Peace out

All the things I like to do best involve sitting still, really: reading, drinking coffee, blogging, sitting in a dark bar, lying at the beach, sex.

Lately I’ve been going outside 15–20 minutes a day because I read somewhere that if you get coronavirus, low Vitamin D gives you trouble, somehow. Something about for best results use Vitamin D and shake well before using or something. It’s probably part of that huge worldwide scam that is coronavirus. Probably the Vitamin D makers are in on it too.

Naturally, I sent off for some Vitamin D gummies on the Amazon, there, and I follow it up with the 15–20 minutes a day of sun. Edsel always goes with me and splats onto the grass like he’s dead.

I used to spend entire summers doing this, which explains why I have the complexion of Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies today.

I remember, though, those summer days on a beach or at a pool or just in our yard with the reflective blanket (see above ref to Granny complex).

What I can remember about those days is the smell of orange Ban de Soliel

[by day. by night. by Saginaw.]

and my AM radio playing Magnet and Steel.

But I also remember my mind.

As far back as I can recall, I’ve had a racing mind. I’ve always been an anxious person, and why? What have I got to be anxious about? And people seem hostile to anxious people, like I can help it.

The best thing I’ve known to do about my anxiety is make fun of it.

A long time ago on this here blog, I had a sidebar that read Disease du Jour, where I listed what horrid disease I thought I had that day. Making my scary thoughts seem absurd was my way of minimizing it.

Once I was at a party that my in-laws had, I forget why. One of their friends said to me, “I was reading your blog for awhile, but once you put up disease du jour, you lost me.” I took it down. That was back when I gave two shits about what people thought.

I remember all sorts of times I should’ve been serene and happy but my mind was racing with upset instead: at the beach with friends for a weekend, at a spa with friends for the weekend—maybe I should stop doing things with friends for the weekend.

It’s been something I hate about myself and I’ve felt powerless to stop it. I tried antidepressants and therapy and meditation and I don’t know what all, but if you get me still for longer than 8 seconds, I get thoughts, usually about men. Does he still love me? Is he cheating on me during this weekend while I’m with friends?

Or if I’m single: Will I meet a man soon? What if I never do?

Ugh. I’m smarter than this, y’all.

Sometimes I’d be anxious about something other than men, but whatever it was, it would swirl around in me nonstop, driving me NUTS, and I’d get no peace. What I came to notice is anything that involved me sitting quietly meant I’d get the swirls and would leave me terribly upset. And please note most of my favorite things involve sitting quietly. So mostly I’d be swirling.

It’s been a horrendous way to have one’s brain work and it’s happened for years.

I remember one beautiful morning at this cottage my mother had in northern Michigan. I was having a—wait for it—weekend with friends, and my ex-best-friend and I were out on my mother’s little boat, on this little lake. A heron flew over us, white and huge across the early morning sky.

“Maybe it’s some sort of sign,” I said.

“I hope it brings me peace,” said my ex-best-friend. That’s what had brought us together: we both had the roiling mind and we had no idea how to stop it.

Last night I headed to my backyard to watch my fireflies. It’s a ritual I started this month, after all my work is done. If I’m going to be stuck at my house till god knows when, I’ve devised this little routine for myself where I write down all the things I want to get done that day, so I won’t find myself having done nothing at all. Once I’ve done them all I head out to the fireflies.

So last night I was out there, watching fireflies and admiring Edsel. There was a breeze, and also a bird chirping what sounded like the opening notes to Beethoven’s fifth. Chirp chirp chirp CHIRRRRRpppp. He did that over and over. Chirp chirp chirp CHIRRRRRpppp.

Does he know he’s doing that? I wondered. Is this where Beethoven got the idea? Wait, no, Beethoven was deaf. What the heck, then?

I was thinking this when I heard a noise and Edsel ran to the fence. There was my neighbor. She’s young and she’s confided in me she’s in a turbulent relationship. She was walking to her door, fast, and I could see she was about to cry. I didn’t mean to be looking, but our eyes locked.

“Are you okay?” I asked. Geez, I sounded so kind. Kind is not my go-to but it came right out of me like a regular functioning human. She shook her head yes as she raced inside but I knew the answer was really no. I found myself wishing she’d tell me what was wrong. She could have sat six feet from me in the backyard; I’ve already measured it out if ever I get a visitor.

But then it dawned on me.

My mind hadn’t been racing. I’d been sitting here for half an hour, just watching fireflies, thinking, well, nothing, really. Just thinking about what was going on in front of me. There were no dark thoughts, there was no swirl. The neighbor’s swirl reminded me I was lacking my own.

