Albert Einstein on Success

On success

AP Photo

“If A is a success in life, then A equals X plus Y plus Z.  Work is X; Y is play, and Z is keeping your mouth shut.”

Work.  Play.  Listen.  Einstein’s formula for experiencing a new version of life called A.

The questions that sometimes emerge in my journaling are about how to combine work and play so that they are seamlessly one.  How can I enjoy my work so much that it feels like play?  And how can I incorporate more play into my work, while still feeling like I am creating something that serves another?

Perhaps my answer lies in Z.   Maybe I am not listening.   At least not enough.  My mouth is open and expressing thoughts, feelings, and even complaints.  If I paused to meditate, breathe, pause, and listen, it is possible that I might feel more simpatico with life’s meaning, purpose, objective — or whatever it is that drives us and compels us to discover and contribute and, ultimately, feel more successful.

Work.  Play.  Keep my mouth shut.   Listen.  Pay attention to the promptings and follow through.  Play more music.  Take longer walks.  Look around.  Be still.   Follow.   Experience a success in life.



albert-einstein-quotes. count

We count the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the years.  We count dollars, cents, and credit card balances.  We count the number of miles we run or bike, the steps we climb, or the laps we swim.  We count calories, carbs, fat grams and the number of pounds we gain or lose.  We count.  And we count some more.

There are things in life we can’t count.  We can’t quantify laughter or tears or the quality of our relationships.  We reckon birthdays but we cannot count life.  We tally up anniversaries but we cannot count the love we give and we receive.  We can enumerate the number of college degrees we earn but we cannot count what we have learned along the way.  We can measure the spectrum of wavelengths but we cannot count the number of colors that streak across the sky when we see a sunset or the aurora borealis.

Albert-Einstein-Simple-Picture-QuoteWhat counts?  So simple to say or to to describe or to explain . . . but it’s sometimes so tricky to keep my perspective.  Real counting is an intuitive nudge.  We know when something is countable when we feel that let-the-bell-toll moment.  When life comes together into one brilliant episode of Hugeness.

These moments fill us full with something that we can neither count nor define.  Like a bell tolling, the ringing has a roundness that reverberates through us and out into the vastness of the Universe.  I consider myself lucky to have experienced such moments.  They remind me to stop counting stuff and to start counting  — to start making a difference — as a human being

Life.  Memories.  Experiences.  Hugs.  Encouragement.  True love.  Music.  Integrity.  Contributing.  Growing.  So many things that I cannot count.  So many.


Are you an InstaGoogler?

passionately curious. einsteinAgain . . . Albert Einstein leads us by the hand and takes us to what it is about our own selves that makes us who we are.  What a remarkable person he was.

Question: What are you passionately curious about?  What is One Thing you enjoy learning about?  What is One Thing that you would like to spend some time exploring?  

What is the first answer that pops into your head?  Got it?  Next, download a [FREE] journal worksheet that will take you just a little bit further into and  farther down your Road of Curiosity.

I sometimes think that we have simply been so inundated with so much information.  

I love having Google at my very fingertips . . . but still.  Anything you want to know is just a Siri-command away.  Who wrote Stand by Me?  What is the Mariners – Angels score?  What are the health benefits of turmeric?

Are you an InstaGoogler?

Are you one of those Instant Googlers that reaches for your phone when you or someone else wonders something aloud?  Does having Instant Information at our fingertips or voice command rob us of deepening our curiosity?  Do we learn an answer and then dismiss it and maybe even forget it until the next Wonder enters the room?

I wonder.  Does having this wonderful advantage of instant information simply stuff us full of trivia and rob us of our passionate curiosity at the same time?  There is a difference — a chasm — between Knowing and Wanting to Know . . . a gap between Knowing An Answer and Wanting to Know more about stuff.  At least this is what occurs to me.  It seems that I know more and more about less and less than I used to . . . which is all good.  But still.  Don’t we truly want to know more, possess more knowledge, feel that depth-scraping satisfaction that only deep learning  provides?

Make curiosity a rewarding habit.  Explore your Curiosity with this free journaling download.

