Music and the Food of Life

Life at Full Moon seems to be recovering well following our long weeks of drought. We mourn our losses, but tend the living, grateful for the blooms and vegetables that survived. For now.

I was weeding in the garden yesterday and enjoyed the thrumming hum a variety of bees made as they buzzed from plant to plant. A bumblebee climbed a licorice spire of hyssop with concentrated intensity.

Butterflies fluttered through, barely lighting on blossoms before sailing off; the birds seemed to be having choral practice at the feeder and consuming sunflower seeds in spectacular quantities.

It seems the music of life becomes more intense as we edge nearer to autumn’s first frost, and the Great Silence of winter hushes all for a time. (I’ve often wondered, though, if snowflakes fall to a music that flows in wavelengths beyond our auditory capacity.)

The evening symphony of crickets, cicadas, and katydids has pulsed throughout the night this week, like Poe’s tintinnabulation of bells. I love their silvery percussive music and am grateful our cooler weather allows windows to be open.

This morning I went out to water plants on the deck and discovered the milky latex from the rubber tree’s stem dripping onto some leaves below the point of injury. Looking more closely, I discovered a female katydid nestled in a leaf’s crevice, and suspected katydid it. 

I later learned there are more than 100 varieties of katydids in our country and over 4,000 throughout the world. My visitor was of the genus and species Scudderia furcata: a Fork-tailed Bush katydid, and a cousin to crickets. She’d likely deposited eggs in a stem or leaf of the rubber plant, slitting it with her ovipositor and thus releasing the latex.

If so, nymphs will emerge next spring and, after successive molts, mate and deposit their own eggs a year from now.

All of life in a year.

My katydid isn’t a musician. In her species, only the male sings by rubbing a scraper on one forewing against a toothed edge on the other (stridulation). She heard her mate’s call through tympana, hearing organs located on her forelegs. It gave me pause to imagine our world if humans spoke and heard like katydids! But maybe we’re not all that different; after all, Phillip’s music and voice served as quite an attractant when I first heard him sing.

I missed the music of the birds and insects during the drought. It seemed to wither and withdraw. Its absence didn’t offer the peaceful, centered silence of meditation; it was more like a vacuum existed where once there had been sound, an element of life that connected us and made our spirits whole had abandoned us. If there were calls and songs, they sounded brittle, thirsty and desperate.

But the great music of life that calls us to merge, to love, to eat, drink, and make merry has returned and I’m almost as thankful for this as I am for the restorative rains.

I like the music for its honesty and lack of false sentiment: it says, “Come to me and we’ll marry our energy to create more life together.” It acknowledges that sometimes this is done though mating and at other times through surrender.

Katydids prey upon plants and slower-moving insects like aphids. They have an extra pair of miniature legs dangling from their chins, like built-in silverware, to help them efficiently consume their energy, in whatever form it takes. Birds, bats, small mammals and, in some cultures, people, eat the katydid.

The clematis died in the drought and has been feeding microbes for weeks. The vegetables that didn’t die will soon be on our table and in the freezer.

All this beauty, all this lovely music, all these relationships…all seeking to mate and create, to eat, or to accept capture and so transform one’s energy into others’ food, an ending none of us escapes.

Sweet, devouring life: all of us fed and feeding. Death just means someone or something’s been granted a feast. Nature imposes her balanced justice: in the end, we all become another’s banquet.

But first, we make and merge the music of our lives, which is to say the music of loving our way through droughts and into seasons of peace and joy. Once more round the circle. All the music of creation is perhaps a way of saying, “Thank you” to Love, just for the chance to sing and hear the songs of our spinning planet.

One day something will sing for its supper and it will be me. (“I” would be the correct grammar; I don’t think that will matter then.) May they be as grateful for the meager meal I offer as I have been for the bounty offered to me. And may what remains of my energy offer sustenance in love…

If music be the food of Love, play on.


© 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 Always Has A Name

Saturday, as the sun’s rosy fingers were doing whatever they wanted without our knowledge because we were asleep and it was 5:00 for godssake, we were awakened by a crash on the metal roof over our heads. Given the layers of insulation between ceiling and roof, this was both unusual and unexpected. “What the…?!”

We listened to a skidding and downward slide of whatever mass had just crashed, and then a kind of flip-flapping back up to the roof’s crest, accompanied by a few more crashes, slides, and flip-flaps…Slowly, as we breathed and listened our way into wakefulness, steadying our hearts and hushing our initial fear, we realized our new springtime visitors had returned.

