Sweet Farewell

Fergus Meeting

(The moment we met. I was video taping hundreds of blackbirds, singing their autumn farewell and heard a little peep behind me on the bridge…I told him if he followed me home, he could stay, but it was chilly, and he was so tiny, so I carried him bome, made a nest for him in the art room downstairs, and waited for Phillip to come home from school, hoping I could ease him into the idea of adding–at that time–a fifth cat to our household. Happily, Phillip was as quickly captivated as I had been. Forever.)

It seems our sweet Fergus has chosen this time of returning light to change worlds, so we’re setting aside almost everything else to be with this parting in our family. He found me, followed me home, made it clear he wasn’t leaving, took his profound place in our hearts, and will always rest in them.

Images don’t capture spirits, and his was sweetness and light, but with a core of steel. He’d been abandoned at birth, marked as feral and left outside his first year, which led to respiratory struggles he’s dealt with every year of his brief 10 years on Earth. He’s always felt like a fragile bird wrapped in downy fluff. He has been a brave and charming fellow who liked to rest in baskets, drawers, bags, chairs, with his siblings, and in our lives, and our letting go is all the harder for the grace and delight he’s blessed us with, and only left us craving more. We will grieve; we will adjust; we will miss him forever.

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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 Lessons of Starlight

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{This is a little story I wrote several years ago, for children grieving losses that aren’t often addressed in age-appropriate and creative texts. The pandemic has taken so many of our beloveds; we know several families who have parted from dear ones through windows, screens, and phone calls. The loss can seem unbearable. Of course, we grieve together in our world; there is no other way, but children are so very sensitive to partings and grief. I believe the healing power of stories can speak to their seeking hearts. I offer my little story here for any comfort it can provide anyone you love, but especially little ones in their sorrow, and ask that, if you share it, you do so with my name–and love–attached. Respectfully, and in gentle peace, be well and safe.}

Papa Charlie and I went camping at the lake.
The pine trees and the waves whispered secrets back and forth.
The firelight snapped and made the shadows dance.
The moon curved like a smile and the stars were very bright.
They were red, and blue, and yellow, and white.

“A family of stars is called a constellation,” said Papa Charlie.
I searched the sky. “There’s the Big Dipper!”
“Good for you, Jack,” said Papa Charlie.
I smiled. “You and I, and Grandma Tess, and Mom, and Dad are a constellation.”
“Yes, we are, Jack,” laughed Papa Charlie.

I pointed and said, “There’s a W.”
“That’s Cassiopeia,” said Papa Charlie. “‘W,’ to remind us we should always ask WHY and keep learning.”
“You’re a good teacher, Papa Charlie,” I said.

“We’re looking at light that started its journey hundreds, even thousands of years ago,” said
Papa Charlie. “Starlight takes a long, long time to travel to Earth, Jack. Even after the star dies and is no longer there, we can look up and see its light coming to us, shining in the darkness. It is like seeing memories of the stars.”

An owl hooted beside the sleepy lake.
I yawned and Papa Charlie coughed.
The fire grew tired and dreamed its orange dreams beneath white ashes.

“Why do people die, Papa Charlie?”
“That’s a good question, Jack. Sometimes the answer to ‘why’ is a mystery.”
“Will we die?” I asked.
“Yes.” Papa Charlie nodded, adding a log to the fire.
“But our light will keep shining,” I said, “like the memories of stars.”
“You’re a good teacher, Jack,” said Papa Charlie.

“Does everything die, Papa Charlie?”
“No, Jack. Love doesn’t die.”

We sat close together and watched the stars.

Papa Charlie carried me to the tent.
The wind sang lullabies.
We all went to sleep: Papa Charlie, the pine trees, the lake, the fire, the wind, the owl, the stars, and me.

After that night, Papa Charlie was very sick.

When I went to visit him, I brought my books and we would learn together.
We learned about birds, and dogs, and bridges, and oceans.
“I still like learning about stars the best,” I told him.
“Me, too,” said Papa Charlie. He held me close and I heard his heart beating.

One day Papa Charlie died.

In the cemetery, the stones were gray.
Our umbrellas and coats and boots were black.
And everywhere, everywhere, white snowflakes whirled around us.

I hugged Grandma Tess. Then, Mom and Dad hugged us, too.
“We are a constellation,” I said.
Our tears glittered like stars.

There is so much I want to understand.

I miss Papa Charlie. I miss learning with him. I miss being still next to him.
I look up at the stars every night. They are red, and blue, and yellow, and white.
I will always see starlight that started its journey the night Papa Charlie and I went camping.

