Gifts Redux

IMG-9422

Dear Friends,

I am re-posting the link to this page because so many artists have continued to share their creations since the original post, and I want their wonderful gifts to be seen, heard, appreciated, and–especially–to share the love and healing that was their intent in the crafting of these wonders.

I hope your own creativity has been stimulated during this time: in your parenting and friendships, your arts and crafts, your personal healing and reflections, your self-care, gardening, playing, and home-making. Please feel free to share what you’ve been doing, making, and dreaming, and what makes you joyful and hopeful during this time of pandemic. What are you noticing? What has surprised you? I wish you continued comfort, great love, and the deep satisfactions and astonishing revelations derived from listening and self-expression. Gentle peace.

https://the-daily-round.com/2020/03/30/gifts/

 

© 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.

 

how are you

IMG-9534

In the rushing there was doing
and in the doing hiding
there were hours of making mountains
or making mountains smaller

in the coming and the going
we were rushing barely seeing
how are you I am fine
that is good let’s work hard
let’s make money to buy items
we don’t need that fill holes

there were men who did evil
in our name with our money
we were rushing we were doing
we were hiding never seeing
we weren’t seeing barely seeing
we weren’t looking we were lying

we weren’t asking to be wiser
we weren’t listening to hear
we were rushing we were doing
we spent hours making mountains
or making mountains smaller

we were hiding always hiding

how are you How are you

How are you?

I am still…
I am quiet…
I am looking…
I am seeing…
I am listening to the birds…

IMG-4508

 

© 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 Story We Are Writing

IMG-1780

Those were difficult days, my child; the questions threatened and the answers were unknown. Many lost patience or lost their hearts to fear. They feasted on anxiety and grew more afraid. They blustered and puffed, or lied and gripped dying stories in useless hands. They found their time of strange freedom overwhelming, and yearned for old prisons, gray and crushing, but known in every contour and shadow, every closed door, every shackle, and inequity.

And these were our lessons: Sit with surprising questions, or hide in ancient answers. Listen for undreamt music, or repeat tired songs. Create enchanted designs, or imitate dead patterns. Lead with powerful compassion, or follow cruel oppression. Wait for the way of joy to appear, or trudge dull roads forever. Open your mind to wonder, or partner with shuttering ignorance. 

Dare to live wildly, or die safely.

But why choose the path of death?  

All the earth’s magic lay as dust at our feet; why force the old puzzle back together?

Wild life beckoned.

It was a time for fierce hope. (And there was such weakness, such fear, such anger; my child! We swept it aside and lived beyond it.) It was a time for hope of beaten gold, forged by sweat, and struggle, and the pain of birth. Artists are the midwives of change on this earth, and in that time of dark confinement, we gestated dreams of the possible unknown, and through our patience, our suffering, our hope, we brought them into the magical world… 

See the new earth we created and love her well, darling. She is a treasure, eternal and strong, and we are her fragile, fierce lovers. What does she ask of you, today? Be true. 

Over and over, name your darkness and heal it. Over and over, create the way of wild love beneath these shining stars. Feast on joy and live in peace, my child; live in joyful peace.

IMG-1864

 

© 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.

Present Laughter

IMG-9896

Present mirth hath present laughter.
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty.
~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act 2; Scene 3

The days of confinement roll by and I lose track of their names. We try to keep to our routine and maintain the semblance of purpose in our choices, but, frankly, there are moments when we wonder if the daily cleaning, whose turn it is to vacuum, the choosing of what to wear, or what to eat, matters at all.

The slightest and most unpredictable exchange or event can make me cry…but, while I’m aware that the stress, the crushing weight of the unknown, and the hours spent puzzling out what reality will look like in years to come leave all of us exhausted and wobbly, I have to admit there are many things about our days that keep us laughing. Tears and laughter border the knife edge of reality these days. Lately, we call a lot of our responses, “Laugh-cry!” (™)

I remember being part of a group of friends who cared for the first one of our beloved circle who was dying from AIDS, back when only one doctor in our large metro area was even willing to help him, and very few other healthcare workers or community members would even think of providing care to someone with AIDS. We were a fierce, loyal group of loving pioneers, and proud to be present to our friend’s needs, but a higher level of stress traveled with us, as it does when we care for a loved one who is ill. 

My friend and I were sitting together one morning, sharing tea, chatting, and watching some inane program on television, when he grew silent. I looked at him and was surprised to see him staring at the television screen, transfixed, weeping. I looked back to the screen and realized that my witty, worldly, dying friend was moved to tears by a commercial for lemon-scented furniture polish. A fantasy housewife danced in exaggerated euphoria around her home, dusting everything till it glowed in fake golden light and was readied for family and guests. The music swelled as she prepared for gatherings and holidays my friend wouldn’t live to experience and that momentary realization vibrated deeply for him. Always ready with tears, I joined him in mourning his losses, our losses, the losses of the world.

