Saturday, February 28, 2015

The End of Febraury

photo by Warren Nistad
In some parts of the Northern Hemisphere, even in areas that are considered more moderate in their wintry weather, people continue to dig out of snow, slosh through muddy melt, slide along ice-covered walks and streets.

Then there are the areas, generally cool and wet in the winter, where camellias are blossoming, daffodils and croci are nearly bloomed out, long-sleeved t-shirts and shorts are regular wear.

Living in the latter zone, I hear many voices quiet with surprise, almost whispering, "Hard to believe it's only February!" For the skiers, it's been, "Wow! Not much snow on the mountain this year."

Here we are. The last day of February. How do we address the end of a month? It moves smoothly into the next month. We forget about it. Let it slip into the past, out of our minds. For a select number of people, this is truly the last day of February they will ever know. Some of them may know it, or have some sense of an impending death. Others have no idea. Rather than a morbid thought, this gives me pause to observe the finer points of the weather, notice the Doberman daintily pacing the sidewalk outside my window, marvel at the green glow of the barely budding trees. It affords me the awestruck moment of observing the mundane moments around me and take note of their beauty. I am grateful.

What do you see around you today? How do you address the end of this particular February? Do you celebrate the passing of another month? Do you notice the mild as well as momentous changes around you? What is the most important though you might have today?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Working of Memories

Leaving the house this morning, the air was heavy with dampness. Not fog as has been recent; bright sky, instead, aglow with rose and gold. Breathing deeply in early morning light, I paused. Took another deep, intentional breath. The smell in the air was striking. Another deep breath and I was in Cairo, walking the sand-colored street to school. Another breath and I was in Abdu's taxi on my way to Nazlet es-Saman and the pyramids. The scent brought me half-way around the world in an instant. It took a moment to regain my bearings, readjust my sense of place and prepare to drive in to work.

The most amazing moments occur when I allow myself to slip into those memories. Some may say it's an escape; I experience it as an embrace. The moments my senses recall the memory are strong. They happen without my permission; sometimes without my knowledge. When I took that first breath, my entire body reacted, telling my lungs, "Do that again!" I found myself chuckling. The images deeply connected to that particular smell have nothing to do with my current home. The memory was powerful ~ and assuredly welcome. A fantastic start to my day!

Are there particular scents that resurrect memories for you? Are they welcome memories? How do you experience these memories? Do you see things? Feel them? Do you other senses bring memories back to mind?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Magical Reality

He knew what he knew: that the real world was full of magic, so magical worlds could easily be real.
~ Salman Rushdie

Another quote from Rushdie ~ Who knew I'd find snippets of his work so beautiful? I'm thrilled to have found that out!

The world around us is so incredible! It bubbles and snarls, sighs and honks. Every passing minute exudes beauty. If we look for it, or even if we don't, the magic is so amazingly abundant that we trip over it if we aren't careful.

Seeing the magic in the world around us is not the same as being aware of it. Or the same as truly knowing it. Or acknowledging it ~ which is what the speaker in Rushdie's statement does: he acknowledges "that the real world was full of magic."

I've seen a fairy ring in Ireland, a burning bush in the Sinai, a holy well in Israel, a street of sphinxes in Egypt, petroglyphs of a goddess in the Columbia Gorge ~ all considered places of power and magic. Not to mention the simple beauty of the headwaters of a river or the striated stone of a canyon or the graceful flow of sand dunes. If all of those incredible, magical places exist on our planet, why not magical worlds themselves? More to the point, if we recognize the magic on Earth, why would we need the magical worlds?

What kind of beauty and magic do you see in your everyday world? If you had the opportunity, where on Earth would you go to find a magical place? With whom would you share your magical place?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Keeping a Hold

I chose to find a quote to start my writing today. Opening Google, I clicked on "images" and typed in the first name that showed up in my mind: Salman Rushdie.

What?!? I've yet to read any book he's written. My thoughts about him are judgments. Why would his name be first in my mind? Yet, when his name flitted across my unfocused inner eye, I took a chance and typed in his name. What showed up was this image and quote. Amazingly fitting.

