Contentment

A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. ~ Leo Tolstoy

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This week, the sun appeared, figuratively and literally, after many weeks of darkness. Wednesday was restorative. I wept more that day than I have in years. And the tears sprang from a range of emotions: loss, grief, relief, and deep joy. But by 10 PM, I reached a place of such deep peace that all I could feel was restored and rebalanced, which reminded me again how greatly well-intentioned, ethical, and intelligent leadership contributes to our sense of security and calmness. For two nights, I have slept and had dreams. For uninterrupted hours.

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Yes, we’re each responsible for our self-care, but I can tell you that for this 40-year practitioner, meditation, breathwork, yoga, and a depth of spiritual practices followed in the absence of political and cultural stability have specific and dramatic limits. It’s easy to forget this when life is flowing more smoothly. So much of the journey is unlearning and relearning. Finding our center, losing it, and finding it again. Trying again, and with deeper knowledge and experience to find and root ourselves in presence to the gift of here/now.

But we’ve noticed the change: News bulletins aren’t dreaded; we’re not waking or living in constant anxiety; calamity isn’t a daily given. We didn’t know how tired we were nor how heavy a burden weighed upon our shoulders and spirits until it was lifted. I think that had a lot to do with the volume of tears on Wednesday. Release. Relief. Gratitude.

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Life feels brighter and merrier. Do we as a nation and planet still face many challenges? You betcha. But I believe there are now gifted adults at the helm who will sort, focus, and do the considerable best they can for and with all of us. There are so many people all over the world who need our help. I feel like it’s coming, and soon, for all of us. This allows me to soften my muscles, breathe, and relax. Who remembers relaxing? It’s so much easier to tend and nurture life with a communally-reduced anxiety level. Gratitude, gratitude.

At Full Moon Cottage, we’re welcoming the sunshine, regardless of the fact that it creates colder days. And the days are growing longer, too, another spirit-booster. The return to a higher quality of peace has led us to fill our days with pastimes and tasks that deepen our contentment.

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Seed and nursery catalogues occupy hours of blissful dreaming. I recently saw a meme that said something like, “I love flowers; I want all the flowers.” Claude Monet said, “I must have flowers, always and always.” I’m with Claude! I don’t know that I will ever have enough gardens and flowers, but I know that I’m imagining more gardens than I could ever manage to tend, so I have to narrow it down to a few new plants for the butterflies, other insects, birds, and bees. And a few new shrubs and trees, too. Sigh.

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Phillip has ordered his veggie seeds and will soon be getting them started under grow lights. And he’s been busy in his shop creating an entertainment center for friends who moved to St. Paul. We’re waiting for our vaccines to be started/completed before we can go shopping for the colored glass he needs to create the leaded windows he’s designed for the doors to this piece. Everything in its time.

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Walks have been bright and invigorating this week. Shadows were absent for so long that encountering their brilliant blue stripes and shapes patterned across the winter ice and snow is visually startling, like walking into the paintings of Carlos Cruz-Diez. (Below: Carlos Cruz-Diez, Induction du Jaune Rioja , 2014)

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And, late in the afternoon, we sit with the 4-leggeds and watch a British program called Escape to the Country, which takes prospective home buyers to the county of their choice throughout the UK, where they tour three properties within their stated budget, meet local artists, visit places of interest, and then choose a home, or not. We’re in love with the history, architecture, topography, and gardens, and have chosen about a zillion cottages for our own in the few weeks we’ve been watching the program. We can never decide which county is our favorite, but it’s a lovely dreamtime to share together as the sun sets.

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Contentment is a state we have not visited for a long time. It’s like returning to a place you loved but had left behind, or rekindling a once-precious relationship that time had dimmed. You discover not only the easy reconnection and renewal of affection, but burnished depths and treasures you’d missed. Contentment, clouded for years, has returned, and is coupled with our revitalized hope. Both shine like the sun, and we are grateful.

And from this place of contentment, may we return to the world and use our gifts to bless all; as we’ve been created, may we create, and as we are loved, may we love.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

19 January, 2021

Blackbirds

It is enough today
to say I am waiting;
I will sit and stare at the
white land and black river
running through it; watch the juncos,
downies, chickadees feeding; notice
the charcoal trees shadowed against
the milky sky, the trapezoid roofs of
pristine snow shading the barns and
homes into nightblack, the jet ink marching
across paper bleached so white all light waves
are reflected, scattering back snowlight, sweet peaceful
presence in the absence of more than black and
white, the shades of waiting and gestation;
me, breathing into the blank day of
all things white, black, simple;
the in-breath and exhalation,
before and after, as though
the whole world waits
on the tipping point
for this change,
an inauguration
of healing, of promises
fulfilled, the astonishment
of color, the complexity
of rainbows and rebirth.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Sleepless Women

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It was the darkest time of year in a year already dark.
The sun hid behind clouds, behind hills, and stone.
The moon was shy, floating deep in the river,
wearing a veil that covered the stars.

Disease flowed through the land; lies echoed;
anger grew claws and roared, everywhere.

The woman watched for light. She did not sleep.
Sleepless Woman, watching for light,
anxious for the world, hoping for strength,
cradling the truth.

She worked all the dark days
and cried, pacing in the night.
Sleepless Woman, weary, watching, raw with fear,
enduring hours, and days, a year of darkness.

Outside, anger roared and clawed the air.
The disease flowed through the people.

Lies wore other lies. Layers of lies
flowed like disease.

Sleepless Woman began to dream, awake, whirling,
dancing fires to light dark nights.
Sleepless Woman sang of what could be: how hearts
could heal, madness could clear, strangers could be beloved,
creation could renew the Earth, children could play in the world.

With justice, there could be space for love,
and hands could reach through forgiveness
and love could grow. It could create
a world.

And then,
in the dark, while the sun was hidden and the
moon veiled, floating deep in the river,
Sleepless Woman heard all the women singing,
saw the flicker of their dancing fires,
knew all the Sleepless Women were beside her,
anxious for the world, watching for light,
hoping for strength, dreaming awake, whirling,
singing what could be, cradling the truth.

And they sang, and they danced, and they did not sleep.

The fires grew.

Sleepless Women sang and the moon‘s veil slipped and floated, fading;
Sleepless Women danced and the sun began to rise and light the days;
Sleepless Women cradled the truth and the lies withered, dying to silence.
They summoned justice and space for love, and the anger fled, beaten.
They lifted their hope, and the madness cleared.
They shared healing, and the disease abated, tamed.

Sleepless Women dreamed, awake, and the dreams took shape
and entered the world. Beautiful, beautiful.

And all the Sleepless Women widened their arms,
released the truth,
and embraced the suffering.
They held the pain open to the burning sun
and hearts were healed.
The moon rose, brilliant, and stars lit the tears
in the Sleepless Women’s eyes.

Joy arrived.

There was everything to do, a world to create,
but first,
weary women slept
and welcomed visions of peace,
while the children played; they danced and sang
the music of women in the spaces where love was growing.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Returning to Ordinary Time

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The week’s madness, following our peaceful holidays, was profoundly unsettling and left me feeling desolated, abandoned by the joy I normally choose to meet the new day.

Like so many others, I was shocked, saddened, and utterly unsurprised that we had arrived at this terrible moment. We lost 5 lives, including U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick; the People’s House was entered illegally and violently, and desecrated; members of Congress, most of them trying to uphold our democracy, were imperiled; and all of this was done by a deluded mob unable to disentangle bizarre fabrication from fact, led by a madman and his enablers. It seemed a most disheartening way to meet the New Year, given our many preceding months of loss, depleted energy, and low tolerance for yet more disappointment.

