Earth’s Day

what day is not hers in which we live and move?
where else
would we be our being
and do our doing
than here in the arms of our mother earth?

but just between you and me?
we’re not the greatest kids
we’ve set her on fire and poisoned her blood
we’ve stripped her flesh and stolen her savings
we’ve mined her heart and drained her life
we’ve beaten her senseless and slouched away
more than once muttering promises vowing love
you know the routine
we’ll be in touch see you soon ma where’s your wallet?

she’s getting old she’s
a little off her rocker now
demented she falls a lot
fevered in march frozen in april
she hates herself
for loving us so wildly
says we’re spoiled and blind to wonder
but still in the will
so we come on this day we errant selfish
children and sit at her bedside
hold her boney hand
hear the stories we’ve heard a million times
force our greed-drenched claws to pause
and offer a day (one every year!) of empty praises
dull phrases professing our love once more yes ma
we’ll listen to your trees we say
and learn from your winds
we’ll honor your creatures
larger than our hearts (well
until we can market and sell them like those old furs
those were the days when we robbed her cellars
of coal and more coal and more and the oil that oozed
through our pockets was grand) but oh mother on this day
we’ll pin our gratitude to our wide striped lapels and sing your favorite
songs so hooray for you it’s your special day (hey ma you’re out of ice)
oh say
can you spare us a forest or so? hey ma jeez turn down the heat
it’s like an oven in here gotta go it’s been nice but it’s late very late

and we shall rest on your blue night hills
cloaked in quilted clouds and
warmed by the fire of distant stars our hearts
made restless by your foolish love knowing
we are liars who will not change we will not
change
how can we when there’s
still profit to be made
till the last note
of birdsong floats
to final silence?

© 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 at the Center

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How is it with your spirit? 

That’s the way I often begin conversations with my patients, spiritual direction guests, and myself, as I begin another day. It’s a good question to ask before sleep as well. If we can’t name what we’re feeling, seeking, and need, to proceed with equanimity, then we have work to do. We need to ask loving, honest questions that will help us identify what’s impeding our peace. The pursuit of these names changes everything. When the unknown and unresolved is named, we can meet it and allow space for its voice to be heard. Everything the world needs begins with befriending ourselves as deeply as the Love that called us here.

And I suppose the question, “How is it with your spirit?” is also connected to my passion for any practice that takes me deep within silence, and why everyone I counsel has been invited to do the same. Repeatedly. Our spirits get knocked out of alignment so easily in the world. We bury ourselves, over and over and need resurrecting to live authentically.

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Our Easters happen when we make time for those activities that take us into our spirits so deeply that time stops, the world falls away, and there is only the intimacy of self and passion. True renewal. It’s like watering a plant…and if you look around the world, the garden is sadly wilted.

Photography, gardening, writing, walking, centering prayer…I have developed so many ways to get to my center over the years that I hope all the practice helps me live from it, more and more. After all, it’s our genuine home, the place where we meet ourselves and our image of the Sacred (whatever that is for us), to enlarge the Love that binds us and feeds our lives and those with whom we share it.

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I hold the memory of my beloved, late spiritual director in my heart. He’d often come to the hospital where I worked inhumane hours, just to offer me the time and space to listen myself to my center. We’d meet in the hospital chapel–reliably empty in a place where everyone moved too quickly, doing too much–and I’d always find him sitting so deeply in his prayer-filled center that he gave off light. It healed me before I even joined him, before words gradually became part of our conversation. Now, as I approach (too quickly) his wise old age in those long ago days, I understand the urge to take any time available to breathe, “head to my center,” and hang out with Love.

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As the world picks up energy, turns outward once again, and engages beyond lit screens, texts, and messages, I hope we’ll retain some of the gifts that greater stillness and times of silence have given us. Many of us have made life-altering connections during this time of pandemic. We’ve forged relationships and uncovered gifts that will need tending to stay alive, just as our spirits do. I hope we won’t, as a species, return to mindless rushing and acquisition; such former habits will not meet the needs of our spirits or the present world. 

The “way things were” has been a fallow field for over a year, while we’ve been tightly bound and changing;  as we are loosened and part from the circles that have given us solace, insight, and community, I hope we turn to new fertility in the world and see continued possibility for healing and co-creating. Asking ourselves and beloveds, “How is it with your spirit?” and taking time to listen for the heart’s answers, can help light the path before us.

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Be well and safe, and great 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 Recalled Mysteries of Second Grade

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“You have to be a nun when you grow up,”
said Debbie Someone on the tarmacadamed
playground, “because your middle name is Mary.”
She should know, I thought, with her family full of
nuns and priests posing like saints in photos all over
their living room. I was reading a book about a girl
or a doll named Jane. “I will be Sister Mary Jane,” I said.
“You can’t. That’s a shoe,” said Debbie. The First Mystery.

