Monday, 23 December 2013

Is it feeling harmonious?

I find myself writing this in front of my toes toasty warm from the heat of the flames and the blanket-like slippers and socks I'm heart warm from the visits with family and the joy we've joined together to create and share with others.

For yes, indeed, at 10 o'clock tonight, I found myself wondering what to do with myself.  Gifts made?  Check.  Gifts wrapped?  Some, but there's time to do the rest in the remaining days leading up to Christmas.  House cleaned?  Nope, but who wants to do that on such a lovely evening?  A cuddle with my love?  Yes, soon.

As I gaze at the fire, I find myself reflecting back on the week that was.  While there have been ups and downs, I can say that I'm feeling in a better place this year than last.  I let go of the expectation that I would follow the From Hectic to Harmonious Holiday Challenge to the letter this week, though I wanted to try my best to live in the spirit of it.  We had some celebrations that were planned months ago, like our Solstice celebration and several family gatherings, as well as some unexpected events, like saying goodbye to an extended family member, the acts of gathering and sharing with a homeless shelter, and what looked like the beginning of an ear infection with one of my little ones.  It was definitely a week of ups and downs.

Through it all, I found that we were able to offer ourselves - our time, our talents, our thoughts - with the emphasis on others.  My hope was that we were able to lighten the load and take care of some details so that others didn't have to.  We were able to be grounded but flexible.  And that was what I wanted to get out of the holiday challenge...I wanted to move away from the to-do lists and the manic rush to each day's deadline towards a more thoughtful, intentional, and peaceful holiday season.  Where the focus of the celebrations is more about the joy shared with others and authenticity than the actual items placed under the tree or on the table.  Where the spirit of "it's the thought that counts" can be found in every nook and cranny.

Day by day, as the holiday challenge emails arrived in my inbox announcing what would help me achieve that harmonious vibe I was after, I slipped it in my back pocket of activities to share when the time was right.  Building a snow fort turned into making a fort in the living room (day 21).  A solstice walk around the block (day 19) turned into walking to the corner and heading back, followed by a toasty fire and a warm bath infused with calming lavender oil.  Planning a vacation meal with my children (day 15) wove its way into a family meal, and shopping together for the ingredients happened at the last farmer's market of 2013 (day 16).  Making homemade cocoa (day 17) happened right after we arrived back from an extended family snowshoeing walk (day 18). 



So, in a nutshell...yes, it is feeling harmonious here.

I'll be away from the space for the next bit.  I hope all enjoy their holiday festivities, and have the ones you love best close in your heart.  Peace, light, and joy to you all!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Return of the light

This is the candle that stood in the middle of our Solstice spiral last night.  The single light that we used to light our own lanterns, and which together, illuminated the spiral.  The single light that reminds us that we each have a light inside us and that when we share that light, it grows and glows strong and bright enough to chase the darkness away.  The single light that reminds us that the darkest day of the year is now past us and we can turn our thoughts to the optimism of the days ahead.  The single light that exudes peace and encourages quiet reflection.

I wish you and yours a merry holiday season.  May you find your light and let it shine out into the rest of the world.  Peace. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

The weekly From Hectic to Harmonious catch-up

I haven't written specifically about the From Hectic to Harmonious challenges I've been completing, even though I have been doing them faithfully, or just not mentioning that what I was doing related to the challenge.  I'm finding that even though I would never in a million years say that we live in a zen household, or that we live in harmony, I think I've received proof that we live simply.  I've found that as the challenges have made their way to my inbox and I've looked them over, I've been saying to myself..."We did that yesterday!" or "Isn't it a coincidence that we planned to do that today!"  Now I'm trying to wrap my brain around the realization that all this simple living stuff seems to take a tremendous amount of effort.  Not that the effort doesn't have a soul-satisfying reward at the end.  But it's effort, and when it becomes a series of "to-do's" and a deadline is fast approaching, it takes on a hectic vibe.

For any of you who were interested in the actual challenges, here's what they were:

  ~ Day 9 :: Make something beautiful.  I blogged about our crafting here.

  ~ Day 10 :: Sing something beautiful.  We gathered for a short while around the piano.  I stumbled my way through playing some tunes while trying to sing them at the same time.  My little ones sang for a song or two then decided to read a book nearby.  That's the way it goes here.  I can say I felt filled up after playing The Christmas Song - my all-time favorite.

  ~ Day 11 :: Write something beautiful.  I blogged about it here and there was also some magical writing here.

