The Impulse to Celebrate

Celebration is when we let joy make itself out of our love. ~ Thomas Merton

It’s that time of year; it’s that lovely point in the wheel’s spin when longing and hope comingle and form the solvent that cleanses winter’s dreary weariness. Our stories begin to focus on illumination and viriditasthe sacred upsurging greenness of co-creation and new life…

The energetic excitement of the Christmas gatherings and partings seems to spin gradually away from the holiday festivities, shooting out random sparks and then quietly fizzling away into the gray days and weeks of the long and anti-climactic month of January, which is largely characterized by some form of moisture and some shade of nothing. (Though that’s really not fair, I suppose, to the many combinations of black, white and gray offered up by the January world, since they’re such lovely backdrops for cardinals, blue jays, and finches.) Still, “drab” is almost too exciting a word for January.

And, for a few weeks, I appreciate the post-holiday serenity that leads my spirit back into balance. My walking and meditation practices, my writing, my regular communications with friends and loved ones, even my Masterpiece Theater dates, are all restored to their dependable routines.

But then the month closes and it’s time to bring up another box from the basement storage shelves. [Insert close friends’ and family’s laughter.]

The boxes—organized, labeled, and ever-ready to be hauled upstairs and lovingly arranged—contain holiday and season-related decorations I’ve collected and created over the years.

This week marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and is connected to celebrations of Imbolc, Beira, Calleich/Brighde, Candlemas, and Groundhog’s Day. Roman Catholics designated this time for honoring Mary’s purification following her son’s birth and the presentation of the Christ in the temple…and, of course, St. Valentine’s Day’s festivities and gifting bless the month of February. (Any celebration that translates love through chocolate is highly regarded in my book).

It’s a joyful time of year for celebrating light, hearth/home, fertility, transition, and rebirth: our stories evolve, but our human yearnings cycle reliably and tenderly. For me (Gaelic Girl to the core), the inclination and invitation have always been to name and celebrate wherever we are on the wheel.

Academics will argue whose version of a given story is authentic, or whether it’s been appropriated from its source, or become reductive, or recombined into a completely altered format, but I don’t concern myself with dissecting and arguing such points: instead, I enjoy reflecting upon the deeper themes revealed by our stories and recognizing their universality.

Stories were first shared by word of mouth; they naturally evolved to reflect the subjectivities of storyteller and audience. I love the “braided” aspect of every story I hear, and am enchanted when I trace similar stories through different times and places, imagining the long chain of roving storytellers intertwining, carrying, and sharing their precious cargoes of metaphor, myth, symbol, and meaning. And I’m overjoyed when I discover that two tribes of people summoned similar frameworks and cause-effect relationships, but created unique characters for describing some aspect of the natural world or human condition. Whether Caillech is witnessed gathering firewood or the groundhog sees his shadow, we’ll have a longer winter… 

No visitor to Full Moon Cottage will leave without the invitation to celebrate the current season, which I extend to include monthly anniversaries of just about everything. (Why not? I have an official “June birthday anniversary,” but why not celebrate on the 17th of every month? And, of course, it’s the same with the anniversaries of meeting and marrying Phillip, and enjoying a monthly Christmas on every 25th…) How much fun is it to wish someone, “Happy October Birthday!” and “Merry May Christmas!” Why not? For goodness’ sake, life is brief and the point is that it’s all worth sharing and celebrating.

I inherited this orientation from my parents. My mother loved to routinely set out a few decorations, make festive meals and desserts, celebrate achievements and anniversaries, and look for the “adventure” in the commonplace. And my father made up silly songs for no reason but to delight us and recognize the blessedness of the ordinary; I do that, too.

Phillip would maybe say I’ve taken it up a notch. Or two. Morning Parties, Breakfast Songs, 7 PM Popcorn Parties, Bedtime Songs and Parties…the 4-leggeds love these and hunt me down with barks/meows if I’m delayed in initiating our celebrations at expected times. (I am very well and happily-trained.)

And then there are the boxes.

Friends love to tease me and ask, “Have you brought up your ‘2 PM Sunday Box’…or your ‘Tooth-Brushing Box?’” (Such Molierian wits!) While I don’t celebrate life’s minutiae quite that intensely, yes; I’ve brought up and distributed the “February decorations” around the house and celebrations are in full swing. If none exist, I make up rituals to mark special days. For example, this week was a great time to light candles, smudge the hearth, bake bannocks, feel and express gratitude for the warmth and sunlight, and take time to savor the gardening catalogues that have been filling up the mailbox lately.

