Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Fall Energy

Fall Mums in the Neighborhood
A sunny and cool day. Perfect. I have been on a morning walk and have showered and dressed for the day and am now at my desk in the garret. Cool air is drifting through the windows, and I am actually considering putting on a sweater, a novel thought after several days of harsh humidity matched with summer heat. I think I will just enjoy the sensation of being mildly chilled. 

What I am really feeling, more than the change of temperature, is a change in my energy. I am experiencing Fall Energy. Does this happen to you? Do you feel renewed energy as fall approaches? 

Feeling more alive and more responsive to life in the fall is one of the patterns in my life, one I have recognized since I was a child, I think. That increased energy begins building towards the end of summer with the appearance of school supplies and decisions about notebooks and pens for the new school year. 

The other day I helped a neighbor who heads a volunteer project supplying backpacks and schools supplies for children in need. As I filled each new backpack with the donated supplies, I thought about the student who would receive this gift, and I offered a blessing for his or her safety in the coming school year. I also prayed this child would begin the year with eagerness and energy to learn and that this year would be one of positive growth and reinforcement. That's a lot to ask when you think about the struggles so many children face daily, but perhaps the new backpack and notebooks and paper and pencils and pens will be an encouragement for some to do the best they can. May it be so. 

I no longer need new notebooks. Truth be told, I have a large drawer full of journals and pads of paper. I don't need a backpack either, for I have many bags large enough to carry my laptop and books when I decide to leave the garret and write someplace else. I  am not heading back to school as student or teacher, but I do have that same energy of anticipation, of beginning again, of eagerness, of fresh opportunity, another chance. The question is one of direction--how to use that renewed energy.

In many ways I have been on an unchosen sabbatical these last months as I have recovered from a broken ankle. Even though I still walk with uneven steps and somedays I shuffle more than others, I am finally feeling more energized. I am able to do more in a day than I have for a long time and by that I mean I am able to do the basic stuff of life--laundry and grocery shopping, meal preparation and cleaning, as well as enjoy time with family and friends. That doesn't mean I am not tired by the end of the day--I am and I don't have much energy for evening activities. Is that my age? The ongoing recovery process? Or am I not pushing myself enough, not reaching for the reserves which may be there, but hidden? Who knows, but I know fall energy seems to be returning.

Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy writes about this kind of fall energy.
      It seems to me that January resolutions are about will;
      September resolutions are about authentic wants. What 
      do you want more or less of in your life, so that you can
      love the life you are leading? It could be as simple as 
      seeing friends more often, setting aside time to have
      adventures with your children while they still want
      your companionship, rekindling romance in your daily
      round, calling a solitary hour a day your own, or just
      taking more walks in the dazzling sunshine.
          The beauty of autumnal resolutions is that no one
      else knows we're making them. Autumnal resolutions
      don't require horns, confetti, and champagne. September
      resolutions ask only that we be open to positive change. 
      I can try to do that. So can you.  (entry for September 1)

These last few days I have spent more time at my desk writing, working on pieces to submit for publication, and I have signed up for an online class  called "Your Book Starts Here, How to Plan, Write and Develop a Book" though The Loft Literary Center. I hope the course will help me move forward on a big writing project. I plan to participate as well in a Monday evening course at Wisdom Ways in which we will discuss the new book by Elizabeth Johnson, Ask the Beasts, Darwin and the God of Love. I know there will be volunteer opportunities at the grandkids' schools and at the church we plan to join, and there will be childcare and some travel and more friend and family time. All good stuff. 

Not long ago when I sweltered my way through the day, all the choices felt overwhelming to me, but today with the return of fall energy the choices and possibilities feel delicious. I think I will put on a sweater.  

An Invitation
What are the choices and possibilities in front of you this fall? What will you do with your fall energy? If this is not a time of renewed energy for you, how can you best nurture and care for yourself? I would love to know.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Recognizing The Themes of Your Life

Hops Growing at the Schell Brewery, New Ulm, Minnesota

This past weekend my husband Bruce and I did one of the things we do best together. We wandered. I browsed through a Minnesota travel guide to decide the direction we would take, and he opened the plat book for Minnesota. We got in his sweet little Mazda Miata with the top down and took off for the day. Our general direction was southwest of St Paul, an area called the Minnesota River Valley. 

