Sunday, February 16, 2020

Plant a tree...watch it grow

Last month at a church rummage sale, I discovered a book by one of my favorite authors.  More than ten years ago, Sue Monk Kidd, who penned The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings, compiled a host of essays she had written for Guideposts magazine since the 1980’s.  Reading Firstlight has lovingly reminded me of Christmases long ago.  My grandmother always gave me a copy of Daily Guideposts from the time I was in eighth grade and I spent the better part of every holiday afternoon holed up in my room, eagerly searching through the book for Sue’s essays.  Each one was captivating because of her incredible attention to detail and open-hearted way of looking at life, from the simplest moments to the most perplexing.  Perhaps what struck me the most was the feeling of as she writes in Firstlight, “a soulful being together between the reader and the author".
Many of the essays I’ve been rereading remind me of some of the ones I have written for Open Road, so I now fully realize it was back then the initial seed of inspiration was planted.  A little more than a decade later, I would begin writing essays of my own.  One turned into a novel which turned into a sequel which turned into eight more books.  And I’m not done writing yet.
In one of my favorite essays, Sue writes about how growth takes time.  A seed must be buried in the darkness of the soil, releasing roots invisible to the eye, but necessary for the sprout to appear above the surface.  Over time the sprout becomes a seedling, and the seedling a sapling, and so on until a strong, healthy tree grows from what was once hidden in the earth.   A caterpillar begins its life cycle as an egg, then a larva, then a pupa where it completely transforms itself into an adult butterfly, never to return to its original state again.  It takes a butterfly only twenty-eight days to go from egg to its magical metamorphosis.  Sadly, it only lives for four to six weeks.  Of course a tree takes much longer to grow to its full height, but its beauty can last much longer than one human lifetime.

A couple of weeks ago, Steve and I were heading up to Posey Lake, Michigan for a much-needed vacation.  While I sat in the car waiting for him to fill the gas tank, I checked my phone for messages.  To my surprise, one of my former first graders sent me a private message on my professional Facebook Page.  Remember the trees you gave us and told us to plant them when we got home? Eric wrote.  Look at her now!
He sent a picture of a gorgeous pine tree that dwarfed a two-story house. 
Oh my gosh! I wrote back.  That’s amazing!  How old is that tree?
I planted it when I was six, he replied.  You gave it to me when I was in first grade, so it’s been going now for twenty-six years.
 I quickly did the math.  How in the world are there kids I taught who are now thirty-two years old? I wondered.  Then I realized that there are kids much older than that…and it made me laugh. 
Steve got back in the car and I showed him the picture.
“Who is that from?” he asked.
“One of my first graders…I gave them saplings on Earth Day the year Eric was in my class.  I think someone from a nursery donated a bunch of them.”  Smiling at the picture, I sighed, “That made my whole day.”
When I asked if I could use his photo in this blog, Eric enthusiastically replied, Sure!  I’ll get a better picture at my mom’s later today.  Can my daughter Mariah be in it?
What a joy a few hours later to see their smiling faces standing at the base of the tree and to read Eric’s profound caption:  I planted the tree with my dad.  I’m really proud of it and talk about it often.  I try not to be boastful about it, but I think that talking about it will hopefully plant a seed in someone to do the same.
Mariah is one blessed young woman to have such an incredible father.  I remember Eric fondly and am not at all surprised to know that he has loved and nurtured that tree for decades, much in the same way I’m sure he has and will love and nurture his daughter.

We can never know how our presence will impact another person.  I’ve not given birth, but I did spend my twenties and early thirties with hundreds of kids who I’m happy to still call my own.  Now every time a man or woman who I had the privilege to teach contacts me, it always lifts my spirits and connects me to the distant past in incredible ways which remind me once again that I didn’t have to have a child of my own to be a mother.  I’ve attended weddings of my former students, spent time with their families at graduation parties, and often run into people who ask, “Are you Miss Ingersoll?”
I laugh and nod.  “Yes.”
“You were my first grade teacher!” they smile broadly.  “You don’t look the same, but I could tell it was you from the sound of your voice.”
Then I laugh some more because that’s often how I recognize them as well…even the men.
They reminisce about stories from our classroom, and each one reminds me that even though teaching was incredibly demanding, it was time well spent…and then some, for many of the lessons I shared with them when they were little are now, decades later, being passed down to their children. What an incredible blessing to know that the seeds which were planted back then have magically metamorphosed into a soulful being together between what was once the teacher and the student, but has now transformed into something even more beautiful, yet indescribable.  

