Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Grateful for The Mountain


The New Year of 2014 began in much the same way others do.  Lots of discussion and notions regarding things we want to do better, more often, etc. and one such project that caught my eye online was one of the “365 Days of Gratitude” projects floating around.  (There are a number of them).  This particular one focused on the fact that many folks these days carry a camera around with us in the form of our phone and that we might try to utilize this tool to create a greater sense of gratitude in our daily lives.  And so, I quietly began to collect an image or so a day and started a saved blog post here that I would, in theory, share at the end of each month, or perhaps the year, filled with images of what makes me grateful.  And I came to some interesting conclusions fairly quickly.   

The first conclusion is that I already have a gratitude practice.  A practice firmly in place in my day to day, and hour to hour life.  Waking up to “Thank you for this day. Thank you for my health this day. Thank you for work that brings me joy.  Thank you for my family and friends.” is a far better approach to daily life than my now (mostly) long gone inner chatter of negativity.  These statements didn’t even have words wrapped around them until I started really paying attention to my inner dialogue and after years of working to re-wire this dialogue, I am grateful to have a different attitude about life overall.  This gift has been long and independently fought for over the years.  I already HAVE a gratitude practice.  So pinpointing things to be grateful for was a piece of cake.

My next conclusion began to make this project a little more daunting.  I came to the realization that I actually don’t use my phone as much as I might have thought I did. (actually a good thing)  I’d come to the end of a wonderful day, chock full of things that I was not only grateful for, but fully present for as well.  I wasn’t taking the pictures to put into my gratitude post!!  Which leads me to my final conclusion.

As beautiful as this exercise is, and as enlightening and eye-opening it might be for some folks, for me there was a clear indication that this exercise itself was leading me away from the mountain…..

In Neil Gaiman’s now famous 2012 commencement speech at The University of the Arts, he speaks about checking in now and then with how you are doing things and making one clear determination:  Is what you are doing causing you to walk toward the mountain (your goal) or away from it?  I adore this metaphor and have Taos Mountain in my mind whenever I check in to see in what direction I might be headed at any given time.  While the notion of wide-eyed, well-practiced gratitude is something that leads me TOWARD the mountain, the keeping track of the specifics regarding my most grateful moments quickly became something that would lead me AWAY from the mountain.  This was quickly and clearly evident as I would get to the end of the day and fret over not having taken a snap shot that day.  Ridiculous, right?  And so I’ve decided that in this post, I’ll share with you what I have collected up to now, and then leave the exercise at that.  I’ll simply go back to what was already working for me.  That said, I will also enjoy and applaud the daily gratitude efforts everyone seems to be into sharing these days.  It’s infectious.  And beautiful.  And I really believe it changes lives.  It has for me.  I am just not very good at taking pictures all the time!

So here are a few things for which I am truly grateful….. I’d love to hear how you keep track of your blessings.

Friends always willing to gather for a few tunes.


Tony clearing snow off of the cars after a storm.


Healthy feet to carry me on my runs where my best ideas are driven forth.


Mr. John Skelton, who drives over 2 hrs to teach classes at the Riley School of Irish Music each week.


Friend time and Puppy kisses


The courage to make a painting


The power of one small lightbulb to keep the bitter cold at bay

photo 3


Two healthy dogs


A banner trip to the library


My job and a new friend there


Ceili band practice


a magical warehouse frozen in time


Eggs in spite of the cold and gray.  Thank you, girls.


Magical gifts to enhance my letter writing practice

jan 14


A visit with Lu



photo 3


jan 20

A dear friend who is cancer free!

jan 15

Home made soup

photo 2

Kids still willing to be kids.

photo 1-1


And a few others of note…..

For folks who support and delight in the adventures of Ginger Small, a long awaited day to spend with a dear one who lives just across town (we didn’t take a single phone pic, we just enjoyed each other’s company), my son who swings by every so often to walk the dogs, for my own room in which to work.  I could go on and on.  And if you follow my twitter/facebook self, you’ll see other things I might take notice of.  But I suppose at the end of the day, I lean more luddite than technoholic.  This suits me just fine.

The mores and the lesses of things

Depth by bird in the attic


It is that time in the wheel of the year when many of us are called to be a bit pensive about things.  To consider the seasons that have passed and what they had to offer to us and what gifts we gave in return, as well as to gaze through the telescope of time, looking to what’s in store in the days, weeks and months to come.  I find it’s helpful to select a word which resonates for me in the deep pockets of my heart and to keep that word at hand through the year, almost as a keel to keep me on course as I sail on….. Last year’s word was FOCUS and I utilized it with great care and reverence. But I don’t believe we give up on a word once it has served us for a year, it merely acts as an addition to the tool box of life.  And so this year’s word, DEPTH will work with last year’s:  Depth of Focus.  I like the sound of it.

As a reminder of these chosen word talismans, those in my creative circle sometimes trade word laden gifts.  Above is one of these crafted by Michelle Blades of Bird in the Attic Studio.  Her world of whimsy and wordsmithery is simply enchanting and I am tickled with my murky depths ornament.  A reminder to go deep in all that I do in this New Year on the calendar.

Along with a word on which to focus, I like to make a little list of the mores and the lesses to consider.  Much like Ye Olde New Year’s Resolutions, but with less room to fail, the mores are all the things I’d like to add to my day to day while the lesses are things I could stand to curb.



More and lesses, a list of potentials


One of these ‘lesses’ is the time I spend monitoring and engaging in social media, for both work and play.   Much has been written by many about just this thing and two of my favorite blogosphere heroes, Rima Staines and Neil Gaiman have recently shared their thoughts on this dilemma.  As I consider what depth will look like in my life and work I know that the bite sized information available at the candy counters of Twitter and Facebook, Tumblr and other such temptations acts as both a driver of work and connectivity, and a swallower of precious time and productivity.  Simultaneously. Of course this can be endlessly frustrating and one could chase one’s own tail for days on end trying to come up with a solution to the quandary of it all.  But I don’t think there is a solution.  Like all complicated systems that come with good and evil, there must come a balance and we must simply ride the pendulum the best we can, attempting to know truthfully how much is enough for each of us.

Canary rides the pendulum of time

As December roared through town, swinging at my head with engagements and obligations, flurrying and hurrying, I began to think very concretely about how not to fall prey to the insanity of it all and I realized that time off from the virtual world, as much as I love so much of what it has to offer, was key to an even keel personally and professionally.  Along the same lines, I have opted to listen to music without ads to keep the screaming part of the world at bay, and this has already made the first few tentative steps down into the artistic rabbit hole easier and more successful.  I plan to keep these minor (yet major) changes in place as this new year gets underway.  As it has been for so many years now, it’s these micromovements, set to the course toward what feels to be our true north which really make for sustainable change and growth.

I wish you more mores in your lives, and fewer of the lesses which cling to your backs as well.  Happy New Year.  May your blessings be bright and bountiful.