Friday, December 30, 2011

Last blog post of 2011

Bracing for the New Year

I have friends who are good for me and those who are bad.  Tuesday, I couldn’t decide which category to put Michelle Mills in. We met for a workout at the new popular BLAST900 fitness studio in Mt. Pleasant.  At the time it seemed as if it were a good idea. I had the day off, it would only be an hour and it would be a chance to work off some of the three holiday desserts I had felt compelled to try.
Hopping on the treadmill, I enjoyed a warm, fuzzy moment thinking how good it is to have friends who encourage you along life’s way. If it weren’t for her, I probably would be in bed, reading and listening to the rain. Instead I’m reading such affirmations on the wall as: Your mind is the athlete.
Bring it on, I think.
This studio does intense, interval sessions. After several sprints on the treadmill and doing walking lunges up a 27-percent incline, I looked over at her, but she wouldn’t meet my eyes. Definitely, bad for me. Warm, fuzzy feeling is gone. I sneer at the positive affirmations on the wall. My mind obviously is no athlete.
I think of getting pizza with my kids, my reward for surviving, as we walk to get our bags and mop off our sweat.
“You want to go to Trader Joe’s and get some thinkThin bars? she asks.
Sure, why not.
What are friends for?



Hurley's First Snow

This is all new.
Something cold, white, crunchy under your paws.
Not sure what to do.
Each step must feel strange.
You pause and look to me.

I do my best to guide you, mother you,
Reassure you from the other end of the leash.
"It's okay.
Just take another step.
I won't be far."

Each time I stand on the brink of the unknown,
I need the same from God.
Guide me, mother me, reassure me.
But there is no leash connecting us.
It's not so easy to know where to look.

Still, when I take that first step,
Sometimes I think I hear a familiar whisper.
"It's okay.
Just take another step.
I won't be far."



In these in-between days,  between the first holy days of Christmas and the revelry of the New Year, I find myself reaching for grace.  So, the quilts didn’t get finished this year,  the book is still in process, the house has yet to be de-cluttered, my blog post is late.  My never ending list of projects will simply have to go on the to-do list for 2012.  In the meantime, this in-between time,  we will have visits from family, dinners with friends, a daughter still home from college, and life to enjoy.  And so for these last few minutes of 2011, I’ll put away the to-do lists, sit on the back porch and put up my feet, and simply be.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fourth week of Advent - Love

Winter solstice 
Darkness falling fast
The shortest day
The longest night

We face the darkness
stringing hope
  on branches and wire frames,
along the rooftops.

  Evergreen indoors
electric Yule
candles of hope and peace, 
joy and love

 We live
these December days, 
holding the darkness,
keeping the light. 



Every year I do something totally decadent during the holidays. I take a restorative yoga class at Holy Cow. This is not a workout, at least not in the traditional, Type A western style.  It’s not hard. You basically show up and get pillows, bolsters and blankets and get in restorative poses that are held a deliciously long time.

This year the teacher reads from a meditation entitled Sabbath Time by Susan McHenry.

 “One thing done in peace 
will most likely be better
 than 10 things done in panic. 
I am not a hero if I deny rest; 
I am only tired.”
I’m liking this teacher, I think.   

Before I became a single parent, I was good about getting things done. Now I go to bed every night with items on my A list undone. I do triage every day on the most pressing needs. At home I have a beautiful tree with lights and one lone ornament. I got interrupted, and haven’t returned to it. I’m waiting to see if the boys notice. If they don’t, it’ll save me the time of taking them down. Sad, I know.
Susan McHenry would understand though, as does my friend Megan Fink, who let me photograph her in perfect repose during Queen’s pose at the end of class. Our teacher reminds us that breath and slowing down creates inner space, space for love and good will for all men.

I drive home nicer to people in traffic. I notice the stars in the sky. The boys jump up and down to see me as I walk in the door.

I ask them when they want to decorate the tree.



