Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year's Missive

I wrote this on 12/31/2013:

2013 has not been the best of years for some people, 2013 has been an average year for some people, 2013 has been the most incredible year ever for some people. We pause and reflect, we say goodbye then hello. We say good riddance and I shall miss you. Looking back is human nature, moving forward is a fact of science. We cannot freeze time, we cannot have any do-overs, we can only move forward.

Am I being too pragmatic, too matter of fact? Life is what it is, but what we take from it is the one thing we do have control over. Do we learn our lessons? Do we use our experiences, our opportunities to better the life and experiences that are ever coming at us?

I am here to tell you, dwelling on the past does not work. I know too many people that are fixated on a past glory or tragedy and they are not content.

Where is this meandering headed? Happy New Year. May the days to come bring you balance, contentment, love, grace, and hope.

Top of Form

I shared this on 12/31/2012:

I wrote this on 12/31/2012:

I know a woman, a widow, in North Carolina who has two daughters, both married. The older daughter married a minister and they never had any children. The younger daughter, who is my age, married a man who had a son. She never had any children either. Her stepson committed suicide when he was 16. 

This woman and both of her daughters (I have known these people for over 20 years) have always been very materially motivated, very career oriented. They have stuff. Lots of stuff. They are not really happy though. The two daughters will be lonely, I fear, surrounded by all their stuff, because they live not in joy but in fear someone will get their stuff.

I do not have a lot of stuff. I am more prone to give things away than accumulate. I value intangibles, I think.

Just thinking about things today. Maybe I should have concentrated more on stuff when I was 30. Intangibles are not real good at paying the bills.

This year this has caught my attention:

I also wrote this on my Facebook timeline earlier in the week:

I have a small ritual I perform on New Year's Eve each year wherein I write on small slips of paper things I want to let go of and leave behind as I step into a new year with all the promise and possibility it holds. I then burn them, either in a small cauldron or in a bonfire if the weather permits having one. The ashes are carried away into the ether, and I go unencumbered into the new year. At times, I ask people if they would like me to include their petitions - but only people I know personally so I can gather the slips and include them in my fire of new beginnings and they can know the petition has not been read by any eyes save their own. This year, if you have a desire to be included, set your list on your heart and enter your name in a comment for this post. I will burn a blank paper for the list you have in your heart as I burn the slips I have for myself.

Tonight, we say a heartfelt farewell to 2016 and a hopeful hello to 2017. We think this has been a rough year – or a great many of us seem to – though I suspect that it has been no worse than most, and better than more than a few. There are those of us who have faced sorrow and loss that brought us to our knees, yet there are those who have triumphed and excelled in ways we never thought possible.

There is ever that pragmatist in me, those cellular memories that came from my paternal heritage. My father, Poss Smith, was the most pragmatic of people. He had a dry wit, and seemed unflappable in most circumstances. I shared extensively regarding my father on New Year's Eve 2011.

Later, I am burning my name slips for those whose accepted my offer. With Roger and I included, there are about 24 names for whom I am performing this ritual. I am amazed that 2017 is upon us. I feel strongly that these are times that hold high stakes on many fronts, and I am both optimistic and trepidatious to see what the next twelve months bring.

In closing I share again my words for 2017


~ Ellen Apple

Monday, December 26, 2016

Burrowing In

I was in a local store the first week in December and was enthralled with a soft, supple, luxurious throw. I purchased it for Roger the Tall for Christmas. As I am writing this, he is burrowed in that throw, snuggling with the Calico Queen Mabon. Though he is sleeping (I know this because of the soft snores), his body is resting, recharging, and replenishing.

Burrow: noun
1. a hole or tunnel in the ground made by a rabbit, fox, or similar animal for habitation and refuge.
2. a place of retreat; shelter or refuge.

2016 has been/was a tumultuous year. Not just in the United States but across the Earth. Major changes have occurred politically and there have been no small number of natural and manufactured disasters.  Economies and lifestyles people thought were secure and impenetrable have been upended and rearranged almost beyond recognition. For many, reality has been rearranged.

I was speaking with a dear friend this week and she asked me, “What do you see 2017 being?”

What followed was a discussion that lasted close to an hour, wherein we spoke of the overall mood of humankind considering recent events – not just locally or nationally, but globally. 

I shared with her that I see the year 2017 as being a time of more individual introspection, of drawing closer metaphorically – spiritually – physically – to our own core selves and values.

