Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Ladies of the Canyon

Cover of "Ladies of the Canyon"
Cover of Ladies of the Canyon

Topanga Canyon was a place filled with old homes, built in the 1930’s as resort homes for movie stars. A craggy old canyon that wound it’s way from the ocean on one side to the San Fernando Valley on the other, a haven to artists and musicians in the late 1960’s into the 70’s. There were plenty of trails that led to small streams and rock outcroppings, where you could smoke a doobie and meditate upon the wind rustling through the scrub oak. Someone told me not too long ago that Topanga Canyon was now filled with million dollar homes, with million dollar views and was no longer the enclave of art and creativity that it once was. It’s probably my generation too, that built it up, deciding to return to the place that had rocked them so gentle when they were young and idealistic and change it to reflect who they had become.

The house on Fernwood Pacific was up the hill from a health food store, called The Food Chakra.  The structure leaned slightly into the canyon, enough so that you could put a marble on the floor in the sun room and it would roll downhill. It was too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.  There was only one bathroom for the three roommates and never enough hot water.  And forget about closet space.   It was heaven and it was perfect.  I often walked down to The Food Chakra in the mornings with my mug of coffee  in hand, to buy fruit and engage in the local conversation.  I had great and wonderful, good-natured arguments about the benefits of garlic, the value of raw juicing and whether or not to include the papaya seeds in the morning smoothie. In the meeting room above the store is where I went to yoga classes, played my dulcimer, and sat with other like-minded spirits to talk about Ram Das, Muktananda, Ken Kesy and Krishnamurti. There was so much opening in my heart and mind back then.

Kitty and I were 21 when we met, filled with life and vitality, often colored by an annoying self-assuredness. She would later become the next roommate, as I moved from Topanga to Laurel Canyon.  Laurel Canyon was closer to what was now becoming “work,” the thing disruptive to a social life.  Still we managed to spend leisurely Saturday mornings, listening to Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt records while we cleaned the house and told stories about the latest, greatest guy we were dating. We nursed each other through a myriad of broken hearts and encouraged each other to grow up, even though life with musicians and some good pot seemed much more appealing.

Kitty and I did grow up. Each of us got married. I got divorced and then married again. She had a child. I had Labrador retrievers. We each carved out careers that involved partnering with our husbands in business. And when I moved back to Colorado in 1989, we stayed in touch through lengthy letters that painted a picture of our lives on different paths, but with a singularity of heart. We never stopped caring deeply for one another. Somewhere along the line, in those young and wildly beautiful days we became “best friends,” and neither time nor distance has unraveled the tight weave of that bond.

So yesterday, as I was rushing through a day of caring for a husband down with flu, picking up as much slack as I could at the office, a card arrived from Kitty. It was my birthday, and this year it was more about the tasks in front of me than it was any sort of celebration. The card read “We have been friends for 40 years now. You are a best friend to me. Happy Birthday.” It made me stop and rewind to those early years when life was spread out like a banquet asking you to fill your plate. There have been good times and painful times, broken hearts and promises fulfilled and no matter how hard I have tried to design the details of living, life just always had its way with me.

I have been blessed to have a history of youth tinged with a mixture of tender regret, love and loss and above all memories of days in the canyons of California when my heart and mind were opened to the possibilities and potential of dreams I would eventually follow.  To have a good friend who remembers the hard won miles, who knows you to your core and loves you anyway…that’ the stuff that is cause for celebrating yet another year.  As she did back in the days when we so wanted to be one of Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon,” Kitty still slows me down a little bit, enough to recall how much struggle and triumph there is in living a full life.  That makes her a best friend to me too.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Doing the Leibster

liebster

 

Some mornings, most mornings, I wake up with the committee  blaring in my head. There is the usual to-do list, then a tremendous amount of junk-copy enticing me to grab and chew on it. I have to sit for a while with my tea and stare into space before everything calms down enough to prioritize the chatter.  Some mornings I read something inspirational.  Right now that would be Brother David Steindle-Rast–“Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer.”  I like the focus of the book. I find that gratitude practice is a useful tool if the large committee in your head is sometimes harsh or unkind.  In other words, counting blessings can heal a lot.

 

This morning, I was going to read, maybe sit on the back deck for a bit and ponder writing.  With so much going on in my head, it’s hard to believe that I feel I don’t have anything to say, but I often hold that thought.  My friend Jennifer is teaching me to let things percolate, sit with them for a time before you start pouring them out onto a page.  That’s hard for someone who lives life honoring the most immediate of tendencies.  Still, I learn…some days just sit with what is going on.  Ponder before you dive for the laptop.

