50 Shades Of Gratitude

Every night I write at least three things from my day for which I am grateful, and say my favorite prayer: “Thank you.”

In honor of Thanksgiving, here are 50 things from this year’s gratitude journal.  I am grateful for:

  1. Being strong and healthy enough to enjoy my life.
  2. Being safe, warm and dry on a day with flooding rain.
  3. After days of rain and gray clouds, the surprise appearance of the sun.
  4. The continued presence of old friends in my life.
  5. The surprise and delight of new friendships.
  6. My acupuncturist/massage therapist who keeps the worst of the fibromyalgia at bay.
  7. My chiropractor who makes headaches go away.
  8. My yoga teacher and the community that is my yoga class.
  9. My harp teacher’s deep listening, patience and encouragement.
  10. My recorder teacher’s support and encouragement to play stuff that too hard for me to learn alone.
  11. Catherine’s ongoing presence in my life and support of all my creative adventures.
  12. Debbie’s patience and generosity in teaching me how to knit.
  13. My mechanic who figures out all my old car’s problems and keeps it running.
  14. Being welcomed by and sharing laughter with my knitting group every Wednesday.
  15. Being able to afford what I need.
  16. White beans and kale.
  17. My harp teacher saying I did good work.
  18. Time to practice.
  19. A sweet note from a music friend saying that she values my friendship.
  20. New warm mittens.
  21. Cherry trees flowering in billowing clouds of pink.
  22. Thunder snow.
  23. Such understanding and supportive blog comments about crashing and burning with sight-reading.
  24. Sharing music and life with my harp friends.
  25. The kindness and friendliness of the nurse giving me my allergy shot.
  26. Staying calm and centered during Consort rehearsal.
  27. Lima beans and rice.
  28. A chance to sing.
  29. New pants that fit.
  30. The gift of a place to stay at the beach.
  31. The sight, sound, and smell of the ocean.
  32. Seeing my friends in the audience at the harp concert.
  33. A sky blue pink sunset.
  34. A soft green world on my morning walk.
  35. Letting go of judging how I played today.
  36. Hyacinths, wisteria and tulips.
  37. A morning warm enough to sit on the patio and write.
  38. The joy of making music with the recorder ensemble and early music consort.
  39. The smell of jasmine.
  40. The feeling of air caressing the back of my neck when I am driving with the windows down.
  41. A clean house, and sweet Allison who makes that happen.
  42. Soft rain reminding me of Ireland.
  43. Playing at the Hospice Remembrance Service without fear.
  44. Hawk surveying the world sitting on the tree limb outside my back door.
  45. Being welcomed by the nurses and staff when I roll my harp into the hospice unit.
  46. The smell of magnolias.
  47. First blueberries and peaches.
  48. Being welcomed by my favorite farmers at the Saturday market.
  49. Two cardinals feeding each other.
  50. Crape myrtle flower petals drifting through the air like snow.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Holiday Lights In the Garden 2012

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all photos © Janet Hince

Daniel Stow Botanical Garden creates “Holiday Lights In the Garden” each Christmas season. Something new is added every year. This year it was the illuminated bottle trees. I hope you enjoy your walk through the garden with this slide show.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 In Pictures

All images © Janet Hince 2012-2013

A Sweet Day

It’s nearly eleven p.m., and I should be turning off the light and settling into bed with Willow cat on my hip. But today was such a sweet day, I’m reluctant to tell it goodnight and tumble through sleep to tomorrow.

Our Early Music Consort concert, take one, was today. (We’ll do it again on Saturday at the university campus uptown.) Mistakes were made, but not all by me, and no one had a musical wipe-out on stage. I forgot to raise my harp lever in time to play an F-sharp instead of an F-natural, but another string player got it correctly, so it wasn’t as obvious as some of my other creative notes. And Trickster tapped someone else for the one-note solo, for which I am very grateful.

After the concert we walked up the street to the Malaysian restaurant and had lunch together. Our ensemble time is focused on rehearsing our music, and afterwards people rush back to work, or to their next rehearsal. Getting to share a meal together, having time to talk and enjoy being with each other, and laughing together over our performance’s more interesting moments was a delightful way to end the concert.

