Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Aftermath and Power

Hurricane Irene raged through our area overnight Saturday. At our house in particular we were spared the worst, we had no important damage.

We lost electrical power Saturday night and as of this afternoon it's still out. So this afternoon I am writing from the library. Before I came here, I emptied and cleaned the refrigerator freezer. It hurt to throw out so many lovely items of carefully prepared and preserved food: chicken cubes ready to be made into salad; various half-empty veggie packages; two microwave meals I'd forgotten I'd had in there, and lots more. Some of it still had ice crystals, and mostly I cooked that. But once-good food went onto the compost pile.

We have a propane camp stove for cooking, and I kept at the process. Now , newly cooked and in the frig we have green beans and bacon, veggie burgers and one beef burger, and peroigies, an odd combination to be sure, and it makes me laugh. I'm keeping ice in the frig, so there are some greens for salad, and tomatoes from the farm, ripe and delicious at this time of year, waiting on the counter. We have enough. In spite of the power outage.

Power outage, electric power, the power company, real power, no power, powerless... Such a study in the links between the words about electrical energy and social control, physical strength, other strength of all sorts, life control. Power.

How many times have I come square against the recognition of my powerlessness, of human powerlessness?

I set out to walk this morning feeling full of tension and anxious frustration. I knew I needed to do something about the thawing refrigerator freezer. So step-step-step I began to visualize the clean, empty space, began to imagine and formulate an order of action, the ordinary, practical steps I could achieve to create the change from the mess I'd looked at before I left the house to that cleared, white porcelain box. The creative imagination of my life.

Not to be confused with The Creative Imagination of Life.

There have been times in my life when I have been stunned by the real and sudden occurrence of an event that I had simply never imagined. At those times, a change I had not considered possible thrust itself upon me. Such events, though, are uncommon.

Change like the cleaning of the freezer is more common. Ordinary. I imagine and consider a possibility, I formulate a plan of action, I carry through the planned actions (or some variation on the theme) and change occurs, small or less than small. I look around and know that in all the world my procedure is common.

So it makes me wonder, what is the connection between The Creative Imagination of Life that is too big to comprehend, and all the creative imagination of life scenarios going on among us, in every one of us? J.B. Phillips wrote the book Your God Is Too Small. A whole book expounding on the topic, but the title says it all. In these days of earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, wild fire-- whose creative imagination comprehends an Overarching Creative? Can you trust the one who claims to know the will of God? Just wondering...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How about that hurricane?

The sky is dim at eight o'clock this morning, the air is heavy and eerily still, quiet, feeling like hovering doom. Hurricane Irene approaches. Soon I will shower and fill available and still-empty containers with drinking water.

Our social order feels just as heavy as this morning's natural atmosphere. Here is a quote that arrived in my email this morning that resonated in my waiting:

The amazing thing is that Jesus never once says “worship me!” He
says, “follow me” (e.g., Matthew 4:19 [1]).

Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is
simple, non-violent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into a
clever “religion,” in order to avoid the lifestyle itself. One could
be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain, and still believe that
Jesus is their “personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for
such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.
Fr. Richard Rohr

Though I seek to live in a simple, non-violent, shared and loving way, I also recognize in myself anger and greed, selfishness, vanity, and a tendency to look around to identify who is like me and who is other. It's easy to most approve of ones like me, to judge and disapprove of others. Where is the compassion in that?

In college I learned Steps for Problem Solving. The first step: identify and define the problem. Now there's a challenge. Intentional living, making choices toward "solving problems," requires a lot of first noticing, deeply noticing, identifying and defining what is going on. I notice that what is going on is that the human heart-- mine and surely yours, too-- is full of both light and dark, and every shade and shadow between.

The heavy shadow of Irene will pass within a day or so, now.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Warnings

Okay. I stowed the outdoor chairs. I moved the outdoor plants from the north end of the deck to more protected places. I covered the woodpile with tarps and weighted down those tarps real good, yessir.

I moved the Miata with it's canvas roof into the garage, and the two cars to stay outside... well... The cans of fuel for tractor and chain saw are full. Two five gallon containers of water are set in the freezer to become ice chunks to be used later for keeping the refrigerator cool without electricity. In a bit I'll fill the bathtub with water.

