All Hallowed

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We’ve had some frosty mornings this past week, the world glittering at dawn and sun-fired, gradually warming the carpet of diamonds and rolling it back for a new day.

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I’ve been fallow for a season, it seems. My spirit, my art, my relationships…nothing’s sparked my best effort or finest energy; my words have been encrusted with sorrow and loss, or dwindled down to unspoken altogether. The room around my heart has felt dusty and closed.

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But while spring is often the called-upon symbol for rebirth, every gardener knows that autumn works to crack the hardest seeds and shells, and plants green life deeply, to be uncovered when the time is right.

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Last Saturday morning, the garden’s dew-scrubbed, vivid brilliance invited my gaze for a time. The shining river flowing beyond provided a pathway for crow gatherings, departing geese, and choirs of red-winged blackbird.

The music of autumn is reverent and mysterious. It beckons.

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I went for a walk early enough in the new day’s life that the only others I met were two men out for their morning run, hushed by the dazzling views, and pausing to share exclamations in stage-whispers, as though full voices would shatter the magic of this enchanted world. “What a morning!” one cried softly, and then, “Oh, wow! Look at the raccoon tracks on the bridge!”

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Such beauty this autumn morning offered up; the former ways of knowing and perceiving could not sufficiently meet it or absorb the utter loveliness of the encounter. A new way to be and breathe and pray was needed. I heard God with my eyes and saw God with my ears and felt so held by the love of the glowing world that I sensed transformation and quiet invitations. A holy language moved through me and I knew I would have to harbor its music and puzzle it out later, when thinking became important again…

For the moment, it was enough to witness and enter the light.

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You wouldn’t have thought the day could be improved upon…but it held greater surprises.

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Malarky came to join our family, and we have spent our first precious week together at Full Moon Cottage. Routines have altered. Sleep comes in the form of naps that are the end punctuations to long bouts of exploration, play, learning, eating, piddling, and sitting for hugs and kisses.

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He is a smart boy and a dear one. He is my heart’s newest resident, crowded beside so many others who nestle within my love and grace my spirit and days. To be over-brimmed with gratitude is a fine, fine feeling.

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Late, late on the night of the full moon, we stepped outside (good boy!) and took a moment to listen to the owls and watch the glittering stars. The entire yard was lit by the moon’s soft glow.

My expectations and weariness regarding the old world are breaking away; all is new, soft, enchanting. Everything must be explored and renamed. 

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That holy language flowing through my heart began to find form.

Malarky’s first full moon smiled, shining through the pines and blessing us with hope. My puppy seemed silenced by the view and by something deeper as well, as all newborns carry that connection to mystery we seem to shed as we grow, forgetting the sacred we come from and yearning, always, for the home of our creation. But infants come to teach us the music again: we’re still connected, still held, still being created, here and now.

I will relearn the language; I will study and ponder and bring my finest, fiercest energy to mastering its music in this new year of surprising revelations brought by Malarky, like all the little ones who come to our world reminding us it is all hallowed.

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Happy Halloween! May your parties be surprising and fun!

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

Giving Up the Ghost

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Autumn has shaken out her flaming hair, lowered herself upon the hills, and settled in for her season’s reign. Yesterday presented one of those moody gray, metallic days that over-saturate the colors along the trail. The air was damp enough to deepen the perfume of a fallen tree smoking down to ashes. The scent flowed along the trail like incense, consecrating my walk. A strong wind clattered through the aspen and ash trees, and farmers’ combines rolled through the cornfields, harvesting food for livestock.

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Abandoned nests reminded me of spring’s bright eggs, hatching to chicks that grew to fledglings who have now flown away to warmer homes. The blue herons have migrated and the ghostly white egrets are passing through, another sure sign of autumn.

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My gardens will be dying back in the coming weekend’s frost; all the lovely blooms and vegetables have been harvested. This year’s turkey flock has matured and travels daily through the yard, feasting on seeds.

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All around me, it felt as though the spirits of the woods, gardens, and fields were rising, their annual works of art complete and their fruits ready to harvest.

