Choices

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Last June, I marked 65 years of life on this planet, which means that I was not here for either of the “World Wars,” but was certainly sentient and rational during the troubling times in decades that have followed and, like others, cannot remember a period quite so precariously anxious, fearful, dangerous, or maddening. 

I can feel my energy riding waves others have set in motion, and swirling in whirlpools that threaten the stability and balance necessary to meet each day’s demands. I ask myself, repeatedly, as I have so often asked others,”How is it with your spirit?”  What am I feeling, how am I responding, and how can I maintain a defined inner space for peace, openness, continued growth, and, yes, joy?

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How can we be most useful in a time of such turmoil and restriction? What can we do to restore greater peace? How can we do anything to help to save the earth when we’re more isolated than we’ve ever been? Why even dream of “best possibles” when–let’s face it–hope seems the refuge of fools?

The answer, I think, is in our informed and conscious choices.

One place to start is to faithfully tend our bodies and spirits, and to widen that care to others, including, always, the Earth. 

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I am mindful and ever-grateful that rare and precious humans, under traumatic and unacceptable deprivation and duress, have achieved enlightenment. For example, I honor the famous example of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist whose parents, sibling, and wife were murdered as the family endured years in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz.

Frankl survived the holocaust and later wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, outlining his profoundly-derived wisdom from that time: we best counter life’s darkness and suffering through acts of love, in choosing purposeful work, in navigating struggle with a courageous heart, and in consciously activating our individual power and agency to choose our own attitude and response to life’s challenges. 

Every person and experience we encounter invites us to respond by creating yet another layer of light or darkness on the potential gift and artwork that is our “lifetime.” 

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Rather than wish the suffering Frankl endured upon all of us also seeking enlightenment, I believe we can evolve and, with deep gratitude, learn from his wisdom by sharing it, practicing it, and preventing such suffering in our own time. We don’t have to repeat holocausts of misery and hatred. We can deepen and grow in our consciousness, and practice the power each of us has to choose our attitude and response, and choose the necessary actions that must follow, as Frankl and others have taught us.

So it is, during this time of uniquely global and individual suffering, that we can look to our choices to tend our physical and spiritual comfort and health, and to explore ways to assuage the comfort and health of all living things. 

My part of the world is heading into colder temperatures, and, because of lost wages and jobs, families are faced with energy and food bills they cannot pay. Our state energy company, like others, is not charging people whose payments are in arrears during the Covid-19 pandemic, but we, as co-dependent and co-creative communities, both local and global, can help further by creatively managing and sharing resources to mitigate hunger and exposure to extreme temperatures, and to help people find and remain in safe shelters. These are always issues of importance in our sadly selfish world, but when pandemic and climate shifts rage, they become unrelenting and pervasive.

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We can abate the sorrow of this time by helping others achieve the physical comfort and reasonable stability we are blessed to know, and in doing so, the spirits of all are encouraged to re-balance as well. Focusing on others is the clearest way out of chaos. 

At Full Moon Cottage, our fairly simple needs are adequately met, although we are still in lockdown and need to care for our integrated health with as much, or more, attention than ever. We’ve brought the houseplants indoors, put the gardens to bed, care for our eight 4-leggeds as wisely and lovingly as we can, and are looking into methods for further naturalizing the land we tend and planting native plants for for the health of insects, pollinators, and the wildlife with whom we share space. We feed our migrating and native birds and try to provide plants, shrubs, and trees for their shelter and propagation.

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None of this will reverse or prevent further climatic shifts, but all of us have a say in the ways we adapt. We can choose to do nothing or something, and educate ourselves about ways to help, however small.

I admit there are days when I watch or read too much “news,” expose myself to too much anger and sadness on social media, or ignore my own healthy practices, and so quickly is my spirit stripped of hope that I almost miss its descent. Suddenly, the elevator doors open and I’m in the dark basement, hearing the doors close behind me.

There is a proper and acceptable time for encountering my own and the world’s darkness and I’m fairly certain it isn’t “always/every moment/constantly,” which is what it feels like we’re pushing against these days and why we increasingly hear people describe themselves as exhausted. 

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But I can choose differently. I’m limiting the time I spend with media updates designed to elicit mood swings; I’m renewing commitment to my physical care; and I’m tending my energy with the loving-kindness I try to offer others. And, every day, I’m using precious given hours to connect with others in ways still possible, people I love and strangers who need food, clothing, shelter, my prayers, and my feisty letter-writing or phone calling on their behalf. And I think ready laughter, uncorked often, is integral to maintaining our health. Happily there is no shortage of opportunities to laugh.

And so, my friends, I ask that we all choose consciously and wisely, giving ourselves the grace of good self-care: the peace of a nap, the comfort of a good book, a walk in the brisk autumn air, creative playtimes, and dreams of all the “best possibles” we can work towards today. And when we feel our balance restored, let us call or write a friend, express gratitude to our healthcare providers, teachers, and other essential workers, ask for and offer forgiveness wherever it is needed, locate and donate to a charity, bring warm clothing and food to locations that provide them to those in need, drive a person in need of assistance to the polls, plan a garden, feed the birds, surprise ourselves and the world with kindness, and so choose to repair the world and lay down layers of light now, in every possible moment, because we can.

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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.

Julie Zickefoose writes a wonderful blog about her interactions with nature. Here is her recipe for a small batch of “Zick Dough” for feeding the birds who visit her yard. At the blogsite is also a recipe for a much larger batch. Let me know if you try it out!

Melt in the microwave and stir together:
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup lard

In a large mixing bowl, combine
2 cups chick starter (from a feed store, pet supply site, Wal-Mart, etc.)
2 cups quick oats
1 cup yellow cornmeal and
1 cup flour

Add melted lard/peanut butter mixture to the combined dry ingredients and mix well.

The Language of Falling Leaves

autun leaves

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It was a time of stillness,
of intruding contagion,
of unyielding boundaries,
of cloistered listening, guarded
waiting, gated solitude, safely
confined in silence so deep,
so deep, and we, so tired that autumn,
so weighted, we dropped our words
and began to speak the language of
falling leaves; sighs of surrender,
detaching from everything, releasing,
drifting, we were leaves falling, falling
airborne; we were clouds translating into
mist, then sunlight, or stone; for days, we spoke
river and whispered moon through hushed
wood-smoked evenings; only once, so tired
we wept rain, aslant and gray, leaning into grief,
weary of contagion’s pervasive pursuit; we stilled
and grew roots, planted ourselves, speaking
earth, not forgetting the unbending boundaries;
we were trees, muddied, barked, and bared,
our leafwords fallen, branches uplifted, we
welcomed the language of wings, became
birds, breathing windsong, soaring unbound
in silence so deep, so deep our wings brushed
peace, in silver light, we turned and became
the pearled impervious sky.

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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 My 66th Autumn

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In my 66th autumn, I planted an oak tree,
a slow-growing long-living gift to an Earth
I love beyond reason; I won’t see the tree
rise into its fullness, nor witness the circles
of life it supports: the fertilized earth,
the harbored cocoons, wild turkeys, and jays
hummingbirds, insects, arachnids, and squirrels,
I’ve planted a country of branches and burls,
and cavities, breathing for years beyond mine;
four score to maturity, ten score to death,
a preposterous lifespan in this day and age;
my oak tree is rooted in unreasoned hope,
impossible faith, illogical prayers, irrational
visions alive in my heart after 66 autumns,
which must count for something eternally true:
planting is saving, and changing direction,
a signal that choices have yet to be made,
the actions of angels, of women and men,
of people with power and people with light
who may reverse courses enough to preserve
a balance, a moment to notice the world’s
miraculous wonders: an overlooked acorn
becoming an oak, the home of a barn owl
and 66 autumns of love beyond reason,
a love that was rooted in unreasoned hope.

