Sunday, December 25, 2011

A miracle on 44th Street . . .

I had let go.

I had decided it would be easier that way. Better to focus on the precious time together with my loved ones, rather than the ambiance of setting the stage for that time.

There simply would be no Christmas decorations this year. 

It's been a long time since the cheer and sweetness of tiny lights, stockings hung on the fireplace, little vignettes of long-ago stories set about, primitive creations by little hands hung askew on a tree nearly failed to make a appearance in my cottage in December.

But there was a time when I was too sad to deck the halls.

I lost a beloved uncle who was much like a father to me between Christmas and New Years in 1984. For years, the heavy cloak of what is called in social sciences an anniversary reaction pressed down any semblance of Christmas spirit.

And then one day, the cloak simply lifted. And I could smell the breathtaking fragrance of evergreens and scented candles, see jewel-colored splashes of glass, hear familiar refrains of tunes played only once a  year.

Oh, for years I had gone through the motions to decorate, to shop, to wrap, to go caroling, to trudge to midnight mass. But I could feel nothing, smell nothing, see nothing. Not the blissful nothingness that comes with intention. But a black hole of joylessness.

And when the cloak finally lifted of its own accord, gratefulness and astonishment rushed in. And even the long long nights of northern winters did nothing to dampen my spirit. In fact, I came to love them, to love the candlelit darkness, to love the quietude of darkness, to love the introspection of darkness, to love the knowingness of the veil thinning, and to feel it.

This year, as I've experienced what is nothing short of a dream come true, I've learned that such times can also be about trade offs. I've been a musher in training this fall, elated and exhausted. Three times a week, I head north for an hour and 15 minute drive to see my beloved dogs. I greet my sled dogs in the dark, mostly, outfit them in harnesses, hook them up to a 4-wheeler, and off we go for a training run. Miles and miles later, my sled dog team is fit and ready to run our first race. But I am not so. I've let go my normal personal training routine, run around hither and yon to meet my obligations in what seems to be a period of genuine "not enough time."

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I rise around 4:20 am, bundle up in the dark, grope my way to the bedroom door do as not to wake my husband, slip across the creaky floors so as not to wake two loved ones living in the basement, quietly open the fridge to pull out the breakfast I've prepared the night before, and slip away into the darkest-before-the-dawn morning with my sleepyhead Alaskan Husky Ginsberg in tow.

Hours later, after my sled dogs are happily exhausted from their hour-long run, are hydrated with "baited" water, have full tummies from a goulash of kibble and chicken that I've lugged their way in big ole heavy buckets, have freshly scooped and cleaned their living spaces, I head home. An hour and 30 minutes later, after I return and shower off the doggieness of the morning, I begin my work day. And sometimes my work night. Free time has taken a hike for the most part this year. And that's OK. I am truly living my dream, and how many people get to say that? In 2012, I will race with my sled dogs for the first time, across miles and miles of some of the most beautiful winter landscapes this country has to offer. It's truly astonishing.

And though my tea bag told me the other day, "When God made time, he made enough of it," and I truly believe that, I'm a novice at this dream-come-true business and I haven't figured out how the whole warp the space-time continuum phenomena yet.

Thus, no Christmas decorations, no tree this year.

Until yesterday, when I pulled up to my cottage after spending the day preparing for my racing season.

A swag of sparkling tiny lights hung from the windows of the four-season porch. That was my first clue.

I walked into a front room scented and illuminated with candles. In the living room, all of my loved ones who are living in my home stood about, beaming.

The halls were decked! Candles everywhere, Christmas tunes played, and the most beautiful tree that has ever stood in that living room twinkled with cheer.

It was a miracle.


My loved ones who scarcely have a moment of their own free time, had managed to find a way to bring the joy of holidays into the ambiance of our time together. Not only had they procured a tree, they had procured a tree that someone else had abandoned! On their way to locate a tree, they found one by a dumpster. And they miraculously located the ornaments that had been gathered and repackaged during the Great Basement Project, and placed them strategically on the delicate limbs.

It has got to be one of the most precious moments of generosity of the season I have ever witnessed.

Yes, I had prepared myself to let go of such a treasure this year. But apparently my loved ones had not.

Wishing you all the joy your heart
can possibly hold, and then some.

Thank you with all my heart, Laura, Sean, Sarah, Erik, and Julie!!!
Beloved EarthDoctorSon

Beloved RockStarSon

Beloved PreciousGrrrlChild
Beloveds JulieoftheSaffireEyes and SarahJane

Blessings to you

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's a good life, thankfully

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to 
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a 
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have 
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman 
down beside you at the counter who say, Last night, 
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?
Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological 
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old 
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it 
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.
And then life suggests that you remember the 
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you 
were born at a good time. Because you were able 
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And 
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland, 
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel, 
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

Image by TinyApartmentCrafts

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


. . . in which I've completely gone to the dogs. . .

