It’s Summer time, do you know where your toes are?

 

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I love when the universe sends me a message, even when it comes with an ouch! I was assembling a shelf last weekend and dropped a heavy-duty wheel attachment that glanced off my middle toe—on my “good” foot. Even though my toe throbbed non-stop for 24 hours I had to laugh. I’d been thinking hard about my summer goals and juggling those expectations with the siren call of outdoor adventures. I’m well aware of how push-pull of demands from outside can derail my focus and I was determined to stay on task. But experience has taught me the body has a way of “talking over” the voices of others. Pay attention! Yes it’s the barefoot season, with the summer solstice arriving at 12:24 a.m. on Wednesday June 21. Temps are in the 90s after our prolonged cold spring rains. Summer in New England is heating up.

ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING

A dear friend once came to visit and taught me a powerful lesson about stillness. In the heat of the day, after she had traveled so far, why not just sit together?? With the fan lazily moving overhead and the windows open wide we sat in companionable silence on the porch and gradually, with no outside interruption, words poured forth. Keeping perfectly still was a release, a rescue of sorts. So maybe this summer, in the heat of the day, just stop with the busyness. Sit in stillness – not for 30 seconds- try 5 minutes. As you stretch your awareness, instead of your movements causing a breeze you’ll be able to detect the movement of air around you. Be still another 5 minutes and you will begin to feel cool. You will actually have greater clarity to then get up and continue if you must—you might even shift your awareness of what is truly important.

 

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WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?

It’s Travel Time. Road trips restore us by putting the horizon just beyond our windshield. Our car becomes a magic chariot, decanting us into a new landscape. In summer an old growth forest becomes a sandy shoreline; suburban sprawl a charming historic wharf; city streets a mountain retreat. Such was the case for my husband and I this past week. After days of endless inland rain we emerged into a sunny Wellfleet afternoon on the Cape.

 

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THE MUNDANE BECOMES SUBLIME

The daily catch of seafood and locally grown produce led the day. Our outlook brightened with the sun, and I noticed how we see each other differently across a table of nature’s bounty, enjoying the moment without regard for the tasks and chores and nagging questions left behind at home. The simple pleasures unfolded with a meal well-prepared, with engaging and artful hosting and the vibrant setting where all guests were made to feel welcome.

 

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REMEMBER TO PLAY TOGETHER

Within the shared moments, across the sand or across a table, new possibilities emerge. Mingled on the fresh scent of the breeze off the ocean that day was a tantalizing suggestion of new opportunity and renewed promise. O, Spring does lead to Summer! — in relationships as well as the progress of the seasons.

STAY CURIOUS

Walking on the sand we test the icy water. And leave some footprints to wash away when we leave. Despite the impermanence of our day excursion we feel more grounded, finding a respite from events beyond our view. As the day winds down we’re filled with the hope that lingers in the slowly setting sun.

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FOLLOW THE CURRENT

The beauty of stillness is that you can take it with you anywhere. Whether you embrace every invitation or not, when you work hard and play hard too, the interval in between becomes an important component of a healthy balanced life.

 

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Book of the Month: Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein

This is a gorgeous book for an imperfect time. There are lessons on the beauty and serenity inherent in the everyday, especially in the natural, slightly used and in need of repair. Charming collages combine with haiku creating a multidimensional experience for the reader. The text’s gentle prodding cultivates curiosity in both young and old.

A Bit of Movement:

Toes are in the spotlight in a summer weather, and I’m not talking about a fresh pedicure. How’s your toe alignment? Now that barefoot season is upon us, it’s the perfect time create an exercise habit for your toes. .A little Toe Yoga can set you up for a great day of fun in the sun.

Chris and I have teamed up for a sequence to start your day off on the right foot!

Stretches: Don’t just swing out of bed and start moving—take time to feel the surface beneath your feet. Notice the points of contact from toe to heel, then push off.

Stop at the kitchen counter while you prep your morning wake up drink- and  stretch your toes by lifting up from the heels.

Alignments: Sit and weave your fingers between your toes, shaking hands with your foot. Then hand-in-foot circle the ankle too.

