Preserving Moments, Part I (30 Days of Gratitude: Day 6)

Photography is amazing — it allows us to capture a moment in time to revisit again and again. Some of those moments are heartbreaking. We have seen its power during times of tragedy and disaster … too many times in the recent days and months.

Gratefully, photography also allows us to revisit happier times. Even as the video footage and still photos continue to document the unfathomable destruction that Hurricanes Irma and Maria wrought this fall, I was reminded of the beauty that filled many of these locales, that hopefully will return in full force again.

St. John, U.S.V.I. was one of the tiny islands gutted by Hurricane Irma. It still struggles to recover, as reflected by some of these recent news stories:

One of the local non-profits supporting post-hurricane recovery efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands is the Community Foundation: http://www.cfvi.net/.  As described on the USVI Recovery website:

To help those affected by the hurricane, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) has established the Fund for the Virgin Islands.

100% of your donation will benefit those in crisis.

CFVI is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has been operating in the USVI for more than 25 years. It has supported past relief efforts in the region and is working closely with government and community providers to identify priorities and direct resources for immediate needs as well as long-term recovery efforts.

 

The USVI is just one of many areas still struggling to rebuild after the devastating natural disasters earlier this year. Consider supporting these regions’ recovery funds, as you are able.

~ Kat

Don’t Let Your Bucket List Get in the Way of Life

Have you ever Googled “bucket list”?  According to Google, about 104,000,000 results are available to you:  definitions of, examples of, inspirational stories of — whatever your heart desires when it comes to bucket lists, you can find it on the Internet.

What is a “bucket list”?  According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, “bucket list” is “a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.”  The concept has spawned an entire industry of books in the genre of “things to do before you die” (506,000,000 impressive results returned with this search through Google).

Montepulciano, Italy
Classic bucket list item: Italy!

Is a handbook of ideas on how to enjoy life really necessary?  Would Mary Oliver turn to a “how to” book on how to live her “one wild and precious life”?  Not that lists are a bad thing in and of themselves (says someone with borderline-OCD list-making tendencies).  The satisfaction gained from crossing off an item to confirm its demise or completion is satisfying indeed.

Working with a view
Ready to create the next list . . .

Back to bucket lists, though.

Surprisingly, this is one list I have not formally created.  I have my home improvement list, my grocery list, a list of places I would like to travel, the list of digital photo albums I still have yet to make, and so forth.  I do not have a bucket list of life, though.

Recently, I experienced a medical complication that caught me off-guard.  I felt as if I had happened to lean over as the bullet went whizzing by, and then stood up initially oblivious that a gun had been fired.  The fact I have not had such an experience until my late 40’s has me counting my blessings; but at any age, I suspect it gives a person pause.

I spent an afternoon in the emergency room but, with gratitude, was released home for outpatient treatment.  I watered my gardens, did some laundry, ran a couple errands.  In other words, I went on with my life as scheduled.  Every day has a question mark next to it, and there are simply some days when that question mark seems to be written in pen more than pencil.

As I watered my gardens, deadheading some flowers, yanking some weeds that were done flowering and no longer passable as cottage garden guests, a bumblebee stung me. I apparently disturbed it as it was collecting pollen from my past-their-prime flowering weeds.  I brushed off the poor thing, and it shakily flew off to continue its work.  It was merely reacting to a threat, I felt no ill will.  No point in harming it further.  The small swelling on my arm would fade soon enough.  And I went on with my work, as well. 

Bumblebee at work

Puttering in the garden, examining the world at dirt-level, is quite therapeutic.  The mind can wander as it takes in the delicate details of Nature’s work, formed or assisted by (wo)man’s hands here and there.

Spending some time that evening in the garden, I reflected upon my life until now.  I began drafting this post and then happened to read Kathy’s post on Lake Superior Spirit that posed the question: what would you do if you knew you only had 30 days left to live?  Put another way, what would you put on your bucket list?

Pondering Lake Superior's beauty from Carlton Peak
Pondering Lake Superior’s beauty from Carlton Peak

Whether it be 30 days or 30 years, go ahead and do the things you have dreamed of doing — travel to exotic locales, bungee jump or skydive (while I watch you from below!), splurge on something that gives you pleasure, pay it forward in a meaningful way.  Make a list if that is your style, but leave some space between the lines.  The spaces are always there, even if your bucket list changes over time, and even when the page ends before your list is complete. Within those bucket list items — before, after and in between each line item — life happens.  Experiences are wonderful, adventures are memorable, but the real guts of life are contained in the moments.  Moments happen; they are not something one reserves, creates, or purchases.  

