The Simple Swan Movie Premier (sort of)

I wanted to share this beautiful short video I wrote for a popular YouTube channel, Inspired by Nikki!

Nikki Moreno, a lovely and talented videographer, filmed this stunning four-minute video at Mount Charleston, Nevada and narrated it with words from my recent essay, “Winter Inspires Simplicity.” Nikki directed and starred in this video which premiered on her YouTube channel today. I’m excited to collaborate with Nikki on more projects in the future.

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Have a wonderful day! I’ll be back with a new essay or story on Sunday. ~Alicia

P.S. If you have trouble seeing the video, try this link instead. https://youtu.be/KlY4yMClEE8

Making Tracks

From the window, I watched a squirrel leave tracks in the falling snow. She came out of the woods, darted though the yard, climbed over the retaining wall, hopped across the driveway, shimmied up and down a tree trunk, skated across the frozen bird bath, and danced in circles in the snow. Finally, she stopped frolicking to eat a nut from her hidden cache at the base of a tree.

I was reminded of The Family Circus comic strip following the tracks of Billy, a curious little boy full of imagination and adventure. What was meant to be a quick trip to borrow sugar from the next door neighbor turned into a trek through backyards, alleys, up trees, over fences, and stops to examine a bug, pick a flower, and skip a stone before returning home with the cup of sugar.

The squirrel’s energetic footprints in the snow got me searching for other tracks. I saw those of birds and deer, foxes and raccoons, pets and people. All of them headed somewhere to do something with their day.

Imagine if our footprints were always so easily visible. Do they lead to places we are happy and proud to go? Are they filled with spirit and enthusiasm? Do they stop and smell the roses along the way?

In his last published book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss cheered, “Today is your day! You’re off to great places. You’re off and away. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose!”

The book encourages big, mountain-moving dreams, but I think Dr. Seuss would agree that while we keep an eye on our destination, we should remember the joy is in the journey.

My hard-working, easy-going husband often quotes Ferris Bueller from his favorite movie, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.”

Watch the sun rise on the commute to work. Stroll through the produce aisle and appreciate an artichoke. Make a baby laugh. Inhale the aroma of soup simmering on the stove. Oh, we have places to go, but while we’re making tracks, let’s not forget to dance in the snow.

 

A big thanks to my first patrons ~ Anson, Betsy, Clint, Ed, Eileen, Karin, Judy, Melinda, Michelle, Mike, and Suzanna!

If this essay brought you a smile, consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month. Please go to http://www.patreon.com/thesimpleswan to find out more. 

 

 

 

The Lady and the Bird

The sun had just risen on a cold, crystal clear morning. My pals and I stopped for breakfast at one of our favorite spots that serves a daily smorgasbord of thistle, suet, mealworms, peanut butter and, my personal favorite, black oil sunflower seeds.

After a delicious breakfast, I was ready to enjoy the sunshine. I made a flourished circle around the feeders. “Good day, Chaps,” I said to my friends as I flew away cheerfully.

I spread my bright red wings and felt the wind at my back. What a gorgeous day! Not a cloud in the… WHAM! I hit the glass door hard. Lying on the porch, I saw my impeccably groomed feathers slowly flutter to the ground around me.

So this is how it ends. Blasted windows. Goodbye friends. Goodbye blue sky. Goodbye…wait a minute. I’m still alive! 

I tried to move but couldn’t. My heart was beating unusually fast. I couldn’t catch my breath, and I was getting so cold. My thoughts turned to the red-shouldered hawk we’d seen hanging around. And just yesterday, there were two red foxes in this very yard. I was a sitting duck, so to speak.

The lady came out of the house wrapped in a blanket. “Oh no,” she said. “You poor thing.” She knelt down to get a good look at me. I slowly blinked my eyes to let her know I wasn’t a goner yet. She hurried back inside and watched me from the other side of that stupid glass door.

Suddenly, I felt myself being lifted off the ground. Whoa! What’s happening here? This is highly unusual. I’m going up to heaven. Yep, that’s what’s happening. Goodbye beautiful world!

The next thing I knew I was lying on a soft blanket in a box inside a warm house. I couldn’t have fought it if I wanted to. The lady sat next to me on the floor and said a little prayer. “You’re going to be fine. Just warm up and rest,” she said. I heard her on the phone with her husband, the man who keeps our feeders filled. “Don’t bring it into the house,” he said emphatically. “Okay,” she said.

For the next hour or so she stayed with me. It was an odd scene. Me, a wild cardinal, in the kitchen of a woman who chatted as if she’d invited me over for tea. I was starting to feel like my old self. My breathing returned to normal, and I could wiggle my feet and cock my head in that adorable way I do.

“Well, look at you!” she said. She secured the box lid, making sure it still allowed a couple inches of breathing room for me. “You sure are handsome,” she said admiring my impressive scarlet crest, ink black markings, and perfect beak. I puffed up a little and fluttered my wings. They work! My wings work! I’m going to live! 

