Lost and Found

 Dear St. Anthony,

Come around,

I’ve lost my _______,

And it can’t be found.

That was the prayer-poem we were taught when we were very, very young and trying to locate a toy, or shoe, or homework assignment that had been misplaced. In the Catholic Church, St. Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of lost articles (extrapolate and extend metaphors as needed), and the prayer seemed to work. At any rate, it alleviated anxiety and allowed us to focus on finding what we’d lost, but I’ve never discounted the energy of holy mystery and its role in easing life’s burdens, either.

I’ve been reciting the Prayer to St. Anthony this past week, not in search of my mind, which I sometimes think would be a recommended “best practice,” but in search of a novel begun and stored on my computer and then one day accidently deleted or carried over to the trash bin. Poof. Lost. Without any recollection on my part. This is proof that age doesn’t automatically yield wisdom: I certainly know my manuscripts should be backed-up and stored on a flash drive and/or in a cloud. (Would that sentence have made any sense at all a few years ago?) But my new computer seemed so strong and safe; I relied upon it and let down my guard.

I forgot to practice safe text.

Writers will sympathize with the torment and agony this causes; the loss is real and deep. The child of my creativity is alone, abandoned, and floating somewhere in the ether. I can’t retrieve it…I can’t duplicate it. All the work; all the magic…gone.

My husband took the hard drive to the local computer doctor, who has been running searches for the past week; so far, unsuccessfully, but I haven’t surrendered all of my hope yet. Maybe St. Anthony will help me find my story. If not the actual document, perhaps I’ll be inspired to re-create it anew. Still too heartsick.

Damn! I loved the way it flowed, and I had so finely polished the words; each was a jewel, artistically conformed to the mood, setting, and action and poetry. The characters were distinct and intriguing…oh dear; even writing this hurts.

And on top of the loss, to be without a computer for days and days was initially like lemon juice on an open wound. I felt like I was floating free in the ether myself. The lack of my computer seemed to expand the day by innumerable hours. Had I really spent all that time checking e-mail, writing, visiting Facebook, reading links…?

I’d thought my days were fairly silent; I believed I wrote in stillness all day long. I discovered, though, that my hours had been full of the endless chatter the world creates and thrives upon. My computer was like some techno-umbilical cord connecting me to the constant stream of the world’s anxious head-noise.

Without it, I had time to enter my meditation space and stay for an hour. Meditating. I wrote in longhand, wandered and weeded in the gardens, meditated some more, and still had plenty of time to complete my share of our family’s tasks…and all of this in real, deep silence. Unplugged. Listening.

I had no idea until I lost my computer how silent silence could be. I knew this once, but I forgot. Technology seduces us and even when we think we’re being mindful, we’re enticed, led into reliance upon its endless connections and the desire to keep in touch. I HAVE to know what is occurring in the world now, and now, and now…

No; I don’t.

Phillip gifted me with a little (as in Lilliputian) notebook this weekend, so I can write and post, and e-mail. I appreciate it, but I don’t want to lose the lessons this past week taught me, lessons I thought I’d already mastered, but hadn’t. Twice a week, I plan to refrain from turning on any computer.

I learned again that moments of deep healing can come when we are silent and our spirit is deeply still. We can enter a space where everything we’ve ever been, and dreamed, and suffered, and where everyone we’ve ever loved lives, and waits for us to meet their energy and be with them.

I lost my story last week, and I lost a very precious friend. He was 86 and had been my spiritual director for several years. This will be a deeper grief to heal, a longer journey in the landscape of loss. But I know again that when I travel in silence to the still point in my heart, I’ll find my story and my friend. Both of them are there, alive, forever.

Thanks, St. Anthony.


© 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.

Love Always Has A Name

Saturday, as the sun’s rosy fingers were doing whatever they wanted without our knowledge because we were asleep and it was 5:00 for godssake, we were awakened by a crash on the metal roof over our heads. Given the layers of insulation between ceiling and roof, this was both unusual and unexpected. “What the…?!”

We listened to a skidding and downward slide of whatever mass had just crashed, and then a kind of flip-flapping back up to the roof’s crest, accompanied by a few more crashes, slides, and flip-flaps…Slowly, as we breathed and listened our way into wakefulness, steadying our hearts and hushing our initial fear, we realized our new springtime visitors had returned.

