Photo by Elizabeth Halt
Photo by Elizabeth Halt

Entries organized under musings

for the love of french

March 31, 2017 | for the love of french

for years, i’ve had a desire to be fluent in another language.

for just as many years, i’ve made exactly zero progress on it.

i tried to convince myself to learn japanese.
i tried to convince myself to become more proficient in german.
i tried to convince myself to learn italian.
i tried to convince myself to learn spanish.

i had practical reasons for – and, i thought, some level of interest in – learning all of those languages. still, nothing ever happened.

last week, in a moment of clarity, i realized why i was procrastinating.

the language i wanted to learn was french, and french seemed impractical.

when i spoke the reason out loud, it seemed so silly. why did i need a practical reason to learn french? why couldn’t i learn french simply because i wanted to?

and so i am. learning french, that is.

no convincing or forcing required.

for me, the act of learning french is an absolute pleasure. everything about it makes me happy.

it’s the best way to learn, really. i don’t know how i forgot this.

you’re noticed, you matter, you’re worthy

January 16, 2017 | you're noticed, you matter, you're worthy

i have a collection of lake superior stones in my bedroom that my tiny nephew-friend ben thinks of as his stones. one day in december, we spent hours in the bedroom playing with them. we put them in rows; we made cars & trucks out of them; and then we made them into snowmen.

there was this one moment where i got a little teary because i could tell how much he was enjoying having my undivided attention and i couldn’t help thinking that that’s all any of us want: for someone else to give us their time + attention + appreciation + focus.

we’re all constantly asking – without ever asking at all – whether we’re noticed, whether we matter, whether we’re worthy.

(which we are. of course we are. but sometimes we need to be reminded.)

on living & dying & waterfalls

October 7, 2016 | conglomerate falls

in august, i went on an overnight waterfall adventure to celebrate my life with atlas. | conglomerate falls

it turned out to be the perfect sort of adventure. | conglomerate falls

at one point, i got part-way down the trail to a waterfall only to find step after step after step. atlas was not a fan of steps, especially in his later years. | rainbow falls

and atlas was right there with me. i could feel him! i could feel his presence.

then, i could see him. he was laughing. i heard him say, “you wouldn’t have gotten me down those steps!” | rainbow falls

that’s why the adventure was perfect. it was typical: spontaneous & unplanned & not well thought out at all.

atlas would go along happily – he was game for almost anything – until he decided he was done, and then nothing i could do would convince him otherwise. | rainbow falls

when i reached black river harbor, i had to walk across a suspension bridge to get to lake superior. it was a hot evening and i had hiked to a few waterfalls already and i really wanted to jump in the lake. | black river harbor

as i walked across the bridge, there was atlas again. he laughed & said, “you know if i were there, you wouldn’t get to the lake!” | black river harbor

because oh, did atlas dislike bridges. he liked to feel the solid ground under his feet. if i absolutely made him go on a bridge, even a floating bridge, he would lie down and belly crawl until i finally took pity on him.

again, so typical. | black river harbor

as i jumped in the lake that evening, i had a huge smile on my face and my heart was full of joy.

joy from the swim in my beloved lake.

joy from the memories of my beloved pup. | black river harbor

but even as i celebrated my life with atlas, there was a moment on the trail during which i realized that there was another reason i took myself on an adventure. | conglomerate falls

my grampa died in december. atlas died in june. my grama was dying (she died two days later, the morning after i got back). most of my time for the past three years had been spent with the three of them. now, they were all gone or going.

in that moment on the trail, i realized that i had spent so much time sitting with death, watching death come closer & closer, that this was my way of reminding myself that i was still very much alive.

not my shiniest moment

April 14, 2016 | not my shiniest moment

i was awful to atlas one day this past winter.

we were driving home from the ski trails & he had to poop. i couldn’t stop the car in time, so he pooped in the car.

i shouted at him & called him a bad dog & pulled him out of the car none-too-gently.

it was not my shiniest moment.

oh, did i hang onto it.

guilting, shaming, judging, weighing.

this dog saved me and these are the final years of his life and he can’t help that his body is failing him and this is probably the last straw and i’ll never be able to make it up to him and now all he’ll remember are the awful moments and i am clearly the worst person in the entire world.

i want to be my own best friend.

