Christmas Presence

 

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It seems I fall more deeply in love with Malarky, as I do with each of my four-leggeds, every day. These tiny pulses of warm fur come into your life, and you feed them, and tend them, and hold them close, and then one day, mysteriously, you discover you are forever connected—rooms, or fields, or worlds apart.

Of course, love and laxity, tempting travel companions that they are, won’t help Malarky integrate peacefully into the family of people and cats he’s joined, so we continue (trying to) devote conscious time to his training, especially now that we’ve entered his, “No, I’m the boss” adolescence.  

He’s doing well-ish. 

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Yesterday, Malarky and I went on our first trip to the wonderful local dogpark complex. 60 acres have been subdivided and intentionally created for our 4-legged companions’ pleasure and learning, so I took him to one of the areas designated as a playspace for small dogs.

He tentatively explored this new world, looking to me for assurance that he truly could run free. We had the park to ourselves, cold and windy as the day was, and that seemed a good thing for his first adventure.

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Then, a very large woman entered the same playspace with her older schnauzer-terrier. The woman was bundled in a quilted down coat, gloves, scarf, and knit hat. All I could see of the person so thoroughly winter-wrapped were her smile and twinkling eyes behind shining glasses. She carried a book, so I greeted her and met “Dungee,” and then, sensing the woman’s desire for solitude, I turned my attention back to Mr. Malarky’s anxious attempts to befriend 12-year-old Dungee.

The older, bigger dog pursued his own interests, allowing Malarky to chase and sniff and run beside him. I watched and then relaxed as they played together.

My mistake.

A large-dog acreage runs adjacent to one side of the area where Malarky was playing, and it was beside this fence that Dungee’s Mom had chosen to sit at a picnic table, engrossed in her paperback. A huge hound walking with his person passed on the other side of the fence. He howled and bayed at Malarky and Dungee, who—of course—were between him and the reading woman. (I—of course—was a few acres away staring at a plant or who-knows what, pretending to be a photographer.)

The wailing dog and its proximity alarmed Malarky. I heard his little bark and turned to see him leap to the picnic table’s bench, then tabletop, then up the woman’s quilted down-swaddled shoulders, and, within seconds, to the crown of her wool-capped head, where he perched, clinging like a circus dog atop a rolling ball.

The woman was trying to reach him, wildly swinging her cushioned arms overhead, but Malarky dodged and clung, steadfast, as she flailed and twisted. I admit, I really wanted to take a picture, but propriety won out and I dashed across the field to retrieve my boy, apologizing profusely, and expecting outrage and a well-deserved dressing down for my negligence.

 But she just laughed and laughed.

Dogs’ companions are so often the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

After I’d detached Malarky from her skull and he’d run off with Dungee, we conversed for a while. She told me about her recent job loss, worries regarding employment, the apartment complex where she and Dungee live…her life sounded to be on the brink of imminent upheaval, but there she was, taking time to exercise her dog, sit and read, and laugh at the unexpected intrusions and circus acts life throws at us with regularity.

I drove home wiser and more chastened than any angry reprimand might have left me. Four-leggeds and their people have been some of my best teachers. What a blessing they have been to me, especially as I seem to need to relearn the most basic of life lessons over and over…

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I’ve been doing some spring winter housecleaning, I suppose because there are dandelions blooming, woolly caterpillars crawling, mosquitoes buzzing, and my lilacs are budding. We’ve had so much rain that the river’s overrun its banks, so it even looks like late April. My daily round is seasonally-confused.

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Anyway, sorting through china and glassware, family hand-me-downs, books, old craft tools, or works-in-progress that seem to be in eternal unfinished states…it’s hard to sever the memories and dreams with which these things are encrusted and infused, from the lifeless objects they actually are. Am I giving away my family and personal treasures, or can I keep the treasure in my heart and give away the things?

Letting go of things is easier, I find, if I take the time to hold each item or box that presents a struggle, and allow it to conjure the times and places it evokes. Just to sit with the images and the feelings, set the objects down, and realize the images and feelings are still “there,” within, is helpful. Then, I imagine a new family enjoying these things, creating their own happy memories. It’s a tiny ritual of farewell that tangibly and emotionally reorders my sense of ownership. The memories are always mine; the object needn’t be.

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I’ve also been baking, and cooking, and candy-making, as though I were expecting a family that could populate a small country for the holidays, when really, a few friends and family members are passing through. Examining what’s fueling this bustle, I discovered I’m again trying to conjure the people and feelings of 1950-or-60-something, because everything precious that Christmas has come to mean for me involves those people and those memories.

On our way to the dogpark, an old Christmas song and the gray, cold day so vividly brought my childhood winters to mind that I could feel my parents and brothers beside me and almost had to pull the car over to let the sweet yearning and memories settle.

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So, I was blessed to meet the down-coated woman and Dungee. (It’s interesting how we dogpark people know each other’s 4-leggeds’ names, but rarely each other’s.)

The encounter was pure gift, reminding me that attentive presence to the moment I’m in is where the magic and joy of life generate. If you consider the creation of your life an art and yourself its artist (as I do), then what is there but the present and what we make of it? Love only happens, only comes alive, in the present, which seems the elemental lesson of Christmas. Love this moment for the gift it is.

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And then set it down and create the best of the next. Now, now, and now. There’s the treasure of life, right there, right here.

I wish you Christmas presence and—if you’re lucky—the four-leggeds (and their people) to keep you in it, always.

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 Many of us, at least internally, do not live in the here-and-now. We are consumed with what was or with what might be. A great deal of the spiritual anguish we experience is because we are not content to be, to live in the present. We are of the present, but not in it. It is by attentiveness in the present moment that we encounter God. ~ Bonnie Thurston, To Everything a Season: A Spirituality of Time

I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.   ~ Abraham Maslow

Not the attendance of stones, nor the applauding wind, shall let you know you have arrived. Nor the sea that celebrates only departures, nor the mountains, nor the dying cities. Nothing will tell you where you are. Each moment is a place you’ve never been. You can walk believing you cast a light around you. But how will you know? The present is always dark. Its maps are black, rising from nothing, describing, in their slow ascent into themselves, their own voyage, its emptiness, the bleak temperate necessity of its completion. As they rise into being they are like breath. And if they are studied at all it is only to find, too late, what you thought were concerns of yours do not exist. Your house is not marked on any of them, nor are your friends, waiting for you to appear, nor are your enemies, listing your faults. Only you are there, saying hello to what you will be, and the black grass is holding up the black stars. ~  Mark Strand, Black Maps (adapted from the blank-verse original)

Live in the present. Do the things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold.  ~Peace Pilgrim

Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. Why? Because it is all we ever have.  ~ Pema Chödrön

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.  ~Thomas Merton

The slow life allows for the release of anxiety, to better focus on the gifts this fantastical moment offers. Choosing to go with mystery’s flow makes the present our continual destination. ETA: Now. No point in resisting what is. Gardening—and life—are always co-created with the surprises Spirit and nature offer; the best we can do is bring attitudes of joy and gratitude to the journey. Hospitality isn’t just something we offer guests; we can offer it to every moment of our lives. Hello! What have you come to teach me?  ~ Catherine O’Meara

 

© 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 Catherine O’Meara’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.

