Going back to school is really just waking up every day to face life! We never stop learning! All of our lives we must face the fact that we’re always students. We might wish we had moved past that when we left our late teens or early twenties, but in truth, we’re always students having to learn something, taking tests, studying, and moving on. It never ends, this relationship of ours as students in life! It is ongoing, through all facets, stages, and conditions in which we exist. We never stop learning, even when we are adamantly opposed to the notion, or reject the idea outright! If only we could learn to embrace the role, perhaps the role itself would help bring direction to our lives and some peace to our minds.
During our childhood, we endured years of mandatory schooling, whereby we had to meet certain standards necessary for us to move forward into new pursuits and educational challenges. There wasn’t a way to evade that part of our journey, especially during my generation. Public schools were the norm, and standards were created nationally as well as by each state to keep all students aligned with the pursuit of obtaining certain educational goals. There were standards required in every subject, for every grade level, and for every type of school. The only way we could get to higher grades and levels of achievement in those grades was by accomplishing each grade’s standards before moving on to the next. In my generation, the late baby boomers, there weren’t many opportunities to bypass public school, unless our parents could afford to send us to private schools. There weren’t many home-schooled children that I knew of, and there were no online schools or diploma alternative tests. We were either students, at least from kindergarten through the end of high school, or we were drop-outs.
Having no real choice in the matter, as education seemed essential and mandatory, I then went into each new grade with a sense that it was necessary for my future and inevitable for my progress! Being a student was the role I was in from the age of five through seventeen. I went from grade school to middle school and then high school. The first period of choice I had after those twelve years of not dropping out was going to college when I was seventeen. I chose to go. It wasn’t until sometime in my mid-twenties that I realized the whole student/learning process I had celebrated when it had finally concluded in my early twenties actually hadn’t ended at all! It was still ongoing and never ends until the day we die!
Every day we are learning, going through some lesson, facing some test(s), and determining through such profound moments whether or not we progress onward in our lives! Our role as students in life never ceases, as we are always moving into new circumstances, developing other skills, becoming more adept, learning something new, changing our minds, and growing in wisdom. Each new day we should wake up preparing for that day’s classroom called life! Every day we are really still just students going back to school, but in a classroom without walls, our teachers coming and going with their unique lessons, and our homework found in attitudinal shifts, mental challenges, and quizzical mysteries. We are in one long grade from the time we leave our formal educational confines, the role of actual student, and officially graduate into life. It’s called the process of maturing, and it takes all of our lives to do well! It also takes accepting that we’re never done being a student of something, today, tomorrow, and the next. Each day we must face our lessons, tests, and hope for promotion onward to the next day’s subjects, lessons, tests, and so on.
Tomorrow when you awaken, the bell will be ringing…school has begun!
Growing up is what our bodies do, maturing is what our souls do. When life comes at us rapidly and we don’t know how to handle what we are experiencing, it’s just life’s way of letting us know we aren’t as mature as we could be or need to be! We need to do more to prepare ourselves to deal and cope with the future challenges ahead.
Don’t cheat yourself out of the necessary experiences which propel you to maturity by evading them or escaping from your share of responsibility for them! All of that in life which you might experience which is really difficult, painful, or frightening, cannot destroy you unless you let it. In the face of everything which feels uncomfortable and at times disturbing, you must hunker down, find your strength, persevere through, and eventually overcome!
That is our challenge throughout life, to resolve our own dilemmas, to face our fears, to cope with our emotions, and to learn through experience the wisdom necessary to move onward even through the most difficult, life-altering, or perplexing matters. At the end of our road, with such purposeful focus, we’re sure to be as noticeably mature within as we are visibly grown on the outside!
Sometimes we sugar coat things, thinking we’re sparing others upsets or upheavals. But, if we choose to deny anyone the truth by withholding from them the reality of a situation, we don’t really do them any service at all! Speak the truth, give the facts as you see them, relay honest appraisals whenever possible. Trust and deliver the difficult truths with kindness, compassion, and an earnest heart determined to help others.
