Determined To Do Less

This year, I am determined to be more unproductive. My goal is to do less and less – to move slower and slower until everything stops. I and the whole world will come to a sweet and silent stillness. And in this stillness, a great shout of joy will arise. We will all be free – free from the advice of ancient ages, free from the whining voices, free from the incessant objections of the responsible ones.

In this new world, it will be abundantly clear that the bare branches of the winter trees are our teachers. In their daily dance of moving here and there, we will see once again the true meaning of our life. In the wind song of their being, we will hear God’s unmistakable voice. We will follow what appears before us – what had once been difficult will now unfold with ease.

~ Hakuin Ekaku

 

I love this idea from Hakuin Ekaku of being determined to do less to do more. Being me, I’m on an endless quest for stimulation – my mind spins and cycles to the point where some days I feel like a pinball being batted around and never making it into the jackpot slot.

I cherish my still moments, my quiet times to center and breathe and just be. I know that it is precisely in those moments – usually early, before dawn, lit by candlelight and fueled by coffee, that I do my best thinking and find my best self. In these months of darkness and retreat, gazing out at the starkness of my backyard trees, watching the winter birds feast on seed and flit from bare branch to branch, I’m reminded that now is the time to think deeply, to listen, and not to miss the great joys that are right here, right now, in my life.

I’m determined to do less. What are you determined to do this year?

I found this poem on one of my favorite inspirational websites, First Sip.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: It’s Just Like Life

fall trees in California

It was the juxtaposition here that caught my eye; the hovering between the change of seasons, between permanence and the fleetingness of the moment. I ride by these trees every day, hurrying to school, never stopping to look up or notice.

It wasn’t until this month, when the light changed and the air cooled that I really noticed them – that I really stopped, looked up, and paused. It was the position, really, between the durability of the palm with its strong backbone, its wide, graceful fronds against the fragility of the pistache, finger-thin branches freeing themselves of vibrant red and yellow and orange debris.

It’s just like life.

One minute, we’re enduring life, riding the bumps and bruises and crests of the moment. We’re holding fast, occasionally throwing our arms up in glee, knowing that the immutability of what we know to be real is there to keep us safe. Strong. Comforted.

And right next to us, close enough to touch, a blaze is extinguished. A force at once vibrant and animated, slowly shedding its color in preparation for the next season. The next stage. To go dormant, to conserve its energy for what is yet to come. Fragile. Fleeting.

Both equally exquisite. Both equally elusive. Both equally extraordinary.

It’s just like life.

So I stopped my bike and snapped a photo.

Friday photos are a snapshot of life, a moment in time, an image that lingers. They’re my attempt at capturing the extraordinary in the ordinary – taking a pause to breathe in the moment in this wild and fleeting life.

p.s. – I think you might enjoy these Friday Photo moments from weeks gone by, when I captured a last gasp of summer, Dia de los Muertos and a harvest. Click over and take a look, and please, let me know what you think.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Finding My Muse: Searching In Tahoe Snow and Pine Trees

Along the way via mamawolfeto2
Along the way via mamawolfeto2

I set out to find my muse today. Long dormant under piles of paper, loads of laundry and unwashed dishes, her elusiveness is starting to wear me down. Like the moment when you realize your body doesn’t react they way it did twenty years ago, panic begins to take over. Perhaps she’ll never return? Is there something I’m doing wrong? Maybe it’s just not meant to be this way.

Certain she won’t be found within the four pine paneled walls of the cabin, I zip up my vest, grab a camera and head out. The perimeter of the lake is blessedly free of snow, and as I walk I feel the rhythm return. The roads are quiet, the birds have returned, and the sun hovers before dusk. I can breathe deeply, matching the pace of my boots along the pine cone and broken branch strewn path with the breath in my lungs.

Snow art via mamawolfeto2
Snow art via mamawolfeto2

To my right I see the sun glistening through the pines, casting sparkles on what remains of the winter snowpack. It’s fading fast around here; trickles of run-off moisten the path beneath my feet. It’s funny how nature creates such unintended art. I’m fascinated by the randomness of it all; some places deep with ice, others down to the bare earth that will remain until next fall.

Something tells me not to go in my usual direction; she’s not there. I turn left instead of right, past the sign declaring to all that this is not a through road. There is no outlet. Stubborn, I continue.

Love via mamawolfeto2
Love via mamawolfeto2

Someone has created a bench out of cast off logs. Sitting on the edge of the meadow, I imagine returning next month. I suppose I’ll find mule ears just beginning to poke through the muddy dirt. I notice nature’s destruction next to me-it looks like love in my eyes.

The wind whistles through the pines, calling to me. I stop, intent on hearing her words. What does she want me to know? Stop teasing me…I’ve been waiting too long for this.

Pine tree
Pine tree (Photo credit: GaggieITMI)

Making my way to the end of the road, forced to turn around and retreat, I heard it. The whispers again. This has got to be it. The perfect place. Stopping to listen, wait, and absorb her message. In the trees, on the earth, all appears as it should be. Tangled branches push through, waiting for the moment to leaf out. Dusty brown leftovers of something long ago bloomed bend in awkward posture from the weight of the snow. Lime green spikes of grass poke up, the afternoon sun bringing them back to life.

