Sometimes I travel so deep within winter’s quiet counsel that I lose my language. My mind detaches and lifts and I float through days and weeks, perhaps the month of February, sensing rhythms beyond and traveling a path towards the secret place of winter wisdom not yet enfleshed by words.
When spring arrives I begin to float closer to the ground, and walk into the world with clearing perception, gradual, mute, till I meet (I always do) a certain April morning and sense the movement of stones rolled away. An opening. Still reaching for language (my eloquent summer speech a distant possibility), I know I’m about to be born into words again.
It happens like this: I’m walking down the trail at dawn and everything changes in a moment– the haze of winter dissipates; winter’s chrysalis shatters, sunlight flashes, strobing through branches, signaling epiphanies, colors inbreak, sounds pulse: birdsong, peepers, buzzes and hums; the early breeze teases forth perfumes of lilacs, cherry blossoms, the soil’s geosmin, that seize and ride my inbreath, shaking loose the memory of language amidst eruptions of buds and blooms, and suddenly the scarlet streak of cardinals, followed by a rise of bluest jays, and brilliant planets of dandelions spangling at my feet; I stop, paused in the roaring river of spring to balance, to breathe, to exit my dreams and merge with all this life.
Questions chirp through my waking mind. “And that?” I ask, “What is that?” “That is green.” “And that?” “That is light.” “And that?” “That is the song of a bird, of life, coming back to itself again.”
I listen to the music of spring; it calls: “Here-now, here-now, here-now.”
I find my words. And out to the garden I go, with newborn sounds, the language of butterflies, to speak of my winter journey, among the robins and daffodils.
Of late, our old cat, Fiona, is waking and calling in the night. We quickly learned that she is best soothed and comforted ro calmness by our companionship, a welcoming lap, loving pats, and a small, handheld dish of water she can sip from contentedly.
The vet has ruled out all physical ailments, but she is 14, and early dementia or vision problems may be involved. So, we take turns getting up at about 3:00 A.M. to sit with her.
Retirement is grand for this, at least for me, because the parameters of time so easily and increasingly fall away. Sleep time, waking time, doing and resting time require no schedule, clocks, or rigid assignment, but only the need to attend to what’s before us as we wish or are called.
I’ve always been an early to bed and an early-rising soul, but 3 AM is a new and magical time for me to breathe awake with the world. Pondering takes different paths, and there’s a deep candlelit quality of peace absent in other hours; it’s softened and spiritually liminal.
Fiona and I sit together in a muted stillness of mutual prayer, and gently allow the time of darkness to flow into the new morning’s light. And then, ever so gradually, we are bathed in a blessing of sunrise.
And, if I feel some weariness as the pups bark their way into the day, and Fiona flees to her lower level queendom, I also feel incredibly grateful for those quiet hours of holy solitude we’ve shared together and the deep lessons Fiona is teaching me about surrender, the wisdom communicated through silence, witnessing the beauty of the Earth’s rhythms, and the profound gifts of sustained and gentle presence.
A reminder from my publisher that I humbly share: I am sooooo grateful for the kindness of my dear ones and sweet strangers who have purchased my books. And I know many people do not purchase from Amazon for many reasons, and completely understand. I prefer local booksellers, but I also have a Kindle.
But preferences aside, Amazon wields unbelievable power regarding book sales to foreign publishers, book sales to stores, and whether a book sinks or swims at all in its availability to the public.
Beautiful books that could change lives and keep a child’s imagination full of magic die in remainder bins every week, and it breaks my heart to think of all the effort and gift that went into creating them. Authors and publishers are beholden to anyone who can leave a short positive review on Amazon and Goodreads. Truly.
I’m proud of the many creatives who contributed their gifts to “And The People Stayed Home,” and “The Rare, Tiny Flower.” Good reviews help keep us all employed producing the kinds of books we feel are important in the world, so if you purchased one from Amazon and are able to leave a review, thank you so very much.
If you purchased a book and cannot leave a review, thank you so very much, too. And if you didn’t purchase a book, thank you for visiting my blog and supporting my writing.
I was walking the ice down the hill during its diminishment, much as it was walking me, I suppose, during mine. Bright flowers sang, and we spoke of many things: loneliness, mystery, endings, the unfairness and invitations inherent to melting, and we spoke of tangerines. We parted at the river, where the ice, now altered to liquid, and learning new language, trailed and trickled over the stones and the bank and into the flow, disappearing like one who merges with a crowd and is gone. I waved farewell, watching the vapor of our conversation fade, and then, gathering myself together, I walked back up the hill feeling changed, searching for tangerines and my new name.
