Saturday, September 26, 2015

Debs Crombie: Stop and Smell the Roses

DEBORAH CROMBIE: This week we've been talking about scheduling and focusing and mono-tasking and getting more done. All very well, and we all want to be more productive. (And for those of us who write, we all want to write books faster!) But--

Our JRW special contributor Kaye Barley added a word of wisdom. In fact, she posted a little short video of older women talking about things they wish they'd done more of. And  you know what? Nowhere in those comments was there anything about staying on task and increasing your productivity.

They wished they had spent more time just BEING. So I'm adding my bit--a little ode to porch swings and roses. It is porch swing season here. (It's too hot in the summer, even at night, to enjoy it.)  But it's glorious now, with the temps dropping down in the 60s at night, so evenings and mornings are pleasant, and even midday doesn't feel too bad in the shade. I love autumn, it's my favorite time of year. There is something so evocative in the shortening days and the knowledge that the flowers will be gone soon. There's an urge to draw in, to contemplate, to feel life ebbing and flowing. 

Above is one of my two front porch swings, complete with the autumn cushions, and Pookie (don't ask...) our outdoor kitty. I'm making some time every day to sit in the swing for a few minutes and give her some much-appreciated company. And I'm admiring the last bloom of our little mini-roses. These were all, like the cat, rescues--little gift roses that you buy in the supermarket, most of which get thrown away when they've finished their bloom. I've stuck them in porch pots, where they thrive happily through Texas winters AND summers. 

So REDS and readers, tell us one thing that you do when you want to take a moment to just BE.

And REDS ALERT! The winners of D.E. Ireland's MOVE YOUR BLOOMING CORPSE are Jane Reads, Plum Gaga, and Michelle Dorsey. Email me with your addresses, ladies.


  1. Usually, when I'm taking time just to do nothing in particular, I'll be reading; nothing beats a rocking chair and a good book. But when the season permits, I am fond of taking leisurely walks. I especially enjoy autumn with its cooler temperatures and turning leaves. Spring is similarly enjoyable: it's not yet too hot for such pursuits and instead of leaves there are blooming flowers everywhere . . . .

  2. What a good reminder. I don't take "just be" moments anywhere near often enough. I do like to sit in the shade and watch my tomatoes grow. And I've had a few wonderful trips to the beach lately, where just watching the waves and the walkers is enough. I guess that's my favorite place to do nothing but happily exist.

  3. I have a secret garden at the side of the house. It's very tiny. No one else goes there. But, as sometimes happens, if someone goes through it looking for a meter or the gate, or something... they don't notice that it's there. I don't know what it looks like to them, but they don't see what I see. The shrubs that are short elsewhere, grow tall there. Texas Ranger sage, covered with little purple flowers, grows thick and tall around the edges. Two have grown together just outside my tiny garden and make an archway outside the gate. A vine volunteered itself to make the adobe style wall almost invisible, and forsythia provides cover for visiting animals and quail families. I sit there and breathe.

  4. What I do to be? I float on the pool. I get an inflatable raft, and a diet coke, and a book. I get on raft, and float, and look up through the huge trees in our back yard, and read, and float.

    HOwever. I have not done that once this year! So I will look at Kaye's video again. (I have some thoughts about it, though ,which maybe we should talk about another time. HAving to do with--there's a time of our lives for each thing. xox)

    Happy Saturday, everyone! Love you madly.

  5. Hmmm, to just be.
    Thinking about Hank's There's a time of our lives for each thing... (Turn, turn, turn)...

    My garden is my place to just be... no phone, no computer, just green. But the weeds call to me. I can't help it, they do.
    Coffee and the bridge column.
    Skype with my grandbaby and watch her twirl in her tutu - "I'm a 'allerina, Grommo!"
    A raspberry popsicle and a good book.
    Star gaze.

    Reine, can I join you in your secret garden?

  6. I sit on the screened porch for an hour before dinner, watching the neighborhood kids play and bird activity in the old-fashioned lilacs. The hanging Boston ferns are lush and full, the trees haven't yet dropped their leaves. I think about what I've accomplished, what I hope to accomplish the next day, sometimes read, but usually just be.

  7. Lovely post Debs! and interesting thought Hank. You're thinking now is the time to be busy, because we can relax later when we're done writing?

    The trouble is, we have no idea what's ahead, so we need to do some of all of it, I think. I would certainly sit on that couch with Pookie! Luckily, I have a built-in relaxer who gives me no choice: Tonka the wonder dog. If he doesn't get a good walk (about 2 miles), he goes bonkers and it's not pretty. so most days we walk along a beach road and look at what the ospreys are up to.

    Your secret garden sounds lovely Reine! And the beach Edith--I find I don't like to sit out in the sun the way I used to, but it's possible now in these lovely cool September days!

