When blossoms have stories to tell

March 2018

This month’s feature is about how the old perennials found in unexpected places are like living links to people and the past.


In Texas last March, I was taken aback by a blooming azalea, wild, fiery and magenta pink, in the center of an old cemetery deep in the woods of Big Thicket National Preserve. The flush of color was a surprising contrast to the browns and greys of the woods and headstones. I couldn’t help but think that those laid to rest there knew that the living would stand there on some March day and be reminded of life’s continuity, long after they were gone.

It’s as if the blooms whispered stories and the people who once lived there were brought into the present day. I was so intrigued by this that I brought my class there the next week to see what kinds of stories that place might evoke in them too.

And it brought up other memories...

Apple trees, daffodils and rhubarb
Stumbling upon this scene reminded of other times I’ve come across old apple trees or daffodils on woodland walks, and  wondered who might have planted them there. It also reminded me of the surprise I felt when in the yard of my first apartment appeared some rhubarb that must have been planted by the old woman who lived there long ago. 

A quiet refuge
Visiting that graveyard brought to mind the people who have written about cemeteries as their place of refuge during my writing workshops. Even in a busy urban center or suburb, they can find quiet, open space and walk among the trees and listen to birdsong. 
The Passover tree
And that perennial splash of color reminded me of the crabapple tree in the backyard of the house where I grew up. Each spring on one particular day it would burst into a glory of light pink blossoms. My mother called it the Passover tree and would clip off a few branches of blooms and place them in my grandfather’s favorite vase

 Sense of Place Tip: Discover living links to the past through perennial blossoms and blooms.

1. Walk in a cemetery and feel the quiet hush, even in an urban center. Find stories and signs of life's renewal all around you.
2. Discover planted trees and flowers in woods, backyards or sidewalks where you live. Reflect on the former inhabitants who might have planted them there and seen them come to life each spring.
3. Think about a favorite flower or blossom of your parents, grandparents or other loved ones. Bring these blooms into your home to feel a direct, living link to the past.

What are some blossoms or blooms that whisper stories or hum memories, linking the past to the present for you? Leave a note below!

Colonists were spicier than I thought

February 2018

For the newsletter this year I'm going to include sharing ideas for gaining a sense of place by linking the past to the present, especially at historic and urban sites. This month’s issue is about hot chocolate in honor of Valentines Day, and explores how to link the past to today through your sense of taste. 


Spicy Colonists?
A few years ago we were walking the wonderful Freedom Trail through Boston and visited Old North Church (of “one if by land, two if by sea” fame.) We were delighted to find a chocolate shop right next door that had costumed interpreters on hand to make and serve hot chocolate as it was made in Colonial days. Our tasting brought two discoveries:

First, we were surprised that the colonists drank hot chocolate rather than just the tea, coffee and cider we’d heard about. And that eating solid chocolate wouldn’t come until much later.
Second, the chocolate was SPICY. And I mean sexy, exotic, tingling spicy. Not usually words I associate with American Colonial time period. They had samples of flavorings associated with that time period, including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, chili pepper, annatto, allspice, anise, and sugar.

Sense of Place Tip: Food is a sensual way to link the past to the present.

Learning about the food from another era and tasting it links the past to the present in a very tangible way!

Try This
1. Indulge in spicy hot chocolate with your valentine and have a wink at history, the drinkers from our spicy past.
2. Sign up for a cooking class or demonstration at a historic site.
3. Explore the history of a favorite food and see where the trail of discovery takes you.

Link yourself to history with these treats
American Heritage Historic Chocolates made by Mars Inc. is what they served at the Boston site and can be found in many historic shops. They state that after a decade of research they came up with their blend. “Our chocolate is fashioned from recipes from 1750 and uses a sprinkling of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, orange, and red pepper.” 
MariBelle  We discovered this charming shop one year on a trip to NYC. I’m not much of an alcohol drinker, so we planned to go “chocolate-hopping” and mapped out a half-dozen shops to visit. This place was the first time I ever tried thick, spicy hot chocolate. 
Cocoa Sante This is simply the best spicy hot chocolate I have ever had. We found it in a local chocolate shop, but their site says it’s sold at REI stores and some Whole Foods. My favorite is their Azteca, spiced with vanilla, cinnamon, and chipotle pepper.