To download a free (and empowering) journaling worksheet that will help you explore and enjoy your Passionately Curious Thing, fill out the contact information below.  [This will not add you to any mailing list for future journal worksheets — unless you specify that you would like to receive them.]  This journal exercise is a journey into your curiosity, your passions, and your area of interest that defines who you are.  It’s good stuff!

Life is simply so interesting and there is soooooo much to be passionately curious about.  Live life large and expand your curiosity’s range of motion.  Think like Albert and less like a Googler.  Be you.  Be interesting.  Expand who you are.

Start with a Simple Idea

IMG_1611. a simple ideaStart with a Simple Idea.  

It’s as simple as that.  Or is it?  We hear stories about people who are fulfilled and successful, motivated and inspired.  What many of these people have in common is that they started their Journey of Success with a simple idea that ultimately sparked growth in their personal lives while contributing to the world around them.

I had some crazy dream about Skylab, America’s first space station, last night — how I was trying to walk on one of its pinwheel arms while maintaining my balance in a gravity-free environment — not an easy task even within the fuzzy confines of a dream.  All of which got me thinking, mid-dream, about what a wonder the whole contraption of Skylab is.  Having experienced its interstellar wonder in my dream, I woke up thinking about how much research and groundwork and hope and intention and vision and forward thinking went into creating it.

Skylab didn’t just happen.  It started with a simple idea and it grew.  Maybe someone scribbled his or her original idea of it on the back of a bar napkin.  Maybe it was the result of some astrophysicists having breakfast together at a conference.  Maybe some scientist woke up with a detailed dream of it.  I don’t know Skylab’s true genesis, but someone had to take it and move it beyond a doodle or an entry in a lab notebook.

In a TED talk (click on the link below), Tony Robbins tells the story of his family receiving an unexpected and generous Thanksgiving Day kindness when he was younger.  As a teenager, Robbins wanted to pay this stranger’s kindness forward, so he anonymously provided a different family with a Thanksgiving dinner.  This generous and simple idea grew into the creation of an organization that now feeds millions of people.

I love stories like this.  Still, as inspiring as they are, they can also feel to be a bit overwhelming.  The obvious questions enter into my thoughts: How did Tony Robbins grow the organization from this one simple gesture?  How did he organize enough people to join him in his vision?  Where did he get the capital to grow the organization into such a large one?  Sure, the amazing and energetic and dynamic Tony Robbins could pull this off  . . . but could I?

Believe-in-yourself-and-believe-in-love.-Love-something.Details, details, details.  I so often get lost in the details.  If I were to look back on my life and pushpin myself onto any given past moment, would I have imagined all of the dynamics of Today?  Parts of Today?  Maybe parts, yes. But all of the amazing-ness that I now experience?  No.  I don’t think I could have foreseen a tiny glimpse of the bigger picture.  I had to take one simple step.  And believe.  And know.  And feed the vision.toaster oven

Skylab was originally launched unmanned but there were eventually several different crews delivered to the station.  On the latter missions, there was even an additional spacecraft orbiting to rescue the crew should they encounter any emergencies.  Imagine these baby steps.  First, unmanned.  Next, manned missions.  Ultimately, backup and support.


For a free download (in workbook format) of today’s journal prompt “Start with a Simple Idea,” provide your email address, and I will send you your inspiring journal exercise for you to print out and to start journaling.  Time to make a differrence! 

And to conclude on an uplifting note . . . This is such an inspiring TED talk: Why We Do What We Do.  If you have 21:45 today to take the time to just relax and to open your mind to possibilities, this is a great TED talk.  In fact . . . watch it before you begin journaling.  The ideas that Tony Robbins shares will expand your thinking and your creativity and your perceptions of what is possible.

My Rights of Insanity, False Starts, & Finding Straight Grain

1072Albert Einstein has shared some powerful words with us: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” and “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Elegant, round, large, profound words.

And pretty simple, right?

I was listening to a friend today talking about a couple she knew who are in a polar relationship with some conflicting dynamics.  As an outsider, my perception of Major Problems was glaring and blaring.  The relationship sounded as if it had the words Selfishness and Dislike and Disrespect stamped all over it.  And before I go further, I want to say that I am not proud of my initial reaction to the story.  This couple in no way deserved my hasty judgment.

