Friday, September 29, 2017

Autumn on Michigan's west coast

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks, 1842

At Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, Old Mission Peninsula / Cindy La Ferle

Whether we're driving up north or heading south on Michigan's west coast, I love seeing the variety of roadside produce stands in rural areas. Is there anything that says "autumn" more than the scent and taste of apples straight from the orchard? 

The leaves are only just beginning to change color around our state; it's been unseasonably warm all week. But there are pumpkins in the fields, and shopkeepers in the resort towns have changed their summer window displays to reflect the harvest season.   
Crops for sale at Brys Estate / Cindy La Ferle

One of my favorite spots for admiring the change of seasons is Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, a 91-acre estate on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City. This picturesque winery and lavender farm is ideally located on the 45th parallel, where the sun shines at the perfect angle for grape growing. In my view, it's every bit as beautiful as the wineries we've seen in California and other parts of the world. Touring the lavender farm at Brys, I'm reminded of visiting Provence.

Later in the week, while shopping in downtown St. Joseph, I could feel October coming. A cool breeze kicked up from Lake Michigan, scattering a few dry leaves across the sidewalks and signaling the end of sun-bathing weather on the beach. As much as I will miss the summer, I'm ready for autumn too. ~CL

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The path to inner harmony

"Give yourself the space to listen to your own voice—your own soul. Too many people listen to the noise of the world and get lost in the crowd. You can choose differently. Don’t watch too much TV, don’t read every blog, and don’t consume too much social media or mass media news. Instead, fill your time with meaningful experiences." ~Marc & Angel Chernoff

Time out from a bike ride on the Heritage Trail, Glen Haven / Cindy La Ferle

In northern Michigan yesterday, Doug and I spent part of the day riding bikes on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, starting our trip in downtown Glen Arbor. The newly paved trail (currently 22 miles long), winds through pristine woodlands and around the sand dunes at Sleeping Bear National Park, providing some of the best views of Michigan's natural beauty along the way. It's always a highlight during our visits to this part of our state.

I don't talk much whenever we ride the trail. (Yes, this is unusual.) And I don't allow myself to think about current events, politics, personal worries, or anything else that darkens my mood or spoils my peace of mind. I focus instead on the visual feast of scenery unfolding ahead of me -- and I try to resist the temptation to photograph every wonderful thing I see. 

The longer I pedal, the more centered and grounded I feel. No wonder modern mystics often refer to bike riding as "moving meditation."

Once again, I'm reminded of the healing power of nature, and how important it is to make time to appreciate our gorgeous three-dimensional world. It's all too easy to forget this -- especially if we spend our days looking at cell phones and computer screens, and seeking validation there. ~CL

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why I admire people who challenge "authority"

"If you want to be a real human being, you cannot tolerate things which bring you to indignation or to outrage. You must stand up and speak out. I always say to people, 'Look around; look at what makes you unhappy, what makes you furious, and then engage yourself in some action.'" ~ Stephane Hessel

Cindy La Ferle 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A new indy bookstore

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” 

Local and regional books at Paper Trail Books, Royal Oak / Cindy La Ferle

Bookstores -- especially independent bookstores -- always top the list of things that make me happy. In my view, a town without a bookstore is incomplete.

For those of us who are still mourning the close of Barnes & Noble in downtown Royal Oak, the opening of Paper Trail Books is reason to celebrate. Open seven days a week, the new independent bookseller is located in my favorite row of specialty shops and boutiques on Washington Blvd.

I met owner Dave Brown last week, and was thrilled to learn that his store will soon be stocking a full magazine rack in addition to new paper and hardbound bestsellers. Right now, Paper Trail Books has a good selection of used books plus new titles from local and regional authors -- including my book, Writing Home. (Can you spot it in the photo above?) ~CL

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Looking on the bright side

"There are flowers everywhere for those who want to see them." ~Henri Matisse

At Greenfield Village / Cindy La Ferle

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Watching what we say

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” ~ Rudyard Kipling 

At Leo's Coney Island in Royal Oak  / Cindy La Ferle

Words matter. Language is one of the most powerful gifts we have -- a gift that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Whether we're swearing in public, reporting fake news, labeling each other, spraying graffiti on walls, shouting one-sided opinions, spouting unsolicited criticism or spreading gossip, words matter. 

