Sacred Stories and Holy Sparks

There is something magical in the angles of autumn light and the way it illuminates objects that recede throughout the year’s other seasons. Leaves, trees, birds, grasses—all the world seems infused with light and embraced by light. Lit from within and without… I’ve always felt light is another language, a way Love communicates with our spirits. I think that’s why I’m so connected to the visual, to colors and patterns, and why I’ve always tried to photograph the messages I sense are all around me. Sometimes, I breathe in the message; I understand what the light is saying. Other times, it eludes me before I capture the meaning.

Autumn is the season that feels especially illuminating. Perhaps this is why, for me, it’s always felt intuitively “right” that this is the time of year the Catholic Church celebrates angels, a word that means “messenger.” Today is the feast, or festival, of three archangels: angels that bring news of utmost importance. And on October 2, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Guardian Angels, honoring the ancient belief that we each have a personal angel guiding us through life and back home to Love, our Source. When I was young, we said a nightly prayer to our Guardian Angels. At some point, I named mine Mary Louise. I have no idea why I chose this name, but the idea that Mary Louise was present when I was frightened or sad certainly gave me comfort.

The idea that a Creative Energy loves our particulate matter so uniquely and personally that we’re each accorded our own spiritual guide speaks of an Original Spirit, God, or Transcendence that is both compassionate and intimately involved with our journey, our discernments, and the paths we choose. It taught me to perceive my God as benevolent rather than forbidding, angry, and frightening.

Perhaps I no longer need a literal angel (though I still “talk” with Mary Louise when I’m under stress), but I do need the reminder that my life is sacred to its core, that my choices require contemplation, and that my spirit is connected to its Source.

“God comes to us disguised as our lives,” wrote Paula D’Arcy; the idea being that if there is anything sacred and holy for us to apprehend in the world, it’s all right here, now, in the movement of energy we call “my life.” Whether we name the messengers reminding us of this angels, intuition, mystery, or grace, I think in some way, we apprehend these messages as light, real and metaphorically, as in-sight, those profoundly illuminated moments when we perceive the interconnection of everything.

Once, after a series of losses had visited my life, I went on an 8-day silent retreat to give myself over to needed healing and peace. I settled comfortably into the routine of the silence and its flow. I met with my retreat director after breakfast each morning, and spent the rest of the day walking, resting, reading and writing…mostly listening. The combination of silence and listening seemed to invite deep sleep, so I enjoyed daily naps and usually went to bed shortly after sunset. I could almost feel deep healing knitting my spirit back together.

One day I finished breakfast and took my coffee to the wonderful lounge overlooking the grounds and the lake surrounding the retreat house. I had some time to relax before I met with my retreat guide. I remember a caretaker was riding a lawn mower back and forth and the day promised peace and sunshine. I sipped my coffee, and as I set the mug down on the broad window ledge and looked up, everything changed.

Every single particle of matter in front of me separated from the next and became drenched in light; the energy of tree leaves and grass blades and the room around me, and all the other retreatants, a sailboat on the lake, the lake itself, a butterfly, and the sky around it vibrated, each minute part of everything pulsing within its own halo of light, but in unison with every other particle. I remember staring, looking around the room, seeing it all dancing in its dazzling light, and knowing it wasn’t logical. It didn’t frighten me as much as amaze me. What was happening? What did it mean? I knew I wasn’t in danger physically or otherwise, but I felt the need to get back to my room, which required that I navigate hallways and steps…and all the way, the light explosions continued. Everything was illuminated, gilded with a holy golden light…I knew this was extraordinary and a gift. Once in my room, I went down to my knees; I couldn’t stand anymore. I wasn’t sure I was still breathing. But, eventually, the pulsing subsided and the world shuddered back into the 3-dimensional shapes and forms I knew. I closed my eyes and counted my breaths.

Gradually, an awareness shook through to my “thinking” mind. It was as though a heart beat at the center of the universe and, fueled by Love, pulsed its light through everything. I knew it. I owned the understanding at that moment and have never doubted it, in all the days since.

Years later, I’m still unpacking the experience, one of the most profound of my life. I hesitate to share it because I think it risks diluting the gift, but also because I’ve never found the words to truly recreate what I saw, felt, and knew in the midst of it all.

But I learned from my dying patients, who often seek to share their lives’ profound moments before they die, that many of us have had such encounters with mystery, and sharing them can be affirming and offer comfort to others as well. People are both eager and apprehensive about sharing such experiences and others that have happened to them (like visits from loved ones who have died) because they yearn to share, but fear sounding foolish and being negatively judged.

