Category Archives: Projects

The Sun Project: Epilogue

As I handed over my completed Sun Project to my professor on November 1, I felt a confused combination of pride, sadness and relief. After eight weeks of observing the sunrise and sunset, I was, on the one hand, extremely grateful for the experience. On the other hand, I was totally over it. Waking up early on days when all I wanted to do was sleep in had grown annoying, and the later-rising and earlier-setting sun had begun to interrupt other activities. On the day of my last observation, melodramatic me was celebrating— “Yes! I’ve finally got my life back!”

the last sunset!

“Yes! I’ve finally got my life back!”

And yet, I felt a certain regret as I realized that this would probably be the last time a professor asked me to perch myself in front of the horizon and become deeply aware of the sun, the Earth, and the natural cycle of day and night. The next time I would do so would have to be of my own volition. Luckily, my professor had given me eight weeks of intensive practice and study so that next time I found myself before the sunrise or sunset, I would know what to do—that is, marvel at the majesty of nature, the beauty of the sun-painted sky, and the miracle of life, all while appreciating the science behind it. If there is one thing I learned from this project, it is that nature and science are not opposed. The natural world is one of scientific processes, patterns, and (im)perfections. Science is the quest to understand this natural clockwork, to discover the magician’s secrets. Both are beautiful.

Thankfully, I didn’t grow too tired of observing the sun, because not long after the end of the Sun Project, I was at it again. Last weekend, my sister came to visit me in Tucson, so she, my roommate and I decided to take some hot chocolate up to Windy Point and watch the sunset. Driving up Mt. Lemmon, I had been worried that the cloud cover would be too thick to see a good one, but once we got out of the car and started heading toward the mountainside, my worries were gone. The clouds would be what made this particular sunset so breathtaking.

before the sunset

Clamoring up the jagged boulders to our chosen observation spot, I felt a familiar contentment washing over my body and mind. It was the same wave of calm that had come over me during the Sun Project as I watched the sun dip below the mountain tops week after week—the silence of the closing day, the stillness of the resting world, the gradual deceleration of life’s momentum.

As the sun sunk lower, the sky transformed into a glowing swirl of gold, pink and orange. The ever-changing canvas was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and would never see again. Like every individual, every breath, every embrace, no sunset is the same. Its existence is finite and ephemeral, offering itself to the world for only minutes before subsiding, forever, into darkness. That is perhaps what makes a sunset so precious—it cannot be repeated or copied, traced in a stencil or captured, precisely how it was, in a photograph. Its life is fleeting, yet its light, so extraordinary in all its luster, makes life on this world that much richer.

Sunset

Not unlike your own.

Namaste,

Savannah

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The Sun Project: Part 2

Some say it takes only three weeks to form a new habit, others say it takes nine. Well, after eight weeks of doing my Sun Project, I can say that watching the sunrise and sunset once a week has become engrained in my mental and physical clock. I know now that I will start every Wednesday with an observation, and that I will plan dinner and my study schedule around catching the sun just before it dips below the mountains. I have consciously integrated the sun, along with the changing of the seasons, into my daily life.

This may sound strange considering the fact that the sun has been and will always be part of my daily life. This is one of those “no shit, Sherlock” statements, right? But in all honesty, when was the last time you could predict when the sun would rise, to the minute? Have you ever noticed that the sun moves south along the horizon during the last half of the year, and north during the first? How often do you look up at the sky and note how far the sun has moved, or what angle it is at?

constructing the sunset

This new awareness is subtle, but enriching. If the sun was only a casual acquaintance 8 weeks ago, now he is a dear friend, and I take the time to ask where he rises each morning, how his day went before he tucks in for bed. The sun and I are on a first name basis.

While I appreciate being conscious of the Earth’s orbit and rotation and its relationship to the sun for the mere intellectual value, I have also tuned in to the more philosophical lessons that come with this awareness. After a few weeks, the sun began to teach me two contrasting yet interrelated lessons, the first on consistency and the second on impermanence.