They form an interesting arrangement of ducks, a kind of family, or harem, or ménage a trois, consisting of a male and a female mallard and a domestic white duck of indeterminate sex. We do not judge. They amuse and intrigue us, and remind us of The Far Side cartoons by Doug Larson.

The three of them have been visiting the yard each morning, swimming in the river and then wobbling up the lawn, or flying in and landing near the gardens and irritating the dickens out of Riley (“bark, bark bark!”), who believes it’s her duty to keep all other life forms away from her territory. This includes squirrels, turkeys, chipmunks, rabbits, foxes, hikers and bikers on the trail…and now, ducks. Riley loves to sit on the window seat and survey her property–everything she can see and smell–with the puffy self-righteousness of the King of Siam, and bark her commands, fully expecting them to be honored. (“Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!”) Alas; she is inside and the other life forms are outside, free to ignore her protests.

After we assured Riley (and Clancy, who imitates his sister without a lot of circumspection) that we were all very safe, I went out with my camera, but the ducks were intolerant of my paparazza intrusion and flew away after a shot that captured only the two that were immediately visible.

On Sunday morning, just the female mallard returned, this time to the garage roof, so I shot a few photos from the living room window. Her two companions were near; we’d seen them fly just beyond the garage into the front acreage. We think perhaps a nest may be somewhere in the yard and that the rooftop vantage points allow for them to scan and protect their eggs or young ducklings. We don’t want to frighten them or disturb their nest if this is the case, so we’ve been cautiously tending those gardens and carefully cutting the lawn in the area where we suspect the nest might be.

In the past we have had tortoises crawl up from the river to hollow out bowls of earth and lay their eggs, but this hasn’t happened for many years. We have rabbits nesting on the property almost every year, and we once had a skunk give birth (and get a very wide berth in return, though the babies were unbelievably cute) in the front acre we call “the field.” Wild turkeys emerge from the woods, parading their young in dutiful lines every year, and bird nests are everywhere. But I believe these would be our first ducklings, if indeed a nest is somewhere among the grasses or gardens.

I hope so.

We watched a program on PBS last night filmed and narrated by a young couple who spent a year in the River of No Return Wilderness area of Idaho. (   The husband, a wolf biologist, had worked with the Nez Perce tribe to reintroduce wolves to this wilderness region, which covers 2.5 million acres. One evening, the couple observe a wounded elk limping up a hillside and hear the wolves begin to call and surround her. The husband admits his pain in observing her likely death, when he is surprised by the appearance of another elk cow that places herself between the wolves and her wounded elk “friend.” More surprisingly, they endure the night together and walk/limp off together in the morning, the wolves nowhere in sight.

“Nothing in my biology texts had prepared me for this,” says the husband in his voice-over.

No, we cannot say we truly know what all other animals feel, and need, or the ways they form connection and community. It is a reminder that all of life figures it out as it goes along; there is instinct; there are patterns; there are expectations; there is evolution, procreation, creative creation; and there is surprise. There are bonds that speak of love. We are not here to judge or condemn, but to celebrate such unions.

There is mystery.

The daily round is just that; we chase round the days, weeks, months and years; the seasons pass one into the next as the earth revolves and our lives return again to the same place… but different. And it’s the lovely surprise of these differences that keeps me awake and passionately in love with life at Full Moon Cottage and therefore passionately in love with life and its unions everywhere. Anything can happen, the duck trio reminds me: keep your eyes open, and your heart and mind as well…hold reverence for it all; let it be as it is. Celebrate love.

Respond with awe.


© 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.

Early Bird

The day shall not be up so soon as I,
To try the fair adventure of tomorrow.
~ William Shakespeare

I have a “carpe diem” mug and, truthfully, at six in the morning the words do not make me want to seize the day.  They make me want to slap a dead poet.   ~ Joanne Sherman

 Ah, 5 A.M. on what is forecast as a lovely day, perhaps the tail-end of our magical early warmth this year…although, glancing at the upcoming forecast, I see 74° posted for next Saturday by the local weather oracle. This year we’re learning, and being reminded every day, that we never know what surprises the morning might bring.