Eric with his daughter, Mariah, 2017

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Step by step

As I was changing the calendar from January to February, I thought Where in the world did 2019 go?  If I look back on my journals, it’s been a time filled with unexpected adventures.  Not that that’s any big surprise.  Ever since I left a traditional job in 1999, I’ve been making life up as I go along.  There’s been no template, no rules, no rubric, no role model to follow.  In many ways it’s been completely terrifying, but for the most part, it’s been an incredible ride.  Not that I’m even close to the finish line.  
Still, if I’ve learned anything along the way, it’s that the slower I go, the faster I get there.  Sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it?  Now that I’ve lived several rounds of the same lessons, I figured out that to consciously move step-by-step means I won’t skip one up the spiral staircase of my ever-evolving existence.  
Yesterday I was working out at the gym with a few men who were pumping iron.  As I'm looking forward to hiking season, I’ve been training on the steps, the wooden benches, and the highest incline on the treadmill.  Still, last night I took some ribbing from one of the trainers who jokingly ordered, “Faster, Kate!  Go faster!”
That struck a nerve.  I grew up with a father who constantly told me to work faster.  Just the other day my neighbor was watching me shovel snow and playfully admonished me to move faster.  It seems this entire culture is hell-bent on rushing productivity and I used to be as well.  Now I’m no longer interested in speed.  After years of pushing myself too hard, it’s a joy to let my body lead the way, telling me how far it can go, reminding me when to stop.
“No, thanks,” I told the trainer, shaking my head.  “I’ll lose my balance and fall.  It’s better for me to add weight or use a higher platform.”  Then, just to prove it to him (and myself) I picked up the mid-range bench and steadily climbed up and down, holding eight-pound weights in my hands.  Not an easy feat after a long day.  Even so, I was thankful to be able to do it at some level, for I don’t have a specific workout plan or target goal and I don’t really need one.  

As a writer, nothing in my professional life has ever been predictable, except for the fact that it’s always been inconsistent.  Some days are diamonds.  Some days are stone.  Some years are feast.  Some are famine.  Yet along the way there has always been more than enough work to sustain me.  More than enough time to accomplish the things I want to do.
More than enough freedom to move at my own pace.
It’s been five years since I wrote The Lace Makers and I’m a little anxious about starting a new novel.  I always get like this at the beginning of anything, as staring at a blank screen when I sit down to write can be daunting.   Particularly with The Lace Makers, I agonized about what the characters would sound like, how to fully express the images that floated through my mind.  At first, I thought I knew what I was doing.  For over a year I had researched both the Civil War and the Holocaust.  There were stacks of notes at the ready.  A library of books to reference.  Yet for the first third of the novel, it felt as though I was pushing too hard, rushing the story, trying to meet a self-imposed deadline.  
Then, like always, a miracle happened.
Someone asked me what it’s like to be a writer.  “How do you do it?  I mean, how do you pull ideas out of thin air and put them on paper?”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged.  “I just sit down and write whatever comes up in my imagination.”
“Do you know how the book will end?”
“Yes, I always have the last scene in mind,” I told him.  “But I never know how I’m going to get there.”
“Are you going to write tonight?”
“Yes,” I nodded.
“What’s coming to mind now?”
Rolling my eyes to the ceiling, I saw a clear image floating up to the surface.  “Something about shoes and feet.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” I replied.  “I’m making it up as I go along.”
As I drove home, I thought about one of my favorite movies of all time.  In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is on a quest to discover the Ark of the Covenant, and not without some incredible plot twists and turns.  In one pivotal scene, he’s about to chase after a truck with no vehicle available.
How?” asks his friend, Sala.
“I don’t know,” Indy replied dryly.  “I’m making this up as I go.”
When I got home, the flood gates opened and I finished writing the first draft a week later.  What a miracle.