Words can dampen a good mood or soothe an aching soul. Words can tear people down or lift them up. Words can mend relationships or tear them apart. Words can ignite war or inspire peace. We must choose our words wisely and use them with care. ~CL

Monday, September 18, 2017

Art journaling workshops

"Every child is an artist. The challenge is how to remain an artist once we grow up." ~Pablo Picasso

Cindy La Ferle

For the past couple of weeks I've been making big splashes with watercolors and polishing my art journal techniques for a new two-part workshop I'll be teaching this fall at the Royal Oak Public Library. 
A page from my art journal / Cindy La Ferle

"The Joys of Art Journaling" will be held on Tuesdays, October 3 and 10, from 7:00 - 8:30pm in the Royal Oak Public Library Auditorium. The library will provide basic art supplies -- markers, crayons, glue sticks, colored pencils and magazine images. You'll bring your own composition book, blank journal, or the sketchbook of your choice. You can also bring fabric scraps, old greeting cards, photocopies, and any other art supplies you'll need for your journal.

Another page from my art journal/ Cindy La Ferle

Art journaling combines journal- keeping practices with a variety of mixed-media art and craft techniques. But it's really more about art than writing -- and can serve as a personal tool for self-discovery or creative inspiration.   

Designed for those who want to learn the basics of art journaling, this class is part of my mission to help others express their own creativity.  No experience is necessary and coloring outside the lines is encouraged.  

Enrollment is limited (registration required), so please plan to attend both Tuesday evening workshops if you register. The class is free to the public. For more details and to register, please visit the ROPL site here

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How to dress for the day

"If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." ~Roald Dahl

Shopping in Saugatuck / Cindy La Ferle

Friday, September 15, 2017

Finding the way back home

"This is the bright home in which I live, 
this is where I ask my friends to come." 
~David Whyte

Morning in Vinsetta Park / Cindy La Ferle

So many of you emailed me after reading Wednesday's post about the anniversary of my mother's death. Thank you so much for your words of comfort, and for sharing your own stories of parent loss with me. A few of you also asked where to find the David Whyte poem that was read by my son at my mother's funeral, so I'm sharing it here... 
The House of Belonging
By David Whyte
I awoke this morning
 in the gold light
 turning this way
 and that

thinking for
 a moment
 it was one
 like any other.

 the veil had gone
 from my
 darkened heart
 I thought

it must have been the quiet
 that filled my room,

it must have been
 the first
 easy rhythm
 with which I breathed
 myself to sleep,

it must have been
 the prayer I said
 speaking to the otherness
 of the night.

 I thought
 this is the good day
 you could
 meet your love,

this is the gray day
 someone close
 to you could die.

This is the day
 you realize
 how easily the thread
 is broken
 between this world
 and the next

and I found myself
 sitting up
 in the quiet pathway
 of light,

the tawny
 close grained cedar
 burning round
 me like fire
 and all the angels of this housely
 heaven ascending
 through the first
 roof of light
 the sun has made.

This is the bright home
 in which I live,
 this is where
 I ask
 my friends
 to come,
 this is where I want
 to love all the things
 it has taken me so long
 to learn to love.

This is the temple
 of my adult aloneness
 and I belong
 to that aloneness
 as I belong to my life.

There is no house
 like the house of belonging.

This poem is excerpted from River Flow and The House of Belonging by David Whyte. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September memories

"When a mother dies, we lose of a piece of who we are. We lose the person whose story provides the beginning of our own, whose sense of self greatly influences who we are." ~Peggy Heinzmann Ekerdt

My mother as a young girl with Sonny. 