They form an interesting arrangement of ducks, a kind of family, or harem, or ménage a trois, consisting of a male and a female mallard and a domestic white duck of indeterminate sex. We do not judge. They amuse and intrigue us, and remind us of The Far Side cartoons by Doug Larson.

The three of them have been visiting the yard each morning, swimming in the river and then wobbling up the lawn, or flying in and landing near the gardens and irritating the dickens out of Riley (“bark, bark bark!”), who believes it’s her duty to keep all other life forms away from her territory. This includes squirrels, turkeys, chipmunks, rabbits, foxes, hikers and bikers on the trail…and now, ducks. Riley loves to sit on the window seat and survey her property–everything she can see and smell–with the puffy self-righteousness of the King of Siam, and bark her commands, fully expecting them to be honored. (“Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!”) Alas; she is inside and the other life forms are outside, free to ignore her protests.

After we assured Riley (and Clancy, who imitates his sister without a lot of circumspection) that we were all very safe, I went out with my camera, but the ducks were intolerant of my paparazza intrusion and flew away after a shot that captured only the two that were immediately visible.

On Sunday morning, just the female mallard returned, this time to the garage roof, so I shot a few photos from the living room window. Her two companions were near; we’d seen them fly just beyond the garage into the front acreage. We think perhaps a nest may be somewhere in the yard and that the rooftop vantage points allow for them to scan and protect their eggs or young ducklings. We don’t want to frighten them or disturb their nest if this is the case, so we’ve been cautiously tending those gardens and carefully cutting the lawn in the area where we suspect the nest might be.

In the past we have had tortoises crawl up from the river to hollow out bowls of earth and lay their eggs, but this hasn’t happened for many years. We have rabbits nesting on the property almost every year, and we once had a skunk give birth (and get a very wide berth in return, though the babies were unbelievably cute) in the front acre we call “the field.” Wild turkeys emerge from the woods, parading their young in dutiful lines every year, and bird nests are everywhere. But I believe these would be our first ducklings, if indeed a nest is somewhere among the grasses or gardens.

I hope so.

We watched a program on PBS last night filmed and narrated by a young couple who spent a year in the River of No Return Wilderness area of Idaho. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/river-of-no-return/introduction/7618/)   The husband, a wolf biologist, had worked with the Nez Perce tribe to reintroduce wolves to this wilderness region, which covers 2.5 million acres. One evening, the couple observe a wounded elk limping up a hillside and hear the wolves begin to call and surround her. The husband admits his pain in observing her likely death, when he is surprised by the appearance of another elk cow that places herself between the wolves and her wounded elk “friend.” More surprisingly, they endure the night together and walk/limp off together in the morning, the wolves nowhere in sight.

“Nothing in my biology texts had prepared me for this,” says the husband in his voice-over.

No, we cannot say we truly know what all other animals feel, and need, or the ways they form connection and community. It is a reminder that all of life figures it out as it goes along; there is instinct; there are patterns; there are expectations; there is evolution, procreation, creative creation; and there is surprise. There are bonds that speak of love. We are not here to judge or condemn, but to celebrate such unions.

There is mystery.

The daily round is just that; we chase round the days, weeks, months and years; the seasons pass one into the next as the earth revolves and our lives return again to the same place… but different. And it’s the lovely surprise of these differences that keeps me awake and passionately in love with life at Full Moon Cottage and therefore passionately in love with life and its unions everywhere. Anything can happen, the duck trio reminds me: keep your eyes open, and your heart and mind as well…hold reverence for it all; let it be as it is. Celebrate love.

Respond with awe.


© 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.

Hospitality: Of Pests and Guests

Hospitality is the fundamental virtue of the soil. It makes room. It shares. It neutralizes poisons. And so it heals. This is what the soil teaches: If you want to be remembered, give yourself away. ~ William Bryant Logan, Source: Dirt: the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth

So ends a week of surprising visits from pests and guests, which has led me to contemplate the practice of hospitality and its inherent reliance upon both giving and receiving.

I suspect when the energy between host and visitor is balanced, the visitor is more likely to be perceived as guest; when the exchange is energetically imbalanced, perhaps the visit becomes an experience more endured than welcomed…At any rate, I’m struggling with the impulse to label visitors as pests or guests; to paraphrase the quote from Logan, hospitality involves making room for whatever healing is needed; it necessitates giving oneself away, not withholding generosity based on judgments that rank the worthiness of one’s guest by considering some “pests.”

