Fellow Travelers

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

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

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

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

 

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

Rx: Spring’s Impossible Green

DSCF5440A week ago, we were worried that drought would keep our spring brown and our gardens thirsty. Then, we were blessed by wonderful storms that brought thunder, a bit of hail, and spring’s annual magic.

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DSCF5319We watched as, within a few days, the dead browns of winter were replaced by spring’s impossible greens.

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DSCF5336(Well, most of us watched. Murphy hid under bedcovers when thunder rumbled.)

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DSCF5301Crocus blossoms opened and spiders crisscrossed the blooms with delicate strands of filament…sometimes, I think these hold the world together.

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DSCF5530The river rose and even spilled over the banks a bit.

DSCF5340This little fellow splashed happily in the ditch, using a puddle as his private spa.

DSCF5510I was under the weather during the tail end of the week. Try as I might, I didn’t escape the spring flu wiggling its way through my students and then through me. I’d looked forward to meeting a friend and sharing lunch before exploring the Wisconsin Film Festival, and was disappointed I had to cancel that adventure. But I did stumble out yesterday for a family gathering and belated celebration of Phillip’s birthday. The morning began with a brilliant sunrise that flashed around the bedroom, refracting in windows and surprising the heart with joy.

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DSCF5492A tentative walk with the pups assured me I had my sea legs back under me and walked once again among the living. That green! What an amazing medicine, shooting straight through the eyes, the body, and spirit.

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DSCF5343We met our family for lunch, and then visited the nearby home of Phillip’s niece, who raises sheep and chickens.

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Surrounded by people we love, the sweetness and beauty of the new life, and the impossible green, I knew I was on the mend.

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DSCF5610And mending renews hope: If the earth can transform from colorless death to wild green life in just a week, well, maybe there’s hope for humanity. Maybe nothing’s impossible, after all.

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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.

 

 

 

Gentle Peace

DSCF5006We’ve been on a break from school this week and, as with most vacations, the time has flown by. Our days have been filled with daily sessions of spring cleaning, followed by long walks, gatherings, periods of solitude, and late afternoon dates with wine, treats, and enough warm sunshine to sit outside and soak up some gentle peace together.

DSCF5080I fiddled around with a few new art projects I can share with my students during our remaining weeks together.

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DSCF5162For the first time we can recall in our decades of living here, the April river is too low for our inaugural canoe ride, but we stood on the bridge and watched those who could enjoy the river do so. This little muskrat seemed to relish his leisurely swim and Narcissus moment of self-reflection and grooming time.

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DSCF5121Despite some days of lovely warmth, we couldn’t get into the gardens just yet, except to cut back the grasses where the local bunnies love to nest. Apologies to Peter Cottontail, but I suspect that beneath the porches and decks at Full Moon Cottage, there exists an entire cosmos of warrens and teeming rabbit life; they are not welcome to my gardens as well, although when long-eared scouts venture out on reconnaissance missions, their hopping-stopping behaviors provide energetic barking workouts for the pups, who live to feel useful and appreciated through their protective guardianship of Mama and her gardens.

DSCF5011I’ve learned over (many) years at Full Moon that it’s better to wait until all possibility of frost has passed before I rake away mulch, and too eagerly dig and till…but I could feel the rising joy in my spirit when I noticed how the tulips and daffodils are growing, and the lilac buds are reaching a ripening fullness. Wild daisies, irises, bleeding heart and all manner of weeds are waving their little green flags, and along the trail, the garlic mustard continues its invasion as the ash trees die back from the beautiful, wicked Emerald Borer destroying them. The wild roses, grapes, and raspberries are as determined to thrive as ever; we shall see what evolves.

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DSCF5082I learned this week, or perhaps relearned, as I’m old enough to forget and then delight in rediscovering so many things, it seems, that trilliums are also known by the wonderful names “wakerobin” and “birthroot;” who cannot be moved by the ways we address and welcome spring?

DSCF7571We added some finishing touches to the guest room, which has offered a good and pleasant pursuit, as we’ve worked to create a retreat of contentment. This week, we’ve been the guests, enjoying the peaceful colors of the room and the night songs from the river and woods that punctuate the stillness. These are the days for opening doors, opening windows, airing and refreshing our minds and spirits.

DSCF5183Happily, too, we had plenty of time this week to meet with friends for breakfasts, and lunches, and card games, and walks along the trail. We browsed salvage and antique shops, watched a few movies, took luxurious afternoon naps in sunpuddles, as instructed by the cats, and lingered over our morning coffee, sharing our dreams.

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DSCF5154And so the earth has turned and we are Winter People breathing into Easter People once more. Wakerobins and birthroots. The dark cocoons are pierced by light and fall away. Again. Always. This week allowed us to emerge in grace, and gently. Stepping lightly into the almost imperceptible unfolding of who we are now.

DSCF5023I’m grateful for the tenderness of the transition, the peaceful companionship of my husband and friends, the restoration and renewal of my spirit, the signs of life and calls of the wild, more music than clamor, a love written in my name and sent as gift, reminding me that all shall be well.

DSCF5046I wish my friends a Blessed Easter, a continued celebration of Passover, and the Gentle Peace of the season.

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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 Hope of Bluebirds

DSCF4759The affairs of humanity can certainly make us sad some days, can’t they? I’m trying hard to hang onto hope, a vow I made as the New Year rang in. I’ve promised myself I’ll counter negativity by choosing thoughts and actions that offer my spirit peace, which engenders my creativity more fluidly than giving in to despair or misanthropy, tempting as they may be.

DSCF4720When I feel overcome by the news of plane crashes, wars, crooked politicians, and the relentlessly avoided but vitally necessary triage we must offer our hemorrhaging planet, I’ve promised to look for reasons to hope and actions I can take, however infinitesimally small, to heal the world.

DSCF4729It can be hard to sustain much hope some days.

Trudging through a March snowstorm earlier this week, I was gifted with a sudden downrush and uplift of bluebirds…I don’t know their collective name, but I would offer “a presence,” “a beauty” or “a joy” of bluebirds. Unfortunately, my coat, sweatshirt, gloves, and camera lens were all soaked from the heavy, wet snow, so all I can offer is “a blur of bluebirds.”

DSCF4741But the stunning and unexpected encounter left me lightened and hopeful.

Earlier that morning, I’d come across this recent article, by Eric Holthaus, at Slate.com, which describes dramatic climate change and its effect in the state of Alaska, serving as a kind of bellwether for the rest of the planet.

DSCF4685It seems like every day, more data is published by scientists who are most eager for the rest of us to care enough about the earth that we stop what we’re doing and change, dramatically, the definition of what we need to be happy and how we infinitely produce, appropriate, consume, and cast off material goods on our finite planet.

DSCF4695It’s not as exciting a problem to the general populace, I fear, as Bruce Jenner’s transgender shift, or which team might win the NCAA Championship. Climate change presents an almost-overwhelming amount of data and difficulties, of course, but we’ve become so skilled at giving away our power to solve the challenges we face and at denying the existence of anything that requires us to curb our ravenous consumption, that we use our considerable collective energy and gifts to avoid and run away from truth, rather than facing it, rolling up our sleeves, and doing the hard work of transformation and healing that the earth and our existence require.

DSCF4822We know the time to change is evaporating as quickly as the polar ice caps, but we put it off, anyway. Until when? There is no hero who will save us; we are all responsible for the waste, greed, and self-interest that brought us here, and each of us is vital to its solution.

DSCF4849I do not understand humanity. I sometimes think we’re a virus the earth needs to destroy, and increasingly soon, in order that she and her other inhabitants and systems might thrive.

DSCF4404That’s what led to my blue mood last Monday, when I walked through the (very) late March snowstorm. It’s tricky, living through a Wisconsin March, to know if any given day is “typical,” as the autumnal and spring equinox periods of the year frequently ride into our land like royalty surrounded by the vivid highs and lows of noisy and dramatic courtiers. One day snow; the next, a veritable summer.