I like to think of September as my mother's month. She was born in September and died in September, and I still recall her singing the lyrics to "Try to Remember" (from The Fantasticks) when I'd play it on the piano in the living room of my girlhood home. Just as my mother did, I love the burst of creative energy this month brings; the way it feels more like the start of a season rather than the ending of one.

Today is the third anniversary of my mother's death. Through the lens of retrospect, I see that I've been grieving multiple losses: the emotional loss of the mother I knew before dementia changed her, the physical loss of my mother when she died, and the loss of my role as a daughter.  

As the cliche goes, time heals all wounds -- yet I don't believe for a moment that we ever fully recover from our most painful family losses. We adapt to those losses, and maybe even grow stronger from them, but our lives are forever changed when the people we love are no longer with us.    

In the last seven years of her life, my mother's personality and mental outlook were constantly challenged by chronic illness, severe hearing loss, and vascular dementia.

But no matter how much memory she lost, she never forgot that she wanted stay in her own home. In the early stages of her illness, I tried my best to make that possible. Because she was widowed and lived alone, I hired visiting nurses and part-time caregivers to help keep her safe in her own place. Living nearby, I cleaned her house, took her grocery shopping, supervised her daily medications, and drove her to her various medical appointments. And I worried about her every minute of the day.

A broken ankle eventually put her in a wheelchair for good, and by that time, it would have been impossible for her to remain at home without a full-time team of skilled nurses. Regardless, she insisted that she was capable of taking care of herself. She didn't believe that she couldn't walk, nor did she understand why she wasn't allowed to drive anymore. As her dementia progressed, we had to place her in a nursing home, where she told everyone I was "imprisoning" her -- and that I'd stolen her car.

The close relationship we'd once enjoyed was sorely tested then. She was bitter and frightened; I was tired and angry. Our quality time together was mostly spent in hospital emergency rooms and doctors' offices. For all that, there was no remedy for her heart disease or the dementia that warped her sense of reality.

In those days, I was fueled by stress and caffeine. Consumed by the management of my mother's ongoing medical crises, I lost sight of how much I missed my "real" mom -- the woman who had given so much to our family, hosted Sunday dinners and holidays, shopped with me, nursed me back to health after two hip surgeries, and listened with an open heart to all of my troubles and triumphs.

In her final months, she had no idea that I was struggling to keep her comfortable, or that my heart was breaking too. Every time I said good-bye to her in the nursing home, I backed away with regret. I felt helpless and ashamed in the face of her fear and unhappiness -- and I knew she still blamed me for the sad fact that she wasn't living in her own home.  

I was depressed for more than a year after my mother died. Most people seem surprised when I admit that, although a handful of dear souls who know me best could see that I wasn't myself. During that time, I went about the lonely business of cleaning out my mother's home and sorting through her belongings, dutifully preparing for an estate sale. To cope, I simply numbed out.

As the months drifted by, I revisited memories of the mother I knew and loved before dementia changed everything. Emerging from the fog of grief, I began to find her in the keepsakes she'd given me over the years. The good times associated with those lovely things, including old photographs, came back into focus. 

I remembered, too, that my mother had a history and dreams of her own -- long before she gave birth to me. In several of my favorite photos, she's posing with Sonny, her beloved collie dog, and I've often wished she could have met Coco, the sweet shepherd I adopted three years ago from a rescue shelter. 

Finally, in my mind's eye, I was able to see my mother as so much more than the frightened, fading woman I left in a hospital bed in a nursing home.

Cleaning my bookshelves one afternoon, I found the last birthday card my mother remembered to send me before her illness took hold.  Its Hallmark verse read: Daughter, Yours is a place on earth that no one else could fill.... yours is a love that no one else could give. Even more than the day you came into this world ... I love you. 

