In Gratitude

Here and there along the trail, apple trees have taken root, and their early white blossoms are decorating the trail’s edges like lace trim peeking out from the startling and tender yellow-green leaves of trees. The blossoms liberally scent the trail long before they’re approached, and as we pass, the perfume circles around us and lingers. We’re walking in an apple blossom cloud. It becomes a vivid part of the memory of our spring walks. I often wonder how Clancy and Riley perceive this heady fragrance, given that their sense of smell is 100,000 times better than mine: they can smell electricity, underground gas, drugs, and the bio-chemical and electrical changes that signify epilepsy and cancer. I am, by comparison, an olfactory dunce, lost in the scent of apple blossoms…and quite content to be so.

The pups and I headed out late yesterday afternoon and enjoyed the bright clear colors fading into the deeper shadows. Touring the yard when we returned, we saw the first tulip blooming and others just on the cusp of opening to the world.

We narrowly escaped frost a few nights ago, and temperatures in the 80’s are forecast for this weekend. Today is chillier, and it has been raining since the early hours of this new day.

Yesterday’s warmth and sunshine; todays mysterious darkness and silver rainfall, punctuated by the haunting and melancholy cry of our resident green heron…I can’t predict how all of this shifting variability will affect the gardens, so I’m using the surprises of the season as reminders to be present and to locate the “gratitude handles” each day is offering.

March has been perplexing and worrying, but equally beautiful and glorious. I’m trying to enjoy the ride. This is not so simple, I know, for the local apple growers who could lose a year’s crop and considerable income if the early budding produces fruit that may yet be killed by frost, so I hold the outcomes of this season close to my heart and hope those who could suffer because of it will not.

I watched an old movie last weekend. A hackneyed storyline, but well-cast and funny, anyway: City folk moved to the country and bought a dump, turned it into a charming home and small farm, and entered into the rural community life, overcoming the native suspicion of most, but not all of their neighbors. Then (the night of the annual countywide dance) the inevitable fire blew through and destroyed the city people’s barn and outbuildings. The next morning, surveying their loss, they expressed defeat and considered leaving, when who should appear but all their neighbors—the friendly and aloof, Republican and Democrat, rich and poor—in trucks and jalopies, with money, seeds, animals and goods to share, and their pledged assistance in rebuilding the now-accepted-newcomers’ farm…

We’re entering a time of year when people of the Christian faith most intimately consider suffering, compassion, death, and rebirth, but such themes are found intertwined in all of the world’s religions and mythologies, throughout history. The overwhelming beauty and intense sensual experience of spring seem to invite us to reflect upon life/death metaphors; we inherently know the rhythms of this circle: life leads to death, and back to new life.

Something must die for the loveliness of spring to exist; the counterbalance and contrast of death is necessary, and grief’s tears nourish the greening of what may come…we can hope suffering won’t happen in our lives and the lives of others, but of course it does, all the time.

While I’m enjoying the sights and smells of spring, even celebrating them with gratitude, others are dreading the loss of their livelihood. And I’m reminded, again, how I must train my heart to be sensitive and notice others’ suffering and loss the way my dogs can smell fingerprints, illness, and the presence of those who have passed along the trail before us. Connectedness and community can’t be maintained, let alone thrive, without such sensitivity and its necessary partnership with compassionate action in response.

Those who extoll the path of gratitude entreat us to give thanks for everything. It can make me feel that I’m defective. My first response to suffering is sorrow; were I more evolved spiritually, I’d experience this inherent feeling of gratitude for everything that came down the pike, so to speak.

But of course we’re not expected to be thankful for experiences of suffering, but for the opportunities to support each other through such times, and to help midwife whatever new life may come. Grateful for community and connection. Grateful for the chance to show up with provisions and commitment and grateful, too, when such reinforcements show up in trucks and jalopies, whatever form these take, for us.

During the Easter season, I like to watch the short (and mostly silent) film, The Red Balloon, created by the French film director, Albert Lamorisse. It’s about a small boy’s discovery of, and adventures with, a huge red balloon. It’s also about love, cruelty, suffering, death, and new life. Have you ever seen it? Lamorisse even named the little boy’s character Pascal (“Easter Child,” played by the director’s own son, also named Pascal).

Every year, while nature is blossoming and wrapping us in the resurrected scents of hope, and life is rising from the death to which it will again return, I watch The Red Balloon and remind myself that once we commit to love and support those relationships that matter—and they all do—there is no suffering that can impede deeper love, eternal renewal, and gratitude for the journey.

No posts next week: I’m going away with my beloved and setting down all electronics to play freely inside and outside together. We’re grateful for our house-sitters and the care they always give the 4-leggeds…

Joy to you, and to the rituals with which you welcome new life and honor what has passed to bring it forth.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Restless Hearts and Spring’s Curriculum

 “It might seem to you that living in the woods on a riverbank would remove you from the modern world. But not if the river is navigable, as ours is. On pretty weekends in the summer, this riverbank is the very verge of the modern world. It is a seat in the front row, you might say. On those weekends, the river is disquieted from morning to night by people resting from their work. 