As we ambled we met fields of soybeans and corn and numerous detours, but when you don't have an agenda, every detour becomes an adventure, an opening for your imagination, and potential insights into our country's history.  Every gravel road divided by tall corn on either side seemed to lead to a thick grove of trees with a silo peeking over the top. You know there is an understated farmhouse, most likely white, perhaps with a wide front porch, at the end of that road. You wonder who lives there and what it would be like to live there yourself. We drove down main streets of small towns, very small towns, where even though it was a Saturday afternoon, the only cars in sight were at the local Dairy Queen. We stopped there, too, for no matter how good the homemade ice cream is at Grand Ole Creamery and no matter how many exotic flavors one can sample at our local delicious (and expensive) Izzy's, sometimes you just want a Dairy Queen Blizzard or hot fudge sundae. 

Small Town America
Some towns have done an amazing job of preserving their downtowns, responding to current needs, but maintaining the architectural beauty of small town American life in the early 1900's. Some towns have created a niche for themselves with clusters of antique shops or have built on their immigrant heritage, such as New Ulm with its German legacy.  Others, however, are tired and worn out, and one wonders when there will be just one last person to lock the door. 

As we drove along, I consulted the guidebook and read about each location, such as New Ulm's August Schell Brewery, the second oldest family-owned brewery in the United States, or the W.W. Mayo House in Le Sueur, and yes, that is the Mayo who was one of the founders of the famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I read about the sad days of the Dakota Conflict of 1862 in which, as a result of ongoing violations of treaties with the Dakota nation, immigrant farmers and Native Americans lost their lives. Eventually, the Dakota were moved to North and South Dakota and Minnesota reservations were abolished. We had no idea we would encounter this deplorable part of our history when we set off on that hazy morning for a day of unscheduled ease. 

The Pleasures of Meandering
We always know, however, when we decide to roam that we will encounter surprises and memorable sites. We know choosing right instead of left or left instead of right will take us someplace we have never been before or maybe, just where we wanted to go. As long as we have the plat book (Nope, we don't have a GPS, for that annoying voice's intention is to keep us on some predetermined itinerary.) we won't be lost, and as long as we have enough energy and enough gas, we can follow the road ahead. We do this well and that has been one of the pleasures of our years together, a pattern and a theme in our life. 

Sometimes a day of meandering means meeting your past. I met part of mine as we wandered that day in Mankato. My family lived there for one year when I was in the sixth grade. We moved there from a suburb of Minneapolis when Dad, who was working for Mobil, was transferred there. Soon he was transferred to Mobil's headquarters in New York, and off we went, but it is a year I remember fondly. As I think about it now, that was a year of great growth and independence for me, as it often is for an 11 to 12 year old. 

Going Down Memory Lane
Before our day of wandering, I had only been back to Mankato once since we moved away and that was when our daughter was in high school, and I drove her and a friend to a high school music festival at Mankato State University. Needless to say, there have been many changes since I rode my bike downtown to the old Carnegie Library or the city pool. Bruce wondered if I could find our house, and all I could recall was going up a big hill and at the top was our small residential area and lots of open, undeveloped fields. I let my nose and my heart direct us to that hill, which is now home to many university buildings and apartment complexes. First, I saw a park and knew that was where I had gone ice skating every Friday evening in the winter. I was allowed to walk home with friends when it closed at 9:00. I knew we were headed in the right direction, but, of course, it all looked so different. When I saw the street sign, Birchwood, however, I knew we were close. I called my Dad, knowing he would remember the name of the street we lived on, but before he could return my call, I had one of those flash memories, 107 Birchwood, and we found the house. 