I remember how the quiet felt, how the silence waved through the day in whispers, in music I could almost hum, how each new day opened, the space of it wide with mystery and hushed meals of questions, how we slouched tentatively towards the horizon, small and outside ourselves moving through a dreamtime, confined and limitless. Stories ended abruptly, pages stopped turning, I think the Earth did, too. And then we grew accustomed to the power of creating our lives from nothing. Benediction, choosing the sacred meaning of our own stories. How would we speak of this time? What would we make of it? Your story, what is your story? Mine is of hope: I chose to plant seeds I scraped the mud of my heart and planted seeds. Fear yields when its voice is sapped by joy stirring possibility with hidden life; you must see that even death dies in a garden. I still choose hope. Plant your seeds, bid them lean to the light and be astonished as your heart, the world, now, bursts into bloom.
Wanted to share this wonderful site with you: J.S. Jen and his daughter Penny clearly love books! Their books, blog, and posts on social media are full of book reviews, videos, parenting tips, giveaways, and wonderful resources for reinforcing gratitude and kindness. Just an excellent site for children and all their adults. 💕 I’m honored to be the featured author this month, and happy to see the spotlight on The Rare, Tiny Flower! https://jsjenbooks.com/feature-of-the-month
When we with the new sun blazed out in the bright world and returned as the days sighed their endings, I cannot say our married lives, still in their green and vertical velocity, at first bore the watermark of inseparability. Two plants in one garden; it always starts that way.
We spoke in the metaphors of marriage; we honored our bond, but filed it among the days’ lists and demands— You were you and I was I; we poured and emptied ourselves into other lives, earnest professions, consuming hours, moments flowing to years, indulging love’s needs when labor released us
to the peace of weekends holidays nightfall and dawn, the feeding times of love, tending the sacraments of presence and touch, the long task and blessing of transmuting twoness: words spoken and heard becoming one story, our roots so strongly interlaced, one day we noticed how we bloomed each other’s flowers.
Our seedlings rose: created, rescued, and saving graces; love’s unexpected physics revealing its expansion into every beloved form; cherished life grows life. Dogs, cats, winged visitors and their trees, our wildlife children, our happy bounty, our holy flowing progeny.
The season of shadowed years and rounded pain arrived; we two midwives, easing and failing to ease our fathers’ farewells, our mothers’ goodbyes, ushering their flights into spirit— our love became respite, harbor, scaffold: we could have fallen deeply darkly apart had our entwined souls not safely caught and held our hearts. Loss may feed or kill a garden. We leaned to the light and became new again, green and growing.
And now these days of dappled blossoms everywhere; I cannot turn but meet our love, the life that we have grown, the dazzling joy our time-tumbling years now yield as daily harvest. How long ago did I become we, did self dissolve, supplanted by this flowering us?
I know the way of gardens, how they ever-change; life rises, life descends. There will be a day when one will wake alone, seeking the known embrace, chilled roots reaching for roots not there. Turn then to the light we become, the music of the world that sings how love can make one of two: within, without, budding here and blooming beyond, in mystery and promise, forever married.
The Valentine People arrived last night. I wondered if it were too soon; the icy winds of winter still blow fiercely through the shadowed sky’s mysteries, and the introspective garden dreams deep beneath the dense and silent snow.
The old man said, “It is never too early to speak of spring, the resurrection of blossoms, or love.”
In the Christian story, the invitation we receive on the First Sunday of Advent is to be present at a coming birth, for which we are given four weeks to prepare, time and events being symbolic, really, of each moment we choose to walk the Christian path.
I used to joyfully accept the invitation to attend the birthday celebration, and faithfully joined in the party’s annual preparation. I sang in choirs, focused myself spiritually by “cleaning house” through participation in Sacraments, readings, and reflections, and then made very merry on Christmas Day, the culmination of the Advent journey.
Etymologically, “advent” means arrival. I used to feel that on Christmas Day we’re there; the journey’s over for another year. We’ve arrived. We welcomed the child and his Light.
Some years ago, though, the meaning of Advent and Christmas began to widen and deepen and simplify for me, as things do when we grow older and accrue experiences and losses, breathe into the blurred spaces between black and white, notice time’s flight gaining velocity, and reflect perhaps more honestly on what we’ve offered our world, and what we might yet offer, given our dwindling days and gifts. No story, after all, is literal; each comes with shadows, echoes, symbols, and meaning, which can change at every reading.
Now I consider that Advent sets us before a full-length spiritual mirror. We arrive at an opportunity to stand in the Great Light and ponder whether we truly want to co-create with it or not. Christmas invites us to be crystal clear about our choices. Are we shining brighter or is our holy light growing dimmer? What is asking to be born in us that will make us radiant and more loving?
Because we are the vessels holding Love’s potential birth. The Christmas story lives within us, shining outward, or it’s just a pretty story. The Light shines through us or we obscure it.
Our commitment to be present once again to the Christmas birth is really a renewal of our vow to follow the path we’ve chosen: we can be mere witnesses to this birth, or get into it up to our elbows, midwifing its Love in every moment of our lives, shining the light it gifts us, revealing all the ways the entire world is infused with the Sacred.
