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I have fallen in love with trees.

It began with a trip to Savannah, Georgia, a place new to me and my six traveling companions. Almost immediately, I was charmed by the slower pace, the architecture, and the way everything was framed by majestic trees.

Obsessed with the stature and curve of their branches and the dangling Spanish moss so foreign to me, I regularly interrupted conversations to say, Oh, look at this tree! Then I would stop and have a personal photo shoot with my new muse.

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At one point, my friend Claudia eyed me pointing my camera phone at yet another set of trees and, with sweet sunshine in her voice, staged a one-woman intervention with her words. Okay. We get it. You love the trees. I think you got your picture already. Maybe something else? 

So I kept snapping images, but only in my memory.

During a walk through Forsyth Park, I spotted a tree trunk so massive it had to be a few centuries old. I felt deeply connected to its roots, a gravitational pull moving me to stand by its side. I resisted the overwhelming urge to hug the tree.

I mean this quite literally.

Back home, joy filled me one morning when I saw the tree underneath my window about to burst into leafy bloom. My favorite color in the world is the fresh green of a newly born leaf, so vibrant and bright and full of life.

New leaf life always makes me think of the winter just past. What a marvel it is for a tree to have shed old leaves and to devote an entire season to creating new life in their place. How it looks so bare and forlorn, and how the lack of life on the outside always makes me sad. But, that sadness is misplaced. In reality it is still full of life, though it lives beneath the bark.

I think this is true for people, too.

I think this of me, in the middle of a transition difficult to name, even to myself.  The old life—and its stagnant, stale, and unnecessary parts—has fallen away, and the new life is not yet fully formed. In this space of becoming, I chase the things captivating my attention, which I now understand is a way of rebuilding. The muse highlights what really matters. In seeking the things I love, the things that love me back, I am able to begin again. Rebirth is inevitable, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

In the meantime, I will let nature have its way with me.

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xo, with goodness and grace.

I walked onto the elevator in my apartment building, beginning my journey to work. As the door opened, I heard the woman inside heave an exasperated sigh. As I strode on, one foot barely in the elevator car, she angrily pressed the “door close” button.

Lucky for me, I got in before the door closed. But this was not quickly enough for the woman. She shook her head and looked down at her watch.

We’re all in such a hurry.

I could tell you how rude the woman was and how I took her impatience personally, but the truth is I’ve been that person.  I understand her. I’ve been her more times than i would like to acknowledge.

This, too often, is city life. In a hurry to get from one place to another. In a hurry to make it happen. We often don’t know what that is, but we do know we have to get there—now.

Last week, I got hurt. I did something awful to my tailbone and could hardly move for a few days. This was awful in many ways. There was also an unexpected benefit.

I was forced to slow down.

Instead, I noticed how the world has gone pink.  Nature, emerging from the harsh gray and brown of winter, has blossomed into a range of pastels of soft, girly blush and fiery fuchsia.

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It’s not that I just observed this—the last two posts will show you that—but now, I could feel this burst of energy permeate through me.

Because I was in pain, I had to slow down my normal hurried pace. I began to walk slowly and take carefully measured steps. I felt the brisk air on my face and took notice of how the breezes made the budding trees sway.  Not speed walking through my morning, I saw how quickly everyone moved. I saw how everyone was lost in their phones or in their thoughts. I saw a city of people who have learned to pay no attention to the humanity around them.

I want to make a better effort at paying attention.

I took my time getting to work, and a funny thing happened. I still arrived on time, if not before. I noticed I was less stressed as I sat down at my desk, and less stressed throughout the day. Though I was in physical discomfort, I felt more at ease.

Does this mean my life is changed and I won’t rush around anymore? No. But it does mean I know there’s a better way.

Sometimes it takes some pain to be awakened to something better.

xo, with goodness and grace.

Imagine escaping from normal life on one chilly and blustery spring day for a day trip. There’s a museum an hour away that used to house an old Nabisco box printing factory, but now is home to modern art, large scale and small. You need a beauty fix, and the pocket of stillness that falls alongside it.

This place is reliable in delivery of this.