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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.

Liturgy of the Trail

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25 years I’ve walked this trail, marking the hours,
lauds to vespers, marking the life of one dog, and then
the lives of two; I wonder, can my current pack of five
smell the sacred scents, the years’ long layers
of shed coats and cells scattered like blessing
by the three who have gone? Can my current pack
smell the incense of who I was, and am, trudging
these pilgrim miles every day and every season,
shedding thoughts, releasing what isn’t me? My faithful
4-leggeds and I, processing down the aisle in forest
and field, the trail made of us and all, daily discovering
secrets, befriending the trees, mourning the fallen, noticing
the lives they harbor still; teaching us the holiest lessons:
falling matters to rising; death matters to life; sacrifice illuminates
then and now, the holy union we live within; we praise every offering
and cross, share our confiteor, all good news and gift, mystery,
revelation; we sit at our bench under arching oaks, each dog
offers a paw to bless our communion (berries, biscuits): the
trail proclaims how everything revolves, held by Love, always.
I recall that first spring’s brilliant flash of trilliums, flickering
in sunrays that pierced the tender green infant leaves
just there, in the shaded patch of forest that every spring since
has widened, a whispering white delight of blooms welcoming
our longing hearts, dancing winks of dark and light: what could
we do, but genuflect and bark, or cry, for joy? And every year,
we seek and find that growing patch of yes, the sweet
consecration of life, and know again that spring is here and
resurrection happens. We meet old friends and bid them peace:
the gabbling scoot and peck of turkeys, hens guiding poults
down carpets of moss; wild fruit, columbines, cardinals,
toads down in the marsh, and soon, mosquitoes, jewelweed,
summer roses, long days fading like the breath of dogs,
the fading breath of everything, not dying, transforming,
waiting for the yes of trilliums; my beloved companions
and I pray on the trail made of us and all, made of lessons we
have traveled, eaten, and shed; attentive explorers, sniffers
of mystery, lovers of wonder, sacristans of stories told
every season, of what happens, what changes, what lasts…
rounding to autumn, asters and acorns, now
blackbirds gathering, flock calling flock, autumn
choir of 25 years and once again, our ritual ends;
in falling leaves, blessings of peace, blackbird choir
singing us safely, gratefully home, to shudder off
another day, a year too filled with sorrow
and suffering, too clamored, too crammed
with too much: I will rest beneath the leaves
of holy books, encircled by dogs and cats
and the memories of others; we will nestle and
dream of walks yet to come, awaiting signs and
wonders on the trail made of us and all,
and of trilliums, flashing their
light in darkness.

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RileyClancy Darlings
 
bench autumn babies picnic
 
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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.
 
 

Collapse

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At Full Moon Cottage, the daily round in early autumn must often adjust to sudden changes in weather: within minutes, the sky alters from bright blue to gunmetal; the light shifts from brilliant to opaque; clouds form, move, and dissipate at variable rates; temperatures rise and drop rapidly, and the wind suddenly makes her entrance like a diva, scattering leaves in clattering swirls and high drama. Normally, I welcome and savor this aspect of fall, but this year, I’ve found myself, during a pandemic quarantine, living the astonishing adventure of co-creating a beautiful book and now conducting a virtual tour to promote its publication, and the unpredictable weather has made scheduling all things virtual quite dicey, due to precarious satellite internet, where no fiber optic or cable are available.

I’d recently been invited to tape an interview with the wonderful people involved with The Miami Book Fair, scheduled for November 15-22 this year. We’d agreed to tape the interview yesterday, so Phillip and I were trying to set up all the necessary equipment for a virtual interview: the camera, mic, extra light rings, tables, chairs, and books for elevating the computer, or me, cords and more cords, etc., while the outside light gradually diminished and then disappeared altogether, then wavered and shone again, confusing our selection of the right spot for the interview.

At one point in our maneuvers, we glanced outside at the canopy set up on the back deck. We discussed quickly taking it down for storage, since the wind speed was increasing, but shrugged, and continued spiking and striking our set, testing the light and internet reception in each new location, removing obstacles like dog toys from view, and moving decorative accents around, before returning like salmon to where we’d begun: the living room, where we could also open and close shutters and large shades as we needed, to accommodate the mercurial sun. And congratulations for making it through that paragraph posing as a sentence.

As the countdown to logging-in for the interview approached, the sky clouded; the air began to mist in a sky of black ink, and the wind whipped through the gardens and trees, pulling dancing leaves in her wake. I fully expected to glance out and see Margaret Hamilton pedaling by with Toto in her bicycle basket. However, the interview was accomplished and enjoyable. Peace. Quiet.

And then, faster than we could react, tornadic straight-line winds ripped through the backyard and tore at everything in their path, twisting the stationary metal support for the canopy over the deck, and shredding the canopy itself. In under 30 seconds, things collapsed. Regretful and rueful; we knew we should have acted sooner.

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16 years ago today, I took my mother to her first dialysis session. She’d moved in with us a month earlier, with high hopes of finding a new home and enjoying herself after 13 years of caring for my father following his massive stroke. That first month was filled with doctor appointments to follow-up on those she’d already begun before she’d moved. My mother was a profoundly lovely and intelligent woman who was capable of absolute denial when issues in life disturbed her. 

She had already been diagnosed with heart disease that could lead to kidney failure, but preferred to disbelieve this diagnosis (which we only learned about much later, reviewing the health records, boxed and stored during the move), and to avoid sharing such information with her children. Because of her heart failure, dialysis was both dangerous and grueling.

Those were agonizing, heartbreaking days, sitting in the clinic and watching her suffer, and then bringing her home, exhausted and beaten, only to see her revive enough within a couple days to repeat the cycle. The memories bring me to tears as quickly as straight-line winds, even after all these years. Things collapsed. Rapidly. My mother died in my arms, in our home, with hospice care, on February 4, only 6 months after moving to our home. I’ll never know if any of her suffering could have been prevented had we faced the diagnosis earlier and worked together to meet and support her healing.

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Perhaps you’ve heard of CCD, colony collapse disorder, in part, due to our use of pesticides, that has contributed to the decimation of our honey bee population. The economic impact of CCD is devastating, but the effects on our environment from the loss of these pollinators imperil our existence. Pesticides kill far more than pests. We know this; we’ve known it for years, but the collapse has occurred and continues. 

All insects are endangered on Earth, and long before we’ve even discovered the myriad ways they bless and ensure our existence. We keep willfully allowing ourselves and our planet to be poisoned, shaking our heads in dismay, then retreating. Wouldn’t want to cause upset or risk embarrassment or (peaceful) confrontation. Someone else can do it. It’ll be O.K.

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In the United States, during a pandemic, while suffering the threats of climate change, our unique, scrappy, and elegant Democracy, once a shining light to those seeking its legal protections and freedoms, is nearing collapse. Many people prefer hiding from this fact. It’s easier to deny, when we’re already under so many other threats assailing us, hourly, daily, and for months. We’d really prefer “someone else” save us, restore peace, summon order, and provide coherent leadership. People are anxious, fearful, and exhausted. Some deny not only what is happening in front of them, but that it could lead to violence and collapse. 