One of my friends recently enrolled in an improv class at our local Repertoire Theater.  “It’s so great!” Shannon gushed.  “I get to let my inner Tigger come out!  It’s just what I need in my high-stress life.”
“I’ll bet you look forward to it all week,” I said.
“Yes!  And the best thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t plan ahead when you’re doing improv,” she grinned.  “It’ll ruin the whole thing if you even try.  The director taught us that the three most important things to remember while doing improvisation with other actors are to love, trust, and play.  We have to love each other so we can be ourselves, trust each other so that no matter what happens, we know we’ll be safe.  And then of course, once those things are in place, the play part just comes easily!”
“Love, trust, and play,” I echoed.  “How simple and yet challenging.”
“It is,” Shannon agreed.  “But oh, how wonderful to practice!  Improv is life!”
Kinda reminds me of another great line Indiana Jones said in The Last Crusade:  “We don’t follow maps to buried treasure and X never, ever marks the spot.”  

I sometimes think it would be grand to follow a list of directions that guaranteed my success as a published writer.  Still, I’m inspirited by an interview with a twelve-year-old Native American boy who is being raised by his grandmother and uncle in a small trailer along with numerous other children.  President of his class, captain of the football team, and an accomplished tribal dancer, Robert Looks Twice wisely knows how to value his own path and not strive to follow an easier route.
When asked if he’s jealous of more affluent kids, he replied, “No, because my uncle told me that there’s gonna be a muddy road and an easy road.  The rich kid takes the easy road and the poor kid takes the muddy, rough road…and they’re building up strength the whole time.”
I’ve waited decades for my heart’s desire, all the while taking a muddy road on the way to the mountain top that finally seems within my reach.   There’s been no map.  No X marking the spot.  No indication of how much longer I’ll have to climb.  But none of that matters.  I know who I am.  I know why I’m here.  I know that even when I reach the top, there will always be another mountain to climb.
 Moment by moment, I'll go at my own pace, building up strength, building up my character.  I'll improvise when I need to, take action when I can, and stay on the lookout for buried treasures which are always revealed every step of the way.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Who we all are


This week I was reminded of a blog I originally published in November, 2016 and felt compelled to post it once more in light of the ongoing rift in our country.  In researching The Lace Makers, a novel I wrote five years ago, I realized that human beings endlessly categorize themselves into groups by gender, race, political affiliation, religious affiliation, financial status, and a host of others.  Yet, the further a person moves from recognizing the fact that we are all human beings, the more they can objectify anyone they see as different.
Who we are is evident in what we do over time.  What we say.  What we post.  What we believe.  Every single one of us is defined by our actions.  No one is ever going to perfect.  But to be aware of our ongoing ability to choose what has dignity, what has purpose, what has character can evolve us past division toward a greater wholeness, not only within ourselves, but with each other as well.


“Who we all are”
Originally published November 11, 2016

Yeah, it stinks bad.  And we all covered up in it, too.
Ain’t nobody clean.  Be nice to get clean though.
from the Civil War film, “Glory”

Years ago, I heard an incredible story about an anthropologist who worked with children in an African tribe.  He proposed a game in which he placed a basket of fruit near a tree and told the children that whoever got there first won the sweet reward.  Then, when he told them to run, the children joined hands and ran together so that they might reach the reward at the same time. 
While they then sat in a circle, enjoying the fruit, the anthropologist asked them, “Why did you run like that when one of you could have had all of the fruit for yourself?”
They replied, “Ubuntu…it means I am what I am because of who we are.  How can one of us be happy when the other ones are sad?”
When I teach yoga classes to children, we sit in circle because a circle has no beginning and no end.  No hierarchy.  No pecking order.  What our circle embodies is a sense of equality, a way for the children to see everyone’s place in the group as valuable and necessary; that without one person, the sphere would not be complete.  While every child is encouraged to speak, to voice an opinion, to contribute to the group from their own experience and perspective, I also encourage them to remember that we are stronger as a whole.