Bruce generously let me go down memory lane, finding the elementary school, which was brand new the year we lived there, and listened to my stories from that year--stories he has heard more than once, poor guy. I liked living there, and I think I would have been happy to have lived there more years than that one. 

Our move to New York was followed by other moves, leading us eventually to move back to Minnesota the spring of my junior year in high school. I have been the "new girl" many times. That theme continued into married life. I thought marrying someone who was going to be a physician would mean settling down in one place, someplace like Mankato, for example, and not moving again, but we have moved more times that I could have predicted. 

Exploring Life's Patterns and Themes
Moving has been a pattern, a theme, in my life. At this stage of my life I find myself exploring that theme, that pattern. I wonder how moving so often has shaped me and how I might have been different if I had graduated from Mankato High School, for example, instead of attending 4 additional schools after we moved away from Mankato. 

I think about both the shadow and the light of being a person always ready to move. I know how to move, and I do it well. I enjoy the settling in process -- creating my loop of life and discovering the uniqueness of each new place. I like being a tourist as we become acquainted with our new home, our home for as long as we are there. I like making our new location our home. That's the light. The shadow, however, has been loneliness  or weariness with starting over again. At times I rely too much on my own resources, choosing solitude over outreach. That is a pattern and a theme in my life, too. 

This is a time of our life when we are old enough to look back and recognize patterns and themes in our life and their meaning and effects on our development, character, and behavior. We can choose to do that as a bit of nostalgia, sharing stories and snapshots from our life or we can choose to go deeper, examining the spiritual lessons we have learned as patterns have been repeated and the theme has been refined. 

Questions For Exploration
Is there something we are being asked to learn when another loop or twist is added to the ongoing pattern, but we have not yet learned? Are we willing to ask ourselves hard questions about why something in our life seems to repeat itself? Are there patterns that need to broken? I think about the adage, "If we do what we have always done, we get what we have always gotten." Are we content with the result of doing what we have always done? 

Can we identify both the shadow and the light in an honest way? Is there an unhealthy pattern that would like to find the end of the road, but needs your assistance to make that happen? What is within that is waiting to be born or changed or dissolved? What needs to be healed?

Finding Guidance
I wish I could easily identify a chapter called "The Patterns and Themes of One's Life," in one of my hundreds of spirituality books but at the moment I think I am writing that chapter for myself. However, Joan Chittister in her book The Gift of Years, Growing Older Gracefully offers some guidance in the chapter, "Memories." 

    Memory is not about what went on in the past. It is about
    what is going on inside of us right at this moment…It is
    made up of the stuff of life in the process of becoming the
    grist of the soul. p. 154

    Memory is many things. It is a call to resolve in us what
    simply will not go away. It is an invitation to delight in
    what is gone but is, too, the gold standard of our lives. It
    is a desire for completion, for continuance of something
    we once had but lost too soon. It is always an opportunity
    for healing. It preserves for us what must be faced and
    wrestled to the ground of the soul before the soul is free
    to fly. Without memory we could go blithely on in life
    without ever really knowing what of that life was still
    unfinished, was still rumbling around inside of us, waiting
    for attention. p. 155

    Because of memory life is not simply one isolated act
    after another. It all fits into the image of the self and 
    the goals of the heart. It makes them real. It makes them
    whole. p. 155

Memories can be a tool to clarify the patterns and themes in our life. Our experiences and our memories of them can help uncover the bigger picture of our life, the shadow and the light, and lead us to healing and wholeness. Now is the time. 

Who knew when we sit out in our little car on Saturday morning to find the open road what we would see and discover? I came home not only with memories of a relaxing and special summer day, but also touches of memories of the past and deeper recognition of the patterns and theme in my life. I am so grateful. 

An Invitation
What are the patterns and themes in your life? What are they asking you to recognize and in what ways are they asking for your response? I would love to know.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Noticing What's Hidden

What do you think when you see a house that looks like this? I drive or walk by this house almost daily, but today is the first time I noticed it. That is not too surprising since the house itself is almost totally concealed by steroid-sized shrubs. However, as I walked first thing this morning, that house cloaked in deep, thick, almost impenetrable bushes entered my imagination and my heart. 

