Heat Wave

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 028It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility.  ~ Yogi Berra

Almost two weeks of hellishly high temperatures, thunderstorms, and the resulting steamy atmosphere have made the world around Full Moon Cottage a sauna. A Finnish winter in reverse. We dash outside to sear our lungs and open every pore, then run back inside to chill ourselves silly.

Nonetheless, despite sketchy weeding and deadheading missions conducted in haste while smothered in mosquito repellant, I seem to have kept the gardens happy. And at dusk, cloaked in conditioned air and holding glasses of chilled wine, we’ve enjoyed the seasonal spectacle of fireflies flitting about, seeking romance and union.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 042Every morning, I refill the birdbaths with fresh cold water, check the many feeders, and make sure all of our summer guests are tended. A kind friend sent me a wren house her husband built and we now have house wrens serenading us with their aggressively happy chirping.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 011Nights have been less pastorally soothing. Thunder and lightning have rumbled and crackled through most of the last week’s dreamtime. I can tell by the dark circles under our eyes that both of us need a long, quiet night. It looks like that may happen sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, when a dry, temperate spell is forecast.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 006No complaints. The rain has been welcome and the high river allows for canoe rides to continue. Other parts of our state have been flooded, and for many farmers, hopes pinned to a planting season and eventual harvest have vanished. Last year these were lost to drought and this year to flooding, a vivid reminder that we are still tethered to our climate and its health for our sustenance.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 001Well, almost no complaints.

The chiggers that plagued my gardening for several summers disappeared completely during last summer’s drought, I expect from lack of food and moisture. I am made, utterly, of smells and tastes most delicious to mites; they’d completely ignore Phillip if he were lying nude in the garden and I stood beside him covered in armor. They’d head straight for the chinks in my metal and pierce my flesh with their nasty stylostomes, injecting enzymes that melt my cell structure into chigger malts. I’d hoped that between the drought and our lovely cold winter they’d disappeared for good, but discovered this morning that they’ve not only survived but are thriving…the confident human gardener, smug in her knowledge of where to dig and what to plant and how to improve the landscape, bustles outside to rearrange and redesign the earth surrounding her home and returns covered in itchy red welts, brought low by a voracious and nearly invisible mite.

Yogi Berra was right: It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility!

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 013

 

© 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.

Changing Course

Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 136Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.  ~ Henry James

This month, I’ve been “working ahead,” so I won’t fall too far behind as I heal from a foot surgery that had been scheduled for this Friday. But, after a long talk with the surgeon this morning, I decided against the surgery, as it seems the procedure he now feels would be best would also be more complicated than we first thought. Since it is not-yet-necessary, I’ll continue to deal with the relative discomfort, for now. 

Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 012

Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 073

I feel a bit like a ship that just missed an iceberg; all the engines have been thrown into reverse and I’m about to start forward again, but my heart is saying, “Wait.” My mind and spirit haven’t caught up yet. All the tasks I’d normally tackle are already finished, and all the speculations and decisions I’d cast forward around the weeks to come have suddenly vanished. Part of me was almost looking forward to lying on the couch with a raised foot, watching all the episodes of Game of Thrones and being cared for by my darling husband. But I also feel relieved that the riskier and more complex surgery can be put off, for now.

And now I can take time to smell the flowers, change my course from being so future-oriented to entering the present more fully, as I realize (again…sigh) I should have been doing all along.

Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 003 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 041 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 085 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 106 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 165 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 171I’ve also thought about all the people facing surgeries they can’t postpone; by contrast, my need to undo plans and schedules that my over-organized mind has arranged seems insignificant. I’m grateful for the time I’ve been given to wait and discern my course, and hope for less invasive procedures to be created.

So, I’m heading out on my bike to relax and let go of all the anxiety and calculations, the planning and imagining, the endless detritus collected when the calendar boxes are filled, circled and underlined…back to the blank pages and the healing openness of a glorious summer afternoon.

Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 016 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 055 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 083 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 126 Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 160

Peace to all those facing diagnoses and surgeries that can’t be removed from the calendar; may the sleepy green and fragrant peace of a summer afternoon surround their hearts and spirits, and bless them through their healing course to a new wholeness.

Turtle, bike ride, deer, gardens 140

 

© 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.

Lush Life

Gardens and Bridge 004It’s that lovely, lovely time of year when the gardens have begun sharing their blooms and are so pregnant with the promise of more, that life feels lush indeed. The slugs are tiny and the Japanese Beetles haven’t yet arrived. We’ve hosted a multitude of the dragonfly called “Widow Skimmer,” and Monarch Butterflies are fluttering around the gardens here and there. The succession of blooms, from peonies to irises and poppies, continues, and it’s hard to believe how much delight I derive from this always-surprising flow of color and texture year after year. A lifetime of gardening certainly keeps one reliably childlike!

Widow Skimmer
Widow Skimmer

Gardens, Bridge 061 Strom warning, gardens 180 Gardens, Bridge 062 Gardens, Bridge 093 Gardens, Bridge 137 Gardens, Bridge 129I’ve been checking my Baptisias every day; in addition to last year’s drought, they were devastated by Genista Broom Moths, usually found in Texas. The Baptisias have been my faithful garden anchors for 15 years with never a pest or disease and their suffering was especially distressing following the damage from the drought. So far, they’re egg and caterpillar-free.

Strom warning, gardens 024Along the trail (which we’re back to traveling, now that the new bridge has been completed), the wild honeysuckles’ heady perfumes have given way to phlox and wild roses. The garlic mustard is back with a vengeance, but I’ve learned to keep it out of my own gardens by harvesting and blending it in salads: The best way to defeat your enemies may be to make them your friends, but I’ve discovered that eating them also works, at least in this case.

Strom warning, gardens 211 Gardens, Bridge 051 Gardens, Bridge 139Phillip’s vegetable garden is planted, and daily watering is calling forth shoots and tendrils that make me dream of beans and tomatoes and all things delicious. We enjoyed a huge asparagus yield this spring, and the gooseberries, raspberries, and cherries are equally plentiful this year; within a few weeks, their fruits will be converted into our summer energy as well.

Gardens, Bridge 143 Gardens, Bridge 145Little Murphy had a visit to the vet last week, and Clancy needed a visit the week before, so we’re grateful for our wonderful veterinarian and happy that the prescribed medicine is helping both heal from their diagnosed (minor) problems.

Tulips, Birds, 4-Leggeds 078 Cats, Gardens 039Phillip completed another school year and is remodeling a kitchen for a colleague this month. He received a lovely letter from an appreciative parent, not a common occurrence these days, and so, dearly valued for the encouragement offered.

Gardens, Bridge 116Next Monday, I’ll celebrate my 58th birthday, and I’m scheduled for surgery on the 21st, so posts will be slow in coming for a while, but I’m hopeful the gardens will remain healthy and enhance my own healing.

Every so often, we reach these mysterious intersections of time and place that offer perfect peace, contentment, and comfort. Moments of enchantment that can last for days. Our hearts seem to say, “I know this place; it is my home.” I’m finally able to listen to my heart and detect, name, and cherish such times, which wasn’t always the case, and I know they will transmute into new days of discontent, discomfort, and less beauty. Their transitory “now-ness” makes them all the more precious. The river of time will continue to flow and carry my little “life boat” along to new adventures, times, and places…and some will feel, again, like home.

