Robert Mueller "Fronds"

The Splendor of Colors

Colorful spools of thread from Cotton and SteelThis past week while I was in Denver tagging along on my husband’s business trip, I visited my friend Sarah who is a fabulous knitter. She needed to pick up some buttons and yarn so I joined her on a yarn trek. The first store we went into was sweet but very small. Then we went to a yarn and other craft store mecca called Fancy Tiger Crafts.  All I can say is wow!

The main thing that captured my eye was the abundance of color and texture in every direction. There were shelves of yarns in colors of all the rainbow. The bolts of fabric that lined several walls had small prints, large prints, in rich colors and in pastels. The ribbons and trims were like strips of candy that I wanted to devour. One of my favorite racks was of every-color-imaginable spools of thread produced by Cotton + Steel. But what made them even more spectacular was the fact that each spool was a contrasted color to the thread.  Just delectable!

I found that I had a huge smile plastered on my face the entire visit to the store. And everyone there seemed happy too. I attribute it to the color (and of course all the lovely woman working there and shopping there who were into crafts of all sorts). I know that color is important to me but what I forget is how color impacts me viscerally. I feel color melt over me and bathe me in bliss.

Yarn ColorEvery October for the past several years since I gave knitting a try, I have been going to the NY State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. It turns out that knitting wasn’t the craft for me—perhaps one day I’ll try again—but I am grateful that I learned about this fair because of having taken knitting lessons with a sweet young woman who knitted herself a different sweater each year to wear to the event. The fair is a delightful combination of crafters and furry animals and of course color! Set in the fall against the backdrop of trees turning magnificent hues, the rows upon rows of yarn skeins in every color and weight imaginable are indeed eye candy.

Goat loveTaking in everything visually is a way to boost my happiness. Because how can you not smile when you get to pet an angora bunny that is a giant white fluff ball? And how can you not giggle at the variety of unusual looking goats and sheep with their coats that range from curly locks to soft long fleece. And don’t forget the sometimes silly and yet beautiful llamas. And the range of natural colors: browns and creams and golden hues and blacks and warm shades of all sorts. The lovely animal’s downy or coarse fur is the starting point for the beautiful and colorful yarns. Whether the wool that gets spun into yarn remains natural or gets dyed in every color imaginable, the result is a kaleidoscope of joy.

Robert Mueller "Fronds"I get lost in color. I revel in it. One of my favorite activities is staring at one of my Dad’s large acrylic abstract paintings. Sometimes I dive into the middle of the painting. Other times I start at an edge and follow a color as it shifts into different shades and meanders across the canvas. Although he painted with oil for years and the colors are deep and rich in those pieces, when he shifted to acrylics the colors exploded for me. I live to float through the world with my eyes open while I absorb all the magnificent colors.

xoxo Rachel

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Viewing the solar eclipse

Watching The Sky and Astrological Events

Monday, as pretty much everyone knows, was a solar eclipse. In our house, astrological events are fairly important and this one was no exception. Andy rigged a great viewing apparatus based on recommendations from the Nasa website. Basically he projected the sun and moon through binoculars on to an angled cardboard. My mom came over and together we asked the clouds to be kind to us so that we could view the eclipse. Mostly the clouds listened. And so with delight we watched the path of the moon eclipse the sun.Viewing the solar eclipse 2017

I have always enjoyed looking up into the sky. As a girl growing up in Roosevelt, New Jersey, we were far away enough from any major light sources from larger towns or cities that our night sky was very visible. I am not certain how old I was—probably seven or eight—when one of my friend’s parents started an astronomy club. I loved going to the weekly club meetings for a number of reasons.

For one, we met at his house in “The Estates” which was a new-ish 1960s sub-division. The Estate’s houses were so modern and so different from the rest of the Roosevelt houses. At least they were to me and in comparison to the rest of town. Most of Roosevelt was designed by Louis Kahn and built in the 1930s. Secondly, we met on a school night so it felt somehow exciting to be doing something fun and unusual when we’d otherwise be at home. And third, I remember that they served yummy snacks that, whatever they were, were different from what we ate at home. I can’t say that I remember all that much about our stargazing but I know that I absolutely loved learning about the various constellations.