1082The husband stayed at home with the baby.  The wife didn’t like it when the husband wanted to get out for a few hours in the evening for some alone time.  After all, as he said, “I can only clean the house so many times during the day.”  The wife, being the breadwinner, quashed his request to take the car and go have fun.  Well, the wife didn’t want to be left all alone with the baby.  So?  The husband stayed home, deferring to his wife and ignoring his wish to be around adults with whom he could talk and share . . . all which emphasized the core problem that his wife was someone who he didn’t qualify as being an “adult with whom he could talk and share.”

You get the idea.  It was easy for me to sympathize with the husband.  I don’t know why I found myself rooting for the him, as I am guessing that the wife has her own personal emotional challenges regarding the relationship.  I was surprised when I felt myself getting emotionally involved in the story and siding with the husband.  I started saying things like, “Wow!  Let the man go out and have a little fun.” And . . . “She sounds like a control nut.”  And then . . . “Why do they even stay together if they are so unhappy?”

I caught myself mid-comment.  All of this, coming from someone who was a Master Enabler and Chronic Co-Dependency Queen in relationships past.   As I heard the words coming out of my mouth, I thought back over the years when I stayed in relationships that were no longer in our respective best interests.  Relationships where we no longer cared about growing or contributing or loving one another.  Relationships that focused on Take and no Give.

It is always easy to look at others’ relationships and “know what I would do.”  It is also easy to look back at my own personal hard times and now know what I would have, should have, could have done differently.

Hindsight is a lovely thing.  It is the frosting that covers the burnt cake called Delayed Action.  In my situation, the obvious thing to do in these relationships was to cut the cord and repair to a different bubble, a different space.  A paradigm shift was certainly in order.  By staying in “the same level of consciousness” that created the problems, I was exercising my Rights of Insanity . . . by “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

As you can easily imagine, consequences were paid and lessons were learned.    Changes were made and “different results” were wrested from me.  Not always a happy ending at that time but a different ending, nonetheless.

I have certainly chosen Insanity, by Einstein’s definition, and stayed far beyond the expiration date that was stamped on the underside of a few relationships.  There are times when I don’t like to admit this . . . times when, now having moved on and past, I don’t really care about the outcomes that took place . . . times when I feel as if these relationships have helped me to build healthier, positive relationships in the present.  There are times when regrets have dogged me and times when regrets have vanished into the stratosphere without a hint of a vapor trail.  Times when my past feels as if it has been a surreal dream and times when I simply don’t think about it at all.

14621623115_0028bf42b1_bI laughed at myself when I told my friend, “Aren’t I a fine one to be saying what this couple should do?”  The truth: I don’t know what they should do.  I have barely been cognizant of what it is I should-would-could-can-will do.  Einstein’s words inspire me to reach for a different level of consciousness, even if it might mean digging myself into a deeper hole or painting myself into a corner  or climbing up to the roof and pushing the ladder to the ground.

It takes courage to stretch for a different level of consciousness.  Shakespeare wrote in Lady Macbeth, “”But screw your courage to the sticking place, And we’ll not fail.”  Lady Macbeth is saying to stretch, push, and pull your courage as far and deep as it will go — just as one does when screwing a screw into a wall or a beam.  You keep screwing until the screw simply won’t accept one more twist of the screwdriver.  Sometimes you have to go that deep.  And to know when to stop.

IMG_0878Anyone who has tried to screw a screw into a wall stud knows the difference between trying to do so into a piece of welcoming straight-grained wood and into a gnarly knot.  You start to twist the screw in and then . . . nothing.  Stopped at mid-screw.  You know you have hit a knot.  Depending on how badly I want the screw to be in that exact spot for various functional or artistic reasons, I persevere.  I really reef on that screwdriver.  I break a sweat or I invite a blister.

Other times, I back the screw out and try a different spot with the hope that I will find straight grain.  Eventually, success is mine and the screw is in the wall — and not necessarily where I originally wanted it.  All that remains is to fill the holes that litter the sheetrock and dab some paint over the dried spackle.

One time I tried to install a toilet paper roll in my powder room.  Something this elementary.  By the time I completed the job, the wall was simply riddled with false starts.  It remains a testimony to not reading the directions that came with the device.  The T.P. holder is crooked and rickety.  I think I am the only one in the house who can change a roll of toilet paper and not have the dang holder fall off the wall.  It is also a testimony to remember Lady Macbeth’s words and to rise to courage.