This Christmas, may we forgive our cruelties and the pain others have caused in our lives; may we notice and amend injustice; may we engage in activities that respect and cherish the Earth; may we welcome all the invitations to love and be in joyful, generous relationship with all the life that surrounds us.
We’re still/always becoming, and we have choices regarding whether we’ll lean into or away from Love’s light and see the blessings inherent to being here/now, with the gifts to make that light cast its brightness ever wider, wide enough to include all creation. Happy birthday to the Light of the world!
Blessings to all, however you honor your light and the light in others. Travel safely, gather merrily; I wish you love and gentle peace.
And what is this bright, spangled season for, but to renew our choice to follow Love’s example, to be Love’s energy in the world? We are here, we are only here, to be the light that kindness can shine in the darkness, our own and the world’s, every day. We are here, we are only here, to co-create with Love, this moment and the next.
If Christmas doesn’t ignite in our hearts the choice for a new year of generating all-encompassing darkness-defying Wild Love, then we have got it utterly wrong. And the world cannot afford us the time to get it wrong.
Be merry, be light, love wildly.
Gentle peace, sweet joy, merry adventures, and wild love to all this Advent, Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, and Holiday Season. From all of us at Full Moon Cottage.
…And he sat in the chair near the door that Thanksgiving Day, and saw, in the innocent and uncomplicated way a child sees everything, how each of the guests brought gifts to the party, both in their hands and in their hearts.
Aunt Rena brought her famous pecan pie, which meant she had forgiven Aunt Miriam for the argument they’d had last year, and Aunt Miriam brought the casserole she knew was Rena’s favorite.
Forgiveness, he learned, is often part of gratitude.
Uncle Nick brought a huge bowl of fruit salad and his cribbage board.
This must mean that gratitude requires joy and playfulness.
Grandma darted here and there, back into the kitchen, tending the meal, then rushing out to welcome each newcomer with hugs, then secretly adding another place at the table…only he noticed how tenderly she created an atmosphere of celebration.
He understood that humility and hospitality are important ingredients of true gratitude.
Mrs. Whitsall surprised Grandma with flowers, and he watched how closely she listened as, one by one, each guest spoke to her and moved on more calmly. It seemed like they were shining, he thought.
Listening seemed to inspire gratitude, to ignite it somehow. He’d remember this.
And his father had brought dinner rolls from Lessard’s Bakery, and his grief, which he spoke of only a little and set gently aside to join more fully in conversation.
So, gratitude must require a willingness to be human and to surrender. But for what? What did it offer in return?
And then he heard his father’s laughter, a rare beloved music the boy had missed for so long.
Ah, he thought, so there is something of healing in gratitude; it eases sorrow, so we can find our way back to our own song once more.
In every home, up and down the block and all throughout the city, people were gathering, bringing their gifts of food, of forgiveness, joy, humility, listening, and loss–if that was what they carried in their heart–and their yearning for presence. They were gathering to share food for bodies and spirits, to hear their songs sung back to them, to become real again, in ways the world sometimes rushed past and ignored.
Here we all are, as we are, in the geography of now, he thought, and through love and all its gifts, we are brought to deep and happy thanksgiving. And tonight, we’ll say goodbye, but we will be shining, spinning like brilliant stars through the dark world, shining with gratitude.
this is not who we are or why we’re here; we know it. life imperiled, imploding globe poisoned, oh perishing whale pods and flashing schools in the seas, butterflies, bees, and beings unnamed, unnoticed species, vast and vanishing, ancient, noble, hidden insects, reptiles, fungi, birds, and plants, love’s endless invitations refused, the kinship of life denied and dying, reaching for hands reaching only for power, hearts blind to the binding that might have been— perhaps the web has torn beyond mending; perhaps it was all a dream.
but here we are, hope-filled not helpless, an infantry of two, a coup fueled by yearning and what we know is true, armed with our tulip bulbs, hyacinths, daffodils scattering promises of rainbow explosions planting resurrections in the dark to remind us who we are and may be when the light returns, and trusting it will.
Surprisingly synchronous with the arrival of the equinox, our temperatures have fallen to cooler degrees and, as the year continues its turning, our daylight diminishes in its hours. This shift is felt on every level, by each of the senses and all of the inhabitants of our little cottage and the surrounding countryside.
We’re going to bed a bit earlier and rising later. Our business in the gardens and with house projects has actually increased during our briefer days, however. We are definitely the fabled diligent ants rather than the idle grasshoppers. We know the time of closing in and shutting down is rapidly approaching, and the ancient instinct to harvest before the arrival of killing frost is as great a motivator to us as to the squirrels gathering their seeds and acorns.
We’ve cleaned the house from top to bottom, literally, with Phillip climbing the ladder to get at lights, fans, artwork, and very high transoms. Closets and drawers have been sorted and winnowed along with the houseplants, who have returned indoors after their summer vacation. Boxes of clothes, dishes, accessories, books, and duplicate plants have been donated to local resale shops. My former writing area is now an indoor greenhouse, and the seldom-used smaller guest room is now designated as a writing, reading, and dreaming haven.
