A Scatterbrain’s Guide to Meditation

Okay, I confess.  I am really not a scatterbrain in the manner of being flighty and lacking good sense; but I had to come up with a word that would kind of describe the typical manner of thought-transfer in my brain.  You see, I am very much a thinker, an analyzer, maybe even a schemer or worrier at times.  It can be quite exhausting trying to keep up with all these thoughts!  So I am trying to incorporate my own mishmash way of meditation into my daily life.

I’m pretty hopeless when it comes to carving out a specific time to meditate.  You will never see me rising at 4:00 a.m. to sit motionless in the lotus position, deep in reflective thought.  It is just not me.  I know that this is probably the ‘ideal’ way and time to meditate – I’ve heard and read about it so many times that it’s become almost ingrained in my head that this is the only way to meditate.

But I have been realizing that meditation comes in many forms, and can be used at different times.  I had to find a way to work it into my life; something that would resonate with me and that I could stick with.  I didn’t want to have to feel guilty about not carving out a huge chunk of time devoted solely to meditation.

I walk every day and find that this is a great time for reflection and meditation.  I walk alone, and with no distractions (i.e. music).  I just let my thoughts wander as I observe nature.  Sometimes I plant an affirmation in my head and chant it (silently) over and over as I stride.  I also do a lot of thrift store shopping and (surprisingly) find that it’s an ideal place for meditation.  There is something about the rhythm of going through the racks that make my thoughts drift.  I am even able (most of the time) to block out the certain distractions of annoying customers.

Another good time for me is when I am driving alone.  There is something about gliding along in my own little world that brings out meditative thoughts.  I also really love to read, and find that I get caught up in books, which removes my thoughts from my everyday worries.  This too, is a form of meditation.

My absolute favorite though, is napping.  Oh the bliss of a nap!  It has the same qualities as officially meditating, without all the stress of being officially meditating.  Just to lay back, shut your eyes and doze is so calming, relaxing, and restorative.  It gives both the brain and the body a much-needed break.

I think that there are many different ways to meditate; many different ways to ‘enlightenment’.   It’s just finding the way that’s best for you.  In fact, I believe that Buddha is saying the same thing here:

“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation brings ignorance.  Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” ~Buddha



Cold Water Washing in Cold Weather – Cool!

Being a bit of a laundry renegade, I am ever on the search for laundry procedures that will not only save me money, but preserve the environment AND get clothes just as clean!  As you probably could guess by now, I am an avid clothesline user.  I air-dry 100% of the time, using a clothesline outside in nice weather and drying racks inside during inclement weather.

As far as my washing procedures go, I use my trusty 20 year old washing machine.  It is nothing fancy, but definitely gets the job done well.  I’ve always washed darks and wools in cold water, but stuck to the age-old tradition of washing colors in warm and whites in hot.  I guess this is just how  it has always been done.  Not wanting to mess with housewifery  tradition,  I didn’t want to change the routine lest some evil descend upon me!

One day, in a flash of determination, I decided to wash everything in cold water.  Yes, even whites.  Even towels.  Even sheets. Even underwear.  I know…GASP!  Eighty to ninety percent of the energy used to wash clothes heats the water.  And unless you are washing something that is really muddy or oily, it’s completely unnecessary with the modern machines and detergents we have now.

I have not noticed any difference in the cleaning results using cold water.  Things get just as clean, in fact to my eye they almost seem cleaner.  I may not feel the warmth from the dryer or hot water washes anymore, but that’s okay with me.  Laundry renegades will do most anything to be cool. 🙂


The Autumn Clothesline Switcharoo

When you’re a 100% year-round air dryer/clothesline user like myself,  one must pay much more attention to the ever-changing weather conditions.   Good thing that I’m a bit of a weather geek;  I actually like tracking the weather!  This comes in handy for determining the ideal conditions and placement of drying the laundry outside, or whether to dry it inside.

Autumn weather gets tricky; the days are shorter,and it gets colder and rainier.  Even if it is sunny, it can lull me into a false sense of drying expectation when I hang the clothes on the line.  It just has that nip in the air, the sun is lower, and there is enough humidity (at least here in the Pacific Northwest) to delay the drying a great deal.  I can hang laundry on my backyard line early in the morning, and late in the afternoon it is still damp.  Thus begins the ol’ clothesline switcharoo.  I have to take down all the laundry from the clothesline and then put it on drying racks inside the house.  Which is kind of a hassle, I must admit.

Even though it is a bit more work, one advantage is that the laundry has spent the day soaking up all that deliciously heady autumn air smell outside.  When I place it on the racks inside to finish drying, the poignant smell fills the air.  There is just something so wonderful about the outside-dried smell.  It changes with the seasons too.  Autumn smells different than summer, which smells different than spring or winter.  No man-made chemical scent could ever top Mother Nature’s!

I’m still trying to hold onto outside drying as much as I can, even though the attempt is futile at times.  Soon I will be drying inside full-time for the winter;  drying racks will be filling my kitchen once more.  But that too, is kind of charming in it’s own way.  One must definitely be adaptable to be an air-dryer!