Imagine walking through the msueum, charmed by the openness, the light, and the art, but then one thing catches your eyes and instantly brings forth a joyfulness, a fullness, within you. A wall of windows—stark and simple—is enchanting, not because of its design, but because of what is behind it.

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This wall of pink, the cherry blossoms outside, leaves you enraptured. The sheer vibrance of color begins to breathe life into you, just as the blossoms usher in a season.

You cannot get enough of this vivid, luminous, flamboyant hue. You must go outside to see it for yourself.

It is a smaller version of what you imagine Japan to be like in the springtime.

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Petals from the blossoms fall soundlessly from the trees and softly onto your head, as if they are christening you—and shepherding your towards a new season of your life.

It feels like magic.

Allow yourself to take in the beauty of spring, wherever you are. Allow it to permeate every cell of your insides.  Allow it to charm you—fully, forcefully, completely.

Allow it to make you feel alive.

xo, with goodness and grace.

What was good about this week, you ask?  One word.

Spring.

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This week I hope you bloom in your own ways, too.

xo, with goodness and grace.

I’m not gonna lie—in a string of difficult weeks, this was one of the toughest. All the reasons don’t matter. But added to that difficulty was the morning I left my apartment for work and the temperature read 2 degrees.

The extremes of this winter have been challenging, though I try to make peace with the season.

This morning, I decided to snuggle with pillows and hibernate.  I sat on my couch, ate breakfast, drank a cup of coffee, watched one of the Oscar-nominated movies. A perfect, lazy Sunday morning.  Then, the movie ended.  I listened to the silence.

Suddenly, I could feel it.

I could feel a shift in the air.  Spring, a calendar month away, seemed possible. Even though it snowed yesterday, and the temperature hovered near zero the day before, something felt different.  I hadn’t known that it was above 40 degrees today, but the promise of something new whispered in my ear.

This is what I remember: no matter how hard a moment is, it always passes. Though the temperature will drop, the winds will pick up, and surely the snow plows will be on the street yet again, easier times are around the corner.

May you find shifts in your life to help navigate your way through any difficulties you encounter this week.

xo, with goodness and grace.

I started a post when I was escaping from the city to the beach this week.  It was about what the beach teaches me.

I’d gone to the beach because I desperately needed a day away from my regular routine so I could hear myself think.  Sometimes when the world gets noisy, I wonder I’m missing out on anything, if any bites of intuition have gone unheard because my life is so full.  The beach brings me back to myself.

As I sat on the bus on my way out east, there was more traffic than is normal this time of year because of construction in a long stretch of the road.  I was comforted by the patches of weeds outside my window whenever we stopped, the very ones that had dotted my childhood landscape.  Back then people told me they were weeds, but to me, they were beautiful, magical flowers.  As an adult, dandelions and “wishing flowers” still evoke sunshine and happiness.

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I arrived at the hotel, an hour and change after we were supposed to arrive.  I walked out and looked at the ocean.  It was cloudy and overcast, but I didn’t care. The sound of the waves lulled me into that place they always do.  That calmness, the sense of home—we drove nearly four hours and there it was.

I spent the next there, walking in the quiet of my thoughts that had finally calmed down.  It was chilly, but I was over prepared as usual, walking all bundled up with my jacket and scarf and gloves.  Even though it was cold, I walked barefoot so my feet could feel the spring of the sand which always feels so good against my leg muscles.

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I ate lunch and I read.  Every now and then I looked up at the waves just to acknowledge them, as if to let them know that I was still there.  I felt calm and content.

And then I felt an overwhelming need to go home, to sleep in my own bed and spend the morning lazily going about my Sunday routine.

So I did.

I came home to my city, stepping off the bus to warm spring air.  I walked in my front door.  I felt relieved.

I’m sitting in the park in my neighborhood admiring the tulips that have bloomed since I was last here. There’s an abundance of them, and they are beautiful.  I’m resisting the urge to photograph them.  What I realized when I was at the beach is that I so often try to hold on to special moments—especially with pictures—sometimes forgetting to actually be in the moment. I took pictures of the fog ahead of me on the beach, so beautiful and theatrical. Sometimes I was more concerned with getting the right angle so the picture could look its best.  Nevertheless, I felt the peace I’d been seeking.

