Becoming Fully Human


One does not become fully human painlessly. ~ Rollo May

Phillip and I gratefully received our second dose of the Moderna vaccine this Wednesday and initially felt we’d been spared any of the publicized side-effects, until about 30 hours later, when we both experienced every flu symptom known to humans. Chills, fever, sore eyes, headaches, and–sweet mercy–intense muscle pain. We had to laugh through our misery, knowing every bit of pain signified the medicine was working.

I slept in the guest room last night so we could both–maybe–find deeper rest and comfort. This morning, Phillip reported he had a fair sleep, which pleased my heart. I, conversely, tossed and turned from the muscle pain, watched some dull television, read as long as I could, then just practiced deep breathing and listened to the Great Horned Owl hooting along the river from his perch in the ancient oak. I got out of bed to open the door to the deck and was treated to the deeper haunting resonance of his night music, the almost-full moon’s spectacular reflections of branches on brilliant snow, and the sweet smell of seasons shifting. It floated through the chilled humid air: the perfectly blended scent of winter meeting spring. Heady stuff, that of course completely removed any physical discomfort from my consciousness.


It reminded me of other times in my life when my suffering seemed to need deepening to encourage or sustain my healing, and how the companionship of others–friends and beloveds, volunteers, 4-leggeds, or the mysterious combination of a Great Horned Owl hooting in nature’s perfumed moonlight–eased my pain and allowed a time of relief. I thought about the many times I supported my patients through their own suffering until pain medications could help alleviate the worst of it.

Rollo May says we don’t become fully human without pain, I suppose meaning that, in our suffering and afterwards, in recollection, we learn more about others’ suffering, about our own endurance, and about the preciousness of all we hold dear, brought into greater relief.


But I think the concept is worth turning over and digesting more deeply: in our suffering, we become more dependent on others, on the deep peace of the world, for relief. I can’t distract myself with myself; I need others’ words, touch, care, compassion…or the music of birdsong, the beauty of winter moonlight, the aroma of spring brewing just outside my window…it’s all these connections to life that also make us more fully aware that to be human means to be in relationship with everything. We’re here to serve each other’s healing, to ease the pain we endure to become fully human.


And so, although I did not sleep, I felt greatly comforted, and was profoundly grateful for those who created the vaccine, for those who administered it to us, for Phillip and the 4-leggeds, for the owl, the moonlight, the delicate air, and for all the relationships in my life and the ways they serve my healing and allow me to use my gifts in serving theirs. Perhaps we’re only as human as we are consciously immersed in reciprocal and grateful relationship with the world.

Early this morning, I walked out into the misty sunrise feeling a bit more myself, which is to say, different, new, healing, and more fully human.


Some of my visitors this week:

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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.

To Read When Next We Are Falling

One day you asked,
“What has been the greatest loss
for you in this year of staying home?”

Most days, life has passed safely,
even comfortably, as though we’ve
been secluded by choice, but our
movement in any direction has
been circumscribed sharply by
loss; we know this. So much has
been lost: depths of shadow and light,
merged and blunted; the silenced
music of so many voices’ singular
and welcomed tones; so many
pleasures surrendered; life lived
on streets, in crowds, the present
pulsing bodies of others, the comforting
mystery of strangers passing closely,
unmasked and distinct, unknown parts
of us required for our wholeness; the
world’s light flickering and dimmed,
as though our species’ centuries of
negotiations with truth and compassion
have shifted, collapsed; we’re wandering,
pointless and plagued. We are unmoored.

But something perceived yet unseen
has held this year together; tethering
my heart to others, to now; I miss its
visibility, the taste of its name on my tongue…

Once, when I had lost track of my
life, its path and possibilities, I spent
a week at the National Gallery. A dull
February, drained, vacant, gray, but
early, eagerly, every morning, I’d climb
into all that color and creation and be fed.