A time of burrowing in, to better withstand and not just survive but thrive in the months ahead.

A time to strengthen our beliefs.

A time to better define and replenish the bonds of our tribes.

Burrowing in is not to imply hiding, burying one’s head in the sand so to speak. For me, this burrowing in speaks of solidifying and strengthening myself to ride the peaks and valleys of events over which I have no actual control.

Reestablishing relationships I have let fall to the wayside, and finally letting go of some people and things that I know are to my detriment.

Shoring up my network. Keeping connected to my support system. Maintaining a more consistent sharing of energy and positivity.

Keeping grounded by limiting the drains on my time and energy that lull me into a stupor of passivity.

May your tribe be cohesive, may your spirit be replenished, may your refuge be secure.




~Ellen Apple

Thursday, November 17, 2016

30 days of thankfulness. Day 17.

Vincent van Gogh is a gift that just keeps giving to the world. Starry Night is arguably his most famous painting. Don McLean wrote the song "Vincent" about van Gogh and Starry Night. Then Roberta Flack came out with "Killing Me Softly" that, according to stories I read decades ago, was written after hearing McLean performing "Vincent". More recently, there is an incredible episode of the BBC television show Doctor Who wherein the Doctor and Amy spend time with Vincent, and Starry Night is one of his works discussed in the show. 

All four can render me a blubbering mess. My chest aches with the beauty of the painting, the words of the songs, the telling of the tale. Either one of the songs is a blessing as an "earwig" - and just reading the lyrics I can hear Don or Roberta singing those words that transport me to a place that gives me such joy and sorrow and hope and despair all jumbled together, like the swirls of stars in the night sky of the painting. 

Today I am thankful for the gifts of the soul that others give to the world - and to me - through their talents and obsessions. Humankind is infinitely blessed in myriad ways, all because of a painter who was a commercial failure when he suicided himself and one of those stars he gave us dimmed for eternity.

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land
Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now
Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand
Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now
For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night
You took your life, as lovers often do
But I could've told you Vincent
This world was never meant for
One as beautiful as you
Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frame-less heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget
Like the strangers that you've met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow
Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will
Written by Don Mclean • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group


"Killing Me Softly With His Song"

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

I heard he sang a good song
I heard he had a style
And so I came to see him
To listen for a while
And there he was this young boy
A stranger to my eyes

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

I felt all flushed with fever
Embarassed by the crowd
I felt he found my letters
And read each one out loud
I prayed that he would finish
But he just kept right on

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

He sang as if he knew me
In all my dark despair
And then he looked right through me
As if I wasn't there
And he just kept on singing
Singing clear and strong

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song


Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me

He was strumming my pain
Yeah, he was singing my life
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly
With his song

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

30 days of thankfulness. Day 15 and Day 16.

This is why there was no Day 15 - {so you get another combo}

I clocked out at work yesterday at 2pm. I had worked 6 of the last 7 days. 12 of the last 14. I was tired. I fell asleep before 7pm, and woke up at midnight. I was awake until about 4, then fell asleep again and woke up at 10. I have today and tomorrow off, then I work 6 days, one day off, then work 3 more days. I am very, extremely, exceedingly grateful to have my job. This will be three holiday seasons I have been employed - after 4 of unemployment. Busy times are infinitely preferable to no money. But gee, I was so tired when I got home yesterday - mentally especially because of the nature of what I am doing at work, but physically as well. I feel somewhat rested now, and onward and forward I go.

So, for Day 15 ...

In the Facebook post about the intense (for me) schedule I have had over recent days, I alluded to a long period of unemployment.

During  that time, as is wont to happen, all manner of issues happened here at home. We do not operate in general, on a basis of "buy it new". We have many second-hand, gently-used, hand-me-down, recycled, new-to-me items. The microwave we had in 2010-ish was one that came from my mother-in-law originally. It stopped working, in a spectacular fashion I might add. I whined about it on Facebook, and a Facebook friend very graciously offered to meet me and give us a used microwave (Hi, Lance!). The Lance microwave worked well and faithfully, and is actually still operational. About a month ago, my sister was cleaning out the last remnants of the belongings of her two adult sons who are now both living in their own apartments and discovered a barely used microwave that she very kindly gave me. I have since started using the Carol microwave, and the Lance microwaves fate is under discussion.