Elderly patients often told me they were afraid their grown children would recoil and reject them if they shared these experiences, and might use such “stories” as evidence that their parents were no longer mentally reliable and needed nursing home placement and care.

How sad to lose our sacred stories, to scorn these holy gifts. Because when we share and affirm that we are connected to each other and our Source, that each of us is truly a shard of Holy Light, we know we have to make choices and act in accordance with these connections, to honor and preserve them.

May the light of autumn and its messengers, the winged and all others, remind you that you are lit by sparks of the Divine, that there is always more than you can see, and that Love pulses at the core of everything.


© 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 Autumn Garden

Today marks the beginning of Autumn, the fall equinox. It’s made a dramatic entrance, complete with thunder, lightning, high winds, and hail. Tonight, the gardens may endure a hard freeze, so we’ll be blanketing our mums to preserve their blooms.

Summer is definitely over.

We’ve enjoyed the last month’s blooms, having had to cut the buds from our midsummer plants to spare their energy during our 2-month drought. It broke my heart to miss all the lovely flowers, but the plants survived. Meteorologists and climate scientists predict more such summers, but for now, we’re enjoying the end-of-summer show and will try to prolong it as long as we can. Technically, the drought hasn’t ended, but the gardens still live, and some plants are thriving.

Yesterday, I shared a presentation on Spirituality and Aging, specifically addressing invitations life makes to our spirits in the “second half” of life, our own seasons of autumn and winter. Like the autumn garden, we may bloom in ways more richly colorful and distinctive than during our earlier seasons, and also consciously work to acquire habits that protect us against a hard freeze that would inhibit blooms we have yet to offer. While not denying or running from our deaths, wisdom counsels us to honor our mind-body-spirit integrity and its healing and wholeness in ways we may have ignored or not perceived when younger.

In her workbook for “sacred alignment,” The Spirit of Place, Loren Cruden outlines distinctive practices and ceremonies for traveling with the earth’s seasons and creating corresponding awareness, healing, and integration in our mind-body-spirit. I’ve been using the book as a resource and guide this year, and especially recommend it because of Cruden’s deep intelligence, eloquence, and educated understanding of both Eastern and Native American spiritualties. Her method of teaching and integrating these understandings with beliefs we may already hold dear and practices we may annually anticipate and repeat on our journey round the circle, is both inviting and respectful. Her work has deepened my passage through the year and enriched the path considerably.

Using the Native American medicine wheel as a spiritual model, Cruden guides us through the year from East to South, to West and, finally, North. The journey circumscribes our days, months, years, and lifetime, and seen this way, enhances each.

The East/Spring is seen as a time and place for spiritual awakening, for perceiving the vision quest with clarity and perspective.

The South/Summer invites us to engage with this purpose, test ourselves and enhance our creativity, while expanding our experiences and relationships.

When we turn to the West/Autumn quadrant of the circle, our energy best aligns with the harvest, the setting sun. We are invited to step into Mystery, integrate through introspection, reflection, welcome “non-ordinary” states of mind and deep acceptance of who we are. Cruden states that the “…West is a place of sorting and letting go and of conscious participation in acts of power. The vision perceived in the East and engaged with in the South now becomes multidimensional, and its broader and more subtle implications are made apparent.”

During our North/Winter season of the day, or year, or our lifetime, our vision becomes manifested and embodied. It is the time for wisdom to inhabit our being and to be shared with the community.

Cruden goes into much greater depth in her analysis of the wheel’s journey and offerings, offering weekly practices as travel companions and teachers, and I have come to deeply value her lessons on my journey.

Today, the equinox tells me that I have circled to the West/Autumn of the year, and of my life, and so I look forward to its inward, intuitive lessons and the release of what is finished and past. Now the work of the heart, deepening consciousness, and self-acceptance is engaged, and like the rest of nature, I “store energy” for the days and spiritual tasks to come. Like the autumn garden, I’ll finish engagement with the energy of blooming and retreat into the quiet time of sorting, letting go, and listening as my day, year, and lifetime grow more deeply into Mystery.

Equinox Blessings to All:

In our harvesting of the year’s gifts, in beginning the journey inward, in honoring the dying back and down, in recounting our losses and leave-takings, in creating our poetry of gratitude…in being with stillness and silence–May the gifts of the Spirit be rich in our hearts and wisely offered to the world.

