Most mornings, rain or shine, I take Hannah for a little walk about the neighborhood.  This morning it was absolutely gorgeous out – the sun was shining, it was warm, but not too warm, and birds were singing a happy song. 

We were about a third of the way through one of our typical routes when there was a rustling  overhead.  I didn’t bother looking up – I figured it was a bird or squirrel, but I was watching Hannah, laughing at how focused she was on what was happening overhead and asking her what was up there.  Imagine our complete and total surprise when a squirrel dropped to the ground right in front of us. 

Hannah was completely stunned – it was as if the heavens had opened up and given her more than she could ever imagine, even in her wildest doggie dreams.  Fortunately, I took advantage of her shock to grasp the leash a little tighter and brace myself once she came to her senses and went after it.

The squirrel got away (and my shoulder’s a little sore from being pulled across the grass), but as the day went on, I couldn’t help but think about the little guy.  What made him fall?  Was he doing something stupid?  Was he trying to get away from something?  Was he tired and groggy after a late night of seeds pilfered from someone’s bird feeder or garden?  Did he make just one bad decision that had horrible repercussions?

Here’s the thing.  Sometimes I’m Hannah and things happen that are exciting and wonderful and beyond my wildest dreams.  I’m stunned and amazed and feel blessed beyond measure. But sometimes I’m the squirrel.  I’ve been tired, in a hurry to do something, made a mistake, made a really bad decision and suddenly found myself in big trouble.  I’ve tried to avoid pain and heartache and have ended up being hurt anyway. I have fervently prayed that I wouldn’t fall, only to crash anyway and find myself in a terrifying mess that I never saw coming and for which I was ill prepared.

What I admired most about the squirrel was that he hopped right back up and climbed up a telephone pole to safety.  He probably spent the day telling his squirrel buddies about his big fall and how he stared into the jaws of death but survived to gather nuts another day.  Then he probably took his aching body to bed so he’d be ready to start another day come morning. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Mary Pickford, “If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not falling down, but the staying down.”  If you’re like me and you’ve been the squirrel far more often than you’ve been Hannah, I recommend following Mary’s advice and get right back up again.


There are two mulberry trees in the backyard.  Last year I was a little obsessed with them.  I picked every one I could reach, using a garden rake to pull the branches down to my level.  I laid tarps on the ground and shook the tree branches, gathering up the fallen berries and stashing them away in the freezer.  When I was walking Hannah, I’d look for other mulberry trees (not in anyone’s yard, of course!) and gather up their plump, juicy berries.

When I was a kid there was a tree on the edge of what we called, “The Avalanche” on our property.  It was actually an area where dirt had been excavated, which left behind ‘cliffs’ that were great for jumping off, crevices that created places to hide, and of course, the occasional falling dirt and rocks, which is how it got it’s name.  We worked up an appetite with all that physical activity and used to eat the berries to stave off hunger that might force us to leave the pleasures of outside and return to the house where there might be chores lurking.

One summer we kids picked about one million berries and my Mom made mulberry jam.  It seemed to take forever to crush the berries and extract the juice to produce the dark purple liquid that eventually turned into some of the most delicious jam I have ever had the pleasure of eating.  It was probably a lot of work in comparison to the amount of jam we got, because I don’t remember my Mom ever making it again.

Today I made a smoothie out of my freezer stash: two peaches (left from the 42 pounds I picked last summer), a half a banana, and at least a cup of mulberries.  It was a rich shade of purple – so thick I had to eat it with a spoon.  It was fantastic and I enjoyed every spoonful of it.

Mulberry Smoothie

I’m not going to be picking and freezing berries this year.  While I do think it is important to put food by during the spring, summer and fall for the long winter months, there are some things that I just want to enjoy in the season, in this moment.  To be honest, I haven’t done a great job of eating what I have put by as I’ve shared in earlier posts and I want to be more deliberate about eating what I have. The fact that it is now mulberry season and I still have two bags of berries in the freezer is telling.

It’s rained a lot this week, which makes the berries taste like they’ve been freshly washed and slightly cooled, making them even more delicious than usual.  It seems like people don’t plant these beauties much anymore – their berries do leave a mess behind if they happen to fall on your car or deck.  Even so, I hope I always live somewhere we’re there’s a mulberry tree in the yard, ready to share it’s spring bounty. 

In Praise of Slowness

Do you or someone you love suffer from allegrophobia?  This is really a thing – it’s the fear of being late.  And I have it bad.  So much so that I have spent much of my life rushing around always making sure I’m not merely on time, but early.  I need to have that buffer in case any mishap should befall me while I’m on my way to do something (no doubt) terribly important. A curious thing tends to happen, though; the more I rush, the more often I forget something and have to stop and go back or drop something or something else happens that thwarts my efforts to be early. 

One day as I was rushing out the door to go to work, breathless, with adrenaline pumping through my veins (and mind you I have a five minute commute and it was over an hour before my official start time), I decided to stop.  Just stop.  Catching my breath, I finally realized that all that rushing doesn’t really change a thing and the stress I cause myself is probably dramatically shortening my lifespan.  For me, rushing isn’t running down the driveway to my car, driving like a maniac, racing up the steps to my office building – no, it’s really just a frame of mind and the reality is that much of what happens the moment I leave my house is outside of my control.  Making a conscious decision to stop rushing has been a life changer.  I don’t get cranky when people are going slow in front of me, or when a light turns red just as I approach.  It allows me to take the time to actually look at my surroundings, to see my neighborhood, the people and animals that live there, to hear birds singing, to just enjoy walking or driving along. 

Over the weekend I read a book called In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore.  He starts the book by telling a story of how excited he was when he saw an ad for One-Minute Bedtime Stories, thinking he could cut down on the time it took to read bedtime stories to his child (who was always choosing longer books), and get back to doing other things.  That was a wake up call that he needed to start doing things differently. 

I was feeling pretty smug when I started reading – I mean, I had already decided to stop rushing, right? – but instead I quickly identified a pattern that has been a part of my life since I was a child.  I always have an agenda, always have a long list of things I need to accomplish, and start each day determined to get as many things checked off as I can.  I realize that this is nothing short of complete and utter madness.  It’s as though my entire identity has been wrapped up in this concept that my value and worth is dependent upon the number of tasks I can successfully complete at the end of each day.  Never mind that I often go to bed exhausted and bleary-eyed, I am gettin’ ‘er done!

For years I’ve prided myself on being an excellent multitasker, only to realize – and grudgingly admit – that multitasking just means that I do a lot of things at the same time and don’t do any of them well.  Shoot.

I would like to say that I’ve left behind the constant push, push, push to get stuff done, but it’s just not that easy.  It’s still really hard to slow down or to do just one thing at a time.  I’ve read more than one article recently that stated that some of the most brilliant people take time to just sit and think every day.  Just sit and think.  JUST SIT AND THINK!  What would that be like?  I can barely wrap my brain around it and yet I know at the very core of my being that it’s the right thing. 

I’m going to sign off now and get some stuff done.  But before I call it a day, I might just try to find five minutes to practice sitting and thinking.