in these moments – the moments in which i behave in a way that is so far from how i want to behave – i am not my friend at all.

not because i behave badly – we all behave badly at times – but because of the way i speak to myself & look at myself afterward.

i’ve been learning to love myself for a long time now.

ten years, i think.

every time i think i’ve got it, something like this happens and it throws me.

but maybe that’s what loving myself deeply means.

facing – again & again – my deeply flawed broken human self and finding a way to love + forgive her.

how dogs love us

November 4, 2015 | how dogs love us

i was just reading the sweet tribute mama gena wrote to her pup. my favorite lines were these, about people with dogs:

“They are people who have deliberately chosen to let unconditional love into their lives. They are people who want to be reminded daily that they are the most important thing in the world, and worthy of deep relentless adoration and affection.”

oh, did this resonate with me. when atlas came into my life, i didn’t believe i was worthy of love at all. and yet he loved me. fully & completely.

in every moment, he showed me that i was worthy of adoration & affection, simply because i was his person & i existed.

i mean, look at this photo! you know how atlas feels about photos & posing & dogs in costume. and yet he continues to adore me. though let the record reflect that i respected his deep dislike of costumes even though i did take advantage of his fondness for bandanas.

12 years later, i do love myself. fully & completely. the way he loved me all along. in the moments when i falter, there he is, ready (as always) to remind me.

the love of a dog is really something special. and the love of an old dog, oh my. so much slow true depth & richness.

on telling the truth

June 8, 2015 | on telling the truth

atlas has friends everywhere. some of them have met him in person. some of them haven’t.

sometimes i wonder if people love atlas because of who he is, or if they love him because of how i write about him. i decided that it’s a little bit of both. of course atlas is wonderful – he’s atlas! but i also write about him in a way that lets other people get to know him.

i was thinking about this (while walking atlas, of course) when i realized something important.

dogs are experts at showing us who they are.

i don’t want to go swimming!

i ate that cat poop & it was delicious.

i don’t care if i’ve only walked five feet. i am hot & i am done walking & i want to lie down in the grass.

can i come? please?

i love you.

dogs always tell the truth about themselves – without apology or shame or hesitation.

i can think of so many times over the years when i didn’t tell the truth about myself.

i’d love to go out with you. but instead of meeting for drinks, i’d rather meet for coffee.

i agree with [those people you are currently ridiculing].

i like young adult fiction! in fact, i often prefer it to adult fiction.

i do want to come dancing this weekend. but i’ve never gone before – i wasn’t allowed to dance when i was growing up – so would you be willing to tell me what to wear & what to do?

i love you.

instead of telling the truth, i lied, or made excuses, or said nothing.

i was afraid that if i told the truth, i would be shamed or judged or rejected.

when i look back, i can see that it was just the opposite.

if i had told the truth, it would have deepened existing relationships, and it would have been easier for the right people to find me & love me.

yet another life lesson i could have learned from my dear wise atlas.

what i think vs what they think

March 30, 2015 | what i think vs what they think | what i think vs what they think | what i think vs what they think | what i think vs what they think

i took these photos one day last summer. every time i looked at them, they made me smile. one day, i started to share them with you, but voices in my head stopped me. you see, i had recently stumbled upon a photographer’s critique of photographers who deliberately take out-of-focus images. shortly after, i stumbled upon another one. for some reason, their harsh words stuck with me, and i tucked my images away for safekeeping.

when i tucked my images away for safekeeping, what i was really doing was protecting the tender part of me who loves her images and now felt wrong for loving them.

in my experience, other people’s words tend to pierce me when they agree with something part of me fears is true already. it seems there is a small part of me that thinks (worries) that in order to be a good photographer, in order to be a photographer, my flowers need to be in focus. (side note: this seems oddly specific.) those photographers were popular, or famous, and therefore their assessment of my photos (even though they were speaking generally, not specifically) must be right.

after i let all of this simmer, i remembered two things. the first was that while the other photographers’ words might be true for them, that doesn’t mean they are true for everyone. the second was that i take my photos for me, and the only thing that matters to me is how i feel about them. i think this is true of all art. it might even be true of everything.