There are times (more often than I'd like) when loneliness and self-doubt overwhelm me and I feel unloved. At such moments, I reach for the Happy Thoughts Box.  Since I was a teenager, I've been filling the box with things that are for me tangible reminders of love -- drawings done for me by children I babysat, birthday cards from friends and relatives, what's left of the balloon bouquet coworkers surprised me with on my last day at a former job, cassette tapes my little brother and I made when we were very young, letters of encouragement from pastors and teachers, and much more.  

In recent years, it is overflowing.  I may need a second box.  That's a lot of love!  In a way, Jesus in the manger was like the reminders in my Happy Thoughts Box.  Those who could see and touch him had flesh and blood proof of God's love.  The beauty and providence of creation all around them testified to that already.  But in Jesus, God showed a love that was willing to enter our dangerous world as we all do, in the vulnerable form of a baby.  What a gift!  It is a thought expressed beautifully in a French translation of the carol Silent Night: "The mystery foretold is accomplished.  This Infant asleep on the hay IS infinite Love."


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Third Week of Advent - Joy

This is one image of joy I've had sitting around my house the past few days.  It's pretty indicative of what we are told this time of year.  Joy is about the right gift under the perfect Christmas tree surrounded by the happy family.  Really?  I don't think that's exactly what the Bible means by joy.  James exhorted his fellow believers, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2 TNIV).  In times of trial, it's not brightly wrapped gifts I crave.  Even now, when my life is relatively trial-free, that isn't what I really want.  What I want is to be one of those people who can endure life's struggles with an unshakeable joy in God, not just a sappy smile.  I'm still trying to understand all that joy is about, but if it has anything to do with gifts, I know it's less about the ones wrapped under the tree than the One who was placed in a manger.



    Let a joy keep you.
Reach out your hands
And take it when it runs by...
Carl Sandburg

It’s easy to catch joy when it’s all piled up on your lap.   My nieces and nephew - a trendy 8 year old, an all-boy 5 year old and a two year old who begins everyday with the announcement “It my bir-day!”   - are visiting this week and our quiet evenings at home with the cat and the Christmas tree have been replaced by silly giggles, campfire s’mores in the backyard, and a floor full of legos and Polly Pockets.    

We toured the Charleston holiday scene - including the James Island Holiday Festival of Lights.  We had already made one drive through the light show with our three grown children.  It was a fun trip, full of memories and hilarious political and religious commentary on the light vignettes.  This week, we returned to see the lights with the nieces and nephew in tow.   “Yook! Yook!  A weindeer!”   It was pure jumping up and down delight  (well, except for the few moments of sibling disagreement and rebellion- but I’m not their mom so I was having a great time!)  

I love catching these fleeting moments of joy as they go speeding past - in the guise of a two year old who thinks everyday is her birthday and three children who manage to jump in the ocean - even in December!  What joy!



I love storms. I took this photo in St. Augustine, Fla., at dawn, just before a storm rolled in. It was a long, quiet walk, full of shifting clouds and light, a stolen moment before I resumed the drive down to Satellite Beach with my family, the destination of our Thanksgiving break.  The choice was to sleep in or to walk. The light and electric charge of the air drew me out. By the end of the walk, I walked back in soaked, but happy. In the entrance of Shay’s school, Ashley River Elementary, is a Picasso quote: “Art washes away from the soul the dust from everyday life.” I don’t always have time for a long, soaking walk, but I’ve learned every day has its offerings of joy to be gathered. Manna moments, if you will.

Sometimes, it’s the only way I get through the day.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Second week of Advent - Peace

I recently found this moon shell on a beach walk. It’s a shell that appeals to me with its serene, smooth spirals, a calming meditative symbol for this week of Advent that focuses on peace. The shell’s other name, alas, is shark’s eye. It’s all a matter of perspective. If you look at the dark innermost spiral, you can see the shark’s eye. I was disappointed to learn of its other name and that the snail inhabitant is such a devious creature injecting its enzymes into clams to dissolve their adductor muscles so they have no defenses.

So much for my peaceful meditation that has gone way off tangent.
I think of the movie I just watched, “The River Why,” and how the main character grapples with the same issue of dealing with a life that’s not always what it appears. The main character is an expert fly fisherman who finally is able to have the river teach him its wisdom. We do best going with the flow, accepting what is, knowing we’re always in a state of flux – and therein is much peace.
I hang onto my little moon shell, shark’s eye and all.



