Seasons Change

I spend my childhood in rural Pennsylvania. In the 1970’s we keep cool during the hot and sticky summer by catching minnows and crayfish in the creek that runs down from the Blue Ridge Mountains and past my house. In the fall we kick our feet through thick blankets of candy corn colored leaves while the blue mountains turn russet. With the first flurries my sister and I press our ears against transistor radios tuned to WAEB and with fingers crossed hope to hear the name of our school, Northwestern Lehigh Elementary, read aloud along with all the others closed by icy roads and blowing drifts of snow. In spring we trade long pants and boots for knee high socks and cotton culottes. The periwinkle in my mother’s rock garden begins to bloom. The snow melts, the frozen creek thaws and the Blue Ridge Mountains drop their coat of rich winter grey as the new leaves stretch for the sun. For a few weeks the air is perfumed by the lilac bushes outside my bedroom window, and then the school year ends and the hot and sticky dog days of summer return.

When Ben and I first arrived here, to Virginia, the early mornings were already warm and humid, the evenings tolerable. And now, five months later, we’re pulling out the woolly hats and thick coats that spent California winters crammed into the back of a dark closet.

I didn’t know until now how much I missed seasons.

Outside my window is an endless row of tall, bare limbed trees that grow along the Slabtown Branch of Linkinghole Creek. When we arrived in July they were lush and green. Towards the end of August the leaves of one began to shift from shimmering emerald to shades of deep ruby and dusky gold. I was certain it had died. But it was simply leading the way and within weeks all of the trees seemed to be competing with one another to see which might be the most autumnally resplendent.

But now the leaves have dropped. I can see through the trees’ crooked boughs and across the creek bed to the nest of family homes that wind their way up Bishopgate Lane. In the early evenings that we have in mid-November warm light glows from each window and I imagine the homes are filled with the scent of baking bread, home cooking and childish giggles. And as the folks who live there look out toward Old Trail Drive and see the light from Ben’s and my home I wonder if they imagine the same story? Not wanting to disappoint, I returned from my last trip to the local Harris Teeter with flour and baking powder and yeast. It’s definitely soup season and what better treat to enjoy with soup than warm bread with lashings of butter?

Today the temperature will be hard pressed to break forty-five degrees and it will be raining by this afternoon. How cold does it have to be to snow? It doesn’t have to be freezing but I’m certain the ground is not yet chilled enough to support a dusting of the white stuff. But will those trees outside my window be coated with white on Thanksgiving?

I’ve been told by new friends who’ve been here longer than Ben and I to not get my hopes up. There are, without a doubt, four wonderful, glorious seasons here in little Crozet. But winters, my neighbors tell me, lean a little too far toward the temperate to see snowball fights or a carrot-nosed Frosty in every garden. 

I’m more likely to find puddles of slush. I’m ok with that.

Settling into the rhythm of changing seasons changes everything else: the food I eat, the clothes I wear, how I spend my downtime, how I commune with nature. It changes my yoga practice and the yoga I teach. It makes me aware of time and the passage of time in a way that the glorious, endless California sunshine never quite managed to do for me.

And while it’s true that at some point I’ll rue the moment that I step into a deep puddle of wintry slush I know that I will never not love watching the seasons change.


Confidences and Morning Walks

In late October dawn breaks in Crozet, Virginia a little past seven in the morning. It’s cold this week and I need gloves and a winter jacket for my walk. Two trail heads are a few breaths away from my door. This morning I choose the one that leads down for a bit, crosses a wood plank bridge and then climbs – not too far or too hard – and opens with a panoramic view of Beaver Creek and Bucks Elbow, two nearby peaks that are part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which in turn are part of the Appalachian Mountain range that run from Maine to Georgia. On a crisp morning filled with dawn light coming in low and sparkling, like this perfect morning, Beaver Creek and Bucks Elbow are russet, or maybe a sort of blood orange color with flecks of crimson, gold and deep umber. 

I set a strong pace, walking purposefully, slowing only to say good morning to the three white tailed deer whose breakfast I have disturbed. Two of the deer look up to stare at me, their brown eyes showing no fear of this interloper. The third doe, younger than the other two and perhaps more nervous about me stomping through her forest so early in the morning, looks at me, then at her companions, then back to me before springing away. My eyes track her five swift leaps that defy gravity and carry her from open grass to the thick brush in which she disappears. Her more experienced sisters follow with a slow saunter and more than a little attitude that shows no concern about where I’m going or what I might do next.

I turn my attention back to the trail. My footfalls begin to syncopate with each breath and as they do my body falls into a bright rhythm that gives the sun a run for its money and gives my mind permission to wander. And once my mind shakes off the detritus of the day before, that’s exactly what it does. 

This time of year the tree roots and small rocks obvious during summer walks are hidden by a mosaic of wet, sticky leaves. My pace slows.  The trail takes me past a pond that only last week was a resting spot for the Canada Geese flying south. On that day the mirrored surface, broken by the landing wake of one lone goose that dawdled somewhere over Waynesboro town, reflected the sky and clouds and colors of the hills. The Canada Geese are gone now but maybe their cousins, the Cackling Geese, will visit during winter. On this frozen morning though, all that rests on the water is a cold white mist that the sun will soon burn away. 

I’ll be sixty-four next month. This year my birthday falls on Thanksgiving Day. I know that sixty-four is old to some and young to others. Either way, on these mornings, with the damp and solid ground beneath my feet, I spend less time considering the road ahead, with all its joys and sorrows, and instead reflect on the joys and sorrows I found on the road I traveled. And I take the beauty surrounding me into my confidence. I open the jeweled reliquary that is my heart and tell these mountains all my secrets. 

