Because I Can

snail

Photos via Pixabay.

by Rob Colfax

Last weekend my daughter was home from college. She’s taken up walking in the mornings, not because she needs the exercise (she has the metabolism of a hummingbird) but because she’d decided that it was easier to walk from her apartment to classes at the university than to circle the various parking lots, hoping to find an empty space. She likes to sleep in, and none of her classes start before 10 a.m. By that time, she tells me, there’s not a prayer of finding a parking space within a mile of the campus.

She also told me when I asked, that no, the university would not refund the $35 parking-sticker fee I’d paid for at the beginning of the semester. When her mother overheard, this instigated a rather animated family discussion about how much it could possibly cost to pave or gravel a 300-square-foot spot and how universities all over the country must be racking up big bucks by requiring students to have parking decals without providing adequate parking facilities. But that’s another story.

My daughter agreed to meet me at the local walking trail near the post office one morning. I usually hike the mountain behind our house, but the walking trail isn’t bad. It’s nicely landscaped, and although the maples had already lost many of their leaves, the oaks and cottonwoods were just at their peak of fall colors. I had early errands to do, plus packages to drop off at the post office, so the timing worked out just about right. By the time I escaped from the line at the post office, my little night-owl had just begun to prance down the walking trail in what I assumed was some free-form modern dance.

I watched this in some amusement for a moment or two. I could see the cord from the tiny earbuds, so I figured she was listening to her latest downloaded music from bands I’d never heard of, probably cranked up to that ear-splitting volume. After some brisk walking, I caught up to her and tapped her on the shoulder to let her know I was there.

She handed me one of her earbuds. “You’ve gotta hear this,” she grinned.

“What is it?” I asked, expecting some blast of synthesized drumbeats. Instead, I heard the familiar voice of NPR’s Ira Glass.

“You can get This American Life as a podcast!” she informed me, doing another odd little hop-skip move down the concrete walkway. “Free!” she added.

“That’s great,” I agreed, handing her earbud back. “But what’s with the dancing?”

She looked at me as though I’d lost my mind. “What are you talking about?”

“That hoppy-jumpy side-stepping stuff,” I gestured as she did it again.

“Oh!” She caught herself in mid-step and laughed at me. “That’s not dancing, Dad. I’m just trying not to step on the snails. They’re all over the walkway.”

I looked down. She was right; the walkway was covered with brown spiral shells no bigger than your fingernail, each with a tiny snail making its leisurely way over the damp concrete. I hadn’t even noticed, but my daughter had. “You’re avoiding the snails? Why?” I asked.

She shrugged and smiled. “Because I can.” She stuck her earbuds back in and went skip-stepping on her way. dancing girl

It made me laugh and shake my head. I thought about how often I hear people use “because I can” to justify some unsavory or inexcusable behavior. And here was my daughter, showing me in some Zen-like way, that you can also use it as a reason to engage in mindful acts: to be kind when it’s not necessary, generous when it’s not required.

Just for today, I challenge you to become aware of what you’re doing, to take notice of the small things in your life that you might not ordinarily pay attention to. Like the snails on the sidewalk, something we would ordinarily regard as small and insignificant might hold an entire world if we stopped to look closely enough. And once you recognize this, it becomes much harder to mindlessly crush it underfoot. Sure, you may have to take some extra care to avoid doing so, but why not make the choice to give life instead of taking it?

Do it because you can. From a distance, it just might look like dancing.

© Copyright 2006 by Rob Colfax. Updated & republished 2011, 2015.

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This Week at Gatewood: Weekend Wrap-Up for March 2-7

polar bears

Photo via Pixabay.com.

by Rob Colfax

Hello, and welcome to the weekend! It’s been a crazy weather week here; we’ve had temperatures in the mid-60s, resulting in a lot of snow-melt and flooding, and acres of slush and mud – and temperatures in the low teens, which froze everything solid again.

It’s enough to make a person decide to roll over and hibernate a bit longer. But as Mazie reminds me (several times a day!) there are dogs to be walked and mail to be sorted, and writers to be edited and fed and watered – wait, what?!

I’ll go sort this. Make yourself comfortable, browse around, and see what we did this week.

Monday:Ballet of the Trees,” photography from Katz Bleu

Tuesday:Revolutions,” poetry from Faze with artwork by Delawer-Omar

Wednesday:Opportunity Knocks!“, humor from Hunter MacKenzie, Xavier, and “Queen Z”

Thursday:Three Things Thursday,” our weekly exercise in appreciation; this week’s post is from Frasier MacKenzie

Friday:Landscapes of Consciousness,” photography by P.L. Miller with quote from Terence McKenna

Don’t forget, the Friday photo is a free download for your phone or tablet; share it, print it, ponder and enjoy.