Now I’m sitting here feeling the warmth of today, captivated by the cool breezes that move between the trees.  It is perfect. People keep coming in and out of the park, taking photos of the tulips in all their glory with their camera phones. I wonder if they can really see the beauty, if they can take in the lush fullness of their heads, so open and lusty, and their leaves, such a verdant reminder of spring. I wonder if they really see them, if they’ll remember them when the garden settles down into a normal state.

I’m resisting taking a photo, just so I can experience them fully, so I can say that I was part of this day, that I felt the glory of it.

Because life is full of moments and we are meant to be in them, to embody their goodness, to allow them to transport us where we need to go.  Even if where we need to go is right in our own backyard.  Sometimes we need to get away from where we are to know that home is where we needed to be all along.  Sometimes where we are is exactly right.

It’s all about being present.

xo, with goodness and grace.

 

I always think it’s funny how people forget that spring is, in its volatile essence, basically a few months of unpredictable weather.  The day the calendar finally turns to spring, people start shedding their layers and take off their socks, no matter the temperature is actually still wintry.  It’s like a mass delusion, needing to believe that the season is perfect.

The earth is about blossom, and I like to think, so are we.  The promise of what is to come is enough to get me through the fickle weather.

And that is perfect to foster some self care.

Long walks in the rain continued.  Rain, in the right temperature, is magical.  And, you can still find random, faded signs of love.

Love is Telepathic

Day 27: I’m noticing that walking at this time of year is a big thing for me.  Maybe being indoors during the seemingly-perpetual winter has left me with a need to shake it off in search of what’s about to bloom.

After work, I felt an urge to go window shopping.  Browsing through stores without a purpose has made me happy since I was a child.  It’s a time to allow yourself to dream of who you want to be.

Vince Heels

The dream me would look chic in these shoes from Vince.  There is such joy in footwear.

Like these shoes I found in J Crew.  I instinctively knew I had to have them—falling in love makes you want to possess the object of your desire, now!—so I bought them.  (I later discovered that almost everyone I know has had the same reaction. And bought them.)  And the fancy earrings, I couldn’t resist.  Put them together, and you’ve got a great representation of me.  Fancy casual.

J Crew Vans

The dream me later went back to the store and bought the flat version of those Vince heels, so the practical me can be stylish and comfortable (and fancy casual) at the same time.

Day 28:  I wore my new earrings, made me feel a little glamorous, despite a very bad hair day. And, just resting my gaze on my new shoes brought me an irrational amount of joy.

Day 29:  Needing to have something every day can take the pleasure out of it for me.  That’s why I don’t have coffee every morning.  I have a cup when I want it, but I don’t like needing to have it to feel awake.  Life should be enough to feel awake, shouldn’t it?

Today was a coffee day.  And it was goooood.

Buvette Coffee

Simple pleasures can be self care, too.

Day 30:  Spring weather finally arrived!  I was juggling multiple projects and deadlines, and I didn’t have the time to go outside and enjoy the warmer temperatures.

I did it anyway.  Letting the sun warm your face at lunchtime is serious self care.

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Day 31:  The week behind me and the rain falling again, I came home, scooped some homemade dough—because having cookie dough on hand at all times is 100% self care—and baked two chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Snack in hand, I crawled in the bed and turned on Shark Tank. Two of my favorite (not-so) guilty pleasures made for the perfect evening.

Day 32: Finally, I’ve started spring cleaning my apartment, which is beginning to look like an episode of Hoarders.  I started by tackling the ridiculously tall stack of magazines accumulated over the last few months, and I brought over a new jar of Vanilla Almond Butter so I could take a couple of spoonfuls as a snack while I worked.

Let’s just say that most of the magazines are still there.  I got distracted by deliciousness.

Vanilla Almond Butter

Just writing that sentence made me go grab a spoonful.

Day 33:  Ah, Sunday mornings.  The act of hanging out, doing nothing but just being is sacred, beautiful and simply awesome.