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And there was no peace in being right, in forecasting this would be the likely result of putting a man so small, offensive, corrupt, and incapable in a position that demands a working intellect, wisdom, and a finely-calibrated moral compass. But his spectacular failure, 4 years of it steamrolling through our democracy, flattening our spirits, severing ties, cheapening everything held precious, has been nonetheless stunning. And the weakness and complicity of too many made this week’s events a probable reality. We told them this would happen; we tried to prevent it; they refused to seize the moment and rid us of him last year; here we are.

So, I suppose my response should also have been predicted: We-knew-this-would-happen-outrage, followed by grief, and then long hours of sleepless desolation.

Desolation can be a proper response to the events of Wednesday’s evil, and it can be illuminating, but it is not where we’re meant to reside. “Enthusiasm,” after all, means “in God,” or the delight of conscious intimacy with what we believe to be sacred, and so, identifying an absence of joy indicated I needed rebalancing and required consolation.

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Long years of pursuing spiritual health and integration has taught me life is a journey of continual discernment, where the integration of heart and mind, emotions and reason, is vitally important to our choices and actions. What am I feeling? How is it experienced in my body and breath? And what are the “right actions” with which to respond? Where is Love leading me? What is the movement? Where am I being pulled? What am I resisting? What do my choices ask of my gifts? How do each of the choices before me serve Love and all the relationships it’s led me to form? Art work: music, movement, writing, painting, sculpting, photography…anything deeply right-brained can help us through discernment, as can contemplation/meditation, and a form of exercise that works for you. I especially favor walking and yoga.

I stilled and listened. And looked to the magical wintry Earth, waiting for me.

The new year has blessed us with many days in a world flocked with rime ice, coating every stark surface revealed by winter. We experienced several evenings of freezing fog, which allows supercooled water droplets to be held as liquid within the fog, even though the air temperature is below the freezing point (32º F). Once the droplets freeze onto surfaces, a white deposit of exquisitely feathery ice crystals forms rime.

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I grabbed my camera, and Phillip and I headed to the nearby state park to hike and and heal. It is a precious sweetness to have a companion so blessedly matched to my mind, heart, and spirit. The years have smoothed our differences and deepened our respect; we are content to be who we are with each other and that is gift. So, together, we roamed the land where others discerned their life questions a thousand years ago, roamed the landscape of our hearts, and observed the beauty of rime ice clinging to forms, and offering its art, freely.

And, as always, walking healed and rebalanced our spirits. And, from a point of balance, it was easier to see ways that the horror in our nation’s capital was met with an equal amount of blessing: for example, resolute leaders working through the night to ensure the country’s rightful and necessary transference of power. And when that transfer is complete, it will include a Congress enriched by two new members who will allow the wheels of legislation to turn once more and actually take care of our country’s people and the Earth during this perilous time of pandemic and climate change, when everyone’s gifts must be equally welcomed to the table. And we have vaccines that will save lives, if we can remain patient.

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And when we arrived home, a package waited at the door. My dear friend in the UK had sent it six weeks ago, and she had been so very concerned about its confusing journey and the increasingly likely fact it wouldn’t arrive by Christmas. I kept assuring her it would arrive when it needed to…and it absolutely did.

The poor box looked like it had been drop-kicked, several times. It had holes, crumpled sides, dented edges, and ribbons and ribbons of packing tape, applied in what surely must have been a final effort to support its survival. I really doubted anything inside would be intact, but there you go: just when your spirits need lifting, Love comes through. Inside was an oil diffuser and a box of glass-bottled oils, and both items were in perfect condition. Literally, tools for re-balancing, arriving at exactly the right time.

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We’re moving on. We’ll get through this; we’ll survive and do better. And there is much to be done. The majority of the voters in our democratic republic have decided the course we’ll follow for now. All are welcome at the table, and, if some choose to refrain from participating, the door remains open, but moving on also means moving away from here and now. I hope those who are struggling will travel with their own discernment, heal, and join us. We need their gifts.

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In the church year of my faith, Ordinary Time settles in after the joyful rhythms of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, and its presence is most wonderfully welcomed by my spirit this year. I yearn for all things ordinary: For a country that’s healing and a government that works. For anticipated, unmasked, open-armed reunions and new gardens. For traveling. For a peaceful exchange of ideas. For healing walks and an appreciation of the Earth’s simple and complex wonders. For meeting new people, at restaurants. For neighbors and families in joyful relationship, and for the surprise of perfectly-timed gifts.

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Happy. New. Year. Be safe and well.

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

Epiphany

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December 26th
One person had posted:

How soon are you taking down Christmas?

Replies came quickly:
“DONE!”
“Today!!”
“So over it!”
“Already packed away!”
“Finished with this year.”

This year, this tired old year
of lockdown,
pandemic, and madness–
perhaps it
can’t end soon enough,
but I’m long-lived and learning
to breathe, to scrutinize reflections, to consider
the opposite of impulse and inclination.

Am I finished with this year?

I carry my questions
like a newborn, and travel
the landscape of my life:
city blocks of memories,
neighborhoods of years,
buildings crammed with months, and
just here, walking down December hallways,
I encounter my mother and grandmother,
wise women, spirit magi,
stepping out from doorways to enlighten,
one on either side of me.
“Life
is meant to illuminate.
Don’t let go of it all
so quickly.
Wait.
Sift.
Listen.
Epiphanies will come.”

And I stood in their light,
and knew.

A lifetime of sparks, flashing, but rarely
did I recognize my magi, all things,
everywhere: the passing word, choirs,
the overlooked stranger, the loss,
the leaf, the heat, this moment, the next,
messages streaming
from bag-ladies, blackbirds,
the screaming child, the exit sign,
the cruel lover, the doubting nun,
the wisdom in stories
told at tables lit by love…memories
all my memories,
so much wisdom shining,
overlooked,
strewn on my path,
impeding my progress
to new years; why weren’t
they ever new?
They felt like
every year that came
before
I rushed through
their front doors, insight and mystery
glowing unseen, the regret
of a busy life, of flying
past gift, such gift.

In my December hallways
the wise women said,
“Life is meant to illuminate.”

And, if we missed
the invitations
to break open and be new,
they’re still arriving,
new magi meeting us
now, and now, and
the wise ones,
waiting
in the hallways of memory,
still part of us, still offering
the chance to stand in light
and transfigure.

And this virulent year?
I won’t let go its hand
till all its darkness whispers
wisdom in my ready heart:
how fear summons tempests
only an infant held
at the breast can calm,
how sorrow
compounds to tonnage
only a cardinal
slicing through snowfall
can lift,
how one disease
reveals deeper and many,
and none are healed
if any are denied.

This moment,
this season, this year,
this tired old year,
this mighty magus,
we can’t
let it go too soon.
Wait. Sift. Listen.
Receive its
brilliant epiphanies

and illuminated,
transform.

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

And when you’ve bid farewell to 2020, I wish you bright blessings and epiphanies in the year ahead.
Joy to your hearts from all of us at Full Moon Cottage.

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Honoring Christmas

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“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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The impact of Covid-19 on the global poverty rate has been dramatic.

In 2017, 9.2% of the world population, or 689 million people, lived in what is termed “extreme poverty,” meaning they subsisted on the equivalent of $1.90 or less every day. This was a reduction in the rates followed over the past 25 years. However, as recently as October 7, 2020, the World Bank estimated that the Covid-19 pandemic would push an additional 88-115 million people into extreme poverty. Climate change compounds this. By 2030, its effects could force another 100 million people into poverty.