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The expression, “Give up the ghost” passed through my mind, and, while I imagine it’s a euphemism for death, I thought about the ways the spiritual journey calls us to continually surrender our self-image, casting away what we’ve learned is false regarding who we thought we were, and trying to become more authentically true to the self our experience and seeking has revealed. This is a journey of compassion, delight, and gift, as we try to open to our eternal essence and live consciously from its light.

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It seems right that the bounty of autumn leads to celebrations of gratitude, feeding our bodies and preparing them for winter, just as our authentic life’s work is meant to nourish our spirits and those around us, to propel the circle of creation towards another cycle of excavating the truth of who we are meant to be: uniquely blessed and blessing.

I’ve been reading a reflection on Jung’s understanding regarding the “second half” of life, when we’re called to turn over the garden of our souls, weeding through the labels we’ve assigned to ourselves and digging deeply, sifting for the authentic meanings hidden in our choices and their outcomes. We can uncover the wisdom our lives have yielded and shine it back to the world, recognizing and living from the in-dwelling Presence that is unique, universal, and eternal.

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For Jung, and for me, this is deeply spiritual work, the most challenging, creative, and courageous of our lives, requiring us to encounter our shadows and all the unconscious ways we’ve eluded naming and becoming our true self, so that we may accept and make whole (as fully as possible) who we are, while we are.

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Although Jung speaks of life’s “halves,” I’ve always imagined this creative healing and whole-making to be accessible from birth, traveling in a spiral through all our years. Some hear the music and engage at a very young age, and some never perceive the song, or see the colors, or imagine the possibilities of becoming Who I Am…or they fear and avoid the invitations to explore around the corners and below the surface of the identity they’ve constructed. Self-generated masks protect us, after all, until we’re ready to set them down and become more authentically who we are, in essence.

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I believe that part of our human responsibility to each other is to take the time to lovingly extend the invitations to know ourselves better, through a companionship of presence, listening, and encouraging one another’s gifts.

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Autumn teaches me that giving up the ghost—the self-image I’ve fashioned and that no longer serves my growth or my gifts—is a way to become more fully who I am, as a rounded, evolving flash of creation. It’s a lovely season to search through my past year and name the times I’ve felt most and least like “myself,” and figure out why.

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Such lessons are the true bounty of life; the fruits and soul-food they yield help us to isolate the seeds our spirits need to plant and tend for the next part of the wisdom journey.

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

Spinning Straw Into Gold

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A hard summer of loss has eased into a colorful autumn full of comforting signs and wonders, like the love and presence of supportive family and friends, a hummingbird’s kiss, encounters with a visiting butterfly, walks on the trail, and last night’s amazing full moon in eclipse. 

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A good friend asked me what was getting me through all this loss…and had I perceived any spiritual invitations? (I am blessed with many friends who are chaplains, healers, and spiritual directors; these are the types of things we ask each other: how cool is that?!) Another dear friend asked when she could come and hear stories about the pups, another profoundly loving response to loss.

It took time to discover invitations, and I’m still working on it. But the question brought to my mind the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, who helped the bragging maiden spin straw into gold. Rumple bartered for her firstborn… but she learned his name, spoke it, and sent him packing.

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Straw is dried grain, and so many tales and parables tell us bread made from living grain is the staff of life. Straw, then, seems a natural symbol of death, loss, and grief. I’ve imagined the grief that marked this summer as straw, piling into mountains before me, waiting…

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So I’ve entered the grief and it’s entered me, and I’ve sat with it and listened and wept and watched, and now, finally, I’ve begun to spin…

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If I wove a tapestry with these golden threads, it would include images from the day my sister-in-law dropped everything, drove over an hour, arrived with a bouquet of sunflowers and zinnias, and remained tenderly present to my grief. At one point, we sat beside each other on the steps of the deck, watching dozens of butterflies flitting so energetically around and within the great purple aster that it seemed it might fly away.

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We spoke of “visits” we’ve experienced after losing those we love, that felt sense that the one who has died is able to be present in new ways. I said I’d received a few feathers from Riley and Clancy so far, nothing more. “But,” I said, “these visits never happen when I ‘expect’ them; they just seem to gift me when I most need them.”

