In Praise of Winter

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If there’s anything cozier than sitting by the fire with a good book while January’s Full Wolf Moon rises in winter’s purple sky, I haven’t experienced it. Add my loved ones in similar comfy postures, a few blankets, some wine, hot homemade ginger water, or cocoa (do they make cocoa ginger wine?), soft background music, and I’m the definition of content.

It’s easy to dislike the stretch of bland gray days these winter months offer us, but the magical sunrises and sunsets, the slow post-holiday pace, the still-brief daylight, and the feeling of cocooning together make it a season that becomes dearer to me every year. After years of wishing these months would just pass into spring already, I can finally relax into them, understanding that what’s happening in the garden is happening in me as well: life is resting, percolating, and waiting to rise.

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I’ve come to trust the winter months’ mysterious powers to stimulate dreams, generate ideas, and shape connections in my psyche. A lot of new creative projects are brewing and bubbling just beneath consciousness and I’ve learned to let them be; they’ll green and bud when they’re ready. In the meantime, I love the chance to read piles of books, to meditate more and for longer periods, to do little projects in the house, and to indulge in naps that the summer’s activities don’t often allow.

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We’ve had some rough weeks dealing with sudden, painful, and dispiriting setbacks in my healing from knee surgery, but I think we’re back on track again, for which I’m most grateful. After weeks of resting and hobbling behind a walker, I went for my first walk with Phillip today. It was cold and bleak outside, and I loved it. Fresh air, winter sounds, frosty smells, and mobility; I felt tentative and new, released into a strange and brilliant world.

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When you look closely at the world in winter, so much life is revealed in a landscape that at first appears utterly barren. We saw the tracks of rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, mice, and a deer or two, and heard the hooting owls and jays. Mourning doves huddled at the feeding tray Phillip set out (our very own dove bar), and a variety of birds swooped back and forth between trees and the hanging feeders.

In the same way, although we’re outwardly resting in greater stillness during winter, a closer look reveals some of life’s most profound activities: healing, dreaming, waiting expectantly, and trusting that what demands growth and tending in spring will be met with our winter-fortified readiness.

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Gentle peace to you, and joy in all the creativity brewing in your own winter hibernaculum, and the same wishes to the actively-creative sunbathed days of all my friends in the Southern Hemisphere.

© 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.

On Healing

There are moments
for uprooting your aching
spirit and cradling it tenderly,
awaiting the uncoiling infant
greenness coming to probe
your waiting heart with new life.
Everything must bear its scars,
but choose to yield their grace.

Watch how the winter world goes
about its business. Be witness
to the frenzy of the feeding birds,
freezing wings beating through
the bluest winter sky. They suffer,
yet they soar. Note how the garden’s
ghosts bend beneath ice and snow,
harboring spring, how active death
can be, how deliberate its service to
life. And in the moonlight’s bright beams,
hear the coyotes make symphony of their
mystery and hunger. Be comforted, then,
in your healing. All the world transforms
through pain, labouring what answers
must be born, what sacrifices life requires
to create its owned and precious beauty.

© 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.
 
 

I want to share a friend’s offering, for anyone who may have and interest in creating films with their smartphones. It sounds like a creative, interesting class! https://www.eomega.org/online-workshops/smartphone-filmmaking-a-2-part-workshop/smartphone-filmmaking-2-part-workshop.

And another friend’s wonderful anthology, Navigating the Pandemic, since we still are. www.dandelionbook.com

Be safe and well, my dear friends.

 

New Year’s Eve

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Hearts absent of hope, cheer, and light
struggle to find honest means of greeting
new days as we spin again around the sun.
What can such darkness offer?

What is true of now?
That there is more to mourn
than welcome in joy? More to fear
than can be courageously met?
That bodies besieged by virus
cannot overcome its cresting waves?
That spirits beaten by flood, wind, and fire,
that have pushed past endurance
against the endless emanation of hate,
cannot rise?

And yet the turning brings us to a new place.
We must be new to meet it.

The child brings us each a mirror that we may hold
in peaceful and fierce inquisition (hope deserves no less),
searching our weary hearts for memories, for music,
for paths we have forgotten, or never known
(yet there they have waited, patient centuries of gestation),
gifts long unused, or never opened,
words unspoken, hurts unhealed, there in the shadows.
Finally, finally, in this darkness,
let us see the seed that grows;
let our light be fully born.
Let us welcome its presence,
excavate its strata of meaning,
listen to its wisdom,
finally
translate why we’re here into what we do,
finally
know the substance of who
we are,

then turn the mirrors out to the sun, to the stars
where dreams dwell, and slant the radiance back, to
burn away the false in our hearts and spirits,
and let our hope rise and overflow, recoloring the world
till we speak new words, the language of mystery and
Love, finding its way through all creation
as it was meant to do since the world’s beginning.

We must only be who we were made to be,
art in communion,
gift to each other,
frail, flawed, and favored with abundant life
and another chance to welcome its embrace
in gratitude and grace.

Then let us gently hold the hands
of lover and stranger, one to another,
and take our first steps into the finally born
and perfect real.

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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.

Brought to Our Knees

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Winter is upon us, and if it’s no longer clothed in brilliant whites and silvers, I still welcome its silence, stillness, and the gift of seeing the breaths of my life exhale and, in their expiration, cloud before me as I walk down the trail. Although, as it’s just a week since my knee surgery, I suspect the verb “walk” is imprecise; my gait is just shy of clownish and barely propels me forward. I call it “meditative walking;” that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’m grateful I can locomote at all, and every day a bit further. I endured some rather painful days and nights before I could attempt moving without a walker, so it was a treat to stumble out to the bridge and wish the Canada Geese a Happy Solstice this morning.

I am reminded again, forever, that suffering is a deeply human experience and arrives with its losses and blessings for us to hold up to the light of scrutiny and prayer (whatever that means for us), derive and integrate what we will from it, and possibly accept and pursue the invitations to become more deeply human. This also suggests each of us is free to define exactly what becoming “more deeply human” might mean in our life.