Missing Snow

WM of a certain age ISO precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapor of the air at a temperature of less than 32°F (0°C). Have depended upon our seasonal LTR for stillness, creativity, winter pursuits and your VGL appeal. Life dull W/O you. Not yet WTR; please come home; all will be 4/given… 

(For decoding, see: http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/onlinepersonalsabbreviations.asp)

Though the weather at Full Moon Cottage has been cold for two days, the winter thus far has yielded only ice-covered earth, driveways, sidewalks, and trails, but alas, no snow, except for brief wannabe snowfalls that tease and tempt, and quickly melt. So far.

Bi-pedal navigation has become tricky, especially if two 50-pound 4-leggeds are blithely dancing across a ballroom-sized driveway of glass, pulling Crazy-Legs-Me behind them. That I’ve managed to remain generally upright can only be attributed to grace and Irish luck. Again.

The forecast holds no indication that things will change, except that the ice will melt when the temperatures again begin courting the 40° range, and then mockingly vacillate up and down, but never quite allow for snow. Yet.  

In a day or two, the trail will be the muddy mess we expect in April, and the green grass and gardens will wonder where their cozy blanket is hiding, inhibiting their necessary winter nap. For now.

I have no doubt we’ll have our snow, as I’ve been reviewing logs and calendars and discovered quite a few “snow days” these past few years have occurred in February, but until then, I return to photographs of snow from past winters, let my spirit enter them, breathe, and feel somewhat consoled. One day my love will return. Sigh.

 

© 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.

A Winter Carol

One snowy day a few years ago I was walking down the trail with Riley and Clancy when a melody came into my head. Five miles later, I’d composed a winter carol that communicates what the season means to me, and after this morning’s lovely sunrise over the snow-frosted hills and ice-glazed river, it feels like a good day to share it with you…

 Peace to your day.

 

 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.

Chorus:

No one is a stranger;

Nothing’s here by chance.

All of life is welcome

In the holy 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.

 Chorus:

 

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.

Chorus:

 

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

Living an Enchanted Life

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight;

Make me a child again, just for tonight.

~ Elizabeth Allen, Rock Me to Sleep

Every day during the Advent Season, my mother would hang a Christmas ornament or set out a different decoration. When we came home after school, my brothers and I excitedly searched the house, trying to be the first to find some new Santa, elf, or angel.

Our stockings were hung on December 5th, St. Nicholas Eve, with letters for Santa earnestly describing our wishes, and we always received one little gift from St. Nick in return, along with a letter written in his elegant script. (Our imaginations were fully capable of conflating and separating St. Nicholas and Santa Claus as necessary; one is the other, after all, and “both” had a role in the seasonal flow that came to be our highly anticipated magical routine.) We were extra careful to behave during the weeks leading to Christmas as well, certain that elves were recording our every move. Once or twice, we woke up to find a lump of coal or a willow switch in our stocking, as symbolic warnings that we’d failed to be kind to each other, or we’d find an orange or chocolate to reward us for extra-generous choices.

We always had an Advent wreathe and crèche set out; the infant Jesus couldn’t appear till Christmas Eve after Midnight Mass, and then the Wise Men had to start parading from some distance, another room perhaps, until they arrived at the manger on the Epiphany which, in those days, was always January 6th.  As they got older, my brothers liked to rearrange the animals and vary the positions of the wise men, usually in extremely unenlightened ways, to my mother’s annoyance (and perhaps secret delight, for this, too, became family tradition).

The energy of these memories, rituals of wonder, and charming customs circles around my heart as I set out my own decorations and tree, reconfiguring traditions into shapes that fit our beliefs and lives now, but also offering blessing and gratitude for the wonder, the love, and the gift of enchantment our parents gave us, especially during this beautiful season of darkness and renewal. Today, I placed one of Mama’s old Santas on a copper rooster weather vane I gave to my parents many, many years ago. The juxtaposition made me yearn so deeply for their presence that I cried.

I’m one of those fortunate people who can say I had a wonderful childhood, in large part due to my parents’ sense of fun and willingness to be the architects of a home that was safe, loving, and committed to our opportunities to actually have childhoods within set and known boundaries. Television wasn’t prominent enough to rob us of our imaginations and books were plentiful. When we were very young we were read to once or twice a day and when we started school, we’d come home at lunch and often hear another chapter or fairy tale. I never doubted the “truth” of these tales and have since discovered that, of course, they are true, and in our lives, we play and encounter most of the characters, at one time or another.

I’ve been reflecting on the “enchantment” of my childhood this week, as I’ve been re-reading Thomas Moore’s The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, along with Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment.

While Bettelheim focuses on fairy tales’ deeply important contributions to a child’s psychological health and development, Moore reminds us that every aspect of our daily lives deserves to be grounded in the enchantment granted by a spirit-infused perspective. 

Too many of our homes, workplaces, churches, schools, political institutions and lives are completely bereft of reverence for the spirit and thus, they render days of drudgery and unimaginative perspectives. When we live unenchanted with life, the world offers only stale inhalations of fetid air and exhalations of futility. The spirit shrivels.

At my core, I believe life is enchanting, and I know this is because of my parents and the childhood I was gifted. As an adult, I’ve done my share of stumbling; like everyone, I’ve suffered and caused the suffering of others due to choices that strayed from my inherent soul-truths. At times, I’ve followed paths that silenced my spirit and guided me solely by desire and ego gratification. As I reflect on these choices and times, I can see they corresponded to periods when I lost touch with the enchantment every moment offers. If that sense of enchantment is present and alive, we carry life with greater reverence and acknowledge its value as precious and unique.

My mother made every holiday special and every day holy; I miss her light always but more dearly during this sweet time of year. I miss my childhood family— our stories, our ability to nestle within reliable routines and exciting fantasies, and the annual re-enactments of our rituals. I miss my childhood, but what a lovely reminder this offers to infuse life—right now— with an enchanted perspective, so I don’t “miss” my adulthood as well.

I can’t “be a child again,” but I can nourish my spirit by seeking, with child-like openness to enchantment and wonder, the light that is always present in darkness, and by holding in my heart the certainty that Love is always advancing towards us, with arms wide open, inviting us into its enchanting embrace.

May this be a season of love, peace, insight, and enchantment for you and those you love.

And don’t forget to hang your stockings!

 

© 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.

