Earth Day, Every Day

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 031Our goal is an environment of decency, quality, and mutual respect for all other human creatures and for all living creatures. . .The battle to restore a proper relationship between man and his environment, between man and other living creatures will require a long, sustained, political, moral, ethical, and financial commitment- -far beyond any effort made before.  ~ Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson , founder of Earth Day

Last Friday
Last Friday
Saturday
Saturday
River at the end of July
River at the end of July
River today
River today

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 085April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 104April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 107If we don’t have certain outer experiences, we don’t have certain inner experiences or at least we don’t have them in such a profound way. We need the sun, the moon, the stars, the rivers and the mountains and the trees, the flowers, the birds, the song of the birds, the fish in the sea. All of this evokes something in our inner world, evokes a world of mystery. It evokes a world of the Sacred and gives us that sense of awe and mystery.   ~ Thomas Berry

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 118

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 133

Glacial drumlin
Glacial drumlin

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 173April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 177The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity… that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and jobs come from. These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.  ~ Gaylord Nelson 

Fiona and Riley watching the sunrise this morning
Fiona and Riley watching the sunrise this morning

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Sunrise, Ducks, Bridge, River 076
Double-Crested Cormorant

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 170

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 041Practices for Earth Day to feed the spirit.

Happy Earth Day, and for tomorrow: Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday!528886_4912045893034_241491468_n

 

© 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.

Spring’s Winning

Lilac Buds

March

A blue day
a blue jay
and a good beginning.

One crow,
melting snow —
spring’s winning!

~ Elizabeth Coatsworth

April Snow and High River 021When I worked as a teacher, I looked forward to spring and the enjoyment offered by the poetry units I shared with my middle school students. This poem, by Elizabeth Coatsworth, was always a favorite of my sixth graders, and the spring poems they created and illustrated in response to the many we studied were equally lovely.

Last Sunday Morning
Last Sunday Morning

April Snow and High River 018Yearning for blue skies, birdsong, and sweet green earth is nothing new after a long Wisconsin winter, but this year our winter-weary hearts have been sorely tried, indeed. We received snow last Sunday and are told “a dusting” will return again Friday, accompanied by another week of rain.

April Snow and High River 010After last year’s long thirst, I’m only happy for the moisture in whatever forms it arrives, but today’s sunshine and the chance to inspect the gardens and see (hooray!) that last year’s tulips and daffodils survived the drought, has been pure gift. The river is high, the birds are singing, and—even though we’re sliding towards the end of April—spring, I can tell, is finally winning.

April Snow and High River 036

April Snow and High River 034

April Snow and High River 074

April Snow and High River 065Gentle peace to your week…

 

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Happy March

Peace to your day, and to the wisdom of wild things…May you feel blessed and accompanied by all companions on your 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.

A Room With A View

hawk, birds, snow 010This morning, I heard the weather forecaster mention that we’ve met or exceeded another meteorological record, having received snow each of the past nine days. While not as immediately dramatic as the storm hitting the east coast today, still, it has added up in increments and made scooting around in my little VW Bug tricky enough to be avoided, if possible. Yesterday it wasn’t, and I paid the price of getting stuck and having to shovel the car free.

So, I’ve stayed inside to write, read, cook, work with photographs, and write some more, taking breaks to gaze out the window at the birds and squirrels, and darting out to refill their feeders when they need replenishing.

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The cats and I enjoy the view and each other’s quiet company.

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Mully and Fergus in the window 008These slow winter days take me deep within, and my gifts, meager though they may be, seem urged by the solitude to express themselves. I’ve been struggling with a story that has perplexed me regarding its evolution. The plot has jiggled like liquid mercury, shape-shifting and eluding me. When my writing immobilizes, I use the great picture window in front of my desk to escape the confines of words.

The mystery of where this impulse to create comes from and to what end, irritates me at times. Why be gifted with the impulse and not gifted as well with the path it’s meant to lead me down, towards some perceived outcome? When the way is clear, of course, engaging in creation is utter joy, but when I’m lost in a hall of mirrors I willingly chose to enter, believing inspiration and talent would lead me out, I wish I were instead someone content to watch soap operas, ponder nothing, and remain a stranger to creativity.

The other morning I sat at my desk diligently editing, staring, and wondering why, when a great and sudden onrush of darkness sent all the birds scattering with a single and furious beating of wings. Something immense tore down past the window, blocking the light, and just as quickly rose up to the birch tree beyond the feeders.

It had all happened so quickly. The Cooper’s Hawk faced out towards the river and from the back, its feathered cape emanated malevolence. Or such was the ancient archetype it conjured in my mind, as it huddled and seemed to curse the mourning dove that got away.

hawk, birds, snow 018And then the hawk turned and faced me, almost daring me to judge it for trying to harm one of my guests. “Don’t I also need nourishment?” it seemed to ask.

hawk, birds, snow 029And after a few days of brooding over this experience, because I knew it had come to teach me, the path of my story–or at least the next chapter–came into focus.

So, while others may lament long days of snowbound tedium, I’m grateful for the chance to watch the drama right outside my window, and to be led by its inspiration.

