Opening the New Year with Compassion

If you want the world to be happy: practice compassion. If you want to be happy: practice compassion.
~ Dalai Lama

I particularly love this time of year, the silent yet stirring segue of the final week of 2015 into the fresh new pages of 2016. As I pondered what I would say here today to open this new year, I found the answer when I prepared to do my morning mindful meditation. Its theme, which resonates deeply in my wishful heart, was: May all beings be well and happy.

This metta-meditation, a very old Buddha technique to cultivate compassion, with regular practice can recondition our minds and open our hearts to both ourselves and others. Metta-meditation tells us we must not decide who deserves our compassion and who does not, but rather that compassion is something all beings deserve, even those responsible for horrendous crimes against humanity.

The guided meditation method to wish happiness and wellness for all beings is to first sit comfortably and, if helpful, close your eyes. First, see yourself in your mind, and mindfully say:

• May I be well and happy. Repeat.
• May I have no fears or sorrows. Repeat.
• May I be healthy and free from illness. Repeat.
• May I live calmly and peacefully. Repeat.

Then repeat the same affirmations for all others in this list, adjusting it to apply to you; for example you may not have a child but someone else you’d like to include. These are examples:

• Parents
May my parents be well and happy. Repeat.
May my parents have no fears or sorrows. Repeat.
May I be healthy and free from illness. Repeat.
May I live calmly and peacefully. Repeat.

Then repeat the meditation for each person on your list:

• Spouse or partner
• Child
• Teachers and mentor
• Friend
• A neutral person with whom you share the simple bond of being a fellow human being
• A person you dislike, keeping in mind the truth that “he or she is just like you—with pains and frustrations, desires and hopes.”
• All humans in the world
• All living beings everywhere, from single cell organisms to the highest form of intelligence

Professor Muesse (see below) states that “medical studies have been conducted and support the claim that prayer has a tangible, empirical effect on the health of those prayed for.” And “whether or not you believe in the effects of this practice… consider the fact that relieving a little of the hostility of just one person—yourself—will make that world a little better for everyone.”

I have found over time this practice has brought a noticeable and welcomed softening to my heart.

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Source: The Great Courses Series – Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation by Professor Mark W. Muesse, PhD, Rhodes College – Lecture #17

 

Posted in Compassion, Gifts, Gratitude, Kindness, Mystery, Simplicity | 6 Comments

Leaving the Farm, Part II – Hilary, 21 Years Later

As I drove up the mountain to have my car serviced early this morning, I noticed some yellow walnut leaves lightly fluttering to the ground. They reminded me that in a few months there will be, instead of dying leaves, large snowflakes gently falling in a hushed early winter snowfall.

I’d been thinking about my cat, Hilary, and her more than two decades of life thus far. At my vet’s office, she’s known as the poster child for wellness chec2010-06-03 22.08.20k-ups. Why, you might wonder? Well, four years ago I took her in, expecting the usual good checkup, and learned she had breast cancer. Stunned, I didn’t even know cats got breast cancer. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she also needed surgery for stones in her urinary tract. I asked the vet my questions: what was her prognosis with and without surgery? With surgery, if the cancer didn’t re-occur in six months, chances were it wouldn’t. Without surgery, her life could last a few months more. What was her general condition aside from her current problems? Her blood work showed she appeared otherwise in good general health for a seventeen year old cat. What was the cost? Both surgeries could be done the same day and would amount to roughly $1,000.00.

I asked for some time to consider. Alone, then, with Hilary, I looked into her eyes as she watched me, almost appearing to understand we were going to have a serious talk. A tabby, she has black lines near her eyes that also give her the appearance of a perpetual frown.

“Okay, little girl, we have a choice: surgery or not,” I said in a low voice, still not knowing the decision.

“Remember when Mom’s cat got so sick and the vet did more than a thousand dollars of testing to determine what was wrong, and then Buster died two days later?”

Hilary, feet tucked under her on the gray Formica exam table, watched me, seeming to get the drift of the conversation, if her eye expression was any indicator. I stared at her quietly then, weighing our options: aged cat, costly surgery, would it give her added life or would it put her through discomfort and she might die soon after?

Was I imagining it, or was Hilary staring at me with obvious trust in her eyes? The options silently swirled around in my head until finally the vet’s words stood at the front of the line of the other choices: she’s otherwise in good general health.