Noticing and honoring the uniqueness of the daily round has taught me that we need to love our days—all of them and each of them—for their distinctness and blessedness, despite our cultural messages to “get through” them “endure” them till we can go shopping or overeat/drink our way through another week’s end. If we let them blur together and “can’t wait” for them to pass, we miss so many holy messages and invitations that are offered for our enrichment and that help us finally accrue days threaded with light, lives infused with acknowledged meaning, and stories that outlive us.

On Valentine’s Day in 1987 I came home from work to learn that my father had suffered the massive stroke that would alter the course of his story, the story of my parents’ marriage, and certainly our family story. 18 years later, on February 4, my mother changed worlds here at Full Moon Cottage in a small basement bedroom Phillip and my brother, Mike, had put together and painted in 2 days, like some hurried stage carpenters (wainscoting, photographs, a lamp, 2 beds, a rocker), for her final comfort and peace. She was taking her last breaths while a huge crane was placing the 30-ft. beam in the addition to Full Moon that we’d envisioned as her new home.

Such days are also marked as holy, as are all of our losses and the moments of deepening that contribute to our stories of healing and transformation.

When I worked as a hospital chaplain I elicited and recorded patients’ stories of healing. It was valuable—both for my patients and for me—to hear what healing meant to them and how they defined it, for we often cannot begin to heal without reflecting upon and sharing these stories. And we can heal all the way through our dying.

I came to know a patient who had CHF (congestive heart failure), which is a disease that progressively disables our bodies, and so she returned often to the hospital, and we discovered we were kindred spirits, delighting in each other’s company. She was a charming woman, who used her sweetness and humor to deflect introspection, but the awareness that her life was ending brought increasingly deeper excavations of her truths, and one day, when she was 92 and coming to accept her dying, she honored me by sharing this story about the greatest healing of her life:

What would healing look like for me? I suppose for me it would be a return to optimum health…and if that is a lower level of health than I had when I arrived at the hospital, then healing would mean acceptance. (Long pause.) The most illuminating healing of my life happened after my husband’s death. The hardest time of my life by far…it took years, although it was the first year that was completely black; it was the heaviest, darkest, most silent year of my life…but it wasn’t until five years after he’d died, when I was 61, and traveled to London with a friend, that the sorrow palpably lifted. I remember the very moment: we were in Piccadilly Square, shopping and having a grand time, and I pushed through the door of a shop and came out onto the street: there was bustling and life and people and color and activity everywhere…and just like that: I said, “I am happy. I want to live again.” Just like that. Healing can happen like that. Grace. 

I agree. Healing can happen just like that, or sometimes only after long years of re-planting our spirits and regaining our balance, but there’s always a time we can pause, look back, and see that healing has and is happening.

I know that is so as I set out trinkets and mementos that honor and celebrate the great loves of my life and the stories we’ve shared.



© 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.

Birdsong in Autumn

The past two weeks as I’ve walked the trail, I’ve noticed the blackbirds and robins have returned to their spring songs, or rather, the young birds are rehearsing these songs under the tutelage of their elders before the flocks leave for the winter. When they return next spring, the juveniles who survive the winter will be mature, ready to find mates and build nests. The songs they’re practicing now will be naturally and completely their own, and passed on to their young in time.

My father was a storyteller. He created stories and songs; he told stories well; he earned a degree in journalism; and he knew his way around the world of language. My mother was a grand storyteller as well, as were all the members of her family, with whom we shared wonderful vacations and visits throughout my life.

My father’s childhood was rarely discussed; his family unknown except for allusions to sadness and neglect, the early death of his father; a distant, emotionally-remote mother; and a younger sister who chose to stay out of touch. The absence of storytelling surrounding his childhood was felt in my own.

Storytelling was a characteristic that became more marked after a massive stroke robbed or altered other charming personality traits that made my father uniquely mine, and sadly exacerbated less-endearing traits, like flashes of anger, that would unexpectedly explode and wound, however understanding one could be about the after-effects of stroke.

