Category Archives: Gratitude

FINDING THE GIFTS

March 24, 2020

SEARCHING FOR TREASURE IN THE DARKNESS

“It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
~ Mary Oliver ~

To say we live in troubling times is a bit of an understatement. The world as we’ve known it seems to be ending. I can’t help but consider that that may not be such a bad thing.

Primarily I’m hearing reports that people are maintaining their sense of humor in the face of the spreading Coronavirus, reaching out to one another with compassion, and mostly cooperating with what needs to be done to slow this modern day plague. But I’ve also heard reports that gun sales are climbing. Liquor stores are considered an essential service on par with grocery stores and the shelves are emptying. Some of us are suffering an economic crisis —  our paycheck is gone, we don’t have any savings, our small business is tanking, we can’t pay the bills, and our kids are home from school and need supervision to successfully navigate distance learning. I guess that’s why the beer is sold out.

Yep, it’s really scary. And I’m not even talking about the possibility of getting sick and possibly dying. We are trying to cope in a world we never imagined. Living in the middle of what for some is a nightmare from which they can’t wake up.

As challenging as it may be, this is a time that calls for each of us to shift our focus as best we can away from fear, away from the anger that is churned up as our bodies and minds are flooded with stress.  Fear and rage and frustration are not going to solve our problems. Certainly violence will not. But holding an energetic resonance with hope, with gratitude, with Love, all attributes of the heart, will allow the creation of peace. And in a state of peace and gratitude we will discover solutions. We will increase our compassion quotient (CQ) — our capacity to act in service even when it may not offer any immediate or visible benefit. [Key phrase: may not immediately offer a visible benefit.] There will be a benefit. Gandhi suggested that we as individuals and cultures must align our “hands, head and heart” and ultimately learn to lead with the heart. Here’s a chance to do so on a global scale.

With change comes chaos. With great change, expect great chaos. Anyone who’s deep cleaned their closets knows this. Anyone who’s built a house knows this. Any woman who has borne a child knows this. Our world is in chaos — from the political systems and indeed, all of our “systems” all the way to the suffering our Earth is experiencing. The old ways are being shaken to their core — and something new is trying to be born. The only way we can diminish the pain of moving through this time, even if only a little, is to look for the treasures hiding in this darkness. To seek the gifts that this time offers. To notice the little blessings that daily surround us and offer gratitude.

Let us discover the gifts hiding in plain sight, and bring forth treasure from this darkness.

I invite you to begin posting on your social media platforms the blessings you note, the gifts you find, the treasures you discover. Let’s create a great light to counter this darkness.

 

WE THE PEOPLE…OF NO ACCOUNT

April 28, 2018

WE ARE THE HOPE LEFT IN THE WORLD

“I had forgotten how much light there is in the world, till you gave it back to me.”   Ursula K. Le Guin,  A Wizard of EarthSea (1968)

My eyes came to a halt on the page. I closed the book upon my finger and sat, with tears trickling down my cheeks, so grateful for those who have brought light and beauty into my life the many times when I have despaired that there is any hope remaining; hope that the world might be whole again; hope that I can make any difference.

“The great and mighty go their way unchecked. All the hope left in the world is in the people of no account.”   Ursula K. Le Guin, The Finder (2001)

I went for a walk. I sat and watched the Spring-thawed creek tumble happily over the boulders and brush, freed at last from Winter’s grip. I have felt like one “of no account”. And in terms of society, I suppose I am. Of no account. I have not done anything spectacular. I am an unpublished writer. I am an unemployed teacher. I am a very quiet activist. I’m a bit of a recluse.

But again and again I have been brought back to this: That simply BEING here in the world matters. And if I am willing to allow the Light that is in me to shine, if I am willing to keep on the journey that allows my heart to be open so that Love and Grace can easily flow, unrestricted, uninhibited into and through me, radiating beyond my physical space into the world… I am nourishing life. If I take deeply to heart that words matter — that there is great power in words — that all things are created through our words — if I consciously and diligently choose words drawn from love and not from fear — I am creating life.

