Holy Night

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Last June I celebrated my 59th birthday and, as I began my 60th turn around the sun, I felt a need to be present to my life in ways that wouldn’t have made for interesting blog posts, or at least not in ways I wanted to explore in public.

I could say 60 is “just a number,” but I think it’s a number that represents a life shift and certainly signals a new decade is beginning, a kind of chronological beacon reminding me of life’s finitude.

I wanted to assess and set my course into “elderhood” with deliberate and authentic thought, rather than just allow my energy to drift into life’s next stage without purpose or clear intent.

I’ve made some decisions, set some demons running and made peace with others. I’ve gathered in joys, winnowed through relationships and sorted through possessions…I’m feeling lighter and clearer, but am mindful there are six months left to prepare for inaugurating my next decade, and whatever years I have left to “still become.” So, I continue to listen, sift, question, name and chart…

But it’s time for me to re-engage with sharing ideas and unveiling feelings and thoughts in my writing. I enjoy it and am ready to renew my practice.

The daily round has unfolded in darkness and light this past year, as it does every year; perhaps the darkness seems stronger and the blessings more precious because of the scrutiny I’ve brought to bear upon them, but I’m choosing to end the year on this, its holy and longest night, in gratitude and joy.

Despite the anger and violence that swirls through this old world and receives perhaps too much of our attention, I believe there so many, so very many reasons to be hopeful, to celebrate light and to share it, especially with the children inheriting what comes of our choices.

So on this Solstice Night leading to our great celebrations of Love’s rebirth, I choose to honor the light that has shone in my life and throughout the world this year, and pray that the New Year will be even brighter. How else can love set the world on fire but through our choices to share its light, moment by moment, day by day?

I’m grateful for those I love and with whom I celebrated some of my life’s milestones this past year.

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I’m grateful for friends who share their arts with the world and surprise me with gifts.

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I’m grateful for companions who share my days and illuminate even the smallest moments with their spirits.

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I’m grateful for my home and the gardens we’ve tended and the harvests we’ve enjoyed.

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I’m grateful for the wild things who bless my life and teach me deep lessons about presence, coexistence, conservation and compassion.

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I’m grateful for former students who check in and let me know how hard they’re working to tend their many gifts and keep the light shining.

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I’m grateful for the many, many people I know or know about, who share their gifts, their energy, their arts, and their wealth with others, who speak truth to the cruel, the wasteful, the fearful, and the angry and so diminish their power.

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I’m grateful for the children with whom I’m able to spend my days. They keep me young in spirit, creative, joyful, and ever hopeful.

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And I am most grateful for a partner determined to be as honest and intentional on his path as he is in supporting my own journey. I’m especially grateful for the laughter we co-create.

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May we light the fires of joy around us in the coming year; may we love wildly and laugh often; may we be quick to forgive, and to feed upon hope.

And may we be kind.

Blessings upon your gatherings, your partings, your celebrations, your prayers, and the creative use of your energy. And may your New Year be light-filled, delightful and joyful.

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Gliding Into Green Time

DSCF7654We’ve come (finally!) to the time of year when all the gardens, in a brilliance of greens and tender spring blossoms, flash back only beauty and promise. No pests, no droughts nor floods, no diseases have yet appeared to divert our belief that this will be the best summer ever for a perfection of blooms and abundance.

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DSCF7743Sweet friends have returned to Full Moon Cottage, annual visitors who bless our days and inaugurate a new season of life as the year rolls round her journey.

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DSCF7055There is no better time to celebrate life, is there? Last week, my colleagues came to Full Moon Cottage to toast the end of another school year, and my husband’s staff will be here next week to do the same. It’s grand to have guests, and motivating as well. Nothing like scheduled company to get us out to re-design, weed, plant, thin, and clean the gardens!

DSCF7666In July, family and friends will come to help us celebrate our wedding anniversary, so we’re looking at projects indoors and out, that may or may not come to fruition, given the time and money necessary to accomplish them. I’m an inveterate list-maker and recovering perfectionist. I’ve noticed age has helped me better—and sooner—identify the borders between desire and reality. How good it can feel to welcome the loosening, letting go, and blessed release of expectations to allow what will happen to happen. I don’t always manage this with grace, but I can say I’m better than I used to be. I can even manage a “whatever,” once in a while, and mean it. At least some of the time, I’m able to suspend my definition of perfection and see what’s already perfectly perfect.

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DSCF7712More importantly, we’re excited to be taking time to gather with people we love. When you reflect on parties and festivities you’ve attended, what do you recall in their afterglow? Not the hours of work and attention to detail that went into planning and organizing them, but the time spent sharing, listening, laughing, relaxing, affirming love and being affirmed as a valuable and integral part of other lives.

Henry Memorial 7It’s such a lovely time of year to recognize, toast, and encourage creation and recreation. Two years ago, we suffered through a devastating drought, and its effects continue to unfold. Our maples let loose an impossible number of seeds last autumn, in part a response to the prior year’s drought. A flurry of rebellious possibility rained down to establish life before drought could again assail the right to regenerate that is claimed by every living thing.

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DSCF7327The behaviors and choices of humans and their leaders so often deny Nature this right. In spring, her resounding Yes-always-yes-to-life, and the reminder she will likely outlast our stupidity and short-sightedness is both illuminating and humbling.

DSCF7612And worth celebrating, as we glide into another summer and its green possibilities for creativity, for gathering, for affirming life, for knowing when to allow what will happen to happen, and for the gift of entering it with gratitude, knowing too, that the impulse to regenerate never dies.

DSCF7063May you be blessed with long, happy days of recreation and the company of loved ones to share them.

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Entertaining Angels

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  ~ Hebrews 13:2; KJV

DSCF5803Winter lingered. Just when we thought it had taken its last breath, it gasped and continued to test our hospitality.

DSCF5765But for well over a week now, despite chilly nights, the days have been warmer, or rainy, and coaxed out the greens this late spring offers up as gift to eyes surprised by anything other than black, white, and gray.

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DSCF6145Spring’s winged and 4-legged angels, arriving with all their usual and new messages regarding reasons to hope and deepen our love for the earth and each other, have been sailing, trotting, hopping, or crawling up and down the river bank. Choirs of blackbirds and spring peepers, with guest soloists—grosbeaks, robins, sand pipers, woodpeckers, ducks, geese, pelicans, warblers, finches, and cardinals—alert us to miracles daily and hourly. Today, my first sightings of a Baltimore Oriole and Rose-breasted Grosbeak set my heart dancing. The silence and solitude of winter are definitely over; whatever dreams and seeds were planted in the dark have been called forth most dramatically this spring. It took a while for the stone to be rolled away, but the light is now shining like a drama queen. “Grow!” it seems to command.

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DSCF6820We emerged, tentatively and cautiously, peeking out from under winter’s blanket like the proverbial groundhog, and then began to meet, socialize, fill in the calendar, haul out the garden tools and dig into life with the vigor only pasty-white winter people can summon when spring returns in the fullness of her resurrection power.