Notice anything missing in this picture?  I notice it every time I look at my Nativity scene, and the empty space where that missing piece should be has been a great help in my Advent meditation the past few years.  When I lived overseas, I realized that all of the Creche scenes in homes and department stores and churches were missing the baby Jesus.  Asking one of my French friends about it, I got the reply, "Of course He isn't there! He hasn't been born yet!"  Now I follow the same tradition when I put up my own Nativity scenes.  There is no baby Jesus there until Christmas Eve.  Since I put up all my decorations the day after Thanksgiving, that means weeks of seeing Mary and Joseph looking down at that empty spot, as if they are waiting, longing, hoping.  It reminds me that I am supposed to be doing the same thing during the weeks of Advent, since we live in what my seminary professor Dr. Goodman called "the already-not-yet."  Jesus was born over 2000 years ago, of course, and that already-ness taught us incredible things about God's love for us and how we are to live as God's people.  But in a sense, Jesus's arrival was only the beginning, and the story is far from complete.  This week's Advent theme of peace leaves me feeling the not-yet-ness more than any of the others.  We hear a lot of songs about "peace on Earth" this time of year, and read those words from Luke's gospel, but our world is far from peaceful.  The "not-yet" aspect of Advent reminds me to work and pray for the day when it will be, echoing the words Jesus taught His disciples to ask God: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."  When that happens, the Advent of the Prince of Peace will be complete.



At lunch with friends recently, I realized that I had just missed half the conversation.   My body was seated at the lunch table, but my mind was  busy organizing gift lists and fretting about shipping dates and charges.   I was lost in the holiday to-do-list jungle.  I was planning menus,  worrying about the broken bench beside my front door,  trying to decide on a great gift to give to my new son-in-law... and on and on and on.....and on.

As the waiter brought my check, (Did I really order caesar salad again?) some wisdom from writer Anne Lamott worked its way through the holiday clutter in my brain.  Anne says “Be where your butt is... and breathe.”  My butt was sitting right in that restaurant chair,  but my being self was nowhere in sight. My inner frettiness (what the Buddhists call monkey mind)  had caused me to zone out on a conversation with good friends.  I took a deep breath and refocused my self for the last few minutes of lunch.     

Anne’s advice is a path to peace that I need to remember in the midst of the holiday chaos.   “Be where your butt is.”  Show up for your own life.  Be present to each moment - not worrying about the future or bemoaning the past, but simply staying focused on where you are right now.  You might find something holy hidden just inside this crazy chaotic moment you are living through.  

With some last words of wisdom particularly appropriate for this season of feasting,  Anne adds  “I almost forgot the most important thing: refuse to wear uncomfortable pants, even if they make you look really thin. Promise me you'll never wear pants that bind or tug or hurt, pants that have an opinion about how much you've just eaten.”     I’ll add - ditto that for shoes! 

So, my new plan for peace in the midst of the holiday hoopla.  Listen to Anne Lamott. Pay attention to each moment - wherever I happen to be -  and spend those moments in stretchy pants and comfortable  shoes.

Note:  Quotes from Anne Lamott from a commencement speech given at the University of California at Berkeley in May 2003.   Click here to read full text of the speech by Anne Lamott.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

First Week of Advent - Hope

This week, we light the candle of hope for Advent.  I find myself hoping a lot these days. I hope for the economy to improve.  I hope I can run, walk, or crawl far enough to finish a half marathon in January.  I hope my daughter gets into the grad school of her dreams.  I hope my son-in-law finds a job after he graduates from law school in May.  I hope my friend’s baby arrives safe and healthy.  I hope....