I had my answer and it felt exactly right. “Okay, Hilary. Here’s what we’re going to do.”
She listened attentively, her lime-green eyes fastened on mine. “Let’s do the surgery. What I hope you can do is survive the six months cancer-free, okay? Let’s hope that will happen because we’ll do the breast cancer surgery just this once.”

So that’s what we did. She came through the surgery beautifully, passed the six-month cancer-free marker, and we got to share two more healthy years. When I took her in for a check-up last year, she’d been noticeably losing weight and I braced myself. Her new diagnosis was renal failure, quite common in older cats, I learned. “How much time does she have?” I asked the vet.

“It’s hard to tell,” she said. “She’s lost a lot of weight, but she appears to be doing okay otherwise.” She prescribed some maintenance medications which have brought us to today. Hilary’s a little over five pounds now, tips and totters a lot when she walks, yet still seems comfortable as she maintains her usual patterns. She sticks to her routine of waiting by the door each morning for me to let her out on the front deck where she spends her Virginia retirement in warmth, she begins pacing when around 6pm when it’s time for her wet food, and, otherwise, is a bit snippy with my other cat, my son’s cat when she visits there, and my daughter’s dogs who really want to be her friend.

And so, as golden leaves gently spiral to the ground, I do the one thing I can: I treasure each day, aware that the bitter-cold day will come when she and I will have to say good-bye.

Posted in Animal friends, Gifts, Gratitude, Health, Mother Nature | 7 Comments

A Sweet Bovina Story – Maple Syrup

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A long-time friend from Bovina, NY recently brought me a treasure of a gift: pure locally made maple syrup. As I gathered my maple syrup thoughts this morning, I realized how little I know about its origins, so engaged on an interesting little search.

Ever wondered who first made maple syrup, that divine sweetener that has long been my absolute favorite? Although we have no written documentation for today’s scholars, there are many interesting stories and all  seem to circle back to our Native American ancestors. I found the following tale in several places and reproduce it here from the Southern Maine Maple Sugarmakers Association:

Legend has it that the first maple syrup maker was an Iroquois woman, the wife of Chief Woksis. One late-winter morning, the story goes, the chief headed out on one of his hunts, but not before yanking his tomahawk from the tree where he’d thrown it the night before. On this particular day the weather turned quite warm, causing the tree’s sap to run and fill a container standing near the trunk. The woman spied the vessel and, thinking it was plain water, cooked their evening meal in it. The boiling that ensued turned the sap to syrup, flavoring the chief’s meal as never before. And thus began the tradition of making maple syrup.

It certainly matched my experience: maple water, or sap, from sugar maple trees begins to flow during a brief window of time between late winter and early spring, when days are warming up and nights are still cold. I well remember a day each year, often in March, when I lived on our Catskill Mountain farm in the mid-1970s, when I’d step outside the farmhouse into a still-cool, slightly-humid morning and well-embedded knowledge in my bones by then, told me that maple syrup season had arrived. This fact was a sweet lift from the long Catskill winter and always made me smile.

My husband, Don, and his father, Ed, would tap the numerous sugar maples on the farm, and fasten sap buckets.  When sap filled the buckets, the men fastened a wooden wagon,the gathering tank on it, onto the back of the old John Deere tractor. After gathering sap from the buckets into the tank, they’d putt-putt down to the old sap house below the house that was nestled by the stone-wall fence above the stream.

Smoke soon puffed from the stovepipe chimney where, inside the humid, sweet-smelling sap house, a wood fire was boiling down the sap to the right temperature. Forty gallons of sap was needed to make one gallon, a huge amount for our small operation. In our best year, I remember, we made fifty gallons.

Maple-syrup making was one of the many ways in which we lived so connected to the land for our food. It was part of the magic of living in rural America that I have always cherished and held close to my heart.

And, so, when I opened my bottle of pure maple syrup this morning, I slid back through decades to a rich time in my life for which I’ve always been profoundly grateful, a time when I learned so much that I’d never had known if I’d remained a city girl.

I also feel gratitude today for my friend, Jan; for this sumptuous syrup; for a tiny community and the people in it who carry on this timeless tradition today; for the Iroquois woman–if legend is accurate–who inadvertently discovered the secret within maple sap; and for the sugar maple trees of the northeast, so generous in their gift to us. May we each respect and appreciate the wonder and integrity of this sweet earth we all live upon.

Peace.

