it doesn’t get better–wait–yes it does!

I came home to find two oblong packages on my desk.  What could they be…?

yellow envelope and paper towel-wrapped object

I knew, because Lovey brings home similar offerings from time to time, that the paper-towel wrapped object was a donut.  My hubby is an amazing person for lots of reasons, not least among which is the fact that he brings me donuts.  I never know when he’ll bring one or what kind it will be.  They’re serendipitous surprises that always brighten my day because  (a.) Lovey was thinking of me (b.) he doesn’t begrudge me my deep affection for fried food covered in frosting (c.) he actively brings that food into my life.  So much to love!

donut on a paper towel

The other mysterious gift came from my sister.  I was delighted to find a perfumey little box of incense in the envelope.  But I was even more delighted when I realized it wasn’t incense; it was jewelry!

incense box, earrings, tissue paper

I’m not sure whether I’m more partial to sweets or baubles.  Let’s say I’m equally fond of them; they fall into different categories so I shouldn’t have to choose.

I was tickled with my unexpected presents.  I had happy flutters in my middle and a big smile on my face when I realized–wait–there was more!  (SIL, skip this part.  You won’t be proud of me.)  Everyone else, here’s the secret: the donut had filling in it!

donut bitten to reveal filling

The only thing more delightful than the guilty pleasure of a donut is the no-holds-barred, shameless indulgence of a filled donut.  I know it’s gross, fake, bad for me, blah, blah…I relish every bit.

And then (this is getting crazy, right?) I realized that there was another pair of fishhooks poking through the tissue paper my sister used to wrap her gift.

earrings (foreground) tissue paper pierced with fishhook earring backs (background)

Another pair of earrings!

Sometimes I have dreams about finding something I like, usually under a rock or in a hole.  That makes it sound like buried treasure, but usually it’s more like a fount of treasure: no matter how much I haul out there’s always more.  That’s how I felt in that moment alone in my study, in very real life.

It made me think about something I just read in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.  She talked about being generous.  I’ve been thinking about how small gestures–like taking Lovey out for ice cream or sending a book to a friend–actually give me as much pleasure as they give the recipient.  I want to be more generous than I am.  And I love knowing that there’s a chance that a simple gesture on my part could bring to someone else the amount of excitement and joy that my husband and sister brought to me.  Clearly my sister understands the delight of giving: she included a fortune cookie message that reads, “Sharing little joys offers great hope to others.”

earrings with fortune cookie message

Have you given or received any kindnesses lately?  What are some ways you enjoy giving to others, or meaningful ways others have given to you?

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full hands

As I mentioned Monday, over the weekend we made a quick trip to visit some family.  When I sorted my photos after the trip I noticed that several of the photos focus on hands.  My hands full of M&Ms…

handful of M&Ms...every color except brown, by chance

…and my baby nephew.

M holding nephewMy baby nephew’s hands full of cantaloupe his daddy had just picked from the garden.

baby with a squinched-up face of pure abandonI also have a video of him noshing this melon, but because I’m using the free version of WordPress I can only upload this blurry photo.  Still hilarious, though, right?

Then there’s my niece, this adorable little “handful.”  She can talk—and scream!—and even sing now.  She’s cute and ornery in fairly equal proportion.  Maybe a little more cute than ornery.

girly in pink

And these not-so-little handfuls.  Those are my gorgeous sisters and their guys, except we’re all mixed up because it was midnight and someone was being silly.

mixed up couples being sillyThen there’s my wedding ring, a symbol I wear constantly on my hand.  Lovey and I had it cleaned and re-rhodiumed at the store where he bought it.  It looked so pretty and new when I got it back an hour later that I kept staring at it like I’d just gotten engaged!

clean wedding ring

Speaking of wedding rings, the most meaningful story from this trip centers on Lovey’s grandparents holding hands.  A little background first.  We planned our trip after we learned Grandma had been placed in hospice care.   During our visit we sat with her for two hours, telling her about the family, the Olympics, the weather, and whatever else came to mind.  She leaned back against her pillows, unable to communicate with us except by moving her hand or changing her facial expression.  Winks were abundant, as were smiles and kisses.

