Gentle Peace

DSCF5006We’ve been on a break from school this week and, as with most vacations, the time has flown by. Our days have been filled with daily sessions of spring cleaning, followed by long walks, gatherings, periods of solitude, and late afternoon dates with wine, treats, and enough warm sunshine to sit outside and soak up some gentle peace together.

DSCF5080I fiddled around with a few new art projects I can share with my students during our remaining weeks together.


DSCF5162For the first time we can recall in our decades of living here, the April river is too low for our inaugural canoe ride, but we stood on the bridge and watched those who could enjoy the river do so. This little muskrat seemed to relish his leisurely swim and Narcissus moment of self-reflection and grooming time.


DSCF5121Despite some days of lovely warmth, we couldn’t get into the gardens just yet, except to cut back the grasses where the local bunnies love to nest. Apologies to Peter Cottontail, but I suspect that beneath the porches and decks at Full Moon Cottage, there exists an entire cosmos of warrens and teeming rabbit life; they are not welcome to my gardens as well, although when long-eared scouts venture out on reconnaissance missions, their hopping-stopping behaviors provide energetic barking workouts for the pups, who live to feel useful and appreciated through their protective guardianship of Mama and her gardens.

DSCF5011I’ve learned over (many) years at Full Moon that it’s better to wait until all possibility of frost has passed before I rake away mulch, and too eagerly dig and till…but I could feel the rising joy in my spirit when I noticed how the tulips and daffodils are growing, and the lilac buds are reaching a ripening fullness. Wild daisies, irises, bleeding heart and all manner of weeds are waving their little green flags, and along the trail, the garlic mustard continues its invasion as the ash trees die back from the beautiful, wicked Emerald Borer destroying them. The wild roses, grapes, and raspberries are as determined to thrive as ever; we shall see what evolves.


DSCF5082I learned this week, or perhaps relearned, as I’m old enough to forget and then delight in rediscovering so many things, it seems, that trilliums are also known by the wonderful names “wakerobin” and “birthroot;” who cannot be moved by the ways we address and welcome spring?

DSCF7571We added some finishing touches to the guest room, which has offered a good and pleasant pursuit, as we’ve worked to create a retreat of contentment. This week, we’ve been the guests, enjoying the peaceful colors of the room and the night songs from the river and woods that punctuate the stillness. These are the days for opening doors, opening windows, airing and refreshing our minds and spirits.

DSCF5183Happily, too, we had plenty of time this week to meet with friends for breakfasts, and lunches, and card games, and walks along the trail. We browsed salvage and antique shops, watched a few movies, took luxurious afternoon naps in sunpuddles, as instructed by the cats, and lingered over our morning coffee, sharing our dreams.


DSCF5154And so the earth has turned and we are Winter People breathing into Easter People once more. Wakerobins and birthroots. The dark cocoons are pierced by light and fall away. Again. Always. This week allowed us to emerge in grace, and gently. Stepping lightly into the almost imperceptible unfolding of who we are now.

DSCF5023I’m grateful for the tenderness of the transition, the peaceful companionship of my husband and friends, the restoration and renewal of my spirit, the signs of life and calls of the wild, more music than clamor, a love written in my name and sent as gift, reminding me that all shall be well.

DSCF5046I wish my friends a Blessed Easter, a continued celebration of Passover, and the Gentle Peace of the 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 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.

Walking Each Other Home


“We’re all just walking each other home.” ~ Ram Dass

We learned this week that Clancy has cancer that can, for a time, be managed by medicine. He is able to walk the trail, bark at squirrels, eat, drink and be merry, and we will guard against allowing him any loss of these sources of his joy. Timing is everything; stumbling is human, but, of course, we want to spare our beloved useless suffering.

DSCF2051Every day still begins with our Morning Party, to consecrate whatever adventures come our way. True companionship, which, after all, means breaking bread together, has woven our sacred bonds with each of our 4-legged friends.







DSCF2772Our walks have become even more precious. Thousands of miles covered, over and over, for 14 years, have inscribed our love, our stories, our chemicals, and our spirits on every particle along the way. Our story of deeply-shared love and companionship accrues and circles us; we breathe it in and out with every step. It clings to Full Moon and to every part of the path we’ve covered, day and night.

DSCF2707We have seen the seasons come and go, the river rise and fall, the trees and wildflowers bud, bloom, and die back, and now we face–most compassionately, but authentically–our own family member’s dying and our transforming.