There are other income groups the World Bank designates as living in poverty: 24.1 percent of the world lived on less than $3.20 a day and 43.6 percent on less than $5.50 a day in 2017.

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This week, the Washington Post reported that almost 8 million Americans fell into poverty over the past five months. The poverty rate jumped to 11.7% in November – up 2.4 percentage points since June. The federal poverty line is $26,200 for a family of four.

These statistics became more visually real for me as I browsed the captivating images captured by Bert Teunissen, a Dutch photographer who, since the mid-1990’s, has photographed Europeans in the type of home he knew as a child. The rooms shown are simply furnished and the subjects sit in natural light, as their homes were built before WWII, when both electricity and urbanization began to change world communities dramatically. Most of these people would likely not have qualified as living in what the World Bank identifies as “extreme poverty,” but they certainly lived in tiny spaces with few of the amenities and luxuries many of us enjoy. Spending time with them through these profoundly intimate photographs offered a deep meditation on want, need, gratitude, reciprocity, consumerism, and obligation.

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I invite your reconsideration that almost half of the Earth’s population lives on the equivalent of $5.50 a day or less. This speaks to who we are as a species as surely as do the ways we’ve managed the pandemic and our inability to mitigate climate change by lessening our greed and disregard for the Earth and her needs.

We are unbalanced.

During the season when so many of us celebrate once again the inbreaking of the Sacred into our lives and spirits, may I suggest there is very little authenticity to the celebration when we so easily tolerate a world where almost half of us live with so little, and usually in the locations most threatened by climate change that we wealthier humans have caused?

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We can do better, and must.

The verb “donate” has its source in the word for gift. I encourage us all to re-think the meaning of a Christmas or holiday gift and donate this year, like never before and all through the years to come…Donate energy, money, time, clothes, food, shelter, and love.

Donate locally and globally. We can look around our own homes and see if there are ways to simplify, recycle, pare down. We can plant gardens. We can bring food to pantries and shelters, and unnecessary clothes to thrift stores. We can work to downsize thoroughly, justly, and cleanly.

Here is a highly efficient and effective charity that allows you to sponsor a child, student, or elder with a monthly donation. We’ve been blessed by the connections it’s afforded us.

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I wish all of my visitors and readers a most blessed holiday and a far, far, healthier and brighter new year. But don’t bid farewell to 2020 too hastily. She has come with so very many important lessons we need to learn about the ways we treat ourselves and others, offer our gifts to the world, behave as community, and care for the Earth. Let us not shut out the lessons she has taught. And let us honor Christmas in our hearts…and our actions.

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I am grateful for every one of you: grateful for your light and gifts in the world, and grateful for your goodness. Be well and safe, and gentle peace.

This is an old poem of mine that I have shared before and offer again, with great love–recycled, as it were–as my humble gift to you.

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Welcoming the Stranger

See the weary travelers,
lonely in the night.
In a town of strangers,
searching for a light,
praying for a kindness,
just an open door—
in a world of strangers,
there’s no welcome for the poor.

In a cave that evening,
meant to shelter sheep,
Love was born to heal us,
little lamb asleep.
In a world of darkness,
tossed and blown and wild,
in a world of strangers,
came the poor to greet the child.

No one is a stranger;
nothing’s here by chance.
All of life is welcome
in the holy dance.

See the joyful family,
sheltered from the storm.
In a world of strangers,
Love will keep them warm.
Whirling stars are singing,
angels greet this birth:
wrapped in rags and mystery,
lies the richest child on earth.

While the world lay sleeping,
everything had changed:
power, wealth, possession,
all was rearranged.
Have we learned the lesson?
Have we even heard?
How we treat the stranger
is our answer to the Word.

No one is a stranger;
nothing’s here by chance.
All of life is welcome
in the holy dance.

Wealth is found in giving,
opening the door,
offering forgiveness,
sheltering the poor,
cradling creation,
saying yes to love,
welcoming the stranger,
while the angels sing above.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Go Forth and Be Lovesmacked

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I still receive letters and e-mails, many times a week, asking if the writer may use And the People Stayed Home for this, that, the other thing or one more other thing. I deeply appreciate when people write to ask, and I try to be kind, even when the suggestions feel exploitative or as though my name may be used inappropriately–and I have to craft another polite, but firm refusal–but I’m me and human, and there are days I curse out loud because I really want to get on with where I am now and do not want to read about “the poem” one more time. I love the artistic collaborations I’ve been asked to partner with; I’m thrilled with the children’s book; I do not want to sell pharmaceuticals, or t-shirts.

Last night, a woman named Fiona wrote and asked if she could use it for a project that was not for profit…I wrote back, “Thank you; please share your plans and I will respond as soon as I’m able.” Dramatic sigh, and off to bed with a great fullness of self.

Early this morning, I scanned my mail and saw this:

“Thank you for your response! I live in a small close neighborhood in Minneapolis not far from the area where George Floyd was murdered. It is also an area with a lot of Healthcare workers at the University of Minnesota. The reason my parents came to this country in the first place was for my father to study medicine at the U. I have purchased a few hundred luminarias and blue LED candles to distribute to my neighbors to put out in front of their houses on Christmas Eve to honor the Healthcare workers and all those who have sacrificed during the pandemic and I wanted to include a note for my neighbors with the instructions. I thought your poem would be lovely to include with the note but didn’t want to do so without your permission, especially as I cannot control what happens to that note after I drop it off at their homes.

Thank you again for your consideration, it is really a lovely work. And if you do not say yes, I completely understand. Thanks again.”


Well. I cried. I shared it with Phillip, and we both had a moment or ten. Is this not perfect and amazing? What an incredible honor and perfect use of the words I wrote. How humbling.

The continual invitation to someone like myself, who can meet life cranky, ungrateful, and resistant, is that I am–over and over–gobsmacked/Godsmacked by people who meet life always looking for ways to soften its hard edges and love it back to health. They are my teachers and I am still learning.

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The glow you see on my face today is the gift of a Godsmack/Lovesmack from Fiona’s huge heart.

I know the word God is weighty and, sadly, resisted by many who have been cruelly and ignorantly harmed by others’ misuse of its healing power. I prefer the word Love. If we can agree that whatever is sacred, holy, divine, transcendent, and our source might be called Love, then I hope we can also agree that it can only be translated into the world through us, and if that can happen, then we can see that we live and move and have our being on an Earth, in a universe, that loves us back, always.

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And if we can wake up to that truth, we’ll work to change how we treat each other and the Earth. We are always in relationship with Love and either participating or refusing participation in the actions relationship demands; chiefly, the propagation and creation of more Love through the use of our gifts in the world for the benefit of all.

With gratitude for Fiona and all the Lovesmackers in our lives: Let us look for the Lovesmacks we may offer and receive; we’ve never needed them more. Go forth, and be Lovesmacked, and make it reciprocal.

