Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Zucchini Lesson

I sometimes write about insight and wisdom gained from the garden.  Recently, there have been a few thoughts to reap from our "mighty" zucchini plant (along with plenty of zucchini!)...

Nurture an idea, a dream, a goal as you would a plant in your garden.
Patiently and diligently tend to its growth from a small, humble seedling into something much grander.
Our plant has grown even larger after snapping this photo about 3 weeks ago!
           Harvest the fruits of your labor with a grateful heart.

Tuesday's harvest for a friend
Share your bounty with others.
Celebrate abundance!
Destined to become the "soup of the day"
Panko parmesan zucchini chips enjoyed
alongside Tuesday's "Bobcat Garden" salad

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Simply The Best Day

The entrance to Bobcat Garden, beautifully embellished
Sometimes the best days unexpectedly emerge from the simplest of plans.  I was reminded of that fact earlier this week when our daughter and I volunteered in the garden at her elementary school.  The garden, of course, needs tending over the summer, so there’s an open invitation to lend a hand during a couple weekly time frames.  On Tuesday, we joined a small group composed of two other adults, one slightly older little girl and “Mrs. Garden” (as she is fondly called by the students.)  Our time in the garden was productive, yet also peaceful and immensely enjoyable.  Our daughter harvested broccoli and planted sunflower seeds, while I plucked the dead heads from the calendula plants and yellow leaves from the broccoli plants and also sowed seeds.  All the while, we were encouraged by “Mrs. Garden” to sample some of the fresh, organic produce.  We nibbled with much pleasure!  We were also encouraged to simply explore the garden and delight in its beauty. 

We gratefully (and excitedly!) returned home with tasty ingredients to assemble into dinner that evening – broccoli, kale, chard, mizuna, purslane, cherry tomatoes, strawberries and calendula blossoms.  We also brought home peaches (appreciated by my husband and daughter, but alas, even after trying a “test” bite, my taste buds remained averse!)  
Inspiration for our dinner
I wish my taste buds appreciated the flavor of the peaches
as much as my nose appreciated their sweet scent...sigh
My husband was away on a camping trip, so I welcomed the opportunity for an easy meal here at home.  As our daughter and I savored our flavorful “Bobcat Garden” salads, we chatted about how much we enjoyed our time in the garden and our resulting bounty and how we appreciated the smaller turnout which made for a quiet and relaxing afternoon (in contrast to more boisterous class visits to the garden during the school year.)

Since our blissful day in Bobcat Garden, I’ve been reflecting on its many rewards beyond its delectable fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible and ornamental flowers…

       Physical activity, meditative, yet energizing

Creative inspiration (the girls were inspired to decorate a wreath on the garden  gate, creating a colorful floral work of art;  meanwhile, I’m feeling inspired to return with my camera and capture some of the beautiful colors, shapes and textures of the different plants)
Healthful benefits for both body and mind

Contribution to a worthy endeavor

Mindfulness and an appreciation for nature

Connection and the tremendous value of sharing meaningful moments with our daughter
Amidst milestones, momentous occasions and vacation travels, sometimes the best days are the simplest ones without any elaborate planning, the ones that unfold in their own wonderful way.

Our "Bobcat Garden" salad lightly dressed with olive oil & balsamic vinegar
Lovely creativity

Have you discovered some of your best moments emerging from simplicity?








Saturday, July 20, 2013

Warming Up To Pastels

My spirit and soul were uplifted by this month’s healing art retreat at CHOMP.  I find some months’ retreats are emotionally heavier for me than others, but all are always insightful, revealing of my inner emotional landscape and ultimately healing.  This month I found myself feeling lighter and even enjoying a moment of unbridled laughter with fellow participants…a high point in this ongoing healing art journey!

