Monday, March 22, 2010

Rob Lived a Hand Crafted Life

This is one in a series for a column, Living a Hand Crafted Life, that I am writing for our local newspaper, The Hendersonville Times-News. This article was run on March 21, 2010.

There's a general tendency to presume people just act for short-term profit. But anyone who knows about small-town businesses and how people in a community relate to one another realizes that many of those decisions are not just for profit and that humans do try to organize and solve problems. -- Elinor Ostrom, first woman recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics (2009)

This column is about encouraging readers to live a hand crafted life:  a life of choice based and following our heart and our core values.

Rob Cranford was one such person.  I knew Rob from Rotary.  Just seeing him in a room would make me smile.  His open and honest energy and integrity was palpable; you could feel it.  He loved life, and he followed his heart in living a full life. 

Rob was a humble and yet impressive person.  He used his head and his heart.  He was an astute businessman as well as a deeply caring family man, friend, and community member.  I have heard him laugh so hard that he almost choked, and I have seen his eyes fill with tears at a touching story.  Rob’s emotions and abilities ran the gamut.

Rob was a devout man who practiced what he believed.  He didn’t preach, he acted.  And because of his many acts, this community is a better place.  There is no corner of our community that he didn’t touch in some way or another.  Under Rob’s leadership (and thanks to other great employees there), Morrow Insurance was a profitable company, and they shared those profits with organizations in Henderson County. 

In this day and age, when focus on the bottom line leads companies and corporations to make self-serving decisions, it is affirming to know that Morrow’s decisions were led by the philosophy that people and community matter.  Non-profits knew they could count on Morrow’s support.  And characteristically, when Rob would make a commitment or pledge, he would say, “I’m sorry it can’t be more.” 

I would tease Rob that I was the Founding President of the Rob Cranford International Fan Club.  I really feel that way about Rob.  He had a halo while he was here on earth, and now he has sprouted wings.

But from the SRO crowd at his funeral, I have plenty of competition for that title.  Friends told tales (poignant and hysterical) about Rob, and most impressive were his sons’ eulogies to their Dad.  The courage it took for them to stand in front of a huge crowd at a terribly emotional time for them was fueled by their obvious love and admiration of their father.  What a tribute to their Dad.  I know he was proud as punch.  We all were. 

There’s a big hole in many hearts because of our loss of Rob Cranford living among us.  I’m thankful that I knew him.  I am a better person for having known Rob.  We all are.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. -- Leo Buscaglia

Blessed Spring!

It's finally spring (officially, that is)!  Saturday, Spring Equinox, was magnificent; a true first-of-spring-day:  sunny, warm, enticing one outdoors for the sights, smells, sounds, and sensations of spring.  Mother Nature brings out her brightest and best paints for this season!

All of a sudden, over the past week, birdsong and serenade is everywhere, all during the day from dawn until dusk.  It's a lyrical way of staking territory and attracting a mate.  Wouldn't it be great if that was how humans staked their claim, through song instead of fighting?  Or males sang love songs to attract their mates?  

In my walk around the yard, a small plant (some would call it a weed) growing -- and blooming -- in a crack in our sidewalk caught my eye and my imagination.  Our home was built in 1927, and the sidewalks are that old... and full of character.  There are a few "wrinkles" that have occurred over the past 80 or so years, and I love seeing what grows in these spare spaces.  We have lots of beautiful mosses, too.  It's amazing how many types of mosses there are!

And speaking of "wrinkles in the sidewalk", there is a place where the front sidewalk and the side front walkways meet where a tree feel years and years ago and cracked the sidewalk.  I've been intending to pull up the old concrete and create a mosaic in its stead.  So I'll be posting process photos as this project progresses this season.  Here is the end-of-winter-before-spring-cleaning pics of this section of our walkways.  (No, I'm not proud of the shape of the sidewalks, although I am proud of the trellis that Andrew built a couple of years ago with salvaged stone and my dad's old fir extension ladder!  We have wisteria vines -- one of my favorite flowers -- growing over it.)

