What's It All About?

It's all too easy for days to pass without reflection. It's my hope that through a greater active awareness on each day, that I will be able to consider God's presence in my life and in the world around me. Writing has always been a way for me to round up my thoughts. This blog seems like a good place to park those thoughts for my own benefit as well as the benefit of others. Please take a moment to read what I have written, to offer comments, and to share the ideas with others.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Out With The Old and In With The New

I will now be writing exclusively on a fairly new blog that I established several months ago.  This new blog contains posts about my various interests: outdoor activities, nutrition, mental and physical well being, and spirituality. It's my belief that efficiency is a good thing. Many of the posts that I have written for my spiritual blog could also be included in this new blog. So, rather than send people to two places to read, why not provide one easy spot where all posts can be read without having to jump around? Please book mark this new blog into your reader or what have you: On My Mind

Thanks and cheers to a life well lived,

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Praise Song

Photo by Libby Fife

Recently, while looking at the note app. on my I Phone, I came across the quote below:
Our purpose on earth is to praise.
My note taking is often incomplete and unfortunately I didn't write down the author's name. But in looking at the quote again I love both the simplicity and the enormity of the idea. To praise something or to offer praise is to express approval of something or someone. How often do we do this I wonder, really do this in a heartfelt way? How often do we take notice of what surrounds us? And not only take notice but acknowledge, praise and give thanks. I was so moved the other day when I found this quote that I actually pulled my car over to compose some lines. I offer the following up for some thought.

Praise Song

To the sky, the bluest of all possible blues.
To the emerald green grass, the juicy red berries,
 and to the soaring hawk above.
I offer my praise for a job well done.

Cool and clear running stream, 
you have outdone yourself.
Shining stars and rising sun,
and an earth that keeps rotating despite our actions.
Keep going, we need you!

To the rain that falls,
the ground that quakes and the fires that burn.
I offer my praise despite my fear. 
Be alive!

Grazing animals, growing plants, 
and listening people.
Winds that blow and sands that shift.
Your hard work is noticed! 
Without your efforts, where would we be?

And to the Creator above, last but not least.
I praise you for your generous and loving nature,
and for a constancy of love which cannot be matched. 
In return, I promise to notice and to wonder,
and to then notice some more.
Praise be to the wonder of it all!

Monday, January 2, 2017

What Weeds Can Teach Us About Survival in The New Year

When life covers your world with asphalt...
This year both Hanukkah and Christmas seemed to arrive quickly. Not being totally prepared is a little stressful. Both holidays demand introspection. This year there didn't seem to be any time for that kind of deep thinking.

However, it pays to look down! My regular walk happens to take me across a parking lot. As I looked down I noticed the weeds poking up through a crack in the pavement. At the same time, I found myself musing on the meaning of Hanukkah. As far as I know, it's really a kind of historical/religious holiday for Jewish people, celebrating a long ago military and religious victory. Moreover, it's a celebration of the seemingly impossible-the stretching of a supply of oil meant for only one day that miraculously lasts for eight days. Where could such an archaic series of events intersect with our current modern day life?

As I looked around myself and then down again at the pavement, it occurred to me that these weeds poking up through the cracks were emblematic of what the holidays are about: celebration of new life in light of often difficult circumstances. It's the perseverance of the human spirit in times of darkness, only personified in the form of small green shoots doggedly poking their way up through a crack in the asphalt. What better to symbolize the miracle of both Christmas and Hanukkah. 

As we face the New Year, which to many of us presents the seemingly impossible, remember the weeds! It sounds simplistic I know but follow their lead: find a way  to thrive even if you face the impossible.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Intersections: Science, Nature and Religion

View to Pardee Reservoir, Calaveras County, CA
The intersection of science, nature and religion is of interest to me. Can one subject inform the other? Can something learned in the realm of science answer a long held question about religion? Can religion explain something seen in nature? And on and on. Insight into any of the subjects often leads to insight elsewhere.

Recently I took a hike that led me to the top of a lookout. I could see all around me: different counties, mountains and bodies of water were all within view. As I looked at the scenery, I honestly didn't know what to think. It was overwhelming mostly because of the vastness. of space. What was out there and how did it come to be? My reflections both then and now haven't yielded any answers.

This isn't unusual. Most of the time, my efforts at explanation fall short! But here is where science helps. I am reading a book by Loren Eiseley called The Immense Journey. Eiseley was an anthropologist and naturalist; a keen and sensitive observer of his world. In one of the chapters in this book, he describes coming upon a spider and her web. He reaches for explanations and meanings because the spider is spinning the web in an improbable spot where it probably won't last too long. In the end, he decides that in these types of instances, where the unexplained has been observed, it is best to simply record the findings and leave that information for future generations to puzzle over. Each person can then ascribe their own meaning. 