“I can see your light, Papa Charlie,” I say.
“It is always coming to me, shining in the darkness, carrying memories.”
I will keep learning.
And I will remember.
Love doesn’t die.”

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Becoming Fully Human

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One does not become fully human painlessly. ~ Rollo May

Phillip and I gratefully received our second dose of the Moderna vaccine this Wednesday and initially felt we’d been spared any of the publicized side-effects, until about 30 hours later, when we both experienced every flu symptom known to humans. Chills, fever, sore eyes, headaches, and–sweet mercy–intense muscle pain. We had to laugh through our misery, knowing every bit of pain signified the medicine was working.

I slept in the guest room last night so we could both–maybe–find deeper rest and comfort. This morning, Phillip reported he had a fair sleep, which pleased my heart. I, conversely, tossed and turned from the muscle pain, watched some dull television, read as long as I could, then just practiced deep breathing and listened to the Great Horned Owl hooting along the river from his perch in the ancient oak. I got out of bed to open the door to the deck and was treated to the deeper haunting resonance of his night music, the almost-full moon’s spectacular reflections of branches on brilliant snow, and the sweet smell of seasons shifting. It floated through the chilled humid air: the perfectly blended scent of winter meeting spring. Heady stuff, that of course completely removed any physical discomfort from my consciousness.

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It reminded me of other times in my life when my suffering seemed to need deepening to encourage or sustain my healing, and how the companionship of others–friends and beloveds, volunteers, 4-leggeds, or the mysterious combination of a Great Horned Owl hooting in nature’s perfumed moonlight–eased my pain and allowed a time of relief. I thought about the many times I supported my patients through their own suffering until pain medications could help alleviate the worst of it.

Rollo May says we don’t become fully human without pain, I suppose meaning that, in our suffering and afterwards, in recollection, we learn more about others’ suffering, about our own endurance, and about the preciousness of all we hold dear, brought into greater relief.

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But I think the concept is worth turning over and digesting more deeply: in our suffering, we become more dependent on others, on the deep peace of the world, for relief. I can’t distract myself with myself; I need others’ words, touch, care, compassion…or the music of birdsong, the beauty of winter moonlight, the aroma of spring brewing just outside my window…it’s all these connections to life that also make us more fully aware that to be human means to be in relationship with everything. We’re here to serve each other’s healing, to ease the pain we endure to become fully human.

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And so, although I did not sleep, I felt greatly comforted, and was profoundly grateful for those who created the vaccine, for those who administered it to us, for Phillip and the 4-leggeds, for the owl, the moonlight, the delicate air, and for all the relationships in my life and the ways they serve my healing and allow me to use my gifts in serving theirs. Perhaps we’re only as human as we are consciously immersed in reciprocal and grateful relationship with the world.

Early this morning, I walked out into the misty sunrise feeling a bit more myself, which is to say, different, new, healing, and more fully human.

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Some of my visitors this week:

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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.

To Read When Next We Are Falling

One day you asked,
“What has been the greatest loss
for you in this year of staying home?”

Most days, life has passed safely,
even comfortably, as though we’ve
been secluded by choice, but our
movement in any direction has
been circumscribed sharply by
loss; we know this. So much has
been lost: depths of shadow and light,
merged and blunted; the silenced
music of so many voices’ singular
and welcomed tones; so many
pleasures surrendered; life lived
on streets, in crowds, the present
pulsing bodies of others, the comforting
mystery of strangers passing closely,
unmasked and distinct, unknown parts
of us required for our wholeness; the
world’s light flickering and dimmed,
as though our species’ centuries of
negotiations with truth and compassion
have shifted, collapsed; we’re wandering,
pointless and plagued. We are unmoored.

But something perceived yet unseen
has held this year together; tethering
my heart to others, to now; I miss its
visibility, the taste of its name on my tongue…

Once, when I had lost track of my
life, its path and possibilities, I spent
a week at the National Gallery. A dull
February, drained, vacant, gray, but
early, eagerly, every morning, I’d climb
into all that color and creation and be fed.