Crossing the road towards home, I continue to see signs of life amongst the schizophrenic ground. Strength shows in the patches of sunlight. It’s there somewhere. I see it. I hear it.

I know it.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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reading with mamawolfe: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Like many avid readers, my bookshelf overflows with piles of ‘to-read’ or ‘in progress’ titles.  Being one who cannot part with a favorite, volumes of old friends mingle with the new, making for quite a commotion in space.  I peruse, sort, and even dust the titles carefully, always wishing for more time, for those moments when no one needs me and I can cuddle up with someone else’s thoughts for a little while.
It is rare that I finish reading multiple chapters of a book in one sitting, let alone the entire book in the course of a weekend.  Moms and teachers just don’t have that kind of time.
Recently I found a book that wouldn’t let me ignore it.  I’d heard about Wild, by Cheryl Strayed – everyone seemed to be talking about if after Oprah announced it as her first pick for her revised “Oprah Book Club 2.0” last year.  The problem for me, aside from a disconcerting lack of time for myself, was that I always bristle at the mainstream.  When something becomes a big seller, it makes me nervous.  Not because I think I’m somehow more “ivory tower” than anyone else is, but because I’m really, really choosy about how I spend my time.
So when I cracked the cover of Wild, I was ready to be unimpressed.  I was surprisingly disappointed – not in the writing, but that I could not put it down.
After the first few pages, I grabbed my writing notebook and began jotting down quotes.  Like this one on page 51: “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.”  Ok, Cheryl, you’re speaking to me now.  To the woman who kissed a Komodo dragon in Indonesia last summer.  To the one who is trying to write and hoping someone is listening.  To the mom of two teenagers.  I’m hooked.
Wild tells the autobiographical story of Cheryl’s early twenties, when her life had absolutely spiraled down into a place where many of us would simply give up.  From an unorthodox, meager childhood, to the early, tragic death of her mother, to a young marriage and eventually hitting rock-bottom abusing heroin, Cheryl’s story was not unbelievable.  I could feel the absolute plausibility of her words, seeing many women who could have easily fallen into the choices she made.
What I could not believe is her courage.  And independence.  And her somewhat reckless decision to hike the Pacific Crest trail, alone, without any experience.
But I admired her courage, her independence, and reckless decisions.  I felt connected to her.  I, myself, have hiked day trips on the Pacific Crest trail, but never would I have considered going all the way from the Mojave Desert to Oregon.  That takes some guts.  I understood how she made her decision, “how few choices (she) had, and how often (she) had to do the thing (she) least wanted to do.”  I’ve been there-as a mom, an educator, and a woman.  Sometimes, it seems like I’m there on a daily basis.
Cheryl’s journey reminded me of the power of the human spirit, the struggle so many of us go through to find ourselves, and the power of mind over body.  While some might mock her for her reckless unpreparedness, none could fault her for her determination.  When Cheryl could have simply escaped into the depths of an anonymous life, blaming everyone and everything for her problems, she instead set out.  “I asked for the shelter of my tent, for the smallest sense that something was shielding me from the entire rest of the world…”
Through her journey, she discovered the shelter of the world, the gifts that the universe has for those of us courageous enough to listen.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or out of time for yourself, please stop and crack open the cover of Wild.  You’ll be glad you did.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: Schizophrenic Spring

I woke up and realized it was actually spring.  Well, sort of.  According to the calendar, according to the blooms, according to the upcoming switch to Daylight Savings Time, that is.  According to me, it feels like I’m still stuck in the darkness of winter.  It has my brain and body scrambled and in a state of constant confusion.
At my day job, I’m teaching kids what they need to know now and telling them how to prepare for the future.  I’m scrambling to complete all my school year expectations while planning for the next crop of students to arrive in late August.
My weekday central California mornings are just above freezing, but steadily warm during the day.  My Sierra weekend mornings are far below freezing, but eventually warm and turn the snow to slush.
In the morning I want to turn on the heat, but know in the afternoon I will want to throw open the windows.  I wear a wool coat to work, but strip down to a single layer by noon.
I’m washing woolen ski socks, fleece long underwear and baseball uniforms in the same load.  I have a baseball bag on one seat of the car, and a ski bag on the other.
Hot, steaming coffee brings me into the day, and cool diet Pepsi keeps me going into the dark.
The weather report calls for sunny days this weekend and rainy days next week.  The trees are blooming, partway.
At home, my son is growing out of sixth grade and growing excited about moving to the junior high school.  My daughter is planning for junior year classes to prepare her for college admissions.
I feel like I’m half way there, too.  Balancing between two jobs, two lives, two of everything and never quite whole of either.  Sometimes blooming, sometimes dormant.
And I’m all mixed up.  Some days it feels like the best I can do is just make it to bedtime in one piece.  On others, I have the energy to take on the world and then some.
Do you feel it, too?  Is it a schizophrenic spring in your world, or am I the only crazy one?
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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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