This resting involves traveling at great speed, first on the road and then on the river. The people are in an emergency to relax. They long for the peace and quiet of the great outdoors. Their eyes are hungry for the scenes of nature. They go very fast in their boats. They stir the river like a spoon in a cup of coffee. They play their radios loud enough to hear above the noise of their motors. They look neither left nor right. They don’t slow down for – or maybe even see – an old man in a rowboat raising his lines…”
Wendell BerryJayber Crow

Two teachers living together are bound to consider the curriculum offered by life and its seasons. The word curriculum comes from the Latin currere, to course or flow, as a river does. This year’s lessons, though, have seemed a bit jangly and disorienting: it’s felt like one moment we were canoeing the placid waters and the next we were frenetically whitewater rafting, hanging on, tightly…

The wind has been blustery and for days has sailed in from the south, knocking the normally peaceful wind chimes silly. Their crazed tintinnabulation has sounded through our waking hours and dreams this past week, blurring the lines between real and reverie, and contributing a sense of the fantastical to our perceptions. We’ve noticed our own restlessness more vividly this spring and have been exploring together what the winds and bells and our dreams are calling forth in our hearts. Initially, we felt the need to “get away,” which I think was more a response to this spring’s rush of sudden and powerful energy than a literal need to leave our home (although we’re both grateful the wind is turning).

Restlessness is a natural response to spring. I think if we can note it, be present to it, and allow it to flow through our being, it will give birth in its own time to the green possibilities our spirits crave. The tendencies to fix, name, flee, or rush to answers are more culturally stimulated than of our essence, it seems to me; they can be brushed away gently, clearing an inner space to wait and listen in readiness, but it is challenging.

Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century woman of talent, intelligence, and spiritual energy, often used the term “viriditas” to describe this greening force that moves through us and leads to deeper awareness of the Sacred. Viriditas seems an uprising of our authentic urges to create and flourish. I think of it as our spiritual sap, and, for me, it’s certainly most perceptible in spring.

But up-rushing energy, especially at this year’s velocity, can be unsettling. The usual and gentle shift from winter to spring eluded us; we’ve been jolted awake by light, and heat, and wind, and bells. The viriditas rose from zero to 1000, like someone bludgeoning the high striker at a state fair: BANG, the puck flew up and hit the bell in one stroke.

We’ve noticed this in ourselves and in the early and high volume of those traveling the bike trail and river these past few weekends. I sit on the deck and observe from my “seat in the front row,” as the character Jayber Crow states. Certainly, some bikers and boaters seem to be “in synch” with an authentic flow, and their energy appears and feels peaceful as they travel along, but I also see a lot of those Crow describes as being “in an emergency to relax.” They rush along, not seeing, peddling and paddling furiously, “resting from their work.”

I feel the need to send a blessing their way: May they slow down, all the way down, and hear their own song, and may it bring them peace…They remind me to pay attention to my own level of energy and the ways this “suddenness of spring” excites and invites not just joy, but anxiety, fatigue, and confusion, unless I take time to shake it off and return to my center. I’m trying to minimize the caffeine and sugar, take short naps, allow for mini-meditation breaks, lessen the need to “clear the day’s list,” and just sit and watch the willows dance.

As another wise woman, Julian of Norwich, told us:

All shall be well, And all shall be well, And all manner of thing shall be well…

Learning is compounded, or can be, as the journey flows onward and the circle spirals, in and out. The trick, perhaps, is not to hang on tightly, but to let go and trust that peace is at the center and the impulse of every living system is equilibrium; all shall be well.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Early Bird

The day shall not be up so soon as I,
To try the fair adventure of tomorrow.
~ William Shakespeare

I have a “carpe diem” mug and, truthfully, at six in the morning the words do not make me want to seize the day.  They make me want to slap a dead poet.   ~ Joanne Sherman

 Ah, 5 A.M. on what is forecast as a lovely day, perhaps the tail-end of our magical early warmth this year…although, glancing at the upcoming forecast, I see 74° posted for next Saturday by the local weather oracle. This year we’re learning, and being reminded every day, that we never know what surprises the morning might bring.

This is the day we’ve set aside to tackle some preliminary yard clean-up, weeding around the twelve gardens’ edges, and cleaning between the bricks on the front steps. I’m still leery about scraping away last winter’s garden mulch; we’ve had frost in mid-May, and Mother Nature’s acting very menopausal and unpredictable this year, so I think I’ll let her take the lead and follow respectfully. Just a good day to pick up a few stray branches, invite families of weeds to relocate, smell the sweet spring breezes, and listen to the song of the world.

I do love this time of day. Always have. I inherited Early Riser Syndrome from my father, who was also an inveterate gardener. In summer, we’d go out together to weed and talk about the flowers, which then became talks about my school days, the challenges of cliques, questions about boys, or all those intimate and wonderful things a father and daughter who are very close share with each other. There was something about the stillness and light, the sense of sacredness the dawn confers, and our solitude, together, that seemed to make us more fully ourselves during these conversations. Eventually, I found I could not rise early and go into the garden without sensing my father’s presence and willingness to listen, which I’m sure is one of the reasons my own gardens seem to multiply as I grow older: I like having his spirit around. There is still so much to talk about and share.

There’s something so clean and pure about a new day. Sunrise, birdsong (owl-hooting legitimately qualifies, in my book) and nothing but possibility…I step quietly out on the back deck to breathe and to welcome this year’s happy little duck family as they waddle up from their riverside nest to enjoy a bit of our birdseed: we acknowledge each other peacefully and allow companionable silence to surround us as we all take in the view. I expect they have plans for their day, too, and I step back inside so they might confer in privacy.

There are drawbacks to the early bird rhythm, of course. I was never, physiologically, fond of the whole “slumber party” idea. I was the girl off in the corner sleeping by 9:00 P.M., and then up at 5, eager to play those games my friends were so excited about just a few hours earlier. (An insight regarding my low adolescent popularity quotient…) New Year’s Eve has never had much appeal to me, and some promising young romances completely deflated, and quickly, when we learned our biorhythms were drastically incompatible.