In the end, it’s better than a soap opera.

hawk, birds, snow 030

 

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No Place Like Home

DSCF0525When Phillip and I bought Full Moon Cottage in 1997, most of our friends thought we’d been bespelled. The 4 acres were promising, but the house was hideous. It had been built in 1969 and had passed through two families without any modifications to its design or decoration, and came to us with a complete lack of landscaping. The couple who sold it to us admitted they “had no idea” where exactly to place a garden, and had avoided any remodeling because, to them, the property was just an investment.

What we bought in 1997.
What we bought in 1997.

But we had a dream about the home it could be.

Our first night in the home was spent ripping up carpeting in the living room and then setting down one of our own rugs and then our mattress, because the bedrooms were even creepier. The second day, we began taking down walls, pulling up more carpeting, and ripping off wallpaper. Within the first year, Phillip had painted the house, laid wood floors, rebuilt the kitchen, added wainscoting, and begun to replace windows, doors, ceilings, and cabinetry, opening the east side of the home to the river as much as possible.

Day 1: Tearing down a wall. .
Day 1: Tearing down a wall.
Removing hideous flaming red carpeting before removing hideous wallpaper, windows and doors.
Removing hideous flaming red carpeting before removing hideous wallpaper, windows and doors.
Hideous kitchen entirely blocking view of river.
Hideous kitchen entirely blocking view of river.

Over the next few years, we’d tackle each room as we were able, discussing how we wanted to modify it. Phillip was able to manage the carpentry, electrical and plumbing work, and I was the delegated painter and designer, although we tend to team well on problem-solving and innovation. I designed stained glass windows and Phillip created them. We’d get ideas from magazines, movies, memories and old photographs, and then incorporate these into our plans and dreams.

Dining Room
Dining Room

In 2005, we hired builders to “rough-in” an addition to the house for my mother, but her death and waning finances prevented us from finishing it for a few years, so we used the addition as our “summer escape,” until we’d saved enough money to convert to geo-thermal heating and cooling for the house, and Phillip tackled the huge job of finishing the addition.

february 2005 015

inside additon 004By 2010, we had our home the way we’d imagined it, with just a few touch-up’s and minor remodeling jobs left. The gardens were looking good and Full Moon Cottage began to match the dreams we’d imagined all those years ago.

January 4-Leggeds, Trail 048

January 4-Leggeds, Trail 044

January 4-Leggeds, Trail 036I was thinking about all these adventures over the weekend, when subzero temperatures set in and we gathered in the living room to read and sit by the fire. I looked around the sweet room and lingered on all the work Phillip has done to make it beautiful.

Of course, now I vacuum and cover all the furniture with clean blankets every morning, then wash and dry the blankets at night, so the 4-leggeds can relax and, at the same time, the furniture can be protected and perhaps last a few years longer. Some doors are closed to the 4-leggeds, so dander and fur are prevented from spreading, and a section of the kitchen floor is clearly a feeding zone.

January 4-Leggeds, Trail 017

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054

060

074

063So yes, the house is finished, more or less. And it’s probably loveliest to see when it’s company-ready. But it creates the loveliest memories when we’re gathered together on weekends, sitting on fleece blankets, cuddling with cats and dogs and enjoying the love that makes Full Moon Cottage a better home than we ever dreamed it would be.

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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.

The Space Between the Notes

Eagles, Wollersheim, Murphy 033

“Music is the space between the notes.”  ~ Claude Debussy

The long inhalation of excitement and joy that begins in September and lasts through the Christmas holidays has been exhaled over the past week or so. The decorations are almost all put away—a few are “wintry” enough to last through February, along with a few that foretell Valentine’s Day—and my energy has settled deep within.

St Coletta sleds, birds, cats 016

St Coletta sleds, birds, cats 030We attended a post-holiday-holiday-party and several guests mentioned their dislike for the months of January and February.

I nodded sympathetically but remained unengaged with the conversation, because I tend to love the months for their stillness and gifts of time for sifting through recent experiences, re-gathering my spirit, noticing little regressions and evolutions, and seeing clearly where I am on my journey, before heading into the new year with renewed energy. Each new year is like a musical composition my little spirit co-creates with Spirit. Twelve measures of music, or possibly 52, or 365; each a movement of its own. I’m grateful it begins–somewhat non-traditionally, I suppose–with a long rest, so I can hear the music shape itself and its themes for the coming year.

Many of the other guests at the party were teachers, however, and I could empathize with their post-holiday weariness and return to classroom routines.

January and February can be cold and the days are still brief. Their passage can be slow and uneventful and they’re rather anticlimactic, following the long season of holidays and traditional gatherings with friends and family. The crescendo diminishes to silence.

But what an invitation to be creative and start some new traditions!

Phillip and I tend to use these slower winter months to get out of the weekend routine and go on day trips. Last weekend, we traveled to the Wisconsin River area and combined an eagle-sighting adventure with a visit to a well-established and award-winning winery.

Eagles, Wollersheim, Murphy 059

Eagles, Wollersheim, Murphy 057

Eagles, Wollersheim, Murphy 042

Eagles, Wollersheim, Murphy 062

Eagles, Wollersheim, Murphy 099We have a few more adventures planned between now and spring break, and I’m looking forward to them. Sometimes we’re surprised by the fun a new place or experience offers and even if it’s less than stellar, we’re together and, usually, laughing.

This week, I was surprised with a visit from my nephew and his family, a true boost to the spirit. One of the gifts of working at home is being able to say yes (or, as we say in Wisconsin, “You betcha!”) to spontaneous visits.