I’d been sitting there in peace. The heron had flown over.

I wonder how long I’ve been doing that.

74 thoughts on “Peace out

  1. I love this post so much, thank you for sharing. There’s so much power and relief in hearing we’re not alone in our own heads. This quarantine time has really knocked me for a bit of a loop, in good ways and not so great ways. We’re just a full year into our empty nest, settling into having our son away at college three states away (he’s quarantined there still, so we’re still empty). I’m a doer, a list maker, a helper, forced to be at home has been great in that I’m now doing and list making and helping for myself for a change – cleaning, sorting, organizing and the best part, a blooming, relaxing, cared for back yard and garden that I’ve spent hours and hours in enjoying the sun and fresh air – and not so great in that my brain is in overdrive too often. The anxiety levels come and go, calmer when I’m outside and disconnected. I call my swirly-brain my ‘post-it-notes’ – I imagine them on a rolodex wheel, just twirling away up in there, with a million things to remember, to do, to worry about, the swirls and swirls of what-it’s, it’s truly exhausting. It’s a bit of a relief that I’m not alone in that and a bit of a revelation that being outside helps quiet it so much. I was raised on a ranch and we used to be outside from sun up to sun down (laying on tin foil & drenched in baby oil as teens, hence the 45 year old granny skin, cheers to that) and I can’t remember my post-it-note-rolodex being so manic back then. If anything good comes of this covid-crap, it’s the slow down, reconnect with being quiet outside and truly disconnecting. Thank you for the beautiful writing and sharing the fosters, I truly look forward to your posts.

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  2. I found the secret to seeing lots of fireflies here by going outside at dusk. Last evening, even SadieDog was staring towards the woods. Either she was looking at fireflies or saw something I couldn’t see. Bigfoot?

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  3. Lovely writing.
    Also.
    Thank you for the fireflies. We used to have fireflies but they are gone. I love watching them.

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  4. I am staying at my guy’s house while my old house is having major work done. My nephew who is buying it has ripped out the only bathroom and is redoing it. There are six of us and one bathroom so it’s far from idyllic (his grown kids, the daughter’s boyfriend and his exwife live here,long story. She, the daughter and the boyfriend moved in after we started dating. They are divorced eight years. She is here to help the “kids” with the bills. He has a mortgage. They are supposed to assume all of the bills
    when he moves in with me in my new place. There are problems and that remains to be seen). I am not in my beautiful shore environment but I am in the country and there is a very large lake here. He has an acre and there are deer that come on to the property, an entire family of cardinals, other birds. I am tan from the yard and his convertible. The stars are prettier here too, less light pollution. There are assholes with fireworks here too. There seems to be no escaping that. My dogs do love the huge yard. We are also living with a little Westipoo and a big blue heeler/pit mix. Such a change from my previous solitude.

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  5. Thank you for this post. I’m glad you found a moment of peace. Lately I’ve also been going outside daily. I sit in the shade. I listen to the wind in the trees and the singing birds (so many birds!). My neighbor’s Southern Magnolia blossoms perfume the air. I guess I’m lucky that being outside has always zenned me out. Glad it helped you & hope you have more lovely moments of peace.

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  6. I sending this based on a previous post that referenced scrubbing your rug on your hands and knees because that is the kind of reader I am. There is a Resolve product containing granules that you merely sprinkle on the rug, brush in with the attached brush (yes, you must purchase one with an attached brush), twisted or screwed (your choice) into a broomstick (yes, you must have a broomstick that screws into the brush or purchase one), let dry and vacuum. It is guaranteed to freshen, brighten and deodorize your rug. And no I will not refund your money if it doesn’t work. I just know that I used it for many years on a white carpet’s high traffic areas until I got sick of it and bought new carpet. But it did work well and allowed me to keep said carpet at least another 2-3 years looking passably presentable. That is all I have to say about that.
    You as always brighten some otherwise dreary days despite your solitude and I want to say I appreciate you. Thank you. Hope the tip is payment enough. If not let me know and I will send the prescribed resolve and required broom handle. Sincerely, Cherelyn

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  7. I know there will never be a fits all answer or remedy or way of thinking which will resolve all of our habits, but reading your post and everyone’s comments and being able to say “Right, that’s what I do.” “Oh, that’s exactly what happens to me, too, when I…” makes me feel better just to know I’m not alone or weird for doing it.

