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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Harvest Time

Have you noticed it? Subtle changes are in the air. There’s a feeling of anticipation, excitement, and new beginnings. The sun is slanting a little differently now . . . casting longer shadows. Days are growing shorter, with more comfortable temperatures, evenings decidedly cooler. Summer is waning and quickly passing away. Autumn is upon us.

The general pace of living seems to have picked up from the “lazy days” of June and July. Most of the vacationers are home now and back to work. Bright yellow school buses can be seen again on the streets, for the children have returned to classes, proudly armed with new pencils, pristine notebooks, and high aspirations. “This fall is going to be the best one ever,” my young friend Sarah assured me recently. A determined third-grader who finds decimals and fractions a bit of a challenge, Sarah nonetheless vows she’ll master those concepts this year. “I’m going to be a math teacher when I grow up,” Sarah proclaims, “so I need to know this stuff.”

For many of us, once we reach Labor Day, the real “New Year” begins. Life gears up again in earnest. It seems an auspicious time, a time for making plans. Football practices and games, school programs, and band rehearsals begin to fill our weekly calendars. Fall festivals appear on the scene, and organizations are scheduling their first meetings of the season.

Retailers have put away their racks of beach towels, sunglasses, and flip-flops until next spring. In their places, we now find rows of potted chrysanthemums in yellows, bronzes, purples, and burgundys, as well as eye-catching displays of fall decorations, including bundled ears of variegated Indian corn and ornately-twisted garlands of burnt orange bittersweet. The coming season is clearly evident in the packages of candy corn and Halloween masks that already fill the store shelves.

Out and about, I see signs that Nature also realizes a shift is in the offing. Flocks of wild geese with their familiar honking cry are appearing in the clear blue sky, as they take flight southward. Fewer fireflies twinkle in the early evenings, and the presence of crickets is becoming more noticeable as their chirping sounds seem to grow louder.

The last of this year’s tomatoes, deep red, hang heavy on the vine. Slightly tougher in texture, these tomatoes also taste different now, not quite as flavorful as those relished a month or two ago. The luscious peaches and nectarines and tender ears of sweet corn – all pure delights of the summer – have also passed their prime. Hardy marigolds, in bright yellows and oranges, the famous late-bloomers of summer, are now in full flower in my garden. Faithful little plants, they’ll continue to flourish long after all the other posies have faded away.

Queen Anne’s lace, with its dainty, white-clustered blossoms, is everywhere along the roadsides, and will be so until first frost, lending an old-fashioned, Victorian charm to the scene. Milkweed pods will be opening soon, releasing countless seeds that float hither and yon through the air on their little feathery-white parachutes. Country fields of goldenrod will presently be in evidence as far as the eye can see, their deep saffron florets waving gently in the breeze. It won’t be long before we’re deeply immersed in those picture-postcard days of fall, when the green leaves of summer magically transform into blazing jewels of ruby red, glowing amber, shimmering wine, and brilliant yellow.

It’s harvest time. The black walnuts and hardy acorns are ripe and falling from the trees, to be retrieved and cached away by busy squirrels already planning for winter’s provisions. Apple orchards are laden with shiny, bright-colored fruit ready for the picking – as a crisp, crunchy treat or cool, refreshing cider. The zucchini and summer squash are at their peak and ready to store in the freezer. Months from now, when our beloved gardens are just a memory, these delectables from our carefully-cultivated patches of earth will evoke a reminiscent touch of summer when made into sauces, casseroles, breads, and cakes.

It’s harvest time for you and me, too, perhaps – time for taking stock, for evaluating the yield of our lives, so to speak. How fruitful have our days been? As we’ve tended to our crops of daily duties, responsibilities, and challenges, have we also tended to the people in our midst? They have crops of challenges, too. They could use the provision of a helping hand, a sowing of sunny thoughts, and a shower of encouraging words. Such caring acts can make a powerful difference for good. Indeed, the things we do for others throughout our lives often prove to be our greatest accomplishments.

What of true value have we reaped so far, and what significant offerings can we hope to glean in the time we have left? “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit . . .,” read the Scriptures (John 15:5). It is reassuring to know that, even in the autumn of our lives, with God’s help, we can still bring forth a veritable bounty of good deeds and kindnesses of lasting impact.

The unfolding of the fall season’s sights and sounds not only invigorates our senses, it also renews our spirits. Lofty goals are being set, and rightfully so. As my friend Sarah said, “This is going to be the best fall ever!”

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Choose to Be Happy

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
—Epictetus 135-55 B.C.

“We are not disturbed by events,” the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus is purported to have said. He taught that it is by our perception of the circumstances we face in life rather than the circumstances themselves that we ultimately determine the quality of our days.

Epictetus likened life to a game where each player is given a random roll of the dice that is completely arbitrary and open to interpretation as to its positive or negative effect. He stated we do not have complete control over what life gives us. However, we do have total power over our response to it. We can consciously choose to be imperturbable no matter the circumstances, even when we come face to face with the specter of death.

We all know there is an inevitable end to everyone’s life on this earth. We can do nothing to change that fact. We reconcile ourselves to the concept of death quite easily until it involves someone close and dear to us. Then it becomes personal and very difficult to understand and accept.