Lessons From Trees

November brings greater austerity to the trail, revealing deeper truths than October, with its showy colors and garments of leaves. Now the leaves have been shed and blown away, trampled, soaked by days and nights of rain and dried to a silky, papery brown. The trees appear stark; nature’s bones are revealed at this time of year. 

The sandhill cranes and Canada geese are leaving us in large flocks, calling to each other, gathering incoming members, gaining altitude, and heading south. This morning, we watched 4 more flocks of sandhill cranes whirlipping and flapping in long-necked V’s to their sun-warmed southern destination. I felt a pull in the heart, a sense of abandonment, that severance of presence and connection so vital to relationship, the energetic downturn felt at every parting.

Riley, Clancy, and I paused on our walk to mark this wild calling, this meeting and leave-taking that excluded us entirely. We are foreign to this migration, yet connected by our call to witness, and moved to bless the journey of tribes not our own. We silently raised our eyes to watch the crane exodus. The strenuous exertion of their 6-foot wingspans beat the air in choreographed and ancient rhythms, carrying them away from us.

I raised my arm. Be safe; be well; see you in the spring…

They reached the horizon’s vanishing point and all three of us took a collective breath.

They are gone. We remain. The grief of parting and the agony of separation are the way of the world, says a Japanese proverb.

 So we stood on the bridge, left alone to face winter’s black and white world, its and icy blue sparks and amethyst shadows …and then we headed down the trail in silence. 

Our faithful companions, the wooded community of trees, border our path and arch overhead, forming the ribbed vault of our sanctuary. They stand naked and beautiful by mid-November, exuding their grounded grace and humility, just as they wear their spring, summer, and autumn colors—their annual parade of lacy, lush, and dramatic wardrobes—with that same sense of acceptance.

Their reliable presence is comforting. I know their shapes and places, and have learned the names of many of those we pass each day. (Trees do speak if we’re still enough to listen and hear.) And so we walked along, and exchanged our breaths with the trees, and they taught me again what it means to be authentic, to flow with the changes and losses life presents rather than oppose nature or resist change.

Our world and everything in it is transitory, elusive, and impermanent. We will lose the companions, places, and things we love. We will die. Every moment, things change.

Tolstoy, troubled by suffering and loss, pondered the proper response. “What then must we do?” I studied the trees. The one we call mother has died. She used to have three arms crooked out at right angles from her trunk and lifted up towards the sky. She has one breast, marking her as one who suffered, survived, and endured. Passing seasons have left her trunk cleaved fore and aft, right down her center, her third eye now allowing daylight to blaze through, her one remaining arm yet raised, and her ghostly presence still imposing, harboring the spirit of these woods. Even when I’m deep in thought, her voice calls to me and signals our connection. She reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s wisdom that, “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”

The Japanese proverb doesn’t encompass the whole story. There is more to the way of the world than the grief of parting and agony of separation. There is renewal; there is constant co-creation; there is reconnection; there is the mystery and miracle of this moment. Where parting has occurred, there is hope of reunion. And always, there can be gratitude.

How we respond to life is our choice and it is powerful in the way it affects us and everyone with whom we connect. Trees always appear to be raising their limbs in praise of what is. They appear grateful; they catch and release their blessings lightly. Clothed in the promise of spring or the bareness of winter, they remain unwavering in their peaceful acceptance of now. Here is a practice I can imitate when I feel weighed by resistance to change and loss, tied to my grief rather than my healing, burdened by the invitation to grow: I can raise my spirit in gratitude for what is.

And so I will joyfully welcome home those I love this Thanksgiving, be a witness to their stories, grateful for their lives, and present to our time together, rather than grieve that it must pass. And if they glance back when they leave, they’ll see my arm raised in blessing. Like my friends, the trees, I’ll praise what is, celebrate gratitude, and catch and release my blessings lightly.

Be safe; be well. Merry meet, merry part, with an ever-grateful heart; may we merry meet again.

Joy to your Thanksgiving.

 

Rooted Being

 The tree exists in joy,

In quiet fullness, fully here.

The seed scarified, fire-born sapling

Down-bowing to the gift of now;

Refuting reason’s bright summation

Stating why it should not be.

There are storms, we know,

That sever seed from root,

And rot, disease, and pests,

That winnow life’s possibilities.

And yet this tree is.

It lives. It grows.

It bends, weighted by guests who have

Come, weary-winged and

Welcomed.

It is.

A harbor, humbly homeward-leaning,

Called by its life-light,

Reaching for Love’s elsewhere-music,

Dancing, improvised and graceful,

To measures not its own:

Gaining, straining, losing,

Staying.

Breathing.

Season-riding,

Branches rising, turning, reaching—

Life falls back to earth again.

Wild winds, small rain, fierce light, dry limbs,

Dying—

Yet, see! Greening, newly-dew-drenched,

Praise-sap climbs

From faithful roots,

To branches raised in Yes and

O, see, it is

Joyful.

Yielding.

Still.

For in all our winters, Love

Whispers 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.

Slow-Life, St. Vinnie’s, and Glorious Views

From the beginning of our relationship, Phillip and I agreed with Socrates’ belief that the unexamined life is not worth living. Accruing wealth has never been our goal. We chose careers that combined our perceived gifts and interests with an aim to contribute something of value to our society. We didn’t earn advanced degrees, again and again, to “make more money,” but to contribute deeply and effectively to the common good.

Teaching, and then, for me, chaplaincy, allowed us to pay bills, own a home, and manage a comfortable life, but not without foregoing material goods we’re told are “necessary” for modern life. We’ve never driven new or nearly-new cars; most of our clothes and a lot of our home decor have come from St. Vincent de Paul, rummage sales, and antique stores. We grow a lot of our food and support local farmers. We still haven’t made it to Europe. We don’t have state-of-the art anything.

I don’t put this forth as a morally superior lifestyle (although I do endorse a consciously encountered and morally-driven life); this is the life we have chosen, but also one I believe other people have chosen and may increasingly choose as well, contrary to life-as-depicted by our media. We all know people who love their careers and contentedly work away from home long hours to pursue them, but I have known more people who resent the long hours and overbooked calendars today’s employers demand.

To be fair, when Phillip and I learned we could not have the children we dearly wanted, we were also able to live without the financial worries of raising a family (although, over the years, we’ve invited many 4-legged companions into our lives, and their comfort, health and medical care can be rather pricey at times). So, we’ve always managed to “get by” financially, again, like most people in our country.

Our recent decision to halve our income so I could stay home to write, coupled with the current Depression (whatever the happy, false, “spin-name” for it might be) however, has made life a bit more dicey and precarious, especially since the remaining steady wage-earner in our family is a Wisconsin public-school teacher. Healthcare and pensions will only become increasingly conspicuous concerns as we age.

So, we sift through the repercussions and inherent sacrifices of this choice and monitor our purchasing and planning frequently. How can we cut our expenses a bit more and throw a few more dollars into savings? Will anybody appreciate my writing enough to pay for it? Should Phillip take another remodeling job this winter and how could I best help him complete it? What would indicate it’s time for me to return to working for a steady income? Should we downsize and sell Full Moon? If so, where should we move?