Waking early is not without benefits, however. One advantage to being an early bird is the lovely indulgence of an afternoon nap, two of the most beautiful words in the English language. After all, you’ve put in a full day’s work and deserve a bit of rest by, say, three in the afternoon. Sweet shadows, soft breezes, something to read and then—ah! The bliss of a brief nap.

But that will come later. I make a pot of coffee, look at garden catalogues and websites, dream, and wait for my partner to join me…Phillip sleeps to a reasonable hour (6:30, maybe)—still early for most, though, and he always wakes in a cheerful mood—nothing like my mother, who loathed mornings. I remember we’d peek in on her during her once-a-week “sleep-in” morning (Saturdays, I think), and laugh (quietly), because she’d have an extra pillow or two pulled over her head. There were only three of us children and we weren’t particularly noisy, but she’d certainly earned her right to honor her own body clock’s rhythm when she could, poor dear.

When Mama would finally join “the land of the living,” we knew not to initiate dialogue of any kind or to expect any to be forthcoming until she’d had her coffee, toast, read some papers, and acclimated to the idea of “not sleeping.” All the more remarkable then, I’ve always thought, that she slept on a downstairs “hide-a-bed” for the last 18 years of her life so she could be near my father’s hospital bed, and was often up before dawn to tend to his many needs and prescribed morning routine. Her own early bird needed tender care by then; if she’d anticipated retirement as a time when she could finally “sleep in” every morning, such hopes evaded her. And I never once recall her complaining about this. Love does indeed call us to the things of the world…

So we are divided into two groups once again, before our day’s even begun, and must make gentle accommodation for the needs of those in our immediate and more distant communities, recognizing that our differences bring blessing if we allow them clement space to unfold.

And so the world turns; we drift into sleep and arise, according to our needs, desires, and the demands of love…may you have a blessed day, adjust to its conversations and surprises with gratitude, and, should you be inclined, enjoy an afternoon nap!


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

The Cost of Spring Beauty

Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.  ~ Ernest Hemingway

For several weeks, we’ve experienced temperatures 35-40 degrees above normal, and it looks like this will continue for another week or so. Such sustained warmth, this early, has thawed the earth and considerably accelerated the growth of plants. Trees are leafing out, as are the wild roses. Two wildflowers I’m always happy to see in late April or early May are already sprinkled profusely along the trail: Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) and the tiny pink Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia Caroliniana).

Everything about this magical spring activates my curiosity and listening. 15 years of walking a five-mile route on the trail have not diminished the stories all around me, and a slower pace enforced by recent back injuries also allows me to ponder and be with these stories.

I’ve always noted the wildflowers’ succession on my calendars; Bloodroot and Spring Beauty usually come at the end of April or in early May. That they’ve arrived so early this year has made them all the more startling in announcing spring is here: ready or not.

As I was entering this week’s data regarding the birds’ migrations, my own gardens, and the evolving trail flora, I researched more about each of these early wildflowers.

Little did I know where that would lead: you know how it is with stories.

Bloodroot (Genus Poppy) has long been used as a source of vivid dye, extracted from its roots’ juices; hence, its nicknames of Red Indian Paint and Red Puccoon. Because it’s both toxic and escharotic (tissue-killing), I admire it and leave it alone. I’m not trained in handling such plants and grow plenty of herbs and plants with which I’m more familiar regarding teas and tinctures. I enjoy it as a herald of spring and its sweet white and yellow blossoms.

Spring Beauty is connected to an entirely different story. It is of the Genus Purslane, and abundant throughout North America. A delicate pink with darker red veins striping its petals, it’s scattered in colorful patches along the trail like stars across the night sky.

I understand the designation “Spring Beauty” (though I give it low marks for creativity); it was the “Claytonia” half of its name that intrigued me and led me into hours of searching, reading, learning, and reflection.

Because the story takes place in the years preceding the American Revolution, many of the records that would flesh it out more thoroughly were later destroyed by fires set by the British Army. What remains, however, offers rich themes and imagery to a vivid imagination.

John Clayton (1695-1773), arrived in America from England around 1715, either with his father or soon after John Sr.’s appointment as Attorney General for the colony of Virginia. By 1720, the younger Clayton, because of his probable training at Cambridge University and certainly because of his privileged connections, was employed as the (then) Gloucester County, Virginia, clerk. He was to hold this position for the next 53 years. It wasn’t a strenuous job; he was responsible for recording documents like deeds, land surveys, wills, etc., and was expected to attend the county court sessions. Apparently, the position of county clerk adequately supplemented his family wealth and provided a surprising amount of the leisure time necessary for John to pursue his one true passion: botany.

John married Elizabeth Whiting, the daughter of another prominent and wealthy colonist, and they eventually raised eight children (three girls; five boys) on their 450-acre plantation (tobacco and livestock) in the colony’s wealthiest county, near the Chesapeake Bay.

Clayton’s work in botany soon led to associations with other passionate naturalists and botanists throughout the colony and drew the attention of Dutch naturalist John Frederick Gronovius, who corresponded frequently with Carolus Linnaeus, the famed Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist who created our modern format of binomial nomenclature for classification. (He’s known as the Father of Taxonomy and has also been called the Father of Ecology.) It was Linnaeus who named the genus Claytonia, wildflowers of the Portulacaceae family, in Clayton’s honor.

John Clayton seems to have been driven to seek, discover, describe and share all he could about the flora of this new world. (New to Europeans, anyway.) He may have traveled north to Canada and as far west as the Mississippi River, collecting plant specimens and seeds, and writing highly-respected and detailed descriptions of these. Initially, he sent dried plants to Gronovius, who would identify and name them, but eventually, Clayton grew confident enough to name some himself: he was the first to name the genus Agastache, perhaps better known as hyssop. His own plantation featured an extensive garden of native plants John grew and tended, at least in part.