On election night, like so many other Americans, I was unable to sleep, tossing and turning until four in the morning.  I thought about the year and a half I spent researching the Civil War and the Holocaust in preparation for writing The Lace Makers, grimly realizing that history is beginning to repeat itself in ways we won’t fully recognize until the future unfolds.  When I finally accepted the outcome of the election, I burst into tears, not because the candidate for whom I had voted was defeated, but because of the undeniable rift in our country’s soul. The hatred and anger that motivated people on either side to make their choices.  The endless rhetoric, hypocrisy, fearmongering, and “my way is the only way” mentality of the president-elect that will continue to echo in our culture for years to come. 
However, my grief is not from fear.
I’m deeply saddened in much the same way I felt on the morning of 9/11, for when the Twin Towers fell to the ground, I burst into tears for our country, for I knew then that our nation would never be the same.  Now I’m concerned about the people I love who come from different cultures and backgrounds.  My heart goes out to people in their extended circles who have been attacked, demeaned, and verbally abused because their skin is a different color or they worship differently.  I’m concerned for my LGBTQ friends, for international relations, for our fragile environment, for a host of other things that connect us as human beings. 

It’s not been easy to teach yoga this week, but I’m doing the best I can to be a calming presence for my students.  I’m infinitely thankful for my meditation practice which allows me to connect to the peace that eternally resides deep within, a place that we all have, no matter our politics, our religion, our color or creed. 
At the end of class yesterday, I said to my students, “It’s good to be with people of like-heart.”
After they had left, a text message arrived from a dear friend who has differing political views.  I love you, Katie Belle Angie wrote.
Tears filled my eyes as sent back heart emojis and wrote You, too, for she and I know that love means we respect and embrace each other, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye.  That we don’t have to agree to be kind.  That we can be of like-heart, even during the times when we may not be of like-mind. 
Now, more than ever, I know more fully I am who I am because of who we all are in relationship to each other.

There have been many times in the past year when I’ve wanted to write commentary about the state of our political nation.  I’ve wanted to put my two cents in on a host of issues that have been talked to death.  Time and again I made the decision to remain quiet, not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because it wasn’t necessary. 
I was raised in close proximity to a man eerily similar to the president-elect.   I worked for people who echoed his bigotry and entitlement.  I’ve been assaulted by one who got away with it because he was allowed to escape accountability for his actions.  What I’ve discovered is that bullies often get their way.  That money greases the palms of injustice.  That political napalm is often heralded as a fresh start. 
But the story is not over yet…for more will always be revealed.  As I grieve for the state of our nation.  I’m deeply saddened by the generations of frustration, of anger and fear that brought us to this time in history when many of us will have to make the choice between what is easy and what is right.
I only pray that there are people who are brave enough to join hands and work together, knowing that the fruits of compassion and human kindness can heal even the deepest divide.










Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Incomplete

Incomplete
Excerpt originally published December 31, 2014

          I've lost track of time this holiday break as each morning dawns and I can't quite remember what day it is or what I have planned to do until the sun sets.  Usually it's a coffee date with a friend, a walk in the park, or a trip to the library.  In the evening I read or knit or watch episodes of "The Wonder Years" until I'm sleepy enough to go to bed.  Yes, it's been a relaxing couple of weeks to recycle, review, relax, and renew.  And I almost forgot it was the end of the year until I was reminded by a friend that it is indeed December the 31st.
I've no big plans for this evening, save a quiet night in my yoga room writing in my journal, reading through the ones from the past twelve months.  I'm happy to say another year will soon dawn and I can let go of what has been to embrace what is to become.  Then again, if I've learned anything this year, I realize that I'm never done learning, that I'm never fully complete.
What a blessing in disguise.

When I was younger I thought that my life would begin anew when I had the perfect job.  The relationship I longed for.  A publishing contract.  When none of those came to pass, I shifted my perspective and thought I could begin again every New Year...that with a single tick of the clock, all the drama of the past would be washed away and I could emerge clean and whole and finished with lessons that were often overwhelming.
But of course, life doesn't work that way.
Yes, we can make resolutions, or in my case, name the year and set my intention to delve more deeply into whatever I'd like to explore over the next 365 days.  Last December, it was my hope to learn more about kindness in 2014.  What I had anticipated was quite different than the reality, and I've learned that it's very difficult to be kind in a world that's often cruel and out of balance.  It's hard to turn the other cheek, to forgive hurtful words or actions, to step out of my anger or fear and into a place where I can see the other person more fully, as both a human being and a teacher.
My journals reveal experiences that have repeated themselves, but in a slightly different package.  Once again I discovered I was living in close proximity to heroin dealers.  At least this time around I don't have to live in terror, knowing the FBI did their job well.  And I also didn't have to lift a finger to report them as I had for over a year in 2009 when a group of gang bangers were dealing out of the duplex next door. Still, the lessons of vigilance and courage I forged at that time are still with me, honing themselves each time I open the curtains and look into the back yard where a brand new fence is a daily reminder of what might have been.
2014 was also a year to work hard and see the fruits of my labor shine forth in my garden, with my yoga students, and in the books I've published.  But that's nothing new.  I love to work...the more challenging the project, the more I enjoy it.  Yet this year I learned my limits, not only professionally, but personally as well.  I've finally figured out that an endless struggle is often an omen of what is not meant to be...and I need to let it go.  For now.  Or for always.  The tearing apart of the tapestries I've woven has been difficult, but always yields a greater awareness in time, for more will always be revealed.