One of the earliest lessons I learned about counseling has been one of the most universal and most enduring.  I had just started my year long internship as a counselor at the mental health center in Morganton, NC and was working with everyone - children and adults, individuals and families.  It was a year of learning and practice, of happy successes and miserable failures.  As I was beginning to see my first clients, my supervisor told me,  “The first thing you have to do is give them hope.  No matter what the problem - big or small, simple or complicated  - you have to start with hope.  If they can believe things will get better, it will happen.  You have to help them see the light in the darkness.”
Hope does that.  It shines light into the darkest corners.  It’s the first step out of depression or family chaos.  Hope gets us out of bed in the morning and moves us forward.  Hope gives us the courage to try again or to start over one more time.  Hope says “Take my hand. We can do this.”   Hope is transformative, bringing new ideas and energy for healing and recovery.

As the poet, Lisel Mueller writes in her poem entitled Hope from
Alive Together: New and Selected Poems:

“It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves, 
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future
and all we know of God.”

Or,  as Andy tells Red in a letter of encouragement in the 1994 movie The Shawshank Redemption,  “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

and so... I hope...


Ah, for the life of my cat Sylvester, who can relax in any position imaginable.
Upside down. Half on, half off a chair. Hanging on the slender ledge of a window sill. In a 360-degree corkscrew.
I think there's much to be learned from pets about how to live life. One of my favorite books on living in the present moment is Eckhart Tolle's Guardians of Being that explores the fascinating lessons that pets have for us.
During this season of Advent, I have decided to carve out periods of stillness, of utter relaxation and just "being." It's a tough goal. Deadlines and holiday frenzy squeeze in. But I have my cat as a meditative symbol, as a reminder that sometimes just being is enough. Or maybe what I need more than added holiday shopping is a simple cat nap.



On a recent commercial -- one of many aimed at getting me to spend way too much money on gifts or decorations or food -- I heard the tagline, "The holidays are all about family."  That can be difficult to hear if you are, like me, a singleton with no spouse or children (yet), and living hundreds of miles away from anyone biologically related to you. That is the situation more and more people find themselves in here in 21st century America, though advertisers would still have us pine for that Norman Rockwell family Christmas, and spend any amount necessary to get it.  Above is one of my holiday family photos.  I do not share DNA with anyone in it.  They are my friends, fellow church members, mentors, encouragers, or blood relatives of those who are.  Last Thursday, when I was between two night shifts at work and unable to travel to my parents' home in KY, they were my Thanksgiving family.  We shared an afternoon, a prayer, a meal, conversation, a game of touch football, and an abundance of laughter.  It was a wonderful holiday, one of many when I have been blessed with non-traditional family. 

The first time I spent a holiday away from my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins was Thanksgiving of 1998, when I was an exchange student in Angers, France.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


For the beauty of each new day here in the Lowcountry,
for a church where I am encouraged and challenged and loved,
for the gift of laughter,
for a rewarding and fulfilling job that also meets my financial needs,
for beloved friends and family literally all over the world,
for Hurley (the world's greatest dog),
for parents who raised me to love learning and never stop,
for memories and photos of the people and places I have loved,
for second chances (and third and fourth and so on),
for a house of my own so near the ocean,
for all the different colors my eyes can see,
for only having been admitted to the hospital once in my life (so far),
for books to read and time to read them,
for the inspiration to write and keep writing,
for music to hear and sing,
for good food,
for moments that take my breath away and give me goosebumps,
for great colleagues and a wonderful supervisor,
for foreign travels and foreign languages,
for being a work in progress,
for all the stories that have taught me about God and the world and myself,
and most of all for the One whose love surrounds me, and whose mercy and grace are redeeming me,
thanks be to God.



In this early morning moment, I find myself already full
of thanksgiving
for a husband who loves me deeply and completely,
daughters and a son in law who fill the house with laughter 
and the stories of their lives, 
for everyone together under one roof.

For rain in the middle of the night,
wind chimes that sing with a fresh breeze on the porch,
sweet basil clipped from the garden, 
and that holy trinity of garlic, onions, and celery,
for the unacknowledged luxury of clean water 
that pours forth with just a turn of my wrist.

For my old sewing table and scraps for new quilts,
long runs and strong legs,
time to write and to sew and pull weeds,
for a refrigerator filled beyond overflowing with food 
(and for family and friends who will be here to enjoy it!) 
for the mercy of stretchy jeans on feast days.

