Confiteor

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Lilacs, always lilacs in the classrooms, aged
fragrance, ill-matched to youthful May, they
smelled of penance awaiting remorse.

Her chosen name was Sister Crescence;
can that be right? Memory obscures.
What martyr inspired such a saintly name and
who was she, when a young postulant,
to choose it? Did she dream of a love
so deep to die for it
would be gift?

We were sophomores, more fools than wise,
crushing kindness underfoot
in the clumsy rush
to rise among the favored few,
to cut first, the sharpest wit
the most admired.

We called her Toad,
above the wimple, within the coif
her nose and lips so fleshy, sausage-like
her short old fingers, Germanically fat, her stomach
protruding beneath her habit, stuffed,
misshapen corpulence.

We christened her chair
the lily pad. And buzzed
like flies in the heated May classroom,
sly laughs behind
our drudgy books.

In stickiness of sweat and spring,
all our yearning leaned
toward summer. Freedom. Beyond.

Sister Crescence was not
admired, or even
considered; I recall an intellect
wasted on our insolence.
Large amphibious eyes
winced behind rimless lenses.

We did not give her
the chance to be human, to love,
but surely
she loved words
lilacs
her God
poetry and perhaps
the song of birds in spring?

Then as old as I am now, she
sat in pain, suffering
from the tumor
that fed our jests
that took her life, this woman
we never knew, we, being young
fools, reveling in salty pride, so full
of ourselves she
wasn’t there
but to amuse.

In her silence and her suffering
Sr. Crescence offered lessons
other teachers overlooked:
cruelty most wounds the wielder.

I don’t know if any goodness
I have tendered since
has dimmed the image of
the sadness in her eyes.

And every spring I lean more
toward my own old age and
the wisdom of remorse.
I drink the chorus
of the waking world,
I kiss the songs of blackbirds
of orioles and grosbeaks, the trilling up of life,
the growing through to green,
but the homely hum of toadsong,
and the penance of lilacs
remind me
I was cruel, I was cruel and I cannot
take it back.

And every spring I kneel
on the river’s muddy bank
conjuring her spirit,
leaning toward
forgiveness,
asking yet again
for the privilege
to be kind.

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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.

 

No Little Time

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One morning this week, I was reading to Phillip, and we came across a phrase describing a visit among friends lasting “no little time.” Phillip wondered at the choice of words; why not use a more straightforward expression? I thought perhaps “no little time” was more poetic than, “They remained together a long time.” 

The week went on and the words traveled with me.

As our time in confinement has lengthened, the trail beside our home has become overcrowded with bicyclists, runners, walkers, people pulling babies behind their bikes in wagons, dog-walkers, throngs gathered on the bridge, passing, coming, and going. The weather has been enticing, and I understand spring’s power for beckoning families weary of being indoors to exercise and relax on the trail. It has felt as though no little time has passed since we were told to care for ourselves and others by staying home. Long days of anxiety, of flattened, twisted energy, and of the need for sunlight and fresh air require release.

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The crowding on the trail has been especially heavy during the past two weekends. And none who passed us as we gardened, sat on the deck, walked our own dogs up and down our driveway, or glanced from the window, wore a mask or kept a safe distance from the people around them. The trail, an old railroad track, is maybe 10 ft. wide and bordered by ditches, so there’s nowhere to escape when others are coming at you; certainly, a 6-ft. barrier is impossible to maintain. 

I understand and I do not understand. People need a place outside to move and revel in the scents and views of spring, but during the flourishing of an invasive, infectious virus, why would you so cavalierly choose to put your health and that of anyone else at risk? Why a narrow trail rather than open parkland? Why behave as though the virus is gone simply because you want it to be? We know, empirically, it’s here for no little time.

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At any rate, our own use of the trail ended several weeks ago, and we struggled with that decision and the need to give 5 dogs their daily exercise, looping the yard over and over, encouraging the completion of necessary tasks the dogs are unaccustomed to performing off-trail (i.e., begging them to just poop, already). We decided against trips to the county dogpark months ago; now the trail was also off-limits, and we could be staying in place for another year, at least. We had never added a fence to our yard because of the gardens and orchard we established before we had 5 dogs, and because we enjoyed daily walks on the trail, which was often deserted and offered changing views. 

early spring trail

We called the local fencing company and asked for an estimate to fence in about a quarter-acre. Nothing fancy, a black chain-link fence with gates. Something that would fade into the scenery. Maybe. An employee came to our home. He wore no mask, but we had ours on, and backed up about 15 feet from him while he toured and measured and then announced an estimate that caused us to politely thank him for his time, wish him well, and create another plan. Apparently, the fence we wanted approximated the cost of a new home. And garage. And car.

Phillip went online and ordered some plain field fencing, posts, stakes, wood for gates, and bags of cement. He could pre-pay, set up a time for picking it up, and not have to come into contact with anyone. 

He worked hard, for no little time, over the past two weeks, fencing off an acre and creating a little dogpark for 5 happy pups. I worry about birds of prey harming my smaller dogs, so we stay out with them during these new at-home playtimes, a daily adventure we couldn’t have foreseen a year ago.

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It’s not the fence I would have liked or where I wanted it, but the dogs don’t care and–of course–no one is visiting anytime soon, so it’ll do. The pups love their new park, we’re all safely off the trail and far from the viruses being exchanged along it. 