Elected men and women we’ve hoped would speak up have cowered and resisted doing so for years, seeming to value their little bits of power over any genuine fealty to the Constitution and our Democracy. They deny the dire warnings calling for them to speak up, demand change, impeach the main source of our deterioration, and restore their honor. History, I think, will not be kind to them, and we’re a long time dead. Centuries–if humans survive that long–will recall their cowardice and shame. So it goes; step by step we make these choices, forge these chains, and write our histories. 

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What is the proper response in a time so variable and frightening? Hasn’t it always been to speak the truth in love? To act on behalf of the marginalized, the moral imperative, the sacred and beautiful? To name the dangers we face and work together to prevent and abate them? To take risks and reach beyond our grasp in order to preserve what we know to be eternally true and good? It almost certainly involves loss, grief, suffering, and sacrifice, but here we all are to help each other bear what must be borne by decent humans seeking change.

We have to believe we’ve come with the gifts to meet the times before us, and admit that, unless we co-create solutions–all of us–the whirlwind will arrive suddenly, as it always does for those in denial, and everything we cherish and love may collapse. 

And those who remain will shake their heads and sigh, “Why didn’t we act?”

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Earlier this week, I sensed a change in the weather. The forecast for the evenings ahead danced around freezing temperatures, but then indicated a typical return to warmer nights. I decided to bring all my sweet houseplants in, anyway. It did freeze, but they are safe and warm indoors. Not collapsed, but thriving.

Vote. Encourage others to vote, and help them do so, safely.

Be safe and well, and gentle peace.

“In his 2007 bestseller, Collapse, anthropologist Jared Diamond…explored the trajectories of a number of human civilizations that disappeared at the height of their vibrancy and power. Diamond’s examples included the Anasazi of the American southwest, the Maya, and the Norse colony on Greenland.

In each case, the civilization overshot the carrying capacity of its environment. Their populations grew as the society became ever more ingenious at extracting resources from its surroundings. Eventually, the limits to growth were hit. A short time after running into those limits, each civilization fell apart.” ~ Adam Frank

“It is common knowledge now that we depend on insects for our continued existence; that, without key pollinators, the human population would collapse in less than a decade.” ~ John Burnside

“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” ~ E.O. Wilson

“Our society is dependent on some precarious mechanisms, and they are very dicey. They can easily collapse.” ~ Doris Lessing

© 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.

Fully Awake Moon

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Happy Full Moon from Full Moon Cottage! We christened her the night we moved in, 24 years ago. We pulled up the creepy carpeting just inside the door, covered the floor with clean shelf paper, and set our mattress down. A huge bow window opened to the tree-covered lawn and that May’s Full Flower Moon kept us awake all night long, offering a dazzling introduction to life in the country and a new appreciation for lined curtains. It astonished me that I could walk outside at midnight and so clearly see my way, see the trees and their shadows, and see the ribbons of light that formed our drive and the trail beyond, leading to the bridge and shining river.

I began to collect the names people had given these Full Moons throughout history. I love the imagery these names conjure, and what they tell us about those who lived, moved, and had their being beneath the moon centuries before us. In most cases, the names reveal how deeply connected to the Earth these humans were, how intimately they knew her seasons, and the gifts, signals, and dangers each one contributed to these people’s survival. The moon names show an intimate awareness of the Earth and her creatures and plant life. They speak of the seasons’ colors; the wind flow; the air temperature; the weather conditions; the varying states and levels of water; what can be harvested; what is still; and what is in motion. To me they are precious historical poetry. In the past few years, I’ve started a monthly post of the moon names on Facebook, and I usually add my own. (Feel free to share yours in the comments!)

This October, we’ll benefit from two Full Moons, October 1st and October 31st. The first earns all the traditional names for the month’s Full Moons, except for Harvest Moon, a name that alternates between September and October, depending upon which month’s Full Moon falls closer to the Autumnal Equinox, so this year, the October 1st Full Moon is our Harvest Moon, and it will be ”officially full” at approximately 4:05 P.M.; rise at 5:57 P.M.; and reach its highest altitude at about 11 P.M. (All times are Central Time.)

The October Full Moon is also known as the Hunter’s Moon; Travel or Migrating Moon; Dying Grass Moon; Sanguine or Blood Moon; Freezing Moon; Long Hair Moon; Ten Colds Moon; Falling Leaves Moon; Corn Ripe Moon; Leaf Fall Moon; Raven Moon; Blackberry Moon; Wine Moon; Spirit Moon; Snow Moon; Shedding Moon; Winterfelleth (Winter Coming Moon); Windermanoth (Vintage Month Moon); Moon When Quilling and Beading is Done; Moon of the Changing Season; Kindly Moon; and White Frost Moon.

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In the Southern Hemisphere, where spring is just beginning, the days are waking earlier and stretching towards their summer length, so the Full Moon names we see in spring now appear: Waking Moon; Pink Moon; Seed Moon; Fish Moon; and Egg Moon.

Our second Full Moon this month occurs on Halloween, October 31st. Today, when a single month has two Full Moons, the second is known as a Blue Moon. The older definition of Blue Moon was seasonal, referring to the third of four Full Moons in a season (a season meaning the time between a solstice and equinox). The next “seasonal” blue moon will be August 22, 2021. I’ve read some articles referencing this second Full Moon as the month’s Hunter’s Moon. It’s rare to have one on Halloween, so I think it invites a merry celebration, and we’re looking forward to it at Full Moon Cottage!

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My own names for the October Full Moon: Moon when the Houseplants Come Indoors; Gardens Put to Bed Moon; Caramel-Making Moon; Stop Eating So Many Caramels Moon; Extra Quilt Moon; First Fire Moon; People Still Staying Home Moon; Colored Trail Moon; Halloween Moon; and this year: Vote Blue Election Moon. May it augur healthy and necessary change.

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Be well and safe, and gentle peace to your hearts and spirits.

© 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.

Autumn Blessing

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May you have
an autumn
of blue skies
and shining rivers
flowing through
your mind, rounding
your heart, whispering
your truth: remember,
remember who you are
;
may you tend your spirit-fire,
shedding old stories, dying
falling leaves: name them
and in gratitude, let them go,
and listen for the new story
rising from these ashes…

May everything tender and gentle
quiet your anxious heart. Artist,
weave your questions, weave
your power and joy; beneath
your autumn quilt, may you
sweetly deeply rest.

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May you have
an autumn
of peaceful harvest,
summer lessons gathering
in circling flocks of farewell,
calling: notice, notice and learn;
recollect wisdom you have
lived and call yours, summer
now softer and softly departing
in amethyst twilight,
descending dusk; you’re alone
but not lonely, for here is
your shadow, with secrets
unlocked: breathe courage, heal,
and love yourself truer and truly…

May everything tender and gentle
quiet your anxious heart. Artist,
weave your questions, weave
your power and joy; beneath
your autumn quilt, may you
sweetly deeply rest.