 

 

 

Posted in Bovina Stories, Community, Friendship, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mother Nature, Mystery, Peacefulness, Simplicity | 2 Comments

The Cat’s in the Cradle

I walk past my oldest antique, a cradle that my grandmother, Edna Cartwright Davis, born IMG_20160523_105247902in the late 1800s, slept in as an infant. When she grew out of it, someone carried it upstairs into an attic where it remained for decades. I never knew about the cradle until my grandmother brought it downstairs one year in the early 60s and asked if I would like to have it. I was in my early twenties then,married and mother of two sons, and pretty sure I wouldn’t have more children. But that didn’t matter because this was a family heirloom and I was thrilled to say, “Yes, I’d love to have that cradle,” to my grandmother. She wasn’t often physically affectionate, but that day I reached out and gave her a big long hug of gratitude and love.

Life changed unexpectedly after that and I became a single mom for several years. When I re-married, Polly arrived four years later and two years later, Susan. To prepare the cradle for Polly, I purchased 3” soft piece of foam and crafted a mattress, then made sheets to fit from fabric with a small pastel-colored kitten pattern. Both girls slept contentedly in the cradle and grew out of it more quickly than I would have chosen.

Following the baby years, the cradle slowly filled with baby memorabilia: a triangle patchwork baby quilt crafted by my mother’s friend, Geneva; a crocheted pale green-and-yellow afghan my mother made; a lacy baby pillow made by a Bovina friend. When the girls began to outgrow their dolls, dolls began to spend their days in the cradle, so many beautiful dolls. The lovely yellow-haired doll with a baby blue handmade dress made by a talented Bovinian, Lisa, found her way there. The Raggedy Ann dolls I made, each with a heart embroidered with, “I love you,” secreted beneath their dresses and aprons were tucked close by, the small Raggedy Ann nestled on the larger one’s lap. Then, life-sized baby doll, Bonnie, was tenderly placed in the cradle, still dressed today in the pink-checked bunny bunting with little white ears I’d brought Polly, and then Susan, home from the hospital in. The bunting is still in perfect condition these near four-decades later.

Now, it’s the cat who naps in the cradle, comfy as can be atop the folded patchwork quilt. As I smile down at my sweet feline friend and his surrounding company, sweet memories fill my heart. Then I wonder: who will nap in the cradle in its future years?

 

Posted in Animal friends, Bovina Center, NY, Stories, Change, Childhood, Family, Friendship, Grace, Quilts | 5 Comments

One Wedding Ring – A Quilt Story

Wedding rings have been on my mind the past few days, with an abundant arc of images ranging from the simplest of bands to the most glamorous and sophisticated rings passing through my mind. Why wedding rings? Am I getting married? Not at all.

Rather, I’ve been remembering my research for a quilt design to reflect the contents of Chapter 3 in my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life. The chapter tells the story of my parents’ meeting when they worked for 20th Century Fox in Manhattan in the early 1940s and their subsequent marriage. When I found two patterns I liked, the “Single Wedding Ring,” and the “Double Wedding Ring,” I became curious about the origin of wedding rings. How long had humans worn rings as a symbol of marriage?

Research revealed that historians believe the ancient Egyptians started the ring-giving tradition more than 3,000 years ago. Interestingly, those earliest-known rings were usually braided of hemp or reeds. The circular shape represented endless love between a man and woman. The third finger of the left hand was chosen as the ring finger because of the belief that particular finger held a special vein connected directly to the heart. This idea passed on to other cultures, and centuries later, became known by the Latin term vena amoris or “vein of love.”

I wondered next when and why men started to wear wedding bands and found that a small minority of bridegrooms began wearing them toward the latter part of the last century. I also found a suggestion that World War II had, in part, occasioned a shift to men wearing wedding rings, particularly soldiers, who wore them as a comforting reminder of wives, children, and family back home.

I liked both wedding ring patterns, and my choice of which to use was easy. I’d make the Single Wedding Ring because my father had never worn a wedding band. Then I became curious to know when and where the design originated, and turned to a great quilt research site I’ve found during my present quilt journey, The Quilt Index. There, in an essay by Wilene Smith on June 30, 2011, “Wedding Ring? or Single Wedding Ring?”  I learned the earliest known Wedding Ring design was published as an engraving on October 1, 1887 in a Springfield, MA magazine named “Farm and Home.”

Later, in 1930 , Wedding Ring was renamed Single Wedding Ring, and although, as with many patterns, it acquired other names–for example, Saw Tooth, in 1890-1894, and Odd Scraps Patchwork in 1895-1897–it continued to be known as Wedding Ring in most publications for the next 41 years.