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DSCF4886But, we do know that in our part of the state, we’re already hovering between meteorological designations of “Abnormally Dry” and “Drought,” due to the extra 15 inches of snow that “normally” fall during the winter months, and this year, did not. We know temperatures have been “colder than average” these past two months.

DSCF4833We know that species of pollinators (honeybees, monarchs) and plants are diminishing. We know that migratory patterns are altering, to the detriment of fellow species within our earth community, if we could see them as such.

DSCF4816But we do nothing to change or to help. We stomp our little human feet and immaturely cry, “No!” whenever a suggestion of sacrifice or change is made. We blame others. We refuse to imagine and then create new systems that would allow us to live in greater harmony with the rest (the majority, by the way) of the earth.

DSCF4973Seeing the bluebirds refocused me. They reminded me that hopeful actions are far more important at this point than dwelling in a gloom of inactivity. One way I counter my creeping despair is to name things that give me hope.

My students:

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DSCF4933My fellow creatures and their endurance:

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DSCF4984My gardens:

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254850_1904491026042_1654765807_1863734_6018829_nOne way I take responsibility for change is to focus on what I do well and share it. I write effectively. So, here is a template of a letter anyone may copy and send to someone in elected office or a leadership position (an employer, a church official, a queen, a parent, a friend, yourself) to encourage the shift that must happen if we are to cooperate in saving the planet.

 Dear ___________,

Because you are in a position of leadership, you bear the responsibility for contributing to the welfare of those you serve. I’m writing to urge you to use that power by risking its loss through facing the very real threats to your constituents (employees, church members, subjects, children, etc.) and the planet, that are posed by the climate changes now occurring, and those increasingly likely to occur.

Please have the courage to examine the processes of resource procurement, and any production, and waste creation within your scope and responsibility, for ways these might be eliminated altogether, or altered, so as to nurture the health of the earth and all her species.

Please have the courage to create and enforce rules, laws, and systems that prohibit behaviors that endanger the health of the earth and all her species.

Please have the courage to question everything you manage and the choices that govern this management in the light of their impact upon the health of the earth and all her species.

Please have the courage to listen to those who have made their life’s work the study of the earth and her health, and to avail yourself of their expertise when creating and realizing change.

None of these requests come under the banners of easy or popular; none will likely allow you to pay back those who granted you the power you wield; none ensure long years of job security. All, as stated, require courage, which begins in the heart. A true leader loves those served more than the power—or wealth—that come with authority.

My requests do not come without my pledge to support you in making these changes, which I believe are more urgent and in need of discussion and implementation than anything previously faced by those who inhabit our planet.

Sincerely,

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Feel free to edit the letter or write your own, but do send it on, and then use your own unique gifts to alter the course of climate change and/or our response to it. I guarantee you, it will do wonders for your hope quotient and the peace of your spirit.

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 “…You will find greater peace of mind

Knowing there’s a bluebird of happiness.

And when he sings to you,

Though you’re deep in blue,

You will see a ray of light creep through…”

 ~ Bluebird of Happiness: Lyrics by Edward Heyman and Harry Parr Davies; music by Sandor Harmati, 1934.

 

© 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 Stories We Tell Ourselves

DSCF4452As a reader, I go on historic-biographic benders, becoming fascinated by a specific person or period of time, and then reading everything I can find to round out the picture. The perspectives can be in utter opposition, depending on each different author’s point of view and proximity to the subject. I especially enjoy when a new discovery or the passage of time leads to a revised outlook and therefore, another series of books that will enlarge my own understanding of someone or some event.

DSCF4462Storytelling, of course, occurs every time we put pen to paper, sit at a computer, pick up our phone, open our mouth or engage in thought. We tell ourselves and others stories about ourselves, our families, our countries, our gods, and the infinite and infinitesimal events that have shaped us. They tell us theirs. Often, we are the heroines of our tales; we are the wronged, the misunderstood, the courageous, and occasionally the foolish leading characters, but I’ve encountered people who seemed largely absent from their stories as well, giving the stage over to their parents, or teachers, or voices unidentified yet dominant in their story.

DSCF4575We tell ourselves stories about other people, too, trying to understand their behavior and choices, or trying to justify our own.

Given his scientific bent and inbred humility, my husband’s stories are not nearly as fanciful as my own. In the absence of data, he seeks to discover it; I leap to fantastical explanations, to keep the story exciting and moving along. I give you this recent occurrence as an example.

DSCF4626Friday marked the first day of spring, and so a friend and I thought we should meet to celebrate this fact with wine and a meal and a good long visit.

I decided to wear pants long enough to make me feel taller than I am (or, as tall as I am in my stories) and needed to wear my favorite pair of Eastland leather clogs—the ones with the two-inch heels—to accomplish this. I reached for the pair and discovered only one.

I searched the closet floor, and then another closet’s floor. I looked under the bed and in the other rooms of the house, which, as a neat-freak-hyper-orderly type, began to make me feel frustrated. I always place my shoes on a given shelf, beside each other. The 4-leggeds have never shown the interest in footwear commonly ascribed to their breeds. There are only two humans living in our home…where, on earth, had my shoe gone? Back to the closets.

No partner to the lonely clog.

And then it dawned on me. I had read an article about Birkenstock shoes in The New Yorker this past week. Although ugly, they have remained popular because of the utter comfort they offer the feet lucky enough to wear them. The brand has even become fashionable, for some. I have always wanted a pair, but they are pricey, and I am “prudent.” (That’s my story. Others might say, “parsimonious.” Or “a tight-fisted, penny-pinching miser.”)

But Phillip, along with being logical and humble, is also loving and romantic, so I quickly concluded that he had also read the article and wanted to surprise me with a pair, but had required one of my shoes to check the size. This conclusion, of course, was based on no evidence, but it explained the mystery of the missing shoe and created a pleasing story.

However, even given my impressive ability to suspend disbelief, the story felt a tad implausible. I called Phillip at work to check it out, but sought to gently tease out the truth I’d already surmised. Picture him in a classroom surrounded by adolescents eager for the school day to end.

“Hello?” (High school noises in background.)

“Hi, honey…Have you by any chance seen one of my black clogs?”

“What?”

I pretended to be innocent of his plan to surprise me with Birkenstocks. “Would you happen to have taken one of them? For any reason?”

(No response. Long pause. Then laughter.) “Do I have one of your clogs?  Um, no.”

“I’ve looked all over the house and it’s nowhere to be found, so I was just wondering…” Here is where he should have broken down and admitted he had planned a lovely surprise for me. But no. Nada. Zip. I faltered. My story began to dissolve. There were no Birkenstocks winging their way to me from Germany, or wherever they’re made. I offered a false laugh of my own. “Well, I better get going. See you later.”

He continued laughing. “Yup. Have a good time with Heidi.”

I pulled on some boots with heels and walked down to the basement to check once more for my clog, switch the laundry to the dryer, and get on my way before I became late. Being on time is part of my story, too.

Nope. No clog with the various sneakers and boots in the basement.

I pulled the last bit of damp clothing out of the washer and there was my clog. It had, apparently, fallen from the shoe shelf into the laundry basket and been washed and spun to almost-dry. I brought it upstairs, stretching it back into a shape approximating that of my foot, impressed by the shoe’s ability to withstand a wash cycle. I set it next to its partner, imagining their joy at being reunited.

I met my friend at the pub and told her the story, and we had a great laugh and lovely evening.

When I came home, I told Phillip the rest of the story as well, even, sheepishly, the part about my expectation of Birkenstocks. He followed me into the bedroom and laughed while I changed into my comfy clothes. And pulled on the almost-dry clog to help it again reacquaint itself with my foot.

And then I saw the bouquet of a dozen pink tulips on my desk.

