The season of color is here. Violets, apple blossoms, lilacs, dandelions, tulips, a few remaining daffodils, rhododendrons, oranges... Oranges?
    We are not the land of sunsets, like Arizona. My parents live there, and year-round people wear the colors of the sky: azure blue, orange, blazing pink and reds and yellows. "I can always tell when I'm at the right airport gate for Portland, Maine" my mother told me. "Everybody looks drab." It's true. In winter we wear black. And white. And perhaps some nice muted heathery maroons or olive greens. 
     I'm poking fun here, but the truth is if you ever see a Mainer in a bold fuchsia sweater in January, you would make a playful comment about it. Same with orange.
     But secretly we love color.
Baltimore oriole by Anna
     And that is why the arrival of the dramatic-looking and beautiful sounding Baltimore orioles from the tropics is one of the great events of spring. Black and orange, singing like a ripe flute and even chattering voluptuously, the orioles remind us that we are more than heather-colored northerners. We are worthy, vibrant people who want to be seen too. We want them to choose us. And so we put out oranges to attract the the birds, hoping that they will find our neighborhood robust and splendid enough to build their pendulous nests and stay. 
     I see the orange halves sitting on deck rails and hanging from trees as I walk my loop around this old New England village of white clapboard houses. We were shipbuilders and sailors here. Ice cut from our ponds went south packed in sawdust, and molasses and rum came north. What was it like to be the captain who brought the miracle of frozen water blocks to Caribbean islands, and then brought the miracle of sugar back to the land of pine trees? What is it like to be a bird that calls both the tropics and the north woods home?
     I am not a migrant; like the ship captain's wife, I patiently wait each spring for the travelers to return. I love the birds who come first. I love the the swallows, the phoebes, the warblers and hummingbirds. But the rich song and dashing colors of the Baltimore oriole are a thrill, an affirmation of beauty, the sugar to my beloved temperate landscape. 
     Maybe someday Bob and I will migrate to warmer lands, when our children are raised, when winter gets too long. But I can't imagine ever missing the great fervor of life that bursts into color in Maine at this time of year. Get out the oranges. Tune your ears. The orioles are here.



Upside Down

     May is crazy. I love this month, but so much is happening in both the natural world and the parenting world that I can barely catch my breath. And I want to be conscious -- more than conscious -- soaking, in all of it. 
     The signs of spring are coming fast and furious now. I don't post them all on the sidebar to the right, just the ones that are in my neighborhood and especially catch my heart. I decided to turn the list upside down, too, so the new sightings are at the top, not the bottom.
     And I think maybe that's what I need to do with my parenting/home-tending/small-business-running list, too. Turn it upside down. All those things that keep getting back-burnered? Put them on top, at least one each day.
    But there's a deeper upside down that I can do. And that is to consciously change my attitude. Right now it's "If I can just get out from under this pile of things I have to do, then I can do things I enjoy". Instead, I want it to be "I can enjoy all those things that I have to do". 
     Listening to an interview recently with Rick Hanson about literally creating positive pathways in your brain lit up the proverbial lightbulb over my own brain (here's a link to him). It seems fairly simple: when you are enjoying something, stop. Soak in it. Feel it. Notice how your body is sensing this moment, whether it is laughing with a friend, the smell of a freshly-mown lawn when you walk out the door, a clean kitchen, your dog wagging her tail at you in total adoration, or a quiet minute to yourself at work. Savor it, in its fullness.
     You are creating a positive memory. Then pull this memory up later, maybe a couple of times that day, and savor it again. Once you feel like this memory can trigger that positive feeling in you, bring it up, and then gently introduce a thought of something a little more stressful, maybe an old wound you hold on to. Flip back to the positive one, and see if you can hold the two but let the positive feelings begin to seep into the stressful one. The positive begins to diminish the power of the negative. You are actually training your brain to create positive pathways. We naturally go to alert and stress responses because they served us as primitive beings trying survive attacks from predators and enemies. We can weaken this response by holding on to the happinesses that come to us, and giving them the power to create new pathways in our brain. 

     I'm ready to turn my winter attitudes upside down. Spring makes it easy for me, despite the crazy month of May. Forgive me if I don't get to your item on my list. I will, eventually. But right now, I'm taking my lists outside, and enjoying May.