I was going to call this blog "Wise women," for I have been surrounded by them lately...ladies who have known me for decades and some I've only met this year.  All of them have given me much food for thought, a different perspective, and the emotional support I yearn for as I make my way into a newer life...a more authentic way of being.  But then again, there have been a few wise men as well.  Men who show me another way to experience life.  Who cut to the chase when I'm busy spinning my wheels.  Who allow me to give to them my encouragement and love as they walk through their own life experiences, often barking their shins on the furniture as we all do from time to time.
Through their eyes I see who I used to be and how very far I've come in the past twenty years.  I've seen reflections of my healing through their words and touch.  Through their own stories that weave effortlessly into mine.  I've softened to the reality that even though I sometimes long for a tradition life, I'm not really cut out for it, that my spirit longs to be an eternal maverick in whatever form it might take.  In reflection, I lovingly embrace the fact that I'm never done...that I'm incomplete, and meant to be that way.

My evolution has been like a spiral, an ever-upward moving circle that revisits what I need to learn, but on a higher level each time.  Every new year pulls the thread of the experiences of the past into the present and shines a light on where I may have missed something.  Where I need to practice compassion or patience.  Where I need to expand into wholeness.  Like a spent sunflower, the seeds of what has been plant a new life, an existence that will look similar to the one before it, but always growing in harmony with how well it is nurtured in its new form.

Now I joyfully embrace that which is incomplete within me, knowing that the spiral of my life will lead me into greater understanding, abundant creativity, and the willingness to keep growing, year after year.

One of my favorite songs by Alanis Morissette...enjoy it here.


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Bittersweet

Bittersweet
Originally published on December 19, 2014

Twenty years ago I sat in a church committee meeting discussing plans for the Christmas Eve midnight service.  As the Elder in charge of finding people to serve communion, I found the job quite a challenge, particularly because of the late hour we would need them.  However, I was able to compile a list of names and shared that information with the committee members.
"That's great, Katie," a woman to my left sniffed.  "And we think you should stay after the service and clean up the communion table.  We all have families to get home to and you don't have any children for Santa to visit."
At the time I was in my late twenties and surrounded by friends who were getting married.  Having baby number one.  Baby number two.  And even marriage number two.  I wasn't even dating anyone, but not for lack of want.  That woman's thoughtlessness cut me off at the knees, but I pasted a smile on my face and nodded while blinking back tears.
Yes, I was single.  (I still am.)  Yes, I was childless.  (I still am.)  But why, oh why, did she have to make me sound like such a pariah just because I didn't belong to the Mommy and Me club?  And why did she automatically assume that because I didn't have a nuclear family of my own that I also had nothing else planned?  I drove home that night both furious at the woman's callous comments, but also licking the open wound of wanting what I didn't have.  It was nothing new.  For more than a decade, every time the holidays rolled around I was blatantly aware of being a bachelorette in a sea of couples and new babies.
         