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May you have
an autumn
of darkening solitude,
sacred incense of woodsmoke,
hushed intimacy of bare trees
exposed, your wide heart
welcoming hallowed stillness,
long starlight, the vast patient moon
sighing: oneness, beloved,
all is one
; coyote and owl
sing you gently into
your sacred mystery
and dreams…

The past fades;
the garden sleeps, sheltering
the growing possible…

May everything tender and gentle
quiet your anxious heart. Artist,
weave your questions, weave
your power and joy; beneath
your autumn quilt, may you
sweetly deeply rest.

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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.

The Brightest Star

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Another loss among so many,
and this the brightest star–
massive energy so
tightly contained,
collapsing at her core,
releasing potential
in shock waves, oh
universe expanding,
accelerating beyond
hope, without love,
or so it has felt,
but see the sky radiant
with her brilliant starstuff
spinning, luminous:
paths of light shine
through the darkness
her loss creates
the seeds of new stars
we
who grieve now burn
with her fire,
we
who mourn
will dance her light
into the night,
each of us
a new sun
rising.

(SN 2020: RBG)

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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 Say Goodbye

To say goodbye is to die a little.
~ Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

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We’ve had some challenging weeks at Full Moon Cottage. I’ve heard from two close friends that they are moving to different states within the month. One to IL (not that far) for work, and the other to TX, for her long-awaited retirement. (That far. 1250 miles. I checked right away. Damn.) Phillip’s best friend for decades has also recently moved, so we’re grieving losses we hadn’t expected in the midst of pandemic isolation.

The friend who’s moving to Texas has been my dearest friend for 20 years, a time span that has so intimately opened us to one another’s dreams, flaws, truths, high joys, and deep griefs, that it feels like part of my soul will be severed by our imminent separation. (Of 1250 miles!) Women friends are treasures. It took years for me to land in a place where I could form and tend these friendships. They mean everything to me, and while I’m not losing them altogether, I’m losing their immediate presence. The long good visits, the shared holidays, the laughter, and tears.

The pandemic makes these partings harder; in 6 months, these are the only two people I’ve seen besides Phillip. Both friends came to Full Moon more than once, with their coolers of food and refreshments, their masks, gloves, and lovely willingness to sit with us on the deck for an afternoon of visiting. But the pandemic keeps me from helping my friends pack up their lives and set up their new homes. There’s no foreseeable adventure of traveling to visit them and celebrating their new lives. There are some things Zoom can’t manage.

I’m so very grateful for these recent afternoons together at Full Moon; now, of course, they’re gilded in my memory…I understand there is a possibility we may not share such visits again on this side of life. I’d like to think a vaccine will be developed and that climate chaos will be mitigated, but it seems everything is, “Maybe yes, maybe no,” these days.

Stress, loss, threats to our carefully-structured lives, and changes that surprise us can cause us to regress emotionally. We retreat to seek comfort and safety, to hide from pain. What we do next matters in terms of our healing and growth. I know this; I looked for it when I heard my friends’ news, and I noticed myself re-experiencing feelings that recurred often in my childhood. I thought about all the times we moved when I was growing up, always being the “new girl,” always starting over with friendships, working to maintain them, and then moving away again and losing touch (as children do). I realized that it felt like a rejection to have two longtime friends surprise me in the same week with news that they were “leaving me.” 

Grown Up Kitty knew she would miss them very much, but was happy for them and wished them joy; Inner Child Kitty wondered what she did wrong to drive them away and felt only sadness, thinking, “Here we go again: New school; new strangers.” I gave her–that always-healing part of myself–some time to be sad. I listened to her fears and grief.

The past is always walking with us; events that happen now trigger feelings felt in response to similar events we lived through long ago. It’s helpful to pay attention, and to allow these feelings to be felt, while acknowledging that we can separate the events and actors into “then” and “now,” and choose new responses that best suit who we are now, and who we desire to  become. I reassured myself: women friends keep in touch; we’ll still share good visits. Transitions are hard but suffering passes. Goodbyes, as Raymond Chandler said, cause us to die a little; they elicit grief and require healing. So I tell myself to breathe. To hold the moment and let it go. To feel the feeling and watch it pass. So we mend; so we go on.

I know that tending these griefs will be ongoing, and there will be days when my friends’ absences are more sharply felt. Life transitions always involve a midwife’s penetrating attention: something is dying; something’s being born, and the gestations follow no prescribed timetable. Watch and wait. Listen and learn. Celebrate and find joy where, with whom, and when you can.

Late today, some plants I’d ordered arrived at my door. Tomorrow, I’ll plant them in the garden spaces we’ve designated, and I’ll connect them in my mind with this time of partings, but also in gratitude for the holy, wonderful memories of these friends, and all the ways they’ve blessed our lives, and how, across distances, we can continue to be blessing to one another.

So we mend; so we go on.

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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.

Taijitu: The Yin-Yang

Let us greet and name
life’s strange blossoms,
two on every stem:
the grace of doubt,
the blessing of darkness,
the gift of grief,
the insight of fear,
the lessons of loss.

Each light has its shadow,
opposite and equal,
both required for either to be,
and balanced, then, in benefit
and harmony.

The gardener’s gratitude
is owed not only
for the harvest,
but for the planting and pruning,
the weeding and watering
the tending and turning;
days of drought, plague,
and pests. Let us welcome
them all and all
they bring, as time
reveals, unfolding;
may we be open
to receive life
as it is, knowing
every season
matters,
and we are here
in this garden,
sometimes in joy,
sometimes in agony
and on our knees,
to name the gift
of this moment,
holding it roundly,
letting it
go.

My blogging friend, Yacoob Manjoo, has compiled a beautiful collection of writing from many gifted authors (and an essay of mine, too :)), all touching upon the pandemic, but approaching it from unique and creative directions. This book is a gift, free for reading online, or downloading. It represents many hours and weeks of work for Yacoob, making me all the more honored to know him. I hope you’ll take time to enjoy this beautiful anthology, and be as touched by the writing as I have been. Gentle peace to you. Be safe and well.

© 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.

My Garden, Having Blown Up

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My barn, having burned down, I can now see the moon. ~ Mizuta

The weather has been autumnal at Full Moon Cottage, cooler than temperatures established as “normal,” but perfect for blowing up gardens. More about that later.

Our Labor Day weekend was filled with our labor and its fruits. The vegetable garden was harvested, yielding dozens of butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash, and those beds were turned and blanketed for winter. Lettuce, peas, and some herbs are still growing in raised beds, and there looks to be a second grand harvest of raspberries coming down the pike as well.

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Then, since the weather was so enticing, I tackled the front flower garden. Well, I enticed Phillip to tackle it, and joined in with my smaller shovel. I’d meant to do all of this a year ago, and then, for a month, we put our home on the market before deciding it was too late in the year to move further North. And to be perfectly honest, we struggled with leaving Full Moon. Also, the car we use for transporting dogs is an old VW bug, and every time we had a showing, we had to cram into it with five dogs, one of whom reliably puked all over us before we’d gotten to the end of the drive…We looked like a third-rate clown car in search of a circus. The move wasn’t meant to be. When we took Full Moon off the market in late October, it was too late to rearrange the garden.

Now is the acceptable time. Some plants were ill and needed a heave-ho; some needed to go forward and others back; and everyone needed to be divided. Way at the back was a flowering quince that for years has flowered beautifully…in a ring around her ankles. No matter how I pruned, fertilized, cajoled, danced under the moon, sang to her (or maybe because of these things), she would not bloom from the knees up. I hoped that planting her in a new location might help, but we quickly learned her roots would not yield. Amazing tenacity, or stubbornness: a lesson that a fine line separates these.