The nuns wore a rosary of wood around their waists,
the beads as big as marble shooters. It took two decades of the
rosary to belt the bulk of Sister Mary Albertine, but one or less for
tiny Sister Mary Joy. I imagined them wearing the rosaries to bed.
They could clasp the mighty crucifix and manage the opening prayers,
but what happened when they reached the decades wrapped around
their waists? Maybe they rolled on each bead, recited the prayer,
and kept rolling, pausing, and praying till dawn. The Second Mystery.

The nuns had wooden clackers like stork beaks they’d extract from
the folds of their habits. Clack! We’d walk two-by-two. Clack! We’d
genuflect. Clack! We’d march into the pew. Clack! We’d sit. If I was
going to be a nun, I needed a clacker. I borrowed Sr. Mary Theophona’s.
(I wasn’t a thief, just a novice seeking improvement.) I took it home and
practiced with my younger brother. Clack. Walk. Clack. Stop. Clack. Sit.
Clack. Fold your hands to pray. He stood up and left the room. “You can’t
leave when I’m clacking!” I shouted, disbelieving. He said, “Shut up.”
To a clacking nun in training. And nothing happened. The Third Mystery.

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We went to Mass every day during Lent. I didn’t understand the Latin,
but I recited it perfectly. I thought Et cum spiritu tuo was the Holy Ghost’s
phone number. I wanted to be an altar boy and use the candlelighter,
reaching high, touching wicks with fire, setting the stage for Mass.
I wanted to shake the bells at the consecration, and then hold
the communion plate to catch Jesus if he fell from someone’s
mouth. I thought, if he’d been crucified and resurrected, he could
probably handle a fall to the altar if I missed catching him. I wanted
to wear the red and white vestments and go up and down the aisles,
waving incense at the people in the pews. I wanted to answer the priest,
to kneel and bow and parade around doing things while all the people
watched. I asked Sister Mary Eulogia if I could be trained. “You can’t be
an altar boy, Catherine, because you’re a girl.” Stern eyes flashed through
rimless glass circles. My heart doubted her theology. The Fourth Mystery.

We received a monthly magazine, Catholic Highlights for Boys and Girls.
Every issue featured a child martyr who told the Roman soldiers, “I love
Jesus, and won’t stop,” so the child met a gruesome end and became a saint.
There were also articles about catechism and tips for being pious, but I turned
to the martyr tales first. One night, I read how one of the child martyrs proved
his love for God by sleeping on sticks and stones. I went outside and found
some stones, added my jacks and balls and dried peas and the peashooter,
scattered them in my bed, settled myself gently, and waited to feel holier. “JMJ,” 
I said. I did not enjoy it. I hoped God noticed and I was proving my love.


My mother came in to say goodnight. She sat and felt a stone. Or two. I had
to confess my plan, and asked if she could see my halo beginning to glow. She
dissuaded me from being a child martyr. We cleared my bed of stones and jacks.
My mother tucked me in and kissed me. She told me I was precious; she loved me.
I heard her whispering to my father in the hallway. They were laughing. I inhaled
the music of their laughter and was blessed. I knew God would make that music.
Why would someone expect you to suffer to prove your love? The Fifth Mystery.
Amen.

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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.

A Gathering of Poets

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/togetherinasuddenstrangen

I mentioned this event last week and wanted to share a reminder that it’s happening tonight, at 7-8 P.M. CENTRAL TIME. You are so welcome to join us!

All of the readings will be from the anthology: Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn and published by Alfred Knopf.

The poets I’ll be joining tonight include David Biespiel; Catherine Cohen; John Freeman; Garrett Hongo; John Koethe; Jim Moore; and Susan Stewart. Each of us will read our own poem from this anthology as well as that of another contributor…I think this will be both a rich celebration of poetry and its power, and a kind of gathering-around-the-fire ritual to share our poetic reflections on the pandemic…I hope it will prove stimulating, resonant, and healing. Crowdcast is very easy to use; no downloading.

The gathering is online tonight, from 7-8 Central, and sponsored by the wonderful Kismet Bookstore in Verona, Wisconsin. Hooray for Rye Kimmett! Events | Kismet Books (kismetbookshop.com)

Gentle Peace to all,

Kitty

PS: Spring is afoot!

The One We Are Becoming

Let me fall if I must. The one I will become will catch me. ~ Baal Shem Tov

The rain falling from the cloud, caught by–and becoming–
the thirsting tree,
the shining drops falling from leaves
to the opening earth,
the sunlight falling, caught by hungry life;
everything is falling into what it will become.