DSCF4640The first day of spring! My beloved always gives me a bouquet to celebrate the equinox! I hobbled across the room and hugged him to bits and pieces.

Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves aren’t nearly as wonderful as what’s actually happening now, right before our eyes. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

DSCF4649P.S.: Today I noticed this mysterious hole in the riverbed. Phillip says it’s a tire or a tire rim, but I’m thinking it’s probably a portal to another universe…yeah, that’s it.

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© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without 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.

Two Steps Forward

DSCF3920February, as it turns out, is the cruelest month, and, here at Full Moon Cottage, we’re glad to see its back end heading down the trail.

DSCF3922The dance February demanded of us caused stumbling, missteps, and then a repetitive one-step-forward-two-steps-back movement that exhausted us all.

We’d been looking forward to some kitchen remodeling, beginning with new appliances. But just when our savings said, “Yes, buy the new oven,” Mulligan came down with a serious infection, and two days later, Miss Fiona needed extensive dental work. Bam; savings gone.

DSCF3787The past two weeks have been spent chasing these poor darlings up and down and over and under to give them their necessary medicine for healing. Fiona has always been extremely reluctant to share space, be touched, hear sounds, experience life…it takes her a long, long time to become comfortable and feel safe, so this has been an inner ring of hell for her. Locating her in the basement circumscribed a unique abyss for us as well, and created colorful bruises in mighty strange places. I swear, one morning I was half under an old blanket-covered couch—Fiona long fled—and almost elected to just lie there for the remainder of the day rather than deduce the maneuvering necessary to wiggle back out again.

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DSCF4020But now, we’ve come one step forward yet again: Mulligan is enspirited and inimitably present in his distinctive ways, and Fiona has dared to leave the basement and is characteristically hidden beneath the dining table, safely barricaded by chairs and pedestal. We try not to glance in her direction, as that would send her to the depths once more. Anyway, she has passed the date when medication would have eased her pain, poor thing. Excessive shyness and an inability to understand the language spoken to you can cost you needless suffering, it seems. We’re happy she’s back with us, and we hope feeling better every day.

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DSCF3825Winter has been doing the same dance, retreating and returning, but with far more dash and surprising colors than our own awkward shuffle. The sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular, as though winter is kvetching, “OK, I’m going already, but you’ll miss all this!”

 Last Tuesday, we had a lovely snowfall, our last for the season, said the forecasters.

DSCF3917Since the air temperature also danced above and below freezing, the snow turned to mist at times and the resulting crystals were blindingly magical.

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DSCF3866A bit more warmth caused a bit more melt, and then a night below the freezing point glazed the snow-covered earth entirely. The next morning, we walked on brilliant and brittle glass that initially, tentatively supported our weight, then yielded and crunched into sugar-cookie crumbs.

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DSCF4004So, one step back. Oh, winter, yes: You are beautiful beyond compare and offer us delights we savor. Stay, stay forever.

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DSCF3955Well, not that far back. And more than two forward. This week, the weather will turn, has already begun to do so…The fox is back, having burrowed out her den’s door and entered to birth new kits.

DSCF3776The sounds of snow and ice trickling away, and birds wooing mates and nesting, and me sighing at the mud tracking through the kitchen, and the happy dance of two pups and five healthy cats…the cacophony of life after winter’s silence fills our home and hearts.

DSCF3991Let the windows be opened and a new dance commence.

 

© 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 Season of Black and White

DSCF3627Yesterday afternoon, I sat down to process a few photos taken this week and realized there was nothing new coming from my camera. The late winter landscape still offers the same colorless views.

DSCF3632The occasional red of cardinals is startling. There should be some kind of protective eyewear to withstand it. When cardinals flash in front of me, it reminds of the Polaroid bulbs of my childhood. I stare and readjust my eyes as red spots continue to superimpose themselves on everything, then dissolve, and my eyes readjust to the safe, known, black and white.

DSCF3718Regardless of one’s theological beliefs, this season’s lack of color seems to draw the spirit deeper within, the invitations for exploring our journeys and straightening their flow, or clarifying how and why they turn and twist, and where we’d like them to self-correct follow a natural path, in accordance with nature. The absence of sensuous distractions offers peaceful encouragement and the thoughtful presence of silence to companion our introspection.

DSCF3629As winter pulls us into deeper stillness, how natural it seems to devote greater effort to cleansing, reaffirming, and lightening our spirit through honest examination, forgiveness, and a recommitment of our energy to the gifts we’ve been given, and a journey that more honestly offers them, in service, to the world.

DSCF2459This is my time of year for assessing my journey’s progress and charting where I’d like my spirit to grow and flow in the months ahead. All around me, others are steering their own crafts, according to beliefs that guide them through the great ocean of life.

DSCF2481May we forgive ourselves and each other the grievances caused by our shortcomings and any clumsiness, rigidity, blindness, or cruelties that have clouded our ability to offer love or receive it.

May we hear the invitations for introspection and self-correction offered in these seasons of black and white, and bless the world with the colors they will resurrect in our hearts, allowing our own and other’s spirits to be authentically renewed and to blossom, fully.

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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.

Joyfully Wrinkled

unnamed (1)Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.  ~ Mother Teresa

We receive a weekly magazine that rounds up the news of the world, condenses it, offers helpful graphics, and adds a collection of art, film, restaurant and book reviews in a reasonably tidy and fairly impartial fashion. On one page, in a sidebar, it offers a few tidbits from tabloids, I think in an effort to leaven all the “serious” updates reminding us that the world is dark and dangerous.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a paragraph about a British woman, now 50, who has avoided smiling “for the last 40 years…to ward off wrinkles.” She says she didn’t smile when her child was born, nor at family celebrations or gatherings with friends, insisting her lack of facial wrinkles has made these efforts worthwhile.

I guess this silliness, which I might otherwise have dismissed with a laugh (deepening my own considerable wrinkles), has lingered in my thoughts because it’s reminded me how many times smiles have made a difference in my life.

DSCF6412Like many women my age, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy offering care to dependent, or dying members of my various tribes, those chosen and inherited, and I’m so grateful for the times a smile has saved my spirit, utterly.

It’s hard to believe in a world where people insist everything costs something, but a smile has more potential power to change a life than few things, if any thing, money can buy. I know this was true for my mother, during all the long years she cared for my father following his stroke. She would tell me story after story of the kindnesses friends and strangers had offered that brightened her days, which could be very dark indeed. And when a nurse, or doctor, or insurance adjuster or gas station attendant–whoever intersected her hectic, often harrowing days—shared a smile, it seemed to ease her burdens so profoundly that she’d “save” these stories to tell me when I visited her.

013Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.  ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

And there are so very many times each day that my family, friends, 4-leggeds, students, observations, memories, and views from the window or along the trail invite my smiles that I can’t imagine holding back the impulse in order to prevent wrinkles. Smiling makes me happy, as Thích Nhất Hạnh says, or perhaps makes me appreciate more deeply all the sources of joy that exist here and now in my life.

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DSCF3582Keeping vigils at a hospital bedsides, feeling overwrought with worries, enduring losses, suffering harsh treatment by someone for something…we all have moments when a passing smile would ease our hearts. We walk and drive by people every day in need of our smiles. And so often, it seems, our own concerns prevent us from making the effort to offer this gift, which can relieve our own miseries as well. If only for a moment, a smile offers breathing space to both giver and receiver.

2.26.11 002It reminds me of Jacob Marley’s despair, when he realizes, too late, the differences he could have made in the lives surrounding and connected to his own:

 “It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness… Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Late August to late September 09 026So the unsmiling, unwrinkled woman will, I guess, look very beautiful when she dies, appearing years younger than she actually is, but how sad that no one will recall how her smile brightened their day, changed their lives, or lifted their spirits.

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Let us go forth and smile, joyfully wrinkled and wrinkled by 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.