Foot prints: Capitalize on this foot awareness by pressing your feet into your mat as you rise up into the warrior pose. Feel the power of your calves and thighs respond to this supportive grounding. You have enhanced the value of your workout by cultivating a strong and mindful base.

Something to Wear: Yoga Toes Sandals

Something for Fun: Foot Art – henna tattoos for the feet

Something Soothing: Foot Reflexology

Happy Summer Solstice to All!

Chris and Claire

Text Photos Claire Mauro

Yoga Photos Chris Primavera

Arancini,  Ceraldi

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Core Values, Lived Practice

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An astonishing week for blooms in our corner of New England brings a burst of activity to our home and landscape. My desire for change prompts me to contemplate a new broom, the better to sweep away the cobwebs of winter. The shift in the light illuminates areas needing attention and that includes not just our immediate environment.

My late winter injuries linger with nagging pain to attend to just when I want to keep moving. Patience for healing is as important as any actions such as proper exercise and nutrition. Slowing down brings focused action. The result is not great leaps but incremental movement, and that’s pretty satisfying. The hare gives way to the tortoise. I have a habit of turning difficult moments into questions. This leads me to ask– How can we create forward motion when confronted with obstacles?

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Core values + Lived practice -> Well-matched Opportunity = Heartening Action

Retreat is not defeat it’s a chance to re-group and come back stronger. Reflecting on your personal home truths and checking in with yourself to see how well your daily life aligns is a good regular practice. I believe in the rhythm of seasonal cycles to provide a framework for this kind of review. With the best of intentions things will still fly apart with regularity, that’s the certainty in the world of uncertainty. Restoring a balance is not always the same as putting things back together as they were before.

Re-assembly required. So often we build on top of the ruins instead of taking the time to go back to the basic foundations.  We need to remember what is underneath, then we can build solidly.

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Show compassion for yourself as you restore balance. Here are some suggestions:

Be gentle with your words, your thoughts and with your body–urge yourself on without drill sergeant shouting, use graceful movement not punishing workouts.

Allow your environment to please you—choose time in nature, silence vs noise.

Eat food you enjoy —buy fresh ingredients, cook simply.

Celebrate daylight! Bathe in the light to lift your spirits!

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P.S. Elan Mastai has a lot to say about building and what to do when things go wrong in his new book—All Our Wrong Todays. A Utopian environment sounds good, but what’s the alternative? The protagonist. Tom Barren, in this time travel adventure unmasks societal misdirection, false gods and searches for redemption. You can find my review on goodreads.

all the best to you

All photos and graphics by Claire Mauro

Adventures in Time

Tulip Time
Tulips on a snowy day

Remember to breathe Every good movement instructor has encouraged students in the studio with this phrase. When exerting yourself with physical effort it is potentially dangerous not to breathe, raising your blood pressure and straining your muscles. It seems obvious to just breathe, except we all need the reminder because sometimes we don’t breathe, and not only when exercising.

How many ways are there to describe it? Hold your breath, gasp for breath, forget to breathe, have the breath knocked out of you, takes my breath away

With phrases like these we suspend our action, hold still, wait for the next thing to happen. We are overcome with emotion in shock, fear, surprise, or grief, in pain, or deep in intense concentration.

In times of unpredictability we each need to raise our awareness to the breath, to assert our autonomy and breathe, rather than be held in a collective gasp, a population holding its breath.

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Tell me all about it

Reflect on your own resilience Breathing is your most basic point of control. Not being able to catch your breath is life threatening and breathing shallowly in your upper chest raises your anxiety. Deepening the breath draws you into yourself, settles your emotions, allows you to gather your strength. Use the moment of deep breath to feel your feet on the ground and pause before you act. It’s helpful to recall experiences of dealing with difficult situations in the past and how we got ourselves beyond them. Take the time to consider the lessons learned and how they might be applied in new situations.

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, there is no way to stop unanticipated and unwelcome news from arriving. I was recently reminded of this with an unexpected medical diagnosis. In my response I traveled down familiar side paths of reaction and arrived at the same place of transition I was headed to all along. I like to think I got there faster from experience. Time, we all want to believe, is under our control.