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DSCF6612Our pups, Riley and Clancy, who will celebrate 13 years of being next week, had a dicey winter. Age-related health encounters gave us some sad and frightening moments, which time and our saintly veterinarian helped us through, gently. We’ve all made adjustments and adapted. We feared their loss (knowing it will come, but please, not yet, not now) and are therefore utterly grateful they’re still here and again able to amble down the trail with us. Their kennels have moved upstairs; our walks are shorter; their schedule is a bit more closely monitored; at night we protect each other; and—if possible—we celebrate our funky family even more than ever. I guess my years tending dying parents and elderly patients have readied me for this, as well. If so, Full Moon Cottage will be the best damn nursing home for elderly 4-leggeds we can imagine.

DSCF6332One evening we had company visiting and the night became so merry and so filled with heady conversation and children and music that our five-year-old guest crawled into his mother’s arms and softly cried. His mother held him and asked about his tears. “I feel so happy,” he said. So much joy, some needed to spill out a bit, I suppose, to re-balance his mighty little spirit.

I know exactly how he felt.

On Earth Day, my students and I cleaned up the school grounds, washed bits of the refuse we collected and then made art…their sweet hearts and lively spirits feed me, daily. I’ve come to a time in my life where most teachers arrive, if they’re lucky and as blessed as I’ve been: we know that teacher and student are the same thing.

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DSCF5817As are life and death.

 I’m trying to gauge my wealth differently than financial advisers might counsel: How engaged with life, how open to its invitations have I been this day? To what degree have I given and received as I’ve circled through the daily round? How often did I pause and connect with all the angels and their messages streaming towards and through me? How freely did I share those messages with others?

DSCF6708In my life, angels, or messengers who remind me, “This is it! Now! It’s all holy!” have never been pretty men with wings, though some of my angels have been men, and many of my guides have had wings…Only look and listen, they’re everywhere: winged, legged, fluttering, croaking, singing, blooming, dying, laughing or weeping. See! These unique and sacred collections of particles gathering and forming, dissolving and reforming: Be moved to dance, to hobble, to wheeze, to weep with joy by all the ways Love calls you out, every moment, into resurrection and new creation.

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Clancy questions whether he must entertain his sibling cats as angels, especially if they appropriate his kennel.

Clancy questions whether he must entertain his sibling cats as angels, especially if they appropriate his kennel.

 

Winter Spirituality: To See What Is Before Us

DSCF5119Sometimes I wonder if the constant complaints about winter—the cold, the snow, the darkness, the inconvenience—are a form of resistance to winter’s spiritual invitations. They’re challenging; they’re scary, they’re brutal in their honesty. 

DSCF4925They’re so worth engagement.

DSCF4626I’ve come to love the austere revelations winter offers, as I’ve come to recognize the wisdom of loving what I resist, opening to relationship with perceived obstacles, problems, roadblocks and impediments. Limiting my journey to summer’s merry, easy road limits my journey.

DSCF4622In summer, my vision is attracted by everything at once, overwhelmed by the impression of colors, mingled patterns and textures. A summer spirituality allows my mind to perpetually skip from pleasure to pleasure, one sensuous delight and self-affirming thought after another. But, as the season of winter allows me to focus on the singular beauty and unique mystery of the particular and specific, entering a winter spirituality allows me to be with my darkness and find that its augmentation to my spirit, if initially frightening, is eventually healing. Shadow and light are needed for the picture to be full and the spirit to be whole.

DSCF4827I appreciate the generous cloaks winter creates to isolate color and form. I can photograph one tree, one bird, one sunrise, over and over, and always see something new. In winter, it seems the world tells me who it is at its core and asks me if I can respond with my own true name. “Who are you?” asks winter, over and over, paring away, in loving patience, all the usual answers that satisfy such a question in polite, superficial society.

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DSCF4677Winter spirituality helps me meditate more and more deeply on the gift and uniqueness of each part of myself and my life, each partner with whom I dance, each question with which I struggle.

Long years, a lifetime, of encrusting these relationships with projections and desires and hopes and discharged emotions and learned reactions and one-sided memories, can be stilled by winter’s gift of silence and long hours to re-visit and re-vision, The external shudders away, baring what is real, teaching me again that meaning is fluid but essence eternal.

DSCF4817The local meteorologists call this the “coldest winter” in 35 years, and people complain, some unceasingly, about the hardships of enduring it. But I’ve learned to love winter as I love my shadow. They are beautiful; they bring wisdom; they lead me to rare and vital presence. And they are crucial to the springtime’s arrival; crucial, as in “cross,” as in the bloom of synthesis bursting from the thesis-antithesis of winter’s black and white…

DSCF4962I love winter and the spirituality she engenders for helping me to see, even a little more clearly, the truth before—and within—me. By uncluttering all the other seasons’ competing imagery, I can eliminate the chaos of color and form surrounding the pure beauty of a solitary squirrel, by muting all the rival noise muffling one blue jay’s cry, I can hear its once-in-a-lifetime once-ness, by stilling all my swirling mental and spiritual dissonance, I’m guided to focus solely on where I am in relationship to the Holy and all her streaming invitations. 

DSCF5111Spirit speaks uniquely in all of life’s seasons, in all of life, every moment; disregard this, and we miss vital communication, like tuning out another’s conversation. Only listen, says the Spirit, in winter’s guise; listen, and be led to silence.

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DSCF5084And when I can listen more deeply, winter is the one who whispers to my heart those essential truths that keep it beating: I am loved and lover, created and creator, co-conspirator (helpmate of Spirit) in fashioning these sewn-together moments called my life.

Peeling away the layers of projected need, repeated story, and entrained patterns of response, winter teaches me to see what is before me. To see what is. 

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DSCF5121I am still becoming.

 

Counter Posture

DSCF448640 years of yoga practice have yielded gifts I never expected when I started down the path, much, I suppose, like any long-term relationship one consents to pursue will continue to surprise the heart and spirit if attention is paid and the relationship is bound more by love and flexibility than a rigid repetition of steps learned long ago and in all the years since rarely or never opened to inspiration.

DSCF4550Consider, for example, the wisdom and elegance of counter-posturing, balancing in-breath and out-breath, uniting a backbend with a forward bend, marrying a reaching with a contraction. The unfolding understanding of a counter-posture’s gifts has broadened my ability to remain increasingly present and mindful to my life and its core of mystery, to its blessing and suffering, and to its continual flow of dying and rebirth. Life, at its essence, is an unending exercise in counter-posturing. Over and over, life asks that we disintegrate and reintegrate, from our birth, through the breaths enclosing each succeeding moment until our death. If we can enter our life mindfully, co-creating equanimity and balance, how much lovelier our experience of its gifts can be.