His answer seemed like it could be my answer. Even though no one is likely to review my own findings of the scenery I found the other day, it is enough to record those findings and not necessarily explain them but to simply enjoy the mystery of what is. To enjoy what I feel is the intersection of nature, science and God, all made visible.  Here is what I observed:

* unseasonably warm weather for November
* clear views of a full Pardee Reservoir
* unobstructed 360 degree view of all hills, mountains and scenery
* very green due to early rain
* overwhelming sense of awe and wonder and gratitude

Make of it what you will!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Days of Awe-Some Thoughts

Change of Seasons-Big Trees State Park, Arnold, CA
No matter what I do, Rosh Hashanah always manages to sneak up on me. Though I am not a practicing Jew (I am a non practicing convert), I still like to prepare myself for this holiday. It is my favorite time of year during the Jewish calendar. So much opportunity and so much at stake! 

In the weeks that lead up to the start of the first holiday (Rosh Hashanah), it's time to consider the previous year. There is some reflection and acknowledgement. It's an important time to be honest with oneself. Specifically, it's good to consider both what has gone well and where improvement can be made. Self knowledge isn't easy and being truthful isn't always fun. Being thankful, recognizing God's gifts and his divine love, and knowing that we are imperfect beings made in God's image, are all things to reflect upon. It can be tough at times. We don't always act in ways that are as good as they could be. We fall short. Others forgive us. God forgives us. We forgive ourselves.

By the time Yom Kippur rolls around, it's imperative to identify any failings (as well as strengths) and to make a plan to improve. One must be truly repentant. A plan to do better cannot just be an idea. It must be heartfelt and put it in to action. Wrongdoings are between the person and God but also between the person and other people. Words and actions count in the act of repentance. 

It's my opinion that a person need not be a practicing Jew to take advantage of these ideas. In my mind, they are really for everyone. I included the above image of what (I think) is a Dogwood tree. To me, the beautifully changing colors of the tree are a reminder of the constant renewal that the tree makes every year. Each Autumn, the leaves begin to turn color as they lose their chlorophyll. The green color, normally visible, goes away and the other colors of red and orange and yellow emerge. The tree is preparing for shorter days, less sunlight and it stops its food making process. When longer days and warmer weather return, the tree will once again begin its food production and the green leaves will again begin to grow. 

It's an amazing and miraculous process, the tree renewing itself each season. The tree sustains itself year after year through this process. For me, that is one of the points of this holiday time; to figure out how to sustain both yourself and others around you through reflection, thanksgiving, acts of repentance and prayer. And in my mind, it's what we can all do during the Days of Awe or Yamim Noraim.

Thank you for reading,

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Can You Help?

Lake Alpine, CA

We live in a very generous and warm hearted community. People give of their time; they open up their pocketbooks and give their money. We really have to. We are a small rural community and without getting into it, we just give. Living here, growing older, and learning more about the world has helped to alter how I feel about someone who is on the street asking for help. I didn't always want to offer help. Now I see things differently.

As I drove home this afternoon from my day hiking at Lake Alpine, I passed through San Andreas and saw a man in front of the grocery street with a sign. The sign read, "Can you help?" He was in a wheelchair and sitting in the full sun; the temperature was at least 95 degrees outside. I had the opportunity to stop and didn't. I then had the opportunity to turn around and didn't. I drove off thinking I had missed something. The least I could do is go back and get him some water. There are places in town to get a meal too and I could tell him about that. By the time I got back, there was another man handing the man asking for a help a grocery bag. I could see that it was something to eat and drink. This made me feel much better somehow and I drove home.

Though I missed giving directly to this individual, I feel like today I myself was given something. Witnessing God's hand at work through the generosity of the man that bought the groceries is part of the circle of helping one another. Give, receive, benefit, give, receive, benefit.  I just never saw it this way until today. It helped me personally to see this generosity in action and I feel as if I was given a special gift. There are many ways to help and to be involved with what is happening around you. Just being aware of what is happening is part of this circle of giving. I hope to be quicker next time (I am sure that there will be a next time too) but until then, I will think about my unexpected gift.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Road Less Traveled

Brushy Peak Regional Preserve-photo by Libby Fife
Take the road less traveled. This advice is meant to enrich our lives. It is applied to many things from traveling to bigger life choices. It can also apply to our everyday actions. So many of us get into a rut with how we relate to one another. It's easy to overlook simple kindnesses as a way of elevating ourselves and our fellow citizens at the same time; the road less traveled. We forget I think that how you relate to others is so important. It says as much about you and your character and outlook in life as it does about your feelings about your fellow man. Your interactions can be a mirror for what is best about being human: treating others as you yourself would wish to be treated. 

In his column today, Parker Palmer offers up a wonderful story about the road less traveled. He uses the biblical tale of the loaves and fishes to illustrate his point about how you treat your fellow man and how that attitude can be helpful in gaining some perspective on the larger situation at hand; how it can bring out the best in us. Read the story if you can and as you go about your business today, remember that even the simplest choices in speech and actions can be akin to taking the road less traveled. 

Thanks for reading,
contact me: libbyfife@ymail.com