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(Fiona also offered this link, reminding me that our firefighters also need love: don’t used candles; use LED lights in the luminarias.  https://quickcandles.com/products/eastland-white-luminary-bags-richland-led-tealight-candles-set-of-144)

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

Awakening

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You walk down a road,
the one you know well,
taking you where you’ve
always gone, singing
the song you’ve worked
to make yours, adding
a minor note here, a
fiddle there, maybe the drama
of a bodhrán, the flutter
of a flute…it’s been pared
down over the years. The
orchestra left long ago. ‘Twasn’t you,
your great aunt would say, and perhaps
she’d be right. She always said she was,
and you never questioned. Your song is spare
but honest; anyone would hear
it and know it was yours, who you say
you are, been told you are; you’re proud
in a modest way, being that melody. It’s
enough. And then, comes a stranger, down
your very road, twinkling and shining
her song so purely, filled with such
joy, it lifts you high and drops you,
blinded and knowing
for the first time, the power
of a song that is the singer’s
and then yours, too; it adds
to you without subtracting, it enlarges
you, lifts you up and drops you
to your knees, grateful, fed, instructed,
not minding at all; in fact, ecstatic, knowing
your song doesn’t need to make you
feel proud or modest or anything
but spent and offered, joy spilling
over. You’ll be calling back
the orchestra for rehearsals.
Time for a new song to sing
down new roads. Breathe.
Begin, your light and music
shining from every pore.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Ease

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Now, at the convergence of everything
I’ve done and felt and learned, I know this:
all I want is to live my life
with ease, like a plum petal falling in spring
or autumn’s oak leaf curling inward,
joyfully twirling as it falls, because
everything falls; all our lives we’re falling,
gravity guides us to our graves:
here comes death, but why not
twirl into it with ease?

Why not
live my days as though they rested
in the deep embrace of my
grandmother’s quilts, or were cushioned
by clouds scented with summer rain? Resting
my heart in every moment’s corner of sanctuary,
the infinite fall into peace between breaths, the
ease of creation’s origin sparking at dawn.

Days of ease would invite the binding
of self with motion, with rest, with all;
the graceful knowing, this step
then the next, becoming the steps;
accepting they will vanish…

the ease with which my
mother ironed my blouses and
moved mountains–any that stood
between those she loved and what
they needed. And she loved
everything.

There’s nothing weak
in ease, nothing indolent; it requires
the steel of remaining present
and then melting the steel
by loving the moment, breathing
and releasing, with ease, molten rivers
of love
flowing into other lives, making
them strong as steel. I felt
strong in my ironed blouses,
mountains removed from my path, but I
took years to understand all the
power came from the ease
of living with falling
and knowing
that was Love.

If I could hover
over my past like angels
in movies, I know I’d see
the younger me ill-at-ease,
shining too bright to hide
the dark; dis-eased, as I sifted and
shifted through my 20’s, 30’s,
40’s. No one’s falling here,
I would have said. I wish I could fly
into my spirit as I confined her
joy and fire all those years
and animate that woman
with ease…

but then, I wouldn’t
be where I am now, with you
and everything I love, nearing
the clarity and peace of a life lived
from the stillpoint I seek. I feel like
I’m almost there, like I’m
falling with ease, twirling,
with a tranquil heart of steel,
its molten power soft and
flowing into a world,
that’s waiting
to feel strong
and loved.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Reading Ourselves Awake

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I’ve always enjoyed reading books aloud and being read to; I suppose this is due to the emotional and spiritual calm I experienced when my parents gathered us together and read to us when we were very young. There were no screens dividing us into isolated units of humanity in those days, just radios, and the huge televisions reserved for parental or supervised viewing, so listening to stories has always made me feel safe, loved, and highly entertained. Maybe there’s something about the voice telling us stories that awakens ancient cells, reminding us of our connections, our need to gather near the fire’s warmth to listen and imagine together, to remember who we are, where we have been, and to ponder what is asked of us as humans beholden to the rest of life on earth.

We were read to in the morning, at lunchtime, and before bed, often falling asleep to the soothing or repetitive story we favored. There’s something more intimate about the reader and listener sharing space than a narrated book on tape, but NPR’s “A Chapter a Day” was my mother’s daily treat as she completed tasks that kept her from devouring her always-present stack of books. 

The written word, spoken, was modeled as ritual and offered as spirit food, and so it has always been, for me.

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Later, I read to my middle school students, long past the age some colleagues thought it appropriate. My students loved it. It calmed them and gave them a bit of that peace and security I had felt as a child, a time of stillness that required listening, and offered the gift of being together, hearing stories. No academic expectations existed for this little time in the middle of our busy days, and if it lulled a few into needed naps, then the words were twice-blessed medicine. I read to my hospital and hospice patients frequently, too. There are a million ways to pray and awaken to Spirit.

On our long drives to my parents’ home for holidays, Phillip and I read books to each other, making the miles fly, and very early in our relationship, the practice spilled over into our daily morning rituals. At lunchtime and bedtime, we usually turn to separate books we’re reading, but it’s not uncommon for one of us to stop and share a paragraph or two that we’ve found especially startling, musical, or enlightening.

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During this time of year, as our bodies and spirits journey into darkness towards the solstice that signals the light will rise again, we have always chosen books that are especially nourishing food for our spirits. In the early hours of morning, Phillip walks the dogs; I feed the cats, make our coffee and tea, and light the Christmas tree and candles. Then, we sit and read to each other, a blessed time for all of us. I think of it as reading ourselves awake rather than to sleep.

This Advent, I’ve chosen Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, and Phillip has chosen Malidoma Patrice Somé’s The Healing Wisdom of Africa. While neither is new to us, reading them aloud, in small bites, has created a beautiful synchronous chorus of ideas echoing and underscoring themes that resonate with who we are, what we believe, and what we need to hear again during this time. These sacred hours and books seem to clarify and enhance our dreams for all the ways the world might work to solve the problems facing our Earth and all living beings. What else is the darkness for but to listen and to examine what we will become in the light?

I highly recommend both books and authors we’re reading this year. In past years, our Advent reading has been wide-ranging, including poetry collections, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett; The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; writers like Rumer Godden; Wallace Stegner; Richard Rohr; Aldo Leopold; Wendell Berry; Parker Palmer; Annie Dillard; Joan Chittister; Loren Cruden (we traveled with her book, Spirit of Place for one entire year) and so many more. We’ve shared a very eclectic mix and genre of books, whether the authors were famous and the books old friends or newcomers with fresh stories, wisdom, insights, and beauty to share. It’s always interesting to hear how our chosen pieces augment each other’s melodies and ideas. We sometimes pause just to allow the gifts to bless our spirits and settle.

Living alone requires amendments to the practice, but a little creativity can help. Most phones have speakers, so friends can read to each other; there are many ways to video chat; there are books on tape; and simply reading aloud to oneself and pausing to reflect, or perhaps incorporating a lectio divina practice (meditating on small bits of any text that touches your heart and spirit) can deepen the season’s meaning.

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You may discover this is a practice you’d like to follow every day. Perhaps you already do, and might share some of your favorite titles and authors in the comments. And please share any other rituals and practices that feed your spirit this time of year.

There are, of course, many ways to waken ourselves to the deep needs of our spirit and the world. In this dark season during this darkest of years, consider reading aloud and allowing the sacred magic of words to create light for your spirit and the way ahead.

All the blessings of the season to you. Be well and safe, and gentle peace.

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

Invitations

You probably have grasped by now that for me, our art is our work-in-the-world; our work is our art.

And, while we’re using our gifts to create our art(s) in the world, there are invitations everywhere to support others in their own creation, and a million ways to do it. Subscribing to blogs is one. (Thank you!)

Engaging with people regarding their work-in-the-world is another: expressing gratitude, offering ideas and helpful critiques, sharing stories, purchasing goods…These things affirm for us that the paths and means we use to express and share gift–whether through media, or classrooms, or hospitals, or stages, or the offices and workshops we’ve chosen for our creativity to gestate and be born–are producing goodness that touches others positively. And, as I’ve said before: all of us are artists, using our gifts for our own welfare and the higher calling to serve our communities.

Or not.

Our choice.

