A Fondess For What Is

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Winter has arrived, with a cold snap or two, snowfalls, icy roads and the glorious sunrises and sunsets that ink the sky in indigo, purple, pink, and gold, making the world’s entire substance seem all and only mystery and magic. I do love winter. One morning, I watched the warm river kiss the cold air…normal evaporation made visible, and I was enchanted.

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I’ve come to welcome January and the ways it stitches together its days with silence, offering a lovely long pause between the high spirits of the holidays and the electric energy of spring. I’ve pulled out my four favorite books on meditation and am trying to deepen my practice by reviewing their suggestions and wisdom, and am whittling away at the pile of bedside books, something I don’t have time to do as much as I like during the bustle of activity between Halloween and New Year’s Day.

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I’ve realized I don’t have a favorite month, but harbor a fondness for the special gifts of each. January offers a lovely respite of stillness and silence, and the days are still short enough that we can enjoy evenings by firelight, making Full Moon Cottage cozy and bright. Malarky is able to settle a bit by nightfall, and the cats are gaining the confidence to join our circle once again.

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We’ve had a steady flow of guests this month, and that’s been a wonderful way to ease the post-holiday sea change. Last week was the second anniversary of Henry’s death, so we gathered at Full Moon for a meal and the chance to share memories, a gift of an evening altogether. Phillip’s older brother was a remarkable person, and it felt right to honor him and name the ways he blessed our lives. We all noticed how Fergus found contentment on the lap of Henry’s wife, and thought either he sensed her grief and offered special comfort to her, or that perhaps Henry’s spirit had nudged Fergus a bit. Some special energy was present, since Fergus is generally most reluctant to settle in anyone’s lap, let alone stay there.

Phillip and I have been planning adventures for the weekends we don’t have visitors, too. We recently toured a local coffee mill and enjoyed learning more about buying and brewing coffee, and sampling all the different varieties. Naturally, we came home with several blends to try, and they’ve made our morning coffee time a sweeter ritual before Phillip has to leave for school.

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And then it’s time to check the bird feeders, toss cornmeal in the yard, and keep the suet containers full, for my sweet guests have come to rely on Full Moon Cottage for their (several times a day) seeds and meals. I worry about them during storms; goodness they’re tenacious.

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The art room continues to benefit from Phillip’s gifts when he isn’t working on jobs for others. I’m excited for it to be finished. I was casting about for an art project when a friend encouraged me to create a piece around the themes of love and compassion, for a calendar contest. Now, she’s an actual artist, so I had originally sent her the notice calling for submissions, but she prodded me to try as well. I have no illusions about my talent, but it was fun to play, and so I thank her for the nudge, like Henry’s to Fergus: “Try it, and enjoy yourself!”

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There are darker days, of course, when I think about Riley and Clancy, and look at photographs from a year ago, when they were still both so integral to our daily round, but the sadness visits less often, and their spirits seem more a constant, loving presence in our home. Malarky’s happy energy and my dear cats bless the daily round for now, which is all we have, and I realize I feel a deepening fondness for what is: January, sunrises, firelight, friends, family and four-leggeds. It’s not just, “Be here, now,” but love being here now. I do.

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We are hallowed by our memories and our days are holy, and I am blessed.

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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 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.

Naming Blessings

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While I am not sad to see the backside of 2015 (“Too much loss; too many lessons,” as I told a dear friend), I am overfilled with gratitude heading into the new year, due to the way the old year and I parted company…Malarky’s arrival in October changed the energy in our hearts and home, and we’ve continued to be inundated with blessings, simple and surprising, the way we love them.

We spent a quiet, peaceful Christmas, enjoying old movies, good meals, hikes and—hooray!—a snowstorm.

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Friends visited, called, e-mailed, and texted, blessing us with their presence, their conversation, and their good wishes, reminding us that relationship is where our real wealth begins and ends.