Andrews Family 015I’ve always thought it would be fun to schedule gatherings with close women friends during these months, to share spiritual stories, practices, books, and films, and to reinforce each other’s spirits and affirm our journeys. We become so busy when the days grow longer. It might be helpful to get together once or twice a month in January and February to transfuse each other’s spirits with renewed energy and share a very-mini-retreat, helping each other get our spirits in tune for the months ahead.

Traveling through the year’s music, its rhythms and beats, its familiar melodies and new improvisations, invites greater intentionality and sensitivity from me than I was prepared or wise enough to offer when I was younger. Letting Spirit be the conductor is easier, however, and I welcome her gift of an initial multi-measure rest, because it allows me to hear her deeper song, the one she sings in my heart and bids me to dance when the music of the year continues.

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Eagles, Wollersheim, Murphy 027(Murphy says, “I crawl under my blanket, watch Downton Abbey, and take a two-month retreat.”)

 

© 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.

Solstice: Peace After the Storm

Snowstorm 254A glorious blizzard has kept us home for the past two days. I walked out early yesterday to enjoy the snowfall. The air was warmer than I expected and the snow was heavy and wet. The woods were magical and the trail deserted.

Snowstorm 059The sky told of the blizzard to come.

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Snowstorm 077By the time I’d turned back, high winds were causing very low visibility and the snow stung my face and hands.

Snowstorm 105

Snowstorm 263Phillip started plowing early, but eventually stopped to let the winds have their way.

Snowstorm 158We decided to watch movies, eat Christmas cookies, and enjoy our snowday. The winds howled furiously throughout the night. We were both awake until after one o’clock and then dropped off, despite the wind’s wailing. We woke to find a lovely old ash tree had fallen across the drive.

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 096While Phillip removed the tree, I watched feathered visitors bob up and down in the birch tree, risk flights to the feeders, and then fly quickly back their perches.

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 126

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 129

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 136

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 162

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 180

Blizzard, aftermath, birds 189Tonight, the winds have quieted and we’re all hoping for a peaceful Solstice sleep…after more Christmas movies, a toasty fire, and popcorn to celebrate.

057Wishing you all a season of light and eruptions of joy…

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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.

A Story for the Season

On Sunday, after I’d put away Thanksgiving decorations, we decided to begin setting out a few Christmas pieces to ready our home for the holiday. Every day, I’ve pulled out a new box and selected a few decorations to place in a window or on a mantel, noticing the stories all around me: stories behind every decoration and every piece of furniture where they’re placed…I cannot separate myself from these stories; my own accrue and add new layers to the objects until finally, everything shines with story.

My great-grandfather made this little table, from scrap lumber and fruit crates, for my mother when she was a child. She collected the pewter dishes.

Due to our new cat, Fergus, and his continued period of adjustment to our home, and us, and the 4-leggeds, we’ve decided that maybe a Christmas tree encrusted with all of our glass ornaments wouldn’t be such a great idea this year. In past years, the cats have enjoyed playing and resting on the quilt beneath the tree; this year, I’m afraid that feline power struggles might bring it all crashing down. Better to lower the odds, I think. There are plenty of ways to make the home festive without a tree, but we’ll miss it.

Murphy and Mulligan napping beneath the tree.

Fergus and the dogs are doing fine with their introductions; the other four cats (oh, God, I’ve become the Crazy Cat Lady) are struggling a bit more with the refinement of pecking order and ego assuagement. We have every reason to believe all will be well, but these relationships, these stories, will need to progress according to their own timing, and I think we owe our 4-leggeds all the time they need. Fergus is as placid as Buddha sitting in his kennel, despite the sniffs, spits, and indifference form his new siblings. He forbears.

When he’s alone with me in my office, he loves to sit beneath the computer screen and watch the birds through the picture window. He runs to the door when he hears the other cats; he yearns for community, it seems. He loves fearlessly.

Today, his siblings entered his private room and began to sniff and acquaint themselves with Eau de Fergus. Murphy and Mulligan were especially intrigued, meticulously conducting their version of a CSI, and covering every square inch of the room before accepting a treat.

Murphy smelling Fergus’ food bowl.

Tonight, we’ll supervise a first face-to-face visit and see how it goes. We’re hopeful that by the time the New Year rolls around, we’ll have a larger, peaceful, and happy family. Fergus appears to be a force of love; he audaciously chose me on the trail one very cold, wet day and followed me home, and has never stopped exuding that charming trust and desire to connect. All creation, it seems, can reveal the Love of our Source. We often overlook, I think, the myriad ways those with whom we share the planet can teach us about love and loving.

I read that Pope Benedict XVI (“Buzz-Kill Ratzinger”) has written a new book in which he states there were no animals or angels present at the birth of Jesus, nor was that birth date calculated correctly. While I understand his point is to de-mythologize Jesus and place his life within a more historically exact context by removing the inaccurate embellishments that surround our handed-down version of Jesus’ birth, I also believe that for many people, the animals, shepherds, and angels are intrinsic to the story, especially for the young and young-at-heart. For Christians, this was a life like no other, a life that serves as a template, worthy of celebration, as all lives are, but one that was recognized as such from the start.

