Daily Prompt

Staying in Focus: Dancing in the Rain

Daily Prompt: Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
-Vivian Greene

I was about to choose another quote for this daily post, when I came across this one in a book I was reading and I immediately felt a connection to the message it conveys. So many of us waste time waiting for the storm to pass, for everything to be in place and perfect before we are ready to make the move to actually live our lives. Instead, we should be learning to deal with things the way they are, make the best of what we have. We are not perfect, and there is no such thing as the perfect time for anything. What we have is now, and we may miss out on many experiences if we choose to wait and see.

This is especially Important for someone like me, who suffers from a degenerative disease. I have a choice – sit back and wait for a cure to be found (wait for the storm to pass), or make the best of what I have now, what I can do rather than what I am no longer able to do. I can, in fact, dance in the rain. I can walk in the rain, too, or dance in the sunlight. I may not be able to smell a flower’s scent, but I can perceive its beauty with my eyes. I can keep up with my exercises to encourage that storm to pass more quickly. I can do even more to that end by supporting the people searching for a cure, or by participating in clinical trials. My husband and I travel as much as we are able. We recognize the fact that we are getting older and will not be mobile enough to travel with ease like we do now. So we could, literally, have danced in the rain in a downpour in Dublin, Ireland. Had we waited for the storm to pass, we would not have seen the snow covered mountains of Alaska or had a close encounter with a humpback whale. I would never had seen the remnants of the Berlin Wall, the lovely town of Kristiansand, Norway, nor gazed at the ancient mystery that is Stonehenge.

The same day I came across this quote, my son showed me a You Tube video that inspired me as nothing has in a long while. Take a minute to view this video. Go to You Tube and search for Paul Smith Typewriter Artist. Mr. Smith had no choice in his life because the storm would not pass for him, but he learned to dance in the rain with the only things available to him – his typewriter and as he says, “my finger.”

Dancing in the rain is about celebrating life, no matter what challenges we may have to face or overcome. Dancing in the rain is about finding the silver lining in that cloud and grabbing on with both hands. And when the first raindrops fall from that cloud, be ready to dance.

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: A Plot of Earth: Scottish Fantasy

 

Daily Prompt: You’re given a plot of land and have the financial resources to do what you please. What’s the plan?

I’m going to assume this plot of land is located in Scotland, perhaps left to us in the will of a relative, for some strange reason. (My husband has relatives who live in Scotland, so you never know). Intrigued, we fly to Scotland and discover the plot of land is located in South Queensferry. To our delight, this is a town in Scotland we have visited and it is picturesque and not too far from the capital city of Edinburgh.

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We build a lovely, snug, single floor cottage on out plot of land, with a large master bedroom suite, and a comfortable guest suite, an office for Bill and a “snuggery” for me with a view of our landscaped gardens which present a seasonal change of color and delight. Flowers spill from window boxes and there is a potters shed in the backyard, where the dappled sunlight dances on the grass beneath two large shade trees. A comfortable hammock is strung between the trees, a perfect place for reading, meditating or napping on a warm summer day. The cottage is open and airy, with a flowing floor design that lets in the light, yet snug enough to be warm and cozy in winter. When cold winds blow, the double-sided fireplace brings cheery warmth to kitchen and living room. Bookshelves line the walls of the living room, and off of it, there is a glass walled conservatory with a terracotta floor, filled with plants and some comfy lounges for reading and napping.

We sell our home in the US and rent a small apartment to use when visiting friends and family, most likely during those very long, dark winter days in Scotland. Family and friends, sorry to bail out on all of you like this, but it was a fantasy too enticing to pass up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap: Why I Love to Travel

Daily Prompt: What’s your dream tourist destination — either a place you’ve been and loved, or a place you’d love to visit? What about it speaks to you?

It is impossible for me to pick just one favorite destination. There are so many places in this world I want to see. The travel bug bit me while growing up. My family always enjoyed exploring new places. My dad owned a small plastics manufacturing business in Butler, NJ, and the only way he could get away from it all was to pack up the Ford station wagon for two weeks every July and hit the open road, wife and kids in tow. We covered all the lower 48 states, much of Canada, and Mexico.

My father and I dreamed of going to Alaska, but we ran out of time, as one by one we kids grew up, married and moved on. My husband and I did some travelling with our boys, mostly exploring the southern US, when we moved to North Carolina in 1987.

Then, in 2012, our friends Denise and Geoff asked us if we would be interested in a cruise to Alaska. Thanks to them, my dream came true. It was more beautiful than I dreamed it would be.  Snow topped mountains, aquamarine water,IMG_8563 eagles, seals, dolphins and whales.( I have an interest in humpback whales, having adopted one, named Ivory, many years ago.)  I never dreamed I would see them up close, but we did on one of the cruise ship’s shore excursions.