Our best Special Assistant @docnicholas brought us some fun this week:

 

Be sure to follow him on Twitter to catch the latest updates. And speaking of Twitter, we managed to give his profile page there a bit of renovation this week. Drop by and check it out.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thanks for spending time with us. See you again soon!

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This Week at Gatewood: Weekend Wrap-Up for February 23-28

reading newspaper

Photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com.

by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in! We had some really good stuff going on this week, including poetry from Hugh Mitchell and a piece of short fiction by Patrick Redding that I really don’t know quite how to describe. They’re both surreal, and of course Patrick’s is very funny. You’ll just have to read for yourself.

Here are our features from the week of February 23-28, 2015.

Monday:Choose Your Path,” photography by Boris Brdja

Tuesday:Dimension Dementia,” poetry by Hugh Mitchell with “Going Swimmingly,” artwork by Zengael

Wednesday:How to Cook a Piano,” short fiction by Patrick Redding

Thursday:Three Things Thursday,” post by Johanna Rigby, part of the gratitude/appreciation event started by NerdintheBrain.com. It happens weekly, and it’s open to all, so if you have a blog and want to join in, please do! If you’re on Twitter, the hashtag is #threethingsthursday (with the number spelled out).

Friday:Stone Free Madness,” photography by P.L. Miller, with quote by R.D. Laing

This Friday our photographer P.L. Miller tried out a new twist on a regular feature we’ve been doing each week; we’ve usually posted a photo with a quote as a sort of meditative exercise as we go into the weekend. The difference this week is that they’re incorporated together into one JPG file that you can download for your phone (or tablet – we haven’t tried that yet, but the resolution should be fine). If you like, you can print it as a regular 4×6 photo.

Here are some fun memes posted this week by our Special Assistant @docnicholas:

For more fun and the latest updates, follow @docnicholas on Twitter. If you’re on Twitter, say hello and give him a star or RT. You’ll get the purring without the hair on your clothes!

Speaking of Doc Nicholas, he informed me this week that the top search terms typed in by people when they find our site are “sex,” “tears,” and “religion.” We both thought that was just a little bizarre. I’m not sure what’s going on with that but I hope you’re not terribly disappointed if you were looking for one of those things!

That’s it for the Weekend Wrap-Up for February 23-28. Have a great week!

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Three Things Thursday 2015/02/26

ice crystals

Photo courtesy MorgueFile.com.

by Johanna Rigby

I appreciate the idea of practicing gratitude on a regular basis. It gets you out of yourself, gives you perspective, even makes some slow but beneficial changes in your neurochemistry. Still, I’m not a very upbeat person, and I often struggle to remind myself that there are things that make life worth living (or at least not so crappy).

I wanted to participate in our “Three Things Thursday” because I thought it would force me to really focus and notice these things. It’s turned out to be something more like “Three Reasons Things Could Be Worse But Aren’t.” I’m going to be OK with that. I hope you will too.

#1: The heat went out in the study where I do most of my work. It’s frustrating, and cold, but at least the apartment didn’t catch fire. Judging from the burn marks on the outlet and the cord, this was probably a very real possibility. That would have been much worse.

#2: It has snowed here all week. This could have been much worse; I don’t live in Boston (where they’re shoveling snow off their rooftops) or Maine (where they have to shovel 3-4 times a day just to be able to see anything past the front door). We got just enough to enjoy.

#3: Thanks to Amazon’s subscription service, I didn’t have to worry about driving in the snow and ice to fetch dog food or necessities such as toilet paper. We went out every day for “walkies,” but hiking around in the snow with your dog is a lot different than trying to drive in it.

Things could be worse. How about you?

 

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This Week at Gatewood: Weekend Wrap-Up for February 15-21

Polar_Bear_-_Buffalo_Zoo

by Rob Colfax

Hello, and a good Sunday afternoon to you! It’s been a cold, snowy week here, and it’s brought out the polar bear in all of us, I think. Here are our features from the week of February 15-21, 2015.