I called it my Holy Week: the cool tomb, the temple
of my possible rising. Indifferent guards drowsed
in doorways while silent pilgrims swept softly down
marble hallways, pausing to peer, to fall in and
out of stories, consenting to be changed, to be
healed, communing with ghosts whose necessary
messages, offered in colors, light, and shadow,
forever repeated what it has always meant to be
human in a world of brokenness and blessing,
and how to love it all, how we must love it all.
I felt rescued, but more; resurrected. Loving
it all and risen, I was forever transformed. But
it works like this: death leads to life. You think,
I am changed forever, and then you regress; life
pummels and surprises; lessons are misplaced;
lockdowns and losses arrive unexpectedly, and
you let go of hands; they release you; tongues
forget words, their taste and meaning, strangers’
voices, their mystery and music are surrendered;
truth collapses; the world feels hate-washed, viral.
You reject what breaks, what hurts, the suffering;
you lose your way and self; you reach an edge, falling,
disfiguring, forgetting to love it all. Life leads to death.

You waited for my answer. What did I miss?
“The name for how we endure, what holds
us together. I am losing track of my life. I
am forgetting again, in need of colors and
peace, spread thick across my imagination,
the taste of them, an artist’s fingerpost, the
tether, its rescuing name on my tongue.”

You dressed for a trip to the store: rote skills,
weekly drills, masks and social distance;
survival procurement. Another dull February,
drained, vacant, gray, a year made bleak by
staying home, no news and nothing ever new.
I watched the car roll down the drive, diminish,
and followed you with a litany of anxious orisons,
a ritual accrued in the time of plague, the need to
believe: Be safe; return uncorrupted, my beloved.

And then, at the store, dodging viral molecules
and drained of all but my need for an answer,
you gathered a bouquet of cellophaned blooms,
unmomentous, meaning everything, a gift from the
gallery of groceries, meant in the giving to transform,
transfigure, to connect this time to all times of hardship
and loss and the ways we endure; to recall how love
alters suffering, always. “Climb into color,” you said,
and I did, and was rescued, but more, resurrected.

This is a note to read, when next we are falling:
The world turns on love or not at all, not at all.
Every day, we enter life’s studio to practice
the arduous art of being human, of learning
how to love it all, the brokenness and blessing,
how we must love it all. We forget and die and
resurrect through love’s colors, gestures, memories
sparked by others’ gifts, their offered arts reawakening
ours. Love is our tether, our constant call; known
forever by the taste of its name on our tongues.

© 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.

Living Lent From the Spirit Level

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Ash Wednesday inaugurates the Lenten season for Christians, but the season itself, tied to the natural year, as are so many Christian observances, has deep spiritual invitations for all of us, regardless of our theological path and orientation. And invitations can always be accepted or refused, just as our inclinations can be both explored and honored for what they tell us about our growth, or need for deeper healing. Or not. Always our choice.

I’m unable to address the gifts of Lent without offering some clarity regarding my own spiritual orientation; I do so with openness and respect for your own. What does it mean that my blog title connects the daily round to living from the spirit level?

As a chaplain who has tended people’s spirits in times of body-mind-spirit crises, I’m mindful that the stance of “spiritual but not religious” is clearly growing among humankind. I created and led (gratefully and humbly) far more of my patients’ memorial services than I attended at their family churches. Yet, while foregoing membership in a faith community, they still reached for and connected with their spirits in ways that were evident, profound, and sustaining to themselves and others. We are, I believe, as Pierre Teilhard said, “spiritual beings having a human experience,” and deny this at our peril. Our spiritual needs are as real as our physical, and perhaps more earnestly in need of tending, since they are what makes us eternal. “Church” is where your spirit is affirmed, fed, challenged, and evolved in Love.

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I am not a proselytizer of any institutional religion, but I also have derived rewarding challenges and deep comfort from studying the beliefs and practices humans have created throughout history–and that are still evolving–to name and integrate the Great Mystery, the human experience that is beyond words, or confined to the vocabulary of the liminal: Holy, Sacred, Transcendent, or simply, Love.

We know that Christianity adopted ancient nature-based rites and observances to integrate their archetypes with new stories and learning; my own spiritual journey leads me to honor the gifts of my Catholic Christianity most authentically by reintegrating practices that honor the Earth (Franciscan, Native American), and the deeper meaning beneath Christian imagery (Jungian symbolism, archetypes, the arts). I have received great spiritual gifts from my studies of Sufism, Taoism, Buddhism, and more. My spirituality is not a set of practices I do, but who I am; spirit means breath, and I do not breathe only an hour a week under the direction of anyone ordained to so direct my journey.

I have grown beyond the childhood God who was too often offered as male, judgmental, focused on logic, my sins, and the law as outlined in doctrine. For me, the Sacred is compassionate, mysterious, creative, a deep blend of feminine and masculine qualities and invitations, and–always–focused on my healing and growth in relationship to Love. All human growth occurs in stages that guide outward and beyond to the Great All…if we choose to live the examined life and self-correct, when necessary.