“You can’t hide true power. Not for long. It dies in hiding, unshared.”     Ursula K. Le Guin, The Finder (2001)

I began to scribble in my journal…

“Why do I hide? What Fear drains away the energy to act, to do that which I set out to do? Is my small act of kindness or my words on paper so insignificant that I shouldn’t bother — an insignificant drop of water? How many times over how many decades now have I heard that we are powerful… that we hold the Creator inside? That the power to create worlds lives in the cells of our bodies?

We are not, I am not without power. Love is not powerless against Fear and all that Fear spawns. What is intolerable is that I listen to the Lies and shut down; hide.”

And so I call gently to my Self… come forth again. Just Be, today. Just Be Grace.

And I call gently to you, as well. Just Be, today. Be kind. Be Grace. Be Light.

“Fear lives in the head. And courage lives in the heart. The job is to get from one to the other.”    Louise Penny, The Long Way Home

 

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

January 19, 2017

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD…

You know the song…

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do
They’re really saying, I love you.
I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll never know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…

…Actually though, the music that surrounded me was the whisper of my skis, the happy songs of some little birds flitting about in the sunshine, and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons playing softly through my ear buds as I glided through the woods…

I keep stopping, just to absorb the beauty surrounding me. Perfectly pristine white snow sprinkled with sparkly glitter stretches smoothly out before me. It is marred only by the ski tracks. Sparkling and blue shadowed, it covers the floor of the woods like a frosted cake–one can only guess what lies beneath the smoothly sculpted mounds and gullies. Here and there I spot the tracks of deer and tinier creatures. A rabbit. A squirrel? Some sort of tiny mouse, his long tail marking where he scrambled.

It is quiet here. The loudest sounds are my skis and the crow singing some happy crow song. Vivaldi is light in my ears, and I glide on. I top a small hill, and as my skis carry me down, my eyes rest on the trees. The white birch, touched by the sun, are like white neon poles standing among the rest of the undressed forest of dignified charcoal greys and browns and black. Here and there small groups of green-needled pine keep watch while the others sleep. As I glide by, I breathe in their breath and I am grateful for them.

The sun and the sky are a watercolor wash of blue and buttercream. A few clouds, thinly transparent stretch across the expanse. They look like they are melting into the icy blue water of the sky.

At the overlook, I lean on my ski poles and look down on the harbor of my city and beyond to the Great Lake of Gitchi Gummi. Such a busy busy world down there with its ships and train yards, tall stacks spewing white steam marking the  industrial plants, business buildings clustered at the center of the long narrow stretch between these bluffs and the water, and houses and highways and bridges spanning the harbor–little tiny cars zipping back and forth. The sun gilds the water golden. It is another water color painting.

“Remember this,” I whisper. “What a wonderful world! It’s so beautiful–so breathtakingly, achingly beautiful! Whatever comes, remember this. Show up seeing beauty no matter where you find yourself. Make it. Create it. Show up with Love. It is all around you, all the time, just looking for a way to flow into the world. Remember this.”

REVELATIONS IN THE ER

LOVE IS THE “BOTTOM LINE”

January 7, 2017

“Life is fragile.” “Life is precious.” “Don’t take life (or your relationships) for granted.” Common, rather overused cliches, even if true.

And then suddenly one afternoon you stand up from placing a plant on the floor, step back, are in the middle of a sentence asking your husband something, and you can’t finish the sentence. And then you realize you can’t move. You can’t talk, you can’t move.

It only lasted a minute, less probably. But when I finally could move again and talk, I felt strange, almost like I wasn’t fully in my body. Husband’s eyes are huge and he is insisting on calling 911, or at least taking me to the ER. I said, “I’m still in my pajamas! I’m not going anywhere without taking my shower and getting dressed! And besides, I’m fine now.”

But I knew what had just happened wasn’t okay. Then, I started doubting exactly what had just happened. I seemed fine now. But during my shower I realized I again felt “off”–like my body was a stranger. I started to cry and didn’t know why. I was trembling, and didn’t know why. I reached up for my shampoo and my right hand suddenly decided it wanted a vacation. It obeyed, but rebelliously, like a child dragging it’s feet and trying to go somewhere you’re not, and only because it could hear the wrath of God rising inside me and got scared.