Click here for another "exciting episode" at THREE BLUE EYES,
with a behind -the-scenes revelation about the real "scoop."
(It would seriously stink if you miss this.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday's gifts

I rose early to work out Sunday. But a luminous dawn beckoned me to the stroll the rose and peace gardens near the lake. These were the gifts.

Is it autumn? Or is it summer?

The sweet, delicious smell of pine needles provided the inspiration for meditation under this tree

Always a good idea to accept such invitations, I think.

And may you find surprise and delight today and say "Yes," even if it means forgoing something Very Important that you must do.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

All kids are our kids

That's what I learned from Peter Benson.

Peter, president and CEO of the nonprofit organization Search Institute, died today. He had lived with colon cancer for some time with grace and the brightest spirit you can imagine. Peter, a visionary, years ago pondered the question: "Why do we always ask what is wrong with kids? Why don't we ask what is right about kids?"

And since no one else was doing so, Peter did -- and his inquiry broke new ground.

It is captured in his book, All Kids are Our Kids, an amazing read.

His legacy, in part, is the brilliant conceptual framework he synthesized about youth development. It's called the 40 Developmental Assets, and it describes the resources, relationships, and characteristics all kids need to succeed. His ideas spread like wildfire, and around the country schools, faith-based organizations, cities, counties, youth groups, neighborhoods, parks, libraries explored what Peter's ideas meant to them. And places began to look at their teens differently, as amazing people full of spirit and spark whose presence enriched places and people.

In the past 5 years, Peter took his concepts to a new level, naming that inner fire in young people sparks, and he invited all of us to help adolescents find and nurture their spark. He wrote about this concept and the work he did to develop it in the book, Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers.

Peter delivered a gorgeous TED talk about this concept. It's the finest moment of public speaking I have ever seen Peter deliver. Bravo, Peter!

Peter transformed things, places, and people. For nine years, my professional and personal life orbited around his ideas, and while I no longer work for Search Institute and Peter (who was my boss for two years), I have been profoundly altered by his life's work.

People are always surprised when I say how much I love teens. I rather like that. Had I not known Peter, I might never have understood how important loving teens was.

To know Peter was to love Peter. He was a sparkplug, his walk almost a jaunty bounce, his attitude always a little full of mischief, and his head brimming with ideas.

Mary Oliver's poem, "When Death Comes," speaks of her desire to have embraced life so fully as to not have "simply visited this world."

. . . . .

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common 
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

. . . . .

I cannot think of a more fitting metaphor for Peter, who in no way "simply visited" this world -- he rocked it!

Peter, I will miss you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How capable?

"No one is as capable as one
who has emerged
from the kingdom of night."

~ Elie Wiesel

Image by babu kantamneni

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Three Blue Eyes


My friends, I am in seventh heaven.

I am now officially working with 6 sled dogs for this winter and will be running my first race in January.

Come meet my beautiful team, which includes Ginsberg, of course!

A snippit here:

Lydia  "Lids"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Detour . . .

Hello pals!

Very exciting times at the 44th Street Accidental MicroKennel . . . a dream is coming true! More details to follow.

Meanwhile, I'll be posting over here for a while:

Hope you'll come have a look!

Friday, August 5, 2011

I swear, God has a sense of humor

Mr Obama, you are not the only one today with a big birthday today. I have to wonder if you got a gift as cool as the one Natalie got today. I rather doubt it.

On  our way to lunch, I asked Natalie (a seriously amazing writer, a cheerleader for my own efforts to craft fiction, a yoga instructor, a speaker of several languages, an avid reader, and a public health researcher) if she'd had any "signs" today about turning 30.

She casually looked at the sky ahead of us and said, "Yes. The world."

Have a look at the picture I shot with my iPhone (after I pulled to the side of the road).

Now, how do you beat that for a birthday present?

(Go on now, see if you can find Italy, Australia, Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands!)

Saturday, July 30, 2011


"I am not interested in shooting new things --
I am interested in seeing new things."
~ Ernst Haas, photographer

My dear friend Natalie introduced me to Parabolaan extraordinary and beautiful magazine.
I found the above quote on an e-mail announcing the next issue.
The Fall 2011 issue is devoted to "the critical act of seeing. I find that a very fine idea. 

May we all see today what the camera lens sees,
free of bias and unburdened by judgement.

Image: "Parachute Flowers" by Ernst Haas

Monday, July 25, 2011

From the stillness

"Let us accept the invitation,
ever open,
from the Stillness,
taste its exquisite sweetness,
and heed its silent instruction."

~ Paul Brunton

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bliss out with some puppyness

Three-day old puppies at Diamond Dog Racing Kennel in Ohio, brought to you by the same musher who brought me Ginsberg. Fair warning: this can be very addictive . . . you might want to set a timer! Enjoy

Streaming by Ustream

Keeping an eye on things

The ever-watchful Miss Cora

Meanwhile, back at the 44th Street Accidental Microkennel . . . 

