Saturday, November 30, 2013


For happiness,
how little suffices for happiness!
...the least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing:
a lizard's rustling, a breath, a wisk, an eye glance --
little maketh up the best happiness.
Be still.

-- Nietzsche

Friday, November 29, 2013

Some days you don't need a road sign

We were fogged in all day yesterday; the views from the dining room were completely opaque, as if we'd pulled down pale gray shades to shut out the world.

The food was delicious, the company delightful, the laughter frequent -- and through it all were woven strands and stories of past thanksgivings, past shared meals, and family no longer present -- though they were there in memories, in the china, in the copper-pipe candelabra my husband's father made so many years ago...

Some days you don't need a road sign to realize how pleasant life can be...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have so much to be thankful for today - my chicks came home to roost last night, bringing friends, and we sat up partying and cooking until well after midnight; such fun!

But just as we were heading off to bed, my younger daughter misplaced her cellphone, and after tearing the house apart looking for it with no luck, she started spewing blame: it was all my fault for turning her bedroom into an art studio...

When the cellphone turned up in her jacket pocket, of course, she apologized. But I found it amusing that in the dream that woke me up this morning, I was staring at my computer, and someone had posted an article on Facebook about how saying no to children had been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on their brain cells.

So I found myself thinking, "Oh, good; perhaps now the next generation will do a better job of raising children than we did, because they'll understand the importance of saying no! -- And I woke up determined to post the article on Facebook. It actually took a minute to realize it was all a dream; clearly I have been spending too much time on the computer lately...

Anyway -- as much as I appreciate the joy of food, family and friends, I can't help but be aware of all those who are struggling today, because they are hungry, homeless or ill, or separated from their loved ones. I hope the joy we find this day can somehow overflow onto them, and wish their troubles may be lifted away.

And just a little PS: I'm thankful, also, for all of you who walk this path with me, and wish each of you a joyful and blessed Thanksgiving. May the Lord bless you, and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Go for a walk

Go for a walk, if it is not too dark.
Get some fresh air;
try to smile.

Say something kind
to a safe-looking stranger
if one happens by...

Start a game with some children.
Extend yourself to a friend...

Let's stop reading about God --
we will never understand him.

-- Hafiz

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Clarity in the fog

It's rare that what looks like thick fog at our house is still foggy elsewhere on the island; rarer still to find this perfect combination of fog and sunshine: a light to enlighten and color the subject, and fog to soften and mask the background. 

It's rather like that recent rash of commercials, about preferring "and" to "or:" life is somehow much richer and more beautiful when we find a way to incorporate or balance both sides of being: body and spirit, left and right, light and dark...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Attachment to outcome

It seems to me that much of the tension we create for ourselves in life arises from our attachment to outcome.  Imagine how much more peaceful we might feel if instead of needing to control all the things we attempt to control in our lives we were able to simply step back and observe.

I don't mean disengage: I think much of the joy I find comes from engagement, connection, contribution to any given moment.  But to not need a particular, predefined result; that could be truly freeing...

And now I'm wondering if that's why greed is so destructive, because it's a deliberate -- and sometimes even brutal -- effort to ensure a beneficial outcome...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

In case someone is spying

I better sound smart once in a while,
in case someone is spying.

What if the truth got out
that I really prefer silliness and silence
to offering fancy clues to the universe?


Saturday, November 23, 2013

A drink of love

When you have not had a drink of Love... Cats sense your sadness and call an important conference in a tall tree...

Bring your cup near me, for I am a Sweet Old Vagabond with an infinite leaking barrel of Light and Laughter and Truth that the Beloved has tied to my back.

Dear one, indeed, please bring your heart near me.  For all I care about is quenching your thirst for freedom!

All a sane man can ever care about is giving Love!

  -- Hafiz

Friday, November 22, 2013

The empty cross

Standing here, beside the road,
I see home in the distance
but first I know that I must pass 
that empty cross that links us, 
earth to sky and each to each.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Seeking safe haven

I occasionally get involved in community theater, and this week I was given a role that includes the singing of an old gospel hymn I hadn't heard before.  So I've been spending time learning it, and I find it very moving. 

The sentiments it expresses, I suspect, lie at the root of a lot of the faith we encounter -- in others, and in ourselves. I'm not necessarily saying that's a good thing, or even true.  But perhaps because of my recent time in Iowa, and the devastating storms that have just hit the midwest and the Philippines, and because I've just finished reading Wendell Berry's classics, Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter, it resonates.  Because the song implies both a life of misfortune and a trust that all will come right; that a safe haven lies somewhere ahead,  it touches my heart.  It's called "Farther Along."

Tempted and tried, we're oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all day long
While there are others living about us
Never molested though in the wrong

When death has come and taken our loved ones
It leaves our home so lonely and drear
Then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all, by and by

Faithful 'til death, said our loving Master
A few more days to labor and wait
Toils of the road will then seem as nothing
As we sweep through the beautiful gates

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I love this world,
even as I hear the great wind
of leaving it rising.