Explore more
History of Colonial Chocolate
I came across this article that explores the history of hot chocolate in America. They mention how Benjamin Franklin sold it out of his printing shop in Philadelphia as early as 1739, that Baker’s chocolate was manufactured and sold in Massachusetts by 1765. "During the Revolutionary War chocolate was included in rations and available from the commissary at Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. Chocolate was reserved in Massachusetts in 1777 for the supply of the army and its export was strictly prohibited.” And there are records of the consumption of hot chocolate by George Washington, John Adams, John Hancock, and Thomas Jefferson and more. 
This also caused me to wonder about the availability of spices in the colonies. And like all history, the answer is multi-layered and complex. This book was recommended to me as a good one to learn about the implications of the history of trade: Merchants Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600-1900, by Stephen R. Brown. I’m looking forward to reading it, as learning more about how events from the past shaped our world, helps me make more sense of today.


October 2017: Welcome! New Website and other Milestones.


It’s been awhile since we’ve been in touch. I've missed connecting and since I last wrote I’ve been busy offering my programs all over the country. I've got some milestones and celebrations to share, including my new newsletter and new website!
Milestones and Celebrations
October is my birthday month, and I have plenty to be grateful for. This fall marks:

  • 25 years since I released my first CD (From that Far, 1992 ) and started my life as a full-time self-employed person.
  • 10 years since I was a keynote at NAI, a national conference where I met the best people, who inspired me to create the Soulful Stewardship Method training that I have recently offered for the staff of dozens of National Parks across the country.
  • 8 years since my first issue of this online newsletter.

Many of you have been on my mailing list since the very beginning and I want to thank you for your high-fives, encouragement and support! 

New Website
Welcome to my new website! You're getting the first peek.  Post a comment  below and let me know what you think.
New Newsletter
Stay in touch so you'll get my seasonal newsletter with updates, a short feature articles or "Sense of Place Tip" that will invite you to tap into your connection to place, wherever you are.  You'll get some wonderful tools I've developed over the past decade to help you discover personal sense of place stories and connections.  I’ll be sharing my best practices with you over the coming months. And, you’ll be the first to know when I’m working on another CD, a book, a writing journal, self-guided programs, and more. Opt-in here

Enjoy the blog archives below. More to come.

All the best,

P.S. Please forward this note and share with anyone you know who might be interested in my learning more about my blog, music, training, keynote or public/community programs. Thank you!

P.P.S. I'd love to hear your thought or comments below.

Archived Posts: 2016

Fall 2016: Autumn Begins


Today is the Autumn Equinox, so it's officially fall!!! Anyone else feeling pumpkin-spice, sweater-weather crazed? I know I sure am. I'm looking forward to celebrating the coming season in song and story this month, from Cape Cod to the Berkshires.

Fall Sense of Place Tip

Have you ever played with the Yankee magazine interactive foliage map? Very fun. Try it here. and then make a plan to go see the colors when they peak!


May 2016: Nature in the City


Recently I had the honor of working with the talented rangers who offer programs for visitors at our national memorials and monuments. So many people are not aware that all these special sites in DC are a National Park. (I confess: me included. And I grew up here.) Here's a link to their public programs.

Nature in the City
Next week I'll be performing on the main stage as part of the National Geographic and National Parks Biodiversity Festival More info here.  As part of my performance, I'll be speaking about my teenage years in the DC area. I'll share how participating in my local Youth Audubon Society Group really saved me--- it was such a positive thing to do. That program gave me a peer group to hang out with who were passionate, curious, fun, intelligent people be around. It also helped me see that right within this urban/suburban environment there was so much "wild" nature to find. I even went on to attend college as an aspiring wildlife field biologist.

That path became clear to me when we were on one of our field trips. It was at a bird refuge at on the Maryland shore where I discovered a plaque on an observation tower that read:

"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot. Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free." Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

I had found my tribe. My direction. My lodestar. Right then and there. And it has woven throughout everything I've done so far.

When touring the park with the rangers on the National Mall this past February and April, I was so often struck how nature wove itself all through my experiences of the monuments and memorials. There was the sun blazing on the names of the Vietnam Memorial, the ducks and geese landing on the reflecting pool, the clouds drifting, giving me a moment to pause, breath and slow down. It was calming to observe, and helped me process everything I was learning. Nature in the city. It's everywhere when we stop and notice.