Another important astrological viewing that stands out in my mind took place on August 11th, 1980. “How can I remember that actual date?” you might ask. Well, the Persied meteor shower peaks about August 10th-13th each year and I know that I was one year out of college so it had to be 1980. As for the specific date—believe it or not—I have my diary from that year that adds a unique twist to this tale. Anyway, my friend Nathalie and I went to Cape Hatteras National Park all by ourselves to get away for a few days. It was a big deal that we drove all the way to North Carolina on our own. We pitched a tent and camped out right near the dunes!Nathalie at our campground 1980

Several events mark that trip. We went out for dinner to a local spot and ate these yummy things called hushpuppies that I had never had before. I have never since had such excellent fritters in my life—or at least my memory claims that. The second and fairly disturbing event happened when I was about to write in my diary. In fact, I just pulled out that diary from my bookshelf to confirm all this. Apparently sometime while at home, my ex-boyfriend had read some of my diary and left me a chilling response. Fortunately, Nathalie was there to help me through that emotional upheaval.Rachel at Cape Hatteras 1980

As if that wasn’t enough, as nighttime unfolded, we thought the sky was literally falling! The sky wasn’t actually falling, but being out on a cape in the complete dark gave us a spectacular location from which to view the Perseid meteor shower. I didn’t actually know that was what it was until decades later. I just assumed that we got to see lots of shooting stars. Many years later, Andy and I started to watch the Persieds each summer from our hammock in Cold Spring. And as it turns out, when the Persieds pass closest to Jupiter, there are more meteors and they appear brighter. That occurred in 1921, 1945, 1968, 1980, 2004 and 2016. I just happened to be in the perfect viewing location on one of the perfect dates!

I have a mixed feeling about gazing at the stars. Mostly I love to watch these various happenings in the sky. I find it magical, delightful and spectacular. However,  if I think too deeply about how I fit into the universe and what human existence is when I am watching something unusual in the sky, I can spiral into existential panic. It is hard to explain if you are unfamiliar with the experience but it manifests itself as a physical whirling in my body. When I have an existential attack—and I have had them since I was in my twenties I would guess—it is as if my mind gets so involved in the thoughts that I get dizzy and overwhelmed. Historically I haven’t allowed myself to sit with the sensations for very long and try to change my thoughts so that it goes away in a minute or so. But I think that the next time an existential crisis happens, I might allow myself to practice a mindful approach and see what more I can learn from that experience. What I do know for sure is that looking up has particular significance to me. Whether watching the clouds (see Cloud Hopping) or the night sky, the heavens above have a great impact on my life on the ground.

xoxo Rachel

Kitties Commuting

Horus in a shoeboxI have such wonderful memories of bringing up our two cats, Horus and Anubis with my husband Andy. They completed our family of four. Our cat Anubis, who is nearing sweet sixteen, is getting very close to the end of his life. We had to say goodbye to his brother Horus five years ago and we still miss him and all the silly noises and stunts he did. Horus loved to squeeze into the smallest box possible. And he would throw his body on the ground and make the sweetest sound as he rolled over to expose his tummy. Anubis’s main stunt—until his senior years—was jumping for his scrunchy ball. We called it his Pelé move. I have a movie of him somewhere that I can’t seem to find.

AnubisWe adopted the two of them from Little Orphan Animals in Peekskill, NY though at the time we were living in New York City and only stayed in Cold Spring, NY on the weekends. I first met our kittens at their foster home in Putnam Valley, NY where they were staying with their five siblings after being rescued from the side of the road. The foster home was fairly large and had many different rooms filled with cats and dogs of different ages and types. They even had a separate room upstairs with a screened-in porch for several cats with feline leukemia. That room was well isolated from the others to prevent spreading of the disease.

Horus sleeping on my workThe newest addition to the foster home was a litter of mewing kittens. They were only about a week old so they were little itsy bitsy things and easily fit into the palm of my hands. I got to pick out our two kittens and I selected Horus for his beautiful orange coat and Anubis for his loud purr. Anubis is still our purr-bucket. Horus was named after the Egyptian god of the sun and Anubis after the god of the underworld.  Egyptians idolized their cats as I obviously do.

Andy and Anubis readingOnce the kittens were a couple of weeks older, the foster parents brought them to us in Cold Spring and did a home visit to make certain we would be good parents and had a safe home in which to care for them. I love that they took animal adoptions so seriously—we certainly did. Initially we kept Horus and Anubis in our guest room in Cold Spring so that they didn’t have too big of a place to contend with. But we had to get back to the city for work so thus began kitty commutation.