Smith’s essay also answered the question: When did the Wedding Ring pattern become the Single Wedding Ring? She found “…it was April 12, 1930, in the Kansas City Star newspaper illustrated by Eveline Foland and has been generally known by this name ever since.” She explores why the name changed and if the popularity of the new Double Wedding Ring pattern influenced the change. That, and a multitude of information about single and double wedding ring patterns is included in the essay at the above link.

Here is my own version:

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One Wedding Ring, May, 2016

Posted in Family, Mystery, Quilts | 9 Comments

Welcome, Beau!

He’s about a year old, this sweet, small, yet long-legged Beagle mix. He’d been found sick and starving by a woman two counties away who’d contacted our Humane Society to ask for help with him when her own county could not. Our Humane Society is an amazing no-kill shelter that opens its arms and hearts to all animals in need, and they offered help. Then they called me because they knew I was interested in adopting a dog ever since my 21-year-old Hilary cat died last year.

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“He’s much different than the usual animal that comes in,” the shelter staff person said. I spent a few hours visiting with “Sonny” the next day, noting his sweet demeanor, my ability to keep up with his walking pace, and most of all those endearing beagle eyes when they stared into my own eyes. Without hesitation I told the staff person on our return, “Yes, I want to adopt him.”

I haven’t owned a dog in three decades, not since my children were young and we lived on the farm, and raised border collies. In the late 90s, I swerved onto some unplanned roads in my life’s journey that led me away from the farm. I decided I’d have cats for pets, not wanting to leave a dog home alone for 8-10 hours a day while I worked.

Harriet, a Maine-Coon-former-barn-cat, hopped into my car the day I moved from the farm, and shortly gave birth to Hilary, a beautiful tabby who wanted to remain as she’d been born: an only child. In passing years, I discovered Button, abandoned in my back yard when he was about six days old. Coincidentally, he wanted to be an only child, too, and given time the two cats eventually achieved a quiet truce whereby they could pass by each other without a snarl or swipe.

When Hilary died, I sensed that Button missed her company despite their ever-seeming indifference to each other. Then I got an idea as I watched Button acting at ease with my daughter’s two dogs, and thought a dog might work well.

A month later I brought Beau home. Button froze by the glass door as he saw Beau shyly approach. After giving them sight time through the window, I opened the door a few inches and we soon entered the house. Button hissed softly, Beau was silent as he inspected this new-to-him environment, and that was it. Since that time three weeks ago, they have become respectfully curious and friendly with each other. Beau sits to my left on the love seat at night as I watch television and knit, in the spot that used to be Button’s. Button relinquished the spot with relative grace, and moved to the largIMG_20160601_120801609er nearby couch. He’s retained his spot by my feet as I work at the computer and still sleeps on my bed each night.

I love having a dog again. Button might say, “Oh, he’s okay; I’m just glad he’s not another cat.”

And Beau? Well, I think he might say, “It’s good to have food and water every day, I’m glad my skin doesn’t drive me crazy itching anymore, my new human loves me a lot and I love her. And the cat? Well, he’s interesting, but what was my human thinking when she named us?  Button and Beau? I guess she thought we were cute! Whatever. I’m just glad to be home.”

Posted in Animal friends, Bovina Stories, Change, Friendship, Grace, Gratitude | 8 Comments

Ordinary Grace

This afternoon I read Ordinary Grace  by William Kent Krueger, a book that took me to a small town, New Bremen, Minnesota in 1961, where complex tragedy strikes a small family and ripples through the community in astonishing ways. Krueger is an author I’ve followed for many years, relishing my dozen or so visits to the place he knows so well, Minnesota, and with his part Irish, part Ojibwe Indian protagonist, Cork O’Connor.

Although I just recently discovered it, Ordinary Grace was first published in early 2014, and is a significantly different book than any of Krueger’s previous mystery series. Krueger says he wanted to explore another way of writing to explore the themes of loss, hope, faith, and the relationships people have. Although the richly colorful characters in this literary mystery all possess brokenness in either physical or emotional ways, we are guided by the protagonist, young Frank Drum, as he comes of age and eventually discovers that the sometimes-fragile thread of grace is always present, even in the face of his own profound loss.