We gave and received gifts, small tokens of love and gratitude for these precious connections in our lives. So many lovely surprises and thoughtful presents came our way and decorated our past few weeks with joy: a sister’s chocolate-filled Advent Calendar; a neighbor’s tray of elegant sweets; delicious, authentic Milwaukee-Polish pierogi; a magic wand for cooling wine; cozy quilted pet blankets (love these!); nostalgic, retro Chritsmas light covers (pine cones! my favorite!); unexpected gifts for the 4-leggeds; and surprising gifts from afar. We never knew what the day’s mail, or UPS, would be delighting us with next: books, artwork, flower seeds, many tokens of a generous friend’s dedication to this animal rescue. (I mention this, too, if you are seeking an organization worthy of your own donations, because they would be so welcome and your gift would help so many.)

There must have been quite a star shining over Full Moon Cottage, because so much love gathered here, offering joy and contentment.

 My own true love gave me a fused-glass plate with poppies (another favorite!) that I’d wanted for a long time, and he received paintings I made for him.

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 There are many things I’m looking forward to in the New Year:

*Making art in the new room Phillip is building for us:

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*Continued détente between the cats and Malarky, perhaps even deepening to true companionship. Here, he’s trying to mimic their relaxed poses on the back of the couch, and, despite Mulligan’s withering critique of these efforts, we live in hope:

 *Travels and visits; the changing seasons; new gardens; hiking; biking; paddling; dog-walking and cat-cuddling.

*Reading new and old-favorite books

*Baking and cooking with new recipes. (I’m going to try pierogis, for starters!)

*Full moons and quiet retreats

The list goes on and on, and—of course—remains open to wonder, mystery, and surprise, as always.

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I know the phrase commonly used is “counting our blessings,” and it’s meant to reinforce the notion that we’re far more blessed than we realize, but counting seems tinged with both ownership and a competitive stance that I loathe. (“I’m more blessed than s/he is!”)

I’d rather name my blessings, for the unique gifts they are and the gratitude they engender, and I hope to continue being mindful about sharing these with you in the blog posts ahead.

Our attitudes and the ways we use our gifts and our energy create our lives and contribute to the lives others are creating…I hope this year will be one of joy, for us, and for you. I wrote a friend that I want to look back on 2016 saying, “I laughed more than ever this year!”

May I make it so. And may I live so that others name me as a blessing in their lives. 🙂

Joy to you, and gentle 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 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.

Perfectly Content

DSCF7761 It’s hard to believe May is already flowing into June. It’s been a lovely month for gardening, one with that rare balance between rainfalls and sunshine, hot and cool temperatures, time to relax and time to keep up with the weeding and mulching. DSCF7188 DSCF7224 DSCF7247 DSCF7272 DSCF7536 DSCF7558 DSCF7596  This weekend, we’re celebrating our 18th year at Full Moon Cottage. 001 002 003 There were over 4 acres and not a garden to be seen when we took over as caretakers of this piece of earth. The house was in dire need of “renewal.” As every homeowner knows, this is an ongoing-forever process. But Full Moon needed a down-to-the studs-and-back-again facelift. It was hard to know where to start, so we kind of started everywhere at once, tearing up blazing red carpeting, and tearing down walls, and tearing out creepy cabinetry, and tearing off hideous wallpaper. Then, slowly, but steadily, adding wood floors, wainscoting, bead board to the ceiling, new windows, doors, a roof, geo-thermal heating and cooling, an addition and a new garage. Phillip has done almost all of the construction, and I have been his loyal assistant. 001 002 That first summer, we painted the exterior, and I threw a couple packs of annual and “wildflower” seeds into a patch of earth, just to have some color and beauty outside while we deconstructed the inside of the house. 005007 The next year, we added our first big garden, which is still being redesigned, decades later. That’s how it goes. 006 DSCF7769 Then we added a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and gardens in the back yard, by the river. DSCF7771 DSCF7674 DSCF7676 DSCF7703 DSCF7527 DSCF7404  Every time we had to cut down a tree, we built a garden around what remained of her trunk. DSCF7547 DSCF7548 When he edged the gardens every spring, Phillip took the earth he removed and set it in a new space, then covered and mulched it to create a new garden we’d tackle the following year, a practice we continue. DSCF7471 DSCF7488 DSCF7732 DSCF7562 DSCF7645 All those years ago, when first they saw photographs of the house we bought, friends and family thought we’d lost our minds. Until they visited. Then, the magic of this thin place affected them as it had us. Holy ground and sacred space; we made a commitment to Full Moon that we would bless her with our gifts, and she would bless us in return, and that has held true all these years. It has been a relationship and labor of love. DSCF7677 There are so very many things I wish I could change about the world and the state where I live. There are so many things I wish I could change about my health, or my income, or the pie crust I continue to try to perfect (getting closer on that one). DSCF7630 DSCF7700 DSCF6625 But there is nothing at all I’d change about our decision to take over the care of Full Moon and call her our home for these past 18 years. She has been our sanctuary and an altogether grand place of hospitality. She has welcomed and fed our spirits and harbored our families, friends, and beloved 4-leggeds.  DSCF5523 When we feel beaten by the things we cannot change, Full Moon Cottage has renewed us, and reminded us that, over time, dreams come true. DSCF6798

