Triage

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We knew it was coming, the darkness, the forest, the absence of light,
so we held one another and entered. What else could we do?

We did not expect deeper darkness
and yet there it was; how could that be?

Still.
We stood still,
and still, we could choose.
Futures called from distant perches.
We sang ourselves into presence.

The only way through is now.

We held each other’s hands and we did not let go.
We stepped forward, listening.
Some of us turned away. Most of us went on.
Death. We grieved.
Loss. Memories.
Still.

We whispered our dreams and set them on altars
in our hearts.
We held one another.
We sang ourselves into presence.

First this step, then this. Together. Now and now and now
and now. We suffered but we did not fear.
We breathed hope; in and out the music
of hope for this moment
and this one.

We did not expect deeper love
and yet there it was; how could that be?

And then the moonlight spilled through the trees…
We held each other’s hands
and we walked into the new day,
the different world.

We sing ourselves into presence.
Still.
We begin.

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© 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.

In the Spirit of Good Trouble

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Today, while I put away summer decorations–mostly red, white, and blue Americana symbols–I watched the beautiful life celebration and home-going service held at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church for John Lewis, who used his life’s energy and considerable gifts to fight for civil rights and serve the people of his GA district for 33 years in the United States House of Representatives.

Lewis believed strongly in nonviolent protests and the power of love, so it’s probably no surprise he has long been a hero of mine. His last editorial appeared in the New York Times today, at his request. It is brief, and closes with these lines:

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.  (Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation; by John Lewis; The New York Times; Opinion Section; July 30, 2020.)

In the spirit of the great John Lewis, this invitation came to me today, a simple, nonpartisan way to encourage people to vote, and I wanted to share it. I know many of us are unable to venture out in public; here is a way to help from home:

https://www.momsrising.org/blog/can-we-send-you-10-gotv-postcards-to-fill-out

You can sign up to receive 10 (or 100) stamped postcards, pre-addressed to registered voters who have been somewhat reluctant to participate in the vote with regularity, and all you have to do is write a short and encouraging note and get these in the mail.

Throughout our nation’s history, men and women have risked their lives for our right to vote: let’s honor them and our country by encouraging others and reminding them we have to “walk with the wind and let freedom ring.” As Lewis wrote: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

In great gratitude for the life of John Lewis and the example he set forth for all of us: Let us make good trouble, with the “spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love” as our guides.

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Anniversary

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Who were we when we met
and fell so deeply and so far?
And would we even recognize
the people that we are?
We named our song and sang it
as we danced across our youth,

Oh, love,
let’s just dispense with
drug-store cards and speak the truth:

Our hair has thinned,
though some has moved
to formerly vacant lots;
our curves have migrated
surprisingly; unpredictably,
we nap. We complete each other
‘s sentences, and together determine
the day and date: if we’re wrong,
we’re on the same page.

And has it been a smooth road?
Hardly that;
there were plenty of switchbacks
wrong turns and challenges,
long-ago days
when we lobbed hurts
back and forth, polished, piercing,
hitting the heart squarely and
satisfying a need but I
no longer remember why, I
only recall, and always in light,
these long-since shining years
of softening and falling
deeper into loving and
being loved. Perhaps
the losses that
knocked about and through
our lives, the rocks
of shared grief, tumbled
our edges and
expectations, maybe
maturity happened; I
feel wiser, do you? I mean,
disillusion is a gift;
what dies
always rises real and green.

So cheers to us:
we lasted and
our garden grew
kindness.

And though our eyes
and ears err
frequently; reliably,
we see through words and
listen through layers,
opened, revealed;
holding mortality’s time card,
as we are,
we and time
are precious, and so we
fill our days with yes, with
peace and frailties
forgiven, shared
stories, private jokes,
I love
how we laugh.

And I would tell
that young woman who dreamed
of her soul’s mate, somewhere
out there, that
when I hear your voice
I’m young again, and
instantly ready
to share my secrets
and discover yours, for
after all these years,
who we were
and who we are
still meet
and are known
in this moment, you are
my perfect gift, my
lover partner friend, oh
dearest companion,
let us fall once more
deeply and far
into one another’s arms
creating again
the joyful noise
that’s always been
our song.

 

© 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.