DSCF4531Counter-posturing is inherent to the flow of yoga, as it is to the philosophies and theologies we recognize as our guiding wisdoms. For example, it forms the holistic essence symbolized by the yin and yang’s embrace of both the empirical and transcendent. It is expressed beautifully in the Hebrew Ecclesiastes verses that tell us everything must have its season. It pulses at the heart of every line forming the beautiful Prayer of St. Francis.

It is revealed throughout nature’s perfect balance, offering the rounded whole of existence to guide our spirits towards their own rounded fulfillment: Summer’s outward energy and exuberant volume, winter’s inner withdrawal and soundless stillness, the expansion and retraction of spring and autumn. Every force has its equal and opposite force that, if embraced, creates a perfect marriage of balance.

DSCF4544The universe conspires to teach us the wisdom of counter-posturing, to help us choose paths, practices, and actions that keep us balanced and centered, which is to say authentically healthy and whole. When life is flowing easily, these practices may heighten its joy. When life is overcome by suffering, the ability to counter-posture becomes as necessary to our spiritual survival as oxygen is to our body.

Our first breath is an in-breath; our final an exhalation. Whatever we choose between these, whatever existence offers, life originates and concludes in perfect balance. Our choice to counter-posture—or not—all those moments between our human beginning and end determines the degree of elegance, the trajectory of growth, the depth of meaning, and the awareness of the Sacred that infuses our life. 

DSCF4513My beloved brother-in-law died last week.

Days were circumscribed by his rapid decline in health, an accelerated rhythm of swirled energy and emotions, rising hopes and dashed hopes, long vigils and sleepless nights, the gathering and parting of family, the brutal lack of equanimity often offered by the hospital ICU, the sense of everything heightened and held out of time, and moments when reality screamed with unrelenting heart-slamming truths, grounding us in medical minutiae and the process of dying.

By training and inclination, the camera of my perception continually moved in and out, assessing the degree of shock and anxiety within and without each participant, and, of course, myself. When the life of one we love is so suddenly compromised, our emotions, bodies, and spirits are thrown out of coherence. Numbed engagement is often the best that can be managed and also serves to protect us, and so we offer automatic responses that cushion our completely exposed vulnerability from jarring contact with more than this moment, and now this one. 

S0044332If we can listen deeply during such times of spiritual, emotional, and physical trauma, some inner knowing will tell us that our spirits are trying to catch up with us, and if we can hang on, and intuitively counter-posture each moment’s invitations and assaults, we will again find our way home to our center. Until then, we travel with sails tossed by raw emotions, and if we are blessed, love is the one we allow to carry us through to journey’s end.

Years of accompanying others and their families through such experiences have taught me to seek, support, and encourage the counter-postures that will renew balance for all involved in the drama of dying and loss. As a midwife to the dying, I have witnessed myriad responses to the invitations this final journey offers to the one who is dying and to those who accompany him or her. I have felt and considered them all myself when I have lost someone I loved, as I did last week. Every new wave that crashes against us can either be met with love or rejected and futilely battled in anger, fear, anxiety, and despair. 

DSCF4206Here is how it might happen when we surrender to the experience and meet it with intentional equanimity: We can recognize the horror of our individual and collective journey and choose to translate it into sorrow by meeting it with love. We can counter-posture our howling pain by acknowledging that mystery and grace are also our companions. We can embrace our fellow-passengers on this journey of stunning transformation, and through the energy of our words and silence, our actions and stillness, our in-breaths and out-breaths, comfort our own and others’ hearts, subdue the storm, and steady our spirits. We can focus our energy and gratitude upon the one who is departing, on his comfort, his peace, his need to know we will be alright, and that our love will go with him.

These are some of the choices we can make to counter-posture the energy created by such profound storms in our lives, and so guide our spirits back into a substantial presence where they can eventually rest in weary peace.

My brother-in-law was blessed, as he was blessing. His wife and children never once let themselves be unmoored by the ferocity and velocity of invitations to let go into fear, anger, or despair. They embraced each other and all who joined their circle, shining light on their beloved and holding him in love through his final exhalation. They intuited elegant counter-posturing and preserved the fullness and wholeness of this loss and every moment of gratitude and community it offered.

Hallowed life, hallowed death: oh, such gifts we can offer ourselves and others if we choose intentional equanimity and balance.

DSCF4418And as we enter our grief, I am consoled by the beauty of our gatherings to be peacefully present to the death of our beloved one, to his burial and commitment to Love’s turning circle. I’m heartened, too, by the sense that together and alone we’ll dance with our grief, counter-posturing sadness with joy, weariness with rest, sharing with conserving energy, breathing in with breathing out, deepening our recognition and understanding of all the ways our loved one’s death opens his life to our sustenance.

May we continue to honor this great loss and use this great love to create sacred balance in our lives and holy equanimity in the lives of those we love and meet. May we counter the world’s brokenness with our loved one’s example of creativity; may we help heal the world’s hatred with his lessons of love, may we counter the world’s joylessness with his model of enthusiasm, and the world’s sadness with his encompassing delight. May we always hear the invitations to discover and use our gifts, as he did, to bless the world and to assure the Earth, over and over, that she is precious, loved, and worth saving, in all her infinite variety, and work to make it so.

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Energetic Legacies

DSCF4030If the eye of the heart is open, in each atom there will be one hundred secrets.  ~ Attar

We’ve had a lovely holiday this year, slow, together, and merry…a welcome sabbath. It began in deep frost and snowstorms, but mellowed, offering warmer days to snowshoe in companionship with the 4-leggeds. 

DSCF3881We hiked up the road to Aztalan State Park, a geography that to me always feels suffused with the spirits of the ancient people who inhabited this region. Snow-shoeing around the perimeter and then entering the vast spaces where the Woodland people and Mississippians lived brings me to stillness and contemplation.

DSCF3891The views are stunning and the quiet allows my imagination to see these ancient people planting, harvesting, gathering together for rituals…over there, two friends stand together, sharing their stories and village gossip, watching their children run and play. Individuals, families, a society, all the dreams and acts played out upon this stage so long ago seem to be present here still.

DSCF3853The essence of places, how they become saturated with the joys and sorrows that have been lived within their confines, have always attracted me. I’ve entered churches, homes, museums, hospitals, and battlegrounds where I’ve felt powerful energies washing over and through me. Specific emotions are often attached and sometimes jumbled. It doesn’t have to be an “obvious” place of personal or historical importance; I’ve been stopped in my tracks walking a forest path or an otherwise nondescript city block. Something happened here; what is it? Past and present both unfolding and overlapping: something or many things happened here, the energy of it/them is still moving here and now.

DSCF3342It’s taken a lifetime to master the effects of sensing and entering this residual energy: to name it, recognize its power, and stand peacefully within it, holding my place with humility, awareness, appreciation, and an understanding of how to maintain the integrity of my own energy while honoring the stories lived out here, perhaps unfolding still.