  8. I loved that video. This subject about "just being" is close to my heart. It has been, honestly, since I almost lost Donald to a heart attack a few years ago. He had to be revived and that experience changed him. Changed him deeply. The man who cared way too much for a job and an employer who did not care as much in return started taking a few more vacation days, spending less time fretting over the things that were going wrong. And you know what - that university that's been around over 100 years is still rocking along to its own tune not noticing one whit that Donald Barley is a different, much less stressed, man.

    More recently, my mom expressed something that brought it all home. She held my hand, told me to start saving my pennies and plan that trip to Italy. That she wishes she had gone and done more things my dad wanted to do but always thought they'd have more time and then, suddenly, he was gone. And now she's gone. And the trip he wanted to take her on - back to Australia, a place he dearly loved - never happened.

    What do I love to do when I'm just being? Sit on a deck and watch the waves. I see a lot in those waves - my life in the past and what I hope to be in my future.

  9. Hallie, please do come to the garden. Only fear of being invisible can keep you from finding it. xo

  10. My favorite place to "just be"? Any place where I can look out a window or through a screened porch and gaze at birds gathered around the feeders. A kitchen window looks out on two feeders on the deck that attract cardinals, chickadees, wrens. My favorite gazing spot, though, is through my office window where I can look out on a tray feeder, a pole feeder, and--most recently--a hummingbird feeder. The hummers are totally absorbing. They flit, hover, dive-bomb each other. So tiny and so apparently unafraid of the bigger birds. My computer is situated so that I only have to turn my head to watch the birds. A lovely respite-although not so conducive to work...

  11. Roberta, I only go to the beach early in the morning or later in the afternoon - can't do sun, either!
    How many of us can you squeeze into your garden, Reine?
    I didn't mention my daily walk because I go too fast to just be, and often I'm solving plot problems in the WIP.
    Love the 'allerina, Hallie! You are so lucky.

  12. Sometimes it's just walking and meditating--trying to let go of thought trains and just be in the moment and be grateful for each breath, each leaf bright with sun, the play of shadows at a trailhead, inviting you in and on. Other times, it's sitting in my swing or glider chair. A deep purple petunia--my favorite color--self-seeded by the patio and is now blooming it's heart out, here at summer's end....

    And I'll stop by your secret garden, Reine, and smile at the twirling ballerina, and hear the call of waves--thanks to all your shared gifts this morning.

  13. Katie Baer, our hummingbirds are still here, but this time of year I'm always aware that tomorrow they may be gone. I can see the deck feeder from where I write in my sunporch in the mornings.

    Reine, love your garden! I will come visit it anytime!

    Hank, I didn't meant we shouldn't be working! Heaven forbid. It's just nice to remind ourselves to take a breath. Take that float in the pool before the warm weather is gone. And if you are stuck on your plot, that is absolutely the best thing you can do. Mentally free-float, too, and I'll be you'll be surprised at the ideas that start bubbling to the surface.

    Thank you all for the lovely images.

  14. I walk downhill to the beach and walk and watch the waves, nothing better. And if it's early morning or close to dusk, I'll sit and watch the surfers and paddle boarders. Hummingbirds are plentiful in my neighborhood and watching them from my back balcony is a treat.

    It took a cancer diagnosis and treatment (August colonoscopy: "normal" Yippee!) to get me to "just be." So I would ditto Kaye's and Kaye's mom's comments.


  15. To "just be" is a tremendous challenge for me. I've tried to learn to meditate but have never managed to completely silence the little voice that reminds me of things that need to be done, or of the books that I've been wanting to read. I have this image of a caricature of a project manager, a little bald guy with big black-framed glasses, wearing a short-sleeved white shirt and a tie, waving a list in front of me. He can be a problem when I'm trying to sleep too. My greatest success at ignoring him seems to come when my back is particularly bad and I'm sitting in the recliner with the heating pad, listening to some soothing music. Like Harry Bosch, I'm a big fan of Kind of Blue and the like.

  16. I love to read, and look out my windows at trees, pond, sky, wild critters, and then read some more. I make a point of pausing to enjoy the sunset (sunrise, too, if I'm awake early enough). In summer I have to go outside and walk to find an opening in the surrounding greenery to see the sun and moon, but in winter, sans leaves, I can see well from inside (nice how that works out). Adjusting to the unscheduled life of a retiree, not teaching those six classes a day, was hard for a bit, but I've rediscovered leisure, teaching just two tai chi classes a WEEK! Savoring the small details of life . . . A friend told me that as illness curtailed his actions, he missed doing the dishes after dinner. He had always enjoyed the shimmering light on the soap bubbles.
    Now wanting to sit in Reine's garden, and watch a sunset over the wash . . . beach sounds lovely also. I also avoid mid-day sun, used to go to the condo pool just before sunset when most were home having supper and it was quieter. Enjoy the day <3

  17. I take my book and my coffee (and leave my laptop inside) and sit outside by the pond. Often I end up not even reading, just enjoying the sights and sounds of the fish and the frogs and the birds and the squirrels.