This evening I joined my new knitting friends at our Wednesday evening gathering at the neighborhood yarn shop. We work on projects, drink wine, eat chocolate, talk and laugh, all accompanied by the soft clicks of knitting needles and the low rumbling snores of Lola the terrier, who really runs the store.

On the way home a red light stopped me at a shopping center corner where all the trees are covered in twinkling white lights. Every branch was outlined in sparkles. My favorite Christmas CD, Winterfall, got to the track with my favorite Christmas song, No Candle Was There, just as the trees appeared through my car windows.

It was a moment of magic, of Christmas peace delivered unexpected on a nothing-special Wednesday night made extraordinary by music, friends, and connection. Tonight I am grateful for all these moments of grace, when my often fearful heart knows all is as it should be, and all is well.

Intentions Meet SoulCollage in 2012

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions of the “loose 10 pounds” and “call your mother on Sunday” variety many years ago. But the start of a new year still inspires me to think about what is working in my life, and what attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, if changed, would help me enjoy the next trip around the sun even more. Last year, rather than writing New Year’s resolutions, I wrote intentions for how I wanted to live in 2011. It turned out to be such a useful experience I decided to do it again for 2012.

Some of my intentions, like “release what I no longer needs and what no longer serves me” are continued from last year. I got a good start on that one, but there’s more to do. My “be kind” and “see” intentions are two of my “Three Commandments.” (Ten are entirely too many.) My other 2012 intentions emerged while journaling about what was the best and worst of 2011 for me.


  • Create new adventures.
  • Approach life and everything in it as an adventure.
  • Be alive to and say yes to possibilities.
  • Be kind.
  • Cultivate joy.
  • Release what I no longer need and what no longer serves me.
  • Cherish this body.
  • Remember that time is a teacher.
  • Expect positive outcomes.
  • Develop ease and comfort with performing.
  • Laugh at myself and at life’s strangenesses.
  • Recognize love in all the ways it comes to me.
  • See.

A major challenge in living out my intentions is remembering them each and every day. Then I “just” have to find the courage and strength to do the work and make the daily decisions that will support my commitments to my body, mind, heart and spirit.

My SoulCollage Prayer Flag

My SoulCollage cards have helped me find hidden courage and gain clarity about so many situations. Who better than my Committee members and Council guides to help me remember and live according to my intentions? My SoulCollage box held at least one card that resonated with each of my 2012 intentions. Using ribbon, sticky wall hooks, and bulldog clips, I created a prayer flag of SoulCollage cards in my bedroom. They now greet me when I wake up in the morning, and they are the last things I see when I turn out my light at night.

Joyful Woman

Here’s the bigger version of two of my prayer flag cards that will be accompanying me this year as I live my intentions.

The woman in my “Joyful Woman” card finds joy and contentment in who she is, in what she has, and in what she does. She will remind me that joy is always available, and that I can find joy anywhere I choose to look for it.





My musician card is the perfect ally to help me develop ease and comfort with performing. She exudes the confidence I want to feel when I play my harp or my recorders for any audience, large or small.

Each of my intentions requires specific actions on my part in order to come to life in the coming year. To develop ease and comfort with performing, I know I have to set aside time and create situations where I can practice performing. I need to test out some pre-performance activities and rituals to find out what will desensitize the hair-trigger on my adrenal glands. I have to practice focusing on the sound of my music as I am playing, instead of listening to my distracting internal chatter. Every morning and evening, my musician card will remind me of the actions I need to take, as well as the ease, comfort and confidence that awaits me.

How do you note and honor the start of another year? Have you created resolutions, or goals, or intentions for 2012? I’d love to read them – and I hope you’ll share them or leave a link to them in a comment on this post.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Winter

It’s typical for us to have Christmas weather that requires turning on the air conditioning if we want enjoy sipping eggnog in front of the fire. But on Christmas Day, 2010, snow began falling about 7 pm. Snow continued all through the night, and I awoke to winter in all its stark, textured, crystal glory.

Back yard juniper


Crystal tree

Holiday Lights in the Garden

Every year Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden fills the garden with lights and music. I’m sure that by now there are millions of lights outlining trees and creating holiday scenes.

One of my Christmas traditions is to go to the garden after Christmas and stroll the grounds on what usually turns out to be the coldest night of the year. But last night was almost balmy, so I could tolerate ungloved hands to take photos of the light displays. Here’s a few of my favorite shots. Click on a photo to enlarge it to a full-size view.