And, in the current iteration of our world, the exchange of our gifts is also valued with the exchange of capital to support us and others in our basic necessities and the means to continue our work in the world. Paychecks are given in exchange for our energy, our gift.

We have always paid for what we value; now, we use “money” in the form of cash, paychecks, honorariums, grants, fundraisers, pledges, donations…Other people in other times bartered with goods, or provided shelter and food for traveling artists, or benefactors provided income to support them. Wherever two are gathered, there is quid pro quo because, at the root of it, that’s how both love and justice work, the give and take of gift, trust, community, and relationship. (The ways the values of our offerings can be skewed and thrown out of balance are apparent everywhere and the subject of books and wisdom not my own.)

It’s hard to ask for money. It is not hard at all to ask for support. The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet has become a metaphor for me of all artists in the world, which is to say, for how we are all artists in the world.

For over 15 years, this band has united in creating their vision of music that speaks to a variety of populations and listeners all over the world. They’ve struggled financially, like so many artists, to remain committed to their vision, co-create their art, and viably support their families while doing so. They annually, prior to Covid-19’s restrictions, took interested fans on a cultural trip to Peru to immerse them in the people, food, arts, orientations to mystery/beliefs, history, and indigenous depths of the country and the Afro-Peruvian roots that color all of these gifts.

How many artists take such time and make such effort to unite their community of fans with the origins and meaning of their art? I think it’s remarkable and, because of this, and my own co-creation with these talented artists, I support them willingly and have frequently mentioned them as worthy of your consideration for support as well. They are not only joyfully gifted musicians; they share their gifts in every community where they perform, often spending several days working at schools with young musicians developing their art, freely creating a legacy of gift with their energy.

The band has just held a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds in order to produce their new album, Social Distancing, and have a new 48-hour only “stretch goal” which, among other treats, will feature contributors in their first-ever music video.

If you’re able to donate $30.00, you’ll be asked to create a selfie-video reciting my poem, “In the Time of Pandemic/And the People Stayed Home” (Please use the version linked, as there are others still incorrectly circulating.)

You’ll also receive 2 tickets to the band’s virtual concert (January 29) marking the album’s release, and be invited to an after-concert Zoom session to meet and chat with the musicians. Phillip and I attended a concert this past weekend and I can’t tell you how much fun it was: fantastic musicians performing in our living room, while we had a glass (or two) of wine, the dogs and cats by our sides, a fire burning…amazing. I may have danced a bit; happily, the cameras are not two-way.

It’s a LOT of a value for $30.00, if it’s something you can manage. I will look forward to seeing others’ videos reading/reciting my poem and how they’re integrated with the music video!

Thank you for all the ways you respond to the invitations to offer, co-create, and support gift/art/our work-in-the-world. We need it more than ever. It’s how we make light to see in the dark.

Here’s another link to the Kickstarter stretch goal. Have fun; be safe and well. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/afroperuvianjazz/the-afro-peruvian-sextets-social-distancing/posts/3035415?ref=ksr_email_backer_project_update_registered_users

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

Peace, Love, and Joy

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And so we come to the season of the year that honors the light we’ve been called to be in darkness. We pause to reach for that light, call it holy (it is) and touch just enough to scatter it about, while music, feasts, gathering, and giving shake up our patterns just enough for the world to glow both more brightly and softly.

From a distance, the planet shines, spinning in this co-created light, before it dims once more and we turn back to our easy forgetting, unrelenting fear, and ready hostility. Why can’t our seasonal charity (love manifested in its highest and broadest form) remain the focus and fuel in our relationships with ourselves and others?

Why do we so readily allow the confusion between giving presents and giving ourselves–our presence–to direct our energy? Buying gifts, wrapping them in pretty paper and exchanging them is skimming the surface of the spiritual invitations the season offers. All the magic of lasting conversion is here and possible, but so is our fear of true transformation and the belief we cling to above all others: we’re not worthy.

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The inner scolder reminds us: the holidays are lovely, yes, but we can’t go on giving ourselves time to watch it snow, share delight, sit with loved ones, connect with our spirits, sing, laugh, wish merriment to perfect strangers, recognize our feelings, be at peace…We have to get back to work.

We can’t live in a world where it’s always Christmas, certainly not now. We can’t just choose to relax. We can’t just peace, love and joy our life away. Wrap it up, pack it away; we have to get back to work.

What is wrong with a species capable of creating, experiencing, and spreading peace, love, and joy, and then deciding we don’t deserve to do so all the time, every moment? Even in the midst of our winter celebrations, we cheapen these treasures by consigning them to the perimeter of our festivities and supplanting them with things, with overindulgence of our appetites, with running hard and fast from what “work” has made of us and our finite precious lives, and with excessively indulging our capacity for greed and offering miserly regard for our spiritual and emotional needs.

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We deserve lives saturated in peace, love, and joy, and our real work is making it so.

Let’s slow down and look at the world we’ve created by denying the true blessings of the season a real and deep presence in our every season, our every moment. We certainly haven’t used our gifts to their capacity if this is the best we can do.

We joke about people putting up their holiday decorations (I’m one of them, this year) before Thanksgiving, or we might attribute it, as I saw a home decorator write last week, to poor lighting in our homes which only becomes apparent when the daylight shortens. But let’s look more deeply; shake our hearts instead of our heads and look again: What do the lights strewn everywhere really signal?

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I think we start Christmas and other celebrations of light earlier and earlier–especially in a year of such darkness–because our hearts are yearning, unrelentingly yearning for peace, love, and joy to arrive. And to stay. Perhaps lighting a tree will conjure them.

And then, by those very lights, we might see the truth: Peace, love, and joy are within us, always. We just have to accept we’re worthy and choose these ways of being.

This whirlwind of viral time we’ve been given to witness and withstand can only be stilled by the counter forces we summon and let loose in the world, and they are ancient, and have always been our power.

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Peace. Love. Joy. All the words we wish each other in the dark of winter are the real bringers of light, the human magic that we must hurl at the storm to break it, and then calm it, and then wait as it dissipates, allowing the settling to reveal our path.

Every single one of us has the capacity to be what we most wish to see in the world, now, in this moment, by listening to our heart for the wisdom we’ve earned and are here to manifest: Compassionate regard for the well-being of all. Everything. Finding and animating these powers in ourselves, benefiting from their warmth, and giving the warmth away.

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Peace. The peace of our own breath, slowing and deepening. The moments of turning from the storm, withdrawing, retreating to breathe mindfully, reorient, and balance. Connecting with our heartbeat and noticing the blessings, everywhere, falling like snowflakes. Stillness. We can give ourselves this peace and offer it to others.

Love. Oh, my, does the storm weaken and scatter when it meets love. We can choose kindness before we respond to a stranger, a friend, our beloveds. We can consider others through the filter of love and we can love ourselves. We can listen to our self-talk and all the ways we are cruel to ourselves We can deepen our self-companionship.

Joy. The blessed lightening of deep joy! The happy letting go; the merry surrender of our stress and worry. Joy invites others to join us in memories of sweeter times, opening our hearts to all the happy possibilities to come. Levity is a profound power. May you always find reasons to laugh deeply and share joy.

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We know these qualities are ours from birth, but they come with the sacrifice and effort they require to be sustained. That change we feel in the air this time of year is the activation of our inherent power to generate peace, love, and joy in ourselves and others, throughout the Earth.

We don’t have to wait; we don’t have to limit or budget or pack away the light on January 2. We don’t have to pray for peace, love, and joy; we are these qualities, and the better prayer this year might be that we finally recognize it and live into the lives that this awareness creates. We deserve it. We are worthy. We are capable. And I think we’re more than ready. This storm will pass, and we will heal even more deeply if we just be who we are to our core: people of peace, of love, and of joy.