Our warm-up exercise involved a visualization including each of the rainbow colors and their meaning in relation to the chakras followed by us creating a representation of this visualization in soft pastels on black paper.  I must admit that I am not typically fond of working with pastels, but on this occasion, I made a concerted effort to “meet them halfway” and try to be more receptive to this medium.  For the first time that I can recall and to my surprise, I was actually pleased with my resulting warm-up piece!  (In fact, I was far happier with this piece than the rest of the day’s work.)  Perhaps I’ve turned a corner to further experimentation with pastels after this pleasant surprise?

Is there an art medium or form of creative expression that hasn’t spoken much to you?  Have you tried challenging yourself to explore this medium or expression?  Hopefully, you’ve done so (or will do so!) with enjoyable results.    

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Reverance For Trees

Mill Creek Preserve, Big Sur

We’ve been enjoying many family hikes this summer, the physical rhythm of walking on the trail and the beauty of our surroundings.  I am sometimes amused, other times admittedly frustrated that I am only able to indulge in brief reveries along the trail before they are interrupted by the youngest hiker in our trio calling out “Mom!”  When followed by an excited exclamation of “Look!” I’m glad our daughter is observant and appreciative of nature’s wonders (she’s very adept at spotting wildlife)…when followed by a whine or complaint, well, that’s a different story!  Despite their brevity, however, my little reveries always bring forth a bit of insight and inspiration.
Sobranes Canyon, Big Sur 

While we were hiking last week, I was musing on trees…my reverence for them, my   admiration of their sculptural branches, beautiful leaves and needles, fascinating bark textures and patterns and heady scents (pine, fir, bay), how being in their presence is relaxing and calming, how they seem so wise and courageous, how they endure numerous challenges over the years and can still stand strong, how they offer shelter and food for wildlife and a shady haven for hikers like me and how they feel as comfortable as old friends. 

Sequoia National Park

I feel instantly at peace when entering the quiet shelter of a redwood grove, am mesmerized by the eccentricity of a Joshua tree and stand in awe at the base of a majestic sequoia.  Leaning into the bark of a Jeffrey pine and breathing in the sweet hint of butterscotch is delightful!  Trees have made an appearance in many of my favorite vacation memories - the impressive Guanacaste tree in Costa Rica, the massive banyans and the soft whoosh of the ironwoods on a windy Hawaiian day as examples. 

I am quite fond of trees, and yes, I even hug some on occasion!  Do the trees speak to you, too?

Natural palm oasis at Indian Canyons, Palm Springs

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park 



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Determination In The Desert

Cactus blossom at Pine Valley in Joshua Tree National Park
As I continue to savor highlights of our recent desert trip, I have also been reflecting on insights which have surfaced since spending much of our time amidst the desert’s natural, sometimes stark beauty.  One such insight is how flora and fauna demonstrate the utmost in determination as they survive and thrive in the desert’s hot, arid climate.  I feel a deep reverence for the desert and the beauty that exists there despite often less than desirable conditions.  Desert plants and animals adapt to their environment and utilize their limited resources efficiently and intelligently.  Many prove that they are strong and wise. 

An unexpected bloom along an extremely hot, dry stretch of trail
Pine City, Joshua Tree National Park

We can learn from desert life… about living mindfully, about listening to our inner wisdom, about conserving our energy and focusing that energy where it’s most beneficial in our lives, about believing in our own strength and endurance, about beating the odds, about blooming and shining in unlikely circumstances.  The desert reminds us that with determination, anything is possible.

Pinyon pine, Pine City, Joshua Tree National Park

Dried yucca blossoms, Pine City, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua tree, Joshua Tree National Park

Prickly Pear cactus, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park

Palm trees in a natural oasis, Indian Canyons, Palm Springs
The sweet surprise of a wildflower, Indian Canyons, Palm Springs

A lush mini "garden," Indian Canyons, Palm Springs

Black-tailed jackrabbit grazing foliage for dinner, Joshua Tree National Park
Desert iguana seeking shade, Joshua Tree National Park

What life lessons have you learned from the wonders of nature?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Desert Heat Or Just My Imagination

During our recent family vacation in the California desert areas of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park, my imagination was running wild out in nature...or perhaps it was the heat...or perhaps I am circling around and recapturing a child's sense of wonder?!  Do you see what I saw?  Hope you enjoy this quirky assortment of vacation photos! 