Gardens, Bridge 028So I drink deeply and promise myself, again, that this time, I’ll keep this holy peace in my heart and carry it forward to the next “now-ness.” Whatever surprising flow of color and texture is offered, may our spirits rest in peace.

Cats, Gardens 099

Gardens, Bridge 055Namaste, my friends.

A Parent’s Letter:

Phillip,
Just wanted to take a minute to thank you for all that you have done over the years in teaching my kids. When someone asks, “Who is a good teacher in our town?” I think of you. Thank you for always putting up with my texts and in-person visits. Thank you for being patient with my son over the years and helping him out as much as you have. I am truly glad that he had a teacher like you who was willing to work with him so that he could graduate. I’m sure there were times that he shouldn’t have, but thank you for making sure he did. Best of luck to you in the next years of teaching…

 

© 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.

 

The Fine Art of Cat-Napping

Guest Author: Finnegan the Cat

Finny 010Hello again, dear reader. The human who calls herself my mother has dashed out once more to weed and mulch gardens between our current, intermittent thunderstorms. While I do not know precisely what these tasks entail or why they must be accomplished, I have seized upon her frenzied behavior as a welcome opportunity to once again share my wisdom with you.

This time, I do not address fellow felines, but seek to widen my ever-increasing circle of devotees by directly addressing humans and instructing you, from my superior vantage point as a rightly-adored member of the species felis silvestris catus, in the fine art of napping, something we cats know about and practice deeply and intensely.

My thinking has undergone brilliant revision: Earlier, I sought to aid my colleagues in the training of their humans (https://thedailyround.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/the-training-of-humans-by-finnegan-the-cat/), but hundreds of e-mails from eager students have informed me that their humans are so exhausted and ill-tempered that education and improvement pose challenges even the most diligent feline cannot surmount.

I deduce this to be due to humans’ lack of sleep, observing as I have that it is both a pleasure and spiritual practice you largely avoid. Thus, if I can successfully remedy your need and capacity for sleep, your training as better servants to cats everywhere can resume.

Using my siblings—and, of course, myself—as models, I will illustrate approaches to restorative slumber that you may not have previously considered or attempted. While some human scientists encourage napping as a method for recuperating one’s mind, body, and spirit, I instead encourage you to consider it as an art form, and the highest calling one might pursue, for true Art, in itself, is rejuvenating.

And, please, banish ideas of “power-napping” and other such obscenities from your vocabulary and mind. These are euphemisms used by “success-oriented and managerial” types to suggest a nap is something accomplished quickly and with the utmost strain, in order to achieve the most beneficial results regarding your increased productivity. (Their gain, your loss; such is capitalism, my friends, and believe me, you derive no nap-like benefits from buying into its tireless resolve to suck your body and soul dry…but I digress.)

I will return to my political ideologies in another post, but, for now, I must again emphasize that you eradicate such filthy terms and faux practices as “power-napping” from your mind and life. Instead, I would submit that the neophyte napper must accept that the fine art of napping requires sustained periods of self-accepting but resolute practice, resulting, one hopes, in up to 16, perhaps (I can dream) 20 hours of sleep every day.

Behold: a photograph of my mother “napping” in an automobile many years ago, captured by my father, who may have better used his time focusing on the road before him.

Kitty napping 001While I would hardly recommend a moving vehicle as the most welcoming spot to pursue one’s naps, we shall see that location is best designated through personal preference. At this time, mother’s method, as you can plainly see, lacked delicacy and the controlled “athlete in repose” image one aims to achieve. Still, for a beginner, there were aspects of her approach that might have encouraged a professional tutor of my distinction, but, sadly, her apparent need for a drool cup–an unfortunate lapse in mother’s style and form that continues to this day–made problematic the likelihood she would ever attain a true mastery level in her napping, a forecast many (many) years have proven true. Study and learn from this, dear reader.

Here, then, a Beginner’s Guide to Napping, today covering the basics of location, form, and duration.

Location: Sun-puddles are the finest places for napping, wherever they are found. Rugs, window seats, boxes, sinks, commercial cat-beds (if one must), and, of course, human beds are recommended, but please explore your unique napping preferences and be willing to experiment. One of my favorite places to nap is atop the clothing and blanket dryer when it is running full throttle, and Murphy (although I cannot recommend the general sloppiness of his postures, save for Pose #3; see following) often naps high above the living room, on top of the TV cabinet.

Cat Naps, Gardens, New Bridge, and River Flowing Upstream 036

Cat Naps, Gardens, New Bridge, and River Flowing Upstream 034I would caution you to refrain from napping anywhere in the kitchen, especially on a counter or tabletop, as our mother (if her acknowledged odd behavior can be extrapolated to other humans) pitches a royal hissy fit when we dare to attempt this. I have responded with my keenest “Calm yourself, woman” glare to no avail, so have abandoned this location as acceptable. For now. (As I have referenced, she is aged and I will likely outlast her.) You may have better luck with your family members, or may live alone, so I say have at it, if your kitchen counter is calling.

Posture: This is where the true artist emerges. The first position I would suggest is the casual magnificence demonstrated here, by moi, in the Crossed Paws Pose. Note the peaceful maintenance of the head’s position.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 014Alternately, but with greater practice, for it is much more advanced, one may hold the head just so, at a jaunty angle.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 021As you progress in your art, you may attempt the following: Moving from position one, above, a yawn (still napping, of course) is executed, and then one drops, almost imperceptibly, to the “Perfectly Prone” position. A trifecta of nappage postures, as it were. Do not try this too soon in your learning; you are bound to be discouraged when you fail.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 016

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 012Sometimes examples that demonstrate the antithesis of a lesson best teach:

Cat Naps, Gardens, New Bridge, and River Flowing Upstream 050
No.
And no.
And no.

Sadly, and once more, no.

Sadly, and once more, no.

Another pose to master is to rest on one’s ventral side, casually, the One Paw Extended Pose. (Casual to the beholder, of course; one’s focus must be riveted.) You can see my attempts to teach Murphy (a.k.a., “The Ham”) are ruined by his relentless inability to focus on anything but the camera.

DSCF0015The third pose, however, resting one’s head like an infant upon one’s forward, sweetly-curled paws, The Neonate Pose, is one of Murphy’s specialties. It makes adult humans say, “Oh, how cute! How precious! How darling!” If one goes in for that sort of childish thing, this pose may be your favorite.

DSCF0013The fourth and most challenging “solo” position is to execute a perfect circle of contentment, as I am doing here, in the aptly named Circle of Contentment Pose.

Cat Naps 003This cannot be forced, but rather demands elegance, the perfect coiling of the tail completing the circle, the head resting on all 4 paws…Mulligan comes close; when he is not licking himself, he can be a most surprising student in mastering what would seem far beyond his troubling intellect.

Cat Naps 012

Sadly, the new sibling, Fergus, falls far short of the circle pose, but we are practicing diligently and daily.

Several weeks ago.
Several weeks ago.
Today. Sigh. I persevere.
Today. Sigh. I persevere.