Angeles y Milagros

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Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light. ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Long ago (I’m old; this is the way most of my stories now begin), I taught in a Catholic school, so on All Saints’ Day, the children and teachers attended Mass. I remember the young priest waving the thick Milwaukee phone book at us during his homily. “This is our book of saints!” He laughed, “We are the saints the world needs.”

This was a different perspective from the one I’d received decades earlier, sitting rigidly in my uniform and hearing about the saints, who were also, usually, martyrs. If they were female, they died gruesomely, protecting their virginity; the males died gruesomely protecting their consciences.

I favored the new perspective.

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And, as I’ve matured further in my faith, I’ve come to believe we are not only here to be the saints the world needs, but the angels as well, the messengers of hope and Love. The faith given to me was presented as fairly passive; I prefer an active faith. Animated. Lived. Committing kindness; co-creating miracles, serving as a helpful messenger and looking for angels everywhere. I fail, daily. I try again.

Have you ever felt quite low and at such a point of fragility that a stranger’s smile made you cry? A kind word can feel like the greatest hug ever exchanged. Certainly, this happens when we’re grieving great loss, but it can also happen during times of low-grade but persistent struggle, or just on one of those days when everything goes wrong.

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And the person who evoked our relief, comfort, or tears, may have no idea of the effect her kindness had. She didn’t say, “Now, I will be an angel;” she simply chose kindness as a way to interact. But this is precisely when we are angels to each other and co-create miracles, by transforming lives through kindness. Can we do this in isolation and quarantine? You betcha. I have a friend who surprises me with texts saying she loves me and cares about me, and another one who frequently sends hysterical message attachments. My best friend and I affirm each other during video chats, and a friend I adore makes comments on my Facebook posts that are so touching they make me cry.

A recent and wonderful angel encounter began on Tuesday morning, when a sudden and surprising amount of post-dated voicemail messages exploded into my phone like a flash of lightning, and my phone sang out an alert I’d forgotten existed. Delayed and lost voicemail messages have happened before, and offer an unriveting story about our tech service that I will spare you. And I certainly wouldn’t share with our phone company that, this time, the messages arrived more than a month late because one appeared meant to do so, as life unfolded.

I didn’t realize how old the messages were, as I was out in the garden and blinded by the morning sunlight. And, to be honest, for a few weeks I’d been traveling under a darker cloud than my Irish genes normally tolerate. The news of the world, near and far, had gradually been flattening my hope and affect, so I didn’t really care about the sudden appearance of messages. My light was out.

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There were two messages from a name I didn’t know, so I half-listened to the second one, from a man who asked me if it were possible I would record In the Time of Pandemic/And the People Stayed Home so he could use it to overlay a piece on a new jazz album.

I didn’t realize this second message was almost a month old, and thinking he’d just called, I sat on the steps and dialed his number without much enthusiasm (a word that means, literally, animated from within sacred energy, which we can allow ourselves to be. Or not). Love’s energy was definitely not my resting place at the time.

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The message of the poem went through my head: We can choose our responses to this time of challenges and crises, and those responses can be life-giving and inclusive rather than fearful, angry, and destructive retreats to the patterns that brought us here in the first place.

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On Tuesday morning, though, I wasn’t in the mood to hear that another group had used the poem, or wanted to use the poem, possibly in ways it wasn’t intended. But Gabriel Alegria, a gifted musician who leads the The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, was kind, open, honest, and overlooked my complete ignorance about his stature and artistry. He explained that there was a track on the Sextet’s new album (called Social Distancing, and to be released on November 27) that one of his colleagues thought would benefit from an overlaid poem and suggested mine.

The result was that, over the next few hours, I agreed to license the use of the poem to the band for this purpose, made a voice memo of myself reciting it while I listened to the designated piece on a headset, synched my recitation to the place in the song they wanted it, and sent it on to Gabriel and his producer, who liked it, and that was that. Check in the mail. Plans made to buy Phillip a new set of work boots, and the pups some treats, and leftovers for the garden and groceries.

Then, I looked again at the phone messages and their timing, read about the group on their web page, and realized what a gift I’d been given.

Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is one of my favorite albums. Ever. And if you enjoy Davis; if you appreciate Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club; Latin jazz, and African rhythms, you will LOVE the The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, who have been entertaining people all over the world for 15 years. I encourage you to visit their website and listen to their music. And definitely read about their history and unique relationship/interaction with their fans. It’s inspiring.