Once, I moved in the world as though
I knew my way, as though
I had a map and a name for my becoming; I didn’t.
I pedaled through the air of my life wildly, panicked
and struggling to feel the ground beneath me.
I couldn’t land, too fearful of meeting my imagined life,
of believing the woman who held my spirit
would be there to catch me.

If only I had seen that we’re all falling,
as long as it takes, till we meet the garden
where all our seeds have been planted, the room
of our dreams, the home we know to be ours,
our only holy self.
And then we fall again.

If only I had noticed the fledgling fall and how it was caught by flight.

If only I’d seen Yeshua fall
into his waiting Christness,
or Siddhartha caught
by the enlightened Buddha.

We cannot know what mysteries will unfold
when we let go, only that we’re biding,
transformed, to catch ourselves when the falling ends,
and that none of the tipping energy that sent us
floating or crashing down, was wasted.
Everything deepens those who allow it.

I have seen lives fall and be caught
by the love they became,
and sinners fall into certain saints.
When we arrive, we’ll know
and embrace the truth of the name
we’ve chosen as ours.

All that time, the time of my long falling,
I thought the one I was becoming
was more of myself, but the new
utter strangeness was you, and when
the two of us caught our falling selves
we became one: and now we’ve spent
a long, long time, days like centuries,
catching and releasing the sacred One
we are, still creating, still learning to leap
into wonder, trusting it will meet us as we merge
and fall, like the fledgling, into something
as surprising as flight, becoming again the constant
and changing love we are, and when we too must fall
from flight into our own, dark tombs, we’ll be caught
by the light that we’ve become; one day, we will finally
surrender to who we are. It’s finished, we’ll say,
and we will be caught by our light. We cannot know
the mysteries that will unfold at the end of that yes.

In the garden, blossoms flash into dark
honeyed cherries, ready to be eaten by hungry life.
Everything is falling into what it will become.

© 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.

When the Time is Out of Joint

Today

I don’t know about March’s entrance and exit, but April’s coming in like a tentacled alien. The conflation of surviving a year of pandemic, of responding to climate change and spring’s erupting haste, and of noticing and tending our pent-up desire for community and social proximity has far-reaching implications, and it seems they’re spreading and winding everywhere, at once. Prioritize, or be entangled.

Our furnace is turned off and windows have been open morning and night; gardens are exploding way ahead of past patterns; our first April shower has just thundered and flashed through today’s 75-degree spaces; Phillip’s receiving frequent jobs for cabinetry and etc. that he can do at home; we’re still trying to finish our own remodeling work; I’m writing and editing three books at once; it feels like everyone’s traveling everywhere; and a million things are suddenly happening. The world’s been shaking in a dice cup that’s been dumped back out this month: what are the odds we’ll survive? I wonder.

Of course, I realize a lot of us are still most often at home, cautious about the Covid variants and the many ways we can protect ourselves and others, practicing the safety protocols when we’re out shopping, etc., but spring, or sprummer, has definitely sprung, and its invitations ring out and linger, a siren song few, it seems, can resist while remembering Covid and her variants are still very much present and actively mutating.

For at least 12 months, we haven’t had to prioritize much at all. We woke up, cared for the dogs, cats, and gardens, pursued our callings, went nowhere, had no appointments, and moved through our days slowly, the peace of it all only unnerved at times by Covid and political news, but we felt safe, even a bit unmoored, floating along on our little Full Moon Island.

I can feel the tightness of our atoms and small world dispersing into the greater world these days. Connections that relied on mutual support this past secluded year are loosening as others’ worlds and their invitations open up as well. But we’re both old pros at making lists, organizing schedules, moving through task-filled days and managing to take breaks when we need them, so we’re not worried about the sudden convergence of “options to consider and actions to take,” just amazed at how quickly they’ve arrived.

Puschkinia libanotica (Stardrift) are blooming now. Last year (and previous years), they first blossomed on April 23rd, or later.

I think the climate changes have me most unsettled. The virus is, of course, still raging. I’m mindful of the great suffering it’s causing in South America and elsewhere, and that cases are once again rising in my country due to negligence, but the vaccination numbers are also rising and we know how to prevent infection if we choose.

We cannot, though, alter the climate changes; that time is long past. There is no protocol individuals can follow to bring down rising temperatures, or aid other species in their seasonal and necessary migrations, or nesting, or daily food procurement (beyond faithfully maintaining the feeders for the little few who visit us here). Today, on April 6th, the bit of lawn we still have is green and in need of cutting, but the dandelions that provide nectar to many have not yet risen and bloomed. Time really does seem out of joint. It’s about 20 degrees warmer than what we used to call “normal.” We’re not sure when to begin working in the gardens, though we’ll probably clear their edges of grass and weeds this weekend. I don’t want to compact their soil by treading around within their borders…yet.

