Someone in my neighborhood has been leaving little love notes on the trails. Little painted rocks with a few words that go straight to my heart.  I don’t want to know who’s painting these rocks and placing them like Easter eggs nestled among grasses or slightly disguised among rocks. I don’t want to know because that way it could be anyone I pass on my daily walks or someone I never see but who lives down the street. I can continually wonder, is it you? Thank you! You brightened my day. And the next person who passes or I see down the street, I’ll wonder again. Did you do it? Are you the one blessing me with little love notes, new ones appearing every day? Thank you! You can’t imagine how much my heart sings when I find one.

I am a kid joyfully calling out: Here’s one! Here’s another one! Look at this one!

With each one, I’m reminded to Find Joy. This one I wanted to pick up and take home with me. I automatically reached out and touched it. Almost plucked it like a found treasure meant for me alone. But the joy it brought me, I knew, could be for others as well. And don’t we all need a little joy in our lives right now? Find Joy, it said. Look around. Find the beauty. Find the birdsong. Find the fragrance of the white crabapple blossoms. Find Joy. Do it now. It’s all around, even when I forget to notice. Maybe others forget to notice as well. Maybe others could use a little joy note beside the path.

I left it there and walked on, stopping in my tracks to read: Love looks good on you. I smiled right from my heart space. Love looks good on everyone. Eyes sparkling. Skin glowing. A smile that lights up a room. It doesn’t have to be romantic love, although that’s pretty wonderful. It can be glad I’m alive and this day is pretty special kind of love. Did you see that butterfly! kind of love. The hummingbird came to the feeder kind of love. The hawk circled above me love. The wildflowers are poking their bright sunny faces up all over the place kind of love. Yeah, love looks good on you. It really does. Put it on.

And there was another one: Life is what you make it.

I smiled from my toes because that is what I believe. Mostly. Usually. My inner skeptic says it’s a good mantra, but not always true. Not in the sense of life is what I always want it to be. Not in the sense of my simply wanting it to be a certain way will make it that way. That’s not at all what it means. Life is what you MAKE it. Not wish it. Sometimes that means accepting reality but still making the best of it.

I am a firm believer in setting intentions. Deciding. Setting goals. Taking steps toward making things happen. When I am clear about an intention, instead of just wishing something, then usually things are set in motion. Making. Not wishing. Not hoping. Making.

But what if Life is NOT what I wanted, what I dreamed, what I set an intention for? What if the ups become downs and life throws challenges that feel insurmountable? What then? What now for instance and specifically? No one wanted this pandemic and its lockdown. And all its consequences. No one.

Now what do I do with Life is what you make it? Do I let it taunt me? Yeah, right. Now who do you think you are? Not so powerful or in control, are you? Let’s see what you’re going to make out of this.

What stirred in my heart and my soul when I saw that note along the path, was a reminder to be present. Be present to this time. Be present to the people on the front lines. Be present to friends and neighbors and family. Be present to reflection and expressing and loving. Be present to gratitude. And sorrow and grief. And the roller coaster of emotions that are amplified. The highs so high and the lows so low. Do not go to sleep and just mark off days on the calendar. Be present.

Life is what you make it. Even this life. Even these days.

I will live these moments awake. Learn from these moments awake. I want to be different on the other side. I’ve read that or heard that from so many people in so many places: I hope we’ll be different. I hope we don’t go back to the old normal. I hope there’s a new normal.

Me, too. I hope for some differences. But I can’t speak for WE. I can only speak for me. Hoping we will be different is all fine and good, but Life is what you make it. And the YOU in that mantra is ME. It doesn’t’ say Life is what THEY make it. Nope. It’s me. All I can speak for is me. How will I be different? I am the only one I can change. My life is up to me, up to my choices. My new normal will come from what I learn right here, right now.

Life is what you make it.

Let me live it awake. Let me use this time to get clearer on how I will be different on the other side. I have choices to make, work to do.

And there, sitting on the railing of a wooden fence, another love note. Just one word. It was enough.