The gardens are being trimmed as necessary; we’re still waiting for a sustained nighttime temperature of 28 or so to get the new tulip bulbs planted. I thought I ordered 100. Surprise: 200 beautiful bulbs arrived! Call me mystified. Or forgetful? (Call Phillip something else.) I am earnestly, daily (and sometimes in the wee hours, sleeplessly) seeking every available spot to plant these, and am quite certain The Great Tulip Adventure will be one for the books. Something we’ll laugh about.
Autumn and spring, its counterpart in the seasonal dance, are usually hectic times for readiness and attending to checklists, so this bustling energy is not unusual, but it is perhaps a bit more driven this fall because I’m scheduled for a procedure called a “total reverse shoulder replacement” at the end of the month. It seems my autoimmune diseases and age have rather dramatically decided this year to create arthritis wherever I’ve had former injuries, so the long-ago shoulder repair needs updating, and the opposing knee will be replaced several months later. These changes are welcome for the relief and renewed strength I trust them to deliver, but to call them an adjustment easily accomplished would be a lie. They’ve presented a depressing struggle against a reality I’m only beginning to accept as necessary and am still wary of befriending.
But I will.
I’ve spent my adulthood working out and honoring exercise, eating healthily, enjoying physical activities, and trying to tend my spirit. I resent the hell out of this physical weakening and am ashamed to see and present myself as an invalid. I hate the ways I’m now dependent upon Phillip and how it’s increased his chores. His kindness and gentleness have been remarkable. I’m tearfully grateful and then feel guilty about the imbalance this has caused. I’m not useful in this partnership. I cannot walk the dogs, or lift a lot, or clean or cook, or hike as far as I like, or engage with yoga or go for a bike ride, or plant the damn tulip bulbs I ordered months (and a lifetime) ago, without assistance. I’m tired of adapting everything I do, and I’m scared that these surgeries and the endless healing they require may not succeed.
And then I recall my parents’ illnesses, and those of all my elder beloveds, and my hospice patients, too, all of them struggling with their pain and suffering, all the crosses borne and none of them deserved, and how little I really understood when I offered these people my comfort and presence. I wasn’t insensitive or ignorant and I tried to rest in compassion during our time together, but living through the role of the other this time around is a new experience in deepening awareness. Which is always a principle lesson in our suffering, isn’t it? That it makes observed pain vividly experienced and real. It’s humbling and leveling and changes us and the ways we offer comfort forever after. Or, at least, that seems one of the great invitations to me.
And, although I lapse and occasionally/daily indulge that tiny, tension-releasing and rewarding fantasy of slapping people like Donald Trump and Ginni Thomas upside the head, this jarring experience of being dependent and feeling my life held in a kind of suspension more often makes my judgments soften and my acceptance of “what is” gradually reveal a clearer path.
All those wisdom nuggets about loosening resistance and accepting what’s given as gift (if not the gift at the top of my Christmas list) widen the way before me. I read some markedly evolved person’s suggestion that if we can accept these unplanned and certainly undesired events in our lives as experiences we’ve consciously chosen, everything about our relationship and journey with the experience will change. Not only will resistance cease causing greater suffering, but how we make and explore the meaning of these events will be far more loving, buoyant, and deepening.
The long days of summer that pull us up and out and keep us so very actively doing and thinking naturally give way to winter’s darker hours of dreaming and being, of going inward and exploring the heart’s and the spirit’s geography. My wish for us all is that these transitions flow smoothly and that our autumn and winter dreams bless us with awareness, healing, and a readiness for the light of spring. May we adapt to the seasonal adjustments in our lives with good grace and eventual acceptance, sifting always for meaning that enlightens us and deepens our relationships.
I leave you with this image…I was dressing, and happened to look up as the sunlight danced through the side yard’s maple leaves, which made their shadows flicker across and through my indoor plants…perhaps I’m easily amazed, but I found the moment stunning. I thought that sometimes we offer our dear world a disinterested glance, and she flashes back simple, utterly breathtaking miracles. Simple, small reminders that we live always amidst wonders if we look to see them. A much kinder wake-up call from Mother Nature than the ones offered by alarm clocks. May we be as kind to ourselves and others. Gentle Peace.
the pause illuminates all that’s come before; creation must gestate, a measure’s rest empowers hearing to deepen into listening, it allows our hearts to arrive at the place where the music has taken us, holding the notes in stilled and settled embrace, inviting their beauty to be known in lyrical relief against the absence of sound;
noise without quiet– movement without cessation– task without respite– these yield only spent energy, wasted gift, and dreamless sleep; oh silence, heal my pace: ease me into the signature of your time; hold me in your peace; keep me at rest till I must sing my new song and from all the music of my life, make meaning.