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” – George Eliot


Sprouting Gutters? Time to Clean!

I tend not to pay attention to my roof gutters most of the time; deliberately ignoring most of the evils that lie within their depths.  But living in a house surrounded by tall trees does eventually force me to face the fact that most of the foliage ends up on the roof and in the gutter.  You see, when plants and weeds start sprouting from the gutter, it is quite difficult to ignore this fact any longer!  I can “la di da – I can’t see it” all I want but when neighbors start commenting on my gutter garden,  I know it’s time to clean.

When the gutters get so full of gunk it also clogs up the downspouts.  Rain, with nowhere to go, just pours over the gutter.  This is also another fact that is difficult to ignore; I live in the very rainy Pacific Northwest.  Dodging and dashing through the gutter deluge becomes an active sport.

Luckily (because I am frugal and hate to hire out), I have a nimble teenage son who loves the chance to go on the roof.  He doesn’t really mind cleaning gutters either – in fact, he scoops out all the muck with his bare hands!  So after borrowing my neighbor’s ladder, and a quick lesson on ladder adjusting, my son was up on the roof.  He deftly bends over the gutter scooping out and then flinging the gunk to the ground.  I had to clean up the ground gunk, but glad I wasn’t up on the roof!  I was doing enough fretting and directing from the ground.

The gutters are now spanking clean, and just in time.  We had massive rainstorms the next couple of days, and all the rain ran into the gutter and down the spout brilliantly!  It was nice to have them working again.  The one slight irritation is the sound of water going down the downspout; I had almost forgotten what that sounded like.  As luck would have it, I have a downspout right outside my bedroom window; so all night long – gurgle, gurgle, whoosh, whoosh! But actually it was kind of soothing… the sound of a job well done.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” –Oscar Wilde


‘Tis the Season for Homemade Soup!

With the Autumn change to cooler weather and shorter days, I always get a hankering to make soup.  No, not from the can that I usually eat most of the year, but good old-fashioned made-from-scratch soup.  I especially like the heartier bean and legume varieties.   There is just something so satisfying about the process of  washing and soaking the dried beans, then adding all the ingredients and letting it simmer on the stove for hours.

Yesterday was a good crisp soup-making kind of day, so I decided to make split pea soup.  It only took about an hour to cook, maybe because the peas are small.  Anyhow, I was totally amazed at how such a relatively small package of dried peas could make a huge vat of soup.  It turned out really well; even my picky teenage son thought it smelled good while cooking and devoured a huge bowlful!  This always warms my heart.

My tried and true handmade soup is the 15-Bean variety.  This incredible soup absolutely defies any law of physics.  It expands to an immense amount after soaking and cooking, and is the most filling soup you will ever want to eat.  The only problem is that it makes so much!  I end up eating it for weeks afterward and usually get very tired of eating it.  And really, 15 bean varieties?  To me, that is about 13 or 14 bean varieties too many!  I need to find a recipe for a delicious one or two bean soup.  A little bean goes a long way!

Homemade soups are hearty, wholesome, and cheap to make.  It  does take longer to cook, but nothing is more comfy than aromatic soup simmering on the stove on a cold day.  Soup’s on!

“Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.”  -Marge Kennedy


Sweater Season is Here!

It’s this time of year when the days shorten, the temperatures cool, and the leaves start to fall, that I start my whole routine of hauling out those good old sweaters.  I really, really love sweaters so this is always a bit of a joy for me; even if it means putting up with brisker weather and loss of sunlight.  Perhaps it is in my Finnish Lapland blood that I don’t mind it so much.  It must be inbred in me to at least somewhat tolerate Arctic Circle conditions.

The great thing about most sweaters is that they seem to last forever.  I am talking about natural fibers here.  Cashmere, wool, mohair, and angora  are my faves; not so much acrylics and cotton.  They will last a long time if you care for them (yes, you can gently hand wash all natural fibers).   Just don’t overdo the washing.  A sweater can be worn many times without it getting dirty, and it’s good for the fibers not to be washed so much.  And please, do NOT dry clean sweaters…no, no, no!

Another fab thing about sweaters is that they usually stay in fashion forever, year after year, if you choose a classic style.  I wear a lot of vintage sweaters and I love cashmere.  Vintage cashmere is super thick and soft, especially the sweaters made in Scotland.  I love wrapping myself up in a comfy cashmere sweater because it’s the only natural fiber that I can wear next to my skin.  Cashmere keeps me warm without much bulk which is always good for looking a bit sleeker.   I mean, I like heavy wool sweaters but I have to wear a layer underneath and I end up looking like a linebacker!

So out come my favorite cashmere sweaters, I’ve kind of missed them.  It is actually kind of sensuous and sexy to wear them; a bit of the old vintage sweater girl aura.   My heavy wool sweaters will come out eventually, when icy cold winter rolls around.   But I only save the big guns for the fiercest weather… girl’s gotta have her fashion priorities!

She wore a short skirt and a tight sweater and her figure described a set of parabolas that could cause a cardiac arrest in a yak.”  ~Woody Allen