All blessings of the season to you, in you, and to everyone you love.

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

Discharged

Babies in Snow

In my journal, I note the day’s cadence
and realize that this year–staying home,

still, waiting, counting breaths, staring, losing count: I’m
not marching anymore.

For years, I marched in uniforms and haste;
I marched, chasing perfection and more, hoping
for attention and praise,
nods and small paychecks rewarding my marching.

I marched to the tunes of a tier of bosses stretching to the
tops of buildings, to rooms I never saw, an authority
of men; I pursued their goals,
agreeing they were mine: I withered;

I mean, my spirit dried like an ancient apple

and my gifts broke
from the weight of meetings, record-keeping, hours at screens,
group meetings, staff meetings, meetings to evaluate
meetings, over and over; had I really learned the protocol
for handling blood-borne pathogens? (Yes, years ago; it

never changed). But we acquiesced; we marched; we agreed to agree
that coffee mugs stamped with, “Win

win; make it happen” made our time
and overtime and all the marching
matter,

and rather than enter the wild joy of co-creation, we’d march to
performance reviews, team-building activities, time clocks, measured
breaks to intake food and to release, marching faster,

as though we–

unique in our mystery and gift, here only to be
stars mixing and offering our shining shards of joy
before flickering, then falling in night’s dark skies

–were feral beings, best disciplined, success-
fully managed through repetitive busy-work,
bureaucracy’s mazes,
and marching.

The body corporate: a communal dimming of light.

Spirits silenced, gifts shattered (march, march)
by the love-starved minds that ordered
our marching, directed its rhythms: I used to wonder:

Is this what we all wanted
for ourselves when we grew up; we, hopscotching, jump-roping, hula-hooping, skating,
swimming, daydreaming, playing through our never-marching childhood?

And what of those who created and commanded the endless
tasks, charting, paperwork, meetings, the marching

that devoured

our time, our holy only lives? Did they ever stare through their larger-office windows at the peregrine nesting on the sill (it made news, every year), and weep?

How did they

sleep at night, knowing the misery they purveyed?
Did they march in their dreams? Following orders and
climbing ladders?

And what is their cadence now, decommissioned, staying at home?

My days are filled

with dancing.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Walking in the Dark

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Phillip and I have both learned a lot about dog training over the years, through raising our own pups and fostering many others, but we’ve never mastered the trick of helping our dogs adjust to Daylight Savings Time. We barely adjust to this annual folly ourselves. Trying to edge sleeptime forward by just a few minutes and then more hasn’t worked worth a tinker’s damn in the almost-30 years we’ve been walking dogs morning and night. They know when it’s time for walks and bed and meals, and if these times don’t match our schedule and the clock for half of the year, too bad for Mom and Dad.

Being retired and in lockdown, it really doesn’t matter when we do what, but it’s always tricky adjusting to rising in the dark for our first walk and taking the day’s final stroll in shadow as well. If the full moon blesses us with brightness, our walks can be magical, but the new moon is perilous. We’ve learned that slowly is the wisest way to proceed and it’s a pace that suits the pups’ desire for maximum sniff time.

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And, even in the dark, I can perceive the analogy between our darkened dog-walks and the gloomy path we’ve all been traveling for almost a year. Many of us have been cautious and willing to sacrifice speed for the safer progress made by taking our time as we step forward through our days, but sadly, not enough of us. And so, the company of more than 250,000 of our family and friends will be absent from our future gatherings and tables. This is heartbreak at a level our country and our world have rarely suffered. And the tragedy compiles when we consider that much of these losses could have been prevented.

I don’t understand people who have chosen to repeatedly enter the world and mingle with others unmasked and without respecting distances, when we’ve been told for more than 9 months to do these things, along with washing our hands and staying strictly within a “bubble” of family members following the same safety procedures. These practices ensure greater safety for those who must go out into the world to help the rest of us survive.

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Don’t share air in closed or close spaces with people we haven’t been confined with all these months: It’s not that hard, but it seems impossible for many; and so, we find ourselves at a crisis point of infection and dying as we enter the holiday weeks.

I read that 40% of our population plans to gather with family and friends over Thanksgiving weekend, offering no consideration whatsoever to healthcare workers who are grotesquely overworked and excessively stressed in hospitals with no beds available to patients. And many of these patients are people who couldn’t be bothered to take a deadly disease seriously and now ask for our prayers, still without regard for those trying to keep them alive, who certainly deserve our prayers as well. This rampant rush through the dark to the arms of a deadly virus is without regard for our teachers, postal workers, EMT’s, grocery and other essential store staff, etc. And of course we will pray for these patients; we have been praying for them all along, praying they would avoid these choices, and now praying they survive them without harming others.

I don’t understand people who are so driven by fear and anger that it occludes their power to love beyond a small, known circle, if that. Truly, I’ve given long hours to opening my heart and trying to understand their denial, but I don’t, in the utterly real face of such virulence and death.

I have appreciated the frequent news program appearances by Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, Ph.D., a Professor and the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. His fact-based wisdom and advice center me and give me information I need to hear. He’s often quite blunt, sticking to sharing the pertinent science and data, but this morning he shared how he aches to be with his grandchildren; he’d love more than anything to gather with his family next week, but, “I love them more than that ache; we’ll gather virtually this year so we can all be together and well next year.”

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And it struck me again that this is the way we walk through the dark together: loving more than we ache, loving ourselves through and beyond the aches and losses of this hard, hard time to the peaceful days and celebrations yet to come. We can do this, and must. We’re all suffering together; let’s not choose actions that make us–and others–suffer more.

Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.” This stretch of the walk is dark; let’s navigate it with love and travel safely to the brighter days ahead. We’re nearly there.

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In other news: our Full Moon Cottage Family is joyful, joyful, as we learned after an excruciating week of waiting for lab results, that Malarky’s tumor is benign. We’ve decided to postpone surgery and see if it might heal on its own, and are so very grateful for the prayers and happy energy that have been shared. Thank you. Thanksgiving will be very merry this year.

My friends, the lovely people and gifted artists who form The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, are nearing the end of their Kickstarter campaign to fund the final production of their 7th album, Social Distancing. I didn’t know this about Kickstarter before, but if the end date is reached and the goal isn’t met, the funds already pledged are all returned to the donors, and the artists, or whomever, receive nothing, so if anyone out there can help out with a few dollars here and there, they may just make it. I don’t want my money back; I want their music to be heard. 🙂

And, finally, our beautiful book is moving out into the world, and I hope it’s blessing those who hold and read her words. I just learned that, in the next few weeks, the Australian, New Zealand, and German editions will be offered for sale!

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Gentle peace; be well and safe.

Carol for the Wild Heart

Carol for the Wild Heart

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Let what is wild
in us remain so,
and in the world, too;
taming mutes instinct
and gift, subdues
the agrestal impulse, rejects
and rots the medicine
we came to be and share,
we, aflame with wild hearts
smother them, dousing
our wild fires, darting to
cages,
cages on wheels,
cages of glass,
of hallways
and rooms
where we pace
and plot,
we scheme
and devour,
we survive
through the fitness
of messages crafted
in sighs selling
lies, conforming
our wild desires, our wild lives
to dreary patterns, controlled;
we have made ourselves
ill,
tamed, trapped, and dying;
how strange, an animal choosing
its cages and searing itself with
brands, moving
from cage
to dulling cage
each fashioned,
by the very creature
bolting the door, who
every year, in the time
of dark and ice, lights
fires and listens to
its yearning heart
howling at the moon
howling through
stars and time
in songs and voices
finally its own,
howling
the uncaged
wild inclinations
to heal
to grow
to love
wildly,
to resist
cages.

