Perfectly Content

DSCF7761 It’s hard to believe May is already flowing into June. It’s been a lovely month for gardening, one with that rare balance between rainfalls and sunshine, hot and cool temperatures, time to relax and time to keep up with the weeding and mulching. DSCF7188 DSCF7224 DSCF7247 DSCF7272 DSCF7536 DSCF7558 DSCF7596  This weekend, we’re celebrating our 18th year at Full Moon Cottage. 001 002 003 There were over 4 acres and not a garden to be seen when we took over as caretakers of this piece of earth. The house was in dire need of “renewal.” As every homeowner knows, this is an ongoing-forever process. But Full Moon needed a down-to-the studs-and-back-again facelift. It was hard to know where to start, so we kind of started everywhere at once, tearing up blazing red carpeting, and tearing down walls, and tearing out creepy cabinetry, and tearing off hideous wallpaper. Then, slowly, but steadily, adding wood floors, wainscoting, bead board to the ceiling, new windows, doors, a roof, geo-thermal heating and cooling, an addition and a new garage. Phillip has done almost all of the construction, and I have been his loyal assistant. 001 002 That first summer, we painted the exterior, and I threw a couple packs of annual and “wildflower” seeds into a patch of earth, just to have some color and beauty outside while we deconstructed the inside of the house. 005007 The next year, we added our first big garden, which is still being redesigned, decades later. That’s how it goes. 006 DSCF7769 Then we added a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and gardens in the back yard, by the river. DSCF7771 DSCF7674 DSCF7676 DSCF7703 DSCF7527 DSCF7404  Every time we had to cut down a tree, we built a garden around what remained of her trunk. DSCF7547 DSCF7548 When he edged the gardens every spring, Phillip took the earth he removed and set it in a new space, then covered and mulched it to create a new garden we’d tackle the following year, a practice we continue. DSCF7471 DSCF7488 DSCF7732 DSCF7562 DSCF7645 All those years ago, when first they saw photographs of the house we bought, friends and family thought we’d lost our minds. Until they visited. Then, the magic of this thin place affected them as it had us. Holy ground and sacred space; we made a commitment to Full Moon that we would bless her with our gifts, and she would bless us in return, and that has held true all these years. It has been a relationship and labor of love. DSCF7677 There are so very many things I wish I could change about the world and the state where I live. There are so many things I wish I could change about my health, or my income, or the pie crust I continue to try to perfect (getting closer on that one). DSCF7630 DSCF7700 DSCF6625 But there is nothing at all I’d change about our decision to take over the care of Full Moon and call her our home for these past 18 years. She has been our sanctuary and an altogether grand place of hospitality. She has welcomed and fed our spirits and harbored our families, friends, and beloved 4-leggeds.  DSCF5523 When we feel beaten by the things we cannot change, Full Moon Cottage has renewed us, and reminded us that, over time, dreams come true. DSCF6798

A kind friend asked after my spirit this week, and I searched my heart and answered that I was content. Phillip generally concurs. Our life together is not perfect in a fantastical sense, but we are perfectly content. We owe that to many people, the 4-leggeds, our own work, and our chosen, as well as gifted, experiences, but we also owe our contentment, in large part, to the spirit of Full Moon. So, we are grateful, and celebrating. Perfectly content.



© 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.

Fellow Travelers

DSCF6284The sunrise shouted me out of bed like a réveillé call this morning, and I had high expectations of posting some photos and a few paragraphs by 8 A.M.DSCF5800But that’s not how it works this time of year, and I should know better. Any day may find me migrating far afield with my camera, following winged, two, or four-footed fellow-travelers. So, by 7 A.M., I’d looked through a few photos, sipped coffee, chatted with my Beloved before he headed out to a remodeling job, and then wandered outside with my camera to see if any tulips had blossomed yet. DSCF6251 DSCF6311They had not, so I roamed a bit, and eventually found myself three miles east along the bike trail, resting at the Rock River bridge. Thankfully, I was not still in my pajamas, although I’m getting to the time of my life where it wouldn’t matter all that much if I were.DSCF6301The Crawfish River, upon which Full Moon Cottage is situated, right on the curve of a drumlin, flows into the Rock River, a 300-mile river that is a tributary of the Mississippi, joining it south of us, in Illinois.DSCF6082

In spring, bird migrations follow the rivers to find their way to a kind of grand gathering of the clans at Horicon Marsh, about 40 miles north of us. The migrants offer all kinds of varied bird-watching treats, if we happen to be looking in the right direction, at the right time, and on the right day, because some are here and gone very quickly.