Walking Each Other Home

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“We’re all just walking each other home.” ~ Ram Dass

We learned this week that Clancy has cancer that can, for a time, be managed by medicine. He is able to walk the trail, bark at squirrels, eat, drink and be merry, and we will guard against allowing him any loss of these sources of his joy. Timing is everything; stumbling is human, but, of course, we want to spare our beloved useless suffering.

DSCF2051Every day still begins with our Morning Party, to consecrate whatever adventures come our way. True companionship, which, after all, means breaking bread together, has woven our sacred bonds with each of our 4-legged friends.

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DSCF2772Our walks have become even more precious. Thousands of miles covered, over and over, for 14 years, have inscribed our love, our stories, our chemicals, and our spirits on every particle along the way. Our story of deeply-shared love and companionship accrues and circles us; we breathe it in and out with every step. It clings to Full Moon and to every part of the path we’ve covered, day and night.

DSCF2707We have seen the seasons come and go, the river rise and fall, the trees and wildflowers bud, bloom, and die back, and now we face–most compassionately, but authentically–our own family member’s dying and our transforming.

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DSCF2796Clancy knows changes are occurring and seems more determined than ever to keep Full Moon Cottage safe from invading squirrels and perceived threats. We bark along with him and Riley at times. I think we are singing our joy, our memories, our fears, and our grief together. The cats look askance, but forebear these concerts.

I’ve always enjoyed Clancy’s help in the kitchen, although his preference has been to plop down right at the intersection of oven, sink, fridge and dishwasher, so I have learned to be a nimble dancer in my culinary activities. I wonder if, after he is gone, I’ll leap over his imaginary presence. The Clancy Ballet.

DSCF2808I find myself wondering a lot about life without him; perhaps that’s a way to try and soften the reality we’re facing…it doesn’t work, anyway. Images of Clancy-less space and activities fade away before I can get a purchase. Which is good, I think, because I’m pulled back to the moments before me, precious and finite and burnished by the utter gift of loving and being loved.

And I take comfort in knowing that when Riley and I one day walk the trail without him beside us, Clancy will be everywhere we are, forever inscribed on our hearts and walking us home.

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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.

From Festive to Restive

DSCF2363The long exhalation of January has begun… the Christmas decorations are stored away for another year and have been replaced by new piles of gardening catalogues, decorating magazines, novels, and cookbooks.

DSCF2040And cats. More cats than I’ve recalled tending over the past few months.

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DSCF2406I always liked having two cats. It seemed sensible and within the bounds of social propriety.

DSCF2059But five? Five seems borderline crazy, yet what are you going to do? They each came with a sad story of a now-or-never need for a home; tiny Fergus even followed me all the way down the trail in the cold rain of a dreary November day, as if determined to prove both his worthiness and desperation…He may have paused to wheeze a bit, very Oliver Twist-ish, to tug even more deliberately on my heartstrings. My “Foolish for Felines” sign must have flashed extra-brightly that day. And I do have a weakness for them: I think I carried Fergus the last 20 yards home. (“Sanctuary!” he cried.)

DSCF1116The house is big enough that they usually roam and catnap wherever they like and they seemed to disappear amidst the festive Christmas brilliance. I guess they hid under the Christmas tree or in their strategically-placed cat beds all during the holiday season. But now, in January, they seem to have multiplied and become very present along the back of the couch, or standing near windows, or strolling through the living room and hallways. They remind me of the nuns in my childhood who always seemed to glide around together in groups of two or more. Cat-clusters.

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DSCF2349Not a problem this past week, when frigid temperatures and snowy gales kept schools closed and all of us huddled indoors, except to dash out and refill the bird feeders. 

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DSCF2323Even the dogs, it seems, have been comforted by the cats’ added body heat, content to lie at the window or in front of the fire and tolerate the feline members of the family with mature grace.

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So, we’re settling in for the restive season: time to read, and nap, and dream of gardens-to-come, and soups we’ll have to make, and projects we’ll have to tackle. Cuddling with each other, a couple dogs, and a company of cats, life seems cozy indeed.DSCF2152

 

© 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.

 

Green Christmas

 

 DSCF1625It’s been an unusual sort of year’s end. Inside, it looked a lot like Christmas.

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DSCF1617We watched several incarnations of Ebenezer Scrooge’s resurrection to a life of hope and compassion, and caught up on rest and reading, and finished remodeling the guest room. Friends visited and festivities ensued. But outside, the world remained in perpetual autumn. On Christmas Day, after our long walk with the pups, we stayed outside to weed the riverside gardens. An utterly new experience for Christmas Day.

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DSCF1730It was lovely and warm, but we both enjoy winter and missed her coming. I worried about my bulbs and perennials, who depend upon the blanket of snow and the frozen earth; the cold triggers the biochemical process they need to flower in spring. Birds were singing spring songs and everything seemed a bit fantastical. Confused. Out-of-the-norm. I missed the patterns I love and have come to honor: the four-season journey of life into death into life. Then it rained again, and we battled the incessant mud tracks our walks produced, another winter anomaly. But it was our valued vacation time, so…we relaxed, indulged in treats, and watched Harry Potter choose between the light and dark, enter suffering and loss, and live into the new world he’d help create.

DSCF1816A few days later, the temperatures lowered considerably, seizing rain puddles, however slight and visible, and freezing them enough so that my car’s brakes locked and slid through an intersection on a busy county highway. I almost “carked it,” as I heard someone say in an English movie, although at the time and for a few days afterwards, I wasn’t able to laugh about the adventure. I was glad I’d said, “I love you” to a friend before I left home that day, but I was disappointed by the fear I’d felt in the endless seconds it took to be missed by the immense SUV barreling towards my tiny VW Bug. I was bothered by the tears that followed the incident: I’d like to meet death with more equanimity.

Another friend visited that night and we talked about many things, as we always do. She mentioned a wise old nun she knows, who recently remarked on the current death throes of so many of our institutions: healthcare, education, political, economic…all seem to be undergoing the stages of dying, “…and it’s right that they should,” said the woman. Everything dies, including human-designed systems, when they no longer serve the welfare of humans.

DSCF1896And I’ve been pondering these ideas, wondering how to best serve the process of change in my small life/world with the little time left to me…When I helped midwife my dying patients, it felt as though I’d made a tacit engagement with mystery. Beyond faith, there is no tangible proof of what came next for my companions’ spirits. I ushered them to the doorway and remained present while they passed through. More than a witness, less than a dance partner…what a midwife is, I expect.

Sometimes they responded like I did, in the car: not yet ready. Like the weather this Christmas: clinging to autumn. Like the institutions, clinging to their power and its threatened transformation. Fear is natural, even, I suppose, a healthy response to the unknown, but I feel it can’t be the last response.

DSCF1484In all the experiences I’ve been graced to share and engage with death, I can only remember one time that a woman resisted her dying all the way through, and it was the hardest, most wretched death I’ve encountered.

Thankfully, most of the spirits I’ve accompanied to death– my loved ones, patients, animal companions, my trees and gardens–eventually, they breathed into acceptance of their dying, even perceptibly entering a deep peace as it came nearer.

DSCF1630I hope I can help midwife the coming changes, in whatever small ways expected of me, and again trust mystery, the pattern of life into death into life, and have faith that spring will bring flowers. I’m grateful for my many wise-women friends; I’m certain they’ll be beside me, in discernment and in bringing new life to birth.

DSCF1975This weekend, the weather turned cold once more.

DSCF1925And sweet snowfall blanketed the earth. Winter is here.

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DSCF1989Next breath.

DSCF1944Wait.

DSCF1945Trust.

DSCF1347Midwife.

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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.

Gliding Into Green Time

DSCF7654We’ve come (finally!) to the time of year when all the gardens, in a brilliance of greens and tender spring blossoms, flash back only beauty and promise. No pests, no droughts nor floods, no diseases have yet appeared to divert our belief that this will be the best summer ever for a perfection of blooms and abundance.