First, I wondered about the inhabitants of that house. Is this a rental house and a case of an absentee landlord who has ignored the landscaping? Or do recluses live there who have intentionally created a moat of green to keep out any invaders? Do the people who live there only enter the house from the back door and never see how overgrown and oppressive their face to the world has become? Is this a case of old age, lack of money and ability, and a too-large home to manage anymore? What do the neighbors on either side of the house and across the street think? I wonder if this is the house on the block where sidewalks are never shoveled in the winter time. Perhaps no one lives there and the house is empty and lonely. 

This house is not the only one in the neighborhood that could use major loving-care. Every neighborhood has homes that for one reason or another are not well-tended or cared for. In some cases the reason is deliberate--the person simply does not care or have pride in how things look. In other cases what started as neat and orderly with gardens and landscaping pleasing to the eye have gotten out of hand. My husband, the head gardener, often points out perennial gardens that are now overbearing, overblown, and in need of ongoing attention, as every garden does to some degree. Of course, neglect can also be the result of lack of money or physical abilities or a different aesthetic from what seems acceptable to most people. Whatever the reason, there is a story attached to each of these unpruned homes. 

As I continued my walk, I wondered about this situation and what was being protected behind the thick wall of green. Is there a need to hide from the rest of the world? What fears are represented here? How could anyone feel welcomed approaching this fortress and is that an indication of the inhabitant's need to retreat not only from the external world, but also from his or her own self-awareness? What is being defended or concealed here? I don't think about possessions necessarily, but what emotions and vulnerabilities are secreted here? How is self-growth and self-awareness limited in such an environment, for not only is it daunting to enter, but it becomes hard to get out the front door as well. 

Here's the challenge I encountered on this walk, knowing what opportunities for metaphor houses and gardens offer: What have I hidden deep within myself? What am I protecting? What do I prevent from discovering the light? In what ways have I built a fortress, defending myself from unknown invasions? Where do I need to prune and weed and transplant and dig? What deep, well-fortified issues prevent me from being my true self, my whole self? 
In what ways do I need to tend my own home? And if not now, when?

Fortunately, there is lots of help available for clearing the barriers, including meeting with a spiritual director, spending time in contemplation and meditation or developing other spiritual practices that open one to deeper self-awareness. My daily walks often move me to greater clarity, especially when I then take time to sit and breathe and allow what I have seen to become part of my interior landscape.   With a clearer landscape comes an open and more compassionate heart. 

A Gift
Currently, I am reading The Rebirthing of God, Christianity's Struggle for New Beginnings
by John Philip Newell, whom I heard speak recently at Wisdom Ways, Center for Spirituality. I offer his words for your reflection.
     What does it mean that we are made of God rather than
     simply by God? In part it means that the wisdom of God
     is deep within us, deeper than the ignorance of what we 
     have done. It is to say that the creativity of God is deep
     within us, deeper than any barrenness in our lives or
     relationships, deeper than any endings in our families
     or our world. Within us--as a sheer gift of God--is the
     capacity to bring forth what has never been before,
     including what has never been imagined before. Above
     all else, as Julian of Norwich says, the love-longings
     of God are at the heart of our being. We and all things
     have come forth from the One. Deep within us are holy,
     natural longings for oneness, primal sacred drives for
     union. We may live in tragic exile from these longings,
     or we may have spent a whole lifetime not knowing how
     to truly satisfy them, but they are there at the heart of 
     our being, waiting to be born afresh.  p. x

An Invitation
I invite you to walk outside your house and have a good look. Is there something that has been neglected? Can you see what others see? Is it time to prune and bring more light into your heart? I would love to know.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Evidence of Gladness

Glad is not a word we use very often. We are more inclined to use the word "happy," a perfectly good word and one I use frequently. The word "glad," however, seems slightly old-fashioned or perhaps it is not as exuberant a word as "happy." Does it feel more restrained, bringing less attention to one's good fortune? "I'm glad" vs "I'm happy." It does seem different doesn't it? 