The laundry is caught up, and I vacuumed today.

We have gallon jugs of water, three shelves full. We have flashlights and batteries, camping lanterns with fuel, candles and matches. Our can opener is manual. We have a camp stove and fuel. We have battery operated radios and clocks. We have books.

We do not have the ability to spread a shield over our tall trees. We can't cool the house ahead of time so the coolness will last. We do not have the ability to share this coming rain with Texas, where it is so desperately needed. We can't hurry the storm, or stop it either.

All is well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The horses in the meadow and I on the road beside shared an experience of rain this morning, none of us hurrying to seek shelter. The horses, in fact, grazed calmly as I walked along. Animal wisdom assures them and me that not-cold rain causes us no harm.

I came home, stripped off my wet clothes, took a shower, started the washer. Will I hurt less later for having walked earlier? I appreciate the open, exposed out-of-doors, and I find it ever joyous in its harsh perfection; I appreciate the protected, cozy comfort and shelter of this house that I call home and find it marvelous in its cushy, messy imperfection. Each moment of my life, let me accept whatever comes. Like Rumi writes (translated by Coleman Barks?):

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meannes,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearning you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi

Each moment lingers only for-- well, for a moment...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Noticing Earthquakes and Cows

Yes, the earth quaked. The cupboard doors shivered, the joists audibly creaked. Here in my house nothing fell from cupboards, walls or shelves. Deep breath.

My first "real" earthquake experience was the October 1, 1987 Wittier Narrows quake in California. Every time, I find myself most disconcerted by the surprise of them, the fact they just suddenly happen, unpredicted, unexpected, in the midst of an ordinary hour, ordinary moment.

The cats noticed yesterday's quake, too. They ran and hid.

Yesterday and today I walked to Deer Creek. A lovely, dark-chocolate-colored Brown Swiss heifer browses among the Holstein herd in the meadow at the corner of Ady and Walter's Mill. She is sleek and healthy-looking, curious like cows are, her eyes so moist and long-lashed. She is beautiful in her being, in the midst of a herd of young beauties. As I walk past I greet them, "Hello, girls." They look at me carefully; they seem to see me and judge me as worthy of notice. It's a mutual thing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011



My dictionary (Webster's Third New International, Unabridged) devotes three column-inches to the definition of surrender. The definitions vary on these themes:
to yield;
to give in;
to give up;
to abandon, resign or relinquish possession or control;
to give over to an influence;
to devote oneself entirely without restraint, reservation, or further resistance;
to relinquish.
More at Render.

Oh my. Isn't that list almost un-American? Never Surrender! is the slogan, right? I hear it in terms of war, in terms of earning a living, in terms of the push for forever-youth. None of the definitions say "to accept defeat," but it's woven through the notion of surrender.

Yet it's the word that came to me first when I was asked to say, without thinking, what would be my prayer for myself. Surrender to what exists in any given present moment.

What might that mean? What does the balanced life look like that includes the element of surrender? What value or good do I give up in order to gain what other value or good?

I give up money for all sorts of goods and services, just like you; we could make a list.
I give up the thrills and joys of travel for the joys and comforts of home.
I give up chasing the latest fashion for the individual flair of knowing my own style.

My Christian background includes the word surrender, so I looked in Cruden's Concordance. Surrender is not there, but render and its variation has a lengthy list, too long to explore here and now, and too murky in my thinking, as well. My present spiritual searching and practice, though, includes meditations on and around the applied meanings and ideas of surrender.

How do you understand surrender?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shall We Laugh?

Remember the laughing game? Played in a group, the first person says, Ha, second says Ha-ha, third says, Ha-ha-ha and so forth until so many ha-ha-hahas in a row become, well, silly and laughter ensues.

I've just read (sometimes skimmed) to the end of the September, 2011 Scientific American, a Special Issue devoted largely to cities. Near the end:

"People customarily believe they have control of their thinking and thus their behavior-- a belief that is proven fantasy, causing untold damage in the lives of all members of the human race," blares the headline on page 93. Oh, yes, clearly marked ADVERTISEMENT. Nevertheless.

Even alone, I raised my eyebrows a bit, for I am firmly among those who do believe we have some control of our behavior. Not perfect, and surely not always reasoned or reasonable. Yet I regularly observe, and therefore believe, that we seem to exercise some choice and control over our own behavior. So the headline got my attention.