All along the trail these past few weeks, nature’s revealed her readiness to set and release her seeds back to the wind and earth, before she settles down for her own period of rest and regeneration. It’s made me realize that while–for most people–the pandemic was initially a long enforced rest, for me it was quite the opposite, my writing having “gone viral” in early March, 2020, and the ensuing invitations, requests, connections, full schedule, etc., has kept me VERY occupied rather than at rest. So, it makes sense to me, I suppose, that despite the pandemic’s persistent presence, it’s safer management and the availability of better protection have caused most of the people I know to re-engage with the world with all that pent-up energy, while I am exhausted and ready to be at rest for a good, long period.
I will continue to post from time to time, but with no enforced regularity. Other writing is simmering and bubbling away, and I choose to spend more time in my quiet, private creative kitchen for now.
I am so very grateful for those who have visited The Daily Round and taken time to share their responses over these past few years; you have enlightened, inspired, and comforted me greatly. Gentle Peace.
Have you ever walked into an old church or another identified sacred space, and felt the accrual of holiness? Layers of fragrance and energy stop you and draw you to a pew, or a nearby rock, to sit and be bathed in ancient and echoing voices seeking answers and the quest of satisfied hearts connecting with Love. At its core is utter stillness.
Sacred spaces invite our deep listening and bring us to a readiness for enlightenment, however fragile. We know we were meant to be here, in this place, and that we’ll leave changed.
For twenty-five years now, the trail beside my home has been an intimate sacred space for me, a human-scaled reminder that the universe is all sacred space, inviting us to dance with Love, but we need our little churches to personalize such profound relationship, to learn the steps to this infinite dance. I bring my questions, my sorrow, joy, anger, dreams, and yearning to my walks along the trail and it always leaves me changed and grateful. This is how I pray. (“How I pray is, breathe,” wrote Thomas Merton. Yes.)
Early this morning, Phillip and the pups had to circumvent another fallen tree blocking the bike trail heading west. A huge limb of a cherry tree had ripped from the main trunk. When I went for my walk, in the opposite direction, I stopped on the bridge to scan for birds and glanced back towards the fallen tree. A helmeted biker, decked out in a team uniform with a number pinned to his back stood, perplexed, dragging his bike around the tree and possibly wondering if he could move it. But it was far too heavy and he seemed intent on continuing his ride, quickly passing me on the bridge with a friendly, “Good Morning.”
Then, I remembered this was Day 2 of a biking event called Ride Across Wisconsin, and our trail was part of the course, depending on the riders’ choices. I’d missed the bike traffic yesterday while visiting a friend in Madison.
It was early, so bikers were scarce, but as I continued east, in the direction of the Ride, they began to pass in two’s and three’s, or the occasional blitz of bikes zipped by in a line, their riders chatting back and forth, enjoying the beautiful morning. Most greeted me and I, them.
By the time I turned back toward home, the traffic had increased. Every few yards, I was offered a “Good Morning!” and returned one with a smile. Then, there would be a break, and soon another “Good Morning! What a beautiful day!” would be shared. Waves of peaceful connection were flowing up and down the trail. Joyful people.
And then I felt the shift within. That moment of insight, of naming the change that’s happening. When listening meets meaning. I stepped to the side of the trail to greet the next bikers and felt tears in my eyes. The stream of bikers abated, and I had a few minutes alone to realize I hadn’t had this much steady contact with strangers for well over two years…and we were blessing each other. The authentic grace of wishing someone a “Good Morning” was so present and alive, and offered so freely and joyfully. These were not those early morning mumbled, half-aware greetings I recall from school entrances or office and hospital hallways. These were exchanges between people seeing each other, true namastes.
I know some of this happiness was generated by our “weekend joy,” the calls of relieved people pursuing their passion outdoors in all the surrounding beauty. Kindness sometimes comes more readily from the high created when we can indulge in the freedom to choose how our precious minutes will be spent. But still, good medicine for all can heal all; the spirit boost from these encounters can keep flowing when we give ourselves such time in sacred spaces. (And perhaps we could examine more earnestly why our weekday hours are designed to so deplete joyful connection.)
And when I arrived home again, I asked Phillip if he could get his saw and we could remove the fallen tree, which we did, chatting with riders coming through, and receiving their “Thank you’s!”
We walked home and I considered the fruits of my morning walk. Like all sacred spaces, the trail had offered my heart’s readiness a dose of insight, and it had renewed my spirit. I felt lightened by all those shining exchanges with strangers. I held them in my heart.
We are not what the media tell us we are. We’re neither hate-filled towards the other or interested in a civil war. The extrapolations the media make from some-to-all are false. We’re mostly kind, friendly, grateful for a beautiful day, and happy to share its blessing with others.
There is serious work to be done on our planet, and in our country and communities, but today, I felt great hope that we can accomplish a lot together by greeting each other with genuine blessing and parting with gratitude for the chance to spend even a moment together in the sacred space we share. May all your “Good Morning’s” be genuine and may all your mornings be good.