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My orientation as a Catholic Christian, leaning heavily towards the mystic end of the spectrum, does not for a second prevent me from admitting and acknowledging the sins of the institutional church and the damage it’s done to its possible blessings in the world, but neither do I apologize for deriving spiritual direction and peace from the elemental messages Catholic Christianity offers (and as I interpret them): We are here to love and be loved. With our first in-breath, we arrive gifted and called to fulfill those gifts, though a lifetime of concurrently pursuing our healing, by which I mean our wholeness. The two words have the same etymology.

We fail, and we harm ourselves and others, and when we do, we’re invited to admit it and reconcile with Love and our communities. We offer forgiveness to others when they fail. We are made in the image of our Creator/Love, which, for me, means that we are formed to be co-creators, artists whose medium is life-on-Earth and whose sole technique is Love.

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I think these ideas are wider than confinement within the concept of religion; they map the terrain of what it is to be human, and can certainly inspire us wherever we are on our journey. (And, please consider that religion holds no constrictive intent, etymologically, any more than does the choice to pledge our deepest self to one relationship in marriage. The word means to bind ourselves in reverence and obligation to a spiritual path. Our choice.)

I welcome the symbols of Lent and their contemplation, which are also accessible to the “spiritual but not religious” for inspiration. The crucifix symbolizes the human capacity for both the profound evil that would so desecrate another human, and for the profound love that would sacrifice itself on behalf of others. It affirms that our Source/Love is with us in our suffering, and that our existence is by nature transformative, because of our capacities for compassion and forgiveness. The shape of the cross is our human story: we are literally contradictions of ego and union that meet where Love holds us in all of our mysterious desires, attachments, and suffering, and allows us to transcend them and merge with that Love. Death is a door to new life.

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Lent asks us to consider that life is never about perfection, power, and “winning,” but perhaps about the consciousness we bring to our woundedness and brokenness, and how healing ourselves and others allows us to participate more fully in what life truly offers: the invitation to love as we are Loved. I’ve always wondered, does the crucifixion make Love/God more human? Or does it subsume the human into deeper unity with Love/God? Perhaps both. Whom do we crucify, and when do we feel our own suffering most deeply? Lent is a season rich with self-reflection, if we’re open and courageous (living from our heart).

But again, whatever path your spirituality follows, the seasons likely affect its course. Winter, in our hemisphere, is seen as a time of burrowing, stillness, listening, and, often, the indulgence of the physical from autumn through the holidays. January and February can feel particularly sluggish and often our physical exercise decreases as well. Winter is both tomb and womb, where we’re dying to our old patterns and gestating changed perceptions and choices. Spring’s growing length of daylight stimulates our own spiritual and physical unfurling, as does the birdsong’s shift to spring and nesting hymns, the smells of thawing earth, the emergence of buds and splashing, flitting, erupting lifeforms everywhere.

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We’re ready, but for what? In what ways are we yearning to grow? Are we called more by shadow or light in this new season? Either might be the song we hear at this time. For me, the Lenten season invites specific exploration of such questions. Winter fills me with dreams and images regarding my desires for growth and experiences; Lent clarifies the ways I’ll fuel and direct these goals when I emerge in the world again (our annual resurrection). Lent is like the staging area for the next steps on our journey.

It’s a time of austerity, of surrendering the more indulgent winter habits, of paring down and simplifying, sacrificing the clinging to comfort necessitated by winter for the sparer, sturdier independence required to see ourselves as we are. What choices and behaviors are inhibiting our flowering in the ease and joy that Love would have us experience? What gifts are we denying? Where are we pushing Love away, and how can we “convert,” or turn back towards Love? We may manifest our yearnings in spring cleaning, planting seeds, getting outside for longer walks, listening to different music, reading different genres of books, and expressing ourselves in different language. (Listen to your verbs and adjectives.)

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If Lent is the staging area for our next steps, the bright promise of Easter is the ribbon-cutting: new life has arrived: go forth in love and joy. Be the art of Love in the world, always new, always transforming.

A commitment to living from the spirit level is, for me, greatly deepened and inspired by established and proven templates for spiritual growth, further enriched by honoring the Earth’s seasons and re-visioning the ancient archetypes that human spirituality has transformed and deepened throughout history. Take, eat, and be changed. I wish you all the blessings for deepening that the season offers. May you exit winter’s tomb in joy, and dance in spring’s new light, transfigured.

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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 Heart Yearns to Heal

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Every February I learn again how grief, like joy, imprints on the spirit and resides in the body’s felt sense of memory, as surely as hallowed dates are recorded on the calendar.