DSCF3945It seems to me that where our lives are lived and experienced vividly, and where intense, or just authentic emotions are named and shared, we are more likely to imprint the space with “memories” of these feelings. Perhaps that’s why so many modern office buildings and shopping malls fail to make an impression altogether; the people moving through these spaces are often numb, hurried, and out of touch with their hearts and spirits. More driven than present.

DSCF3922Take more time; cover less ground, wrote Thomas Merton, and over and over, I chant his words and notice my breath, and look again at the world around me, sensing the energy that’s passed, or that lingers and shares the space with me. How does one live fully? Wholly? How do I bless the world around me? How do I alter the energy here or amend it? How can I heal it? Where have I damaged it, and can it be mended and made right?

DSCF3879Hallowed spaces continue to bless us; those places still in need of healing deserve our blessing in turn. And the places where we live and move and have our own being need gentle vigilance regarding the energy we’re creating right now.

DSCF3696We weave our being into the earth and lives with which we share space every day. Or not. Our choices and actions, the degree to which we participate in our lives and connect to others, the devotion we give to conscious awareness of our world and its balance, the gifts and gratitude we offer openly, and the ways we shut down, avoid, deny, and disconnect–these create an energetic legacy. Whether our name is recalled or not, our energy affects what others feel now and will feel in the future.

DSCF3940I wish you a new year of grace and gentle peace; of wisdom and merry-making; of holy surprises and opportunities to share your gifts; of living from a joyful center; of good health and plentiful art; of laughter and holy tears and all the rounded offerings of being human; of the deep knowing that you are held by Love; of finding yourself in places sacred, and made more so by your presence; of creating energy that feeds your spirit and those spirits you love and those spirits yet to come.

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Holy, Holy, Holy

DSCF3174Advent, despite all earnestness, is a time of refuge because it has received a message. Oh, if people know nothing about the message and the promises any more, if they only experience the four walls and the prison windows of their gray days, and no longer perceive the quiet footsteps of the announcing angels, if the angels’ murmured word does not simultaneously shake us to the depths and lift up our souls–then it is over for us. Then we are living wasted time, and we are dead, long before they do anything to us.  ~ Father Alfred Delp, Source: Advent of the Heart

DSCF3178Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb.  ~ Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B

DSCF2698Only when we tarry do we touch the holy. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, In Praise of Mortality, translated and edited by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

DSCF2758Being extravagantly generous is an enchanting way to become holy and Godlike, for God is awesomely extravagant — as is revealed by even a casual glance at creation. ~ Edward Hays

DSCF2555The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.  ~ Terry Tempest Williams, from Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer (anthology)

DSCF2948…We live in a world alive with holy moments. We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light.  ~ Kent Nerburn in Small Graces

DSCF3128Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. The garden door is always open to the holy. ~ May Sarton, Source: Gardening by Heart

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…All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds…

~ Source: “Welcome Morning” by Anne Sexton, Dancing With Joy edited by Roger Housden

DSCF3031To bless a thing is to remind ourselves that the very object is one of God’s gifts given to bring us to wholeness of life. Once we understand that, we also realize it is the way we respond to things that makes us holy. Then nothing is for nothing in our lives.  ~ Joan Chittister

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Let my small story
connect to your larger one.
May we breathe with one breath.
May we make the day holy together.
~ Nita Penfold, Pocket Prayers, collected by June Cotner

DSCF3113I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to get and to reach, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world. ~ Old Innuit Song

DSCF3172The world is a holy place. Venite adoremus. Come let us adore.  ~ Teilhard de Chardin

DSCF3131Ways to Miss the Hidden God

1. LIVE life at high speed. No exceptions. Run hard.

2. STAY scattered and distracted. The more clutter and activity, the better.

3. TAKE everything personally. Never evaluate. Agree.

4. USE blame liberally. It’s so invigorating. I wasn’t responsible, you were. Everything’s your fault.

5. DON’T laugh, especially at yourself.

6. STAY tied to your past. Elevate it to greatness.  Live remembering and longing. Or missing. Why do it halfway? Go for it.

7. USE the word ‘because.’ ‘I can’t change, because.’  Because is so little appreciated as a solvent for responsibility. Try using because. This will work.

8. NEVER question or think for yourself. Just keep moving and accepting. (Refer to #1 and #3.)

9. CONTINUE to think of God as invisible and distant. Surely not present in this room. At this moment. Not while I’m reading a book.

10. REINFORCE the belief that your life is going to happen soon. This is not it, not yet. But one day. Maybe when I finish reading.

 ~ from: Sacred Threshold: Crossing the Inner Barrier to a Deeper Love, by Paula D’Arcy

‘Tis the Season

DSCF2361Full Moon Cottage has been dressed for Christmas over the past week. Objects encrusted with memories have been scattered around the rooms, and spirits we love have been fully welcomed back into our midst, not just those of our parents, who are always with us, but all those characters and places that populated our childhood stories: great-aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers, janitors, cafeteria ladies, bus drivers, piano teachers and the neighborhood personalities who bordered the edges of our days. DSCF2145 DSCF2212DSCF2201I can see the Park and Market grocery, and the ice skating rink, where tinny Christmas music blared as we glided round and round. I remember how Santa rode through town on a shiny red fire engine, so loaded with lights that I never stopped to wonder at the absence of his sleigh and reindeer. I never stopped to question any of the incongruities and obvious fallacies offered to us during the Christmas season. Every year, we were happily willing to be drenched in magic and readily surrendered our doubt to exist wholly in a world of fantastical impossibilities. Because they were true, at the heart level, where children seem to more easily live and breathe and have their being. DSCF2161I had a happy childhood, and at no time of year am I more grateful than during the Christmas season, when the flood of memories, visions, and smells mix with the magic of nostalgia, sparkle of winter, and the natural tendency to gather in towards light and warmth. For a month or two, I revisit those times and places that created me and allow me to treasure the present with greater depth. DSCF2465I’ve always loved Lent and its invitations to whittle away and purge in preparation for spring’s rebirth, but the rituals and traditions of Advent cheer my heart. They seem to counter and balance the season’s darkening and chilling environment so tenderly. The cinnamon, chocolate, orange, and anise smells of seasonal baking, the glitter of ornaments, the soothing and jubilant sounds of Christmas music, and the focus on the excitement of anticipation and joy: what could be better? DSCF2475So many spiritual traditions seem to center on light and gift in winter; it’s encouraging (“heart-centered”) that many humans get it all perfectly right once a year, anyway. DSCF2442 DSCF2193I wish we could resist the urge to allow corporate marketers to dictate the meaning of this season to us and their attempts to drive people into greater frenzy and stress and spending, instead of slowing down, gathering in, cherishing each holy moment. The heavy burdens of pragmatic doubt regarding the magic of the world, the pain of self-judgments, and the accepted need to replace our innate value with things, things, and more things we must endlessly buy, may be set down; we did not need these rampant desires as children and certainly do not benefit from them as adults. DSCF2178Christmas helps us retrieve the gifts of childhood, if we listen. A friend posted on a social site that she’d enjoyed a four-hour lunch with an old friend: Just to read it made me hopeful and happy for both of them, but for all of us as well. I know they pushed back against demanding jobs and demanding lives to make way for this time together and yet did so, valuing friendship above tasks. So, for now, I abstain from the entreaties to constantly shop, and from what is called “news,” and instead rest in the Good News always coming, always here: we are made of Love, embraced by Love, and asked only to Love in return, until to Love we return and with Love we merge. And that is enough. And that is everything. DSCF2096May the deep peace of the season gift you with a warm heart, clear vision, and a community of family and friends–and four-leggeds–to see, hear, hold, and enjoy. We are called to be merry; let us do so, drenched in magic and readily surrendering our doubt. Love reminds us we already exist wholly in a world of fantastical impossibilities. Joyeux Noel! DSCF2191 DSCF2183