So rarely do we see the ways Love in-breaks and enters our world, causing unnoticed eruptions of hope and joy all around us.  But once, more than two thousand years ago, some of us were actually paying attention. The story that celebrates the birth of one of us who got it right needs no updating or fact-checking; it was never about the angels or animals, but they pin it down in our imaginations and allow us to vicariously enter the birth and so the life, and so the dance of pure goodness modeled for us, however clumsily we misstep.

And when I do falter in my dance, I have always found animals whose love can lead me back to the path quicker than any sermon. Humans like Jesus are rare indeed; animals who love as selflessly as Jesus are not.

I believe we should be very cautious about re-writing well-known and beloved stories, and even Pope Benedict, a Vatican correspondent said, agrees that the traditions surrounding Christmas play a role in nurturing our grasp of the deeper truths the story reveals.

Our own stories, the ones we write with our lives, reveal their deeper truths, too, if we listen. This Christmas, we won’t have a tree, lit and splendid; instead, we’ll celebrate two stories: the birth of Jesus (which is the story of Love’s possibilities being born every day, always, in our hearts), and our story, too, about a tiny abandoned cat named Fergus, who loved everyone he met, and his new family, who had to learn more about loving so fearlessly.

It’s going to be a good story, I can tell: the echoes of other stories and the spirits of those we’ve loved will shine all around it…There will be many animals as featured characters in this new story, and I’m quite certain that on Christmas Eve, when we gather together for treats where the tree would have been, we’ll hear angels singing.


 

© 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.

Thanksgiving!

Now is the lovely time for naming and celebrating the residents of our grateful hearts. The anticipation of a holiday gathering is as sacred as the day itself. By its happy nature, our time spent making lists and making ready confers blessing upon those whose coming is eagerly awaited.

We review the natures, distinct and beloved, of our family members and friends (although, as we age, all become family, it seems), and carefully seek means and considered pleasures to suit each one’s taste and desires for comfort. We hold their travels in thought and therefore prayer. We decorate and clean our homes, bake favorite foods, and honor traditions and expectations that make the day our own, known and spirit-soothing in its annual familiarity, while holding generous space open for unexpected rituals, late arrivals, and new participants.

We mourn the loss of those who have changed worlds. We welcome their spirits and share their stories, and realize they, too, are present in our preparations and celebration. Sweet shadows and echoes surround us; we move in patterns created and danced by generations, our hearts reach and touch their light, our love gathers all to the table.

A Blessed Thanksgiving and Holy Communion to all…

 Bless our guests, those we hold in holy anticipation…

The merry,

the meek,

the picky,

the grand,

the peevish,

the extroverts,

the loners,

the funny,

the sad,

the early birds,

the latecomers…

May all feel welcomed and essential.

Bless us all in our gathering and gratitude.

And bless all in their sweet departure:

May they be fortified

and fueled by love.

 

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

 

Departures, Heralds, & Wonders

Deep autumn has come to Full Moon Cottage and its neighbors. The fields of feed corn have been harvested and cut back to the earth. Ridges of golden stubble stand in rows that stripe the hills.

The landscape and its population are transformed. Shorn of the dense stalks, our view is lengthened and widened to coming winter’s stark openness. Whatever—and whomever—the cornstalks obscured now risks exposure. Deer wander the furrows and debris, seeking sustenance, and providing defensive exercises for Riley and Clancy as they patrol the eastern windows.

Every morning, between 7 and 9 A.M., I receive faithful, raucous, reports delivered every-5-minutes in yips and barks and meant to alert me to deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit and low-flying hawk movements on the lawn or in the bordering woods. Or in the far distance, just in case territorial invasion might be imminent. (By 9 A.M., the daylight counsels the wild ones to conceal themselves again, and the dogs are ready for a well-earned nap. Mom is ready for a Bloody Mary, but settles for tea and quiet.)

Other surprises have come out from the cornstalks as well. This little fellow emerged from the farmer’s field beside the trail and followed me home a couple of days ago.

Apparently, his first year of hard-knock life has sharpened his abilities to identify me as an easy mark. He is now housed and fed and has received a fine once-over from our wonderful veterinarian. It will take a few weeks before “Fergus” is ready to socialize with the rest of the clan; hopefully, his integration with the other 4-leggeds will be peaceful. (Insert laughs.)

Our summer companions have begun to ready themselves for hibernation, flown to warmer habitats, or surrendered their brief lives to the circle’s rhythm. This beautiful Clouded Sulphur butterfly succumbed to the cold that blew down the trail last night. I offered it a blessing and gentle burial beneath leaves at the side of the trail.

The red-winged blackbirds are flocking up, rehearsing songs, and preparing for their migration. Huge numbers gather on the new islands the drought formed in the river. The air is warming again and expected to reach temperatures of 65°F (18°C) by the weekend before dipping back down again to a more seasonal 40°F (4°C) on Sunday. The blackbird choir will be missed, but their departure signals that the welcome and deep silence of winter is near.

Departures may also serve to herald the new.

Frost, the art designer that accompanies our colder temperatures, nightly paints the gardens and grasses with glittering beauty, creating visions of stunning glory even in death, a fine way to translate one’s energy during times of transition, I think.

Conversely, bringing the houseplants back indoors last month generated unexpected and early blooms in the cactus, violets, and even the jade plants, making the house more colorful and cheerful than the grays and browns that begin to dominate outside.

