The Zen of Purpose

One of my favorite sayings comes from the bible Ecclesiastes 3:1-8…

“To everything a season and a time for every purpose under heaven…”

As the year winds down and daylight wanes with winter, I start thinking more about my purpose in life.  Purpose gives one reason to get up in the morning.  It’s a use of time that contributes to others, yourself, and/or the earth. Having purpose is less subject to change than having goals.  Goals are embedded within purpose. For example, if my purpose is to be a writer, publishing a book might be a goal.  One of my purposes is to help the environment. A goal to accomplish that is to establish a native plant garden on my property which I’m currently working on.

Purpose can be multifaceted and can change with life stages.  Before it was fairly simple- survive my middle school teaching job, be a good mother, and hang onto my creative outlets as best I could in the process.  Living a purposeful life has become murkier as I’ve retired and my son is raised and out of the house.  I am more in control of my life than before so it’s up to my discretion to figure it out rather than have it be molded by outside circumstances.  This can be a daunting task and I’ve had to be intentional about it.

Now as I age I set my purpose to maintain my health, stay connected to nature, stay connected with family and friends, help with environmental causes, and keep my many creative pursuits going while sharing them with others. I post a little diagram of purpose along with some goals on my dry-erase board so it is easily seen and adjusted if need be (I’m one of those people that needs a visual).

Life is complicated. When I feel lost my visual acts as my GPS, keeps me on track ,and my spirit grounded.  It answers that question- uh, what exactly am I doing here?

Illustrations by the author

Please also check out my bog on sustainability at onesweetearth.blog

The Zen of Sourdough

Years ago I used to bake bread frequently- until I discovered I was gluten intolerant.  I missed the bread and the process.  Then this last year I discovered I could make a decent sourdough in a dutch oven.  An all sourdough bread will consume the gluten in the proofing process making it digestable for me- as long as I use organic flour.  I’m sensive to all the chemicals in regular flour.  Now I bake bread weekly.  I find the ritual of baking bread a meditative & sensual process.  One must be very in tune with the dough to know when you have it right. A bit of biology, chemistry, intuition, and a touch of alchemy can make four ingredients so delicious!

Sourdough Bread  

Flour, water, salt, starter

Combine, then gather with your hands

sticky with dough

Let the mixture rest 30 minutes

Form into a ball, now baby soft

Let it sleep while you sleep, eight hours or so.

Wake to the white mound doubled

Gather again, caressing this living substance back into a ball,

Place in a cloth-lined proofing basket

like you’re putting it down for a nap

In 3 or so hours this colony of wild yeast will reclaim its rightful size

Gingerly invert the dough from its basket

Score your design into its skin then

carefully lower it into a hefty cast iron pot

and slide it into the oven preheated to 450 degrees

Cover and bake for 25 minutes

Remove the cover and bake 15 minutes more until browned

(Savor the aroma of baking bread wafting through the house)

When the final timer rings

remove your lovely loaf and wait one final time for it to cool.

Saw the knife blade through the crust releasing the first slice,

exhaling the breath of wild yeast

Slather some butter on the warm bread

Savor and share in good company

Here is the link for recipe I use. (I cut down the water to 1 cup for a more workable dough.)

Photos, sketch, and poem by the author

Tune into my other blog about sustainability at onesweetearth.blog

Planting Seeds in Winter

Today I went out in the brisk sunny air to do some planting.  First came the garlic that takes up an entire bed in my garden.  Then it was on to plant Pacific NW native wildflower seeds that I ordered from Steele Acres.  I marvel that some seeds need the harshness of winter to flower in the spring.  Perhaps we do too.

Even seeds sown in winter

Bring forth flowers in the spring

While planting I noticed a some delightful tiny groves of mushrooms and a miniscule very late violet in the very right side of the last picture. You never know what you might find out in the garden…

Photos, sketches and poem by the author.