For the past several years, we’ve had snow covering the ground in early April, and snowstorms as late as April 27, so we have no idea if this warmth will last or be overtaken by frost and snow, which would be devastating to the current green everywhere and to our fellow creatures migrating, nesting, and now trying to survive in a world that does not match their instinctive triggers and responses.

There are no easy answers; there never were. There’s not one right action or path to follow in the labyrinth our current world has become. But out there on the trail, I can see an old man slowly walking his old dog on the rain-washed and sun-drenched trail, smelling of spring’s emergent life, whether its presence is “normal” or not. Peace exudes from their partnership.

The man waits calmly whenever the dog pauses to sniff or regather his strength. The dog stands in place when the man stops to admire the view or take a deep breath. A cyclist slows to honor their space and then sails on across the bridge, enjoying her day, the gift of its warmth and the saturation of color after winter’s monochromatic persistence…Observing these interactions as I fret about what’s to come, reminds me that if the time is out of joint, I can let it go and enter the flow as it is, focusing on this moment and the next, the companions who fill it with meaning, the creativity it engenders, and the gratitude it always deserves.

I actually was not thrilled to come upon Murphy lounging on this plant, but he has been a bit listless, missing Fergus. When our 4-leggeds’ ashes are returned to us, some are put in a shared container we keep with us, and the rest are scattered around the perimeter of Full Moon Cottage…but Fergus spent his first year alone outside and never wanted to exit his forever safe home again, so instead of walking the perimeter with his ashes, I placed a few in the houseplants he loved to play with, and I wondered if Murphy, who has never napped on a houseplant before, sensed and felt closer to Fergus here. At any rate, as you can see, he was unfazed by my response, so I left him to it. It seemed to heal his spirit a bit.

Peace to your week.

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

It really is the little things
that change our lives, the way they flow,
and the world, how its passing or endurance
depend on this choice or that. The insignificant
classroom in the small town where our little lives
(stifling, but prescribed, and so far-followed we
could see the back covers closing on our little stories)
collided:
So many lives, their careful design, required reconstruction
from the settling dust of that brief moment. And I thought,
“Well, that was unexpected,” and then we adapted to the
different story we’d chosen, the endings and beginnings
our unsought meeting created, the canvases and new paints
we’d given ourselves, the new chapters we’d undertaken
to author, but the little things never stop redirecting the flow,
do they? I mean, we and the world, we’re never finally formed
and there is no path except the one behind us; knowing this,
we should be wiser, more watchful, tender in our reach
and open to surprise and surrender. Control is an illusion;
the stories never end the way you expect. All around us,
everywhere, little choices are made by the known and unknown,
the seen and hidden, the near and distant: look how one person’s lie
leads to so much death; how another’s sacrifice resurrects hope;
how a stranger’s small kindness alters a life; how a tiny dog’s nuzzle
eases deep grief; how, years later, a letter arrives, begging forgiveness;
how one person crosses a narrow aisle to cast an unexpected vote, and
just like that, the whole world is given another little chance to endure.
Stones roll away, light shines, and we see a way forward we hadn’t imagined.

© 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.

Prism Thinking

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We’ve had a week or more of cloudy, damp days, and high winds, all of it typical of late March weather, but eventually it just felt pervasively gloomy. The living room painting and furniture rearranging and bookcase-moving and everything else triggered by the urge to re-nest is almost complete. I always hang prisms high in the clerestory windows and–finally–this morning, intermittent flashes of sunlight rewarded us with dazzling rainbows scattered around the newly-brightened room. They rekindled my hope and joy.

I’m not certain how my fascination with prisms began, but I think the origin may have been the film, Pollyanna, based on the book by Eleanor H. Porter. 

The film debuted when I was 5; I read the book later. Disney, as always, deviated from the original story in many often-inexplicable ways, but the young actress, Hayley Mills, brought the story to life for me and, of course, the book’s overly-saccharine, moralistic language was somewhat updated in the film, even though the setting is true to Porter’s 1913, small New England town. 

I suppose the visuals of the prism scene captivated me, and, in my mind, the way the bright rainbows also elementally transformed the bedridden and grouchy Mr. Pendleton (or Pendergast, in the film) were forever connected to their magic.

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In a lot of the books I loved as a child, the young protagonist, through her own transformation, also transformed the adults in her life. These books offered me the first insights that healing and maturing were lifelong pursuits; maybe I associate that idea with prisms, too. They unfailingly create deep joy and invite a contemplative mood.