Our daily walks are a bit more brisk and bundled, and we’re happy to withdraw indoors, rest with books and tea (and 4-leggeds’ treats), and slow our rhythms down to congruence with the rest of nature, grateful for the sweet blessings of Fergus and cactus blooms, heralds of hope and affirmations that the circle’s turning continues and continues to offer surprising gifts, if we open our eyes and hearts.

 

© 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.

A Separate Kingdom

The sudden warmth and recent rains fed the mycelia of several fungi, their “fruit” decorating the earth and trees along the trail.

It seemed the trees, stripped of their leaves, had donned sweaters and waistcoats, using the various fungi as buttons. Or maybe the fungi are badges of honor awarded the trees for surviving the summer’s drought.

This one looked like a trumpet, playing music from another world, or perhaps an ear for whispering one’s secrets to the fairies…

The truth-according-to-Western-science tells us fungi are neither animal nor plant, though closer kin to animals, having separated from animal origins and pursued their unique evolutionary path some 500 million years ago. They have been accorded their own scientific classification kingdom, separate from plants, animals, archaebacteria, eubacteria, and protists. A fungus can be microscopic or develop into an organism covering thousands of acres (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=strange-but-true-largest-organism-is-fungus).

Fungi break down the world and continually recycle her matter; they may be perceived as beneficial or destructive, offering a “Shiva” kind of energy for our world. Without fungi, we’d lack wine, beer, cheese and yeast breads, many medicines, drugs, and, of course, the ability to live on the planet. But they can also poison us and destroy plants and other animals we value.

They remind me of Good Witch Glinda’s question to Dorothy: Are you a good fungus or a bad fungus?

Perhaps, as with people, and that other unique kingdom known as “political candidates,” whether the answer is “good” or “bad” depends upon one’s perspective.

The temperature has dipped; cold winds do blow, and the fungi fruit has already withered and blackened.

Locally, that other kingdom’s inhabitants, the political candidates, are still very active, though I expect their noise and presence to recede, somewhat, by November 7th.

Happy Full Moon; peace and safety to all life along the hurricane’s path; and may the spirits of Halloween bless you with sweet surprises!

 

© 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.

Something Wicked

I love the celebration of Halloween: the decorations, the pumpkin-carving, the bonfires, the masks and costumes, the trick-or-treating and the ghost stories. If you visit Full Moon Cottage any time after Labor Day, you know it’s the home of someone almost crazed about Halloween. Luckily, my good-natured husband encourages, or at least welcomes this. Cats, pumpkins, witches and ghosts…they’re everywhere!

To understand, you need to know about the Halloween of 1963…

In those days, trick-or-treating was an after-dark celebration, walking door-to-door in the neighborhood, accompanied by friends and siblings and, usually, a parent who stood (thankfully) in the shadows, enjoying the spectacle, keeping an eye on us, chatting with friends, and making sure we said, “Thank you.” (The other parent was stationed at home to hand out candy to other eager trick-or-treaters.)

For weeks, high energy fueled the anticipatory excitement of fantasizing about our costumes, planning the trick-or-treat route, speculating about others’ costumes, choosing and addressing cards, and looking forward to the classroom parties. It all culminated on the glorious day of Halloween (not the weekend before or after, but on the very day, October 31st), a day of celebration at school followed by a night of donning our amazing (usually homemade) costumes and going “trick-or-treating,” slowly navigating our way around a few blocks of homes whose windows and porches glowed with lit pumpkins and whose yards featured cornstalks, fabricated ghosts, and goblins. It seemed all the world (circumscribed by those few blocks) agreed that life was enchanted, if only for one day and night every year.

We carried decorated bags handed out at area groceries, bumped into other costumed kids, enjoyed the neighborhood decorations and laughed at the adults who also wore costumes and “scared” us when we came to their doors… Everything about the evening was magical.

When we arrived back home, we dumped our treats on the floor and swapped candy, more cagily than Wall Street traders.

“I’ll give you two Butterfingers for six caramels…”

“No. Two Butterfingers and one Chunky…”

“…For six caramels and a Bun Bar!”

“How about six caramels and a popcorn ball?”

“Is it one of Mrs. Heidke’s popcorn balls?”

“Yes.”

“Deal!”

We were only allowed to have one treat a night thereafter, and tried to be the one whose candy lasted the longest, at least through the second week of Advent.

After trick-or-treating, the neighborhood public school invited everyone into the gym to watch cartoons and a Walt Disney movie, a rare treat in those days. The Halloween celebration was probably all over by 8:30 or 9:00 P.M., but it seemed to last forever. We drifted off to sleep on stardust.

But in 1963, that fateful year when I was eight, a tonsillectomy left me bedridden and unable to participate in all the fun.

The surgery itself was very like a horror movie, so there were Halloween-like elements to the experience. The Dayton Children’s Hospital was at that time an old converted mansion, and I clearly remember my parents exchanging looks that questioned the sanity behind this decision as we crossed the threshold very early on the morning of Friday, October 25th. They quickly rearranged their faces and smiled at me, telling me “what an adventure” this would be, but I was not mollified by their reassurances after glimpsing their initial expressions. Parental energy was never hard to read, and they were anxious and worried.

Within an hour, I was given a mini-hospital gown, even uglier than those offered now, and a shot of something that made me dopey. (Dopier, my brothers would have said.) I remember the smell of ether and some of the hallucination that followed. (It started with the twirling pinwheel from the beginning of every Twilight Zone episode.)