Happy Third Day of Christmas to everyone!


It wasn’t really a white Christmas, despite three days of meteorological predictions and hysteria that we would awaken on December 25th to the first Christmas snow in 63 years. When I rushed to my window at 7 am on Christmas morning, all that greeted me was the same brown Bermuda grass and green winter weeds that pass for a lawn in my back yard. But the snow started to fall at 7 pm; by 11 pm it covered the tops of the dead grass and chickweed and henbit. And by Sunday morning, the world was encased in winter: house eaves were bedecked with beards of icicles, the trees were crystal, and each bud and berry on the dogwood tree sported its own jaunty hat of snow.

Dogwood in Snow
Dogwood in Snow 12/26/2010

Three days later, there is still snow on the ground in all the shady places, and in some of the sunny ones as well. The squirrels’ nests in the tops of the oak trees still have white blankets, as do many of the holly shrubs. A whole street of North-facing houses has front yards still snow-bound, save one. It’s the same house where in autumn there is never a leaf to be found disturbing the perfect carpet of grass. As I walked past this morning, I could easily imagine the homeowner, in the height of the storm, diligently blowing and melting the snow from his yard with his lately all-too-quiet leaf blower.

I’ve just finished reading (for the second time in two weeks) the most wonderful book: Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore (Boston: Trumpeter Books, 2010.) Anyone who has walked the path of sorrow will find a companion in these pages. One of her essays speaks the words “New snow revealed what had been hidden…Snow hid what had been revealed.”

This snow hid the ordinariness of a gray, cloud-blanketed Sunday and revealed a world sparkling in the low winter light. Undisturbed snow covered the yard and driveway, save for a single line of deer tracks. Every link of the chain-link fence was outlined in ice and gleamed like a net of spun jewels. Trees were made of snow, each branch and twig appeared to be only the slate gray shadows of the snow resting upon them. Banks of snow under decorated bushes and trees reflected the glow of colored Christmas lights.

Snow fell all morning, and most of the afternoon, extending the Christmas hush by one more day and evening. One more day where we were given a world calm and bright. One more day when cars and malls and merchandise were out of reach, leaving us with the gift of just this silent snowy day, in all its fullness and beauty, and one more silent, holy night.

A Christmas Story

There were two women waiting together for their order at a coffee shop on a sunny afternoon, just a couple of weeks after Halloween. The shop was already decorated for Christmas, with red ribbons and sparkling lights strung throughout the crowded space. Muzak-ed Christmas carols could be heard under the din of coffee grinding and espresso brewing.

One of the women complained about how annoying it was to be bombarded with Christmas music and Christmas decorations and all the Christmas marketing before Thanksgiving could even be thought about, let alone celebrated.

The other woman had lived in Spain for a time, where, she said, not so much was made of Christmas – it was a day, not a season. One of the things she said she missed the most, and most enjoyed when she returned to the States, was all the lights and decorations and music that is so much a part of Christmas here.

The first woman listened to this story and wondered, “Who said that Christmas decorations should wait until December? Who said that this season of joy and good will should be limited to a week before Christmas? When did sparkling Christmas lights and decorated doors and shop fronts lose their magic?”

She looked around her, really seeing the twinkling lights draping the menu boards and window frames, taking in the sight of the baristas in red Santa hats pulling espresso shots. She could hear the melody of an old carol under the noise of people ordering drinks and milk being steamed. She inhaled a deep breath of air spiced with coffee and gingerbread, and smiled as this little bit of Christmas magic entered her heart.

And still this Christmas season, the sights of houses outlined in colored lights, yards festooned with inflated snowmen and Santas, Christmas trees viewed through neighbors’ windows, and the sounds of Christmas music both old and new make her smile; make her happy that this season of joy, peace and goodwill begins earlier and earlier in the streets and storefronts and in her heart. All because of a 30-second conversation while waiting for two cups of coffee to be poured.

We rarely get to know how what we say influences a life, how our story helps rewrite the story of another, or what gifts our words may become. To my friend, waiting with me in the coffee shop, I say, “Thank you – for your story, and the warmth of that cup of coffee, and the delight in Christmas that returned to me on that November day.”