Photo Challenge: Solitude

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is solitude.  Here are some thoughts from writers of the past, accompanied by pictures I’ve chosen to reflect their thoughts.

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“Let silence take you to the core of life.” –Rumi

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“In solitude, where we are least alone.”  — Lord Byron

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“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.”  –Rumi

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This is the “recruiting room” of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, taken at her historic home in Seneca Falls, New York.

“And yet, there is a solitude, which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice-cold mountains more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self.  Our inner being, which we call ourself, no eye nor touch of man or angel has every pierced.  It is more hidden than the caves of the gnome; the sacred adytum of the oracle; the hidden chamber of Eleusinian mystery; for to it only omniscience is permitted to enter.  –Elizabeth Cady Stanton

 

 

Speaking out: The Women’s March

On Saturday morning, hundreds of thousands of women and men gathered in Washington, D.C. to stand for the rights of women and all those marginalized and threatened by the promised policies of our new administration.  This march was never planned as a protest but, rather, as a time of coming together in solidarity for the rights of all.  Their website states:

The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

More than six hundred sister marches also took place in cities around the country—even around the world.  Charleston was one of those cities.

In spite of rain, over two thousand people marched and gathered at Brittlebank Park in downtown Charleston, where Rick and I, along with a friend, joined them. I was inspired and encouraged by those who expended their time and energy to speak boldly and loudly of their strong convictions.  We hope these efforts will continue.

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Rick and I, with friend Art, at the sister Women’s March in Charleston, S.C.

 

 

 

Thresholds: Moving Forward

 

During my morning run through the neighborhood, I sometimes find myself looking at seasonal décor displayed on front doors.   I love looking at the creativity of homeowners and the beauty each design contributes to the neighborhood.  During this past holiday season, I noticed that some doors displayed a dignified look, like the popular holiday wreaths done in reds, greens and golds.  Others, more whimsical and cute, presented a picture of Santa or reindeer or even teddy bears.

Doors, even without décor, are powerful symbols.  They suggest a passage into something new, something perhaps yet undiscovered.  They can draw us into a world of imagination and wonder, and when we stand on their thresholds, we stand in between the old and the new.  We are positioned at the portal of no-longer and not-yet.

So, too, with our threshold-filled lives.  How often do we find ourselves standing between two places, having left the old but not yet fully immersed in the new?  Retirement has been such a place for me.  I had to leave the old—the full-time work I’d been doing for years—before I could begin to enter the new.  And now, one and a half years later, a part of me still stands in that threshold.   True, I’ve designed my schedule and have discovered meaningful and fulfilling activities, but I sense that some things are still unfolding.

I stand at this portal of no-longer and not-yet with joy and eager anticipation.  I wonder what new opportunities, relationships, and discoveries it will lead me to. I also understand that thresholds–not just the destinations they point us to— offer their own distinct gifts.  I will try to stay awake and aware of their offerings.

Today we all stand together on the threshold of a new year.  Some of us stand in hope, anticipating exciting new personal ventures.  Some of us stand in fear, wondering what the future will hold.  Others of us stand in grief, seeking healing for a painful loss.   Whatever threshold you stand on today, may it lead you toward a year of new growth, healing, opportunity, and appreciation.  Happy New Year!

A Memorable Family Vacation

This is what holidays, travels, vacations are about.  It is not really rest or even leisure we chase.  We strain to renew our capacity for wonder, to shock ourselves into astonishment once again.”

–Shana Alexander, “The Roman Astonishment,” in Life (1967)

Shana Alexander has named something so essential to not only travel but to life itself: our capacity for wonder and astonishment.  How much of life would we miss if we looked, but did not see, the amazement right before our eyes?  What would our lives be if we lost our capacity for wonder and astonishment? 

My family and I just completed an opportunity to enrich these capacities within ourselves. Rick, our son Brendon, and I traveled together to the northeastern states of Pennsylvania and New York and then crossed the border into Ontario, Canada.  We traveled along the rolling hills and mountains of Pennsylvania, witnessed past accomplishments  of talented baseball players at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, visited the home of one I have long admired, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who tirelessly pursued justice for women, and experienced the life-force, and yes wonder, of Niagara Falls in Ontario.

Of course, the best part is that we traveled as family, which for me increased the depth, meaning, and joy of all that we experienced.  How could I not return home full of gratitude for this venture?

Here is a photo journey that outlines the points and pleasures of our travel together:

Hershey, Pennsylvania

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Our first stop was to “the sweetest place on earth,” Hershey, Pennsylvania, where Milton Hershey perfected the process of producing milk chocolate.  A great story of innovation and vision.

 

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Flytes of chocolate, from dark bitter to milk chocolate sweet!  My favorite?  Always dark chocolate.  We were told there’s a little over 1,000 calories in these six flytes!

 

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Cheers!

Cooperstown, New York — Baseball Hall of Fame

 

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I was taken by this quote because of my family history.  On many an evening my parents sat on their front porch, listening to a Cubs game on the radio.  I am certain they “saw” every play!

 

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One of the Twins great players honored in the Hall of Fame.

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Brendon at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY.

Seneca Falls, New York — The Home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

 

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The home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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A statue of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton being introduced by a mutual friend.  It was a lifelong friendship, based on a passion for women’s rights, especially the right to vote.  The nineteenth amendment to allow women the vote was passed in 1920.  Neither woman lived to see it happen.

 

Niagara Falls–Ontario, Canada

 

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Niagara Falls, where we shocked ourselves “into astonishment once again.”

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We spent our last evening in Canada at a casino, where a delicious buffet meal of various ethnic dishes was served.  Rick won eleven Canadian dollars!

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

“The incredible gift of the ordinary! 

Glory comes streaming from the table of daily life.”

–Macrina Wiederkehr

 

A simple new recipe landed in my inbox the other day.  It called for an aromatic mix of clove garlic and fresh basil, combined with diced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and a few other ingredients. It was all added to a large pan of cooked linguine, completing a perfect dish of pesto.

Rick and I thought it looked both delicious and easy (and I like “easy” when it comes to cooking)!  After slicing, dicing, and mixing, we set our new never-before-eaten-on table with our new, deep blue stoneware, complementing our individual places with a bottle of wine.  Suddenly dinner was no longer just a meal.  Dinner had become elevated, transformed into a moment that called for savoring and basking in the joy and satisfaction of the present moment. The ordinary had turned extraordinary.

This experience got me thinking about the ordinary moments in our lives.  Most of our days consist of routine, ordinary moments when we celebrate nothing in particular and have no special plans.  We tend to think of them as less happy and less fulfilling than those extraordinary times when we celebrate birthdays, weddings, reunions, and various rites of passage.  Of course we’ll always remember and hold dear these limited, special occasions when laughter came more easily and worry was nowhere around.  Special days and special memories are part of life.

But so easily overlooked is the joy found in ordinary days.  The extraordinary can erupt surprisingly in an ordinary moment, often found at the least suspecting time, circumstance and place.  For example, one of my ordinary-extraordinary moments occur when I run in the morning and settle down to a simple breakfast of cereal and toast!

And what joy it was to cook a new recipe and lavish ourselves in its delectable taste.  This moment was not in some fancy, expensive restaurant, but right in the simplicity of our own home.  Perhaps this makes it all the more extraordinary.

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A new recipe and an enjoyable meal.  -Photo: J. Stanton