10 Things to Do While Waiting for Spring

My mom gave me a paperwhite bulb kit as a holiday hostess gift. I put the soil in the white ceramic container and planted the bulb with the pointy tip just barely peeking out of the soil. I sat the pot near a window that gets plenty of direct sunlight and watered it as directed. The green stem grew quickly and produced a promising bud, but it never bloomed. The flower needed direct sunlight. Unfortunately, our forecast the past two months could be titled Fifty Shades of Grey, a book I’m sure I’d find as distasteful as our weather of late.

Are you feeling a little like my pitiful paperwhite ~ droopy, unproductive, and bit yellow around the edges? I’ve given up hope of my paperwhite blooming, but not on spring’s arrival. Here are ten ways to get us through the final stretch while we wait.

  1. Spread some sunshine. I’ve done my share of grumbling about the weather, but I’m challenging myself to go the whole week without complaining about it. Put a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and hum that Temptations’ classic, “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May.”
  2. Buy some fresh flowers. It’s amazing how a bunch of inexpensive, grocery store flowers boosts my mood. Separate them into several containers, or plop the whole bunch in a single vase. Flowers help us possess what Albert Camus called an invincible summer, even in the midst of winter.
  3. Do spring cleaning now. Start in the kitchen by removing everything from the cabinets and pantry. Give all the shelves a good wipe down and put everything back neatly, discarding expired items and donating things you don’t use. Go through the same process in your bathrooms and closets. When warmer weather arrives, you’ll be free to go out and enjoy it.
  4. Shake up your routine. Especially in the winter, we can fall into a dull and monotonous routine. For a change of pace, take a different route to work, stop someplace for breakfast or coffee, browse a bookstore, shop at a different grocery store. Give yourself a little something to look forward to each day.
  5. Wash the car. As a child, I would often surprise my dad by cleaning his car, and it’s something I like do for my husband now. Crank the heat, climb in, and clean all the interior surfaces and windows. Pick up trash and wayward objects and vacuum the seats and floors. Go through the car wash, knowing full well you’ll hit several large muddy potholes on your way home.
  6. Escape from reality. A tropical vacation would be wonderful, but we can leave the world behind on a budget. Duck into a movie theater, stroll through a museum, go to the library, or binge watch a Netflix series. I recommend Monty Don’s French Gardens and Big Dreams Small Spaces, two delightful British gardening shows.
  7. Plan your spring garden. Decide what plants and flowers you want to grow in your vegetable garden, flower beds, and pots this year. Look at gardening books and magazines for inspiration. The photos are so beautiful you’ll bring them to your nose hoping to smell their delicious fragrance.
  8. Savor the sun. When the sun does make an appearance, however briefly, welcome it with open arms. Sit in a sunny window and bask in its warmth. Close your eyes and imagine you’re at the beach. One of my favorite quirky things to do on a cold sunny day is sit in my car and read.
  9. Finish indoor projects. You probably made a mental list of things you planned to do while cooped up indoors this winter. Paint bathroom. File paperwork. Organize photographs. There’s still time to check off a few things before spring arrives.
  10. Enjoy the season. By this time of year, even those of us who like winter need to be reminded of its beauty. How lovely that on a dreary February day, it’s perfectly acceptable to stay in our comfy pants, curl up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate, and dreamily wait for spring. §

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A Perfect Snow

The February snow fell from the sky in quarter-size flakes, quickly covering the frozen landscape with a fluffy white blanket. There was something captivating about this particular snowfall. It was surreal, as if buckets of artificial snowflakes were being dumped from above onto a stage set. As the huge flakes danced rhythmically to the ground, I could hear a narrator whisper their words of wisdom.

Soft…

Pure…

Gentle…

Quiet…

Clean…

Aren’t those words we could all use more of right now? I wouldn’t mind if it was the last snow of the year, but I am inspired to bring those peaceful words into full focus.

Soft ~ In his poem The Dream Keeper, Langston Hughes warned of the “too-rough fingers of the world.” A dear friend recently confided that the world was making her hard. I understood her worry, but I know better. My friend has the kind of heart that will allow her to stay soft no matter how hard the world may seem.

There are ways we can bring more softness into our lives. Wrap yourself in coziness all day by wearing comfy clothing. Sink into your favorite chair and read an uplifting book. Light some candles for a soft, glowing atmosphere. Shut out the world if you must, but keep your heart soft.

Pure ~ Purity is synonymous with virtue, goodness, integrity, honesty, and decency, values I refuse to believe are old-fashioned or obsolete. Perhaps we are seeing more and more examples of rude and crude behavior, but we don’t have to join the crowd.

We have a choice about what we listen to, watch, read, say, do and even think. Be aware of what you are putting into your head and heart. Positive input results in positive output.

Gentle ~ Gentleness gets a bum rap these days. We’re led to believe that nice guys finish last, but I disagree. St. Francis de Sales wrote, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength.”

My husband, Mike, is one of the most gentle human beings I know. He inspires me to be gentle in my actions, interactions, and reactions. We can learn to be gentle without being a pushover or a doormat.

Quiet ~ It’s a noisy world. Restaurants are so loud it’s impossible to converse. Music thumps from the car in the next lane. Shoppers blab into cell phones while roaming store aisles. People interrupt to make their point.