  ~ Day 12 :: Make your giving wish list.  My son saw a gentleman riding his bike through the snow-filled alleys while balancing large plastic bags.  He was hunting through recycling bins for pop bottles to take back for a refund.  The next day my son was baking cookies to take to the homeless shelter, along with some winter clothes we plan to round up.  That son of ours has a big heart - he brings me such joy and I'm lucky to have him in my life.

  ~ Day 13 :: Ask for help.  Someone else washed and dried the laundry for me!  It's not folded, but it's a start!

  ~ Day 14 :: Make one corner just right.  Does stacking the load of firewood that was dumped on our sidewalk this morning count as making one corner just right?  When I saw this challenge, my eyes and mind started picturing the transformation that could take place with just 10 minutes of uninterrupted effort...the island in our kitchen...the top of our sideboard that holds some of our homeschool supplies, as well as a dwarf Christmas dresser in my bedroom...over by the printer.  And then my reverie was interrupted by the phone call saying the firewood could come today.  Three hours later, I have three lovely stacks of wood in my backyard and the sidewalk is now clutter-free.  So, in my books, stacking firewood does count.

I'm hoping you're settling in to the holiday spirit this week, friends!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Writing something simple and beautiful

Dazzling white snowflakes
Dance and flutter in the sky
Smile up to heaven

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Crafting up a storm

Making something with our hands is a daily occurrence around here, even if it wasn't 13 days before Christmas.  In fact, as I look around the living and dining areas, I'd be inclined to say crafting happens multiple times during our days.  Here are just a snippet of what we've been up to...

Painting with watercolours
Sewing with supervision
Making a gift for nature with bread, peanut butter and sunflower seeds
Rolling candles from beeswax sheets
Hanging a star each day until Christmas
A freezer-paper stencil work-in-progress
One of these nutcrackers will turn into a prince, but we don't know which one, so they all need a crown made of modelling clay
Paper snowflakes with Nature Club
A crocheted star for the one in our lives who shares his light through his optimism - see here for the pattern
A felted Christmas tree - because a wee bit more greenery is nice!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

About hugs

I'm pondering how something as simple as a hug can be so complex.  It can offer comfort or it can be given with a broken heart.  It can be shared in jubilation or it can signal the end of the day and sweet dreams for the night.

When I first saw the From Hectic to Harmonious day 8 challenge in the morning - share cuddles - I was pretty sure I would have many opportunities before lunch had been placed on the table a mere few hours later.  After all, I have two very cuddly little ones who seem to be magnetically drawn to my lap.  One is usually sitting on me for our circle time, the other will curl up with me for a book.  One will cuddle with me as we create homemade wrapping paper and the other will sense when I need a hug and beam her smiling face up at me as she wraps her arms around my waist.  Plus, as coincidence would have it, our Christmas countdown activity in the evening was to huddle up around the fire and read Christmas stories while munching on popcorn.  We had this challenge in the bag, without even trying.

But then I thought, what about that oldest one of mine?  The one who will (politely) decline a hug or an arm wrapped around his shoulders out in public.  The one who is growing into himself and prefers things kept at arms-length, most of the time.  The exceptions make me thankful for homeschooling and the opportunity to be present when the desire for a hug arises.  For I must say that I've noticed more hugs post-public school.  And I see the innocence and wonder in his eyes, and his passion and love for life when we do get moments of closeness.  He seems happy and at ease.  He can let his guard down.

As it turned out, Nicholas and I didn't have a cuddle that morning.  We did huddle up close to the fire in the evening and we had our ritual good-night hug.  But it felt that even though we didn't actually physically touch in the morning, we shared a closeness and a bonding as we worked together to create a story based on several pictures he drew and inspired by the ideas he'd read about in The Book of Fairy Princes.

Here is his story:



Once upon a time in a very, very colourful forest there was a great wise owl and a colourful oak tree with leaves of blue, green, pink, purple, orange, yellow, red and brown.  And that great oak tree stood in the middle of a castle’s courtyard guarded by a very, very wise owl.  But there was a demon up in the skies above that didn’t like the sight so one day he decided to go down to the forest of beautiful colours and he would try and burn it down or destroy it in some way.

So, when he went down, he said, “Hey, mister owl.  I saw a sick tree about two miles west.  I think it’s your job to fix it.  But, are you able to fix it?”

And the owl said, “Yes, I’m the guardian of this forest.  So off he went as quick as the wind could go.

Once he was gone, the demon, who knew that there was only one way to defeat this forest, and it was to burn down the great oak tree.  So he burnt down the great oak tree, and the fire spread so much that it burnt down almost the whole forest.  Only the drooping firs were able to survive.  And there were only two colours of this drooping fir – green and brown.