The sun’s trajectory across our sky is one of the most consistent patterns in our world. The sun will rise and set without fail, and this we take for granted because the sun, since the beginning of human memory, has proved itself consistent. The natural world is full of repeating, predictable patterns—the changing of the seasons, the phases of the moon—that define the patterns of human life. And yet, in parenthesizes, there are elements of change. Where there is a pattern, there is always a deviation. The sun does not rise at the same point everyday; the moon’s cycle may be interrupted by an eclipse; the seasons behave differently as the Earth transforms, for better or for worse. In other words, even within consistency there is an element of impermanence. No pattern is repeated in quite the same way. The world, though it may be predictable, is always new.

Now what if this idea were applied to people? Are individuals a composition of consistent habits, behaviors, patterns? Do these consistencies change from decade to decade, year to year, day to day? What aspects of a personality are evanescent? What elements can be taken for granted, like the rise and fall of the sun?

When I turn these questions upon myself, I think of the many years I’ve spent going through the same motions, confronting the same challenges, fighting the same battles. I tackle the same obstacles—weight gain, depression, fatigue—in a predictable annual cycle. Yet I never approach these challenges in the same way, and over the years, I’ve found them easier to overcome. I have new strategies now, and I perceive these patterns differently. I have learned that my physical and emotional heaviness is impermanent, and it will fade, like daylight. My body and heart will rest the whole night through, and when I rise again to surmount the hurdles the day has set before me, I will do so with renewed vitality until, one crisp, bright morning, I will embrace the familiar, consistent trials as fleeting, impermanent opportunities for growth.

selfie sunset 9:25

What has the sun taught you lately?

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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The Will to Carry On (Cheesiest Title Ever)

It is one thing to start a new routine. It’s another thing to maintain it.

Two weeks ago I started the “40 Day Savannah Smiles Challenge” in an effort to insert more beauty and balance into my life and render myself a little more positive, a little more like the sunny Savannah I used to know.

During the first week of the Savannah Smiles Challenge, I felt empowered and motivated. And I started writing. I started writing any chance I got— on the metro, on a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg, waiting for a friend. I journaled every day. That is, until the new semester started.

On Monday I woke up and slid back into my old morning regimen: shower, make coffee, pour coffee number 1, read the news and answer emails, acquire coffee number 2, blow-dry hair, straighten bangs, rush out the door.

This is not necessarily a routine I dislike or find detrimental to my happiness. But it is not one that allows time for yoga or poetry. Hence it wasn’t until I was putting my shoes on that I realized I’d forgotten to do my sun salutations and read my poem. It’s the first day of classes, I thought, I can skip a day.

But skipping one led me to skip another and soon the routine I was trying to meld into my day-to-day life was sabotaged. This doesn’t mean I’ve failed completely. I just haven’t done a moon salutation or journaled in four days.

I am writing this post now to remind myself of why I started this challenge. I am writing this post to remind myself of why I need to continue. Creating a new routine doesn’t mean I have to destroy the old one, it just means I need to adjust my already established habits to accomodate those I want to add. Sacrificing a handful of minutes sifting through news on Twitter is a small price to pay for an entire day spent in a more balanced, more content state of mind.

Part of my challenge is to note one thing I’ve found beautiful throughout the day at the end of my daily journal entry. Here are a few things I’ve jotted down:

January 11th:

Today I discovered la Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève. It is the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen. I worked there for three hours, all the while marveling at the great, black arches that support the ceiling and the yellowed, antique books that cover the walls. I got myself a library card, and I will be spending a lot of time there.

January 14th:

Paris in the snow is beautiful. The only reason I knew it was snow was because the flakes, each so small they looked like drops of mist, drifted down to the earth like feathers instead of plummeting to the sky like rain. Within an hour the snowflakes had grown and looked as they should when dancing through the crisp Paris air.

January 17th:

The pond in front of the Sénat is frozen except for in the center where the water is splashing down from the fountain and a small cut-out where garden-goers are feeding bread to the ducks. The sun, slowly setting, reflects off the shards of ice, making them glint like glass.