This is the day we’ve set aside to tackle some preliminary yard clean-up, weeding around the twelve gardens’ edges, and cleaning between the bricks on the front steps. I’m still leery about scraping away last winter’s garden mulch; we’ve had frost in mid-May, and Mother Nature’s acting very menopausal and unpredictable this year, so I think I’ll let her take the lead and follow respectfully. Just a good day to pick up a few stray branches, invite families of weeds to relocate, smell the sweet spring breezes, and listen to the song of the world.

I do love this time of day. Always have. I inherited Early Riser Syndrome from my father, who was also an inveterate gardener. In summer, we’d go out together to weed and talk about the flowers, which then became talks about my school days, the challenges of cliques, questions about boys, or all those intimate and wonderful things a father and daughter who are very close share with each other. There was something about the stillness and light, the sense of sacredness the dawn confers, and our solitude, together, that seemed to make us more fully ourselves during these conversations. Eventually, I found I could not rise early and go into the garden without sensing my father’s presence and willingness to listen, which I’m sure is one of the reasons my own gardens seem to multiply as I grow older: I like having his spirit around. There is still so much to talk about and share.

There’s something so clean and pure about a new day. Sunrise, birdsong (owl-hooting legitimately qualifies, in my book) and nothing but possibility…I step quietly out on the back deck to breathe and to welcome this year’s happy little duck family as they waddle up from their riverside nest to enjoy a bit of our birdseed: we acknowledge each other peacefully and allow companionable silence to surround us as we all take in the view. I expect they have plans for their day, too, and I step back inside so they might confer in privacy.

There are drawbacks to the early bird rhythm, of course. I was never, physiologically, fond of the whole “slumber party” idea. I was the girl off in the corner sleeping by 9:00 P.M., and then up at 5, eager to play those games my friends were so excited about just a few hours earlier. (An insight regarding my low adolescent popularity quotient…) New Year’s Eve has never had much appeal to me, and some promising young romances completely deflated, and quickly, when we learned our biorhythms were drastically incompatible.

Waking early is not without benefits, however. One advantage to being an early bird is the lovely indulgence of an afternoon nap, two of the most beautiful words in the English language. After all, you’ve put in a full day’s work and deserve a bit of rest by, say, three in the afternoon. Sweet shadows, soft breezes, something to read and then—ah! The bliss of a brief nap.

But that will come later. I make a pot of coffee, look at garden catalogues and websites, dream, and wait for my partner to join me…Phillip sleeps to a reasonable hour (6:30, maybe)—still early for most, though, and he always wakes in a cheerful mood—nothing like my mother, who loathed mornings. I remember we’d peek in on her during her once-a-week “sleep-in” morning (Saturdays, I think), and laugh (quietly), because she’d have an extra pillow or two pulled over her head. There were only three of us children and we weren’t particularly noisy, but she’d certainly earned her right to honor her own body clock’s rhythm when she could, poor dear.

When Mama would finally join “the land of the living,” we knew not to initiate dialogue of any kind or to expect any to be forthcoming until she’d had her coffee, toast, read some papers, and acclimated to the idea of “not sleeping.” All the more remarkable then, I’ve always thought, that she slept on a downstairs “hide-a-bed” for the last 18 years of her life so she could be near my father’s hospital bed, and was often up before dawn to tend to his many needs and prescribed morning routine. Her own early bird needed tender care by then; if she’d anticipated retirement as a time when she could finally “sleep in” every morning, such hopes evaded her. And I never once recall her complaining about this. Love does indeed call us to the things of the world…

So we are divided into two groups once again, before our day’s even begun, and must make gentle accommodation for the needs of those in our immediate and more distant communities, recognizing that our differences bring blessing if we allow them clement space to unfold.

And so the world turns; we drift into sleep and arise, according to our needs, desires, and the demands of love…may you have a blessed day, adjust to its conversations and surprises with gratitude, and, should you be inclined, enjoy an afternoon nap!


© 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.

Infinite Expectations, Surprising Blessings

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Just when I was ready to guide winter to the door, thank it for its company and bid it farewell till next year, we received a snowfall different from any other and enchanting in the world it offered us Saturday morning. The relative warmth kept the snow heavy and just damp enough to cling to everything at the angle from which it fell or blew, so the world at dawn appeared to be flocked with opals, and magical. I wandered for some time and out of time with my camera, grateful for the opportunity to be reintroduced to winter’s surprises and depths. Reawakened.