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We both dug and hauled roots away. We were left with a ball of roots resembling concrete, the circumference of a foot or more, and it would not budge. Phillip used a Sawzall, straps tied to the mower, then the hitch on the pick-up, and we both dug again. Nada. Zip. Zero. He’s 6’3” and was almost knee-deep in the hole surrounding this clump of roots when we called it a day. Last night it rained and softened the earth enough for him to make quicker work of it this morning. Farewell, my stubborn friend. A bit of give would have saved you.

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Meanwhile, I cut back and rearranged the plants I could, and uprooted some from our “spare” garden, or from the back gardens, and transplanted them. A few others have been ordered, so their places were chosen and left open till they arrive.

To stand back and look at the garden right now, you’d think me a troubled gardener, at best. I blew up a garden that looked fine two months ago…but I knew it needed rearranging and dividing, and so, we put our backs into it and did the work required.

Gardening is a long game; a gardener truly never knows if she’ll live long enough to see the dreams and designs she plants, but someone will. And all through the winter months, I’ll be dreaming of how the new arrangement will work out, knowing, of course, it will be at least two years before I really see what I envisioned, and what my darling sweetheart helped me create. Knowing, of course, that 3-5 years hence, the dividing will have to be accomplished again. That’s how gardens grow and stay healthy. How all living things stay healthy.

I think that’s what’s happening in the world right now, perhaps not as consciously on the part of everyone, but certainly, systems, institutions, and ideas about the ways we live out equality and justice are changing, and we all know how humans welcome change: like a flowering quince.

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We’re being invited to set down old ways and take up new ideas with clearer vision. And it’s happening in many gardens at once, with many gardeners articulating specific ideas about the designs and directions the gardens should grow…during a time of pandemic, and with the constant and dire reminders of our climate crisis. We’re all consuming a diet of unremitting stress, and we’re told the world may well be shaken and bounced substantially more in the months to come. Boom, goes the garden we knew and loved, blind to its flaws and diseases.

My life has been lived during a glorious span of relative peace, economic stability, accessible public education, and in a country where healthcare and vaccines helped most of us avoid disasters less fortunate humans on our planet suffered. But a casual glance at history tells us such golden epochs don’t last, usually because greed, progress, technology, and pleasure exploit others and the Earth, and those choices cannot be sustained. Too few benefit from the toil of too many. At any rate, and at the end of my lifetime, the wheel turns. Rome fell, plagues raged, and World Wars happened at the end of some people’s lives, too.

Right now, the garden is looking quite blown up. And there are a few stubborn-rooted plants that will resist change even if it means their destruction.

And, increasingly, I’m OK with all of this. No one else walking the planet has escaped upheaval, as I’ve written before. Here’s ours. What are our choices and how shall we respond? And can we take a breath and look at the moon? At all the good that can come of this?

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The world’s a long game, like a garden. While we can, let’s put our backs into it, figure out what our gifts allow, and get the work done. Many of us won’t live to see how the design turns out, but someone will, and they will recall us as people who hoped; they will remember us as gardeners who planted dreams.

© 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.

Tutorial

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We had a professor named Jack
who was always in a good mood;
he was known for it. Happy Jack,
he juggled his knowledge and wit
and spread light. When you spoke
he listened so hard you could see
your words written on his heart.
Somehow, we always
parted leavened, laughing,
after tutorials with Jack.

One Thanksgiving,
I left the noise of my husband’s family almost
knowing I would leave the marriage soon,
and walked along North Lake Drive sliding
into the silence of empty streets, the hushed
cold world full and alone, shuttered from
holiday noise, lit rooms and memories.
The lake met the gray sky,
a curtain fallen on a closed play.
Sometimes there are
no surprises left.

I walked, from the bay all the way to the
bend in the road that ended the parade of
old money on the lake, by the home
where they wrapped their towering ancient
oak in thousands of lights every
Christmas, and people came
from all over Milwaukee, travelers
following stars, expecting miracles
and answers, or just the light
that will lead you to them.

A car drove by; a man
heading north, somewhere else,
and then, a sudden slam of brakes,
skidding tires and the car
u-turned–right in the middle
of North Lake Drive–and rolled up next to me: it
was Jack, dashing to Sendik’s for something
necessary to the memories this Thanksgiving
would conjure. He shouted my name,
laughing, invited me to sit in the car,
share news, share time. And the damp
and the gray fell away in his light. He listened
so hard I saw my words written on his heart.

I asked Jack where he found his true
deep joy, how he managed such
bright delight. And he had the answer ready:
Grad school in New York, lonely, broke,
trying every day, every day meeting
the guy at the newstand, greeting the guy
with his elemental joy and being rebuffed,
feeling flattened, his spirit mugged,
bright energy punctured, leaking,
momentum dragging, beaten,
till one day he realized, all in a moment,
“I didn’t have to give that guy my joy; I
could share it, and keep it, too.”

I thought I could try that: choose
joy, share it, and keep it.
Sometimes there are
no surprises left but one,
and it saves you
and you take it in, changed,
and become the surprise
for others.

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Here is link to a wonderful collection of poetry, essays, and meditations about our experiences during this time of challenges : https://dreamlife.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/corona-times-preview/#comment-8614

I love the wonderful oral interpretation of “And the People Stayed Home” by Kate Winslet and so many others, but it’s hard to top the lilting mellowness of a pure Irish brogue…it so gently holds every word and idea and honors it. You always hear new music in words you’ve turned over a million times. I swear, a shopping list would sound like singing angels (to me) if recited by this man. His name is Dennis Earlie, and he’s a filmmaker in Ireland, who created this with his colleague, Noreen Bingham, to honor their family members who died from Covid-19, and the frontline workers who support us all.

© 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.

Into the Woods

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In recent weeks, Phillip and I noticed–in ourselves and friends–a kind of bone-weariness and increasingly short fuses in dealing with confinement, with the government’s ineptitude, with community members who will never comply with recommended (or mandated) best practices, and with the stress and fear of enduring walls around our lives, options, and hopes for possibly as long as we live…It’s not that we want to go “back to normal,” but forward would be nice.

Seeing and embracing loved ones would be nice. Getting lost in a crowd of strangers would be nice. A movie, or a restaurant would be nice. Not having to think through every single step required to get some groceries would be nice. It’s felt like an increasingly cruel burden to be constantly vigilant and following all the correct steps prescribed for our safety. But we have no acceptable alternative.

We’re experiencing a combustion of frustration that Must. Be. Tolerated. There is no other rational choice, until the virus and its treatment are managed, until we’d have better than a fighting chance to survive it. Some days, I want to stand in the yard and scream.

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So, yes: grief, anger, cranky pants, pissy moods, rolled eyes, deep sighs.

And not exclusively, of course; the weather’s been gorgeous; the gardens are yielding blossoms and food; we, the 4-leggeds, and our loved ones are safe and well, and we’re both blessed with creative outlets.

And yet. The “we can do this” holiday spirit we wore like leis as we entered quarantine wilted, dried, and blew away rather quickly. We became less flexible, and seemed to jettison our joy in the need for the stability of a schedule to reliably follow as our isolation progressed. And that’s understandable, since, with this virus, we were walking into the darkening woods without a map.