When I came out of the anesthetic, I was assaulted by more pain than I’d ever felt. Apparently, the surgical tool of choice for tonsillectomies in those days was a hacksaw. I also remember the drive home later that day, my mother and I sitting in the back seat so she could hold both me and a coffee can, in case the ether made me ill. I’m pretty sure it did. (I’ve often wondered: did the hospital staff suggest a coffee can? Did they supply it, from a stockroom full of empty coffee cans, hacksaws and ether?)

For the next few days, all was darkness.

Oh, there were bright spots. My grandparents sent me a huge box of books, toys, and candy. My best friend brought me not just my homework, but a present every day for the two weeks I was healing, and an extra-magnificent bag of candy on Halloween. My classmates sent me treats and cards, and my family tended me well…I made a bigger caloric haul than if I’d actually gone out trick-or-treating, and opened more gifts than if it were my birthday, but it didn’t assuage my disappointment in missing out on the fun. And I couldn’t eat the candy, anyway, till my throat healed.

I’d lost Halloween and nothing could replace it.

All that love held me, shone around me, showered upon me, but the disappointment of a child can overshadow everything around her.

My throat eventually healed, and I still had a few great Halloweens to enjoy, but missing my eighth was always recalled as something wicked that came my way.

Many years later, after many lovely blessings and a few and more deeply wicked twists visited my life, I met Phillip. And the fairy-tale I always knew would happen, did.

Once we were settled at Full Moon Cottage, we began shaping our own traditions and I started collecting decorations for the holidays that mark the seasons of the turning year. Frequently, when decorating and celebrating, my inner eight-year old comes out to play, and never more ecstatically than during the Halloween season. Every year, she regains the magic of the Halloween she lost, while the inner wise woman I hope I’m becoming stands back and recalls, in gratitude, all the love that surrounded that eight-year-old and her healing back in 1963.

This year, maybe we should swap candy and watch a Walt Disney movie. In costumes, of course. Good thing I found Mrs. Heidke’s popcorn ball recipe!

 

© 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 Training of Humans, by Finnegan, the Cat

The human who passes for “my mother” in this absurd and endlessly amusing world is temporarily away from the computer (to which she seems permanently attached these days). She is probably searching the freezer for chocolate remnants; such is her crazed obsession and weakness. Formerly, her power to withhold the delicacies for which I yearned was somewhat stronger, although years of training have resulted in my ability to “guide her” into what I have determined is behavior necessary for my survival and peak mental acuity.

And it is this training of humans I propose to address today. All training, of course, is created with the deliverance of treats and comfort as its endgame and ultimate goal.

I have found, over the course of many years filled with trial and error, that despite their reputations for clumsiness, ineffectual respect for boundaries, and inability to (initially) acknowledge feline superiority, humans can, eventually and with steely perseverance, be trained to follow simple commands and even gain some reliable abilities to serve the cat who can be patient and occasionally indulge his human’s need for affection without, of course, becoming overly familiar or permissive.

Here are just a few techniques I have mastered and I share, to ease your task if faced with breaking-in or training a human. Progress to advanced techniques with great caution; my human, at any rate, forgets our lessons quickly and new tricks must be reinforced repeatedly, for days on end, before the lessons are extended.

To begin: Studied indifference, a cat’s natural inclination, cannot be overstated for its power to guide a human towards subservience. When mine calls, I do not immediately run towards her, like my “siblings” (perish the thought), those two dogs, who–from my educated perspective–are slobbering, mentally bereft beings barely able to form thoughts, let alone string a few together and design a potentially rewarding action. (I weep with mirth at the thought of them actually trying to execute an action with finesse!) But I digress from the intention of this post; to wit: training and maintenance of the human, and the uses of indifference. She calls; I remain seated with my eyes closed. She calls again; perhaps I open one eye before settling more deeply into my comfortable seat, or blanket.

I have learned that if every fifth call is responded to by slowly approaching her, my majesty and superiority clearly apparent, I will gain greater pats, kisses, and treats than if I respond, like an imbalanced fool, to her every attempt to summon my presence. Try this over the course of a few weeks and soon you’ll find that your human’s rightful deference to your feline preeminence will infuse and dominate your exchanges; have no doubt.

Indifference can also be used when one is offered a gift; its purpose being to gain greater gifts and with more pleasing frequency. Thus, when a new and tempting foodstuff or toy is set before me, I sometimes sniff and then seemingly reject it, walking away, until I hear my human’s downcast sigh. I may stroll casually, in calculated and slow circles around a table or room, glancing back only occasionally, before again approaching the delicacy or delight, feigning a lack of desire. I cannot emphasize enough that if you do not practice this and instead pounce upon a proffered treat with naked, joyful hunger, you will lose the upper paw in your training regimen.

If you have younger felines in your household (I, alas, have three) they can be used for more than substitute mice, although certainly this is their chief source of amusement. I have trained the one who seems most appealing visually to beg for food with unremitting, if sickening, cuteness. I learned about this quite by accident, but in my admirable way, seized upon the opportunities it presented. Murphy (also known to our embarrassingly simple humans by the stomach-emptying nickname, “Bunny Bundles”) began to follow me into the bathroom sink during my morning frolic.