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DSCF7743Sweet friends have returned to Full Moon Cottage, annual visitors who bless our days and inaugurate a new season of life as the year rolls round her journey.

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DSCF7055There is no better time to celebrate life, is there? Last week, my colleagues came to Full Moon Cottage to toast the end of another school year, and my husband’s staff will be here next week to do the same. It’s grand to have guests, and motivating as well. Nothing like scheduled company to get us out to re-design, weed, plant, thin, and clean the gardens!

DSCF7666In July, family and friends will come to help us celebrate our wedding anniversary, so we’re looking at projects indoors and out, that may or may not come to fruition, given the time and money necessary to accomplish them. I’m an inveterate list-maker and recovering perfectionist. I’ve noticed age has helped me better—and sooner—identify the borders between desire and reality. How good it can feel to welcome the loosening, letting go, and blessed release of expectations to allow what will happen to happen. I don’t always manage this with grace, but I can say I’m better than I used to be. I can even manage a “whatever,” once in a while, and mean it. At least some of the time, I’m able to suspend my definition of perfection and see what’s already perfectly perfect.

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DSCF7712More importantly, we’re excited to be taking time to gather with people we love. When you reflect on parties and festivities you’ve attended, what do you recall in their afterglow? Not the hours of work and attention to detail that went into planning and organizing them, but the time spent sharing, listening, laughing, relaxing, affirming love and being affirmed as a valuable and integral part of other lives.

Henry Memorial 7It’s such a lovely time of year to recognize, toast, and encourage creation and recreation. Two years ago, we suffered through a devastating drought, and its effects continue to unfold. Our maples let loose an impossible number of seeds last autumn, in part a response to the prior year’s drought. A flurry of rebellious possibility rained down to establish life before drought could again assail the right to regenerate that is claimed by every living thing.

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DSCF7327The behaviors and choices of humans and their leaders so often deny Nature this right. In spring, her resounding Yes-always-yes-to-life, and the reminder she will likely outlast our stupidity and short-sightedness is both illuminating and humbling.

DSCF7612And worth celebrating, as we glide into another summer and its green possibilities for creativity, for gathering, for affirming life, for knowing when to allow what will happen to happen, and for the gift of entering it with gratitude, knowing too, that the impulse to regenerate never dies.

DSCF7063May you be blessed with long, happy days of recreation and the company of loved ones to share them.

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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.

Entertaining Angels

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  ~ Hebrews 13:2; KJV

DSCF5803Winter lingered. Just when we thought it had taken its last breath, it gasped and continued to test our hospitality.

DSCF5765But for well over a week now, despite chilly nights, the days have been warmer, or rainy, and coaxed out the greens this late spring offers up as gift to eyes surprised by anything other than black, white, and gray.

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DSCF6145Spring’s winged and 4-legged angels, arriving with all their usual and new messages regarding reasons to hope and deepen our love for the earth and each other, have been sailing, trotting, hopping, or crawling up and down the river bank. Choirs of blackbirds and spring peepers, with guest soloists—grosbeaks, robins, sand pipers, woodpeckers, ducks, geese, pelicans, warblers, finches, and cardinals—alert us to miracles daily and hourly. Today, my first sightings of a Baltimore Oriole and Rose-breasted Grosbeak set my heart dancing. The silence and solitude of winter are definitely over; whatever dreams and seeds were planted in the dark have been called forth most dramatically this spring. It took a while for the stone to be rolled away, but the light is now shining like a drama queen. “Grow!” it seems to command.

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DSCF6820We emerged, tentatively and cautiously, peeking out from under winter’s blanket like the proverbial groundhog, and then began to meet, socialize, fill in the calendar, haul out the garden tools and dig into life with the vigor only pasty-white winter people can summon when spring returns in the fullness of her resurrection power.

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DSCF6612Our pups, Riley and Clancy, who will celebrate 13 years of being next week, had a dicey winter. Age-related health encounters gave us some sad and frightening moments, which time and our saintly veterinarian helped us through, gently. We’ve all made adjustments and adapted. We feared their loss (knowing it will come, but please, not yet, not now) and are therefore utterly grateful they’re still here and again able to amble down the trail with us. Their kennels have moved upstairs; our walks are shorter; their schedule is a bit more closely monitored; at night we protect each other; and—if possible—we celebrate our funky family even more than ever. I guess my years tending dying parents and elderly patients have readied me for this, as well. If so, Full Moon Cottage will be the best damn nursing home for elderly 4-leggeds we can imagine.

DSCF6332One evening we had company visiting and the night became so merry and so filled with heady conversation and children and music that our five-year-old guest crawled into his mother’s arms and softly cried. His mother held him and asked about his tears. “I feel so happy,” he said. So much joy, some needed to spill out a bit, I suppose, to re-balance his mighty little spirit.

I know exactly how he felt.

On Earth Day, my students and I cleaned up the school grounds, washed bits of the refuse we collected and then made art…their sweet hearts and lively spirits feed me, daily. I’ve come to a time in my life where most teachers arrive, if they’re lucky and as blessed as I’ve been: we know that teacher and student are the same thing.

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DSCF5817As are life and death.

 I’m trying to gauge my wealth differently than financial advisers might counsel: How engaged with life, how open to its invitations have I been this day? To what degree have I given and received as I’ve circled through the daily round? How often did I pause and connect with all the angels and their messages streaming towards and through me? How freely did I share those messages with others?

DSCF6708In my life, angels, or messengers who remind me, “This is it! Now! It’s all holy!” have never been pretty men with wings, though some of my angels have been men, and many of my guides have had wings…Only look and listen, they’re everywhere: winged, legged, fluttering, croaking, singing, blooming, dying, laughing or weeping. See! These unique and sacred collections of particles gathering and forming, dissolving and reforming: Be moved to dance, to hobble, to wheeze, to weep with joy by all the ways Love calls you out, every moment, into resurrection and new creation.

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Clancy questions whether he must entertain his sibling cats as angels, especially if they appropriate his kennel.
Clancy questions whether he must entertain his sibling cats as angels, especially if they appropriate his kennel.

 

© 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.

Winter Spirituality: To See What Is Before Us

DSCF5119Sometimes I wonder if the constant complaints about winter—the cold, the snow, the darkness, the inconvenience—are a form of resistance to winter’s spiritual invitations. They’re challenging; they’re scary, they’re brutal in their honesty. 

DSCF4925They’re so worth engagement.

DSCF4626I’ve come to love the austere revelations winter offers, as I’ve come to recognize the wisdom of loving what I resist, opening to relationship with perceived obstacles, problems, roadblocks and impediments. Limiting my journey to summer’s merry, easy road limits my journey.

DSCF4622In summer, my vision is attracted by everything at once, overwhelmed by the impression of colors, mingled patterns and textures. A summer spirituality allows my mind to perpetually skip from pleasure to pleasure, one sensuous delight and self-affirming thought after another. But, as the season of winter allows me to focus on the singular beauty and unique mystery of the particular and specific, entering a winter spirituality allows me to be with my darkness and find that its augmentation to my spirit, if initially frightening, is eventually healing. Shadow and light are needed for the picture to be full and the spirit to be whole.

DSCF4827I appreciate the generous cloaks winter creates to isolate color and form. I can photograph one tree, one bird, one sunrise, over and over, and always see something new. In winter, it seems the world tells me who it is at its core and asks me if I can respond with my own true name. “Who are you?” asks winter, over and over, paring away, in loving patience, all the usual answers that satisfy such a question in polite, superficial society.

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DSCF4677Winter spirituality helps me meditate more and more deeply on the gift and uniqueness of each part of myself and my life, each partner with whom I dance, each question with which I struggle.