Mr. B is doing well following emergency surgery Saturday morning to reattach the retina in his left eye.

We'll know more about his prognosis in about 10 days. He did have a bit of scarring on the retina, which means it had been detached a bit longer than optimal and could complicate full recovery. But we're hoping for the best!

He's quite the sleepyhead, which is good, because rest is always good for healing, yes?

And here he is, the ole pirate himself, in white . . .

See the lovely green wristband? That's a heads-up to any healthcare providers (dentists, in particular) that Mr. B has a gas bubble in his eye. Yep, a gas bubble. That's what keeps everything nicely tucked into place while the retina heals. But it would be a very bad thing for Mr. B to have a dose of nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas) right now. As I understand, the addition of extra gas into his body could expand the bubble quite beyond comfort!

Here's hoping your retinas stay nice and fixed! But if you should happen to notice a larger-than-normal number of floaters speckling your vision or see flashes or sparks or feel as though a window shade has been pulled down over a part of your vision, please know that such symptoms constitute an emergency. Posthaste, get yourself to a doctor.

We'll all sleep better if you do.

Cora does her ever-loving best to keep an eye (her blue one, not her brown one) on Mr. B -- and rest.

Whilst Charlotte (left) and Ginsberg (right) think resting is a silly idea when the humans are otherwise preoccupied!

May your week be full of great vision!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How do I answer that question?

She was so cheery, grabbing the menus, leading me to my table.

"How's your day been so far?"

How on earth to answer that question? I wondered.

I'd awakened before my iPhone alarm was scheduled to go off at 6 am this morning.

[When did I start to use a phone as my night clock and alarm? Not just a cordless phone. A phone I can take ANYWHERE, communicate immediately with anyone who has a similar phone without even uttering one word aloud. A phone that allowed me to snatch out of thin air images that make the phone act and look just like the sony flip numbers clock I used in college--only this one was free!]

I walked my dogs, though I was not supposed to yet, because I'm still recovering from shoulder surgery during which a small camera probe and tiny tools had been inserted into the joint, the bursa exploded, and some diseased bone shaved off -- all so I can continue to mush.

[I'm not even sure they would have performed this surgery on someone older than 30 two decades ago. Mush? Five years ago, I hated winter in Minnesota.]

And when I got back from the walk, Mr. B was ready for me to drive him to the hospital where a precision team would work to reverse a process that not so long ago would have meant certain blindness. When he went to bed last night, Mr. B could see out of the bottom half of his left eye. When he woke up, he could see only out of one-third. By 7 am we were on our way to have his retina reattached.

[That's right. His RETINA reattached. Retina. As in the part of the eye we learned about in grade school that is very very important to seeing. Mr. B and I are fortunate to have excellent health insurance and  healthcare providers who yesterday shuffled Mr. him off post-haste to a super-specialist who arranged for emergency surgery first thing this morning.]

I mean, my head was beginning to spin with the incredibleness of it all. It reminded me of how weird it feels to cover thousands of miles across country in just a few hours by plane, and how LONG that same trip would take by car, let alone by bike or horse!

Within an hour after our arrival at the hospital, a surgeon had removed the vitreous of Mr. B's left eye, tacked the retina back down, and placed a gas bubble into his eye to ensure the handiwork stayed in place. Half an hour later, we were ready to go home.

[Wait! The surgeon just dug around in my husband's eyeball and forestalled imminent blindness. He even told Mr. B he could go back to work on Monday if he felt up to it. How is that possible??]

But before we left, I needed to let the family know that Mr. B was fine. So I sent a group text message and posted a status update on Facebook.

[No phone tree necessary. Everyone who needed to know had the information within 60 seconds. No long distance bills, no busy signals, no messages to leave, no repeating myself 10 times. Just one little press of a button, and swoosh, everyone had the same information I had.]

When we got home, Mr. B snuggled down on the couch with his iPad and drifted off the sleep. My son took over the shift, and I left to run some errands. I also knew I needed to simply process the past crazy 24 hours. So I made a stop at a little cafe.

Enter the hostess and her completely innocuous question, "How's your day been so far?"

I paused a little longer than I normally would, considered how to answer that question, and chose the only response that made any sense at the moment.

Just fine. Thanks.

Image by feeb

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Morning has broken

A few images from my visit to Lake Harriet at 5 am Wednesday  . . . so peaceful.

. . . . .

And this little bit of verse downloaded itself soon after I took these shots. I haven't a clue what it means,  so if you do, please let me know.

Lift your eyes at dawn

Lift your eyes
from your sleep soft face
The pale petal of dawn
washes the shore but briefly

waiting for no one.

The beloved
sweetly raises the veil
for a kiss.
O, wise one,

you already know what to do
Open the window
and begin

Kathleen Kimball-Baker 2011

May you begin  your day in peace . . .


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