So, we garden, weed, feed the birds, help them nest, watch the eggs hatch and, within weeks, see the babies fledge. We watch our cats rest, our dogs play, our lives pass. We engage with each other and our 4-leggeds and we allow ourselves time alone. We hold each other when we’re overwhelmed and we rest when we need to, if we can. In many ways, on most days, it feels like the retirement we imagined.

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But it’s not. And won’t be, possibly ever, which is challenging to consider. We’re fenced-in for no little time.

Others are experiencing this time completely differently, many desperately, and it has brought home again how useless and destructive it is to judge…We all got where we are through a million choices, some made before we were born, some made without our participation, or in partnerships that ended after the choices were made; often, events out of human control intervened and altered life courses. I’m grateful for our blessed little life, and I’m sad for the people who are struggling economically and emotionally. I’m worried about those who are choosing to socialize on the trail and now, in taverns, but I’m trying hard not to judge what I perceive as their errors in logic and lack of foresight. I’m hurt that the risks presented to older people like us, and with health and autoimmune issues like mine, aren’t considered as people now flock to stores, public spaces, and doctors’ offices. I’m more concerned than ever about my friends working in area hospitals.

But it does no good on earth to harbor bitterness or feed divisiveness. This is humanity, and a glance at history should corroborate the ranges of behavior predictable by now. It’s enough to be grateful for everything that’s brought me here to Full Moon Cottage, Phillip, the 4-leggeds, my writing, my books, gardens, and other diversions. It is no little time of contentment. Mostly.

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Contrary to what I’ve always thought (apparently without question), authentic kindness, hope, and love are a struggle to gestate and support; they are damn hard to nurture, lift, sustain, and carry from one moment to the next, when you really need them in your life. I’m seeing this so much more clearly during the pandemic, as all the antithetical impulses: greed, fear, anger, and hatred rush to their rising in response to the anxiety. 

Our power to love is invited to grow while we live isolated, in confinement, unemployed by any outside distraction. I feel compelled to meet the worry and anger and befriend them, to extend kindness to myself and my dear one, when a tossed laundry basket or salty curse would be more satisfying. 

So often these days, every living thing seems overwhelmingly tender and fragile to me. I can feel angry at the stupidity of those joining crowds and rejecting personal and community protection, but more often, I cry that people are so anxious they’re willing to deny reality. I hear them laughing together on the trail and wonder if they’re robbing themselves of laughing together in a few weeks, or months. Next summer. Ever.

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We are spiritual creatures inhabiting these bodies, having, for a time, a physical experience, as Pierre Teilhard said. We are of the eternal, but here and confined, fenced-in, for a little time, if only to realize no time is little at all; every moment is precious. However it comes wrapped, it’s gift, and needs to be filled with as much kindness, hope, and love as we can cram into it.

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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 Space Between

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Crisis, a tipping point
like lightning,
strikes and divides
what wisdom may bind,
beyond words
(in the space between) if
we choose, and choose,
and choose climbing, descending
into the tangled forest of
no and yes.

Or we could reject
aching discernment,
take
solace
in the withered arms of
scorched earth, accept
paths known, every step, eyes closed,
taking up with all the old evil,
abandon struggle and what
may lie beyond, remain rigid,
lying
on the angle of
repose.

Hanging together, falling apart,
in the middle, in the balance,
neither here nor there,
having left and not arrived,
farewells spoken, greetings awaited…
walking with questions, eating questions, sleeping
not sleeping with questions
(in the space between) nothing
and all, after lightning
before thunder.

Our home is on fire;
let it burn. We knew
there was no returning.

Trees split and charred
may grow again, but
surprising and primal…
scarified and sacred,
the only way
some seeds can grow.

Let us try. Not for paradise
but for gratitude now
(in the space between).

Here, in the infant
forest, while the gift
of days
deepens our listening
nurses new visions
tender and green
(in the space between)

We’ll take the broken
parts, the ashes and death,
the questions and loss,
tilling in our soft dreams and
spreading wide the
fans of fertile hope
like stars at our feet.

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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.

Hard Times

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You thought you’d done it, a life of
dodging disaster, agile avoidance of
incoming shrapnel, feasible flattening,
historical losses, holocausts, hard times,
great wars, dust bowls…you’d lived
that one spared slice of the world’s story, oh charmed
tranche de vie! Oh pockets bulging with luck!
(Well there are always wars, but
you in the years between, untouched, only the
proud protests, marching out your anger,
cozy coalition crowds, well-fed, drinks in hand,
you fought from your armchair, through words
stinging and admired.)

Deaths, yes, heartaches, and the surprising grief they disperse–
we’re speaking of life on earth, after all–perhaps
you even heard the invitations to deepen, to be
grateful for the easy life unearned, enjoyed,
the shaded colors of loss
now a poignant part
of the design. Looking good
in black.

But nothing like this,
not the bobbing and weaving
dance with invisible
poison, hidden and clinging to
every bit of air you breathe, you
no longer young, unpracticed
in fleeing enemies, fearful,
searching for words.

You thought you’d done it,
finish line in sight, you’d
escaped, unscathed,
the cruel brutality of
life that everyone
who’s walked the earth
and lies beneath it
has suffered.

And even now:
fresh cream in your coffee
as you ponder
your life’s
hardest time.

Only This

Willow Art

There is only this:
The breath of the dog on the bed and the breath of the dog in the living room,
the settling of cats,
the scrambling of the squirrel along the deck’s railing—
he, too, forages for seed and meaning.