The word "glad," however, reminds me of gladiolas, and I happen to love gladiolas. Some people associate glads with funeral flowers, especially country church funerals. Others think they are too showy, too big for a reasonable bouquet in the house. The stalks are thick and you need a really large vase to display them properly. So what? I love the range of colors ready to match any decor or mood -- cloud white,  "I'm not shy" peaches and purples, and yellows the color of a soft rose or a leaf just beginning to become gold.  Glads aren't afraid of their own abundance and enthusiasm. They make me glad. 

When we lived at Sweetwater Farm, I drove into the country to an Amish farm stand and bought a bouquet of glads every week in the summertime. The young man who ran the stand knew what I liked and always had a healthy bunch waiting for me. They proclaimed summer days on our eating area's long harvest table. In Madison I brought home a bouquet from the farmers market each Saturday morning to add a colorful touch to our front porch, reminding me of the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York, one of my soul places, where it seemed glads on the front porches were almost a requirement.

Now in our St Paul home, which we lovingly call "the little house," there is still room for glads. The scale may be off, but the same large vase we have used for years sits on top of a round table in our entry way, and glads or when glads aren't available, other fresh flowers, always fill the space, lifting our hearts, welcoming us, along with friends and family, home.  There is gladness in this house. 

An Invitation
What makes you glad? What reminds you of the gladness in your life? And how can you add more gladness to each of your days? I would love to know. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Spiritual Practices As We Age

I have been reading and reflecting on two books during my morning meditation time recently: A Season of Mystery, 10 Spiritual Practices for Embracing A Happier Second Half of Life by Paula Huston and Joan Chittister's The Gift of Years, Growing Older Gracefully which I have read before and will probably read again. The two are a wonderful combination, challenging me into deeper contemplation of my life now and my intentions for living these years. I recommend them both.  

I do wonder, however, if Huston is responsible for the subtitle of the book.  The use of the phrase "second half of life" feels pretentious and inaccurate to me. Huston is 60. Does she intend to live till she is 120? The lessons and wisdom she offers in the book are valuable no matter one's age, but are not likely to resonate with a 40 or 50 year old, so right away we are faced with one of the myths our culture likes to perpetuate, lulling us into thinking we elders are in the second half of our life. Also, the word "happier" is one of those popular words right now. In fact, there is a Happiness Movement with books by Gretchen Rubin at the forefront,  encouraging us and teaching us how to be happy. Do I sound like a curmudgeon? Sorry. I'll work on that. 

Instead of offering a view of aging as the "best years of your life," both Chittister and Huston acknowledge that old age is the most challenging stage of life. "We must be able to tap into all the wonderment of childhood, the hope of young love, the patience of parenthood, and the determination of middle age if we are not to be defeated by it." (Huston, p. xi) Defeated--that's a pretty strong word, especially since Huston reminds us that every time we look in a mirror we see a person who is in the process of dying. We have been since the day we were born, but we had a lot of living to do first. For some looking in the mirror translates into a challenge to cover up, to fight the wrinkles and the droopiness, using whatever means possible to maintain a youthful veneer. When doing that becomes an exercise in the extreme, I wonder what the real cover-up is. What soul work is waiting your attention?

My sister has a new kitten. Is there anything cuter than a frisky, playful kitty? As you dangle a length of yarn just out of her reach, she gets down on her haunches and waits for the right moment, her little rear end wriggling with anticipation and finally, she pounces at the colorful yarn. It is time, this is the time to take the leap, to reach for the lessons your soul has been inviting you to address all your life. 

Huston and Chittister are wise and congenial companions.
Huston explores the practices of listening, delighting, lightening, settling, confronting, accepting, appreciating, befriending, generating, and blessing as antidotes to what can become our defenses as we age: tendencies to be close-minded, to complain and fear change or to obsess about comfort and security, to deny reality and to judge, hiding behind our view of the way things should be. Instead, this is a time to live in the "continual presence of God," Huston says, quoting the theologian Karl Rahner. 