The opening, supporting paragraphs mention that gravity, not people, causes things to fall when they are let go at inopportune times. The writing goes on for a bit about the laws of physics.

In the second column of text come this amazing statement: "People's irrational, dishonest thoughts and behavior, however, can never be concealed from nature's self-enforcing law of absolute right." (Print differences already included in the article.)

Next paragraph: "Ordinarily people regard a white lie as harmless and permissible. Not so! People's thoughts that are not rational and honest cause wrong results." (This time I added the print differences.)

Not rational. Wait. In our human being-ness, how do we filter out all emotional (not rational) responses? And how on earth can we always distinguish, even in ourselves, what is honest? An honest mistake? Is that automatically a lie? Baahhh!

But again, wait. Page 93 faces page 92.

This advertisement with its astonishing claims on page 93 faces page 92, on which is the Skeptic column by Michael Shemer. The title of the essay: "What is Pseudoscience?"

Ha. Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha....

I thought I'd write about cities, since that's what I've been mostly reading about. But. Ha-ha-ha...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Banks of early goldenrod flowers turn to seed in the rarely mowed meadow. Along the path I notice dark, ripe inkberries, just in time for school.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cats Laugh

" embroidery is bad enough to make a cat laugh," says Mercedes Lackey's character Talia in the book Arrow's Fall. (274).

Imagine all the cats you know, strolling, sitting, lolling about, all of them laughing. Mouths open, heads tilted, brow and jowl whiskers vibrating, all the cats laughing. Isn't that a grand notion?

I often laugh about cat antics. Last week one day our young, pale-ale-cat Yuengling jumped out the window I had opened to wash on the outside. She landed about half-a-story down, crouched for a moment, looked around as if momentarily surprised, then straightened, raised her tail, and walked away with all catly dignity as if to say, "Yes, I planned this."

This morning she brought an offering to the door, as she occasionally does. Sometimes it's a vole or mouse, sometimes its a cicada or a leaf. This morning it was an offshoot of a spider plant.

All summer the spider plants thrive outdoors. When I bring them in the cats play with them, leaf and shoot, and eat them, until by spring the plants are spindly and poor. So I no longer have more spider plants than I know what to do with. I will root and pot these leafy offerings the cat brings. This winter I will water my plants and think of cats laughing.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Two apple trees grow at the top of the hill, situated near the edge of the road and surrounded by lawn grass. When the apples ripen and fall the property owner mows over them, and I see no evidence they are ever gathered. With red skin and sweet, white flesh, each one is about the size of a large (maybe jumbo) egg. Small for an apple, they fit easily three in each hand. They have a comfortable, familiar weight and balance in my hand, that muscle memory from girlhood farm chores.

Today I carried home six apples. They weighed a pound and a half. I had four others from my walks on previous days. I washed and cut up all ten apples, cutting away all the bruised and wormy parts, saving out the pure, sweet flesh. I sprinkled a little Truvia over the pieces, a little cinnamon, a little time in the microwave, and they were delicious. Let nothing go to waste.

Last evening at journaling group one of the prompts took me to memories of the farm where I grew up. There was an orchard there, and we picked the cherries, pears and apples. Last evening, I remembered how I loved being outside at dawn, the energy of the sunrise hour when everything was fresh again, the cows patient in their walking, dew or frost trimming the grasses and such. All the sturdy, dependable, reliable routines.

I also remember how I loved the end of day. I used to experience such a just-right feeling back then as I moved through the atmosphere of mowed lawn, tidy garden, tended and quieting creatures in chicken house, barn, meadow, cultivated fields and woods. In the years when I knew I had been a primary contributor to the maintenance of the order that felt so peaceful, I had such a feeling of ownership and attachment. The lengthening shadows of a summer day seemed to wrap everything in a blanket of serenity. In winter, the starshine seemed like a blessing flung out over all, including all the heavens. Clouds created a mystery of their own, and storms as well.

For today I carry a quiet energy, an end-of-day energy, full of memories of all sorts and also a serene sense that all is well, and all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


A doe and her twins browsed at the edge of our clearing this morning. I saw them from the east-facing windows as I took my first sips of coffee and my just-checking circuit around the household main floor. I sat down to quilt a few minutes later and there I again faced the three of them, now framed in the south windows by the table.