When the great wise owl got to about two miles to the west, he found no sick trees and all of his trees were shining.  Then, all of a sudden, all the trees stopped shining their beautiful colour and they turned into dull reds, blues, browns, pinks, purples and all the other colours.  So the great wise owl knew something was wrong when he saw that.  When he looked behind him, he saw a great fire raging.  So, he quickly acted, for he knew what the demon had done.  He collected all of the animals that knew him and lived closest to the water to tell him where the yellow part of the water lives.  All the animals said,  “there is only one lake, and it only has yellow water in the centre of the lake.”

The owl flew as quick as the wind to the lake and the lake’s name was The Lake of Colourful Treasures.  He flew over to that lake and he took a big mouthful of the yellow part of the water.  He flew back to the great oak tree and he sprinkled the water on the raging fire on the great oak tree.  Once this was done, the fire ceased all over.  And because the owl was mad with the demon, he decided he would put up a magical barrier using his magical powers.  But the only magical powers he had were to save this great colourful forest. 

So, he sat in the east side of the tower being very sad and letting his sorrow sweep away from him.  When he was done being sad, he went to the west tower and he collected all of his seeds that he had collected from the different coloured trees and he planted them where all the other dead trees were.  The only trees that were remaining were the brown drooping fir and the green drooping fir. 

Once he was done planting, he asked all the trees if they would let him know when the demon came back so that during that time, he could prepare a spell to protect the forest.  So, all the trees agreed.  But while he was preparing, he was also researching a way to make a red drooping fir, a blue drooping fir, and an orange drooping fir, pink drooping fir, purple drooping fir and yellow drooping fir – the most important of all the colours.  When he was done, he was able to make one of each colour fir but just to make sure that the demon didn’t come in, he decided to stay watch on the great oak tree.  But after the fire everyone called it the great dead oak tree.  And you may be wondering how the great wise owl was able to make a spell to keep the demon out.  All he did was he put a yellow fir on each point of the forest – north, east, south, and west.  Nowadays, if you go to the forest, you will see him perched on the great dead oak tree.  But now, for the rest of the story.

Once he fixed all the damage of the fire, he sat upon the great dead oak tree all the time because of all the trees, it was his favorite.  As a sign of respect and friendship, he sat on it to watch over the forest all of the time. 
But now the demon, he saw that the owl was smart and he fixed it.  And he saw that he could not get in and destroy it.  But he saw all the other forests around it and he thought, "What if I light a fire in each of the forests, north, east, south and west?"  So, he researched as well.  And he found out that the magical barrier could not let him in, but other forest fires could get in.  So, he decided he would go light a fire in each of the four forests.  He went over and he lit a fire in the forest of the north.  Then he went down and did the forest of the east.  Then he went down and did the forest of the south.  Then he went west and did the forest of the west.  But then he thought, “ Uh oh, how will I get out?”

He decided to fly north.  But the fire was too big for him to get back up to the sky.  So he went back to the west where it was just a small fire.  But he couldn’t get back up to the sky because his sky was in the east.  He went to the south but the fire was too big so he could not make his way back to the east (which is where he came from). 

So, the demon was stuck in the fires, and the fires were getting too big.  So he thought, “all I can do is trust my luck.” He flew through the southern fire and it burned his wings.  So he ran to the east side, but it burned his feet.  So then, he had to crawl.  But when he was crawling, he wasn’t fast enough.  The fire swallowed him up, and that was the last that was seen of the demon.

But the great wise owl saw all of the fires coming.  He acted quickly.  He went over to the lake of colourful treasures (in the centre of the forest) and he took four big mouthfuls of the yellow water in the center.  And he flew  as quick as the wind to each of the four points of the forest.  He got to the north point and sprinkled some water on the yellow drooping fir.  When he got to the east point, he sprinkled some water on the eastern yellow drooping fir.  When he got to the southern point, he sprinkled some water on the yellow drooping fir down there.  When he got to the western point, he looked and he saw not even a fire at all.  It had all burned out in the western point.  What he decided to do with his last mouthful was:  to sprinkle water on each of the other trees, for some animals did not want to live by lakes and then they could live in other places in the forest.

So, it stayed nice and peaceful, with animals eating dewdrops from the trees for quite a while.  But soon it was winter.  So the animals came to the great dead oak tree and said, “What will we eat now, for it is winter.” 

