Its Feb 1, 2019 today, one month since my role and daily activities changed abruptly; from those of a catastrophe modeler working full time for a large global insurer … to me, a conscious being trying to live a healthy, mindful life.  It’s kind of a pretty big change, but then again, not that big.

My priorities have of course shifted, as have my interpersonal interactions.  Instead of attending daily huddle meetings, which inevitably resulted in updated action plans, and long to-do lists, I am now having meaningful conversations with with my exercise partners, yoga class mates, fellow coffee shop patrons and various virtual connections via my laptop.  And I still have to-do lists, but they are now my to-do lists.  I am writing more, eating less, exercising more, sleeping deeper (I think), and getting out in nature more.

swans cropped

I am trying to be more aware as I navigate my new normal.  That’s where the swans come in.  Nature invariably teaches me how to slow down the day.  I’ve seen this pair several times near a small pond that I pass by, on my way to one of those coffee shops I now visit.  Their white bodies catch my eye from a distance.  They remain calm despite the road close by.  I pulled over a couple weeks ago to watch them for a bit; they didn’t alter their routine.  Their presence here, on this back road, is a gift to all who pass.  They remind me of the preciousness of every moment.


Another momentous event happened during the last 30 days, much more momentous than my retirement.  The beloved poet, Mary Oliver, passed away at the age of 83.  Her work resonated with many of us over the years.   She was an astute observer of nature and life and her work entwined both in deliberately compelling ways.  There are several of her poems that moved me deeply including, The Journey, Wild Geese, and my favorite, The Summer Day, because of the last 4 lines.  Those 4 lines were taped above my desk, at work and at home for many years, and helped me make the choices, which have led me to this exact moment.  Mary’s obit from the NY Times follows her words.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

(excerpt from The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver)

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.