The youngsters still wear their polka-dot capes, though their lower flanks show the smooth, redish-brown coloration of summer, the same coat color that their mama wears. My head says, "Overpopulation." My emotional, felt response says, "Aaaawhhhhh." My quilting hand stills for a few minutes as I just watch.

The fawns nibbled at vegetation, ground and tree, as did Mama. She seemed less hungry. Well, of course. It's surely been my experience of mothering that kids are always hungry when they're growing. She seemed more watchful, as well, and aware of movement indoors.

The fawns' legs showed prancing strength as they occasionally bounced about with what seemed like an illustration of the simple joy of being alive. The distances among the three of them varied, yet they came together frequently, nuzzling, the little ones touching side-by-side, one baby once turning to mama almost as if to nurse and receiving a few tongue-licks on the head and neck.

I remembered the tiny, spotted bag of fur and small bones I saw on one of the upper meadow trails this summer, a still-born or early-dead fawn. I thought of the many times I've walked past deer carcases dumped along Deer Creek. I imagined the pleasures of lovely venison stew I've eaten at frugal hunters' tables, and the times I did not have enough food.

Today I witnessed this intimate, homely, family scene among the deer. What shall I do with my witness? How does my presence to that moment translate to my presence in each coming moment? What shall any of us ever do with our honest, daily, ordinary, complex witness?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Surprised by My Groceries

Today is CSA pick-up day. That is, we committed to another year of membership in a Community Supported Agriculture plan. We pay ahead of time; the farmers plan, plant, tend; we get a share of whatever harvest comes. These folks are successful farmers, and I always feel that we receive good value for our investment.

With one's own garden, one does each of the steps, and observes the ripening and getting ready as any particular plant begins to produce. No surprises.

Week to week with the CSA, though, I don't know what will be in the produce box when I pick it up. Usually corn, since the season began. Tomatoes, peppers, summer squash. Last week the first of the apples. What will it be this week?

Each summer Tuesday I look forward to the fun of being surprised by my groceries.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chair Outdoors

Seven chairs stand on my deck clustered in three conversation groupings, two sets of two and a set of three. Why is it that just seeing them in their familiar places adds to my of sense of being held in this place, my sense of ease and comfort? Just empty on the deck, those chairs feel right.

I've seen pictures of an empty chair on a beach overlooking the ocean, or an empty hammock hung in a lovely, natural place. Those pictures are often part of some advertisement. So I'm not the only one who feels some stirring when I see an empty chair set just so outdoors.

What invites us?

I have sat in each of our deck chairs in their various locations. Each offers a place to put down a drink; each offers its specific design shape and its way of holding the body; each offers a unique, specific view of the surroundings. In mild weather I often go outside with my first cup of coffee. Sometimes I have the pleasure of sharing the space with a friend. If the whole family is around, the chairs are easy to regroup and sometimes we all do go outside together.

I stack and cover the chairs once cold settles in, leaving just two in the protected southwest corner by the sliders. Any sunny-surprise day in winter might find me sitting outside there for a little while, just soaking up the gift of an easy, direct experience of the natural world. I find pleasure in having available a lovely place to sit outside.

But what feels so inviting about those arranged-and-in-place chairs even when they're empty?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Days are noticeably shorter. Since this morning's sky was overcast as well, it was still dim at six-thirty. About nine o'clock I headed out toward Deer Creek, walking in light rain. Sunday traffic is sparse which makes the experience of the walk so much more pleasant.

I posted on May 10 about a previous experience of walking in rain, so I won't repeat those specifics. Today I already knew exactly how to squinch up and tilt my face. The rain almost stopped by the time I was at the first corner.

Along Walters Mill I find Common Mullein in bloom, and Joe-Pye Weed, Jewel Weed, and many, many more. Gold finches flit about. A heron with white, blue and black feathers stands watching from the creek at one of the bank cuts, so close it looks rumpled. It does not fly as I pass. Most leaves are still green, but notable ones are bright, clear orange, or red or gold. Goldenrod are plentiful. Everything illustrates the day-by-day shift of seasons. I breathe in the quiet day, the damp air. About a tenth of a mile before I reach the Ady Road bridge, I turn around and start home.