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For me, it’s a journey of opening my being wider to the Great All; understanding and accepting the connections among every particle of creation and consistently paring away at that unique and ingrained hubris of my species that causes us homo sapiens to believe we’re somehow superior to, and separate from, all other lifeforms and bits of creation, while at the same time being utterly incapable of seeing how false that premise is. A glance around the planet just now would seem to be a grand invitation for us to evolve beyond that blindness, to truly see the suffering such small understanding of our purpose and potential has caused.

And that’s what suffering helps me to consider: the responsibility to evolve. Suffering makes us dependent, vulnerable, fragile, weak. Here is the path to holiness/wholeness. Pain brings us to our knees (figuratively; had I literally gone to my knees this week, I’d still be there). And on our knees, we are prone to seek, through our version of prayer, answers that have eluded us.

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And, oh, I have learned that there are life-changing quests best pursued on our knees. A great gift of kneeling is the closer proximity to the earth that it affords. Through our suffering, we are made humble (Middle English: from Old French, from Latin humilis ‘low, lowly’, from humus ‘ground’); we are re-grounded. Of course, it’s all a choice. Growth or its rejection are always choices. All we can do is try; try to convert our suffering to the wisdom of accepting our place in the Great All, with deep gratitude and humility. And then rise, to serve one another (all life) in our healing and wholeness. To participate fully and uniquely, as we have been sent, to co-create the community of existence in Love. Why would we think we’re here for anything less, given the miracle we’re here at all?

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So, joy to your seasons, whatever they offer as we spin through time and space. Great joy, deep hope, and a great deal of merry humility. I leave you with my old carol, Welcoming the Stranger; whatever your spiritual orientation, I hope it sings to your heart.

A Peaceful Solstice, a Merry Christmas, and, when we’re brought to our knees, may we all be blessed with others to help us rise and find our place in the company of loving particles.

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WELCOMING THE STRANGER

See the weary travelers,
lonely in the night.
In a town of strangers,
searching for a light,
praying for a kindness,
just an open door—
in a world of strangers,
there’s no welcome for the poor.

In a cave that evening,
meant to shelter sheep,
Love was born to heal us,
little lamb asleep.
In a world of darkness,
tossed and blown and wild,
in a world of strangers,
came the poor to greet the child.

No one is a stranger;
nothing’s here by chance.
All of life is welcome
in the sacred dance.

See the holy family,
sheltered from the storm.
In a world of strangers,
Love will keep them warm.
Whirling stars are singing,
angels greet this birth:
wrapped in rags and mystery,
lies the richest child on earth.

While the world lay sleeping,
everything had changed:
power, wealth, possession,
all was rearranged.
Have we learned the lesson?
Have we even heard?
How we treat the stranger
is our answer to the Word.

No one is a stranger;
nothing’s here by chance.
All of life is welcome
in the sacred dance.

Wealth is found in giving,
opening the door,
offering forgiveness,
sheltering the poor,
cradling creation,
saying yes to love,
welcoming the stranger,
while the angels sing above.

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A beautiful story for you: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/12/21/baltimore-rodgers-forge-christmas-lights/

© 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.

Outtake: Look! It’s Santa!

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Gentle Time

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I was recently invited to sift through my past year and reflect both on a recalled and prominent moment of insight, and on ways to carry its wisdom into the New Year. It’s an interesting spiritual practice.

At first, I doubted any unique awareness had penetrated my gray matter deeply enough to set the brain case on fire, as Bertie Wooster might say, but in exploring the idea, I realized I have tiny insights every day; I think we all do. Big epiphanies are rare (for me), but looking back over the year was helpful because the retrospective perspective allowed me to see how the momentary understandings may accrue into deeper ones, if we pursue them with focus and enliven them with our actions.

And I learned that even established and deepening rituals can become more profound by scrutinizing their intent and value. Why am I doing this? What aspect of my growth does it serve? How does it enrich what I’m offering others? Sitting with the symbols, metaphors, and archetypes that arise when we consider our rituals is helpful. If our spiritual practices aren’t transforming who we are and how we move in the world, perhaps we can explore and retrieve their value, alter them, or discard them and seek other ways of conscious becoming and meaningful being.

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Here was my insight on a ritual that began with lighting candles and evolved into what we call our Gentle Time:

When we both retired a few years ago, we stumbled for a time, searching for new ways to begin days that had always started with us rushing, spinning, and leaving in separate directions.

I began lighting candles in the kitchen and great room as I moved through them in the morning to make our coffee and feed the cats, while my husband walked and fed the five rescue dogs. Then, we’d sit with our coffee, the four-leggeds snuggling on the couch with my husband and beside me on my chair, and we would enjoy the morning’s stillness, the flicker of the candles, and the rising sun. Sometimes, we’d read to each other; or we’d share what we’d read or dreamt about the night before, discuss our anxiety for the world and our country’s increasing disparities (and how to solve them all), and set out our plans for the new day.

That simple practice of lighting candles has evolved into what Phillip calls our Gentle Time, and it all began with the lighting of the candles. My favorite insight this year came at midsummer, when I paused to consider the sun was rising and there was no logical need for candlelight. I realized then that we’d created a valued ritual that now holds deep meaning for the way we begin each morning.

I’m like an acolyte, in service to life’s Great Mystery; lighting the candles to consecrate the gift of a new day. They wake us up to the sacred space which surrounds us everywhere, and the Love that binds us to it. I realized last summer that it’s so much more than a habit of lighting candles and beginning the day quietly; it’s beginning each day with reverence and gratitude. And this realization has begun to change the way we complete our work throughout the day.