For about 15 years following my father’s stroke, my mother’s continuous and patient care allowed him to pursue those activities that could still give him joy: to read, to write, and, especially, to tell his stories.

I learned that despite poverty and exquisitely inadequate parents, enough relatives and friends helped my father salvage a childhood that became the source for most of his post-stroke stories. Depression-era, small-town Northern Minnesota life was humble, but full of adventures, innocence, and the freedom to roam the countryside, fish in the lake, and create plenty of ways to enjoy the long winters. This time of my father’s life, his childhood and young adulthood, became vivid for him following his stroke, and his need to share these stories became crucial to the quality of life he could yet enjoy.

I worked as a teacher during those years and was able to visit my parents during the school-year breaks. Initially, I tired of hearing the repeated stories, however humorous. But eventually, as the years passed, I began to observe my mother’s ways of listening and facilitating my father’s storytelling, ways she had learned to widen their boundaries, having heard the same stories countless times. Her gracious listening encouraged my father to explore the meaning of his stories, to add nuance, to detour from the escape of humor into the reality that more authentic emotions afforded. He already, inherently, was graced with the ability to infuse his stories with wit and charm.

I began to listen more deeply and ask questions that encouraged my father to sharpen his descriptions, to offer subtext, and explore themes. The stories began to come alive for me; I knew these people, this place, this life.

Now, as I hear the autumn birdsong and reflect on the wisdom of elders, I know that these were my stories as well. They helped to heal my father’s spirit and they opened a door to his life that had long been closed to me.

 In the autumn of his life, my father was teaching me the notes I needed to integrate his life into my song. And now his story has become a treasured part of mine.


© 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 Diverted, Make a Bridge: Lessons From Squirrels

The daily round has been beset by obstructions and frustrations this week, good reminders that change should always be expected, since we’re all transforming, every instant. But more than that, the awareness that my efforts and careful plans could be altered in a moment challenged me to either “breathe and deal,” or lapse into the comfortable role of the complaining victim. Family patterns and Irish blood allow anger to reside very close to the surface, always available for sharing when well-laid plans go awry. Blasting another’s inadequacies, vacuity, and faulty logic can bring such wonderful relief.

Living from the spirit level is so much easier to write about than to do.


The temptation to blame these changes on others’ incompetence is so very handy (as is a well-fashioned string of profanity), but why blame others for being human rather than perfect?

And then the real challenge becomes the introspective journey: Why would I even expect perfection of others and what do I expect of myself? How do I feel about the elements of control—and surprise—in my life? How hospitable am I, truly, to the flow of life-as-it-is? How gracious am I towards my own and others’ mistakes? Why evaluate and predicate life upon how close I and others come to perfection? And why the need to separate myself from the other in the first place? Aren’t we all in this together?

Human being is human screwing up. Homo Not-So-Sapiens. Accept it and get on with it; perhaps one day, in greater wisdom, revel in it.

We’ve been experiencing high winds more frequently this autumn. Leaves have been whipped from trees and branches have been scattered across the lawns and trails. A huge branch was partially ripped from a willow along the riverbank. I heard it crack and saw it swing downward, resting its tip upon the ground, its “shoulder joint” still attached to the trunk. In an instant, an arm that had always touched heaven now brushed the earth.

Squirrels had formerly enjoyed the views and safety of this branch, as well as the leverage it provided to those branches adjacent and above it. What I noticed within a half-hour following the storm was certainly a lesson in flexibility and adaptation to change: the squirrels now used the newly-fallen branch as a bridge between earth and the tree’s higher branches, and scurried playfully up and down the streamlined pathway.

Chaos rules; might as well accept it and adapt accordingly, with as much peace, grace, and joy as we can summon. Look for the bridges where none were before. Perhaps especially those that exist between ourselves and others. And recognize that we, like all our fellow humans-being, are doing the best we can.

There’s just this moment and we co-create what it is with what is presented to us.

 Which is what humans do.

Which is imperfectly perfect.


© 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.

Encountering Spirit

Thanks to Netflix, Phillip and I have been re-watching the first few seasons of Northern Exposure, a series with profound respect for the spirit level of life. Last night, we saw an episode featuring Ed, a young man native to the indigenous people of the show’s fictional locale, Cicely, Alaska. Orphaned and raised by his tribe, Ed was seeking answers regarding his parentage. The spirit of a long-dead chieftain, One Who Waits, accompanied him on this journey. Ed accepted his ancestor’s help and wisdom gratefully, and spoke with the spirit as they sought the truth of Ed’s roots.