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Life became scarier and the bad news seemed to increase daily, so we put energy into organizing our days, something we could control. Living with 8 other dependent mammals has always created a fairly predictable schedule, but we’ve been clinging too tenaciously to it out of our own need to keep occupied and avoid staring into the abyss of “what if’s.”

Happily, really, we’re feeling stronger and ready to let go of the rigidity we needed to feel secure on our journey through the woods. And I think both our weariness and crankiness signaled this…We’re rebelling against confinement, yes, but also against the tightness with which we’ve been enduring it. We’re finding our way back to lightness and balance, and discovering ways to tend and feed our joy.

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I’ve begun to check in more consciously with my breathing, because I tend to tighten and to hold my breath when I feel stressed. Now, throughout the day, I practice one of the many breathing exercises I’ve collected for years. Funny, how collecting them hasn’t worked nearly as well as doing them every day.

We relax together every afternoon, and we’re giving ourselves more dedicated reading time than just the half hour before bedtime. (I finally finished the almost-800 page The Mirror and the Light, the last in the Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel, and I feel like I’ve disembarked from a time machine. What another stunning stay in Tudor England, floating in Mantel’s glorious language.) We’ve always eaten healthy food, but we’re having more fun planning our meals together. We take naps if and when we want, and watch old movies in the middle of the day if we feel like it. One day, I jumped back in bed for hours and read the day away. And it is pure joy for me to see Phillip relax, which has reminded me that caring for ourselves can also provide peace to those with whom we’re in relationship.

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And daily, I’m lugging my cameras along on a walk. This morning, I even went on an unexpected adventure. I strolled down to the bridge to visit my heron buddy, then returned and followed the trail from our yard towards the neighbor’s woods. For 25 years, this primitive trail has run along our properties, beside the river, and then branches into another trail down to the riverbank, where I thought I might get a better shot of the heron.

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But the pandemic has kept both us and our neighbor from maintaining our rudimentary paths, and I rather quickly found myself struggling with fallen limbs, colonies of jewelweed rising over my head, and a kabillion burr-sticker-prickles. Damn. I thought I could go towards the neighbor’s and get through the tangle of vegetation; I couldn’t. I turned right, into the woods, thinking the forest floor would be cleaner; it wasn’t. I stood in the woods, surrounded by branches, grasses, vines, and weeds, and I panicked for a moment. I am short and small, and the woods are thick and tall…but they’re not wide, and I knew the way home, so I began to crawl, burrow, jump over branches, slide through openings, and push towards home. I could hear the dogs and Phillip in the dogpark, but I couldn’t see them or figure out quite how to get there. I have a new appreciation for all that Mother Nature can accomplish in 6 months.

As I scrambled through the last barrier to our yard, the dogs sent up a raucous welcome and Phillip, rather surprised at seeing a Green Woman emerge from the woods, stared, transfixed for a moment, and then crossed to the dogpark gate to meet me. As I recounted my adventure, we both started to laugh and couldn’t stop. Of course, he thought it was absolutely necessary to get a photo. I will never get all these burrs out of my clothes, but I had a sweet little adventure. Into the woods and out again.

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And it ended in joy.

And here is another gift of joy in my week. The Basque choral composer and  director, Javier Busto, created a setting for In the Time of Pandemic and then gathered a virtual choir of artists from all over the world to record it…it’s beautiful. I hope it brings you joy!

The picture book version of And the People Stayed Home is also available, for pre-order, at these locations. I think it is a joyful book, a book of hope, and I believe it can be our story in more ways than we imagine.

https://andthepeoplestayedhomebook.com/

Peace to your week!

© 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.

Step by Step

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And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?
~ Once in a Lifetime, Brian Eno and The Talking Heads

I have a print created by an artist named Rodney White hanging on my wall. It incorporates the quote, “The future is just a collection of successive nows.”  Whenever I glance at it, I’m reminded of the lines from the sharply-written play (and subsequent screenplay) The Lion in Winter, written by James Goldman. The plot, set during Christmas, 1183, explores the tortured, complex relationships among King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their three grown, quarreling sons. At one point, the exhausted family pauses to consider the profound emotional dysfunction surrounding them and Eleanor asks (I’m paraphrasing), “However did we get here?” Henry responds. “Step by step.”

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In my country this week, one coast was burning and another was being drowned while many suffered through unbearable heat and drought. All of this was foretold by science for decades; we didn’t listen and we didn’t take steps to alter our course. Meanwhile, the global pandemic continues its march, and the gestation of two centuries of racial and gender injustice have birthed a country malformed, diseased, and radically inequitable. All of these terrors could also have been mitigated; we chose otherwise. Step by step, and here we are: Times are bleak and days are dark. And repeatedly, I hear people comment, “I don’t know how we got here. I don’t know my country anymore; I don’t understand what’s happening.”

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We’re quarantined from exposure to a virus, but, as a species, we quarantined ourselves from authentic relationships years and years ago; we lost track of who we were in relationship to ourselves, to others, and to the Earth. We lost focus; we lived unconsciously; we weren’t attentive and, step by step, we arrived at this place we do not know.

Living blindly and often without gratitude, humans dishonored the great gift of life on this miracle of a planet. (I speak of us as a species; every little moment of neglect adds up. Certainly, many of us love and care for the Earth and others as we’re able; yet every human, for generations, could likely have made better choices at times, made the effort to speak up against injustice, helped others in need; argued on behalf of laws protecting the land and water, taken greater time to make connections.)

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How often have we considered and thanked the food we’re about to eat for its life and energy? Or thanked the earth for a beautiful day, for nourishing us, for supplying us with warmth, with water, with shelter? Have we acknowledged the peace granted to us by forests and beaches? The majesty of mountains? Have we ever considered a single tree our companion? Why were we willing to believe “someone else” would save the earth while we pursued our busy and important lives? If we had truly practiced reverence and formed relationship with the Earth, how could we have allowed her to be exploited and poisoned? At Full Moon Cottage, we live along a river we couldn’t possibly swim in or drink from without endangering our health: why is that at all acceptable?

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How often have we rushed through our days, moving from task to task without really seeing those we love, missing out on the precious gifts of noticing, listening, and on being heard? Why does the value of a completed task transcend the priceless value of moments with our spouse, child, friend, or other companion?

How often have we pushed aside our own need to slow down? To sit and be still? To rest? To feed our spirit? And why? What has all the rushing been for, exactly?

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Step by step, and here we are. Collectively, we humans seem unable to genuinely revel in our blessings; if we did, wouldn’t we adore them? Care for them? Value their perpetuation?

Emily: …Just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s really look at one another!…I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back — up the hill — to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye, Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners….Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking….and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths….and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute? ~Thornton Wilder, Our Town

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I think the always-moving flow of human energy needs to shift its form and colors from the preponderantly masculine to one balanced with our feminine gifts as well. Time for our Inner Mother to lead, or at least be fully integrated into our choices, so that compassion and empathy will temper aggression and assertiveness, and independence partner equally with connection.

It’s tempting to give in to panic, fear, and inertia when we look at all the urgent problems we face. Yet I am strangely comforted during this time because, as dark as it is, it is also alive with possibility and reasons to be hopeful. It’s exciting to consider that–at any moment–each of us can choose creativity over despondency and inertia. We can choose mindfulness. We can midwife our world through this time with focus, attention, and support and—most importantly—in relationship. We can add our innovations to the process and encourage others to add theirs; we can change the direction of our time on Earth and what births we are gestating together. We can remind each other to breathe, push, and rest in nourishing rhythms, acknowledge our connections, usher into our world new ways of living and being, and teach each other how to creatively and expertly nurse these through infancy to maturity.