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In the new year (well, starting now, thanks to the slowing and pondering offered by writing the requested reflection), we’ve decided to consciously end our day with a Gentle Time as well, turning off the discouraging news programs, the movies–and yes, even PBS–to again light a candle and just be together, grateful for the day and its gifts, sharing the ways we’ve each tried to add our own light to the world during these precious hours, or acknowledging missed chances and committing to trying again tomorrow. Such practices help us to live more consciously—and so we heal, we make ourselves whole, and we evolve.

Tomorrow, I have a surgery to repair a torn meniscus, so I’ll be offline for a time to focus on healing and the holidays.

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I also wanted to share three of my favorite charities, if anyone’s casting about for a way to help during this season of giving. I know there are greater needs than we can meet, but everything we share makes us more profoundly understand how deeply we’re all connected. Feel free to share your own favorite charities in the comments.

The first I offer for your consideration is local to Madison, Wisconsin. A dear friend and gifted physician has led an effort to create a hospice/home for the homeless, which I see as both a blessed goal and dire need. She’s connected with other agencies and gifted helpers, and Solace Friends Inc. plans to open this home in 2022. You can read more about this and make donations at solacefriends.org

The second charity is Unbound. Phillip and I have participated with Unbound as sponsors for 30 years. When you go to the website, you can search through the profiles of elderly people and children all over the world, all of whom are in need of your help. You choose one (or more) and “sponsor” them by sending a small monthly monetary donation that provides basic needs for them and, of course, contributes to their family’s welfare as well. You’re encouraged to exchange e-mails with your friend, and translators assist, so no worries about language barriers. We currently sponsor a young man in Guatemala whom we’ve been honored and delighted to know since he was a small child.

The third charity is your local animal rescue organization, and if your health and the ongoing pandemic allow, they can always use volunteers as well.

I wish us all a bright and blessed New Year. Be merry, and gentle peace to you and your beloveds.

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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.

I saw a man walking towards or away

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I’ve seen this in forests, the odd bike
so long ago leaned and left against a tree
that bark and limb have grown round it,
entangling the spokes and frame,
tree and bike, one becoming the other,
or the cars forsaken and rain-glazed,
growing old and older beside the lonely road,
driven and abruptly ditched (I love you;
I love you not), rusting back to earth,
or the farm picker,
planter,
plow
forgotten in the field,
jilted on a hill, now concealed
and circled by sapling sentinels.
Abandoned.
Disowned.
I want
to know
the story.

What thought,
or love,
or searing grief
caused you to stop
so suddenly, to still,
and turn away forever
from what was yours?
Did you finally meet
your yearned-for yes?
Or crushing no?
What sent you spinning
on that shiny dime
from one life into another?
And were you walking towards or away?
When you left home that day
on your bike,
in your car,
seated on your metal plow,
what encounter, what manifestation
or moment’s metanoia,
what flashing bright insight
shot you from your seat
with such unforeseen and instant force?
Did a bush burn before you?
Did a voice call you beloved?
As you walked into your sudden
and surprising choice, did your heart
uplift, feathered, swift? Or was sorrow’s
footprint stamped in every weighty step,
marking a trail of regret? Did you once
look back
or whisper farewell?

And as the forest curtain closed behind you,
or the wheat unbent its golden stalks
to stand once more upright and tight,
or the branches curled round
your bike, claiming its abiding love,
did someone else turn off a light,
already knowing
you would never return?

© 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.

“Tis Always the Season

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Our home is set back from the county road and beside a state bike trail on the north, a river runs along the eastern border, a wooded area lines the south, and a shared driveway borders the west. We have neighbors, but all of us are well-cushioned by land, the river, and trees. The pandemic has kept us all a bit more secluded as well. We noticed a nearby home for sale last July, but lost track of whether it sold or went off the market. We knew the woman who lived there, but not well.

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Yesterday afternoon, I took the pups Teagan and Gracie for a walk. Phillip and “the boys” headed out in the opposite direction. When the girls and I turned off the trail to the stretch of driveway we share with other neighbors, a stranger was walking towards us, also with a leashed dog. I felt a moment of unnerved panic, duly noted and quickly pushed aside by common sense. I asked if I could help her. Despite barking dogs, I learned it was she who had bought our neighbor’s home a few months ago. We exchanged names and I invited her to our home when she had a free moment. It would have been nice to speak longer, but my girls were unfortunately not on their best behavior.

The momentary anxiety I’d felt about a stranger with a dog on the driveway transmuted into the pleasure of meeting a new neighbor. An illuminating encounter, despite my ability to meet it with hope or trust.

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The deep anticipation of the Christmas season and its many invitations to our spirits and choices make this my favorite time of year. This is the merry and bright, light in the darkness, hope and joy-filled season, and I can’t seem to get enough of it this year.

I have a minor knee surgery scheduled mid-month, so I’ve been decorating and crossing pleasurable holiday tasks off my list earlier this year. My darling husband has really entered the spirit, too, and kindly built benches, and boxes for greens and dogwoods, and helped add lights, to make the lower entrance to our home a bit more cheerful.

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But it’s not just that I’ll be out of commission in a couple weeks. My delight in unpacking ornaments and finding just a bit more space to spread them around, add a few more lights, and risk making our home look like a Hallmark nightmare, is feeding a very deep hunger spiritually and emotionally.

When I paused to notice how deeply I’m falling into Christmas merry-making this year, I recognized my need for greater light at the center of my life, for joy and peace to fill our home in ways it really hasn’t since 2020. I want to be drenched in the hope and trust that Christmas always brings, the belief that when we love more, love wins.

Some days, I sense that the human race is sliding into its end times, as though we may be nearing the last few celebrations of holidays before the armed crazed-and-dangerous, the pandemic, the increasing climate change; the continuous racial tensions; the burden of economic inequality; the sins of our own inaction and pervasive human despair tip the balance and do us in. Omicron is not helping to ease the stress level.

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I wonder if, on some level, my total holiday immersion is a way of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing carols, scattering tinsel, baking cookies, wrapping pretty packages, and ringing bells to keep from confronting yet again the perilous moment in which we seem to find ourselves, hanging on a bending branch, having overshot the cliff.