Our challenge shouldn’t be how we can hide facts and the truth, for now, to protect someone we love from possibly being hurt, but rather our consideration should be how we can best deliver or present to others what they may need to know to make the most optimal choices for them, to face their dilemmas head-on as they are presented in life, while standing up to what they must! Some of the purposeful omitting or concealing we do may seem to soften a blow to others, but truthfully, it might also be that we don’t want to be responsible for having to give bad news or to burden another when they’re under significant duress! It might also be that in white-lying, omitting, or actually distorting reality, we are making assumptions about others which suggest that we believe them weak or incapable of facing reality. And that projection upon them might be a serious disservice to them!
The truth is truly what each of us deserves to know, process, and ruminate, even when that truth seems like a bitter pill to swallow or a hard left to our already-battered head! Some of the storms we face in this life actually provide great lessons and the impetus for significant and positive change, but if we’re always hiding in a shelter of our own making or in one provided too readily by others, we run the risk of missing those important life lessons! Not all storms can and should be evaded. They serve as necessary opportunities for individual growth and personal development! We have to give that chance to ourselves by facing each obstacle and trial in life head-on, but also others deserve that same opportunity! Honesty, reality, and truth are the power of knowing what to do, where to go, and how to proceed. The light of truth reflected in life is always preferable to the darkness of uncertainty and ill-preparedness.
Finally, I’ve gotten to my favorite time of year, time for the gentle Autumn sun! The scorching Summer heat has finally abated and I can do all my outdoor chores without concern as to the temperature, how sunburnt I might get, or if I’ll get heat stroke doing it all! This is the first week we’ve cooled down into the 80’s F, which is idyllic here in the desert Southwest! Nights have been cooler for a month or so now, but the days were still creeping into the mid to high-90’s, even hitting 100, which meant it still felt pretty hot by midday! But, now it’s the ideal time of year here, in my opinion. With cool nights and pleasant days, it’s possible to open the windows, to shut off the air conditioner, and to enjoy outdoor hours without concern!
This morning, I spent a few hours raking up leaves and assorted messes around the yard. I filled three big tubs of debris and watered some plants without even working up a sweat! It was a sweet reward for all the days during Summer, when faced with night-time lows in the high 90’s and days well over 115! On those kinds of days, the sun races to beat everyone in getting up, heating up all the surfaces and even the water in the taps and garden hoses to scalding temperatures! And all those tremendously heated surfaces usually retain that heat even well after the sun finally sets at night. The air conditioner runs almost constantly, frantically trying to keep my home at a livable temperature of 79 degrees, while fans assist in keeping us content. The pool water can even become more like a warm, unrefreshing bath after many consecutive days of truly dangerous heat!
Each year when Autumn finally sets in, usually well beyond the calendar’s mid-September date earmarked for it, is a reason to have a celebration as a gardener and outdoorsy person! The unrelenting heat of Summer keeps me indoors or in the pool if I’m outside. But when temperatures finally become not only tolerable but enjoyable, it’s time to go out and catch up on all the chores long waiting for my attention! I can busy myself each new day with watering, clean-up, pruning, and my favorite pursuit, planting! I adore working in my garden, honing my landscape into something of beauty, which is truly hard to do when I am limited by the intense Summer weather. Unlike places which endure the dormancy of cold and snowy Winters, here in the desert, we endure a long, hot, dry Summer season. That is our period of doing less or just the bare minimum, while our plants, gardens, and landscapes struggle to survive until a softer, gentler season ahead. And finally, Autumn arrives on some random day like today!
This morning, I opened the windows and left them open until noon! The only reason I closed them at all, I was heading out for the afternoon. I wouldn’t dare think of going for a swim now, the pool is far too cold for comfort. But that is a trade-off I am willing to make for weather which is finally comfortable! I hate to feel as though I’m wishing for days to pass quickly, but each Summer here in the desert stretches on for usually four or five months. By the end of that period, I look so eagerly towards the sweet return of Autumn’s gentleness, just what we’re finally now having! I don’t resent Summer, but I do consider it a necessary part of what must happen here so that we might finally be rewarded with this! I’m so thankful for what is ahead in the next weeks and months, days spent doing so many of my favorite things under the warmth of a gentle Autumn sun! I’ll surely take my time enjoying all the moments ahead outdoors and in, savoring the sweetness of a softer sun and an easier time of things!