My family has encountered several losses in the month of February. Decades ago, on Valentine’s Day, my father endured a massive stroke, which drastically redirected the rest of my parents’ lives. Of course, we were all changed; such events ripple forever in our choices and awareness. My mother cared for my father at home for years, and after his death, her own failing health led her here, to our home, where she died on a bleak muddy February 4th.

Our first beloved pup, sweet Idgi, was diagnosed with cancer and died way too young one February 20th.

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None of these losses takes prominence over another. They all devastated our spirits, and each led to specific grief, lodged in our bodies and hearts.

Of course, as years pass, grief abates; it mutes and embeds itself deeply in our identity, dissipating, and we go on. Joys mend brokenness and integrate with our sorrows. Our lives and days fill with new relationships, connections, responsibilities, and experiences. As the anniversaries of our losses roll around, we may even forget they’ve returned once again.

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But what I noticed so often in working with the spirits and healing of others has also become apparent in my own life: the emotional memory is alive and well, and is evidenced in physical and affective responses whether we are conscious of the reasons or not. And this is true regardless of the loss; it may be a death, a job loss, the end of a relationship, a stunning rejection, a surgery, or a damaging choice that engendered regret. Any stressful transition or experience can cause pain that’s profound and lasting. Our hearts and bodies remember; the memories are like scrapbooks stashed away on our psyche’s shelves. And often, anniversaries trigger the pages to fall open and come again to light. What we understood to have dissipated regathers and demands attention. This is gift: The heart yearns to heal and reminds us this is our responsibility.

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Every January, I fill out a wall calendar, marking both our happy anniversaries and those that recall sorrow, so that over the new year I have a ready material guide to consult when feelings or physical symptoms mystify me. Calendar-keeping is a valuable annual practice to support my self-care and my ongoing healing. It also allows me to revel in the infinite blessings flowing through my life. And then, sometime in January, I forget to consult the calendar and its carefully-entered memories.

It’s surprising how busy we keep ourselves, even in lockdown. 2020 passed in a flash and it lasted forever; time became more ferociously mercurial than ever. Phillip and I both have interests and responsibilities we pursue that keep our days full and–with surprising frequency and ease–lead us to forget the date, the day, month, or year. We meditate, take time to rest, tend to self-care, but we’re both more present and future-oriented than content to dwell in memory.

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And so, there are times when a physical pain, or spiritual darkness, a spell of anhedonia or discontent inexplicably arises, and we’re forced to be still and reflect on the cause. What’s going on here? Where, in my heart, is the answer? Often, the calendar reminds us of losses that slipped beneath our consciousness, and we find that listening again to our grief allows deeper healing and grants peace.

Blocked energy loosens, and loss, having been met and again acknowledged, relents. Many therapies can help with this: spiritual direction, meditation and prayer, therapeutic massage, gentle exercise and movement, free-writing, walking a labyrinth, creating a personal mandala…Encountering our losses and grief with love and deep listening also awakens our abilities to be companions to others encountering their own; it burnishes the good we may do in the world; it continually transforms us into more authentic, compassionate humans.

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When I worked as a spiritual caregiver with cardiac patients, I often referred them to the wonderful resources found here, at HeartMath. And I continue to integrate these practices into my own life, because they work. I encourage you to visit the site and explore its riches, and to make part of your Valentine’s celebrations a peaceful time of gentle and compassionate self-care, a commitment to your own ongoing healing, and the health of your unique and loving heart.

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A blessed Valentine’s Day to all! Be well and safe. Take great and gentle care of your blessings and grief, of your hearts and your healing, and please accept my gratitude for shining your lights brightly in our world, and encouraging the dark to recede.

© 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 Time of Monsters

Tell me again of the time of monsters.

The days were very dark, my child, and one rose up, a vortex of pain and ignorance, misshapen from the moment of his origin, molded in hate and ignorance, hidden from light, hideous and horrifying. He seized power, deforming truth. An infinite ego, he was eternally unsatisfied, rampantly vacuous, and predictably false.

And was he the most monstrous?

He was a buffoon: evil, inept, and blind to his disease, perceived by most as a grotesque ghoul with a soul forever impotent, its gifts rendered infertile. He was chaotic, a human storm, but only one. Yet, he was a flame too close to the time’s kindling: a moment and place prepared for fire. The world tilted.

And those who followed him?

