December 3, 2014 § 2 Comments
Many people view fall as a time of endings – the end of summer, the shedding of dead leaves, the long sleep of winter, the end of another year. Granted, most people enjoy fall activities – playing in the leaves, apple picking, pumpkin patches, hay rides, cider, cider doughnuts, etc. – but they dread the day that last leaf falls and winter officially begins.
However, I’ve always looked at fall as a time of new beginnings. I don’t see “death,” I see the preparation of life. It is a time to reflect and make needed changes. It is a time to recharge and renew your mind, body, and spirit. It is a time to take charge of your goals for your life and/or business. It is a time to give thanks and be grateful for everything you have and your accomplishments, and a time to think about what you want to achieve in the fast approaching new year. It is the rest (not death) before the new growth.
I know January is the usual time to make new year’s resolutions, but to me, fall has always seemed like the real start of the new year. Maybe it comes from all those years of being in school and everything starting in September – I don’t know. But whatever it is, fall is the new beginning for me.
As I did the usual Thanksgiving reflections, I realized that I once again have much to be thankful for this year. I was lucky enough to have many great things happen both personally and professionally. There are some new, promising opportunities lurking on the horizon for this coming year that I am also looking forward to. I get another wonderful year on this earth to make my own little mark any way I can, and I am so grateful.
So as the season turns from fall to winter, I am not going to mourn the end of summer, flowers, good weather, sunshine. I am going to rejoice in the chance for another new beginning. I am going to continue to walk confidently down this road of life and enjoy every moment of my journey – leaves or no leaves. I will cherish each detail the season offers. I am going to take full advantage of this period of rest, while everything around me renews and recharges – myself included. I will come out revitalized and ready to rock this year even better than last!
So let that last leaf fall – It’s not just an end. It’s a fresh start. A new beginning. Another bend in the road that offers a different view and new adventures. My journey awaits!
Photo Credit: Jesse Storms Linton
Copyright (c) 2014 Jesse Storms Linton. All rights reserved.
Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.
March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
Our society tends to be very linear these days. There seems to be a regulation or procedure for everything. Social media is overflowing with people constantly arguing about which side is “right” or “wrong.” Why does there always only have to be just one answer? The beauty in this world comes from the differences. Some of the best things in life came about because first, someone had a little originality.
That’s one of the many things I love about the Arts – they often make you look at things from a different perspective.
The motto at Skidmore College is “Creative Thought Matters.” How true in so many ways! Most of the time there isn’t just one way to do things. There isn’t just one clear answer. And, how you come to your own answer really all depends on how you approach it.
There is not a clear-cut category for every little thing (Thank goodness!). Perhaps that is why a group like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra became so huge over the last several years. From the name, it sounds like they’re just your standard orchestra, but have you ever been to one of their shows? There is nothing “standard” about them! Go to one of their concerts and you’ll see that their audience includes children right up to senior citizens. Not too many groups can pull that one off!
The below video has been making the rounds on social media lately and does the same type of thing. You are set up with an expectation – 2 cellos, old-fashioned attire. But then you are shocked with a rock & roll sound – looking at things from a different perspective. And what a wonderful, magical, awesome outcome!
That’s how we should approach life – look at things from a different perspective. Use creative thought. Keep everyone around you on their toes and your brain fresh. Always look for another way. Don’t fall into “the standard” trap of doing or thinking about everything in the “usual” way. Have an open mind. Step out. Step up. Make your mark in your own personal world. You’d be surprised how much magic can creep into your life!
Just a thought.
January 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
But let’s face it – we all know those New Year’s resolutions are pretty much shot by March. And what really changes? You’re still you. Ok, so the number on the calendar went up one more notch, but everything else is still the same. You still have the same job. You still have the same body. You still have the same problems. That pile of work you left on your desk just before the Christmas break is still going to be there. Your to-do list hasn’t been deleted. In fact, it now is even longer since it has your New Year’s resolutions added to it. Nothing has been truly erased – it’s all still there.
I’m not trying to be a “Negative Nelly” here. I’m just being realistic. As nice as the thought is to wipe the slate clean with the new year, it just can’t happen.
Instead of New Year, New You, how about New Year, Better You? Because let’s face it, you’re still you. And that’s a good thing! You’ve spent your whole life becoming who you are. You’ve worked hard to get here, and even if you don’t like everything about your life, you don’t really want to erase your history. That’s your backstory – it leads up to the exciting climax. A new year is really just a new chapter in the book of your life. Which way is your story going to go now?