I have a feeling a lot of people are living with similar questions these days.

What we’ve learned, so far, is that living a “slow life” is challenging but possible for us, and deepens our experience of life and each other considerably, given our definition of “life’s meaning,” which is to consciously nurture and value our relationship with each other, family, friends, our 4-legged companions, and our land.

Certainly, the 4-leggeds have greater companionship and a better quality of life. Phillip now comes home to…well, a home, instead of another workplace where tasks have mounted during long workdays and work weeks spent earning income to pay for a lifestyle we never, really, experience. The shopping’s done, the house is clean (enough), the laundry’s finished, a welcoming meal has been prepared and the dogs are walked and sitting near me instead of in their kennels from 7 AM till one of us gets home at night. We can all relax, sit together, share our day’s stories, and enjoy our nighttime hours without tedious distractions and the interruptions of necessary chores.

The benefits for me are rich. I take daily walks on the trail, write, cook, breathe with the 4-leggeds, and do all of this in the silence my spirit needs to listen and create. I sit with the sunrise and watch the hawks hunt; life isn’t something that will happen some day; I’m “in it” now. I don’t mind housework; it facilitates my meditation and helps me work through writing blocks and tricky plots.

We’re edging along a tenuous and precarious tightrope, but the view is glorious.

Slow-living is not for everyone, but I can only emphasize that—even if available only for a time—its rewards are deeply healing and wonderful for the spirit. It makes me observe more critically our society’s mad consumerism, which creates ever-increasing demands on our time and the pace with which we move through it.

Life presents constant choices and those choices circle around and become the architecture of our life. I’m here to say it’s possible to pause, to say no, to retreat, to do with less, to cut back on hours given to accruing money and to give them back to yourself and those you love.

It’s possible to breathe with the sunrise instead of hurtling away from it, battling your way down a highway to a job that devours more of your spirit than it feeds.

See ya at St. Vinnie’s.

 

© 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.

 

 

Recall and Kitchen Wisdom: Creating a Table Where all are Welcome

The one area of domestic creativity that has intrigued me from an early age has been anything connected to cooking and baking. My mother was very capable in the kitchen, but didn’t enjoy her time there; I speculate this was largely because producing family meals day in and day out without much of a break became a dull routine. I recall her deep pleasure in my father’s midlife interest in gourmet cooking, and the way it freed up her weekends so she could relax and enjoy time away from the kitchen.

One glorious Christmas, Santa brought me an Easy-Bake Oven, with its miniature stove, pans, utensils, and boxed mixes. It conjured little layer cakes, muffins, and quick breads through the magical heat of a light bulb. It entertained me and kept my brothers content for a few minutes after the Lilliputian cakes were frosted, but I soon tired of putzing around on such a small scale: I wanted to enter the arena of the real kitchen and manipulate the enchantment of chemistry on a grander and more sophisticated stage.

My mother was only too happy to encourage this, and I am eternally grateful for the trust and freedom she granted me as she left the room with her own pile of books and a sigh of contentment.

Her list of rules was brief. She expected me to clean up whatever mess I created, which I thought a fair exchange for the pleasure provided, for creation—both the birth and death necessary for it to occur—is a messy affair indeed. She also asked that I share my results with my brothers, which taught me that while indulging one’s creativity is vital, the sharing of one’s creation, art, and self is the purpose.

I’ve been pondering these lessons lately, as I return to the kitchen with the great excitement of holiday baking adventures, new recipes, and family gatherings tantalizing my imagination. I love all the seasons, but there is none better for me than that grand culinary and guest-welcoming stretch of the calendar year between October and January. Friends, family, food and its accompaniments: what’s better? Imagining how this or that creation will please someone we love is a lovely impetus for our artistic endeavors.

And so, in the kitchen, I still create wildly and clean the mess as I go along, and I still—mostly—share what I create. I’ve been wondering lately, though, if I apply these rules as wisely to the rest of my pursuits in the grander and more sophisticated arena of life outside of my kitchen.

It is no secret that Wisconsin, the state where I have lived most of my life, is experiencing a political crisis and that divisive laws, choices, and use of power have been more in evidence this past year. We are living through an intensely concentrated and tempestuous version of the larger international and national socio-political chaos that is the hallmark of our time, and there are days I can enter the fray with energy and clear vision, and others, when I desire silence, peace, and a Canadian refuge. Life and choices are not black and white, as they were when I was younger; they are rather a formless gray and we are invited, especially in a representative democracy (if we truly are that anymore), to co-create our society’s shapes and patterns, institutions and laws, taxes and their use…and we are expected to participate fully in the operation and integrity of these systems, ensuring that our creation is fashioned to include and honor everyone justly.

I am filled with doubt when asked to support an “us/them” mentality, and yet the divisions between the opposing political worldviews seem more and more distinct, and I am increasingly unable to perceive enough common ground where I may stand and hold hands with those on either side of the arguments. I am concerned that all of us are creating messes without attending to them and have no well-formulated plan for how our new creations will be shared among all the state’s, or country’s, or world’s residents, including the non-human.

I fear we may act without forethought, fueled by anger and reactive impulses rather than reason and compassion. How will we reconstitute the relationships we are dissolving and repair the connections we have destroyed? How will those we oppose be invited to contribute their gifts if we become the party in power? How are we living into the change we desire?

It seems the earth is straining more violently these days, and the hope flickering at my core is that these are birth pangs as well as death cries, and that the spirit of love is present, working earnestly to help us midwife a time of greater peace and equity among all earth-dwellers. I can’t go on without such hope, despite the preponderant evidence that we never, really, learn how to accept and love the stranger.

Hate is a dangerous fuel, energizing and strengthening a journey of division. It can change the faces of power without altering the balance. Discord is not a reliable or sustainable diet. And I cannot be fooled into believing myself, and therefore my pursuits and methods, any less selfish and partisan than those with whom I disagree. Listening, reflection, and circumspection are more important practices than ever.

I’m trying a new recipe today and as excited as ever about creating something new and sharing it with those I love.

Tomorrow I will sign a petition that seeks to recall our current governor.

May we proceed cautiously and with mindfulness regarding the energetic sources that inspire and motivate us; may we take time to tend to our messes as we go along; and may we finally create a life-giving system for governance served at a table where all are welcome and all are fed.

 

© 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.

 

Love and Healing on 24 Legs

I’ve been recovering from eye surgery this past week, which–so far–seems to have replaced double vision with single vision and welcome clarity.

The physical pain has been minimal, despite my resemblance to Oedipus (after the truth is known), Mr. Rochester (after the fire), and Suzanne Pleshette (after the birds). Despite their terrifying appearance, though, my eyes really don’t hurt a lot from the surgery itself, but become sore from exposure to light and from trying to focus on anything too intently for longer than a few minutes.

