On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks. Here's this month's serving of Last Wednesday Wisdom. Your reward for reading to the end: a preview of a can't-miss post coming soon!
Joy is the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens.
-- Br. David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk
In the throes of creativity, a lively brain tussles with a mass of memories and rich stores of knowledge, attacking them both sub rosa and with the mind wide open. Some of it incubates offstage until a fully fledged insight wings into view. The rest it consciously rigs, rotates, kneads, and otherwise plays with until a novel solution emerges. Only by fumbling with countless bits of knowledge, and then ignoring most of it, does a creative mind craft something original. For that, far more than the language areas are involved. Hand-me-down ideas won't do. So conventions must be flouted, risks taken, possibilities freely spigoted, ideas elaborated, problems redefined, daydreaming encouraged, curiosity followed down zig-zagging alleyways. Any sort of unconsidered trifle may be fair game. It's child's play. Literally. Not a gift given to an elect few, but a widespread, natural, human way of knowing the world.
-- Diane Ackerman in One Hundred Names for Love
We must overcome the notion that we must be regular . . . it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre.
-- Uta Hagen, actress
Imagination, dreams, spirit, delight, craziness, goofiness, chaos, dance, song--they're all important. Without them we're hardly human beings. In a materialistic society the artist is always a bit of an anarchist, tossing the Molotov coktail of the imagination into the bank foyer: C'mon! Wake up!
-- Poet David Mason, interviewed in The Sun, April 2015 (Read the full Interview here)
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
-- Edith Wharton
We give life when we learn from our own weeping how to give ourselves with gentleness and compassion to the sighs and struggles of other people.
-- Eugene Kennedy, psychologist
I think of each day as a gold coin that you are required to trade for something. You'll never get that coin back, so whatever you trade it for had better be worth it. You also don't know how many coins you have left to trade, and you don' know what will happen when your bag is empty: the other side of death, if there is one, is a mystery.
-- Physician Raymond Barfield, interviewed in The Sun, January 2016 (Read the full interview here.)
". . . I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.' "
-- Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a Country
Coming soon: An interview with river guide and nature photographer Kevin Feenstra, whose photographs are on display as part of an exhibit on The Art of Fishing at Artsplace in Fremont, Michigan. Kevin will also make a presentation, "Photographing A Big River," at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 13, during the exhibit's reception.
Stay tuned for my conversation with Kevin!
No matter how I feel when I wake up on a Monday morning, I'm always uplifted and ready to take on the world (or at least my small part of it) after that session of physical, spiritual and social activity.
Now, I've found the perfect end-of-week bookend for my start-the-week routine: a Friday afternoon women's hiking club. It's a club in the loosest sense of the word—no dues, matching outfits, or other requirements—and that suits me fine. It's just a group of women who get together once a week to explore Newaygo County's trails and appreciate its natural assets.
Avid outdoorswomen and longtime friends Peg Mercer and Mary Papes started the club several months ago, inspired by hiking and biking clubs in Arizona.
"Mary and I were in awe of the opportunities they had created and felt like we could do the same in Newaygo County," says Peg, who traces her interest in outdoor activities to childhood, "living in the farm fields of Alpine Township, where we biked all over the neighborhood—to my grandma's house three miles away, to the local party store for penny candy—and walked long distances to friends' houses."
Peg and Mary, who have also backpacked with a group of local women, invited friends and neighbors to join them on their Friday outings, and they encouraged those women to invite others.
"It has been a heartfelt pleasure to meet so many active women right in our own area," says Peg. "I look forward to the friends who have yet to come in our pathways."
From the outset, the idea was to make it easy for people to participate (or not), as schedules allow. On Thursdays, Peg and Mary send out texts and emails announcing where the hike will be, and anyone who's free can just show up ready to hike a route that one of the leaders has scouted in advance.
Many of the hikes follow segments of the North Country Trail, a 4,600-mile path that extends from New York to North Dakota, with a swath that cuts through Michigan from the Ohio border in the south, upward through the Lower Peninsula, into the Upper Peninsula and across to the northern Wisconsin border. A long stretch of the trail crosses Newaygo County and is easily accessible at several points (including one that's minutes from my house!).
Some hikes include optional kayaking afterward, and women from the group have gotten together for bicycling on other days.
I had read about hiking clubs and walking clubs in other parts of the country and always wanted to be part of one. So when my neighbor Sally told me about this club, I was excited to join. So far, I've been on six hikes, with groups ranging in size from four to thirteen. On every hike I've known at least one other person (several of the Monday yoga women are also Friday hiking women now), but I've also met a dozen strong, interesting women I hadn't known before.
And because the group values the getting-to-know-you aspect at least as much as the getting-fit aspect, chatting is not only permitted, it's encouraged. (One particularly apt name suggested for the club is the "Walkie Talkies.") Every time we pause to stretch or take a breather, the pack reshuffles and conversation partners change. While walking through groves of pines and glades of ferns, I've been enlightened on everything from cake decorating to the origins of pickle ball to what to do if you meet a bear.
Now, at the beginning of every week, I find myself wondering not only what challenging poses Ellie will lead us through and what we'll discuss at Hit the Road Joe, but also where the Friday hike will go, who I'll get to know better as we walk and talk and what I'll learn in the process.
What ways have you found of combining favorite activities with friendship?
I'm taking a break from writing this week. Well, that's not entirely true. I did spend some time playing around with a new writing project, which I'll tell you more about once it gets further along. But I'm taking a break from blog writing this week because it's just so beautiful outside, and I've got to get out there and look at stuff.
I hate to leave you behind, though--we've been having such a good time together. So come outside with me, and I'll show you some of the stuff I've been looking at.
That's the end of today's walkabout. What catches your attention in your surroundings?
You'll hear no such comments in Brenda's class. Though she doesn't hesitate to offer advice, it's all done in a positive way, aimed at helping class members explore new methods and improve their skills.
On the Thursday I visited, Brenda showed 11-year-old MaKenzie (daughter of Heidi and sister of Caden) how to use a variety of watercolor techniques, including resist and sgraffito. The class usually works in watercolors, but Brenda introduces other media when the occasion calls for it.
"One day the clouds were beautiful, so we did a cloud study in pastels," she said.
As Eileen labored over her lily painting, Maureen reminded her, "Every once in a while, look at it from far away to get a better sense of the values." Maureen, who also sells art supplies, uses the class to try out new materials like the embossed rice paper she was working with. When she had finished painting on it, she added torn paper "halos," symbolizing "all the angels in my life." Then she started a new piece, painting around bright smears she had made by smashing petunia flowers and leaves.
Though Brenda doesn't play favorites, she couldn't help bragging on the work of one class member, Deb, whose flower painting was particularly vivid and free-flowing. Deb had painted years ago, before a stroke disabled her right arm—and her painting hand. Recently, she taught herself to draw and paint left-handed in a completely different style.
What new territory have you explored recently? What would you like to try?
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.