During the 1730’s, Clayton collected, classified (using Linnaeus’s new system), and documented about 600 different plant species in a work called Catalogue of Herbs, Fruits, and Trees Native to Virginiawhich he shared with Gronovius.

Here the history becomes confused, depending upon the source, but apparently, in 1739, the Dutch Gronovius translated Clayton’s work into Latin, re-titled it Flora Virginica, and published it without Clayton’s permission. Clayton’s reaction is not clear; it seems he continued to work with Gronovius, but also to work on his own version of a new and more thorough catalogue of native plants.

In time, Clayton became famous for his knowledge and naturalist work in the colonies, and became a member of both the Swedish Royal Academy of Science and the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, along with several Virginia learned societies. His friendships and correspondences with others in this field kept him engrossed and, it seems, enthusiastically occupied.

It seems his own Flora Virginica was again trumped by Gronovius, whose son published an updated second edition before Clayton’s—which was to have been illustrated by a famous botany artist of the time (Georg Dionysius Ehret). John Clayton’s own copy of his manuscript was likely destroyed in a clerk office fire in 1787.

Failing eyesight and health didn’t deter his avid passion, it seems, as he joined specimen-collecting expeditions the year before his death, which occurred at home, on December 15, 1773. He was buried at his plantation beside Elizabeth, and two of their children, who had preceded him in death.

After locating a lot of these details from various places, I paused to reflect upon John Clayton’s life and energetic pursuit of his passion. How exciting it must have been for an Englishman to explore and discover so many marvels and to share them with the wider world. What a rich and full life he led and what great recognition he received in the field he loved.

And then it hit me.

A 450-acre plantation in Virginia, owned by a wealthy Englishman in the 18th century? The main resource I’d located hadn’t explored this; had, indeed, glossed right over it:

Eventually, I found another that supplied, in part, greater detail:  

Here, I learned that (at least) 30 slaves, uprooted from their own homes and families, purchased as merchandise and deprived of their humanity, had labored and tended John Clayton’s land and family while being denied their own right to freely pursue innate passions, gifts, and enthusiasms. They likely nurtured his garden of natural specimens, so much more highly valued than their own lives.

What was gained and lost in this malformed relationship?

Do we benefit more for the love of nature that fueled John Clayton’s life than we suffer because he was a slaveholder?

I wonder if John Clayton was considered a “nice” man, if he was a loving husband and father, if people were pleased with his work as county clerk. His death was reported three weeks after it had occurred, without additional comment, in a Williamsburg newspaper. He wanted no “ceremony or sermon,” and received none. Was this due to shyness, humility, a rejection of religious beliefs, pride, or a mixture of these?

Was he mourned by his children?

Or slaves?

All of our gains and pursuits, our passions and glories come at a cost. Whenever I see the Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia Caroliniana), I’ll wonder about John Clayton’s life and the price he paid to pursue his dreams, at the expense of all those other broken and disregarded lives.

What does this sweet pink messenger of spring represent regarding the price our country continues to pay for being built upon the backs and lives of people in chains, viewed solely as a commodity?

“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story,” writes Linda Hogan. And often, our own stories of love and misery become tangled up in those of the land. Some of these end in death, and others go on forever.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.


Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire. ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin                                   

Tomorrow we celebrate the Spring Equinox, a day of equal light and darkness, a lovely metaphor and invitation to reflect upon the balance in our lives, and certainly, the equinox may serve as a portal leading to the new life granted us by spring.

I’ve been pondering these words “new life” a lot the past few months, in light of the physical and spiritual shifts in my own life; the choices Phillip and I have made to pursue a life marked by greater simplicity, earnest dedication to using our gifts, and tending to being present, but also in terms of the political climate of my state, and country, and energies shifting throughout the world. We’re running on fuel that’s depleted—in every way possible—and at a pace that doesn’t allow for reflection or peace. The energy seems to be shifting and our future as a species seems deservedly precarious. Quo vadimus?

New life implies more to me than “the same old thing, but one more time.” Rather, it connotes a path, or method, or being that is evolved, a genetic sport, a surprising new synthesis that is now possible and which just a year, or month, or day ago may have been perceived only through a glass, darkly, or not at all. Serendipity and synchronicity are involved in this new life’s revelation, but so are hard work, paying attention, and listening.

And it involves a great deal of dying and acceptance. Joseph Campbell, discussing Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History (1934), writes:

In his six-volume study of the laws of the rise and disintegration of civilizations, [Toynbee believes that] schism in the soul, schism in the body social, will not be resolved by any scheme to return to the good old days (archaism), or by programs guaranteed to render an ideal projected future (futurism), or even by the most realistic, hardheaded work to wield together again the deteriorating elements. Only birth can conquer death—the birth, not of the old thing again, but of something new. Within the soul, within the body social, there must be—if we are to experience long survival—a continuous “recurrence of birth” (palingenesia) to nullify the unremitting recurrences of death. ~ The Hero With A Thousand Faces (1949)

In our current political climate, I think we see those who, possibly out of their great fear that vital patterns of human interaction are changing (and must), resist the threats these calls to new life pose and seek to return to a time they imagine actually existed and has passed–when men (i.e., Caucasian men) were men and women were invisible. When education was readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic, taught by low(er)-paid drones. When the earth was an endless resource to be infinitely plundered. When aggression and domination were impulses lauded and given free reign over the “inferior others” (those unlike us), and when all these things could be validated by and receive the imprimatur of those who form the hierarchies of belief systems we value (over yours).