““I liked where we were outside and using our senses to experience the area. It helped me slow down and find peace where I am. I think it’s a great exercise to find inspiration in our everyday surroundings” “I am looking forward to using this with my visitors.” Training Participant, National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, DC

May Sense of Place Tip

Take a moment, no matter where you are to notice the nature that surrounds you. The clouds, the trees and birds, and you, are all part of nature.


April/2016 Spring Blossoms


Blossoms will be arriving any day now in Massachusetts... I know because I've seen your pictures on Facebook, my southern friends!

Some of my favorite flowers are the wild spring ephemerals. They are the first flowers to arrive in the woods. They burst through when things are just right, soaking up sunlight before  tree leaves shade the forest floor. They always seem so sweet and private to me. I feel like I almost have to whisper in their presence. I am drawn to politely lift up their shy bloom, acknowledge their beauty and move on.

April Sense of Place Tip

Get to know what ephemeral wildflowers are coming up in your area. Head out on a warm day before the trees have leaf out and see what you find. You'll feel a real intimacy with a place once you uncover the mysteries of what blooms when and where.

Archived Posts: 2015

December 2015/ Free gifts for you!


It's winter solstice, that magical journey of the longest night of the year, and of  welcoming returning sun. A great time to curl up with candles, music and spend time with those you love or with your own sweet self in quiet reflection. Here's some free gifts to nourish you on the journey.

  1. Here's my version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Song for a Winter's Night" from the 2002 Signature Sounds  recording "Wonderland." Download free here. You can get the whole disc ( highly recommended) on the Signature Sounds website—it's full of great artists and songs.
  2. Paul Winter generously gives away a free download of his winter solstice concert in NYC each year. It's a fantastic musical journey with different artists each year. You can download it here.

December Sense of Place Tip

Even if there are faith-based events each season that might differ from our own, each change of season is a collective experience. You can feel connected to place through the songs, poems and celebrations that honor the season, no matter what your faith. 

Enjoy your musical treats!  Wishing you a magical holiday season.

November 2015/The Later Twilight + Mom's Cranberry Sauce


"October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight."
Henry David Thoreau, from Autumnal Tints, Atlantic Monthly, 1862.

Henry starts this article by saying "Europeans coming to America are surprised by the brilliancy of our autumnal foliage. There is no account of such a phenomenon in English poetry, because the trees acquire but few bright colors there." He goes on to describe with poetic beauty the colors, scents and scenes of the season.

What I love about this kind of writing is how one comes to "know" a place through their senses. His essay infuses factual information about nature with personal story, feeling and experience. I love this because it shows how just trying to make sense of what we see, and to describe it, helps us see more. And doing that can help us feel more rooted and connected to places no matter where we are. This is a habit we can cultivate anywhere.

November Sense of Place Tip

Sense and describe your place no matter where you are.

Cranberry Red


This November, I've been thinking about the rich colors of the season. And about my family and Thanksgiving traditions. Which brings me to cranberries.

Wikipedia says that in "James Rosier's book The Land of Virginia (1605) there is an account of Europeans coming ashore and being met with Native Americans bearing bark cups full of cranberries." (So hostile.) It also says "The name cranberry derives from "craneberry", first named by early European settlers in America who felt the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane." (Trying to make sense of what we see by describing it always brings up interesting, creative analogies.)

My mother made a famous cranberry sauce. She is turning 86 this month and lives in a nursing home now, but until just two years ago she lived independently at home and always loved to cook. She had a lot of famous recipes, and four years ago I asked her to start writing them down and emailing them to me.

She sent them with little stories attached. And then sent me more. And more. Until she had sent me 200 recipes.  I put all these together into a book and called it "The Beautiful Table" because we always loved to set the table just right.  It includes all her comments, and a whole section of Jewish favorites. It's really a treasure to have it, especially whenever the holidays come. Here's a favorite. Super simple. Not too sweet.


This is the cranberry sauce that we always serve with the Thanksgiving Turkey.  Really a "family" recipe.

Cook on stove top.
1 12 ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 can mandarin oranges (see next ingredient)
1 can mandarin orange juice + water to equal 1 cup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mix together mandarin orange juice from the can of mandarin oranges, and water and bring to a boil.  Add the sugar and boil until all the sugar has dissolved.  Add the cranberries and boil until the berries have popped.  Remove from the heat and stir in the mandarin oranges and the walnuts to make a lovely relish accompaniment to the turkey and stuffing.  Refrigerate if there is any left and it will keep for a week or longer. It is absolutely delicious.

