplate this I am sitting on my back patio. The weather is perfect, there’s a breeze and my bird friends have come to sip from the makeshift bird bath on top of the table. The table, birds and bird bath are all outside the screened enclosure, but the patio itself, inside the screen, is home to 675 square feet of hiding places. THIS is where I’ll begin. Stay tuned…
I was sitting in the back of the room with the other yoga nidra facilitators listening with half an ear to the teacher in the front. I can’t even tell you who it was. I don’t remember. In my distracted state, I cut my eyes toward the giant picture windows to my right – I do this often – and between the lush, old stately trees I could see the lake sparkling. A small hole between branches provided the perfect view of a cerulean blue sky and in that tiny hole a vulture soared.
They are everywhere in Florida. They are everywhere, period. But they are in my awareness more than almost any other creature.
During this 10 day training I have entertained hoards. At one point, I was peacefully rocking myself back and forth on a swing, enjoying the breeze coming off the lake, lost in the lapping of the water against the shore; I leaned forward for some reason and when I looked up dozens of vultures were making their way across the sky above me. They were low enough for me to see the holes in their beaks and hear their wings flap as they gained purchase against the wind.
They kept coming. I was awestruck. I have never seen so many aloft at once.
I stood, as much as a salute to their humility and grace as to close the gap between us by another foot or two. I longed – long – for one to swoop down and sit beside me. They are clearly my animal totem and I simply adore them.
No matter when I looked up, during this ten-day training, they were there.
As I sat in the back of the room watching my friend soar effortlessly, I thought, “What are they trying to tell me?”
“Clean up your dead.” It was as if that single vulture had stopped, looked me in the eye with hands on hips and said, “Clean up your dead.”
The meaning simultaneously accompanied the words, yet I tried to analyze it, figure it out. It was an opportunity, in that moment, to simply say, “ok” and let it all go. But I needed to know more. I needed to figure out what my dead was. Which relationships, beliefs, habits was I supposed to let go of? How should I clean them out, how will I know if I have?
This gift that was handed to me became a light that revealed a pattern that doesn’t always serve me. Planting a thought in my brain then attaching a million other thoughts to it. Trying to figure things out.
Sometimes I just have to say ok. And so I did. Sort of.
I am using this command, ‘clean up your dead’ each time I find myself hooking into a thought pattern that isn’t serving me. I won’t catch them all and it will be a process of recognition and repetition until finally it’s not. But I’m committed.
And if I hold on a little too long to the dead weight, I have plenty of airborne friends around to remind me.
Something is shifting. It’s so subtle it would be easy to overlook.
Every challenge issued and completed under the Enchanted Living umbrella is about eliminating the space junk flying around in my (our) head so that I can enjoy every moment. It has always, ever and only been about becoming keenly present. Aware. Moment to moment.
This is where enchantment happens. It is about letting go of the to-do list and just being right here, right now. It’s a lofty goal. And for most of us not achievable every second of every day. But cultivating more moments of presence is always doable.
It’s starting to happen more and more for me.
I was recently feeling overwhelmed with a plate full of obligations. I dove deeper into my time at the gym, being there fully instead of whining my way through it. I went to my mat with curiosity for each and every posture. Then ‘magically’ the two that were causing the most angst corrected themselves seamlessly. I still have a lot to do but it’s just sort of happening, unfolding just as it should. Priorities are revealing themselves. Stuff is getting done and I’m not stressed about it.
I have more strength. In less than two weeks I can feel the difference. My lung capacity has improved, my balance and my confidence in all things physical is up. Back on that yoga mat I’ve become curious about my ability to go deeper, confidently experimenting with my own capabilities. And it’s fun.
This awareness has taken some interesting turns. I am more organized. My house is cleaner. I am purging stuff (again, I love to purge). And I have time. Time to listen to clients, time to have deep, meaningful conversations with friends, time to be.
It is all happening very slowly. If it wasn’t part of my intention of this challenge I might miss it completely.
But it’s the work. My body loves to move. Now that it is, my mind can let go of all the chatter. My mind was never the problem as I suspected. It’s master plan all along, I suspect, was to continue to push me until I found the solutions that worked for my ultimate benefit.
In yoga, we’re always taught to get the mind out of the way, let go of the ego, but a favorite swami put it something like this: It is good to go beyond the mind, but we must use the mind to go beyond the mind. The mind is a tool.