I called it my Holy Week: the cool tomb, the temple
of my possible rising. Indifferent guards drowsed
in doorways while silent pilgrims swept softly down
marble hallways, pausing to peer, to fall in and
out of stories, consenting to be changed, to be
healed, communing with ghosts whose necessary
messages, offered in colors, light, and shadow,
forever repeated what it has always meant to be
human in a world of brokenness and blessing,
and how to love it all, how we must love it all.
I felt rescued, but more; resurrected. Loving
it all and risen, I was forever transformed. But
it works like this: death leads to life. You think,
I am changed forever, and then you regress; life
pummels and surprises; lessons are misplaced;
lockdowns and losses arrive unexpectedly, and
you let go of hands; they release you; tongues
forget words, their taste and meaning, strangers’
voices, their mystery and music are surrendered;
truth collapses; the world feels hate-washed, viral.
You reject what breaks, what hurts, the suffering;
you lose your way and self; you reach an edge, falling,
disfiguring, forgetting to love it all. Life leads to death.

You waited for my answer. What did I miss?
“The name for how we endure, what holds
us together. I am losing track of my life. I
am forgetting again, in need of colors and
peace, spread thick across my imagination,
the taste of them, an artist’s fingerpost, the
tether, its rescuing name on my tongue.”

You dressed for a trip to the store: rote skills,
weekly drills, masks and social distance;
survival procurement. Another dull February,
drained, vacant, gray, a year made bleak by
staying home, no news and nothing ever new.
I watched the car roll down the drive, diminish,
and followed you with a litany of anxious orisons,
a ritual accrued in the time of plague, the need to
believe: Be safe; return uncorrupted, my beloved.

And then, at the store, dodging viral molecules
and drained of all but my need for an answer,
you gathered a bouquet of cellophaned blooms,
unmomentous, meaning everything, a gift from the
gallery of groceries, meant in the giving to transform,
transfigure, to connect this time to all times of hardship
and loss and the ways we endure; to recall how love
alters suffering, always. “Climb into color,” you said,
and I did, and was rescued, but more, resurrected.

This is a note to read, when next we are falling:
The world turns on love or not at all, not at all.
Every day, we enter life’s studio to practice
the arduous art of being human, of learning
how to love it all, the brokenness and blessing,
how we must love it all. We forget and die and
resurrect through love’s colors, gestures, memories
sparked by others’ gifts, their offered arts reawakening
ours. Love is our tether, our constant call; known
forever by the taste of its name on our tongues.

© 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.

Living Lent From the Spirit Level


Ash Wednesday inaugurates the Lenten season for Christians, but the season itself, tied to the natural year, as are so many Christian observances, has deep spiritual invitations for all of us, regardless of our theological path and orientation. And invitations can always be accepted or refused, just as our inclinations can be both explored and honored for what they tell us about our growth, or need for deeper healing. Or not. Always our choice.

I’m unable to address the gifts of Lent without offering some clarity regarding my own spiritual orientation; I do so with openness and respect for your own. What does it mean that my blog title connects the daily round to living from the spirit level?

As a chaplain who has tended people’s spirits in times of body-mind-spirit crises, I’m mindful that the stance of “spiritual but not religious” is clearly growing among humankind. I created and led (gratefully and humbly) far more of my patients’ memorial services than I attended at their family churches. Yet, while foregoing membership in a faith community, they still reached for and connected with their spirits in ways that were evident, profound, and sustaining to themselves and others. We are, I believe, as Pierre Teilhard said, “spiritual beings having a human experience,” and deny this at our peril. Our spiritual needs are as real as our physical, and perhaps more earnestly in need of tending, since they are what makes us eternal. “Church” is where your spirit is affirmed, fed, challenged, and evolved in Love.


I am not a proselytizer of any institutional religion, but I also have derived rewarding challenges and deep comfort from studying the beliefs and practices humans have created throughout history–and that are still evolving–to name and integrate the Great Mystery, the human experience that is beyond words, or confined to the vocabulary of the liminal: Holy, Sacred, Transcendent, or simply, Love.

We know that Christianity adopted ancient nature-based rites and observances to integrate their archetypes with new stories and learning; my own spiritual journey leads me to honor the gifts of my Catholic Christianity most authentically by reintegrating practices that honor the Earth (Franciscan, Native American), and the deeper meaning beneath Christian imagery (Jungian symbolism, archetypes, the arts). I have received great spiritual gifts from my studies of Sufism, Taoism, Buddhism, and more. My spirituality is not a set of practices I do, but who I am; spirit means breath, and I do not breathe only an hour a week under the direction of anyone ordained to so direct my journey.