Please visit my blog on sustainable living at onesweetearth.blog

The Art of the Obituary

In September of this year, I took up the task of writing my mother’s obituary.  She passed away on June 28 from complications due to advanced Alzheimer’s at the age of 94. Previously I had never written an obituary .

An obituary announces the passing of a person’s death as a public notice in a newspaper, church bulletin, or the like.  Usually, there is a brief biography and a photo, but everything else is up to the writer’s interpretation.  An obituary can be solemn, funny, traditional, or even in poetic form.  Writing Mom’s obituary begged the question ”What should be said about a loved one when they pass?”  What was their essence? What was their legacy?

I didn’t like the idea of writing the 3rd person like a detached narrator so I made it clear this was from the viewpoint of her surviving adult children.  I had to keep in mind that obituaries can be very expensive in major newspapers.  Ultimately, my mother’s average-sized obituary at approximately 1000 words cost over $1000 in the San Fransico Chronicle for one run.  Her local paper for the same obituary cost $300 with 4 courtesy copies thrown in with the deal. (non were included with the Chronicle). So yes, a lot of money but hey, you only die once and everyone deserves memorialization. In most cases, like in my mother’s, the deceased estate covers it.

It was therapeutic for me, the author, to cut through all my mother’s foibles as we had our differences and honor her- her accomplishments and her legacy, I also decided to mention some of her hardships growing up. Hardship is a pivotal force in a person’s life.  I could see how her challenges as a child reflected in her parenting.  In her last years with her memory loss, all that friction washed away like dust in the first rain of fall. It was an honor to summarize her life for all to see.

As for the picture?  Rather than one from her youth, I chose one that was taken on her 80th birthday looking radiant with the celebration. 

Having written my mother’s obituary, I wonder about my own.  What would be written when all is said and done?  I have considered writing my own and leaving it in my will giving me some authorship.  I should include such things as

She liked to start her day with a steaming up of tea in her hand sitting up in bed with her pens & journal with a clear view of the bird feeder.

Felt complete with a dog and or a cat at her side

Liked to take adventures in the wilds, as well as  in art, writing, and music

I’d like the picture of me taken by my friend Deb we were out on the Zumwalt Prairie in 2021. Then I would choose one of my doodles to be included.

Now I may be tasked with writing my step-daughter, Heather who recently passed.  For this, I would solicit the help of her many friends to contribute their thoughts for a young woman who lived very large for her 38 years.  This is a challenge I would be honored to take up.

As I think of the many people that have passed from my life this year, I also think of the other beings, favorite trees, dogs, cats, and the like that have crossed the rainbow bridge that I could memorialize.  They certainly are deserving of an obituary as well, at least in my personal writing.  I’m inspired by this worthy genre.

Two good friends that passed on this last spring- Hilma Kaye and G.D Armstrong whose spirit lives on in my guitar…

Aftermath

Four months after being diagnosed with heart/lung cancer my husband’s daughter and my stepdaughter, Heather died peacefully last night in the hospital surrounded by family and friends. A beautiful young woman living the peak of her dreams. She is missed.

Heather and her husband Jerald
She is gone now
After she took her last breath
we exhaled deeply
bearing the pain of loss as her pain is no more

Our loved ones are like trees
they grow providing shelter and food for our souls
and when they fall they leave an empty space in our hearts
Yet in this very space is light
so their seeds planted within us will flourish
with the memories, stories, and lessons
that they have left behind in their wake

We hold our sadness close
continuing our journeys as better people

In memory of Heather Ann Woltz Winfrey

July 24, 1984 – October 27, 2022

Age 38

Daughter, step-daughter, wife, sister, and friend to many

Heather welding with her Dad

What to Do When You Don’t Know How Else to Help

My husband’s daughter, Heather was just readmitted to the hospital with the final stage of cancer. Last Sunday we had her and her husband Jerald over to share a meal with us. Reflecting on this experience afterwards, I wrote this poem…

