Monthly Archives: December 2015

Enough is Enough: Sustainability For our Planet

Winter Solstice Dandelion


The day before the winter Solstice, I stopped in my tracks at the sight of a dandelion in bloom under an evergreen shrub. On December 20th, a dandelion in bloom in a Boston suburb is of note. I pulled out my IPhone and bent low, to snap a few pictures. I wanted to show the contrast between the faded shrub branch and the flagrant yellow dandelion bloom.

It’s clear that mindfulness has sensitized me. A week ago, a lone mosquito did a slow solo across my dinner plate. My swat was automatic. I was surprised by its presence— grateful it was so sleepy and with no interest in attacking me. But still, it was unnerving to realize that a mosquito was still hanging around in December and to be reminded that of course, warming temperatures affect the life cycle of plants and insects.

A December bloom and a sleepy mosquito are clear signs of digression from the norm and raised my concern about the effects of climate change. But the effects of warming are minimal in my life compared to the experience of the fishing village of Vunidogoloa, on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island whose residents had to abandon their idyllic home to relocate to higher and drier land because of sea level rise, erosion and flooding.

My heart soared when I read of how the Fiji Islanders fierce concern about climate change and its effects were reported at the recent United Nations Paris Conference. The Fiji villagers contributed very little to climate change, yet their homes and everything they owned have been bathed again and again in rising and unruly tidal waters. Clear and certain of the need for change and adaptation both at home and at the global level, their Third Pacific Islands Development Forum issued a Suva Climate Declaration this past September. I am grateful for the clarity and wisdom of their words and want to share the first three points.

1.We are gravely distressed that climate change poses irreversible loss and damage to our people, societies, livelihoods, and natural environments; creating existential threats to our very survival and other violations of human rights to entire Pacific Small Island Developing States;
2. We express profound concern that the scientific evidence unequivocally proves that the climate system is warming and that human influence on the climate system is clear, but appropriate responses are lacking.
3. Our disappointment and frustration at the world’s failure to act runs
through this entire document. We in the Pacific tend to speak softly. It is in our
nature. But on this issue, we needed to cry out with one voice, enough is
enough. And we have. And it is all the more powerful for that.

You can download the entire text at here.
The Suvu Leaders of the Pacific did cry out and garnered support for a significant reduction of carbon emissions at the recent Paris climate change conference. I am grateful for the result:
a world-wide climate agreement involving 196 nations. I am grateful to begin 2016 with hope for our planet.

A Near Miss

courtesy of Erika Sanders


I keep thinking about the near accident I had at the supermarket recently. My cart was full as I weaved in and out of the narrow aisle filled with shoppers opening and closing the frozen food doors. I was headed to the end door in hopes of finding my mainstay Ezekial English Muffins, in the orange box.

I saw the child first—female, perhaps two, certainly not yet three. She was lean and tiny with fine, blond shoulder-length hair. They were rushing, no carriage, hands entwined. The child and my basket were on collision course.

The dad—tall, thick-shouldered, athletic—moved fast and with ease. He was leaning down and speaking to the child loud enough for me to hear, “Let’s see if we can find the bread on this aisle.”

She was too close. When I noticed her chin-thrust effort to keep up with her dad no matter the cost, I overshot the freezer and tucked the carriage tight to make room for her to pass.

I turned up the next aisle to circle back for my item when the dad and the child again whizzed by. “We’ll find it. I’m sure the bread is somewhere along here,” he assured.

Moving too fast, he had spun past the bread shelves twice. For a moment, I thought about offering to help but hesitated. It was the racing. It was the vibe. This man was so certain, so prideful; my intrusion, no matter how well intended, could cost him.

I awakened this morning thinking of the child—a brave little soldier in the role of dad’s companion in the quest for their special bread. Nowhere on her dad’s mind was the danger of moving too fast with a child in tow in a narrow aisle filled with carts. At the moment of our near encounter, I felt huge, Hulk-like, fearfully aware that my cart could injure in an instant.

There are moments of inspired instinct: to know when to step up and when to hang back. In this instant, I am grateful I had the presence to navigate my grocery cart safely and more, to pass on the temptation to offer help when none was asked of me. After all, being hero to his daughter was this dad’s job.

FDR Was My President

Levinsky Family, circa 1938

Levinsky Family, circa 1938

Most of my childhood, FDR was my president. He initiated his first fireside chat in the midst of the Great Depression in March,1933. Since I was under a year, I can only imagine my Yankee, entrepreneur father’s dismay as Roosevelt thanked the American people, his “friends,” as he spelled out his rational to close the banks and stop the bleeding of currency. With that intention, he certainly had my frugal father’s attention.

My most salient memory is the broadcast on December 7, 1941. Nine years old, I was visiting my Great Aunt Becky, a woman at least my current age, but infirmed and bed-ridden. My memory flashes on two images: her gaunt face and wan smile, lying in bed in the late afternoon, the first sickly elder in my life, and the rush to the radio, my president’s voice, The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. We are at War.

For the next four years, after supper, during every fireside chat, I sat on the floor listening at the foot of the console in our living room alongside my parents, sister and brother. As we leaned into FDR’s eloquent and soothing words, I understood their import from the look on my parent’s faces, their nodding heads as FDR spelled out the latest war news—my dad and mom intent, yet calm.

FDR spoke to me all during the war. His melodic voice rang with the appeal of a friend. I liked how he suggested we follow along on a map of the world as he set forth the war’s course and his expectations of effort and sacrifice. There was no suggestion of shopping to boost the economy, but the opposite—not only the abandonment of luxuries but of many other creature comforts.