And then we looked at each other and we both began to howl with laughter. An advertisement for furniture polish had set us off truly and genuinely, but we both recognized the absurdity as well, and after the tears had balanced our emotions and biochemistry, as we are told they do, we couldn’t help but laugh, which deepened the moment’s healing considerably. 

The memory echoed for me this week when I found myself crying in response to a scene from a sitcom. There was no logical reason for tears; a woman character was sitting with her friends, sharing coffee and jokes. There was nothing about the writing or function of the scene that was designed to elicit sadness, but the superimposition of long weeks of confinement and the absence of my own friends triggered tears, and more profoundly than I expected a moment or two before. I looked at Phillip and he said something gentle and loving, and then we both began to laugh. (“Laugh-cry!™”)

The yin and yang of tears and laughter are so evident these days. Both need to be experienced and honored, as they were in the dark humor that surfaced when I worked in the hospital, or that often emerges at wakes and after funerals, when the family gathers to reminisce. More often these days, I am grateful for laughter and the restoration of joy.

Yesterday, I told Phillip my previously very short haircut was growing out into a hideous and strangely medieval mullet. It reminded me of a portrait of Martin Luther crossed with early Rod Stewart…I could be nailing my theses to Wittenberg Chapel and singing “Maggie May” while I did it. Either/both would look appropriate, and so we both laughed, and laughed again when we realized both of our haircuts were growing out at a similar rate and we were turning into one of those long-married couples that resemble each other. (However, Phillip looks like a handsome 70’s rocker; I remain vaguely c. 15th century. “Laugh-cry!™”)

Last week, as I prepared for a video meeting, I believed I’d rather successfully hidden my unattractive hair in a cleverly-wrapped scarf, allowing only my weird bang growth to remain visible. Good friends wouldn’t care what I looked like, but the meeting was with people I find charming and lovely, but do not know well, so I thought I’d best make an effort.

The meeting began and everyone’s face rimmed the center of the screen, looking glowing, attractive, and healthy…and there was my head, looking like Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen, wrapped in a scarf and utterly bloodless, no matter how I gently shifted or turned the screen. I could not lessen the blinding light that reduced my face to a brilliant white plane with black holes suggesting the eerie, decorative placement of eyes, nose, and mouth, and the anticipatory sense that I was about to launch into a Kabuki performance at any moment. Needless to say, Phillip and I laughed outrageously as I described it to him later.

And, grateful as we are for all restorative mirth, a houseful of 4-legged companions has also kept us laughing enough to stay mostly sane. One of our little girls, Teagan, has always surprised us with her ability and desire to leap upon a blanket and somehow burrow into it, creating a perfect nest, from which she peers out at the world as a character we call Sister Mary Teagan.

IMG-4328In the past few weeks, though, perhaps in her own response to the changing energies of our  confinement, she has initiated a nightly routine, always at about 7:30 P.M., training me, as they all have done, over and over, for years. (I am a good girl.) My latest trick involves Teagan standing before my chair, hopping on her hind legs and waving her front paws in a manner both pleading and commanding, ordering me to pick up a blanket, spread it over my lap, and say, “Banky time?” (As though dogs understand English to begin with, and then even more clearly if it’s spoken in “baby talk.” But this has become a necessary part of the ritual, as ordained by Teagan.) The trick has evolved and has now become predictable, much like the pups’ Morning Party. Teagan, and then her sister, Gracie, jump up onto the blanket and wait for me to wrap them up, and then they lie there, spoiled and cozy, till bedtime. 

IMG-1001I have no idea how this started, but it makes us laugh every night. In our new Liturgy of the Hours, I suppose it’s somewhere between Vespers and Compline, a sweet funny blessing that rounds out our day and settles our moods for the coming sleep that will restore us and prepare us for another day of mystery, tears, and the laughter that keeps us mindful and balanced.

May joy be always at the ready for you. May you cry when tears are appropriate and find your way back to laughter and the comfort provided by beloved companions, friends, and the solace of memories no darkness, sorrow, or fear can ever dim. 

And may the surprising evolution of your hair growth provide endless entertainment. (“Laugh-cry!™”)

It’ll all work out, my friends; all shall be well.

IMG-3381IMG-2632

 

© 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.

Beloved

IMG-4943

Was I seven years old that summer?
Younger when first we met,
but that seventh summer,
during the annual week of magic
(which meant going home, for Mama,
grandparent love for us children),
we met again, and
I was changed forever.