Stage 4
The hiss/swish of her oxygen unit keeps time
like a hydraulic clock in the background
We converse and laugh 
carefully avoiding the minefield of reality
the dark mist that surrounds us all
Her lashless eyes morphine heavy
Her head chemo bald
The nasal cannula that hangs from her nose
connects her to the lifeline of air

The decline of her shocks me
There is no longer room for miracles
How can I help in her mortal struggle?
All I can do is prepare a homecooked meal
with apple crisp for dessert
We savor it in the company of family
around the table in the warmth of my kitchen
Maybe that is enough

A Delight of Mushrooms

About the time the chlorophyll-producing plants get weary in the garden, the mushrooms are just getting ready to party.  After I applied a fresh layer of ground yard waste on the native plant garden a few weeks ago and watered it a few times, I have had some surprises appear.  Here is the latest show.  I have no idea what type of mushroom they are.  At every stage they look quite different- suitable for fairy play.

Please also visit my blog on sustainable living at onesweetearth.blog

Fall Crocus- The Encore Bloom of Summer

It happens every year, I think the bloom show is over, and up pops the fall crocus. It seems like crocus herald the beginning and the end of the blooming season. Fall crocus have their vegetative phase in the spring. It’s a large corn lilly-looking plant that dies off when other bulbs are done blooming. For years I didn’t know that these plants were in my yard. I would pull them out until I saw the same mysterious plant displayed at a nursery labeled as fall crocus. I finally connected the dots that the crocus that appeared in the fall and these mysterious plants were the same. Now I let them be.

It turns out that these crocus and saffron crocus are very closely related. It’s a great plant. I ignore them and they return faithfully every year in greater numbers popping up in the yard in unexpected places. For more information on fall crocus go here.

Check out my other blog on sustainable living at onesweetearth.blog

A Summer of Musical Adventures 2022

With the easing of the pandemic, the summer bloomed with music.  Learning to play the tenor guitar was my defacto pandemic project. Three years later I was ready to venture forth with my new skills along with my friend, and neighbor, Kelsey in our newly formed duo “The Ribbon Ridge Girls” the name pertinent to the rural area we live in.

We kicked off with the Tenor Guitar Gathering in Astoria, Oregon in early June, a gathering of 4 string guitar aficionados. Kelsey plays a standard guitar but she was more than welcomed.   The tenor guitar came about in the late 1920s when banjo was going out of style.  Those out-of-work banjo players had guitars made with tenor banjo necks with the same tuning CGDA so they could still be employed. It’s tuned in 5ths rather than 4ths of a regular 6-string guitar. The sound of a tenor guitar is brighter and a good complement to a regular guitar. It faded away in the late 1950s and currently is experiencing a resurgence.  Tenor Guitar Gathering is special as it is the only event in the world that celebrates this instrument.

This was an intimate affair of around 100 friendly participants plus local participation at the concerts on Friday and Saturday nights.  On Friday morning we packed the historical Astoria trolley strumming and singing tunes along the waterfront.  There were various workshops offered and in between, we sampled the beer, baked goods, and coffee that the town has to offer. Astoria also has an array of vintage stores we visited. At night we jammed in the local motel we stayed in along with the featured musicians.  A high point for me was meeting Tyler Jackson in person, my virtual guitar teacher from San Antonio, Texas, who was performing and teaching at the event.  We won big in the raffle, Kelsey won a guitar (which she later donated) and I won a year’s worth of virtual lessons from an award-winning musician back east (woohoo!)

Continue reading “A Summer of Musical Adventures 2022”

Morning Glories

Those few little seeds I planted several years ago bring me more and more morning glories every September. This year has been the best season ever. Even the UPS guy stopped in his tracks to ogle at their beauty. Mingled with scarlet roses it’s quite a show.

Morning Glories

Morning glories light my path 
as the day unfolds
Trumpets of majestic purple 
and simmering pink
announce the end of summer
a surprising coda as the garden fades
a blessing to walk beneath 
this arch of glowing flowers

Photos and poem by the author

Please also visit my blog on sustainable living at onesweetearth.blog