I was most anxious to see Alaska for two reasons. Having been diagnosed in 2007 with Parkinson’s disease, I have no idea how much time I have before the disease gets the upper hand and impacts my walking ability, balance and agility. And second, given the predicted impacts from global warming, Alaska, as we know it today, may one day disappear as its great glaciers steadily recede.  Alaska speaks to me through its mountains and forests. To watch the eagles soar overhead, to see the majestic whales surface from the deep-sea waters, to watch the sunrise paint the ocean gold,  these are memories I will carry with me all my life.IMG_8549

Having enjoyed our visit to Alaska, we planned a second cruise, this time around the British Isles, in 2013. Both my husband and I had dreamed of doing this, and so we visited England, Ireland, northern Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Guernsey and spent a whirlwind day in Paris, France.I fell in love with the United Kingdom. The history of the place is embedded in the very walls of medieval castles and stone cathedrals, in the buildings of London – Parliament, Buckingham PalaceIMG_2038 - Copy and the Tower of London . We traveled past pastoral scenery,IMG_1186 - Copy sheep grazing on hillsides, small villages and breathtaking coastlines.

It is hard to express why, but there is more of a sense of permanence there, of cultures steeped in custom and tradition. It is the home of Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austin, the Brontes, William Wordsworth, Monty Python and the Beatles. We visited Loch Ness, StonehengeIMG_2226, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We toured the Beatles museum in Liverpool, and the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Sometimes I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t all a dream.993608_10201236706172446_1531835495_n

The trouble with travel is that it is addictive. The more I travel, the more I want to travel.

Next on my dream list would be the Scandinavian countries, and Germany where my ancestors originated, and the Mediterranean, Italy and Greece, maybe even New Zealand and Australia.

I believe that travel opens our minds, encourages us to meet and understand people of different cultures, challenges our preconceptions and broadens our perspective as we realize we are all much the same –  just people living out our lives, striving to make our dreams a reality.

I believe that somewhere out there, there is a cruise ship

IMG_1375 waiting for me to board, a jet airplane waiting to whisk me off to somewhere other than here. Who knows what the future holds? Maybe we’ll find a little cottage in a quiet village somewhere and never come back.

After all,a girl can dream, can’t she? 😉

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt Burning Down the House: How Much Do We Really Need?

Daily Prompt:Your home is on fire. Grab five items (assume all people and animals are safe). What did you grab?

Remember this prompt, when your home was on fire and you got to save five items? That means you left a lot of stuff behind. What are the things you wish you could have taken, but had to leave behind?

I am a little behind in keeping up with the daily prompts because I have been cleaning out my closets, an activity prompted by one of this week’s prompts (so to speak).

The prompt I am responding to is the one which posed the question: If your house was burning down, what five things would you grab (assuming all humans and pets were safe)?

I pondered on this for a bit and decided, also assuming, of course, that I am already wearing clothes, on the following:

  1. If they aren’t already on my face, I must grab my glasses so I can find my 4 remaining things.
  2. My laptop. It holds all my writing –  books, poems, blogs, ideas and outlines for future books and blogs, important phone numbers, my journal, my pictures and my music. Can’t leave without it.
  3. My camera bag. I take my cameras with me everywhere I go. It is through the lens of my cameras that I build my world view.
  4. My purse – money, credit cards, medication, health insurance, ID, cell phone, house key. (Oops! Guess I won’t need that anymore.)
  5. This is tough, but I’ll have to choose one hat from my collection. Guess it will have to be the hat I purchased in Ireland. A memento of my first visit to Europe and the most expensive hat I have because I wasn’t good at converting the euros to dollars yet.

The follow-up prompt to this was leaving so much behind, what else would you go back for?

When I really thought about it, I would like to have my gold charm bracelet, which my parents bought me when I  graduated  from high school and is now covered with charms which represent the most important events in my life and some of the jewelry my husband has given me over the years.

Secondly, I‘d like to save my scrapbooks. I put a lot of work into them.

Finally, I would have liked to save my plants. The people and animals were safe, but my plants too numerous to move out whilst the flame were spreading – but, after all, they are living things.

Beyond that, I realized I could get along pretty well with what I had here, with some extra clothes and toiletries. It would hurt to lose my books, but my eBooks are stored in the cloud and I could easily retrieve them.

So, I asked myself, why do I have all this stuff lying around if I really didn’t need it? And so I decided to clean house. Now, I’m not ready yet to pare down to these few objects unless my husband finally agrees to sell everything we have and go live on a cruise ship, but it is interesting isn’t it, what little we do really need in the great scheme of things?

