Fall in the Midwest Remembers Spring at the Four Seasons in Nevis

Last week while driving through rural Indiana I caught a glimpse of a soybean field at that special moment when it is green, yellow, and brown at the same time. I immediately stopped in the middle of the road. This is one of those moments, like the turning of the leaves, that change daily. You can’t wait until tomorrow to capture that view, because by tomorrow it will have changed.

It is pretty.

But, it is also a sign. A sign that fall is upon us and that winter is coming. The combines have started to churn up dust on the horizon. At night you can see the eerie glow of the combine lights as they work. Fresh apples are everywhere and the leaves will changes colors soon. This is all part of the opening act for the Midwestern winter – first comes harvest, then the leaves disappear, the wind quickly becomes unbearable, and then the snow. Maybe it will be an easy winter, maybe it will be another harsh one – it is impossible to predict. No one knows.

I looked at those soybean fields and my mind took me right back to my 5 days on the island of Nevis, West Indies in May. It is shocking how quickly a thought of winter will prompt my amygdala to paint scenes of sandy beaches and ocean sunsets in my mind.

I realized earlier this year that I was going to need a real break. I would need a vacation that was more than a stay-cation but less than an over-scheduled-experience-everything-possible vacation. A cousin and a dear friend both recommended Nevis after taking trips there (separately – they don’t know each other). So I signed up, with much less research than I normally do before committing to a trip.

I was a bit nervous about going alone. Traveling alone on a trip with a lot of activities is easy and I do that all the time, but I wondered if I would be happy being alone with nothing much to do for 5 days. But, I went anyway.

I am glad I did.

I spent five peaceful, refreshing, and fabulous days at the Four Seasons Resort on Nevis. It was so lovely that I did not leave the resort. Why would you – there are walking trails, 4 restaurants, 3 pools, watersports, and plenty of perfect beach right there.

It was the best solo trip I have ever taken – walks, reading, laying by the ocean, and making new friends. Dinners were amazing – the two fine dining restaurants Mango and the Coral Grill, were able to create celiac-friendly meals and legitimately seemed to enjoy doing it. The staff members were lovely. They learned my name and preferences quickly and made me feel right at home – so much so that I got goodbye hugs on my last night at Mango. It was an easy place to be.

I returned like new – calm, focused, and ready to get back to life until the next break. So, this winter when I am wondering when it is going to stop snowing I am going to remember Nevis to remind me that winter isn’t all that long. That should hold me over until Hawaii in January.

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What I’ve Learned from the Sun

I have always loved a sunset, but since moving to the Midwest I have fallen in love with the movements of the sky. I have try to watch as many sunsets and sunrises as possible; in four years I have seen hundreds. I make a special effort to watch them on certain days ­– my birthday, the new year, or when I need a reminder of just what a little speck that I am in this universe or how I am part of a large, unknowable plan.

The first thing I did on the first day of this year was get in my car and drive to my spot, a church parking lot at the edge of my subdivision, to watch the sun come up. In the silence I watched the light glow above the horizon and tree line. Then the sun slowly inched across the sky. As I did I made a list of the things I want to do and do better this year (no resolutions, just observations and promises to myself).

New Years Sunrise

When my list was long enough I stopped and put my phone down. I thought about how long I’ve been walking or driving to this spot to observe the sun. What have I learned from it? Is there anything to be taken from watching the two most physically beautiful parts of the day? It did not take long to realize the lessons and reminders that I can take from observing the sun.

The earth, the divine, speaks lessons and reminders, if we will listen. As I sat in the car, window down and seat heater on, a list of these lessons and reminders came quickly to mind.

Always look behind you.

RainbowsThe sun rises in the east and it does amazing things. But, that is not where all the action is. Look west. There is often something just as beautiful behind me. During a sunrise it is a pale pink glow on a clear day, other times the reflection of the sun’s glow on clouds, and if I am lucky, it’s a rainbow inspired by the morning dew. At sunset it’s the ombre of blue to purple to black layered from west to east. In the morning and night I look to the north and south and see more of that pink glow, carbon trails drawing pictures in sky reflecting the light in different ways, or long flat clouds that seem to go on forever.

I spend so much time looking in one direction – what I want, need, or where I am going down the road. If I’m not careful my laser focus causes me to miss things just as lovely, and important, that are happening in and around me. It is never just about what is in front of me. Situations look different depending on the point of view; sometimes I have to change my perspective to get to where I’m going.

Be patient.

Stalking sunsets and sunrises takes effort. It also takes practice. I can’t just show up at the exact time the weather channel says that the sun will set. I’ll miss it. This is especially true of ocean sunsets, if I look away for a second or stop watching for a moment to mess with my camera I’ll miss it. I have to find my spot and get there early. This might mean getting up early or staying late. It makes me work for it.

Pacific

Don’t all things worth having, seeing, or keeping take a little (or a lot) of work? The sun might be free, but it isn’t easy.

Embrace silence.

I like to talk. Frankly, I need to talk (my poor mother used to pray for 5 minutes of silence when I was a child).  If I am not talking I am playing music or running the television in the background. The sun, though, does all its work silently. Most of the year it does its work when the world is quiet – no traffic, little work, and before or after most people have gone inside.

