Serenity on the Clarion River

Canoe

Jim and I spent this past weekend in one of our favorite places in the world- Cook Forest State Park, Pennsylvania. We meet up twice yearly with a group of friends and this time we occupied three cabins side by side with a grand total of sixteen people.

We ate all of our meals together and spent most of our time gathered around a perfect campfire. There were lots of good stories, marshmallows and too much food. Believe it or not, there was no alcohol on this weekend and yes, we had a very good time.

Before we left, Jim and I made the decision to head up a bit early on Friday and go for a canoe ride down the Clarion River. We did this once before but took the much longer ride. This time, we opted for a shorter river journey which took about ninety minutes.

Clarion RiverWe had a very nice canoe. I rode in front and Jim took the back seat so he could do the steering. It was one of our shining moments working as a team. Paddling around rocks, shallow water and little rapids, we never once got hung up anywhere. Jim threw his fishing pole in along the way, just for good measure, but the fish must have been somewhere else, probably taking a long nap.

I can’t fully describe for you what the ride was like but I will try. The river was tree lined on each side; great big tall trees, still green but with the promise of autumn in their leaves. A clear, sparkly river with the sun glistening off the surface so much so that it appeared as though diamonds were scattered about. The sound of a red tailed hawk overhead; the sound of my paddle as it glazed the tip of the water.

A couple of times, the sun was warm enough on my shoulders and I angled my hand over the side of the canoe, into the chilly waters of the river. I left it there for a few moments and felt the cool wetness, the temperature of the water being just perfect for the beginning of fall.

There is truly serenity in being among the tall trees, in unspoiled beauty, with clean air and only the scent of pine or a good, smoky fire. My cell phone does not work well in Cook so it’s a good excuse to go unplugged for the entire weekend. The better to enjoy the beauty with.

Sometimes we have to stop and break away. Life is just too busy these days and more and more is expected of us. Making time, pushing ourselves to be in touch with nature should be mandatory, just to clear our heads and refresh our minds. I know it really works for me.

Where’s your favorite place on earth to wind down?

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

When Less Is Really Better

DSC_0145

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Life is moving in slow motion for me these days. For the first time in many years I have the luxury of enjoying summer, spending time with my mom, family and friends. It’s a big switch for me, multi- tasker that I am, as I am used to cramming as much as I can into my waking hours. It was nothing for me to go non stop from 7am until 10pm at night, rarely stopping long enough to catch my breath in between. My sister Mary said to me once, “Jo, you’re making us all look bad.”

These days, it is life without much of an agenda. It is freeing really to have a minimal schedule and plenty of time to work on small projects. And, the bonus to all this is I am living on a lot less money than I used to. My needs have become very simple. I tried to figure it out the other day, what was it that was really different? First, I am just not buying stuff like I used to. Second, I am content with a lot less.

DSC_0162Part of this I can attribute to grace and age. As I truly work on embracing life from the standpoint of a spiritual journey, material things have become less and less important. As I get older I feel like I am truly embracing what my mother Katherine has always set an example of- that less is really better. Bigger, fancier and complicated just means more expensive, more maintenance, more potential aggravation. Make more money and we spend more money. Easy and simple I’m finding is really the way to go. Pare things down, decide what’s really important, ease back and enjoy it.

The bonus to all this less is more attitude is more time and energy, and a bit of extra money for what I feel most passionate about. The ability to decide what’s really important bestows a true attitude of generosity in so many other ways. Ways that can really make a difference.

Thanks again to my daughter Michelene for these beautiful photos!

What’s your simplest pleasure? I’d love to know!

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

All Wrapped Up Pretty with a Bow

Beautiful Bows by Karen Appleton

So Thanksgiving is over (poof!) and now it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to Christmas. I didn’t participate in any Black Friday events (did you?) because frankly, I’m just not into the hoopla. And, my list is not all that long. Let me explain.

We pull names on my husband’s side of the family so Jim and I only have two presents to buy there. My kids are older now and frankly, we’re just not into lavish presents. Plus we are still helping our kids in other ways financially. How much is too much (or not enough) when it comes to your kids (or grand kids for that matter)?

As I work on my spirituality, I don’t want Christmas to be only about shopping and gifts. It just seems too superficial. In my early days as a new mom, the holidays were about lots of presents, cooking, decorating and getting exhausted. I usually got a terrible cold when New Year’s was over, likely from all the self induced stress I put myself through.

Last year, I tried something new. I took each of my kids to a music event. John and I went to see Handel’s Messiah, and Michelene and I went to see Jackie Evancho. This way, I gave a larger gift- my time– and both kids responded in a positive way. Also, this gives me a chance to support local non profits like the CLO or Pittsburgh Symphony. So that is what I think I might do this year. A music or artistic event, a teeny bit of money and some socks. Everyone can always use warm socks.

I want to remember, most of all, that the holiday is about spending quality time with family and whatever is the reason for the season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, I think the ritual of eating and spending time together with family and friends, when accompanied by the symbolic significance of your holiday, is the synergy that makes holidays meaningful.

So my gift list this year isn’t too long. I kind of like it that way. I’m into wrapping my time up pretty with a bow and being with the ones I love.

(Thank you to Karen Appleton for her beautiful painting of Bows! Click on her name below the bows picture and visit her website!)

How do you feel about gift giving? Is it all about the presents or do you do something different? Fill me in!

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015