A few of the wildflowers blooming on the trail this week:
How strange to observe what our final harvest yields and what falls away; to notice what treasures the winnowing spares and lifts for a lifetime’s revision: not tension, but its release, not sorrow, but its relief; reviewing the flickering epiphanies when we were seen and known in our fullness; revisiting the creation we enfleshed with our singular energy, lit with our tiny light and waning time, and yet there it spins, shining in the world.
Here is our bushel of realized produce: we loved, and were loved; made of ourselves an offering that spread and grew ever wilder, closer to true; remained always grateful for given and chosen kin, teachers, those who eased a hard day’s passage with green wishes for our peace.
I think they all came true.
That night the music opened doors we’d closed or had missed in the foolish speed of life lived too small; the wonders that came of curses; the endless garden growing from discarded seeds; the surprises born of loss; the willingness to seek and grant mercy, to thread gratitude through suffering, to discover, recover, uncover, to see.
Maybe our wisest instinct was to keep turning, looking beyond, revisiting chances with wider hospitality, reducing caution to nothing but welcome; tenderly sheltering questions, renouncing our inheritance of ancient fences planted to confine the fertility of our joy– all the old voices we silenced forever; we were never what they wanted us to be, those shoulds that inhibited flowering, incarcerating gift.
And how we rose, primal and pure in the pollinating songs of possibility, the choices we set to our own chorus of yes and now. And still we turn, and still the wounding walls fall and the waiting fields widen, and we become the soil that bears our being, imprinted forever.
Harvest is the cutting back to essence, seeing and then seeing again, deeper and below, a readiness for death, knowing its womb gestates life. It is all mystery and then there is finally none, but the need to reach, connect, and grow, to answer calls planted solely in our love-fashioned cells, to hold each breath as gift and set it free, like this, this time of harvest, this moment of autumn skies sighing with geese crying farewell in language that knows us by name.
Here’s a link to an interview I did for our local PBS station, Channels 10/36, WMVS, in Milwaukee. It will air on Portia Young’s wonderful program, 10thirtysix, on Thursday, August 18, at 7:30 P.M. https://youtu.be/QJT-IXKx1oQ
And, I’m so very happy to share the news that Zeltner Publishing, an Israeli publishing company, will be publishing The Rare, Tiny Flowerin both Arabic and Hebrew. This is truly joyful news.
It has been a good month at Full Moon Cottage. Aches have been healed, beloved friends have been visited and entertained, and gardens have come to their fullness and are currently aflutter with butterflies. Last night, rain fell with such force and velocity that flood warnings were rampant, but here the thirsty earth drank in over an inch, eagerly and happily. She deserved it.
The thunder and lightning made such a show of it that several pups asked to leave their crates and join us in the bed, not because they were afraid, of course, but to reassure us. At any rate, today, with more rain coming, I’m dedicating time to reading, watching a movie I’ve saved for a rainy day, and–seriously possible–napping, to recover from all that 4-legged reassurance.
I’m also sharing a story I wrote last winter. I hope one day, in some form, it will be a published book. I can just imagine the beautiful illustrations a gifted artist could create. But for now, I hope it pleases you, just as it is. (Clothilde [klo-TEELD] is a family name I’ve always loved, from my French/French Canadian Lessard ancestors.)
Become what you love.
Gentle Peace, my friends.
Miss Clothilde and the Trees
For all of her life, Miss Clothilde lived in the stone cottage in the forest beside the river. She had many friends. Some had two legs, some had four, some had wings, and some, like the river, just flowed. But the trees were always her dearest friends.
When she was a little girl, her friends came to her parties beneath the willows. They played hide and seek, running through the forest. The trees’ leaves whispered, and their branches waved in the wind. “Here, Clothilde, here!” And she would hide behind their massive trunks, high in their branches, or in the holes used for nesting by the squirrels and opossums.
At sunrise and sunset, she sat privately with one of the trees, usually on a low-hanging limb, so they could have quiet conversations.
Clothilde asked the oak, “Do you miss traveling to distant lands?”
“Oh, no,” it answered, “I love being rooted, watching the seasons change and all my saplings slowly, slowly growing. And those who nest in my branches and forage beneath carry my acorns to distant forests. So, you see, I do travel, in the way of trees.”
Clothilde stood very still and watched the cottonball clouds puff across the blue sky. A squirrel friend sat at her feet and climbed to her raised hands. The owl flew into his nest high in the oak. “I learn so much when I am still,” she said.
She asked the maple, “How do you breathe?”
“Through our leaves, mostly,” it replied. “Trees breathe in what you breathe out, and you breathe in what we breathe out.”
“You mean, we are always breathing trees,” said Clothilde.
“And we are always breathing you,” said the maple. “And so, we become what we love.”
Clothilde breathed in and out with her tree friends. “I love you,” she said.