No sooner had I said, “…need them,” than a hummingbird flew to the space between our heads and froze there, for 30 seconds or longer. Neither of us moved as the tiny bird “hovered and hummed,” its wings beating mightily, nearly brushing our cheeks. After a long while, it flew off, its message deeply held in our hearts. We hugged and then sat in silence for a few minutes, both of us tearful. Such a sacred experience, and all the better because someone I love shared it with me. Someone who also believes the proper response to mystery is awe, and silence.

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Spinning straw into gold…All the daily routines that stemmed from the dogs’ needs have vanished, and–as with any loss–there are now many holes in the day when I miss them especially dearly. If I’m home during the day, I take my camera and go out to the gardens, seeking diversions from the constant and tiring “missing.” This butterfly visited the garden another day, and stayed for a few hours. Her company offered delight and peace. When you’re grieving, such hours of respite are truly restorative. She let me follow her all around with my camera and seemed to enjoy posing from every angle.

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It’s been challenging to head out on the trail without Riley and Clancy. I tend to check both directions for bikers and walkers, and when I’m sure I’m solo, I talk to the pups, as if they were with me. I grew quiet watching this heron in the river last week. He looked like a monk doing a standing meditation, calling me to deeper reflection. One of the great gifts that comes with grief is this call to go to the center of the center of our being and houseclean, in a way. All of our values and goals and beliefs come up for inspection and reassessment. Certainly, this is another source of gold on the journey of transformation that grief creates: Grief creates.

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The pups and I celebrated our walks with parties up and down the trail for over 14 years…I’d break little treats in pieces and we’d have routine and spontaneous parties that always ended with Bridge Party. They’d each give me a paw and I would thank them for coming on the walk, and then they would get the last treat before we ran up the path to our home. A little holy communion, like our morning party.

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So it seemed fitting that Phillip and I bring wine, cheese, crackers, and our cameras down to the bridge last night for a perfect viewing of the eclipse. What a lovely Bridge Party, with owls calling, frogs and toads singing and distant coyotes howling. Their cries rose and tangled as the moon became fully eclipsed and shadows disappeared. Then it seemed that everything fell to silence. Definitely a keeper, as far as memories go, and the sense that the pups’ energy surrounded us made it all the more special.

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Something in my heart was woven back together during those magical hours on the bridge. I felt my spirit, eclipsed and resting in darkness, was ready to begin moving back towards the fullness of light again.

I’m still spinning these last piles of straw, still weaving, still healing, but so grateful for all the blessings in my life that are helping me turn the straw into gold.

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We never want to lose those we love. But we do; we will. And what saves us is the rest of those we love, and who love us. They carry us through our grief and help us see the glints of light that guide us towards greater light, until we can stand again in the sun, in joy. Gradually, we’re led towards those wonderful moments in the world when we can see its devastating beauty and the eternally renewing cycle of life. Through the love of others and the love of the world (all of which, to me, is the love of the Sacred) the grief, in its time and the time of our hearts, transmutes to golden memories, a lifetime tapestry that tells us who we are, finally, as lovers 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 Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Autumn Heart

DSCF0181The turning, tilting earth has brought us around once again to my favorite time of year. The light is gorgeous and my spirit feels lightened in autumn as well. The world sparkles, amber and bedewed, as though newly dipped in honey and rolled in stars each morning.

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DSCF0262The 4-leggeds and I go for long walks and sniff out miracles along the trail. One day, we pause to watch the sunlight piercing through the trees, another day, it’s spider webs clinging to the bridge, or dew on long grasses, or butterflies flitting around the purple asters. The lush viridity of past months and particular summer companions are preparing to leave our environment. Life cycles are shifting and the world feels more fragile, and therefore precious, in autumn.

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One late afternoon, I watched as the garden glowed with sparks of gnats rising against the setting sun…autumn reminds me how magical and brief, how unique and delicate is a lifetime.

