The Writing Life

Lighten Up

Who Turned Out the Lights?

“We need more light around here” surely has deeper meaning these days. A dim room benefits from a lamp turned on. During the months when it gets dark before 6:00 PM we hit the light switch and Voila! —  Lights. During the Christmas holidays, there are lights in every room —  from our tree, lights outside on the cactus, lights along the back fence, lights wound ‘round the patio chair, chili lights on our tall artificial plant. When my husband turns out his bedside light at night and I’m still on my umpteenth game of laptop Mahjong, I put on my nightwalker hat for “just a few minutes to finish up here.”

Lighten Up

“Lighten up” are two small words which have carried a big message for me during the past 9 ½ months. I’m getting in the habit of turning on inner lights as well as electrical lights. The light of optimism, the light of laughing instead of pouting, a light of compassion, and bursts of lights of cheerfulness. 

 

So light a candle, be the light, watch, read, write humorous words to lighten the mood when tension starts to ruffle your feathers. Instead of reaching for a matching cloak of irritation because someone else “seems” to be irritated, I smile, or hum, or play a CD. 

Some days during this pandemic just about anything can be a trigger — of irritation, boredom, wanting to shut down — anything can tempt me to dim or darker thoughts. But the light of a smile or a few comforting words, to someone else or to myself, “It’s ok, I understand, no biggie” can turn the light on again and bring back the warmth.

Qarrtsiluni

A very useful word found its way to me recently. Qarrtsiluni. It’s an Inuit word that describes waiting together in the darkness … waiting for the light. It got me thinking how this pandemic both darkened our world as we waited for information, reassurance, safety. In a weird way, the pandemic also lit our little world that we inhabit-our home, family, neighborhood.

My husband and I hunkered down in March – stayed inside not knowing, then knowing that this virus was deadly and some of us were more vulnerable than others. First responders were like the first lights to go on-bringing help, bringing hope. Then science, research, corporations, environmentalists built on that hope. People who speak out, write, sing about hope are brave lights that lighten my heart. They inspire me to create, find, believe in that light at the end of this viral tunnel. 

Zoom has been a tool of light for me-connecting with other people while waiting for the light. I do lighten up with my writing colleagues, spiritual teammates, family and friends, New Jersey book club, entertainment with Odyssey storytellers and Unscrewed improv, online and Youtube yoga, mindfulness, and virtual traveling to the Christmas markets of Europe. I know we will experience all this in person again in the future.

Millions of people have been experiencing Qarrtsiluni – not physically together, but we are joined and sharing positive ways and actions of  waiting.

Smiling behind my mask

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

More Bumper Sticker Philosphy-2020

If ever there was a need for optimism, this is sure the time. Here’s some more words that boost my spirits and remind me of the infinite amount of things and actions that are possible, blocked only by any thoughts I have that limit the possibilities. I can change perspective, shift my outlook, reframe the “picture’s” deadline, ask for help. Today is a YES time.

My ELM brand of what I call Bumper Sticker Philosophy. Short stuff. Quick reads. Kind of like those bumper stickers on cars that you only see a flash of while driving and they get stuck in your mind. Some of these may too.

YES, WE CAN!

CHANGE

The ideal day never comes. Today is ideal for him/(her) who makes it so. – Horatio Dresser

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. – Will Rogers                                                                  

If you always do, what you always did… You’ll always get, what you always got! – A friend

…throw off the bowlines. Sail away for the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover.  – Mark Twain

I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, or be, I’ll be sending messages on a ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side. – Audre Lorde

Just do it! – Nike

TAKE THAT FIRST STEP

Living in the past is a dull and lonely business; looking back strains the neck muscles, causes you to bump into people not going your way. – Edna Ferber 

The first step in solving a problem is to recognize you might have a problem, then tell a trusted person about it. – ELM  

A.D.A.C.- Awareness (that wonderful or painful “aha” moment), Decision (something’s gotta give/be different), Action (actually do something about “it”), (yields) Change – Ethel Lee-Miller                  

The difficult must become habit;  The habit must become easy And the easy will become beautiful.  – Prince Sergei Volkonski

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. – Henry Ford. Corollary: Chunk it down. – ELM

Move a muscle, change a thought. – Heard often from friends

Fears are educated into us and can, if we wish, be educated out.- Karl Menninger. Corollary: F.E.A.R. False Events Appearing Real- AA

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure—try to please everybody.  – Herbert Bayard Swope

Smiling behind my mask

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First

It will be a while until I get on a plane, but thanks go to a perky flight attendant on the Tucson-Chicago flight for this simple idea. It happened years ago; yet the whole idea is particularly timely right now. So with a bit of tweaking to update my priorities, here we go. 