On Christmas Eve I did my duty.  I stood in front of the entire congregation with a plate of bread in my hands and watched family after family share communion.  I stood in the choir loft and watched them share the hymnal.  At the end of the service, I lit candles at the end of the pews and watched while parents helped their children hold their little cups carefully so they wouldn't drip wax on their tiny hands.  And when it was all over and everyone had gone home, I stood at the kitchen sink washing the platters and pitchers and silverware.  Alone. 
Well, not really. 
The janitor was busy sweeping the vestibule and I could hear the whirl and buzz of the vacuum while I swiped at my tears and kept working.  I wanted a husband to help me.  A child to read to before bedtime.  A little stocking to stuff by the fireplace and toys to leave beneath the tree.  But I knew I would soon be going home to an empty house.  A quiet living room.  A silent sanctuary. 
When I had finished, it was nearly one-thirty.
"You need me to walk you to your car?" the janitor asked.
"Nope...I'm good," I said, pulling on my coat and mittens. 
"Well, you be careful now," he smiled.  "Merry Christmas."
I nodded.  "Same to you."
As I crossed into the parking lot, a light snow was falling.  Dazzling flakes sparkled in the glow of the street lamps and as I looked up, the hazy full moon shone down on the shimmering streets.  I stood next to my car and gazed around the intersection that for the entire holiday season had been abuzz with shoppers galore.  The corner of Talmadge and Sylvania is notorious this time of year...and an area I avoid like the plague.  But at that moment, on a silent night in the heart of Toledo, I was the only person standing there.  The only one to witness that miraculous moment. 
I walked to the edge of the street and listened to the hush.  Felt the snowflakes dotting my cheeks and chin.  Marveled at how I would have missed this moment if that woman hadn't been so pushy in insisting I stay late after the service.  I imagined she and the other ladies were at home frantically pulling toys from the closet.  Wrapping gifts to stash under the tree.  Searching through drawers for batteries to pop into the fire engine, the new game, or whatever else needed a missing power source.
Yet in that moment, I realized my own source of power wasn't in having what I wanted...but in experiencing what I had -- all of it.  My grief and sadness over another year gone by and being no step closer to having a family of my own.  The anger and resentment I felt at having been singled out once again for being single.  And also the joy and peace I was experiencing all by myself in a moment I didn't expect at all.
I drove home through the snow and when I pulled up in the driveway, the lights inside were burning bright.  One of my cats was peeking through the curtains.  I knew that a hot cup of cocoa and a warm bed were awaiting me.  I would survive another holiday season and move forward, just like I always had in the past.

Fast forward twenty years.  Here we are with Christmas looming just six days away.  Thank goodness I was well prepared as I've been uncommonly busy with publishing projects that were to be delivered this week. 
And they were...but not as I expected.
The interiors look great.  The spines and back covers are intact.  But the cover photos are non-existent...on every single one.  It was devastating to excitedly open a package that held the very first printed copies of work that has been more than fifteen years in the making, only to discover that the publisher's glitch would mean another delay in delivering the goods to my readers.  To see a stack of white paper instead of the colorful covers I had uploaded over the weekend brought tears of frustration...and I have to make peace with yet another roadblock, another setback.
I'll be diligent in rectifying the problem, even though the automated phone run-around is rampant this time of year.  In time the new books will arrive complete and I'll be able to move on to the next project, the next blog, or maybe even enjoy a little Christmas cheer.  But it's still a bittersweet thing to hold the blank ones in my hands in this office while I sit here alone. 
I've never been married and don't have a significant other.  There will never be any babies of my own.  But this year I've been able to birth six books, and for me that's quite an accomplishment.  Even though my literary kids arrived naked, I guess that's how we're all born.  And I suppose that's how many of us feel this time of year...tender, fragile, and incomplete because we're missing someone.  Something.  Someplace.
I've made peace with much of what I wasn't able to as a twentysomething young woman.  I know how blessed I am to live the life I do...to embody my choices in the person I am becoming.  In the home I nurture. In work that I love more each day.  But when the holidays roll around, little things push on bruises I thought had healed long ago.  I feel tiny pinpricks of pain from things that would have no power in the spring or summer or fall.  I find that I'm not alone in this place of mixed emotions.  Many of my friends are experiencing joy and grief and excitement and exhaustion.  It's a bittersweet time of year for us all, this time of intermingling nostalgia and hopeful anticipation. 
But I keep thinking about that Christmas Eve when I stood in silence watching the snow fall.  Smiling at the full moon.  Knowing that the best gifts don't need to be wrapped.  They don't need a cover photograph or even acknowledgment by others. 
They are moments of clarity and unexpected grace.  An email from a dear friend who has loved me since I was eleven years old.  A little puppy's kiss.  A hug from a person in need.  A good cry.  A hand to hold. 
And the ability to embrace them all with gratitude.