Certainly, every problem has its refractions, and what at first may seem a single troubling issue or one lacking a solution can always be viewed again through other lenses. And, once new perceptions are welcomed and entertained, we’re often led to change and grow. (Or not, as I always admit. Choices matter, and change requires commitment and, often, years of effort.) I think a lot of “prism-thinking” is happening in our world right now; some are willing to endure the hard work of pursuing transformative answers and others are resisting, for many reasons. (I wrote a children’s book about these very ideas, titled The Rare, Tiny Flower. It’s being illustrated by the talented Quim Torres, and will be published by Tra Publishing in January, 2022.)

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A lot of the protagonists I loved as a child saw new possibilities for the way life could be lived, individually and in community, and showed flashes of feistiness when adults resisted what the girls finally “knew” to be true. I expect the authors were advocates of prism-thinking themselves. Consider Burnett’s Mary in The Secret Garden; L’Engle’s Meg in A Wrinkle in Time; Smith’s Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; and Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Many of my early, lasting role models.

The other and profound lesson I derived from Pollyanna was her orientation to gratitude, coupled with her prism-thinking. She played what she called The Glad Game, learned from her father, which invited one to see and bear life’s struggles and sorrows, but to balance their presence by opening to noticing life’s blessings as well: Yes, it’s been rainy, but green is happening everywhere and the gardens are growing. Yes, voting is being suppressed by people who fear change, but restrictive laws are being challenged in courts all over the country and a voting rights bill has passed in the House. Yes, we’re looking at new lockdowns because of disease variants, but we have masks, vaccines, new medicines, and ways to defeat the virus if we all pull together. If. We need prism-thinkers more than ever, but we need action coupled with gratitude and balance as well.

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The Glad Game is one reason Pollyanna’s name became a euphemism for laughable candy-brained thinkers, shallow goody-goodies unable to see the real and present darkness that threatens our world. I don’t think that’s a fair judgement of Pollyanna, but cynics–often just bullies by another name–seem to be granted more deference than prism-thinkers for their fault-finding criticisms and opinions, probably because it’s natural to fear retaliatory verbal attacks. Far easier to agree, say nothing, and dodge the nasty ballistics. We’ve certainly seen where that’s gotten us as a country. 

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My childhood role models and heroines wouldn’t stand for it. And actually, each of them had feisty moments of confronting the perpetually oppressive and pessimistic, with strength and dignity. They, and their creators, taught me to stand up, speak out, and be proud of critical thinking that is divergent, open to change, co-created, and inclusive in its benefits. And to work at perceiving and giving thanks in all things for the goodness and gifts that co-exist in the world and in each of us. 

Today seems an auspicious day: It’s Palm Sunday, which for many signals the beginning of the deep spiritual journey called Holy Week, ending on Easter Sunday. Today is also the second day of Passover celebrations; tonight will be the second Seder, and Passover continues to April 4. And at Full Moon Cottage, we’re also celebrating the March Full Moon. 🙂 Blessings on all your celebrations and efforts to deepen your humanity. Hang a prism: heal, change, grow, create, and keep at it.

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I also wanted to let you know of this Zoom gathering on Monday, April 12, sponsored by one of my favorite independent bookstores, Kismet, and in support of National Poetry Month. I was extremely honored to have my poem, In The Time of Pandemic/And the People Stayed Home, included in this anthology: Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by the inimitable Alice Quinn. Several of the poets, myself, and Alice Quinn will be part of this event, and we would be so honored to have you join us!
Events | Kismet Books (kismetbookshop.com);
Crowdcast Registration: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/togetherinasuddenstrangen

© 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.

We Have Hurt Enough

Heron Pensive

There have always been ways to hurt
beyond words. There are fists and sticks,
and stones and bones and bombs and guns–
so many guns–and sharpened knives, and weapons
heavy and blunt, stunning and surprising, fierce and
quick. Bullet-pierced bodies falling to floors, to doorways
that coldly receive them; it should be our arms embracing
the sacred, strange, and shining others, the known, the
mysterious all we are made and meant to love; christ, we
have hurt enough; haven’t we hurt enough? Count the dead.
Violence is easy; shooting from fear, slicing from pain: hurting
from hurting. Let us finally learn the infinite ways to translate
our rage into beauty. It was love that chanced us here, just once
and now, able to choose the arduous art of union, compassionate
partners in all of our dark misery, able to pause, to turn, to change,
revolving our pain through other imagined instars, shedding the
the urge to hurt and rage, becoming who we fully are: artists,
called to create the ways we may heal and love beyond words.