 

I read my emails in the morning and today there was a post from “Finding Amy.”  Her post read:

 

Hi there,
 I nominated your blog for the Liebster Award! Congratulations! If you hate me for that just ignore this. It means I enjoy reading your blog and you have under 200 followers and someone nominated me so I’m paying it forward! So now the request is that you do the same – answer the following 11 questions, nominate 11 (I only had 6) blogs under 200 followers you like, and relish in the glow of the Liebster.

 

Thanks for this.  We all like to be acknowledged. I had received another of these awhile back, and wasn’t sure what it meant or what to do with it…and I certainly don’t know how to grab the little badge thingy and paste it on the sidebar, like I see on other sites…however if anyone feels that they can teach me that trick, this old dog would be happy to learn something new about cyber space.  So now, I will answer the questions…which get me to shift my focus from the committee (oh just shut up, will you?) and do the Leibster.

 

1)What was the last thing you said?–Do you want a cup of tea? I asked my husband that at 6:20.  He’s down for the count with a nasty flu.  I think that tea cures everything.

2) What are you doing after 5pm today?–Running a hot bath and soaking away the day.

3) What would you do for a profession (anything) if you knew you would succeed?–I wouldn’t give up.  Even when things looked bad or were tough.  I would keep my vision close by and I wouldn’t give up.

4) Favorite quote?–I don’t know where this came from, but I love it–“Living is like licking honey off a thorn.”

5) Do you search forever to find a close parking spot or just park and walk?–I sing a silly little song “My right and perfect parking place is coming to me now, my right and perfect parking place—” you get the idea.  It annoys my husbands and my dog, but I usually get a place near where I am going.

6) How do you deal with anger?–Sometimes I stuff it in the  eff-it closet.  Sometimes I peel it back and wait for the tears.  Sometimes I just stew in it until it speaks and I understand it’s purpose.  Then I let it go.  I never hold a grudge for more than a couple of years…;-)

7) Have you ever had shark?–Never had a shark, but swam with the dolphins once.

8) Gold or silver?–I prefer silver and that’s mostly what I wear.  Gold was never my thing.

9) What is your primary responsibility?–Running a couple of different companies.  They are small, but mighty. Taking care of hubby, home and dog.  Everybody needs a walk, including me.

10) What’s one thing you want to know about me (not that I’ll answer)?–Describe to me when you knew that you had to write, just as much as you had to breath?

11) Pet peeve?–People who talk on their cell-phones when someone is trying to help them at the bank or a store–it’s just rude.

 

Well, I guess that I have now done the Leibster.  Below are a list of links that I encourage you to visit for a little inspiration, hope and thoughtfulness:

 

kathelliott50.wordpress.com

 

poetryoflight.wordpress.com

 

geneticfractals.wordpress.com

 

ajaytao2010.wordpress.com

 

peachyteachy.wordpress.com

 

hotsouthernmess.wordpress.com

 

bwharold.wordpress.com

 

hrmunlimited-com.webs.com

 

donhartness.wordpress.com

 

meandtheboss2013.wordpress.com

 

gratitudeequation.wordpress.com

Thanks again for the Leibster thing.  I appreciate that anyone takes notice.

 

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Songs of Spring

iStock_000020528629XSmallSnows flew and swirled about the month of March, biting frost and cold mornings announcing the days; thaw and mud wrapped about a promise of spring. A sudden surprise, as though we had forgotten, in greens and buds pushing through what seems to be the last of the big cold, appears in strips of grass that line the meridians and creep from the edges of curbs into lawn and meadow.

A box was delivered on Saturday. I had ordered some small French pots for the front porch, anticipating the garden center at Home Depot and an afternoon where I could feel the sun on my back as I bent over them with soil and flowers. I like to arrange things on my porch; a wreath of dried spring flowers, pots and planters filled with colors and blooms; a welcoming to guests—“look life is happening here and inside. There is beauty in our world.”

I remember a Sunday morning, decades ago—an Easter choir at the Unity Church I attended in Santa Monica, California. We practiced for a couple of months “Morning has broken, like the first morning. Black bird has spoken, like the first bird.” I always felt that we were singing in the spring. Yesterday as I drove back from the grocery store, I was singing, watching my car thermometer inch up from 39-degrees to 50 by the time I got home…singing in the spring. This Easter, church is in the meadow where I go with my dog. I feel much more at home giving thanks to a miraculous world where geese provide the sermon; where rising water in the creek tells the story of death and re-birth than I do in a building committing to story that I can find alive and fluid in the natural world.