The Story

On that particular flight the attendant was quite attractive. I usually listen to the safety instructions; sometimes I even twist around to scope out the nearest exit. Perky FA was very engaging as she  went through the seat belt and exit instructions; I just sat back and watched her. Then she moved on to “Should the air flow to the cabin be reduced, an oxygen mask will drop down from overhead. Pull the elastic over your head, place the mask over your mouth, and breathe. If you are traveling with a young child or someone who needs help, put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” 

At this the woman next to me sighed, “If only I could do that every day.”

Well, hold on now, why not? I readily acknowledged there are things that made me feel like there was no time for me. I was a classic “people pleaser.” My To Do list tended to be endless. “I don’t have enough time” was sadly overused. The  “I have to’s”  and “shoulds” often edged out any chance of doing meditation, or just sitting and staring from my patio and doing … nothing. 

Let Go of Old Ideas

Research shows that 4 minutes of meditation can change brain waves, a nap does refresh you, and going to sleep if you are tired has its benefits. Huh? This went against much of what I had been taught and that still is enculturated in the “success” mode of Western societies. Work first, then play. Finish the job. Push though. Suck it up. Yes, these enabled me to get the job done. The compliments of being organized, efficient, or competent sometimes actually sabotaged my health. The recovery from the resulting stress often made for a very unbalanced equation. Situations like IBS, neck “issues,” insomnia, and impatience became all too “normal.” Competent, but not self-caring.

Things That Call for a Virtual “O2 Mask”

Bad vibes, dis-ease, negative news, too much news, can make me want to escape. Even new situations sometimes call for a break. New job, new house, new food plan. Same with losses through death or divorce. Even a change in habit, although for the better, calls for practicing letting go, a kind of “death” of the old idea. Life can be difficult. Stress isn’t always negative. Positive stress like the excitement of a book launch, an upcoming holiday, requires time to relax before, during, and after the event. 

When I pushed aside/ignored uneasy feelings, they built up like a soda can that was rolling around in a hot trunk. If the feelings weren’t lessened, it had to blow. The tension that built up around the feelings, thoughts, expectations of these situations = STRESS! If situations got repeated, it became chronic stress. Stress—when your mind says NO and your vocal cords form a squeaky yes. If I followed the dots of stress there was always a connection to accepting and dealing with an illness, pain, difficult person, etc.

A Looming Stressor: COVID 19

Today the layer over every action is the reminder we live in a pandemic, battling  a virus that strikes all ages and claims 15 million cases in the U.S. Each occasion of grocery shopping, medical appts, work, deliveries includes the new “don’t leave home without it”: mask, the wipes, sanitizers, wash your hands so much you feel like Lady Macbeth,  preparedness to “don’t touch,” and be ready to ask people to move back-small actions with big emotions attached. Add in more stress if you are a caregiver, first responder, and concern of relatives for their family and friends.

Changing Habits
Life also calls for being friendly to myself. Practicing detaching from a “storyline” and only looking at the action helps me be more objective and less apt to cling to fear or former “people pleasing” thoughts. 

Write Your Own Permission Slip

Taking care of myself might be just the thing someone else needs to see to inspire them to “take care.”  With lots (and lots) of practice I am able to put on that “O2 mask” first! If I have my 2020 “Don’t leave home without it” kit always prepped and in its now assigned spot on the shelf by the door, it saves flustered time when I’m on my way out. If I step onto my yoga mat each morning I move into a space of reliability and assurance. 

“O2 masks” That Work for Me

  • Yoga, dance- (forget the line “dance like nobody is watching.” Nobody is watching!), read, walk, hike, bike, a plain old bath-light a candle for soothing light. 
  • Start/end the day with time to: walk, read, meditation, exercise, sleep, eat healthy pleasant tasting foods, cut out sugar. Ex.: Pema Chodron, Shakti Gawain, 365 Days of Richer Living or listen to Deva Premal, iRest Yoga Nidra, Pandora’s relaxing channels.
  • Daily: Listen to music, write affirmations, put a Do Not Disturb sign on your office doorknob or desk, breathe. Parents: Put Yourself in Time Out. (Remember those 4 min.)
  • Make a Comfort List. Take respite time and actually do one or four/five/six of the things on the list. 
  • Practice saying in an even tone, “I’m really sorry but I have to say no.” “I can see this is really important to you, let me think about it and get back to you.”  “I’ll pass on this until it’s safer for me to be in a group.” It’s like having a mental cue card.
  • Spend time with treasured folks, those who also value self-care time. Self-care is not selfish. 