I received another text from Gabriel: Could I also make a voice memo in Spanish?

Um, no. Not my wheelhouse.

But I thought about the hundreds of comments and notes I’d received about In the Time of Pandemic/And the People Stayed Home from people in South American, Spanish, Basque, and Portuguese cities and villages. Something about the poem’s message and rhythms seemed to resonate with these cultures, and the comments and links to their art, music, film, dance, and classroom projects inspired by the poem have been profoundly touching.

So yes, I owed them at least an attempt at this. Gabriel sent a translation he thought most accurate, and over the next day I slaughtered it about 40 times.

Gabriel sent a recording of his own recitation, and I fumbled some more.

Gabriel sent a recording correcting mine, word by word. (In addition to being a gifted musician and artist, Gabriel is also a gifted and highly-educated Professor, and his patience with me was as joyful as his music.) Once or twice I came close to an accurate recording, only to hear a dog barking, or Murphy meowing in the background when I replayed my masterpiece.

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It was humbling for Bright Girl to be the ultimate and unpromising beginner for a change. I really wanted to give up, but I kept thinking of the young woman from a little mountain village who wrote (in perfect English) about sharing a Spanish translation of the In the Time of Pandemic/And the People Stayed Home with her grandmother in quarantine, and how they cried together, hoping for a better world to come. They, and so many others, deserved to hear me trying to thank them for the myriad ways their stories enriched and blessed my life.

Or, at least, they deserved a good giggle over my mispronunciations.

Eventually, I think the producer had received so many recordings of my attempts that he could cut and splice and create something that worked.

And, as with so many connections made throughout my life, I’m the one who’s been blessed again. And, in the way life flows, I have been reminded of the many messages of illumination and connection that have gifted me, especially when most needed. We use different words to describe these, sift through them, hold them up for scrutiny. I use the word Love a lot in my writing. And I believe Love uses the precise symbols that speak to us in order to speak to us more clearly.

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Angels are one of the symbols that have always resonated with me. When I was young, I was taught that I was assigned a “guardian angel” at birth. Sounded good to me. I named her Mary Louise, and had quite lovely chats with her every night before I went to sleep. That they appeared one-sided didn’t matter; in my heart, she spoke back to me. How else would Love speak to us but through our imaginations, and art, and through the kindness and love of others? How else but through the messages and miracles–the milagros–of this life that are everywhere, always? Everything happens in relationship.

I have had encounters that came out of nowhere and completely shifted my life’s orientation, and I have had no language to explain them except by referencing the stories I learned when I was young, planted in my heart and growing, always, around the cells and fibers that formed me and my responses; for example, stories that told of visitations from angels, messengers of symbol and import.

Many years ago, assailed by life’s griefs and the consequences of my own choices, I moved through months of darkness. One day, as I drove down the highway, feeling particularly hopeless, I scanned right to see an old-model sports car passing me. The woman driving it was elderly, grinning, and clearly enjoying herself. Her glasses flashed as she turned to me, smiled, waved, and pulled in front of me. Her license plate read: Joy2U.

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Now, “joy” is my power word, favorite word, and the word I use to center and meditate, so this did not pass unnoticed. Love uses what it can to move us, startle us, knock us upside the head. It made me laugh; it made me cry; in an instant, I was relieved of the heaviness I’d carried for weeks. And, after I’d moved to the left lane and pulled ahead, looked back and saw that the woman and her car had vanished, I was not surprised, but full of the gratitude and the brilliant warmth that the encounter deserved. She was an angel–symbolically, if not literally–and it doesn’t matter which, because these moments are sacred and soaked through with message, which is what angel means: messenger.

I have had many such moments in my life; we all have. The wonder is that we need more than one; the surprise is that we need to be reminded over and over that all is and will be well, that Love is who we are and what we’re here to do.

And, as I age, I’m not sure if Love is taking pity on my continued obtuseness or just being Love, but let’s look at this week’s gift and note it’s obviousness as an intervention of symbols that spoke to my heart, in my language, and revived me: Messages were delivered by a man whose first name is Gabriel (my favorite archangel), and last name is Alegria (“joy”), who actually plays the trumpet, and invited me to share my gifts, make art, and participate with others in joy. In my prayers and discernment, I always ask Love to speak up and in English; this week, it spoke in Spanish, too. “God comes to us disguised as our life,” wrote Paula D’Arcy.

