A contemplative season: two essays for winter
January 9th, 2010
I’ve been contributing to a fabulous daily blog called “Lifestyle Insights. Real Women. Real Life,” which a group of us launched last September. It’s something completely different than my other writing projects and has allowed me to do some fun, memoirish, essay writing in addition to writing about outdoor living and gardening topics. But since it’s still a blog post, I have had to learn how to communicate my ideas in 300 words or less! And in today’s world of bite-sized journalism, I guess that’s a good skill to have.
To work with a dozen incredibly talented women – each highly accomplished in her own field – has been so rewarding and inspiring. Each of us is committed to communicating contemporary trends and ideas for women like us. Together, we have a powerful voice that we hope will inspire and influence how corporations communicate with their audiences.
The group was founded by Robin Avni, a multi-talented, idea-a-minute galpal. I remember reading Robin’s home+technology design stories in the Seattle Times long before I was fortunate enough to meet her – which I recall was on a press preview of the former Seattle Interiors Show in 2004 or so. Thanks to the miracle of LinkedIn, we reconnected last year and got together a few times when I was in Seattle on business or to give a lecture. Robin invited me to join her dream team of 12 lifestyle experts. We are part of a creative media and consulting agency “specializing in consumer insights, trend analysis, research and content for the MOMMY TO MAVEN™ market.” You can read more about the firm here.
I’ve added Lifestyle Insights to my blogroll at the right (under “My other blogs”), so I hope you’ll subscribe to our newsletter and also check in from time to time to discover a fabulous recipe from Jean Galton, our food expert; a perfect organizing tip from Janna Lufkin, our simplicity expert; an insightful parenting tip from Kavita Varma-White; entertaining, beverage and spirits ideas from Kat Spellman; sustainability news from Celeste Tell, our green goddess; technology insights from Molly Martin, our tech-savvy mentor (Molly, a former health and fitness columnist, also keeps us “balanced” and healthy); wonderful stories told by Sherry Stripling, whose words capture the universal connections of women in all generations; explore fashion and twentysomething trends spotted by Alexandra Smith; and get the “big picture” from Robin Avni, who ties it all together with a finger-on-the-pulse instinct about women and their lifestyle choices. Our visual storytellers include photographer Angie Norwood Browne and Valerie Griffith, our video producer. It is an honor to share the page (screen) with these talented communicators.
Here are two of my recent essays, in time for a quiet winter’s read. I hope you enjoy them:
The Scarf Society
My recent visit to a medieval village in Tuscany (where I spent a week with ten of my girlfriends in a rented villa) is symbolized by a soft, colorful scarf.
Each woman had in common a friendship with me; some have been pals since my early twenties, while others are more recently dear. Individually, we couldn’t have been more different from one another. Throughout the week, though, we bonded as a group. We spoke with a familiar friendship-language, punctuated with laughter, and enhanced by delicious food, good wine and unforgettable scenery.
And there was something else: Our Italian scarves.
Street vendors in Siena and Florence offered a tempting array of scarves – cashmere-and-silk textiles woven of gold and maroon; apple green and sapphire blue; solid or paisley-patterned. Pretty soon, most of us had joined what I called the Scarf Society. It was October, so the soft cocoon of fabric draped over the shoulder was appropriate. But it wasn’t all about getting warm.
The scarves, shawls and pashminas made us feel sophisticated. Even the less-flamboyant women in our group gravitated toward the look. Wrapped once or twice around the neck; used as a shawl around the shoulders; or worn asymmetrically with the ends twisted together, these lengths of fabric had a way of making even a t-shirt and jeans look glamorous.
Was it the scarf or the place? Was it the mutual experience of kindred spirits or a fashion statement? I’m not sure. But now that I’m back at home, I feel elegant when I wear my woven tapestry with threads of pale yellow and dark green. And I will always remember the warmth of my friendships.
You could call it a fringe benefit of an unforgettable vacation.
And this one, called Labryinths:
Centuries, or perhaps millennia old, the labyrinth is linked to both mythical and religious practices of many cultures. Where a traditional maze is designed with dead-ends and false pathways, a labyrinth is made of concentric rings, interconnected to form a single, continuous journey.
In modern times, the labyrinth is used for meditation and contemplation – a device to slow one’s step and encourage quiet, inward focus. I’ve walked on grass labyrinths shaped by a lawn mower, pebble beach labyrinths designed by unseen hands, and carved concrete labyrinths installed in church floors and on the forest floor, surrounded by trees. Intricately made or constructed for temporary use, the labyrinth is a gift to be cherished.
To walk a labyrinth, I am required to step away from the chronological clock and get lost in the moment. I enter and follow the path to the circle’s center. I pause to say a prayer or quietly murmur “thank you” or “peace.” Slowly, I retrace my steps, returning to the beginning. I discover that time has almost stood still. I feel a spiritual connection to nature and a lightening of the heart.
I once met an artist who required the use of a wheelchair. He meditated with a “visual” labyrinth. Installed in the center of his garden was an 18-inch-square miniature mosaic labyrinth. This incredible man journeyed the labyrinth with his eyes, beginning and ending at the same point, and experiencing the same meditative benefits as when I walked a full-scale labyrinth.
The return of this ancient pattern is really no surprise. We are busy people, with a lot on our minds. Consider how hard it is to unplug, silence internal or external chatter, and isolate ourselves long enough to listen to our inner voice. Perhaps you, too, will find peace by walking the labyrinth path.