I have always loved the Christmas season and was delighted to celebrate it through the years, whether in Michigan, New York or northern California. As a child, I delighted in sliding down hillsides on my sled or skating on Lake Erie with my brothers and cousins.
This year Michigan is expecting a warm Christmas – the warmest perhaps in many years. No snow.
So when I watched part of the classic film White Christmas, one of my holiday favorite films as a youngster, I realized that unlike Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, and their buddies in New England, I was actually happy this year for the heat wave (up to 50 plus some days).
I no longer go skating or sledding — and driving through ice and snow is rarely fun anymore. So I am wishing my family and friends all the joys of the season – and don’t worry snow lovers, I hear that there are predictions of more flurries before New Year’s. Happy holidays to all!
My father’s side of the family is Canadian and when the polar vortex hit both Michigan and Ontario hard in late January, I expected similar reactions in both countries. After all, I spent a lot of cold winters as a child in both countries and never noticed a difference in reactions. When Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan, it seemed a wise strategy for temperatures expected to run as low as -14, with wind chills up to -40 or more for two days. Then as the vortex eased, I read an article in the Detroit Free Press noting that our Canadian neighbors had only one modest weather story in the Windsor, Ontario paper, the Windsor Star – while schools and businesses remained open.
Columnist Nancy Kaffer of the Free Press decided to investigate. An expat friend told her “The school has closed once in the 11 years my kids have been going. “ The friend added that buses are shut down for fog or snow, but the schools don’t close. When Kaffer talked to a Wayne County official about the different responses in Canada, he first said “it’s all what you’re used to.” And when reminded that Windsor was just across the Detroit River, he added that “it really would be a great conversation to have with Windsor officials on why their responses are so different.”
I also remembered that as a child, we never cancelled trips either upstate or to relatives in Canada due to the cold, which was sometimes sub-zero. Friends told me similar stories. Guess I also think it may be time for conversations with our Canadian friends!
I was introduced recently to the calming chants of Deva Premal and Miten. This team’s meditative music was the perfect remedy for my high blood pressure spike after a recent surgical procedure. When I looked up the website, I discovered that Deva and Miten were both students of Osho and started collaborating together after meeting in India at his ashram.
I was already using yoga and other meditation techniques regularly in my life – but this duo’s music became a welcome discovery. I also have to acknowledge a special lecture from meditation coach Pragito Dove (www.discovermeditation.com) on the power of music as meditation that specifically recommended Deva and Miten’s magical collaboration.
Now I want to share the website for anyone looking for new music to calm stress during these turbulent times. Just visit http://devapremalmiten.com.
You can also find their music on YouTube.
It’s well into May, the dogwood trees in my neighborhood are blooming and I am able to bike again after a frigid early spring. Enjoying the white blossoms, the green lawns and the chirping of birds as I wheel around the neighborhood brings me amazing joy. It also reminds me of my life-long love of bikes.
It started during my childhood in Detroit, when I was a tomboy and loved to hang out with my older brother Bill and his buddies. It meant that I was always speeding recklessly on my green girl’s bike to impress them and unfortunately that sometimes had disastrous consequences — including the time I fell off my bike in the alley as I tried to execute a fast turn, fell over and badly scraped my elbow as I hit the pavement. I am still amazed that I got through those competitive years without any scars, just exhilarating memories. It also fueled my feeling that I could compete with“the boys” – really helpful when I competed in a male-dominated field of journalism and later publishing.
When I eventually lived in Brooklyn in my late 20s, I took up biking again, racing a road bike around the borough, but especially focusing on riding in beautiful Prospect Park — where traffic was diverted on summer weekends and bikers flooded the roads instead. There was always so much going on that it felt like an amazing adventure. I even took my bike occasionally on the subway to Manhattan so I could have similar fun in Central Park or explore other areas like the Village and Soho.
I didn’t stop biking until after my marriage to a non-biker more than 10 years later. My husband Tim preferred a health club membership and playing racket ball to biking outdoors. I finally gave in, although I still took my bike to California with us a few years later, where it ended up stored away and finally sold.
After my beloved Tim’s death, one of the ways I coped with the sorrow was moving back to Brooklyn and buying a road bike from a neighbor in my condo building– a white Boardwalk Bianchi, 8 speed. This time I have never quit and consider my bike part of my wellness package, along with yoga and meditation. And every spring, I joyfully hit the roads again.
Last year I wrote a blog on “The New Reality of April Showers,” inspired after early rains, a typical sign of Spring, had started in February and never stopped in the midwest. This year, it has been the April ice storms and lingering snow flurries that triggered a new reminder for me of the unpredictability of climate change.
As I thought about my own struggles with the intrusion of continued winter weather into my yearnings for sunshine and Spring flowers, I realized that I’d like to focus this blog on a powerful remedy. The combination of yoga and meditation can ease the physical and psychic pain of such stressful surprises from mother nature.
I used daily meditations each morning at home this spring that taught me to accept dark clouds as readily as we welcome sunshine into our lives. Yes, embrace the clouds and snow. It works! This meditation came from my spiritual teacher, Pragito Dove (www.discovermeditation.com). How comforting to learn from her that with a little help from the right mental imagery, we can transform a gloomy Springtime in Macomb County, Michigan from endless depression into a hopeful “this too, will pass.”
I now also spend time each week at Map Keys Yoga in Clinton Township (www.mapkeysyoga), where founder Melissa Pini guides everyone in the class into relaxation through yoga exercises, while also using meditation to help you accept the present moment, not brood on what is missing. Melissa is a truly inspiring Master of both spiritual arts – yoga and meditation — and she helped me find my “super woman” to drive out the stress.
We took deep breaths and repeated “I am calm” and “I am powerful,” as well as other positive phrases – a meditation exercise that helped drive out the inner stress.Then she turned the focus to yoga stretches that took the tension out of my back, neck and joints. We finished by spontaneously laughing together. If you still need convincing that it can be so easy, I highly recommend that you watch Melissa’s youtube interview presented by Boomer Times – the link is below. *
And even though spring is finally coming, remember not to get complacent again — climate change promises to keep giving us more surprises during the year. Use the magic of meditation and yoga together to avoid depression and stay positive!
*On Youtube: Boomer Times Presents: Anita Finley with Melissa Pini https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=743Yevrd0Ik
I grew up in Michigan and expect severe winter weather occasionally. However this year set a record in sub-zero wind chills. It is the first time I remember spending holiday celebrations through early January in multiple layers of winter clothes. It is not only the Midwest suffering this winter. In its coverage of the January California mudslides and the destruction of homes in wealthy Santa Barbara county, The New York Times recently noted that it is only the latest in a string of natural disasters signaling evidence of climate change.
Late last year was punctuated by three devastating hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and Maria. The newspaper reported that “ extreme weather that scientists say is partly attributed to climate change” caused more than $306 billion in damage, a record that surpassed even the $215 billion cost of natural disasters in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The figure goes up dramatically if you include damage from fires and rains in California this year.
And that’s the mainland. Months after two category 5 hurricanes pummeled Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, both are still struggling to get all the lights on – nearly half of Puerto Rico’s more than 3 million people still do not have electricity. That’s more than 100 days after Maria cut a brutal path across the island.
There’s still a lot of resistance to the idea of climate change and its causes. My hope is that attention will shift from denial to focus on the optimism and innovation that defined America for so long – optimism that that we can lead the world in softening this disaster with sensible actions. We already have the research and expertise to prevail. Extreme temperatures, hot or cold, are here and increasingly impossible to deny.