The hushed rustling of leaves murmured, “We love you, too, Clothilde.”
She asked the beech tree, “How does it feel when your roots burrow into the earth?”
“Infant roots are shy and cautious. But then they grow stronger and more confident, seeking water and tunneling toward the roots of others. There’s quite a lively kinship of roots, fungi, insects, and soil all working together underground.”
Clothilde wiggled her toes, pretending they pierced the earth, digging, and probing all the way to water. “It tickles,” she laughed, “like my fingers in the garden, when I help my parents!”
Clothilde asked the pine tree, “Why do trees’ branches reach up to the sky?”
“Our branches rise to the sunlight and raindrops, so our lives will be long and healthy, but we also raise our limbs in praise.”
“What do you praise?” asked Clothilde.
“Life. The Earth. The beauty of the world and our part in it. The goodness of which everything is made.”
Time twirled the Earth through its seasons and years, and a day came when Clothilde was grown and alone in the cottage, tending her garden, the river, her friends, and the trees.
When she went to town for Market Day, she always took time to sit in the village park to be with those trees, too, and to feed the birds and listen to the music of people bustling with life. The village children called her Miss Clothilde, and they loved to hear her stories about the trees. They raised their arms with her and praised life, the Earth, and the beauty of the world. And when they grew up, their children listened to Miss Clothilde’s stories, too.
She said, “Each of us must tend and protect our Earth. Every part of it, the animals, the water, my dear trees, and each other, too…all of it is precious.” And she taught them how to plant trees and flowers and care for them. “It is an honor to participate in the mystery of life becoming more life, and to do it well, we must offer our attention and love.”
Every spring, she readied her garden, sowed seeds, and greeted the tender unfurling of leaves in the trees. When the migrating birds returned from warmer lands they had flown to in autumn, Miss Clothilde welcomed them with food and fruit as they settled in new nests. And to all the new life around them, Miss Clothilde offered her attention and love.
Her days grew longest in summer. At dawn, the birds sang the forest awake, and Miss Clothilde went out to tend the garden, weeding and trimming its growing vibrance. And in the afternoon’s late purple shadows, Miss Clothilde sat with friends beneath the trees, and they shared stories. At moonrise, the trees’ branches swayed to the lullabies of the frogs, crickets, and owls. “Sleep sweetly, dream deeply” whispered the forest.
“And you,” said Miss Clothilde, “you sleep sweetly, too.”
In autumn, the low bronzed sunlight drew in from summer’s bold expanse, the garden earned its harvesting, and the trees dropped their brilliant leaves to ready themselves for the season of cold and silence. The trees stood bare and brave, awaiting winter’s embrace.
Miss Clothilde asked the maple, “Why, oh why do you drop your leaves when you most need warmth?”
“It is an interplay of love, Clothilde. The leaves feed us sunshine all their short lives, and our roots draw up water for their health that flows through trunk and branch to every leaf. But leaves are too frail for winter and we cannot offer energy to sustain them. We must release them to remain strong enough to withstand winter.”
“Such brief lives and gone!”
“Not gone, Clothilde. See how they cover the forest with nutrients that will feed us all for generations. Forests and animals survive because leaves are willing to fall. Look for all the ways they rise in new lives.”
Winter brought its deep stillness and rest. Everything lived within itself, listening, it was a time of recollection, sifting, and gently opening dreams to plan how they might live. Miss Clothilde pondered what she had learned of the world’s goodness and beauty, and how her gifts could best offer praise in the new year. She sometimes sat beneath the oak as snowflakes sifted down, sparkling in the moonlight. “May I open my dreams to you?” she asked.
“Of course, Clothilde, and I will open mine.”
And, in the way of friends, their dreams already knew each other. They dreamed of a world where all the Earth made music of its gifts and relationships. And Miss Clothilde and the oak whispered how they wished to be always together, falling and rising in new lives.
And so the years danced in their circles. Because they knew one another so well, Miss Clothilde and the trees often sat in silence together, sharing their peace. Sometimes, she stood in the middle of the garden, lifting her arms, breathing with all the life around her. From a distance, it could be hard to tell them apart, the trees and Miss Clothilde. Her arms raised skyward like branches, and the trees’ branches reached for her in tender embrace. Her long white hair shook like dancing leaves and the trees’ leaves waved like long, flowing tresses. And the wind gathered their songs and made them one joyful melody.
Now that she was very old, Miss Clothilde could no longer run in circles with her friends. But one morning every week, she gathered pails of river water, and then nuts, berries, and vegetables from the garden. She opened the door to the stone cottage and set the table for a feast.
There were dishes of sunshine for the tree limbs curling through the windows, and a little channel in the stone floor, so the river could flow through the party, too. Everyone came to Miss Clothilde’s parties, friends from the village and friends from the forest, and each guest brought something to share. As she looked around the table, all she could see was joy. “We’ve become what we love,” she smiled.