November Sense of Place Tip

Food is linked to memories and traditions that are rooted in a time and place. Feel a connection to your past, or make new traditions no matter where you are. Ask your family members for their favorite recipes, and urge them to include comments about them if they can. Assemble into a book for a gift that everyone will appreciate!

August 2015/Wild Blackberries



Last summer when we were hiking on a trail that led up to the power lines, we arrived there on a day when blackberries were ripe and exploding everywhere. We promptly started gorging ourselves on the berries, when it occurred to us that there were probably others who wanted these berries too. Bears.

Sure enough, just a ways up you could see evidence where the grasses were matted down, and they left the imprint of a happy bear sitting in the middle, surrounded by bushes. You could just imagine him sitting there swiping his paw and devouring plump black berries. Ah, summer. Just thinking about it makes me think we need to get back up there to the ridge this month.

Everybody needs a summer day to gorge on ripe fruit, sunshine and heat. Even with our busy lives, we need to carve out time to create memories we can hold close to our heart when the snow flies.

There's also a lot of evidence that berries are good for you and one of the foods that help ward off Parkinson's‎ and Alzheimer's (which my mother now has) so I plan to eat a lot of them, and at least create more long term good memories I can look back on.

August Sense of Place Tip

How do you relish summer? What's your idea of a perfect summer day? Write it down so you can look back on it during those long winter days. Make a point of doing imprinting in your minds eye "this is summer" so you'll have that yummy memory to hold onto.

May 2015/How to Find a Sense of Place, No Matter Where You Are


This weekend, I'm driving to Ontario where I am the keynote for their parks staff training. I am so looking forward to the journey. I've never been to the region, and can't wait to go. I'm planning to stop at Fort Stanwix on the way through upstate NY, which will be a great place to learn about the history of the region. I'm staying at an Inn on the St. Lawrence River. Then I'll travel along the river, until heading up north to the lakes were the event is being held. I love that I have the time to drive, and see the land unfold, and really arrive, knowing where I am.

When Rivers Were the Only Road
Over the past few years I've learned a lot about how the great rivers shaped the places we see today. I am reminded of this powerful passage from a great book I came across this while doing research for programs with the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge:

"The land was so wild it was essentially impassable; anyone who didn't go by the river didn't go at all. In effect, the river served as its own map. A voyageur who needed to consult it had only to climb the nearest hill. There the route was unfolded, in all its blue-misted splendor: the great dragon tail of the river uncoiling through forested valleys and across the tallgrass prairies and into the vast shrouded swamps, glittering with ten thousand sunflecks, blurred by drifts of drizzle, blazing with reflected herds of brilliant cumulus, on and on toward the horizon. As far as the eye could see, the river was the only road."
Lee Sandlin, "Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild."

May Sense of Place Tips

  3 Ways to Find Your Sense of Place, No Matter Where You Are
1. See the Layers: Why does this town look like this? What are the layers of time and history here? Learn about the natural, native, immigrant, industry, transportation developments that shaped a place. (This is a lifelong learning, you'll never stop once you start!)

2. Be Curious about Road Names: Why is it called that? This will give you alot of clues to where you are and what was there before you.

3. Find Your Own Stories: What do you feel, see, think and wonder in this place? What is an experience you have had here? Your own feelings and stories shape your sense of a place. You don't need to know anything to have a meaningful connection with a place, but whatever you learn can only enrich that connection.

Together, all of this will help you make "sense" of a place, and perhaps start a whole train of thought that can lead to a story, essay or song. Who knows?! Try these tips where you live, or wherever you go.

Archived Posts: 2014

November 2014/Comeback Kids: Hard Cider, Wild Turkeys and Heirloom Apples


The world is always changing, and with news that can consume us with loss, worry and cynicism every day, may these stories help you celebrate late autumn and ground you in the possibilities of what can happen with love, passion, persistence and good old-fashioned know-how.

This article focuses on success stories that are local and fitting for the season. It's about three comeback kids who were on the brink of vanishing completely, but are alive and thriving today.