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

The Stories We Came to Write

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We’re facing a week at Full Moon Cottage that invites consciously traveling with stories that settle and unsettle; this is how life flows. We find our way through; we choose our responses and live into them, looking for grace and open to blessing. We ask for help; we offer help to others; we celebrate and grieve in community, even in isolation. We are here to lift each other up and when we can’t, we stay with those who are broken and we help each other mend. And all the while, we sit beside the fire in our hearts and we tell ourselves stories; we carry the stories of our ancestors, the blessings and burdens; we rewrite stories from different perspectives; we begin and never finish stories; we play many roles; we are characters in other stories, many unknown and never shared. We are short stories and epics; we are every genre, flowing in and out, intersecting, accommodating our stories to Mystery’s co-authorship, seeking satisfactory denouements. And here is our power: we are able, continually, to decide if the stories we’re writing are the ones we came to write. If not, we can begin a new story, make better choices, adhere more faithfully to themes we honor, become the heroines and heroes of our lives.

Here is a story from my life: Phillip and I adopted two sibling puppies, Riley and Clancy, who sparked the light in our hearts, as had our darling Idgi pup and the cats Sally and Tess before them, as have all our 4-leggeds.

Riley and Clancy were crazy and fun, half Border Collie and half Black Lab. For more than 13 years, we shared our days and breaths and energies, and then their sweet holy bodies failed, and within months of each other, they changed worlds, leaving our hearts as heavily empty and dark as such losses do.

One day, I saw a little puppy’s photo in a Humane Society ad and immediately drove to Madison to meet him. When the volunteer pushed him through the door of the room where I waited, and he bounced across the floor and into my arms, in that puppy-clumsy dance of exuberance, my heart began to lighten. I knew Riley and Clancy had chosen and sent Larky, all the way from Mississippi to my heart. And he healed it. The first night he nestled between us, I cried, holding his little clinging body and knowing we’d survived and been given a chance to love once more; we’d been mended enough to say yes to being torn again, because love is always worth it. We saved Malarky’s life and he saved ours, which means we all set out on the road again together, which is what families do: they travel together and keep each other’s hearts alive.

And as we’ve traveled, like the Bremen Town Musicians, we’ve gathered more members into our most lively-hearted family. We’ve survived more partings, grieved, and traveled on, sharing love that accrues deeper colors and blesses our family story with layers of memory and meaning.

Last Thursday, we discovered a small tumor on Malarky’s inner eye. Our vet diagnosed a “usually” benign form of skin cancer, and we were able to schedule an appointment with an oncologist early–very early–this Wednesday morning. It’s been hard to focus, with the excitement of the book coming out tomorrow, the rising Coronavirus cases in our state and the world, and the continued political challenges, but now we have a very clear focus, and that is our darling boy, the safety of his vision and health, and the need to travel with him through whatever news we receive on Wednesday. I ask for your prayers and healing energy, and thank you in advance for being part of our story, too.

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Tomorrow, the picture book, And the People Stayed Home, will be sent out into the world, culminating an adventure for our family and circle of friends that has been a great comfort and creative happiness through long months of pandemic lockdown. The creative people of Tra Publishing, led by the stunning spirit of Ilona Oppenheim, have been a complete joy for me. They and their partners offer us enlightenment, deepening, and wonder through the art they co-create and set free in the world. I’m over-the-moon happy with this book and deeply grateful for the ways I have been invited to participate in its creation.

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Stories change us, and so, change the world; our past, present, and future hinge on our stories. Who are we? What do we believe? What are our gifts for the world, and how are we sharing them? How have we been hurt and can we forgive and heal? Can we find our way to the deepest doors of the heart, those rusted and closed by long-ago tears…and open to love again?

And, maybe most importantly, how can our stories serve others?

Through friends, I’ve also learned about CARAVAN, a nonprofit that’s perfectly matched to the challenges faced by our world. They describe their mission and identity this way: “…an international peacebuilding non-profit / NGO, CARAVAN is recognized as a global leader in using the arts to build sustainable peace around the world.”

Here’s a link to a film festival honoring short films (5 minutes and less) that explore ways we can globally create a world that embraces gift and variety, addresses need, and serves all. Two friends of mine from Ireland entered their film, “Loving Distance,” and it was selected as one of 30 finalists out of 3,031 submissions.

I love everything about this: so many artists focusing on the ways our humanity, our talents, and our stories can bless each other and the world; identifying people and places that need our energy and help; and using art to illuminate our hearts and call us to action…I also applaud CARAVAN’S generosity in sharing their top 30 short films here: https://www.oncaravan.org/anewfuture

I hope you’ll be able to spare some time to engage with these films and all the ways they feed our spirits and invite us to do better as a species and to move forward in hope, co-creating the world we envision, writing the story we are here to write.

Gentle Peace

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

The Childlike Path

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In a time of waiting, we were asked to engage with patience more deeply, and have at last received our answer. 

And if it has arrived without everything we wanted and hoped for, it’s nonetheless accompanied by the invitations to heal, accept, and continue to choose mature and loving responses to the one life we’ve been gifted to travel in communion with others.

I’ve been reflecting on the ways so much of our culture encourages and rewards indulgence and refuge in petulant childish rejection of the other rather than delighted childlike engagement with the world. One path is selfish, the other welcomes shared wonder and joy. One demands instant gratification and satisfied demands, regardless of coherence; the other is willing to sacrifice and walk with mystery, relying on wisdom and waiting for prudent answers to emerge. One grabs and grasps; the other reaches and extends. One screams and closes doors; the other listens with an open mind and heart. One nurses grudges; the other commits to forgiveness. The childish will do anything to have desires met; the childlike are sated by the pure miracle and possibilities of truth. To the childish heart, justice has no meaning; to the childlike, it is beloved. The childish are never satisfied; the childlike are always grateful. The childish deny loss; the childlike grieve and heal. Most dangerously, when faced with challenges, one chooses the comfort of regression and the other explores the co-creation of answers that will benefit all to the greatest degree possible.

Each of us chooses our path moment by moment; a great gift we have as humans is the gift to transform. I hope we’ll do so more consciously. Healing waits to embrace us with no time to lose, and offers us solace and peace we desperately need and can’t ignore.

The weariness of this profoundly troubling time has been greatly exacerbated by the willfully childish and the noisy distractions of the immature. Let’s hope and pray that our way forward will be led by those gifted with both maturity and the mindful retention of wonder that leads to new ways of being. And, as our gifts and time allow, may each of us work to confront and set aside childish impulses and choose the deeper eruption of joy allowed when we balance childlike innocence with mature wisdom.

Gentle, gentle peace.

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

The Ways the World Loves Us

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There are two in this abbey
and infinitely more, a community
crammed with life’s music, given to
silent observation, contemplation,
listening
for answers, but equally as nurtured
when the heart’s door opens
to mystery; either way, stillness
flows to dialogue and waves back
to stillness; life is offered our trust
and a deeper gaze, no darting look
and look away that fears reflection’s scrutiny:
We see life as she is. We welcome her song,
listening
to the beating hearts of dogs at our feet,
of cats in our lap, and birds at the feeder, the
buzzing hearts of bees, of wasps, their tasks,
and fish in the river, beating through water,
through mud and tadpoles, and the beating
of squirrels in trees, and insects burrowed
beneath the bark of trees, the tiny beating
hearts of mice, and rapid tapping of butterflies,
bold cracking, flashing beats of fire, the sweet
and slower beats of rainfall, snail, and compost,
soft snowflake’s heart, so gently beating, moon,
and milkweed seed; the diva beat of dawn’s
heart, the hushing beat of dusk, its breath,
the beating hearts of clouds and leaves,
of gardens, our sustenance beating,
and grasses waving, beating the wind,
a choir of pulsing life meets where we’re
listening,
life’s music constantly singing out
all the ways the world loves us.