Lastly, I would say a supreme pinnacle, a “mountaintop” you may want to hold in your napping dreams, is the Happy Family Nap Pose, which, as is plainly apparent in this photograph, my siblings cannot yet grasp. Here, I am almost at wit’s end trying to elicit cooperation in this most strenuous of poses. As you can see, Murphy has positioned himself far too closely to my posterior and then immediately fallen asleep. Synchronized sleeping is key in the HFP. Fiona and Mulligan are clearly seen to be out of alignment; in addition, Fiona is looking scornfully at the camera, while, again, Mulligan’s fascination with licking himself has robbed him of focus entirely.

catz on bed 5.16.12 010Finally, I must address the duration of napping that a true artist would demonstrate. To aspire towards anything less than 10 hours would reveal one’s permanently amateur status. Begin, I caution, with the stated 10, and build up your endurance to the Mastery Level of 16 hours, and then 20 hours (the latter conferring the status of Supreme Master). I humbly admit I have achieved this level, and seek to guide my siblings towards similar perfection. Mulligan, if I can deter the licking, may do well. Fiona seems to be developing her own system of napping. We shall see: these secondary schools of form and content are so often drenched in inferiority; for example, consider Pantanjali and then Iyengar, if you catch my drift. The mind quickly turns from such blatant perversion. Perhaps Young Fergus, if he can vastly improve his form, may be most likely to succeed as the next Master, but he has years of practice ahead of him.

As do you, dear reader, so get to it. 

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 002

 

© 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.

 

Dona Nobis Pacem

spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 045May my silences become more accurate. ~ Theodore Roethke

When I was younger and my body, or mind, or spirit shared its weariness, my response was usually to resist such silliness and work harder. I suspect this was the equivalent of “leaning in.”

spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 009Now I listen attentively and grant myself Sabbath minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks—whatever is possible in proportion to the emptiness I detect—if these will restore my creativity and re-balance my energy.

spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 097I have spent years offering my creative energy to Full Moon and her gardens; it’s nice when I allow these places and spaces to gift me in return with their beauty and energy, allowing love to flow both ways and deep re-creation to restore me with peace and new insights.

spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 057So, weary to the bone, I’m taking a week off to be still and to listen; to plant and ponder, weed and wonder…to allow my silences to become more accurate.

spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 105I began the day with a breakfast of asparagus freshly harvested, in gratitude: barely cooked, lightly buttered and generously peppered…my Sabbath has begun.

spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 013 spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 032 spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 038 spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 042 spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 055 spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 073 spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 081 spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 085 spring gardens, grated finger food, birds 090

Joy and gentle peace to you from Full Moon.

 

© 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.

Sacred Ground

sandill crane, mourning dove, gardens 067My husband and I have begun the long discernment regarding where we’d most like to retire. We have several years of regular employment ahead of us, but think it best we start the conversation now, in case other opportunities present themselves, or health issues arise that would require a more sudden shift. So, what shall it be? “Up North” on a lake? A condo in the city? A different state? In the U.S.? Another country? We know that, at some point, the maintenance of Full Moon and its four acres will become more physically demanding than we can manage, but what are the signs that will tell us the time has come?

We can’t know what’s ahead, of course, but I’ve known people who have reached their retirement without ever truly having considered their needs, desires, and possibilities regarding the next (and, let’s face it, the last) stage of their lives. The following years proved more challenging for them than a dedicated time of planning may have created.

Even beginning these conversations has proven interesting, as we each consider leaving Full Moon Cottage, sit with our feelings, come back to reconsider possibilities and then go out to work in the yard, take a canoe trip, walk on the path, or sail down the trail on a long, meditative bike ride.

Full Moon has been a lovely and deepening home, generous in its gifting, and we’ve traveled through a good bit of our lives here. Every season has offered so much beauty and so many lessons. This past week, the orioles, red-breasted grosbeaks, purple finches, goldfinches, and hummingbirds returned to the feeders with their great appetites and vivid presence.

Spring birds 011 Spring birds 017 Spring birds 025The shy and solitary green heron who lives beside us in the woods has returned; like the owls, he struggles to find peace among the raucous crows, and I’m grateful he does, for his annual reappearance and heartbreaking calls each spring anchor the new season for me as surely as the oriole’s song.

Green Heron 030The tulips have begun blooming, at last, and we’ve been working to edge and mulch the gardens, just ahead of the weeds, especially the vigorous garlic mustard, which suffered no setback from the drought.

sandill crane, mourning dove, gardens 008 sandill crane, mourning dove, gardens 011 sandill crane, mourning dove, gardens 023A mourning dove couple has chosen to build their nest above my pullout clothesline. I guess I’ll be using my dryer for a few more weeks. We’ve never seen mourning dove newborns, so this is a rare treat for us.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 146

sandill crane, mourning dove, gardens 035

There are nests all around our home; every day more are apparent. We noticed a sandhill crane nesting in a marshy area, “hidden in plain view.” 

sandill crane, mourning dove, gardens 059

It looks like we’ll have a very brief spring; temperatures could be in the 90’s next week, and summer will open wide. I can’t help but wonder how many more springs we’ll be here to welcome fox kits, to set out seed and oranges for returning birds and their newborns, or to tend the gardens’ rebirth. I wonder how many more autumns we’ll bid them each farewell and settle in for another winter.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 090But Full Moon has taught me that wherever we are, there is possible beauty and the rhythm of cycles that elicit love and call forth our gifts to co-create. We’ll be sad when we finally have to leave, of course, but I hope we’ll be looking forward to new adventures on other sacred ground, and quiet places to bow down to the beauty before us.

sandill crane, mourning dove, gardens 066

 

© 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.

Breath of Life

Phillip, my cousin, Don, and my Aunt Mary
Phillip, my cousin, Don, and my Aunt Mary

My beloved Aunt Mary died several weeks ago, early one Sunday morning in February. She was my mother’s younger sister, but not by much, and their close bond throughout their lives always made me long for a sister, too.  It often surprised the three of us how much more I resembled my aunt in attitudes and preferences than I did my mother. And in the years since my mother died, Mary and I had become even closer, sharing e-mails and phone visits regularly.

My aunt was a remarkable person, utterly funny, charming, intelligent, and alive to the society, interests, and amusements that paraded through her days, the kind of person who had many lifelong friends, enamored children, nieces and nephews, and beholden strangers who benefited from her kindness and acts of charity. She was someone whose wit, wisdom, ready listening and encouragement were vital to making others see that a better world, or just a better day, is always possible. She had a vital spark most lack. She breathed greater life into those around her than they sustained alone.

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 041I write this not as a eulogy, for I cannot do her gifts or influence on my life justice in such a brief forum, but by way of sharing that my grief in losing her has been gentle and so coupled with relief at her peace that it’s traveled with me these past weeks more like a soft grey cloud than a terrible storm, as my parents’ deaths engendered. I am grateful for her gifts and presence in my life and I am grateful that she is no longer yearning to be with her husband or suffering from ill health.

But I sure miss our e-mails, visits, and shared laughter.