Hard Cider: Once more popular than water
For early Americans, hard cider was the beverage of choice. Everyone drank hard cider, even children and the elderly in colonial times! It was thought to be safer than water. Production and consumption dropped off dramatically after 1850 due to the temperance movement. Beer became more popular and cheaper to produce and hard cider went out of fashion. Today the creation, quality and celebration of hard cider are vitally alive and well.

This past weekend we attended the 20th Annual Cider Days, an event that was founded by our neighbors here in Colrain, Judith and Terry Maloney of West County Cider. They are often credited as initiators of the hard cider revival, creating their own first batches in their basement in the 80's. This weekend's event was sold out, full of sampling dozens of varieties of hard cider, plus workshops and incredible farm to table food. Have you tried hard cider?

Wild Turkeys: Almost extinct by 1851
Lately I've been noticing all the flocks of turkeys eating in the cornfields. There were 30 just behind our house. It's amazing to think that, according to Mass Audubon, in 1851 the last wild turkey was shot in Massachusetts on Mount Tom (Easthampton, MA).

In 1972, Mass Wildlife and UMass started a reintroduction project with just 37 birds! They were trapped in New York State and released, and today the estimated fall population is more than 20,000 birds. You see them everywhere. Huge success story, showing that, when given a chance, the natural world can thrive. Do you have turkeys where you live?

Heirloom Apples: They still grow those here?
Apples have been cultivated in America since the 1600's. Some became standouts for commercial reasons, but many varieties that would've disappeared can still be found, and are now treasured and cultivated.

Earlier this month, we attended a talk at the Williamsburg Historical Society by Russell Powell who just released his book "Apples of New England: A Users Guide" In the book he writes "Biting into a once popular apple discovered in New England tangibly connects us to our past."  A man after my heart. This book is a great gift idea!

Learn more in this wonderful "field guide" with histories and qualities of over 200 varieties. He had many there to taste after the talk. Do you know there was such variation? 

November Sense of Place Tip

Do a blind taste test of local fruits or produce
See if you can find a market with a large variety of apples. I bought a bunch recently at our local co-op and labeled them in brown paper bags. We've tasted each one without looking at the name, just noting their qualities in a journal, and then looking them up in Russell's book to learn about the history of each one. This is a fun game and great way to celebrate apple season.

BTW, my No. 1 favorite apple is still the Macoun. They don't last forever, but when they're in season they are tart, sweet, crisp and juicy all at once.

Know any comeback kids?
Do you have some success stories about anything regional or seasonal that was once on the brink of vanishing or being forgotten, that is alive and thriving today? I'd love to hear your stories too!


September 2014/Tell it Slant


There's such a quality to the slant of light during these late halcyon summer days, isn't there? They're so intensely beautiful, yet they cannot last forever. Might as well dazzle us now, and let us get drunk on that light, so we can go on in a satisfied stupor toward sweater weather.

My feature article this month is about shining through life's challenges."Tell it slant," Emily Dickinson once wrote.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind — Emily Dickinson

My "word of the year" for 2014 is SHINE, so I've been thinking a lot about this. Maybe it's the wisdom of age, but I am starting to see that "shine" can include a sort of patina glow. That we can shine anyway, right through the challenges that seem to tarnish the light sometimes. It's not either/or.  And it's that subtler quality of light that makes it all more real, beautiful and true.

From that slant, I think I can understand how we all can walk forward. It's not about looking through rose colored glassed all the time. It doesn't mean it will solve all our problems, but it can make problem-solving easier when we look for the shine, in all its hidden beauty.

The question I've been asking myself this summer is, "How can I be happy and shine my brightest when this is going on?" There isn't a minute when there isn't something to worry about somewhere. The issues and events may be different, but everyone is facing challenges, both internally and externally, to some degree, at any point in time. How we respond is the key.

Making sense of the world
When I want to make more sense of my life or the world, rather than stay immersed in the seeming chaos, I seek out experiences that have links to something that has links to the past-- be they natural or cultural.  Those threads of connection make me grateful for those things that stay the same in the midst of change.

It's where I discover a moment of dazzle that gets woven into the day. Just one moment that makes me stop and view the rest of the day with greater appreciation.