Gentle peace.


© 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.

Sacred Balance

Our summer is ending with renewed activities and invitations to use our gifts. I’ve been asked to share more presentations on spirituality and practice, and more people seeking spiritual companionship have been finding their way to my door.  My husband is adjusting to the rhythms of a new school year and all the attendant schedule-juggling that involves. We’re happy to be “gainfully engaged,” but mindful that our commitment to balance must be honored as well.

Always someone with “a lot of energy,” it took me longer than most, I expect, to learn how sacred the practice of balance is to my well-being. Eventually, though, it became apparent that when I pushed myself beyond a mindful energy expenditure (so often promoted in our culture and in our workplaces), I became physically sick; likewise, if I didn’t maintain my exercise, yoga, and strength-training, I became ill.

Too much or too little activity or rest resulted in illness affecting not only my body, but the peace experienced by my mind and spirit as well, and I’ve learned (and better late than never) to honor the holy trinity of my well-being, my mind-body-spirit, with the gift and practice of balance.

So, after a morning of tending to our individual chores this past Saturday, Phillip proposed “an adventure” for our afternoon. I welcomed the invitation to balance our day with pleasure and togetherness. We drove northwest to Merrimac and took the ferry across Lake Wisconsin. The ferry probably holds about 12-15 cars, and is attached to a cable stretched across the lake that provides for a very smooth ride.

We stopped in the sweet town of Baraboo for lunch at the Little Village Café, which I heartily recommend for the ambiance and reliably delicious food.

The highlight of the afternoon was our tour of the International Crane Foundation, which is dedicated to the study and worldwide preservation of cranes, their diminishing ecosystems and habitats, and their migratory flyways. You can read more about this amazing foundation, adopt a crane, and make a donation here:  One of the foundation’s greatest success stories has been its work to conserve the Whooping Crane. By the 1940’s these cranes had been reduced to a population of less than 20. Though now they number about 600, their survival is still precarious, but worth celebrating as the work continues. (

It’s tragic to confront how out of balance our world has become, how egotistically and aggressively we’ve pursued our desires for “progress” to the detriment of our world’s natural balance. Our fellow creatures, those rooted, or winged, or seeking a safe place to burrow, or fly, or to mate and breed, have suffered greatly. I pray the tide is turning and that our ability to restore greater balance will inspire us to do so.

We enjoyed the day’s adventure and its restoration of balance to our spirits. We were encouraged by the foundation’s work towards restoring balance in nature. A good reminder that one small (and beautifully elegant) species at a time, we can make a difference on behalf of sacred balance.

If we start by tending our own, tending the rest of creation’s so readily becomes an apparent and necessary responsibility…

South African Wattled Crane
Black-Crowned Craned from the middle of Africa
Demoiselle Cranes are the smallest cranes, native to the grasslands of Central Asia.
Sarus Cranes are almost 6 feet tall and have a wingspan of 8 feet. They nest in the rice fields of India and Vietnam.
The Black-Necked Crane nests high on the Tibetan Plateau and winters on the lower plateaus of Bhutan and southwestern China. Like other cranes, they face serious environmental threats.


© 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.

A Vote For Ewe

After two weeks of political conventions revealing the stark divisions in our national politics to be just short of staggering, it was time to turn the television off and get outside for most of the glorious weekend. Cool breezes returned for a few days, and we met with members of our family at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, held near our home.

Staged at the County Fairgrounds, the festival fills barn after barn with crafts, wool, natural dyes, machines for carding and spinning, cutting, and knitting, crocheting, or creating woolen “rag rugs.” There are felting goods and materials, demonstrations and lessons in every step of every craft one can imagine that could be related to sheep and wool, cheeses, soaps, and, of course, many breeds of sheep. (I still haven’t figured out why one booth was selling raw honey, but it looked delicious!)

Experts and artisans manned hundreds of booths, and those who are passionate about the ancient practices and crafts of carding, spinning, and naturally dyeing wool, as well as the husbandry of raising and shearing sheep (and other fur-bearing animals whose hair can be converted to clothing and goods), roamed the barns utterly content, it seemed, to be with their community.

Although I enjoy the visual stimulus, crafts, and learning offered indoors, my favorite event is the stock dog trials held in an outdoor field. Here, the shepherd and his/her herding dog (Border Collies in the local trials I’ve attended) work together to gather and herd a group of sheep through a competitive course involving great distances, gates, and then into a pen, among other tasks.