That dog don’t hunt no more, folks. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that dog led to the 1960’s—Civil Rights? Vatican II? The EPA? Unions? Earth Day? We should be evolving beyond these wonderful human achievements, not regressing to a mind state prior to their birth.

Regression is natural and can be a very healthy response to change; we want to “go home,” to safety and a time when  the parental figures—mature adults—handled all the world’s problems, choices, decisions and stress. Perhaps a healthier way to allow for this is to grant ourselves peace, quiet, reflection, meditation, and engagement with creativity every day. Hang out in our center, re-charge, and then re-engage as the mature adults we are called upon to be, now.

And, as Toynbee indicates, time spent cobbling together and mending those failing patterns and institutions we currently have, is also wasted energy. Let them die. Rumi said this better:


Inside this new love, die. Your way begins on the other side. Become the sky. Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape. Walk out like someone suddenly born into color. Do it now. You’re covered with thick cloud. Slide out the side. Die, and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign that you’ve died. Your old life was a frantic running from silence. The speechless full moon comes out now.

(From The Essential Rumitranslation by Coleman Barks, with John Moyne, published by Harper Collins)

I like that Rumi says, “Do it now;” Toynbee also wrote that generating pie-in-the-sky visions of a perfect future is also wasting energy. It absolves us of doing too much to effect change while we can and should, and the time has run out for “dream and avoid” behavior.

Check this out: The times they are a-changin’, and what we do with our time, our money, our gifts, our relationships, and our interactions with everything on earth matters more than it ever has, and quite possibly more than it may ever have the chance to exceed.

We have witnessed many examples of humans who have called us to be the changes the earth and all creation need to “nullify the unremitting recurrences of death.” (I would use the word “balance” rather than nullify; I think a rejection and fear of death got us exactly where we are: what if we accepted it instead as life’s necessary partner?)

These human genetic sports, avatars, and prophets were often recognized as such, and disturbed their times and societies, divisively generating both revolutionary enthusiasm in those consciences with which they resonated (usually the have-nots) and fear in those who sensed a challenge to their power and control. We’ve often rejected or destroyed these teachers in their own time and later built boxes and institutions around their teachings, freezing them in perpetuity, adapting them to our egoic comfort, and persistently rejecting the real challenges these human gifts among us represented and offered.

I welcome the balance spring calls me to establish and honor in my life. I welcome the new life, both the familiar and the unknown. I fear the deaths necessary to allow this new life to emerge and grow, but I welcome them anyway, because I’m in the good company of 7 billion–and counting–other precious souls. I’m grateful for the chance to serve as midwife to new life with everyone else on the planet. Together, we can harness the energies of love and create the palingenesia our sweet world needs to renew herself.

I truly believe in what St. Therese called the “Little Way;” every day we each have so many opportunities to change the patterns of interaction we’ve accepted and followed without reflection. Here’s a video that demonstrates how such patterns can change. I especially like that this example involves young women, because of my hope that humans may soon honor and balance the way our feminine natures (and we all have them) can complement our male gifts. We can be strong in our compassion and powerful in our ability to unite.

And here’s a link to a video I love. I think we can never take ourselves too lightly, and it also serves to remind me that the only person I can change is myself. (A mental “Stop it!” works…and makes me laugh.)


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.


Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God. ~ Leon Bloy

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is, “Thank you,” it will be enough.  ~ Meister Eckhart

A week of temperatures in the mid and upper 70’s—and more of this in the forecast—has taken us from an underwhelming winter through a barely-whelmed spring and into an overwhelming summer in the space of two weeks. Of course, all of this can reverse, and probably will. Life in the time of climate change.

While fellow life forms merrily rush forward in relishing the warmth, smells, bare feet, and outdoor grilling this weather affords, we gardeners can be, initially, a bit suspect and hesitant. Such dramatic temperatures cause anxiety regarding our plants’ premature budding, and we worry about weeds and pests gaining early footholds in their annual encroachment and destruction of our gardens. I’ve been checking the gardens every day, tentatively weeding on the perimeters, but not daring to remove the leaves and evergreen branches I use for mulch, or to tread too soon on tender garden beds. The rule here used to be: No vigorous gardening till after Memorial Day, but the change in climate has pushed the threat of frost back a week or two over the last decade. However, gardening before St. Patrick’s Day seems a bit risky and curious.

And curioser.

Very down-the rabbit-hole this year; that is, if there were any room, what with all the bunnies coming up-the-hole to joyfully romp among the paradise my humble gardens apparently present. The wire “wraps” we use to protect plants and shrubs from becoming winter meals are still in place, mostly; if I can dissuade squirrels from digging up tulip bulbs, the gardens will be fine. Maybe.

Like all gardeners, I try to anticipate and head trouble off at the pass; the unending surprises nature offers keep us agile and creative problem-solvers. It’s an active sport that lasts from thaw till frost. That’s why we like winter so much: it is the enforced time-out when all the players—the people, plants, and pests–can take a rest, heal from our losses, forget the stresses of the sport and again dream of new designs, stronger disease resistance, and an end to mildew, creeping Charlie, Japanese beetles, and black spot. If theater is your metaphor of choice, winter is a welcome intermission. This year, I feel like I’ve been called back into play before I got a chance at the water bottle, or the Third Act has begun without time for my costume change.