Last December I went to Emily's house to celebrate her birthday. I'd never been to the Dickinson Homestead, even though I've lived in the area for a long time. While touring the house, I climbed up to the second floor, and right away noticed a beautiful sunset out a bedroom window. I stood in the doorway and watched the sky turn rosy, bronze and pale blue. And then I noticed the bed by the door also facing the window. Then I saw the desk and quill pen. This was Emily's bedroom! She would have seen the sun set just that way, out her window over the trees. It drew me to her, straight from the heart. It was a link of consistency between the past and present that totally surprised me. It made my heart soar.

September Sense of Place Tip:

What roots you?
Make a list of places you turn to make sense of your life. What roots you to the past?
What brings you consistency, even in a changing world? What helps you shine, even through life's challenges?

Try this: Notice the light
Notice how the light at different times of day can shift the way things look.
Notice how the light can draw your attention to something you may never have noticed before. Notice how the things can draw your attention shift over time, just like the light.

June 2014/Find Your Quiet Spot: Outdoor Recreation for Introverts


A few years ago I was the keynote at an event that had the word "outdoors" in the title. Somehow I pictured it being a weekend full of people like me. People who loved to be outside because of the quiet. But the majority of attendees seemed to be athletes who loved outdoor recreation. They liked to be outside to hike, bike, canoe, run, and play sports or any other group activity. They were loud, full-hearted and fun. And they tired me out. It took me a while to figure this out. "Oh, they like the outdoors because it's challenging." They might end up tapping into their soul along the way, but that's not the main point.

One day we signed up for a mountain hike. We gathered in the parking lot to join our large, happy, rowdy group. Everyone started discussing carpool options, and there weren't enough seats. I said, "Anyone just want to go on a smaller walk, here at camp?" A few people (quietly) raised their hands. Then one person offered, "I know the trail to a heron rookery we could visit." We were pulled in her direction like magnets.

The rookery was amazing, ancient, powerful. A breathing, spiritual place. I can still see our eyes brimming with tears when we first caught sight of it the opening in the forest. I can see the still water, the nests high in the trees, the herons bringing twigs back to their mates, the soft blue sky. And I can still see the others we were with, moving slowly, communicating in whispers and hand signals. It was a rare sight. It could have been passed by. It took someone who knew the place to take us. To open our eyes and respectfully witness a process of life that has been going on there in that spot for a long, long time. Just to experience it restored some part of me. And just to know it is there today fills me up in the same way, and quiets me inside.

This was awhile ago, and today, I'm not sure which hike I'd choose to be honest. It would all depend on what I needed most. I'm more of an athlete now myself, and these days I have come to realize how much I need strenuous activity on a regular basis to feel really good, AND how I still need time in nature for quiet connection. I "use" the outdoors for physical activity and for inner reflection. Both provide me with a sense of balance and well-being. And that's the point.

Sometimes people don't even realize that places can restore their soul. They're too busy doing other things. In my sense-of-place work and research I have seen that there are many reasons people visit places, and many reasons we protect and steward places – for recreation, for social activities, for scenic or ecological reasons, as well as for mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

I believe their are easy, yet powerful ways to connect people with nature for its restorative value. And I don't mean just for the few, the bird-watchers, poets and photographers. Everyone can benefit from quiet time in nature – solo, or with a group of people who know how to speak in whispers, and recognize true magic when they see it.

June Sense of Place Tips

1) Plan a saunter, as Henry David Thoreau called them. A word which he explained in his essay "Walking" as "beautifully derived ‘from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la SainteTerre,’ to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, ‘There goes a Sainte-Terrer,’ a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander."

2) Take note of what you notice. Your ideas could be the start of a great song, poem, or story. The book "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed was an Oprah Book Club Pick and a bestseller. The story is based on the author’s solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. Hers was a recreational adventure with a goal in mind. But what she gained in the end was her soul.

3) View this TED talk by Susan Cain, author of the NYT bestseller book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking." (I picked this book up in Bar Harbor last summer while I was on faculty for an all-ages family nature camp. I wonder why I was so drawn to it…) View here http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts

4) Can you recall a time you took the opportunity to just spend quiet time outside without a certain goal or activity in mind? How would you describe it? In what way did it nourish your soul?

April 2014/Quick: What is That Song?


They're baaakkk. The Eastern Phoebes. They've got a lot of personality. Or at least in my mind, I think they do. They're a brown bird who lives under the bridge above the river, in our back yard. They return every spring. A harbinger of spring really.