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Angels and miracles everywhere. And we are responsible, through our choices and actions, to be messengers/angels to others and facilitate the miracles. If we are conscious about our power to be kind, to invite, to welcome, to share our gifts and unite with others, we become the angels and miracle-workers the planet needs. Desperately.

I was at a low point when I received Gabriel’s delayed messages. But the timing of their late arrival was perfect. And they spun me into a surprising adventure of co-creation and learning, and offered a reminder that there is an abundance of gifts in the world. My pilot light is re-lit. When we combine our gifts with love and kindness, use them for good, and share them with others…Well, let’s imagine such a world, and see where Love and the angels take us, my friends. Let us see what miracles we may co-create, my angel friends.

Keep your minds, hearts, and eyes open. Create. Be mindful of the messages you bring and those you receive.

And listen to some great music!

IMG-5328Our sweet Mulligan, in his chosen resting resting place during his last weeks in our physical presence. He still sends me messages.

 

© 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.

Filling Holes

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I am a gardener and garden. I think we all are, in one way or another.

I suppose the first thing that attracted me to gardening was the chance to spend time outside with my beloved father. And then, when he helped me design my first little plot of land, clear and border it with rocks, and visit a local nursery to buy whatever seeds I wanted, the small precious joy of being with him dissolved into particles of light that infused and expanded the joy of co-creating with the Earth herself, burying my hands in her soil and entering the cycle of planting, tending, growing, harvesting, bidding farewell, and turning over death to feed new life.

And then, a miracle: I learned that my garden was not just a collection of plants, but a habitat, a world I’d created to welcome life in its infinite variety, beautiful and astonishing. I had participated in creation; I was responsible for the sustenance of plants, butterflies, birds, bees, worms, spiders, and so much more.

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I didn’t know all these things were happening when I was 8 years old; these were not my words or intelligently scaffolded thoughts, but my heart knew that, having created a garden, I was forever changed, and my spirit, too.

The connection between you and your garden becomes a kind of knowledge within you that grows like a garden as you tend it, and then, one day, you realize you’re a garden, too; we all are. The rhythms of tending a first little garden through its seasons are the rhythms of life all around you, and they become the way you breathe, and think, and move, and respond to life. What is the current angle of light and how does it fall across my garden? What is the temperature and humidity? What is the soil composition? How should I amend it? Which are the weeds? How are the seasons changing in length and severity with our changing climate, and how will this affect my gardens? Do I know beneficial insects from pests? What does my garden need to thrive?

If you garden, everything about the Earth’s healthcare matters. Because you realize it affects yours and everyone else’s as well.

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And the metaphors for healing through gardening are so profound and plentiful that you’re bound to discover them in every artistic genre. Gardens and green life were integral to two of my favorite books when I was young. In The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the grieving protagonist and the broken family members she has come to live with are all utterly transformed and healed through the act of reviving a garden. And the heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, sees a tree rising from the cement of her tenement and likens it to her own harsh life, and all the reasons she can triumph over its adversity and flourish. I don’t know if these beautifully-written books became part of my spirit because I was a gardener, too, or if they deepened and enhanced what gardening was just beginning to mean to me; I suspect both are true, since the power of art to both mirror and transform is why it is magical.

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When I was older, I read about Corrie ten Boom’s life in her book, The Hiding Place. From all outward appearances, she was a skilled and humble woman who crafted watches in her father’s shop near Amsterdam. The family lived above their shop and were known for living out the beliefs they held dear, but other than their remarkable kindness, they blended into their neighborhood and lives rather undramatically. And then, when Corrie was 50, everything changed with the Nazi occupation and the treatment of the ten Booms’ Jewish neighbors and friends. The family made choices that revealed their courage, their willingness to act according to their beliefs, and their freely-offered consent to risk their lives for others. Corrie’s story underscores the fact that, just when you think your life is not only predictable but closing in on its final chapters, amazingly, life may ask more of you than you ever imagined or would have thought possible. This is helpful enlightenment for our present world as well: If you’re still breathing, be ready for what life may ask of you.