The sun in some ways demands silence. I have watched sunsets with people and 100% of the time everyone becomes quiet as we watch. No one says, be quiet or shhhh. Your spirit just knows to quiet itself – to embrace the peace of it, to stand in awe and reverence of the divine.

It is a lovely time – a new day or the end of one – to think, pray, reflect, or whatever I need to do. A time to be quiet and still. A time to listen to that still small voice.

Summer Sunset

I can’t always see what is next, but I trust it will be good.

Recently a friend died unexpectedly. I found out on a Friday. As it goes with these things, I spent much of the day trying to understand and thinking about my life and its fragility. Understanding did not come, nor did I expect it. That understanding will only come, as Dolly would sing, “farther along.” But the lack of understanding hung there reminding me that I am not in control and I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

LorinThe next morning I woke up, threw on my slippers and a jacket over my night-clothes. I drove to my spot to watch the sunrise. It was late fall and the sun had shifted behind a cluster of trees. I would not be able to see the sun itself until it was up and clear of the woods, a quarter of the way up. I waited and watched the light start to glow through and then above the trees. I knew what was coming but I couldn’t see it yet. As I waited I was reminded that just because I can’t see what’s next doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be wonderful. It is so easy to feel like things are not moving fast enough or going where I want them to go. But no matter how I feel, I believe there is something good ahead, just beyond what I can see. I believe it because I’ve seen it before.

Sometimes a memory is all I get to take with me.

My sister is great fun. Once when I was a teenager and she was living at home we had a particularly fun weekend. The following week I told her that I’d like to do it again. She told me it was fun but “those times are like bubbles, they last for a little while and then they pop. You can’t repeat them.” She was right.

Sunset and sunrises are beautiful, sometimes so much so that I can’t capture them in a picture. Even when I try the picture is so disappointing that I just delete it. There is a level of pretty that just doesn’t translate (at least not with an iPhone camera).

There are some things that so are beautiful that I can’t capture with anything but my mind, my memories. I get frustrated with the limits of my equipment and ability to share what I have seen, but that reminds me that some things, people, and experiences are meant just for me, not to be shared. The things that I keep for myself are the most precious.

Pink

I try to find something beautiful in every day. On days when I can’t accept beauty in myself, in others, or in the events of the day, I can find it in the sky. Even on a cloudy day. So, as the sun demands, I will stop and listen to what it has to say in its beautiful silence.

Spring, is it Really You?

It has been a long cold winter. So much so for me that I just accepted that it would stay cold until it wasn’t anymore and tried to forget about it. Then came yesterday. I arrived home after my Thursday evening guitar lesson and realized that it was warm enough to go out without a parka, hat, and gloves. So, for the first time this year I walked The Queen (she just returned from her winter rendezvous in Virginia) with bare ears and hands. It was delightful.

The Queen celebrated by catching a mole and was visibly irritated when I would not let her eat it.

Mole Digging

Unfortunately, the morning walks are not quite ready for bare ears and hands, but soon (it was up to 37 degrees this morning).

Here’s to a warm and hat and gloveless weekend, enjoy!

Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part II

It seems that I’ve been fooled. My first winter in Indiana, 2011-2012, was incredibly mild. Not only was there not one single large snowfall there was not much snow at all. Additionally, the temperature, while cold, was not consistently and continuously bitter. Oh, and I lived in an apartment with a garage. So, I never had to encounter snow directly: no shoveling, no sweeping, no cleaning off the car. All I had to do outside was walk the dog.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

Everyone I’ve talked with about the weather (which is nearly everyone) told me not “get used to it.” I am afraid I did.

This winter is different. There have not been any giant snows, but we have had more snow and the temperatures have been way (at least it seems to me) colder. Days and days of temperatures under 20 degrees. Wind. Constant, cold wind with wind chills repeatedly below -10. Oh, and I now have a driveway to shovel, a walk to sweep, and neighborhood streets to try to navigate safely.

I have prided myself on the fact that I can handle cold weather and drive in the snow. I was raised in the mountains! It does snow in the mountains and it does get cold. However, it doesn’t stay this cold for this long, the snow doesn’t hang around for weeks from one storm, and it doesn’t snow this often. And, there is no wind there, at least not constant, extremely cold, and sustained winds.

This has been much more of an adjustment than I am comfortable admitting. It is not in my nature (or raising) to concede weakness or discomfort. Every time I walk out into the piercing cold wind I cringe. I long for some mountain cover. The question – why do I live here crosses my mind. Regularly. If I missed home when it was warm here, I miss home 1000x more now.

Luckily, I had the chance to escape the Midwest winter briefly. I spent part of the last week in Puerto Rico, where it was sunny, warm, and, like Fort Wayne, windy; there the wind blows warm. It was a much needed break even though I worked most of the trip. But that trip taught me a very important lesson. I now know the key to surviving a Midwestern winter. Take a break.

I learned how to use the panorama feature on my phone in PR.