I have grown beyond the childhood God who was too often offered as male, judgmental, focused on logic, my sins, and the law as outlined in doctrine. For me, the Sacred is compassionate, mysterious, creative, a deep blend of feminine and masculine qualities and invitations, and–always–focused on my healing and growth in relationship to Love. All human growth occurs in stages that guide outward and beyond to the Great All…if we choose to live the examined life and self-correct, when necessary.


My orientation as a Catholic Christian, leaning heavily towards the mystic end of the spectrum, does not for a second prevent me from admitting and acknowledging the sins of the institutional church and the damage it’s done to its possible blessings in the world, but neither do I apologize for deriving spiritual direction and peace from the elemental messages Catholic Christianity offers (and as I interpret them): We are here to love and be loved. With our first in-breath, we arrive gifted and called to fulfill those gifts, though a lifetime of concurrently pursuing our healing, by which I mean our wholeness. The two words have the same etymology.

We fail, and we harm ourselves and others, and when we do, we’re invited to admit it and reconcile with Love and our communities. We offer forgiveness to others when they fail. We are made in the image of our Creator/Love, which, for me, means that we are formed to be co-creators, artists whose medium is life-on-Earth and whose sole technique is Love.


I think these ideas are wider than confinement within the concept of religion; they map the terrain of what it is to be human, and can certainly inspire us wherever we are on our journey. (And, please consider that religion holds no constrictive intent, etymologically, any more than does the choice to pledge our deepest self to one relationship in marriage. The word means to bind ourselves in reverence and obligation to a spiritual path. Our choice.)

I welcome the symbols of Lent and their contemplation, which are also accessible to the “spiritual but not religious” for inspiration. The crucifix symbolizes the human capacity for both the profound evil that would so desecrate another human, and for the profound love that would sacrifice itself on behalf of others. It affirms that our Source/Love is with us in our suffering, and that our existence is by nature transformative, because of our capacities for compassion and forgiveness. The shape of the cross is our human story: we are literally contradictions of ego and union that meet where Love holds us in all of our mysterious desires, attachments, and suffering, and allows us to transcend them and merge with that Love. Death is a door to new life.


Lent asks us to consider that life is never about perfection, power, and “winning,” but perhaps about the consciousness we bring to our woundedness and brokenness, and how healing ourselves and others allows us to participate more fully in what life truly offers: the invitation to love as we are Loved. I’ve always wondered, does the crucifixion make Love/God more human? Or does it subsume the human into deeper unity with Love/God? Perhaps both. Whom do we crucify, and when do we feel our own suffering most deeply? Lent is a season rich with self-reflection, if we’re open and courageous (living from our heart).

But again, whatever path your spirituality follows, the seasons likely affect its course. Winter, in our hemisphere, is seen as a time of burrowing, stillness, listening, and, often, the indulgence of the physical from autumn through the holidays. January and February can feel particularly sluggish and often our physical exercise decreases as well. Winter is both tomb and womb, where we’re dying to our old patterns and gestating changed perceptions and choices. Spring’s growing length of daylight stimulates our own spiritual and physical unfurling, as does the birdsong’s shift to spring and nesting hymns, the smells of thawing earth, the emergence of buds and splashing, flitting, erupting lifeforms everywhere.


We’re ready, but for what? In what ways are we yearning to grow? Are we called more by shadow or light in this new season? Either might be the song we hear at this time. For me, the Lenten season invites specific exploration of such questions. Winter fills me with dreams and images regarding my desires for growth and experiences; Lent clarifies the ways I’ll fuel and direct these goals when I emerge in the world again (our annual resurrection). Lent is like the staging area for the next steps on our journey.

It’s a time of austerity, of surrendering the more indulgent winter habits, of paring down and simplifying, sacrificing the clinging to comfort necessitated by winter for the sparer, sturdier independence required to see ourselves as we are. What choices and behaviors are inhibiting our flowering in the ease and joy that Love would have us experience? What gifts are we denying? Where are we pushing Love away, and how can we “convert,” or turn back towards Love? We may manifest our yearnings in spring cleaning, planting seeds, getting outside for longer walks, listening to different music, reading different genres of books, and expressing ourselves in different language. (Listen to your verbs and adjectives.)


If Lent is the staging area for our next steps, the bright promise of Easter is the ribbon-cutting: new life has arrived: go forth in love and joy. Be the art of Love in the world, always new, always transforming.