Monstrous in their need for lies, their inability to face their pain. They were a frenzied mass of wounds who chose to blame and harm others, those strong enough to name and heal their weakness, brokenness, and grief, which is the harder, wiser path of loving humans. The monstrous chose the ease of hate and violence. These are always choices, child, the dark or the light. We choose our food and become what we eat; the monsters chose to swallow lies. They became ugly destroyers, corrupted puppets, triggered and subsumed. The world became unbalanced.

They were surely the most monstrous!

No. There were those more monstrous still. The elected who failed us. They had power; they were granted the privilege of leadership. They were taught in ivied halls to distinguish truth from lies. They were taught to disown actions better left undone. They had learned the priceless value of their honor, word, and souls. They took oaths and pledged allegiance, yet they turned; they turned and looked away. They lied and did not stop. They reached and reached beyond their greed, unsated. They rotted before us, transformed, then lost. They chose to be unmoored from truth. They chose cold, specific evil and they thought we did not know. We saw; we knew. The world began to fall.

But the world did not fall?

No, my child, the world endured. More of us chose truth. We kept the promises that we made. More of us chose connection, chose our light, our gifts, our mending, our courage–which means our hearts, which means the love that prevails over monsters, and exposes the lies, the evil, and the damage they inflict. Always.

What happened to the first monster?

He became the Lying Man, the effigy we burn on the eve of election, the casting of choices. Lying Man reminds us of possible evil, crouched and waiting for our assent. We recognized the power of ignorance and the greater strength of truth. We realized the care we must take in choosing those who carry our desire and speak in our voices. The Lying Man is ridiculed, yet remembered; he warns of the monsters among us, still, feeding on lies and offering them to the hungry, the desperate, and neglected.

And those who followed him? What of them?

Some chose healing; others retreated to the darkness they created. Their madness was defeated and their ignorance revealed. Their loyalty dissolved. They chose to be lost or found. Invitations extended may be refused. Always choice, my child. The world grew wiser. New ways were shaped to live and move within the light of truth. Learning evolved; we shared necessary sustenance, greater compassion, swifter justice, and co-creation. We are still learning, always students, erring on the side of truth, in allegiance to love. We meet our consequences, aware; we heal our hatred; we celebrate hope.

And what became of the most monstrous?

The most monstrous? Leaders who failed to do what was right. Their actions are remembered forever. They were the cowardly, the shameful, the fearful who chose lies, who chose greed over service, which is always choosing death over life. They destroyed their gifts, granted only and always to bless outward. They nursed despair; they cursed the light; they caused pain; they stirred anger; they fueled hatred; they told lies; they knew better. Their choices are tied to their names, told in our stories, on the wind, in our hearts, forever, unforgiven.

Know this, beloved: Gifts are bound to duty. We may extinguish our light. We may consent to paths of no return. We may barter our souls for emptiness. We may deceive ourselves and others. Mind your choices, child; we meet them every day. Humans are energy waiting to be used, changes unleashed and rippling through time, thought, and action. All is connected. Sweet lies, eaten, make us monsters, but we are free; we choose freely to consume them and to fall, forever. Let truth be our mirror. Stay awake.

© 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.

Beyond Winter

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Come, let us listen for miracles,
the crystal crickle of thin spring
brooks, spilling chilled over bright
still stones, the sighing exhalation,
singing of survival, life suspended
under ice, how winter’s frigid grip
again is sun-released, freed, the
eased movement thrilling, thawing;
rippling silver diamonds dancing,
water music trilling the surprising
deliverance from bitter immobility
to stunning new liveliness, flowing
in its channel of promised possibility,
there, always waiting beyond winter.

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I want to send a special hug of gratitude to those friends who joined me this past Sunday evening at the wonderful Zoom sponsored by http://www.vitality-society.com It was such a lovely surprise to realize you were with us; I wish we could have spoken. Know that your presence is held as a precious honor in my heart. I know some of you live in time zones that made it a great challenge to join us, and I am so very, very grateful. Bless you!

And: Happy News: This album is now released, available everywhere music can be purchased and downloaded…Gabriel Alegria and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet’s “Social Distancing,” is a concept album with the through-line themes of what it’s meant to endure a pandemic, individually and collectively, together/apart. A composition using the words from “And the People Stayed Home” begins and ends the album’s “story.” It’s beautiful. The cover is a 4-panel line-art illustration from photos sent in by fans. (I sent in a photo of my father and me, since he’s the one who gave me a love of jazz. We’re on the inside cover. ♥️)

I know some of you helped the supports the band’s fundraising to complete the album: it worked, and we are all very grateful!

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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.