Seasons change and I have access to airplanes. So, my new vacation window is going to be January to March, just in time for a nice break from the Midwestern winter.

Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part I

Snow is beautiful. I like it.

Indiana Snow

Sadly, though, snow does not come with sixty degree temperatures, dry roads, and warm winds. At least not in Indiana. The day I returned from my holiday break in Virginia it was eighteen degrees and felt like four degrees with twenty mile per hour winds.

These are not my ideal dog walking conditions.

Twice a day I bundle up in layers, strap on my boots, and walk The Queen. She prefers the field and brush behind the subdivision to the sidewalks. This makes for adventures wading through ankle-deep or more snow and enduring 20 mph winds in an open field. Other than the satisfaction of making the dog happy, the only thing that makes these required walks tolerable is the view. The Queen doesn’t mind regular stops for iPhone photography.

Model Dog

Eyeing some fresh deer tracks.

Walking Shoes

The proper form for mole digging.

The proper form for mole digging.

Wading Through the BrushSunset on the trees

The Queen watching the sunset.

The Queen watching the sunset.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind tall weeds.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind the tall weeds.

The view of the Indiana countryside also pretty. Pretty enough to make long commutes fun and slow. Slow? Yes, because you have to stop and take pictures. Seriously. I am that person pulled over on the shoulder, stopped in the middle of the road, and holding the camera up to the windshield or side window while in motion. I highly recommend it to everyone with a camera or smartphone.

It is pretty.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

An Indiana farmer's lovely old barn.

An Indiana farmer’s lovely old barn.

Fall in Indiana, Part I

It is fall in Indiana. The summer breeze has turned into a cold wind, the hot days are gone, and the fireplace is burning. But it is still pretty.

Home Ownership Lesson #2

Fences are nice and they will cost you in more ways than one.

It is no secret that I am totally committed to my dog. The Queen and I have been together longer than any of the three primary relationships in my life (sorry guys). So, one of the big benefits of having a house and a slice of land is having a yard for The Queen.

Unfortunately, The Queen cannot be trusted off-leash. She minds well as long as there is not a squirrel, rabbit, mole, or groundhog involved or in the vicinity of the command. Because of her lack of impulse control around small furry creatures she can’t run free in the neighborhood (nevermind the leash law). Therefore, I had to buy a fence.

I called around – Home Depot, Menards, Lowe’s – and found the cheapest cedar picket fence at Lowe’s. They do free estimates and they install. Fine, works for me. Two days later a representative from the store (“Capt. Smooth” said in a sarcastic tone accompanied by an eye roll) contacts me and sets up an appointment to check out the property. On said day, Capt. Smooth calls an hour early to see if I can just “come on over” since he “came by to see a friend who lives in the neighborhood” and his buddy was not home. Um, no, I can’t leave work and additional hour early to accommodate your schedule, sir. I did however show up just after the appointed time to find that he had kindly waited in his car in my driveway – for over an hour. One walk-thru and measurement later and I had a price. Turns out approximately 215 linear feet of fence will cost you around $3,300. Ouch.

Not knowing of any other options, I called Capt. Smooth back to schedule the install. You can’t just schedule an install must another site visit with Capt. Smooth and the installer. Fine. I met Capt. Smooth and the installer at my new abode. The installer is a lovely guy who runs his company along with his son. He seemed genuinely interested in doing a good job and meeting my expectations. Unfortunately, he was not doing the pricing. At the end of this walk-thru and re-measurement the installer left and Capt. Smooth stayed behind to have me sign the contract. I am a lawyer, I get that, let’s read, sign, and get it over with.

No such luck. Capt. Smooth spent the next thirty minutes filling in five blanks on a form in between asking me where I “go out” in FW, making it clear that he drinks martinis, and telling me the long and sordid story of his baby-mama’s drug problems and incarceration (if this was a pick up line it is the worst I’ve heard). Lovely, this guy now knows where I live. All this for a fence.

So, Forty-five minutes later the contract was signed and I was able to escape unscathed from Capt. Smooth. So far, I have not had to encounter him again. I am thankful for the little things.

I did, however, go back to meet the installers when they marked the posts and they were great and fast. The fence was up in less than five days from the time of the installers first visit. I was bragging about my new fence at work. My audience was two fellows who work for a construction company. When I told them where I got my fence they literally bent over and laughed out loud. Not helpful. In construction circles having Lowe’s put in your fence is better than Home Depot but is still dumb. They always know someone who can do something. So, next time I need anything installed or worked on I am calling these two guys (this will be sufficient pay back for laughing at me)!

After recovering from the smack in the face brought on by my contractor-buddies’ laughter, I went and checked out my fence first hand. I love it. It’s fabulous. This was a little salve on my fence wounds.

The final step in the fencing process was to introduce The Queen to her new kingdom. I did and, well, she was mostly unimpressed. She walked around a bit, smelled, ate some grass, did her business, and promptly asked to go back inside. Sigh. She has never had a fenced in yard before, so I am going to chalk this up to inexperience. I am sure she will grow to love it as much as I do. And thank God I do. I am also thankful that my fence is pretty.