"Writing is...keeping a hold on...things...that go on slipping, like sand, through our fingers." The list of things I attempt to keep a hold on challenges the elasticity of thought and the continuity of time.

I want to hold onto memories ~ I speak them, I write them, yet they continue to slip through the cracks in my life. I create them as much as hold onto them.

I grasp at the grains of family, particularly my family of origin, only to find they elude me, sometimes to the point of mocking me: "Do you believe in our reality?" I have images, pictures of people who look familiar, familial ~ and stories which accompany those images. When I write those snippets down, I solidify that moment in time. I keep it from slipping farther away. Does writing them make them real? or were they real enough to write down?

What leads your list of things you are "keeping a hold on"? How often do you write about it/them? Why do you write your stories? (or why don't you?) What stories do you let slip away?

Friday, February 20, 2015

This is the Fast

Isaiah 58:6-8 speaks clearly of the fast that God wants of the people: Heal the injustices in the world. Go out on a limb for others. Help those in need, related to you or not.

Even though this is a passage in the Bible, there is an overall goodness, righteousness in the words and sentiment.

Every faith tradition shares this stance, this ethic. So why is it that there remain poor, homeless, hungry people. I continue to marvel at the fact that this love, this ethic, this service is at their core yet they can find reasons to hate and destroy one another. Or to simply create an attitude of Other toward the stranger.

How do we do this? Create a 'god' that is not really about Love? Why would we do that? Before you snap, "I don't do that," think about the last time you were in a long check-out line, or in a restaurant with wailing child at the next table or waiting in a left-turn lane with someone who appears to want the entire street cleared before turning. Or any of a hundred other scenarios. We all fall short at times. Maybe we could learn to be more forgiving, compassionate, understanding.

How do you follow the edict set forth in the passage from Isaiah? How do you not follow it? What reminders can/do you set for yourself? What does compassion mean to you?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Moon Slipping from Aquarius to Pisces

The New Moon on February 18th becomes a perigee New Moon during the daylight hours of February 19th and is therefore unseen (unlike the picture). In 2015, it is the closest New Moon to Earth.

This New Moon moves from the last degree of Aquarius into the first degree of Pisces ~ in the place of transition, culmination, fruition, and initiation. As with every New Moon, it's a time of birthing. This one overflows with Aquarian vision and Piscean altruism, a time to focus on helping humanity in the best possible way.

Bridge the worlds with vision and dreams ~ face the shadow self and move forward from potential to manifestation ~ DO SOMETHING! This New Moon is about taking charge of the forward momentum in life.

Each New Moon presents an opportunity to let go of what doesn't serve and plant a new crop of what does. It's important to take advantage of the energetic flow. Accept responsibility for choices made, paths taken, bridges built.

How does the energy feel to you? What are you waiting to birth, to create? What is the shadow side of yourself? how will you face it and move forward? What will be your first next step?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday 2015

Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, I heard these words every Ash Wednesday. When I arrived at my public school with the cross of ashes on my forehead, many of my non-RC, yet Christian, friends chided me about the Church's perceived preoccupation with guilt. I never heard it that way. For me it was a reminder that we are all made from the same 'stuff' and that we will all return to that very basic nature when we die.

It's been years since I considered myself only Catholic, yet I continue to find that Ash Wednesday begins my favorite season of the year. It's about self-reflection: not on my wrong actions, but on what can be my better actions.Looking at the deepest recesses of my mind and soul and acknowledging the difference shining Light can make.

Ash Wednesday often, perhaps even always, brought with it a shimmering sense of renewal. I found within its humbling reminder, hope. Hope that Spring would come. Hope that days would get lighter and longer. Hope that tomorrow would shine.

From today's reading (Isaiah 58):
"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house: when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly....."

It is also about how I appear in the world, who I truly see, what I value. This day, Ash Wednesday, is a moment in time to recommit my heart to service. In my reflection, I find the oily ash cross marks more than my forehead; it marks me in time. It reminds me that I am here, present this day, alive.

Where does Ash Wednesday find you? What are you committed to do or to be? How can you renew that commitment?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, translated to Fat Tuesday, is the final boisterous and extravagant celebration before Lent begins. The name derives from the celebration ~ eating everything that was rich and fatty before the 40 days of fasting that is Lent.