But, to clarify: my initially perceived pests included a virus that has benefitted from the warm winter and damp spring, using them as a fortuitous springboard to attack my irises, whose lovely leaves are spotted and rotting. I’ve cleaned and cut and thinned. I’ve destroyed what plague I could isolate and must now await the healing or demise that may follow.

Another pest shut down my computer quite suddenly this week when I’d hoped to spend fruitful days writing. Ominous messages appeared and before I could even react, my computer, more sentient and capable than I’d known, turned itself off. I was not hospitable to this detour and delay. I wrote what I could with a pen and notebook, then surrendered, my hand cramped and my outlook cloudy. To be honest, I enjoyed a few days of peaceful reading and stillness with the 4-leggeds, until the computer responded to Phillip’s tinkering.

The third pestilence is one that will continue to spread and infect our spirits through the upcoming state recall elections and probably through the presidential election next November. It is the canvassing and unwanted visitations to our e-mail, phones, and doorbell by earnest campaigners. I went out canvassing door-to-door myself, so can hardly fault others for acting to support their own political candidates, but it feels, already, like too much of a muchness. And to be perfectly honest: I have never been persuaded by a phone call, ad, or face-to-face encounter to vote any differently than I’d already determined I would. The urge to disconnect, turn off, tune out, and unplug grows.

But then I would not have the blessings of guests I also enjoyed this week. The loveliest was a visit from a friend with whom I share conversations so intense and deep I need to retreat to stillness and sleep for a day or two so all the meaning can settle, begin to synthesize, and slowly clarify the perceptions that have been altered and better ordered by our time together.

Many paths have led to my passion for hospitality. I have prayed, studied, and entered into friendships with Franciscans and Benedictines, members of two religious orders that value and earnestly tend their vowed commitment to hospitality.

I have worked as a professional and volunteer in both hospitals and hospices, organizations whose names link them to the ancient and healing bond between host and guest—in theory, if not always, ironically, in their environments or the manner in which their services are offered.

The daily round has brought many guests to our door over the years and most have shared their gratitude for our attempted hospitality, saying they feel comfortable, peaceful, and nourished in body and spirit, a testament to the land and environment surrounding Full Moon as well.

These encounters in life that drench it in such profound sweetness and gift make me wonder if I’m missing something when I label other encounters as undesirable and pest-ridden. I wonder what gifts I’m missing in my willingness to close the door to my spirit. After all, Logan says, “If you want to be remembered, give yourself away.’’ No hospitality, no healing on either side of an encounter?

I’m beginning to understand what hospitality means for me: it is the welcome embrace, the open assent to relationship with life in whatever form it presents itself. Hospitality is a posture one assumes; it draws equally upon strength and vulnerability. It creates a necessary portal, enabling our passage to the place where, in relationship, our regeneration and creativity can be stimulated and nourished, our songs can be heard and brought back into tune and resonance with our spirits, and our hearts unburdened and refilled with hope.

Both host and guest create whatever hospitality exists, and in its truest and purest form it can involve such intense engagement, such energetic connection and transference of energy, that it can leave one both energized and depleted, which are natural responses to transformation. A loving sexual relationship offers this; so does a loving spiritual relationship, a friendship, an encounter with one’s sense of the Holy through a stranger, or experiences with other forms of life and nature.

I am changed and new; I am overwhelmed and energized with gift. There is much to do; but first, I must sleep…incubating gifts…healing.

Gratitude is a lovely light to shine on one’s life; I think, though, that hospitality is what makes it possible.

My friend drove off yesterday afternoon. I walked among the gardens, weeding a bit, mothering the irises, admiring colors and turning, over and over, the words my friend and I had shared, planting new perspectives and perceptions, uncertain of their necessary gestation time, but confident they will bloom—created as they were in the garden of mutual and healing hospitality.

A stranger called and asked me to vote for his candidate. I opened my heart to his need to ask, his courage to try, his reaching for support. I shared that I didn’t agree with his choice but sympathized with the time and effort he was offering to make it known. We laughed together.

Even “no” can come from a place of hospitality. We are all, each of us, host and guest, creating our healing, or not, in relationship.


© 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.

When the Student is Ready

Since its publication in 1992, I have treasured my copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a seminal book about the spirituality of creativity, which also includes a 12-week program to clarify and deepen the artist’s path. I loved the chapter titles, the quotes, and the ideas. I even read the book several times—sometimes in bits and pieces and at other times, front to back in a few sittings.