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The garden continues to yield, though she’s growing tired from the energy spent to do so; still, tomatoes are collected and stored away, as are the herbs, peppers, squash, onions and carrots. Soon, it will be time to tenderly turn the plants back into their earthen bed, an activity that, like every ending, sobers the heart and invites contemplation regarding the sacred balance between loss and gratitude, planting and harvesting, life and death.

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Like a squirrel, I tend to overstock the pantry and freezer this time of year, too, always ready for desserts that perfume our home with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla, or hearty soups, and wild rice stews. It’s time to bake yeast breads and savor the smell of wood fires and apples. Of all the year’s seasons, autumn most stimulates and satisfies sensuously, or so it seems to me. The air shivers with the pungency of damp decay spiced with wood-smoke, and the leaves color our world with scarlet, gold and orange. Like the chiming of cathedral bells, bird-call increasingly resounds. Geese, ducks, and cranes flock and honk, blackbirds chorus, and crows scold and complain throughout the day. Soon enough, winter’s icy astringency will erase and muffle, utterly. Now is the time to savor these bountiful smells, tastes, colors, and sounds.

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Halloween decorations are making their way around the living room and dining room. A Wiccan friend tells me that, rather than taking offense at our Halloween witch figures, she believes crones are a fitting symbol for the year’s decline; hopefully, this is a time for rendering the year’s wisdom as well. I’m creating rituals for this…to sit with the movements and invitations of the year thus far, those both pursued and rejected. Who am I now seems a fitting question for autumn meditation, before planting the seeds of Who do I wish to become for winter’s incubation.

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My husband is adjusting to the rhythm of the new school year and, before he returns home, I’m off to teach second graders in an after-school program. Ships passing, and then mooring back together for the 7 P.M. popcorn party that the puppies anticipate every evening.

These are ancient autumn rhythms for us, this rising to gather and store, and to continue crafting a life that matters, to enter the dance of diminishing light, and to notice everything precious and brief before the dark of night rushes in, colder and closer each evening.

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Now is the time to be burnished by autumn’s golden light and hallowed by the season’s holy mysteries, honoring the gifts offered between the green life of summer and the austerity of winter. A time for counting blessings and letting them go, for gathering in and handing out, for storing memories, sharing stories, and gentling onward sacred farewells.

Blessed be, say my Wiccan friends; merry meet and merry part…and grateful be your autumn heart.

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

Down to the Bones

The trail has been the setting for a soul-stilling production created by the Holy Artist this week, fitting for the time when we celebrate the festival of St. Francis, whose spirit came most alive when he was with his family of choice: all of nature and her non-human inhabitants.

We’ve had days when the sun’s brilliance infused the fall colors so vividly that I had to un-saturate photographs to make them look “real.” Everywhere a burning bush demanded attention and invited quiet listening for what it wanted to tell me.

And there were mornings when silvered mists deepened the hues and shadows, making photographs as muted as a Monet painting.

This morning, the fog created dew drops that strung along spider webs like so many prayer beads. A bejeweled world, indeed.

Yesterday, as leaves fell all around me, a song my mother used to sing to us at bath time ran through my head. “’T ain’t no sin/To shake off your skin/And dance around in your bones!” It seems the trees in autumn are shedding their skins and revealing the bones beneath, a reminder, perhaps, that we need to keep working at dropping our own masks, the false selves and ways of being that keep us from our center and from creating our lives authentically, with the sweet, genuine essence of our uniqueness.

The other revelation has been discovering seed heads forming everywhere, all at once. The wildflowers along the trail and those designated as weeds have enchanted me with the exquisite architecture and distinctness of their seeds and ways of dispersing them, readying for spring’s renewal even as the mother plants die back into autumn frost.

It made me reflect on becoming an elder in the autumn of my own life, and whether I’m planting or failing to sow the seeds of creativity, peace, and joy I intend…

Tomorrow, the weather will turn. The temperature will shift from 73◦ to the mid-50’s and as low as 26◦ within a few nights. The change will bring welcome rain, along with high winds that will likely bring down the rest of our glorious leaves.

Time to shake off the skin and dance around in our bones!

 

© 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.