And the owl said, “Once a snowflake falls on the very peak of each tree, it will turn into a larger, bright-coloured snowflake.  But, after that, all the other snowflakes will turn into brightly coloured snowflakes that you can eat, though you may not to eat them because they look so beautiful.  But that is what you will eat in winter.”

So, they found that almost every tree had a brightly coloured snowflake, though a lot of people would mistake them for a star on top.  They looked down lower and saw lots of colourful snowflakes and they just stood there looking at them.  But one of the animals’ stomachs grumbled at them.  They knew they would starve if they just stood looking at them.  They went over and ate just a single snowflake and then they didn’t need to eat any more snowflakes, for a sudden burst of energy filled them, and they were full after the single snowflake.

So, then it came to the new year’s and the bright stars on the tops of the trees disappeared.  So they all went to the great owl and asked, “What will we do, for all of the stars at the tops of the trees have went away?”

And he said,  "Well, it is still winter, and the snowflakes will not be bright and shining, but they will still be the colour of yellow and you will still be able to eat them until spring.  In spring, you will eat dewdrops again.”

So all of the animals went back to the trees and ate a single snowflake.  And their bodies burst with energy and fullness so that they didn’t need to eat anymore.  So then the animals knew about what they needed to eat and when and they didn’t need to ask the wise owl any more questions.

So, now whenever you go out into the forest of beautiful colours, if you see a brown tree , after that tree you will see a path.  And that path will lead you directly to the wise owl.  You should only go to see the great wise owl when you need help from him. 

I think I’ve forgotten to mention, but there are four different trees in this forest of beautiful colours.  There is the drooping fir, the soldier pine, the house spruce and the tower spruce, also known as the church spruce.  There are some other reasons you might want to go and see the great wise owl, for he is a very good poet and he does excellent poetry.  So you may want to go to see him to learn some of his poetry. 

Here is a poem I learned from the great wise owl:
A forest fire -
An unpleasant one,
Disturbing the humble one,
But when it’s gone -
And there are few trees,
It’s time for me to plant the seeds.
My great oak tree is gone – alas,
It has also lost its giant mass,
On top of it I will perch,
Very sad and very hurt.
All the animals will come to me –
They are sad and have no glee,
They come to me and they say: 
“What do we eat?
For we cannot have the thing called meat!”
And I say:  “Look at the trees –
What do you see?”
We see snow: he, he, he.
Try the snow and you’ll see,
That the snow is good to eat.

Monday, 9 December 2013

From Hectic to Harmonious...days 4, 5, 6 and 7 and other delights

Alright!  I'm feeling like we're moving quite smoothly now.  There's been time for the elves to be working hard, time for magic-making, time for walks through the park with dinosaur personas fully donned, time for feeling cozy on the couch and whipping up a last-minute gift.  We're caught up with the activities on our Christmas countdown calendar (thanks, kids, for being so forgiving when our day goes a bit sideways and we agree to do the activity the next day).  Oh, and we've been keeping up with our homeschooling too.  It hasn't felt hectic.  It's felt more like a productive buzz.

And despite what appears to be me abandoning the From Hectic to Harmonious challenge after day 3, I'm happy to report I've preservered.  And I didn't squeeze days 4 through 7 into one crazy day either.  We've been taking it one day at a time and being somewhat mindful of the spirit of the season.

Days 4 and 5 related to the art of storytelling - the former being a telling of a favorite Christmas story, and the latter being the sharing of memories of our Christmases past.  As I was helping Astrin put together a few thoughts for her letter for Santa, it occurred to me that she likely hadn't the foggiest idea who Santa was.  We haven't made a trip to see Santa at the mall part of our holiday traditions, and she's too young to remember such a visit even if we faithfully did make a trip.  So out came the story 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, which describes the "plump jolly old elf" so eloquently.  We spend an evening around the supper table sharing little snippets of our favorite memories...mine being the drive to my grandparents (which meant stopping at a restaurant for lunch - a novelty in those days), my husband worrying about Santa not knowing where to deliver his presents while he was away from home, the year the Christmas tree came crashing down in our living room during the wee hours of Christmas morning, the year Boomer (our dog) was a puppy and tried to eat the glass Christmas ornaments...what a heart-warming walk down memory lane we had!

Day 6 was finding an anchor...something to reach for when things happen to get too crazy.  The idea is that this anchor will help me center myself and allow me to see what is happening around or inside me with a clear perspective.  I've chosen a cup of tea...preferably the "Calming" one made by Yogi Teas, but really...beggars can't be choosers when things get a bit hairy.