Andrew and I spent part of Equinox Saturday afternoon planning some spring planting projects.  We'll plant a garden in the north side yard (yes, it does get sun) in a medicine wheel configuration.  First, we need to move the grass and mosses growing on the ground there to other areas of the yard that need green growth.  Then we'll till and amend and create walkways and rows.  Then we'll plant and cultivate our own veggies.  YUM!  We both want this Spring Equinox to be a gateway for us to bring growth and balance into our lives.  Getting grounded is a great way to do that for both of us... plus it's great exercise after winter's sedentary habits.  So I'll be posting these advances, too.
Sunday was a day of indoor play.  It rained all day (yet didn't smell like spring rain...), which was disappointing after the lovely warm sunshine of Saturday.  But the truth is, we need both the sun and the rain in order to grow:  taller, broader, deeper, more beautiful.  So it gave me the excuse to create a vision board of what I hope to bring into my life this year, starting with this Spring Equinox.  What fun to mix color and image!  I love collage and went on to create an Abundance Vision Book, because Abundance is one thing I want to bring into my life (we already benefit from abundance, but I want to be more trusting of it and aware of it in order to celebrate it instead of wonder about it...).  It was great fun to blend papers and images into a large "book" that will stand on its own and remind me of the Law of Attraction and that faith and trust is what's needed.  I can flip the pages as I want to different visions of abundance and bounty...

I hope today brings you an abundance of all good things!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring At Last!

While the calendar doesn't show spring's equinox yet, Nature does.

What a joy to wake this morning to clear skies with the sun shining golden on our home!

I saw daffodils waking from under their leafy blankets.

I saw other daffodils lining up, attentive to Grandmama Oak, now a naturally-deteriorating stump who was once the largest, most majestic tree in our yard. She still has wisdom to share, and the daffodil buds are paying attention.

And we have waves of daffodils swimming around our dolphins.

But the most amazing gift I was given today in my view of the morning was another oak on the south side of our home breathing. Yes, breathing.

I know the scientific explanation of her breathing: the sun was warming her bark, which was damp from yesterday's long, soft rain and the night's dew. As she warmed, the moisture turned into steam and gently lifted offer her skin and up into the air. But to my eyes, she was breathing. Thank you, Nature!

(Can you see the soft delicate mist between the trunk and the bush behind?  That's her breath.)

So I had a great time snapping pictures of these lovely rituals that Nature and her creatures repeat endlessly.

I hope you have a delightful day full of bright awakenings!


Weather Affects Us All; How Does It Change You?

This is one in a series for a column, Living a Hand Crafted Life, that I am writing for our local newspaper, The Hendersonville Times-News. This article was run on March 7, 2010.

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. ~ Nelson Mandela

Things in Henderson County aren’t back to normal yet. Snow still mounts, welcoming the next flurry. Residents have lost electricity, heat and water; some can’t get out of their driveways. We realize we are all vulnerable to the weather. The frigid weather has steamed many about changes in schedules and plans.

During these times, we move closer to the ways that our forbearers lived: the settlers who came before us to carve a life in these forests and mountains. I’ve often thought it took mighty strong stock to settle the Appalachians. Men, women and children worked together cutting trees which would become their homes and the fires to warm them. They carried water. They planted and tended and harvested and cooked as well as hunted and traded. These were truly hand crafted lives: everything they did was by hand!

There were no home improvement stores that sold and delivered lumber by the board. There were no grocery stores where one could stock up for impending weather. Everything was made by hand – one’s own or someone else’s.

The kind of weather conditions we’ve experienced recently reminds me of how much our ancestors had to focus on survival. Much of their energy and focus went into taking care of the most basic of life’s needs – just as many of us have had to do without power or water.

I love canning tomatoes. It’s hot, hard work: picking the tomatoes, splitting the skins in boiling water, lifting large pots of hot water or cooked fruit, pouring the sauce into sterilized jars, sealing them in a water bath, and listening for the “pop” of the lids to signal a perfect seal. At the end of a long day of canning, my reward is rows of red jars with gold caps standing in line on my shelves. It feels like wealth to me. And the exercise – while a labor of love for me – helps me to better appreciate the strength and endurance of those who came before us. Of the mothers who had to properly can and preserve the harvest, or her family wouldn’t eat. Of them having to clean, wash, sew, nuture, and birth – all by hand and at home.

Several years ago during an extended ice storm here, our home lost power for 10 days. And while having central heat, light, and cooking reinstated was wonderful, we were all a little sad to lose those evenings of togetherness around our wood stove. We resolved to turn off all the lights (and TV) at least one night a week and play games, singing songs. I think that resolution lasted about a week. We were solidly back into our routines.

How have you changed with this most recent experience of being entirely at the mercy of the weather? When your electricity returned, how long did it take for you to take it for granted? Part of a hand crafted life is appreciating what we have. Another part of it is not letting our modern conveniences get in the way of recognizing all that we truly have.

I hope you have a day filled with a vision of living your own life.



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