Winter has always offered us gardeners a much-needed dip in the River Lethe, so that in spring we emerge with trowels, rakes, and hoes, infused with hope, the memories of blights and droughts sunken deeply in oblivion. I can’t say that by mid-March I’ve yet forgotten the struggles of last year’s gardening; they persistently creep back and interrupt my garden dreams. I’d like another month with the perfection offered in garden catalogues…

But, of course, the shift in climate is not without gifts, and greeting them with happy gratitude certainly graces the experience at the energetic and spirit level. Sprummertime has allowed us to turn off the furnace, open windows, and bring the lovely breezes and smells indoors. Doing so also effectively removes any need for an alarm clock. With dawn’s birdsong, flocks of sandhill cranes yodeling overhead, fish jumping in the river, and who-knows-what running through the woods, it’s hard to remain asleep. (The crows know who’s running in their woods, and are very earnest in employing their alarm system to effectively carrying this news to the next county. Or state.)

And, in many ways, it’s a relief to enjoy the warmth and sunlight without the possibility of spending all day in the garden. Up at dawn and out on the trail with my camera, I’ve enjoyed the morning fog that our unusual weather has created, and all the ways it’s made sunrise even more magical than usual. The dogs and I have been going for longer walks, the canoe is taking us on exciting March adventures, and my husband and I have already purchased our annual passes for the bike trail, taking our first ride of the season last night, in t-shirts and shorts, before returning home to sit on the deck and grill a veritable feast.

We just finished reading Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul, a great reminder that setting down expectations, and letting go of resistance to the reality before us can deepen the spiritual journey and return us to a peaceful center that allows us to engage with greater joy. The messages are nothing new, but it seems the stark and simple spiritual truths bear repetition, and Singer’s book has been a lovely companion and coach to our necessary adjustments to sprummertime. The cup isn’t half-filled or half-empty: it’s overflowing with blessing.

The slow life allows for the release of anxiety, to better focus on the gifts this fantastical sprummertime offers. Choosing to go with mystery’s flow makes the present our continual destination. ETA: Now. No point in resisting what is. Gardening—and life—are always co-created with the surprises Spirit and nature offer; the best we can do is bring attitudes of joy and gratitude to the journey. Hospitality isn’t just something we offer guests; we can offer it to every moment of our lives. Hello! What have you come to teach me?

Caed Mille Failte!


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

The Mother Earth Bistro: Open for Business

Welcome, winged ones and those with fins; welcome, too, the pawed and bi-pedal. Mother Earth’s Bistro is opening a bit early this year, due to the enthusiasm of our head chef, Monsieur Sun, our prep chef, Madame Wind, and our sous chef, Mademoiselle Water.

The heady aroma from our kitchen? A little something we call “geosmin,” or earth smell; Je vous remercie de tout cœur. (Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.) It’s our own invention, created by the very active actinomycetes—already, on this day you like to call March 13th— busily breaking down the organic compounds in the soil, so the plants may feed, and you may feed on the plants, and we may all feed on each other. Mais oui! (But of course.)

It is the smell of our life cycle heated and released. Breathe deeply and join the party, for it’s over all too soon on this little sphere spinning wildly in space. C’est la vie; c’est la mort (Such is life; such is death): we are all coming and going, feeding and being fed.

Welcome, friends all, to the time and place for noticing our rebirth, discovering our symbiosis, and celebrating our interconnectedness. Dine to the music of our birdsong chorus and join the carbon-based dance on our lovely terrace, lit by a billion stars watching from afar and yearning to create such recipes of their own.

Prix fixe: You have only tell us: for what is it you hunger?

C’est parti! Joyeux printemps! (Here we go! Happy Spring!)


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Tipping Points

A year ago this weekend, my husband and I attended a rally in Madison to protest changes made by our then-new governor and a state government whose Republican majority supported him. That Governor Walker won the election with only a 52% majority perhaps foretold the divisiveness to come, but I don’t think many of us anticipated the cataclysmic changes or acrimonious conflicts ahead.

Over the past year, the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public sector employees (with the exception of police and fire fighters), the draconian cuts to public school funding (in the neighborhood of 900 million dollars), the implementation of voter identification requirements, and dozens of other measures taken to ostensibly “manage the money” of our state, have split its people and created an atmosphere of such vitriol and mistrust that friends and families have parted company and once-strong professional alliances have broken beyond repair.

Whatever merit existed in these changes and whatever “good” they have contributed to the state budget, they have come at too great a cost to the spirit and people of the place I have called home most of my life. I continue to protest the manner in which these changes have been enacted and I am anguished by the attitudes of disrespect and indifference with which those in the majority have flouted their power. But I am equally affronted by much of the oppositions’ language and inability to focus on policy rather than the individuals with whom they disagree.

Over a million signatures—540,208 were required–were collected to force a recall election of Governor Walker and his lieutenant governor, and other signatures have ensured the potential recall of other state legislators, including our own district’s senator, the majority leader of the state senate.

These recall elections will take place within the next few months. I’ve joined thousands of others in supporting the recall elections, but I dread the anger, distortions, and noise the campaign advertising will likely spew and the bitterness they will engender. My conscience led me to protest the choices and to participate in what I felt were just actions to stop those in power from creating further damage, but I’m so disappointed it’s come to this, and I’ve tried to proceed cautiously. I want to remain hopeful regarding the outcome.

What continue to sadden and perplex me are the perceived and dangerous changes in our degrees of dialogue, courtesy, and compromise that have shadowed this entire process, a reflection of the larger national shifts in political and social discourse, and in the sensationalized way they are presented and reported by our media.

I wonder a lot these days about lines that are drawn with humorous intent that then becomes sarcastic, then cynical, and then hate-fueled…when do these lines become too dangerous to cross? When do they become walls?