giving ourselves a break

March 23, 2015 | giving ourselves a break

today, i did something on my mental to-do list. it was one of those things that should have been done a while ago, but today was the very first day that it was possible for me to do it. as i was on my way to do the thing, i noticed that i was mentally berating myself for being unable to do it earlier.

when the voice in my head became conscious, the thought that popped into my head was this: why was i beating myself up for this one small part of the story of the thing, instead of giving myself credit for everything else?

what happened next surprised me.

i heard not-quite-a-voice in my head, more like a felt-sense in my body, and the message that landed was this: you went through something hard with grace & dignity. you are doing a good job and i am so so so proud of you.

the message brought me to tears because i could feel that it was the truth.

i am wont to wonder why: why do we pick ourselves apart in order to beat ourselves up?

instead, i think i am going to focus on the fact that patterns can be changed – that my pattern is changing – one moment of loving kindness at a time.

follow your excitement

January 8, 2015 | follow your excitement

my nephew lars likes to do somersaults.

the first few times lars asked me to do a somersault, i tried – i really did – but then my head and feet were on the floor and my butt was in the air and i just didn’t have the nerve to lift my legs up and over. it seemed so far from here to there and i was afraid. after that, i said no whenever he asked me to do one. but i still wanted to do a somersault. i really did. (also, i wanted to not be afraid of them.)

finally, a few weeks ago – after my mom and my brother reminded me not to put my head on the floor – i crouched down and swayed back and forth a few times and then i flung myself forward and over. i rolled through the somersault and found myself sitting cross-legged on the floor – head and limbs intact, slightly dizzy.

i had done it! i had done a somersault! i was so delighted. now lars does a somersault and then i do a somersault and it is so much fun.

last weekend, i went cross-country skiing with my dad and my sister.

cross-country skiing is big here. there are a number of excellent trail systems in the area, including one less than a mile from my house. since i moved back, whenever anyone asked if i skied, or if i’d gone skiing, i’d explain that i didn’t ski because i didn’t enjoy it.

that story seemed true. it was formed during a cross-country ski outing when i was young that was pure drudgery.

if i paid close attention, i noticed that there was a tiny bit of excitement when i thought about trying it again – after all, i enjoy many things now that i disliked when i was young – but i ignored the excitement because i was locked into that old story.

until last weekend, when my dad and my sister decided to go cross-country skiing at night. night skiing sounded idyllic, so i decided to join them.

it was so. much. fun.

the black sky. the white snow on the dark green trees. the swish swish swish of my skis in the tracks. the welcoming glow of the lights on the trail. my shrieks as i sped down each hill. the whistle of the wind. my slightly numb fingers encased in a pair of gloves and a pair of mittens.

so. much. fun.

there is something important for me here.

i don’t know where it will lead, or why it is important, but i want to pay closer attention to what excites me, and follow the trail of that excitement.

do you do this already?

is it easy for you?

how are you at recognizing and following the trail of your excitement?

from a lens of privilege

December 6, 2014 | from a lens of privilege

i can feel all the anger + frustration + anguish in the united states right now and my heart is breaking.

i don’t know what to say, for many reasons, but it feels important to say something.

here is what i know.

the civil rights movement occurred from 1954-1968.

1968 was less than 50 years ago.

no matter how much i might want to believe otherwise, i have heard enough + seen enough + read enough to know that racism is not dead, privilege does exist, and sometimes i am part of the problem.

i want to live in a world in which everyone feels seen + heard + valued.

i want to live in a world in which everyone truly feels free.

perhaps it sounds naive, but i believe that such a world is possible.

maybe not now. maybe not for generations. maybe systems will have to be dismantled.

still, i choose to believe it is possible.

as i sit with hard questions, i commit (again) to this.

i will check my privilege.

i will listen; i will learn; i will seek to understand.

i will notice the way i divide the world into us and them, and meet each person as an individual.

i will not fear my blind spots, my darkness, the many times i will fail at this. i will acknowledge them & do the work necessary & send love to myself through all of it.

above all, i commit to love.

i was wondering how this post connected to my mission – to remind you of beauty + wonder.

perhaps it doesn’t.

but i do know there is beauty in everything: beauty in rising up, beauty in coming together, beauty in what seems like darkness.

this part is for me, a reminder of my touchstones.

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

~ Solzhenitsyn

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people.

~ C.S. Lewis