There is this, too: the flow of the river,
the crow on the crooked branch,
the chiming of pipes in the wind,
the waves of the wind,
the insistence of the wind that we be more than we are,
that we are more than we believe,
that now is the god we seek;

we, poised and ready to breathe in the holy, the fact
that there is only this,
and breathe out the yes that allows the now,
and the love of now,
to marry.

 

© 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.

Near Death Awareness

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It could begin long before
the diagnosis announced
the time for farewell had come,
but the awareness
deepened and clarified
as death (as love) drew nearer. I watched

and listened. 

Many patients
experienced sifting, in thought,
shifting, in language,
lifting, in dreams of sweet reunions
beyond, a light-filled world…I held
their new mysteries and old regrets
in my watching and listening.

They saw angels, parents, long-dead partners
spoke, laughed, lingered with visions
I could not see.
The liminal glowed, golden and
Everywhere. I watched

and listened. 

My job was simply presence, not
an anchor in this world, but often
a final, gentle harbor of peace
before they said yes
to the sweetly tinkling lanyards, the
voices of beloveds
beckoning their buoyancy
on waves of love (as death)
that would carry them off.

Death (as love)
befriended them, or tried to,
sang beneath their windows,
beside their beds,
holding them, embracing,
sharing their breath as it slowed…
She infused their psyches
caught their words and tangled them,
unraveled them, then wove them again
into tapestries of symbol and metaphor.

I would ask:
How is it for you? What do you see?
They chose words they’d rarely used,
or hadn’t intended but meant;
surprising,
how deeply, unconsciously,
intuition can reach in and excavate
truth: 

I am going on a journey,
packing my suitcase;
Where is my ticket? My taxi? My train?
I must wear my best dress; Joe’s coming
to dance with me; I must go
to the garden, it’s harvest time;
I’m leaving soon…
I watched

and listened.

And their elemental essence would ebb,
would almost shimmer away, blood pooling
around the heart, breath slowing,
spirit slipping out and rising
free of gravity, then gone
with love (as death).

I watched and listened.

The air, filled with
the scent of parting:
gratitude, forgiveness, regret,
stillness,
a terrible and fierce
absence that, once felt,
became light.

Death is love; it is handmaiden to life.

And now we sit
at the bedside of the world,
aware, long before the diagnosis
was announced,
the time for farewell
has come for many things.

Let us watch together,
surrender what must die,
and listen
for the language
death (as love) will weave,
a tapestry,
symbols and metaphors,
a light-filled world
not beyond
but here.

Death (as love) is near and,
always, handmaiden
to life.

 

© 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.

Gifts Redux

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Dear Friends,

I am re-posting the link to this page because so many artists have continued to share their creations since the original post, and I want their wonderful gifts to be seen, heard, appreciated, and–especially–to share the love and healing that was their intent in the crafting of these wonders.

I hope your own creativity has been stimulated during this time: in your parenting and friendships, your arts and crafts, your personal healing and reflections, your self-care, gardening, playing, and home-making. Please feel free to share what you’ve been doing, making, and dreaming, and what makes you joyful and hopeful during this time of pandemic. What are you noticing? What has surprised you? I wish you continued comfort, great love, and the deep satisfactions and astonishing revelations derived from listening and self-expression. Gentle peace.

https://the-daily-round.com/2020/03/30/gifts/

 

© 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.

 

how are you

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In the rushing there was doing
and in the doing hiding
there were hours of making mountains
or making mountains smaller

in the coming and the going
we were rushing barely seeing
how are you I am fine
that is good let’s work hard
let’s make money to buy items
we don’t need that fill holes

there were men who did evil
in our name with our money
we were rushing we were doing
we were hiding never seeing
we weren’t seeing barely seeing
we weren’t looking we were lying

we weren’t asking to be wiser
we weren’t listening to hear
we were rushing we were doing
we spent hours making mountains
or making mountains smaller

we were hiding always hiding

how are you How are you

How are you?

I am still…
I am quiet…
I am looking…
I am seeing…
I am listening to the birds…

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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 Story We Are Writing

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Those were difficult days, my child; the questions threatened and the answers were unknown. Many lost patience or lost their hearts to fear. They feasted on anxiety and grew more afraid. They blustered and puffed, or lied and gripped dying stories in useless hands. They found their time of strange freedom overwhelming, and yearned for old prisons, gray and crushing, but known in every contour and shadow, every closed door, every shackle, and inequity.

And these were our lessons: Sit with surprising questions, or hide in ancient answers. Listen for undreamt music, or repeat tired songs. Create enchanted designs, or imitate dead patterns. Lead with powerful compassion, or follow cruel oppression. Wait for the way of joy to appear, or trudge dull roads forever. Open your mind to wonder, or partner with shuttering ignorance. 

Dare to live wildly, or die safely.

But why choose the path of death?  

All the earth’s magic lay as dust at our feet; why force the old puzzle back together?

Wild life beckoned.

It was a time for fierce hope. (And there was such weakness, such fear, such anger; my child! We swept it aside and lived beyond it.) It was a time for hope of beaten gold, forged by sweat, and struggle, and the pain of birth. Artists are the midwives of change on this earth, and in that time of dark confinement, we gestated dreams of the possible unknown, and through our patience, our suffering, our hope, we brought them into the magical world… 

See the new earth we created and love her well, darling. She is a treasure, eternal and strong, and we are her fragile, fierce lovers. What does she ask of you, today? Be true. 