I've never been to a days-long meditation retreat, but I read that the hours are spent in some predetermined combination of sitting meditation, walking meditation, chanting, eating, chores, and rest. A ringing bell signals when it is time to do each next thing. One need not choose, there is no choice given, one simply follows the predictable, reliable, dependable schedule and participates in whatever comes next.

Coming back from illness again, I look around for what comes next, seeking to get back to feeling like I did before. Wait. Before what? Before total collapse a decade ago? Before babies? Before I left my parents' home? What "before" do I seek?

A gentle, good-humored voice from some silent place inside me whispers, Before? Before? What's this before? You only have now, only ever have had now. Then it murmurs in time with my stride, Step. Step. This. Now. Step. Step. This. Now. I feel my walking movement through my whole body. Over and over that voice, mantra-like, and then it shifts to, Notice. Notice. This. Now. Find joy and compassion in this, now.

There is a Zen koan (teaching): "No matter how much the spring wind loves the peach blossoms, they still fall."

The sky has darkened as I walked, and when I turn the last corner toward home, the rain pours down in earnest. My shoulders are wet and easy under my t-shirt; my very short hair provides no protective curtain; droplets collect on my eyebrows, roll down my nose and jaw; I smile for this all feels so familiar and wondrous. I am past the horse farm there in the lowlands, and here comes a car. It is my husband. He came looking for me, and in his car he carries me home.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Fear. That primal, fight-or-flight response that leads us astray in our modern world where there's no safer place to which to fly, no overt, substantial enemy with whom to do battle. I know that when I am able to experience my gut response I often discover a root of fear.

Wisdom writings of all sorts tell me that fear (not hate) is the opposite of love. Already in childhood I set about praying for the gift of love. How's that working out for ya, girl? Well, I'm a poor judge.

What do I most deeply desire now? Do I still pray for the gift of love? For what will I seek to gird myself with the courage to make and stand life choices? I've been asking this of myself of recent years, and also asking others in hopes I will gain insights from their answers. My own present answer:

Yes. I want to say yes. To joy of being through whatever comes. To whatever comes.

I wonder, what is your deepest desire? What intention guides your choices? The work of a lifetime continues as one seeks to recognize desire and set one's intentional way of being in accordance with such recognized desires. Engaging this work demands courage and creates ordinary, unsung heroic journeys.

When I find again a root of fear, may I turn and be blessed with courage. (I claim to be striving for courage, not necessarily achieving it.)

Clouds are rolling in; the air has that quiet, waiting feeling. All three sons are away from their homes today, and I think of them, wishing traveling mercies for them and all the world as well. For myself, I expect and hope for a restful weekend.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Experiencing Gifts

Every gift carries both its blessing and its burden. We know this. Though the balance can weigh heavily on one end of the scale or the other, if we pay serious attention we see both blessing and burden in every gift. Don't we?

One of the items on my short list of what I desire is to be competent, alert and vertical until the moment when I suddenly die of a massive heart attack or simply do not awaken from sleep. My father died suddenly, like that; my mother suffered a long time. For those of us left behind, Pop's death weighed heavily, Mom's provided her release. That's how it felt to us. But the other side existed, too: for the one transitioning, I believe Pop had the easier path. Not that I imagine I really have a choice in the matter...

Today in the cool, dry morning air I experienced the gift of sunshine on my crown and shoulders as such a boon. It felt so very lovely to be walking along, to swing along, to notice the present-moment, embodied pleasure of being alive.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Perfect Day

Mild temperature, (78 degrees, here) low humidity after recent rains, blue skies and sunny with only an occasional puffy cloud. A twitter of breeze and bird song, cicada drone so reliable, horses sleek and shining in the meadow across the road. All is well, all is well, all manner of things shall be well. People who love me and whom I love sharing my life... It's easy to recognize perfection in such a day as this one.

I have set my intention to grow to recognize perfection in freezing rain, in pain, and in struggles as well as in times of sheer bliss.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Gift and Grace of Laughter

My sister and I remember our mother as one who had a generous sense of humor. Her life had plenty of hurdles, and I occasionally saw frustration, anger, or desperation cross her face, in her muscles, in her eyes. Even when displeased, though, she would pause and then often laughter would well up in her as if from some deep, bubbling spring that she would not allow to dry up. I hope I learned this from Mother.