We’re weary of the noise and isolation and necessary damned adjustments to our schedules, expectations, and preferences at every turn. We’re angry that those spreading hatred and violence are not silenced until they can calm down, see reason, find peace somewhere, anywhere, just stop being cruel.

The number of responsible adults on the globe seems to be diminishing as quickly as the intelligence, maturity, and civility that are their distinguishing traits. If there were ever a need for heroines, heroes, leaders with vision, and positive change-agents, it’s now.

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We need good people sharing good news and making good noise in the world.

I recognize that all of this encroaching darkness has made me a bit more leery of strangers walking towards me on the trail, and the news of the world coming at me daily. I think my response to this fear of what’s coming is certainly reflected in my Christmas joy this year. I have not been a fearful person in my life and I have not allowed despair to linger at my spirit’s door; becoming that person is not an option at this point in my life. But the daily news (and the way it’s presented) has been challenging. I want us to feel safe and be happy, and to do some of that rejoicing the season has always promised. I want to push back against the dark.

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But while I’ve been happily looking forward to our celebrations here and in video calls with friends and family, I know my ability to hold space for incoming joy in every aspect of my life has become withered and weak. The gloom of the world has colored my spontaneous and usually joyful openness to what’s ahead. Dread and fear have crept in, a pervasive doubt that humanity is truly more well than ill-intentioned, more generous than selfish, more ready to love than quick to hate. Whatever is before me, heading down the pike, I think I’ve gradually come to anticipate it’s likely bad news, something that threatens our peace and welfare. There lies the death of hope. And trust.

Yesterday, I sat with the purpose of Advent, of anticipating the “coming encounter” with Love we call Christmas, and pondered how I could more authentically practice hopeful anticipation towards all that’s coming at me. Can I really believe anymore that Love is always arriving? That good people with good news will be making good noise?

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Yesterday startled me into waking up to the gift of meeting what’s coming with hope and trust. The stranger I hesitated to meet is a new neighbor, a potential friend and welcome gift in our lives. This joy I’ve been feeling in decorating and preparing for our own little holiday has to infuse my thinking and actions about our present world and its future as well.

My anticipation has to focus on the surprising ways Love comes to meet us, always. It challenges us, it turns us on our heads, it asks us to be hopeful and to convert more and more deeply to its wide open brilliance and breadth. All are welcome; all are held; all belong. And Love teaches us, over and over, that we can choose to predicate our expectations and anticipation on carrying joy into every meeting. How we encounter the unknown has to be as loving and joyful, as trusting and hopeful as how we meet the known. How we move through our lives and anticipate what’s coming must be as buoyant as when we know we’re heading into Christmas, into the arms of someone we love. It’s always the season for radiant hope and the expectation of joy coming our way.

That will make us good people sharing good news and making good noise. People with deep hope and trust in a future that, despite its challenges, will hold constant encounters with Love. Loving more, loving wins.

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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.

Another treat yesterday, at sunset: ice crystals swirling in the air formed an amazing rainbow/icebow…After I’d shut down the camera, we just watched and enjoyed the colored brilliance. As it was fading, its double formed beside it, and they drifted away together. An illuminating encounter.

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Happy Thanksgiving

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I offer this former post, and this, holiday blessings for your peace.

And this wonderful story, for your joy.

I send love and prayers for your safe and merry gatherings, or your time in peaceful solitude during this season of Light. May it be a fruitful time of reorienting to the good and true within and without, and the actions we must take to preserve these precious gifts, and offer them, in love, to heal the world. Create, be well and joyful, and dwell in gentle peace.

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And finally, for your smile:

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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 Still Room

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For centuries, the still room was the sole
sanctuary and laboratory of women, the room
where kitchen garden harvests of flowers and
herbs were reduced to their essence, distilled,
brewed, separated, recombined, acknowledged
for the gifts they offered, the singular medicines
they provided, the flavors and healing they infused
into the lives of families and guests. Wisdom from
women, mingled and shared from spirits, lips, breasts,
hands, wombs, in still rooms, in rooms of stillness across time.

Let us return now to our still rooms, dear sisters,
for the world is sorely in need of our women’s gifts
for reducing too many words to their essential meaning,
for condensing mad noise to its sacred music, and crazed chaos
to peaceful purpose. Let us remind the world how the flavors
and functions of kindness and love alter the weary soul, how
listening transforms action and forgiveness gently mends
what has been broken. Let us offer a brew of patience
and hope that calms the breath and opens the heart to all
the miracles that pass from lips, breasts, hands, wombs,
in still rooms. In rooms of stillness, across time, the wisdom
of women has always saved the world. Let us create and heal.

© 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.

Genesis

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We had sabotaged our miracles
and crippled our world. We had never
arrived where we’d come to be.
It was a time for setting down
our empty work, our language
of estrangement and discord,
to gather and to feed on stories,
offered and received.
We asked to be nourished
and released into dreaming.

Everything invited our attention, altered
our perceptions. Setting down the old,
gestating the new; we utterly surrendered
to this moment, our world submerged
in the slippery clay of possibility.

It was a time when death and life entwined
and the sorting required sacred watching,
deep listening, patience that scraped away ego.
Only hope remained, a respiration of hope.
What is passing? What is coming? We mixed
our questions like seeds in earthen vessels
and cradled each other’s answers, casting
them into the waiting garden we had become.

The walls dissolved; all we had built and believed
fell away. We were raw, transparent,
seeing what we had not seen before, there,
in our souls, blazing, now transformed.

We stood on our heads
and smelled new visions, their call,
tasted new music, its potential,
saw new flavors, their ways of being,
heard new contours, their textures and densities,
touched new perfumes, their radiating gifts.
Our only desire was to create in love
to create from love
to create anew and love
what we created
together.