It was a beautiful reminder that all of creation holds surprises if we can keep our hearts and minds open to its possibilities. We can be so quick to box and label our days, our seasons, our experiences, and ourselves; how lovely to be stopped in my tracks and have my expectations upended so delightfully.

Relationships, too, can be forever evolving and surprising in their invitations. Things may shift rather dramatically, for example, when children become their parents’ caregivers. When my mother came to live with us some years ago, we all had to make adjustments in our hopes and behaviors very quickly and unexpectedly. We thought she would soon be moving into her own nearby condominium, but her health declined rapidly, and everything suddenly changed.

This was most difficult for my mother, who was an extremely independent woman. She had cared for my father for almost 20 years following his stroke, and to so quickly find herself dependent and cared for was heartbreaking.

People respond to dialysis very differently, much of it due to the status of their overall health and related co-morbidities: for some it’s not too drastic, and they manage well with dialysis for years; for others, it can be extremely draining and dispiriting. Mama came home weary and discouraged from her first session, and her exhaustion only increased as the weeks passed. We could see her health fading, and our own spirits sank as well.

Everything my mother owned was neatly boxed and stacked in a storage unit some miles from our home. We hoped to complete an addition to our home and see her settled with her own furniture and belongings soon, but construction was still underway and stalled by winter storms. For now, my mother’s privacy and few necessary possessions were confined to the guest room. One day, early in December, I went to the storage unit after helping Mama get settled at the dialysis facility. I climbed, searched, dug around, and finally located some of her treasured Christmas decorations, came home, and set them around our living room and her bedroom. Her happiness at discovering these when I brought her home that afternoon was a great boon for both of us.

We all tried so hard to lift each other’s spirits that year, despite the fact that our family, home, and relationships felt like they were constantly shifting. We knew Mama was dying, but not yet. Everything was strange and new. I recall how we stumbled and found our way again, over and over; how we juggled joy and danced sorrow and laughed and wept…how precious people are when the world feels like it’s ending and they say yes to love, anyway. Constant reawakening to need, and loss, and ways to demonstrate and experience love.

Christmas was coming soon, and Phillip and I had fun planning treats and surprises to keep gratitude and joy readily accessible. We read Christmas stories, sang carols, watched movies, and happily relaxed some of the dietary restrictions dialysis patients have to follow, so Mama could enjoy her holiday season meals and a few special desserts.

We wrapped a lot of little gifts and set them under the tree with presents that arrived from my brothers, and hoped we could make Christmas Day truly special for Mama. Naturally, we didn’t expect her to do anything but relax and enjoy herself as much as possible.

When I handed Mama the last gift, she surprised us by reaching into the pockets of her robe and presenting each of us with a small wrapped box as well. I remember looking at Phillip in shock: how on earth—and when—had she located and wrapped presents for us? She was never left alone in our home, could no longer drive, and certainly didn’t walk into town on her own. She didn’t have the strength for any of these things.

I opened my gift and discovered a sweet brooch that had been my grandmother’s. Mama knew I collected these old brooches and—somehow—had wrapped this treasure from her own jewelry box, as she’d wrapped some of my Dad’s wonderful old tie-tacks for Phillip. The pin is lovely, but I value it more because it’s come to symbolize what that year taught me about love and the infinite ways it may surprise and enliven our days, if we keep our eyes and hearts open.

Stripped of hope that her health would be restored, deprived of dreams for her future, dependent upon others for meals and much of her care, my mother still honored her need–with dignity and creativity–to gift those she loved. Living a completely circumscribed and regulated life, she was able to  delight us with surprise. Those with infinite expectations of the dawn will encounter obstacles along the way, but the point, as Thoreau says, is to stay awake and look for the surprising opportunities and blessings that always appear.

We looked forward to sharing our dinner with a good friend this past Saturday night. Due to the week’s warm weather and melting snow, I’d planned a “spring” meal of quiche, salad, fruit, and “something lemony” for dessert. When I woke up Saturday morning to see the new version of a winter wonderland, I thought maybe a hearty stew was called for…but decided to surprise our guest with the spring meal, anyway. She’s the kind of person who naturally stays awake and looks for the dawn’s surprises, and I’m learning, all the time, how to expect its  infinite wonders, too.