When my mother passed away, 16 years ago, I wondered how I could go on. My mother was a sweet and gentle spirit. She had been a constant source of encouragement, strength and happiness for me all the days of my life. She was my best friend, my mentor, my confidante, my ideal.

Mom was so much a part of me that the sudden, gripping finality of her passing left me feeling as if I had died, too. I didn’t see how I could ever enjoy anything again without her here. In spite of the presence of other family members, the black void she left was enormous, and I felt frightened, completely alone, and lost.

It was through quiet meditation and the loving support and consolation of family and friends that I ultimately found my way again. My rock was my wise and incredibly patient kindred spirit Frank. He put the sun back in the sky for me, as his love, encouragement, and support eclipsed that terrifying and overwhelming blackness. What would I have done without Frank?

Also helpful to me was recognizing and appreciating the never-ending beauty of the world around me. I came to realize my life did not end with my mother’s but rather continues, with all kinds of possibilities ahead. I learned that I could give up and give in to discouragement and sadness, or I could look out and up and be happy. The choice was mine to make.

Mom lived a long and wonderful life. She could not ask for more, nor could any of us who loved her. Now is my time to carry on and strive to make my life count for something just as wonderful. My mother would have wanted me to do that.

We can’t deny that every one of us ultimately faces problems, heartaches, illnesses, and death. But the good news is, even in the worst of situations, we have a continuing source of love, healing strength, and renewal. This power is right within our grasp. Indeed, we are surrounded with unlimited, comforting signs of God’s presence with us — all causes for happiness, from the simple treasures of nature to the small moments of our everyday lives.

To quote wisdom from the Scriptures, “Stand and consider the wondrous works of God.” (Job 37:14)

Open fields of wildflowers bathed in sunshine
And dainty butterflies flittering among the blossoms.

Welcome rain showers
And the parting of the clouds afterward,
With clear blue sky beyond.

Starlight and moonglow,
Country lanes and falling leaves,
Wide open spaces.

Towering, snow-capped mountains
With lush valleys below.

The placid surface of a lake,
Grandeur of the oceanside,
Ineffable feeling of peace achieved through silence,
Beautiful melodies which touch our heartstrings.

The patter of little feet,
The toothless grin of a baby,
The spontaneous hug from a child,
The loyal companionship of a beloved pet,
The comforting words of a trusted friend.

A tasty meal upon the table,
A handwritten note from someone far-away,
A sincere compliment from a person we admire,
A sudden smile from a passerby,
The sound of a familiar voice from long ago.

Free time and a good book,
Leisurely walks out in the open,
Cheerful delights of a flower garden,
The constancy of the changing seasons.

People who need us and those we can help,
A warm and cozy fireplace on a snowy evening,
Having a job to go to every morning,
And the knowledge of having done your best at the end of the day…

In a recent interview, world famous singer and gifted painter Tony Bennett said, “I try to show through my paintings and music that, even though moments in life can be tragic, very hurtful, very terrible, what my singing and painting have taught me is that if you stay in a meditative state, you finally realize from studying nature, that life is absolutely beautiful.”

The takeaway is: it’s up to us to choose our outlook. Let’s choose to be happy!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Day in June

“And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days,
Then Heaven meets Earth
If if be in tune,
And over it softly
Her warm ear lays;
…Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten…”

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)–American poet

There’s something especially wonderful about the month of June. As James Russell Lowell pointed out, it is made up of perfect days, when the outside world looks fresh, bright and inviting.

We eagerly anticipate June all year, for it heralds the beginning of summer, when time suddenly seems to stretch out limitlessly before us, lending a slower, gentler pace to our lives, with its long, warm, sunny days and cool, starry-skied nights. Our thoughts often turn to happy childhood memories of special outdoor events and happenings.

Everywhere you look there is something beautiful and enjoyable: breathtaking vistas of brilliant blue skies, graceful trees heavily laden with deep green leaves at the peak of their loveliness, a veritable cornucopia of fragrant flowers in every type and hue, gentle breezes, daytime symphonies of cheerful bird songs, and delightful evening cricket concerts and firefly lightshows.

The occasional thunderstorm or soft rain shower is welcome, for each is short-lived and only serves to deepen and enrich the already-lush flora surrounding us.

Roadside farmer’s markets suddenly re-appear on the scene, brimming with freshly-picked fruits of the land—feasts for the eye as well as the taste—vibrant red tomatoes, shiny green string beans, assorted mouth-watering melons, sweet ruby cherries, and juicy crimson strawberries.

No more annoying morning wake-up calls for us. We’re on vacation, happily satisfying our sudden attacks of wanderlust by trekking off to destinations of far-away, exotic places or familiar haunts of many a past year.

We’re headed for fun leisure activities with family and friends—backyard projects, cookouts, baseball games, biking, fishing, and the beach or swimming pool.

Or a refreshing catnap on the old porch swing with its familiar, comforting squeak, or in the hammock, hanging invitingly under the softly swaying branches of backyard trees. Ahhhhhh! Yes, things are definitely shaping up.

Plenty of hours to read, relax, and renew our bodies, minds, and spirits.

It’s June. Life is good! What are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy!

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