DSCF2796Clancy knows changes are occurring and seems more determined than ever to keep Full Moon Cottage safe from invading squirrels and perceived threats. We bark along with him and Riley at times. I think we are singing our joy, our memories, our fears, and our grief together. The cats look askance, but forebear these concerts.

I’ve always enjoyed Clancy’s help in the kitchen, although his preference has been to plop down right at the intersection of oven, sink, fridge and dishwasher, so I have learned to be a nimble dancer in my culinary activities. I wonder if, after he is gone, I’ll leap over his imaginary presence. The Clancy Ballet.

DSCF2808I find myself wondering a lot about life without him; perhaps that’s a way to try and soften the reality we’re facing…it doesn’t work, anyway. Images of Clancy-less space and activities fade away before I can get a purchase. Which is good, I think, because I’m pulled back to the moments before me, precious and finite and burnished by the utter gift of loving and being loved.

And I take comfort in knowing that when Riley and I one day walk the trail without him beside us, Clancy will be everywhere we are, forever inscribed on our hearts and walking us home.




© 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.

Island Vacation

DSCF0470My husband and I wanted a break. Together. After so many years together, there is little we want or need; instead, the best gift we can give each other is shared time, away from the rutted routines we walk each day. New views help to create new outlooks, and the shared imaginings we have for this slow life we’re co-creating can be stimulated and renewed by travel. The weather’s been warm and the fall color is blushing its way down the state, so we decided to take 4 days and head a bit north, to the state’s largest Cranberry Festival.

DSCF0310Wisconsin produces most of our country’s cranberries and festivals are held every autumn to celebrate the harvest. I’d read something about “1200 booths” participating at this festival, and thought this referred to artists and flea-market/antique vendors. I knew there was a cranberry-focused museum and bog tours, so it sounded like a perfect adventure.

 We drove up the night before the festival opened and met other festival-goers when we checked-in to our hotel. “Oh, we come every year; you’ll love it!” they assured us. We woke up early to head from our hotel to the little town, Warrens, where it’s held. This is what we saw:


DSCF0394A tiny town crammed with thousands of people lugging carts around to booths that lined streets and sidewalks, and narrow, narrow “alleyways,” everywhere. Claustrophobic doesn’t begin to describe it, and the merchandise was largely made-in-China mass-produced schlock. Little art, no antiques. Disappointment…I could feel my anticipation swirling down and drowning in one of the numerous stomach-turning vats of frying fat preparing decidedly non-cranberry food.

It wasn’t a complete or epic fail: We appreciated a brief bus tour of some cranberry bogs and enjoyed the town’s museum, but then exited the noisy, packed town. Quickly.

DSCF032610:00 A.M. and three days left to our Cranberry Festival vacation. Hmmm. Luckily, my travel partner makes me laugh, easily and deeply, and did; all would be well.

Happily, this part of the state is rich in geological and environmental history. The almost 44,000-acre Necedah Wildlife Refuge, just a few miles from the over-crowded shopping spree of the cranberry festival, called to us.

DSCF0399When the “local” glaciers retreated almost 15,000 years ago, they left a vast, low-lying wetland, called the Great Swamp of Central Wisconsin. For centuries, Native Americans lived in this area, which they called “Necedah,” or “Yellow Waters.”

DSCF0420Then Europeans arrived, and their farming, which necessitated draining the marshes, cutting trees, and battling the wildfires which had long nurtured the prairies, eventually destroyed the natural landscape that had endured for thousands of years.

In 1939, President Roosevelt’s administration, through the Civilian Conservation Corps it established, reclaimed burned-out land, restored prairies, oak savannahs, and wetlands, and created the wildlife refuge. Among others, a restored whooping crane population is welcomed to its acreage each year.


DSCF0437We hiked along raised planked trails in silence, feeling cleansed and at peace. A lovely breeze carried the calls of geese, herons, eagles, frogs, and songbirds through the air. It was hard to believe thousands of people preferred what the “festival” offered to what was available at the refuge, but there you go.

DSCF0401The next few days we explored nearby lakes, rivers, sandblows, and the bluffs, mesas, and buttes that are actually former islands in Glacial Lake Wisconsin. We hiked around state parks and climbed for hours, grateful for glorious weather and views.





DSCF0486Sunday morning came too quickly, but we were able to ride into the sunrise and stop at Roche-a-Cri State Park to see the petroglyphs and pictographs of Native Americans, and those who came later. (Note the “A.V. Dean. N.Y. 1861” carving.) 300 steps up, and we had an “island view” that took our breaths away.