We reasoned with our hearts
danced in our stories
slept in the sacred All
and woke to starlight
then drank it,
our bodies smiling
and eager to begin.
This is the holy land;
this is the holy moment.

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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.

I would like to invite your interest in Navigating the Pandemic, an inspiring and reflective anthology compiled by my friend, Teresa Schreiber Werth. Proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to to the Society of Refugee Healthcare Providers, a U.S. non-profit organization dedicated to improving the healthcare of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as addressing equity in healthcare.  Thank you, and gentle peace.

Mulberry Leaves

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It’s called the abscission zone,
the separation zone,
formed at the base of the petiole
where the leaf stem is bound to the branch,
layers of cells that respond to autumn’s
signals for parting. Some deciduous trees lose
leaves one by one, the abscission zone’s cells
weakening, expanding, letting go over days
or weeks, each leaf twirling away from home,
mourned in the moment of its holy fall,
but should a sudden frost breathe its dark ice
upon a mulberry tree, imminent abscission triggers
the pervasive release of every leaf. Stems are severed
from their twigs, cluttered leaves spiral, sent descending,
all at once together, a sudden shattered intimacy, so bold
a letting go, branches fully gowned at dawn hang bared
by midday, exposed to winter’s piercing gaze, a mountain
of leaves blanketing the earth, fallen. Surrendered.

One autumn, our neighbors left in the night. No sign,
no story shared to ready us, no spiraling gradation of
leave-taking; we woke to the silence of an emptied home,
hollowed rooms, blank windows staring, abruptly abandoned.
Perhaps a sudden frost entered their lives, a private calamity
descended like dark ice, leaving them breathless with no choice
but letting go. Surrendered. Relationships sever precisely where
they bonded. Sometimes, falling is easier than hanging on,
sometimes, falling is kinder than farewell.

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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 World Is Changed

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The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. ~ from Galadriel’s prologue, The Fellowship of the Rings, (JRR Tolkien) film 2001

What is better than a grey, misty Friday in autumn for watching a film about goodness triumphing over evil? We’ve finished our chores early, have ordered lunch from our favorite Chinese take-out, and are about to begin viewing The Fellowship of the Rings as a kick-off to our Halloween weekend.

Without, a cold wind blows and the muted pearl light electrifies the colored leaves remaining on the trees. Within, a fire snaps and we’re about to embark on a magnificent journey of courage and sacrifice, of the noble, brave, and humble setting out to defeat the evil threatening their precious world. It’s an ancient story, and sadly, the need to be immersed in its lessons has rolled around to meet the human race once more.

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“If I take one more step, I’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been,” says Sam, setting out on his mysterious adventure. (He’s my favorite character.)

I’ve set out on my own small adventure this week, by deleting my Facebook account. The reams of evidence detailing their corporate greed and willingness to sacrifice their corporate conscience has been the final straw for me. My family and most of my friends are not local; Facebook has kept us in daily touch and allowed me to participate in many groups that fed my spirit, so, for me, this was a difficult parting. But also strangely exciting and potentially freeing. I am not unmoored from my dear ones, since I have their e-mails and phone numbers, but I am freed from that addictive and frequent need to check, scroll, like and be liked that social media perpetuates. And my nagging conscience is satisfied that I did one right thing this week. And that’s worth celebrating.

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The world is changed. Something wicked this way comes. Trump, Orban, Murdoch, Bolsonaro, white supremacists, et. al., have let loose a cruelty of spirit and actions I believe must be met by courage and a refusal to engage at their evil’s own low level of language, thought, intelligence, behavior, and constant deceit. Yet it must be engaged. I hope those of us longing for the Earth’s care and the love of humanity will summon the wisdom and strength to meet our present danger with conviction and constant loyalty to the truth.

Stories feed my spirit when I fear for the world, as do prayer, nature, meditation, my faith, my relationships, and art. (Also chocolate and dancing, another story.) And what I need today is to be cozy with my dearest one and journey with heroes who never give up seeking the good for all.

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I wish you a Happy Halloween, filled with meeting your own fears and defeating them…and fun, and companionship, and inspiring stories, and sweet treats. And gentle peace.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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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.

Boots

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Far in the distance
We heard a sound
One man descending
A con man a clown.

Crowds began shouting
Rallying cries
Rampant vacuity
Met with our sighs.

Lies on the airwaves
Lies everywhere
We in denial
We unaware.

We with our doing
Glued to our phones
Anxiously hiding
The truth in our bones.

We were dismissive
We were too strong
We were intelligent
And we were wrong.

Lost in diversions
Viral hate grew
Met with denial
What could we do?

This wasn’t possible
Not now not here
We were too civilized
Answers were clear.

Turning on dimes
Decent ones fell
Selling democracy
Power for hell.

Those who resisted
Threatened and cursed
Fear kept us silent
More lies dispersed.

Losing our votes,
Losing our choice
Losing our country
Losing our voice.

Boots in the courthouse
Boots in the press
Boots on the altar
Boots in excess.

Boots led by loathing
Boots led by need
Boots led by ignorance
Boots led by greed.

Boots against masking
Boots against order
Boots against kindness
Boots at the border.

Boots against reason
Boots against fact
Boots against neighbor
Boots to distract.

Boots in the capital
Boots in the hall
We unbelieving
Watching truth fall..

Boots on the angry
Boots in the town
Boots on the billionaires
Boots all around.

Boots at the school board
Boots at the door
Could have done something
Should have done more.

Now we can hear them
Shouting their hate
Now we touch evil
Now it’s too late.

Boots marching over us
Boots marching on
Boots in the future
Boots when we’re gone.

© 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.