The non-indigenous citizens of Cicely observed Ed talking with One Who Waits (played by the excellent actor, Floyd Red Crow Westerman), and worried, assuming Ed was having a psychic break, for they could not see his companion. “They cannot see me, because to them I am dead,” said the chieftain sadly.

It reminded me of the wonderful books on indigenous spirituality by Malidoma Patrice Some, that discuss the same concept: the wider our acceptance of mystery and the more we are able to understand that spirit permeates and animates all creation, the more we realize that everywhere is the Celtic “thin place.” Keeping the eyes of our hearts and minds open floods our every moment with meaning that otherwise goes unnoticed. We become fluent in the languages of myth, symbol, metaphor, and mystery; we see what others cannot, because they can’t conceive it to be so.

Some’s West African tribe, the Dagara, believe everything originates in the spirit world, the world where our ancestors abide, and that the ancestors travel between worlds and make themselves visible with frequency. They believe in the spirits of our ancestors, of nature, and of worlds other than our own, and the energetic exchange that takes place between and among these spirits and ourselves. The more conscious we are of these relationships, the clearer and more informed by wisdom our invitations and choices can become, and the wider our perspective regarding what is and isn’t possible evolves. Rigid definitions and rational boundaries demarcating life and death blur. We consent to mystery as a playmate.

Shortly after my mother died, I was visited by the owl pictured above. The day was bright and the mid-afternoon light illuminated the bird’s feathers. It remained in the tree outside my window for a long time, as we gazed into each other’s eyes. I took some pictures, which my visitor seemed to graciously allow. I went outside and stood on the deck, about 4 feet away from the owl, and reverently entered its space.

We began to breathe together, and the world closed around us in a golden timeless meditation. I really have no idea how long we were together, but the bond was strong and utterly peaceful, and then we both took a final breath together and “let go.” The owl’s long wings extended and it flew away, and I came back inside, grateful, and knowing my mother’s spirit had been somehow present in the encounter.

I’m not sure about enlightenment as a permanent state of being, but I’m open to the moments of insight and deep healing that an “eyes open” readiness has afforded me, and I welcome encounters with spirit whenever they grace my path.


© 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 daily round began with a long walk on the bike trail near my home. Brilliant white egrets posed along the river’s sandbars, flashed in the sunlight, and stood, as peaceful as Buddha, in their meditative stillness. Like guardians at the door of a hallowed shrine, they set the tone for a hushed contemplation as I walked along.

The trail is curtained by trees now peaking in autumn’s colorful translation of the life-to-death dance we enter with our first breath–an intake of spirit–and exit with our final breath, when we set that spirit free. People track the changing hues of the leaves and plan trips to enjoy the movement of “peak colors” as they flow through the forested regions of the state.

The dazzling colors signify the leaves’ coming deaths, but not just that; for once fallen, they fertilize the earth and enrich the creation of life-to-come.

When I worked as a hospice chaplain, I walked through the forests of long-term-care facilities and sat with the peaking colors of my dementia patients. One would think their lack of verbal abilities and mental acuity would preclude the gifting of wisdom and inspiration, but I found it to be otherwise. As I sat with their energy, I was often bathed in the light of their peace; insights flowed between us, evolving, and leading me to a keener appreciation of those who meet death with an energetic purity unimpeded by language.

My thoughts often drift back to these moments; though the nursing facilities were often drab, my memories of sitting with my patients are bathed in vivid colors. As their bodies declined, their spirits flamed, and their lives certainly have continued to enrich my own. Decomposition–the end of our life’s song–leads to recomposition, the creation of the new music inspired by those lives.

And so I wonder if my “true colors” are peaking as I age, if I’m sharing them as boldly and bravely as the trees, and if I’m using my gifts in ways that will entice and nurture the creativity of others after I’ve “changed worlds.” 

May we tend to our peaking colors, cheer on the singular rainbows of others, and be grateful for those who have pursued their uniqueness with unrelenting enthusiasm, thus fertilizing the creativity of all.


Requiescat in pace.


© 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.