I was thinking of her one morning when spring beckoned more than chores and I’d wandered outside to see what the world could tell me. I saw this daffodil, so earnest in its reaching for light that the dead leaf circumscribing its leaves couldn’t restrain its rising momentum.

Fox babies, dogpark, roly-poly puppies 007That is how the dead can be with us, how grief can restrain joy…The next day, the leaf had fallen away, joining others that surrounded the plant, becoming food for its continued growth. In death, still the breath of life.

Fox babies, dogpark, roly-poly puppies 011Grief takes its own time—and must—but what a gentle reminder that winter leads to spring, and death to life. Just the kind of message my Aunt Mary would send me.

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 062

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 064Another gift of spring has been these darling fox kits, just emerging from their den to smell the world and take a few tentative steps into its songs and mysteries. They make every pore of my being tingle with maternal instinct, but, like everything wild, including my own nature, they also teach me over and over again to respect their boundaries and not interfere with instinctive patterns followed for centuries. So I observe from a distance and leave them to their necessary dance. I hope they will know peace, and comfort, and joy, in whatever form these may be known by foxes. I breathe a prayer and send it to their den at night.

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 090I read about a wealthy inventor, futurist and engineer who believes people will, eventually, live forever, and who has hopes that his dietary, vitamin, and exercise regimen will allow him to remain healthy until this is possible.

I have no desire to live forever; I just want to be alive for all of the life granted me, and, if I’ve done it well, maybe I can feed the growth of others in their reaching for the light after I’ve gone, breathing still through their lives and the ways they love the world.

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 101Like my Aunt Mary.

 

© 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.

 

Spring’s Winning

Lilac Buds

March

A blue day
a blue jay
and a good beginning.

One crow,
melting snow —
spring’s winning!

~ Elizabeth Coatsworth

April Snow and High River 021When I worked as a teacher, I looked forward to spring and the enjoyment offered by the poetry units I shared with my middle school students. This poem, by Elizabeth Coatsworth, was always a favorite of my sixth graders, and the spring poems they created and illustrated in response to the many we studied were equally lovely.

Last Sunday Morning
Last Sunday Morning

April Snow and High River 018Yearning for blue skies, birdsong, and sweet green earth is nothing new after a long Wisconsin winter, but this year our winter-weary hearts have been sorely tried, indeed. We received snow last Sunday and are told “a dusting” will return again Friday, accompanied by another week of rain.

April Snow and High River 010After last year’s long thirst, I’m only happy for the moisture in whatever forms it arrives, but today’s sunshine and the chance to inspect the gardens and see (hooray!) that last year’s tulips and daffodils survived the drought, has been pure gift. The river is high, the birds are singing, and—even though we’re sliding towards the end of April—spring, I can tell, is finally winning.

April Snow and High River 036

April Snow and High River 034

April Snow and High River 074

April Snow and High River 065Gentle peace to your week…

 

© 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.

Riversong

End of March, Snow, Sunrise, Full Moon Over River 017

Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. ~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

The spirit of spring, for me, certainly includes the divine discontent Grahame mentions, but perhaps it feels more like a sacred and welcome effervescing than a discontent. It is a readiness to emerge…I wonder if it’s felt by butterflies as they pierce the sheltering confines of their cocoons?

I yearn to muck about in the gardens and to co-create with the earth, to honor my winter’s rest by cleaning the house from top to bottom. This is the time I listen for the river’s spring song, familiar yet always new, as though my Creator is calling me forth into the new season’s green dance.

First spring canoe ride 008Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. ~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Phillip was home from work last week, and we decided to tackle some home improvement projects, but also planned daily adventures that took us out and away from home. Last year, temperatures in the 80’s allowed us to get all the gardens cleaned, weeded and mulched. This year, they’re still sleeping beneath the snow.

End of March, Snow, Sunrise, Full Moon Over River 064The river was barely open at the beginning of the week, then gradually the ice retreated and at dawn, returning ducks and geese floated dreamily down the river. By Friday, most of the ice had melted, so off we went on the year’s first canoe trip.

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First spring canoe ride 078The pictures, I think, make it look like we had a chilly ride, but it was really quite pleasant, though utterly absent of green. Still, the spring smells of thawing earth and the glorious birdsong bathed us in promises the next few weeks will keep.

First spring canoe ride 041We met some men fishing for walleyes and another pair using a seine, probably for carp.

First spring canoe ride 046Sandhill cranes and Canada geese called and flew overhead, red-wing blackbirds chimed along the bank, and we met the pair of ducks that nested in our garden last spring. This year, our fox has a new hole very near the “duck garden,” so I hope they’ll nest elsewhere.

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First spring canoe ride 112The rest of our week together was happy: we took a day to go antiquing, and spent our Easter Sunday with family, but it’s the lovely time in our canoe that consecrated the week most profoundly for me, leisurely paddling and listening to the waking earth and river sing our spirits back to life.

By the river and with it and on it and in it…It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing…  ~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Phillip returned to school today and I started the housecleaning after he left this morning. A crew has come to the bridge to pull up and replace the old planks and side rails. The incessant beeping of their front-end loader as it backed up, over and over, initially made the pups bark protectively until they were sufficiently reassured and accustomed to it, a good thing, since the bridge repair is scheduled to last the month.

Sunrise, Easter at Angie and Tim's 009The temperature is near freezing, but I stepped outside to shake some rugs and watch the light dance over the river. A few last pieces of ice floated by and I watched two male cardinals battle for a nesting site. I noticed a female waiting and watching. I wonder if she favors one or the other? I wanted to stay outside, but the air was cold and my indoor chores called me back.

I hope I’ll have time again this afternoon to walk down near the riverbank and listen to the river’s music, singing over and over, “Come; join the spring’s green dance!” Winter muscles need practice to get back in shape and I want to be ready to dance up a storm when spring comes to stay.

…when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.  ~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

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The Gift of Water

March icicles 001Snow, ice, fog, and rain: within a week’s time, we’ll experience all of these in massive doses: March in Wisconsin. The juxtaposition of winter and spring is marked and remarkable, and painted with water in all her varied media.

Two days ago, we received 8 more inches of snow and today, icicles are melting and birds are again energetically singing their spring songs. Rain is forecast for the weekend, and snow returns on Monday. After a long season of drought last year, we’re very grateful for water in any form, as well as the music, smells, and images each form creates.

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DSCF0234I’ve been contemplating the gift of water these past few weeks. Turn the handle of the faucet and out comes water fit to drink, or bathe, or clean our food, or wash our clothes. The quality and availability of fresh water is a gift to be treasured and conserved.

Our state is bordered by two Great Lakes, including Superior, the largest fresh water body on earth. Just south of Lake Superior is the Penokee Range, which runs southwest from the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan to southeast Bayfield County, Wisconsin.

A 22-mile iron ore vein runs through this range, and was mined with shaft-mines from 1868 until 1965, when they were closed, due to the advent of the cheaper open-pit mines, such as those in Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range and Michigan’s Marquette Iron Range. The competition from inexpensive foreign ores also contributed to the closing of the shaft mines. Wisconsin became, over the next several decades a leader in environmental protection, nationally and at home, creating stringent laws to ensure our precious resources would be safeguarded for generations. Or so we believed.