Bird Print

© 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.
 

When the World Went Viral

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Facebook Post
March 20, 2020

Dear Friends,

We’ve been assailed this week by texts, messages, personal attacks, Friend Requests, phone calls, everything…I’ve kept my friend’s list tight and deleted requests from strangers. This is my safe place.

Today, as I feared, an advertising firm contacted me to use my words as a “commentary” behind a “we’re the good guys here to help you” TV spot for Johnson and Johnson/Tylenol. I haven’t made a cent from this and they didn’t offer any either, for the record.

I spoke with their rep to clarify and sent this letter. I don’t have an agent; I don’t have an attorney; I have real-life family members and friends putting their lives at risk right this moment because of our Administration’s woeful preparation and a Congress with members more interested in selling their stocks for profit than helping our healthcare workers and people…

So, I’m re-posting this letter here as, I HOPE, proof I wrote it and had witnesses. Insurance.

Thanks, now back to what’s important…

Hi, (Person who shall go unnamed),

I understand that you and your team are trying hard to do good in a troubled world, and using your many gifts and the powerful platform of various media to convey that message of concern, but I don’t think my words are a good match for this project. It doesn’t seem to be inspired by purely altruistic intent; it seems designed to sell Tylenol and promote Johnson & Johnson, and that doesn’t feel like it honors the spirit of my words and the ways they’ve offered comfort and love, which was my intention and hope when I set them free.

 Conversely, I’m very happy with the ways a variety of artists and musicians are being inspired by these words to create and collaborate with the poem to further touch and comfort people’s hearts, and to inspire them to survive–and flourish–in courage and peace.

I do wish you well and pray for your safety and good health. And I am very grateful for your integrity in contacting me before using my words, as others have not. We are all finding our way into and through this mystery, and never alone in doing so.

Be well and gentle peace,

Kitty O’Meara

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March 20, 2021:

When people say they would “love” to have their words “go viral,” I like to share this…it’s like this (which was only one week after “and the people” was innocuously posted on Facebook), x 1000, for months and months. 

This post reminds me of the time’s fear, confusion, anger, and wonder. I mean THE virus, not mine, and how adjusting to, or at least riding the waves of that, was compounded by being shot into space by “going viral.” 

I’m still very grateful for how this absolutely-once-in-a-lifetime amazement led me to so many gifted artists, to so many people doing so much good in the face of terror and mystery, to so many people making immense sacrifices, to kind and gentle people—who save us, every day—and how the entire experience isolated and burnished for me, again and profoundly, how blessed I am in my partner, family, and friends. Gratitude will always be the encompassing theme of this year, for me. But it is that for all of my life as well.

Far more important than “going viral” is the recollection of our collective experience. What a year, what a time we’ve endured. I know it’s not over, but let’s take time to sit with what we’ve survived, and honor what nobility, strength, humor, love, and courage we’ve summoned, supported, shared, and offered each other and the world this year. Look at the difference in our leadership and the issues we’re exposing to the light of moral and legal scrutiny, a painful, necessary debridement of our national thinking—unconscious and conscious—and an analysis of policies that enforce what must be opposed and altered.

I think this is what an Enlightenment feels like: a struggle between what must die and what must be born if we are to survive and thrive. I know we have to love our way through it as authentically as we can, or what we create will not be new or inclusive, which means all, not “all the groups who think like me.”

We know hard times will always be with us; we know the virus and its variations, and climate change, and all the human struggles for power and possession will go on, but I hope we can reflect on what we have accomplished and realized this year, in spite of soooo much resistance and fear-fueled ignorance…This is a time of epic struggles and we made it through the first dark forest. Let’s enjoy—wisely, safely—a bit of light and sweet breezes, and stock up on all the strength and healing and re-commitment, and joy we need to enter the next dark woods. Together.

I don’t know the ending; I know I likely won’t be present when it arrives, but I’m so honored to be in your merry company and presence as we imagine and create the best possible Earth for all who live and move and have their being on our whirling blue sphere in the expanding, mysterious, and wonderful universe.

We can do this if we choose to live into the mighty spectacular Yes, allowing it to unfold and show us the way.

Great and gentle peace to all; I’m off to the trail for a long and grateful walk.

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Happy Equinox! Seek and tend the balance you need to shine the gifts you came to share!

© 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 Decorating Dance

Full Moon Cottage has been having some “work done” on her interior. We finally settled on the brighter paint colors we’d been searching for–I think–and are finishing up the painting in the living room before moving into the kitchen. The goal is to complete all of this before the gardening season kicks in and–if yesterday’s snowfall is any indication–we’ll make it without rushing. We envisioned a sweet slow dance of a project to get us over the last winter hurdle to spring.