DSCF6067DSCF6009DSCF6203This week, the bit of river overflow opposite Full Moon Cottage has seemed to be taken for a temporary, but welcome, wetlands hostel of sorts, as every morning has revealed different guests, who have flown to Horicon or points north by late afternoon. Blue-Winged Teal ducks stopped over, as did shorebirds like Sandpipers and Snipes. (Sorry, my photos aren’t showstoppers because I was too far away, and didn’t want to wear waders and slog down to the guests’ resting place, disturbing them for a better photo, but you get the idea.)DSCF6114DSCF6271DSCF6276DSCF6265 Flocks of American White Pelicans soared above Riley, Clancy, and me, during our walks this week, also headed to Horicon, to nest until late September. Their numbers have increased since the beginning of our current century, having largely disappeared during the last. Their 9-ft. wingspans and interesting flight patterns always delight me; they shift and flow in horizontal, then vertical lines, then V-formations, gathering clusters, and then shooting off with partners. Somewhere, I imagine a pelican flight choreographer named Randall or Jonathan, clacking his bill and snapping directions at their migration rehearsals. “One-two-three-and…Oh, shit; this is hopeless! Partner up, people! More jazzwings! We’ll never be ready for opening flight!”DSCF6272Their black and white coloring, and long, ridged bills are stunning, and always remind me of Audrey Hepburn in the “Ascot Gavotte” scene in My Fair Lady.

The little wetlands is drying up, due to our lack of rain, but the migrations continue. This week, I’m hoping to see hummingbirds, orioles and grosbeaks; they’re usually here the first week of May. I’m always excited to see them, maybe because of the many migrations I’ve made in my own life; it seems a natural impulse to seek the home that meets one’s needs, and it seems right as well, that strangers should be welcomed for the gifts, color, and variety they offer our lives.DSCF6193DSCF6290So, I set out feeders of sugar water and slices of oranges, as I hope I set out compassion and kindness; hospitality naturally invites such beauty that I would otherwise have missed. As others have welcomed me, I want to welcome others. One of my teachers said, reducing the philosophy of servant-leadership quite tidily, “It’s all about relationship.” We’re all of us coming from our home or going to our next home, sometimes both at once, and the least we can be in passing is generous in our embrace and wise in the recognition that we’re more alike than different.DSCF6105DSCF6328DSCF6262Ascot Opening 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 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.

Hospitality: Of Pests and Guests

Hospitality is the fundamental virtue of the soil. It makes room. It shares. It neutralizes poisons. And so it heals. This is what the soil teaches: If you want to be remembered, give yourself away. ~ William Bryant Logan, Source: Dirt: the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth

So ends a week of surprising visits from pests and guests, which has led me to contemplate the practice of hospitality and its inherent reliance upon both giving and receiving.

I suspect when the energy between host and visitor is balanced, the visitor is more likely to be perceived as guest; when the exchange is energetically imbalanced, perhaps the visit becomes an experience more endured than welcomed…At any rate, I’m struggling with the impulse to label visitors as pests or guests; to paraphrase the quote from Logan, hospitality involves making room for whatever healing is needed; it necessitates giving oneself away, not withholding generosity based on judgments that rank the worthiness of one’s guest by considering some “pests.”

But, to clarify: my initially perceived pests included a virus that has benefitted from the warm winter and damp spring, using them as a fortuitous springboard to attack my irises, whose lovely leaves are spotted and rotting. I’ve cleaned and cut and thinned. I’ve destroyed what plague I could isolate and must now await the healing or demise that may follow.