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But, back to gardening: After the war, Corrie’s faith led her to secure funds to create a healing hospice of sorts for victims of the war’s great suffering. The astonishing twist was that the patients she chose to help were former Nazis, victims sickened by their own hatred and choices to cooperate with evil. Corrie reasoned that healing must necessarily be extended to all involved if the world were to be transformed, and the main source of healing she offered these wretched souls was employment in the acres of gardens on the site’s grounds. She had every human reason to hate and reject these people, but she instead humbly demonstrated what Love and forgiveness really mean, and how vital a part of our healing is always available in a garden.

I reread all of these books and other gardening-related treasures every few years. They teach me, over and over, about choices, transformation, and healing. They nurture my learning and deepen my gratitude and Love. They teach me about filling holes. Or not.

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Holes in our lives, holes in our hearts, holes in our gardens…the latter are apparent at this time of year and were the actual inspiration for this post, as this is the time of the year when the gardens show me their holes. I love their fullness and beauty just as they are, but my eyes seek out where they want more structure, textural variety, color, or height, new blooms at different times, or just greater surprise and delight, and the notes I make will fuel autumn’s replanting and a winter’s worth of browsing through gardening catalogues. Gardens, like life, are always changing. So, this week, I made notes about holes.

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And of course, the notion of holes in design and appearance took me deeper, to the metaphor of the holes in my own life, and in those I love, or in those on public display and open to scrutiny. To be human is to be incomplete in our aspirations and desires, to be one of mankind’s walking wounded, as we all are, and the gift to be present to the ways we fill these perceived and actual deficits and wounds, or the rejection of this gift and the refusal to explore our actions and their consequences, guides most of our spiritual and emotional progress, and certainly affects our physical health. Several years ago, a tornado blew through our gardens, which teases out further questions. What have I done with the holes in my life and my heart that I did not cause or choose?

IMG-4664In this time of unusual stillness and, for many of us, long days of isolation, I hope we can find the space and time for tending the gardens of our spirits with graciousness and love, offering them both accountability and forgiveness, and may we heal the holes we’ve made, allowed, or received, designing our lives with greater attention to breadth and depth, and offering hospitality to new ways of being, welcoming more guests than we have imagined, beautiful, varied, and astonishing.

IMG-4780IMG-4754IMG-4560(Fiona says, “I am not allowed outside, but I am also astonishing.”)

 

 

 

 

 

© 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.

Raspberries

Raspberries,
plump quilted ruby nubs
tart on the tongue and
warmed by the sun, soft
swallows of juicy relief
in hazed waving heat, sweet
midsummer morning;
every July,
the garden grows to
days of peaking plenty;
all is ripened and ripening,
predictable, grounding, offering
earthy comfort, giving what’s expected:
food held and swallowed, peace
in days of disquietude…
 
In four weeks’ time,
raised beds will overspill,
lushness of musky leaves hiding
secrets of squash,
embowered treasures canopied by
leaves; you could lose yourself
in the leaves and tangled vining fullness
of heavy tomatoes, deep earth perfume
of stem and straw and
life on the edge of decay,
still intimate with sunlight, love yielding
what gifts it can before it dies
and returns to the earth,
gifts
like second harvests of raspberries.

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© 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.

Something to Share

And the People Stayed Home, a picture book for children and everyone else ( 🙂 ) is coming out November 10, but can be pre-ordered now. I LOVE the illustrations. (There will be an animated version on Vooks.com read by Kate Winslet, and an e-book released November 10, too!) Teachers’ Guides will be available.

I am so happy about this book, and proud to be part of the team of wonderful, lovely, and gifted artists who created it!

You can learn more about the book here, from the talented people at TRA Publishing: https://trapublishing.com/products/and-the-people-stayed-home

Also available here: https://www.amazon.com/People-Stayed-Home-Kitty-OMeara/dp/1734761784/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=And+the+People+Stayed+Home&qid=1594855261&sr=8-2

Waiting Room

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“Jesus!”

This morning, our dreamtime abruptly ended not exactly in prayer, but certainly in proclaiming with the fervor of penitents seeing the light. A fierce lightning bolt and accompanying thunder, simultaneous with the beeping alarm warning us our electricity had vanished, sent us all flying from beds and kennels, each of us contributing our own distinct shrieking, caterwauling, and barking to the sudden surprising symphony. Total darkness, 4:25 A.M.