Long years, a lifetime, of encrusting these relationships with projections and desires and hopes and discharged emotions and learned reactions and one-sided memories, can be stilled by winter’s gift of silence and long hours to re-visit and re-vision, The external shudders away, baring what is real, teaching me again that meaning is fluid but essence eternal.

DSCF4817The local meteorologists call this the “coldest winter” in 35 years, and people complain, some unceasingly, about the hardships of enduring it. But I’ve learned to love winter as I love my shadow. They are beautiful; they bring wisdom; they lead me to rare and vital presence. And they are crucial to the springtime’s arrival; crucial, as in “cross,” as in the bloom of synthesis bursting from the thesis-antithesis of winter’s black and white…

DSCF4962I love winter and the spirituality she engenders for helping me to see, even a little more clearly, the truth before—and within—me. By uncluttering all the other seasons’ competing imagery, I can eliminate the chaos of color and form surrounding the pure beauty of a solitary squirrel, by muting all the rival noise muffling one blue jay’s cry, I can hear its once-in-a-lifetime once-ness, by stilling all my swirling mental and spiritual dissonance, I’m guided to focus solely on where I am in relationship to the Holy and all her streaming invitations. 

DSCF5111Spirit speaks uniquely in all of life’s seasons, in all of life, every moment; disregard this, and we miss vital communication, like tuning out another’s conversation. Only listen, says the Spirit, in winter’s guise; listen, and be led to silence.

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DSCF5084And when I can listen more deeply, winter is the one who whispers to my heart those essential truths that keep it beating: I am loved and lover, created and creator, co-conspirator (helpmate of Spirit) in fashioning these sewn-together moments called my life.

Peeling away the layers of projected need, repeated story, and entrained patterns of response, winter teaches me to see what is before me. To see what is. 

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DSCF5121I am still becoming.

 

© 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.

Counter Posture

DSCF448640 years of yoga practice have yielded gifts I never expected when I started down the path, much, I suppose, like any long-term relationship one consents to pursue will continue to surprise the heart and spirit if attention is paid and the relationship is bound more by love and flexibility than a rigid repetition of steps learned long ago and in all the years since rarely or never opened to inspiration.

DSCF4550Consider, for example, the wisdom and elegance of counter-posturing, balancing in-breath and out-breath, uniting a backbend with a forward bend, marrying a reaching with a contraction. The unfolding understanding of a counter-posture’s gifts has broadened my ability to remain increasingly present and mindful to my life and its core of mystery, to its blessing and suffering, and to its continual flow of dying and rebirth. Life, at its essence, is an unending exercise in counter-posturing. Over and over, life asks that we disintegrate and reintegrate, from our birth, through the breaths enclosing each succeeding moment until our death. If we can enter our life mindfully, co-creating equanimity and balance, how much lovelier our experience of its gifts can be.

DSCF4531Counter-posturing is inherent to the flow of yoga, as it is to the philosophies and theologies we recognize as our guiding wisdoms. For example, it forms the holistic essence symbolized by the yin and yang’s embrace of both the empirical and transcendent. It is expressed beautifully in the Hebrew Ecclesiastes verses that tell us everything must have its season. It pulses at the heart of every line forming the beautiful Prayer of St. Francis.

It is revealed throughout nature’s perfect balance, offering the rounded whole of existence to guide our spirits towards their own rounded fulfillment: Summer’s outward energy and exuberant volume, winter’s inner withdrawal and soundless stillness, the expansion and retraction of spring and autumn. Every force has its equal and opposite force that, if embraced, creates a perfect marriage of balance.

DSCF4544The universe conspires to teach us the wisdom of counter-posturing, to help us choose paths, practices, and actions that keep us balanced and centered, which is to say authentically healthy and whole. When life is flowing easily, these practices may heighten its joy. When life is overcome by suffering, the ability to counter-posture becomes as necessary to our spiritual survival as oxygen is to our body.

Our first breath is an in-breath; our final an exhalation. Whatever we choose between these, whatever existence offers, life originates and concludes in perfect balance. Our choice to counter-posture—or not—all those moments between our human beginning and end determines the degree of elegance, the trajectory of growth, the depth of meaning, and the awareness of the Sacred that infuses our life. 

DSCF4513My beloved brother-in-law died last week.

Days were circumscribed by his rapid decline in health, an accelerated rhythm of swirled energy and emotions, rising hopes and dashed hopes, long vigils and sleepless nights, the gathering and parting of family, the brutal lack of equanimity often offered by the hospital ICU, the sense of everything heightened and held out of time, and moments when reality screamed with unrelenting heart-slamming truths, grounding us in medical minutiae and the process of dying.

By training and inclination, the camera of my perception continually moved in and out, assessing the degree of shock and anxiety within and without each participant, and, of course, myself. When the life of one we love is so suddenly compromised, our emotions, bodies, and spirits are thrown out of coherence. Numbed engagement is often the best that can be managed and also serves to protect us, and so we offer automatic responses that cushion our completely exposed vulnerability from jarring contact with more than this moment, and now this one. 

S0044332If we can listen deeply during such times of spiritual, emotional, and physical trauma, some inner knowing will tell us that our spirits are trying to catch up with us, and if we can hang on, and intuitively counter-posture each moment’s invitations and assaults, we will again find our way home to our center. Until then, we travel with sails tossed by raw emotions, and if we are blessed, love is the one we allow to carry us through to journey’s end.

Years of accompanying others and their families through such experiences have taught me to seek, support, and encourage the counter-postures that will renew balance for all involved in the drama of dying and loss. As a midwife to the dying, I have witnessed myriad responses to the invitations this final journey offers to the one who is dying and to those who accompany him or her. I have felt and considered them all myself when I have lost someone I loved, as I did last week. Every new wave that crashes against us can either be met with love or rejected and futilely battled in anger, fear, anxiety, and despair. 

DSCF4206Here is how it might happen when we surrender to the experience and meet it with intentional equanimity: We can recognize the horror of our individual and collective journey and choose to translate it into sorrow by meeting it with love. We can counter-posture our howling pain by acknowledging that mystery and grace are also our companions. We can embrace our fellow-passengers on this journey of stunning transformation, and through the energy of our words and silence, our actions and stillness, our in-breaths and out-breaths, comfort our own and others’ hearts, subdue the storm, and steady our spirits. We can focus our energy and gratitude upon the one who is departing, on his comfort, his peace, his need to know we will be alright, and that our love will go with him.

These are some of the choices we can make to counter-posture the energy created by such profound storms in our lives, and so guide our spirits back into a substantial presence where they can eventually rest in weary peace.

My brother-in-law was blessed, as he was blessing. His wife and children never once let themselves be unmoored by the ferocity and velocity of invitations to let go into fear, anger, or despair. They embraced each other and all who joined their circle, shining light on their beloved and holding him in love through his final exhalation. They intuited elegant counter-posturing and preserved the fullness and wholeness of this loss and every moment of gratitude and community it offered.

Hallowed life, hallowed death: oh, such gifts we can offer ourselves and others if we choose intentional equanimity and balance.

DSCF4418And as we enter our grief, I am consoled by the beauty of our gatherings to be peacefully present to the death of our beloved one, to his burial and commitment to Love’s turning circle. I’m heartened, too, by the sense that together and alone we’ll dance with our grief, counter-posturing sadness with joy, weariness with rest, sharing with conserving energy, breathing in with breathing out, deepening our recognition and understanding of all the ways our loved one’s death opens his life to our sustenance.

May we continue to honor this great loss and use this great love to create sacred balance in our lives and holy equanimity in the lives of those we love and meet. May we counter the world’s brokenness with our loved one’s example of creativity; may we help heal the world’s hatred with his lessons of love, may we counter the world’s joylessness with his model of enthusiasm, and the world’s sadness with his encompassing delight. May we always hear the invitations to discover and use our gifts, as he did, to bless the world and to assure the Earth, over and over, that she is precious, loved, and worth saving, in all her infinite variety, and work to make it so.