So for Day 15 I am thankful for the grace and kindness of friends and relatives, who consistently step up and offer both tangible and intangible expressions of assistance.

Lance Microwave

Carol Microwave

Day 16

As is evidenced by the title of this blog, I am somewhat Owl Obsessed. I have been since at least 2001, though I actually believe my Owl Awareness dates back to when I was very young and read I Heard The Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven. Now sitting atop the microwave are a few of the Owl-Themed items gifted to me by dear friends. Items that are in use. Owls that make me smile daily because they are visual reminders of the affection of friends and relatives that have taken the time to gift me with items that they know reflect a particular passion of mine. An effort to know me that I am very thankful for, in a time when so many relationships seem to skim the superficial surface of a high speed digital age.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

30 days of thankfulness. Day 13 and Day 14.

Disclaimer: Not my original photo, and not the 'current' Supermoon. But a nice picture, nonetheless - so enjoy. 

I always especially enjoy full moons, and working the schedule I currently have affords me the indulgence of playing hide and seek with Lady Luna on my way to work on a regular basis. Like a silent, graceful dance as she dips and glides, behind tree and hill, only to reappear as I round the next curve. 

I did not write my Day 13. I had every intention, but life - well, actually sleep, happened and before I knew it 3am had arrived and I had to get ready for work. What I had intended to share my thankfulness about on Day 13 was the wee creatures I encounter on a regular basis. Living in BFE as we do, there is always something out and about. Rabbits, opossums, raccoons, groundhogs, skunks, deer, all manner of birds. I hear of coyote and bear, but I never had a verified personal sighting. On a recent morning at work, I was outside at 7-ish on break, I was enchanted to watch a small herd of wrens (and yes, that is the collective noun for wrens) gleaning crumbs and morsels from the area around a buggy corral at WalMart. They are so inured to humans that they went about their feeding and wren-communicating oblivious to me as I stood there watching them, no more that 4 feet away. I was speaking softly to them, encouraging them in their earnest quest for sustenance. 

Today, for Day 14, I am thankful that when I am feeling less than 100% - allergies, and smoke from some severe wildfires in our area have left me feeling 'meh' - I am afforded the luxury and kindness of being able to sleep undisturbed. I believe we heal better when in dreamworlds, travelling out and about in our own private universe of the subconscious mind. 

So as here on the East Coast of the US, as time has slid to another day, I remind you:

There is always something to be thankful for. 

Be blessed, and kind to all of creation.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

30 days of thankfulness. Day 12.

Roger discovered this amazing short film and wanted to share it with me, and our Facebook family.
It is really thought provoking.

The incomparable Leonard Cohen passed away. I am very fond of his work, especially HallelujahDance Me to the End of Love, and Suzanne.

We also lost Robert Vaughn, such a dashing and debonair actor. He was in the original The Magnificent Seven  as well as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 

So yeah, this is a pretty disjointed and all over the map post, but I have had [another] one of those days. Was shopping for cat food after work and came across a woman apparently having a severe medical emergency (I think it could have been a heart attack), sprawled across a 50 pound of Kit and Kaboodle while her husband was calling an ambulance. All of a sudden she started to fall backwards and I barely caught the back of her head before she hit the floor. 

Work in and of itself was, shall we say, challenging, today. Let's just say I really earned my pay and the reward I bought myself (brownies - don't judge me!)

The country is still in an upheaval in the wake of the election on Tuesday, and the holidays are bearing down on us fast and furious. Thanksgiving is in 12 days. 

Gas prices are down about .10 here, and we are having our first seasonable cold weather this weekend. Hard freeze tonight according to the NWS. 

So here I sit, having had an average-ish day in my boring life here on Little Beaver Creek and in spite of (or because of) the jumble of happy/sad/stressful/relaxing/inspirational/run-of-the-mill moments that made up my day I am thankful. For Leonard Cohen and Robert Vaughn and the pleasure they brought to so many lives for so many years. I am thankful for thought-provoking short films that at their best make us rethink our opinions and goals. I am thankful for a job that challenges me and the timing that let me be in a position to help that woman from having a concussion added to add to her health concerns. I am thankful for this opportunity to sit and contemplate the complex simplicity of this life I love. 

Be blessed. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

30 days of thankfulness. Day 11.

My favorite patriotic poem. I memorized it as a child. Written by Billy Rose, who also wrote "Me and My Shadow" He was a staff clerk in WWI. 