But it is Onward, I say.  The next time I hear someone telling me a story about another couple’s relationship, I am going to stop my ears and remember Albert Einstein, Lady Macbeth, and the hideous mess I made of my powder room wall.  All is well but all will be even better if I prevent myself from making hasty judgments by resisting my Rights of Insanity.  Thank you to Albert, Lady Macbeth, and Home Depot.  Life is good when I heed the words of the wise: do something different, don’t resist change, don’t listen to my judgmental self, be courageous, and abide by a different level of consciousness.

Life + Movement = Balance

bicycle einsteinCan you remember that first time you were actually pedaling, steering, and balancing a bicycle all by yourself?

“Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”  Albert Einstein has had so many wonderful and uplifting quotes attributed to him.  Not only was the man a genius, but he was also very wise.

Life is like riding a bicycle.  If you are riding a bicycle and you stop moving, there’s a good chance that your balance will go all cattywampus and you will fall down. Boom and Ouch.

When it comes to bicycling and balancing, your options are somewhat limited: keep moving, stop moving and fall on the ground, or get off the bicycle completely and start walking.  And when it comes to life, we intuit and believe and know that out life options are not somewhat limited.  In fact, some of us believe that our options are infinite.  But are they?  I’m just wondering aloud here . . . what do you think?   I think that Einstein’s brilliance might be the answer here: Our options stay alive when we stay in balance our Higher Self with the pavement beneath us.

I like the spirit of Einstein’s quote and how he has reduced this simile to its simplest terms: ride or fall.  Keep going or get stuck.  And I do believe that some life changes have necessitated the need to trade in an old ride for a new one.

There are times in my life that I look back on and now can see that parking the bicycle was the best thing I could have done.  After living in a state of stagnancy, falling to the ground numerous times, and feeling the Ouch Factor, I finally came to my senses and parked the bicycle and walked away.  Heck, I didn’t even bother locking it up to a bike stand or a nearby tree because I knew that I was never going to give that bicycle another go.  Let someone else have it!  Some events in life are Good Riddance worthy.  At times like this, it is always good to select a new (and healthy!) set of wheels and ride like the wind off into a new paradigm.

Life, like a bicycle, is the vehicle we are riding.  Our infinite options in life are actually the directions in which we point our front tire.  The secret is to keep riding toward what we know are true directions to our Higher Self.  I have felt my spirit’s unsettling, intuitive nudge when I know that I have been pedaling in the wrong direction, and I have certainly experienced that feeling of What the heck have I done? right before crashing and falling.  Again.  My takeaway?  Patch up any scrapes and get back on the bicycle and find a balance point and keep moving forward.

Can you remember that first time you were actually pedaling a bicycle all by yourself?  It felt so liberating and exhilarating.   There was that split second when you felt your big brother’s hand leave the back of your bike seat and you felt your sense of balance kick into gear.  I so vividly remember this.  I went shooting down the driveway (and thank God that no car was coming up the street!), banked to the left and rode down the street to the cornfield that bordered the cemetery.  (Yes, I grew up in a very weird Midwest town!)

It was that split-second feeling that has stuck with me.  The second when I knew that I was balancing all on my own.  No sibling to steer for me or to keep us upright on two wheels when I was bumming a tandem ride on a back fender.  Just me, my hand-me-down sky-blue Schwinn, and the open road.  I rode all afternoon in the relative safety of the cemetery — the roads there being so peaceful.  I found My Balance while I practiced right turns and left turns.  Stopping and getting started again.  I arrived home feeling triumphant.  Liberated, actually.  I had discovered my independence.  My Movement.

Yup.  Einstein had it right.  Movement and Balance are key.  And let’s not forget Risk with a capital R.  It takes a lot of guts some days to take a deep breath and sail down the driveway, not knowing if you are going to keep riding or if you are going to crash to the pavement.  I believe that we all crave that feeling of Triumphant Balance in our days.  That feeling deep inside that tells us we are doing life justice with the right amount of movement and balance.