Thanks Be to Love

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The daily round has been crammed with life, guests, listening, and activity of late. How lovely it is to have a day open before me without a list or template circumscribing and defining its hours…just a blank page to fill as I am called…I think I’ll take the pups and my camera out to the trail and return home to make that cup of hot cocoa I’m always promising myself.

Tomorrow will be filled with preparations for our Thanksgiving weekend, and that, too, cheers my heart. There are few better feelings, for me, than the anticipation of joyful community with people and 4-leggeds I love.

And so, I raise my cup of cocoa and toast us all: May we be blessed with a peaceful and joyful celebration of all that inspires deep gratitude in our lives. May our patience and humor abound.

May we forgive ourselves of all those errors and lapses in love that arise from our humanity and so more generously forgive others theirs.

May we ease expectations and judgments of ourselves and others so as to better perceive the blessings waiting for us right now, right here, and may we be present to the lessons they have come to teach us about the ways we are infinitely loved.

May our willingness to isolate and name these gifts allow us to cherish them more deeply and share them more profoundly.

Dona nobis pacem.

Gratitude is something of which none of us can give too much. For on the smiles, the thanks we give, our little gestures of appreciation, our neighbors build their philosophy of life.  ~ A.J. Cronin

Gratitude is so close to the bone of life, pure and true, that it instantly stops the rational mind, and all its planning and plotting. That kind of letting go is fiercely threatening. I mean, where might such gratitude end?  ~ Regina Sara Ryan

Gratitude is the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos. When we offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, and reconnection.  ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight. ~ Joan Chittister

Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.  ~ Rabbi Harold Kushner

If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.  ~ Meister Eckhart

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.  ~ Denis Waitley

You have been given a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”  ~ William A. Ward

Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty. ~ Doris Day

Gratitude is twofold – love coming to visit us and love running out to greet a welcome guest.  ~ Henry Van Dyke

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November

DSCF1501 And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.  ~ Kurt Vonnegut (b. 11.11.22)

A long walk on a gray day in November can be a walk through heartbreak, through all the heartbreaks of your life, even those that haven’t happened but are yet to come.

Nostalgia, recollection, memories, loss: they all swirl like the leaves and slowly settle as peace returns and new patterns of connection and understanding rise. November’s invitation is to gently and deeply mine the gold of our lives. There is heartbreak, but so perfectly balanced by gratitude.

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DSCF1504I wouldn’t call my November walks depressing; instead, they’re healing, gift, and necessary. My unconscious provides the mental video; it flips the scrapbook pages of my life and decides where to pause; I only attend, watch, feel. Walk and watch and allow what rises to be honored.

DSCF1548Any walk, any time of year can provide such healing, but November’s backdrop of rust and brown and black and fading yellows, and everything vital slowing and dying back, and all the animals gathering, burrowing, or leaving: it all seems to gently remind us of our losses and our own mortality, and to invite our own time of clearing and harvesting. What to hold, what to release?

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DSCF1540Maybe it’s my Celtic ancestors’ love of wisdom and acceptance of sorrow and the ways I hear them calling to me in November, or the deep pleasure of sudden red and green wagons interrupting the monotonic browns and golds, or all of these and the veil of mystery clearly cloaking everything revealed, shimmering, as at no other time of year, but I’ve come to treasure the month and its pervasive atmosphere of spiritual retreat.

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DSCF1517And, then, of course, the great gift waits before me: the shining present and the peace to discern, like Vonnegut, how wide it is, how deep it is, and how much is mine to keep.

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Life Review

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The circling world has returned me to the time of thin places and the Sacred has certainly permeated my past month, or perhaps age and effort have finally brought me to the place where the numinous is more apparent and the liminal invitations—to see thresholds into deeper ways of being—are more accurately and peacefully encountered. Of course, there are days I’m blind as a bat to the light surrounding me, and as out of touch with my spirit as I’ve ever been, but they are less, and since presence, listening, deepening, gratitude, and forgiveness have been qualities I’ve valued over material gain, I’m happy to examine my life periodically and discover if those traits I’ve treasured and quests I’ve set as worthy are being integrated into my life.

DSCF0634Maybe it’s autumn. There is something about its particular colors and quality of light that makes me more pensive than other seasons. It seems always to begin with a low-level anxiety, probably ancient, and I catch myself worrying if I’ve “gathered” enough to last a winter…and then the questions about precisely “what” I need to store and so be sustained come calling at my heart’s door.

DSCF0987Life review is a spiritual practice too often saved for the end-of-life journey. At that time, it’s a guided journey through life’s highs and lows, regrets and blessings, gains and losses, named by the one who is dying and explored deeply in order to bring greater peace and closure to the dying process. Rituals help ease forgiveness and augment gratitude, or opportunities may be revealed to heal wounds carried as painful burdens over a lifetime. I loved traveling the life review journey with my patients when I worked as a hospice chaplain, but often people are too weak, confused, or unable to complete the practice as they approach dying, and its benefits are lost.

And so I highly recommend we engage with this practice long before we face our final breath. A daily examen, a monthly meditation, or at least an annual dedicated time for reviewing our dreams and life goals, and whether the choices we’ve made are in alignment with our named purpose or will lead to imbalance, can help us live more fully and in tune with Spirit. And after the assessing, and emptying, comes the time of deep listening: what messages does Spirit bring to us for our encouragement and possible redirection?

DSCF1233Retreats can also help with this process, and so can a monthly meeting with a spiritual director. A friend of mine is currently writing her life Manifesto, and others have created Mission Statements to guide their journey…these are not carved in stone and can always be altered, but they serve a purpose in making their authors aware and committed to remaining spiritually aligned and awake during their time on earth. What, finally, is our Credo, and are we true to it?