A commitment to living from the spirit level is, for me, greatly deepened and inspired by established and proven templates for spiritual growth, further enriched by honoring the Earth’s seasons and re-visioning the ancient archetypes that human spirituality has transformed and deepened throughout history. Take, eat, and be changed. I wish you all the blessings for deepening that the season offers. May you exit winter’s tomb in joy, and dance in spring’s new light, transfigured.


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

The Heart Yearns to Heal


Every February I learn again how grief, like joy, imprints on the spirit and resides in the body’s felt sense of memory, as surely as hallowed dates are recorded on the calendar.

My family has encountered several losses in the month of February. Decades ago, on Valentine’s Day, my father endured a massive stroke, which drastically redirected the rest of my parents’ lives. Of course, we were all changed; such events ripple forever in our choices and awareness. My mother cared for my father at home for years, and after his death, her own failing health led her here, to our home, where she died on a bleak muddy February 4th.

Our first beloved pup, sweet Idgi, was diagnosed with cancer and died way too young one February 20th.


None of these losses takes prominence over another. They all devastated our spirits, and each led to specific grief, lodged in our bodies and hearts.

Of course, as years pass, grief abates; it mutes and embeds itself deeply in our identity, dissipating, and we go on. Joys mend brokenness and integrate with our sorrows. Our lives and days fill with new relationships, connections, responsibilities, and experiences. As the anniversaries of our losses roll around, we may even forget they’ve returned once again.


But what I noticed so often in working with the spirits and healing of others has also become apparent in my own life: the emotional memory is alive and well, and is evidenced in physical and affective responses whether we are conscious of the reasons or not. And this is true regardless of the loss; it may be a death, a job loss, the end of a relationship, a stunning rejection, a surgery, or a damaging choice that engendered regret. Any stressful transition or experience can cause pain that’s profound and lasting. Our hearts and bodies remember; the memories are like scrapbooks stashed away on our psyche’s shelves. And often, anniversaries trigger the pages to fall open and come again to light. What we understood to have dissipated regathers and demands attention. This is gift: The heart yearns to heal and reminds us this is our responsibility.


Every January, I fill out a wall calendar, marking both our happy anniversaries and those that recall sorrow, so that over the new year I have a ready material guide to consult when feelings or physical symptoms mystify me. Calendar-keeping is a valuable annual practice to support my self-care and my ongoing healing. It also allows me to revel in the infinite blessings flowing through my life. And then, sometime in January, I forget to consult the calendar and its carefully-entered memories.

It’s surprising how busy we keep ourselves, even in lockdown. 2020 passed in a flash and it lasted forever; time became more ferociously mercurial than ever. Phillip and I both have interests and responsibilities we pursue that keep our days full and–with surprising frequency and ease–lead us to forget the date, the day, month, or year. We meditate, take time to rest, tend to self-care, but we’re both more present and future-oriented than content to dwell in memory.


And so, there are times when a physical pain, or spiritual darkness, a spell of anhedonia or discontent inexplicably arises, and we’re forced to be still and reflect on the cause. What’s going on here? Where, in my heart, is the answer? Often, the calendar reminds us of losses that slipped beneath our consciousness, and we find that listening again to our grief allows deeper healing and grants peace.

Blocked energy loosens, and loss, having been met and again acknowledged, relents. Many therapies can help with this: spiritual direction, meditation and prayer, therapeutic massage, gentle exercise and movement, free-writing, walking a labyrinth, creating a personal mandala…Encountering our losses and grief with love and deep listening also awakens our abilities to be companions to others encountering their own; it burnishes the good we may do in the world; it continually transforms us into more authentic, compassionate humans.


When I worked as a spiritual caregiver with cardiac patients, I often referred them to the wonderful resources found here, at HeartMath. And I continue to integrate these practices into my own life, because they work. I encourage you to visit the site and explore its riches, and to make part of your Valentine’s celebrations a peaceful time of gentle and compassionate self-care, a commitment to your own ongoing healing, and the health of your unique and loving heart.


A blessed Valentine’s Day to all! Be well and safe. Take great and gentle care of your blessings and grief, of your hearts and your healing, and please accept my gratitude for shining your lights brightly in our world, and encouraging the dark to recede.

© 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 Time of Monsters

Tell me again of the time of monsters.