Krueger notes that he felt the story came largely from outside himself, although parts are drawn from his own childhood experiences. “That there was so much brokenness surprised me, but we are all broken in some way. The task became to fit these people together into a not-perfect whole; sometimes that meant letting go and allowing the story to show me what it’s supposed to be.”

Twice, lightly in the beginning and in more depth at the end, he makes mention of the following quotation by Aeschylus, often called “the father or founder of tragedy.”

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”                               ~
Aeschylus

In this context, awful grace sounds terrible—but is not—because, while tragedy is beyond our comprehension and seems terrible, enormous grace surrounds us all and is what accompanies us as we sojourn through the tragic parts of life.

One of my favorite parts of the book is this conversation between Warren Redstone, an Indian and  prime suspect for the murder of Frank’s young sister—and Frank Drum. The actual murderer has been identified and this conversation between the two men follows:

Redstone: “They’re never far from us, you know.”

Frank:        “Who?”

Redstone:  “The dead. No more than a breath. You let that last one go and you’re with them again.”

Later, Frank verbalizes this truth to himself: The dead are never far from us. They are in our hearts, in our minds, and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one puff of air.

I found Ordinary Grace to be a treasure, one that has left me feeling filled with, well, grace. And that is not an ordinary gift.

 

Posted in A Wonderful Book, Book Reviews, Childhood, Community, Compassion, Courage, Family, Grace, Kindness, Mystery, Peacefulness | 2 Comments

A Childhood Vacation

The first vacation my childhood family ever had taken was approaching and we were all so excited. My mother and her lifelong best friend, Geneva, had planned it. Geneva’s three kids were Kathy, about my age, 14ish; Eric, close to my sister Jackie’s age 8; and Joanna, near my sister Bonnie’s age 5. The two husbands would be working —my father on Long Island where we lived, and Geneva’s husband, Prince, in New Jersey, their home state. On the last day of our vacation, the fathers both would help us pack up and go home.

When the big day finally arrived, we kids all helped pack the two cars with camping gear, food, and clothing, then jumped into our mothers’ cars. We barely noticed the thick, menacing clouds overhead, as we drove to Hither Hills State Park on Montauk Point, the eastern end of Long Island.

The drive was long, but with so much anticipation in the air, my sisters and I were pretty well-behaved during those 75 miles. When Mom finally turned into the huge sandy parking lot and turned the motor off, Geneva pulled in right next to our car. We kids hopped out of the cars and started to run to the path toward the ocean. Mom called, “Come back here as soon as you’ve seen the ocean. I need you to help carry things. And tell me if the water is gentle or rough today.”

 

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“We will,” we shouted, as we ran toward the broad opening between two sand dunes ahead, densely covered with swaying dune grass. We stopped between them and from this gateway stared with awe at the broad, gray expanse of water about 150 feet in front of us. The ocean! The water met the sky as far as we could see. Today the endless waves were rough and crashed noisily, one after another with much ferocity, but we were so happy to be there we gave them no thought. Nor did we notice there were just one or two people walking the beach, strong winds blowing whipping their garments. We didn’t wonder where the numerous people scattered across the sand on blankets beneath bright red, blue, yellow, or orange umbrellas were, who were always present on any day we went to the ocean near our home. This was all new: this was our first visit to Hither Hills. We didn’t understand this ocean was an extension of the one at home.

We watched the waves until we felt chilled, then returned to our Moms’ cars.”The water’s really rough,” we told them. They didn’t seem surprised.

Soon, our arms embracing all kinds of beach and camping gear, we followed our mothers’ down the beach until we reached an elongated oval of sand that contained large square cement pads, located privately behind the dunes. It was surrounded by vast sand imprinted with endless foot indentations that resembled tiny mountain ranges.

Mom and Geneva began to set up two tents, a large one for them and whichever kids wanted to stay with them. As the wind whipped up more, making tent setting-up quite a challenge, I helped with the small pup tent, where I planned to stay. In late afternoon, Mom and Geneva had the two tents set up just as the big drops of cold rain began. We hurried into one of the tents for cover as a downpour fell on us. Somehow we managed supper in the big tent without getting completely soaked. After eating, Cathy, my little sister, Bonnie, and I scrambled back into to the pup tent. It was fun for awhile as we played cards, but we soon got bored. We hadn’t brought much more indoor activities. Outside was where we’d planned to be.