But I never actually followed the 12-week course. This is not to say my life didn’t benefit from Cameron’s work; it did, and I hope the friends and students and patients with whom I shared Cameron’s ideas were also led to deeper engagement with their arts.

A few months ago, faced with more books than I could house (seriously overcrowded: imagine Miss Havisham with a book jones), I took boxes and boxes off to St. Vinnie’s, feeling very noble and much lighter. I remember hesitating with The Artist’s Way, but felt I’d yielded what wisdom I could from it; now it was another seeker’s turn.

So there I was last Saturday, browsing in Vinnie’s. I scanned a shelf of books, and reached for my old copy of The Artist’s Way. I flipped through the pages, landing on one of those wonderful quotes peppered throughout its pages and flipped back to the beginning…I bought it back for a dollar, came home, and earnestly began the 12-week course Cameron has outlined.

All the lovely excuses that for years had kept my relationship with the book confined to air-kissing and benign but surface-only involvement, have crumbled. Finally, I am ready and the teacher has appeared. Again.

All I can say is that it’s a far, far better thing than I have ever done. I’m one week in, and cannot believe what’s been excavated and revealed, just by following the “Morning Pages” writing exercise. It’s explained by Cameron, here (along with other aspects of the course and information about a live video version: http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/.) Note well, dear reader: You do not need to spend money; get the book (at a library) and dig in…if you’re ready. Or buy it used–my copy only cost a dollar. The second time.

Basically, the Morning Pages are three pages of free-writing done every morning, faithfully. Regardless of the form your artistic expression takes: painting, writing, cooking, gardening, composing, photography, teaching, healing, cake-decorating, doctoring, lawyering, whatever…Cameron prescribes the Morning Pages and asks that they be handwritten. (There are studies that emphasize the benefits of doing this type of writing by hand rather than typing. I type, because it flows better for me, but try both and see what works best for yourself.) She also stresses that no one else should ever read these and even recommends that you don’t re-read them; they’re strictly for “off-loading” your brain’s white noise and helping you encounter your critics, blocks, shadow and emotions…and for me, they’re doing this in spades and more. My dreams have been parading across my Morning Pages, along with memories and feelings that are surprising me and freeing my spirit. Connections have been made that are startling.

What I love about Cameron’s book is that it’s for everyone, of any age. It doesn’t matter how creative energy is translated through your talents (or how you would like it to be), your art will benefit from following the program. I’m excited to see what transformations will bud and bloom over the next 11 weeks…let me know if you’ve completed the course or considered it.

If you’re not ready, file this for later; if you’re ready, the teacher is, too. Joy to you.

Two other authors whose works have energized my creativity: Eric Maisel and Cathy A. Malchiodi


© 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 Heart’s Geography

Returning home after traveling is always sweet and yet a bit disquieting. Places visited have circumscribed our senses and experiences for a time; home, ironically, feels a bit foreign and we look at it with new eyes. Choices made long ago regarding furniture placement, or lighting fixtures, or garden arrangement, or partner, seem jarring and specifically wrong, or (in regard to my partner) more deeply delightful and pleasing…life has been shaken up a bit and our perspectives are altered. Is our home really this small? Has our yard always required this much tending? When did we agree to adopt all these animal companions and under the influence of what drug? Are our nephews really in college and grad school? How on earth have our lives passed so quickly and what is it, exactly, we’ve done with them?

And who can foresee the evolution of brother-and-sister relationships over a lifetime?

We don’t tend to return with many new “things,” from our travels; few souvenirs or purchased mementos signify we have been away and are changed, save the digital photographs that document the outward truth of this. And we are frugal travelers: I pack meals that keep us earnestly on the road for the 15-hour drive, although we’re always open to side trips when enticed by intriguing signs and curiosities. The experience of travel itself, though, has transformed us, and initially, home seems a place meaningful only to the strangers we used to be and no longer are.

Within a few days of re-entry, though, the new/old life settles into place, coherent routines knit back together, and like a re-tailored suit, our home fits us once again. Not quite the same. Encounters and revelations that crossed our paths while we were on the road have changed us. Although the patterns of the daily round are familiar, there’s a new step or two, a phrase, a recipe, a book, a point-of-view or a plan newly-adopted and adapted,  a new way of seeing and being that has been integrated. Our insights, and therefore our outlooks, have been tweaked. The outward travel has stimulated interior journeys as well, and the memories—long past and now updated—continue to roll and enlarge, diminish, fade, or take on mythic proportions in the latest chapters of our ongoing life stories…it takes a while to sift and settle, although we’ve been home for a few days now.