I confide in the dark winter berries, the crimson ones, too. I confide in the milkweed, bright green in spring but now dried and split to angel wings, their gossamer white threads glistening and weightless in the air. I confess my sins to the red shouldered hawk perched in judgment on the bare branches one hundred feet above me.

I trust the trail and the mountains, the deer and the geese. I trust the loam beneath my feet and the rising mist. I trust it all to hold my secrets. To listen in sacred silence. This earth, it’s ancient and knowing wisdom, will not try to fix a flailing human who isn’t broken.

Three miles later I exit the trail and follow the sidewalk past the blocks of shiny townhomes. Most are decorated for Halloween. The school bus stops so that I can jaywalk across Old Trail Drive. I pass a gaggle of kids with full backpacks and wearing shorts in stark contrast to my bundled body as they head toward the middle school around the corner on Rockfish Gap Turnpike. I am home. I am healed.


Touching Life: Change Takes Patience

Bruce the Cat is living his best life.

I can’t say the same for his favorite human companion. It’s been a wonderful and an exhausting month but I won’t feel at home until my brain can shift its thinking from ‘I moved to Virginia’ towards ‘I live in Virginia’. My body is here but my energy is somewhere over a cornfield in Iowa and until the two can meet this sense of being unmoored will stay with me. It’s as if there’s a glitch and my spirit is biding its time somewhere in the air between California and Crozet, like a little spinning rainbow waiting for the new software update to download. But that’s what a move is like, isn’t it? The body and the spirit need space to forge their alignment. Until then, balance and equilibrium is off kilter. Just ask my Vrksasana.

Change takes time. We know that. It might be a cross country move, a bad habit we’re trying to break or a new perspective we’re trying to find. Change takes time. And if we don’t see change for what it is – an opportunity to practice patience – then the disappointment we feel when the new conditions we’re expecting don’t arrive fast enough can mess with our head. It has definitely messed with mine. This past month – in between the excitement and moments of joy – I’ve been irritable and frustrated. I’ve lost focus. I’ve had trouble sleeping. To be clear, I haven’t once questioned our decision to relocate but the firm grip I had on the vision for my life and the purpose I knew was mine has slipped away. I don’t yet know who I am in this new home. And my brain won’t be able to transition to ‘I live in Virginia’ until all the things I can’t seem to find – including me – are found.

Change has its own rhythm. It’s own schedule. 

I need to take to heart the words I write. Change is an opportunity to practice patience.

Which means I need to stop worrying about the damaged refrigerator sitting like a monolith in the middle of my kitchen and take joy in the truth that there’s a new, undamaged refrigerator in its place. By next week it the broken monolith will be gone. By next week shelves for the garage will arrive and trying to find the car won’t require navigating a maze of cardboard. After that the boxes still unpacked will be open. And after that we’ll have a few chairs for the patio and will be able to enjoy hot tea in the cool mornings as the sun rises. I’ll begin to learn how I fit in this new place, this new world.

Until then I will continue to repeat the mantra ‘Change is an opportunity to practice patience’. And the first place I will practice patience is with myself.


Leaving Home: A Climate Migrant’s Story

When I left California the first time, it seemed like a lot of folks had a similar idea. Around the time I took flight for Ireland, Dana and Anya left for Grand Rapids and Nancy headed to Santa Fe. There were others, too, who left. Friends on the periphery of my life headed to Oregon and my the friend who adopted my cat Bob moved to Detroit.

In the late 1990’s, if you weren’t in the tech industry, it felt like life was waiting for you someplace else. So we moved. 

A decade later I came back to the place that felt like home. I guess the Universe knew that the Bay Area had more lessons to teach me. Some of those lessons devastated me. Others filled me with hope and motivated me to not only do better but to be better. To be more kind. More patient. More trusting. 

I purchased my first home through Palo Alto’s BMR program during my second time around in the Bay Area. And I fell into the kind of love that is more than a fleeting tickle in the heart.

My beloved B (henceforth known as ‘BB’) and I first tossed around the idea of leaving California long before COVID changed the way we live. But when last summer served us a shutdown, raging firestorms, intense heat and The Day the World Turned Orange we knew it was time to flesh out what it would look like to leave. What it would mean.

So we created a spread sheet that ranked our potential destinations according to the criteria that was most important to us. We wanted to be closer to family but we also needed affordability, diversity, culture, tolerable winters and, while BB could continue to work remotely, I needed opportunities to continue on my path as a yoga therapist and coach. I also needed room to grow back into the artist side of me I abandoned when I left California the first time. Asheville was too expensive and Chapel Hill too far from family. We didn’t relish the idea of a Pittsburgh winter and potential livelihood for me was sketchy in Richmond. 

But Charlottesville, Virginia? Charlottesville ticked enough of the boxes to warrant an exploratory visit.  By the end of our seven day visit last May, we knew where we wanted to live.

It isn’t Charlottesville. It’s a little town (to be truthful it isn’t a town, it’s a place and yes, there’s a difference) outside of Charlottesville called Crozet. Crozet is named after Colonel Claudius Crozet, the French engineer who built the Blue Ridge Tunnel. The community we’re moving to is near enough Charlottesville to take advantage of all it has to offer but far enough away from city lights so that we can see the stars at night. Maybe even the occasional shooting star.

But we won’t move into our new home until next June. Which gives me just enough time to circle ‘round back about a million times to the question, “Are we making the right decision?”