I pushed him out. He jumped in again and again, despite my efforts to curb his enthusiasm for bonding with what he called his “big brother,” having understood that our humans’ use of this term implied I was in agreement with its implications regarding our relationship. I was not. But as I pushed him out of the sink yet again, I noticed our actions in the mirror and, like lightning, formed a plan. His next imbecilic leap beside me resulted in an embrace and a lesson, using the mirror, regarding methods for appearing vulnerable and in need of caresses.

It has paid off in spades.

Now, when I desire a caloric boost, I simply poke Murphy and he dutifully jumps up to the human’s desk, or lap, gently pawing or nuzzling, sharing the well-rehearsed innocent, large-eyed expressions our bathroom sessions have helped fashion, and quickly gaining us added visits to the troughs of heaven (as my poetic nature leads me to call them). It seems to be a form of human enchantment; it works so quickly and unerringly. If you lack younger siblings and can endure behaving in a manner so demeaning, I recommend using a mirror and practicing first. The one time I tried it I scared my human, who thought I had taken ill. This was most awkward and unplanned, and the resulting probing and application of thermometers most unpleasant. Thus, and ironically, I am thankful, at least in part, for Murphy’s presence.

My sister, Fiona, has so far not responded to my enticements in regards to training our humans; I believe, as the sole and spoiled female feline, she believes it is an unnecessary bother. One day, I fear she will discover the error of her ways. She cannot hide behind her angelic persona forever.

The last technique I will share today is one I call “blocking.” I am facile with this practice, but have taught the technique to the younger Mulligan, due to his accepted proclivity for obtuseness and my clever use of this in human training strategy.

At my prodding, he will stand in front of the television screen or computer screen, staring vacantly, in that way he has, without menace or purpose. The humans will gently ask him to move. I have trained him to always look to me first. (This required endless hours and I find I am still recovering from the weakened state of total exhaustion that communicating with Mulligan requires, but it has achieved dependable results.) At any rate, I am stationed behind my humans when he does this and signal, with my commanding glare, that he remain in place, blocking their view of whatever idiocy has entranced them. Eventually, one of the humans will remove to the kitchen and fetch treats to lure Mulligan away. And, in their blessedly misguided generosity, if one receives treats, we all do.

As with all my training techniques, it works like a charm.

I have so much more to share and will gladly do so at some future time. I can hear my human approaching and must locate Murphy, to prod him into character, mastering yet again his appealing mendicant posture.

Having a well-trained human in the home makes life purrfect.

 

© 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 Tall Tale Made Short

I belong to a family of rodents called Sciuridae. We have been dancing through trees, scurrying along the earth, and burying our treasures for millions of years, although my own story might have been all too brief had my wits not saved me. Here is how it happened:

One fine morning I woke, stretched, listened to birdsong, and pondered my possibilities, open to surprises, should they come my way. The days had been long and lovely, and I had no reason to expect this day would be any different.

How many adventures have begun with just such happy disregard for unforeseen consequences?

I looked about for friends to share my exploits. It is better to travel in the good company of one’s companions, but I was a fellow known for my daring, so not finding my friends at the ready, I set out to seek food and whatever excitement presented itself.

The morning passed merrily enough; there is a place near my summer home where a large creature sets out kernels, water, and seeds we squirrels enjoy, and there is usually enough food to fill our bellies and allow us time to chase across trees and play by the river. The nighttime monsters are fast asleep and we are free to enjoy ourselves.

This day, I was playing rather further into dusk than I should have been, I realized later. (This is what the Wise Ones Who Hoot call retrospection.) I heard my family chattering for me to return home to the summer nesting grounds, but I was observing moths and bats, the endless circle of predator and prey, and trying to recall where I’d hidden seeds and nuts for a special treat. When I recalled the place, just near the forests’ edge, I hurried and began to dig, unearthing a very large acorn as my reward.

And so, when the monster seized me by the tail, I did not have time to react. I was at once so overtaken by panic and pain that my mind could not conceive of escape. I twisted and turned and pulled, by instinct.

And then I thought to toss away my treasure, pulling away with the last bit of strength I could muster as I threw the acorn far to the left. I heard, but could no longer feel, my tail ripping away as the monster tugged. Then he stupidly—as I had suspected—fled towards the acorn. I bounded away to my home and friends, not daring to look back.

The pain—and wisdom—came later, as I healed. My elders have told me this is often the way of it.

I have lost the balance, agility, and ability to communicate that my tail afforded me, but I have become a much more eloquent and careful communicator in my chatter. And my adventures now take place in the good company of my companions, for I have learned that one who is heedless of community exposes himself to monsters who hide in the dark.

But if you still have an independent spirit of adventure, as I must admit all great Sciuridae do, take care that you are armed with treasures and prepared to throw them away.

And, for goodness sake, learn how to craft a tale, for doing so has won me many a tasty tidbit!

Such is the wisdom of hindsight.

Thus ends my “cautionary tail.”

 

© 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.

Good Friend for a Dry Season

No rainfall since May 6th translates to bone-dry gardens, a sketchy water level in our well, and a daily round of discernment regarding who and what will receive a portion of the precious remaining water to share.

One of my new friends this summer is a pensive Gray Tree Frog who prefers silence and solitude. Though the males of the species often live solitary lives, my friend seems to be a particularly brooding contemplative.

