Rays of Light on a Dismal January Day

canstockphoto14568204It’s a gray day here at The Green Study and on such a day, in the middle of a Minnesota winter, one has to scrabble a bit to lift spirits. I’m going to share with you a few things that are lifting mine.

Fellow Bloggers

Sometimes you are really, really funny. Thank you. Here’s a few posts that have given the gift of a good laugh:

“31 brand new animal species discovered by amateur naturalists” by Guy Bergstrom at the Red Pen of Doom

“If my nose is running, my thoughts are leaking” by Ross Murray at Drinking Tips for Teens

“Affirmations” at Tabula Candida

“Becky says things about…New Year’s Resolutions” at Becky Says Things

Books That Make My Brain Happy

6425404I just finished reading Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays. I picked this book up at the library after the first essay enticed me (“Their Eyes Were Watching God: What Does Soulful Mean?”). As an indiscriminate reader, I often read above my pay grade. After taking twelve pages of notes while reading this collection of essays, I was definitely in the deep end of the pool.

From vocabulary I had to look up, to literary references to a hundred different writers, this was a challenging read. But a joyous one for me. It re-lit the pilot light for my brain, made me hungry for more. And if, like me, you are on the fence about David Foster Wallace, her essay “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace”, will make you want to revisit his work.

34043886For writing inspiration, I’ve been picking up Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process, Ed. by Joe Fassler, and reading one or two chapters at a time. It’s less a “how-to” book than examples from established writers of what inspired them and how their writing reflects that. It’s enjoyable even as I take some notes on more things I need to read.

64369And I want to say thanks to Walt Walker at Waltbox for referring “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Bhante Gunaratana to me several months ago. Mindfulness has been one of those overused words bleached of actual meaning and I wanted to restore it in my own mind. This book is like a meditation teacher without actually having one. Unfortunately, I still meditate to the point where I fall asleep and wake myself with a little snore-snort, but if relaxation were the point, I’d be up for an award.

Exercise Wackiness

For much of this winter, I’ve been walking outside or going to my local YMCA. Every winter I hit that point where I get cold and it feels like I’m never going to be warm again. After a foot of snow arrived earlier this week, the thought of negotiating cold and mountains of snow is unappealing.  And I’m also feeling extremely anti-social while simultaneously self-conscious, so the Y has all the appeal of a pelvic exam at a teaching hospital.

I decided to pull out some old exercise DVDs and use them in conjunction with my 100 No-Equipment Workouts book. Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve been a fairly regular exerciser, but more importantly, an adaptive one. When I was a broke graduate student, I got in the habit of checking out VHS tapes from the library to get workouts in. I was working three part-time jobs at bizarre hours, so often my workout would be late at night or extremely early in the morning.

Jane Fonda produced a wide array of exercise tapes, but now they just seem like nostalgia. As a 50 year old woman, I can no longer watch people work out in what is essentially sparkly underwear. Plus, after years working with a personal trainer and doing martial arts training, I am more of a stickler about form. For some reason if you wear a shiny thong leotard with skin-colored leggings, I assume you’re a little loosey-goosey on form.

Then there are the Leslie Sansone DVDs with her low impact walk at home program. These are actually useful for those limited space, indoor workouts. They are enough to get your heart rate up and keep you moving. I’ve found myself muting the chatter and playing my own music. I’m pretty sure Leslie never imagined herself stepping to “Highway to Hell”.

I’m usually not challenged on endurance with these DVDs, but I am always challenged when it comes to coordination. I love Latin dance. As a spectator. As a doer, I’m a danger to myself and to anyone within striking distance. However, I have been part-doing, part-cussing, and part-laughing my way through Crunch’s Cardio Salsa. And it’s been kind of fun.

And Last, but Never Least, the Small Comforts

Good coffee, warm socks, and no flu yet.

What Lifts Your Spirits These Days?

17 thoughts on “Rays of Light on a Dismal January Day

  1. Great post Michelle. It’s bloody cold here too and the long range forecast for February is dismal. But I refuse to let it get me down or force me to stay indoors the way it normally does.

    Last year was a challenging one on many fronts and I made myself a promise to leave last year’s baggage behind me and start 2018 off fresh. It’s amazing what that has done for my spirits. I have also accepted the fact that I cannot change everything, I cannot make everything better for everyone — or for that matter even myself — and that I should concentrate on what I can do. i am actually following this advuce I gave myself and again, it has had and continues to have an amazing affect in my spirits.

    I am also trying to surround myself with as much beauty and inspiration as possible. I am going to the museums and galleries as often as I can, seeing lots of movies and going to hear interesting speakers whenever possible.

    I am spending time with people I like and eliminating people from my life who are negative, toxic and unpleasant to be around.


    1. Hi Fransi – Sorry for the delay in answering. For some reason, this comment ended up in the spam file (after all these years!). There’s a reason I review the file regularly. It sounds like you’re working to have 2018 be a pretty good year for you. I’ve been reading intensely for the last month of so and it has done wonders for my spirits and my brain. Still bitterly cold here, but it will be warm soon enough and it will be a lot of outdoor work for me, so I’m taking advantage of the time. Hope all is well!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries Michelle. I’m sure it’s not the first time (or the last) that I’ve ended up in the spam folder 😀 i can think of several people who’ve probably wished me there 😀 yes, thanks, all’s well and I continue to feed my spirit. Hope all’s well with you.


    1. Sunlight is a big one here in Minnesota. I’ll go out in frigid temps if the sun is out.

      The Zadie Smith collection was outstanding, but was challenging. My favorite essays were actually talks that she gave: “Speaking in Tongues” and “That Crafty Feeling” and are enough to make me buy my own copy. She has a new book coming out in early February – “Feel Free”.


  2. Reblogged this on Black & Hellbound and commented:
    “I just finished reading Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays. I picked this book up at the library after the first essay enticed me (“Their Eyes Were Watching God: What Does Soulful Mean”). As an indiscriminate reader, I often read above my pay grade. After taking twelve pages of notes while reading this collection of essays, I was definitely in the deep end of the pool.”


  3. I’m glad I wasn’t drinking tea when I read your commentary on Jane Fonda work-outs. I suspect I might have spewed at the phrase “loosey-goosey on form” was dropped like a verbal hand grenade.


  4. It lifted my spirits to read this, Michelle, and enjoy your thoughtful and painstaking reflections. David Foster Wallis had a strikingly original but often daunting talent – maybe his greatest influence is still to come in the probably bumpy times ahead …


    1. That’s good to hear, Dave. I’ve tried to get through Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” and got waylaid a third in by other reading that wasn’t so challenging. I’m going back to it, though, as well as reading a collection of his essays “Both Flesh and Not”.

      Liked by 1 person

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