Dear Ones,

Please know that I am not without hope for our lives and the Earth, and in no darker place than anyone aware and sentient enough to realize we are on the tipping point. We’re not approaching it, sensing it in the distance, agreeing it will come some day, but precariously perched upon its slippery surface and swaying in the winds of our choices and actions. Artist, teacher, spiritual care worker–my life’s work has been to speak the truth in love. I fail all the time: I am impatient with procrastination and those who sit back instead of speaking up or lending a hand to the Good Cause. My tongue is often sharper than my wits. But denial is not helpful; living in a fantastical mirage may be comforting, but it does not serve the Earth, the helpless, or those too young to midwife the changes necessary for a just and peaceful existence. See what is, name it, encounter it in love, disarm its pain and suffering, heal what can be healed. This poem is an attempt to call out the dangers of looking away, of “thoughts and prayers” absent of action, and–truly–of surrendering our hope by refusing to engage with our gifts. For me, the photo means we can choose up or down, but we can’t put it off. Be safe and well. Be comforted by the beauty of the season. Speak out, in love.

Litany for Now

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It’s been a kind of wavy week at Full Moon Cottage, by which I mean the days became surreal midweek, when I received both my flu shot and third vaccine. For the next 48 hours, I was in and out of sleep, dropping days like I dropped stitches when I tried to learn how to knit. The weather’s shifting dramas contributed to the strobe-like effects of reality. Sunny, warm, rainy, chilly. Every time I opened my eyes, the light and temperature had changed from my last visit to the conscious world. And then, just as quickly, this morning I woke as myself, my body, mind, and spirit fully inhabited by me. And with all the aches, fevers, and chills firmly residing in the past tense

I am grateful for the shots and for two days of sleep.

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So today’s cloudy, gray, chilly and still presence has been wonderful, and I have big plans for this weekend: weeding and cutting back the gardens and planting bulbs. Because of our long stretch of warm weather this autumn, we’ve enjoyed long blooms, re-blooms, and the blooms of perennials that sometimes don’t happen due to early frost.

I am grateful for the color and blossoms.

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The past few weeks have also treated us to more rain than we received since early June. The trees, gardens, birds, and other wildlife have benefited immeasurably. The river has risen considerably, and the aridity that we felt in our spirits has also felt quenched. The rain’s music, beating on the roof and deck, sweeping across the yard in windy curtains of silver light, was a glorious treat. It felt like that Ray Bradbury story, “All Summer in a Day,” but of course, in reverse. (And no one was locked in a closet.) Climate change has made us sorely miss what we once took for granted. The rain was other-worldly after such a long absence. Pure gift.

I am grateful for the rain and rising river.

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I was able to harvest a lot of my herbs last week for drying and freezing, and they may even yield another batch. It feels so comforting to have the freezer and pantry filled with my favorite seasonings to last till next summer. And just holding the sage and thyme made me excited for the holidays.

I am grateful for garden blessings that feed and delight us throughout the year.

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While I was otherwise-engaged with unconsciousness and discomfort this week, Phillip set up grow lights for my houseplants, which had to be brought indoors from their summer paradise on the back deck. He also made meals, did the laundry, cared for the 4-leggeds, and so much more. He always does a lot for us; this week, he did it all. His own recovery was speedy and bouncy compared to mine. The 4-leggeds comforted me with kisses and snuggling, as they were able.

I am beyond grateful for Phillip and our 4-leggeds. And, of course, I’m grateful for houseplants beneath pink grow lights.

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Friends sent messages, shared photos and notes, and kept in touch…as they always do.

I am deeply grateful for my amazing friends.

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And, my fearless, gifted collaborators at Tra Publishing and I are sending the book, The Rare, Tiny Flower off to the printer imminently, for a late-March release. I love the illustrations by Quim Torres.

I am grateful for the chance to make dreams come true with these stunningly creative people.

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The world is not as I wish it were. I do not understand much of what it has become. The fear, anger, and intolerance that daily parade through the news are shocking; the sheer cruelties and violence spewed and rocketing around our world are abhorrent and dispiriting. But they are not all the news or even most of it. Everyone I know (and don’t) could likely fill pages with the gratitude they’ve gathered in one day, let alone weeks. Please, keep gathering and sharing your gratitudes. They keep us tender, loving, and hopeful, and those are medicines the world needs now, more than ever. The virus of hate cannot survive them.

I am grateful for each of you.

Be well and safe.

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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.

Observations

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There are those who choose to live parenthetically,
their lives bound by the known, protected and
unsurprised, and those who ride adjectives’ hills
and valleys and never stop, unlike those who live
as periods, going nowhere, in love with endings. My
great-aunt was all exclamation points and her husband
all ellipses, responding with desultory silence to her
tireless alarms. Adverb people are helpful but without
the moral clarity of verbfolk, all action, except for the
family branch that just is. Most, I suppose, are nouns,
being things, taking up space, using commas to add
things and more things for accrual’s sake, and needing
prepositions to store things in, throughout, during, and
despite. I love the question marks, their ever-tumbling
need to know always unsated, and then, of course, society
is phrases and paragraphs, and history is books, volumes,
but I would say I’m some part–the ink, I think–of an always
incomplete sentence, a ragtag bundle of words forever open
to new companions and the mystery of everything, the miracles
everywhere, lacking most specifically the wisdom of proper
punctuation, but then again miracles can’t be put into words
or held by language and I am newly-acquainted with miracles
every day, because I know where they hide and it’s always here
in plain view, making me wonder if maybe tomorrow

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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.

Be the Moon

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All it takes is one more person,
one more vote, one more
yes that joins the many
and everything tips from
worse to better. The flag
waves and a truce is called,
the heaviness lifts and
language sweeps clear
a path for martyred dreams
to resurrect, dreams meant
for everyone and all, and truths
too often out of reach but always
possible incarnate in words, once
again becoming real. This is peace,
when us and them recedes and all
voices sing what now and tomorrow
will be. We are made for co-creation.
Change.
Be the one joining many. Be the moon
that calls back the tide and all its treasures.
Why remain in darkness
when you hold the
power of light?

© 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.