Last but not least is Day 7 - today.  And today was also easy.  We ate our supper by candlelight.  The intent was to bring a peacefulness and mindfulness to the meal.  I don't know if I will have a truly peaceful meal again while children live in this house, but it was nice to see the candles flickering against the backdrop of a dark, cold winter's night.

So, thank you From Hectic to appears that your magic is starting to work!   

Thursday, 5 December 2013

From Hectic to Harmonious...Day 3. And Nature Club too.

Today Mama was on a mission.  I'm in a bit of a race against the clock and when the clock strikes zero, gifts for out-of-town relatives need to be in the mail.  Today's project to start and finish was dying play silks.  We worked on yellow ones dyed with turmeric yesterday and they look fabulous - bright and bold.  Today I tried using Kool-Aid mix as the dye and the colours are soft and gentle.  We came home from supper tonight and were greeted by the strange scent of Kool-Aid infused vinegar.  I must admit, I'm feeling a little nauseous.  There are great instructions for dying play silks with Koo-Aid here.

Indeed, the pulse in our household had a "mission" vibe to it.  In a good way.  In a working with purpose kind of way.  There were homemade snacks to make for the birds.  There was an art class to be had at my kitchen table (our instructor today was Jaelyn, who tried out what I imagine wet-on-wet watercolour painting is.  Self-taught, that one).  There were books to be read and letters to write to Santa.  There were freezer-paper stenciled shirts to be painted too.

Somewhat ironically, today's From Hectic to Harmonious challenge was to remove three things from my to-do list.  Note that says remove things, not do them and scratch them off.  It's about prioritizing and letting go of the stuff that doesn't matter.

Today's challenge is tough for me.  I think I've already made great strides to make this year's holiday a little simpler than last year's.   The number of handmades is down, and what I have made was simpler to make in the first place.  There won't be a lot of Christmas baking going on here, and the holiday countdown garland hanging in our living room feels more like a way to be intentional about the activities we want to share with our children and prioritizing time to do them.  So while the garland is new, the activities in it would happen anyway with or without the garland to guide us as to when they happen.

So, after much pondering, scratching my head and furrowing my brow, here is what I've come up with:

  ~ I will turn off Facebook until December 28
  ~ I will keep the computer games turned off too, until December 28
  ~ I will only have one errand morning or afternoon a week.  All of us will need to be super-resourceful if there is some "gotta have" thing.  If something is needed right now, it will need to be found within the four walls of this house.  While I would love for this to apply to everything, I will be practical and reasonable...if we need milk because for some mysterious reason there is none left in the fridge, we'll go get milk.  But I'm not running out at 10:00 pm to get something like, say, glitter.
  ~ I will, without guilt, buy premade stuff if I need to.  The holidays will still be wonderful if we buy premade pie crusts instead of the ones from scratch.  Or if the whole pie is premade. 

And I'm pleased to report I've already had success in purging things from my to-do list.  I was planning to make snow crystals inside today with Nature Club.  This would have required me to pick up dry ice and Styrofoam containers, as well as get the experiment set up and, optimally, test it out.  But with most of our evenings full of other goodness, which I wouldn't trade for a second, I pulled the plug on making snow crystals.  Instead, we read the book, The Story of Snow and made snowflake cutouts from last year's left over printouts.

I knew there would be little nuggets of success scattered throughout this holiday challenge!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

From Hectic to Harmonious...Day 2

Well, today was definitely more hectic than harmonious.  It was harmonious enough, with kids happily reading, playing at our homeschool co-op and not putting up too much of a fuss as we tidied up before supper.  But I know I am not in a harmonious state of mind.  I'm finding my mind is working overtime when my head hits the pillow.  It's reorganizing and reprioritizing my to-do list...over and over and over again.  Which makes for a late, late night and a late, late morning before I get moving.  Our routine gets off, and then my morale plummets.  It's not looking like those ideals I wrote about yesterday, does it?

Still, I'm going to keep the faith that things will get better.  After all, we're only two days into the challenge and there are twenty-six left to go.  I will learn something during that time, won't I?  I will take some actions to change what's driving today's insanity, won't I?  I can resolutely say yes...I'm committed to what I want our holiday season to look and feel like.  I know I won't be perfect every day and that there will be slips here and there.  But we will grow and adjust and learn as we go.  Simplifying is a process and not an end state, is it not?