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  8. We went and camped by a lake this weekend, and while camping sucks rocks, and I never sleep, my daughter said “you’re so relaxed here” and it’s true. I think the outside does that for me like it seems to be doing for you.

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  9. Peaceful is the best feeling. I had a turbulent childhood thanks to an alcoholic/drug addict father and so peace is very important to me. Luckily I am not a worrier. I take a large vit d3 supplement daily and since COVID have the best tan I have had in decades and my vit D level is the best it’s ever been.

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  10. Swirly minds. Reading the comments makes me realize how much alike many of us are. The what ifs are my downfall and I have them daily. Glad you found peace in your own backyard. That is a special gift. Here’s to fireflies!

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  11. I understand. I’ve struggled falling asleep for as long as I can remember because of a racing mind. I was diagnosed with OCD in college, and while medicine helps, it doesn’t take it away completely.

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  12. I think it is a little easier to slow every thing down during this time that we don’t have to think nonstop about everything.
    I am so happy for you , finding a peace, in your space.

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  13. What great insight. I have a racing mind and depression that makes sleep difficult to come by. My sister married in to a family that all have anxiety and your description helps me understand them better. I sure do appreciate you, June you old coot.

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  14. Glad you have found peaceful moments!

    We were out on our deck Saturday evening, listening to someone play 70s music on his piano (concerts during this pandemic once a week on fb) and noticed that a large amount of songbirds had gathered all around, perhaps enjoying the music with us. So neat.

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  15. The Vitamin D thing is very important. My best friend went to the doctor because she was feeling very sluggish and losing her hair and her bloodwork showed a severe Vitamin D deficiency along with an iron and magnesium deficiency. I told her the easiest way to get Vitamin D is to go out into the sun for 20 minutes a day but she doesn’t do it. She sits in her house with the A/C on practically 24/7 and she’s not agoraphobic. She just prefers to say indoors. And I just don’t get that at all. I HAVE to go outside, I need fresh air. I sleep with a window open year round, I open all my doors and windows as soon as I get up. I need fresh air.

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  16. Glad your swirl is getting some relief; who knew you’d turn into the outdoorsy type (well, at least for 20 minutes a day)? My swirl doesn’t stay on one issue but meanders into all sorts of unrelated ones. One morning recently I said every single thought out loud for about five minutes. My husband thought I was insane. I find that reading and working soduko are about the only things that distract those thoughts. I used to be a worrier but my very wise daughter pointed out that worrying shows a lack of faith and that spoke to me. Also, the anti-depressant does a great job of making me just care less in general. Plus, also, and too, being old and too tired to worry is a factor.

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  17. That was a lovely post, Coot, but the title sent me into a small panic, thinking you were leaving us again.

    I do not suffer from the anxiety or racing mind and I know I’m extremely fortunate (NOT “blessed.” I hate that term) to not have to suffer from swirling spiraling thoughts. However, I do suffer from wandering mind. Doesn’t matter what I’m doing, my mind starts to wander and I lose focus/interest on whatever I was doing. Watching a movie is hard for me because no matter how good it is, I just start thinking about other things or I get restless and wonder when the movie will end so I can go and do something else. As much as I love to read, I can’t even just sit on the couch and read because I feel as if I need to be doing something productive.

    But this weekend, we had a lovely sunny day on Saturday and I grabbed my Airpods and went out and sunbathed in the backyard. I put Alison Krauss’ “Down to the river to pray” on repeat and just completely zoned out for about 2 hours. That song is so beautiful and meditative and I was completely relaxed. It was wonderful. Plus, I got a nice dose of Vitamin D, which is good.

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  18. Maybe people with migraines get swirly brain more than others? Too much going on in the head perhaps. I’m glad you found a bit of peace – your mediation is your backyard in the evenings. It’s beautiful back there.

    I heard the same thing about Vitamin D. Also it helps that you are a woman, and it hurts if you have Type A blood. There are so many things to focus on, best not to focus on them at all and just go back to your evening oasis. We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow? We’ve got tonight babe. Why don’t you stay?

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  19. Beautiful post, June.
    I occasionally have anxiety but it’s mild and I tend to force myself to get busy to quiet my mind. One of my coworkers has severe anxiety. I never know what to do for her so I usually just let her talk, rub her back and tell her I can help in any way I can. I feel helpless when she is having a really difficult day.

    I hope you continue to find moments of peace and quiet in your swirling brain.

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  20. I always love your posts, but today, oh, today… you hit the nail so squarely on the head that I’m crying. I was just talking to my two best friends about my brain that won’t shut off. From now on it’s my swirly brain. You have no idea how much I related to this post and how much it helped me. Thank you!