Enjoying a hike at Blue Mound State Park, Minnesota
Hiking and making memories at Blue Mound State Park, Minnesota

With a pen in hand, gleefully striking off one item and looking to the next one, don’t forget to pause in between, and take some time to stop and smell the roses — even if a bumblebee happens to take offense.  Simply nod and step aside, begging its pardon, and go on your separate ways, living and enjoying the moments each day holds.

Ciao! ~ Kat  

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

Capturing that fleeting light as the sun sets is the challenge of the photographer.

Sunset on Waikiki Beach

Snap too soon and the light has not fully matured to realize the potential of the sunset’s glorious hues.

Sunset on Waikiki Beach

Wait a moment too long and the beautiful shafts of light are gone . . . but the surfers nicely backlit and outlined as they head back in for the night.

Sunset on Waikiki Beach

It is all about choosing your moment, and recognizing that all moments are fleeting.  And each moment can be full of potential, with hope for the next one and regret for the one that just passed.  The real challenge?  To just enjoy the moment you are in.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Fleeting” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

It’s All About the Little Things

Which parent hasn’t searched the world over and then paid through the nose for the elusive toy that darling Jimmy whispered into Santa’s ear was the “one” special present he wanted this year?  (I confess, for me, it was a hard-to-get Lego kit that I ended up ordering online and paying almost as much in Federal Express fees to have it show up in time for Santa’s sleigh!)  Was the surprise on my son’s face Christmas morning as he rushed down the stairs to see what Santa brought worth every penny and minute spent tracking that toy down?  Of course.  I am not suggesting that joy cannot be found in gift-giving (and receiving), or that it is not part of the fabric of many of our holiday memories.

That Lego kit only seemed to be sold out near and far . . .
That Lego kit only seemed to be sold out near and far . . .

As our kids move past the magical Santa stage, though, if they tell us there is nothing they need or want, why are we so quick to ask insistently, “Are you sure there’s nothing you want for Christmas this year?”  Perhaps we should pay attention to those signals that suggest no “thing” is needed under the tree.

Christmas tree

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” ~ Albert Einstein

Looking back, the experiences of life are what make the memories, not the “things” we collect along the way.  When recalling a family trip, my sons do not say, “Oh, and remember the cool souvenirs we bought?”  Wait, I take that back when it comes to our road trip to Yellowstone – I had to reverse course and return to a “shop” that was in someone’s garage, marked by the pile of antlers and other bones in the front yard.  The “Jackalope” my son painstakingly selected, searching for just the right character in the little antlers jutting from the taxidermy creation, is still proudly hanging on his bedroom wall – but it is part of the memory of our travels through Wyoming that week.  The memories of the rustic, western landscape were reinforced by wandering through a boys’ paradise of fossils, skulls, and fur pelts.  Rather than the “thing” it was the experience of it that made the memory.

Mystic Lady ~ Wyoming
The Mystic Lady shop in Wyoming

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault

During our memory-making family trip to Italy, what moment does one of my sons always recall when we talk about our day trip to Florence?  Seeing Michelangelo’s David?  No.  Climbing the steps to Giotto’s Tower?  No.  He always first recalls the moment when I lost the top of my gelato cone in the middle of a busy sidewalk, successfully saved it before it hit the ground, and ungracefully restored the scoop to the top of the cone as the gelato dripped down my arm and onto my purse . . . and one of the many “gypsies” chose to approach me at that moment, speaking Italian with hand extended asking for a contribution.  I replied somewhat sharply, “Go away!” — as I simultaneously wiped up the gelato drippings before they coagulated into a sticky mess.  My son informed me that she promptly called me a “witch-with-a-B” in clearly-understood English as she walked away.  My husband and sons found the whole scene amusing, and apparently it became one of their favorite Florence memories.  I was just happy to not have good gelato go to waste!

Italian gelato
The good memories of Italian gelato

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.” ~ Susan B. Anthony

So, as we move through the often hectic holiday season, keep in mind that those little things hidden among the big events and traditions may be the real memory-makers down the road.  Take time to enjoy the little moments – playing a game of cards with your family, undistracted by phone, computer, or the never-ending task list; enjoying a leisurely chat with a friend over a glass of wine or hot chocolate;  heading out for a walk with someone you care about (and the dogs, of course!) on a crisp winter night even though you “don’t have time”; watching your favorite holiday movie for the umpteenth time and letting the tears flow even though you know the ending (can anyone say “It’s A Wonderful Life”?).   Remember, you can always clean tomorrow.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Be Grateful for the Day

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” ~ Bill Watterson

Northern Minnesota Reflection

As we anticipate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow in the U.S., let us first be grateful for today.  And as we enjoy Thanksgiving Day, let us not have thoughts of superficial Black Friday sales (or worse yet, actual Thanksgiving Day shopping itself) erode more meaningful interactions and activities on the holiday!

May your Thanksgiving holiday be filled with joy and blessings!

Ciao! ~ Kat