Quotes Feed

Looking for a Sunset Bird while Snowshoeing

Each time I ratchet my snowshoe straps tight and take my first step, I'm amazed at how ridiculous I feel.  There is no way I can take a walk like this, I think to myself and consider taking the snowshoes right off and making a break for the closest clean sidewalk.  Of course, if getting snowshoes on just right (toe properly positioned, back strap not flapping like an injured bird) is a challenge, taking them off has been known to make me swear.   So I take a deep breath and start my walk.  

Setting out 010414

I play around with my poles.  Am I gripping them the right way?  Do I even need them on this terrain?  I take a few steps holding the poles like a closed umbrella.  If I'm going to carry them anyway I may as well be using them I decide, so they return to their in-use position.   A cross-country skier slips past on my left and I feel as athletic as Big Bird.  A family up ahead lets their dog off its leash and it takes off running across the snow. The dog jumps, circles, races after invisible prey, rolls in the snow only to race off again.  I'm jealous...of a dog.  I'm not sure which feels worse, the jealousy or knowing how ridiculous it is.  

I walk a bit more, noticing the engagement of unfamiliar muscles. My mouth opens to get more air.  My cheeks feel hot.   I stop to take off my mittens and look around.  



What's wrong with me? I wonder, and this time it's not because I feel awkward and frustrated.  No, this time it's because I've been trying so hard to walk at my normal speed, and have been so busy criticizing myself that I haven't noticed where I am.  It's January in New England.  I'm in the center of a glittering field, surrounded by forests and farm houses, brilliant blue stretching into eternity overhead and crisp air in my lungs.  Who cares how fast I go?  These snowshoes that slow me down, also make it possible for me to be here.  

I walk on, across the field and into the silence of the forest beyond.  A tiny gray bird with stripe of bright yellow on his head flits from branch to branch.  I've never seen one before, whatever it is.  Smiling, I stand and watch as it moves about with near humingbird speed.  I try again and again to get a picture so I can ID it at home, each time getting just the branch where it had been moments before.  I adjust and fiddle with my camera, but give up in the end.  Maybe not knowing makes it more magical.  

The shadows grow and I realize at some point I stopped keeping track of which trail I'm on.  The cold is starting to seep through my layers and though I'm not in any real danger (I'm no more than a couple miles from civilization in any direction) I don't want to be wandering in the woods, in the dark in the cold.  I think I know which direction the field is, so I set off that way. 

No, the woods aren't suddenly much larger.  It's just my imagination.  Is it getting colder?  


And there it is, the field.  I don't know its name, but it's lovely in the gloaming.  The words of a Robert Frost poem I memorized in 6th grade come back to me, as if Frost himself had seen this place.


"Looking for a Sunset Bird in Winter"

The west was getting out of gold,

The breath of air had died of cold,

When shoeing home across the white,

I thought I saw a bird alight.


 In summer when I passed the place

I had to stop and lift my face;

A bird with an angelic gift

Was singing in it sweet and swift.


No bird was singing in it now.

A single leaf was on a bough,

And that was all there was to see

In going twice around the tree. 

Tree silhouette lincoln 010414


From my advantage on a hill

I judged that such a crystal chill

Was only adding frost to snow

As gilt to gold that wouldn't show.

A brush had left a crooked stroke

Of what was either cloud or smoke

From north to south across the blue;

A piercing little star was through.



This walk was taken in the Mount Misery parcel of Lincoln MA's conservation land.  The Lincoln Land Conservation Trust puts out a terrific map and guide book.  They also provide downloadable maps on their website.  If you happen to visit on a Sunday and use the St. Anne's-in-the-Fields parking lot as your starting point, you should take a moment and go in. It's an incredible place, and and a lot of them love the out-of-doors too. 


On the First Day of Advent

"We who sit in darkness have seen a great light. 

Kindle our hearts with the fire of your love,

that in serving you

we may bring life and light into the darkness of the world. 

Holy spirit have mercy."

Advent light 120810
Advent wreath lit for 2nd week


Whatever your faith, or even if you don't have one, Advent can be yours.  Advent comes from the Latin word "adventus" meaning "coming".  In the Christian tradition it is a time of preparation for God's appearance on Earth, first on Christmas and then again when least expected.  For me, that idea is a wool hat.  I know it brings comfort to millions and I want to share in that, but when I try it on it itches a little and I can't find peace. 

Yet I love Advent because if you step back and take a broader view, it is a season where we set aside our cynical, news-wearied world view and open ourselves up to hope.  We open our minds and hearts to the possibility of a time where people love to their full potential.  And whether you believe that transformation will come through enlightenment, persistant effort or a loving higher power, there's strength in the hoping. 