Mom and Dad and their grandkitties Anubis and HorusAnubis and Horus were small enough that they easily fit into a single cat carrier. And that was a good thing because come Monday morning we grabbed our bags and our kittens and took the train to the city. Our city apartment was small enough that they could go anywhere though we tried at first to keep them out of our bedroom at night. That didn’t last long. Little scratching paws at our door was enough for us to cave. Our cats slept with us from then on. Have you seen Simon’s Cat video?  Well, that just about captures our life with our kittens in the morning though they never hit us with a bat.

Anubis and MeKitty commutation continued each week: to Cold Spring by train on Fridays after work and to the city on Monday mornings. The kittens seemed to take it in stride. They were wee things and the cat carrier was still a palace to them—for a while anyway. In a few months we graduated to two cat carriers, which made things a lot more difficult. At the time Andy was working really long hours so sometimes I was carrying two cat carriers by myself on an earlier train.

Baby Horus and Anubis snugglingNot that I am complaining—but then Horus and Anubis did. They decided that they really didn’t like the train. The sounds that emerged from their carriers caused quite a stir among the Metro-North passengers. It was time for Andy and me to graduate to car commuting.

Our Toyota TercelIn 1995 we had bought a used 1989 Toyota Tercel in Freehold, NJ while we were visiting my parents. That was just before we bought our Cold Spring house and well before we adopted the kittens. Until the kitty train commuting got out of hand, we simply kept the Tercel at the Cold Spring train station parking lot during the week—for free! We talked to the village police who said that it was no problem leaving the car there because they regularly checked the station. They wrote down our license plate and phone number just in case. Can you imagine that happening now? That certainly is worlds ago. Now the station is all paid parking and the MTA police definitely do not have our phone number.

Anubis can jump high!Anubis and Horus continued to grow and we continued to travel back and forth and back and forth between Cold Spring and New York by car for about ten years. In 2001 we bought a new Toyota Rav4 so Anubis and Horus had pretty nice digs during a few years of their commuting. Horus was always pretty laid back about cruising in the car. Anubis—not so much. Anubis never found anything good about car travel. But fortunately we have been living full-time in Cold Spring for some time now and kitty commuting—and work commuting in general—is a thing of our past.

Babies in a basketI am so grateful that I had a couple of years full-time with Horus by my side—sometimes in my lap—while I was working from home. And I love that I can be with Anubis all day now. I will miss him so much. Anubis and Horus will forever be my little boys.

xoxo Rachel

Andy & Rach at VLA

The Expansive Sky of New Mexico

Andy & Rach in Santa FeAfter way too long of not getting away, Andy and I finally went on a vacation this month. We went to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a location that we first visited when we took a month-long road trip together when we were dating—32 years ago (see The summer of love—cross-country ramblin’ with my man in 1985.)

Andy in the Santa Fe mountainsWe have been back to Santa Fe several times since then and I always have the same reaction. I absolutely love to visit but cannot imagine living there. I am most definitely an east coast girl and tend to prefer the flora and fauna of the northeast. However, there is nothing quite like the expansive sky of New Mexico.

Ceramic balls at JackalopeWhen we visit Santa Fe, we spend as much time in the greater surrounding areas as we do in the actual town of Santa Fe (though I certainly do love everything in town including museums, southwestern food, jewelry shopping in the plaza and perusing the store called Jackalope).  This trip was no different. We drove north of Santa Fe into the mountains for the spectacular views of aspens and panoramic views of New Mexico. We drove south of town to visit the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

Rach & Andy at Tent RocksThe hike in this National park is one of our favorite destinations when we go to Santa Fe. The last time we tried to visit in 2010, the dirt road out to the park—which runs through a reservation—was being paved, so it was closed. We were certainly happy that it was open on this trip seven years later. Presumably they finished the paving many years ago 🙂

Rachel Andy Jane PaulBig sky, small world. Andy and I were just at the start of the trail up to the top of the park when we stopped to take pictures of where we were headed. I turned around as two people approached and then exclaimed, “Jane!” One of my best friends from high school, who I haven’t seen in about seven years, was hiking with her husband Paul on this same trail! Sure there are only two trails in this particular park, but there aren’t that many people at the park at any given time. And what is the likelihood of meeting someone you know on vacation who lives in a different state? It is indeed a small world.