Over and over, name your darkness and heal it. Over and over, create the way of wild love beneath these shining stars. Feast on joy and live in peace, my child; live in joyful peace.

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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.

Present Laughter

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Present mirth hath present laughter.
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty.
~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act 2; Scene 3

The days of confinement roll by and I lose track of their names. We try to keep to our routine and maintain the semblance of purpose in our choices, but, frankly, there are moments when we wonder if the daily cleaning, whose turn it is to vacuum, the choosing of what to wear, or what to eat, matters at all.

The slightest and most unpredictable exchange or event can make me cry…but, while I’m aware that the stress, the crushing weight of the unknown, and the hours spent puzzling out what reality will look like in years to come leave all of us exhausted and wobbly, I have to admit there are many things about our days that keep us laughing. Tears and laughter border the knife edge of reality these days. Lately, we call a lot of our responses, “Laugh-cry!” (™)

I remember being part of a group of friends who cared for the first one of our beloved circle who was dying from AIDS, back when only one doctor in our large metro area was even willing to help him, and very few other healthcare workers or community members would even think of providing care to someone with AIDS. We were a fierce, loyal group of loving pioneers, and proud to be present to our friend’s needs, but a higher level of stress traveled with us, as it does when we care for a loved one who is ill. 

My friend and I were sitting together one morning, sharing tea, chatting, and watching some inane program on television, when he grew silent. I looked at him and was surprised to see him staring at the television screen, transfixed, weeping. I looked back to the screen and realized that my witty, worldly, dying friend was moved to tears by a commercial for lemon-scented furniture polish. A fantasy housewife danced in exaggerated euphoria around her home, dusting everything till it glowed in fake golden light and was readied for family and guests. The music swelled as she prepared for gatherings and holidays my friend wouldn’t live to experience and that momentary realization vibrated deeply for him. Always ready with tears, I joined him in mourning his losses, our losses, the losses of the world.

And then we looked at each other and we both began to howl with laughter. An advertisement for furniture polish had set us off truly and genuinely, but we both recognized the absurdity as well, and after the tears had balanced our emotions and biochemistry, as we are told they do, we couldn’t help but laugh, which deepened the moment’s healing considerably. 

The memory echoed for me this week when I found myself crying in response to a scene from a sitcom. There was no logical reason for tears; a woman character was sitting with her friends, sharing coffee and jokes. There was nothing about the writing or function of the scene that was designed to elicit sadness, but the superimposition of long weeks of confinement and the absence of my own friends triggered tears, and more profoundly than I expected a moment or two before. I looked at Phillip and he said something gentle and loving, and then we both began to laugh. (“Laugh-cry!™”)

The yin and yang of tears and laughter are so evident these days. Both need to be experienced and honored, as they were in the dark humor that surfaced when I worked in the hospital, or that often emerges at wakes and after funerals, when the family gathers to reminisce. More often these days, I am grateful for laughter and the restoration of joy.

Yesterday, I told Phillip my previously very short haircut was growing out into a hideous and strangely medieval mullet. It reminded me of a portrait of Martin Luther crossed with early Rod Stewart…I could be nailing my theses to Wittenberg Chapel and singing “Maggie May” while I did it. Either/both would look appropriate, and so we both laughed, and laughed again when we realized both of our haircuts were growing out at a similar rate and we were turning into one of those long-married couples that resemble each other. (However, Phillip looks like a handsome 70’s rocker; I remain vaguely c. 15th century. “Laugh-cry!™”)

Last week, as I prepared for a video meeting, I believed I’d rather successfully hidden my unattractive hair in a cleverly-wrapped scarf, allowing only my weird bang growth to remain visible. Good friends wouldn’t care what I looked like, but the meeting was with people I find charming and lovely, but do not know well, so I thought I’d best make an effort.

The meeting began and everyone’s face rimmed the center of the screen, looking glowing, attractive, and healthy…and there was my head, looking like Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen, wrapped in a scarf and utterly bloodless, no matter how I gently shifted or turned the screen. I could not lessen the blinding light that reduced my face to a brilliant white plane with black holes suggesting the eerie, decorative placement of eyes, nose, and mouth, and the anticipatory sense that I was about to launch into a Kabuki performance at any moment. Needless to say, Phillip and I laughed outrageously as I described it to him later.

And, grateful as we are for all restorative mirth, a houseful of 4-legged companions has also kept us laughing enough to stay mostly sane. One of our little girls, Teagan, has always surprised us with her ability and desire to leap upon a blanket and somehow burrow into it, creating a perfect nest, from which she peers out at the world as a character we call Sister Mary Teagan.

IMG-4328In the past few weeks, though, perhaps in her own response to the changing energies of our  confinement, she has initiated a nightly routine, always at about 7:30 P.M., training me, as they all have done, over and over, for years. (I am a good girl.) My latest trick involves Teagan standing before my chair, hopping on her hind legs and waving her front paws in a manner both pleading and commanding, ordering me to pick up a blanket, spread it over my lap, and say, “Banky time?” (As though dogs understand English to begin with, and then even more clearly if it’s spoken in “baby talk.” But this has become a necessary part of the ritual, as ordained by Teagan.) The trick has evolved and has now become predictable, much like the pups’ Morning Party. Teagan, and then her sister, Gracie, jump up onto the blanket and wait for me to wrap them up, and then they lie there, spoiled and cozy, till bedtime. 