For there is a grainy taste I prefer
to every idea of heaven:
human friendship.

-- Rumi

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When the snow falls

There is an old zen saying: "Snow falls, each flake in its appropriate place." It's a lovely way of saying everything is unfolding just as it should, that there is grace and order even in apparent chaos. But it can be hard to accept or believe that in the face of perceived disasters -- the violent storms that have recently devastated the midwest and the Philippines; the loss of a beloved spouse, child, or friend; a frightening medical diagnosis.... Which is why we need one another, and community: when some of us are struggling, others of us can stand, and help, and keep hope alive.  Our roles may shift over time, but faith and trust can keep us steady on the course.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Was that my ego squawking?

I'm deep into Eckhart Tolle's New Earth -- again -- and loving what it has to say about the ego.  Yesterday's quote was particularly powerful, I thought:

"If peace mattered to you more than anything else and if you truly knew yourself to be spirit rather than a little me, you would remain nonreactive and absolutely alert when confronted with challenging people or situations.  You would immediately accept the situation and thus become one with it rather than separate yourself from it.  Then out of your alertness would come a response.  Who you are (consciousness), not who you think you are (a small me), would be responding.  It would be powerful and effective and would make no situation or person into an enemy."

... which is all well and good.  But, you know, I'm human.  I'm able to stay on an even keel most of the time, but every once in a while someone will say or do something that sets me off.  I know enough now to understand that the intensity of those feelings comes from some place other than "true me," but that doesn't necessarily make it easier to deal with in the moment. 

So reading this ... well, it feels like a should; I end up feeling ashamed of the fact that I can still get set off like that -- which I don't think was his intent.  I think Tolle just wants us to wake up, to notice that we can get triggered that way, and not get too caught up in it.

But because I'm thinking about these things, I have to wonder: was yesterday's post all about ego?  Some part of me -- the part that's still feeling a bit shamed by this reading -- says yes; that was ego talking.  But some other, kinder part of me, is smiling, I think: it understands that each of us is much bigger than any of the roles we play, and that somehow putting all that together is just another way of saying, "Don't put me in a box... in fact, don't put any of us in a box."

Each of us is so much more complex than what can be seen in any given situation.  We need to recognize and celebrate that, both in ourselves and in each other.  It's a bit like the six degrees of separation: the more deeply we communicate, the more connected we discover ourselves to be.  It's a way of exploring and discovering the amazing web of being that holds us all together...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hats I've worn...

In my lifetime I've worn rather a lot of hats:

 I've been an accounts receivable clerk, a features editor, a librarian, a wife, a quilting teacher, a book reviewer, a workshop leader, a newspaper columnist, a theater critic, a radio personality, a groupie, a divorcee, a customer service manager, a marketing communications manager, a public relations account executive, a wife again, a documentation manager, a hi-tech marketing executive, a mother, a marketing consultant, a church communications executive, a board member, a copy editor, a preacher, a seminary instructor, a newspaper editor, a photographer, a retreat leader, a musician, a librarian again, a designer, a writer, an exhibitions director, an actress, and an artist.

So -- tell me about your hats!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Morning fog

Silent in the fog,
a ferry glides slowly by;
its wake rocks my boat.

Friday, November 15, 2013

When morning gilds the skies...

Perhaps it's because I'm synesthetic, 

but some images just make music ring in my ears. 
Can you hear it, too?

"When morning gilds the skies,
my heart, awaking, cries..."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's not to love?

Here's what I love:
Light. Space.
Room to breathe and know my roots.
A friend nearby (but not too close) --
grounded, but different:
solid where I am lace,
consistent when I am seasonal,
Safe, contained;
perhaps even a little closed in
while I am always reaching
up, and out --
it's all a matter of balance...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Drawn to the light

However enchanting
this forest in which we stand,
however dark and deep these woods,
some part of us is always drawn to the light.
It helps to keep us moving forward,
for which I'm ever grateful...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An amplitude of grace

How is it, you might ask,
that two can become one?
Must each be an exact reflection of the other?
Or perhaps polar opposites?
Or could it be just simply this:
That together we create one whole, imperfect 
amplitude of grace...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

So often, those who fall 
flame brightest just before the fall;
so, too, brave souls whose loss 

of limb, or heart, or life in war 
burned bright, and oh, so beautiful
in their new uniforms, as we can see
in photos hanging still 

on the walls of the bereft.
Mothers, fathers, wives and children,
sisters, brothers, friends -- 

all troubled hearts: we grieve with you 
today and every day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The masks we wear

Reading this morning about that inner voice that always seems to be chattering away, I find myself thinking about the masks we wear, the ones that hide us even from ourselves.  We read about bad behaviors, and immediately ascribe them to others, never acknowledging that we ourselves are guilty.  We judge others, never realizing that we can only recognize their faults because we've seen them in ourselves.