DSCF0603For us, vacations are times to “be” together, center our spirits, listen to our feelings and hearts, create new dreams. We like adventures and surprises, and generally don’t over-plan, but the Cranberry Festival that became an island vacation was completely different from what we expected. A perfect gift.



© 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.

On the Path

Phillip sent me a link to an article from The Utne Reader with a note saying,    “…but you knew this already.” The article, titled “Mother’s Care,” speaks to research and therapeutic success in using time spent outdoors to heal the mind-body-spirit, and is excerpted from a new book, The Nature Principle by Richard Louv. (You can read the article here: Mother’s Care.)

The bike trail we live beside is about 50 miles long, and over the last 15 years, it has become my church, my sanctuary, and the place where my greatest healing has taken place. I have biked through hundreds of miles of grief and joy along this path; I have photographed and walked the same ten miles through every season; I have served as sacristan and cleaned the trail’s littered desecration; I have harvested raspberries and mulberries, and saved wildflowers from reckless mowing and destructive snowmobiles.

This bike trail was once a railroad track; her old mile markers and bridges have become hugely metaphorical for me in the years I’ve walked her. I know the trees; I note the dates that species of birds and wildflowers return each spring. I witness evolution: one year the wild roses are plentiful; the next year Queen Ann’s Lace overwhelms all the other plants (though the past several years, it’s been the invasive garlic mustard). I count the blue herons and mourn their diminishing numbers. I stop to watch turkeys, deer, squirrels, hedgehogs, foxes, raccoons (and skunks!) dance their own lives along, or across, the trail. I hear the mournful cries of coyotes at dusk. And all the while, as I observe, and photograph, and walk, and walk, I have been healed and I am healing.

I call my journal “On the Path” after my heart’s home. It holds many reflections from healing lessons offered to me while walking the trail. My cat, Sally, died just as I was feeling balanced again following my father’s death. I had lived with her longer than I’d lived with another sentient being and was staggered by the weight of her loss.

June 5, 2004

Sally died Tuesday…it is now Saturday, a glorious June morning with all the light, sparkle and promise one would wish of the 5th day of June.  Happy brides are anticipating their weddings and gardeners are eagerly tackling their many chores in fragrant and beckoning gardens…I miss Sally every minute; I see her everywhere…or rather, look for her and sometimes find myself calling or singing one of our many songs. So many rituals—21 years’ worth come September—have been abruptly halted.

But grief so easily slips into self-indulgence, the country of sadness and inertia, an excuse for disengaging from responsibilities and the daily round of details that keep one connected to life, a moody rejection of the joys life offers by the armful every moment. It becomes a selfish feast for the ego rather than a tribute to the life of the freshly departed. “Look at me: I’m sad and bereaved and separate from all humanity and special for the pain I’m feeling. Unique in my loss.”

The night after she left, Phillip took the puppies for their walk and I chanced upon a quote I’d posted where I’d always see it and therefore am blind to it and never see it at all… St. Francis de Sales: “Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen, they are present with you”…and right after I sat with those ideas for a moment, P. came in with two lovely and rarely discovered cardinal feathers he’d been gifted right in the middle of the trail—where they hadn’t been a few minutes earlier, on the way out—we both felt they were from Idgi and Sally, a message in feathers—our family code for spirit and communication from places far away and unreachable—“See ya soon! We’ll be waiting. All’s well.”

And on we go to Love, not yet, but soon, our home.

Less than a year later, I was mourning the loss of my mother. My journal and the trail again offered healing.

March 11, 2005

Journeying with the loss of Mama:  (one month)

I agree that life is strange and new and I’m making it up day by day. Some days are easier. Yesterday was gray and cold, and a 12-hour snowfall was gorgeous, but the silence and darkness yanked me down into depression after a while. The birds are singing their spring songs, which is heartening. Tomorrow is Mama’s birthday. I miss her very, very much. 

I wish I could FEEL her essence is somewhere, still, recognizable, and as happy as I want so much to believe she is…Other days, I’m more able to see that blessings accompany even one’s grief.  My capacity for joy is strangely enhanced, perhaps by my psyche’s attempts to keep me emotionally balanced so that neither the depths nor heights are tipping the scale—or perhaps because of the relief that accompanies a loved one’s death. I no longer have to fear it or dread it, and Mama’s suffering is over. Or maybe because my own mortality is finally irrefutable and so why NOT take extraordinary pleasure in a cardinal’s mating song?