The days were very dark, my child, and one rose up, a vortex of pain and ignorance, misshapen from the moment of his origin, molded in hate and ignorance, hidden from light, hideous and horrifying. He seized power, deforming truth. An infinite ego, he was eternally unsatisfied, rampantly vacuous, and predictably false.

And was he the most monstrous?

He was a buffoon: evil, inept, and blind to his disease, perceived by most as a grotesque ghoul with a soul forever impotent, its gifts rendered infertile. He was chaotic, a human storm, but only one. Yet, he was a flame too close to the time’s kindling: a moment and place prepared for fire. The world tilted.

And those who followed him?

Monstrous in their need for lies, their inability to face their pain. They were a frenzied mass of wounds who chose to blame and harm others, those strong enough to name and heal their weakness, brokenness, and grief, which is the harder, wiser path of loving humans. The monstrous chose the ease of hate and violence. These are always choices, child, the dark or the light. We choose our food and become what we eat; the monsters chose to swallow lies. They became ugly destroyers, corrupted puppets, triggered and subsumed. The world became unbalanced.

They were surely the most monstrous!

No. There were those more monstrous still. The elected who failed us. They had power; they were granted the privilege of leadership. They were taught in ivied halls to distinguish truth from lies. They were taught to disown actions better left undone. They had learned the priceless value of their honor, word, and souls. They took oaths and pledged allegiance, yet they turned; they turned and looked away. They lied and did not stop. They reached and reached beyond their greed, unsated. They rotted before us, transformed, then lost. They chose to be unmoored from truth. They chose cold, specific evil and they thought we did not know. We saw; we knew. The world began to fall.

But the world did not fall?

No, my child, the world endured. More of us chose truth. We kept the promises that we made. More of us chose connection, chose our light, our gifts, our mending, our courage–which means our hearts, which means the love that prevails over monsters, and exposes the lies, the evil, and the damage they inflict. Always.

What happened to the first monster?

He became the Lying Man, the effigy we burn on the eve of election, the casting of choices. Lying Man reminds us of possible evil, crouched and waiting for our assent. We recognized the power of ignorance and the greater strength of truth. We realized the care we must take in choosing those who carry our desire and speak in our voices. The Lying Man is ridiculed, yet remembered; he warns of the monsters among us, still, feeding on lies and offering them to the hungry, the desperate, and neglected.

And those who followed him? What of them?

Some chose healing; others retreated to the darkness they created. Their madness was defeated and their ignorance revealed. Their loyalty dissolved. They chose to be lost or found. Invitations extended may be refused. Always choice, my child. The world grew wiser. New ways were shaped to live and move within the light of truth. Learning evolved; we shared necessary sustenance, greater compassion, swifter justice, and co-creation. We are still learning, always students, erring on the side of truth, in allegiance to love. We meet our consequences, aware; we heal our hatred; we celebrate hope.

And what became of the most monstrous?

The most monstrous? Leaders who failed to do what was right. Their actions are remembered forever. They were the cowardly, the shameful, the fearful who chose lies, who chose greed over service, which is always choosing death over life. They destroyed their gifts, granted only and always to bless outward. They nursed despair; they cursed the light; they caused pain; they stirred anger; they fueled hatred; they told lies; they knew better. Their choices are tied to their names, told in our stories, on the wind, in our hearts, forever, unforgiven.

Know this, beloved: Gifts are bound to duty. We may extinguish our light. We may consent to paths of no return. We may barter our souls for emptiness. We may deceive ourselves and others. Mind your choices, child; we meet them every day. Humans are energy waiting to be used, changes unleashed and rippling through time, thought, and action. All is connected. Sweet lies, eaten, make us monsters, but we are free; we choose freely to consume them and to fall, forever. Let truth be our mirror. Stay awake.

© 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.

Beyond Winter


Come, let us listen for miracles,
the crystal crickle of thin spring
brooks, spilling chilled over bright
still stones, the sighing exhalation,
singing of survival, life suspended
under ice, how winter’s frigid grip
again is sun-released, freed, the
eased movement thrilling, thawing;
rippling silver diamonds dancing,
water music trilling the surprising
deliverance from bitter immobility
to stunning new liveliness, flowing
in its channel of promised possibility,
there, always waiting beyond winter.