This morning I sat with coffee and leafed through the Fall preview issue of Signals catalog (Supporting Public Television since 1986; http://www. They sell lots of things, of course, many of them works of art. They also sell wit. These sayings, which brought me laughter, are not credited to any author:

Irony. The opposite of wrinkly.

There, Their.
They're not the same.

I love gardening. It helps when you need to hide the bodies.

Statistics mean never having to say you're certain.

Engineering. Like Math, but Louder.

Resistance is not futile. It's voltage divided by current.

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.

I'm always late. My ancestors arrived on the Juneflower.


And two that didn't exactly make me laugh:

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over it became a butterfly.

I am fairly certain that given a Cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world.

I walked to Deer Creek this morning, for the first time since mid-July, two miles, and I pushed hard to get myself home, but!! success, victory, a pat on the back from me to me (I didn't break an arm) when I arrived home. I rested a bit by the generously-rooted tree where many others also stop. I put my hand in the water; it felt warmish. I considered taking off shoes and socks and wading to the opposite bank where an interesting new pebble bar (compared to sand bar) has developed. I decided the actual experience of it, today, would not fulfill the joy of the imagined experience. So, I exercised my imagination. I even imagined just where I would probably slip and fall, and the happy drippy-ness of it all.

We've had rain on a handful of recent days. The corn in the lowlands grows tall and healthy looking. Some critter-- probably 'coons-- bites off corn stalks and pulls them into the creek where they pile up against protruding rocks. Sounds coonish, doesn't it?

Small White Dog has disappeared, the one the size of our medium-sized cat, the one who had been hanging about at a distance, so frightened, so skinny, that I started putting out food and water for him. The last two times I put out food, though, I didn't see him appear to eat, and then, both times, overnight not only the food disappeared but also the light-weight plastic containers in which I'd placed it. Oh my. Smile through the sad places, too. Poor Small White Dog, so full of fear. He did not know I would have housed him.

One more entry from Signals:
Facing Your Fears Builds Strength
but running from them makes for a great cardio workout.

Monday, August 8, 2011


This morning I drank Peet's Coffee, Major Dickason's Blend, described as rich and complex, and yummm! I agree. Since B. prefers a lighter roast, I brewed that one cup just for myself. I sat with treat in hand, settled against cushions in the east-facing window seat, aware of the joy of being.

Instead of facing out, as usual, this morning I faced in. The early play of light and shadow on the interior walls fascinates me, and today I watched them shift minute by minute. That sunrise gift, leaf-shadow pattern-play on the walls, changes so quickly that it's easy to miss if one goes about normal routines. Today I had the luxury to just sit and watch and enjoy.

All this, and running water, too.

Asiatic Dayflowers are blooming; I saw them as I walked home from the top of the hill this morning. I've known the look of them for years, but the name of them will not stay fixed in my memory, so I spent a delightful hour browsing among my friends, the common wildflowers of Maryland.

Fleabane, wild asters (both white and purple) yellow bellwort, sawtooth blackberry, bloodroot, blue-eyed grass, black cohash, Joe-pye weed, chickory, Queen Anne's lace, clover (both red and white), buttercup, black-eyed Susan, common day lily, elderberry, cinnamon fern, tulip poplar blooms, dogwood, all sorts of violets and wood sorrel, and more, and more and more.

Each flaunts its wonderful wildness in its season; each illustrates that which is constant: change. The natural world perfectly illustrates the constancy of change, shows the unchanging truth that everything always changes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ordinary Conversations

Part of the small-l-liberal tradition says that for one's life to go well, one must have freedom to live by standards one chooses, standards one believes in.

In the process of respecting one another, of living peaceably together, we need to have ordinary conversations in the public square where we respect each individual's basic right to live by his/her chosen standards. Kwame Anthony Appiah, a Princeton philosopher, says that the trouble is that, partly because of our present way of using communications technology, we tend to have millions of private squares instead of a public square. We must interact with people we disagree with and simultaneously get along with each other.

Where and how do we meet? What shall I do?