IMG-1001I have no idea how this started, but it makes us laugh every night. In our new Liturgy of the Hours, I suppose it’s somewhere between Vespers and Compline, a sweet funny blessing that rounds out our day and settles our moods for the coming sleep that will restore us and prepare us for another day of mystery, tears, and the laughter that keeps us mindful and balanced.

May joy be always at the ready for you. May you cry when tears are appropriate and find your way back to laughter and the comfort provided by beloved companions, friends, and the solace of memories no darkness, sorrow, or fear can ever dim. 

And may the surprising evolution of your hair growth provide endless entertainment. (“Laugh-cry!™”)

It’ll all work out, my friends; all shall be well.

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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.

Beloved

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Was I seven years old that summer?
Younger when first we met,
but that seventh summer,
during the annual week of magic
(which meant going home, for Mama,
grandparent love for us children),
we met again, and
I was changed forever.

The memory shimmers in dusklight, or just before…
Birdsong signaling the end of day,
time for homecoming, swallows swept
back to the nest for feathered embraces
and nighttime stories.

Dreams.

And I see us together,
walking up the country road
to St. Scholastica, the church
where everything that mattered
happened.

Not Mass, some other holy obligation,
some late-day benediction called the adults,
in summer dresses and suits
to gather, genuflect, pray,
singing softly
to the summer eve
and their god beyond.

Candles and frankincense
a century of church perfumes
and questions
settled, somnolent.

And a voice I knew and didn’t
called me outside, unusual–
a young girl in a Catholic church
leaving,
but I did. 

You were singing
an evensong that sounded
more like god,
and knew my name.

Down the long aisle
through the heavy doors
down the steep impediment of steps
and
finally, to the green hill,
the roses and pine trees,
the grotto of Mary
and the children of Fatima,
white statues bathed in the rosegold of
a setting sun.

Were the fireflies flashing
in the twilight? There is the
memory of light,
dancing,
calling me to dance.

And I threw out my arms
to take you in
and I ran and ran,
perhaps I flew like swallows
round the hill,
round Mary and the happy children
(maybe they joined the dance),
and round the sheltering pines,
I ran,

never so alive
in every pulsing cell,
beneath emerging swirling stars,
I ran, dancing,
my small energy
safe and free in yours,
vast and infinite.

I, perfectly
young enough
to surrender to mystery,
old enough
to promise my heart
forever.

You, around me,
beside me,
the scent of pine and roses,
music of crickets, owls, toad songs,
night breeze brushing leaves

All of us–everything–
breathing in you,

I had never felt such wild joy,
running, held, smiled upon
all the tiny stars within exploding…
ecstasy, the saints have called it,
but to me
it was a yearning satisfied
forever.

And in all the days since, my god
and you, my sweet
and sacred earth,
have been my life:
present, not beyond,
but merged,
holy,
the one I call
beloved.

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Happy Earth Day to you, a celebration first initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson, from the state of Wisconsin, USA, one of the people from my home state, like Georgia O’Keefe, John Muir (whose family moved here from Scotland), Aldo Leopold, and others, whose love for the Earth changed the way we see and care for her.  May we honor their legacies by supporting their efforts.

No other name is more associated with Earth Day than that of Gaylord Nelson (1916–2005). After returning from World War II, Nelson began a career as a politician and environmental activist that was to last the rest of his life. As governor of Wisconsin, he created an Outdoor Recreation Acquisition Program that saved about one million acres of parkland. He was instrumental in the development of a national trails system (including the Appalachian Trail) and helped pass the Wilderness Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other landmark environmental legislation. He is perhaps best known as the founder of Earth Day, which has become an international celebration of all things environmental.

(https://www.thoughtco.com/environmentalists-you-should-know-1709040)

 

 

© 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.

 

 

 

Things Yet Remarkable

And there is nothing left remarkable
Beneath the visiting moon.
~ William Shakespeare
Antony and Cleopatra, Act 4; Scene 15

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Last week, after more than a month of quarantine, I didn’t know if the viral curve had flattened as hoped, but my mood and affect certainly required more effort to animate from completely flat to something more rounded. 

Variety–in meals, activities, location, and expectations–seemed nonexistent. It was depressing to realize there’s no horizon we look to where goals, travels, or visits from friends await our plans to draw nearer. The calendar is bare. Appointments and dates we’d looked forward to are crossed out or deleted, except for birthdays, when we send electronic cards. 

It’s too soon to turn soil and spend days in the gardens. Bird nests are everywhere established and tended, so there are signs of hope and renewal, but last week they felt outside of me, happily progressing without my participation.

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I generally wake up early and happy, but there were mornings the oppression pressed in before I got out of bed; the suffering and anger in the world and the unanswered questions that are corralling all of our lives into small, contained spaces and weighting them with too much that is unknown, seemed beyond my powers of adaptation and adjustment.

I thought of Cleopatra’s lines, quoted above. “And there is nothing left remarkable/Beneath the visiting moon.” Looking ahead, I saw only blank pages, dull routines, nothing at all. My hope tank was closing in on empty.