For the past 10 years, our 4-legged companions Riley and Clancy have walked the trail with me. Their happy spirits and canine approach to life have blessed me with deeper healing and an ability to live utterly in the moment. We celebrate our time together on these walks.

Long walks also take me deep within my spirit, allowing my imagination to parade its gifts and magic across the stage of my mind. There are days we head out for our five-mile walk and the next thing I know, we’re home again. This means I have to bound upstairs and take notes, because I’ve been “living within” some story plot and solved a problem or two, or written a poem, or outlined a new development/character/idea that needs to be tethered before I leave the deep meditative consciousness yielded by time on the trail. As John Muir noted, “…going out, I found, is really going in.”

Other days we wander and spend time staring at the river, or, as we did this morning, observing great horned owls and hawks dueling along the river, and another immense flock of sandhill cranes bleating their way southward.

Nature is our home; she is the great Mother who welcomes, heals, nourishes, teaches, and celebrates our spirits. Her gifts are threatened when we are not regularly engaged with her, and able to feel and benefit from her touch, smell, sounds, and mysteries. “Outside” becomes foreign rather than part of us, and nature quickly devalues to another source of profit, regardless of the permanent destruction and loss this causes. This is happening right now, in Wisconsin, where mining laws may quickly be changed to allow the devastation of precious geological formations and habitats, all in the name of income fueled by its usual sources, power and greed.

What we don’t value, we surrender, and so we forever lose connections vital to our well-being. If a part of creation meant to heal us has been destroyed, we’ll never be healed as we might have been, but rather, continue to accrue losses and brokenness, which will ultimately be reflected in our people and the institutions we perpetuate. What’s fed, thrives; what’s neglected, dies and disappears.

Physical healing can happen through drugs and machines; spiritual directors may help us guide our spirits to greater wholeness; skilled therapists may help us restore our emotional balance, but nothing replaces the deep mind-body-spirit mending and healing offered by nature.

Give yourself the gift of time outside.

Tell those who would destroy the earth to take a hike.


© 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.



Hallowed Life, Hallowed Death, All-Hallowed

Autumn frost has graced the trail these past few days and walks at dawn have been startling in their beauty: all is gilded with light and dipped in diamond dust. This morning I walked in the low golden light of dawn. Frost had breathed along the sharply cut edges of the grass, leaves, and branches, and scattered their surfaces with crushed crystal.

These are images fraught with dichotomy, revealing both nature’s fragility and its endurance, for even as I photograph the brilliant colors and life encrusted with glittering flashes of light, I am recording its dying; and anticipating its springtime renewal. Everywhere we walk is both a cemetery and a nursery. Every moment holds the yin-yang diminishment balanced with the blossoming of life-death.

Traditional fall harvest celebrations also recognize the paradox of abundance and blessing amidst death and loss. We witness the waning of the year’s light and enter a time of darkness, and so all of the attendant metaphors and archetypes make their annual entrance into our conscious and unconscious pursuits and rituals: death, the shadow, the metaphysical, and the immaterial. We fear our own deterioration and death, and so we mock our decay with heightened, deliberate grotesqueries and dark humor. We’ll trick death by disguising ourselves.

Loved ones who have died often feel closer to our hearts and spirits in autumn. We yearn to connect with them; we honor our ancestors; we recall the dead with stories, and ceremonies, rituals, and reflection.

We sense our own dying as nature dies back to the earth, and we can choose to either avoid these encounters, or quietly and consciously enter and be with them, reviewing our life, “rehearsing” our death, and pondering the miracle, meaning, and mystery of both.

Death, when it’s personal to us, is a close-up, freeze-frame event with a beginning and end. When people, companions, and things we love die, we’re thrust into the sharply-focused now-now-now, followed by days and months of time smearing past as grief shudders through our lives. Our spirits and emotions stagger like clumsy giants caught in the maze of memory and loss. It is a time we often recollect as experienced in shadows, pinned like captured butterflies to grief and its unique mixture of guilt, longing, regret, and emptiness, infused with exquisite sorrow.