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

Coming Back to Earth


You shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our journeying
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
~ T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” Four Quartets (1942)

To hear the song of the reed everything you have ever known must be left behind.  ~ Rumi

I always come to a point in the winter when I feel like I’m floating. Long weeks of silence and days muffled by snowfall, or the fatigue felt from hours spent wrestling with words and staring at a landscape drained of color leave me unmoored. There’s no anchor and I’m about to let go and drift away on whatever clouds offer me a ride.

And then Lent sails into port, calls me home, and grounds me once more.

 “Lent” is derived from the Old English word for springtime and refers to the lengthening hours of light now accorded us as our earth and spirits lean more profoundly towards the sun. It can be a lovely time of awakening and adjusting our orientation to Love, having metaphorically spent the winter in our spiritual hibernacula, gestating new meaning from the past year’s insights and experiences.

I’ve always treasured the season for its simplicity and compassionate length of almost seven weeks. “Take more time; cover less ground,” said Thomas Merton, and Lent’s gentle allotment of long weeks for re-awakening and renewing our connections to our Source, self, and others more deeply and authentically feels both kind and necessary. It’s like the soft voice of someone who loves us and treats us as the precious beings we are, allowing us to waken gradually and purposefully choose our new position in the ongoing dance with Love, the one relationship that dictates the health of all others in which we engage.

Lent is, therefore, a time for reassessment: we can acknowledge former choices that did not serve this relationship; we can sift, discard, and settle on a new version (“turning”) of this relationship, and so be reconciled and transformed; and of course, we can do anything else or nothing. We’re given time to decide, but the invitation comes with the implicit responsibility on our part to do the work, expend the energy, and evolve.

And certainly, Lent is a time for reassessing our image of the Holy. “Your image of God creates you,” writes Richard Rohr. What images of the Transcendent do we retain that no longer serve our growth, or are no longer congruent with our definition of Love? As Rumi says, we may need to subtract everything we’ve known to finally “hear the song of the reed.”

In many Christian churches, Lent is inaugurated with a ritual of ashes as a way of symbolically bringing followers “back to earth” after winter’s dreamy isolation, and reminding them that spiritual growth is best grounded in humility (“humus/earth”). The invitation is to set down our egos and proceed plainly and honestly.

Nothing magnificent is required on the Lenten journey; in fact, stripping away the grandiose elements of our spiritual wardrobe helps us reveal the elemental truth at its core: we are, already and always, essentially unique shards of Love/God, and asked only to translate this truth—uniquely—throughout our lives. Lent is an invitation to come home to this truth, this self that reflects the Sacred so singularly and well.

Humility is a vital companion and filter to help us recognize that this is also essentially true of everyone and everything; without humility, our egos reject our connection to all, deny Love as our Source, and assign relative values to the gifts others have come to share. A lack of humility leads to hierarchies, enslavement, us/them thinking, misuse of the earth’s resources, and a devaluation of life’s inherent sacredness.

Ashes are a beautiful symbol of our interconnection with the web of creation. In the end, we are of the earth as we are of Love; we are composed of its elements and minerals, as is all creation, and return to it when our lives have ended. Humility is our nature, and anytime we can remind ourselves of this, we come home again.

Phillip’s mother cared for her husband at the end of his life, and this loss seemed to accelerate her own dance with the gradual erasure and evaporation granted to those whom Alzheimer’s disease chooses as partners. When she was yet able, she stayed with us at times to give his sister a break from the emotional toll of caretaking.

I must clarify that the sadness experienced by this measured loss was ours. We who loved and witnessed Virginia’s “emptying” mourned it; however, Virginia retained her sweet smile and ability to endear herself to others to the end of her life. As her history and memories were subtracted, it seemed she heard the song of the reed with increasing clarity.

I have a photograph I treasure of Phillip’s mother standing near him in the garden during one of her visits. She did not know our home when she stayed with us, but she recognized Phillip as someone dimly recalled and safe, and seemed to find such peace when they touched the earth and plants together. It was clear she found a home within this experience that steadied her spirit. And every day, often several times, the conversation would repeat. “Where are we? This is your garden? You live here? Isn’t this nice!”

 Stripped of her sense of self and place, she knew she was home when she touched the earth and smelled the garden, and could sense the reassurance of Phillip’s presence and love. She was a perfect combination of dignity and humility, her austere and undiminished spirit shone purely from eyes that did not know us but rested on the earth and knew home.