Invitation to All

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Dear Readers,

I want to extend this invitation to everyone and hope you’ll consider attending! This Zoom event, sponsored by the Vitality Society, is for the entire family. The coordinators hope children will attend with their parents and grandparents, and that they’ll volunteer to read a page of the book for all of us, a suggestion I adore.

If you’re able to attend, I look forward to seeing you. 🙂

Join me on Sunday, February 7 from 7-8 pm ET for the Live, Love, Learn Book Series with Vitality Society, an online community for people 60 and better to remain at their best by tapping into their vitality, creativity and curiosity. All ages welcomed to attend.

Learn more and RSVP at http://bit.ly/vskittyomeara

Note that you will get an email with the Zoom link an hour before the event starts provided you RSVP on the event page. To RSVP, click Going on the event page and create a free account. 

Any questions about registration, contact Ana at ana@vitality-society.com

 

© 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 Quickening of the Year

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Last week we were gifted warmer days and our first vaccine.

The suddenness and utter unpredictability of a chance at the vaccine seemed cloaked in all the mystery, chaos, and illogic of things viral: A friend saw the notice on Facebook that a neighboring community’s senior center and community health department were offering the first vaccines for a two-day time period and appointment slots were, of course, filling rapidly. I signed up and received a late slot on the second day.

Our own local healthcare concern, that has benefitted from our money and insurance for decades, never got back to me regarding the registration I’d completed at their invitation. I’d felt increasingly frustrated as my neighbors all posted happy news of their shots being scheduled and received, but I couldn’t locate the correct bureaucratic pathway to learn why I wasn’t being contacted. I could only guess that the fact I’m just 65 might have pushed me down the list while older people received their shots first. Who knows? Maybe all my data crashed because of the apostrophe in my surname, which still seems to confound computer programs everywhere.

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At any rate, I was given this chance, seized it, and was blessed with an appointment. Then, I waited an anxious week wondering if the vaccine supplies would be depleted and my appointment canceled.

Not the way healthcare should work, I think.

Late in the day on the given date, Phillip and I drove to the site, about 30 minutes away. Because he’s not yet 65, he was ineligible, but I’d read that, since the thawed Moderna doses are only viable for a brief window of time before requiring disposal, it’s possible to get your name on a shortlist regardless of your eligibility, and you may receive a vaccine that would otherwise be wasted. I joined and followed the line of people as we were directed and, as soon as I reached the first indoor station, asked that Phillip’s name and data be placed on the list. I was told there were no extra vaccines allocated, but that could change.

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The entire ritual, for that’s what it became for me, was professionally and kindly orchestrated. Everyone participating was masked, hushed, cooperative, and somewhat stunned. Something miraculous and historic was occurring, and our little lives were communally, even sacredly, involved. After the shot, we had to sit in mathematically-spaced folding chairs, waiting through 15 minutes of observation. Friends chatted across prescribed distances, others of us sat in silent reflection, pilgrims not quite believing we’d reached a sacred destination. We were scheduled for our second shot, and then it seemed more than a few of us left the building, tears of relief spilling over masks.

I returned to the car, noticing the air’s perfume had turned from winter to almost-spring and the longer daylight was only now ebbing into a sunset of blended pinks, rose, and amethyst. A gentle hint of joy rested in my heart. Words left me. Feelings and thoughts that had fled over the past year, that I’d missed, stood at my heart’s door like long-traveled beloveds, hope and all her children, returning home.

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Then, Phillip told me that as I waited at one end of the building, he’d been called in for an unclaimed vaccine, filled out his forms, and joined the procession, only to witness a woman rush in, frantic and pleading. She’d filled out all the forms and registered online, but had forgotten a crucial step and was not scheduled…so Phillip, witnessing her suffering with his characteristic kindness, gave her his place and returned to the car. We were happy for me and sad for him, and in that emotional tug, headed home.

Zipping along the highway, halfway home, we were startled by Phillip’s phone beeping…another vaccine was available; could we make it back? We were so excited; I remember the car turning around, but it now seems almost fantastical how quickly we were parking it once again. The nurse at the door beamed at him, “You’re back! Come in!”

And 30 minutes later, once more returning home, but now in the dark, our joy was tangible; we’d won the lottery. I think we both cried at that point.

The next morning, despite our aching arms, it seemed fitting to celebrate with a hike at a nearby county park. Still cold, still winter, but we noticed the angle of light had changed, as had the birdsong surrounding us.

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Nature mirrored our renewed hope. It was time to emerge from darkness once again, cautiously, tentatively, but in the direction of the light calling us by name, as it always does.

Nothing has changed; everything has shifted.