There are books to read, and art to make, and comforting movies to watch; there are video calls and long e-mails; there are ways to connect and to feed our spirits, but to say we don’t feel stress, grief, anxiety, or fear is to deny the reality of the pandemic’s toll and unfair to the feelings we feel. Several friends I’ve spoken to recently have listed all their blessings and acknowledged them gratefully, and then guiltily, apologetically, said they “shouldn’t” also have crying jags, blue days, and sleep disturbances. Compared to other people’s experiences of the pandemic, they shouldn’t struggle with their own.

What we don’t need to do is “should” on ourselves. We’re all where we are, and wherever that is, we can’t escape the challenges and stresses we have to face when life shifts this dramatically, everywhere, all at once. It’s an important part of our rebalancing and continual healing to allow our sadness and fear their space and their time on the stage. 

But I was getting lost in my low place, and searching for signposts that would point me back to joy wasn’t yielding results. I tried to stay awake, to keep the eyes of my heart open, but…nada.

One day, I exited the shower, donned my robe and actually wondered if I should stay in it all day. Why the heck not? Who would care? Deadly words, I know; we should always care while we’re living the gift of our lives. But that’s the point. What was beginning to feel like endless nothing was threatening my desire (and my responsibility) to care.

So, imagine my surprise when I entered the bedroom and met this visitor, face-to-face:

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She was not pecking her way through the yard below, but stunningly perched on the second floor deck railing, peering into the bedroom window where she remained, confidently preening and posing for her close-ups for almost half an hour before she hopped down and flew away. What a perfectly strange, funny, and intimate experience, as though designed just for me (it was, I know), to call me back to life.

The next morning, feeling more content, I sat at my desk to write. Phillip had been working in his woodshop all week, creating something beautiful from scraps of wood. Despite quarantine, people continue to contact him about making this or that, and creating these items allows him hours of occupation and joy, for which I am grateful. At any rate, oblivious to everything around me as I am when I’m writing, I paused to make a cup of tea. I entered the kitchen and stopped in my tracks when I saw a new worktable, with shelves for cookbooks and topped with an inlaid piece of marble that I’ve used for pastry and candy for 40 years. Phillip had found some gorgeous quarter-sawn oak, created and put the table in place, placed a new raw-edged walnut cutting board on top, and stocked it with our cookbooks and rolling pins without my hearing or knowing a thing.

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Purely gift, the turkey hen lifted me out of my tightened circle of self-concern and brought my attention back to the ever-changing world around me. She renewed my hope; her time with me made me forget everything else but the delight the world offers, if we keep looking. If we care.

Purely gift, Phillip created a beautiful and useful piece for our home–a treasure, to me–out of scraps and in the midst of dark days of confinement. This act of creativity and love renewed my hope. Kindness matters. Using our gifts for others matters. We’re here to call others back to life through our gifts. If we care.

These surprises taught me lessons I’ve learned, and forgotten, and have learned yet again, dim student that I can be: When we use our gifts, no matter their size or level of artistry, for others’ joy, healing, and delight, we are saying yes to our part of the Great Love that called us into being and asks only this of us: to love back, to create, to make joy and be gift regardless of anything else the world throws at us. 

Love is eternal; pandemics are not. Peace is our home; sorrow and grief are spaces we must tend, but peace is where we all deserve to live. And, when the dark days overwhelm us–and they can–the path back to peace is to notice and engage with the ways our gifts can serve others and the world. 

And to see, gratefully, how others are gifting us, always.

Gift is what keeps the world and our lives remarkable. 

Look for it; see it; be it.

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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.

Peregrinatio

 

Spring Trail Blossoms

Long ago, pilgrims set out,
following paths
the saints had created,
for days, or months, or years,
seeking answers already known
but hidden.

Without, within,
a journey of love and mystery
that every saint must take.

If we walk in their steps,
praying their prayers,
stopping at this bush, or that mountain,
here on this road, or there, at the inn…
If we genuflect now,
cross ourselves so,
sing the silvered psalms or hymns,
rest beneath this ancient oak…

Will we be enlightened?
Will we be forgiven?
Will lightning strike our muddled minds?
Will fire consume our darkened hearts,
convert, transform, renew us?

Will we be hallowed, too?
And how shall we be different?

The path is always here, before us,
the Sacred burns in all,
illuminating everything,
each moment, each encounter,
recreating, every breath,
if we agree to still, to open,
to listen,
and to love it all.

Without, within,
a journey of love and mystery
that every saint must take.

Pilgrims, always seeking,
stop and hear the answer:
you are known,
you are loved,
you are held;
since your moment
of genesis,
infinitely hallowed.

Now,
shine your saintly light.
Now,
sow love wildly,
erupt in joy,
dance with the gifts
you came to share,
here in the place
you are.

Garden chairs spring

 

© 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.

 

Take Heart

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I wanted to share this beautiful gift I received from a calligraphy artist, Cindi Kordell. I did nothing to deserve this; she used her art to create and share her stunning gift with a complete stranger.

I’m sharing it, in turn, to remind us all on days when we are low–and let’s admit we are all bobbing and rising with the news, and loss, and bits of hope, and flashes of light, and anxieties, and longing–on all these days, may we take heart from the truth that the world is drenched in grace. May we take time for gratitude.

The cameras may focus on the noisy, ignorant, and desperate, but outside the scope of the lens, there are hundreds of millions of us working in the world despite the risk: returning to ER’s and ICU’s to save lives and hold the dying; sorting and delivering mail; providing care in nursing facilities; cleaning hospitals and stores and public spaces that must remain open for  business; taking time to check-in with neighbors; loving our children; protecting our families; shopping for others; creating art; praying; hoping; and yes, welcoming strangers into our lives without question.

