6) Look. Up.

Has the sky always been this remarkable?

It is one of the great joys of my days, this winter, to simply look up. I can hardly make my way to work in the morning, or home in the evening, for obsessing over the constantly changing sky. To the North? Fourteen shades of remarkable blue with criss-crossed contrail lines. (I can’t see a single one without wondering about the people on the planes, where they are going, what will await them when they get there.) To the South, layer upon layer of clouds: wispy cirrus, floating cululus, dramatic cumulonimbus. (I looked it up.)

Here is a phrase I repeat so often even I get bored with it:

If you saw that sky in a painting, you’d never believe it.

This is what I thought tonight. I am so lucky to live where I live, and work where I work. I drive East in the morning, heading straight for the sun and the brightening sky. I drive West in the evening, right into the sunset. For 30 minutes each way, I get to see a show so breathtaking I often pull off to the side, just to watch.

This sky is also a reason I love winter so much. In summer, the sunrise and sunset are merely bookends that denote beginning and end during a time of exertion and activity. In winter, the changing sky is a part of our consciousness; it is a guiding light that brings us gently into the day, then eases us out softly, on the other end. The days are short, so this rising and setting is an integral part of the routine, a gift from God to our conscious, awake selves. It is message of inspiration, I think, a Keep At It just when we most need encouragement.

Try this. The next time you are feeling sad or bored or disconnected, look up. I bet you’ll see a light show so dramatic you’ll think: Someone up there surely is trying to tell me something.

Allison Caldwell
Allison Caldwell
Allison Caldwell

I can’t resist including these bonus images by my friend, Allison Caldwell. She and I share a fascination with the sky and I am always wowed to see another of her shots appear in my Instagram feed. Follow her at akcsc on Instagram.


1) Living with intention.

I scored a long Christmas holiday from work this year—10 days, in fact—and enough time to ultimately reach that glorious what day is this? mindset. Travel completed, house de-decked, I began to wind my way through the hours, taking long look how pretty the clouds are today breaks as I cleaned out the massive accumulation of stuff beneath my bathroom sink.

There’s something really beautiful about allowing yourself that much time for a task that mundane. With every find, I opened and rubbed and smelled before deciding STAY or GO—including the rather massive collection of tiny shampoo/conditioner/lotion bottles I have amassed. My husband and I have differing views on hotel toiletries; he finds it silly that I even bring those plastic containers home. Fine, I think, you who will wash your hair with deodorant soap and not think twice about it.

Anyway. I cleaned the closets and organized my desk and created new files, including an entire ELIZA/COLLEGE section. I did the laundry—including the hand washables—and trimmed the herbs and mulched the garden and planted an entire new bed of smiley pansies. (That made me very happy.) And then January arrived, and it was time to go Back To Work.

This was my thought as I exited our neighborhood, pulling my SUV into the mad rush of The Holiday is Over traffic. Was it possible to hold on to some semblance of the calm I felt in those last days of vacation? Could I carry peace with me? What would happen, I wondered, if I unsubscribed to my own DO IT RIGHT NOW lifestyle, and instead, slowed down? 

I flipped on the turn signal, choosing a longer, but prettier, route to work. For an entire 15 minute section (quite miraculously) there was not a single car behind me to apply let’s-just-get-on-with-it pressure. And so I drove along unencumbered, immersed in the audiobook tale of the charming (and surprisingly spunky) Elfida Phipps in Winter Solstice, marveling at the elegance of the bare winter trees lining the roadway.

Could autumn be any more glorious?

My day proceeded accordingly. Each time my email pinged or a meeting alert sounded, I resisted the urge to jump. I just might be on to something, I thought, as I walked with intention, slowly, measured, on my way to my car at the end of that first day. Perhaps control lies within mein the way I go about my day.

I carried it through to Day 2, and then Day 3. Every time I felt the pressure rise, rather than breaking into sweaty run (literally or figuratively), I did the opposite. I slowed down.

Tomorrow will be Day 4. So I must say, there is not conclusive evidence of my theory. But it is looking promising. And that, my friends, is enough for now.


I’m thinking of a January filled with Do-Overs, Rethinks, What Ifs. Want to come along?

In January


I’ve long held that January is the only civilized month. With its winter arms and 5 o’clock cloak, January offers an extraordinary opportunity to slow down, curl up, hide away. In fact, I love January because it is the one month in which it is deemed perfectly respectable to do so.

In January, I read. And by that I mean I fall slowly and deeply into wonderful, winding novels that take entire afternoons that stretch into evenings that go right on with me to my cozy you-can-never-have-too-much-down bed. I skate through centuries and across continents and just for a while, take leave of the incessant demands that are my life.

In January, I sit. Our living room is built around a real wood-burning fireplace, and our neighbors know if there is smoke coming from the chimney, Cathy is In Residence.  There is just something about that fireplace, and me. I would rather sit and stare at its flames than watch TV or sit on a beach or play on my iBook. The woodsy smell, the pops and cracks, the constant tending, the red hot embers—I stare like a young lover, mesmerized.

In January, I knit. I know. So 70s. But I love the feel of yarn and the rhythm of the pattern and clickclickclick of the needles. I find deep satisfaction in making something useful. And I rejoice in the creation of something so beautiful, just Right There.

In January, I promise. I tell myself it’s within my power to make time to do these things any time of the year; that there’s no reason I can’t take an entire afternoon IN AUGUST to sit quietly, or read, or create.

And I believe. Until inevitably, February comes, and the pause button releases.

Until then . . .