Certainly, autumn brings me round to look again at who I’ve become and how true I’ve been to my gifts and spirit. The pull of the ego to conform, to “win,” to be the center of attention, to be perceived as successful by all the false measurements the world offers rather than the self-assessment I know after all these years will reveal the honest answers I need and treasure is relentless, but worth resisting. And every year, it gives me joy to see the path I’m on, the place I am, is where I’ve always wanted to be. Not that I have all the things I’ve desired, or perfect relationships, or a life without pain and disappointment, but that what I have is precisely enough and fulfilling.

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DSCF1011So I give myself time to sit, to walk, to be alone and realign myself with those goals I hold dear. I note my success and forgive my errors, and surround myself with friends who treasure their own paths and tend their gifts. I recommit to offering back the best of what I have and look for ways to contribute to the world more of what I believe it needs to come into balance. I listen.

DSCF0776The worries triggered by the autumnal urge to gather and store ease as I relax into the awareness that my life is rich. The sky shines silver and the leaves glow, burnished bronze and gold, calling me forward into mystery. I embrace it, knowing my life invites my continued growth and unfolding.

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Island Vacation

DSCF0470My husband and I wanted a break. Together. After so many years together, there is little we want or need; instead, the best gift we can give each other is shared time, away from the rutted routines we walk each day. New views help to create new outlooks, and the shared imaginings we have for this slow life we’re co-creating can be stimulated and renewed by travel. The weather’s been warm and the fall color is blushing its way down the state, so we decided to take 4 days and head a bit north, to the state’s largest Cranberry Festival.

DSCF0310Wisconsin produces most of our country’s cranberries and festivals are held every autumn to celebrate the harvest. I’d read something about “1200 booths” participating at this festival, and thought this referred to artists and flea-market/antique vendors. I knew there was a cranberry-focused museum and bog tours, so it sounded like a perfect adventure.

 We drove up the night before the festival opened and met other festival-goers when we checked-in to our hotel. “Oh, we come every year; you’ll love it!” they assured us. We woke up early to head from our hotel to the little town, Warrens, where it’s held. This is what we saw:

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DSCF0394A tiny town crammed with thousands of people lugging carts around to booths that lined streets and sidewalks, and narrow, narrow “alleyways,” everywhere. Claustrophobic doesn’t begin to describe it, and the merchandise was largely made-in-China mass-produced schlock. Little art, no antiques. Disappointment…I could feel my anticipation swirling down and drowning in one of the numerous stomach-turning vats of frying fat preparing decidedly non-cranberry food.

It wasn’t a complete or epic fail: We appreciated a brief bus tour of some cranberry bogs and enjoyed the town’s museum, but then exited the noisy, packed town. Quickly.

DSCF032610:00 A.M. and three days left to our Cranberry Festival vacation. Hmmm. Luckily, my travel partner makes me laugh, easily and deeply, and did; all would be well.

Happily, this part of the state is rich in geological and environmental history. The almost 44,000-acre Necedah Wildlife Refuge, just a few miles from the over-crowded shopping spree of the cranberry festival, called to us.

DSCF0399When the “local” glaciers retreated almost 15,000 years ago, they left a vast, low-lying wetland, called the Great Swamp of Central Wisconsin. For centuries, Native Americans lived in this area, which they called “Necedah,” or “Yellow Waters.”

DSCF0420Then Europeans arrived, and their farming, which necessitated draining the marshes, cutting trees, and battling the wildfires which had long nurtured the prairies, eventually destroyed the natural landscape that had endured for thousands of years.

In 1939, President Roosevelt’s administration, through the Civilian Conservation Corps it established, reclaimed burned-out land, restored prairies, oak savannahs, and wetlands, and created the wildlife refuge. Among others, a restored whooping crane population is welcomed to its acreage each year.

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DSCF0437We hiked along raised planked trails in silence, feeling cleansed and at peace. A lovely breeze carried the calls of geese, herons, eagles, frogs, and songbirds through the air. It was hard to believe thousands of people preferred what the “festival” offered to what was available at the refuge, but there you go.

DSCF0401The next few days we explored nearby lakes, rivers, sandblows, and the bluffs, mesas, and buttes that are actually former islands in Glacial Lake Wisconsin. We hiked around state parks and climbed for hours, grateful for glorious weather and views.

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DSCF0486Sunday morning came too quickly, but we were able to ride into the sunrise and stop at Roche-a-Cri State Park to see the petroglyphs and pictographs of Native Americans, and those who came later. (Note the “A.V. Dean. N.Y. 1861” carving.) 300 steps up, and we had an “island view” that took our breaths away.

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DSCF0603For us, vacations are times to “be” together, center our spirits, listen to our feelings and hearts, create new dreams. We like adventures and surprises, and generally don’t over-plan, but the Cranberry Festival that became an island vacation was completely different from what we expected. A perfect gift.

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Autumn Heart

DSCF0181The turning, tilting earth has brought us around once again to my favorite time of year. The light is gorgeous and my spirit feels lightened in autumn as well. The world sparkles, amber and bedewed, as though newly dipped in honey and rolled in stars each morning.

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DSCF0262The 4-leggeds and I go for long walks and sniff out miracles along the trail. One day, we pause to watch the sunlight piercing through the trees, another day, it’s spider webs clinging to the bridge, or dew on long grasses, or butterflies flitting around the purple asters. The lush viridity of past months and particular summer companions are preparing to leave our environment. Life cycles are shifting and the world feels more fragile, and therefore precious, in autumn.

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One late afternoon, I watched as the garden glowed with sparks of gnats rising against the setting sun…autumn reminds me how magical and brief, how unique and delicate is a lifetime.

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The garden continues to yield, though she’s growing tired from the energy spent to do so; still, tomatoes are collected and stored away, as are the herbs, peppers, squash, onions and carrots. Soon, it will be time to tenderly turn the plants back into their earthen bed, an activity that, like every ending, sobers the heart and invites contemplation regarding the sacred balance between loss and gratitude, planting and harvesting, life and death.

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Like a squirrel, I tend to overstock the pantry and freezer this time of year, too, always ready for desserts that perfume our home with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla, or hearty soups, and wild rice stews. It’s time to bake yeast breads and savor the smell of wood fires and apples. Of all the year’s seasons, autumn most stimulates and satisfies sensuously, or so it seems to me. The air shivers with the pungency of damp decay spiced with wood-smoke, and the leaves color our world with scarlet, gold and orange. Like the chiming of cathedral bells, bird-call increasingly resounds. Geese, ducks, and cranes flock and honk, blackbirds chorus, and crows scold and complain throughout the day. Soon enough, winter’s icy astringency will erase and muffle, utterly. Now is the time to savor these bountiful smells, tastes, colors, and sounds.

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Halloween decorations are making their way around the living room and dining room. A Wiccan friend tells me that, rather than taking offense at our Halloween witch figures, she believes crones are a fitting symbol for the year’s decline; hopefully, this is a time for rendering the year’s wisdom as well. I’m creating rituals for this…to sit with the movements and invitations of the year thus far, those both pursued and rejected. Who am I now seems a fitting question for autumn meditation, before planting the seeds of Who do I wish to become for winter’s incubation.