Thursday, October 17, 2019

Headstrong

Anyone else still reeling from the full moon in Aries this past Sunday?  I could feel it revving up the week before and even now, the fallout is still crashing to the ground.   The sign of Aries is symbolized by the ram and rules the head, so many of you may feel as though you’ve been banging it against the wall.  Likewise, hotheads prevail this time of year so conversations, social interactions, and driving may be particularly precarious.  In any case, this is an intense time when it’s crucial to cultivate patience, focus, and an awareness that it will surely pass. 
There is no other time of the year when the full moon blasts its energy through our psyche than in October.  Like a sprinter jumping off the starting block, Aries is all about the launch.  When the moon is influenced by this energy, there’s a tendency for an overload of blow-torch firepower.  You may have gotten into more than your share of heated discussions or been the target of someone else’s wrath.  
Now that the moon has shifted away from this influence, it’s time to sift and sort what’s left behind. 

Full moons represent a culmination and a balance between the sun and moon.  We’re in the sun sign of Libra which strives for beauty and balance.  Libra energy seeks to be in harmonious relationship – with another person, with the earth, with the light and dark within itself.  The thinking here is How can I work with another energy and maintain harmony?  On the other hand, Aries energy is all about being number one.  As the first sign of the zodiac (March 21 – April 19), Aries is at the head of the line, so in its highest form, this energy creates dynamic leadership.  Yet the shadow of Aries (which is amplified by the full moon) is self-centeredness...and not in a good way.
My natal chart isn’t directly influenced by Aries as I have no significant aspects or planets connected with it.  Still, living on planet Earth means the rain falls on everyone, not just parched ground.  In the past two weeks I’ve been in two near-miss car accidents because the drivers were either speeding or darting across four lanes of traffic so they could be first in line at a stop light.  In both cases, because my car happened to be in their way, I was called a choice name with a malicious expletive in front of it.  And in both cases I was left shaking by the intensity of their anger which had nothing to do with me.
Lately, there have been more intense experiences in my personal life which demand I answer the question, How in the heck did I get here and what do I do next?  Sure, we can all laugh and blame it on the moon, but I beg to differ.  The change of seasons and astrological signs is designed to keep us from stagnating.  I’ve come to realize that the degree to which I suffer is directly related to the degree I resist change.  Transforming our lives can be truly difficult, harrowing, and unpredictable.  But as Anais Nin wrote, And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

The full moon in Aries asks each one of us to recognize times when we are headstrong or when we need to stand up for ourselves.   It can help us learn how to protect ourselves from others’ overwhelming intensity.  Because it’s so incredibly potent, Aries can force us recognize the need for consciously creating change by focusing our energy. 
To be sure, it’s a challenging influence, but if you think about the kind of energy the earth embodies to be reborn out of the bitter cold and frozen ground of winter, the ignition of Aries is vital for anything brand new.  In October, the earth  in our hemisphere may be slowly falling asleep, but we are now being asked to awaken to our highest potential.




If you’re interested in scheduling a private astrology session to discover your own strengths, challenges, and spiritual path, please contact me at ingersoll.katie@gmail.com.  I look forward to connecting with you.


Monday, October 7, 2019

All I really need to know I learned teaching first grade


Every month my friend and I meet at Panera by the mall for a long, leisurely lunch.  Christy and I used to teach together – she was a kindergarten expert and I was lucky to have her kids in my first grade classes until I left Greenwood in 1999.  Since then I’ve had the pleasure of working as a yoga instructor with kids from age three to eighteen.  Still, I’ve always thought that if I had to go back to formal education, I’d want to teach first grade again.
          This past Saturday I said as much to Christy (who now has moved up a grade herself) and we both agreed first grade is such a vital year for kids.   There’s nothing quite like watching a child’s eyes light up when they realized they can read…or discover how to subtract…or spell the word “school”.  Yet the lessons I remember most -- and the ones my former students recall whenever I run into them around town - aren’t the ones I wrote on the overhead projector or handed out for homework.  Robert Fulghum’s poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten graced the walls of many a classrooms at Greenwood, encouraging kids to Put things back where you found them and Be aware of wonder.   My person favorite is Live a balanced life.  
Now, in my early fifties, I’ve come to find that all I really needed to learn to navigate this ever-changing, ever-chaotic world in which we now live, I learned teaching first grade.   Feel free to add your own life lessons in the comment section below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned Teaching First Grade
·         The world is full of people who come from vastly different home lives and histories.  Practice patience. 
·         Not everyone thinks or believes as you do…nor should they.   Be open-minded. 
·         Sometimes you’ll have to say or do something ten, twelve, or even one hundred times before it will sink in.   Be persistent.
·         On a rainy day, the most wonderful thing in the world is a cozy corner and good book.  Indulge for at least fifteen minutes every day, rain or shine.
·         The best way to remember something is to involve as many senses as possible.   Live a lush life and experiment with as many scents, tastes, sounds, and textures as possible. 
·         Learn a new poem every month…with sign language if possible.
·         Everyone is good at something.  Find your talent and while you’re at it, celebrate the gifts others bring to the world.
·         The greatest way to stay curious and creative is to discover the way in which you learn best. 
·         It’s okay to cry in front of other people, especially on the last day of school when you have to say good-bye.
·         Trust that even on the hardest days, what you’re doing moment by moment makes a difference. 
·         Be kind.
·         Be kind.
·         Be kind.