Finally, darkness descended as rain poured down on us. Kathy, Bonnie, and I lay on our backs and watched our tent top. The weight of the rain caused the 45-degree angle to droop much closer to our heads. I decided to touch the tent top with my pointer, for a reason that I no longer recall. I pushed up on the rain weight and held it as though it might stay elevated, which, of course, it didn’t. But it did do something else, when I took my finger away, rain dropped down onto me from the spot I’d touched.

“Huh,” I said. “Look, the rain’s leaking in.” Four other eyes gazed where I pointed. Then I did something pretty quirky. I began touching one spot after another about ten more times and when I removed my finger, sure enough, rain dripped down from each spot, not a steady stream, but a regular drip, drip, drip. Bonnie touched a space above her and Kathy did, too. They were wiser children than I, for one touch was enough for them.

It rained all night as we lay curled up so we weren’t beneath any of the drips. I don’t recall how much sleep we got, which I imagine was little, but I do remember that water covered our tent floor in the morning. We quickly scooted over to the big tent where things were much dryer than our tent, but the people inside were getting cranky. Some of us soon declared we didn’t like camping and wanted to go home. The heavy rain continued. Finally my mother called my father for help. He arrived several hours later, in a dark mood because he’d had to leave work, and within an hour, all of us soaking wet, we hauled everything back to the cars.

I talked with Bonnie yesterday and asked if she remembered the Hither Hills camping trip.

“Oh, yes,” she said.

“Have you ever gone camping again?”

“Nope,” she said crisply. “That was it. The first camping trip. The last camping trip.”

“For me, too,” I said. We laughed.

Unwittingly, whoever had scheduled our vacation had chosen dates that matched the arrival of one of the worst Nor’easter’s of that summer of 1954.

 

Hither Hills

The eastern end of Long Island at Hither Hills, N.Y. on a sweet summer day.

 

 

Posted in Childhood, Family, Mother Nature, Simplicity | 8 Comments

Homelessness: One Man’s Story

In recent months, I’ve been deeply moved by a Story Circle Network blogging friend’s writing as she courageously brings forward her son’s long-term homelessness in California’s Bay Area. Margie Witt has written several compelling articles about her son’s journey from early rich promise in his life to his present journey on the street. She is also writing a memoir. To learn more, kindly follow this link to Margie’s recent Facebook post, This Man is My Son.

Tonight, on your local PBS station, Independent Lens is focusing on three homeless people. If you follow the link, the man you see in the photo is Margie’s son. I hope you’ll find the program on your local station (it’s at 10pm where I live in Virginia) and gain a deeper understanding of the roots of homelessness as well as considerations for what we can each do to help heal this heartbreaking problem that belongs to us all.

Should you read this post later than tonight, watch PBS listings for encore  presentations.

Posted in Community, Compassion, Courage, Family, Mental Illness, Poverty | 1 Comment

The Wonder and Mystery of Marriage

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They married on the one year anniversary date of the day they met, May 1, 2015. They planned the simple, yet richly meaningful celebration with high efficiency, low stress, and much happiness–in just 29 days. Polly had waited a long time for Mr. Right, as had Chris for her, and when she proposed to him in early April, they began planning immediately.

I woke on their wedding day to rain that had tapered off enough by mid-morning that Chris sent an email saying the wedding would take place on Raven’s Roost Lookout on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 2:30 pm, as opposed to Plan B, on the huge porch of their secluded home. The day remained overcast and humid as we approached the Parkway and we could see fog covering the mountaintops ahead.

When we ascended the mountain, the fog slowly dissipated as we drove the seven miles to Raven’s Roost. There, as we waited for everyone to arrive, the fog continued to disappear. By the time Polly and Chris arrived several minutes later, sunshine had replaced the fog with warmth, light, and a lovely deep blue sky with puffy white clouds.

The sunshine also brought a warming to my heart that swelled into a belief that the universe was gifting us all with a loving affirmation for Polly and Chris’ union. I also felt we were not only graced by the presence of our Creator, but also in the presence of beloved family spirits who had left us long before this day.

The hand-written ceremony was delivered by long-time friend Anne Tallent, Polly and Chris exchanged their personal heart-felt vows, the ceremony concluded, and the newly married couple kissed. Joy surged in all our hearts with the wonder and mystery that brought them to this day.

In the heavens above, our mountaintop must have appeared to suddenly burst with tiny dancing lights as cameras clicked while we all basked in our joy.

