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Forever Young

By Cathi Gerhard

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything” – William Shakespeare

I have never felt so old and tired as I did this winter, the one that seemed to last forever. I spent weeks not wanting to get out of my warm bed each day – the cold, dark and dreary skies encouraging my semi-coma.

The biting cold and lack of regular activity made my joints stiff and achy, which fed my weary state and left me constantly tired. Each day, if I dressed at all (because pyjamas are warm and cozy), my go-to item was one of my many pairs of stretchy pants – or as our generation more fashionably styles them, yoga pants. Not only are they comfortable, but they also help one manage the 10-20 pounds of extra seasonal insulation we tend to acquire.

The long winter of such discontent also brought about my first patches of grey hair, too, framing my face with a dull, white haze. The emerging streaks go pretty well with my new reading glasses, which many magazine articles tend to call “one of the ten things that make you look older.” Really? So what. I AM older now, and I think it is far worse to hide it – or rather pretend to be younger like a “Real Housewife of Beverly Hills” with too much plastic surgery, make-up and junior-sized clothing. I went through a short spell of such fashion disillusionment in my 30s, but quickly came to my senses. Going against the grains of nature is simply destructive.

All living creatures on earth follow the rhythms of life; but somehow humans have lost their way. Because of technology we now live “despite” nature instead of along with it. We control our climate indoors, like a science fiction bubble, and treat every day as equal. Medical science has invented youth serums, treatments and surgeries to change practically every-thing natural about us – all designed to fight time, which is still out of our control.

But youth is not just a fleeting period in our past – it is a spirit. Last week brought some quick samples of warmer weather, and with each burst I felt the rejuvenating power of the Spring sunshine. No vitamin D supplement can even compare to that feeling of the real thing. Suddenly I had enough energy to take a walk, and endorphins flowed to mask my back pain better than any narcotic. I no longer craved the comforting taste of carbohydrates, but rather the juicy flavors of fruits and vegetables. It felt so good, I wanted to dance and sing!

Poets throughout history have written the lyrics to nature’s songs about new life, and its promise of re-birth. Just when we start to feel worn out, and mostly dead inside, life draws upon that forced period of dormancy to re-energize a new season. We are a part of that cycle, no matter how much we try to deviate from it. In winter we may not hibernate, but we could all use a long winter’s rest. Cold, rainy days are for soaking up what we need (stay inside: rest, nourishment, and contemplation); warm, sunny days are meant for energy consumption (come out and play: work, activity, and enjoyment).

Consider nature’s simple, visible rewards for a successful cycle: flowers and vegetables in our garden. I love how they look. I love how they make me feel –young. The ongoing search for some fountain of youth is nothing but a fool’s errand, invented by a species that has somehow “evolved” too far from its roots.

Humans have tried to sever all ties with Mother Nature’s dumb “rules and regulations,” behaving like an arrogant teenager who knows it all. We take what we want (SUVs) instead of what we need (4 wheels and a sustain-able power source). But if we wreck her car, there is no insurance to fix it. We need to grow up, age gracefully, and play well with others. Perhaps humans are trapped in this Peter Pan syndrome because we lack patience and faith in the promised spirit of youth, caught instead in a self-spun web of frustration and fear.

This Spring, consider stepping outside of the climate-controlled box by taking a leap of faith into the real world. You might be surprised by how good it feels, inside and out.

Come On, Get Happy!

By Cathi Gerhard

When is the last time you laughed out loud? Typing LOL in a text message does not count. Did that joy require a lot of money or elaborate planning to achieve – or did it come from something simple and ordinary? Most often, the happiest moments of my own life have come from the unplanned and inexpensive.

I have received small gifts such as Hello Kitty socks, barley sugar lollipops, a Mickey Mouse Back scratcher, and an orange gerber daisy – all of those stand out in my memory much more than some of the big ones.

I would love to have a new car this year, but I am still very comfortable in my old SUV, despite its dents and broken air conditioning. Together we have traveled to many places, the best of those found off the main roads. Those spur of the moment detours have led me to great food, new friends, and beautiful views.

Some of the best scenery is located right at home, on my farm. We have worked hard to plant thriving vegetable gardens and bright patches of blooms. Our favorite restaurant is our back patio on a summer evening, where there are two ways to enjoy a glass of wine. Sometimes I pour the bottle into a fancy glass; other nights, any old cup will do – it’s just so nice to slow down and have a drink.

My perspective drives my happiness, and that takes practice in a world driven by constant consumption. The need to have things distracts us from what we already have around us. We hardly ever enjoy the moment because we’re already planing the next one. While riding this train of thought, we certainly don’t have enough time to notice the needs of anyone else.

How can we expect people to be nice to one another, when we can’t even be kind to ourselves? We need to stop the “modern” world for a bit, and take a few steps away from those chaotic tracks. That’s where all the happy, little things live.

My husband loves to watch the birds and the weather moving across the sky. I like to play with the cats or just sit with them awhile and share their peaceful zen. My favorite cup of coffee is the first one of the day, straight from the pot – certainly not the second or the big, expensive one in town. Nothing says joy quite like listening to a baby laugh (that’s why there are so many videos on YouTube, along with all those funny cats). I tend to measure my days by those moments of small, but exquisite joy.

It’s said Walt Whitman once wrote, “Rate the beauty of the simple things. You can make beautiful poetry on little things, but we can not row against ourselves. That transforms life into hell.”

I like to think that heaven is found on earth in every living thing doing its part in the natural world. Humans can laugh out loud and other creatures can’t. We have five senses to see, hear, touch, taste and feel –  how often do we actually take some time to use them all at once?

I wish that our stories in the Laurel Mountain Post could come alive and jump off the pages for you. We do our best to help you imagine more than the simple ink on paper can. Time is spent picking out photos and other artwork, on writing creative headlines, and meeting new people with stories to tell. And we enjoy every minute of it. As the other, more famous Whitman quote* now says again, “the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

*(“O Me! O Life!” By Walt Whitman)

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