What is your O2 mask?

© 2000 Ethel Lee-Miller Enhanced Life Management, rev 2013, 2020

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

 

Bumper Sticker Philosophy 

My ELM brand of what I call Bumper Sticker Philosophy. Short stuff. Quick reads. Kind of like those bumper stickers on cars that you only see a flash of while driving and they get stuck in your mind. Some of these may too.

WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

Join the Nobody’s Perfect Club—membership is free, you’ll be able to identify with fellow members, you can renew membership at any time, or join for a lifetime. – ELM

Girls just wanna have fun! – Cyndi Lauper

It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head. – Sally Kempton

If you want to see a hero, look in the mirror. – ELM. Corollary: Remember Kojak saying “Who loves you, baby?” It just might work as you look in the mirror.

You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you! – Isadora  Duncan

 …forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the wind longs to play with your hair. – Kahil Gibran

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. – Lucille Ball

Don’t compromise yourself; you are all you’ve got. – Janis Joplin

Life itself is the proper binge! – Julia Child

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. – Helen Keller

You’ve got to learn to like yourself first; I’m a little screwed up, but I’m beautiful. – Steve McQueen

Never eat more than you can lift. – Miss Piggy

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible. – Fortune cookie

Smiling behind my mask

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

Firsts In This Pandemic Year

Smiling behind my mask

Each special holiday in this pandemic is a “first.” I’ve found it hard not to cling to how we used to do it, whatever “it” may be.

With each event/holiday/family celebration that came along, I’ve had the opportunity to create just how it will happen and how I will “be” this year. Birthdays, anniversaries, births and deaths, Easter, July 4, Memorial Day, Halloween. Each was a “first.” I had to take time, really focused time, to find a kind of balance on the scale of then and now. Many of my first creations morphed from the skeleton of previous celebrations. Most of those milestones had been spent in the company of multiples of people. How to fit 2020 celebrations in the parameters of staying safe? In our house that means essential and health-giving services only, masks in public, social distancing even with a mask, lots of hand-washing, lots of 94% alcohol wipes, and lots of hand cream.

This is not about personal interactions with my  “pod” and my sweetheart. Our needs and time for talking, sharing, laughing and supporting each other’s emotions and spiritual happiness is another branch of my life. This is about my social web that got quite a new spin.

Sure hasn’t been what we thought!

The 2020 birthday celebration was the first to go. 50 people at a celebration for our 146th birthday, me and my twin. Even tho’ outside, our birthday came in on the first wave of COVID. What the heck is that virus happening in China (which seemed oh so far away)? What’s going on? The Parks Dept. cancelled our reservation for an outdoor gathering. Our deposit was returned, barely noticed because at that time, mid-March, COVID-19 anxiety overshadowed the loss of a birthday celebration.

One year of giving up usual outings for future decades of health. I can do this.

And then along came Zoom to ease the required changes. Zoom check-in for writing group, Zoom for Odyssey Storytelling that led to storytelling in FL, CA, and NJ. The weekly listening support and sharing with my Eastside Writing Room colleagues is a boost for creativity. Eye contact- zoom boxes may be small but you get the eye contact. And face contact and voice contact. I love seeing and hearing laughter with my morning meditation Zoom call. Thank you, CenterSpiritualLivingTucson. I rejoined Ladies Who Lunch, my book club of retired teachers when I lived in New Jersey. We’re all eleven years older and it’s not as easy to have multiple conversations on Zoom. But the book discussions still make me want to read even more than I do. I see the good in every face I meet.

Birthday celebrations, anniversary songs, Zoom breakfasts, coffee breaks, and lunches. Set up the food trays in front of the monitor. The feeling of being open, relaxed, smiling lingers after we “leave the meeting.” Cy our music improv teacher advises “Blink and drink” after Zooming. I think she means water.

Sitting at my desk, my world has both shrunk and expanded.

Saturday night date nights- watching and laughing at the clever and wild antics of Unscrewed Theater improv teams. Sheltering at home gave me the courage to take a musical improv class online.

No vacation travels, no air flights. So we began family zooms, webinars with Viking. Of course it’s not the same, but it works.