Sunlight streams into these rooms from three directions, a blessing and a curse, as Adrian Monk would say. The light is extremely beneficial during darker months, a blessing, but it also makes picking out paint colors an immense and mercurial task for both of us, because we’re also dealing with an old oak wood floor and a walnut-stained ceiling, and we don’t always agree on the undertones we’re detecting. Now it’s yellow; now it’s brown; now it’s orange, green, reddish…is that blue? A curse.

And when we finally settle on a shade and apply the sample, the light and colors shift, sending us back to the paint store, masked, gloved, confused, and considering the option of changing our identities, driving to a new town, and starting over in a home with well-established coordinating paint colors. Might be easier. This is why we stayed with our former colors for 14 years. But hey, life’s a dance, and it’s fun to try new steps…right?

I keep using the second-person-plural-nominative-case-pronoun “we,” as though we’re sharing the labor equally. This is not the case. We started as equal partners in this decorating dance, but then a heavy door, one that perhaps had not been set in an OSHA-approved place and position (never mind by whom), fell as I passed. It scraped down my right calf, leaving it intact but creating the most dramatic bruise I’ve certainly ever had or possibly seen. “Oh darn,” I didn’t say, but I did provide a spontaneous and sensationally colorful kind of poetry as the pain registered. You had to be there.

I don’t think a blood vessel was left unsevered. It was like looking at those nebulae photos from the Hubble spacecraft…and not one damn color worked for the walls or wainscoting. But it did match our recent and stunning sunrises, although I think you’ll agree the sunrises offered preferable views.

So, I’ve been sitting out the decorating dance with my leg raised and iced, then heated, regaling Phillip with suggestions and tips and amusing (yes they are) bon mots as he climbs the enormous ladder and does the actual painting. Well, truly, we’ve also had interesting conversations, or I’ve read to him, or we’ve listened to podcasts, or music. Last Saturday, we watched The Gay Divorcee and then couldn’t get The Continental out of our heads for the rest of the weekend. Today, we watched a recording of the Broadway production of The King and I. Pretty sure Shall We Dance? will replace The Continental as an ear-worm. Or maybe they’ll form a mental terpsichorean duet, and we’ll both be lunatics by tomorrow. Not a huge stretch at this point.

I think I’ll be ready to join the dance and paint again by Friday, crazy or not, and I’ve chosen two accent colors to sample, so if you hear desperate screams pitifully howled from the direction of Full Moon Cottage, never mind; eventually, the light will change and all will be well. Or we’ll just pull down the shades, dim the light, and dance.

Almost finished…

© 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.

Not A Thing Was Lost

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For a year we lived slowly. We were alone together, and nothing was lost.
Not a thing was lost. We lived every moment; every moment was lived,
and time was not wasted. Life offered lessons learned only in darkness.
Some days we cried together; these were healing days. Sorrow’s voice
must sing and we must listen; there was much to learn. In silence, we heard
the Earth cry out: how we gave her the saddest eyes, and how we broke her heart.

Every day, we created something new: the ways we moved through the day,
the ways we moved through life, the ways we moved and breathed. We looked
for new teachers and heard different music. Everything was strange. Life hurt;
it was stern, such hard steps to balance. Again then again. We rested more often
and deeply, or we didn’t sleep at all. We didn’t sleep at all. In silence, we heard
the Earth cry out: how we gave her the saddest eyes, and how we broke her heart.

The days led the dance and we followed. We followed; this was the greatest lesson:
to receive the day and follow its holiness as it was and as it always is, how it moves,
how we are moved. The year ends. Steadying slowly, how bright the light around
the moments we live. Let the Earth dance and follow her lead. Heal her, heal her;
create, and see her joy. They shine; how her eyes shine. Every moment is lived and
time is not wasted. Nothing is lost. Love endures. This was the year that saved 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.

What Follows

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We were waiting, we were waiting so long that we’d forgotten
the animal pleasure of deep embrace, the smell of other people
and beckoning cafes spiced with strangeness, the comfort of corner booths,
and snowfall under streetlights, the lure of aged books on shelves, of touching
things unconfined, glowing with mystery, safely dangerous, gently tempting and open.

We were waiting, we were waiting so long that we’d forgotten
how to cross spaces, the language of greeting, the harmony of thoughts
begun by one–fusing–finished by another, the onrush and uprush of laughter, the ease
of improvised, delighted life; we’d become diligent disciples of monotony, of things done
in steps, after a year of waiting and forgetting, of yearning, and forgetting how to yearn.