For new beginnings and old friends, 
for the freedom to move forward and explore new paths,
for the winds of change that keep my life fresh,
and for the quiet to know that just this moment,
just this breath, 
is enough.



Kiawah Island on a recent November morning 
(meditating on two scriptures Psalm 40:3/Isaiah 43:1-2)

Taking Flight
Where even to start with thanks for this holiday season.
There are the usual suspects, of course -
Friends, family, home and hearth

But what really has me on my knees this season
feeling so blessed
is how God's teaching me
to just be content 
in flight

No thoughts lingering on where I took off or where I'm gong to land.
Just this moment suspended in time, able to see the small gifts all around
to really be with people and hear what they have to say
to watch God plant a new song in my heart
though I tremble, and I'm not sure of the words
only the refrain in the wind


Monday, November 21, 2011

Soul incarnate - and a little cleaning

Sarah McCarthy, Sarah Edwards
Camp St.Christopher, Seabrook Island
November 2011
I had so much fun watching Sarah Edwards in choir Sunday.

Before she rode with my group to the women’s retreat, I barely knew her.   I didn’t appreciate her wiry, buoyant hair or her dry, quick wit. As a storm blew in as we drove along oak-draped sea island roads, she quoted a line form E.M. Forster that aptly depicted the smell of the air: "The air was white, and when they alighted it tasted like cold pennies." Lovely, I thought. A little literature along the way.

I discovered we shared similar pains and losses in our childhood and are kindred spirits in many ways. It’s amazing the bonding that can happen on a car ride.
To be honest, I almost didn’t offer for her to ride with us because it meant coordinating four schedules and what if I was running late, which I was. What a blessing I would have missed, though. I’m learning to listen to how God uses other people in my life to deepen my journey, whether a short, chance encounter or a lengthy, blossoming friendship.  
Relationship, writes Thomas Moore in Care of the Soul, is "the discovery of ways soul is incarnated in the world." Each pair of two has a unique relationship found nowhere else in the world. It’s a wonderful way of looking at life, at the gift of making connections.




A bowl of water
(clean, cool)
And one of food
(always the same, 2 cups per day)
Satisfy your needs
(at least, you never complain).
A warm place to lie down
(in the sun if possible)
In our yard or on your bed
(or most often on mine)
Is enough to elicit contented sighs
(deep, peaceful).
Your many friends
(human or canine)
Are never taken for granted
(not even close),
But welcomed with smiles, wags, and happy yelps
(no matter if they left only moments ago).
A trip to the park
(the beach, the pet store)
Sends you into paroxysms of gratitude
(spinning and jumping with uncontainable joy).
How easy to forget
(after more than a year together)
That you were hurt
(beaten, abandoned, starving)
And so afraid
(of everything, everyone).
Fear was cast out
(slowly, so slowly at first)
By love, as the Bible says
(though my love is far from perfect).
No matter what I ask
(sit, wait, don't chase the kitty),
You comply obediently
(however unreasonable my demands must seem).
If I could ask one more thing
(though you give so much),
Please teach me dog-like faith
(and hope and love).
Could I trust God as you trust me
(constantly, unconditionally),
I would count myself a saint.



It’s time for true confessions.  Sometimes I enjoy cleaning - scrubbing down the kitchen, cleaning out the fridge, washing the walls and baseboards, dusting the book shelves, vacuuming black cat hair off of everything, cleaning the mildew off the back porch,  laundering linens and curtains, washing the windows until they sparkle  (although I haven’t found a great formula for that yet!). 

Cleaning is a tangible job.  You can see the results - unlike my usual work of listening and encouraging and teaching.   There are results in that work as well - but those results tend to be more of a long term, feel better nature.  A clean and organized fridge - now that’s something you can see on the spot.  
Good clean work.

I particularly enjoy cleaning this time of the year.   This is the great holiday scrub down.  Cleaning means company is coming for the holidays and this week, it’s family.  My daughters and son-in-law are coming home for Thanksgiving week. Yay!   Extended family plus some good friends will arrive for Thanksgiving Day.

At this time of year, cleaning has a meaning all its own. It means welcoming my children and family home.  Cleaning is preparing for memories yet to happen and anticipation of good times to come.   It makes me happy just to grab the duster and get ready!