Often times, the person we’re hardest on in this life is ourselves! We set high goals or we have lofty expectations, which can lead us to feel disappointed when we come in with lesser achievements and accomplishments. Perhaps we’re in the process of reaching for more, of going for grander distances, pursuits, and for more overall. We might have wanted to hit some higher mark or reach some bigger result, but we mustn’t forget what baby steps or giant leaps we did take in pursuit of those goals!
Yesterday, I was wanting to swim a significant distance. I planned on doing a distance swim which would have kept me moving towards an end goal I have for this season’s accomplishments. Last Summer, I had worked up to slightly over two miles of non-stop lap swimming in my pool by the end of the swimming season. I was thrilled to have reached that significant measured distance without stopping! So, this Summer, when the swimming season began back in May, I set out to beat my distance of last year. As of July 4th, just a few days ago, I reached the two-mile mark for non-stop lap swimming in my backyard pool! Pleased as punch with hitting that measurement, I will now endeavor to exceed that goal in my swimming for the remainder of the Summer. In pursuit of that goal though, yesterday’s swim was not as rewarding! I had to stop at 60 lengths of non-stop swimming, as I just ran out of steam before even hitting half a mile! I surely hadn’t fueled my body with proper nutrition for a longer swim.
With such a brief swim in comparison to my two-mile swim just days ago, I felt disappointed and discouraged afterward. How was it that I could only do so few lengths of the pool just two days later? Well, in hindsight, I realize I am being really hard on myself for disparaging the swim I did yesterday. After all, those lengths I did swim without stopping still are significant! Yes, I wanted to do more, but I just couldn’t. However, I did swim anyway, which was better than not swimming at all! And I pushed myself during those 60 lengths of the pool, so I did give myself a workout in the process, although an abbreviated one compared to the longer swim I had planned on doing! Each swim does contribute to my overall conditioning and my training goals, after all. I just need to accept each day’s efforts as being worthwhile! Going easier on myself is key.
It’s so easy to be hard on ourselves for not doing more or for not reaching interim goals we’ve set for ourselves. We forget to look at those interim steps we’re taking as being meaningful to the overall end goal. Every single step, no matter the size, is still getting us closer to something bigger. Every single time we participate in our pursuits, we’re developing literal or figurative muscles, which do help us perform more the next time! In my example, I am developing those literal swimming muscles and building my endurance, even if the distances I want to do aren’t always exceeding the last swim I actually did. And, each swim I take keeps me fit and ready for more, as my muscles remember the efforts both greater and lesser.
We must remember to look at all the steps we’re taking as being successful, in that we’re moving consistently towards a goal ahead, even if some steps are baby-size and others are giant leaps! Each is a contribution towards reaching a goal we deem important for our lives overall! Remember to assess your progress in a way which is more accepting of the baby steps as well as the giant leaps. In doing that, you will be better able to contain your disappointment, to manage your progress, and to preserve your sense of encouragement along the way! Goals are always something we’re working towards, and in my case, even though I hit the goal of swimming non-stop consistently for two miles, I will want to see how much further I can swim non-stop anyway! My goal is inevitably a sliding one, and so my progress should be measured in turn – via sliding steps and flexible efforts! As long as I don’t give up because I don’t always hit my mark, I’m still moving forward towards reaching some end! Baby steps or giant leaps, I’m still making progress!
I’m enjoying all the nature sightings of recent weeks and months, the benefits of these creature sightings far outweigh anything negative! There is nothing like experiencing wild animals among us when we’re in our own yards or visiting other locations! And although I have had a few inopportune moments with critters and bugs recently too, I focus on the positive impact the sightings of less pesky creatures have upon my life rather than the imperfections we can often face when human beings meet the wild! Just last month, I had a scare when I found a live scorpion in the upstairs guest room in which I was staying at my sister’s house! It was not pleasant whacking it with a shoe and praying there were no others for the few days I was visiting! But, it was a one-time sighting in a slew of visits, so I let it go and enjoyed my visit. And on that particular visit, I went whale watching on a trip in which I experienced seeing humpback and minke whales, as well as seeing a super pod of common dolphins! That and several other nature-oriented experiences made the scorpion sighting less memorable for sure!