When thinking about my New Year’s resolutions this year, I’ve decided to get rid of the notion of a whole new life and fresh start. I am merely turning the page and developing my story in a better direction. I am an ongoing masterpiece. I will keep the good things and revise the things that need some work. I am the master behind my own story – I control the pen, so it is up to me to decide what comes next. My decisions determine whether my character is a strong one or a boring one. I might stumble. I might fall back on some old habits. But I know the direction my story needs to take and I will continue to work toward that, and enjoy every aspect of the journey along the way.
A good story has twists and turns, highs and lows. We must learn to relish the same in our own lives. We don’t need to completely change. We just need to strive toward that better revision, develop our story, and add to our plot.
Here’s to a New Year, BETTER You!
Image Courtesy of: Silverpen Productions, LLC. Images should not be used without prior permission & license from Silverpen Productions, LLC.
October 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
We’ve all heard them before – “Stop & smell the roses.” “Slow and steady win the race.” “Chin up,” etc. But what about, “See the blue beyond the trees?”
I went for a mini hike with my family this past weekend. Things have been mighty crazy lately, so the quiet time in the woods was very much needed. At one point, I stopped to look up at the multitude of colors on the trees in a particularly beautiful spot, and I was struck by two things: 1.) How tight my chin and front of my neck felt, and 2.) How amazing the crystal blue sky looked just beyond the tops of the trees.
I realized that we now live in a society where we no longer ever really look up. We’re constantly typing on our computers, or using our smart phones or tablets. We never have enough time, so when we are going somewhere, our head is down, our bodies on a mission, our thoughts 6 paces ahead. Think about it – when is the last time you really looked up?
I like to think I’m the type of person that can appreciate the little things in life. I often pause to admire a sunny day or a pretty flower. Time stops when my child laughs and nothing else matters. However, based on the tight pulling sensation under my chin, even I apparently have not been looking up enough lately. And the thing is, it was just so refreshing! Besides being a nice little stretch for my neck, it was a moment of pure beauty. It was even a moment of hope.
Seeing that blue way up beyond those beautiful leaves reminded me that there is always a blue sky somewhere beyond the trees. Some days, it may seem really far away, but it’s guaranteed to be there. If you’re constantly looking down, weighted down by the stresses of your day, all you see is the dead leaves and broken sticks on the ground. But if you raise your chin, lift your eyes, stop and take a breath for just a moment, you will see the spectacular color, light, clear skies, sunshine, inspiration, freedom that await beyond those branches. That is so much more, so much bigger than what’s laying at your feet or weighing down your soul.
So remember – Smile, and “Chin up!” – There’s always a blue sky waiting for you!
Photo Credit: Silverpen Productions, LLC. Photos should not be used without prior permission & license from Silverpen Productions, LLC.
May 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
Last week the movement arts group New York Live Arts hosted a five-day festival dedicated to the work of one of my favorite writers, Oliver Sacks, a neurologist turned author whose fame stems from his ability to make medical writing digestible for a lay audience.
Sacks writes primarily about neurological cases he comes across in his practice. In his essays, he explains the scientific underpinnings of complicated and rare neurological disorders, but his pieces also read like engaging personal narratives. His patients and their experiences come alive on the page.
As a writer I’ve always wondered how Sacks managed to craft such emotionally and scientifically intricate pieces, and I think I recently came across the answer in a National Public Radio blog post dedicated to Sacks.
NPR Reporter Alva Noe writes: “A comment I heard more than once at a recent [New York Live Arts] event in New York to celebrate the life of Oliver Sacks, who turns 80 this year, is that it isn’t Sacks’ patients who are particularly interesting; it is the interest Sacks brings to them that makes them special. He has good eyes.”
He has good eyes. That comment really struck a chord with me. Not just because it shed light upon a question I’d had about Sacks, but because it speaks to something I think every writer has asked themselves at least once: am I paying enough attention?
Whether the focus is your emotions, the world around you or the world of others, writing requires attention to detail. In order to reconstruct our experiences into essays and stories that ring true to others, we have to be able to set scenes, emotional or physical, that are saturated with observations which help our readers feel as if they’re experiencing our worlds themselves.
For me, it sometimes feels like my world is no longer saturated with the kind of details my favorite authors capture in their works. But the problem is not that those details don’t exist—city streets are still as lively as Virginia Woolf described, and people are still as beautifully complicated and fickle as Hemingway depicted them—the problem is that I’ve stopped noticing, and I don’t think I’m alone.