Titmice, snow, cats, chili, snow 002Running along the surface of the Penokee Range, for example, are lakes, trout streams and the head waters of many rivers. Downstream is the Bad River watershed and the reservation of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. The Bad River watershed contains 40% of all the wetlands in the Lake Superior watershed.

This land provides essential habitats for bald eagles, wolves, plants, songbirds, fish, and humans, and is regarded as some of the most environmentally-sensitive land in the state.

Snow-walk with Riley and Clancy 042The current Republican majority in our state government have chosen to prostitute the Penokee Range, however, selling it to Gogebic Taconite (a subsidiary of The Cline Group owned by billionaire Christopher Cline, and headquartered in Florida. His mining operations in Illinois have pillaged and polluted the land and water.)

Our noble politicians rushed a bill through the legislature, holding only one, brief, public hearing, that allows this corporation—one of the nation’s largest mining companies—almost free reign in destroying the land, the habitats, and the groundwater, so it might extract taconite, at great profit to Mr. Cline, called “New King Coal” by Bloomberg.

Long-standing and environmentally-sound mining laws have been re-written by our current legislature so Chris Cline can hurry up and start extracting taconite; he’s paid for these exemptions, after all.

I don’t know how much more abuse our mother earth can take, and it saddens me, deeply, that the state I was once so proud to call home will be complicit in her further destruction. The legislature is calling it a “job-creator,” but I’m not sure people will want to work in a place where the land and water are poisoned.

icecicle drips 056Perhaps it could be the Republican version of a tourist attraction, to replace the one they’ve destroyed. Come one; come all! See the largest open pit mine in the world!

But don’t drink the water.

 

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Happy March

Peace to your day, and to the wisdom of wild things…May you feel blessed and accompanied by all companions on your journey.

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There’s Irony for You

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Year ago, I was teaching my 6th graders various literary terms and concepts, and asked them to incorporate some of these into a short written piece. One of the boys created a story about prisoners in Alcatraz painstakingly plotting their escape. One, “Pierre,” had dreams of tap dancing. When they finally broke out and swam towards freedom, a shark sidled up and devoured Pierre’s legs. The story ended with the line, “There’s irony for you.”

February has been so watery and pale that on many days the horizon has eerily disappeared. The snow and ice-covered land has seemed to dissolve into a sky emptied of color, as though some cosmic vampire has sucked all the earth of its blood. Even the birds evidence their ennui. The shortest month has become the longest

Snow, Murphy, House, Birds 053 - CopyFebruary has become Life as a Swedish Movie. Everyone moves about in his own little sphere of tortured suffering: Hand to forehead; deep sighs; endless gazes into the distance; depressing non-sequiturs about spoiled grain, virgin springs, strawberries and dying butterflies exchanged without eye contact. Everything black, white, somber and funereal. If Max Von Sydow entered the room and ignored me, it would seem entirely predictable.

I headed out for an eye appointment yesterday afternoon and my little VW Bug slid and ricocheted off the icy rims of the endless-as-February driveway, heedless of my efforts to steer. I began to doubt reaching the road in one piece was a likely goal. I was navigating some nightmare carnival ride and damn near gave up to plod back to the safety of the house and resume gazing out the window and sighing.

But I forbore, steadfast in my determination to give myself a change of scene.

But the scene changed not. Except that the endless hills of white and gray gave way to the dirty puddled streets and buildings, and cars corroding from layers of salt.

I entered the optometrist’s office and my own forced smile was met by the receptionist’s frozen grimace; brittle attempts at dialogue were made, briefly, before we lapsed into silence. I may have choked on a sob or two.

Across the street, I saw a woman half-heartedly try to talk a man down from a window ledge. It was only a foot or two above the street, but I understood his despair.

I was summoned to the back room for my eye exam, conducted in mutual and muted grunts, varied only by long sighs. I looked at the gray carpet and thanked my doctor, who stared at the white wall and muttered that death is our ever-present companion.

But then, as I reached for my coat, and scarf, and sweater, and mittens, and hat, and boots, a strange light filled the sky. I looked out in wonder. Shadows, colors, and the illusion of warmth magically swept across the cityscape. Pedestrians ceased plodding and their steps became buoyant. I heard music. I turned and smiled towards the receptionist and she smiled towards me. Light bounced back and forth between the lenses in our glasses and we laughed and spoke of gardens.

Garden End of May Early June 2010 004Across the street, the desperate man leapt down from the ledge and executed a complicated but nonetheless merry Swedish folk dance. Melting snow fell from the roof of the building, covering all but his feather-tufted Tyrolean hat.

snow, February 040There’s irony for you.

snow, February 003Sunshine and Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

 

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A Room With A View

hawk, birds, snow 010This morning, I heard the weather forecaster mention that we’ve met or exceeded another meteorological record, having received snow each of the past nine days. While not as immediately dramatic as the storm hitting the east coast today, still, it has added up in increments and made scooting around in my little VW Bug tricky enough to be avoided, if possible. Yesterday it wasn’t, and I paid the price of getting stuck and having to shovel the car free.

So, I’ve stayed inside to write, read, cook, work with photographs, and write some more, taking breaks to gaze out the window at the birds and squirrels, and darting out to refill their feeders when they need replenishing.

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The cats and I enjoy the view and each other’s quiet company.

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Mully and Fergus in the window 008These slow winter days take me deep within, and my gifts, meager though they may be, seem urged by the solitude to express themselves. I’ve been struggling with a story that has perplexed me regarding its evolution. The plot has jiggled like liquid mercury, shape-shifting and eluding me. When my writing immobilizes, I use the great picture window in front of my desk to escape the confines of words.

The mystery of where this impulse to create comes from and to what end, irritates me at times. Why be gifted with the impulse and not gifted as well with the path it’s meant to lead me down, towards some perceived outcome? When the way is clear, of course, engaging in creation is utter joy, but when I’m lost in a hall of mirrors I willingly chose to enter, believing inspiration and talent would lead me out, I wish I were instead someone content to watch soap operas, ponder nothing, and remain a stranger to creativity.

The other morning I sat at my desk diligently editing, staring, and wondering why, when a great and sudden onrush of darkness sent all the birds scattering with a single and furious beating of wings. Something immense tore down past the window, blocking the light, and just as quickly rose up to the birch tree beyond the feeders.

It had all happened so quickly. The Cooper’s Hawk faced out towards the river and from the back, its feathered cape emanated malevolence. Or such was the ancient archetype it conjured in my mind, as it huddled and seemed to curse the mourning dove that got away.

hawk, birds, snow 018And then the hawk turned and faced me, almost daring me to judge it for trying to harm one of my guests. “Don’t I also need nourishment?” it seemed to ask.

hawk, birds, snow 029And after a few days of brooding over this experience, because I knew it had come to teach me, the path of my story–or at least the next chapter–came into focus.

So, while others may lament long days of snowbound tedium, I’m grateful for the chance to watch the drama right outside my window, and to be led by its inspiration.

In the end, it’s better than a soap opera.

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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.