The memory shimmers in dusklight, or just before…
Birdsong signaling the end of day,
time for homecoming, swallows swept
back to the nest for feathered embraces
and nighttime stories.

Dreams.

And I see us together,
walking up the country road
to St. Scholastica, the church
where everything that mattered
happened.

Not Mass, some other holy obligation,
some late-day benediction called the adults,
in summer dresses and suits
to gather, genuflect, pray,
singing softly
to the summer eve
and their god beyond.

Candles and frankincense
a century of church perfumes
and questions
settled, somnolent.

And a voice I knew and didn’t
called me outside, unusual–
a young girl in a Catholic church
leaving,
but I did. 

You were singing
an evensong that sounded
more like god,
and knew my name.

Down the long aisle
through the heavy doors
down the steep impediment of steps
and
finally, to the green hill,
the roses and pine trees,
the grotto of Mary
and the children of Fatima,
white statues bathed in the rosegold of
a setting sun.

Were the fireflies flashing
in the twilight? There is the
memory of light,
dancing,
calling me to dance.

And I threw out my arms
to take you in
and I ran and ran,
perhaps I flew like swallows
round the hill,
round Mary and the happy children
(maybe they joined the dance),
and round the sheltering pines,
I ran,

never so alive
in every pulsing cell,
beneath emerging swirling stars,
I ran, dancing,
my small energy
safe and free in yours,
vast and infinite.

I, perfectly
young enough
to surrender to mystery,
old enough
to promise my heart
forever.

You, around me,
beside me,
the scent of pine and roses,
music of crickets, owls, toad songs,
night breeze brushing leaves

All of us–everything–
breathing in you,

I had never felt such wild joy,
running, held, smiled upon
all the tiny stars within exploding…
ecstasy, the saints have called it,
but to me
it was a yearning satisfied
forever.

And in all the days since, my god
and you, my sweet
and sacred earth,
have been my life:
present, not beyond,
but merged,
holy,
the one I call
beloved.

IMG-3854

IMG-1755

IMG-1711

Happy Earth Day to you, a celebration first initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson, from the state of Wisconsin, USA, one of the people from my home state, like Georgia O’Keefe, John Muir (whose family moved here from Scotland), Aldo Leopold, and others, whose love for the Earth changed the way we see and care for her.  May we honor their legacies by supporting their efforts.

No other name is more associated with Earth Day than that of Gaylord Nelson (1916–2005). After returning from World War II, Nelson began a career as a politician and environmental activist that was to last the rest of his life. As governor of Wisconsin, he created an Outdoor Recreation Acquisition Program that saved about one million acres of parkland. He was instrumental in the development of a national trails system (including the Appalachian Trail) and helped pass the Wilderness Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other landmark environmental legislation. He is perhaps best known as the founder of Earth Day, which has become an international celebration of all things environmental.

(https://www.thoughtco.com/environmentalists-you-should-know-1709040)

 

 

© 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.

 

 

 

Things Yet Remarkable

And there is nothing left remarkable
Beneath the visiting moon.
~ William Shakespeare
Antony and Cleopatra, Act 4; Scene 15

38825344_324797981408547_4257833738903224320_o

Last week, after more than a month of quarantine, I didn’t know if the viral curve had flattened as hoped, but my mood and affect certainly required more effort to animate from completely flat to something more rounded. 

Variety–in meals, activities, location, and expectations–seemed nonexistent. It was depressing to realize there’s no horizon we look to where goals, travels, or visits from friends await our plans to draw nearer. The calendar is bare. Appointments and dates we’d looked forward to are crossed out or deleted, except for birthdays, when we send electronic cards. 

It’s too soon to turn soil and spend days in the gardens. Bird nests are everywhere established and tended, so there are signs of hope and renewal, but last week they felt outside of me, happily progressing without my participation.

IMG-1675

I generally wake up early and happy, but there were mornings the oppression pressed in before I got out of bed; the suffering and anger in the world and the unanswered questions that are corralling all of our lives into small, contained spaces and weighting them with too much that is unknown, seemed beyond my powers of adaptation and adjustment.

I thought of Cleopatra’s lines, quoted above. “And there is nothing left remarkable/Beneath the visiting moon.” Looking ahead, I saw only blank pages, dull routines, nothing at all. My hope tank was closing in on empty.

There are books to read, and art to make, and comforting movies to watch; there are video calls and long e-mails; there are ways to connect and to feed our spirits, but to say we don’t feel stress, grief, anxiety, or fear is to deny the reality of the pandemic’s toll and unfair to the feelings we feel. Several friends I’ve spoken to recently have listed all their blessings and acknowledged them gratefully, and then guiltily, apologetically, said they “shouldn’t” also have crying jags, blue days, and sleep disturbances. Compared to other people’s experiences of the pandemic, they shouldn’t struggle with their own.