As I continue to work through these challenges I am sharpening the best tool in my tool box.
There is something so enchanting about the first morning light. As darkness relents to the rising sun the whole world is aglow for just a few moments. Light filters through trees, like a mystical omen of the magic to come. The world seems to warm. It’s only meant for a few. It’s too easy to miss, to sleep through.
During this time, in the summer months anyway – of which there are at least six here in middle Florida – the ground begins to make noise. Fallen leaves rustle, rocks are pushed out of the way by tiny reptilian feet. Most birds are still rubbing the sleep from their eyes, but a few start to chirp a little lazily.
There is one that seems to sit just outside my bedroom window whose sole purpose is to let me know the sun is about to come up. In an hour. He panics, I think.
Once the day begins to brighten and the sun makes its way to a visible point, the rest of the avian world begins to come alive. Two mourning doves coo sweet nothings on my fence. At times they roam around the floor of my tiny backyard looking for morsels. So at home, they wait until the very last minute to fly off in a huff when the hounds are released for their morning routines.
It is Saturday. The usual humming of car motors, the rise and fall of garage doors and the air brakes of the school bus are all absent. In their place is silence; the background on which all other sounds can be heard more clearly. A wind chime from two doors down announces a gentle breeze, a dog barks in the distance and beside me a cat works a catnip filled toy, causing the tiny bell on her collar to sing with excitement.
It’s too early and not enough hot yet for the summer bugs to begin singing. I don’t know what they are, some sort of cicada maybe, but I love their song. Or more probably, what it represents, and the fond memories of fleeting summers where there were three other seasons.
In an hour or so, the light will be different, more common. The sweet sounds against the quiet background will be lost to activity. The morning will be just a memory soon forgotten as the day picks up speed.
But later, much later – although it will be here before we know it – will be dusk. That golden hour when the sun, knowing it’s time is short, will flame out spectacularly providing the perfect light for a few fleeting moments before bidding adieu.
Yet there is still light, even after the sun slips below the horizon. As the creatures of the earth honor the rising sun each morning, it is the sun itself that celebrates the end of its workday with an explosion of colors that dance within the clouds.
I wonder what colors the sky will celebrate this evening.
[Photo: Allison L. Andersen. Taken at the Amrit Yoga Institute, Salt Springs, Florida.]
Daily Prompt: When was the last time a movie, a book, or a television show left you cold despite all your friends (and/or all the critics) raving about it? What was it that made you go against the critical consensus?
About 10 years ago I began to shift away from mindless television and fictionalized or glamorized violence of any kind. I stopped watching the ‘news’ first. It makes me sound prudish and elitist, I know, but I’m okay with that.
You’re probably expecting me to tell you now that I’m one of those people who doesn’t own a TV. I still do. And I still watch it, but not often.
At some point I woke up. At some point I realized that everything I was allowing in through my senses affected not only my attitude but my physical being. Maybe it was an amazing book I read, a seminar, a comment overheard. I can’t say when it happened or even why, except that I woke up. And once I knew what I was doing to myself, I made different choices.
When I let go of the need for water cooler banter and chose to turn my attention to talking about expansive ideas and working on how I could become a better person in this world, a better steward of the earth and at the very least do no harm, everything shifted.
I went outside.
I looked up.
I found enchantment in the clouds – we have great clouds in Florida. The praying mantis eating a dragonfly or a spider catching a fly provided drama and a little violence. Birds are actually quite comical. And strangers are always in the midst of some love story. Overhearing snippets of conversation became fodder for my imagination; creating lives and turmoil and surprises for these characters I was free to develop.
As I wandered with my camera, magic appeared in front of me. Every time. Hawks would pose patiently on low branches so I could snap their portrait before they flew off to capture their morning meal. Butterflies and bees slowed down as they worked flowers, it seemed just for me. Deer made sustained eye contact before returning to their foraging or bounding into the forest.
I’m sure this was always the case. The only thing that has changed is the observer. Me.
While I appreciate the opinions of others and on occasion I will take the advice of a friend and watch a show, read a book or go to the movies, I am more likely found squatting next to a tree to get a closer look at a baby frog.
This is the direction in which my preferences run. That’s just me. But then, it’s all a matter of taste.