Today?  I am going to get back up on my Bicycle and ride like the wind.  There is no cemetery down the road from where I now live, but I am going to head there in my mind.  Back to that ultra-satisfying feeling of Balance and Movement.

Your Happiness Criteria: What do you need to raise your Happiness Quotient?

Albert Einstein wrote, “A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?”

Being one who enjoys clutter and chaos while in the throes of creativity, I respect Einstein’s answer very much.   The simplicity of his words speaks to me and inspires me to take a moment to reflect. What does a man need to be happy?

There is a tremendous amount of research being done on happiness, attitude, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness.  It is amazing what is being discovered about how important our Happiness Factor is in our lives.  But what is your Happiness Quotient?  What have you done lately to increase your HQ?

We try to define or measure our sense of success using several different factors, but what is it in your life that critically determines your sense of long-term satisfaction and self-fulfillment?

Does being happy require you to take phenomenal risks in order for you to feel alive and active on your pathway to success?  Or can living a happy life be more analytical or more structured than this?  Can you structure happiness into your life?

Being one who has lived life through radically-different career changes, lifestyles, and academic pursuits, I sometimes find myself at the end of the day wondering where I am going next.  What is the new plan?  What’s next?  What do I want to study now?  Which new instrument do I want to learn how to play?  Which novel should I work on today?  With all of this spontaneity and creativity that governs my days, I sometimes experience a let-down.  When I am skipping a beat, doubt can settle in.  I hear a certain quote by Lewis Carroll playing a haunting melody in my soul: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

Well, life is not all about career success and job titles and dollar bills and tropical vacations.  There are many dimensions in life that play a large role in our personal assessment of success.  Our relationships, our spiritual life, our sense of growing and contributing, our personal achievements that we share with others – all play a vital role in our happiness factor.

What makes you happy?  What is key in your life that leads to your happiness?  I once read a great article on “Happiness Criteria” which steered me away from my modus operandi of spontaneously and serendipitous-ly (and what can sometimes feel to be senselessly) seeking happiness.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of this, the thought of creating a criteria for success and happiness gave me pause and inspired some more concerted thinking and action with a focus on what generates happiness in my life and on what happiness means to me today.

In other words, what am I doing to raise my Happiness Quotient (HQ)?

One thought: make a list of Happiness Criteria that critically determine your HQ.

For example . . .

Some things that popped up for me, in no particular order of priority, are

  1. A flexible schedule
  2. Can bring my dog to work
  3. Time for travel
  4. Creative expression in my work
  5. Helping others to grow and to create solutions
  6. Time to exercise
  7. Time for loved ones
  8. Great pay

As you can well imagine, everyone’s list is going to read quite uniquely.  I once asked a group of students how many hours they would want to work in their ideal work week.  I was simply stunned by the number of students who wrote “40 hours” as their answer.  They asked me what my ideal work week was, and I told them “8 – 12 hours.”  They laughed and thought I was joking, but . . . I wasn’t.  My happiness criteria demands that I have time to volunteer, create, exercise, dance, be with my family and friends, etc.  Have I worked 40 hours a week?  Yes.  Was I happy?  Yes.  Would I be happier if I worked my 8 – 12 hours?  YES!

And how many of your criteria are non-negotiable?

For example, having a flexible schedule is non-negotiable to my happiness, but being able to bring my dog to work is negotiable.  If my schedule is flexible enough, there will be enough companionship time at the park and on the trails with my dog.


Click on the aqua-blue link below to download your free journal prompt: Your Happiness Criteria.  This prompt has some fun and revealing questions about you and how you choose to be happy and to implement happiness criteria in order to raise your Happiness Quotient (HQ).

Happiness Criteria. journal prompt

What do you think?  Has listing your Happiness Criteria helped you to focus on what is important to you?   On what makes you feel happy?  For some of us, these are not simple questions to answer; still, in my heart, I believe that the answers are vivid and clear.  My Higher Self knows what contributes to my happiness.  Taking time to think on these things and to let my intuition rule inspires me to grow in new directions.  To stay open to coincidence.  To appreciate the people in my life who want me to grow.  To appreciate the joy in laughter.