I find some practices easier than others. Right now as I think about what I want to do next (Do I want to give energy to building my audience for this blog? Should I take a course that will help me write and develop the drafts for books I say I want to write?  Do I try to start a spiritual direction practice here? A contemplative writing group? A group to explore the spirituality of this time of life? Where should I offer myself as a volunteer?), I am challenged by the practices of accepting and generating. How do I use my gifts, the wisdom within without getting stuck in the need to be productive or to achieve? Sitting with these words, accept and generate, one on each knee, letting them sink into my body, mind, and spirit, I ask for guidance. How is it I am to live in the continual presence of God? This is a time of discernment. 

I turn to Chittister whose short chapters wend their way through a wide range of topics: joy, meaning, regret, adjustment, freedom, success, solitude, forgiveness, memories. Here's what she says about productivity--an issue for me:
      Retirement has nothing to do with whether we work
      or whether we don't. It has something to do with only
      the kind of work we do and the reason we do it…
      retirement does not free us from the responsibility to
      go on tending the world…This may, in fact, be the first
      moment in our lives when we are really free to choose
      work that brings out the best in us and so brings out
      the best in the world around us. We become co-creators 
      of the world. pp. 150-151

At the end of each chapter, Chittister offers summary statements--a burden and a blessing. In the chapter about accomplishment, Chittister reminds us that "There is no excuse for simply dropping out of life. As long as we breathe we have a responsibility for the cocreation of the world, for the good of the human race." (p. 53) 

      The burden of a lack of commitment to accomplishment
      means that we have moved into a period of suspended
      animation, that aging is nothing more than deterioration.
      The truth is that aging means aging. Nothing more, 
      nothing less. It is just us grown ripe.

      The blessing of a commitment to accomplishment is 
      that, as we continue to bring out considerable skills, 
      experience, and insight to bear on the present needs 
      of humankind, we will certainly become wiser, definitely
      spiritually stronger, and more than ever a blessing to
      the rest of society.  p. 54 

I invited Paula and Joan into my life and we are in ongoing dialogue, whether they know it or not. They respond to my seeking nature, my need to go deeper, but my need to live what I am discovering as well. And they have provided me with just the right tools. You can be sure I will let you know what I learn along the way.

An Invitation
Where are you finding guidance right now and what spiritual practices are strengthening you on the path? What are you discovering? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Adjusting to a New Temperature

Bruce and I are now into week two of him working part time from home, and friends and family have been inquiring, "How is it going?"  Some ask based on their own experiences of transitioning from working full-time outside the home to part-time work of some sort or to full retirement--whatever that is! Others inquire with the view of change looming ahead in their own future. Still others are simply kind and curious and good at asking questions. 

I can say without hesitation that this new lifestyle is good. Bruce is happy, and I am happy, too. We have not yet discovered any problems to solve or areas where we need to be more considerate of each other or where we are getting in each other's way. Yet. Of course, that will come. The novelty will wear off, but so far so good, and that as Martha Stewart always says is a "good thing." 

By the end of the first week, however, I realized how tired I was. True, last week was not only Bruce's first week at home, but we also had the grands with us for a couple days and the grand dog with us for additional days; the painter here late afternoons finishing a complicated project which kept the house in a mild state of unsettledness; a garage sale in process for three days, and …who knows what else. I am too tired to remember! 

Even so I am aware enough to know that all the activity is not the total source of weariness. Frankly, I am not used to the amount of interaction which is now part of our day to day life. As an introvert, I adjusted quite easily and naturally to the quiet days I had all these months from Sunday afternoon to Thursday evenings when Bruce was in Madison working. I wasn't quite a hermit, but most of the time I chose when to interact, to be with people. 