Welcome home!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

 I see them from my kitchen window.  
Pops of pink, red and orange in the garden. 
They survived the early frost, tall,
four feet at least, and still blooming, 
my cut and come again zinnias.  
It's time, I think.  Company is coming
Time to pull them up, tidy the garden.
The stalks are withered brown, the leaves rusty 
and white with mildew  - never mind the blooms.
Time for the compost pile.
I go to the garden to wrestle flowers 
from the ground, out of misery.  Cover the earth 
with a layer of brown mulch, bought, expensive, 
from the big box.  Neat, static.  A picture in a magazine.
Sun rays focus on this patch of life, warming.  
I have to take off my sweater. 
and then I see
A lizard, brown like the leaf on which she stands, 
looks up at me. Butterflies and an old monarch
still visiting their orange and pink lovers.
a frog beneath an overturned clay pot,
bees buzzing, a moth with a tattered wing
and my cut and come again zinnias,
still alive, 
some buds not yet opened
in the november of life.
breathing generativity.
The whole plant is thriving, bustling
busy with living and dying,
not ready for the compost pile - not yet.



This is Shay, my tow-headed Potter, who turned out as an aging, gray Harry on Halloween despite the jet black hair spray. He loves casting spells, and unfortunately because I have seen the movies and read the books, I understand what he’s saying. I use silencio on him, but alas, the spell’s short-lived.
Sometimes I’m embarrassed I love juvenile literature. I have an excuse. I have kids, so I am exposed to these things. I’ve enjoyed the Potter and Hunger Games series, and such delicate classics as The Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. I wonder what I’ll use for an excuse when my kids are grown. Much to my joy, in reading the book The Happiness Project, I learned the author started a juvenile book club with adults for the pure joy of reading kid’s classics. I think there’s a lot to be said about coming at life and spirituality with the love and wonder of a child.

Post what your favorite juvenile literature is. Let’s share favorites!



A solitary bee worked his way from flower to flower.  This being November, he didn't have many to choose from as he buzzed here and there over the sand dunes.  A few viney weeds among the scrub bushes and pine trees still held yellow blooms, and he seemed to be making sure not to miss a single one.  As I watched him, I remembered the somewhat depressing statistic I'd heard from some beekeepers at the recent fair, that the life's work of this bee would amount to only a fraction of a teaspoon of honey.  "Poor little guy," I thought as he kept collecting the pollen.  Just as he got airborne and aimed for a particularly bright and large blossom, a gust of wind challenged him.  I have never been a big fan of bees, or anything else that stings, but I suddenly found myself rooting for this one.  "Come on, come on," I told him quietly, as I willed the wind to die down.  He kept pushing with all his might into the wind, determined to stay on course toward his goal, for what must have seemed aeons from a bee's perspective.  The wind was relentless, and I began to lose faith.  "I think I might just quit right now if I were you, little bee.  What if you sit this one out?  What difference will it make if the hive misses out on the teensy little bit of honey you'll make, anyway?"  But the bee could not understand my fatalistic musing.  He knew what he was put on earth to do, and no matter how small his contribution, he was going to do it.  The wind finally subsided, maybe as awed as I was by bee tenacity, and he landed, exhausted, on the object of his desire.  It was all I could do not to cheer.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beach Retreat

“Here's the problem,” I said to God while we sat crocheting. “I can't stand single crochet anymore.” God said nothing, so I continued. “Single crochet is . . . boring. It's the most basic, dull stitch there is. Anybody can do that one.”
“Anybody?” God asked. “I've had more than a few people tell me it's difficult to do well.”
“I just mean, it's nothing spectacular,” I continued. “When you get into the double and triple crochet, that's when things get interesting.”
“Single is how everyone begins,” God reminded me.
“But they don't stay there,” I protested.
“Some do. There are beautiful, intricate patterns that can only be created from single crochet. You've seen a few.”
I sighed. “This isn't really about crochet.”
“Yes, beloved, I know.”
“Of course you know,” I huffed. “You know everything.”
I could tell God was trying not to laugh. It annoyed me in the way you can only get annoyed with someone you really love.
“I don't want to be single crochet,” I said quietly. “At least not forever. This is not what I hoped for, not what I had planned. How long do I have to be alone?”
God stayed maddeningly silent, but kept working the yarn, counting every stitch.