That photograph—of Phillip, his mother, the garden, and our beloved dog, Idgi, off to the side—has become one of my most beloved images of God.

Somehow, after his parents’ respective memorial services, Phillip and I became the keepers of their ashes until all the siblings could gather to honor these two lives more intimately and create a ritual for peacefully taking leave of the ashes.

One August, we were all in one place, in a town with a beautiful river. Some of us went exploring and located a simple and abandoned property with a peaceful spot to gather and sit together along the river’s bank. A spontaneous and communal decision was made to finally hold our “farewell service” and everyone went off to create his or her contribution.

The next day we met at the secluded riverbank. One sister shared a verse from her Bible; another shared a poem, Phillip sang and then led us in songs his parents loved; his brother shared a poem about Queen Anne’s lace, a plant he connected with his mother. I shared a poem I’d written about ashes and love. Stories were shared, and laughter, and song…all in simple and genuine gratitude for parents whose lives were marked by humility and guided by Love.

We set small candles in the little cardboard boats we’d fashioned, and sprinkled some of the ashes within, lighting the candles, then sending the boats gently off into the flowing embrace of the river, and scattering the remaining ashes along the riverbank, with a blessing and farewell.

Every Lent in all the years since, I recall this “Ash Tuesday,” our meeting and parting at the river, this sweet goodbye, and the deep bond of love I felt for those gathered and for the two spirits sailing off and, at the end of all their journeying, returning home.

May your Lenten journey grace you with humility, ground your spirit, and lead you home. 

On Saying Goodbye at the River in August

The weary world turns

And burns away life

To ash.

The flame that remains

Is love.

The wild world winds

And grinds away life

To ash.

The song that goes on

Is love.

Blessed lives seed goodness.

A garden of grace, a family, a world,

Love’s unending genesis

Passed on…

Passed on

To death, to life,

To ashes, to life,

To dust returned and life renewed,

Spirits free of matter,

Sloughing off the stuff of stars,

Life revolving, love’s revolution,

Wild, turning, whirling world

By love alone survived.

And we, the fruits of your love,

Plant you as fruit for the earth,

Again and again


And ground to ash.

We consecrate the grinding,

Life to ashes,

Yet not wholly:

Holy lives

Make holy ground,

Life at rest,

But love unbound.


© 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 Love of the Old

“Nothing, so it seems to me,” said the stranger, “is more beautiful than the love that has weathered the storms of life…The love of the young for the young, that is the beginning of life. But the love of the old for the old, that is the beginning of—of things longer.” ~ Jerome K. Jerome, The Passing of the Third Floor Back

There were a series of robberies in Madison last week, targeting customers exiting an Apple Store with their new purchases. I learned about this watching the news that evening. The very young television reporter concluded his report by saying, “One victim was in his 80’s, and the other two were in their 50’s, so the thieves have—so far—targeted only elderly people, but all of the store’s customers should take precautions.”

I winced. It felt odd to be grouped so tightly and certainly with people three decades older than myself, all of us now and forever stamped and dismissed as “elderly.”

The next day, a friend sent me a link to poet Donald Hall’s recent essay, “Out the Window” in the January 23, 2012 issue of The New Yorker, where Hall, a former poet laureate and now 83, writes about his experience of aging and the sense of growing “invisibility” he feels. “However alert we are, antiquity remains an unknown, unanticipated galaxy. It is alien, and old people are a separate form of life…but most important they are permanently other…People’s response to our separateness can be callous, can be good-hearted, and is always condescending. When we turn eighty, we understand that we are extraterrestrial.” (There are excerpts from the essay and a link to Hall’s audio interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross here:

I’ve already begun to sense that gradual displacement from the cultural consciousness that Hall addresses: Television shows, movies, and magazines rarely reflect the lives, interests, or concerns of people my age; however, I don’t know if this is indicative of a sociological shift or not. There’s never been a time when society’s conscious and unconscious internal imagery and preferences were projected outwardly so concretely and preponderantly as our current technology allows. I’m sure my ancestors, when they were young, preferred the companionship of their peers as well, but they pursued this in relative privacy.

I suspect that the older among us have always been invisible to the young. I know I didn’t value the wisdom, beauty, experience or presence of my elders when I was younger. Although I’ve always had friends across generations, most of my companions have been contemporaries.