We were waiting, we were waiting so long, that we’d forgotten
the surprise of circling geese, and budding trees, and plants piercing upward, their scent,
the sweet afterbirth of things green and translucent, the homeward music of spring, of
neighbors and nest-building, the innocence of blue skies, rainstorms, and silver-splashed puddles.
the call from life to our animal hearts: scatter the seeds of everything blessed and beautiful…

And then,
we remembered: what follows disease is either death or healing, and after each comes
the hard work of sowing seeds and tending them, of holding wonder to our grateful lips.

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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.

Small Sorrows

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There are losses that tear the fabric of our lives in two,
serrated edges and ruptured threads that years, a lifetime,
cannot mend but awkwardly. Here is one such scar I carry
always, and here, another. Holes we learn to sidestep;
we each have many, these interrupted expectations of
enduring love or love’s enduring presence, these partings
that break us wide on the wide and open brilliant stage. The world
allows such grief, briefly holding space for the depth and damage
while the alterations shudder through our lives and settle, seismic
shifts changing us elementally, creating new steps in our forward dance.

But clocks tick; glances divert; watches, feet, and fingers are tapped:
Back to the business of life, its earnest and undead perfection. We adjust,
merge with life’s traffic and dance. The world turns, and turns away,
calling us healed. It cannot bear close or long encounter with the scrutinized
pause. Acceleration is all; there isn’t time for tears that do not dry, wounds
that remain, and the mystery of ghosts who visit the shadowed alleys of memory.
Let go. Let go. Turn, and turn away. On to the edge of that grave we thankfully
will not grieve but occupy, the panicked dance halted, perfectly unexamined.

And there is sorrow the world calls small, carried as pain in the heart,
on the heart, a tender bruise say, the size of a small cat who one day
appeared at the door of our life and stayed, changing everything
in small ways that went unnoticed, except in our dance; its new
improvisations spoke of a deeper joy. But grief at its passing? No;
it makes of us unwanted mirrors. The solace of rushing cannot be
too earnestly pursued. Come, turn, and turn away; do something.

And so, ignored and unexplored, small losses, all sorrows accrue.
A tumor of the brain finally presses on the spine; our slowly-altered
dance one day becomes grotesque in its awkwardness, we tilt and
spin, one-eyed and wincing, comical, unhuman. The heart breaks.
The small child notices. Why does that man halt and wobble so
crookedly? See how he falls behind? Do we laugh or cry? I want
to help him stand; I want to hold him. We must stop to name the
suffering, to steady his trembled dance, to tell him he is loved.

Hush, dear; he’s one who had small things to grieve and did not
surrender, never to grief for something as small as a cat. He is heroic;
do you understand? Feelings devour our time. Never indulge. Look
how he still moves forward and on. So proudly. We honor deep scars
and their making for a moment; small sorrows mean nothing. Clocks
are ticking loudly; on we go. We have things to do, so much to do.
Denial is the better way, or where would our weeping end?
Back to business; time is passing. Turn, and turn away, my dear.

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This week has been a year at Full Moon Cottage. The sunlight and its warmth, the birdsong and the woodpeckers’ staccato rhythms, the receding sparkle of snow, and the sweet spring call of the world to plant, nurture new life and drink in its perfumes–all of it is healing our hearts as they adjust to the loss of our darling Fergus. But as people who honor the rhythms and necessary tending of our healing, we resist the insistent need of our culture to “just get over it.”

Fergus mattered, his leaving matters, and all of the lessons he shared need our deep love and exploration as well; our sorrow, too, is a gift, and uncultivated gifts offered in our lives, no matter how painful their tilling and digging, leave us shallow, anxious, and less able to extend compassion when we encounter others meeting their losses and necessary times of healing. As the figure in the poem suggests (I hope), we cripple our humanity and deny its depths when we ignore and compound our small griefs, because grief is never insignificant and the treasures it holds as we make meaning of it can change our lives and change the world. Sorrow, like joy, needs to bloom to its fulfillment. Don’t fear your weeping; meet and embrace it. Weeping creates a necessary human music; it eases heart pain; and it does end.

Please grant yourself the time you need to sift through all the “small losses” of your life and wait for their gold to be perceived, to shine and, in the perfect time of healing, to mend your heart. Peace and joy will return; gently flowing through our awareness and spirits as our sorrow and its gifts integrate with who we are now. Balance can be restored because we’ve allowed grief’s imbalance its voice. So much of healing is listening; how lovely, I think, that “silent” and “listen” use precisely the same letters to communicate the vital medicine we must take to be fully human. Always be willing to indulge in silence and listening. 🙂 Great gentle peace in all your joys and your sorrows.

© 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.

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.