Just yesterday, I saw a family with sixteen baby quail in my front yard! It was delightful to watch the brood scurry and scamper beside their parents. Quail are common visitors to my yard, but their families are not often that numerous! They’re so tiny when newborn, yet so proficient in their quail duties! This sighting came just hours after I had to remove the rather stinky rotting carcass of some poor dead creature laying in the backyard. Perhaps it had fallen prey to some other animal’s attack. Again, the benefit of the large quail family sighting far outweighed the nastiness of removing the stinky corpse! I’ve also recently had numerous rabbit sightings, with plentiful baby bunnies being born in the last few months. The sightings of the tinier babies more than make up for the nibbling older rabbits which insist upon gnawing my plants to stubs or to dust! Babies in my yard are always welcome, even when I realize how voracious they’ll be as adults one day soon!
With Summer in the desert, we get an influx of several types of bugs which aren’t prevalent the rest of the year. Those include pesky mosquitoes which seem to thrive in the heat, big 2 – 3″ paloverde beetles and cicadas which buzz incessantly from their perches in trees throughout the landscape. The presence of these bugs is a nuisance often, as they creep around in places which are unexpected and the mosquitoes bite all the uncovered flesh which is more prevalent with the heat of Summer! I’ve even been bitten by mosquitoes while swimming in the pool! Short of swimming underwater only, I’m not sure I know how to evade those pests entirely! And everywhere I look in the yard, ants are busy doing whatever it is ants do! They’re usually not an issue, until I stop in their pathway in my sandals, often getting bitten for my error in judgment.
It’s always the case in Summer that I wish for a bit of relief when it comes to nature’s more pesky creatures. Bugs and creepy crawlers, snakes and lizards are not my favorite things. But this morning I was overjoyed to return a tiny gecko to the outdoors after finding it indoors on the carpeting by my front door! Those little things are cute, but they’re not meant to live indoors! I’ve already seen enough cuteness watching the common species of birds, the lovebirds which have naturalized, the lizards, squirrels and the bunnies running around while I watered this morning! Anything which seems negative at first with the creatures around me is always balanced out by something wondrous and fascinating to observe! Nature is a diverse, fantastical showcase of God’s miraculous handiwork and design! It’s both uplifting and at times, overwhelming and/or scary! It is just a part of living in this magical world which God has created!
I’m glad I have several water features in my landscape for the sake of providing not only the soothing sound of coursing water but also to provide for nature a refuge from the intense Summer heat like we’re presently enduring here in the desert Southwest this week. Nature struggles in such intense weather just as we humans do. Today’s high was expected to be 120 Fahrenheit. Now, that’s intense! It’s evident when I look out my window to see several birds taking advantage of cooling down by sitting in the shallow birdbaths or taking a drink from a fresh, clean fountain. Water is important, as is providing safe places for all creatures to find shelter at all times of the year. In the desert, Summer is the most crucial time of year for provisional needs such as water, shade, protection, and food. Having a landscape which offers a variety of plant material as well as sources of nutrients and shelter for all the regular creatures which visit is a great way to make a daily theatrical show of nature’s best for you and your family!
I was noticing some burrows being dug around my front shady border plantings. It’s from the quail, bunnies, and other birds which have realized how much more cool the soil is at the base of those regularly watered plants. So, I leave the burrows alone, knowing that the birds and rabbits which hunker down in them are finding some necessary relief. It doesn’t always look as nice with those burrows dug around the plants, but I let them be. And I keep all my water features full and clean during the Summer, which with birdbaths means that I am filling them each new morning due to evaporation and consumption. It might be simpler to not worry about such things in the heat of Summer, as the intense heat shortens my tolerance and time outside too. But, I realize how much the creatures which visit my yard have come to rely on the extra provisions I make available and I value having the chance to see them throughout the day! Each new day, as I water my potted plants early in the morning, I see to refilling the precious sources of water which keep the critters content!