For all of this, I feel deep appreciation.toaster oven





My Second Self

anais nin each friend represent a world in us” . . . a new world is born.”  Such a beautiful quote about true friendship.  A new world.  A world replete with the promise of good things to be discovered and experienced.  A world of laughter and understanding and compassion and acceptance.  And good plain fun that inspires uncontrollable laughter.  And joy.  And lingering feelings of happiness that span the length of absence.

A reflection of my better self.  My fidus Achates.  Best friend.  The Other I.  My Second Self.  The other part of me that is attached by an invisible thread that stretches and springs and spans the vastness of time and space.  Its tensile strength being immeasurable. toaster oven

Life offers its many gifts but meeting The Other I is at the top of the list of serendipitous and cosmic sparks.  Connection and relationship and creating new worlds . . . it doesn’t get much better than this.  Life has a way of surprising us and, as Tony Robbins would say, we like the surprises that we want and call the surprises that we don’t want “problems.”  Albert Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

I love this quote.   Do I believe that I live in a friendly universe?  Yes.  And yes.  Meeting my Second Self confirms that new worlds can be born.  That miracles present.  That there are opportunities for change and growth.  That counting and counting have two very different meanings in the ways of life and love and friendship.  That very few things that truly matter can be quantified.  That laugh lines hold more value than zeros in my bank account.  That the sound of my laughter is a far better legacy than any fortune I can leave behind.  That “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”  — Albert Einstein


Important Encounters

Important EncountersI read this quote today while reading an article on soul mates.  The article outlined the 10 elements of a soul mate and made a lot of sense in the ways of recognizing serendipitous miracles.

Sometimes soul mates enter into our world as a result of intense and focused intention.  Sometimes they grow from a professional or academic relationship.  Sometimes it is a brother or a sister who so generously allows you to be you.  It is a daughter or a son who loves you because you are you . . . because of your flaws and your zaniness and your creative forgetfulness.  Sometimes your soul mate comes as a complete and absolute and amazing surprise.  You are standing in line one evening and someone turns around and says, “Hello.  Do we know each other?”

My soul responds, “Yes, we do.”  We didn’t before this moment, but we did.  We do now.  toaster oven

These are the fabulous contradictions of every day miracles.  The surprise of the known.  The immediate recognition of the familiar in the unanticipated.  And it is all quite amazing actually.  We weave our hearts and souls into our respective days.  We tie off loose threads and we pull some length from the hanks of color that ribbon throughout and within.  We offer our dynamic colors and texture and entwine them into the tapestry of our lives.  We recognize that there is a Higher Power at work.

We are mindful to occasionally view the tapestry from above — not just from the underside where the slubs,
knots, and loose ends dangle.  If we cannot see the beauty from above, we close our eyes and open our hearts and imagine the beauty.  We keep on weaving.  Our souls so want to be expressed in threads that honor our unique and lovely ways.

There are some beautiful and magical writings that celebrate the metaphors, similes, and analogies of life with weaving and tapestries.  So many!

This quote from Yeats is magnificent and beautiful:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, en-wrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet: but I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
(W.B. Yeats, 1899)

A great image.

Dreams are fragile. They are but vapor in another’s soul.  They grow in body and in strength when treated gently.  As Yeats has written, soul mates tread ever so softly — so gently — on another’s dreams.  They see another’s dreams as beautiful and invaluable.  They celebrate another’s patchwork of reality.  They see themselves in the other’s dream.

Albert Einstein was so smart and wise.  He wrote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  I want to live my life as though everything is a miracle.  Everything is sacred.  And amazing.  And beautifully woven together.  “Hello.  Do we know each other?”  Yes.  And Yes.






Looking Deep Into Nature

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

~Albert Einstein

domke lakeToday we are nearing record high temperatures.  And I am here at my desk, daydreaming of living on the lake and its winter snowfall and pearlescent lake ice.  Albert Einstein wrote: “Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world.” Dr. Einstein is correct.  I feel cooler as memories of winters past and its deep cold settle over my current external-world reality.