Tent RocksWhat a treat it was to catch up as we were standing there in the desert. We let them go ahead of us because I knew we would take our sweet time climbing the trail (I experience altitude sickness). Then we met up with them again at the top of the monument and continued to talk and take pics. Even though we were in an unusual location, our conversation was as if we had just seen each other two days ago. What I love about Jane and Paul is that Andy and I can easily take up our conversation anytime. The serendipity of that meeting was certainly a highlight of the trip, helped by the dramatic backdrop of the expansive New Mexico sky.

The VLAAnd though most of the expansive views we witnessed on this trip were of natural formations, there was one man-made view that was equally spectacular. We drove three hours south of Santa Fe to visit the Very Large Array.  The VLA is made up of 28 telescopes that each have an 82-foot wide dish with 8 receivers tucked inside. The telescopes continuously collect cosmic radio waves for research purposes like finding black holes and discovering ice on Mercury and all those kind of fun things—well fun to me! Astronomy is most definitely an area I have always loved.

Andy & Rach at VLAThe telescopes are arranged in one of four configurations that range from a bit over a half of a mile to over twenty miles apart. They are moved into their locations on specially made rail-tracks. Luckily when we visited they were in a tight formation so we could easily see all of them. When they move, they move slowly and smoothly in tandem. Andy commented that they look as if they are dancing. Quite an amazing sight to behold! I feel so grateful that Andy and I both appreciate the beauty of natural and man-made structures and share in these amazing experiences. The thrilling expansive sky of New Mexico will always be a favorite spot of ours in the world.

xoxo Rachel

“You Name It” Area Backroads

When Andy and I lived together in Santa Cruz, California in 1986-1988, one of our favorite TV shows was the Bay Area Backroads. Jerry Graham was the host of KRON-TV’s Bay Area Backroads from 1985 – 1993. (It turns out that the show continued non-stop until 2008 with Doug McConnell as the host after Jerry Graham retired.) Jerry would head out to some area in the greater Bay Area near San Francisco to explore locals and unique individuals along the way.

Our First Car In Cold SpringBecause of the program, Andy and my shorthand for going on a drive on smaller roads just to see the sights became the You Name It Area Backroads. In Ohio it was the Oberlin Area Backroads, In Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Area Backroads.  And of course these days there’s the Cold Spring Area Backroads. There’s even the Roosevelt Area Backroads—though we didn’t call it that back then—that I got very familiar with when I was a young girl on drives with my mom and dad on what we called “Sunday Outings”. They were memorable meanderings around on all the small country roads near Roosevelt, with no goal in mind and no destination picked out.

The Theme song for Bay Area Backroads was Ry Cooder’s Available Space and anytime I hear Ry Cooder I feel like getting into the car and going for a drive. Although Andy and I only watched it for a few years, we are big fans of that program and even bigger fans of the You Name It Area Backroads. Just earlier this week, I took my mom to the Newburgh Area Backroads. I needed to pick something up at a store in Newburgh and my mom had never been. So we hopped into my car and, after taking care of the shopping need, cruised the neighboring backroads. We hit the waterfront and visited the historic and truly broad, Broadway. We drove under the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge to the north town area that has wonderful historic mansions all the way up to the edge of the Hudson River.

We continued our backroads tour heading north to the Walkway on the Hudson, though we hadn’t intended to go that far. We were on the lookout for The Buttermilk Falls Inn which we finally found after we had turned back from the Mid Hudson Bridge. Llamas and goats and duck and geese were roaming around the lovely grounds of the spa and inn. We never got out of the car—that’s part of the plan with one of our You Name It Area Backroads drive. You can get out of the car if you want, but you needn’t. The drive itself is the destination, watching the world go by and stumbling on various sights and stores and food places and whatever.  And of course the company you keep is the biggest plus.  Driving with my mom was a perfect outing.

The You Name It Area Backroads phrase can apply to any area you are visiting. So even if you are just visiting, if you have a car rental and want to explore, go right ahead and check out that area backroads. You can really get a great sense of the area when you stray from the well-known spots. Yet I am most fond of intimately getting to know where you live through this method. Just head out in any direction from your home and take turns here and there as you follow your nose in whatever direction seems promising for some reason.

