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

IMG-6231(Edna Eicke, artist. The New Yorker, July 29, 1950)

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

webs, trail, heart leaf and tree trunk 145In 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.

 

Triage

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

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

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

The only way through is now.

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

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

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

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

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

We sing ourselves into presence.
Still.
We begin.

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

In the Spirit of Good Trouble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Angeles y Milagros

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

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

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

I favored the new perspective.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Um, no. Not my wheelhouse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And listen to some great music!

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

 

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

Filling Holes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Raspberries

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

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

Something to Share

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

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

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

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