Monday: Astrophotography from SLWorking: The Milky Way near Stonewall Mine in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Tuesday: Poetry from Hunter MacKenzie: Kestrel

Wednesday: Humor/sketchy advice from Johanna Rigby: 7 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Thursday: Gratitude/appreciation post from Heather Caine-Givens: Three Things Thursday

Friday: Photography/creativity from P.L. Miller: Morning Palette

We did not post a Saturday feature this week. After much discussion, we’ve decided to pause the Saturday Concert Series. This was a very difficult decision, as we love supporting independent music and quirky musicians, and bringing you shows from bands you might not otherwise stumble across. However, the hours involved in researching for this feature take a huge chunk out of our writers’ and artists’ creative time, and we must regretfully let it go for now.

We’ll be moving the Weekend Wrap-Up to Saturdays beginning the 28th of February, and there will be no post on Sundays. This will give us a  much-needed “catch-up” day each week. The rest of our posting schedule will remain unchanged.

Here are some of our favorite memes our Special Assistant @docnicholas posted on Twitter this week:


If you enjoyed these, do follow @docnicholas on Twitter. Whenever he’s not napping, he’ll keep you up to date on our daily posts.

I nearly forgot to mention that we’ve added a new feature to our menu bar: if you go to the Gallery, there’s now a drop-down menu so you can access individual artists without having to sort through quite so much work. We’re still in the process of transferring some of the work there, but most of it’s been moved so you won’t encounter dead links. We plan to do the same with the writers’ work very soon.

That’s it for the Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of February 15-21. Have a great week!

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Three Things Thursday 2015/02/19

Squirrel_Eating_a_peanut

Photo: “Squirrel Eating a Peanut” by Mariappan Jawaharlal. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

by Heather Caine-Givens

It’s Thursday, which means it’s someone’s turn to share three things we appreciate, and this week I volunteered to take a turn!

#1: This group of people I work with. They are awesome. I’m only here part-time for two or three days each week, but I look forward to my time here because it’s such a welcome break from my kids and my other job!

#2: Roadside Assistance. I had a flat tire earlier this week, and thanks to their service, I didn’t have to spend hours in the wind and cold and mud, banging my knuckles trying to change the tire! They had someone here within twenty minutes of my call, and he was able to get me rolling so I could make it to the tire place near work.

#3: The squirrels outside the window here. Any time my eyes need a break from the computer, I just look out into the trees and there are always at least a couple of squirrels jumping from branch to branch, chattering and playing and collecting nuts. It always makes me smile!

So how about you? What brightens your day?

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Three Things Thursday

happydog

Photo (not Mazie) courtesy of MorgueFile.com.

by Rob Colfax

Over the weekend our Special Editor’s Assistant @docnicholas sent me an idea he found online through Sourcerer, who passed it along from Nerd in the Brain, who encourages everyone to steal her idea and spread the happiness. “Three Things Thursday” is an exercise in gratitude where you use your blog to share “three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

Since I’m very keen on gratitude exercises and know that at least a couple of our staffers work very hard on the concept as well, I think this is a grand idea. Our writers plan to take turns with it from one week to another, as we do with the Weekend Wrap-Up, so that everyone gets a chance to appreciate what’s good in life even at times when it seems like nothing’s working. (When you get several writers and artists in a room together, everything is bigger: the ideas, the silliness, the triumphs, the blues, the times when everything’s spot-on in the groove as well as the times when the soundtrack of life is a phonograph needle doing the scratch-hiss and bump at the end of the record and no one has the energy to change it.)

So… three things that I appreciate:

1. Our staff. They’re enormously talented, and unlike many places I’ve worked, every single one of them is completely committed to making the Journal work. Many of them volunteer their time and talents, and quite a number of them are multi-talented. Our best proofreader is a photographer; we have a poet who writes code (which is in itself a kind of poetry), and an artist who fixes any printer or computer that ever gives anyone a glitch. They are a unique crew and I appreciate every one of them.

2. Mazie, my spaniel. She brightens up the house since my daughter’s away at college, and she loves EVERYONE. A LOT. She’s  not really a watchdog type; when I had unexpected company the other night, she didn’t bark or go to the door because she was too busy drooling into the carton of raspberry ice cream I left on the table while I went to turn on the porch light. But she’s the most affectionate dog I’ve ever had, and I really don’t know what I’d do without her.

3. I appreciate that with every day along the calendar, we’re getting a little more daylight. It may be a negligible amount, but it’s enough to tip the scales and make life a little better. Every extra minute counts when you’re still in the middle of winter.

And that’s what’s made my week happy so far. What’s making YOUR life a little better this week?

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