It’s too soon to plant, but I have unwrapped the pots where I can see them and imagine them filled with pretty flowers. Buds have appeared on the lanky arms of the berry bushes just off of the deck and I know that in a short time, diaphanous green will grace the trees. Sometimes in January I envy my Southern California friends and their 68-degree beach weather—but I don’t think I would trade that for the cycles of the seasons that teach me over and over about life renewing itself.

Sunshine and blue skies today, warm and happy weather that will dip into colder tones tomorrow. I walk the trail and say thank you, holding fast to the imagination a brilliant green that will soon become the color of this temple.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

The Story You Are In

iStock_000006392253XSmallThe train whistle slices through the edge of the night, a low rumble of metal on metal, weight on weight making its way across miles that are pulled tight against horizon and sky. I lay unmoving on my bed, slouched into pillows and quilts, playing the scenes of the day through my head, stirred by the sound. Suddenly I am back someplace I know but have never been: my mother told a story of being a child at the convent, swinging on a swing, hearing the sound of the train and trying to pump higher and higher so that she could see over the convent wall, all the while wondering where the train was going and wanting to go there too. Now I am in her story, a piece of history shared from when I was a little girl, a piece of story that I remember when the train goes by, pulling the twilight into dark.

Sometimes it seems so clear; where I am and who I am and what story is unfolding. I had grandparents that slept in separate bedrooms; that spat and grunted communications that were interlaced with whiskey bottles and wooden rosary beads. I vowed to never be like them. My husband and I dance a different dance. We will not, cannot sleep apart. I love this story. It is punctuated by small acts of tenderness that reach out like vines into shared cups of warm ginger tea, someone to fetch the mail; “oh, wait, I’ll get that for you…” check the oil in your car, drive with you to a doctor’s appointment so that you will not have to sit alone. This is my story of the ever after that happened after youth rode into the sunset.

Remember the Catholic schoolgirl who smoked pot behind the high school gym, who wanted to help the poor, but also enjoyed a good make-out session? Can’t you be it all? Can’t you do it all? That was me. I remember feeling forced to choose, and as a result began to see life in a small and shrinking way, squeezing myself into something I thought I was supposed to be, but never really could be. Then one day I woke up with a dry mouth, symptoms and sorrow for what might have been.

I wish I could gather all of my nieces and nephews into one place. I would bring us around a large fire, where we would sit late into the night. I would tell them stories among the crackle and hiss of leaping flames. Stories about Viet Nam and how Brent came back with only part of a hand and couldn’t sit with his back to any door, anywhere, ever again; stories of how I learned to grow impatience and ferns in a shaded flower bed and would sit there for hours reading; stories of walking in snow under a full moon. I would tell them stories, because it feels like that is what I am meant to do now. Instead, we text—we call—we make dinner plans in lives that are over scheduled and tired.

I reflect upon what has been as I lean forward into age, that for this time affords me strong legs and the desire to keep walking and filling my lungs with fresh air and my heart with the beauty of the natural world; learning that the stories themselves are like thick, wonderful murals, layered with paint that portrays the laughter and the wounds, the celebrations and grief. But the files in which I place those stories in my mind… the labels that I write onto each one, those are dangerous. Those make the story less important than how they are categorized. I am too organized for my own good sometimes.–alphabetizing spices and filing memories. You cannot continue to do that. It’s really just one big story and we are all connected by it. I should go mess up that spice drawer just to take in the aroma of each dish they have inspired in my kitchen. What was that wonderful quote I read somewhere, that now seems so appropriate? “Life is like licking honey off of a thorn.”

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Blogging Practice

Women's Voices - Natalie Goldberg (55)
Women’s Voices – Natalie Goldberg

The new Natalie Goldberg book arrived from Amazon yesterday. Before the sun came up, I made a cup of tea and crawled back into bed to begin reading. An excerpt from a letter appears early on in the book: a man was sitting with his Zen teacher and the teacher says “you know what’s wrong with you?” The ultimate question from the teacher, thought the man edging forward to catch the answer. “You need to write.”

That was it, “you need to write.” I learned that recently, the way that I learn so many things—the hard way. I had returned to writing practice a couple of years ago when I began teaching creative writing to women in jail. I returned to writing practice because teaching is a lot like being a minister. If you are going to minister to someone it’s helpful to have a prayer practice. If you are going to teach creative writing, it’s helpful to have a writing practice. So I began to keep journals of free hand, timed writing and that led to my purchase of a lap top where I could write faster, longer and that in turn, led to my first blog.