The wounding-to-be-healed that is the essence of surgery requires long hours of being still, resting, and, for me, lying in a darkened room for the desired healing to actually occur. The radio has been a comforting distraction and the length and frequency of my meditation time has been invited to grow, but the hours tick by slowly and enforced disengagement from activities that offer pleasure and invite me into the daily round is difficult to sustain with equanimity.

Phillip, hesitantly gauging my relative coherence and mobility as functional, returned to school with my blessing the day after my surgery. I had a burst of “well, this isn’t so bad” energy, and, quite overjoyed with my restored sight (slightly blurred by antibiotic ointment), darted around the house cleaning, answering e-mail, starting a load of laundry, bumping into walls, and predictably falling into bed about 9:00 that morning, thoroughly exhausted.

Whatever residual general anesthetic had borne me aloft with such energy and enthusiasm had exited my bloodstream completely, and I crashed into my pillow, leaking pink tears and feeling quite defeated and pathetic.

I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing, trying to center my runaway thoughts and connect with my unsettled spirit. Gradually, but perceptibly, I felt an energy shift within and around me. The 4-leggeds had slowly crept into my room, one by one, and in silent communion, began to offer their comforting presence and peace. Clancy, the sweet gentle boy who normally follows my every step around the house, positioned himself beside me and near my heart, while his sister Riley kept her vigil by the window, always watchful in her natural role as the family guardian. The cats, Finnegan, Murphy, Mulligan, and Fiona, jumped up and nestled around me, joining Clancy and Riley, and enclosing me within their circle of love.

It felt as though I surrendered my otherness and separateness; my energy merged with theirs, and we rested in stillness together for hours that day, and have shared more “circles of love” throughout the week. Their selfless, peaceful presence has allowed me to relax deeply, and has revealed connections more profound than the limiting imagery of words allows me to corral and convey. This is a different experience from that of a “shared nap” with my animals; it has felt more like a deep knowing, alive and actively present, is passing between us. Sharing loving energy with them this way has been one of the most healing experiences of my life, both surprising and humbling in its renewal of my spirit.

Gratitude has been my dominant feeling in response to the restoration of my vision; I am thankful for the surgeon, certainly, and even more grateful for the healing presence and care provided by Phillip, who has patiently tended to my pain, clumsiness, and craving for chocolate chip cookies. Family and friends have called, and sent notes, and e-mailed love and encouragement, reminding me of their individual and collective dearness in my life.

But it is the holy tending of the 4-leggeds that has most unexpectedly gifted my heart with healing this past week. Their deep sense of authentic presence has brought me to a stillness that is new and lovely. However transitory this level of stillness and awareness may prove to be, my animal companions have contributed to my lasting healing and spiritual growth; that is certain. I have learned that there are burdens we are able to release under the influence and presence of 4-legged companions that language cannot touch and physicians cannot prescribe.

It is good to be reminded of our dependency and individual frailty, at times. It is so easy to believe we are, as we imagine, the single-minded, autonomous architects of our lives. The ego drives the engine so effortlessly, until our genuine vulnerability reveals our inherent need for connection and care. I feel blessed to once again clarify my place within creation’s web of giving and receiving, with an emphasis, for now, on receiving.

It is frightening but necessary for us humans to fall, over and over, and be caught by Love. And it is always surprising what shape Love will assume. An infant, a friend, a husband, a teacher, a garden, a work of art…or this time, for me, two dogs and four cats in a darkened room made light by our shared and holy energy.

 

© 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.

Nest-Building at the Spirit Level

I love solving design puzzles and enjoy all the creative challenges that go into arranging and decorating a space to make it both comfortable and unique. Home-making, nest-building, dream-tending: for me, it’s all part of accepting that everywhere is a sacred space. It helps that Phillip can build anything I can imagine, and can also out-imagine me. Full Moon Cottage was a disaster when we bought it, but the stunning land and thin-place energy captured our hearts within moments of stepping on the ground. We knew we could do the work that would make it a home where family and friends could gather and celebrate. 

And so walls came down; windows went in; floors were replaced; trim was added; paint was applied. (And reapplied. And again.) The bathroom was stripped down and replaced. Phillip built cabinets and an island for the kitchen, and then a pantry, a hutch, and a buffet. He made stained glass windows for transoms. He changed out the lights and, eventually the plumbing fixtures. We took advantage of a government-assisted energy efficiency program, and installed geo-thermal heating.

All of this took years and was done on the proverbial dime (or as my South Milwaukee friend used to say, “A buck two-eighty”). We did all the work, often with the help of friends, and called it “better than it was” remodeling. We went to auctions, rummage sales, and St. Vinnie’s, and invented what we couldn’t find or afford. For years, I’ve been dragging home abandoned nests, dogwood, rose hips, grapevine, feathers and other treasures from the trail to create seasonal decorations. Full Moon Cottage has been our refuge for almost 16 years, and the ongoing creation has been a grand adventure. The fun has been in the creating as much as the finished work. The joy has been in welcoming others to join us for gatherings, visits, and celebrations.

I was reflecting on all of this after I read a recent feature in a decorating magazine that shall remain nameless, but that is ostensibly focused on country living. The homeowners spoke of their grueling remodeling experience and all the trials they had to endure during the year their upscale “1930’s colonial” was completely and richly remodeled, by highly-paid professionals, in a wealthy suburb of a large city.

The homeowners are quoted as saying that they so desired to live on this street that, “We would have lived in a cardboard box, if necessary…There was dust everywhere, and we had no kitchen or bathtub. We’d walk into the village to eat meals and take showers at the country club down the street.”

Showers at the country club; meals at restaurants: would the suffering never end? How very arduous life must have been for these people as they slummed through a year of renovation that gave them everything they wanted. For now.

Are these people aware that increasing numbers of our world’s population do live in cardboard boxes and spend hours searching for the next one to call home?

I begrudge no one their success or the rewards earned from their professional contributions to the greater good, but these quotes were striking in their revelation of smug indifference to the true poverty and need that are the daily round for many in our society, and were the very quotes the magazine editors had excerpted from the article, enlarged, and splashed across the expensive furnishings and the huge expanse of rooms now further confining and protecting the happy family from reality.

American society is changing, and not pleasantly or creatively. Disparate and immorally-earned wealth is isolating and stratifying our people, even as advertising feeds and stimulates the materialistic greed of those who cannot afford what they’re enticed to consider as their due. 

We have become a people who are ill-equipped and unprepared to recognize the hold of desires endlessly suckled from the glass teats of televisions, computers, and now our must-have pads, pods, and smart phones–desires that are ultimately destructive to the spirit.