Sunday Morning

On Sunday mornings, I usually clean out the fridge and concoct a unique meal for breakfast.  This morning, I just made a plate of a vegan, gluten-free (but delicious) biscuit, a handful of pecans and a bit of cheese. Randomness can be tasty.

I also found a heart-shaped package of goat cheese on the back of one of the shelves, which sadly was moldy.  It made me want to venture out and immediately buy a replacement.  I cut into it and revealed that the decaying cheese—decadently studded with chunks of dark chocolate—was still beautiful and full of loveliness.

Heart Goat Cheese

Such a great metaphor for life.  Our hearts may get worn from the harsh elements of life, but if we scrape away the dirt and the mold, the essential beauty of who we are remains.  Remembering this is the epitome of self care.

xo, with goodness and grace.

 

Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

–Mary Oliver, “Peonies”

Every spring my love affair with peonies is renewed.  I’m obsessed with them.

How can you not be captivated by their beauty, in all of their voluptuous exquisiteness?

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Typically blooming only for one week in May and June, their season is short, making their earthly presence that much more exceptional.  I keep a bouquet on my table whenever I can find them as a celebration of the robust, fragrant, magnificent gifts that life gives us.

Peonies are my reminder to be present, appreciate beauty—no matter how fleeting…most especially when it is fleeting—and to take in magical goodness when it is in front of me.

Even with temperamental temperatures, pollen-inducing allergies and all-around unpredictability in the air, spring is my favorite season.

It ushers in an abundance of life, with nature springing into bloom in flowers and produce. This is my call to venture out to the farmers’ markets around the city.

I heeded this call yesterday, and as I walked through the Union Square Greenmarket, I noticed a pungent scallion-like scent wafting in the air.  I was mesmerized by it.  It had me thinking about what I would make for dinner.

Then I found out the scent wasn’t from freshly-picked scallions, but from ramps. A new world had opened up to me.

Ramps, also known as wild leeks, have a very short season, only available in certain parts of the country from late March to early May. Their flavor combines the sweetness of an onion with garlic’s spicy bite. The buzz on ramps has increased over the last few years, at least here in New York, with many restaurants incorporating them on menus for the few weeks they are available.

Though I’d heard about them, I spotted them for the first time at the greenmarket.

Having never tried them, I asked one of the farmers how to use them. He suggested using the sauteed white bulbs in risotto, pasta or scrambled eggs, and wrapping fish with the leaves.

Another customer turned to me and said somewhat conspiratorially, “They are also really good on toast.”

That was a simple enough inspiration for me. I’d make crostini.

I sliced the white bulbs and sauteed them in butter and olive oil until they were tender. I threw in the chopped the greens at the last minute, wilting them as they hit the heat of the pan. Then I put them on a sliced baguette and topped the whole thing with shavings of pecorino cheese.

It was like a ray of sunshine on a misty spring day.  And a perfect light lunch.

Spring makes me happy.  Deliriously, feverishly ecstatic.

Life is flourishing everywhere.

The tiny, newborn leaves on the tree outside my apartment window are the shade of green that evoke spring…

Pink explodes onto Park Avenue…

Everything is new.

Spring has sprung.  It is gloriously, deliriously beautiful.  Trees are budding, flowers are blooming, the sky is clear and the cool air is slowly rising in temperature.

And everyone is complaining in my ear about it.

The winter lovers are at their wit’s end about the impending warmth.

“When did it become summer???”

One friend described yesterday’s soft breeze-filled 70 degree day as “horrible” because it was too hot.

And the common refrain in the office, “It’s soooo HOT in here!!”

Change isn’t easy for many people.  But change is inevitable, and it is easier to take when you embrace it.  The good and gracious thing to do is to acknowledge the discomfort, accept it and move on.

For me, spring ushers in a hopefulness.  The sun is warmer on the skin.  Everything is in bloom after a winter of laying dormant underground.  The air is filled with the possibility of what will come from all the seeds planted – in the earth and in the mind – before the frost set in.

And really, what’s so bad about this?

Or this?

Look around.  Choose to see the beauty in the moment.  Take it in.  Embrace the change.

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