Friday, October 4, 2019

Gathering stones

Last Monday I spent the entire afternoon unearthing a rock garden that runs the length of my front yard.  When I moved in nearly thirty years ago, the craggy stones surrounded a bunch of ugly evergreens.  That first summer, I dug out the shrubs and dutifully hosed down the rocks every single time I cut the grass.  Those gorgeous pieces of shale made the garden stand out, even as the years went by when I planted everything from begonias to wildflowers.  But since I was sick a couple of years ago, I’ve been lax in weeding and with all the rain we had this spring and summer, the rocks eventually sunk beneath the ever-growing turf.  
October is one of my favorite times of the year, so I thought I’d wait until cooler weather set in before tacking what I imagined would be a tough job.  But with autumn’s late arrival, I figured I’d better get started.  Fall cleanup, while exhausting and seemingly never-ending, is vital if I want the following spring to be fruitful (and nearly effortless).  I’d much rather pull on a flannel shirt and jeans than bundle up in cold weather gear to clear the beds and cut back the trumpet vine.  Plus it’s super satisfying to enjoy the lush greens and late-blooming perennials of my garden in the fall.  
It didn’t take long to shovel up three layers of stone, but it was taxing, especially since it was a hot, humid day.  Yet the soil was moist and digging out the weeds proved to be easier than I thought.  A few hours later I marveled at how beautiful it looked and now every time I leave the house, I’ll pause and enjoy how beautifully the rock garden ties everything together.  

The ever-changing earth this time of year is a miracle.
In years past I’d be harvesting basil and tomatoes and squash, but this season I turned my raised bed into a nursery of sorts, transplanting lilacs and lily-of-the-valley and lovely Rose of Sharon.  I’ve gathered the best my garden can offer in one place so that when I move into a new home, I can easily unearth it all to take with me.  
In many ways, I wish I could take the rock garden with me, too, but it will stay for the next owner to enjoy.  In unearthing and refurbishing the garden, I used every single stone, and while I may not have put them back in the same order from which they were lifted from the ground, they all fit together perfectly…just like a puzzle.   It reminds me of all the times I rearranged the furniture in my house.  The elements were there, but in moving things around, the energy of the room was transformed.  
I suppose being a Virgo makes me more aware of the incredible power of change.  I was born then the earth begins it’s rapid transformation from summer to autumn, so it’s easy to embrace that which has outgrown one form and is ready to be recreated into something new.  2019 has been a year of tremendous upheaval.  In the past few months, my life has shifted significantly.  The way I work, the way I live, the way I spend my days has completely changed.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember what life was like pre-June, but in the midst of finding my feet, I feel incredibly blessed to have had the foundation of what the past twenty years have given me.
As I reflect on the season that came before this one, the harvest is only just beginning to reveal itself.  All the years I taught yoga have given me a centeredness that I can’t really describe in words.  The books and blogs I’ve written have given me faith in myself. 
In gathering the stones of all of the struggles I’ve had, the lessons I’ve learned, the blessings I’ve experienced, it’s a wonder to recognize what an enduring foundation they have created.  I’ve had to recently unearth it as well, but I trust it will give me the stability I need as I step once more into an unknown future.