This aspect of aging seems to make Hall angrier and more melancholy than I feel considering it. (But, again, he has lived a few decades longer than I, and an entirely different life. I hope I’m not cross and depressed when /if I’m 83, but I might be.) I don’t agree with him, though, that the young are “always” condescending to the old. They’re just busy doing the best they can in their current stage of life, usually with the lesser requisite experience and wisdom to do better (from our aged point of view) because they haven’t circled the sun as many times. (This is not to say that older and wiser automatically occur in partnership, but it’s what I observe in my friends and hope for myself.) With any luck and awareness, they’ll have the chances we’ve had to learn and grow and age.

I think a lot of us “freeze” our self-perception at the time we feel most vibrant and energetic in life, and carry around images of ourselves that become increasingly out-of-date with the current reality others encounter, which is one reason I’m usually startled by mirrors these days. (“Yikes! What’s wrong with that mirror?” Or “Who the hell is that old bird looking at me so intently?”) We see longtime friends and older relatives intermittently, and our inner voice confidently smirks, “Wow; s/he’s really aging…” until we see a picture of ourselves sitting beside these people and they look markedly younger than we do.

The invitations, for me, are to laugh and carry on. I try to name and celebrate the gifts of age, and develop and share humor and compassion for its miseries. There are great possibilities and freedom in being perceived as invisible, after all. Losing the self-consciousness of youth is wonderful.

And aging brings much greater gifts. I’ve always treasured antiques, old pictures, and handworn objects. Now that my relationships have gained more mileage than I once thought possible, I also increasingly value the depth and richness they offer. Sharing decades of memories, journeying together through blessing and loss, and offering each other profound peace, laughter, compassion, and true familiarity (“family”) are just some of the priceless assets of lasting relationship, and only time can offer us these.

My “old friends” inspire me. One has begun a new career. Another just earned a degree and is pursuing her many artistic gifts. One is self-employed and successful beyond anything I can imagine. One is having his first play produced. No one is about to impose age-related restrictions on these people.

Old love offers sanctuary for reflection. My dogs’ sweet faces are sprinkled with white hair, and I know every bump, scar, and worn patch on their soft bodies. Holding them, I hold as well all the years of shared adventures and their precious companionship, and I’m grateful for the countless ways their unique personalities have changed and hallowed my life.

Old love reminds us of our power and bids us to use it with tender care. I look at my husband and feel both the earned and undeserved joy of the traveler who’s found the perfect companion. We know what the other’s thinking. A look or a word can trigger laughter or pierce the heart. We rest in each other’s silences and anticipate each other’s needs. We offer balance, revitalize each other’s spirit, and value each other’s need for retreat and silence. None of this can be taken for granted; the deeper we travel into relationship, the greater the potential for damage and suffering. Hearts so profoundly merged and spirits so conjoined are never separated without endangering lives, as we’ve witnessed in our own relationships and those of others who have loved and lost.

Old love is a privilege that demands our faithfulness and worthiness, but oh, the rewards long-term relationships offer us. The idea of constancy—stability, faithfulness, reliability—is finally grasped in a love that is old.

When I was in college, I was blessed to form amazing friendships with fellow artists—as we considered ourselves and as time has proven them all to be— in the theater department. We were young, vulnerable, smart, funny, reaching, and stumbling together, co-creating the people we wanted to be. We held our own and each other’s dreams, fought, forgave, transformed, celebrated, and set out on our paths knowing these connections were forever integral to our stories.

Throughout the years (and they are now decades), we’d meet again, in two’s or three’s, to honor weddings, assist in transitions, mourn losses, and lend support. In recent years, thanks to technology, these old friendships have been renewed and strengthened. One of our friends, as I mentioned, is having a play produced, and so this week I’m traveling to New York to meet with him and many others from my merry old band of brothers and sisters, and staying with a friend I love and admire beyond words.

I cannot wait.

I know there will be the initial shock: we’re all old! And I know as well that it will pass within a few heartbeats into the deep knowing and joy that fills our being when old love welcomes us and our ageless spirits recognize, reach for, and rest in each other’s arms.

Phillip has given me the gift of this lovely journey for Valentine’s Day, assuring me we’ll celebrate with a dinner and stories when I come home; only an old love like ours knows that “things longer” are just beginning.

Happy Valentine’s Day to All!

(And something for “Old Boomer Codgers” to read while I’m away this week:


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