It seems to me that whenever we find we are congratulating ourselves for good behavior, there's probably some masking going on.  The more serene and peaceful those masks appear to be, the more likely it seems that there's something dark and worrisome churning underneath...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Move Within

Keep walking, though there's no place to get to.
Don't try to see through the distances.
That's not for human beings. Move within,
but don't move the way fear makes you move.

-- Rumi

Friday, November 8, 2013

Missing connections

I spent the last two days up in the San Juan Islands, looking for peace in which to write.  But I got more peace than I bargained for: a broken phone cable below the Sound on Tuesday had taken out all long distance services, most cell services, and disabled the 911 system. Internet services, email, credit card services -- everything that requires some long distance connection was pretty much inoperative.

I met with the assistant fire chief of Shaw Island, who is also in charge of emergency medical services on the island, and he expressed his particular concern for all the elderly residents whose health is less than optimal.  He had a team of people regularly checking on them, but if they should need major medical assistance it would definitely be slower to arrive than usual.  Fortunately they found a workaround to make 911 functional sometime yesterday afternoon.

I've taken breaks from communications in the past, but always consciously.  To find myself unexpectedly incommunicado, however, was surprisingly disturbing -- perhaps because I'm in the middle of several projects that require frequent communication with the outside world, but I suspect it's more than that.

I couldn't reassure my husband of my safe arrival, nor could I console a daughter after a difficult day at work.  I couldn't schedule two impending work assignments, and had no way of knowing if my dear friend Linda in the Philippines had survived the horrific typhoon that attacked those islands. (I now know she's okay, thank heaven.)

So, in the end, I came home.  I caved.  And now I find myself wondering: why are we not more aware of this outage?  Is it not being publicized because unscrupulous persons could take advantage of the situation?  Why is it taking so long to repair?  And what would life be like if such outages were more widespread?  A disturbing thought...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The allure of the familiar

At the end of the day,
whatever its adventures,
there is something in me
that longs to return
to the old familiar barn,
to sup at the trough, bed down in the hay
and fall asleep to the gentle sounds
that have ushered me into dreams
for all these many years:
the wind in the trees,
the creaking of the rafters,
the gentle huff of breath
from those who sleep nearby.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I am the road
you did not take
because you were not sure
exactly where I'd go
or if you had
the traction you would need
to back out when the going
got too rough.

Yet still,
whenever you drive by,
you look at me and wonder...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Feed upon the light

"There is only one fault; only one:
our inability to feed upon the light."

-- Simone Weil

Saying goodbye

Over the course of a lifetime we say goodbye to all sorts of things: people and places, homes and jobs, cherished possessions, hopes, dreams, and possibilities ... And always it seems that however ready we may be to move on, some part of us hates the act of leaving.

I spent this last week with a family of people who were saying goodbye to the land that formed their history, and I watched as each in his or her own way made peace with what needed to be left behind.

Over time, I think, we all learn to be thankful for the blessings that come, not only from the past, but in the process of change: the love shared, the lessons learned, the paths not taken, the gifts that have a way of waiting, just around the bend. But that moment of goodbye is rarely easy...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Broccoli Theory

Those of you who know me well may have heard me refer to something called "Broccoli Theory."  It's my own theory; I call it that because broccoli is sort of like a fractal: the more you look at it, the more complex and interconnected it appears.

My theory -- which came initially from being a photographer --  is this: if you truly pay attention to almost anything you can discover it is infinitely more complex and interesting than you may have thought -- and way more connected to other objects, events and instances in your life than you may have realized.

This image, for example -- one of many taken in and around Iowa over the last week -- was nothing much to speak of as a color photo.  But out of curiosity, I converted it to black and white and now I love it!

... which just goes to show: it's all in how you look at things.  Even a person, who might not strike you initially as worth getting to know, might turn out to have amazing depths if viewed from another perspective. 

Take my husband, for example, whom I disliked intensely on sight:  I didn't like his looks, I didn't like his attitude... But the more I came to know him (thank heaven for his persistence and determination!), the more I found to like -- so much so that marrying him seemed to be an obvious choice.  We've been married almost 30 years now, and I still keep finding new depths to his personality -- a pretty much constant source of joy...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Learn the Alchemy

Learn the alchemy
true human beings know.
The moment you accept
what troubles you've been given,
the door will open.

Welcome difficulty,
as a familiar comrade.
Joke with torment 
brought by the Friend.

Sorrows are the rags of old clothes
and jackets that serve to cover,
and then are taken off.
That undressing,
and the naked body underneath,
is the sweetness that comes after grief.

-- Rumi

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Come sit with me...

Come sit with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals...

-- Christopher Marlowe

Friday, November 1, 2013

No harm in dreaming

Sometimes we cannot help but fantasize
about other people's lifestyles --
I mean,
doesn't this look positively idyllic?

It never hurts to dream --
unless, in dreaming,
we forget how to be present
to the gifts
that are here
and now...