Peeling ourselves from the ceiling, we used our phones’ lights to tackle our morning jobs: getting five dogs leashed and out for relief, three cats fed, coffee made (hooray for gas stove and matches), candles lit, and…well, that was it. We sat in the candlelight and waited for the arrival of daylight, the abatement of wind and lightning, and the restoration of electric power to allow for reconnection to our electronics, weak and unreliable as they are to begin with in America’s rural areas.

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We turned to our battery-powered radio. The un-new news on NPR reminded us we were right where we’d been for almost five months: at home, in isolation, watching our country daily devolve under the madness of Donald Destructo, he of the malevolent ineptitude, and a virus abetted in its rampancy by the determined ignorance of enough of us to ensure it will continue unhindered by data, facts, science, and common sense. Today, our own state moved to “red/spike” on the national maps.

This is us. This is many of us, now. Waiting so eagerly for November 3rd that the sensation of being squeezed and restrained surrounds every organ and nerve. Taut and tense and beyond ready to end the nightmare, hoping we can, and beating back any creeping doubt that it’s too late. Still room to wait, just a bit longer.

But there is also this: days blessed with each other’s company; gardens overflowing with beauty and abundance, laughter, joy, peace, and relative safety. And grateful for every second, well aware of the transitory fragility of life. There is happiness, too, in our waiting room.

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Our dearest friend visited last weekend. She came up the steps to the back deck wearing her mask and gloves and carrying her cooler to her designated chair placed over 6 ft. from ours, and we sat and chatted like old times and the old friends we are, but at twice the volume, celebrating her birthday and catching up on our stories. Pure gift, and the only snag and sadness was that we could not hug, but oh, the joy of sharing space and time, however rigidly and by necessity strictly-defined. Our friend ended her stellar and long teaching career on Zoom, and is adjusting to retirement without the personal denouement granted by a retirement party or the chance to embrace students and scan one’s classroom and school with a last lingering look to prompt the physical shift to a new stage of life. She’s making tentative plans, but waiting to see how they might take shape.

All of our stories are strangely diverted, our expectations wavering between hope and despair, grown immense in the gestation of this waiting time.

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Altered states. Transitions. Interruptions. Pauses. Adjustments. And, for most of us, hope that we’ll survive this time of pandemic (both literal and figurative), with our love and creativity intact, ready to rejoin our communities, eager to reconnect and innovate the ways we live and move upon the Earth. Until then, we wait in the dark, candles lit, awaiting our chance to empower change.

It’s coming.

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And, while we wait, hopeful and listening: here is a wonder I’m so pleased to share with you, composed by Dr. Gerald Gurss, and performed by members of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, where he works as the Artistic Director. Also, a huge thank you to Kevin Stocks, Executive Director of the TCGMC. 🙂

 

 

© 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.

 

Signs and Wonders

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I sent a story
of a rescued puppy
to my friend
and wrote of how,
as is almost-always
and never-not true,
the rescuer believed herself
rescued, the vast vacancy
of her lonely heart
astonished by the intake
of inhabitance, a sudden home
of surprising mirrors shining
images of lover and beloved,
fresh-blessed mother of more than
circling worries and fear
seeking solace, given
a new life
to love through her dreams
into first-waking thoughts, solid
beside her.

“Good thing
that puppy wondered
into her life,” mistyped
my friend, his o for an a
illuminating what I
had not seen—
we are transfigured
by love, we
resurrect,
risking union,
reaping
wonder.

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© 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.

Dismantling Illusions

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It’s natural, I suppose, to reflect upon independence, freedom, rights, and equality over a weekend specifically dedicated to celebrating these values while my country is in such chaos over the parameters of these same issues once again. We’re divisive and sharp-tongued, and nasty; we are much further apart than what could pass for “united.”

I think the chaos has to do, yet again, with shadow-work, with seeing the illusions we create and allow to smother and bury us, and with our yearning to rise up from the rubble of lies to the clarity of truth, however hard it is to face. 

Truth long denied will always re-emerge, either in the behaviors we project outward, the illness we experience within, or the brokenness of our relationships, our communities, and our world. 

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Thinking in illusory ways accompanies being human: Jesus said the truth will set us free, and the Buddha invited us to examine our false desires and the ways they cloud what is real. Repeatedly, the Prophet Muhammad entreated his followers to speak the truth, “even when it is bitter.” And I believe the truth should be spoken in love, not screamed, yelled, or dressed in insults. I’m not certain what so many people on social media believe is being accomplished through anger, insult, and a complete lack of courtesy. (Or lack of proofreading, another story.)