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  21. Since you stopped having to go to work in the morning? I call it ‘hamster brain.’ ‘Round and ’round, going nowhere.

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  22. Thanks for these fireflies! Just what I needed this am to calm my own “swirling mind” – Anxiety has taken such a hold – but I am working it away – your writing makes the day so much sweeter! Don’t stop writing!
    How long do the fireflies stay?

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  23. what a lovely post. I am happy that you found peace, at last. I search for it as soon as I turn the lights off and can’t go to sleep bc .. work. Or something bad I did 50 years ago. Etc. Maybe I need to find me some fireflies.

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  24. I love your description of the swirly brain. That sounds awful, and I hope you manage to find more opportunities to escape it. I wonder if life’s slower pace is helping make your head less swirly? Or the fireflies? I’ve heard that while we have all been home doing less so many people have been experiencing very vivid dreams as a result of the not doing as much in regular life. Related?

    I do not suffer from anxiety, but I have a son who does. I do have a ton of shit going on in my life right now. Decisions that will be life changing need to be made, on a few different, unrelated fronts, so that’s fun. I am not sure which way to turn, but when I sit down to write (working on a memoir) – I actually find that I escape all of it . . . for a little bit.

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    1. I really don’t know. Maybe? I try to also keep a journal but here’s a problem I have: If I physically write for more than 5 minutes my hands get very sore. What IS that? Do I have hand cancer?

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      1. I get that too. I think maybe it’s because I, at least, don’t write enough normally anymore. I’m all typing all the time. And my handwriting really shows it too! 🙂 I am so glad you found your piece of peace.

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      2. Carpal tunnel? I had it and had surgery, with an ulna nerve reduction (elbow surgery) and lost strength in my dominant arm. I learned to compensate by doing strength requiring things with my other hand. I still use my dominant hand for eating and writing. Writing in script hurts like hell in very little time. I print which hurts less but is a lot slower.

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  25. Lovely post, although I must admit your title panicked me, I thought you might have been taking another blog break! So glad that is not the case and we get to keep reading your beautiful writing. I also feel at peace lately and am wondering if it is because I’m not around people as much so have less anxiety now, even though we are in the most anxiety-filled time right now. Glad you are having peaceful moments and that they continue.

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  26. Lovely, lovely post. I understand the anxiety and the swirling brain. I would love to have an off and on switch for my swirling brain, it would be much easier to sleep at night. Fireflies are one of the delights of Summer as is the sound of the June bugs. Oh, I hear one right now. Maybe that’s a July fly that I hear.

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  27. Very nice, very relatable. I too have the racing mind. Always felt like my brain was in the middle of a game of racquetball. If you’ve ever played, you know the ball gets to hit or land on all the walls. That was my brain. It felt better when the ADHD was diagnosed and treated. Doesn’t stop it, but does help tame it. Good that you’re getting the extra Vitamin D from the sun. Up north here, we are often on the low end, and it’s an important component of brain health.

    Evenings with Fireflies are delightful. I’m trying to find something like that as well.

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    1. Yes yes yes! Thank you for this wonderful post. I have the swirly brain too! Paxil has helped so much. Ativan. Even tried cannabis. The other day I (worried) that if I were to die, my autopsy would be as drug filled as Michael Jackson
      And also whoever the fart sniffer was who mentioned your disease du jour should get some vitamin D on Pluto.

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  28. At the end, my shoulders unscrunched. I’m not an anxiety person on the regular, but I was all scrunched up, and I think I do that a lot. Anyway, your writing that made me unscrunch. I have learned about myself that I can have no screen time before bed or my mind will not shut off. I can read and go right to sleep but no phone, no television, no screen at all or I’ll be awake for hours. Yet I can fall asleep in a boring movie on occasion.

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  29. What a beautiful post!

    I’ve always played the “what if” game, but mine have always been things I wanted or things I wished would happen. When I was younger, it was always “what if I had a horse?” What would I name him? What would he look like? Where would we go? What would I feed him? What would I wear to the barn? What would the saddle look like? I could go on for hours and hours like that.

    Now, I can get caught up in “what if I moved to . . .” fill in the blank. The beach. Ireland. The mountains. The moon. Where no one from here can find me. I can start daydreaming about that when I get in the car as I’m leaving work and when I get home, I’ll have no memory of the drive. Kind of scary, but satisfying, too.

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  30. ” Kind is not my go-to but it came right out of me like a regular functioning human.”