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And right now, when every push hurts, depletes, and feels like our last and we fear these births will be stillborn, we can remind each other all will be well. Midwifing birth is an honor; it’s painful; it’s light-filled; it’s a mess; it’s both sacred and among the earthiest, most intimate act of creation available to humanity. And the birth of the changes we need to survive on this planet can require long labor: some of us may not be here when others celebrate the arrival of the wonderful gifts this time can create. It doesn’t matter. We are here now to cheer on the creation and support each other and the Earth. We’re here to begin the hard work.

These are dark days, but we have the power to perceive our darkness as tomb or womb. Our choice. And choosing consciously can create greater mindfulness about the steps we take as we move forward. For inspiration, I always go back to Pierre Teilhard’s belief that we’re still and always evolving, that the journey of humans through time is really a spiral upward and outward to the Omega Point, a union with Love.

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The steps we take through life were always meant to be taken with others. Intelligence, creativity, energy, courage, and each other: We have everything we need to solve these problems, step by step, to midwife a better world with gratitude and reverence, and to remain awake to the blessings of relationship with our own hearts, with one another, and with the Earth.

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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.

The Gifts That Shine

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Praise for the gifts that shine:
the scales of silvered salmon
leaping homeward; rain-shimmered
petals; circling trout in shadowed eddies
pierced by light; the grackle’s head turned
just so in sunlight, flashing teal
and sapphire; bright wings of dragonfly,
butterfly; firefly luminescence; the dazzle
of dew-beaded spiderwebs;
stars beyond city-light; the
halo-flow from everything,
hidden yet always present,
gestating insight, awaiting revelation,
the secret iridescence tendered
those who will only look,
emptied of all
but the readiness
and desire
to see the holy brilliance
of who we are and
what the world offers,
and the radiant love
that holds it together.

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Blessings on all educators beginning a most challenging year; in great gratitude for the gifts you offer our world bravely, creatively, tirelessly, and always in great service to the call for shining the light you came to share; oh, how we need your light. Be safe, and gentle peace.

 

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

Coming Up For Air

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This week has been one of blessing. It’s been like coming up for air after long submersion.

I’ll never forget how, when I was being clinically trained to serve as a chaplain, a pulmonologist described the struggle to breathe as one of the most frightening experiences a human could endure. This is why COPD patients suffer so excruciatingly, and why end-of-life patients are given a combination of drugs that relieves the sensation of struggling for air and allows greater peace leading to their final exhalation. It has been horrifying to imagine the suffering of Covid-19 patients facing vents while necessarily but heartbreakingly being deprived of the presence and comfort of loved ones.

But we are celebrating blessing: Our brother-in-law, hospitalized with Covid-19 for weeks, is coming home. He has struggled with breathing issues, as many Covid-19 patients do, and will need oxygen support at home. We are told healing can continue, but will require considerable effort to meet the challenges and setbacks that the virus places in its path, some predictable and many unforeseen. But his oxygen tanks will help, considerably.

We are grateful and we are hopeful. We are taking our own long, deep breaths of relief after holding and suspending them while waiting for good news regarding his recovery.

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The technology available for the oxygen support that he’ll have available at home is a testament to what science and creativity can achieve, but the humanity and talent of the healthcare workers who have nursed our brother-in-law in the hospital have also earned our gratitude and renewed our hope. In a time of such rampant deceit, self-interest, and ineptitude on the part of those we look to for leadership, the opportunity to witness selflessness and love offered freely, skillfully, and at great personal risk, has re-balanced and widened our hearts. Because of their courage, we’re breathing easier.

And this week, our evenings have offered our spirits deep and invigorating breaths as well: nightly, we’ve experienced talented adults (and children) calling us to inspiring and pervasive hope, clarity, and unity, while realistically underscoring the actions that will sustain us in these pursuits. Over and over, we have been reminded that real power belongs to us. We, the people, must work together to save and renew our union.

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We had almost forgotten how good it feels to feel good, to believe that change is possible and near, to take heart in the restoration of behaviors, options, justice, and systemic interdependence we hold dear, and to believe that exciting innovations for protecting our own and the Earth’s welfare will be supported, encouraged, and inclusively realized. May we pursue these hopes with our voices and our votes.

It has been such a gift to breathe as expansively as we have this week. And the strangeness of feeling the fresh, clean air of hope moving through us has revealed how oppressive it’s been to be living submerged, as we have these past years–certainly profoundly during this stunningly mismanaged pandemic. Breathing hope again with greater confidence, we see how severely our spirits have been taxed by the atmosphere and actions of cruelty, crudity, corruption, and the damaging stress they’ve induced.

Gasping for hope and re-submerging; gasping and taking in nourishment shallowly; gasping and losing contact with the core of love that powers our being, the oxygen of hope we require to thrive. Gasping and almost forgetting who we are and what it means to be human.

This week, our hope and focus have been resuscitated.

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We have come up for air.

We will not re-submerge.

In gentle peace, and in recognition that we’re here to serve all life with our gifts, in love and authenticity; none above, none below, all in relationship.

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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.

Articles of Faith

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The late summer dawn
smells of farewells,
first light diffusing,
parting from Earth
like old lovers parting
from night’s embrace,
gently, the riversongs
flow forth hushed lauds,
calling us from dreams,
slow flowing aureate brilliance
glowing through leaves, shadows,
angles, patterns of light
counseling contemplation
of fall, the falling of leaves,
the giving way of green
to gold, of summer
to fall, to earth’s long
sleep beneath blankets
of snow, our spirits dreaming
hope, trusting life
circling round, recalling
in each descent,
the rising,
green and new.

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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.

Fences

 

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Last week we had a spell of surprisingly cool weather, a reminder that autumn is coming and a hint of the joyful relief from biting insects, heat, and humidity that it will bring. That anything new and happy might come our way felt astonishingly welcome, and we were outside as much as we could be, weeding, cutting back faded blossoms, saving seeds, watering plants, drying herbs, breathing in the fresh air, sitting back, and listening. Trying to be open-hearted to what is true for us in the time of the pandemic and to discern the myriad invitations to deepen our gratitude.

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It is the season when the garden is filled with such a buzzing and fluttering of guests that I expect to see it elevate and levitate, suspended by the force of all that energy and lift. Bumblebees, tiny insects, butterflies and birds all co-exist, pursuing their driven business, sharing nectar and spreading pollen; it’s a marvel to observe and hear.

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Phillip started to build a small deck in the “dog park” that he’d fenced off earlier this summer, but the lumber supply chain has stalled, so he’s found other ways to create. The fence he tossed up rather quickly is just wire mesh attached to posts he dug in and anchored with concrete, so we’ve been talking about weaving in willow branches and wild grapevine to make it look a bit more charming. Possibly. That ought to take the rest of our quarantine months/lives to complete: it’s comforting to choose a project, though, and one we can do together outside, where possibilities always seem more nourishing and expansive. Building and decorating fences…

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Outwardly, life goes on almost as it always has. Inwardly, we both feel more anxiety and tension. How could we not? I’ve been trying to notice and meet this anxiety more compassionately and consciously, because I don’t want it to overtake my responses to the gift I believe life is, always.