The lady set the box on the porch, shutting that dumb sliding glass door behind her. “Well, Mr. Cardinal, let’s see if you can fly,” she said lifting the lid. I gently flapped my wings. Yep, they work. Well, this has been a morning for the books. 

I settled back on the soft blanket for a few seconds and looked at the lady. Thank you, M’am. I’ll be seeing you. With a tear in her eye, she said goodbye. I flew out of the box and showed off by doing a little loop. I perched on the porch railing and looked at her. If I’d had a hat, I would have tipped it. May I kindly ask one more favor?

Please don’t clean your windows quite so well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Inspires Simplicity

The first thing I see each morning is the top of an enormous oak tree through a ceiling-high bedroom window. As I awaken, my eyes trace the tree’s bare black branches painted on the winter sky. Having let go its cluttered leaves, the tree inspires me to follow its lead and simplify.

Based on the popularity of books and television shows on the subject, I know I’m not alone in my urge to simplify, nor am I the first to be motivated by nature. Isaac Newton wrote, “Nature is pleased with simplicity.” He was referring to mathematical principles and philosophical reasoning, not kitchen cabinets and sock drawers, but I think his point remains.

During his time at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau observed, “Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with nature herself.” Wouldn’t we all accept an invitation to more ease and goodness?

Inspired by the winter landscape, I am beginning the new year by simplifying. Like beauty, simplicity is in the eye of the beholder, but maybe you can relate to my goal of tackling the following areas.

Physical Possessions ~ I’m reconsidering every item in every drawer, closet, shelf, box, cabinet, glove compartment, and secret nook and cranny. I’m keeping only things I love and that align with my idea of a simply beautiful life. Uncomfortable shoes, be gone!

Health and Finances ~ I don’t know about you, but during the winter months I tend to put such things on the back burner. I have experienced the relief of being on top of my game in these areas, and I’m not going to wait until spring to feel that way again.

Digital Footprint ~ Newton and Thoreau didn’t have to worry about this one, but it’s a struggle for me. Photographs, emails, documents, passwords, downloads and “the cloud” hang over my head. I hope to take control of my technology, before it changes and this old dog has to learn more new tricks.

Activities and Pursuits ~ Just as we have limited space in our cupboards, we have limited space in our days. I’m letting go of vague dreams to travel the world or become a gourmet cook who is fluent in French, but I am fully committed to a small number of true passions.

Thoughts and Emotions ~ Sometimes intangible baggage prevents us from simplifying. Just like physical clutter, we have to let go of the stuff in our head and heart that keeps us from living our best life.

I hope you will join me in answering Thoreau’s call to simplify, simplify! If we get stuck, winter’s inspiration is right outside the window in the clarity of a shaft of sunlight, the peace of dormant fields, the freedom of geese in flight, and the beauty of a snowflake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting the Year on the Right Foot

When I signed us up for the First Day Hike, it sounded like an exhilarating way to begin the new year in the peace and quiet of Brown County State Park, but the experience proved to be more challenging and eye-opening than expected.

When Mike and I reached the trailhead where the New Year’s Day trek began, we were surprised to be joined by more than 200 hikers. There were loud hikers. Pushy hikers. Slow hikers. Hikers on cell phones. Hikers with unruly yapping dogs and children. So many children.

I looked at my husband like a deer in the headlights. “This might be the hardest two-mile hike I’ve ever been on,” I whispered unnecessarily, as he knew exactly what I was thinking. We almost bailed on the First Day Hike before it even began, but I felt it might be a test, not of my endurance, but of my tolerance.

I used to have a wealth of patience. When I was a teacher and mom to young children, patience was my superpower. For more than 25 years, I willingly trapped myself in a small square room with more than a hundred middle schoolers a day. Although I’ve always enjoyed time alone, I loved interacting with students, co-workers, neighbors, family, friends, and even strangers.

Now I’m retired and live in the boonies. I go days without talking to anyone save my easy-going husband and the forest critters. If not for the necessary task of grocery shopping, I would happily remain in the woods like a hermit. I’ve admittedly become a tad intolerant of my fellow man.

We fell into line with the army of hikers who snaked single-file through the hills of Brown County at a steady comfortable pace. I noticed how nature worked its magic to cast a spell of courtesy and civility over the group. While navigating the rugged trail covered in wet leaves and squishy mud, we chatted quietly, as hikers often do, about the weather, foliage and fauna, wildlife, and other favorite hiking spots.

I talked at length with a loquacious teenage boy whose mother seemed to welcome the break. I discovered one of the hikers was from the same small Illinois town as my dad. I petted a cute scruffy dog whose owner had come to the event alone with her rescued pup.

Our First Day Hike was over before we knew it. We said goodbye to our new friends and wished each other a happy new year. Hiking is often a chance for solitude in the great outdoors, but our walk in the woods with 200 other nature-lovers gave me a feeling of community and comradery I didn’t realize was missing from my life.

My new year got off on the right foot with a burst of energy, an appreciation for nature, and most surprisingly, a reminder to have a gracious and open heart towards all of the people I meet on my path along the way.