Me and my hand argued for the next 10 minutes as I finished my shower and dried my hair. By the time I tearfully headed for the closet it had given in and decided to act normal again. As my husband drove me to the ER, I sat on my side of the car shaking violently–from cold or fear, or maybe just cold fear. This fast, I thought, this fast I could end up being unable to write, or maybe speak, or walk.

More morbid thoughts rushed in on the heels of those. This fast I could have to leave this life I know in this body. Inside I started screaming–“I’m not done! My kids still need me. My grandbabies still need me. My husband still needs me. I’m not done with the work I came here to do. I can’t leave; I WON’T leave…and I need my body whole and functional!”

When we got there, I marched into that ER shaking like a dry leaf in a strong Autumn wind–but on my own two feet. By sheer force of will I passed every damn test they gave me. As the afternoon wore on, with CT scans and blood work and a hundred questions to answer, as mad and determined as I was, I couldn’t stop shaking. I also felt embarrassed. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” I thought, “and here I am in this hospital, having all these tests and upsetting my kids.” Per my request my husband had notified them since I didn’t know what was happening to me, and unbeknownst to me, news of the event was hitting Facebook scaring the bejeebers out of my friends.

As I lay in the ER for the afternoon, I thought about my family–I thought about the petty things I can get my undies in a bunch over. I thought about the relationships in my life that are wounded. I’ve heard it said, and I’ve agreed–none of that matters! But now that truth had taken a deep dive to somewhere inside me that suddenly made it imperative. Really, all that matters is love. Is connection. We are connected whether we want to be or not because everything that exists is interconnected. Kinking the flow of love, tying knots in the cords that connect us heart to heart–why? Why do I judge? Why do I defend? Why do I need anyone to be other than they choose to be? Why can’t I be content with who I am in this moment of my life experience? Peace does not elude me–it is I who bar the door.

Tests were inconclusive since I no longer had any symptoms other than a headache. The ER doctor figured it was probably a Transient Ischemic Attack–a mini-stroke that’s not really a stroke. If I understand correctly it mimics a stroke but resolves quickly leaving no damage. They said that the CT scan showed an area in my brain’s right frontal lobe that was damaged–“missing” as the doctor put it–which my husband said might explain a few things–that indicated a minor stroke in my past that I have no memory of, probably because that part of my brain is missing. They let me go home because there seemed no reason to keep me. I had to promise that I’d reduce my stress and come back for more tests.

Once home, I found myself immersed in a rushing tide of love and concern and prayers from family, friends, and even strangers via the FB posting my daughter had done. I sat and cried from the humbling truth of how much I am loved by so many. It was a deeply personal realization of how much love and goodness and caring there is in the world–perfectly imperfect people caring about other imperfect people, stepping out to offer support and sending healing energy through their thoughts by just being willing to care about someone they may not even know.

My mother taught me that love is about showing up. When you love someone, you show up. Practicing love, means you show up. I suppose that means that to love even ourselves means showing up for ourselves. Certainly, a whole lot of people showed up for me in my tiny little crisis. At first I felt ashamed and embarrassed, as if I didn’t deserve it since really, I was okay and nothing terrible had happened. I had to let that go, and just allow myself to be filled up with gratitude–for my life, for my health, for my body that allows me to experience life in this world on this planet in this time…and for all those people, these many many people in my life who love me. I don’t think I realized even how many!

It rather undoes a person. It reduces you to your own “bottom line”… What is my life going to be about? What do I want my legacy to be when that day comes when my body decides it’s done and isn’t persuaded to continue? The ultimate result, or outcome of my life, what do I choose to make that to be?

A long time ago I decided that the specifics of the story of this planet and the Universe and who is the Creator of it all and how will it end and by what means, though interesting since there are nearly as many stories and myths and opinions with proof to back them as there are people, was far far less important than whether and how I lived in accordance with the essence of all those teachings and beliefs. Whether it is the admonition in sacred texts of numerous religions and spiritual practices to Love, or the call by those awakening to the Light to raise our vibrational frequency to Love so we can evolve, it is still about Love. Every belief system, at its core, is about love as far as I’ve been able to ascertain.