Thanksgiving, a day once set aside to acknowledge and celebrate gratitude for the blessings of family, friends, and home, has become a day to be endured until eager shoppers can set out to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need. We are bombarded with messages that tell us we are unacceptable, at every level, without these things. And too many of us believe it.

It is an addiction to filling a bottomless hole. Like all addictions, acquisition imprisons us in a drugged illusion that denies reality. Buying things we don’t need thrills and assures us we’re visible, better, worthy, accomplished, safe, “there.” Until the next product that confers superiority is dangled before our desires, labeling us deficient till we own it.

And it will never end, unless we withdraw from the drug and awaken, because life isn’t about things at all; it’s about the challenge of loving and accepting ourselves, and then others, into wholeness. The ego can never be, finally, satisfied at the expense of the spirit, and an empty and disregarded spirit will never be made whole through the acquisition of possessions.

Entreated to live only at the surface level and to equate our self-worth with the amount, brand, and price of our possessions, we deny the voice of our spirit and its requirements for stillness, space, connection, reflection, and community. We forget that we are worthy, just for being here, just as we are. We no longer participate joyfully in the co-creation of our world, lives, careers, homes, or relationships. We surrender our power to create our lives instead of having them mass-produced and sold to us. We consider ourselves lesser beings than those who have greater wealth, and render those with even less invisible. We close our hearts and starve our spirits.

And so I am thankful for friends who make their livings as artists, and all those who are the artists of their lives, and who encourage me to design my life imaginatively, too. I’m grateful for a partner like Phillip, who celebrates creativity and honors the time it takes to make a home that reflects and feeds our spirits. I’m thankful for those who have taught me to live with eyes, heart, spirit, and doors wide-open to the blessings that come freely and uniquely into our lives.

Full Moon Cottage is humble and comfortable. We try to care for the things we’ve collected and been given, but in the end it isn’t about these things. Home is not “where the stuff is;” it is the place where we live, and love, and rest; where we feed our spirits; and–most importantly–where we welcome others to share what we have.

 

© 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.

Many Rapid Impalas: Fear and the Spiritual Journey

I have an eye surgery scheduled this November and the surgeon asked that I have an MRI to ensure all was well with my brain. (Friends and family may enter their jokes here.)

Two years ago, my first encounter with an MRI took me by complete surprise. I’d worked on a hospital public relations staff and later as a hospital chaplain, and had observed–and been called upon to enter–tragic, even emotionally and visually gruesome situations. No problem. I’d endured surgeries of my own. Ditto. I’d spent weeks with my parents in their respective hospital crises. Check. And so, I felt prepared and calm as I entered the room where the imaging machine waited for me.

I rested on the elevated bed that would slide into the scanner, and conversed with the technician as she described the process. We chatted, laughed, and calmly prepared for my excellent MRI adventure.

Then she clamped down a head brace, like a cage around my head, and began to slide me into the belly of the beast. Instantly, without warning, a wave of panic crashed over my consciousness and set off alarms throughout my body.

I asked her to pull me out and open the brace. “Asked” is perhaps an inexact word; I’m quite certain I screeched like a banshee. I sat up, feeling my heart race, trying to invite deep breaths and reason into my spirit, so my body and mind could catch up with each other. I had no idea what had just happened. I was embarrassed. Tears formed in response to my psyche’s sense of being under attack.

The technician’s patience and my own determination got me through the next hour, but it had been a perplexing and frightening encounter I never wanted to experience again.

When my surgeon requested another MRI last week, terror entered my mind and stayed, like a squatter taking up residence.

I began to lose sleep, lying awake and entertaining adrenaline rushes while I relived the earlier claustrophobic, nightmare experience over and over, dreading the next one and counting down the days and hours.

I asked Phillip about his reaction to MRI’s. “I just lie there and hang out; it doesn’t bother me.” Others I spoke with, while not ridiculing my fear, admitted their own phobias didn’t include MRI’s (though I know I’m not alone in loathing them). The universe-spanning distance between our reactions to the same stimulus began to intrigue me, and I explored my fear more calmly, and with an awakened curiosity and need to understand.

If two people enter the same experience, why would one endure it calmly and the other respond like an unhinged hyena? I wasn’t interested in unearthing some childhood instant that set such a fear in place, but rather in the irrationality of the fear to begin with: there was nothing in the experience of an MRI that could harm me: I was lying on a bed, in a safe place, with a professional watching over me…my mind could control this experience, rationally. I could breathe into it, even enjoy it. Why should I spend time rehearsing and forecasting that the next MRI would be a repetition of the first?

I began seeing this as an opportunity to grow beyond my fear. I imagined the hour after the MRI, and the days, and weeks. I focused on people and 4-legged’s I love, and on all the loving energy they would be sending me. And certainly, I thought about the millions of people who would welcome an MRI as a gift compared to the experiences they were enduring daily. I played the “acting as if” game, seeing myself as one who would calmly enter the room and perhaps be even a bit bored by the procedure, but endure it politely. This could work.

I felt almost excited when I got up early yesterday morning and drove in the dark to the outpatient clinic. I could do this! Because I’d scheduled my MRI at 7:30, the process was underway within minutes of my arrival, a medical miracle in itself.

This time I shut my eyes before the head-cage clamped down, and kept them closed throughout the procedure. The radio was turned up and the MRI- generated noise wasn’t as frightening. I tried to breathe and focus. I managed a chuckle in response to something the attendant said through my headphones…hey, this was going to be alright! And it was, for the first two minutes.

But my fear wasn’t going to shake hands with my reason quite so easily, despite my generous attempts to subdue it. It tore into my fragile peace quite effortlessly, and soon I could feel myself riding it, like a bucking bronco. But this time I wasn’t going to let it knock me down. Forget about meditation, dwelling lovingly on those who needed my own peaceful energy, or resting in the Spirit: I had to do something that moved as fast as my fear. I began to create phrases for the initials MRI: Marching Russian Infantry; Melting Rancid Igloos; Milking Righteous Indignation; Mucous-Ridden Ibex; Multi-Rainbowed Iguanas; Males Revealing Idiocy; My Raging Imagination…

Elemental, but it helped.

In an hour, I was on my way home.

So I didn’t evolve to a higher spiritual plane; I can’t say I had that expectation (but what a great blog entry that would be). Instead, I took a few steps, entered a fear and began to befriend it, and welcomed that part of myself with greater compassion. I fell back on one my one of my gifts—words—and that was instructive as well: we can use our gifts to calm our fears.

The Spirit pays attention to our resistance. As surely as we decide, consciously or not, that we will avoid something, you can bet we’ll encounter it, again and again, in one form or another. Each time, it comes with the invitation to grow in our self-compassion and the compassion and connections we share with others. Fear is humbling; it unites us with the “humus” from which we’re all created, and thus more deeply with each other.

