Tag Archives: Mary Oliver

Sweet Summertime

Yesterday, I spent a little over an hour relaxing between a lake and a pool. It was a cooler than normal Texas Sunday afternoon, with a breeze. The puffy white clouds provided a regular respite from the sun. I had a good book and a big glass of iced tea. It is ridiculous how happy I felt in that one precious hour, soaking in summertime.

Our family is about to spend a week together at the beach so I’m feeling in vacation mode already as lists are made; the most relaxing clothes packed; our favorite games set aside for fun in the evenings.

For all you moms of older offspring, I had a brilliant idea this year. I decided everyone who is anywhere close to being an adult would be in charge of a day of meals…not just me. I told them if their menus/shopping lists were submitted early enough, their cooking ingredients would be provided by a super shopper. The most amazing thing happened, menus have been planned that I would have never thought up. I will get to do about 1/7th of the work I usually do. The person (who will remain nameless) in our family we thought might not be on board, submitted the most amazing menus which included a Tex/Mex breakfast entrée, an afternoon fresh pineapple appetizer, a sweet fire chicken dish for dinner and some kind of rice wine served (get this) out of a hollowed out watermelon. My sense of awe cannot be measured. Moms, delegate and relax for a change.

I’m wishing for all of us this summer a little extra measure of down time, relaxation, wonder, sea air, mountain air or whatever fills you up. I’m wishing for you homemade ice cream, really ripe, juicy summer fruits, porch time, grill time, a breeze, some shade and all the wonder of nature.

Poet Mary Oliver wrote, I do not know exactly what a prayer is. I do knowhow to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass; how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

We don’t know what the future holds. But, we do have this day. Hopefully, we also have this one wild and precious summer to pay attention to. I pray you drink it in (maybe even served out of a hollowed out watermelon, with someone else doing the hollowing out).

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, writer, mom, Mimosa, breast cancer survivor and so much more. In honor of sweet summertime, her blog will be on vacation for a bit as she savors a wild and precious summer.         

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On My Walk…

Today, all of nature got the memo that spring has officially begun. At least that’s how it is here in Texas. The day was awash with blue skies, a breeze, new grass the once a year lime to kelly green color, trees with  baby tender leaves. I saw all these flowers with only buds. I have to wait and have faith a bit to see what kind of flowers will unfold.

In yoga, I’m learning to breathe more deeply and so I closed my eyes and breathed in spring. It smelled like fresh leaves and grass, cypress and floral. I wondered how many other springs I’ve raced through forgetting to notice; forgetting to breathe.

While I walked my Twitter feed exploded with news about political investigations and accusations and everyone’s opinion on all of it. I care but not now. Not while I’m on my walk. Not while spring is making a debut. Not when it smells like this and I now know how to breathe.

Today on my walk, I paused. There’s a bench right at this little lake and so I took the hint and sat. I never really noticed how accurately that lake reflects the sky. I never understood why older people were depicted as sitting on park benches all day or rocking endlessly on porches. I get it now. There is so much to notice.

My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, wrote, “It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in the broken world.” Yes, it is, especially in spring.

I know there is trouble in our world. There is hunger and hurting. There are diagnoses and dangers. People I know have lost those they love. But, on my walk today, I noticed it was spring. That is certainly something.

 

The Under Toad

I’m finding comfort in reading John Irving novels. Currently, I’m reading The World According to Garp. I like Irving’s writing even though I’m sure I don’t understand parts of it. His work always intrigues and challenges me.

In this novel, the Garp family talks to their young sons at the beach every year about the under tow. They describe what it can do to you. One of their boys becomes particularly afraid. Finally, they get to the bottom of his fear. He believed all along they were saying, “Watch out for the Under Toad.” He was picturing a massive frog-like toad, lurking under the dark of the water, big-eyed, slimy, ready to grab him by the legs and steal him away.

After that, whenever anxiety popped up in their family, they called it the Under Toad.

I’m seeing quite a bit of the Under Toad lately, are you? I see it in the news, in my Twitter feed and other forms of social media. I see it in families and friendship circles. I see it in schools, churches and in the community. Last week, I had a conversation with a relative over politics at her initiative that sent me rushing out the door, emotional, sweating, uttering bad words and covered in Under Toads.

One of the ongoing lessons I have learned in my adult life is that the Under Toad does not help anything.  It is bad for marriages and parenting. It is bad for leaders and followers. The Under Toad moves us from being thinking, calm people to overly emotional, reactive ones.

I hate it because it is so much fun to blame others, but the truth is we cannot manage other people’s Under Toads, only our own. When anxiety is high, all you can do is manage your Toad.

Sometimes our fears are real and based in fact. There really is, for example, an under tow out there which we should know about and respect. But, it is not a huge, amphibian-like monster plotting to get us. Millions of people do not die each year because of Under Toads. In fact, no one has even been hurt by one, ever.

How do we manage our Under Toads?

Everyone is different, of course, but here’s my list of anxiety-busters:

Establish some spiritual touch points and routines that anchor you like prayer, journaling, meditation, scripture. Do these whether you feel like it or not. Don’t wait until inspired. That is not how it works.

Engage with nature. Creation feeds our souls. The colors, the smells, the wonder of outside eases anxiety. Sunrises and sunsets are my favorite twice a day Toad repellent.under-toad

Music works every time.

Comedians. Thank God for the funny people. Did you know, laughter cannot co-exist with Toads?

Babies. Children. Find some. Rent some. Volunteer near some. According to Psychology Today, 4 year olds are reported to laugh 300 times a day. 40 year olds? Only 4. Find a small person, play and just laugh when they laugh.

Disconnect. I’m beginning to think our media feeds our hungry Under Toads and when our Toads are large and scary, we keep going back for more. When they see what sells it is like supply and demand. Maybe we should take a little break.

Breathe. Mary Oliver, the poet, writes, “Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget to breathe deeply, especially when being pursued by Toads.

Exercise. It is amazing how we are made. Exercise is good for us and breaks the anxiety chain. It helps us feel better, look better and sleep better. I walk. Every day. Outside, in nature. I breathe there. I disconnect there.

Act. Do something. Go ahead and act. Today, I spent a couple of hours with some amazing women strategizing about how we would help serve the economically disadvantaged students in our public schools with school supplies and other resources. It kept the Toad at bay.

Love. Love people. Love strangers. Love your family. Love those who feel differently than you do. Try to listen but also take care of you. Learn to say, “Can we change the conversation? I’m having an allergic reaction to a personal Toad problem right now.” I promise they will stop talking.

Thank you, John Irving, for your writing. You showed me the power of the Under Toad…and more than that, you showed me it is not even real.

 

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