The Unknown Soldier

There's a graveyard near the White House
Where the Unknown Soldier lies,
And the flowers there are sprinkled
With the tears from mother's eyes.

I stood there not so long ago
With roses for the brave,
And suddenly I heard a voice
Speak from out the grave:

"I am the Unknown Soldier,
The spirit voice began
"And I think I have the right
To ask some questions man to man.

"Are my buddies taken care of?
Was their victory so sweet?
Is that big reward you offered
Selling pencils on the street?

"Did they really win the freedom
They battled to achieve?
Do you still respect that Croix de Guerre
Above that empty sleeve?

"Does a gold star in the window
Now mean anything at all?
I wonder how my old girl feels
When she hears a bugle call.

"And that baby who sang
Hello, Central, give me no man's land.
Can they replace her daddy
With a military band?

"I wonder if the profiteers
Have satisfied their greed?
I wonder if a soldier's mother
Ever is in need?

"I wonder if the kings, who planned it all
Are really satisfied?
They played their game of checkers
And eleven million died.

"I am the Unknown Soldier
And maybe I died in vain,
But if I were alive and my country called,
I'd do it all over again.

My husband was 18 when he joined the Army in May 1976. His mother came to see him graduate from basic training, a miserable hot summer in South Carolina that year. He came home, safe, from his service. He was not maimed or mangled. He was not in a body bag. Many have not been so fortunate.

These have been trying days in our nation, days of protest in the streets and turmoil in families. We, as a nation, can protest and engage in public discourse of discontent because of tens of thousands of men and women who have served, and are still serving  under the flag of the US - in war and peace, plenty and want. Our first line of defense for an ideal and dream we call the United States of America.

For this I am thankful, today and always. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016



somewhere between he and she
somewhere between me and thee
there is the place I would rather be
whether on a mountain
or by the sea
some place
any place
where I can just be

~ ellen apple

Beside the gravel and dirt lot
Existing between what was and is not
Leaves now withered and clinging to branch
On the hope that there will be one last chance?
Nay, the tree knows whence it resides
Green giving way to brown as time slides
Into not death but a new phase of life
Never without pangs of regret and (perhaps) strife
Goes so with nature and humankind
Belonging to such change is life aligned
~Ellen Apple

30 days of thankfulness. Day 9 and Day 10.

Lessons in gratitude.

Taught tough, learned with pain and effort.

That is life.

We long for escape. Like the crew and passengers of the SS Minnow, we imagine at times what life would be like on a deserted island, away from the travails and conflicts that assail our every waking moment. 

Especially over the past twenty-four hours or so here in the United States of America. I posted the following on Facebook yesterday:
A few things - and I hope I say this the way I think it, and it is taken in the spirit intended.

First, now many Democrats know how devastated many Republicans felt in 2008 and 2012.

Second, just because the election didn't go your way doesn't mean that the process didn't work. It just means that your (wo)man lost.

Third, I personally feel this was an election where people did not so much vote 'for' a candidate as 'against' a candidate.

Fourth, we as a nation *must* pull together and remember that this is the system we have in place. There is redress through change - get involved and search out a vehicle by which you can help bring about the changes and fixes you long for. I am specifically talking of the Electoral College and Term Limits.

Fifth, if your relationships on social media are so shallow as to be vulnerable because of a vote, or a perceived opinion, perhaps you need a shorter friends list.

Thank you.

Later, I posted this:
My heart especially aches for my beloved LGBT friends. As well as my many 'othered' friends who do not have the 'right' skin color or accent or religion or country of origin. I often say we can be and do better as a nation - I still believe that, but more than ever it has to start in each heart, in each mind, in each house and workplace and on each social media platform. 

I did not have the heart, or the energy, to write my day 9 of thankfulness last evening. I had been awake from 3am on 11/08 until about 8pm on 11/09 with maybe 2 1/2 hours of sleep. I was past tired. So I fell asleep at eight, and got up at my usual 3am even though I am not working today. 

I am thankful that I have the right and privilege to vote as a citizen of this country. I am thankful I had the means physically and intellectually to do so. I am thankful and humbled for the heart and commitment and respect of my friends and family throughout this process of choosing leaders and enacting laws. There was more on my ballot than the choices for president/vice president. Our congressional district had 3 candidates vying for the "Fighting Ninth" here in Virginia, and there were 2 state constitutional issues up for vote here as well. Elsewhere in the county in which I live there were municipal elections, and proposed changes to the restrictions on the sale of alcohol on Sunday. I have a co-worker who was running for a seat on the town council in Glade Spring. Nationally, there were senate elections and several gubernatorial elections. There was a marvelous kaleidoscope of ballot issues across our country, reflective of the diversity and complexity of who we are as a nation. 