From birth, we are fed illusions and they are deeply addictive: family histories, national histories, world histories, the endless manipulations of advertising, our educational and religious systems that may force-feed historical illusions…We want our lives to be attractive and pleasant; we want our ancestors to be heroes; we want to be perceived as good, and smart, and noble; we want our religious leaders to be people with always-wise and loving intentions; we want our national story to be of a people who are brave and generous and just, so we write it that way in textbooks, even when it’s not true. We decorate disappointing truths that can’t be named or faced and make them pretty, a trompe l’oeil of reality, or, more correctly perhaps, a trompe l’cœur, deceiving the heart. We want to avoid shame, embarrassment, and judgement. We deceive ourselves and others. And if decorating and costuming our shaming truths doesn’t disguise them, we hide them, then deny them, then hate them in others who confront us with them, either in their own behaviors and stories, or–especially–if they call them out in ours.

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This is a time when many truths cannot be ignored, decorated, hidden, or denied any longer. The Emperor of Hidden Truths, in all his guises, is not only naked; he’s in our face, everywhere in the world, all the time. He’s killing hundreds of thousands of us in the form of a virus; he’s melting away the last of the Arctic ice and throwing our global climate in frightening disarray; he’s clamping down on freedoms and revolts as tightly and violently as he can; he’s constantly denying, and he’s being challenged from every direction by most of us on the globe who are calling him out, who are yearning to shine the light of truth on how we got to this moment, and who we really are, as painful and overwhelming as that may be. (I do think it is most of us; I hope it is.)

When wounds are septic, they have to be cleaned before healing can occur. The time comes when denial will destroy us. Recall the knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail whose limbs are being hacked away as he cries, “It’s only a scratch!”  We can see others’ illusions far easier than we see our own, which contributes nothing to healing a relationship, and, as one of my professors said about life: it’s all about relationship.

Dismantling illusions is hard and it’s painful, but healing and progress are not possible if we don’t join together and create corrections to the course we’re on today. And there are so many truths we’ve conveniently overlooked for almost two centuries.

Most of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were slaveholders. Almost half of the men who attended the Constitutional Convention were slaveholders. 

The Confederacy’s goals were to destroy the country as it was learning how to walk, to secede from the Union, to disavow a federal government and to perpetuate the unseemly wealth to be gained through the evil of slavery. The Civil War resulted in approximately 750,000 deaths. That those who instigated it should be honored with public statues and institutions named after them seems misguided at best. When we think and know better, we can do better.

The 19th amendment, stating that voting was a right regardless of the voter’s sex, was not passed until 1919. But First Nation/Native Americans couldn’t vote until they were recognized as U.S. citizens in 1924, and even then, states barred most of them from voting until 1948. Asian Americans’ rights to vote weren’t completely secured until 1952. Black American males could ostensibly vote when the 15th Amendment was passed in 1867, but states were given the right to “regulate” how one qualified to actually vote, and “literacy” tests, poll taxes, threats, intimidation, cross-burning, and lynchings effectively inhibited the black vote until the mid-1960’s. And let’s not kid ourselves: racially-biased voting laws and voter suppression are very much alive and kicking in our country today, as is police harassment and violence towards blacks, and systemic racism, in place to support illusions. 

We still have separated children and adults imprisoned in cages in our country’s border towns.

Our country’s land was taken, violently, from the people who already lived here. Mount Rushmore was chiseled on a mountain sacred to the Oglala Lakota and Great Sioux Nation and over which they were granted sovereignty in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1867. They were not consulted, again, regarding the actual flagrant invasion of their land for the maskless Mr. Trump’s celebration of himself and rally for votes this past weekend. 

These are all facts that are true of our country’s history and current policies.

Illusions can lead to great pretentiousness regarding one’s importance. Illusions feed greed and abuses of power entrusted to people who corrupt that trust.

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People who have avoided meeting their illusions, because they lack support, education, or will, are taken advantage of by those seeking the dangerous combination of power and wealth, or trying to maintain it, people who know the truth, but attack it and encourage the comfortable illusions to their advantage. Lies win out over truth because they present images and create feelings that are preferable to hard truths and the feelings facts might force us to face. But real healing cannot occur without the companionship of truth.