Panning for Gold

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It’s hard to believe another Autumnal Equinox has arrived, although the temperature’s return to coolness, coupled with cloudy grey skies and moody winds, certainly heralds the season in its customary style. I welcome the bittersweet depths of it.

I’ve been able to take Teagan and Gracie out for walks, thanks to the miracle of a strong knee brace, and every day, another view or smell enfolds us more securely into autumn’s magic and mystery.

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Last weekend, my beloved and I completely rearranged the front garden. Because of my healing knee (which is strengthening slowly and steadily), Phillip did the digging and dividing, while I pointed most effectively and expertly watered the resettled perennials. The space now looks messy and a bit sad, I suppose, but I see the garden of my dreams, and will always remember a day when my dear husband loved me enough to dig and divide and plant (and, of course, replant again, off to the right) an entire garden, for hours and hours…just to make me happy.

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I treasure such days all the more because, of course, we’re aging and, curiously, time’s passage seems to be accelerating. While healthy and reasonably strong–the doctor did stress what “great knees” I have despite my injury (!)–I know it will not always be so, sooner than later.

Every day together is a gift. It’s always so, but I suppose autumn reminds me how briefly we rise and bloom before everything gets turned under for new–for other–lives to rise. Friends and loved ones have died, of course, and I miss them all, but when my close cousin lost her husband to cancer this past summer, I took an emotional dive unexpected for its intensity.

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Perhaps because our lives have been so intimately shared, seeing and feeling her grief as she finds her way without her dear one has made my heart sad. Her children and siblings are lovingly present and supportive, but no one replaces your heart’s partner and the decades of companionship, routines, private intimacies and jokes you’ve shared, or the dreams you hoped might still come true.

And so, I feel like I’m traveling beside her during this first year of loss, and every moment I share with Phillip I imagine her journey alone accompanied by memory’s whispers and echoes.

One of my patients once shared her grief journey following the loss of her husband…I remember she said how colorlessly life flowed by for a few years, just drained of anticipation, joy, and liveliness. She said she’d felt nothing but numbness. And then one day she was with friends in Piccadilly Square, walking through the door from a shop and back to a street crammed with people and life, and she said, “Just like that, there was color everywhere, and I wanted to be part of it…”

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I know my cousin will heal as the months and years roll by; she’s a strong and creative woman, and a treasured gift in the lives of her family and friends. In her own time, she’ll reconnect with the world’s needs and energy, but every grief, of course, colors every view perceived thereafter, and the lessons of loss become integral to every impetus to act and every response to life we offer.

And maybe these are the elemental gifts of grief, the palpable ways both life’s fragility and resilience are held by those with great grief as a boarder rooming forever in their heart. If grief’s paths are traveled with an open mind and spirit, however slowly and despite wavering and gradual degrees of acceptance, it can bestow a depth of wisdom and compassion we often otherwise lack. It’s a choice, this panning of the mud and shit of our lives for gold. And the gold is always love. Love gets turned under in the soil and feeds new life with its story and all those stories that came before. All the love my cousin and her husband shared, created, and offered to others throughout their marriage doesn’t end in grief, but in continued explosions of love blooming in the world, forever.

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So, here we are, together in our autumn, deeply aware of the ways years and lifespans edge away and must one day be turned under to nurture and make way for new lives and new stories. For now, we divide our fertile offerings to love and replant them, dreaming of gardens to come. Autumn reminds us that every day is a gift to be unwrapped with delicacy and attentive appreciation for all things that fade away.

What remains?

Look! Here is a beautiful garden that one man toiled for hours to dig and plant and tend and grow, just to make his wife happy. Because he loved her. And she loved him. There is the gold. Explosions of love forever.

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A Blessed Equinox and Autumn to all!

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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 Volition of Starstuff

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14 billion years of star shards
and splinters hurtling since the
Great Clap of Joy shuddered them
forth, breathing out an only-once explosion
of yes and promise, the holy commencement
of all; Love sent sailing through space, forming
new stars ringed with spinning planets, and
everything expanding with hope’s velocity,
all of the spreading mystery, the dark matter
and life rising everywhere: starstuff reborn
in fire, water, air, and earth; the mixing,
the need to bind–how atoms and lovers
have found each other again and again;
the urgent impulse to connect and co-create:
your ancestors in trees, watching the stars spin;
in caves beside fires while the night sky hummed
and whispered the story that would become yours;
people with your smile, nomads and settlers,
cottagers who sang with your voice in rooms
of stone hurtling through starry time; and the
once-ever maybe/maybe not of each one born
before you, their choices to turn here, look there,
accept and decline invitations…meeting, falling,
perfectly timing their passion and intimacy
with the only possible other, starlives uniting their
starlit molecules: these two, then those, co-mingling
all the way to you. You! Child of every embrace
that’s led to your arrival amidst all the billions
of chances you wouldn’t exist: All praise
the blessed unions and cradling of Love,
the need to bind and renew! Here you are,
gazing at the stars in the sky, feeling the shiver
of stars in your every pulse, the breath of joy
clapping and summoning your presence
in the dance, once and necessary. You,
named and known, precisely perfect, unique
and spiraling through everything to now. You,
crammed with gift and starshine to meet us
where we’re spinning, a constellation in need
of your light, your every shard and splinter.

And shall the story of these terrible times say
you finally stood fully brilliant, illuminating all
you were born to be in your miraculous moment,
fusing your holy inheritance of evolving embraces
and original starstuff with others offering theirs?
That together, each being everything Love called us
to be, we carried the world, pushing back darkness,
skimming on joy through hatred and fear to creation’s
own true yes and more light than it had ever known?

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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.

Note: Celebrating my friend Teresa Werth’s beautiful anthology of reflections and inspirational essays on the Covid-19 Pandemic:

 And also celebrating:

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All Gifts Are For Mending

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The world doesn’t need your anger,
and hatred never alters what it hates.
Release crazed worry.
Mother your fear.