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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.

Energetic Legacies

DSCF4030If the eye of the heart is open, in each atom there will be one hundred secrets.  ~ Attar

We’ve had a lovely holiday this year, slow, together, and merry…a welcome sabbath. It began in deep frost and snowstorms, but mellowed, offering warmer days to snowshoe in companionship with the 4-leggeds. 

DSCF3881We hiked up the road to Aztalan State Park, a geography that to me always feels suffused with the spirits of the ancient people who inhabited this region. Snow-shoeing around the perimeter and then entering the vast spaces where the Woodland people and Mississippians lived brings me to stillness and contemplation.

DSCF3891The views are stunning and the quiet allows my imagination to see these ancient people planting, harvesting, gathering together for rituals…over there, two friends stand together, sharing their stories and village gossip, watching their children run and play. Individuals, families, a society, all the dreams and acts played out upon this stage so long ago seem to be present here still.

DSCF3853The essence of places, how they become saturated with the joys and sorrows that have been lived within their confines, have always attracted me. I’ve entered churches, homes, museums, hospitals, and battlegrounds where I’ve felt powerful energies washing over and through me. Specific emotions are often attached and sometimes jumbled. It doesn’t have to be an “obvious” place of personal or historical importance; I’ve been stopped in my tracks walking a forest path or an otherwise nondescript city block. Something happened here; what is it? Past and present both unfolding and overlapping: something or many things happened here, the energy of it/them is still moving here and now.

DSCF3342It’s taken a lifetime to master the effects of sensing and entering this residual energy: to name it, recognize its power, and stand peacefully within it, holding my place with humility, awareness, appreciation, and an understanding of how to maintain the integrity of my own energy while honoring the stories lived out here, perhaps unfolding still.

DSCF3945It seems to me that where our lives are lived and experienced vividly, and where intense, or just authentic emotions are named and shared, we are more likely to imprint the space with “memories” of these feelings. Perhaps that’s why so many modern office buildings and shopping malls fail to make an impression altogether; the people moving through these spaces are often numb, hurried, and out of touch with their hearts and spirits. More driven than present.

DSCF3922Take more time; cover less ground, wrote Thomas Merton, and over and over, I chant his words and notice my breath, and look again at the world around me, sensing the energy that’s passed, or that lingers and shares the space with me. How does one live fully? Wholly? How do I bless the world around me? How do I alter the energy here or amend it? How can I heal it? Where have I damaged it, and can it be mended and made right?

DSCF3879Hallowed spaces continue to bless us; those places still in need of healing deserve our blessing in turn. And the places where we live and move and have our own being need gentle vigilance regarding the energy we’re creating right now.

DSCF3696We weave our being into the earth and lives with which we share space every day. Or not. Our choices and actions, the degree to which we participate in our lives and connect to others, the devotion we give to conscious awareness of our world and its balance, the gifts and gratitude we offer openly, and the ways we shut down, avoid, deny, and disconnect–these create an energetic legacy. Whether our name is recalled or not, our energy affects what others feel now and will feel in the future.

DSCF3940I wish you a new year of grace and gentle peace; of wisdom and merry-making; of holy surprises and opportunities to share your gifts; of living from a joyful center; of good health and plentiful art; of laughter and holy tears and all the rounded offerings of being human; of the deep knowing that you are held by Love; of finding yourself in places sacred, and made more so by your presence; of creating energy that feeds your spirit and those spirits you love and those spirits yet to come.

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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.

 

‘Tis the Season

DSCF2361Full Moon Cottage has been dressed for Christmas over the past week. Objects encrusted with memories have been scattered around the rooms, and spirits we love have been fully welcomed back into our midst, not just those of our parents, who are always with us, but all those characters and places that populated our childhood stories: great-aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers, janitors, cafeteria ladies, bus drivers, piano teachers and the neighborhood personalities who bordered the edges of our days. DSCF2145 DSCF2212DSCF2201I can see the Park and Market grocery, and the ice skating rink, where tinny Christmas music blared as we glided round and round. I remember how Santa rode through town on a shiny red fire engine, so loaded with lights that I never stopped to wonder at the absence of his sleigh and reindeer. I never stopped to question any of the incongruities and obvious fallacies offered to us during the Christmas season. Every year, we were happily willing to be drenched in magic and readily surrendered our doubt to exist wholly in a world of fantastical impossibilities. Because they were true, at the heart level, where children seem to more easily live and breathe and have their being. DSCF2161I had a happy childhood, and at no time of year am I more grateful than during the Christmas season, when the flood of memories, visions, and smells mix with the magic of nostalgia, sparkle of winter, and the natural tendency to gather in towards light and warmth. For a month or two, I revisit those times and places that created me and allow me to treasure the present with greater depth. DSCF2465I’ve always loved Lent and its invitations to whittle away and purge in preparation for spring’s rebirth, but the rituals and traditions of Advent cheer my heart. They seem to counter and balance the season’s darkening and chilling environment so tenderly. The cinnamon, chocolate, orange, and anise smells of seasonal baking, the glitter of ornaments, the soothing and jubilant sounds of Christmas music, and the focus on the excitement of anticipation and joy: what could be better? DSCF2475So many spiritual traditions seem to center on light and gift in winter; it’s encouraging (“heart-centered”) that many humans get it all perfectly right once a year, anyway. DSCF2442 DSCF2193I wish we could resist the urge to allow corporate marketers to dictate the meaning of this season to us and their attempts to drive people into greater frenzy and stress and spending, instead of slowing down, gathering in, cherishing each holy moment. The heavy burdens of pragmatic doubt regarding the magic of the world, the pain of self-judgments, and the accepted need to replace our innate value with things, things, and more things we must endlessly buy, may be set down; we did not need these rampant desires as children and certainly do not benefit from them as adults. DSCF2178Christmas helps us retrieve the gifts of childhood, if we listen. A friend posted on a social site that she’d enjoyed a four-hour lunch with an old friend: Just to read it made me hopeful and happy for both of them, but for all of us as well. I know they pushed back against demanding jobs and demanding lives to make way for this time together and yet did so, valuing friendship above tasks. So, for now, I abstain from the entreaties to constantly shop, and from what is called “news,” and instead rest in the Good News always coming, always here: we are made of Love, embraced by Love, and asked only to Love in return, until to Love we return and with Love we merge. And that is enough. And that is everything. DSCF2096May the deep peace of the season gift you with a warm heart, clear vision, and a community of family and friends–and four-leggeds–to see, hear, hold, and enjoy. We are called to be merry; let us do so, drenched in magic and readily surrendering our doubt. Love reminds us we already exist wholly in a world of fantastical impossibilities. Joyeux Noel! DSCF2191 DSCF2183

 

© 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.

Thanks Be to Love

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The daily round has been crammed with life, guests, listening, and activity of late. How lovely it is to have a day open before me without a list or template circumscribing and defining its hours…just a blank page to fill as I am called…I think I’ll take the pups and my camera out to the trail and return home to make that cup of hot cocoa I’m always promising myself.

Tomorrow will be filled with preparations for our Thanksgiving weekend, and that, too, cheers my heart. There are few better feelings, for me, than the anticipation of joyful community with people and 4-leggeds I love.

And so, I raise my cup of cocoa and toast us all: May we be blessed with a peaceful and joyful celebration of all that inspires deep gratitude in our lives. May our patience and humor abound.

May we forgive ourselves of all those errors and lapses in love that arise from our humanity and so more generously forgive others theirs.

May we ease expectations and judgments of ourselves and others so as to better perceive the blessings waiting for us right now, right here, and may we be present to the lessons they have come to teach us about the ways we are infinitely loved.

May our willingness to isolate and name these gifts allow us to cherish them more deeply and share them more profoundly.

Dona nobis pacem.