Sometimes when we are out driving I will remember a place that I have wanted to check out for some time—such was the case with the Buttermilk Falls Spa and Inn. Other times we will note places that we want to come back to actually visit—not having the desire or energy to get out of the car at that time. Most of the time it doesn’t really matter. Andy and I might be singing along or listening to music, though more often we are pointing out sights to each other and chatting away. However it occurs, You Name It Area Backroads is a wonderful way to spend time with people you love while enjoying the unique surrounds and places that you will inevitably find on your jaunt.

xoxo Rachel

My Bouncing Mind

My AltarLately I can’t focus very well. I am constantly changing direction in my thoughts. My bouncing mind leaps from one thought to another and from one direction to another, barely taking any time to stop on any one topic. I don’t have ADHD so this isn’t a usual circumstance for me. It is true that I often think really quickly so the pace of my thoughts moves fast and can change direction. But that is usually a progression of thoughts that leads me to new ideas. Instead what I am experiencing now is the inability to stay in one place, thought wise.

A friend who I met with yesterday also noticed that I am perhaps working too hard to try to figure it all out. I have read—and no exaggeration here—20 self-development books in the past two months. Although the books have overlapping topics, because each author has a different perspective I am receiving an overabundance of ideas. Time to put down all the different books and not push so hard. Time to get back to being here where I am and just be.

It’s just that I feel so untethered. And so I sought books as a way to find a path forward. I also began a new healthful way of eating on March 1st. Since the start of the month I have been eating a low fat, low sugar vegan diet. I have not had any trouble sticking to the “new way of eating” (I prefer that to calling it a “diet”). And yet I have noticed that I feel less grounded, even though I am eating plenty of root vegetables ☺. I can’t put my finger on it but I am definitely missing something. Sure I am obviously not eating meat and dairy but it is more than missing those foods. (I don’t seem to miss the dairy at all, but meat, yes.) I suspect that there is both a psychological and biological factor in this feeling of—I think I just put my finger on it—loss!

Well, no surprise there. I am clearly mourning the loss of my father so perhaps I have added to this feeling of loss by not eating pork, beef and chicken. Kind of sounds crazy. But I bet there is something to it. Not that I am going to use that as an excuse to revert to my old eating pattern. I feel really good physically and in general like this new way of eating. I just need to be kind to myself and let my body and soul go through the mourning process however it goes.

My mindfulness meditation practice is geared towards being present in the current moment. Focusing on my breath or sound or something that keeps me anchored, helps me to stay in the here and now. So given my more than usual bouncing mind my meditation practice has been more monkey-mind than usual. And yet, this practice is absolutely what I need most right now.  So I will continue to practice.  And I will continue to find magical moments and just be content in enjoying every moment as it unfolds.

xoxo Rachel

Beach Trips With My Mom

Mother and Daughter Turks and CaicosOver the years my Mom and I have spent time together at the beach more times than I can count. As young kids, my Mom would take my brother and me to the Jersey Shore with other moms who also had small children. Although I have one photo that proves that my Dad went to the beach with us at least once, I suspect that was one of the few times he joined us.  When I got a bit older, my brother also remained at home more often—though there was a memorable trip to Atlantic City with him. Thus began many years of my mom and me going to the beach together.

Muellers at Jersey ShoreMostly our mother-daughter trips were on weekends to nearby Manasquan, NJ while I was still living at home. Later, after I had left home for college, we went to the beach together for daytrips whenever I stayed with my parents on visits in the summer. And a few times we went a bit farther and stayed overnight in Cape May, NJ.

Erik-Rachel-Atlantic-CityCape May was particularly familiar to my Mom at the time, because she had a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Reorganization case involving beach properties there. In fact, we had a lovely dinner at one of her client’s properties while we visited one time. We enjoyed the downtown shops and food, but most of the time we spent on the beach.

While at the beach we sat under an umbrella with lots of magazines and books that we barely looked at. Instead, we talked and talked and talked. My Mom and I never lack for conversation topics. Whether light and bantering or deep and big-picture reflective, our talking style is rather fast-paced and engaging. The beach is a perfect place for spending hours doing nothing but talking. What could be better?