Sad as it was to see such an independent-spirited woman lying mostly helpless, it was also refreshing to watch the afternoon unfold with Lovey’s grandpa in control.  Grandma has pet subjects, and the whole family knows what they are.  But as she sat silent, suddenly Grandpa had the chance to focus on his favorite subject—their love.  He reminisced about their meeting, courtship, and engagement.  He talked about the early part of their marriage and told us proudly that they’ve been married for almost sixty six years.

Through it all Grandma, who barely let her husband squeeze in a word edgewise the last time we visited, just beamed at him.  They gripped each other’s hands and every so often she beckoned him closer for kisses.  He actually got sheepish about it after a while, saying she was “acting like we’re still courting!”

Their history has given them so much in common: age-spotted, bruised skin on their intertwined fingers; knowing looks in their eyes; and love uniting their spirits.  Their intimate interaction is the sort of thing a person doesn’t photograph.  Yet it’s also the sort of thing that embeds its image in an observer’s memory.  I hope when Lovey and I are wrinkled and worn out like these two we can still draw inspiration from their loving legacy.

The Fourth {part two: flowers}

One thing I asked to do while we were in Colorado visiting my in-loves was to go on a wildflower hike.  MIL picked a route she likes, which circles a pretty mountain lake and offers plenty in the way of blooming plants.  You can come along, and you won’t even need a water bottle or an oxygen tank.  (I needed both–at least I had the water!)

Here we are at the outset.  A volunteer from the trailhead took our photo, and while we posed a passing fisherman offered to take “our” picture, thinking the volunteer was part of our group.  They’re a friendly bunch up in the rarefied air.

everyone by the lake

Here’s a glimpse of our hike’s small wonders.  Click on any you’d like to see larger and they’ll open at full size.  If you hover over any of these, you will probably notice that I don’t have a clue what some of them are called.  Feel free to set me straight if “white blossom” is too unscientific for you!  (Thanks to MIL for helping me identify several of the ones that happen to have their proper names listed.)

blue penstemon procerus blue harebell golden aster leafy aster elephant something mountain buttercup
prickly wild rose bumbleybee white blossom blue columbine aster fritillary

Along the way we saw more than flowers.  We glimpsed two feeding moose–thankfully they  were across a river from us.  Doesn’t make for the greatest photos…

moose

…but at least we didn’t have to run for our lives.  This sign advises that if a moose charges you, you should refuse to pay* “run as fast as you can and put something between you and the moose (tree, car, large rock, etc.).”  I’m relieved it didn’t come to that.  *Special thanks to anyone who a.) got that joke b.) laughed–or even groaned; I’ll take a groan.

"beware the moose" signWhen we weren’t avoiding close encounters with dangerous mammals, we were basking in the beauty of nature.  I could have spent hours enjoying the layers of loveliness there: the soft, distinctive fragrance of pine trees; the sound of water burbling over rocks; and the sudden changes in temperature as morning storms built and burst.

All these things reminded me of childhood camping trips, which I often complained about as a child.  Finally, as an adult, I understand my parents’ impulse to leave the frenzy of “civilization” for the serenity of mountain campsites.  Replete with their own noises, they somehow seem so much quieter than life down low.
mountain streamSuch places offer themselves for solitude, yet encourage camaraderie: uniting people who love landscapes, value invigorating hikes, and pause to photograph wildflowers.  They shamelessly allow their streams to cross your path.  They expose their smooth stones as resting places.
dusty shoesThey provide little in the way of modern luxury, yet that little is all a person needs to discover the ultimate luxury of stillness, which for me meant soaking my dusty feet in melted snow, allowing my mind to wander past the green of the ferns and the blue of the sky to a quiet place where my heartbeat slowed down, my muscles relaxed, and I remembered anew how little it takes to equal “enough.”
bare feet in the water

Where do you find that sort of peace?  Have you made your escape lately?