They have a raspy voice, that seems to get raspier. They sound to me to be proclaiming who they are, but at the same time not quite sure. They sound sort of like a confused grandmother. Phoebe? Phoebe. They question themselves. Phoebe? Then answer themselves with certainty. Phoebe. It's sort of like me when I feel old looking for my glasses. Glasses? Glasses.

That raspy voice, combined with the self-questioning tone, and the fact that they winter down south had me creating a character for her, kind of like a grandmother from Florida. You know the type? The polyester pantsuit, the blonde hair, the coral lipstick, smoking a Pall Mall cigarette, even though she knows better. When our Phoebe comes back I hear her saying, in that raspy tone, "Aw, it's great to be back. (puff)  I tell everyone in Florida about this place I got, (cough) under a bridge, not too far from the Berkshires, you know, but right in the middle of nowhere really. I come back here every year. It's so relaxing. (puff) My grandchildren come back too. We all love it here so much. Enjoying ourselves. Great tasting flies. Good to be with the whole family again, you know? Phoebe? Phoebe." That's one way to remember a bird!

April Sense of Place Tips

Birders have long used mnemonic devices, creating catchy phrases that mimic the song of the bird, making it easy to remember. You can make one up, or use one already created.

1) Try this:  Learn more about the bird you hear: You can find the pictures and call for any bird on this comprehensive site from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Learn about the real Phoebe here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/eastern_phoebe/sound

2) Try this:  Make up a saying for the birdsongs you hear: Even though I try to remember the calls I seem to forget most of them by the time spring rolls around again. (One of my favorites has always been the Barred Owl who says "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?") Here is an adorable resource to print that will get you started identifying some common calls! http://birdandmoon.com/birdsounds.html

3) Try this:  How about making up a character? We find this very entertaining way to pass the time! (It's quiet up here…) It's completely silly and anthropocentric, and hopefully doesn't ruffle any feathers (hahaha.) But who would your bird be if she were a person? Can you find a photo (or bring an image to mind) of what she might look like if she/he were human?

March 2014/Six Cures for Spring Fever


I think it's best to really embrace whatever season or month you are in. To fully embrace it. I always joke that we shouldn't complain about rain or snow, or "they'll stop making it." But by March, we could use a little help. New England winters can be long, and we need a break now and then. What follows are a few of my favorite cures.

March Sense of Place Tips

  1. Visit a botanical garden. Pretend you're in Florida for an hour. I just took my mother to the US Botanic Garden, and it was a blissful way to spend the morning with her.  We arrived before the crowds, and she loved the flowers and the music. Or just get yourself a nice bouquet for the kitchen table!
  2. Buy a crisp white blouse. It will look so good and optimistic hanging in your closet between all the brown, black and gray.  There's a website I love called the 333 project. It's about how to use 33 articles of clothing to create a 3-month wardrobe that all goes together really well. Truly inspiring. This will get you on a great de-cluttering binge.http://bemorewithless.com/about/
  3. Eat food from warmer climes.  Soak up the atmosphere of a restaurant from a warmer country. Mexican,Thai or Indian are my faves. The spicier the food and earthier the decor the better.
  4. Work up a sweat. Going to the gym is the warmest I feel all day sometimes. Over the past year going to the YMCA has become a huge part of my life. I love the high-energy classes, bright lights and loud music.  Weight lifting is my new love, and the Step classes too.  I never thought I'd be a gym person, but it makes being outside that much better when I feel really fit.
  5. Go hear live music. You'll forget the cold when you're gathered together with others and having a great time. (Okay, this is a plug for my concert in Connecticut at the end of the month!)
  6. Find poems that make you smile. This one is from Emily Dickinson. It was in the latest newsletter from the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Dear March - Come in -
How Glad I am -
I hoped for you before -
Put down your Hat -
You must have walked -
How out of Breath you are -
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest -
Did you leave Nature well -
Oh March, Come right up stairs with me -
I have so much to tell -

I got your Letter, and the Birds -
The Maples never knew that you were coming -
I declare - how Red their Faces grew -
But March, forgive me -
All those Hills you left for me to Hue -
There was no Purple suitable -
You took it all with you -

Who knocks? That April.
Lock the Door -
I will not be pursued -
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied -
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That Blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame -
Fr. 1320


More archived posts coming soon! Stay tuned.