I want to send a special hug of gratitude to those friends who joined me this past Sunday evening at the wonderful Zoom sponsored by It was such a lovely surprise to realize you were with us; I wish we could have spoken. Know that your presence is held as a precious honor in my heart. I know some of you live in time zones that made it a great challenge to join us, and I am so very, very grateful. Bless you!

And: Happy News: This album is now released, available everywhere music can be purchased and downloaded…Gabriel Alegria and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet’s “Social Distancing,” is a concept album with the through-line themes of what it’s meant to endure a pandemic, individually and collectively, together/apart. A composition using the words from “And the People Stayed Home” begins and ends the album’s “story.” It’s beautiful. The cover is a 4-panel line-art illustration from photos sent in by fans. (I sent in a photo of my father and me, since he’s the one who gave me a love of jazz. We’re on the inside cover. ♥️)

I know some of you helped the supports the band’s fundraising to complete the album: it worked, and we are all very grateful!


© 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.

Invitation to All


Dear Readers,

I want to extend this invitation to everyone and hope you’ll consider attending! This Zoom event, sponsored by the Vitality Society, is for the entire family. The coordinators hope children will attend with their parents and grandparents, and that they’ll volunteer to read a page of the book for all of us, a suggestion I adore.

If you’re able to attend, I look forward to seeing you. 🙂

Join me on Sunday, February 7 from 7-8 pm ET for the Live, Love, Learn Book Series with Vitality Society, an online community for people 60 and better to remain at their best by tapping into their vitality, creativity and curiosity. All ages welcomed to attend.

Learn more and RSVP at

Note that you will get an email with the Zoom link an hour before the event starts provided you RSVP on the event page. To RSVP, click Going on the event page and create a free account. 

Any questions about registration, contact Ana at


© 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 Quickening of the Year


Last week we were gifted warmer days and our first vaccine.

The suddenness and utter unpredictability of a chance at the vaccine seemed cloaked in all the mystery, chaos, and illogic of things viral: A friend saw the notice on Facebook that a neighboring community’s senior center and community health department were offering the first vaccines for a two-day time period and appointment slots were, of course, filling rapidly. I signed up and received a late slot on the second day.

Our own local healthcare concern, that has benefitted from our money and insurance for decades, never got back to me regarding the registration I’d completed at their invitation. I’d felt increasingly frustrated as my neighbors all posted happy news of their shots being scheduled and received, but I couldn’t locate the correct bureaucratic pathway to learn why I wasn’t being contacted. I could only guess that the fact I’m just 65 might have pushed me down the list while older people received their shots first. Who knows? Maybe all my data crashed because of the apostrophe in my surname, which still seems to confound computer programs everywhere.


At any rate, I was given this chance, seized it, and was blessed with an appointment. Then, I waited an anxious week wondering if the vaccine supplies would be depleted and my appointment canceled.

Not the way healthcare should work, I think.

Late in the day on the given date, Phillip and I drove to the site, about 30 minutes away. Because he’s not yet 65, he was ineligible, but I’d read that, since the thawed Moderna doses are only viable for a brief window of time before requiring disposal, it’s possible to get your name on a shortlist regardless of your eligibility, and you may receive a vaccine that would otherwise be wasted. I joined and followed the line of people as we were directed and, as soon as I reached the first indoor station, asked that Phillip’s name and data be placed on the list. I was told there were no extra vaccines allocated, but that could change.


The entire ritual, for that’s what it became for me, was professionally and kindly orchestrated. Everyone participating was masked, hushed, cooperative, and somewhat stunned. Something miraculous and historic was occurring, and our little lives were communally, even sacredly, involved. After the shot, we had to sit in mathematically-spaced folding chairs, waiting through 15 minutes of observation. Friends chatted across prescribed distances, others of us sat in silent reflection, pilgrims not quite believing we’d reached a sacred destination. We were scheduled for our second shot, and then it seemed more than a few of us left the building, tears of relief spilling over masks.

I returned to the car, noticing the air’s perfume had turned from winter to almost-spring and the longer daylight was only now ebbing into a sunset of blended pinks, rose, and amethyst. A gentle hint of joy rested in my heart. Words left me. Feelings and thoughts that had fled over the past year, that I’d missed, stood at my heart’s door like long-traveled beloveds, hope and all her children, returning home.