Reject the noise of fools and madmen.
Set down the relentless self, the need
to be heard, to be right, to be favored.
Breathe with the music of starlit skies.

Listen.
Let the shadows speak.
What have they come to teach your weary heart?

Rest in the quiet fires of dawn.
Sleep in the hush of feathered nests.
Drift like clouds on the silver river.
Be the stillness of trees, rooted and willing
to flow with every season’s song: allowing, accepting,
and offering back the softness of the world.

Understand, finally, what it means to be strong,
how the world transforms through gentle patience,
and the heart, too. You can do this for yourself,
and then for all. All gifts are for mending.
Now.
Don’t wait.

Love is kind.
Let its trail unfold.
Fall in Love.
Rise in Love.

The world doesn’t need your anger,
and hatred never alters what it hates.
Find the better way.
Create what is wiser than war.
Meet the noise with silence;
Open your wounds to the mystery of new paths.
Forgive. Look beyond. Look within.
Again.

Meet in the softness of the world.
Now.
Don’t wait.
All gifts are for mending.

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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 Writing Spider

I’m sidelined this weekend by an iced knee and bit of pain, so I’m sharing one of my favorite old posts, from October 2011, with a brief update. Gentle Peace to all. xoxoxo Kitty

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single spider in possession of a good web must be in want of prey. But in the garden this season, I learned again that there are many ways we nourish and are nourished.

I first met Jane in early August, when I was weeding the large garden near the river. She had woven her distinct web across one of the sage plants, and its intricate stabilimenta zig-zagged, zipper-like, across the orb-web’s center. She was the largest and most brilliantly-colored garden spider I’d ever seen, so I fetched the camera and took several pictures from a respectful distance, and later researched her species and background. Her scientific classification was logical: Kingdom: Animalia; Phylum: Anthropoda; Class: Arachnida; Order: Araneae; Family: Araneidae; Genus: Argiope; and Species: Argiope Aurantia (like an orange, though she was colored in brilliant yellow and black).

When I learned that one of her nicknames is “the writing spider,” she of course became further classified as a kindred spirit, and I christened her “Jane” after Jane Austen, a name to which she did not evidence rejection. For more than a month, we met several times a week, and she hospitably endured my observations.

Understand, Gentle Reader, that were Jane to visit my home’s interior, the sound of my arachnophobic screams would make international (and possibly intergalactic) news, but spiders do not bother me when they are outside, weaving their webs and living their lives within the larger web of nature, the home we all share.

Miss Jane, I learned, liked to remain in one place for most of her life, a homebody like myself. The creation of her web took hours and its complexity was miraculous: its architecture could be up to two feet across and up to eight feet off the ground. She usually remained at the web’s midpoint, head down (as I always found her), awaiting innocent prey’s entanglement. When I met her, the remaining wing of a swallowtail butterfly decorated her web, as did bits and pieces of insects.

Jane consumed the center of her web each night, possibly for nourishment or to recycle chemicals used in the web’s construction, and re-wove it daily, including the delightful “written” zipper (“stabilimenta”) across the middle. I could not discover a definitive  explanation for this part of her web, except that some scientists have suggested it may serve as camouflage or in some way attract prey. I also learned that among orb-weavers, the Aurantia is known for her unusually tidy and clean web. Other orb-weavers are content with disorder, clutter, and mess. Jane rose yet again in my regard and respect. I never met Jane’s mate. He would have woven a “lesser” web nearby, including an escape line in case she attacked him; at any rate, he died after their love was consummated and she likely ate him. (Understandably, my husband Phillip does not like this part of Jane’s story.) But Jane’s partner did exist, for one day I discovered the egg sac, a delicate brown silken ball almost an inch in diameter, fixed near the web’s enter, and Jane hanging nearby, guarding it as vigilantly as  any artist watches over her creation. I read that within this tiny ball, up to 1,400 eggs were settled and would be harbored till spring, were they not harmed by birds, the elements, or other likely hazards.

We had a gentle frost one night several weeks after Jane and I became garden companions, and Jane was nowhere to be found; it is the common way for females of her species to die. I mourned her loss; we had an elegant, mutually intriguing (or so it seemed to me) relationship.

When I cut back the plants this weekend and neared the sage that was Jane’s home, I gently severed the branch holding her egg sac, and placed it under an evergreen shrub, settled within a bed of sedum and violets.

If the egg sac survives through winter, one day next spring, I could see what seems to be pollen or dust collecting within the silken sac…the tiny bodies of Jane’s progeny responding to Love’s call to write their own life stories. I hope some will decide to stay and grace our gardens with the elegance and artistry—and kinship—I shared with their mother.

We’re all here such a precious little while, invited to write the words, dance the dance, and create the art seeded within our spirits at its inception; the whole of life depends upon both our singular contributions and our abilities to form connections that welcome, encourage, and sustain the unique contributions of others.

It may be in the nature of the Kingdom Animalia to capture and devour prey; however, the instinct to forge connection and co-exist with deep humility, hospitality, and respect is also a lovely part of our mysterious story. In relationship, we nourish and are nourished.

Thank you, Jane.

Update: Every year since I published this, I’ve searched for members of Jane’s successive generations, and there have been many. This year I found several, and was happy to welcome them and share stories. This one looks so much thinner than Jane; I wonder how our months-long drought and diminished insect population have affected her. I’m checking often, as able, for her egg sac and hope we’ll see her daughters next year. Our families have formed a connection, you see, and that is rare and precious.

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And this beautiful orb weaver spun her amazing web on the exterior (thank heaven) of a deck door. She’s not as large as this photo makes her appear, but she is quite an attractive specimen. Were she inside my home, as I mentioned 10 years ago, my head would no longer be attached, having exploded with fright, but outside where I can safely admire her, I must admit she’s gorgeous, and we have had so few guests for so long, that it feels good to practice hospitality again, to form a tentative relationship and be grateful for her presence and gifts.

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