Erik-Mom-RachelIn my 30s, I went to Florida for work nearly twice a month because I had a remote team based in Dunedin, near Tampa and Clearwater. Thus began another phase of beach trips with my Mom were she accompanied me to Florida. While I was at work during the day, she hung out at the beach or pool in Clearwater and I joined her at the end of the day. I’ll never forget the sweet feeling of being sent off to work for the day by my Mom. It was almost like she was seeing me off for grammar or high school. And then when I returned to the hotel room, what a treat to have my Mom greet me instead of being alone on a business trip. We always stayed over the weekend so that I could also have some time with her on the beach.

Rachel-at-the-beachI no longer travel to Florida regularly for work so now Mom and I just find excuses to take trips together to the beach. My Mom left New Jersey and lives near me now in New York, so going for a day-trip to the Jersey Shore isn’t as easy—but that hasn’t stopped us from making the two-hour trek occasionally. And last week we traveled even further and went to Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean to get our beach fix together during the winter.

Mom in Turks & CaicosThe trip was perfect. Blue skies, azure water, occasional fluffy clouds, a sprinkle one day for a few minutes, and a storm with downpour one evening gave us the right mix of weather to enjoy. The turf varied from day to day from fairly large waves to so calm it was almost like a lake. The sea was most inviting when there were some waves, but ones that were not too lively. I encouraged Mom to join me in the water—not something that she does often. We went hand in had into the water beyond where the waves were breaking. Together we floated over each small wave as it started its way towards the shore. With smiles and giggles, we enjoyed the undulations of the water while the bright sun beamed down on us.

Mom under the umbrella in Turks & CaicosSpending time in the room together each evening was also fun. We watched DVDs and ate food that we picked up at the local grocery store—including plenty of junk food☺. But most of all I loved spending time on the beach with my Mom. With a magazine or book in hand—again left unread—just sitting next to my Mom under the umbrella for hours of gazing out into the beautiful clear blue water in between conversations about love and life was one long magical moment.  P.S. Happy Birthday Mom!  I love you.

xoxo Rachel

Remembrance of Dad and Sensations Past

In Honor of Robert E. Mueller
April 3, 1925 – January 18, 2017

Mueller Family Late 1970sThere are so many wonderful memories to unpack of my life with my Dad—here are just a few standouts that are flowing from me right now. I am so grateful for his love and kindness to me. And I am so thankful that he is in many ways responsible for my deep love of my sense-experiences. I remember so fondly when he and I did woodworking projects, together in the basement workshop, that used his jigsaw. I equate jigsaws with my Dad. I don’t think I ever really heard the word in any other context than with my Dad. I suspect I never really even realized before putting pen to paper today that a jigsaw puzzle was probably initially created using a jigsaw. A jigsaw is what my Dad had in the basement that we used to cut shapes out of wood—regardless of the purpose. That’s the only kind of electric saw that existed in my child’s mind. And it will always be the best saw to me.

Jewelry HandAnyway, I also loved what we created with that jigsaw. Together Dad helped me to use the jigsaw to build jewelry-related items. My purple velvet-lined jewelry box is a perfect combination of rough unfinished wood next to ultra-soft napped deep-purple velvet. Possibly it was my first use of the jigsaw. A bit more ambitious project, my display jewelry holder in the shape of my hand so perfectly makes use of a wood knot as the palm. We used the jigsaw to cut the hand shape and the base. I probably traced my hand and forearm as the pattern on tracing paper with a soft graphite pencil. That unique pencil smell comes to mind. Then we cut dowels for fingers (other than the thumb) and hooks to hold bracelets and more rings. I love my little jewelry box and hand display. They still are very much in use today in my jewelry cabinet. A glance at them is love.

Little Rach and DadMy Dad and I also did other larger woodworking projects together. I suspect we used the jigsaw to cut the 2×4 pieces into lengths for the bookshelf we made for my bedroom. We also built a desk together which had three wood legs, a plywood top with strips of wood around the edge to soften and finish it and a small file cabinet anchoring it as the fourth leg. Now that I have been exposed to more woodworking tools because of Andy and his workshop, I suspect that using other saws might have been more effective for cutting large pieces of wood. We used the jigsaw! I know we occasionally used handsaws of different sizes as well. But the jigsaw is king. I can conjure up the loud sound of it turning on as I sit here. Even with its raw power and energy, it’s a calming and comforting sound. I can also smell the fragrant, yummy wood. To this day I adore the smell of cut wood.