At what point do words incite action and then violent action? Are there a given number of rally cries, or decibels, that convert a crowd into a mob? When does a discussion become an argument and an argument a war? When does a perceived threat overtake reason?

What creates the necessary energy to make me forget my connection to everyone in my community and align myself with only those who think as I do?

What, finally and irreversibly, causes us to see each other as enemy? 

When did some Germans, or Poles, or Hungarians look at their Jewish neighbors and begin to see them as expendable? And how did “some” become “more” and then “enough?” What shift allowed Rwandan Hutus to pick up axes, and knives, and spears to murder their lifelong Tutsi neighbors? How could the English elite turn away from my own ancestors’ starvation? How could they ignore Irish people eating dirt and families dying in fields? How could anyone ever consider anyone else his property? How were the United States shaped by justifying the destruction of those who were already settled here? Is it possible to freeze the moment when my vision alters, my self-awareness fades, and my heart turns?

We’re always walking on see-saws and there are tipping points everywhere.

People read historical accounts of human atrocities and shake their heads. How did that happen; what were they thinking; how could they allow it? But I doubt those living into such times conceived what they would become. We must always be aware of our words and their power, our energy and what it can harness, our shadow and where its neglect may lead us.

The usual suspects: greed, power, fear and ignorance are like liquid mercury, and only mindful attention to the direction they’re flowing and ways they’re joining forces—within and without–works in our favor. So we must slow down. See the human frailty in ourselves and the other. Be brave enough and energetic enough to counter injustice before it overwhelms.

We must never be willing to sit back in silence when there are people and governments who must be held accountable for their behavior, but we have to focus on the behavior, the flawed thinking, the likely damage, not engage in hating the individuals. And we must be willing to take a long and penetrating look at our own motives and behavior. Make apologies when necessary. Proceed with care.

Begin and end with love.

 A news program I admire for its maturity and impartiality is The News Hour on PBS; an added attraction is that women guests, reporters, and newscasters are as prominent as men. I especially enjoy David Brooks and Mark Shields for their respectful way of presenting opposing views:


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.



Losing Language

I read a brief article this week about scientists who are tracking the ways words are evolving and, with increasing speed, becoming obsolete as our “social, political, and technological” needs amend our language. You can read it here:

These scientists used a tool created by Google, called the “N-gram Project,” which accesses word histories derived from 4% of the books published (since 1800) in seven different languages. If you use this link, you can type in any two words, choose any years between 1800 and 2008, select a language, and compare how frequencies of the words’ use have evolved over this time, given the stated parameters. ([Go to])

I love words; in fact, I wrote a book about language, using words as the characters (, so I was eager to read the article and check out the N-gram link.

Of course, such studies and tools always create as many questions as they answer. I noticed, for instance, that the article didn’t mention if the scientists had a stated interest in how our other needs, like those related to our emotional, spiritual, religious or philosophical well-being, have affected the evolution of language. And I wondered about the genres of the 4% of books scanned for the study. The article didn’t clarify whether the texts used represented the entire Dewey spectrum or not. Still, it was fun to visit the N-gram page, type in two words, play with the other factors, and see what happened.

But I can’t say I worry too much when studies discuss the “death of language;” to paraphrase Mark Twain, I find these reports greatly exaggerated. As a lifelong logophile, I know language is alive and continuously evolving. When I fear that a people who communicate through texting linguistic amputations will annihilate our language faster than it can endure or renew itself, I look at the  number of well-written blogs available, or publishers’ booklists (including e-books), or the Facebook posts that reflect eloquent, witty, and thoughtful use of language.

More than I fear civilization’s language devolution, I worry about my own. I find my own menopausal brain fog increasingly leading me to the middle of sentences with no traditional (i.e., “verbal”) way of finding my way out. Rather than moving with ease to the next word, I find myself completely and instantly halted, as though the language train has arrived at the edge of a great and bottomless void that wasn’t on the track moments before. I back up and try again, often resorting to synonyms, or charades, or other clues to guide my listeners through what I’d supposed to be a droll, or at least interesting, informational nugget.

What a thrill it can be these days when I complete a thought and then share it, fully, in under a few minutes. Or hours.

Often, my companions suffer from similar language retention challenges. Someone mentions a movie or television program she’s seen recently. We all nod in recognition, excitedly, and then the fun begins. Fools rush in.

Guest: “I watched the Sondheim Birthday Celebration on PBS again last night.”

Me: “Oh, I enjoyed that, too…wasn’t [synapse explosion] um, that guy who was in Princess Bride—Inigo Montoyasinging with [fog rolls across mental landscape] you know; the woman who sings like this (mimes pouting lips)? You know, Sunday in the Park With…the artist who painted dots? Finishing the Hat?”

Guest: “You mean Mandy Patinkin? Yes. He sang with [poof!], um—yeah, I know who you mean…She was in…um” (Pouts lips; sings part of line from Hard Knock Life; stops midway, forgetting lyric.)

Husband: “Bernadette Peters?”

Guest and I: “Yes!”

All: (Laughing, amused, grateful; only somewhat tentative about proceeding. No one tries to retrieve name of pointillist artist.)

Me: (Boldly venturing out once more on the ice pond of discourse): “I enjoyed when Sondheim’s leading ladies came out towards the end of the program and each covered a hit. Elaine Stritch did an amazing rendition of I’m Still Here.” (Mentally pirouette and settle back into couch for earned rest, clearly the conversation’s victor at this point.)

Guest: (Palpably relieved to have no identity minefields to navigate): “Oh, it was wonderful. She must be in her mid-eighties, and she was jumping and singing…the audience just loved it. I’ve always enjoyed Elaine Stritch.”