The day has another name as well: Shrove Tuesday. This name comes from the term shrive, meaning confess or atone. After the celebrations, people would want to confess their sins, atone for their wrong-doings as they went forward into the season of Lent and on to Easter. People who observe Shrove Tuesday examine the amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they want and need God's help and support to accomplish it. It prepares them to look more closely at the direction they want to take during Lent.

Since 2015 is a year of change ~ exciting and daunting all at the same time ~ perhaps Shrove Tuesday is a time to reflect on those changes, to examine the heart to see what needs to be let go, to be confessed, to be forgiven. For most of us, it's nothing huge or overwhelming. It's the little things ~ overlooking trash thrown in the street, taking a ream of paper from work, ignoring a phone call that might interrupt our plans. Small steps outside of our best moments of integrity, compassion, courage. Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, is the time for both reflection and celebration.

What calls to you to change? What needs your forgiveness? How can you incorporate those moments of your better self into your daily routine? Who will grant you absolution?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mirror Pieces

Have you ever heard the story about the blind men describing an elephant? Each one had touched only one part of the elephant and insisted that his view was the most accurate one.

This is Rumi's description of the same action. One piece of something, one side of the story, one point of view, is not the entirety of the truth.

To illustrate this, let me tell a tale ~
At a friend's house for a party, I got into a discussion with another guest about the contents of a particular dessert. The other person insisted that the dessert was "healthy" for diabetics because it was sweetened with honey rather than white sugar. I asked, "Is that true?" At which point, the other guest got angry and insisted it was true and, besides that, it wasn't her fault if it wasn't. Then she turned and stomped off. I was dumb-struck. I had asked a simple question ~ not sure (1) if the dessert was sweetened with honey or (2) if it was, would that made it a healthier choice. Afterward, when mentioning the incident to the host, I was informed that someone with whom this other guest worked had died in the month prior to the party. She was still in shock and grief.
My "piece of mirror" was that this guest had over-reacted to my query or was a grumpy drunk or something of that sort. Never would I have suspected that she was emotionally spent.
Her "piece of mirror" may have been that I was challenging her and she was too psychologically stretched to handle it.
The host's "piece of mirror"? The incident had gone unnoticed.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? How did you discover the different facet of the mirror/truth? Did you have an "aha" moment? How did the new information change you?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Listening Power, part 2

Besides taking the time and focus to listen to others, we need to learn to take time to pay attention to that quiet voice within.

I don't mean the voice that scolds you or diminishes you. That one usually resides in your mind, often sounding like someone from your past. The voice that gives you directions, encourages you, reassures you is the one that should be heard.

This quote is from Steve Jobs, one of the most creative voices and forces in the technology arena to date. His life was an amazing combination of influence and intuition.

Listening to your inner voice, to my inner voice, is not always a simple task. Quieting the mind enough to pay attention, taking the time to breathe and relax, trusting what is heard ~~ all of these are part of the process of listening. Why do we find it easier to listen to others? What is it about the voice inside our minds that we hear it more clearly than the intuitive voice that comes from our gut or our heart?

If we are lucky enough, dedicated enough, accountable enough, we open ourselves to the inner voice and act on the directions and advice it provides. That kind of listening requires us to take time to listen.

My own listening fluctuates from intense to la-di-la not paying attention. I identify with things pulling me inward and outward. I know that when I listen, when I put down the media, that quiet intuitive voice directs me to a place of greater connection ~ and onward to greater joy as well.

How do you listen to your inner voice? Is it important to you that you do? How do the two types of listening (to others and to self) work in your life? What happens when you don't listen?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Listening Power, part 1

When we consider the act of listening, we think it primarily involves sound and our eardrums. However, true listening engages our minds, our focus and our hearts.

In this day and age of everyone's absorption with social media and smart phones, we sometimes miss the nuances that occur in conversations. It's more than tone of voice, although that is part of it. There's body language and facial expression, the rhythm of speech and level of vocabulary. All of these things require our attention if we are to really listen to the speaker.