In the years I’ve lived here, I’ve become so used to the animals which have come to visit and to stay. There are tiny hummingbirds and predatory hawks. There are colorful peach-faced lovebirds and drabber birds which easily hide in our desert surroundings. I readily welcome the creatures, even though sometimes they provide a shock or an upset just by nature of their tenuous state as a living being. It’s all an acceptable part of living here because the beauty of having such diversity in my daily life and such a glimpse into God’s majestic hand of creation is more than worth any bother or momentary discomfort! Tomorrow morning I will again go out to water my plants, to tend to my landscape, and to provide for nature’s creatures even though I’ll have to go out early to beat the 118 F. forecast for our high temperature. Those many creatures don’t really depend on me for their provision, but they surely are offered a welcoming habitat here, especially when they may need some extra TLC!
If you’re interested in providing natural habitats for more of nature’s critters, then I suggest you add some simple things to your yard. Just a fresh, moving water supply or one you regularly change is key, as well as food sources in the form of plant varieties and shelter in the way of plant textures and heights. These things are easy ways to offer food, water, shelter and interest for all sorts of creatures! If you do enough, you might even consider having your yard declared a wildlife sanctuary!
I miss the way things were earlier in my lifetime when I was younger and life seemed simpler. I suppose it’s a common phenomenon of growing older that change can leave a lot of our lives unrecognizable or just a wee bit uncomfortable. It’s inevitable, there are cycles in life, natural lifespans, and popularity, which impacts what we’re surrounded by each day we live. Everything and everybody which once surrounds us will ultimately fall victim to time’s passing, especially upon hitting mid-life. And the hardest part of growing old is watching all that is familiar give way to something new, different, or otherwise unfamiliar to us. Change is surely inevitable, but not always preferential! And accepting change is the most challenging but essential aspect of aging! Especially at a time like this when everything seems to change so much more rapidly than in years and generations prior. Perhaps we live in the time of the most significant change societies have ever had to absorb since the beginning of human existence in the world. I cannot say for sure, as I only live in this time.
Surely the earliest of human beings had to deal with a lot of perceptible development, just by becoming adults. There were significant and momentous developments visible through the ages, much like those evident during the industrial revolution or with the development of language in each culture over time. But these days, keeping up with things is literally imperative to know the ever-changing colloquial language, as well as all that which influences daily life. Imagine what would become of someone unfamiliar with even the most simple of technological developments these days? If someone didn’t know how to use a portable, instantaneous form of communicating such as a cell phone, they would probably feel very ignorant in this contemporary world! We’re able to instantly communicate, nearly everywhere in the world. We can speak, write, and even render our thoughts across the globe in seconds! Without an awareness of the internet, cell phones, computers, or other forms of technology, people would be clueless about much of the world’s modern functionality!
And in that reflection, there are people in the world alive today who had the earliest form of telephone service available. They first had landlines which required operators to connect a call or which had multiple party connections, which meant negotiating for phone usage, and took considerable time for connecting from one place only miles away to others. A phone call was a great luxury when the telephone first became a household staple and even having a phone was not guaranteed in every household as a cell phone is expected to be these days. Having a telephone was a privilege one had to be able to afford to actually have. It was not that long ago that many of us living today had hard-wired phones, hanging on our walls or sitting on our tables. We had to manually dial all the numbers on a large rotary dial and we couldn’t move beyond the distance the length of the curled connecting cord between the base and the handset allowed. We didn’t always get through instantaneously because it took more time to actually dial, especially long distance, and there were often either interruptions or perhaps the line would be busy already. I’m surely not an expert on the history of such technology, but I lived through several technological changes over my lifetime which developed into the instantaneous, wireless, global service we have today! If Maxwell Smart were alive and spying today, would he even bother with a shoe phone?