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Staying in Focus:Re-springing Your Step/Mountain Weekend

Daily Prompt: Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?

 

The last experience I had that left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated occurred last summer, when my husband and I and our friends, Kathi and Don, spent a weekend at the Cabins of Willow Winds in Asheville, NC.IMG_3539

Although last summer was not exceedingly hot or humid at home, the weather the weekend we were in Asheville was absolutely wonderful. We were worried because the forecast was for rain, but all we had was a brief shower one afternoon. It was in the evening that we really noticed the difference. The cabin had floor to ceiling windows, which we cranked open, and the most delightful breeze of cool mountain air flowed in, carrying with it the sounds of nocturnal creatures, insects and frogs and the like. Those sounds brought back memories of the summers of my childhood spent in a cabin near a lake. There, I would be lulled to sleep by the nighttime chorus of frogs and katydids.

We took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, climbed up to the visitor center atop Mount MitchelIMG_3526l and ate lunch at the restaurant there, the wall of windows providing a spectacular view.IMG_3527IMG_3478 IMG_3481 IMG_3388 - Copy - Copy IMG_3392 IMG_3426 IMG_3435 IMG_3437 - Copy IMG_3448 IMG_3456 IMG_3471

We went on a ghost tour, and walked through the botanical gardens. IMG_3542Kathi and Don tried their hand at fishing in a pond on the premises of the cabin and we made our dinners in the cabin. Last year was an especially tense one with family illnesses and other stresses, but those three days in Asheville stand out as a small oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation.IMG_3600 There’s something about mountains that have always had that effect on IMG_3586me.

Blue Ridge

the mountains gather round me

endless folds of smoky blue

and the sun ignites the crystal drops

of early morning dew

wisps of misty water vapor

wreathe a distant mountain peak

and I feel a deep connection

with the spirit that I seek

in the mountains, in the places

of the wild and the free

are the answers to the problems

that quite often trouble me

so I come for grace and comfort

and I come for sweet release

my spirit seeks the mountains

here I find my inner peace

-pc 97

Mountains

When the pressures of life build to a peak

Some people find solace in shorelines and sea

But it’s often the higher ground that I seek

For it’s always been mountains for me

When I stand on a ridge at the top of the world

From worry and care I am free

I sing in the sun with my spirit unfurled

It will always be mountains for me!

-pc’03

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Sparkle or Still: A Moment Lost

Daily Prompt: What’s your idea of a perfect day off: one during which you can quietly relax, doing nothing, or one with one fun activity lined up after the other? Tell us how you’d spend your time.

 

…a moment lost, forever gone, can never be again…

– Enya

Each day we are given is a joy and a blessing to be appreciated and what we do matters less than that we do something to celebrate the day itself. I would have to say that how I spend my day depends on two things –  the weather and where I am at the time. Sometimes, I like to combine the two in one day – sparkle a little, then be still.

Take,  for example,  that most enjoyable of all days, a snow day. School and work suspended and the world  transformed into a vision of fantasy.  I love to walk in falling snow and watch the transformation take place.  I like to get out early into the woods where all is silent and still. I was the first person in these woods as there were no other footprints in the  cashmere-like  layer of snow on the path.

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Later, when the sun comes out, icicles sparkle from the eaves of rooftops and everything is bright and soft and the air filled with the squeals and shouts of children sledding, building snowmen, making angels in the snow and engaging in snowball fights. My mission is to find objects and vistas transformed by the event.

 

 

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But soon the cold creeps in,  my camera starts to freeze and that’s when I retreat to my warm, cozy home, turn on the fire, whip up a cup of hot cocoa and curl up with a good book, toasty, warm and still.

Gloomy, cloudy rainy days are still days for me. Time to read, paint, or write (see my book Escape from Mount Sanctuary on Amazon). and listen to the raindrops as they fall, nourishing and replenishing the plants and the soil, the lakes and streams.

Where I am also has an impact on how I spend my time, and I enjoy spending some of it on a cruise. The days at sea offers the opportunity to sit on the deck chairs, relax, sleep, read, and listen to music. A jumbotron screen, over the pool on one of the decks, plays movies and concerts .IMG_0972

When the ship reaches a port of call, then the action begins with disembarking, exploring the city we are in or riding buses to other cities, or taking a scenic ride through the countryside.