This month I have two books for your consideration:

The Child in Time Ian McEwan He is the master- I’m a fan. It’s very interesting to read this work from an earlier point in his career (1987). There are signature elements familiar to his readers and what have become cornerstones in contemporary fiction – the layered complexity of the narrative, the metaphysical exploration, and the sheer, breathtaking depiction of unspeakable loss. He toys with time and place with expertise and plumbs emotional depths we feel along with his characters. The Thatcher era political comments are quite timely for today. The tragedy and terror of child abduction strikes at every reader’s heart- and remains a danger. If you read this be sure to also view The High Street Abduction a recent video from BBC News. An adaptation of The Child in Time will air on BBC and PBS starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk Portia Nelson  This 35th anniversary edition contains her classic Autobiography in Five Short Chapters. The poem is an iconic statement on awakening to yourself, applicable at any age and repeatedly at every stage of life. The genius of her presentation is in a form so universally accessible to understanding it deserves your time.

Fresh Fig
Proof of Spring- Fig tree

Happy Daylight Savings Time!

 

P.S. Many Thanks to Ms Lizzie Cat for her Cattitude

All photos Claire Mauro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cup of Tea

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Balance, energy, positivity- who doesn’t want that? This month take the time to connect to what you know to be your core strengths. Instead of the tired clichés how about some old fashioned FUNdamentals?

Simple luxuries on a snowy day have the added charm of being crafted creatively. Never mind that our heart’s desire is available by virtual reality, this is about hands-on simple pleasures. Savor the warmth in your hands circling a steaming cup of tea, float a slice of orange on the surface and inhale the citrusy goodness. Hover over the toaster waiting for the last slice of cinnamon raisin toast – that satisfying pop! when it’s done is music to the ears.

Your senses are free, my friend, make use of them! Whatever your winter landscape, snow and ice or sun and sand, suspend your caretaking of your future self, the dictates of the metaphorical rainy day, and be here now

How do we know anyway, that the person we will be when that rainy day comes will need what we have so carefully put by?

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Reading together — my Aunt Rae and Me

My love of books today came from the simple pleasure of childhood. The walk to library, one hand on the carriage as mom pushed my sleeping sister along the sidewalk, was a treat to be celebrated with a bit of skipping. I can see in my mind’s eye the child-sized chairs with the woven seats, carefully placed beside the shelf of picture books under the eaves of the old library. I loved nothing more than to sit as close as possible, examining the book covers for clues to the riches inside. Being read to and later reading myself, was a joy discovered early.

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While the holiday stack is long depleted the thirst for more is never slaked. New titles crowd my inbox and my personal room of requirement overflows.

We have what we need if we only know what that is. In my case it is Ali Smith’s public library and other stories  the always inventive, unexpected and thrilling nature of her characterizations reveals us to ourselves.

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Smith has taken the occasion of the advent of the all-volunteer library to enthrall me once again. Her sheer genius of burrowing into a character and drawing us into their world in the most spare and artful ways is always satisfying. She serves up a dozen stories and the offerings are interwoven with notable quotes on the value and expansiveness of a public space so rich in opportunity for all ages, the reminder makes one swoon, then rush off to borrow some books!

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In the aftermath of the latest snowfall- oh what a glorious silence! The tree branches are frozen, their icy crustings barely quivering with the undercurrent of wind. Holding still is the way to perceive the movement around me. A single leaf dances erratically while all its companions appear to stand rigid. The more still I am the more tiny movement I see until whole limbs and slender trunks are swaying in the woods before me.

Gather the stillness, wrap it like a cloak and take it with you through your day.

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Happy Valentine’s Day to All!

For more of my book reviews, check out goodreads.com

As usual All photos Claire Mauro

 

Winds of Change

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A Big Thank You to all who read along with The Parsley Way. The winds of change are blowing and even we are affected. With Chris stepping away for a while Claire will be re-evaluating the site, its aims and the content.