Then, in her delicate handwriting, she signed off in her own words, "You have given me so much pleasure, and I am so very proud of you, Love, Mom."  

That was the mother I want to remember, always, and I keep this card where I can see it every day.  ~CL

(To read the eulogy I wrote for my mother's funeral three years ago, please click here.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

One step at a time

"Every positive step you take is actually a heroic leap forward—no matter how insignificant it seems. And if you can add some loving kindness to the mix, you'll move mountains." ~Kris Carr

Cindy La Ferle

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Random acts of art

"The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones." 

~Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus

Cindy La Ferle
Lately, on our daily walks with Coco at the Clawson City Park, Doug and I have spotted a few hand-painted rocks left along the trail. 

I'm guessing they're anonymous gifts -- or possibly clues for an ongoing treasure hunt? Either way, they've been placed there deliberately for someone else to discover and admire. These charming pieces of art always stop me on the path, reminding me that life's sweetest pleasures are often the ones we're not planning or expecting. ~CL

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The sound of a door closing

"Close some doors today. Not because of pride, incapacity, or arrogance, but simply because they lead nowhere." ~Paulo Coehlo

Castello di Amoroso, Calistoga, CA / Cindy La Ferle 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The anti-aging backlash

"Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength." ~Betty Friedan

Allure, September 2017

Topping my list of things that make me happy this month is Allure magazine's resolution to stop using the term "anti-aging." (You can read the full editorial in the September 2017 issue here.) Women of all ages are applauding the magazine's stand on this important topic, and it's time for fashion editors and cosmetic companies to start paying attention.

Getting older, after all, isn't something we can avoid -- and it's not a disease to be cured. Aging is a natural process; our human destiny. 

Most women, however, are brainwashed to believe that aging is shameful -- and that mature women are no longer beautiful, relevant, or desirable. The propaganda starts hitting us in our early teens. 

Lining the pockets of advertisers and cosmetic surgeons, we spend lots of money buying into the national concept that youth is ideal. We're convinced that our wrinkles and other badges of maturity should be repaired, or at least artfully concealed. (And we needn't look hard to find stereotypical examples of older men with younger trophy wives or girlfriends. One is running our country.) As if all this weren't sad enough, the fashion industry keeps sending us mixed messages on how to dress to avoid "looking old." Meanwhile, our daughters are watching.

I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't bother to take care of our skin or that we shouldn't enjoy developing a personal style as we age. But to deny or fight aging is to rally against life -- real life.

We are human. We all get older. Our beauty is defined by the way we live -- and all that we give -- while we're here. Big cheers to Allure for respecting and celebrating maturity. ~CL

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Celebrating our individuality

“Being a 'one-of-a-kind' means we are automatically the best in the world at what we do.”  ~Victor Williamson

Historic glass collection at the Henry Ford /Cindy La Ferle

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day musings

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Doug's guitars / Cindy La Ferle

It's Labor Day, the official launch of the new school year and the unofficial end of summer. According to Wikipedia, the weekend holiday "honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country."  

Ironically (or maybe not), many retail stores and supermarkets in my community are still open today -- so a lot of workers don't have the day off. For those who are lucky enough to be on vacation today, Labor Day is a celebration of leisure time. 

I once read that how we spend our free time defines who we are. I worked at a couple of office jobs in publishing after college, but I've worked at home as a writer ever since my son (now grown and married) was in kindergarten. While I've always believed that working at home is a privilege, there were times when the boundaries between my work, my family, and my leisure time were blurred. 

My husband, an artist, spends his free time playing music. I know he's not working on a business project or an art piece when I hear him strumming one of his guitars upstairs in the studio. 

Whether I'm losing myself in a great book, riding my bike, working in the garden, or walking my dog, I'm more relaxed when I can turn off the chatter inside my head. Even if I can't leave town for a longer vacation, bookstores and nature trails serve as mini escapes for me.

How about you? How are you spending your spare moments?