So what does it mean to love? To love your enemies as yourself? To love your neighbor as yourself? To love yourSelf? To love the Earth? To love the Creator?

To love even if you expect to be saved from a dying earth by the Rapture or E.T.s?

To be imperfect human beings, bombarded by so much…confused, wounded, stressed, afraid for our safety or that of others, grieved by the harm being done to the Earth and to people all around us…yet still, called to Love. What does that look like when someone tromples on my dignity? What does that mean at home in my kitchen? What does that feel like when I have to take in the news of great harm being done by powerful people?

For one day I felt that. The undeserved outpouring of love and grace and concern upon my small, imperfect Self.

I owe it to all those who poured their love on me to make good use of this life I was given. To exercise the discipline needed to create beauty and peace with sometimes just the power of my thoughts–directing them in a positive and loving way. And to utilize the gifts I have been given, honoring the sacred trust given to me to share. Shining my small light bravely into the world–not hiding it away in a closet, or under a blanket.

Love is my “bottom line”.

SPRING SONG

SPRING SONG

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March 20, 2016

I saw two robins in the slush during our Winter’s final tantrum the other day. They were fighting over what looked to be a worm. It had been raining hard in our part of the city, while snow buried everyone up over the bluffs. Our basement was leaking, proof that the ground was saturated and the earth soft–we knew this because it was easy to pound the metal stakes into the ground to put the deer fence back up around our garden. The tulips were pushing up above the earth–a beloved delicacy for the pregnant does who wander out of the snowy woods into the neighborhood where the snow has retreated, looking for the special treats they crave. So, it might truly have been a winter fattened worm escaping a flooded den. Do worms hibernate in dens? Where do they go when the ground freezes up? The scrawny robin won.

When my children were young, we went for our first ice-cream cone after we saw our first robins in Spring. It was a tradition. But I’ve become lactose intolerant. I bought some fresh strawberries instead that afternoon while it rained, and the school children were at home having a “snow day”.

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This morning the sun came up blazing rose-gold, announcing the first day of Spring. It is streaming in through winter streaked windows, inviting us to fetch our overshoes and go for a muddy trek in the hills. I am making fresh ground-buckwheat pancakes. David is frying bacon. There is a pitcher full of Green Smoothie on the counter filled with pears and pineapple, grapefruit and greens, ginger and celery and cucumber and avocado–we’re getting IMG_3258fortified for our Sunday migration into the bluffs. There are a flock of Redpolls taking turns having breakfast at the feeder outside the kitchen window; getting fattened up for their migration to their summer home in the Arctic–true northerners after my own heart!

I’m going to buy some daffodils from the Market today. It’s a tradition. A vase of Sunshine on my table. Last week we found some pussy-willows just beginning to consider opening up. This week they will be ready. Maybe we’ll find some today as we slog through the mud and navigate the swollen streams in the hills that climb up to the bluffs. From up there we can see our neighborhood laid out like a toy town. Beyond lies the harbor, the bridges, the Lake. We can see all the way to Wisconsin.  We’ll gather some pussy-willows, and fill up our house with Spring. Tonight we’ll go grill steaks at my daughter’s.

Tomorrow we’ll clean out the closets and put away the parkas and the skis.

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THE THUMPER RULE

December 2, 2015

MY GUIDING BUNNY

Some people have Spiritual Guides in human form–counselors, priests, pastors, teachers. Some people have Spiritual Guides in the form of Spirit Beings, like Angels or other Beings of Light.

I have Animals. Sometimes real ones. A dragonfly brought me a message one spring day when I was trying to resolve a problem. She flew right up to me and hovered about a foot from my face…she just stayed there until finally the “aha!” broke through to my consciousness; then she flew off.  Another day  when I was particularly edgy and cantankerous I went for a walk and inadvertently walked into the middle of an entire herd of deer. Deer Medicine is all about Gentleness and Grace. I stood stock-still, with silent tears rolling down my face. Two young ones actually walked towards me, stopping about eight or ten yards away. After about 15 minutes, they all slowly wandered off and I went home, gentled, graced and peace-filled.