And, speaking of good in the world, in a recent post, I mentioned two young, talented women, on different continents, who asked if they could make films using the poem for the purpose of supporting a Covid-19-related charity. I invited them to work together. They, in turn, joined with other remarkable women around the globe and created this film, making its debut today:

Here is a story about its making and directing viewers to the important support of the UN Women COVID-19 Response: https://andthepeople.net

There are more of us than not, across the globe, offering our gifts to bless the world. And our power is greater than the darkness can dispel.

Take heart; keep sharing the energy of love… and never doubt that we are changing the world by doing so.

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”  ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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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.

Tikkun Olam

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Bright April morning
caught up with laundry
dogs walked and resting,
cats in their beds.

Pile of mending
yet to be tended,
pushed aside, sighing
mending could wait.

Blossoms still budded,
sky blue with promise,
enticing us out
to the gardens and yard…

Geosmin perfumes,
pulling us downward,
sorting detritus
winter had left.

I left you, wandering
stretching, inspecting
plants resurrecting
noticing nests…

Easing my heart,
gently releasing,
watching the river
sparkle and flow.

Long days of tension,
socially distant,
injuring hearts and
harboring hurts,

mild disagreements
flaring impatiently,
high winds and cold rains
faded away.

There you were, kneeling,
not planting, but weeping,
mourning a world that felt
out of control,

yet earth was singing
in cascades of birdsong
keeping her promise,
renewing green hope.

I knelt down beside you,
not weeping, but planting,
and soon we had
lettuce and spinach beds set.

It felt like the earth
might pardon our callousness,
longtime dismissive
rejection of gift…

She might yet forgive us
our blatant unfaithfulness
cruel abuses,
desertion, disdain.

She might love us back
into co-creativity,
becoming the lovers
we promised to be.

Walking together,
we smiled at the robin
flying with fibers
to strengthen her nest.

That afternoon,
I turned to the mending,
love demands tending,
promises kept.

© 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.

Messages

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And did you get the things you craved
to make your life complete?
Or did the visions change and shift
as days crept by
and eyes could see
the treasures
always here?

Then lift your hands in gratitude
and lift your heart in love
and see the blessings everywhere
you’d overlooked
or pushed aside
to reach for
empty things.

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This article, published on Medium (4/10/2020), by Julio Vincent Gambuto, addresses thoughts similar to those that led to this poem. A friend shared it with me this morning in blessed serendipity: https://forge.medium.com/prepare-for-the-ultimate-gaslighting-6a8ce3f0a0e0

I pray we’ll use this time to clarify our vision and make better choices regarding our energy, gifts, resources, social responsibilities, and the justice we offer all who share our earth. Everything doesn’t have to change; some things must. May we have wisdom to choose wisely. And then, when the time is back in joint, act.

 

© 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.

Candles in the Dark

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The overlay of tragic days
on those we know as holy
invites our hearts to listen
to stories shining light.

Our ancestors,
yearning for freedom,
waiting
while the Holy One
passed over and spared them;

Our ancestors,
huddled in helplessness,
weeping
while crucified mercy
awaited entombment;

Our ancestors,
searching the earth and stars,
wondering
when winter would leave them
and new life return;

Our ancestors,
families embracing,
hoping
in times dark and desperate
for safety and peace;

In mystery,
fragile and delicate,
learning
survival has always
depended on love.

Freedom came,
and mercy rose,
spring blossomed,
justice triumphed.

The story ends,
another starts,
inviting
transformation.

Every choice we make today
creates the living chapter
that passes on and offers hope–
or not–to those who follow;

We will adapt; we will endure;
we will survive this sorrow;
and we will add our wisdom
to stories shining light.

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Time to inquire within and honor my journey; I’ll be back next week. Joy to you, and gentle peace. May the promises and lessons of these holy days and this blessed season of renewal feed your spirit and gladden your heart.

 

© 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.

Metanoia

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We heard the sighs
release and rise
and then the spirits followed,
lifting lightly,
filling the sky,

hallowed lives left hollowed.

They rose and rose softly,
from crowded beds tended,
from havens for homeless souls
hidden from view,
from lonely chairs,
alleyways
voting booths,
deserts,
from highways and waysides

and holy week pews.

Shining and delicate
energy airborne,
they rose and kept rising,
their light flashed and played,
cradled on love and
fading, diminishing,
dearly departing

the mess that we’d made.

Sad questions haunted us,
hushed in new melodies,
carried on waves

from eternity’s sea:

Why did we give such weak men
our power?

Why must we, finally, die to be free?

Rising and rising,
breaths released, leave-taking,
farewells descending
we heard their last prayer
entreating, beseeching us,
one word,
the last word,
the spirits breathed

tenderly, borne on the air:

Change.

And we turned, and we turned
from the graveyards and grieving,
we healed with our neighbors,
our gifts,
and our earth.
We planted new gardens,
created bold visions,
infused them with justice,
and welcomed new birth.

 

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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 Long Haul

spring trail

Here we all are,
out of patience,
discontent.
Lives long spent in speed and ease,
with most desires seemly met and quickly,
now paused.

The holiday mood has passed.
The walls close in.
Frustration and weariness,
a trance of loss and loneliness
enfold our endless hours.