Gratitude is something of which none of us can give too much. For on the smiles, the thanks we give, our little gestures of appreciation, our neighbors build their philosophy of life.  ~ A.J. Cronin

Gratitude is so close to the bone of life, pure and true, that it instantly stops the rational mind, and all its planning and plotting. That kind of letting go is fiercely threatening. I mean, where might such gratitude end?  ~ Regina Sara Ryan

Gratitude is the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos. When we offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, and reconnection.  ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight. ~ Joan Chittister

Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.  ~ Rabbi Harold Kushner

If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.  ~ Meister Eckhart

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.  ~ Denis Waitley

You have been given a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”  ~ William A. Ward

Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty. ~ Doris Day

Gratitude is twofold – love coming to visit us and love running out to greet a welcome guest.  ~ Henry Van Dyke

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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.

Life Review

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The circling world has returned me to the time of thin places and the Sacred has certainly permeated my past month, or perhaps age and effort have finally brought me to the place where the numinous is more apparent and the liminal invitations—to see thresholds into deeper ways of being—are more accurately and peacefully encountered. Of course, there are days I’m blind as a bat to the light surrounding me, and as out of touch with my spirit as I’ve ever been, but they are less, and since presence, listening, deepening, gratitude, and forgiveness have been qualities I’ve valued over material gain, I’m happy to examine my life periodically and discover if those traits I’ve treasured and quests I’ve set as worthy are being integrated into my life.

DSCF0634Maybe it’s autumn. There is something about its particular colors and quality of light that makes me more pensive than other seasons. It seems always to begin with a low-level anxiety, probably ancient, and I catch myself worrying if I’ve “gathered” enough to last a winter…and then the questions about precisely “what” I need to store and so be sustained come calling at my heart’s door.

DSCF0987Life review is a spiritual practice too often saved for the end-of-life journey. At that time, it’s a guided journey through life’s highs and lows, regrets and blessings, gains and losses, named by the one who is dying and explored deeply in order to bring greater peace and closure to the dying process. Rituals help ease forgiveness and augment gratitude, or opportunities may be revealed to heal wounds carried as painful burdens over a lifetime. I loved traveling the life review journey with my patients when I worked as a hospice chaplain, but often people are too weak, confused, or unable to complete the practice as they approach dying, and its benefits are lost.

And so I highly recommend we engage with this practice long before we face our final breath. A daily examen, a monthly meditation, or at least an annual dedicated time for reviewing our dreams and life goals, and whether the choices we’ve made are in alignment with our named purpose or will lead to imbalance, can help us live more fully and in tune with Spirit. And after the assessing, and emptying, comes the time of deep listening: what messages does Spirit bring to us for our encouragement and possible redirection?

DSCF1233Retreats can also help with this process, and so can a monthly meeting with a spiritual director. A friend of mine is currently writing her life Manifesto, and others have created Mission Statements to guide their journey…these are not carved in stone and can always be altered, but they serve a purpose in making their authors aware and committed to remaining spiritually aligned and awake during their time on earth. What, finally, is our Credo, and are we true to it?

Certainly, autumn brings me round to look again at who I’ve become and how true I’ve been to my gifts and spirit. The pull of the ego to conform, to “win,” to be the center of attention, to be perceived as successful by all the false measurements the world offers rather than the self-assessment I know after all these years will reveal the honest answers I need and treasure is relentless, but worth resisting. And every year, it gives me joy to see the path I’m on, the place I am, is where I’ve always wanted to be. Not that I have all the things I’ve desired, or perfect relationships, or a life without pain and disappointment, but that what I have is precisely enough and fulfilling.

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DSCF1011So I give myself time to sit, to walk, to be alone and realign myself with those goals I hold dear. I note my success and forgive my errors, and surround myself with friends who treasure their own paths and tend their gifts. I recommit to offering back the best of what I have and look for ways to contribute to the world more of what I believe it needs to come into balance. I listen.

DSCF0776The worries triggered by the autumnal urge to gather and store ease as I relax into the awareness that my life is rich. The sky shines silver and the leaves glow, burnished bronze and gold, calling me forward into mystery. I embrace it, knowing my life invites my continued growth and unfolding.

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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.

 

Island Vacation

DSCF0470My husband and I wanted a break. Together. After so many years together, there is little we want or need; instead, the best gift we can give each other is shared time, away from the rutted routines we walk each day. New views help to create new outlooks, and the shared imaginings we have for this slow life we’re co-creating can be stimulated and renewed by travel. The weather’s been warm and the fall color is blushing its way down the state, so we decided to take 4 days and head a bit north, to the state’s largest Cranberry Festival.

DSCF0310Wisconsin produces most of our country’s cranberries and festivals are held every autumn to celebrate the harvest. I’d read something about “1200 booths” participating at this festival, and thought this referred to artists and flea-market/antique vendors. I knew there was a cranberry-focused museum and bog tours, so it sounded like a perfect adventure.

 We drove up the night before the festival opened and met other festival-goers when we checked-in to our hotel. “Oh, we come every year; you’ll love it!” they assured us. We woke up early to head from our hotel to the little town, Warrens, where it’s held. This is what we saw:

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DSCF0394A tiny town crammed with thousands of people lugging carts around to booths that lined streets and sidewalks, and narrow, narrow “alleyways,” everywhere. Claustrophobic doesn’t begin to describe it, and the merchandise was largely made-in-China mass-produced schlock. Little art, no antiques. Disappointment…I could feel my anticipation swirling down and drowning in one of the numerous stomach-turning vats of frying fat preparing decidedly non-cranberry food.

It wasn’t a complete or epic fail: We appreciated a brief bus tour of some cranberry bogs and enjoyed the town’s museum, but then exited the noisy, packed town. Quickly.

DSCF032610:00 A.M. and three days left to our Cranberry Festival vacation. Hmmm. Luckily, my travel partner makes me laugh, easily and deeply, and did; all would be well.

Happily, this part of the state is rich in geological and environmental history. The almost 44,000-acre Necedah Wildlife Refuge, just a few miles from the over-crowded shopping spree of the cranberry festival, called to us.

DSCF0399When the “local” glaciers retreated almost 15,000 years ago, they left a vast, low-lying wetland, called the Great Swamp of Central Wisconsin. For centuries, Native Americans lived in this area, which they called “Necedah,” or “Yellow Waters.”

DSCF0420Then Europeans arrived, and their farming, which necessitated draining the marshes, cutting trees, and battling the wildfires which had long nurtured the prairies, eventually destroyed the natural landscape that had endured for thousands of years.

In 1939, President Roosevelt’s administration, through the Civilian Conservation Corps it established, reclaimed burned-out land, restored prairies, oak savannahs, and wetlands, and created the wildlife refuge. Among others, a restored whooping crane population is welcomed to its acreage each year.

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DSCF0437We hiked along raised planked trails in silence, feeling cleansed and at peace. A lovely breeze carried the calls of geese, herons, eagles, frogs, and songbirds through the air. It was hard to believe thousands of people preferred what the “festival” offered to what was available at the refuge, but there you go.

DSCF0401The next few days we explored nearby lakes, rivers, sandblows, and the bluffs, mesas, and buttes that are actually former islands in Glacial Lake Wisconsin. We hiked around state parks and climbed for hours, grateful for glorious weather and views.

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DSCF0486Sunday morning came too quickly, but we were able to ride into the sunrise and stop at Roche-a-Cri State Park to see the petroglyphs and pictographs of Native Americans, and those who came later. (Note the “A.V. Dean. N.Y. 1861” carving.) 300 steps up, and we had an “island view” that took our breaths away.

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DSCF0603For us, vacations are times to “be” together, center our spirits, listen to our feelings and hearts, create new dreams. We like adventures and surprises, and generally don’t over-plan, but the Cranberry Festival that became an island vacation was completely different from what we expected. A perfect gift.

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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.