Everything Changes

60 degrees and raining 001In the past four days, we’ve had a snowstorm, a thunderstorm, temperatures in the upper 50’s and today, another snowstorm. This morning, chickadees have been flying back and forth to the feeders, singing their spring songs, but that’s changed again in the past hour. They seem to have adapted to winter’s return. I wonder if they can tell that tomorrow the temperatures will dip once more below zero, or if this will surprise them?

Birds snow rain fog 016Everything changes: not always in a day, or even a lifetime, and rarely all at once, but as we revolve through life, it seems every cycle brings us back to a place that’s similar but never the same as it was. Companions have left our side and new ones now walk the path beside us; our physical capabilities or our views have altered; the degree of hope we perceive in our hearts and the encouragement offered by the world around us varies.

Birds in snowstorm 042We may be surprised by loss, tragedy, or reversals, changes that cause the geographies describing our relationship to self, others, place, and spirit to evolve or regress, or dramatically alter, and we either adapt or do not, depending upon our finesse and willingness to regain our balance and accept these changes that were unsought and undesired.

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY THRU 26TH 177But even changes we’ve planned for and worked towards demand our willingness to discard elements of our current situation, boundaries, or relationships that were once rooted in the earth of our existence.

We devise systems to manage change: education, healthcare, government. We create “news programs” to discuss the changes collectively experienced over 24 hours, and share phone calls, or posts in social media, or text messages to update each other more intimately and frequently regarding changes in our “status.”

Birds in snowstorm 025It seems, societally, we’re addicted to insignificant change and hasten its rhythms to keep us engaged in life. Until substantial change threatens our sense of security, the way we “want” things to be, or the direction we desire to move. Then, we resist, argue, deny, or retreat, often to our detriment, though certainly stillness, discernment, and speaking our own truth are valuable companions as we navigate the flow of this ever-changing energy we call life.

I’ve been reading another book on the spirituality of change, specifically as it relates to aging. This is a topic that fascinates me and that I’ve been asked to address in presentations to those who care for geriatric patients or to those who, like me, are interested in exploring changes that are specific to aging humans and our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Over and over, I’ve encountered the understanding that the happiest individuals are those who have used their intelligence and gifts to the best of their abilities, but who resist grasping too tightly to any outcome, and instead nurture a willingness to let go and to flow with the greater current, looking for unexpected blessing and the potential for creativity in forming one’s response.

birds christmas break 008The central change we face as we age is our death, and our health as elders may depend upon the degree to which we embrace our death as friend, foe, inevitability, or a fearful possibility we can avoid through the “magic of medicine.”

I know of a woman who is 89 and considering a heart valve replacement. All of her organs are somewhat compromised and the surgery, if successful, will require a lengthy stay in a nursing facility for her convalescence. She has said, “I’m afraid to die.” I hope she is aware that hospice is another choice, and that patients served by hospices often live longer than those who instead choose aggressive medical interventions, but her fear is driving her choice to undergo this surgery. Family members often disagree about such choices and thus another level of chaos and distraction can intrude upon our end-of-life choices and experiences. Answers are elusive and, in the end, each person has to choose and, hopefully, be at peace regarding these choices.

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Over and over in my work as a chaplain I met people at these crossroads and tried to be a listening presence as they navigated their way to peace, or battled through final breaths to the change that came anyway and inevitably. Regardless of my inclinations, my job was to support them through theirs. Certainly, a patient who said, “I am afraid to die” indicated an obvious need to dialogue, and in conversations with a chaplain or other trained caregiver, the patient often reached greater peace as his fears, his beliefs, and his sources of strength were opened, explored, validated and employed creatively to face the days ahead.

Birds snow rain fog 063Rituals sometimes helped ease deterrents to dying peacefully, but so did the hard work of asking forgiveness, or extending it to another, reviewing a life that proved more light-filled than first admitted, re-connecting the dying to loved ones who had become distant, or to a faith community that affirmed its willingness to become involved.

Rainy Night 016It taught me to pay attention to my own dying: to choose responses to possible scenarios; to designate my power of attorney, complete a will, and file the legal forms with my physicians and loved ones; to discuss with my husband, relatives, and friends, what treatments and care I would desire at the end of my life, and to clarify how I want my body to be returned to the earth. Such tasks completed, although unforeseen change may cause their revision, I’m better able to turn back towards the amazing mystery and ever-changing dance with my ever-changing life. Whatever it brings, storms or halcyon days of mellow sunshine, I hope I’ll go with the flow.

And back to winter 007

 

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No Place Like Home

DSCF0525When Phillip and I bought Full Moon Cottage in 1997, most of our friends thought we’d been bespelled. The 4 acres were promising, but the house was hideous. It had been built in 1969 and had passed through two families without any modifications to its design or decoration, and came to us with a complete lack of landscaping. The couple who sold it to us admitted they “had no idea” where exactly to place a garden, and had avoided any remodeling because, to them, the property was just an investment.

What we bought in 1997.
What we bought in 1997.

But we had a dream about the home it could be.

Our first night in the home was spent ripping up carpeting in the living room and then setting down one of our own rugs and then our mattress, because the bedrooms were even creepier. The second day, we began taking down walls, pulling up more carpeting, and ripping off wallpaper. Within the first year, Phillip had painted the house, laid wood floors, rebuilt the kitchen, added wainscoting, and begun to replace windows, doors, ceilings, and cabinetry, opening the east side of the home to the river as much as possible.

Day 1: Tearing down a wall. .
Day 1: Tearing down a wall.
Removing hideous flaming red carpeting before removing hideous wallpaper, windows and doors.
Removing hideous flaming red carpeting before removing hideous wallpaper, windows and doors.
Hideous kitchen entirely blocking view of river.
Hideous kitchen entirely blocking view of river.

Over the next few years, we’d tackle each room as we were able, discussing how we wanted to modify it. Phillip was able to manage the carpentry, electrical and plumbing work, and I was the delegated painter and designer, although we tend to team well on problem-solving and innovation. I designed stained glass windows and Phillip created them. We’d get ideas from magazines, movies, memories and old photographs, and then incorporate these into our plans and dreams.

Dining Room
Dining Room

In 2005, we hired builders to “rough-in” an addition to the house for my mother, but her death and waning finances prevented us from finishing it for a few years, so we used the addition as our “summer escape,” until we’d saved enough money to convert to geo-thermal heating and cooling for the house, and Phillip tackled the huge job of finishing the addition.

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inside additon 004By 2010, we had our home the way we’d imagined it, with just a few touch-up’s and minor remodeling jobs left. The gardens were looking good and Full Moon Cottage began to match the dreams we’d imagined all those years ago.

January 4-Leggeds, Trail 048

January 4-Leggeds, Trail 044

January 4-Leggeds, Trail 036I was thinking about all these adventures over the weekend, when subzero temperatures set in and we gathered in the living room to read and sit by the fire. I looked around the sweet room and lingered on all the work Phillip has done to make it beautiful.

Of course, now I vacuum and cover all the furniture with clean blankets every morning, then wash and dry the blankets at night, so the 4-leggeds can relax and, at the same time, the furniture can be protected and perhaps last a few years longer. Some doors are closed to the 4-leggeds, so dander and fur are prevented from spreading, and a section of the kitchen floor is clearly a feeding zone.