Shopping for food, household stuff, clothes, gifts. I am blessed and privileged to take advantage of curbside and online delivery. Thank you, packers, loaders, and delivery drivers.

Spiritual and emotional aid  online – CSL morning meditations, FaceTime talks, Sunday services online, Jack Kornfield Monday evening dharma talks, mindfulness and yoga online from AZ, CA, and FL nourish and steady me.

Social distancing with friends and neighbors- driveway lunches, breakfast over the patio fence, the pluses of living in Arizona- hiking, biking, social distanced picnics. Yes, it’s getting cooler here in Tucson. We’ll just layer up a bit more to be able to get out and see a few people.

So here comes Thanksgiving and Christmas (my over-the-top favorite).

Thanksgiving will be with our family pod. This has been the core of T. Day since we moved here to Tucson. But other years it also included… You know what? That was then, this is now. And I’m doing my best to stay in the now.

A Thanksgiving Zoom with the larger family prevents a ICU Christmas. Sounds harsh to some ears. Maybe, but I’m abiding by it.

Yeah but…yeah but… Here comes that yabba yabba bird again. No “yeah but’s.” I’m putting all my creative eggs in the 2020 basket of innovation and new ideas. There’s a whole different perspective to “What’s new?”  How are you doing things in 2020? What’s new?

We will be trimming the Christmas tree. The ornaments, the baubles, the grab bag, the noise, the singing, the dancing. Might be a bit different this year. How can I get 50 people to be in on this and still be safe? I think Zoom will work. Breakout rooms, share screen for the annual Tinsel Singers song. Maybe I can attempt a short video clip. We’ll see. We’ll figure it out.

All I really want for Christmas is… P.E.A.C.E. – Plenitude, Equanimity, Acceptance, Compassion, Ease.☮

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

Happiness- Pass It On

I’ve been rereading some of the responses to No % of Return in Worrying from my blog and November ELM newsletter. What jewels have come back to me! Many of you wrote to say thank you. And the thank you is reciprocal. Words and photos that go back and forth over the miraculous world of the internet have often been the kickstart of my days. 

Some pearls (somewhat paraphrased): “I’m letting go of the tatters of old ‘stuff.’”

“All is well with us.” Yes, all IS well. We are here. Alive. Breathing and have at least one person in our life who cares deeply for each of us. 

“The McDowell reference is spiritually uplifting; brings lightness and gladness to the heart and mind.”

“I’m going to share this with friends.”  Yes, please share!!!

“I know it (worry) as unnecessary suffering. Worry is useless but so hard to to control because things, little and large, swallow us up.”

“Inspires me to do more of the same.” (positive actions)

“Thanks for reminding us.”

I read these words over and I feel…  a great sense of well-being. I feel happy. Did you ever play that game “Pass it On”? It’s like the “Telephone” game. One person says one thing and whispers to the next or passes on a tickle, a hug, a kiss, (some day we’ll do that again) That’s kind of how I felt with the responses. Happiness passed around. People are quite creative, resilient and generous in sharing happiness during these pandemic days- think email, phone, facetime, Zoom, Distort, instagram, Twitter, cards and letters via snail mail. Out in the world- at a distance- wave, say hi, smile behind your mask. Sending happy thoughts to you

Someday…but until then…

 

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. ~Buddha

Happiness is not a goal- it is a by-product. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Happiness is caring, and liking one another. ~C.R., age 10

We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. ~The Big Book p.133

Every day’s a kick! ~ Oprah Winfrey

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, “meets” weekly with the Eastside Writing Room, writes to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

Jeopardy!: Art, Alex, and Me

A Tribute to Alex Tribek

November 8, 2020. Alex Trebek has died. It is, for me as for many TV watchers, the end of an era. When I think of how many years  Alex Trebek and Jeopardy! have been in my life I am amazed. Jeopardy! has been a constant through my careers of teaching, public speaking, counseling, writing, and storytelling. Over the decades, I juggled meetings, dinner dates, and phone calls so I could watch Jeopardy! without interruption. When Art Fleming retired, I doubted I could transfer my allegiance to “some new guy.” But I did. 

Alex Trebek first hosted in 1984 and became as welcome as Art was during his reign. I watched Alex Trebek through his full head of dark curly hair, to mustache, to beard, to clean-shaven eras. And always admired his impeccable language and style. He seemed to enjoy his job and I got the feeling that he also felt responsible to each of the contestants. 