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My husband is adjusting to the rhythm of the new school year and, before he returns home, I’m off to teach second graders in an after-school program. Ships passing, and then mooring back together for the 7 P.M. popcorn party that the puppies anticipate every evening.

These are ancient autumn rhythms for us, this rising to gather and store, and to continue crafting a life that matters, to enter the dance of diminishing light, and to notice everything precious and brief before the dark of night rushes in, colder and closer each evening.

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Now is the time to be burnished by autumn’s golden light and hallowed by the season’s holy mysteries, honoring the gifts offered between the green life of summer and the austerity of winter. A time for counting blessings and letting them go, for gathering in and handing out, for storing memories, sharing stories, and gentling onward sacred farewells.

Blessed be, say my Wiccan friends, merry meet and merry part…and grateful be your autumn heart.

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Blowing Hot and Cold

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Nothing is glummer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Than a cold in the summer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A summer cold                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Is to have and to hold.

  ~  Ogden Nash, Fahrenheit Gesundheit

 

It is ironic that on the hottest day of the year (September 10th!) I continue to harbor a nasty late-summer cold. We’re five weeks into another drought, and during the long, necessary hours of watering the gardens, it feels odd to be sneezing and taking breaks to greatly enrich the investments of Kleenex stockholders.

My voice sounds like a sheep crossed with a foghorn, and several bees and wasps seem to be lodged, circling and thrumming, in my head. It figures: a couple of weeks ago I smugly announced to Phillip how interesting it is that “I never get sick. Just never. It’s been years.”

Lesson learned.

Again.

It does seem, though, like the hours spent watering are also cooking the tenacious virus out of my system…More irony: What’s killing the garden is healing me.

It looked like we might avoid a drought this year. We enjoyed a temperate spring and bountiful summer, harvesting more asparagus, gooseberries, and cherries than ever.

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The gardens seemed to be recovering so well from last summer’s horrendous months of aridity. But August and September have set us back again. We’re grateful that several gallons of tomato sauce are already in the freezer, but the grass is dying back, the trees and wildlife are suffering, and there are more of both than we can care for, thoroughly.

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So I’ve begun to blow a bit cold on gardening, too. I’m willing to plant, weed, and tend my gardens for hours, and have, for 50 years, starting with a tiny flower patch my father and I prepared for my first garden. (Moss roses, bachelor buttons, zinnias and marigolds: A gardener is born.) But I have to admit that the past two summers have robbed me of the rewards previous years have afforded. I used to feel the joy of midwifing a nursery full of thriving greenery, blossoms, and food; now, I feel like a full-time hospice worker once again: Who might die today?

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The long hours that formerly yielded deep peace and contentment are leaving me feeling, well, forlorn and bereft. I miss the partnership of Mother Nature; we used to co-create so happily together, though I understand her abandonment after decades of maltreatment and abuse by beings who should know better.

Still, there’s a garden in the front yard that needs to be overhauled, and I can’t help but get a little excited about planning its design…all the plants could be drought-resistant, and irrigated wisely.

Maybe I need to keep working at it, showing Mother Nature my intent here is earnest and my commitment faithful; maybe that’s the only way both of us will heal and find each other again. Isn’t true love always renewed in a garden?

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Ah-choooo!

Now, where are those garden-design books?

(See Ogden Nash’s entire whole poem here.)

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A Lot Of Slow

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A Lazy Thought

There go the grownups
To the office,
To the store.
Subway rush,
Traffic crush;
Hurry, scurry,
Worry, flurry.

No wonder
Grownups
Don’t grow up
Any more.
It takes a lot
Of slow
To grow.                                                                                                                                                       

~ Eve Merriam

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All this hurrying soon will be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.  ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, In Praise of Mortality, translated and edited by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

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Where are you hurrying to?
you will see
the same moon tonight
wherever you go!    ~ Izumi Shikibu

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DSCF9223Laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. Waking up to the first snow. Being in bed with somebody you love. Whether you thank God for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to business as usual, it may lose you the ball game. If you throw your arms around such a moment and hug it like crazy, it may just save your soul.   ~ Frederick Buechner

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I get so preoccupied with the details and pressure of my schedule, with the hurry and worry of life, that I miss the song of goodness which is waiting to be sung through me. Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.

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We are naturally reverent beings, but much of our natural reverence has been torn away from us because we have been born into a world that hurries. There is no time to be reverent with the earth or with each other. We are all hurrying into progress. And for all our hurrying we lose sight of our true nature a little more each day.  ~ Macrina Wiederkehr, Source: Radical Grace, the Center for Action and Contemplation

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Hurry, hurry has no blessing.   ~ Swahili Proverb

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dancing lessons

 

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In the garden,

old steps forgotten

can be relearned,

a pause in your own dance

sometimes necessary

to witness and honor again

those lovers and opposites,

ironically, flawlessly

meant to be matched,

who meet and feed,

each upon the sweetness

of the other

in open abundance and joy.

Birds, Bees, Butterflies, Tadpoles, Green Heron 040Revolving, one to the next,

a wheeling reel of life—

giver and receiver,

now the flower,

now the bee,

then the flower’s seed

and bird.

 

Bow, drink, feed, love.

Turn.

Become food.

Or god; perhaps they are the same.

Birds, Bees, Butterflies, Tadpoles, Green Heron 068Sacred intimacies

silently studied

by the lover in you who,

seeing Love’s circular dance,

loves the world better…

End of July 061 and so you turn to the other

to offer

then turn again,

to receive

sweetness and sustenance.

End of July 030Old steps relearned,

the dance goes on.

Bow, drink, feed, love.

Turn.

Become food.

Or god; perhaps they are the same.

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Ordinary Time

July Full Moon 027The great lesson from the true mystic…is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends and family, in one’s backyard.  ~ Abraham Maslow

Our summer has blessed us with a holy balance that we found it very difficult to maintain last year. The difference in our energy is profound, substantial, and named as gift.

July Full Moon 042Hot and muggy weather has been moderated by temperate; rainfall has been received and followed by aridity; days and evenings filled with friends and activities have altered with times of silence and stillness. No great or monumental changes have occurred in our lives, but transformations have, of course, been ongoing, and we acknowledge that the anchors we use to steady and focus our attention can at any moment be lifted to allow for sailing with those currents always carrying us home, beyond one now to the next.

Gardens, Visit from RE and Paul 038It is an ordinary time of picnics and gardening, of art fairs and meeting with friends, of sitting with a good book and enjoying our 4-legged companions, of celebrating the exquisite good fortune of being alive and finding each other and being well together in spite of our impediments, frailties, and the dreams we’ve let loose like so many colored balloons floating away through summer-blue skies. All is well within the boundaries of what, actually, is.