A kind friend asked after my spirit this week, and I searched my heart and answered that I was content. Phillip generally concurs. Our life together is not perfect in a fantastical sense, but we are perfectly content. We owe that to many people, the 4-leggeds, our own work, and our chosen, as well as gifted, experiences, but we also owe our contentment, in large part, to the spirit of Full Moon. So, we are grateful, and celebrating. Perfectly content.

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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 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.

Fellow Travelers

DSCF6284The sunrise shouted me out of bed like a réveillé call this morning, and I had high expectations of posting some photos and a few paragraphs by 8 A.M.DSCF5800But that’s not how it works this time of year, and I should know better. Any day may find me migrating far afield with my camera, following winged, two, or four-footed fellow-travelers. So, by 7 A.M., I’d looked through a few photos, sipped coffee, chatted with my Beloved before he headed out to a remodeling job, and then wandered outside with my camera to see if any tulips had blossomed yet. DSCF6251 DSCF6311They had not, so I roamed a bit, and eventually found myself three miles east along the bike trail, resting at the Rock River bridge. Thankfully, I was not still in my pajamas, although I’m getting to the time of my life where it wouldn’t matter all that much if I were.DSCF6301The Crawfish River, upon which Full Moon Cottage is situated, right on the curve of a drumlin, flows into the Rock River, a 300-mile river that is a tributary of the Mississippi, joining it south of us, in Illinois.DSCF6082

In spring, bird migrations follow the rivers to find their way to a kind of grand gathering of the clans at Horicon Marsh, about 40 miles north of us. The migrants offer all kinds of varied bird-watching treats, if we happen to be looking in the right direction, at the right time, and on the right day, because some are here and gone very quickly.

DSCF6067DSCF6009DSCF6203This week, the bit of river overflow opposite Full Moon Cottage has seemed to be taken for a temporary, but welcome, wetlands hostel of sorts, as every morning has revealed different guests, who have flown to Horicon or points north by late afternoon. Blue-Winged Teal ducks stopped over, as did shorebirds like Sandpipers and Snipes. (Sorry, my photos aren’t showstoppers because I was too far away, and didn’t want to wear waders and slog down to the guests’ resting place, disturbing them for a better photo, but you get the idea.)DSCF6114DSCF6271DSCF6276DSCF6265 Flocks of American White Pelicans soared above Riley, Clancy, and me, during our walks this week, also headed to Horicon, to nest until late September. Their numbers have increased since the beginning of our current century, having largely disappeared during the last. Their 9-ft. wingspans and interesting flight patterns always delight me; they shift and flow in horizontal, then vertical lines, then V-formations, gathering clusters, and then shooting off with partners. Somewhere, I imagine a pelican flight choreographer named Randall or Jonathan, clacking his bill and snapping directions at their migration rehearsals. “One-two-three-and…Oh, shit; this is hopeless! Partner up, people! More jazzwings! We’ll never be ready for opening flight!”DSCF6272Their black and white coloring, and long, ridged bills are stunning, and always remind me of Audrey Hepburn in the “Ascot Gavotte” scene in My Fair Lady.