[Photo: Taken at the Merrit Island Refuge in Merrit Island, Florida. He’s about the size of my thumb nail. Maybe. Photo credit: Me, Allison L Andersen]
The Daily Prompt: A literary-minded witch gives you a choice: with a flick of the wand, you can become either an obscure novelist whose work will be admired and studied by a select few for decades, or a popular paperback author whose books give pleasure to millions. Which do you choose?
Does anyone write to become obscure? Certainly not in the I-want-to-be-published kind of way. Obscurity is earned by spending tormented hours hunched over journals made of parchment, struggling to get the thoughts to coalesce on paper. Obscurity is found work, not intentional.
Yet secretly all who journal or write for themselves, have the fantasy of their heart’s pourings being found and made into an art film, I suspect. Or maybe that’s my notion alone.
My mission with my writing and photography is to ‘Share the Magic.’ It’s not that my point of view is so fresh or that my word combinations are unique. It’s not that my photos are technically brilliant. It’s just that I write and that I take pictures and then I share.
At present two books are hovering in fieri; one on finding the magic in the every day and the other my quirky recounting of two trips to India. I am so enjoying the process that it becomes unthinkable at times to finish either one.
I am inspired to drop everything and go look for dragonflies or how the ripples on the lake catch the sun as I tweak and retweak the magic book. Diving back into India is like crawling into crisp cool sheets and leaning back onto a nest of comfy pillows; I am immediately transported to the dreamlike existence of the mother land.
These distractions do not necessarily speak to the eloquence with which I write, but more to the ideas I am choosing to foster and bring forth. I am in love with these projects.
It seems that neither category offered by our literary witch would suit my endeavors. Although paperback does not automatically denote fiction. Perhaps a popular paperback author could fit. After all it’s my intention to share the magic and why not to millions? If millions of people could stop for a moment and consider the beauty and enchantment that surrounds them every day, might they make different choices? I hope one day soon I’ll find out.
Read other’s responses to the prompt here.
In our ever-evolving world it’s no longer necessary to be born with your super powers; they can be purchased and even financed. Once acquired it is difficult to let them go. Fortunately upgrades are usually available.
So what’s always within arms reach?
The romantic side of me wants to tell you it’s my camera I can’t live without. The ego side of me wants you to believe I have a yoga mat slung over my shoulder every waking moment. Sadly, I believe the truth of it might be a bit more mundane, pedestrian.
My super powers are in my phone. There, I said it, but before you judge (those of you that aren’t woefully nodding in agreement) allow me to elaborate.
I, like so many, rarely use my phone for actual conversations anymore, succumbing to the efficiency of the text. I am also fortunate enough to work in a pseudo-retail environment where I have ample human contact on a daily basis. And it’s a yoga studio, so it is 99.999% pleasant and uplifting.
Instead, I use my phone for other communicative conveyances. I take copious photos – it is much more comfortable in my pocket than let’s say my digital SLR with its telephoto lens. I blog – it’s true – the whole time I was in India in February I would recount the day’s events on my tiny little screen, squinting, backspacing and correcting auto-correct, just to get the memories down. It wasn’t ideal, but it was efficient and a lot more portable than my laptop.
I manage a few Facebook pages. Phone. Check.
I schedule events and clients. Phone. Check.
I have to-do lists, too many. Phone. Check.
I have passwords that need managing. When did this become a thing? Phone. Check.
I don’t wear a watch. Phone. Check.
I don’t have an alarm clock. Dogs, first, but when away…Phone. Check.
But like all super powers I too have my kryptonite: no wifi. After my brain empties completely and I stare blankly at the lovely person who meant no disrespect upon informing of such, I take a deep breath and look around. I have learned to use Notes or Evernote and pre-blog my musings, thereby pacifying my need to connect in that moment. Or, I meander wherever I am and snap photos. See? Magic. Powers restored.
I suppose if I were a recluse I could live without my phone. Or use it, you know, as a phone. But if Dorothy had never left Kansas she wouldn’t have needed those sparkly red shoes either. And neither one of us would have any stories to tell.
So, back on the road, finding every day enchantments to photograph and write about, I bring along my little digital world. But don’t worry, it’s all backed up to the cloud, so should I *gasp* lose it I won’t lose it. My super power, that is.
Writing Prompt: Object Lesson. Sherlock Holmes had his pipe. Dorothy had her red shoes. Batman had his Batmobile. If we asked your friends what object they most immediately associate with you, what would they answer?
[Photo: Sunrise in Long Island, Bahamas with my iPhone 5S – Super]