Creativity, Kindness and Nurturing continue to be the foundation on which our wellness practices are built. I hope we’ve illustrated some pleasing ways to bring them into your life. Maybe you’ve experimented and found a new and satisfying practice. Maybe you’ve re-discovered or re-invigorated a long-standing interest. It’s OK to take time at the beginning of the year to be discerning. Notice where you are directing your attention. Ask: what actually calls to me, enlivens my day, lifts up my perspective?

Use all your senses to get the most pleasure from your day. Take comfort in the familiar tasks and delight in the unexpected. Yes, delight — the unexpected may introduce friction into your well-ordered existence but it also opens an opportunity. Embrace it! And breathe deep.

2017, Happy New Year!

Gift Guide – A Heartwarming Tale

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Gift Guides are a popular way to streamline your holiday shopping at this time of year. So here at the Parsley Way I wanted to share one of the ways our family combined wellness and gifts this year.

Pet adoption is an anytime option, particularly if you are flexible with your choices. As a cat lover I love all kitties, baby animals being universally adorable. Selecting one for your family is another matter. So many questions come to mind and should. If you are an experienced cat owner then you may have concerns based on past experience, such as disposition, health and behavior patterns. Or you may be concerned as new pet owner about the myriad responsibilities and whether you are up to the task. You’re right to be concerned! Pets should never be treated as disposable gift items.

Our family raised Tangerine, our orange persian x tabby from a kitten. We even met his mother and siblings! And he lived 20 years, a much-cherished companion to our son and a comfort to all of us. The thought of “replacing” Tangerine was not automatic; our grief was as strong as our pet love.

Tangerine at 20
Tangerine at 20

When I started to consider a cat again, as it often turns out by the law of attraction, feral cats appeared in our yard in late summer. Mama and babies stayed for several days and just as I was contemplating taking in the entire family, mama cat moved them on. I took this as further proof I should consider adoption. Did you know? –You can visit shelters and rescue sites online to see what pets are available. Local veterinarians can guide you too. For a short time we had a nearby Cat Café, but alas, they closed before I could meet my pet match!
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After several missed opportunities, during the past month I knew I had to move forward no matter what. I contacted a network of cat rescuers and sure enough within days I had a list of current pets seeking new homes. Calamity befalls perfectly nice pets and they face homeless shelters and potentially the remainder of their lives in cages. This was the case with our Miss Lizzie. When I heard her story—living alone in an empty home after the death of her elderly owner and the adoption of her feline companion, well, I took one look at her photo and was smitten. The rescue worker quickly followed up on my interest by providing a video and then a meeting was arranged. The rescue worker assured us there was no obligation; I should base my decision on a feeling of connection with the cat. It was so sad to see this lovely, friendly cat in an abandoned home. She had a neighborly caretaker to be sure, but no family routine. It’s a match!
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A month later we are happily growing used to one another, finding delight in our daily life together. We were provided with a health record and a regular check in with the rescue worker to monitor our adjustment to each other. I’m pleased to say Ms Lizzie performed all her necessary cat business the first evening, eating a meal, using her litter box and finding a comfy bed on a familiar pillow on a window seat. Since the first days we’ve introduced age appropriate food, presented her with cat toy options and lavished her with as much attention as she is willing to accept. She’s a curious, well-mannered and altogether independent Miss who will seek out her own activities or consent to play with us. And WE are pretty well trained already too. She will drink from a water bowl but prefers a running stream. The first time she jumped into the shower was quite a surprise! Now she will wait for one of us by the bathroom door and we will open a tap to run a trickle for her. I think she must have a bit of fisher cat in her Tabby bloodline!

The Nimbus 2000 of cat toys
The Nimbus 2000 of cat toys

We’ve hit the jackpot with Ms Lizzie for sure! We’re grounded in our daily life by the loving caregiving and pet companionship, a mutual relationship! Her soothing purr is beneficial for our health; keeping her well feed and cared for is good for hers. Her constant inspection of our home is a mouse deterrent and good feng shui, too. She moves the stagnant chi with her attention to the nooks and crannies of our home, delighting us with her independent spirit, love of play and expert attention to repose. Our new addition to the family proves to “tend and befriend” is a good antidote to what ails you. May you be well this season!

Mizz Lizzie Among the Pines
Mizz Lizzie Among the Pines