"OTTER'S TAIL" (end of a palm frond)
Indian Canyons, Palm Springs

"LION'S MANE" ("fringe" of a palm tree)
Indian Canyons, Palm Springs
"FEATHERS" (bark of a palm tree)
Indian Canyons, Palm Springs

"BASEBALL GLOVE & BALL" (rock formations)
Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park
Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park

"READY FOR PICK UP" (rock formations)
Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park
"CROCODILE'S SKIN" (Joshua tree)
Joshua Tree National Park

"SPOOKY PROFILE" (rock formations)
Joshua Tree National Park
"WINDOW" (rock formations)
Joshua Tree National Park

"CANDLE" (sunset behind rock formations)
Joshua Tree National Park
"HEARTS" (reminded me of our red bud, but not sure what tree?)
Living Desert, Palm Desert
Round Valley, Mount San Jacinto State Park

Round Valley, Mount San Jacinto State Park
Pine City, Joshua Tree National Park

"FAIRY HOUSE" (Joshua tree)
Pine City, Joshua Tree National Park

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Spent time absorbing Joshua Tree National Park's
magical beauty during my hiatus

I didn’t intentionally set out on this two-week hiatus, but ended up stepping away from Paper And Ponder when our summer agenda steered me in other directions.  I intended to line up a couple posts and publish them while on our recent family vacation, but they didn’t fit into our busy pre-vacation schedule.  My revised strategy was to write a brief post or two while on vacation, but alas, with many places to go and things to see, there wasn’t sufficient time and energy to do so.  At first, I felt very frustrated, as though I had failed to properly acknowledge my one year blogging anniversary on June 27th (which quietly came and went while we were on vacation.)  I also felt like I had failed to properly commemorate our 21st wedding anniversary, also on the 27th.  (I still need to follow through on my “rain checked” card and gift for my husband!)   

I knew I needed to halt this self-defeating train of thought, so I shifted my thinking to how in the grand scheme of life, moments and experiences are far more important than dates and deadlines.  Of course, this is not to say that in our daily existence there aren’t commitments and responsibilities attached to dates and deadlines that we must respect, and I’m not trying to take away any of the importance and enjoyment of celebrating anniversaries, birthdays and other meaningful milestones.  What comes to mind, though, is placing less emphasis and expectation on a fleeting date (like June 27!) and broadening our attention to include the everyday moments and experiences that actually make up the composition of our milestones…and being open to celebration at any time! 

In a post last fall, I briefly mentioned my husband and I celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary with a weekend getaway in San Francisco.  We were actually forced to cancel that weekend in the summer when my husband encountered an unexpected health issue, and we rescheduled in the fall.  Although postponed, we thoroughly enjoyed a wonderful weekend in San Francisco with lodging, dining, museum exhibitions and events aligning perfectly.  If a three-month delay couldn’t take anything away from our 20 (now 21!) married years, then a two-week delay can’t take anything away from Paper And Ponder’s one-year anniversary!  I can still reflect on how writing this blog has been a deeply fulfilling endeavor across the past year, how it has helped me make significant progress in my healing process, how it has contributed to my personal growth and how it has connected me with all of you…I can still celebrate!

As for my hiatus, our family enjoyed the striking beauty of the California desert (despite an extreme heat wave) during vacation, carrying on an annual tradition of hosting a Fourth of July gathering with friends upon our return and immersing ourselves in amazing artistic wonders at our local Monterey Museum of Art (what I referred to as a low-key, but highly inspired celebration of my birthday yesterday!)  I'll be sharing some highlights in the coming days. 

I am very grateful for those of you who have accompanied me on this blogging journey and look forward to what’s ahead…more pondering, more shared inspiration and insight, more healing, more celebration (and perhaps another hiatus or two here and there?)