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063So yes, the house is finished, more or less. And it’s probably loveliest to see when it’s company-ready. But it creates the loveliest memories when we’re gathered together on weekends, sitting on fleece blankets, cuddling with cats and dogs and enjoying the love that makes Full Moon Cottage a better home than we ever dreamed it would be.

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Falling in Love Again

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One day last week I reread Paula D’Arcy’s moving spiritual memoir, Gift of the Redbird, in which she shares her lost-and-found relationships with the Holy over the course of many years, and how her sacred encounters, whether prompted by the utter depths of grief, illness, or yearning, always led to her willingness to notice, attend, and surrender images of the Holy that no longer held meaning for her. The gifts yielded by these journeys—hard-won, as the best gifts often are—seemed to be greater expansiveness and deeper evolution regarding her capacity to love and to perceive connection with all creation.

And so I’ve been traveling with the book’s wisdom in the time since closing its covers. (All art, for me, requires this time to be with my atoms and energy, rearranging my understanding of life’s big questions before I can even begin to speak about its effects on my spirit. And, of course, these alterations change when I revisit a work of art, even a book that’s slim and a deceptively quick read.)

I’ve been thinking about all the significant relationships in my life, from the openness and intimacy shared with my own spirit and sense of the Holy, and then rippling out from there to include my connections with my husband, family, friends, 4-leggeds, and even my home. It seems all of them have followed the pattern described by D’Arcy’s relationship with her God, in that the connections are at times deeply intimate and lively, and at other times, somewhat flat and stagnant

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY THRU 26TH 226It’s good to be reminded that ongoing discernment and faithful checking-in can help us recognize the degree of effort and attention we’re offering these relationships and how well we’re tending them. But there is also the need for the field of each relationship to have its fallow time for deepening; what may, at first, feel stagnant may more truthfully be the sacred period of stillness necessary for the rigors of  the relationship’s evolution, its next stage, requiring re-commitment and patience as this unfolds.

The dark nights our spirits experience, as do each of our relationships, may be accepted and unpacked as gifts, although at times they feel so antithetical to anything desired, supportive, or helpful. But traveling the circle as many times as I have, I’ve begun to see these places of dark blessing are like the silent depths beneath the earth where seeds are loved into growth.

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY THRU 26TH 237

And to realize that my partners in relationship, perhaps even the Holy, have their own steps to dance, their own needs to withdraw, to be renewed, and to evolve.

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY THRU 26TH 230And how lovely when we waltz together once more, embrace, and fall in love again, not only with our past adventures and the relationship we have shared, but with the shining place we now find ourselves in and all the steps we have yet to dance together.

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Solstice: Peace After the Storm

Snowstorm 254A glorious blizzard has kept us home for the past two days. I walked out early yesterday to enjoy the snowfall. The air was warmer than I expected and the snow was heavy and wet. The woods were magical and the trail deserted.

Snowstorm 059The sky told of the blizzard to come.

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Snowstorm 077By the time I’d turned back, high winds were causing very low visibility and the snow stung my face and hands.

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Snowstorm 263Phillip started plowing early, but eventually stopped to let the winds have their way.

Snowstorm 158We decided to watch movies, eat Christmas cookies, and enjoy our snowday. The winds howled furiously throughout the night. We were both awake until after one o’clock and then dropped off, despite the wind’s wailing. We woke to find a lovely old ash tree had fallen across the drive.

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 096While Phillip removed the tree, I watched feathered visitors bob up and down in the birch tree, risk flights to the feeders, and then fly quickly back their perches.

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Blizzard, aftermath, birds 129

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Blizzard, aftermath, birds 189Tonight, the winds have quieted and we’re all hoping for a peaceful Solstice sleep…after more Christmas movies, a toasty fire, and popcorn to celebrate.

057Wishing you all a season of light and eruptions of joy…

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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.

Still, Still, Still

Christmas Season, First Snow, Bon Ivor 131Our first annual snowfall graced our Sunday (Bon Iver!), and we relaxed into being with the wonder of it. Huge flakes covered the trees and earth; the river, surrounded by white hills and flowing beneath the smoky gray sky, took on a brilliant silver sparkle, like a glittering ribbon threading through the landscape.

Snowy Sunday 044Winter is the season that calls me within, to slowly and gently review the journey of the dimming year and gestate the light with which my spirit will co-create the year to come. What gifts have served me well? Which have I neglected? How will I dance out my life in the new year? What are the triggers that hook me to harmful ways of being and what are the deep desires I ask of Spirit to further challenge and delight my heart? Am I tending my time, health, and relationships, respecting the treasures they are? Am I putting anything off because I’m afraid of failing? Or succeeding? Can I begin, alter, or renew a spiritual practice? Is my energy aligned and in communion with my beliefs, and do these translate clearly through my speech and actions?

Christmas Season, First Snow, Bon Ivor 111Last year, I wrote about my “hibernaculum,” the meditation room where I spend my deepening time each day. It becomes more deeply sacred to me in winter. As I wrote: The word “hibernate” is derived from the Latin word for winter (hiberno: I winter) and generates the wonderful noun “hibernaculum,” which, zoologically, is the place where an animal winters, and, botanically, is the protective bud or covering a plant uses to survive the challenges of dormancy. I love that the letters of the word “hibernate” form the anagram “breathe in,” for winter is my time for assessing, deepening, and strengthening my meditation practice and more earnestly tending my dreams.

Christmas Season, First Snow, Bon Ivor 158Nothing engenders these days of gentle and vital introspection more for me than the lovely snow that muffles the noise, busyness, and demands of a world too addicted to all three. When it’s snowing, traffic slows, heartbeats slow, breathing slows, and sometimes magically, the limiting need to avoid our inner voices and knots dissolves as well.

Christmas Season, First Snow, Bon Ivor 179Sitting in my meditation space and looking out towards a full moon making the snow-covered earth sparkle and glow with mystery, or witnessing the iced river and white hills afire with the deep violet, indigo and scarlet of a winter sunrise remind me that all of life is a magical gift, and that the finest way of offering my gratitude is through the inner work and discernment accomplished in stillness, that helps me be as present to all of it as I can.

Christmas Season, First Snow, Bon Ivor 003I wish you a winter of gentle peace, times for deep introspection, the stillness to bring forth your renewed light to the world, and gentle snow (real or imagined) to blanket you with the shimmering beauty and mystery of spirit-tending.

 

© 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.

Love in the Time of Climate Change

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Today I’m making a hearty soup and enjoying fresh breezes kissing our rooms through open windows, a sweet delight for the cats. This is the new and unpredictable norm for December, for nothing about our climate this past year has hinted at what’s coming next.

This past weekend we found ourselves alone and together, with nothing scheduled and surprisingly caught up with other life-maintenance tasks…so we relaxed.

Honoring days of rest, like tending to self-care, were themes often discussed and put forth as goals, but rarely practiced authentically in our busy lives, up until a year and a half ago; I’m happy to say that since dedicating ourselves to our version of a “slow life,” we’ve gotten better at this.

This weekend, we watched holiday movies, went for long walks, took Riley and Clancy to their favorite dog park, grilled a wicked good meal out on the deck, enjoyed our unusually warm weather, and listened to Christmas music while we read, nestling with various four-leggeds.

