On this blog page, author Mary C. Woolling posts an ongoing series of her essays showcasing the positives of life.

New essays are added often. You are cordially invited to become a regular reader. Also, please feel free to share this site with your family and friends via the “Tell a Friend” link, located in the right-hand column below.

Comments on Mary's essays are most welcome. Simply click on the “Post Comments” link appearing at the end of each essay, and share your thoughts.

If you'd like to contact Mary, you may do so at mary@herestolife.us

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine Verse

February 14th is Valentine’s Day,
When we celebrate love for each other.
The annual day we go out of our way
For sweetheart, best friend, and mother.

We seek to show through bright cadeaux,
And greetings full of flair,
How much we love our buddies and beaux,
And hope they also care.

With syrupy note and frilly gift,
We boldly state our case:
Our hearts ever gain a joyful lift
From each dear one’s presence and face.

Gift shops bedecked in rainbows of hue,
Heart-shaped boxes in reds ‘n pinks,
Gold and silver trinkets beaucoup;
The Love Bug’s unleashed methinks!

Cards embossed and doily-designed;
Some trimmed in ribbons and lace.
Foils and glitter that sparkle and shine;
Candy hearts are everyplace!

Whimsical drawings with comic verse,
Sweet notes with tender phrase,
Tablets for writing of ardent love
And friendships worthy of praise.

Assorted boxes of cards for kids,
Scented candles and Snoopy the dog,
Turtledoves and winged cupids –
The awesome sight leaves me agog.

Bakery shelves groan with sprinkle-topped cakes,
Frosted cookies and cream puffs galore.
Hand-dipped chocolates mouth water makes.
Éclairs, rich fudge, and s’more.

Pride of the flower shop? Long stem roses,
Spring tulips and lilies so fair.
The jeweler’s gems in displays he discloses,
All for our affection to share.

An unlimited array of offerings to choose,
When sent from the heart, each sure ne’er to lose
In successfully posing that time-honored line,
Will you be my Valentine?

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Waiting Time

“Only with winter-patience can we bring
The deep desired, long-awaited spring.”

–Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Unicorn and other Poems (1956)

It’s February, the waiting time of the year–the beginning of the transition from winter to spring. We may be longing for the first indications of Nature’s awakening beauty — pink crocuses, purple hyacinths and yellow daffodils — but instead, today, as we step out the door, we’re greeted by piercing blasts of bitter cold, frosty air and sub-freezing temperatures. Except for the green of the firs and the spruces, we find little sign of life anywhere. Graceful beeches hold on to a few withered leaves from last season, but most of the other trees are stark and bare—lonely black silhouettes against a gray winter sky.

There’s a stillness all around. No squirrels or chipmunks dashing about, as they are safely ensconced in their cozy nests hidden in trunks of trees. Backyard birdhouses stand empty and forlorn with no sign of the birds nor sound of their cheerful songs. No evidence of raccoons having raided our trash cans. They, too, have left the scene for snug, warm havens.

All of nature appears to be fast asleep, but legend tells us one slumbering animal will awaken from hibernation today, February 2, to observe the state of the weather. Based on this animal’s action and its implied prognostication, a prediction of the advent of spring is made. Every year, many individuals hope this will be the news they’ve been eagerly waiting for–that they can leave the tired, old winter behind and move on into spring. This furry little weather predictor is none other than the groundhog. February 2 is, of course, Groundhog Day, the annual holiday honoring him.

In ancient times, it was believed that, on February 2 (Candlemas Day), if the weather was sunny and bright, a cold harsh winter would continue for another six weeks. However, if it were cloudy and rainy, an early spring was on the way. Medieval folk thought that various hibernating animals, such as the badger, bear and hedgehog, would come out from their warm underground burrows at this time of year to assess the state of the weather and make predictions.

In Germany, a legend developed that if the hedgehog saw the sun, it became frightened by its own shadow and would crawl back to its hole to sleep for another six weeks. This indicated more bad weather to come and, as a result, poorer crops that year. If the skies were overcast, there would be no shadow to scare the animal, so it would remain above ground. This was interpreted as meaning cold weather was soon to end and warmer days to appear.

The legend of the hedgehog was brought to America by the German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Dutch). Many of these early settlers became farmers who planted their crops according to this superstition. Since there were no hedgehogs in America, the farmers transferred the idea to the American groundhog, an animal similar to the German hedgehog. The groundhog is approximately 15-18 inches long, with bushy tail, short legs, and coarse fur, black and gray above and chestnut-red below.