All many of us will hear, though, is Trump/Pence and Clinton/Kaine. I am not thankful for that. I am not thankful for the vitriol and bitterness and stubborn divisiveness that just will not go away.

I am thankful for you - reading this wherever you are - that you are taking the time to read this and hopefully take to heart my closing visual offering. May we ever remember that we are all stewards of this wonderful planet, and one another.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

30 days of thankfulness. Day 8.


B-eside the gravel and dirt lot
E-xisitng between what was and is not
L-eaves now withered and clinging to branch
O-n the hope that there will be one last chance?
N-ay, the tree knows whence it resides
G-reen giving way to brown as time slides
I-nto not death but a new phase of life
N-ever without pangs of regret and (perhaps) strife
G-oes so with nature and humankind
Belonging to such change is life aligned

~Ellen Apple

Today I am thankful for the impermanence we have as a constant in life. Change can be scary, and exciting, but it is necessary for growth. 

Blessings to all, on this day of immense change for our nation. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

30 days of thankfulness. Day 7.

I came home from work today and spent a nice, calming interlude holding my black cat on my lap and just appreciating the joy and purpose she brings to my life. 

Later, I had a really nice conversation with my friend Lilian who lives in Olympia, WA. 

For my evening meal I had my usual salad, and then a handful of dark chocolate covered cherries for dessert.

As I write this, we are watching Dancing With the Stars. The joy and positivity of this show is so refreshing juxtaposed against the angst and conflict on this eve of what is shaping up to be a historical presidential election in the US.

Earlier today, I discovered an error in my favor relating to a purchase I had made and took steps to ensure that I had paid properly for the items in question. 

None of the above are earth-shattering or life-altering. All are just parts of the whole of a day in my life. Being thankful,  living a life of gratitude, is not about grand gestures. It is about making everyday moments real and meaningful. 

There is power, and wisdom, and creativity to life. From the iridescence of a ruby-throated hummingbird to the sweeping and limitless horizon when you stand on the shore of an ocean there is both permanence and  ephemerality to life. To fully experience and live the majesty and delicacy of the world  we are entrusted with begins with thankfulness. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

30 days of thankfulness. Day 6.

Time change has arrived, and the descent into the darkest days of the year has taken on a sense of urgency. We sometimes have to see the darkness to appreciate the light, just as we sometimes need the trials in life to really know how blessed we are.

When darkness falls early, there are songs from my youth that come to mind. Here I bring you a verse of an old Methodist hymn, the lyrics to an iconic song from an iconic television show, and the words to a song that our local sunrise to sunset AM radio station played at signoff when I was growing up.

My quote for thankfulness (gratitude) for the day is from the Dalai Lama.

Day is dying in the west;
heaven is touching earth with rest;
wait and worship while the night
sets the evening lamps alight
through all the sky. 

Mary A. Lathbury, 1841-1913 

Lyrics to "Happy Trails" by Dale Evans Rogers
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.


Many years ago in days of childhood
I used to play till evenin' shadows come
Then windin' down that old familiar pathway
I'd hear my mother call at set of sun.

Come home, come home it's suppertime
The shadows lengthen fast
Come home, come home it's suppertime
We're going home at last.

Some of the fondest memories of my childhood
Were woven around suppertime
When my mother used to call 
From the backsteps of the old homeplace
Come on home now son it's suppertime. 

Ahhhh, but I'd loved to hear that once more
But you know for me time has woven the realization of
The truth that's even more thrilling and that's when
The call come up from the portals of glory
To come home for it's suppertime.

When all Gods children shall gather around the table 
of the Lord, Himself and the greatest suppertime of them all.

Come home, come home it's suppertime
The shadows lengthen fast
Come home, come home it's suppertime
We're going home at last...

This first Sunday in November, I am thankful for the memories of my childhood that evoke comfort, security and hope. I do not doubt that if there is a bit of the optimist in this pragmatist, it is in no small part to having had been reared in an atmosphere of love, respect, community, patriotism, and responsibility.