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005My spirit felt bathed in light and peace, utterly relaxed, and utterly grateful.

At many points in my past life, this would have been a weekend neither noted nor savored as remarkable, other than for its record-setting high temperatures. Now, I treasure moments of happiness, ordinary time made extraordinary by the attention and appreciation due and accorded it. I notice all the ways Phillip deepens and refines the energies of my life, and I isolate blessings as they drift through moments and settle in my heart.

mama and daddy easter 1951 001This photograph of my parents, taken the April before their wedding (Ah, April in Minnesota!) sits beside my bed. I love the sweet joy they seem to feel in each other’s company, the hope that exudes from their spirits, still.

Years later, when he was 65, my father suffered a massive stroke that caused his next 15 years to be lived confined to their home, my mother choosing to serve as his caregiver. I spent as many vacations visiting them as I could, and often lamented the sadness and “littleness” they now had to endure, rather than all the joyful adventures they’d planned following my father’s retirement. This hadn’t been foreseen and wasn’t fair. And I thought I should be closer, geographically, to help more.

I vividly recall the time my mother said, “Oh, it isn’t all bad. We have good conversations and we laugh a lot. Your father’s been able to know his grandchildren, and we’ve enjoyed working on his writing together. Good friends have blessed this time for us…and here’s the thing, Kitty: your job is to tend your own life. We never know what sadness may be in store for us, what challenges lie ahead. Enjoy each other and the blessings that come your way as deeply as you can while you’re able, and take nothing for granted.”

Phillip and I with my parents many years ago.
Phillip and I with my parents many years ago.

“Time held me green and dying,” wrote Dylan Thomas in the haunting poem, Fern Hill. I know my sweet dog companions will be 12 this year, and Finny the cat will be 11. Phillip and I are in our mid-50’s…not old, but no longer green, and, like all of life, gradually living towards our dying. These facts are not all-consuming, nor entirely depressing to one who gardens and honors life’s circles and spirals, but they certainly contribute to the poignant attentiveness brought to bear on moments when we can be here, now, all together in peace, joy, and relative health.

Mulligan helping Dad prepare breakfast.
Mulligan helping Dad prepare breakfast.
Murphy enjoying spring breezes in December.
Murphy enjoying spring breezes in December.

At one time, I would have considered such a weekend dull and unproductive. How lovely that the gauges by which we assess our lives change, and how grateful I am for a companion with whom I can share and value simplicity and stillness, ordinary days made precious just because we’re together, grateful and aware, no matter what’s coming down the pike. Because the climate of any relationship is always changing, forecast or not, and deep reserves of joy, daily kindnesses, and simple, commonplace moments of laughter and love help us to weather the storms and shifts, expected or surprising, whenever they arrive. 

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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.

A Story for the Season

On Sunday, after I’d put away Thanksgiving decorations, we decided to begin setting out a few Christmas pieces to ready our home for the holiday. Every day, I’ve pulled out a new box and selected a few decorations to place in a window or on a mantel, noticing the stories all around me: stories behind every decoration and every piece of furniture where they’re placed…I cannot separate myself from these stories; my own accrue and add new layers to the objects until finally, everything shines with story.

My great-grandfather made this little table, from scrap lumber and fruit crates, for my mother when she was a child. She collected the pewter dishes.

Due to our new cat, Fergus, and his continued period of adjustment to our home, and us, and the 4-leggeds, we’ve decided that maybe a Christmas tree encrusted with all of our glass ornaments wouldn’t be such a great idea this year. In past years, the cats have enjoyed playing and resting on the quilt beneath the tree; this year, I’m afraid that feline power struggles might bring it all crashing down. Better to lower the odds, I think. There are plenty of ways to make the home festive without a tree, but we’ll miss it.

Murphy and Mulligan napping beneath the tree.

Fergus and the dogs are doing fine with their introductions; the other four cats (oh, God, I’ve become the Crazy Cat Lady) are struggling a bit more with the refinement of pecking order and ego assuagement. We have every reason to believe all will be well, but these relationships, these stories, will need to progress according to their own timing, and I think we owe our 4-leggeds all the time they need. Fergus is as placid as Buddha sitting in his kennel, despite the sniffs, spits, and indifference form his new siblings. He forbears.

When he’s alone with me in my office, he loves to sit beneath the computer screen and watch the birds through the picture window. He runs to the door when he hears the other cats; he yearns for community, it seems. He loves fearlessly.

Today, his siblings entered his private room and began to sniff and acquaint themselves with Eau de Fergus. Murphy and Mulligan were especially intrigued, meticulously conducting their version of a CSI, and covering every square inch of the room before accepting a treat.

Murphy smelling Fergus’ food bowl.

Tonight, we’ll supervise a first face-to-face visit and see how it goes. We’re hopeful that by the time the New Year rolls around, we’ll have a larger, peaceful, and happy family. Fergus appears to be a force of love; he audaciously chose me on the trail one very cold, wet day and followed me home, and has never stopped exuding that charming trust and desire to connect. All creation, it seems, can reveal the Love of our Source. We often overlook, I think, the myriad ways those with whom we share the planet can teach us about love and loving.

I read that Pope Benedict XVI (“Buzz-Kill Ratzinger”) has written a new book in which he states there were no animals or angels present at the birth of Jesus, nor was that birth date calculated correctly. While I understand his point is to de-mythologize Jesus and place his life within a more historically exact context by removing the inaccurate embellishments that surround our handed-down version of Jesus’ birth, I also believe that for many people, the animals, shepherds, and angels are intrinsic to the story, especially for the young and young-at-heart. For Christians, this was a life like no other, a life that serves as a template, worthy of celebration, as all lives are, but one that was recognized as such from the start.

So rarely do we see the ways Love in-breaks and enters our world, causing unnoticed eruptions of hope and joy all around us.  But once, more than two thousand years ago, some of us were actually paying attention. The story that celebrates the birth of one of us who got it right needs no updating or fact-checking; it was never about the angels or animals, but they pin it down in our imaginations and allow us to vicariously enter the birth and so the life, and so the dance of pure goodness modeled for us, however clumsily we misstep.

And when I do falter in my dance, I have always found animals whose love can lead me back to the path quicker than any sermon. Humans like Jesus are rare indeed; animals who love as selflessly as Jesus are not.

I believe we should be very cautious about re-writing well-known and beloved stories, and even Pope Benedict, a Vatican correspondent said, agrees that the traditions surrounding Christmas play a role in nurturing our grasp of the deeper truths the story reveals.

Our own stories, the ones we write with our lives, reveal their deeper truths, too, if we listen. This Christmas, we won’t have a tree, lit and splendid; instead, we’ll celebrate two stories: the birth of Jesus (which is the story of Love’s possibilities being born every day, always, in our hearts), and our story, too, about a tiny abandoned cat named Fergus, who loved everyone he met, and his new family, who had to learn more about loving so fearlessly.

It’s going to be a good story, I can tell: the echoes of other stories and the spirits of those we’ve loved will shine all around it…There will be many animals as featured characters in this new story, and I’m quite certain that on Christmas Eve, when we gather together for treats where the tree would have been, we’ll hear angels singing.


 

© 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.