  18. I love watching our fish. We lost our four biggest koi last month in a pond disaster that was entirely my fault (I forgot I'd left the water running and flooded the pond.) It was just awful--the fish were almost twenty years old and huge. But we managed to save the smaller koi, and now I find with the pond not so crowded, I can really enjoy watching them swim. Now I want to replace our old broken light--I used to love to sit and watch them at night.

  19. I take a power walk just about every day. Even though I'm moving along at a brisk pace, it's something that relaxes me. If I'm feeling troubled or worried about something I try to take an additional walk. It nearly always helps, and it doesn't matter that I'm walking at a fast pace.

    I used to do a lot of bird watching on the weekends but a family situation has made it difficult for me to find the time in the past few years. However, this Wednesday I'm taking a day off from work just to BE, and I'm hoping to take out my binoculars and check out the birds! It's nearly time for some of my favorites to leave us for a few months and I want one last look at them!

  20. Deborah, you're just north of us (s.Arl), so we get the hot-heat for a week or so longer: ick! One day soon the leaves will begin to fall. Just be: I'll be reading or handquilting. Just listening. After midnight, go out & look at the stars (it's just now cool enough for that). Of course, some people go fishing to "just be", if there are any fish left.. !

  21. I'm a stargazer, too, Sandy. Our Kentucky farm is rural enough that we can dimly see the Milky Way, and if I'm lucky enough to be there on a clear night you'll find me out on the deck, drink at my side, gazing upwards. The last time was for the Perseid meteor shower, and I'm planning to watch the lunar eclipse tomorrow night.

    There's something about the solar system, its vastness and beauty, that clears my soul's cobwebs, somehow. But really, any kind of nature will do the trick.

  22. Over 50 years ago, when our children were young, a friend I have known since we were 14 and I decided we needed a little escape time. It couldn't be too much time or expensive so we decided to take a couple of hours on Saturday and go to a movie matinee, no husbands or children allowed. Today, we are off to see "The Intern." We are grandparents now and sometimes we take grandchildren with us, but only if we too want to see the movie. We have seen many movies over the years and still love our escape.

  23. How lovely everyone's "just be" places sound. Thanks to your post, Debs, I think I've now figured out why I've felt so unsettled over the past six months or so. I know that a large part of it is due to the house remodeling and fixing up that's been going on and is only days away from being finished. But, I also haven't had a good place to "just be." My back screened-in porch used to be that place, where I would read, or listen to the radio (jazz on NPR on Saturday nights), or just sit and listen to the sounds of nature around me. This year, with so much going on inside, I didn't "open up" the porch, which involves a thorough cleaning and restoring to order. So, that place has not been available to me.

    I have in the past few weeks gotten to experience a calm, no worry, no hurry zone when I pick my six-year-old up on Wednesdays after school. When we arrive at her house, we take care of a few things, and then, we take a walk around the pond on her property. It's surrounded by trees and has several mini-trails leading off into a mini-woods. She takes her sketch book and draws different items and labels them, sometimes asking me for help to spell a word. Two weeks ago, she showed me their bee tree, where the bees have a nest in the bottom of a tree and swarm there. She took my hand and told me not to be afraid. Of course, I still made sure that we were careful. But, taking those nature walks with Isabella has helped restore a connection or fill a need I wasn't aware of missing. Letting the world fall away for a short bit is a good and necessary thing to help keep you balanced. I can't wait until the leaves start turning and falling. Our walks will be a gorgeous wandering then.

  24. What wonderful comments! They lift me up and remind me that I don't have to save reading time until the middle of the night! As I adjust to using a wheelchair (temporarily, I hope) I find I am loving just looking and reading! Loving JRW!

  25. Hallie, Roberta, Edith, FChurch, Debs, Mary... Everyone— there is room for all in my little secret garden.

    Right now a small, undernourished, and dehydrated bobcat is hiding out there. Once in awhile she circles the house and looks in the doors and low windows. She looks desperate and spent a long time looking at Kendall from the side patio door. She-She, the kitty, is on guard going from room to room and window to window making sure we are all safe. I closed all the blinds and shades to discourage the hungry bobcat. There is plenty of water available so after she rehydrates she'll be better able to catch food. You might want to wait a few days before visiting the garden.

  26. I was going to say my favorite place to "be" is on my porch or my deck, in a comfy chair with a book. But that would be incomplete. I also like to soak in tub full of hot water and bubbles, with a book. Or sit in front of my wood stove, fire blazing, with a book.

    I'm sensing a common element here. =)