The December Darkness

The December Darkness
“May the blessed light be on you, light without and light within. May the blessed sunlight shine on you and warm your heart until it glows like a great fire, so that a stranger may come and warm himself at it, and also a friend.” –Irish Blessing

It is the seventh day of December and thoughts of the brevity of time swirl in my head like a winter storm. The light of day is brief; it is 4:30 in the afternoon and I light a candle, an instinctual and essential ritual that helps to keep the darkness at bay. For the sun sets early here in New England in the great woods of New Hampshire, where December can be a month heavy with darkness. Read more

Falling into a New Beginning

Falling into a New Beginning
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Having come across these words in a recent piece in The Atlantic, “Why Back-to-School Season Feels Like the New Year – Even for Adults” (Sept. 17), I was reminded of the strange grasp that both nostalgia and hope often have on us this time of year; of our heart’s aching for past joys and memories, gently soothed by the hopeful anticipation of things to come.

Perhaps it’s because, as the article notes, roughly half of one’s lifespan is tied to an academic calendar – from being in school through young adolescence to becoming the parents of children – or because we long for one last chance to make “all things right” before the year’s end, but Fall does seem to signal the start of a new “life,” a new beginning, a new opportunity to usher in change alongside the changing color of leaves. Read more

A Seeing Eye, a Listening Ear: In Honor of Usher Syndrome Awareness Day

The beloved children’s television host Mister Rogers once said,

“The gifts we treasure most over the years are often small and simple. In easy times and tough times, what seems to matter most is the way we show those nearest us that we’ve been listening to their needs, to their joys, and to their challenges.”

Indeed, the essence of life seems always to come down to the small and simple things, to the things we often don’t think about, the things we take for granted, the things we forget are gifted to us as human beings: our ability to see and hear, taste and smell, walk and breathe.

I am gently reminded of such gifts each time I play hide-and-seek with my three-year-old niece, Emma, who was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome (type 2A) – the most common genetic cause of combined deafness and blindness – two years ago. Hiding together while her older sister counts to ten, she mimics my “shhh”, only to let out a squeal, revealing our location and screaming in delight at the sight of her sister. Equally delighted by the sound of music, Emma is a natural entertainer, grabbing her microphone and eliciting howls of laughter with her wild dance moves. How precious the gifts of sight and sound truly are. Read more

Isle of Skye’s Old Man Storr

Isle of Skye’s Old Man Storr
It’s been a busy summer, but we’re excited to be back and grateful for all your support and emails as ATG continues to evolve! 

It happens naturally in the ascent, to shed the duties and disappointments that weigh one down in daily living. At the summit, one is rewarded with a lightness of being. A step and a glance up, a step and a glance up, the breathing becomes deep and rhythmic, and listening, I no longer know where I am or where I came from. But I know that I have become enfolded in the immense green beauty of this ancient mountain in a surreal landscape, and that I am where I should be. I understand that it is not about power. For here alone, there is no need of power. On top now, I am free to just be…in the warm golden glow of an early summer evening. This is nature’s gift to those in search of truth and beauty. Read more

Pleasure in the Vineyard

Pleasure in the Vineyard
“The most beautiful gift of nature is that it gives one pleasure to look around and try to comprehend what we see.” –Albert Einstein

Invited for a weekend getaway, I was recently a guest at a relative’s home in Virginia that sits at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains* and is a stone’s throw from one of Virginia’s 250+ wineries.

Having driven through Virginia more times than I can remember – always heading somewhere else and with little time to comprehend where I was or what was around me – my visit turned out to be a most pleasant gift, reminding me of the restorative power of nature’s beauty. Read more

“Freedom Is Not Free”: Memorable Words for Memorial Day

“Freedom Is Not Free”: Memorable Words for Memorial Day
“Freedom is not free, as the saying goes. Maintaining the republic has been the work of people shedding blood, sweat, and tears for 240 years. That herculean effort was not driven by politics alone; it rested on a culture that kept the citizenry active and engaged in the project of their own self-government at every level of community.”
–Daniel Krauthammer, “What Makes America Great?”, The Weekly Standard, May 8, 2017

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A Memory of a Mother’s Love

A Memory of a Mother’s Love
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” ―C.S. Lewis

Every night growing up, my brothers and I would curl up next to my mother as she read us a bedtime story with a gentleness and nurturing spirit that only a mother can provide.

She introduced us to the kind and imaginative Boxcar Children, took us through the mischief and mishaps of Curious George, The Berenstain Bears, and Corduroy, kept us questioning with Goosebumps, and entertained us with the rhyming cadences of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See?, Jamberry, and all of Dr. Seuss’ classics (Go, Dog. Go! being a particular favorite), in addition to other beloved stories, such as Make Way for Ducklings, Goodnight Moon, and the many enchanting tales of Walt Disney. Read more

“Circus XTREME”: The Last Greatest Show of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

“Circus XTREME”: The Last Greatest Show of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
“You must have always a great and progressive show and also one which is clean, pure, moral and instructive. Never cater to the baser instincts of humanity…and always remember that the children have ever been our best patrons…” –P.T. Barnum’s last letter before he died (1891), written to his “well-loved” James Bailey

“Circus XTREME”, which is making its very last appearance in Providence, Rhode Island this weekend, is Xtremely entertaining and there is no doubt that P.T. Barnum would have been proud of this very “Xpert” creation for having lived up to his life motto “Excelsior”, a Latin word meaning “ever upward” and “still higher.” Read more

Treasured Poems from a Treasured Volume

famous poemsIn the introduction to a treasured book of the past, A Treasury of the World’s Best Loved Poems (1961), readers are asked to ponder the question: “What is poetry?”

The introduction’s writer recalls the many and varied attempts at definition throughout the ages, citing poetry as:

  • “the music of the soul” (Voltaire)
  • “the art of uniting pleasure with truth” (Samuel Johnson)
  • “the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself” (William Hazlitt)
  • that which “makes me feel as if the top of my head were taken off” (Emily Dickinson)
  • “not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us” (T.S. Eliot)
  • Or as Albert Einstein said of truth, perhaps great poetry is “that which stands the test of experience.”

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Growing in Gritty-ness

Einstein quotes about intelligence“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” –Albert Einstein, physicist, 1879-1955

The question of individual success has long fascinated philosophers and life thinkers. From Confucius, the 6th century BC Chinese philosopher, who once wrote, “The nature of man is always the same; it is their habits that separate them”, to the 4th century BC ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle – “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” – one can find various musings throughout the centuries on humanity’s capacity to accomplish great and marvelous things.

Yet, even with centuries of life wisdom at our disposal, and a repertoire of more recent research that shed light on human behavior, it seems that man’s quest to understand the underlying factors of man’s success may never cease, as evidenced by Angela Duckworth’s 2016 book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Read more