Every moment has the potential to transform us, of course, but the awareness of this seems heightened by travel.

We covered about 1950 miles, choosing interstates for our journey south and backroads for our drive home, offering us views of American heaven and hell. From the interstate, life looked hopeful, busy and unhindered by gasoline prices and a struggling economy; however, the drive back north, behind the bustling interstate curtain, revealed a sad succession of little towns that appeared faded, peeling and resigned; taped together, but sliding irretrievably into decomposition. Despite signs of life among the decay, people were nowhere to be seen and toys were abandoned in overgrown yards, as though everyone had already left on some tribal hegira to safety and better times, if either can be located geographically, although I suspect not. 

We stayed with my younger brother in a charming suburb of Atlanta, the stately, quiet neighborhoods blooming abundantly with azalea, redbud and dogwood. My brother and sister-in-law offered us a list of adventures from which we chose destinations every day and headed out to explore and tour the landscape and its offerings. And while the sights were interesting and entertaining and the restaurants were wonderful, it was the company of family and our shared stories that graced the week and hallowed our precious time together.

What I most enjoy about leaving home is the opportunity to see my partner and myself and our lives from different perspectives. His humor, intelligence, patience and curiosity—viewed in relief against new places and circumstances—charmed my heart and confirmed again what a gifted spirit good fortune has given me as my life’s fellow-traveler. A kind person with an open mind colors the journey so beautifully.

And I discovered that I’m far more easy-going than I used to be, and able to better enjoy whatever presents itself rather than bother with prescribed expectations. Just as I was reminded again by the family memories shared during the week and my (very tall) nephews’ entry into adulthood that life is fast and fleeting, I’m also learning to treasure the presence of loved ones more fully and delight in who we all are rather than evaluate the ways we are different in our philosophies and encounters with life. Choices and stances that mattered and challenged me when we were younger have been stripped away by time and all that I can see are people I have always loved. 

We walked along the streets of Athens, GA, one afternoon, and came across a mobile work of art the creator called his “Heaven and Hell Car.” I wish I’d had more time to photograph it and converse with the artist, but he was on his way elsewhere when we met. A traveler on his own journey. I especially welcomed his sculpture stating that we’re, most of us, “a little good, a little bad.” At any rate, this seemed to be his conclusion on the side of the car I was closest to; as I went around the other side, it seemed perhaps it had taken a lifetime of dancing with various aspects of his shadow to arrive at this fair-minded wisdom, as I suspect it does for “most folk” as well.

The days passed quickly and the joy of being together, away from home, and with people we love and seldom see made everything count. On vacation, my heart reminds me, “This moment matters: remember it,” and what it means is, “It all matters; be present to it; see the love that breathes through it all.” And I did; I do; I’m trying. I spent a good many years traveling in my own “heaven and hell car,” dancing with my shadows, too.

My nephews have returned to their honors classes, graduate seminars, and the exciting time of choosing careers and partners of their own. My brother and sister-in-law are back at work, and Phillip returned to school this morning.

I sit at my desk and ponder the week that has passed. Where did the time go? And what has changed? Why does the angle of light falling across the river and through the willow’s gown of leaves catch my attention and delight me so? Why do I cry when I see the picture of my brother with his arm around me?

And then I understand the gift of travel, whether we’re covering miles of road or years and years of memories. My heart reminds me that although we return to our recognizable daily rounds, we are changed and renewed. Travel clarifies the passing of time, the endurance of love, and the connections that last. It invites us to let go of the memories, beliefs, and feelings that no longer serve our spirit’s growth. We don’t need the excess baggage.

Travel allows us to set down judgement and see we’re just like “most folk,” equally light and dark, good and bad, seeking safety and better times, and sometimes discovering both when we let go of anything that impedes our ability to love. Heaven or hell depends on our perspective; we can travel down either road. Setting down and letting go of our hell, whatever it may be, frees our arms to embrace heaven and make our home there.

It was good to be gone. Our journey offered priceless insights and valuable perspectives. Frugal travelers that we are, we still came home with armloads of blessings. It is good to be home.


© 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.