But the journey of grief, if we’re willing to travel all the way through it–both alone and with guides and friends to support us–allows us to gain a greater perspective regarding our loss and perhaps rest easier within our own dying. The longshot replaces the close-up, and, in retrospect, we see that death is not a finite event, but only an arc in life’s endless circle. The light returns, and we begin to feel the resurgence it offers, the blessings offered not just by the one who has died, but by the journey through loss itself. Every loss kicks up all the others, and each time we walk with them, we heal more deeply. Our compassion for others’ suffering is more finely-tuned, as is our ability to put the cares of the world into better perspective. The daily round becomes unique and precious, and the mundane is more easily recognized and treasured as miraculous.

When I accompanied the dying on their journeys, I felt blessed by those who accepted death as a natural part of life, and breathed into the journey with love. They grieved their lives and their partings, but they entered the “next arc in the circle” gracefully and with peace. This goes against our societal fear of dying, our healthcare model, and our cultural demands to stay eternally young and to deny death altogether, but most of the many people I’ve journeyed with as their lives changed worlds, have courageously and intentionally chosen this path of acceptance.

Some, of course, preferred the “battle metaphor” perpetuated by our fears and western medical model. From this perspective, death is a source of embarrassment and shame, signifying weakness and defeat. “She’s a fighter!” “Do not go gently!” Their poor bodies were usually ravaged by treatments and drugs and surgeries that may (or may not) have gained agonizing days or months, but little quality time or strength to reflect upon and integrate their dying experience in peace. Their spirits seemed to leave both angrily and broken, and bequeathed the living a legacy of tragic, even fearful memories of the ways one can die.

People who fear death become anxious and parrot popular advice, whether it’s true and helpful or not. I’ve repeatedly heard the lines, “people die the way they live” and “we all have the right to die as we choose,” but my experience has made clear to me that the choices surrounding the way one journeys with death make a huge difference to the dying person and to the peace and the energy surrounding the grief journeys of those who remain. While there isn’t a right, or wrong, or only way to face our dying, there are certainly gradations in denial and acceptance that color the experience. And I have seen that many people do not die the way they have lived; they evolve and transform during the dying experience and exit it healed, granting deep comfort to their loved ones.

The spiritual life is a constant shift between these close-up’s and longshots, freeze frames and moving pictures, encounters with death and renewal. We go within and “introspect” our responses to experiences and loss; we pull back and “extrospect” how these fit into our worldview or gain insights that lead us to alter it. We review and, in retrospect, mine our relationships, experiences, successes, and losses for enriched understanding so we may know where and who we are now. 

Autumn frost invites close-up shots just as autumn colors benefit from long shots; the spiritual life requires a balance between these: both introspection and extrospection are needed as we examine our losses, bless them, heal them as we’re able, and look for the new life they’re generating.

Befriending death, rather than fearing, avoiding, or denying it, is a way of being loving and generous to ourselves and to the entire circle of our journey, and as a practice, it opens a path of gratitude for our lives. We’re continually invited to “heal today,” so that death will be a welcoming and wide-open doorway rather than an experience we’re ill-prepared to meet. Mend, forgive, move lightly, share gratitude, express love, make peace in your life and relationships. Now.

I’m dancing with my life and therefore my death every day, for they are the same partner. And every day, I hope to breathe wisdom and balance my perspectives between long shots and close-up’s; I hope to reflect the beauty of diamond dust at dawn; I hope to feel the peace of the journey; and I hope to rest in the wisdom that it is hallowed and forever.


© 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 Beginning…

I live and write in Full Moon Cottage on the Crawfish River, where my husband (Phillip) and our 4-legged companions (Clancy, Riley, Finnegan, Fiona, Mulligan, and Murphy), along with the changing seasons and many books, provide inspiration for my creative endeavors, including essay-writing, children’s books, gardening, cooking, and photography.

I try to practice yoga and meditation every day, but often find walking the Glacial Drumlin Trail, camera in hand, a greater source of meditative peace. Solvitur ambulando: It is solved by walking! (Or, at least, it’s not made worse.)

Often, walking leads to the discovery of meaning and connection where none at first seemed apparent; the puzzles of life fall into place and the daily round becomes hallowed. Consecrated life: the supposed mundane is transformed and revealed as sacred, as is the walker…

Recently, I’ve made a commitment to live a more consciously-designed “slow life.” What is really worthy of my finest energies and attention? Am I living authentically and using the gifts I brought to this brief and wonderful dance? Can a contemplative core and spirit-level perspective co-exist and remain vital in contemporary American culture, especially given its recent devolution into rampant incivility? With the support of my husband and 4-legged companions, along with a great blessing of friends, I’m setting out on the path and open to its discoveries.


© 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.