The grass is bright golden green in the sun. A single shadow, cast by a statue of a young boy, extends across the circular lawn like an hour hand on a clock.

Seagulls dive into the fountain and bob through the air. One of them has caught a piece of ribbon and is trailing it behind him as he soars across the periwinkle sky. The ribbon twinkles like tinsel and I want to fly like a kite.

This is beautiful.

Reliving the first week of my Savannah Smiles challenge through my journal entires has reaffirmed my desire to further integrate these new patterns, most importantly writing, into my every day. Writing is one of my greatest pleasures, and doing it consistently liberates and enriches my imagination.

I want to write everyday. Now I just need the discipline and self-awareness to ensure that I can find the time to do so. But if I’ve learned anything these past couple of months, I’ve learned that I always have the time. What I lack is the will.

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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Introducing the 40 Day Savannah Smiles Challenge (!!!)

Salut tout le monde! A couple of days ago, I told you in my most recent letter from Paris that these past five-ish months have eroded my optimism. I said my smile had faded, and with it my once ever-positive spirit. Well, after reading lots of motivating articles and blogs (which just sort of found their way onto my screen, really. Ask and you shall receive!) and getting lots of much appreciated encouragement from you wonderful folks, I’ve found the inspiration to take my happiness into my own hands and get my smile back. As a dear friend told me after reading my letter, “Much like good food, happiness is something we have to make for ourselves, not seek in the ready-made aisle.”

This brings me to the….

challenge!

(!!!)

(^^^that means I’m excited)

I am ready to see Paris in a new way and make this a positive experience, one I will look back on with joy.

As another darling friend of mine told me, sometimes we create a pattern of negativity. Gloominess creeps into our lives like bad habits, and we learn to expect it, just as I expect the sky to be grey when I wake each morning.

To reverse this pattern of negativity, I’m going to create a routine that invites beauty, creativity and optimism into my life by engaging in activities that make me happy. For 40 days, I am going follow this plan, and hopefully, by February 19th, I will have a consistent routine to follow, one that will make me smile and light up my life (queue Debby Boone).

Here’s the plan:

I will start each day with: Three sun salutations and a poem.

I will end each day with: Three moon salutations and a journal entry.

To close my entry, I will write: 

  • one thing I found beautiful that day,
  • one thing I am grateful for and
  • one thing I am looking forward to.

And that’s it! Start simple. Start small. And big things will follow.

I will be sure to blog more regularly to give you updates on the beautiful things I’m finding in this Paris life, what I’m reading and how this is improving my optimism. If you want to follow along on a more day to day basis, join Untethered as a Cloud on Facebook!

Want to bring more positivity into your life?

Join me! 

Here’s what to do: 

  1. Take a few minutes to think about the positive things you enjoy that you want to incorporate into your daily life. For me this is yoga, poetry and journaling. 
  2. Once you’ve identified a few of these activities, think of one simple way to integrate each one into your everyday routine. Do you like reading? Try reading a chapter a day. Want to get better at photography? Try taking one photo each day. It’s the little things!
  3. Make a plan and write it down. Leave a comment below and tell me what you’re going to do each day to bring a little more positivity to your life. Making a declaration is the first step to realizing your goal, and I would be honored if you joined me. Can’t wait to see your own challenges!

Keep the smiles coming,

Savannah

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A holiday gram from me to you!

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Just a little more than a year ago, my old roommate, Abby the incredible, and I shared our rendition of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” with you and the interwebs. Well, this year Abby is off galavanting through the Southern Hemisphere in a bikini while I am freezing my butt off in Paris. Typical. Still, even though I’m only one half of our dynamic duo, I decided to record a song for you all anyway! Voilà, my favorite song of the season, “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin:

Like it? You can listen to it on Soundcloud, too:

What’s your favorite song of the holiday season? Leave a comment a let me know—I need new ideas for next year! 

Enjoy the music, and may the holidays bring you warmth, love and happiness!

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

Bloglovin’//Twitter//Facebook

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