Now there is someone else in the house. That someone calls up the stairs to the garret, "Can I come up?" Of course. I want him to come up here. I want to enjoy the ease of conversation, instead of only communicating via text or email or phone--we have never been good phone talkers and such interchanges usually left us dissatisfied. Still, I need to adjust. Like turning up the thermostat when the temperature drops, I need to turn up my ability, my willingness, for unplanned, incidental, spontaneous, in passing sorts of discourse. I am not complaining. I'm just noticing and am aware. 

Having the ability to chit chat during the day is different from the days when he would return home at the end of the day, and we could share the day's comings and goings. Now we are experiencing sharing as we go along. Certainly, many of those dinnertime conversations were less than satisfying, for he would be tired from a long, full day, and many days I would not have much of interest to contribute. I may have had a routine domestic day of loads of laundry and groceries purchased or I may have had an inner-directed day of writing, thinking, listening to my own soul work. Much may have been percolating, but was not yet available for sharing. Those end of the day times together had their own challenges, but we adapted and forgave the lapses, knowing they were temporary.

Now there are new challenges. This time has the potential to be one of holy delight, but that means adapting and adjusting and being willing to open to new ways of being with one another.  Paula Huston in her book A Season of Mystery, 10 Spiritual Practices for Embracing A Happier Second Half of Life gives some sound and clear advice.

     …we must first give up our notions about what should
    or should not be. We must be willing to let go of 
    personal preference or too much concern about what
    might inconvenience us. We must resist becoming anxious 
    when things don't go our way. For an overly controlling
    stance is the enemy of delight. p. 19
I hope I am up for the challenge. I want to be and intend to be, for, I know, ultimately we will both reap the rewards. Bringing who we are into this time and space, we can come to know each other in deeper and more profound ways.  This is an opportunity for a new kind of presence to each other and to ourselves as spiritual beings. 

Yesterday afternoon I retreated to my garret to read and write in my journal and to nap as well. Bruce was at his desk when I walked up the stairs. Later he took the grand dog for a walk, and I thought for a moment about joining them, but I could feel I was not ready to leave the solitude I carved for myself. Soon, I said to myself, but at the moment I was not quite ready to adjust the thermostat to a more congenial and conversational temperature. Just give me a few minutes. 

An Invitation
Where is your thermostat set for daily interactions? Does there need to be some adjustment? What have you experienced when there has been a change in your lifestyle? I would love to know.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Wisdom While Walking

I have written frequently about my morning walks in the neighborhood as a time when I often receive thoughts I want to explore. As I cruise the now familiar blocks, I awaken to the day. I enjoy the pleasures of a new day. In a way, I announce my presence to the day, and I agree to start anew, opening to the movement of the Divine in my life. 

A recent walk offered two gifts literally at my feet: poems inscribed in the sidewalk in front of two homes. I might have missed them, except I still walk slowly and cautiously, aware of the changes in the sidewalk levels, thanks to my recovering broken ankle. Although I do not yet walk fast enough to raise my heart beat to a strong work-out rate, my heart skipped a beat when I read these poems.

Not Like Fire

Nothing Flaming
or even
caught up 
with danger.
Nothing racing to take
or possessions or 
no prisoners.

No, our love
was never like that. 

I stood quietly, paying my respect to that kind of sustaining love. I wondered about the person who wrote those words and has  permitted the world to peek inside that love. Forever. I wondered if he or she still lives in the house by that section of sidewalk and if not, are the people who live there now inspired by those words to love more deeply, more fully and freely? What was the story behind the words, behind the decision to etch one's heart on the sidewalk? I grieved for the loss the poet has experienced, but rejoice in the enduring life of that love. I held my hand on my heart and sent out a blessing that all may know the kind of love that does not need fire to live. 

And then I continued my walk only to discover another poem just steps away in front of another house. 

The sky
fell on
my tree
and I 
was a fast

I gasped. Whoa! Here is a story of survival, of endurance, of resilience. What did that tree look like? What crashed? What fell apart? Did lightning strike? Was there a dark and stormy night? And then what? I've met many "fast runners" in my life and have been inspired by them, especially when they have known it was time to slow down, even stop, in order to know, really know, the lessons of the broken tree. It is not enough to escape being trapped under branches and limbs--that's a start--but then how do you rebuild, transforming tragedy, loss, and change into new life? What deep knowing is available when the tree no longer stands?
Where did this "fast runner" go? Where did the running lead?