Welcome to Advent. 


If you'd like to hear more on this topic, you can hear a funny and insightful explanation the Rev. Kate Malin gave on Dec. 2nd

Thankful Emerson

Moon by Jerry  Crockett
As the days grow short and my dinner is lit by light bulbs rather than the golden glow of the late day sun, it's easy to become annoyed and irritable.  I find this is especially true when I am caught in the middle between my desire to use the evening hours for enjoyment, and a primal need to sleep brought on by the darkness.  Add days of cold rain and the descent into winter can feel pretty bleak.   

Then last night, while sorting the mail into Recycling and Read piles, I opened an unmarked envelope (which turned out to be a plea for money) and found this quote:

"We are thankful for each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food, for love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends. "

The quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lived just one town over from where I do.  I'm sure the shift of seasons was felt all the more strongly in his day when there was no full-spectrum light therapy other what you could find out of doors.  Emerson was no Pollyanna.  His life was visited again and again by the death of those close to him, and yet he kept looking for the good.  Looking to live a life full of thanks.

And so I add my own prayer of thanks, for the beauty found in unlikely of places - even junk mail.


I mean to visit Emerson's house soon, and learn more about him that way, but if anyone can suggest a book about him that's enjoyable (rather than academic), please leave a comment or e-mail me.  Thank you



A Step in the Right Direction

Have you ever noticed how when you buy a new car, suddenly you notice that car everywhere?  And if you or someone you know has an ailment, it seems to be the topic of every news report and article out there.  I've been experiencing something similar since writing my last post, the one about choosing an uplifting quote to focus on while walking.  Suddenly I'm aware of just how frequently the image of walking is used in speech.  I've started a list, though I'm sure there are more. 

  1. take baby steps
  2. step in time / step in
  3. one step at a time
  4. walk the line
  5. spring in your step
  6. a step in the right direction
  7. step out of line
  8. step/go out on a limb
  9. march to the beat of your own drum
  10. one foot in front of the other (one of my favorites & quite seasonally appropriate)
  11. step out of ones comfort zone

I've had a little experience with that last one recently.  In late August a friend told me about a photography contest, where the winning photos would appear in a calendar to raise money for the Lincoln Land Conservation Trust.  If you've been reading this blog for any time, you've surely heard about or seen photos of Lincoln.  The town is a living postcard of rural New England, and one of my favorite places to go walking.   

Lincoln road 050611
My first reaction to the idea was "You're crazy".  I've never studied photography.  I take my photos with a Cannon Powershot, a cheap point-and-shoot.  There was no way that I was qualified.  But the more I thought about all the reasons I couldn't do it, the louder my gut asked "Why not?"  So I decided to submit a photo,

or two,

or eight.

About a month ago I learned that some of my photos had made it through the first cut.  I didn't know how many or which ones, but I decided that just getting that far counted as a success. 

Then just this week I learned that TWO of my photos had made it into the calendar!  Yes, I admit I did a happy dance, which may or may not have startled the birds on my windowsill at the time.  And today when I actually saw the finished calendar and my photos among the work of such talented photographers, let's just say Christmas came early. 

Here are my winning photos.  (That's really fun to say).


Winter won't quit"Winter won't Quit" 

If you'd like to own your own copy of the calendar and see a bit of the real New England (rather than the same old over-photographed spots that  appear in most calendars) they can be purchased through the LLCT for just $15 plus shipping.  The profits go to preserving open space in the town, maintaining Lincoln's rural character and caring for the 375 acres already in conservation.  Part of that mission is maintenance of the miles and miles of public trails that crisscross the town.



The Wisdom of Roosevelt

I was at a meeting tonight where the conversation slid off topic (as is apt to happen in meetings) and onto the much more interesting topic of the little things we do each day to take care of ourselves.  One colleague shyly admitted that each day she writes an inspirational quote on an index card and carries it in her pocket.  Throughout the day she'll read it when she has the odd free moment (waiting on hold, waiting for her computer to boot up, waiting in line...there appears to be a bit of a pattern here).  She also makes a point of reading that day's card right before she sets out on her daily walk  (another bit of self-care).  Throughout the walk she thinks about the quote and how/if it can be applied to her life.  

It took a bit of coaxing, but we convinced her to share today's quote. 

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” - Theodore Roosevelt

We all sat in silence.  That one quote could put the whole self-help book industry out of business.


If you have a quote that's important to you or provides you with inspiration, I hope you'll take a moment to share it in the comments. 

Orange glass pumpkin 2011A pumpkin I made during a recent glass blowing class.