But I’ve felt a heaviness in my heart as I’ve witnessed people in my community and beyond make choices that have endangered all of our lives, causing losses that could so easily have been prevented. So, I’ve allowed the heaviness to live in my heart, where I’ve hoped I can comfort it, grant it peace, and let it go. It’s ongoing, of course; trying to live centered in awareness is a continual unfolding and unpacking.

Certainly, we’re all responding to tremendous stress, enduring great losses, and being asked to adapt to rapidly-evolving changes without knowing for how long or to what end beyond “survival” these stressors will prevail. The low-grade and deeper depressions and grief being identified are natural responses to living with such sudden and deep gaps in our normal/relative maintenance of peace, joy, and security, and our somewhat reliable knowledge of what’s ahead. And how we all ache for the solace and surprises of community.

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Under the influence of deprivation and anxiety, our blood pressures, stress hormones, and heart rates increase, as do bad habits for quick self-soothing, while healthy practices and sound sleep decrease. All of these are normal responses we can manage and counter with gentle presence and attention.

But the selfishness, defiance, petulance, and anger that have been evidenced in our communities only deepen my sadness as we experience these crises together and apart. I had hoped that we would unite more positively and maturely to help one another through this time of profound trauma. It’s personal; almost all of my family and circle of friends work in education or healthcare. I feel anger towards the people endangering my loved ones, and I don’t want to haul around these added burdens of anger and blame as I navigate this ordeal. I feel like something’s placed us on a map at a point labeled, “You Are Here,” and every particle of my being is saying, “But we shouldn’t be; we should be waaaaay over there!” (Pointing to places where the virus is being managed by science, intellect, compassion, and cooperation. Places where racism is more authentically confronted. Places where healthcare and income are equitably provided.)

When I find myself in a frustrated snarl, “shoulding” on myself, and on people and situations out of my control, it’s usually best I sit and turn inward: What can I alter about my own choices and behaviors? What is true? What are the invitations from Love?

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I’ve been tentatively walking the trail very early in the day: masked, hooded, and sprayed with repellent, so I can check-in with the Great Blue Herons, Sandhill Cranes, Canada Geese and other visitors. Their placidity and stillness comfort and inspire me. I sat with these friends as long as I could most mornings last week. The herons can perch and stare for hours, so I asked them to teach me more about compassion, forgiveness, and surrender. And about fences.

I sat with a heron friend and opened my heart towards the people who seem bent on perpetuating the virus. I considered that they are frightened, anxious, and angry, too, and are choosing behaviors from those feelings. For whatever reasons, they’re not motivated to learn more about the virus and practice the ways it can be mitigated by each of us. I can soften my anger toward them, rest in compassion, and pull my focus back further, to see we’re all living–and dying–from our own choices. Setting up fences; tearing them down. Inclusion, exclusion.

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People who don’t wear masks and practice social distancing may endanger themselves, their loved ones, strangers, their children’s teachers, those providing them with care…and so that is what will happen; just as others choose to work in education, healthcare, and service industries, making them more precariously exposed to the virus. I can feel compassion for all of us. I can acknowledge sadness for some people’s ego-driven choices, and deep admiration for the selflessness of those in the path of the careless. How remarkable are those who know what they’re risking but still choose to offer their gifts and lives in the service of others. Courage comes from the root meaning “heart.” True acts of love often demand courage.

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And so, people will die because they made selfishness, angry, and fearful choices, and others will die because they chose their actions motivated by courage, selflessness, and kindness. But we will all have to live with the consequences of these choices.

Small, tight fences around our hearts or no fences anywhere in sight: These are always our alternatives; what’s happening right now is always happening. We all make life-giving and death-bringing choices every day. Who and what will we include in our hearts, thoughts, and actions? Who and what will be excluded?

Whenever we’ve acted to gratify our egos at others’ expense, to deny our fears and project them outward, or to anger, criticize, and objectify others, we’ve at least momentarily put their joy and peace on life support and excluded them from the presence and power of our love. And isn’t loving each other into healing/wholeness the reason we’re here?

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This is a crucial time for considering our capacity to love. If we choose to ignore practices that will protect the health and safety of ourselves and others, we’re saying, “Nothing and no one matters except for myself and my tribe.”

And, I guess, for me, that’s the learning edge for all of us. If we love at all, is it possible to place perimeters around the love we offer? Can I just love myself, my family, the people who think like me? Can I only love the earth for the ways I can exploit her? Doesn’t real love demand more? Doesn’t the quality of all the choices we make depend upon whether the consequences embrace life, the earth, and others inclusively?

We need to decide, sometimes moment by moment, what actions correspond to “love,” and what love looks like in the world. If it’s something we confine with our egos, deciding who and what will “benefit” from it, it would seem we’re on the wrong track.

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Love has no boundaries; it either encompasses and unifies everything or nothing. The entire planet is made from the same starstuff; we breathe the same air other lifeforms have breathed for 2.5 billion years; we are more one than many. A great gift of this time is the chance to accept and live from this truth, to recognize and grow beyond whatever beliefs and practices seek to tame our love, to keep it small and self-serving. Now is the time to dismantle illusionary fences and to love wildly, love all.

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Joy to your day; peace to your heart; hope in all you offer and receive.

 

© 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.

Days of Grace

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How many days has grace
held us tenderly, entirely,
from brightening dawn
through dimming dusk?
And this day, so newly
scrubbed and sparkling,
raindropped and
scented with showered green
gardens, anointing us with summer
smells of basil dill lovage ripening
tomatoes squash blossoms sun-
baked earth our sweat
and of course dog hair.

Here, in our
sane asylum, safe from
the madness too much
of the world has
chosen we still
choose love and
harvest joy.

It will
not always be so;
we, in our
autumn, and the world
in its winter…I imagine
this land in years
to come and note
our absence, a negative space
we formerly filled, though
I’m certain
our spirits will linger
whispering our
gratitude for days,
so many days of grace.

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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.
And, earlier this week:
I asked Fergus if he wanted to play for a while.
“As if, Mom. Gotta get back to the office. Zoom meeting at 3.”
Me:
Fergus: “Later.”

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On Saying Goodbye at the River in August

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The weary world turns
and burns away life
to ash.
The flame that remains
is love.

The wild world winds
and grinds away life
to ash.
The song that goes on
is love.

Blessed lives seed goodness:
a garden of grace, a family, a world,
Love’s unending genesis
passed on…

Passed on
to death, to life.
to ashes, to life,
to dust returned and life renewed;
spirits free of matter
sloughing off the stuff of stars
life revolving, love’s revolution,
wild, turning, whirling world
by love alone survived.

And we, the fruits of your love,
plant you as fruit for the earth,
again and again resurrected
and ground to ash.

We consecrate the grinding,
life to ashes,
yet not wholly:
holy lives make holy ground;
life at rest,
but love unbound.

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I wrote this poem in 2002. (Nearly 20 years ago? How can that be? Surely time should stop when our loved ones die…and it seems to, for a while, but then the years roll over us and we look back further and further, marveling at time’s passage and pondering our use of it and how, through all those years, the memories of loving presence endure.)

I shared this poem and its story in a recent interview with Susan Lambert, the gifted host of the podcast, In the Balance. I encourage you to visit this site and, when time allows, enjoy the many episodes of this stimulating and inspiring food for the spirit that’s so generously provided. We need it more than ever.

Be well and safe, and gentle peace.

 

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