Whenever possible, turn it all off. Then practice turning off the noise in your head. It’s said if you want someone’s attention, whisper. Give yourself the gift of peace and quiet and offer the same to those around you.

Clean ~ The freshly fallen snow makes everything appear so perfect and beautiful. It’s no wonder we want to capture the flawless scene in a glass snow globe, forever preserving it from becoming the slushy dirty mess that is real life.

Maybe a beautiful snowfall is nature’s reminder of the grace that falls down on us from above, making us crystal clean and covering all of our perfect imperfections.§

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

If this essay added value to your life in some small way, please consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month. To find out more, go to http://www.patreon.com/thesimpleswan.

A Change of Heart

Our lake has been performing a magic act. Last week crystal snow swirled across clear white glass. Yesterday a caldron of steam brewed and hovered over thick gray slush. Today the lake returned to clear blue water reflecting a flock of blackbirds flying overhead. The lake’s ability to change from liquid to gas to solid and back again seems like magic.

I know it’s science, but isn’t science magical? The fact is everything that has mass and weight is made of matter, and all matter can change. Stars and planets, birds and bees, lakes and mountains, you and I are all made of matter. Which means we all have the ability to change (a little or a lot) for the better.

Literature is filled with dynamic characters who undergo a positive transformation. The Beast, Neville Longbottom, Scrooge, Elizabeth Bennet, and everyone off to see the wizard are just a few well-known characters who are better by the end of the story. The main characters of the musical Wicked even sing a song about it, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

One of my favorite childhood novels is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnett. Mary Lennox is a spoiled little girl sent to live at a sad and lonely place. As she tends a neglected garden, she brings out the beauty and joy in herself and everyone around her.

History is marked by people whose change of heart changed the world. Rosa Parks bravely changed her mind about sitting in the back of the bus. The Apostle Paul saw the light on the road to Damascus. Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts on the evils of slavery evolved. Call it flip-flopping, but George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Ordinary people can change, too. Homeboy Industries is the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. Every year, it helps thousands of former gang members become a valuable  part of their families and community. Founder Father Gregory Joseph Boyle expressed the ability to help people change their lives by quoting poet Galway Kinnell, “Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.”

Some say a leopard doesn’t change its spots. Certainly, we must be wise in our interactions with others, but we should always leave the door open for change. We can start by looking for the loveliness in ourselves and in others. We can break our own self-defeating and hurtful habits and thought patterns. We can have hope that the people we care about can and will do the same.

Past injustices, political division, discouraging headlines, personal struggles, fear and pure stubbornness can make us cold as ice. Maybe the lake’s dramatic transformation is nature’s way of reminding us to let our hearts melt a little, show grace, and have faith we all can continuously learn, grow and change into the best version of ourselves. §

A big thanks to my patrons ~ Anson, Betsy, Clint, Ed, Eileen, Karin, Judy, Julie, Melinda, Michelle, Mike, and Suzanna! If this essay added value to your life in some small way, please consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month. To find out more, go to http://www.patreon.com/thesimpleswan.

 

 

 

 

Groundhog Day

I went for a walk yesterday hoping to cure a bad case of cabin fever. The break in freezing temperatures had me dreaming of springtime as I walked along the slushy trail.

Suddenly, a groundhog with big brown eyes scurried past me. There was nothing so very remarkable in that, nor did I think it was so very much out of the way to hear the groundhog say to itself, “I’m late! I’m late!”

“Whatever are you late for?” I asked the groundhog. He glared at me as if I was stupid and put his short stubby arms on his hips.

“Are you kidding me, lady?” he said gruffly. My blank expression further aggravated him.

“It’s-th Groundhog Day!” he shouted with a lisp due to his very long teeth.

“Oh, I guess it is,” I said. “I’m sorry, but I thought only certain groundhogs participated in the Groundhog Day tradition.” 

“Oh boy, here we go,” he said. “I guess-th you’re referring to my crazy Uncle Phil up in Punxsutawney. You know they locked him up, right? Nutty as a th-squirrel that one. Thinks-th he can predict the weather.”  

Pretending to jump in fright, he sarcastically mocked, “Oh, I’m th-scared of my shadow! I better go back into my burrow. There’s going to be th-six more weeks of winter!”

Looking at me incredulously his tone changed, “Geez, lady, really?”

Though a little miffed at his attitude, I was intrigued. “But you said yourself that today is Groundhog Day.”

Standing up on his back legs, he took a deep breath and slowly explained, “February th-second is Groundhog Day. It’s the day we groundhogs come out of our burrows to…” he stopped talking and nervously wrung his front paws.

“To…” I urged him to continue.

“To attend the Annual Groundhog Day Dance-th!” he blurted.

“Aw, you’re blushing!” I said. “Anyone special you’re hoping to see?” 

“Yes-th,” he said swaying back and forth. “She’s just the th-sweetest, prettiest groundhog I’ve ever th-seen.” 

“Well,” I said smoothing a messy tuft of fur on top of his head, “you might not get a second chance, so be nice.”

“Wait just a th-second,” he said disappearing into a hole in the ground. He reappeared proudly wearing a bow tie.

“Perfect,” I said.

“I gotta run, lady. Happy Groundhog Day!” he hollered as he hurried down the trail.

I looked up at the cloudy sky. “Thank goodness,” I muttered, “six more weeks of winter just might have made me a little crazy.” §