Miss Clothilde had grown too frail to climb the trees, but every day she placed her chair beneath one of her beloved friends and they would listen to the music of the river splashing over stones.
“I am so tired. Why must we grow old, dear oak?”
“So that we can rise, young again, in new ways,” said the oak. “Everything we are and have been feeds the Earth.”
“Life is truly a circle, isn’t it?” asked Miss Clothilde.
“One that doesn’t end,” said the oak. “We travel the circle of loving and becoming forever.”
“Like leaves,” said Miss Clothilde.
“Like leaves,” said the oak.
One summer night, as the stars twinkled and twirled, and the great moon danced its light across the flowing river, Miss Clothilde came outside to stand with her trees. Together, her arms and their branches raised in praise, as the trees had taught her, so long ago.
Miss Clothilde could feel her toes lengthening into roots, tickling down through the soil, stretching and curling across darkness towards moisture. Her body tightened into a firm trunk, all her years forming rings bound by silver-brown bark. Her hair fell into winding limbs, joining the strong branches of her arms, reaching up and up, as green leaves sprouted, uncurling in the moonlight, through fluttering moths and the soft scents of nightfall.
In the morning, the wind sang through the lifted branches of all the trees in the forest. Miss Clothilde’s friends gathered in her shade, breathing her as she breathed them. Together, they raised their arms, paws, wings, branches, and songs in praise of life. They praised the Earth. They praised the beauty of the world and their part in it.
And they praised the goodness of Miss Clothilde, the goodness of which everything is made, how everything that falls rises, how everything becomes what it loves.
It started with mystery; it always does, called out of my dreams by the fog-piercing rays of earliest light stirring the layers of mist dust sky river, kaleidoscope greeting of gold rose and amethyst-colored music, and the muted rustle of resettling geese; I intook the outflowing perfume of night scents, distilled and released, redolent of hay, decay, promise; life stood at the edge between summer and fall, drenched in the gifts of farewell and welcome. Still, on the bridge, I breathed myself into all that, the all I am part of, and then there was movement upriver, distant and haze-softened, as though a piece of land had dislodged from the bank with sentient intention to cross the water in shadow, harboring secret desire to witness the world from the opposite side. Squinting, my stunned vision sun-cleared, surrendering fantasy for the magic of what is: a deer silently fording the river, traveling through blue and green into the dawn, wading to the gold-leafed shore beyond. He moved as one in prayer, bowed down, communing, aware of being known and beloved, his journey held. And everything transformed again. Tell me what you believe or do not; I’ll honor it, but know that for me there is a voice and it is Love, just Love, urging me to be its constant pilgrim calling me awake every moment, asking me only to open my eyes, to meet the world as kin and allow it to fill me with peace and feast on my entranced and grateful joy.
If we listen, opened wide, there is music in the tide, there are tones beneath the tones, there are dreams within our bones, there are riddles in the earth, incantations for rebirth, there are omens in the air, sending answers to that prayer we keep silent in our heart, if we’ll only choose to start. Only choose to sing our story, ease the world of crushing worry, love is energy and light, and the source that fuels sight, go within and share without, bravely shout our needed shout: we are here, we are here, and astonishingly now, to connect some holy how, to create, again and more, from the magic at our core, what was always meant to be, what was always there to see—we are artists meant to fashion an existence of compassion, here to heal and cradle pain into fire once again, we’re alive and we flower, joyful anger is our power, we will rise, we will grow, balance stillness with our flow, and we’ll listen, opened wide, to the music in the tide, hear the tones beneath the tones, and the dreams within our bones. Intuition sent its note: synchronicity, it wrote, is awareness of the real and the truth it can conceal. Spirit whispers on the wing that the world’s a changing thing and the new calls to the new: who we are is what we do. There are riddles in the earth, incantations for rebirth, there are omens in the air, sending answers to that prayer we keep silent in our heart, if we’ll only choose to start. Go within and share without, let us shout our needed shout: We are here, we are here, and astonishingly now, to connect some holy how, to create, again and more, from the magic at our core, what was always meant to be.
A pleasing night past summer’s rise, the fireflies draw closed day’s curtain; we note how purple dusk flows into darkness earlier each evening, and faintest smells of autumn begin to interweave with all the garden’s ripened fruits. The heat retreats before the cooling air’s relief and hushing stillness grant their peace. And then, across the dozing river, out beyond the farmer’s field, sudden music detonates, to bruise the night with noise. “The County Fair,” we say, accepting shattered silence, and listen to the program beneath indifferent stars. The drummer pounds and hours pass and now we are in bed awake, and longing for the concert’s close; it comes at last, a slower song, and gentle end; we sigh and still, to welcome waiting sleep. And then, along the river’s bank, Coyote’s pack begins to howl, piercing, clear, poetically; a choral gift, an answer to the raucousness endured. My spirit fills, I bless the song, its aching reclamation of nature’s right to sing the night into her fragile dreams.