I believe I will continue to talk to neighbors and family with whom I know I differ politically. I will have ordinary conversations that sometimes go deep. Have conversations. Hold peace in my own heart and mouth. Know in my gut that just because you are right does not mean I am wrong. And vice versa.

I, for one, notice and converse about the weather and my immediate experience with the natural world. Last night we had warm rain, and this morning the overarching sky is smooth, medium gray; the air is warm and heavy; the light is muted, shadowless.

Do you remember discovering your shadow when you were a small child? Did you run, try to step on your shadow head? Did you laugh when you got tall and twig-thin at dawn or dusk?

I walked down the old lane to the mail box, picked up today's Baltimore Sun, walked along the road in the open, non-wooded world, to our new lane. Horses graze so peacefully in the meadows the neighbors mowed just last week. Did they shelter during the actual rain fall? Perhaps, but they don't always. They seem impervious to the kind of easy rain we got last night, sometimes even seem to enjoy it. I can't say for sure, of course, for I don't know these horses well, we only have the most surface, casual, silent conversations, observing one another. I pay more attention to them than they pay to me.

I can not forget the terrible, brown and dying vegetation I saw on July 24 in western Berks County. I know we are blessed with rain, clouds and shadowless skies, and I am thankful.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ordinary Joy

One day back in late June while browsing in the cleaning supplies aisle in a local store, I found a pair of gloves made from fuzzy, dust-cloth fabric and bought them. Because of habit and illness, I opened them and first used them just last week: suddenly, an unexpected boon. The experience of cleaning shifted from an effortful, practiced process to an experience of enjoying my ordinary stuff.

Dusting books and miscellaney on the shelves turned to a process of stroking all these collected things that I use and/or consider amusing, charming, or beautiful. It was easier to reach out and run a finger or full hand over window shelves and baseboards, lamp shades and tables, when no attention was diverted from the item being touched, no attention was given to the process of simultaneously holding dust cloth and also holding the item being cleaned. Ah, the dirt I collected. And it was so simple.

My belly tickled with glee as I noticed that I was having fun handling, touching, my collected household stuff. The stuff that routinely supports my life; the stuff that, therefore, demands its reciprocal support in the guise of maintenance.

I was pleased, felt blessed, so happy to find myself experiencing the joy of being through the process of using my new dusting gloves. I laugh aloud with the odd, silly, ordinary pleasure of it.

My friend who intentionally and deeply notices the world writes of her work-a-day life as it exists within her total life, work hours too often filled with "created drama and false urgency; the mystical and absurd, galloping apace side by side."

There's nothing wrong with our games and movies and news media, our surface-thought Twitter and Facebook and text messages. Unless they become our primary focus?

Is it possible that our personal desires for the excitement, the quick fix technology offers, has led us to a political "created drama and false urgency" that overwhelms ordinary good sense? Perhaps by seeking out drama and urgency, holding it high and giving it full attention, we have the politics that we as a society have asked for? Right, left, middle, we all seek drama?

What can I do? I voted; another candidate won the congressional seat that also represents me; I write to my congressman but he plays to and votes for his dramatically extreme base (though the election was very close). I am no wealthy donor. I have lost my power in the national public arena.

What can I do? I believe I will practice Lao-Tzu's "peace in the heart." I will continue to return to my quiet place, to recognize the ordinary joy and pleasure of using my dusting gloves.

Friday, August 5, 2011

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in,” writes Leonard Cohen in the chorus of his song, “Anthem.” I love that notion.

"The good news is things change.... The bad news is things change. Can you? How quickly can you accept change? How gracefully, how even-temperedly can you pivot and twirl, move forward and step backward? Or are you paralyzed by obstinacy? (Karen Maezin Miller, Momma Zen, Trumpeter, Boston, 2007. 48.)

"Exhaustion is not a strategic spot from which to defend your turf. It's not the best place to start drawing lines and setting limits. It's not the prime state of mind for calculations of any sort. It's not a power position. And therein lies the extreme benevolence of it. Be tired. Be so tired you will let the troubles and turmoil wash over you. Be so tired that you stop measuring the length of your hardship and stop looking for an end. Let the encroachments advance. Lose ground.... (G)ive way." (ibid. 53-54)

So it is my present challenge to regain balance and regain balance and again and again and again. When we experience normal health, we make the subtle changes to retain our physical balance when we're vertical without a conscious need to pay attention. And physical balance is only the beginning. Everything requires balance. Everything.