 

We know not everyday can be a snow day or a vacation day, but each  one is special because the number of our days is not infinite. We can  celebrate each day with a positive attitude, take time to enjoy what each day brings as it unfolds, do something productive, or do a kindness for another.  How we spend our time is not measured in how much we do, but how well we do it. We must make those moments count, whether we are sitting in our backyard gazing at the crisp blue of an autumn sky,  walking in the snow on a quiet winter morning, or watching the sunrise from a balcony on a ship cruising the British Isles.

Spend your moments as you will, but spend them well.                                                                          IMG_1950

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Autumn Blues: A Bittersweet Transition

Daily Prompt:

As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?

A Bittersweet Transition

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Ah, the end of summer. Always a bittersweet time for me as a child.  Until I was in my teens we spent our summers in a cabin near a lake.  It was the mid  1950s to the  early 1960’s, and those were our halcyon days.

On sunny days we went fishing, swimming and hiking. We took walks in the early evening to the clubhouse to watch movies, play bingo and buy penny candy. On rainy days we would color and draw, or lay on the cots on the porch and read the day away. I read everything from the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, to the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Hardy Boys (the last two compliments of my cousin, Ricky).IMG_3809

We kids, which included me, my sister, Mary Lou, my brother, Steven , and cousins, Ricky and Susan, and our moms stayed at the lake all summer and the dads would come up for their 2 week vacations and every weekend.

Toward the end of August we would make a trip home, to pick up our uniforms, buy our black and white saddle shoes and our school supplies. As much as I loved the easy pace of summer, the warm days, time to just lay in a hammock and rock back and forth, catch fireflies in the evening, and toast marshmallows in the outside fireplace, something inside me would awaken as we walked past aisles full of pencils, erasers, crayons, pencil cases, lunch boxes, and the icon of my school supplies, the black and white composition books. I still have my first three composition books from kindergarten.IMG_3806

To me they epitomize how I felt at the start of a new school year. The  new composition book is fresh and clean, ready and waiting for the school year to begin. On the first day of school, I, too, will be fresh and clean, my black and white saddle shoes shined and my uniform crisp and tidy.  These images spell new beginnings to me, a whole new year of learning and growing, a fresh start, a chance to get off on the right foot and fill that composition book with perfect penmanship.

But not to worry. We would return to the lake for a few precious weeks, which included the celebration of Regatta Days and the Labor Day weekend. Days filled with games, competition and barbeques.  Although at home my uniform hung ready, my books and supplies packed, all I needed was a little more time, time for swimming and fishing and rocking in the hammock, sweet and slow.

Bittersweet, those last precious days of summer, as they marked the end of one thing and heralded the start of another. I miss that transition now, but perhaps I can recapture the feeling with these:

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(I don’t have a pair of black and white saddle shoes, but guess what? I looked on the internet and they are now designed by Ralph Lauren and sold at Nordstrom’s!) Anyway, back to the black and white composition book. It sits there ready and waiting for me to make that first entry, forge a new beginning, and write….the first lines of a new poem…

September

A month of fresh starts… a new school year… new pencil cases and clean lunch boxes…the smell of chalk …the polished sheen on my new black and white saddle shoes…and the blank pages of a composition book beckoning me to record the endless possibilities that lie ahead with the precise point of a newly sharpened pencil…(more to come)

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: New Dawn

Daily Prompt: How often do you get to (or have to) be awake for sunrise? Tell us about what happened the last time you were up so early (or late…).

Sunrise Revisited

Those who have followed my blogs for a while now, know how much I love to photograph sunrises and sunsets. This may be a bit repetitive, but it was fun putting all the best in one blog. My photos often inspire my poetry. The first sunset photo was taken of the harbor at Wrightsville Beach with an old style 35mm Canon Rebel G camera back in 1998:

Harbor Sunset

liquid drops of sunlight sparkle in the bay,

and reflect a sky awash in sunset hue,

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Harbor Sunset

the trees along the shoreline form a silhouette in gray,

and the clouds amass in shades of dusky blue.

suspended for a moment between darkness and the day,

I pause to fill my senses and renew,

and with deep appreciation I continue on my way

as the sunset in the harbor fades from view.