The little wetlands is drying up, due to our lack of rain, but the migrations continue. This week, I’m hoping to see hummingbirds, orioles and grosbeaks; they’re usually here the first week of May. I’m always excited to see them, maybe because of the many migrations I’ve made in my own life; it seems a natural impulse to seek the home that meets one’s needs, and it seems right as well, that strangers should be welcomed for the gifts, color, and variety they offer our lives.DSCF6193DSCF6290So, I set out feeders of sugar water and slices of oranges, as I hope I set out compassion and kindness; hospitality naturally invites such beauty that I would otherwise have missed. As others have welcomed me, I want to welcome others. One of my teachers said, reducing the philosophy of servant-leadership quite tidily, “It’s all about relationship.” We’re all of us coming from our home or going to our next home, sometimes both at once, and the least we can be in passing is generous in our embrace and wise in the recognition that we’re more alike than different.DSCF6105DSCF6328DSCF6262Ascot Opening Day

 

© 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.

Good Friend for a Dry Season

No rainfall since May 6th translates to bone-dry gardens, a sketchy water level in our well, and a daily round of discernment regarding who and what will receive a portion of the precious remaining water to share.

One of my new friends this summer is a pensive Gray Tree Frog who prefers silence and solitude. Though the males of the species often live solitary lives, my friend seems to be a particularly brooding contemplative.

He appeared relieved the morning we met, however, when I gently filled a flower pot’s rim with water. By the time I set down the hose and grabbed the camera, he’d already settled in for a soak.

I suspected my presence–and with a camera–may have challenged his comfort level, so I allowed him privacy to enjoy his bath, but returned later to make sure my guest was content, and found that he had changed locations and colors.

I learned his color changes are possible due to chromatophores, star-shaped pigment cells in his skin; different chromatophores contain different granules of color. A change in his coloring can be triggered by a number of different variables: excitement, humidity, light, temperature or surroundings. The morning we met, he first matched the table beneath the plant, and when we parted, I think he hoped to be camouflaged from his over-zealous hostess, so I retreated, assuring him that I was at his beck and croak.

He comes to the deck at night, nocturnal fellow that he is, and when we meet in early morning, he’s almost ready to sleep. I would rather he wouldn’t burrow into the soil surrounding my potted houseplants, but it is damp and cool, and what he favors.

I wonder if he changes color at night, if he is most fully himself when no one is looking. Maybe at midnight a rainbow shimmers across his back…

At dawn, I sit beside him as he broods. I think about the ways I change colors and camouflage myself in various crowds. And how I love water, and solitude, and peaceful companionship.

I am learning we are not so different, he and I. We sit together and dream of water for a bone-dry world, and of the star-stuff mysteries we are.

 

© 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.

Hospitality: Of Pests and Guests

Hospitality is the fundamental virtue of the soil. It makes room. It shares. It neutralizes poisons. And so it heals. This is what the soil teaches: If you want to be remembered, give yourself away. ~ William Bryant Logan, Source: Dirt: the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth

So ends a week of surprising visits from pests and guests, which has led me to contemplate the practice of hospitality and its inherent reliance upon both giving and receiving.

I suspect when the energy between host and visitor is balanced, the visitor is more likely to be perceived as guest; when the exchange is energetically imbalanced, perhaps the visit becomes an experience more endured than welcomed…At any rate, I’m struggling with the impulse to label visitors as pests or guests; to paraphrase the quote from Logan, hospitality involves making room for whatever healing is needed; it necessitates giving oneself away, not withholding generosity based on judgments that rank the worthiness of one’s guest by considering some “pests.”

But, to clarify: my initially perceived pests included a virus that has benefitted from the warm winter and damp spring, using them as a fortuitous springboard to attack my irises, whose lovely leaves are spotted and rotting. I’ve cleaned and cut and thinned. I’ve destroyed what plague I could isolate and must now await the healing or demise that may follow.