So, how do we proceed excavating the truths we need to name and face to heal ourselves and the planet in peace and with love? How do we untangle the truth from lies, and how do we rescue and retain the authentic gifts of our own and our nation’s histories, systems, stories, choices, from those elements and choices that were shameful? How do we look at our own shadows, our family’s, our nation’s and the world’s, and invite healing without alienating the very people we need to embrace in order to design communities that work together? 

My childhood education reinforced the profound moments of life by observing what the Catholic Church calls sacraments. They mark the awareness that some aspects of life choices and behaviors are so sacred they require rituals that welcome and honor our participation. All of the sacraments are about relationship. (Catholics define seven of these; I have long believed there are an infinite number of sacraments.) 

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The first sacrament is Baptism, welcoming us into a community of Love, and the second is Holy Communion, which converts a meal into that Love, an act of intimacy and union, and a commitment to the behaviors that will strengthen and nurture that relationship with the Holy All of Love’s creation. And then comes the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for me, the hardest and most important. It’s the sacrament of meeting our shadow and naming the ways we’ve broken the commitments we make to Love in all the other sacraments. It begins with going inward and examining our actions and their motivations, and isolating where we’ve failed to be guided by love. It’s always a little nerve-wracking to face a confession of one’s shortcomings, the illusions we’ve allowed to dictate our behavior, the offenses against Love we’ve committed…and few things in life feel better than, having named these failures out loud, hearing back, “You’re forgiven.” 

And then we make atonement. 

The sacraments weren’t taught to me in these words, but it’s how I’ve come to see them and honor them. And I think they offer a template, for me, anyway, for how best to dismantle illusions and move forward in a time of such upheaval and change. Remember that we are one species, living with others on this planet. Remember that none of us are perfect; we have inherited centuries of damage and destructive patterns of relationship, and when we act from our damage rather than our unique gifts we perpetuate the unhealthy patterns; we perpetuate a false representation of who we are and why we’re here; we create illusions and live from them. We need to ask for and offer forgiveness, and maintain a deserved membership in the community of Love, excluding no one.

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And, if we burrow down deeper to discover why we crave illusion at all, I think it’s because, even more deeply, we crave holy communion with others; we do not want to be shamed, shunned, or left alone. We fear abandonment and loneliness, so we tamp down and deny anything that we fear keeps us from belonging. This makes us all responsible for monitoring our tendencies to exclude and bully, behaviors that are also taught when we are young and indiscriminate. We have to notice when our language segregates, divides, frightens, and excludes. And look for and emphasize all the good in each other, in our communities, country, and world. Balance the “news” we share.

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These are the times that try our souls…what a wonderful opportunity, if we can see that aspect to this chaos. We have to stop denigrating those whose views we oppose, in part through kind invitations rather than name-calling and dehumanizing. We’re all in different places with our abilities and willingness to let go of illusions and accept hard truths about who we are, our history, and the real challenges we face as a nation and planet. But the healing has to begin now, through the hard work of naming these truths and making atonement, and it will, of course, be ongoing. I hope we can one day live in deeper communion and kindness, and I’m willing to spend the rest of my life working towards that. Love one another as we would wish to be loved; grant each other the self-worth we crave for ourselves, greet with Namaste, and mean the words: The sacred in me sees and honors the sacred in you. Communion, without illusion.

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And for some gentle illusion-dismantling, watch The Vote on PBS’s The American Experience Monday and Tuesday, July 6-7 (tonight and tomorrow).

 

© 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 Kindness of the Untamed Earth

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When sorrows travel
too madly
in waves on waves
I go to the garden
and empty myself
to fill myself
with the scent of green leaves
geometric joys of whorling petals
whirling birdsong the splash
of leaping river fish
everything
floating in waves on waves
buzzing sweet breezes meeting
me
kneeling releasing
touching earth
breathing bright silent
fireworks of blooms.

Find one small thing
to deeply love:
flower puddle beetle tree or toad
till it is you and you are it all secrets
shared and known and the door
of your heart will open
to oceans forests wildness
everywhere everything everyone here
and the kindness
the untamed earth
offers us
as friends do
when the world is too much
tilted towards sorrow.

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© 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.