My next favorite encounter with the sun over water was while on a cruise off the coast of Alaska. I just happened to awaken about 4AM, and saw the faintest light peeking out behind the curtain. I stood there and watched as the sun slowly cleared the sky of the dark shadows of night and let spill in the colors of  a magnificent sunrise. Later that day, the sunset was more the play of light upon the water and not color that captures the eye. These were taken with my digital Canon Rebel xsi.  This experience inspired the following Haiku poem:

Sunrise , Sunset at Sea (Haiku)

we watch the sun rise
light vanquishes the darkness                                 IMG_8448 IMG_8592
and color returns

the calm sea reflects
ribbons of orange and pink
we stand mesmerized

as the sun rises
it paints a path of gold light
for us to follow

as the sun lowers
bands of dark purple and blue
bruise the evening sky

rays of pale sunlight
reach out across the water
the sun bids farewell

we watch the sun set
the shades of night seep in
the sky veiled in gray

the calm sea darkens
a weary sun now at rest
color fades to black

 

 

Last summer I took this photo off the coast of Scotland:

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The rays of sunlight  spilled  from the clouds like rain:

 

on a sea of inspiration

cruising round the British Isles

with sailboats as companions

tacking toward the setting sun…

and in coves,  ships find safe harbor

as the captains in their  cabins

dream of voyages  to come…

the sun bids clouds to gather

as rays of gold rain gently down

and  illuminate the sea;  for a

a sunset over Scotland forms

a memory not forgotten

easily.

-pc 2013

Finally, one needn’t be at sea to enjoy a summer sunset. A s the Fourth of July was winding down, my  mother looked out the window and saw this lovely sunset. I took these photos off my back porch:

 

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My favorite chair in my favorite room looks out at the sun rising over the neighboring houses. Until my husband retired, I was up

before dawn and able to catch the sun rising more often . Now I fall back asleep in between my first meds of the day at 6:00 AM and the next bunch at 7:30AM.But each sunrise is so special, heralding the gifts it brings light, warmth, life, and another beautiful day to enjoy, we should not miss it or take it for granted.  As Ke, says to Tuck, in my book, Escape from Mount Sanctuary, upon seeing the sun for the first time, “In all my imaginings, Tuck, never could I have envisioned a world of such glory.” “For certain, Ke, it is a world beyond imaginings.” The awe in his voice matched mine. We stood together then, hand in hand, on the precipice of our new wold. We were spellbound by the beauty before us, and humbled by a grand design we could not even begin to understand.*

If I had not been up early to catch the sunrise after a  rare southern snowfall, I would have missed taking this sunrise photo, my most unusual yet. My garden globe was situated perfectly to catch the sunrise after the storm.

As the characters in my book learn during their journey, we inhabit a beautiful planet, one t hat welcomes the day with the rising sun, and it calls us to rest as it sets.

To read more of Escape from Mount Sanctuary, it is available in print and Kindle editions at:

http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Sanctuary-Imagine-discover/dp/1499353707/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409335777&sr=1-1&keywords=escape+from+mount+sanctuary

Daily Prompt: Bookish Choice: Staying in Focus

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?

As I currently have a book on the market at Amazon.com, and I visit its web page daily, eagerly looking to see if anyone else has written a review (I have one so far), or I stop by Kindle Direct Publishing to see if any more copies have been sold, I find myself caught between these two choices. I would, of course, love to have it be wildly popular, but I would also like to feel it has a lasting effect on those who read it. It is not just a flash in the pan story. The truth behind the message is important to the reader now, while there is still time to avoid the consequences of not heeding it, as it is to future generations who must live with our actions in the here and now.

I guess I opt for the combo plan – a wildly popular book with a message for the ages, a story of discovery, a tale about a second chance, taking that chance, facing the risks and dangers, growing up and growing into a family and a people sharing and caring for the world they live in. My book serves as a handbook, a guide from the present to the future for the future. Hopefully, if I ended up with the second choice, those select few studying the book are doing so in a world of light and life. Those of you who have read the book know what I mean. If so, my goal in writing it has been achieved.

Want to read it? Follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Sanctuary-Imagine-discover/dp/1499353707/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407898879&sr=1-1&keywords=escape+from+mount+sanctuary

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Back to Life: Let’ s be Real

Daily Prompt: After an especially long and exhausting drive or flight, a grueling week at work, or a mind-numbing exam period — what’s the one thing you do to feel human again?

After a grueling day or a mind numbing experience, my first thought is to go home. Home is a refuge from the world. Close the blinds, lock the doors and the world fades away, at least for a little while. Ideally, here is what I would do next: Change into my exercise clothes and do some yoga or tai chi, focus my attention inward, stretch the muscles, concentrate on the moves, blocking out intrusive thoughts. A nice warm bath, some candles, soft music on the iPod, most likely Enya, would follow. My next level of escape would be meditation, provided the preceding events have chilled me enough to focus my attention. Lastly, a good book and a good night’s sleep.

But let’s be real for a minute. More than likely this is how it would pan out:  I would go home, and spend the evening reading, while devouring something dreadful for me like ice cream or donuts or a slice of chocolate cake and a frosty glass of milk, or maybe brownies or an Entenmann’s crumb cake, or… you get my drift, which is in the direction of the nearest grocery store…