We are told to take heart;
these are uncharted paths we follow now.
No people have ever suffered so!
Be strong,
and our nobility
will lead us safely home.

But is that true?

Have others not undertaken
the long haul,
burdened with lives and dreams,
fleeing terror,
seeking peace?

Recall those drowned on riverbanks,
in crowded cities of flimsy tents,
in cages.

Haven’t they also been confined,
waiting long years
for welcome and communion?

For us, the long-haul paths of desperation are overgrown
by needs fulfilled,
consumption quickened and satisfied,
if not discerned… 

Not minding, for long, the misery
we’ve allowed
nor
the atonement owed.

My friends, we need the long haul before us
to teach us again
we are one people
on this charmed, neglected earth,
where dreams, and their attainment,
belong to all or none.

So let us proceed,
alone, awakened, united, 
on the long haul to healing,
renewed in love
and fueled by grace.

 

© 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.

Crisis Point

I am so angry, I am beyond furious. I am a volcano of rage. 

Ineptitude. Stupidity. Ignorance. Deceit. Greed: They’re not just winning; they’ve won, I think. The losses, the drowning, the panic, the fear, the flood of tears…so many deaths due to a lack of foresight and a rejection of plans that had been in place. Such great willingness on the part of what passes, absurdly, for leadership to sacrifice the innocent for political gain.

I think: We cannot turn away. We cannot abandon those in the hospitals and those responding to calls for help, those meeting the hurricane of suffering, tending this one, the next, the overflowing, unending need of fellow humans, each distinct, each with a story ending. Now. Gasping for air, suffocating on their own fluids.

I must watch the reports, listen to the stories, stand with these heroes, suffering beside them, feeling all the fear, the chaos, the pain, the infinite demand of their energy as they seek, beyond human endurance, to stay focused on the one person before them, while their companions falter, drop, and die. I must share their helplessness. I must take responsibility for the inability to stem the tide of horror. I must not turn away. What right have I to rest when they cannot?

I do not know what to do with this rage and sadness…

And I am so ready to hate and to desire the obliteration of those whose ignorance has led us to this lack of preparation and ill-use of our intelligence, potential, and gifts. What we feared for years has happened, and there is no vindication.

And then I remember my mother, my darling Mama, sitting beside me, dying from the strain of heart failure and dialysis, after years of caring for my father following his own massive stroke. He had only recently died, and we hoped that now, in his release to peace, Mama would find some years of respite and joy, time to live without worry, to travel, visit friends and family, relax. But the years of stress had taken their toll on her health, as these things do, and now she faced her own death. 

And so, we sat together one afternoon after dialysis had left her exhausted, and I upended and over-spilled. I railed and wept and told her how outraged I felt at the unfairness of this outcome. She didn’t deserve this. 

And she turned to me, with such palpable kindness and love, and she assured me that my life would proceed and I would be O.K. Her faith, her set of beliefs, her long-lived years of sacrifice and loving had deepened her capacity to withstand and enter mystery. They had prepared her for dying with acceptance and peace. 

She said–and I’ve never forgotten this–that I had no idea what events and circumstances awaited those of us who would survive her loss. We could not know what suffering, what terrors, what evil might sweep across our lives, or the world, or how they would require our endurance, our strength, our love, and our gifts. She said it would be necessary to heal and to prepare our hearts, minds, and spirits to meet the challenges in our own lives with the best we could offer rather than face challenges weakened by unhealed grief or the anger we could summon regarding life’s inherently perceived unfairness.

And here we all are. At the crisis point of our lives. 

And I hear the echo of Mama’s words and think: I have to sacrifice my rage. I have to transform its energy into love and realize, once again, I’m being asked to stand by in the face of extraordinary suffering. I’m asked, again, to witness and support the hell faced by others: those in the hospitals and those at work in the world, while I remain in quarantine. 

I have to let go of the hatred I feel for those who have allowed this horror to widen and deepen and accelerate beyond what might have happened. I have to remain in isolation, guard my health, turn off the words that incite unrelieved anger and grief, and prepare. I have to turn from the televised terror and re-balance. They also serve who only stand and wait, said Milton. Can I find the gift in my impotence?

I am not a doctor, or a nurse, or a scientist, or a respiratory therapist. Those with these gifts are following the unselfish consequences of choosing to honor the calls they came to share.

I have other gifts. My job is to see where they can lead, and to be willing to use them when they are needed, however I can help, at whatever cost. My job today is to witness, to love, to wait, to stay healthy, to shine light, to acknowledge loss and suffering, to grieve, to rage and to let go of rage and see how life will endure. 

My job is to see that spring has come, that birds are singing, that green is returning, that light still shines, and to flash that back to the world and re-balance, even a little, the sorrow that could rob us of hope.

Many of us are at home, feeling powerless, but we’re not. We’re not. We can truly be “working from home.” We can hold in our hearts the memories of the greatness we’re witnessing all around the world. We can treasure and protect the promise of what we can become when the deep work of healing begins. We can consciously gestate the better creations we will offer the world when we are able to meet again and embrace, and the gifts we’ve fed are needed for nourishment.

We can begin learning how to surrender, how to transform hatred, grief, and anger into love. 

And this is our work, and this is why we are here, and this is what we offer the world at its crisis point, and when the crisis passes.

 

© 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.

 

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent

By: John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”