Another pest shut down my computer quite suddenly this week when I’d hoped to spend fruitful days writing. Ominous messages appeared and before I could even react, my computer, more sentient and capable than I’d known, turned itself off. I was not hospitable to this detour and delay. I wrote what I could with a pen and notebook, then surrendered, my hand cramped and my outlook cloudy. To be honest, I enjoyed a few days of peaceful reading and stillness with the 4-leggeds, until the computer responded to Phillip’s tinkering.

The third pestilence is one that will continue to spread and infect our spirits through the upcoming state recall elections and probably through the presidential election next November. It is the canvassing and unwanted visitations to our e-mail, phones, and doorbell by earnest campaigners. I went out canvassing door-to-door myself, so can hardly fault others for acting to support their own political candidates, but it feels, already, like too much of a muchness. And to be perfectly honest: I have never been persuaded by a phone call, ad, or face-to-face encounter to vote any differently than I’d already determined I would. The urge to disconnect, turn off, tune out, and unplug grows.

But then I would not have the blessings of guests I also enjoyed this week. The loveliest was a visit from a friend with whom I share conversations so intense and deep I need to retreat to stillness and sleep for a day or two so all the meaning can settle, begin to synthesize, and slowly clarify the perceptions that have been altered and better ordered by our time together.

Many paths have led to my passion for hospitality. I have prayed, studied, and entered into friendships with Franciscans and Benedictines, members of two religious orders that value and earnestly tend their vowed commitment to hospitality.

I have worked as a professional and volunteer in both hospitals and hospices, organizations whose names link them to the ancient and healing bond between host and guest—in theory, if not always, ironically, in their environments or the manner in which their services are offered.

The daily round has brought many guests to our door over the years and most have shared their gratitude for our attempted hospitality, saying they feel comfortable, peaceful, and nourished in body and spirit, a testament to the land and environment surrounding Full Moon as well.

These encounters in life that drench it in such profound sweetness and gift make me wonder if I’m missing something when I label other encounters as undesirable and pest-ridden. I wonder what gifts I’m missing in my willingness to close the door to my spirit. After all, Logan says, “If you want to be remembered, give yourself away.’’ No hospitality, no healing on either side of an encounter?

I’m beginning to understand what hospitality means for me: it is the welcome embrace, the open assent to relationship with life in whatever form it presents itself. Hospitality is a posture one assumes; it draws equally upon strength and vulnerability. It creates a necessary portal, enabling our passage to the place where, in relationship, our regeneration and creativity can be stimulated and nourished, our songs can be heard and brought back into tune and resonance with our spirits, and our hearts unburdened and refilled with hope.

Both host and guest create whatever hospitality exists, and in its truest and purest form it can involve such intense engagement, such energetic connection and transference of energy, that it can leave one both energized and depleted, which are natural responses to transformation. A loving sexual relationship offers this; so does a loving spiritual relationship, a friendship, an encounter with one’s sense of the Holy through a stranger, or experiences with other forms of life and nature.

I am changed and new; I am overwhelmed and energized with gift. There is much to do; but first, I must sleep…incubating gifts…healing.

Gratitude is a lovely light to shine on one’s life; I think, though, that hospitality is what makes it possible.

My friend drove off yesterday afternoon. I walked among the gardens, weeding a bit, mothering the irises, admiring colors and turning, over and over, the words my friend and I had shared, planting new perspectives and perceptions, uncertain of their necessary gestation time, but confident they will bloom—created as they were in the garden of mutual and healing hospitality.

A stranger called and asked me to vote for his candidate. I opened my heart to his need to ask, his courage to try, his reaching for support. I shared that I didn’t agree with his choice but sympathized with the time and effort he was offering to make it known. We laughed together.

Even “no” can come from a place of hospitality. We are all, each of us, host and guest, creating our healing, or not, in relationship.


© 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.