All I did that morning was put on my walking shoes, stick my phone and keys in my pocket and head out the front door. The first decision of the day, beyond yes, I will take a walk, was to decide which direction to go. I turned right and such gifts I found. 

An Invitation
What gifts have you found simply because you made the first basic decision--to open your heart and head out the door? I would love to know. 

Bonus: The next morning I went another direction and I heard someone typing, yes typing, as in typing on a typewriter. Clickety clack, clack, clack. Fast and steady. Obviously, I wonder about that person and the great American novel being written! On that same walk I encountered a unique STOP sign. Someone had re-imagined a STOP sign as an overgrown flower. How did this come to be? Mysteries and pleasures are present wherever you go! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Forty Years

When my mother would call to wish me "Happy Birthday," she would add, "I can't believe you are x years and that makes me x years." I admit I was irritated by her need to focus on what MY birthday meant about her own age, but our daughter Kate turns 40 this month, and now I find myself thinking about the relevance of those years in my own life. How is it possible that I have a daughter who is 40, I think, and yes, that means, I am 66. How did that happen? Sorry, Mom, I now understand why my birthdays were not just a celebration of my life, but also a measurement of yours. 

I look at our beautiful and talented daughter, who seems to handle all the facets of her busy life with such ease, and see that she is in the prime of her life. Her husband Mike and the kids, her work, including a new business she is starting, 9 Open Doors, Enneagram Coaching and Consulting, volunteer work, care of her home, her extended family, and friends, and attention to her own physical and emotional needs all add up to a bustling, on-the-go life. She seems to thrive, and I am in awe. 

I'm lucky, for I am her mother and therefore, she is a key person in my life, but if I didn't have the good fortune of being in that role Kate is someone I would want to know. Clearly, I am not the only one, for at the birthday party Mike arranged for her the other night, their backyard was full of friends and family who love and respect her. 

Yes, this is her time to celebrate and be celebrated, but one of the gifts of having children is how they become a measure of our own days. 

* 40 years ago Bruce graduated from medical school and started his residency in family practice in Minneapolis. For forty years he has been a vital and caring physician to families and individuals in all stages of life. Now Dr. B is in a new stage of life himself--partial retirement and working from home. 

* 40 years ago I ended my teaching career as a high school English teacher, but over the years I reclaimed and reformed myself as a teacher in a variety of ways; ways I could never have imagined when I left my classroom at Webster Groves High School on that last day. Today I wonder what the next form my life as teacher will take. 
 * 40 years ago Bruce and I moved from St Louis, where he attended medical school, to St Paul. He drove the U-Haul truck, and I drove our car. I was pregnant, very pregnant, and we had no idea yet if we would get the loan for the house we hoped to buy. Fortunately, we did get the loan, but we had to live with my parents for a month before we closed on that house. A testament to  my parents' generosity. Since then we have moved many times and 40 years later we now live in the very same neighborhood, only blocks away, from our first house. 
 * 40 years ago we became parents for the first time, and we embarked on four decades of life, love, surprises, jolts, obstacles, changes, delights, and growth, so much growth. However, we didn't always take the time to acknowledge it all. That's what this time--40 years later--is for. 

Kate is 40 this month and Geof turned 35 in March, and yes, I wonder how it is possible that the time has passed so quickly. I have a hard time remembering myself at those ages, and I suspect they are living in a more conscious and intentional way than I did. I hope so. I know they have given so much to us, and I look at them and the passage of time with wonder and gratitude. 

* 40 years ago was a time of huge change for us. This past year has been another time of huge change for us, as well. It is good to honor our own resiliency and adaptability and to count our joys. 

An Invitation
What milestones have made you look back over your life recently? How do you measure your days? Are there ways you need to acknowledge the passage of time? I would love to know.