Living on the lake taught me to pay attention to the simplest of things: the remaining daylight in the late afternoon for chores, the amount of water still in the bucket on the stand as night approached, the arrival of the bell mare coming in from open pasture on the mountain, and the weather that rolled in from the south over the ridge. Weather determined the plan of each day: sunny days were reserved for wood cutting or laundry or boat maintenance; rainy days for cooking or personal study or paperwork.

ice on lakeCome November, the lake would freeze, the float plane traffic would stop until springtime, the quiet would descend more fully.  All sound would be absorbed by the low clouds, the ice on the lake, and the snow-covered ground.  The silence was deafening in the winter months.  I used to keep an old funky radio — all wrapped around with copper wire — tuned to the only clear AM station in order to combat the ringing in my ears from the deafening quiet.  The lack of sound waves and movement took on a new life, a new way of being and of paying attention.  It was a unique experience that has shaped my current notion of stillness.  It is in this place where I learned how to live with the elements and how to be quiet within my own self.

kerosene-lampIt was a rewarding and demanding lifestyle which did not allow for a great deal of convenience.  I did not have electricity, running water, telephone, or the usual appliances found in the average American household.  I cooked on a wood cookstove and heated my home with a 55-gallon barrel turned on its side.  Artificial light came from kerosene and, in the wintertime, additional natural light was provided by the sun’s reflection off the newly-fallen snow.

I loved waking up to that first snowfall.  The cabin would be bathed in a brilliance that had been quite-noticeably absent during the darker months of autumn.  It felt as if a Supreme and Altruistic Benefactor had turned on a light switch of ambient brilliance, and I was the receiver of such luminosity.

But I am human, and this first-awakening glow would predictably wane.  And it would no longer be deeply revered and appreciated.  The first snow did indeed translate such that less kerosene would be burned in the early morning hours.  Another bonus was that in just a few more snowfalls the open crawl space beneath the cabin would soon be insulated from winter’s colder temperatures.  I would be burning less firewood.  The floorboards would be warmer longer.

All of these amazing advantages.  I would lie in bed that first morning and simply love the gift of snowfall.

That first snow also signified the beginning of an intense arm-and-back workout that would present its demands on a daily basis for the next 5 or 6 months.  Snowfall would become the dratted monster that would creak and groan and eventually slither off the metal roof all night during a heavy fall and engulf the entire house in its shroud of white.   That bonus brilliance would soon be muted by a massive amount of wet concrete that would need to be moved away from the single pane windows — lest the added pressure cause them to collapse.

It was a delicate balance of attitude adjustment.  The properties of snow are exactly what they are.  Nothing had changed regarding the crystalline structure of the snowflakes.  My interpretation of these properties was what had shifted. Appreciation?  Or just plain hard work?

waterHauling water in 2.5-gallon buckets up the hill from the lake demanded that water be afforded an immense amount of respect.  In the coldest of winter, vigilance was required to preserve my water source.  The diameter of the hole would quickly shrink as the cold settled into Deep Winter.  Chipping through the new lens of ice each day released the smell of fresh lake water and the promise of springtime.  I can recall that smell today.  I can remember the feeling of standing on the ice and drawing water with the stainless-steel bucket.  Life was alive and moving beneath the stillness imposed by the ice.

I very much like this quote of Albert Einstein’s.  What a genius he was in so many ways.  When I look deep into nature, I do understand everything better.  I understand that there is a dichotomy to things.  That there is a yin and a yang. That It-Is-I who can tip my inner scale of harmony toward appreciation over overwhelm-ment.  I appreciate the lessons that I gained from living in a primitive environment that reminded — demanded — me to look up and all around.

To look up.  I wonder at this now.  It sometimes seems that I so rarely look up.  I am reminded to turn this around and start looking up and around.  I sit here at my desk and I look out the window at the trees on this gorgeous summer day . . . and I find myself daydreaming about winter’s snow and ice.  So Much Beauty.  All around and all the time.  And so many gifts of renewal are in my life today.  So many.  I believe that I appreciate them more intensely because I have “looked deep into nature.”  I value my appreciation of today.  Of being alive.  Of being able to return and to grow my appreciation to those whom I love.  What a gift it is to appreciate life and love, to share trust and laughter with another.  toaster oven

For this, I raise a toast . . . a 2.5 gallon bucket . . . a fine glass of cognac . . . to Nature for assisting me to “understand everything” a little better in this moment.  I feel deeply blessed.