Out of the Dirt

September 24, 2021

A couple of weeks ago when I went to add some kitchen scraps to our backyard compost pile, I came upon this:


It’s not unusual to see a volunteer tomato or cucumber (or whatever this is!) growing in the compost pile. But the juxtaposition of something green and growing bursting out of what is essentially trash and manure gave me a little burst of hope. Maybe out of my own messy mental compost pile something will grow! Maybe something green and growing is awaiting humankind if we can make it through this era of turmoil and upheaval. Maybe.

Composting takes time. Old things must break down and reform into new. But when the process is done, you have rich, dark humus to enrich your garden beds. From that enrichment, beautiful things grow.

I’m trying to remember not to be afraid of the mess and breakdown that can bring forth something wonderful.

How about you? Is something breaking down in your life? Perhaps that’s just the prelude to the growth of something wonderful!

Summer fun list

Summer Fun/Reading List Update

September 17, 2021

Tank on the trail

Only five days until the calendar says it’s fall! It may not feel like fall here in Florida for another month or two, but I’m already contemplating fall simple pleasures and making up a fall fun list. 

But before I do that, let’s review my summer fun list and see how I did.

I was right to make a less-than-ambitious summer fun list, and I was able to do all but one item on it (completed items in red): 

  • Have an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins (many of my happy growing-up memories revolve around B & R, as we fondly called it)
  • Read and/or write at a cafĂ© (now that I’m vaccinated) [COVID went nuts in Florida, and I chose to try not to expose myself to it]
  • Create and read from a summer reading list (post to come)
  • Get together with friends I haven’t seen in more than a year, because, well, you know…

In addition, I also:

  • Traveled to California to visit family and friends (and Lassen Volcanic National Park)
  • Went trail riding in June!
  • Hosted a couple of small family get-togethers
  • Browsed in my library’s used bookstore, which had been closed since last year
It’s been mostly a quiet summer, and I’m OK with that. I’m hoping as the weather cools off and I get my normal fall energy boost, I’ll start to explore a few more simple pleasures and everyday adventures.

Summer reading update

Summer reading went really well! I read most of the books on my summer reading list, and more:

For my long book, I’m thinking of reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. I’m not sure how to describe this one, except that it involves magic and the politics of the Napoleonic wars (?)  People seem to love it or hate it.

Started. Mixed feelings so far. Not loving it. Intrigued enough to keep making my way through for now, but I reserve the right to abandon it. I have my own copy, so I can take my time without worrying about library due dates. 

I’m very interested in Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin for my writer’s biography. I also just received a copy of May Sarton’s Plant Dreaming Deep, which is more of a journal/memoir than a biography. It appeals to me because I loved Journal of a Solitude and The House by the Sea. Of course, I could kill two books with one stone (long book and writer biography) and tackle my still-unread Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (clocking in at more than 600 pages of dense type and footnotes)!

Read: Plant Dreaming Deep (loved it!)

A friend gifted me Tirzah Price’s Pride and Premeditation and we’ll be reading it together. This “clever retelling of Pride and Prejudice…reimagines the iconic settings, characters, and romances in a thrilling and high-stakes whodunit.” Sounds fun!


This year, I’m throwing some poetry into the mix with Arias, by Sharon Olds.

Check again.

I’ve been very slowly rereading Agatha’s Christie’s books in order, so I’ll probably pull The Man in the Brown Suit off my home library shelf to serve as my comfort reread.

Yup. And also The Secret of Chimneys and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I especially enjoyed Chimneys, as my memory of it was hazy. 

I’m undecided on reading a classic. At the moment, I haven’t got one lined up, but that may change. 


I’m in the hold line to read Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me, a Modern Mrs. Darcy recommendation. Many people are ahead of me, so I hope I get to this one before summer’s end.

Just finished, and it was worth the wait.

In the meantime, I’ll likely pick up another Modern Mrs. Darcy rec that I already had on my radar: Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Different, but good.

Now that summer’s nearly over I’m anticipating fall and all its simple pleasures. I’ll start working on a fall fun list, and maybe even a fall reading list—I’ve never done that before! There are already things to look forward to during my favorite season. But until then, I’ll try to savor the last few days of summer…from my air-conditioned home, of course J.

What were the highlights of your summer?


We Can Build Happiness

September 10, 2021

“We have the capacity to build happiness into our lives with humor, concern for others, and gratitude. Of course, we can’t do it all of the time. That self-expectation would drive us crazy. However, we can develop habits that make it more likely that we will respond in an upbeat manner.

“It’s critical to distinguish between choosing to live lovingly and cheerfully and living a life of denial. One leads to joy, the other to emotional death.”

—Mary Pipher, Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age


Suddenly September

September 03, 2021

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

“September days have the warmth of summer in their briefest hours, but in their lengthening evenings a prophetic breath of autumn.”

—Rowland E. Robinson

I’m always happy to turn the calendar page from August to September. Though it’s not quite fall yet, and even if we don’t see the type of season change here in Florida that other places do, there’s still a feeling that fall is coming. My favorite season.

The first thing I notice is a change in the light. We say gleefully, “It looks like fall!” My birthday is in September, as is my mom’s, so that lends the month a bit of a celebratory air. I plan to take full advantage of the freebies businesses offer me during my birth month. I scan the forecast for a drop in high temperature that I won’t see until at least the end of October, but I also know the worst of the heat and humidity is likely behind us.

September makes me think of new school supplies and setting goals. I think about what I can still accomplish and experience before the end of the year. How have I been doing with the goals I set for myself this year? I’ll still have time to reach—or at least make progress on—some of them.

I’m anticipating fall’s simple pleasures—fancy coffee drinks, pumpkins everywhere, and a certain warmth that has nothing to do with the actual temperature. Scarecrows and pots of chrysanthemums appear on front porches. Pomegranates make their first appearance in the produce section.

September is the start of all that. And I’m here for it. What about you?

What simple pleasures and everyday adventures do you anticipate this month?


Something Small or Nothing at All

August 27, 2021

When the world becomes as horrifying and tragic as it feels right now, I tend to despair and retreat. Realistically, what can I possibly do to ease the suffering of people in Haiti or Afghanistan? To comfort the family grieving for someone lost to COVID? I’ve been paralyzed by the scope of need, and by feeling personally burned out to the point where I feel unable to do anything.

My inconveniences and irritations pale in comparison to the genuine suffering around me. It feels almost sacrilegious to seek and write about happiness. But I know the life I have is a gift, and I don’t want to waste it. Here are a few thoughts I’ve been pondering as I try to take in what is happening in the world, and figure out what I can do to help others as well as live my own precious gift of a life to the fullest. Maybe you will find some inspiration or comfort from these words, too.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”—Marie Curie


“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, ‘What else could this mean?’”—Shannon L. Alder


“If it is true that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, isn’t it also true a society is only as healthy as its sickest citizen and only as wealthy as its most deprived?”—Maya Angelou, Even the Stars Look Lonesome


“When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.”—Thich Nhat Hahn


“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”—Leo Tolstoy

“Anger is often what pain looks like when it shows itself in public.”—Krista Tippett


“Worry is useful when it changes our behavior in productive ways. The rest of the time, it's a negative form of distraction, an entertainment designed to keep us from doing our work and living our lives.”—Seth Godin


“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”—Theodore Roosevelt


And finally,

“We think the choice is between doing something big or something small. But really, it’s between doing something small or nothing at all.”—Lorenzo Gravina, “The Value of Doing a Little.” 

(Note: this quote is specifically referring to developing habits, but it’s applicable to many other situations!) 

What small thing can you do today to promote happiness and positivity?