Father and DaughterJust last week I went with Andy to Dain’s Lumber, a local family-operated lumberyard where we got to pick pieces of wood. Andy needed members for his project of restoring his father’s (and his grandfather’s before him) workbench. (Andy had lovingly taken apart the workbench at his childhood home in California in December and shipped the pieces to our New York home). Andy and I watched as the wood workers planed the pieces of wood to a thinner dimension. The planer was so loud and thrilling and the smell of cut wood around me so reassuring. I am sure there is a primitive reason for my love of cut wood. I know that I am not alone in that feeling—Andy certainly shares it. I also owe addition love for cut wood smells to my Dad. (Andy learned his love for woodworking from his Dad). I didn’t spend as much time with my Dad over the years compared to my Mom, but woodworking was a standout.

Father Son DaughterAnother sense-based love that I owe to my Dad is my adoration of the smell of oil paints. Although I should say that my love is probably a bit broader and includes linseed oil, ink and turpentine. My Dad started working in oils, though for many years he used acrylics—but they don’t smell as good! I have a small set of oil paints and to sniff them is to experience joy and to transport me to my Dad’s studio in our attic. I am sure that the smell of oil paints is still lingering upstairs in the Britton House—our childhood home. Dad worked in our attic on painting, ink schemas, sketching and—woodcuts! How could I forget that woodcutting was not confined to the jigsaw in the basement for building structures? Woodworking was part of his art creation!

Communications Officer MuellerMy Dad cut wood for his amazing and intricate woodcut prints. Using woodcutter’s tools of different shapes and taking advantage of the grains of wood, he crafted many woodcuts. From scenes of many people depicting slavery to peace marches and workingwomen, to individual nudes and portraits, my Dad was a gifted woodcutter. I can smell the ink as he rolls it over the beautifully carved planks of wood. And then using a smooth burnishing tool made from wood, I can feel him rubbing the textured white rice paper laid on top to transfer the image. Yes, I do indeed love texture and smell—is it any wonder?

Father and DaughterMy Dad’s life, and therefore my childhood too, used the senses. Sights—the beauty of his artwork and his design eye. Sounds—the delicate brush against canvas, the scraping of wood curls from his cutting tool and the jigsaw drone. Textures—the crevices in his woodblocks and blobs of oil on canvas. Smells—fragrances from all the materials he worked to create lasting art. The remembrance of sensations from my Dad’s woodworking and artwork will forever sustain me and provide me with love.

xoxo Rachel

The Serenity of Symmetry

The Zen of SymmetryThis morning as I entered into the already quite serene space of the Meditation Hall at The Garrison Institute I was taken aback by the arrangement of the meditation cushions. The zubuton and zafu pairs were arranged perfectly symmetrically throughout the vast space making me feel at once both breathless and calm. I couldn’t stop looking at the space and smiling at its awesomeness. We usually meditate in a small room, the annex to this large space. But surprisingly the larger space on this cold winter morning was warmer than the little annex room. So our small group of five meditators gathered in one corner of the large hall and rearranged the few cushions and chairs we needed into a small circle. I couldn’t help feeling the entire 45-minute meditation that we were somehow out of whack with the rest of the space and that we were not respecting the symmetry. And yet the calmness of the surrounding area held us beautifully.

As I meditated and focused on my breath, my periodic thoughts—among the usual monkey mind flicking around—would come back to the symmetry of the space. I live very spatially (see The Contours Of Time In My Mind Map for some more on that note), so I was quite aware that my body was at a 45° angle to the symmetrical layout. I wasn’t parallel or perpendicular—no I was exactly 45°. Had I been sitting at a different angle like 10° or 20° it wouldn’t have been a problem; it just wouldn’t have been as soothing.

Deconstructionists love to play with unpredictability, randomness and non-symmetry for good reason. Because we humans love symmetry, when things aren’t symmetrical it causes us to be jostled a bit and re-think what we are looking at. It causes us to question the laws of the universe because although there certainly is plenty of randomness in nature, there is a remarkable amount of symmetry too.