When the photos were completed, we all prepared to leave just as the second numinous moment arrived. We were bending into our cars to begin the drive to the reception, when the sun began to fade and the sky transformed back to gray clouds. When we reached the bottom of the mountain, sprinkles of rain arrived and stayed the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, we all—the wedding party and guests—gathered happily inside the reception restaurant and enjoyed a lovely afternoon in everyone’s company. At one point, as I sat quietly for some minutes and gazed at Polly and Chris, his family, their friends, and listened to the joy, happy conversation, laughter, and other expressions of love, I remembered back to our earlier time on the mountain. I recalled the warm sunshine, the cottony clouds, and the joy and mystery of those moments when the small, sacred window of sunshine had opened just long enough to gift Polly and Chris time for their ceremony, pictures, brief lingering, and then closed, their embrace by the universe in joyous celebration.

My heart filled with gratitude for the grace bestowed on the two and on all of us. Bless you always, dearest Polly and Chris.

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Posted in Family, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mother Nature, Mystery, Simplicity | 16 Comments

God’s Eye

More than four decades ago, my second-grade son, Keith, brought home a God’s Eye he’d crafted in school shortly before Christmas. At the time I’d never heard of a God’s Eye and asked him to tell me about it.Keith's Last Gift - God's Eye

“My teacher said it can be a Christmas tree decoration. Or we can use it any way we want to.”

“It is certainly pretty,” I observed as I looked more closely at the colorful, interesting creation that started with two narrow strips of cardboard fastened into a cross configuration. Keith had then wrapped bright colors of yarn—red, then blue, and green—around each of the four arms of the cross. Later I would learn that red symbolized life, blue represented sky and water, and green on the outer edge was for vegetation.

“We don’t have our tree yet,” I said to Keith. “Suppose we hang it in the window until we do get the tree?”

“Sure, Mommy,” he said.

We set God’s Eye on the table and didn’t get it hung that afternoon. A family crisis arrived the next day , about which I prayed almost non-stop. There was something about the name of Keith’s craft, God’s Eye, that caused me to keep it near.

The events that ensued during the next four months were life-changing and during that time God’s Eye was placed in the box you see it resting on above.

Several years later, I re-discovered the God’s Eye and placed it on my desk in my cabin in the woods. I’d started writing my memoir then and became curious about the story behind the God’s Eye. I found through research that a God’s Eye was an ancient symbol that originated in Jalisco, Mexico with the Huichol Indian tribe. When his child was born, a Huichol father wove the central eye in the God’s Eye, or Ojo de Dios. Each following year until age five, the father wove another round of yarn, another “eye.”

On a deeper level, this Christian symbol represented a spiritual covenant with God, to watch over and grant the child good health, good fortune, longevity, and auspiciousness. The four ends of the cross symbolized the four life elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Whether a God’s Eye was hung on a wall, the end of an arrow, or in the child’s hair, the Huichol believed it had the power to heal, protect, and ensure the child a long and healthy life.

I’ve created a quilt square that replicates Keith’s God’s Eye for my story quilt;  God’s Eye is also the title of Chapter 20 in my memoir.

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Posted in Childhood, Family, Gifts, Mystery | 1 Comment

Another Sunday with Nelson

You may remember that every other Sunday, my grand dog, Nelson, spends the afternoon with me while his human, John, goes to Almost Home, our local Humane Society, and walks dogs who are waiting for their forever people to come to claim them.

Nelson appeared at the back door as usual, knowing that a treat (or two, or three…) waited for him inside, along with a hug and a warm welcome. He wagged his tail excitedly as John and my daughter, Polly, came inside. Polly carried a plastic bag filled with colorful pieces of fabric, which turned out to be a bag of doggie ties she ordered from Amazon, apparently one for each dog in her life who is attending her marriage to Chris Deppmann this coming Sunday.

She selected one tie, a pretty green that complimented Nelson’s beautiful brindle coloring, and slipped it around his neck, as he seemed to not notice. Polly and John left then to walk the shelter dogs, while Nelson and I did our usual Sunday activities, which included a nice long walk outside beneath warm sunshine. I was surprised that he never seemed to notice his new formal accessory, even when it slipped askew several times.

Doesn’t he look ever so handsome? Just as he will next Sunday, tie or not. This beautiful dog with such an amazing story to tell never ceases to fill me with admiration for his remarkable spirit, his intelligence, and his deep affection for those in his world. IMG_20160424_144814784

Posted in Animal friends, Courage, Family, Gratitude, Kindness, Mystery | 4 Comments