Gardens, Visit from RE and Paul 036Above all, we at Full Moon Cottage have felt a rare quality of grace this summer and the heart’s response is gratitude.

It is lovely to arrive at a place and time that offer both presence and reflection, hunger and satiety, desire and its fulfillment, all in an even flow of moderation. And although we know that life’s fierce tempests will once again tumble our minds ahead of our steps, that grief and regret will make their entrances and speak their lines through our hearts, and that this soothing rhythm may suddenly jangle into jerky syncopation, perhaps some sense of this deep peace will continue to whisper its blessing and steady our spirits when it feels as though the ordinary has departed and our hope seems to hang again on the promise that all shall be well.

spring joy 2009 091I hope we’ll retreat to this time and place, so as to recall we’re always circling the still point, and our proximity to peace is driven more by our receptivity to the miracles shining through the mundane and the willingness to discover the poetry hidden in the prosaic than by the perceived drama of external events and characters. I believe we’ll again be blessed to rest in the center if we can recognize the sacred balance offered by the ordinary.

July Full Moon 002We need to find ways to lift the moments of our daily lives—to celebrate and consecrate the ordinary, to allow the light of spiritual awareness to illuminate our days. For though we may not live a holy life, we live in a world alive with holy moments. We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light.  ~ Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

The Smallest Special Details

gardens 105A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought; I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail. ~ Herman Hess

This week the daily round has circled through a sensuous loveliness, an embrace of the colors, patterns, sounds, and fragrances of summertime vivid in both their familiarity and uniqueness. Along the trail, the milkweeds’ heady perfume makes the pups and me dizzy on our walks, and it mingles so perfectly with the birdsong, the buzz of bees and hummingbird, the sunlight dancing across the water, and the explosions of Matisse colors in the gardens that we return home silent and rather drunk on the surfeit of incoming stimuli. Too much of a muchness makes us swoon.

gardens 078A few years ago, Phillip added a small deck off the end of the house that confines my writing desk. This deck borders the owls’ white pine woods and overlooks the back gardens and river, but gently so, as it’s screened by an adolescent maple tree. The houseplants live there joyfully from May until we feel the breath of first frost.

gardens 058The other decks dazzle visitors with the sun-fired summer world in all her splendor; this little deck invites me into a hushing stillness, and has become my favorite summer place to meditate, read, encounter the Sacred, and observe the miraculous in the “smallest special details,” those slices of life that offer mystery and delight in small and balanced measure, precious in their detailed minutiae.

gardens 035Here, my senses are bathed but not drowned, and insights arrive peacefully, small blossoms that open slowly, tiny treasures that I can unwrap in my own time: The seeds of just one tree; the shimmering petals of one begonia, a small ant carrying his prey, a hummingbird quenching her thirst…each detail intricate and unique with the Eternal Mother’s artistry and love; each thing revealing its spark and reminding me that all life is eternal, precious, and unique.

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Heat Wave

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 028It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility.  ~ Yogi Berra

Almost two weeks of hellishly high temperatures, thunderstorms, and the resulting steamy atmosphere have made the world around Full Moon Cottage a sauna. A Finnish winter in reverse. We dash outside to sear our lungs and open every pore, then run back inside to chill ourselves silly.

Nonetheless, despite sketchy weeding and deadheading missions conducted in haste while smothered in mosquito repellant, I seem to have kept the gardens happy. And at dusk, cloaked in conditioned air and holding glasses of chilled wine, we’ve enjoyed the seasonal spectacle of fireflies flitting about, seeking romance and union.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 042Every morning, I refill the birdbaths with fresh cold water, check the many feeders, and make sure all of our summer guests are tended. A kind friend sent me a wren house her husband built and we now have house wrens serenading us with their aggressively happy chirping.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 011Nights have been less pastorally soothing. Thunder and lightning have rumbled and crackled through most of the last week’s dreamtime. I can tell by the dark circles under our eyes that both of us need a long, quiet night. It looks like that may happen sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, when a dry, temperate spell is forecast.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 006No complaints. The rain has been welcome and the high river allows for canoe rides to continue. Other parts of our state have been flooded, and for many farmers, hopes pinned to a planting season and eventual harvest have vanished. Last year these were lost to drought and this year to flooding, a vivid reminder that we are still tethered to our climate and its health for our sustenance.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 001Well, almost no complaints.

The chiggers that plagued my gardening for several summers disappeared completely during last summer’s drought, I expect from lack of food and moisture. I am made, utterly, of smells and tastes most delicious to mites; they’d completely ignore Phillip if he were lying nude in the garden and I stood beside him covered in armor. They’d head straight for the chinks in my metal and pierce my flesh with their nasty stylostomes, injecting enzymes that melt my cell structure into chigger malts. I’d hoped that between the drought and our lovely cold winter they’d disappeared for good, but discovered this morning that they’ve not only survived but are thriving…the confident human gardener, smug in her knowledge of where to dig and what to plant and how to improve the landscape, bustles outside to rearrange and redesign the earth surrounding her home and returns covered in itchy red welts, brought low by a voracious and nearly invisible mite.

Yogi Berra was right: It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility!

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Changing Course

Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 136Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.  ~ Henry James

This month, I’ve been “working ahead,” so I won’t fall too far behind as I heal from a foot surgery that had been scheduled for this Friday. But, after a long talk with the surgeon this morning, I decided against the surgery, as it seems the procedure he now feels would be best would also be more complicated than we first thought. Since it is not-yet-necessary, I’ll continue to deal with the relative discomfort, for now. 

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I feel a bit like a ship that just missed an iceberg; all the engines have been thrown into reverse and I’m about to start forward again, but my heart is saying, “Wait.” My mind and spirit haven’t caught up yet. All the tasks I’d normally tackle are already finished, and all the speculations and decisions I’d cast forward around the weeks to come have suddenly vanished. Part of me was almost looking forward to lying on the couch with a raised foot, watching all the episodes of Game of Thrones and being cared for by my darling husband. But I also feel relieved that the riskier and more complex surgery can be put off, for now.

And now I can take time to smell the flowers, change my course from being so future-oriented to entering the present more fully, as I realize (again…sigh) I should have been doing all along.

Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 003 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 041 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 085 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 106 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 165 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 171I’ve also thought about all the people facing surgeries they can’t postpone; by contrast, my need to undo plans and schedules that my over-organized mind has arranged seems insignificant. I’m grateful for the time I’ve been given to wait and discern my course, and hope for less invasive procedures to be created.

So, I’m heading out on my bike to relax and let go of all the anxiety and calculations, the planning and imagining, the endless detritus collected when the calendar boxes are filled, circled and underlined…back to the blank pages and the healing openness of a glorious summer afternoon.

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Peace to all those facing diagnoses and surgeries that can’t be removed from the calendar; may the sleepy green and fragrant peace of a summer afternoon surround their hearts and spirits, and bless them through their healing course to a new wholeness.

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