Then, Phillip told me that as I waited at one end of the building, he’d been called in for an unclaimed vaccine, filled out his forms, and joined the procession, only to witness a woman rush in, frantic and pleading. She’d filled out all the forms and registered online, but had forgotten a crucial step and was not scheduled…so Phillip, witnessing her suffering with his characteristic kindness, gave her his place and returned to the car. We were happy for me and sad for him, and in that emotional tug, headed home.

Zipping along the highway, halfway home, we were startled by Phillip’s phone beeping…another vaccine was available; could we make it back? We were so excited; I remember the car turning around, but it now seems almost fantastical how quickly we were parking it once again. The nurse at the door beamed at him, “You’re back! Come in!”

And 30 minutes later, once more returning home, but now in the dark, our joy was tangible; we’d won the lottery. I think we both cried at that point.

The next morning, despite our aching arms, it seemed fitting to celebrate with a hike at a nearby county park. Still cold, still winter, but we noticed the angle of light had changed, as had the birdsong surrounding us.


Nature mirrored our renewed hope. It was time to emerge from darkness once again, cautiously, tentatively, but in the direction of the light calling us by name, as it always does.

Nothing has changed; everything has shifted.

Today is known as Imbolc, the celebration of Brigid, the Celtic goddess of healing, home, poetry, fertility, and fire. She was later woven into Christian spirituality as St. Bridget, and today is her Feast Day. February 1 falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

The energy of the year quickens, as the original word, Imbolg (in the belly), signals: our spirits are noticeably pregnant with the dreams that rose during our winter sleep. Now, they’re growing into conscious yearning for birth, into actions that will make them “real” in the world.


The ancient Celtic wheel of the year honors not just the obvious quarterly turns of the sun and seasons, but the finer midpoints, or cross-quarter signals that change is constant; even in a year that turns predictably around the sun, back to where we’ve been, everything is new again, an ever-changing, yet prescribed, cotillion. The known and always-improvised dance to the music of Mystery, and held in Love’s ballroom.

For me, Christian spirituality enlarges these themes by symbolically connecting our choices and actions to the growing light. Lent, which means spring, imposes a time of pause and focused contemplation so we may meet spring’s high light (Easter) with renewed centeredness in our gifts and the ways they match the invitations of the world for the healing and connectedness of all.

Other theologies and worldviews offer similar stories of renewal and refocusing as the new year cracks through its egg and emerges into possibility and choice. The human story, no matter the veneer of its retelling, is always drawn to the turning from death and darkness to rebirth and light.


And yet the recircling darkness of winter solitude and its resulting opportunity to contemplate our choices and the waves they’ve set in motion is a deeply necessary aspect of our humanity. What do our gifts compel us to offer the world? What do we owe the Earth and each other? What have we learned from the year that is passing? Who are we becoming? What are we creating in the studio of our life and spirit?

We need winter: our health and balance require time to meet our shadows, listen to them and slowly feed them light. We need the apophatic, negative space for clarity and depth. These encounters need not be cruel, frightening, or shameful, but pain may be an inescapable part of self-encounter as it is inescapable in all relationships. Yet, I believe these meetings, our winters, should always be guided by the understanding that the better we are able to offer love and forgiveness to ourselves, the more profoundly we may offer healing to others. It is a time of spiritual seed-planting.


And now, some of those seeds are fertile and quickening.

Spring is not a rejection of winter, but an outgrowing, in gratitude for its lessons. Then the days grow longer, and our actions more assured and in better congruence with our new understanding of who we are now and why we’re here. If we choose.

Gently, gently, but no Easters without Lent.

And we come to know that every day, perhaps every moment, has its winter and spring, and perhaps its Lenten second of choosing sacrifice over gratification to better meet the next moment in Love…I mean, when I witnessed the caring staff tending all of us through the line to our shots and recovery, I felt transformed by their kindness, as though they’d led us from our long winter to a field of light. And when Phillip acted in love and selflessness to surrender his vaccine to another, I wonder if the weary staff noticed and were moved, even transformed? When yet another shot became available, did they remember the man who sacrificed his precious vaccine to ease that woman’s heart?

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So, welcome to all signs that herald more light, green life, birdsong, gardens ready for planting what will nourish, and invitations to our co-creation in what we know is good and true. May we embrace the lift in our spirits and midwife our winter lessons into action fueled by love, using the gifts we’ve come to share.

And when we do, we’ll see Love hold her door open, beaming, “You’re back! Come in!”

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