Our breath, also, usually flows, ever changing, without our conscious need to pay attention. Meditation time creates an intentional space from which to pay attention to what is usually ordinary and under the conscious threshold. Meditation creates a new awareness, creates a new brain-wave pattern, according to researchers who have studied the question.

A simple, daily time of quiet to observe the changing flow of breath will change one's view of the world.

The cracks in my way of being, showing in the guise of illness and aging, allow my life to flood with the light of being. Just being, and through the cracks, ever changing light comes in. Too exhausted to resist change, I let encroachments advance, I lose ground, I give way. Drama quickly overwhelms me, does not entice me. Let my peaceful soul shine from this, my place; let peace radiate into the world around me.

Will such a simple, do-little-and-give-way stance keep me out of trouble?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bugs, Blessings and Joy

This morning I walked again, the mile and a half from the top of the hill. I was just between the last two houses before the big down-hill when a bug slammed into my head so fast and hard it actually entered my right ear. Oh, oh, oh! An accident for us both.

Its high-pitched buzz resonated in my skull. Its legs-- or feelers or something-- moved around inside my ear canal. I noticed little else.

I kept walking, noticing that bug, and imagining what next. Oh my vivid, silly, terrible imagination! Deaf, I could go deaf in one ear. This bug might chew and crawl right through the ear drum right to the sphenoid sinus. Could that happen? Could have a living bug crawl into my brain? Doctor, doctor, help me soonest, there's a bug in my ear! Then a smile and a modest, real hope for natural resolution began to bubble in me. And indeed, after perhaps a third of a mile, having explored, it felt to me, as far in as it could get, the bug backed its way out again.

An ear without a bug wiggling and buzzing in it. One does not appreciate some blessings until they suddenly disappear. The blessing restored, today, I am so thankful for no bug in my ear.

There was a breeze as I walked today, absent yesterday. In summer heat, a breeze is better. I can no longer take much heat. Does that mean I get to stay out of the kitchen? No, I think it means I get to create delicious food that asks for microwave cooking or no cooking. Delicious summer food.

My friend sent me this, affirming for me that I already experience the joy of being: the intricacy, the persistence, the brazen invasion of joy as it blooms.


A blessing from my friend Dana Knighten

These few words
cast upon the wind
like leaves drifting down upon you
or petals
falling soft on bare skin

like morning sun
like the light of a predawn moon

like the hands of one
who wants
to bring you peace.

And so I wish you flowers,
field upon field of wildflowers,

to bring reminders
of intricacy
and persistence
and the brazen invasion of blooming.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Outdoors, walking

Today, for the first time in two full weeks, I walked outdoors for a significant time, about a mile and a half from the top of the hill down Gibson to Hoopes and home, about forty-five minutes. Slow, and yet, ah! the marvel.

I looked and looked at all the colors of green and sky blue, and the rainbow of flowers, their tints, shades, textures. I breathed deeply the smell of growing, green, woodland things, the scents so intense I could taste them. Sensations flowed across my skin: a breeze here, sun heat there, cool, moist air by little creek rushing and splashing over rocks. Cicadias vibrated their particular, rhythmic, bone-penetrating hum, and here and there a bird still sang. A gold finch flew across the meadow like a sunstreak through shade. My steps dragged and my body trembled by the time I reached home, but joy filled my being. I felt so successful.

"If I'm stuck in a wheelchair, at least park me in the sunshine," I've said in the past. Better is to park me in the outdoors. Best is to not need a wheelchair, to move myself freely, to enjoy my embodied self, walking, part of the natural world.

Here in the country we can see stars, too, and many times I step outdoors in the dark just to gaze a little while, to breathe in the visible universe.

Here follows a writing I love that I very liberally transcribed from ideas in Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey's book Dragon's Time, Ballentine Books, NY, 2011, page 48:

The stars are beautiful tonight.
Even in darkness shines this light.

We are stars in the darkness.
We burn bright, beacons for others.
We cannot see our own lights,
We can only see the light of others.

We are reflective.
Our light lights others
As their light lights us.

While there are stars, there can never be darkness;
in the darkness, there is always light.