Today is known as Imbolc, the celebration of Brigid, the Celtic goddess of healing, home, poetry, fertility, and fire. She was later woven into Christian spirituality as St. Bridget, and today is her Feast Day. February 1 falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

The energy of the year quickens, as the original word, Imbolg (in the belly), signals: our spirits are noticeably pregnant with the dreams that rose during our winter sleep. Now, they’re growing into conscious yearning for birth, into actions that will make them “real” in the world.

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The ancient Celtic wheel of the year honors not just the obvious quarterly turns of the sun and seasons, but the finer midpoints, or cross-quarter signals that change is constant; even in a year that turns predictably around the sun, back to where we’ve been, everything is new again, an ever-changing, yet prescribed, cotillion. The known and always-improvised dance to the music of Mystery, and held in Love’s ballroom.

For me, Christian spirituality enlarges these themes by symbolically connecting our choices and actions to the growing light. Lent, which means spring, imposes a time of pause and focused contemplation so we may meet spring’s high light (Easter) with renewed centeredness in our gifts and the ways they match the invitations of the world for the healing and connectedness of all.

Other theologies and worldviews offer similar stories of renewal and refocusing as the new year cracks through its egg and emerges into possibility and choice. The human story, no matter the veneer of its retelling, is always drawn to the turning from death and darkness to rebirth and light.

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And yet the recircling darkness of winter solitude and its resulting opportunity to contemplate our choices and the waves they’ve set in motion is a deeply necessary aspect of our humanity. What do our gifts compel us to offer the world? What do we owe the Earth and each other? What have we learned from the year that is passing? Who are we becoming? What are we creating in the studio of our life and spirit?

We need winter: our health and balance require time to meet our shadows, listen to them and slowly feed them light. We need the apophatic, negative space for clarity and depth. These encounters need not be cruel, frightening, or shameful, but pain may be an inescapable part of self-encounter as it is inescapable in all relationships. Yet, I believe these meetings, our winters, should always be guided by the understanding that the better we are able to offer love and forgiveness to ourselves, the more profoundly we may offer healing to others. It is a time of spiritual seed-planting.

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And now, some of those seeds are fertile and quickening.

Spring is not a rejection of winter, but an outgrowing, in gratitude for its lessons. Then the days grow longer, and our actions more assured and in better congruence with our new understanding of who we are now and why we’re here. If we choose.

Gently, gently, but no Easters without Lent.

And we come to know that every day, perhaps every moment, has its winter and spring, and perhaps its Lenten second of choosing sacrifice over gratification to better meet the next moment in Love…I mean, when I witnessed the caring staff tending all of us through the line to our shots and recovery, I felt transformed by their kindness, as though they’d led us from our long winter to a field of light. And when Phillip acted in love and selflessness to surrender his vaccine to another, I wonder if the weary staff noticed and were moved, even transformed? When yet another shot became available, did they remember the man who sacrificed his precious vaccine to ease that woman’s heart?

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So, welcome to all signs that herald more light, green life, birdsong, gardens ready for planting what will nourish, and invitations to our co-creation in what we know is good and true. May we embrace the lift in our spirits and midwife our winter lessons into action fueled by love, using the gifts we’ve come to share.

And when we do, we’ll see Love hold her door open, beaming, “You’re back! Come in!”

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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 World is Made of Gift

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The world is made of gift
and so it should be received,
a slow unfolding of everything,
each moment’s beauty, its essence
decanted, witnessed, its stunning
singularity welcomed, how from
nothing a delight is born, not twice
the same; birdsong, I mean, how it
pierces dawn’s silence then erupts
into just-once music, how this day
springs from that night, and now from
then; how shadows grow from light,
the way leaves unfurl from buds,
eat sun, transmute color, stem
to tip, green-gold-orange-scarlet,
or swollen air dispatches thunder,
and rainbows unroll, released from storms,
or how a vixen digs her den, hunts, sleeps,
and kits emerge in spring, pawing at life,
or syrup runs from maples, fire sparks
from flint, life uncoils from eggs or seeds,
or death, gifts and miracles spiral
everywhere, pouring in, flowing out,
a world drenched in correlation, mutuality,
giving, taking, always pulsing, time, I mean,
it passes: words to silence, summer to fall,
fire to ash, the moments, the senses,
the smell of the sea, salt tides dancing to
moonsong, the intoxicating rose, and touch,
how love will rise from touch, its spreading
heat, how the intricate snowflake, a prophecy
of pattern, will light upon your sleeve,
melting, as you read its message:
we are here, just once,
perfect, passing, connected,
flowing always into 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 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.

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.