Me: (Revived; heady with victory; ignoring husband’s hand signals to quit while ahead): “But the best performance of the entire evening was by [neural freeze] oh, um—you know… (singing) Don’t cry for me, Argentina! She was in that…not by Sondheim, but that other guy… (singing) Listen to the music of the night…that composer. She was in…wait! I know: Evita!” (Momentarily semi-smug.)

Husband: “Audra McDonald?”

Guest: “?”

Me: “No. You know…she was in the Gypsy revival. Her mouth kind of slants, like this… (Singing, from left side of mouth) Everything’s coming up roses…”

Husband and Guest: “??”

Eventually, we all tire of this activity and lapse into safe and pleasant silence until it’s time (9:00) to say goodnight, a word we can all manage.

Me: (3 A.M., sitting up in bed, suddenly awake): “Patti Lupone! Georges Seurat! Andrew Lloyd Weber!” (Instantly lie down; return to sleep.)


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Infinite Expectations, Surprising Blessings

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Just when I was ready to guide winter to the door, thank it for its company and bid it farewell till next year, we received a snowfall different from any other and enchanting in the world it offered us Saturday morning. The relative warmth kept the snow heavy and just damp enough to cling to everything at the angle from which it fell or blew, so the world at dawn appeared to be flocked with opals, and magical. I wandered for some time and out of time with my camera, grateful for the opportunity to be reintroduced to winter’s surprises and depths. Reawakened.

It was a beautiful reminder that all of creation holds surprises if we can keep our hearts and minds open to its possibilities. We can be so quick to box and label our days, our seasons, our experiences, and ourselves; how lovely to be stopped in my tracks and have my expectations upended so delightfully.

Relationships, too, can be forever evolving and surprising in their invitations. Things may shift rather dramatically, for example, when children become their parents’ caregivers. When my mother came to live with us some years ago, we all had to make adjustments in our hopes and behaviors very quickly and unexpectedly. We thought she would soon be moving into her own nearby condominium, but her health declined rapidly, and everything suddenly changed.

This was most difficult for my mother, who was an extremely independent woman. She had cared for my father for almost 20 years following his stroke, and to so quickly find herself dependent and cared for was heartbreaking.

People respond to dialysis very differently, much of it due to the status of their overall health and related co-morbidities: for some it’s not too drastic, and they manage well with dialysis for years; for others, it can be extremely draining and dispiriting. Mama came home weary and discouraged from her first session, and her exhaustion only increased as the weeks passed. We could see her health fading, and our own spirits sank as well.

Everything my mother owned was neatly boxed and stacked in a storage unit some miles from our home. We hoped to complete an addition to our home and see her settled with her own furniture and belongings soon, but construction was still underway and stalled by winter storms. For now, my mother’s privacy and few necessary possessions were confined to the guest room. One day, early in December, I went to the storage unit after helping Mama get settled at the dialysis facility. I climbed, searched, dug around, and finally located some of her treasured Christmas decorations, came home, and set them around our living room and her bedroom. Her happiness at discovering these when I brought her home that afternoon was a great boon for both of us.

We all tried so hard to lift each other’s spirits that year, despite the fact that our family, home, and relationships felt like they were constantly shifting. We knew Mama was dying, but not yet. Everything was strange and new. I recall how we stumbled and found our way again, over and over; how we juggled joy and danced sorrow and laughed and wept…how precious people are when the world feels like it’s ending and they say yes to love, anyway. Constant reawakening to need, and loss, and ways to demonstrate and experience love.

Christmas was coming soon, and Phillip and I had fun planning treats and surprises to keep gratitude and joy readily accessible. We read Christmas stories, sang carols, watched movies, and happily relaxed some of the dietary restrictions dialysis patients have to follow, so Mama could enjoy her holiday season meals and a few special desserts.

We wrapped a lot of little gifts and set them under the tree with presents that arrived from my brothers, and hoped we could make Christmas Day truly special for Mama. Naturally, we didn’t expect her to do anything but relax and enjoy herself as much as possible.

When I handed Mama the last gift, she surprised us by reaching into the pockets of her robe and presenting each of us with a small wrapped box as well. I remember looking at Phillip in shock: how on earth—and when—had she located and wrapped presents for us? She was never left alone in our home, could no longer drive, and certainly didn’t walk into town on her own. She didn’t have the strength for any of these things.

I opened my gift and discovered a sweet brooch that had been my grandmother’s. Mama knew I collected these old brooches and—somehow—had wrapped this treasure from her own jewelry box, as she’d wrapped some of my Dad’s wonderful old tie-tacks for Phillip. The pin is lovely, but I value it more because it’s come to symbolize what that year taught me about love and the infinite ways it may surprise and enliven our days, if we keep our eyes and hearts open.

Stripped of hope that her health would be restored, deprived of dreams for her future, dependent upon others for meals and much of her care, my mother still honored her need–with dignity and creativity–to gift those she loved. Living a completely circumscribed and regulated life, she was able to  delight us with surprise. Those with infinite expectations of the dawn will encounter obstacles along the way, but the point, as Thoreau says, is to stay awake and look for the surprising opportunities and blessings that always appear.

We looked forward to sharing our dinner with a good friend this past Saturday night. Due to the week’s warm weather and melting snow, I’d planned a “spring” meal of quiche, salad, fruit, and “something lemony” for dessert. When I woke up Saturday morning to see the new version of a winter wonderland, I thought maybe a hearty stew was called for…but decided to surprise our guest with the spring meal, anyway. She’s the kind of person who naturally stays awake and looks for the dawn’s surprises, and I’m learning, all the time, how to expect its  infinite wonders, too.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.