We saved empty cans; the metal was needed for the war effort, as was the cooking fat we stored in an empty tin on the counter. War stamps and bonds were essential. I organized a talent show, charged ten cents admission, for the Red Cross during sixth grade. War ration books were issued to each family member. Red stamps were currency for meats, butter, fat, oils, some cheeses; blue stamps, for canned, bottled and frozen vegetables and fruits, plus dry beans and some processed foods. Long lines at the grocery store, at the gas station, were a given.

As I participate in the frenetic pace of another presidential race, I am struck by how FDR set a template, how his mindful presence and apt words held such meaning. I trusted him and was saddened and bewildered when he died just before my thirteenth birthday. “He was my president all my life,” I remarked to a friend.

I mourned the sense of certainty and loss of guidance that comes from faith in a leader’s wisdom. But the lessons learned — to seek out and support a wise and pragmatic thinker for president—never left me. All these years later, in the fervor of campaign 2016, I am grateful.




Late October Light

Rosy Sky


Sun in ascension, food shopping behind me as I step out into dusk light, strands of rose-colored clouds stream the blue sky.

I go to my car, store my bags, grab my smart phone. Energized with delight, I run the parking lot, hoping to capture the rosy images, this unexpected moment of beauty. The timing — the day before we set the cloaks back an hour, propels my effort. This could be the last late-hour sunset I catch until spring.

Like the butterflies drawn to Buddleia blooms, I am drawn to bright light. On spring and summer days, I raise the shades greedy for each new spring arrival. I note the tone and texture of the sky, the morning doves rustling in the evergreens along the driveway, the first spurt of ferns in emergence.

Spring light makes me giddy. I sleep less; my mood is high. By August, the shade hovers over a third of the garden as the sun’s angle shifts downward. I rail at friends who declare that August’s arrival marks summer’s end, grateful for how the sun’s flame sustains the crème lilies, mauve phlox and red zinnias.

Plants and I have much in common. I also wane in low light. By mid-September, I start each day with a dose of my natural spectrum “happy light.” I liken its effect to the one-a-day iron pill my physician prescribed in my thirties. A daily flip of the switch fortifies my energy, keeps me focused and able to thrive during dark days.

A born and bred New Englander, I’m wedded to the unpredictable variety of seasons, the pleasure of newness. I recall my first winter trip west, a visit with my first cousin, Paul. We were in his Walnut Creek garden filled with wide-mouthed poppies, the whirr of humming birds, a profusion of azalea shrubs in bloom. The sky was flawless, the sun high.

“I miss the clouds. Don’t you get bored with the endless blue sky?” I asked.

“Not when I consider the option of endless gray skies in winter,” he retorted.

He had a point, I concede. There is no perfection, only choices and what we make of them. During my busy life as a mother and full time therapist, winter and grey skies were challenges to manage. As I aged, I became more aware of the effect of light on my well-being, how quite without warning, shorter, shadowy days leached my energy and triggered irritability.

I’m grateful for the lessons learned in my psychotherapy practice. I’m thankful to Lois, a colleague who introduced me to light therapy and instructed me in its safe use. I shared the benefit of my experience with clients who bought those early clunky models and received the equivalence of the sun’s rays all winter long. There are gifts from the universe, like rosy streaks at dusk infusing the spirit that make a difference.






Gratitude Nourishes


courtesy of Don Briddell, artist

Just as food nourishes the body, gratitude nourishes the spirit. I eat three meals a day; I seek out the experience of gratitude each day.

I experience gratitude as a bane against loneliness, the arrival of resonance—a welcoming, a pleasing, a touching of the heart and an appeal to my sensibility.

Gratitude is as gratitude does is a phrase I turn to daily. It prompts me to consider and reflect upon events, discoveries, happenings, and interactions, which spark gratitude and affect my sense of well-being.

How we experience gratitude is personal and imbedded in our personal stories. For myself, gratitude arrives when I interact with another person or creature and feel appreciative of kindness or benefits received or when I interact in an environment pleasing to my mind or senses.

The spring I turned 82 was a teeter-totter spring— wet, rainy and cold with occasional warm days in the seventies prompting trees to leaf out and burst with pollen. On a morning when my eyes wept and my head felt clogged with cotton baton, I watched two young blue jays play wing tag across my back hill.

The first bird, lithe and energetic, whizzed by when another—lighter, flightier—its movement as bold as its blue feathered body lit against the lime green landscape. My blood raced with the tempo of their flight. As if to assure me that indeed there were two, they launched their winged dance center stage —up and down and around the sheltered back hill for a full five minutes—to a riveted audience of one.

I imagined a nest, for they seemed quite at home flitting in and out of the oaks and American Beeches. My spirit soared with gratitude for their choice so close to the parade of kitchen windows. I felt alert, keener to face the day.

Late morning, I was startled by the sound of birds squabbling. From the picture window facing the front garden, I watched two robins in a sparked encounter. They shrieked and circled in a winner-take-all round. Like the jays, they were young, likely fresh from the nest. A resident robin couple has nested in the garden for years. In seconds, one of the adults swooped down to break up the fight, causing the offspring to stop their encounter and fly off separately.

What were the odds on a day when my body and spirit felt weighted down, I would notice and become captivated by two bird events? For a few engaging minutes, I stepped out of my miasma into the fledglings’ world where I floated into memory and my own family.

As a young mother, I delighted in my children’s antics. Like the small jays and robins, my son and daughter scrambled, flitted, and fought with such vitality. I miss their presence, my own youthful energy, the promise of wings, of things to come. They are now full grown and parents. I am grateful for my nest of five grandchildren and their promise.