When I think of all the changes which I’ve witnessed and absorbed in my lifetime, I’m often disturbed by the pace of things! It’s not necessarily all that comfortable to grow old with things always changing, as things don’t often change for the better! As we age, change seems to be more prolific and more impactful such as with more of our family and friends passing away. It’s a matter of time’s natural passing and lifespan. We merely have to learn to become more accepting of living without those with whom we were first closely surrounded. And we must learn to let go of a lot of regular aspects of our daily lives. All things and people have a natural lifespan, including the familiar businesses, places, and landmarks of our communities and our hometowns. Everything comes and goes, with some random time pattern, not always of our choosing! It’s just a part of life. We might really enjoy a restaurant, perhaps we’re even regulars there, we become our own version of “Norm!” from Cheers (a sitcom from the 1980’s) to some group we routinely encounter there. But then that place suffers from an economic downturn or the owners choose to retire, or some other random incident causes its closure. That happens repeatedly as we age, especially if we stay in the same place over a long period of time. We take notice of changes, of communities shifting and changing in demographics, in population, in prosperity, and economically. Landscapes with which we have great familiarity seem to morph into something unfamiliar and all-too-new. Change without our developing sense of acceptance is just unsettling.
I often wish I could keep more of the familiar people and places in my life, sans change! It isn’t always comfortable or easy to accept a lot of the change which comes with age and with time’s passing. But acceptance is a strange bedfellow because it enables us to make as much peace as possible with something which inherently at first feels uncomfortable or unpleasant. And getting better at accepting things is making my life easier, even with all the bombardment of change which now seems “normal” at this time period of my life. I can’t go back to a time when life seemed simpler or easier, and I cannot slow life down to make it seem more tolerable. This life is going at a pace which requires my constant endurance and daily acceptance! And I work each new day to keep those muscles flexing for the fevered pace of change we’re experiencing in 2017! Who knows what is coming next in the world, by way of technological developments, or in my own community? It’s all constantly changing and morphing into a new version of today, each new tomorrow!
I bought a small 4″ aloe a couple of weeks ago, just to fill an empty pot on my back patio. This particular aloe stood out for its coloring and unique appearance. Named, Pickled Pink, it has distinctive pink edging on the fleshy leaves and a mottled appearance which suggests pickling. This aloe is small yet beautiful, but what it is currently doing is the most rewarding surprise of all! The wee Pickled Pink aloe is sending out a future bloom shoot which has now surpassed the plant’s own height at least thrice over and I am tickled pink by this Pickled Pink! Yes, that little beauty has a bloom shooting up nearly four times higher than the mother plant.
Now, for a gardener, there is nothing quite as exciting as a plant thriving and developing from the original version we purchased or found! It’s the developmental stages of a plant, meeting and exceeding expectations as well as hopes which give a gardener and plant collector like me unbridled joy! Since this little aloe seemed to jump out at me with such unique beauty and a catchy name, from a rack of numerous cacti and succulents, purchasing it was inevitable. But I never had any expectation for such a rapid developmental change like this! I await the bloom now, as many aloes have utterly spectacular and colorful flowers on the inflorescence they produce. Some are known and named for their blooming habits or those magnificent flower stalks produced normally in Spring, a bit earlier than this, the first days of June! So, my surprise at it producing a bloom after my purchase is surpassed only by my expectation as to how the bloom will look!
If I could, I would probably never limit my plant collection! I am an avid collector and have yet to meet a plant I don’t like! Even weeds in the mind of a gardener are merely unwanted plants. Everything was created for a place and a purpose. Some plants provide food sources for animals and humans, others are medicinal resources for living creatures, and others provide intricate assistance to the overall well-being of the planet as a whole – producing seeds and substances or by replenishing the soil and air with specific essential chemical elements! Plants are important, just as is every other creative matter! And so, my appreciation for plants and for gardening is linked to bringing things to life, to support a natural and intricate ecosystem of my own making, with God’s guiding hand!
I’m so looking forward to this bloom shoot coming to fruition on this tiny aloe clump of mine! It’s always exciting to see the endless ebb and flow of life in a garden, particularly a desert garden! My appreciation for this purchase is increasing exponentially with each passing day, as it’s developing and changing right before my eyes! There is never any real disappointment in a garden, even when experiencing a loss, for a garden exemplifies the best qualities of God’s amazing creation and design for this world. It is ever-changing, ever-developing and we are ever-learning in turn!