Another pest shut down my computer quite suddenly this week when I’d hoped to spend fruitful days writing. Ominous messages appeared and before I could even react, my computer, more sentient and capable than I’d known, turned itself off. I was not hospitable to this detour and delay. I wrote what I could with a pen and notebook, then surrendered, my hand cramped and my outlook cloudy. To be honest, I enjoyed a few days of peaceful reading and stillness with the 4-leggeds, until the computer responded to Phillip’s tinkering.

The third pestilence is one that will continue to spread and infect our spirits through the upcoming state recall elections and probably through the presidential election next November. It is the canvassing and unwanted visitations to our e-mail, phones, and doorbell by earnest campaigners. I went out canvassing door-to-door myself, so can hardly fault others for acting to support their own political candidates, but it feels, already, like too much of a muchness. And to be perfectly honest: I have never been persuaded by a phone call, ad, or face-to-face encounter to vote any differently than I’d already determined I would. The urge to disconnect, turn off, tune out, and unplug grows.

But then I would not have the blessings of guests I also enjoyed this week. The loveliest was a visit from a friend with whom I share conversations so intense and deep I need to retreat to stillness and sleep for a day or two so all the meaning can settle, begin to synthesize, and slowly clarify the perceptions that have been altered and better ordered by our time together.

Many paths have led to my passion for hospitality. I have prayed, studied, and entered into friendships with Franciscans and Benedictines, members of two religious orders that value and earnestly tend their vowed commitment to hospitality.

I have worked as a professional and volunteer in both hospitals and hospices, organizations whose names link them to the ancient and healing bond between host and guest—in theory, if not always, ironically, in their environments or the manner in which their services are offered.

The daily round has brought many guests to our door over the years and most have shared their gratitude for our attempted hospitality, saying they feel comfortable, peaceful, and nourished in body and spirit, a testament to the land and environment surrounding Full Moon as well.

These encounters in life that drench it in such profound sweetness and gift make me wonder if I’m missing something when I label other encounters as undesirable and pest-ridden. I wonder what gifts I’m missing in my willingness to close the door to my spirit. After all, Logan says, “If you want to be remembered, give yourself away.’’ No hospitality, no healing on either side of an encounter?

I’m beginning to understand what hospitality means for me: it is the welcome embrace, the open assent to relationship with life in whatever form it presents itself. Hospitality is a posture one assumes; it draws equally upon strength and vulnerability. It creates a necessary portal, enabling our passage to the place where, in relationship, our regeneration and creativity can be stimulated and nourished, our songs can be heard and brought back into tune and resonance with our spirits, and our hearts unburdened and refilled with hope.

Both host and guest create whatever hospitality exists, and in its truest and purest form it can involve such intense engagement, such energetic connection and transference of energy, that it can leave one both energized and depleted, which are natural responses to transformation. A loving sexual relationship offers this; so does a loving spiritual relationship, a friendship, an encounter with one’s sense of the Holy through a stranger, or experiences with other forms of life and nature.

I am changed and new; I am overwhelmed and energized with gift. There is much to do; but first, I must sleep…incubating gifts…healing.

Gratitude is a lovely light to shine on one’s life; I think, though, that hospitality is what makes it possible.

My friend drove off yesterday afternoon. I walked among the gardens, weeding a bit, mothering the irises, admiring colors and turning, over and over, the words my friend and I had shared, planting new perspectives and perceptions, uncertain of their necessary gestation time, but confident they will bloom—created as they were in the garden of mutual and healing hospitality.

A stranger called and asked me to vote for his candidate. I opened my heart to his need to ask, his courage to try, his reaching for support. I shared that I didn’t agree with his choice but sympathized with the time and effort he was offering to make it known. We laughed together.

Even “no” can come from a place of hospitality. We are all, each of us, host and guest, creating our healing, or not, in relationship.

 

© 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.