With Alex Trebek’s passing, my husband and I shared our histories with Jeopardy! 

How, When, and Why I Started Watching Jeopardy!

Could it have been forty-four years ago that I first started watching Jeopardy!? In the mid-1970’s I lived with a colleague and her family in New Jersey, just a block from the elementary school where she and I taught kindergarten. One of the beloved members of the family was Grammie, my friend’s mother. In her late 80’s Grammie was an avid crossword puzzler, reader, baker, and “sharp as a tack.” Which leads me to Jeopardy!  

Kay and I walked home for lunch each day. This was back when lunch hours for educators were more than an hour, and no one had a “working lunch.” Lunch was lunch. Walking in via the back door of Kay’s house, the aromas of that day’s lunch greeted us-vegetable soup, bread with butter, and fresh-baked apple pie. Through the kitchen, past the dining room table, we’d head to the living room. Three TV tray tables with plates, utensils, napkins and lunch were set and ready. This was not a “What do want, sweetie?” lunchtime. It was always Grammie’s choice, always filling and delicious. Kay, Grammie and I would settle in for lunch and Jeopardy! 

In her late 80’s then, Grammie was quicker with answers than most of the buzzer-holding contestants. Literature, history, geography, science-she seemed to know ’em all. My friend Kay was almost as quick and correct. Listening to Kay and Grammie was like hearing an unbreakable call-and-response between TV and humans. Category-Answer-Jeopardy-Question! Watching with these two incredible women inspired and motivated me to learn more, more, more. Not necessarily to be a contestant but for the thrill of knowing information, from worldly to whimsy.

Still Watching

Years later and now in retirement, if it’s 4:30 PM MT here in Arizona, the TV is on for Jeopardy! We’ve been there for many of those 8200 episodes hosted by Alex Trebek. We “know” Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer. When Alex Trebek announced on March 5, 2019 that he had been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, I felt a thud in my heart. And he continued taping shows as host with his usual courtesy and quiet humor until October 29. More inspiration that came from watching Jeopardy!

RIP to my Jeopardy! friends.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire with the Eastside Writing Room, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Tucson’s Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

There’s No % of Return in Worrying

Today

I feel really fantastic. I am holding a sense of “it is alright.” I’m in the center of believing this world is fundamentally good, and at humanity’s core is a huge mass of goodness.

Some days it’s too “easy” to worry, ruminate on negative “stuff,” and all the to-do’s. If someone else told me their thought process as I sometimes see mine, I’d be forced to back away- fast.  

Note to self: The truly easier, softer way is to focus on what I want, not what I don’t want, and, oops, not on what I want you to do.  

What’s Really Going On?

During the eight months of this pandemic, I’ve had plenty of time to become willing to step into my own personal space and look, explore, feel, what’s really going on when I feel irritated, anxious and, moving up the emotional escalator, scared. What the heck is going on? It’s usually old, old thoughts that I say I’ve dealt with. Some are almost hard-wired, so it seems automatic to go into worry mode.  If I care about my “self” as I profess to do, I have to be awake and aware, and dig around underneath some of the self-talk (“Feel bad? YOU must have done something wrong.” Or any one of those “not enoughs.” “This is not good enough/neat enough/pretty enough.”)

Digging around like that is kind of messy and takes time but so does brushing my teeth and daily flossing. Not glamorous, but the results are good.

And What To Do About It

Getting through/past/under the old habits that come to visit is like my spiritual flossing- it’s sometimes “humbling” but eventually I see, and feel, what it is I’ve been hunting for. Peace with me, peace with us, harmony, a huge sense of ok-ness. Oh alright, let’s call it serenity.

This hunt for peace was inspired by a Robert McDowell essay and that beautiful Hunter’s Moon we had here in Tucson on Halloween. Read more about our Hunter’s Full Moon Celebration

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, “meeting” with the Eastside Writing Room, writing to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

The Halloween Full Hunter’s Moon

My pandemic “pod” consists of my husband and me, and my twin sister and her partner. Over the past eight months we have separately established what feels safe for us during the early sheltering at home months and through the openings, closings, and reopenings of our local world coping with the pandemic here in Arizona. Our needs aligned enough to establish our pod. We have dined at each other’s home patios at separate tables and BYOE. Being together has eliminated some sense of social isolation and added family support.