These encounters with fear are always archetypal journeys. The hero or heroine (which we all need to be in our own lives) enters the dark forest, armed with a few powers—or gifts—and is expected to overcome evil (the fear, the darkness, the monster; ultimately some unloved part of the self), and return home with greater wisdom. The souvenirs of such journeys may be lasting spiritual peace, healing, and wisdom, earned in increments, but nonetheless hard-won rewards.

Of course, we’re never alone on these journeys. The loving thoughts and energies of family and friends surrounded me yesterday. And our Source, Love, embraced me as well. There is a deep comfort in the presence of this kind of love, this sense that we’re accompanied. And when, in the midst of facing fears, we forget our connection to Love, I again learned that we can rely on the unique gifts with which Love has blessed us.

Mindful Revelations Illuminated. Merry Responses Ignited.

 

© 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.

 

Birdsong in Autumn

The past two weeks as I’ve walked the trail, I’ve noticed the blackbirds and robins have returned to their spring songs, or rather, the young birds are rehearsing these songs under the tutelage of their elders before the flocks leave for the winter. When they return next spring, the juveniles who survive the winter will be mature, ready to find mates and build nests. The songs they’re practicing now will be naturally and completely their own, and passed on to their young in time.

My father was a storyteller. He created stories and songs; he told stories well; he earned a degree in journalism; and he knew his way around the world of language. My mother was a grand storyteller as well, as were all the members of her family, with whom we shared wonderful vacations and visits throughout my life.

My father’s childhood was rarely discussed; his family unknown except for allusions to sadness and neglect, the early death of his father; a distant, emotionally-remote mother; and a younger sister who chose to stay out of touch. The absence of storytelling surrounding his childhood was felt in my own.

Storytelling was a characteristic that became more marked after a massive stroke robbed or altered other charming personality traits that made my father uniquely mine, and sadly exacerbated less-endearing traits, like flashes of anger, that would unexpectedly explode and wound, however understanding one could be about the after-effects of stroke.

For about 15 years following my father’s stroke, my mother’s continuous and patient care allowed him to pursue those activities that could still give him joy: to read, to write, and, especially, to tell his stories.

I learned that despite poverty and exquisitely inadequate parents, enough relatives and friends helped my father salvage a childhood that became the source for most of his post-stroke stories. Depression-era, small-town Northern Minnesota life was humble, but full of adventures, innocence, and the freedom to roam the countryside, fish in the lake, and create plenty of ways to enjoy the long winters. This time of my father’s life, his childhood and young adulthood, became vivid for him following his stroke, and his need to share these stories became crucial to the quality of life he could yet enjoy.

I worked as a teacher during those years and was able to visit my parents during the school-year breaks. Initially, I tired of hearing the repeated stories, however humorous. But eventually, as the years passed, I began to observe my mother’s ways of listening and facilitating my father’s storytelling, ways she had learned to widen their boundaries, having heard the same stories countless times. Her gracious listening encouraged my father to explore the meaning of his stories, to add nuance, to detour from the escape of humor into the reality that more authentic emotions afforded. He already, inherently, was graced with the ability to infuse his stories with wit and charm.

I began to listen more deeply and ask questions that encouraged my father to sharpen his descriptions, to offer subtext, and explore themes. The stories began to come alive for me; I knew these people, this place, this life.

Now, as I hear the autumn birdsong and reflect on the wisdom of elders, I know that these were my stories as well. They helped to heal my father’s spirit and they opened a door to his life that had long been closed to me.

 In the autumn of his life, my father was teaching me the notes I needed to integrate his life into my song. And now his story has become a treasured part of mine.

 

© 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.

When Diverted, Make a Bridge: Lessons From Squirrels

The daily round has been beset by obstructions and frustrations this week, good reminders that change should always be expected, since we’re all transforming, every instant. But more than that, the awareness that my efforts and careful plans could be altered in a moment challenged me to either “breathe and deal,” or lapse into the comfortable role of the complaining victim. Family patterns and Irish blood allow anger to reside very close to the surface, always available for sharing when well-laid plans go awry. Blasting another’s inadequacies, vacuity, and faulty logic can bring such wonderful relief.

Living from the spirit level is so much easier to write about than to do.

Sigh.

The temptation to blame these changes on others’ incompetence is so very handy (as is a well-fashioned string of profanity), but why blame others for being human rather than perfect?

And then the real challenge becomes the introspective journey: Why would I even expect perfection of others and what do I expect of myself? How do I feel about the elements of control—and surprise—in my life? How hospitable am I, truly, to the flow of life-as-it-is? How gracious am I towards my own and others’ mistakes? Why evaluate and predicate life upon how close I and others come to perfection? And why the need to separate myself from the other in the first place? Aren’t we all in this together?

Human being is human screwing up. Homo Not-So-Sapiens. Accept it and get on with it; perhaps one day, in greater wisdom, revel in it.

We’ve been experiencing high winds more frequently this autumn. Leaves have been whipped from trees and branches have been scattered across the lawns and trails. A huge branch was partially ripped from a willow along the riverbank. I heard it crack and saw it swing downward, resting its tip upon the ground, its “shoulder joint” still attached to the trunk. In an instant, an arm that had always touched heaven now brushed the earth.

Squirrels had formerly enjoyed the views and safety of this branch, as well as the leverage it provided to those branches adjacent and above it. What I noticed within a half-hour following the storm was certainly a lesson in flexibility and adaptation to change: the squirrels now used the newly-fallen branch as a bridge between earth and the tree’s higher branches, and scurried playfully up and down the streamlined pathway.

Chaos rules; might as well accept it and adapt accordingly, with as much peace, grace, and joy as we can summon. Look for the bridges where none were before. Perhaps especially those that exist between ourselves and others. And recognize that we, like all our fellow humans-being, are doing the best we can.

There’s just this moment and we co-create what it is with what is presented to us.

 Which is what humans do.

Which is imperfectly perfect.

 

© 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 Good Sense to Play in the Rain

Riley and Clancy are half border collie and half lab. At ten years old, they have more energy than many younger dogs leisurely strolling behind their owners down the trail. Riley and Clancy, on the other hand…er, paw…wake every day with the desire to run and herd, and are happiest when they leap from the car and enter the wonderful and many-acred dogpark near our home. So much to smell! Life forms to chase!

Today has been a grand autumnal rainy day, with dark skies and howling winds, shifting to stillness and gray light, and back into heavy rain. The absence of lightning seemed to indicate a trip to the dogpark would meet with the 4-leggeds’ approval, and so off we went. The drizzle occurring when we left home had turned to a downpour by the time we arrived, but they were eager to race into the park, so I followed, and opened my spirit to the adventure.

It was glorious. Their energy seemed to accelerate in the rain, and they jumped, bounded, and flew through the fields and forest, barking their utter joy. On some agreed-upon cue, first one, then the other, would sidle up beside me and shake with glee, then look up sweetly: their way of requesting a “pep-and-energy treat,” before dashing off to explore new territory.