    DEAD.

    So in another episode of “My Life Parallels June’s,” last week around 9 pm I heard my neighbor outside her apartment sobbing. Like that obnoxious sort of wailing. And I thought to myself, “do I really want to interrupt my otherwise peaceful night to be a good person?” I opened the door and asked her if she was ok. Turns out her cousin had just died in a car accident. Oh, I felt terrible. I asked what I could do to help, she said nothing, that she was trying to get in touch with her boyfriend so he could leave work and come get her to take her to the hospital to be with her family – they share one vehicle. So that GD conscience of mine kicked in AGAIN and I ended up not only driving her all the way to the hospital (45 minutes away) but also babysitting her kids until she was home later that night. And these kids barely know me, y’all.

    That’s what I get for being a regular functioning human.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I believe you get major purgatory credit for that which is a thing I’ve made up or maybe just great good juju or karma for it. The universe will chalk a big one up for you for your kindness.

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  31. Very lovely post, dear June!
    I come from a long line of worry-warts who mask it pretty well. I do not wish to be presumptuous about your brain, but I recognize a bit of myself in your description. I am a champion What If-er. I can think of a situation then my mind creates 20 permutations and takes it to an absolutely absurd ending, or several versions of, over and over again. This was most intense from 45 to 50. Six loooong years. It’s better now. I do not like to be caught off guard, unprepared, unaware, surprised. One of my greatest fears is someone (doctor, for example) saying, “If only you had come in sooner we could have handled this, but now…” It took me awhile to realize it is really fear of negligence on my part, and the what if-ing was to review every possible scenario no matter how ridiculous, so that IF it actually happened, I would have already worked out how to handle it. I would never be able to say Well, I never thought of that!
    Brains, MAN! They jus’ be like that sometimes!

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    1. Holy cow – this is me to a T: “the what if-ing was to review every possible scenario no matter how ridiculous, so that IF it actually happened, I would have already worked out how to handle it”

      The husband and children roll their eyes at me because I am unable to just sit and veg out. My mind is always covering the list of things that need to be done or people to contact or a zillion other things.

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      1. Oh, yes, with the listing. I love me a good list. Once I could start adding notes to myself on my phone in the middle of the night, I actually started sleeping better (not great, but better) because my brain would settle down if whatever ridiculous To Do was in writing. I could handle it in the morning rather than spend the rest of the night hoping not to forget that VERY IMPORTANT 2 A.M. THING. ugh.

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  32. Whenever I’m in a situation where a leader starts entoning remember a time when you felt comfortable and safe and at a peace I want to let my eyes fly open and yell that I’ve never felt that way in my life! I have to work so hard to come up with even a semblance of that situation.
    I want to tell you about Eric, a slight red-headed boy with curly hair who was in a sixth grade class I taught a lifetime ago. It was an exceptional class, the one kind you are lucky to have once in a teaching career, with kids who were kind to one another and could share with the group. We were talking about how they liked to study–silence, music, home alone, with the TV on, in the kitchen, etc. Everybody was chiming in what they needed to study. It was instructive to me and they were to each other. Eric raised his hand and said that when he comes home nobody is there and he has to turn the radio on the instant he walks in. He said, “If it gets quiet I start to sweat all over.” He was so solemn and quiet when he said it. I can see him like it was yesterday and wonder how he is. He would be 45 years old now. Peace be with you middle aged red haired Eric.

    Liked by 6 people

  33. I am glad for you that you have found a spot for peace. I have a vegetable garden in the backyard this year. I, too, have that racing mind, the garden helps when I am out there. I have an anti anxiety medication that I take in the morning. It helps a bit, in that I am not as reclusive, but nothing really stops that wheeling, racing mind. I think that it is inherited – my kids both have it. I read a book years ago about the highly sensitive person and it seems that this is a trait. I really must get a copy of that book to read again. It seems that the person with this monkey mind is also creative – my son had a melt down when he was a young adult in university. We talked about this racing mind and how he would be different if he didn’t have it. He decided that the pros outweighed the cons – once you are able to reign it in. Reigning it in is something that is difficult to do, though. I am still learning at 62 – sometimes I think that I would like to have peace without having to work so hard. Look at me, just rambling.

    Laurie in NB, Canada

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  34. Your firefly videos have made me so happy! For some reason I just don’t see them where I live, but seeing yours brings me peace too. I remember a carefree time in childhood where we chased them and put them in jars and it was summer and perfect.

    May your peace (and mine) continue.

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