What we don’t need to do is “should” on ourselves. We’re all where we are, and wherever that is, we can’t escape the challenges and stresses we have to face when life shifts this dramatically, everywhere, all at once. It’s an important part of our rebalancing and continual healing to allow our sadness and fear their space and their time on the stage. 

But I was getting lost in my low place, and searching for signposts that would point me back to joy wasn’t yielding results. I tried to stay awake, to keep the eyes of my heart open, but…nada.

One day, I exited the shower, donned my robe and actually wondered if I should stay in it all day. Why the heck not? Who would care? Deadly words, I know; we should always care while we’re living the gift of our lives. But that’s the point. What was beginning to feel like endless nothing was threatening my desire (and my responsibility) to care.

So, imagine my surprise when I entered the bedroom and met this visitor, face-to-face:

IMG-1579IMG-1560IMG-151568EB5A00-FBD1-4D91-A41A-CC65D3B03B90

She was not pecking her way through the yard below, but stunningly perched on the second floor deck railing, peering into the bedroom window where she remained, confidently preening and posing for her close-ups for almost half an hour before she hopped down and flew away. What a perfectly strange, funny, and intimate experience, as though designed just for me (it was, I know), to call me back to life.

The next morning, feeling more content, I sat at my desk to write. Phillip had been working in his woodshop all week, creating something beautiful from scraps of wood. Despite quarantine, people continue to contact him about making this or that, and creating these items allows him hours of occupation and joy, for which I am grateful. At any rate, oblivious to everything around me as I am when I’m writing, I paused to make a cup of tea. I entered the kitchen and stopped in my tracks when I saw a new worktable, with shelves for cookbooks and topped with an inlaid piece of marble that I’ve used for pastry and candy for 40 years. Phillip had found some gorgeous quarter-sawn oak, created and put the table in place, placed a new raw-edged walnut cutting board on top, and stocked it with our cookbooks and rolling pins without my hearing or knowing a thing.

7BAC14CB-5375-4282-A677-2F58E529D281

Purely gift, the turkey hen lifted me out of my tightened circle of self-concern and brought my attention back to the ever-changing world around me. She renewed my hope; her time with me made me forget everything else but the delight the world offers, if we keep looking. If we care.

Purely gift, Phillip created a beautiful and useful piece for our home–a treasure, to me–out of scraps and in the midst of dark days of confinement. This act of creativity and love renewed my hope. Kindness matters. Using our gifts for others matters. We’re here to call others back to life through our gifts. If we care.

These surprises taught me lessons I’ve learned, and forgotten, and have learned yet again, dim student that I can be: When we use our gifts, no matter their size or level of artistry, for others’ joy, healing, and delight, we are saying yes to our part of the Great Love that called us into being and asks only this of us: to love back, to create, to make joy and be gift regardless of anything else the world throws at us. 

Love is eternal; pandemics are not. Peace is our home; sorrow and grief are spaces we must tend, but peace is where we all deserve to live. And, when the dark days overwhelm us–and they can–the path back to peace is to notice and engage with the ways our gifts can serve others and the world. 

And to see, gratefully, how others are gifting us, always.

Gift is what keeps the world and our lives remarkable. 

Look for it; see it; be it.

IMG-1669

 

 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.

Peregrinatio

 

Spring Trail Blossoms

Long ago, pilgrims set out,
following paths
the saints had created,
for days, or months, or years,
seeking answers already known
but hidden.

Without, within,
a journey of love and mystery
that every saint must take.

If we walk in their steps,
praying their prayers,
stopping at this bush, or that mountain,
here on this road, or there, at the inn…
If we genuflect now,
cross ourselves so,
sing the silvered psalms or hymns,
rest beneath this ancient oak…

Will we be enlightened?
Will we be forgiven?
Will lightning strike our muddled minds?
Will fire consume our darkened hearts,
convert, transform, renew us?

Will we be hallowed, too?
And how shall we be different?

The path is always here, before us,
the Sacred burns in all,
illuminating everything,
each moment, each encounter,
recreating, every breath,
if we agree to still, to open,
to listen,
and to love it all.

Without, within,
a journey of love and mystery
that every saint must take.

Pilgrims, always seeking,
stop and hear the answer:
you are known,
you are loved,
you are held;
since your moment
of genesis,
infinitely hallowed.

Now,
shine your saintly light.
Now,
sow love wildly,
erupt in joy,
dance with the gifts
you came to share,
here in the place
you are.

Garden chairs 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.