But my Animal Guides aren’t always real.  I have a Tiger and a Bear and a Wolf in my Mind’s menagerie. The Tiger’s name is Jack and he’s the one teaching me that there aren’t any parts of my Self that I need to kill off…it’s more about integrating. He’s taught me that Ego’s aren’t monsters that we need to keep caged somewhere deep in the dungeons of our psyche. They just need to learn when to move over and let the more Enlightened One of Us drive the bus.

But this isn’t about Wolves and Tigers and Bears. No. This is about a Bunny. Yesterday, Thumper got loose from the Bambi set and came wandering into my bathroom. I had just scrubbed the floor an hour previously, but there I was wiping up a pile of whiskers. Evidently my husband had dumped the whisker bin from his electric razor mostly on the floor, with some on the toilet seat and in the sink, just to keep it interesting. I think he meant to put it in the wastebasket, but he was probably looking at something else, his brain three steps ahead of his body. Sometimes his brain is actually out the door and three blocks down the street before his body leaves the house. You can imagine what he doesn’t notice then! Frowning, I could feel my body tense as my mind furiously wrote up the negative incident report that I would surely deliver as soon as he came upstairs.

Suddenly, there was Thumper, shyly peeking out from behind the wastebasket.

I eyed him suspiciously.

“Hello,” said Thumper.

Wow, I thought. I haven’t seen Bambi in maybe, oh, 25 years?

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Well, ummm, I just came to remind you what my father taught me. It’s pretty good advice, ” said Thumper.

He ducked his head shyly. His foot started nervously thumping. And I remembered.

“If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all,” said Thumper and I. Together.

“You know this one?” asked Thumper.

“Yeah. I guess I do,” I said.

“Cool!” said Thumper. He loped out of the bathroom. Then he quick stuck his head back around the door-frame. “Don’t forget, now!” he said.

And he was gone.

I finished cleaning up the bathroom and joined my husband in the kitchen where he was making smoothies. I opened my mouth…

“Remember!” whispered an invisible Thumper.

I shut my mouth.

I never mentioned the whisker mess.

Not once.

I have been thinking a lot about my new Thumper Rule. My life will be so much more amazing because my focus will be on all the good stuff. I’ll bet I’ll smile more. I might even discover humor in the nooks and crannies of my life.

Thumper never said ‘If you can’t say something nice to someone…’. He simply said, ‘If you can’t say something nice…’ Period. About anything or anyone or to yourself.

Does that include the weather do you think? And stupid drivers? And insurance regulations? OMG–does it include politicians?!

I just finished writing a letter to someone because they had written one to me and it required a response. It took me 4 days. I had to keep applying my new Thumper Rule so I had to keep deleting shit–stuff– and re-framing, ah–stuff, and…Whew! What an exercise! It was like running a fucking–um–an exhausting–marathon. But different.

IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, DON’T SAY NOTHING AT ALL…

 

LIKE A MATCH STRUCK

November 20, 2015

MORNING SONG

The Earth spins, and we turn from the stars and the deep dark of space into the grey light of dawn. I watch it come, slowly, melting the dark. There is pink now, streaks of watercolor across the dove grey sky. The songbirds are waking up. And then the sun scrapes the edge of the world and ignites the whole sky–a raging flame of orange and rose, shot through with bits of blue and violet. A flock of geese wing their way above the city, dark silhouettes against the flames. Like a match struck in a darkened room, the light flares, and then settles to its task. The flames fade as the Sun leaps over the horizon. The dove grey of dawn slowly becomes a thin, watery blue, darkening and deepening as the Sun climbs into the trees, and then sails over the rooftops of the neighborhood.

It is the fifth day of rain. Piles of storm clouds have sealed off my corner of the world. I sit at my window with my cup of tea, watching the world turn into another twilit day. But I remember; I remember when the sun scraped the edge of the world and the sky burst into flame.

 

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