He appeared relieved the morning we met, however, when I gently filled a flower pot’s rim with water. By the time I set down the hose and grabbed the camera, he’d already settled in for a soak.

I suspected my presence–and with a camera–may have challenged his comfort level, so I allowed him privacy to enjoy his bath, but returned later to make sure my guest was content, and found that he had changed locations and colors.

I learned his color changes are possible due to chromatophores, star-shaped pigment cells in his skin; different chromatophores contain different granules of color. A change in his coloring can be triggered by a number of different variables: excitement, humidity, light, temperature or surroundings. The morning we met, he first matched the table beneath the plant, and when we parted, I think he hoped to be camouflaged from his over-zealous hostess, so I retreated, assuring him that I was at his beck and croak.

He comes to the deck at night, nocturnal fellow that he is, and when we meet in early morning, he’s almost ready to sleep. I would rather he wouldn’t burrow into the soil surrounding my potted houseplants, but it is damp and cool, and what he favors.

I wonder if he changes color at night, if he is most fully himself when no one is looking. Maybe at midnight a rainbow shimmers across his back…

At dawn, I sit beside him as he broods. I think about the ways I change colors and camouflage myself in various crowds. And how I love water, and solitude, and peaceful companionship.

I am learning we are not so different, he and I. We sit together and dream of water for a bone-dry world, and of the star-stuff mysteries we are.

 

© 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.

Sideshow Bob Rosebush

Every good day deserves a giggle, and every day is good…Couldn’t help noticing this resemblance, now that the wild rosebush has lost its blossoms. Joy to your day!

© 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.

Turkey in the Garden

You just never know what surprises a new day has in store for you: Happy Weekend from Full Moon Cottage. Keep your eyes open!

 

© 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.

Sun Salutation

Namaste and Blessed Solstice!

 

© 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.

Sometimes, the Better Dream

Still moving through a lovely dream, I woke

reluctantly,

 left my bed and wandered out

to water the gardens.

Their thirst, I supposed, and even sensed,

was intense,

after days of humid heat

that offered no sip, no drip, no drink,

only, “perhaps…

 just wait…maybe…soon.”

But the rain never came.

I washed dusty leaves and watered deep roots,

bathed and showered each plant, one by one.

Dry soil turned to merry mudbaths

for those who crawl and flutter and hop.

Jeweled drops sparkled on plants that bowed

to drink again.

Birdsong chorused and echoed through trees.

It seemed

the breeze held out its hand;

the garden said, “Yes, let’s dance!”

I stood in deep shadows,

enjoying the show,

wearing pajamas, but fully awake.

Sometimes, the better dream is here.

 

© 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.

First Person, Present

A fullness of life surrounds and infuses Full Moon these days; I can almost hear the carbon dioxide-fueled photosynthesis occurring all around me. And taking in all the oxygen that the green life is sending out in return is intoxicating (or maybe it’s the wine we’ve been sharing on the back deck at day’s end)…I’m reminded, daily, that all of life, all of nature–which includes us, but in which we are not dominant–is neither good nor bad, but only sacred and blessed. The only response I can make is yes, thank you.

Our world is a nursery, over-spilling with new life: flowers, birds, insects, trees, fruits, and vegetables are being born everywhere. Fields have been plowed and seeds sown, nests are full and my gardens are overflowing (a sure sign it will be an autumn of thinning and replanting). For now, they throb with the buzzing bodies of bumble and honeybees. Swallowtails and monarchs flutter and chase among the gardens, and birds sing most of the day, into dusk.

Painted turtles have been wumbling down the driveway, scraping aside earth and digging little pockets for their eggs, and our friend and expectant father, the mallard drake, makes house calls every morning, checking-in on the nest.

The mystery that creates longer hours of sunlight but less time to accomplish everything I’d planned puzzles me, but naps help soothe the strain of the season’s higher math perplexities.

I continue to bike to London and back, most days. (That’s London, Wisconsin, about 4 miles north of Cambridge, and 25 miles west of Rome, in our dreamscape geography.) Life in the marshland and on the lake is just as opulent and full of grace.

This has been an amazing spring; heat and aridity may follow, but I can’t give energy to possibilities and dread when every moment is crammed with so much life. “Look at me,” says the world. Look here! And here! And here! And I think I could fall into this richness, this oxygenated greenness, and emerge on the other side, in some other Wonderland…

I try to be present to both the rising and falling of the year. “Now” is always my favorite time and as I get older, each new season astonishes me with its revelations. Each offers mystery and invites rituals; each stimulates creativity and inevitably, leads to silence.

A few years ago, at just this time of year and late in the day, I happened to be passing through the kitchen and glanced out the large windows facing west to see something magical happening on the lawn. A hatching was occurring, of insects so tiny and delicate that, as they ascended, the low, setting sunlight flashed through them and they became rising points of light. From the sky, hundreds of dragonflies appeared, swooping through the floating lights and consuming them, their own wings flashing and iridescent. The tiny lights continued to rise, the dragonflies to whirl and swirl through, feeding on them. Phillip joined me and we watched, for almost an hour, in silence.

Here we all are, so briefly, shining and consuming light, becoming light and feeding life in turn; how lovely to be part of the rhythm, this beautiful dance, around and around. Now is always my favorite season.

 

© 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.