We were young and shallow once,
and wasted thought, and gift, and time;
we didn’t hold the beating world
beside our tender, beating hearts,
I know; how grateful then, my
weary self, to still and fall
and rise with yours as vowed
companions quarantined,
life’s music beating through us
in this time of cloistered wonder,
we two in this abbey, we two
and infinitely more,
listening
to all the ways
the world loves us.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

I wanted to share this link to a You Tube interview that will air live on November 12. Luis Herrera, the beloved and lauded retired City Librarian of San Francisco Public Library, and current Board Member for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, interviewed me about my book, And the People Stayed Home. The program is part of the Nature Boost series conducted and sponsored by the San Francisco Library System in partnership with the Golden Gates National Parks Conservancy, Herrera also serves as a Board Member of the Conservancy. The Nature Boost series is a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, readers, and Earth-lovers of all ages. I am grateful to the gifted San Francisco Librarian, Christy Estrovitz for coordinating, recording, and posting the interview. She and Luis are amazing people.

And here are links to a recorded Zoom session introducing the Social Distancing album by the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, and to their Kickstarter campaign to fund the album’s production. This band has been creating critically-acclaimed Afro-Peruvian jazz for 15 years, and they have a unique and wonderful relationship with their fans, who participate in the funding of albums, and are invited to co-create with the band. This album features the band’s bassist, Mario Cuba’s haunting piece, And the People Stayed Home, and the band invited me to contribute voice-over’s of the poem in English and Spanish.

This album’s cover features a multi-part illustration of over 150 fans who shared their photos: very cool! The band also conducts annual tours to Peru with a limited group of fans who have chosen the opportunity to become immersed in Peruvian culture and learn from and about her people…on their tours, Gabriel and the band’s talented musicians share valuable time with student musicians eager to learn from professionals.

They are amazing artists and servant leaders. The tours, live performances, and teaching have all been curtailed by Coronavirus, as have the offerings of so many artists, but the band offers live virtual concerts and will debut this album on November 27. I’ve really been enjoying the live concerts I’ve attended during our lockdown! Beautiful people; amazing artists.

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Finally, a Happy Halloween and a very happy Halloween Full Blue Moon! Full Moons on Halloween only happen once every 19 years; Full Blue Moons (the second Full Moon in a month) also occurring on Halloween only visit the planet once every 76 years!

My Celtic ancestors believed the veil between the world of the living and the dead was thin this time of year, that spirits traveled more freely between worlds…which led to beliefs, traditions, and practices we continue to integrate and transmute into our lives, or that were appropriated and translated for us. I never really feel separated from my loved ones who have died, but celebrate their lives, our love, and our eternal connection more deliberately during these sacred days when we’re invited to hold all souls and all saints in our awareness. We need to connect with the presence of their wisdom, blessing, and light more than ever, in my lifetime.

Blessings on the days ahead; they will be life-changing for many of us. May the ways the world loves us, the ways the Sacred loves us, speak to our hearts, offering comfort, wisdom, and peace.

Be safe and well.

The Year of Buried Treasure

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Where there is great ruin, there is hope for deep treasure. ~ Rumi

What has always been the happiest time of year for me is starkly bittersweet this autumn. Hope and despair have danced through this year in rather close embrace. We long ago stopped asking if things could get worse, because the answer has been reliably affirmative, and daily.

The crisp sparkling days still arrive; the fall house-cleaning beckons. Curtains and windows have been washed, surfaces dusted, rugs shaken and deep-cleaned, and the upholstery thoroughly vacuumed. Halloween decorations summon memories that are comforting and honor the reverence of this sacred thin time and place. All is ready…but for what, exactly?

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What I love most about the arc of days between now and the New Year are the holidays that allow me to spend hours planning celebrations and anticipating the arrival of loved ones to share them. I enjoy the long hours spent cooking, baking, cleaning, and decorating, with music flowing merrily, and fires crackling in the kitchen and living room. I imagine family’s and friends’ arrivals, and all the ways the joy of our time together will please our bodies and spirits. And every year, we fool ourselves into thinking these lovely hours will stretch beyond imagining, but even so, we’re blessed with gratitude and memories as we send our guests homeward too soon.

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My mother’s spirit is so strongly beside me in all of these preparations that I sometimes speak and laugh out loud with her. I remember so vividly how she loved the holidays and especially their build-up to our gatherings and reunions. She enjoyed the excitement of making plans to please her guests and, when we’d arrived, she tended us indulgently, delighting in sitting around the table visiting till long after my early-riser eyelids drooped…And how I long to return to those visits and make them last forever, cherishing every second we were gifted.

The loss of these meetings and partings is yet another in a year of deeper losses bound in anxiety and threatening peace at every turn, all of which challenge my feisty vow to retain my gratitude and hope, and to keep looking for new ways to celebrate the life and miracles all around us. If we believe that we and the Earth can be healthier and that we can co-create relationships with greater love, then here and now is the lab where we test those hypotheses. (It always is.) We can plainly see the ruin surrounding us; now is the season to excavate the treasure.

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Sharing kindness and empathy with strangers and acquaintances is far easier than with those to whom we’re deeply accustomed, exposed, and unenchanting. We’ve been given the profound opportunity to recommit to one another as guest and gift, friend and lover, challenge and mystery.

We can anticipate sharing the holiday celebrations together and lavishing the care and attention on ourselves and each other that we have offered guests in all the years past. Some days, even most, it’s tempting to forgo it all, make a grilled cheese sandwich and fuggedaboudit, but I think we’re worth the effort to honor our own need for magic, traditions, treats, and lovely long visits. I know Phillip has stories I haven’t heard. I know there are patterns in the give and take I share with my beloveds that could withstand retooling. I can name our flaws; can I also name our blessings? This is the time for settling, unearthing our treasure, and cherishing the guests we are in each other’s lives.

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We can still create memories that will allow us to look back at 2020 with more than sorrow and aversion. It can also be the year we learned far more about loving each other than any other year had taught us, the year when we began to truly be the treasure we came to be, and to honor the treasure in our beloveds.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

In the Waiting

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In the waiting, as we wait again, time resurrects the chance
to pattern finer instincts, evolving variation
in how we meet the world.
Some elemental part of us requires animation:
a heart that captures everything
and translates it through love.

In the waiting, as we wait again, the invitation calls
to undertake revision, travel downward, journey deeply
to the patient deeper darkness
that has watched and waited longer
for our finally-weary hearts to rest,
release, reverse, return again
to mystery, to seed.

In the waiting, as we wait again, our mother darkness yearns
to nurture and to cradle us, her shining shapeless
readiness, gestating what we could be
and what we will become;
our brave uncurling tenderness,
our transformation spiraling, whirling into forces
unimagined and immense.

The energy of change is born of waiting and descent;
of trusting mother darkness, gentle artist, fierce creator
behold the budding reaching,
first and fragile cotyledon,
the primal, animated Yes
emerging from our waiting:
with hearts that capture everything
and translate it through love.

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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 the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.