We were quite surprised to meet two other happy dogs and their human, a man who looked at me sheepishly and said, “I thought I was the only goof who’d be out in the rain!” My grin and appearance—Irish oilskin hat and drenched sweatsuit—seemed to assure him he had met a kindred goof…

Somewhere in the vicinity of the park a wood fire was burning, despite the storm, and the sweet perfume surrounded us and infused the moist air, as Clancy and Riley danced ahead and I settled into my rain-walk. The deep metal blue-gray of the sky brought the brilliant rusts, greens, and golds of mid-October into rich relief, and the scent of wood smoke and touch of the tingling rain heightened the sensory pleasure. I felt both relaxed and alert, and deeply at peace, as I watched my 4-legged darlings playing, utterly selfless and in-the-moment. We were drenched and happy as we headed back to the car.

The old saying, “He didn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain,” crossed my mind, and I laughed out loud.

I discovered again there’s something much better for the senses than staying indoors and watching life happen outside. Clancy and Riley reminded me that the world is always beautiful, and joy is always ours for the taking. How grand for the spirit to follow the lead of my 4-legged companions and play merrily in the rain.

 

© 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.

 

Encountering Spirit

Thanks to Netflix, Phillip and I have been re-watching the first few seasons of Northern Exposure, a series with profound respect for the spirit level of life. Last night, we saw an episode featuring Ed, a young man native to the indigenous people of the show’s fictional locale, Cicely, Alaska. Orphaned and raised by his tribe, Ed was seeking answers regarding his parentage. The spirit of a long-dead chieftain, One Who Waits, accompanied him on this journey. Ed accepted his ancestor’s help and wisdom gratefully, and spoke with the spirit as they sought the truth of Ed’s roots.

The non-indigenous citizens of Cicely observed Ed talking with One Who Waits (played by the excellent actor, Floyd Red Crow Westerman), and worried, assuming Ed was having a psychic break, for they could not see his companion. “They cannot see me, because to them I am dead,” said the chieftain sadly.

It reminded me of the wonderful books on indigenous spirituality by Malidoma Patrice Some, that discuss the same concept: the wider our acceptance of mystery and the more we are able to understand that spirit permeates and animates all creation, the more we realize that everywhere is the Celtic “thin place.” Keeping the eyes of our hearts and minds open floods our every moment with meaning that otherwise goes unnoticed. We become fluent in the languages of myth, symbol, metaphor, and mystery; we see what others cannot, because they can’t conceive it to be so.

Some’s West African tribe, the Dagara, believe everything originates in the spirit world, the world where our ancestors abide, and that the ancestors travel between worlds and make themselves visible with frequency. They believe in the spirits of our ancestors, of nature, and of worlds other than our own, and the energetic exchange that takes place between and among these spirits and ourselves. The more conscious we are of these relationships, the clearer and more informed by wisdom our invitations and choices can become, and the wider our perspective regarding what is and isn’t possible evolves. Rigid definitions and rational boundaries demarcating life and death blur. We consent to mystery as a playmate.

Shortly after my mother died, I was visited by the owl pictured above. The day was bright and the mid-afternoon light illuminated the bird’s feathers. It remained in the tree outside my window for a long time, as we gazed into each other’s eyes. I took some pictures, which my visitor seemed to graciously allow. I went outside and stood on the deck, about 4 feet away from the owl, and reverently entered its space.

We began to breathe together, and the world closed around us in a golden timeless meditation. I really have no idea how long we were together, but the bond was strong and utterly peaceful, and then we both took a final breath together and “let go.” The owl’s long wings extended and it flew away, and I came back inside, grateful, and knowing my mother’s spirit had been somehow present in the encounter.

I’m not sure about enlightenment as a permanent state of being, but I’m open to the moments of insight and deep healing that an “eyes open” readiness has afforded me, and I welcome encounters with spirit whenever they grace my path.

 

© 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.

Co-Creation

So ends a weekend full of fall’s bounty and invitations…for me, the proper response is gratitude: for friends, for family, for 4-legged companions, for the mystery of life we enter, and for the meaning we co-create in community.

Early Saturday morning, my husband and his friend, Scott, helped me plant over 160 tulip bulbs (wonderful bulbs, from www.AmericanMeadows.com).

 They dug, and I placed and covered the bulbs with a silent blessing for their peaceful rest and eventual vernal emergence, when all creation rises to the light. I like to plant in groups of five; certainly, this is in keeping with the elements of formal design, but for me, it also ensures the bulbs will rest in community: fragile companions nestled together during the time of fertile darkness, while cold winter winds and gentle–or fierce–snows swirl above their earth-womb, and safeguard their needed gestation.

And so, too, my own spirit is led downward to the coming darkness and cold of autumn and towards the solitude and centering of winter, where losses may be recounted and griefs healed, and where seeds of hope and dreams of growth may be harbored, incubated, and cradled. I’m gathering in the lessons of the year: winnowing, discarding, and laying out the questions I want to plant for winter discernment. Like the bulb’s requirements for transformation, this is best done deeply and in stillness, and never without community. Phillip, the 4-leggeds, friends, gardens, everything in every moment–my relationships with all–reveal myself to me. For each of us, whatever vulnerable potential will bloom into light requires co-creation and the support of community. Our growth is never done in isolation. We collaborate in fashioning the questions with all of creation, in awareness or not, and within these relationships we refine the paths where the questions lead…

Together, Phillip, Scott, and I joined the dance of co-creation with Mother Earth, planting hope and joining our energies with the web of nature, connecting with life’s eternal circle. Planting seeds is always a co-creation and collaboration with mystery, as is a life lived consciously.

 

© 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 Beginning…

I live and write in Full Moon Cottage on the Crawfish River, where my husband (Phillip) and our 4-legged companions (Clancy, Riley, Finnegan, Fiona, Mulligan, and Murphy), along with the changing seasons and many books, provide inspiration for my creative endeavors, including essay-writing, children’s books, gardening, cooking, and photography.

I try to practice yoga and meditation every day, but often find walking the Glacial Drumlin Trail, camera in hand, a greater source of meditative peace. Solvitur ambulando: It is solved by walking! (Or, at least, it’s not made worse.)

Often, walking leads to the discovery of meaning and connection where none at first seemed apparent; the puzzles of life fall into place and the daily round becomes hallowed. Consecrated life: the supposed mundane is transformed and revealed as sacred, as is the walker…

Recently, I’ve made a commitment to live a more consciously-designed “slow life.” What is really worthy of my finest energies and attention? Am I living authentically and using the gifts I brought to this brief and wonderful dance? Can a contemplative core and spirit-level perspective co-exist and remain vital in contemporary American culture, especially given its recent devolution into rampant incivility? With the support of my husband and 4-legged companions, along with a great blessing of friends, I’m setting out on the path and open to its discoveries.

 

© 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.