An Invitation

“Come for dinner and a  celebration of the Halloween Full Moon, aka a Blue Moon” read their invitation. We got into the idea of costuming along with masks (hopefully next year, the masks will be over our eyes, not mouth), and watching the moonrise from their rooftop that offers a 360° view of the surrounding mountains. Learning this Halloween moon was also the Hunters’ Moon, we decided to make it an evening of entertaining. Dinner, costumes, dancing, and seasonal readings.

Discovering “A Full Hunter’s Moon”

As I searched for a story to read, I made what I think is a wonderful online discovery…a visual, peaceful essay, the “Full Hunter’s Moon” by Robert McDowell. It’s filled with lyrical phrases and descriptions taking the reader along with Mr. McDowell on an early morning walk to a farm. Phrases about two Canadian geese flying and landing “side by side in delightful controlled descent” and waiting “feathery shoulder to feathery shoulder” hit all my senses. I could see them, hear them, feel them. Robert McDowell.

A bonus of this peaceful writing was the shift in perspective about hunters. The poem includes a wish that we all find what we are hunting for. What am I hunting for? Immediately words like, peace, harmony, quiet, tolerance, love slid across my mental radar. I believe what I focus on expands. An affirmation comes to mind: “You already have everything you need.” McDowell’s Hunters Moon essay set me up to peacefully sharpen my focus on looking for, creating, and claiming moments, words, and images of peace and harmony.

Another bonus of reading this Hunter’s Moon piece aloud was that my sister’s partner had chosen the exact same piece to share. A special choral reading under the Hunter’s Moon.

 What are You Hunting For?

What will bring you peace? What do you desire? A personal yearning? A need to share kindness, compassion with one particular person? A calling to reach a wider circle of humanity? Read McDowell’s essay. Why not share the objective of your hunt?


Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic. 

Celebrate the Rain

Just after sunset on Sunday, October 25, dark black clouds rolled in from the Northeast. “Looks like rain” comments passed between us. But no rain. Then Monday morning around 6:30, I heard a weird tapping sound on the skylight. Rain? We had more than sprinkles. We had RAIN.

So what’s the big deal? Here in Tucson, in the southern part of Arizona, we had a hot, hot, hot summer with over a hundred days of over 100° temps. The extreme heat and heat warnings deprived us of time outside during the day unless we got out before 7:00 AM. The smoke and then burn scars from the Bighorn Fire in June and July kept mountain trails closed. And no rain.

Our desert plants were “stressed.” Here on the east side of town the water level was so low saguaros had used up their taproots of saved rain and were looking pretty thin. The prickly pear cacti were wrinkled and emaciated. And it was damn hot.

We assured each other the monsoon season (officially June 15-September 30) would usher in the rainy season in Tucson. Those great thunderstorms and teaming rain were on their way to deliver most of our annual 12 inches of rainfall. But, going along with the pandemic and social unrest vibes of 2020, we had a “nonsoon” monsoon. The monsoon was officially over and no rain.

So that swishing and tapping of rain overhead got me up. The foothills to our north were obscured by low gray clouds. Some areas of Tucson only had “seven drops,” or “a sprinkle.” Here off Catalina Highway we had a soaking rain. I had to go out and see it, feel it, smell it, yes, even get into that face-up-mouth-open-tongue-out position to taste it.

Today

Today I celebrate the smells of rain: the damp grassy scent off the fairway, the afterscent of creosote bushes. Scientists call it petrichor. We call it the “after rain” smell and it usually elicits a big deep breath and an “ahh” exhale.

Today I celebrate the sights out my office window: low-lying clouds that alternately obscure and reveal the foothills; the gauzy sheet look that has coated the outdoors with a gray sheen; wet ground, even a bit of a run-off down the street. I celebrate the surprise sunburst that makes our street a Technicolor scene while the foothills are still gray; and then the late afternoon sun and blue sky. Prickly pear cactus perked up from their emaciated “stressed” look.

Today I celebrate the sounds of the rain. At first it’s a soft intermittent swish. Is that really rain? Then the tck tck tck on the skylights. Then that steady cascade sound. The soft plink as more and more drops hit the water in our spool and ripple out. And the hard plunk of drops on the patio flagstones as the rain picks up.

Today I celebrate the silkiness of the air when I step out on the patio, and the cool taste of raindrops on my face. The surprise goosebumps from 59° air make me think t-shirt with sleeves, maybe, jacket. I want to savor the feeling of coolness and open all the windows after the rain stops.   ~ 10/26/20 ELM

Celebrate today.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement Ethel writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic, along with Music Improv classes at Unscrewed Theater keep her connected.