How often have you participated in a conversation where it seems like you’re just one-upping a friend on the exhaustions scale?
“I haven’t slept in three days I’m so busy.”
“I’m so busy I can’t even remember the last time I ate!”
It seems like as a society we’ve come to a decision: busy is better. And busy means not having the time to stop and take in the little details that make life beautiful and exciting.
I don’t know when we decided that busy was the new desirable status quo but it seems like everyone has signed on, and if you’re not busy you’re somehow missing out.
After all, technology makes it so easy to stay busy. Ten minutes between doctors’ appointments? Respond to that e-mail you neglected this morning. An hour-long bus ride to visit family for the holidays? You can make a whole PowerPoint presentation from your iPad. There’s no longer any reason to not be busy.
But there’s also no longer any reason to look up from our smartphones and tablets, to look around at the world and realize there are things beyond our isolated, technology-centric worlds worth devoting our time and attention to.
Sacks was lucky in that he was able to use his work as inspiration for his art, but if he’d spent his diagnostic time looking down at e-mails from his patients instead of looking up and seeing them face-to-face, as unique parts of a bigger world with a greater purpose, I don’t think we’d have the same amazing accounts of his experiences.
To replicate experiences in a tangible way, we have to be present for those experiences. Fully present and mentally alert.
If we stop paying attention, if we stop looking up, if we no longer have “good eyes,” will we deprive ourselves of a whole new generation of literary wonders like Sacks?
We might. But we might lose even more. Philosopher John Campbell once wrote, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”
If we stop looking up we can lose those essential, random, unplanned experiences of being alive—the very experiences that allow great writers like Sacks to captivate us, that allow us to gain something more from our day-to-day than just checking things off a to-do list, that make us essentially human.
Let’s start looking up again. Let’s have good eyes.
April 3, 2013 § 2 Comments
“See the Rainbows, Mama? Seeee??”
What is it that children have that always allows them to see the magic in the most seemingly ordinary things? Do they have special eyes that we slowly lose over time? Or is it merely that they have not yet become jaded as adults do, and are therefore just able to see things more clearly, more purely than we can?
My daughter constantly reminds me to “see the rainbows.” We have some beveled glass in our front door, and when the morning sun hits it just right, it casts prisms across our front hallway. I’ll never forget the day my daughter first really discovered this. She walked out front, squealed, pointed, drew in her breath, then yelled out, “See the Rainbows? See?” She came running into the kitchen, grabbed me by the hand and pulled me out. “See the Rainbows, Mama? See?” The joy and wonder on her face tugged on my heart. She continued to pull us out there all morning long. She would point to them, touch them, stick her toes in, try to sit on them, and sometimes just stand there holding my hand in wonder, saying, “See? See?” It was a perfect moment. A perfect, ordinary, normal, magical moment. A moment that I come back to again and again because it taught me something – It reminded me to always look for the magic in things. To let my daughter lead me in remembering what it’s like to have pure joy, hope, innocence, and magic. To be truly present in just one moment and to not let anything else cloud that.
Easter is often viewed by Christians as a time of rebirth and new hope. Even if you are not religious, Easter is synonymous with Spring, and Spring is most certainly a time of new life. We begin to see the plants peek their heads out through the seemingly dead ground. The birds appear once again. Sunshine feels like a long-lost friend, warm upon our face. Hope is in the air. It’s easier to be positive in the Spring. The extra light and signs of new life prove to us that summer is on its way and we are filled with fun thoughts of good things to come. If only for a brief moment, we are once again able to feel the “magic” in the air.
We need to try to remember that there is always magic in the world. Sometimes it feels like all the magic is gone. We’re often so caught in the horrible stories on the news, the stresses of work and family life, the weather, the commute, our everyday worries and anxieties and routines, that we forget to take a moment and just enjoy, well, the moment itself. There are still so many wonderful things in this world to cherish. There’s still hope for us to reach our dreams, to stretch to our true potential. There is always a reason somewhere to smile, to laugh, to enjoy one quiet breath. Somewhere deep inside of all of us is that ability to still “see the rainbows.” We may sometimes have to look a little harder to see the magic in the world, but it is still there.
This Spring, let’s hold onto that feeling of hope and rebirth, find that childlike corner of our heart (no matter how small it may have become) and try to stay positive. Live life from one joy to the next and always find a way to see the rainbows. They might sometimes be behind a cloud, but they are still always there!