The shepherd remains at the starting point, near the pen, and through common herd commands (Come by; away to me; lie down; that’ll do, etc.) and unique whistles, sends the dog in a wide arc along the field’s perimeter and back in to where the waiting sheep have been placed. The dog listens for the shepherd’s commands and guides the sheep back down the field, through the gates, (in a specific order) and etc. the rules and courses become more complicated according to the division competing. (If you’ve ever seen the movie, Babe, you might be familiar with sheepdog/stock dog trials.)

It’s a lot of fun to watch, and it’s wonderful to witness the herding dogs’ speed, intelligence, and desire to please their shepherds. After a course is completed, there’s always a big pool for the dogs to jump in to cool down and rehydrate.

It was a wonderful day among a community of people who love sheep and herding dogs, and the entire world of activities and beauty these passions create. It was vastly healing and hopeful for my spirit: not once did I hear a reference to politics, the coming election, or anyone’s voting preference. We were there to honor and celebrate far more authentic connections, ancient rhythms, and joyful reasons to congregate. And it was good.

Ewe should have been there.


© 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 Teacher is Ready


When I was a teacher, this was a bittersweet time of year. Spacious summer days were diminishing to the daily routine circumscribed by hourly school bells and small boxes in a big book of lesson plans reduced further to prescribed goals, but balanced by the excitement, love, and mystery generated by discovering unique teacher-student relationships and the prospect of a wide-open new year of traveling together in our learning.

I sensed this meeting of beginnings and endings in my husband’s energy as he bustled to complete house and garden projects before rejoining his faculty this past week.

I already miss Phillip’s constant easy presence and the time for spontaneous adventures we’ve enjoyed during his summer break, and sometimes I miss teaching…not the endless meetings or the mind-numbing impediments bureaucrats use to block the profession’s creativity and growth, but the intimacy of relationships, the give and take, the teaching and learning and surprises each year brought.

One of the lovely gifts derived from my many years of teaching has been the joy of watching my former students blossom into maturity, becoming parents, professionals, and compassionate adults. Many of them e-mail me, or let me know through social media how they’re doing and I’m always happy to hear from them.

Then, there’s Kate.

Kate has always been more than a student to me…she stole my heart even before she entered my classroom. At this time, I worked at a small school, grades K-8, and we had the luxury of watching students “grow up,” knowing their families, and forming strong teacher-student-parent relationships.

One day I was outside, monitoring the playground during the noon hour, and Kate arrived at my side, a curious, opinionated, funny, and bright 7-year-old. Some kismet brought us together. I was charmed, and although professional discretion was always honored between us, she somehow became one of those happy students who visited my classroom after school to tell me about her day, or share her ideas about books, or films. I can’t even remember now if I left that teaching position before she was actually my student, or if I served as her teacher when she began middle school.

At some point as she finished middle school, Kate began writing me e-mails, updating me about her learning and life as a student, and we kept up this correspondence through her high school and college years. Occasionally, we’d meet for lunch, or go on an adventure, and I’ll always remember her kindness in visiting my mother at the dialysis center. She’s always seemed a merry “old soul” to me.

Her wonderful parents invited us to Kate’s college graduation party, and I gave her a printed copy of our years of e-mails, chronicling her wonderful development into a mature young woman, one who has since moved to the East Coast and begun her professional career as an editor.

She was home this weekend, and I was deeply touched that she saved a day to visit me.

She is not my daughter, but over the years, Kate has taken up residence in that part of my heart I always reserved for the daughter I’d hoped to have.

It may be, as the proverb states, that when the student is ready, the right teacher will appear, but I count my blessings that one day on a school playground, something in my spirit and heart made me ready to welcome Kate into my life. She has taught me so very much, and I am grateful. The best relationships have this reciprocal flow of learning and teaching between those involved, I think.

So I send my blessing to all teachers as they begin a new school year, especially the dear souls who continue to live out this profession in my home state, where the past few years have brought denigration to their efforts. Budgets and programs are cut, classrooms are overcrowded, collective bargaining is destroyed, and salaries and benefits are precarious.

But you show up. You plan and hope and open the door every morning, welcoming the happy, the sad, the hungry, the lost, the eager and bright…and you supply what you are able, and more. You feed their minds, and their hearts, and their spirits, sometimes at the expense of your own.

I wish you a year of gentle peace, happy surprises, sustained energy, and compassionate relations…and I wish all of you students like Kate, who come to learn, but end up teaching you more about your own journey than you could have expected.


© 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.