Fractal and bilateral symmetry

There are different forms of symmetry though bilateral symmetry is what we commonly recognize as symmetrical. There is something so reassuring about the bilateral symmetrical form of humans and animals and many plants. When we decorate rooms we often rely on bilateral symmetry, like having matching bedside tables and lamps to create a calm sleeping oasis. There are many different forms of symmetry in nature and fractals are one of my favorites. They are also called expanding or evolving symmetry because they are iterative and appear infinite. Crystals, mountain ranges, plants, shells, snowflakes, cloud formations and even shorelines exhibit fractal form. With so much symmetry in nature, is it not surprising how universally quieting we find symmetrical forms.Romanesco Broccoli Fractal

At the end of our morning meditation I couldn’t help but exclaim how lovely the space was set up. The leader of our group explained that their wonderful keeper of the space arranged it for a Zen group that stays at The Garrison Institute every year between Christmas and New Year’s. “But of course it is for a Zen group,” I thought to myself. Zen is calm, Zen is soothing, Zen is exactly what this symmetrical space embodied. I am so grateful to have had such a glimpse of symmetrical perfection on this day of Winter Solstice.

xoxo Rachel

Dancing Among Angels On Earth

Sparkly RachelThis past week I attended Fabienne Fredrickson’s Mindset Retreat in Ft Lauderdale, FL. The event was part of her yearlong Boldheart Academy program that is designed to help small businesses and entrepreneurs grow their businesses. The Mindset Retreat was focused not just on work but on all facets of life and how to conquer limiting beliefs that hold us back from taking actions and getting what we want. The content of the program was very helpful and very empowering. And the people in attendance—well, they are some of the most magnificent people I’ve met! Together we danced an awful lot and found ways to get into our personal place of power as we tackled some really difficult personal development stuff (check out my post on finding your own personal power). It is so easy to get stuck in the muck that holds us back from doing things in life to reach our big goals. In our working sessions we thoroughly articulated what we want from life and then committed to taking action. Much of moving through limiting beliefs requires taking leaps of faith as we go for what we truly want to accomplish. So it is not surprising that the type of people who are attracted to the mindset program are very spiritual and very loving, kind and open. So every day of the retreat I felt like I was dancing among angels on earth!

Angels on earthMany of the people I met are involved in light work such as life coaches, spiritual coaches, health coaches, angel practitioners, massage therapists, psychologists, professional organizers, musicians and artists. And there were also doctors, nurses, construction contractors, authors, and many other areas that aren’t typically associated with the spiritually inclined. But I can tell you that they were all very angelic beings! They opened their hearts and shared their passions for creating their own awesome lives while being of service to others so that their clients can create their own awesome lives. What a very motivating and positive energy group of people to be around! I learned so much from each person I talked to because we didn’t stop with simple pleasantries of introductions. In our conversations we went deep into why we do what we do and what we are striving to accomplish in our lives.

Marrying Susan and KevinOne of the best parts of my getting involved in the coaching movement way back in 2001 has been the amazing people I have been honored to get to know. Over the years I have met so many talented coaches and people in other professions who are very warm and kind and also extremely dedicated to making changes in the world. They are not afraid to speak frankly about what they are passionate about and in general tend to be passionate about a number of different things. They are multi-passionate like me. And they are highly spiritual—not necessarily religious. I suppose that it isn’t surprising that I was drawn to also become a celebrant a few years ago because that training and the practice of marrying couples allowed me to make ceremony and honoring of passages in life a big part of my why. And I met other celebrants who also tend to be very giving and generous souls in the world. I am sure that if I called any of them angels to their faces they would smile from ear to ear and exude their natural sparkly brilliance.

What I have been finding to be true for me more and more each day is that I cannot hold back from publicly sharing—through my blogs—how I look at the world. Whether in this Love Beauty Peace blog, my Wondrance Coaching blog, my past Magical Moment Mondays (that I will be bringing back soon in a new form), or my Wedding Wednesdays and Flower Fridays blog, I am constantly outing myself in terms of how I view life. Although I am not religious and rarely directly discuss my spiritual perspective of life, I identify with the angelic realm because it speaks to seeing the natural and brilliant beauty in everything surrounding me: flora, fauna, trees, clouds and people. Every moment is magical when you allow yourself to feel the wonder and joy of existence. I believe that owning and taking responsibly for creating your own magical life is critical to change the world. And I believe that it is happening for so many people already and will keep spreading. As we all become angels on earth, dancing and creating joy and sharing our unique and brilliant talents, we will experience personal abundance and proliferate peace.

xoxo Rachel