So, today's challenge is to think of how I want my children to experience the holidays.  Oh, I want so very much for them!  I want them to feel deep down in their hearts the magic of the holidays...that even if it is only for one short moment, all can be good and right in the world.  I want their eyes to widen in wonder as they ponder some of the mysteries of life...mysteries that perhaps need no explanation but simple acknowledgement.  I want their hearts to feel full of the goodness and light that they send out into the world.  I want them to feel smooth transitions throughout their days and weeks...that their days have flow and that it feels more like a graceful dance than a race.  I want them to experience the joy of giving and the graciousness of receiving.  I want them to be thankful for all they have...all the love that surrounds them, nourishment that sustains them, and material comforts that enrich their lives.  I want something in our holiday traditions, new or old, to resonate with them so much that they feel inclined to share it with the families that they raise of their own.

I guess I want them to be able to look back on their Christmases with fondness, knowing that they had experiences that fed their hearts and souls and that they will walk into the new year with a full cup.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Hectic to Harmonious...Day 1

A few weeks ago I thought it was a good idea to sign up for Nourished Home's 28-Day From Hectic to Harmonious Challenge.  I confess...there is a part of me that dreads - truly dreads - the Christmas holiday season.  I dread the loss of our rhythm or routine and how ungrounded that leaves us feeling.  I dread the day-after-day time away from our home, and little space for a breather in-between.  I dread the late nights preparing for the next day, sometimes admittedly due to my own procrastination, poor planning, or overly ambitious plans.

When I start feeling this way, I do try to put a positive spin on things.  I'm delighted that there are so many people who invite us to be in their company.  I smile when I see my little ones playing games with their cousins and reminisce of my own childhood Christmases.  I enjoy taking my time to make gifts for my loved ones so that they can linger lovingly in my thoughts a wee bit longer.

Still, I'm looking forward to a few "aha" moments where perhaps I remove my utopian ideals or come to the realization that really difficult decisions need to be made.  For now, I consider day one of the challenge - how do I want to feel this holiday season.

I want to find a balance between the excitement and anticipation of the holiday season and the opportunity for meaningful and thoughtful introspection.  I want meaningful connection with friends and family.  I want our days to be peaceful and relaxed - I want to be aglow with a serene energy rather than radiating a jittery, anxious energy.  I want to live in and experience the moment, rather than having my thoughts drift towards the to-do list.  I want to spend more time with my family than running errands.  I want our family to consider and live the spirit of the season.

What do you want your holiday season to look like?

Monday, 2 December 2013

Walking with purpose

As I was preparing for the week last night and flipping through the winter curriculum from Lavender's Blue Homeschool, I ran across a page titled Purposeful Work.  In my haste, though, I read it as "purposeful walk".  This phrase, mistaken as it was, stuck with me through today.  As we bundled up to head outside for a bit of (very) fresh air, I wondered how we could get into the headspace to enter the outside world with purpose when our main goal was just to, well, say we went outside.

Funny, though, if we open our eyes to the wonder of nature and Mother Earth, that in itself is purpose.  We hadn't even made it to the corner when our breath was taken away by the haunting beauty of the tree branches covered in prickly-looking, but delicate and intricate frost.  Our ears were treated to the rare sound of a jay's call and we caught a glimpse of the large blue bird as it was making its rounds of the neighbourhood. 

Even though I was surrounded by the rambunctiousness of my seven-year-old and the sorrowfulness of my toddler, I felt of hush of peace come over me.  My son felt it too, I think.  It was like seeing the world for the first time, even though we've traveled the same streets by foot hundreds of times.  There's always something to appreciate, whether it be something novel (like the jay) or something familiar, like the tall spruce trees that sway and creak and moan in the strong winds yet remain firmly rooted in the earth.

And that is why our morning walks and our outside time are so important to our days.  Besides the space to burn off some excess energy, they allow us to soak up all the wonder of nature, if we're open to it.  If we walk out the door with the questions, "What will we see today?  What surprises await us if we only open our senses to them?", we've walked out the door with purpose.  Our walks allow us to deepen our connection to the earth and to the seasons.  They allow us to surrender to the fact that the seasons do indeed change, with each being wildly different and uniquely beautiful and necessary.  They allow us to be reverent to all living things, both growing and dormant.  They allow our hearts to open a bit more when, at times, there is an overwhelming desire to close them tightly and hide away.  They give us the opportunity to learn...understand...appreciate what could never be done justice in a book or a lecture.  They connect us, in an indescribable way, to those who walked the earth before us and those who will inherit it long after we are gone and who have or will experience the same awe and wonder.

I vow not to shudder when donning my winter gear tomorrow.