There’s nothing quite like early morning light. 
I’m always amazed at the magic that happens on an early morning walk. I managed to wake to take a sunrise walk while at Camp St. Christopher where I went for a women’s retreat at Providence Baptist Church. Having to shed my shoes and wade through chilly high-tide surf, I made it to the beach-front side of the island. There I watched the sun start the day, but got the eerie sense that someone was watching me.  I turned to scan the houses behind me, but saw no one.   Catching movement in the dunes,  I realized six deer were standing still, same posture, ears cocked,  perfectly alert as if frozen by the light - all of us in silent reverence for the start of the day.
So some time this week or this holiday season - rise early - and receive the blessings.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

~ Mary Oliver ~ 

(Why I Wake Early, 2004)



Walking takes longer...than any other known form of locomotion except crawling.  Thus it stretches time and prolongs life.  Life is already too short to waste on speed.   ~ Edward Abbey, "Walking"

It took me a while to get used to sand.  I grew up an Appalachian mountain girl.   Life in the South Carolina lowcountry,  only six miles from the ocean, has been an experience in flat land, tidal clocks and sand... everywhere.   On my feet, in my hair, on my children, in my car, in the house.    I started digging a garden in my back yard and what did I find but oyster shells and ...sand.   (And some weird clay dirt... but we won’t go into that.)  

What I have found is that sand slows you down.  I’m normally a fast walker.  At the store, on my walks, up the stairs, across the parking lot... I walk fast.  But not in sand.   I can run (sort of) on the hard packed sand left by the surf -  but not in soft sand.  There’s really no way to move fast there.  And that’s a good thing.  Sand slows me down.  Walking out to the beach,  I have to step carefully and with purpose.  Different muscles in my hips and legs push me forward.    I watch out for sand spurs and fire ants, paying attention. 

I see the yellow flowers and the worn rope that edge the path.  I stop and take a picture.  I’m not moving forward in a rush to my destination.  I'm  breathing and present and listening.  Here in the sand. 


Monday, October 31, 2011

The Spotlight
I have to tell you about this moment - this spectacular moment. 
It happened on a recent fall day on a walk with the boys to a tucked away waterfall.
Then at just the right moment when the sun as spotlight
Illuminated the slender, tall drop of the fall
Stood David 
Arms open. A moment of abandonment.
A baptism of joy.
As I age, I can see too many of such moments that I’ve missed.
How often we walk that road to Emmaus
With the unseen sacred in our midst.



Rainy autumn day
 October 2011
Shady Spring, West Virginia

Driving north on I-77,  there’s that moment when I know I’m back home. 
Somewhere after the East River Mountain Tunnel, 
after the Wild and Wonderful West Virginia sign, 
but not quite to Princeton, I realize I'm there.   
I turn off the audio book I’m listening to, roll down the windows and breathe.  
I drive through Princeton, pass the road to Pearisburg- my old turn to Virginia Tech.  
The road heads up past Camp Creek to Flat Top Mountain.  I’m back home. 

South Carolina has been home for 23 years, 
but West Virginia will always be back home.  
The cadence of the mountain lives in my voice and in my ways.  
I can trace six generations of mothers back in these Appalachian hills.
Sandra Sue, Edith Vale, Mattie Sona, Virginia Belle, Amanda J, Ann Mary.  
All lived out their lives within 100 miles of that Shady Spring sign.  
Two live there still.
There’s something about going back home that renews my soul.  
It’s where I began.  
It’s where I will breathe, 
talk to my mom, 
and begin again. 



How do I wind up
So wound up
In things that don't matter?
Running circles round my problems,
Testing every angle,
Til I am so twisted, 
I can't possible untangle.

What I really need
is to wind down,
Release the tendrils that bind me
To self-made burdens,
Unwind and reach out anew
Until, finally, God, I wind up
wound up in you.