Through the years, Groundhog Day has become a part of Americana. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, is home to the groundhog tradition and recognized as the “Groundhog Capitol of the World.” Since 1887, Punxsutawney has held annual observances of Groundhog Day. At sunrise, thousands of onlookers from all over the world gather at Gobbler’s Knob to watch “Punxsutawney Phil,” the nation’s official groundhog, emerge from his warm winter den. Phil gives his prediction for the length of the remaining part of winter supposedly in “Groundhogese” to his keeper, who then relays the forecast to the waiting crowd. In most cases, Phil does see his shadow and returns to his den to wait six more weeks for spring.

Truth be told, regardless of Punx’y Phil’s message of an early or late spring, or our own longing for a quick end to the winter, spring invariably and predictably arrives six weeks from now–around March 21. Nature moves inexorably, according to its own timetable.

Our lives also follow a timetable. As the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

We may grow tired of the situations in which we find ourselves and wish we could move ahead to the next new period without delay. However, it’s good to keep in mind that we can’t rush the seasons of our lives anymore than we can rush the appearance of the flowers on the earth.

May we know the peace of mind that comes from remembering that when the time is right, the next season begins. Be patient and wait. Everything in its time.

Here’s to Life!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Otober’s Golden Glow

. . . They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock . . .

Excerpt from When the Frost is on the Punkin, by Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley, 1849–1916

Autumn is gently turning down the light on the brilliant joys of summer, and, in its stead, the month of October offers us some of the most vibrant delights of the year.

Gone are the warm days of July and August, when the bright morning sun has risen before us. Now we awaken to refreshingly crisp, cool temperatures while it’s still dark outside. Once the sunshine appears, however, we are treated to sparkling signs that Jack Frost has been here: overnight, he has left crystal traces of his lacy handiwork artistically etched on our windowpanes.

That mischievous elfish creature has also lightly nipped the green leaves of the trees with his silver paintbrush and magically transformed them into a rainbow of dazzling colors: flaming crimson, burnt orange, sunny yellow, and glowing amber. Finally, Jack Frost has begun to loosen the stems of the leaves, releasing them to dance lightly through the air and flutter silently to the ground.

Ah! Golden October. It has its own characteristic charm. Time to retrieve from the back of the closet those warm sweaters, scarves and gloves, go outside, and enjoy! Just take a look at that deep azure sky filled with flocks of birds… Our wise feathered friends are gathering together to fly southward towards more temperate climes.

In anticipation of the cold weather ahead, the squirrels are busily stocking their larders with black walnuts, hazelnuts, and assorted acorns from hardy oaks. Can you detect the pungent aroma of drifting wood smoke from bonfires in the distance? Mmmmmm . . . There’s a definite nip in the air, and restless Mr. Wind can be heard whistling through the trees.

Out in the country, the grain has ripened, and fields have turned to brown, but pumpkins with their familiar orange-yellow hue and tan-colored corn stalks bundled together add lively splashes of color here and there. Sometimes standing guard nearby is a comic scarecrow, sporting denim overalls with red paisley patches and sandy-beige straw hat.

The flowers of summer have almost faded away, but a deep orange marigold and hardy chrysanthemums, in rust and purple, remain in my garden patch to brighten the barren scene.

Fallen leaves form a soft carpet under my feet as I shuffle along, their crunch and rustle crackling with every step. I pass by houses festooned with festive ears of Indian corn on the front doors, and, as evening begins, jolly Jack-O-Lanterns aglow with candlelight appear on porch steps and peer out of windows.

My thoughts turn to hot chocolate, roasted marshmallows, crunchy apples, sweet cider, and pumpkin pie fresh from the oven. In the deepening twilight, I feel the invigorating chill of the night air and eagerly head for home, to curl up with a good book near my blazing fireplace.

Nature, as in all of life, has a beginning and then an end, but, as James Whitcomb Riley suggested in his famous poem “When The Frost is on the Punkin,” excerpted above, this should not be cause for melancholy. When days turn cool, and winter’s on the horizon, we may wish to hang on to the warmth of summer–its lush green leaves, beautiful birds, and busy bees–but if we open our eyes to the fresh wonders of autumn, we realize there is an abundance of reasons to be just as happy now. Every season is one to be savored.

As with the seasons, the substance of our lives is also transitory. As one chapter ends, we may look back with longing and wish for the “good old days,” but it’s well to remember that other experiences, different, of course, but equally pleasurable, are still to be discovered and appreciated on the path ahead.

The splendor of the summer months is over and gone, but take heart. In its place, the magnificence of October has arrived. It’s time to gather up our happy memories and prepare for the exciting, new days to come.

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