As an example, I have a history of misunderstanding and conflict with someone. One day, as I was walking out of one room and heading on to my next appointment, this person said, "I've sent you an email about X." I glanced at the person, responded with "Okay" and continued on. However, it was what I saw when I glanced over that provided insight into this particular communication. When the person spoke, it was with head slightly down and turned away, eyes averted, though the body was still and erect. I was the one in motion. That body language shouted that this was a difficult communication for this person to deliver. I understood far more about X from that than I did from the sent/received email. It's changed not only my view of this person but also the direction of my continued communication.

Although email, texts, Facebook posts, IMs, etc. make communicating quicker, they also provide less information. The wholeness of the message is sometimes missed. I worked for a boss who only skimmed my emails (since I tend to be detailed, thus wordy), occasionally asking questions that were already answered in my missive. I learned to send briefer communiques and release my tendency toward thoroughness.

How has social media, emails, texts, etc. affected your listening? How do you handle the frustration of communication misunderstandings? What do you feel when you read brief comments to complex questions or statements? What does listening mean to you?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Listening to the News

Over the past few days, the news has carried very gruesome images and graphic stories about killing of a hostage and the retaliatory state hanging of prisoners.

It's also carried the verbal jousting of a Republican majority Congress with a Democratic President.

Not to mention winter storm Linus as well as the latest on measles outbreaks due to 'vaccine resisters.'

We can say that one of these stories carries more of an impact than the others, but the truth is that they all weigh us down. They all eat away at our sense of security. They challenge our sense of hope, wonder and awe.

Tolkien's words reassure us that although darkness and peril are about in the world, there is also much beauty and wonder. Yes, he wrote fantasies. He also fought in World War I ~ the 'war to end all wars' ~ and understood the tragedy of losing most of his friends by 1918. What he held onto was the magic of hope.

In these days, when we spend so much energy getting the most descriptive stories from the news and social media, we have to find ways to reach a balance, equilibrium. The stories of resilience, hope and joy beyond despair and fear can rekindle that same hope and willingness.

How do the news stories affect you? What do you do to counter that effect? Where do you find hope? How do you help yours to continue?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Full Moon in Leo

The February Full Moon is often referred to as the Snow Moon. That's a great title for this Moon. With the winter storms raging across the Midwest and Northeast over the past couple of days, it's a very fitting moniker! (

Other than the snow storms, this Moon is chock full of positive energy and celebration. That could include finding ways to enjoy the storm as it passes through. It brings with is an incredible energy for creativity and for making positive changes in your personal life. This can include health, relationships and home. Leo is also about the inner child and innocence. Find new ways to view things, be curious, engage the magic moments, follow your heart. Like that innocent child, let go of self-criticism. Be willing to make mistakes and get messy for the sake of learning and creativity.

Full Moons are magical. They provide bright light in the midst of darkness. Take this kind of energy and run with it. Find ways to be grateful and let your own inner moonlight shine.

What is this Full Moon saying to you? How are you allowing space for creativity? What are you curious about?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Brigid's Day

Today is a dual celebration day ~~ two celebrations that have been married into one ~~ Imbolc and St. Brigid's Day.

Brigid is one of those fascinating crossover personalities ~ between the Pagan world and the Christian world. In the Pagan world, she's Goddess of the hearth, metallurgy, healing, writing and childbirth. In the Christian world, she's a saint; a real girl, baptized by St. Patrick, eventually taking the veil and founding a monastery at Kildare.

Over the years, the two traditions have claimed Her and played a game of tug-of-war over who and what She was and is. Even so, the consensus showed the focus of her powers or abilities to be nearly the same.

Much of those attributes came from the testimonies of the women who believed in Her, whether Pagan or Christian. Their common traditions linked them closely to Her and to each other. I find much of that same camaraderie alive today. Women of all faiths, with respect and constancy, continue to share their Goddesses and Saints. They see the commonality and move forward with that in mind and in place. Their acceptance of each other's practices surprises most people around them, often including family. There's much still to be learned about sharing across faiths and religions. I call upon Brigid and her holy fire to continue the teaching!

What is your reaction to sharing across religions? Have you participated in shared rites or rituals? How did that feel? Would you be willing to participate in them?