I do not write everyday. I write most days. Some mornings, I wake up a little too late to organize my day and head to the office. But the days that I get up early and make that cup of sweet, black tea and come back to bed with books and laptop—those are the best days. Recently, one of my businesses got an infusion of investment capital. With that came obligations, demands and responsibilities that pulled and tugged at me in such a way that I thought, I would need to give up everything to make this business work. I stopped teaching at the jail. I stopped doing my newsletter. I stopped doing my blog and I fell into a deep sorrow, tinged with the exhaustion of regret.

You know what’s wrong with you? You need to write! It took a couple of months and several false starts to realize that what I had been teaching my students, what I had been studying was mine to learn. Writing practice for me is dropping into silence to look into a mirror; a place where in my notebooks I can say it all; where the idea is to go deeper into a self that I am always discovering. By giving that up to make a business work, I created a spiritual aridity that was suffocating.

One of my last blog posts before I took down the site and shuttered myself into business mode was a sad piece about a sad moment. It was raw and real and in retrospect, embarrassing. It was an epiphany for me to realize that I was embarrassed by the sorrows of my life, and yet I know that creativity springs from darkness, from suffering, from the acceptance of all those things– and that brings forth expression. How do you know the light if you do not know what the darkness is?  Coming face to face with what is in the shadows is not always an easy process and yet it seems to be the ghosts lurking there that are tied to ones liberation.

A couple false starts and some determination to find balance through the tears, led me back to writing practice and a new blog. I write because it is my way. Like other writers, I dream of writing a book or two.  Each of us in each day are writing the book of our life, whether we put it down on a page or not.  I am blessed with the literacy to do so and I think most writers feel that way–that the love of reading and writing is a powerful blessing to which we pay homage.  And there is something wonderful about blogging, because it is its own strange little cyber community—like having a writing group where you share your stuff all the time and you know that somebody is listening. But mostly I write because it is a doorway into what Plato called “the examined life.”  It is the place where I sort out who I am and how I feel about and experience the world.  Oh and by the way, the business is doing fine.  Not one of my investors has told me to stop writing and focus more on the business.  It’s funny that I thought I would have to give up so much…by keeping a writing practice I actually feel more equipped to meet the demands of my growing company, and the bottom line is, it makes me happy.

So my question to the fellow bloggers is this:  How is it that you came to write? Why do you keep hitting the publish button and putting it out there?

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Kitchen Prayers

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

A couple of days ago I wrote about “A Place At The Table,” a documentary film now in theaters and also on Amazon.com.  This is something that everyone should see.  As a result of my writing about that film, a friend sent me a You Tube link about a gentleman in South Central Los Angeles named Ron Finley.  Mr. Finley demonstrates for us what one person can do; how one vision, one heart can make our world a better place.  We have a real problem with hunger in our country.  We cannot turn a blind eye any longer.  Good people, hard-working people, people who have hopes and dreams for themselves and their children do not have enough food to eat.  And when they do have food, more often than not, it is the wrong kind of food–food that is filled with empty calories and little nutrition.  It is this kind of food that makes people fat and sick.  Obesity is linked to food with calories but no nutrition.  Ron Finley has an answer to that problem.  It’s simple.  It’s cheap (a lot cheaper than the health costs of subsisting on junk food) and if you are like me, I’ll bet it will fill your heart and your head with your own ideas about how you can create a better world by starting with your community.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EzZzZ_qpZ4w

Watch the You Tube video and tell me what you think!

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

A Seat At The Table

iStock_000010215203XSmallOur country is upside down and inside out!  Juxtapose the strong opposition to social welfare with rampant corporate welfare for starters.  The government gives billions in agricultural subsidies to huge corporations like Monsanto, but cuts food stamp programs that effect children.  There are 50 million “food insecure” people in our country—people who do not know where their next meal is coming from–and that is shameful.

I saw a film this weekend that was a real eye-opener—“A Place At the Table” is a documentary that sheds a light on hunger in America, its close link to obesity and why poverty is the underlying issue that needs addressing.  It’s in the theaters and you can also rent it on Amazon.com

While faith communities have done a good job of feeding the poor, charity is not what will end hunger.  Fair pay for a day’s work will feed the soul of a man as well as his belly. While the job deficit grows, so does the food deficit in many households across America, yet the safety net for helping and healing both is woefully inadequate.

What we are willing to subsidize in terms of feeding the poor is a mere $3.00 per day in Federal Assistance. Congress yells and screams, “How are we going to pay for more? These people just want a free hand out,”  all the while doling out corporate welfare to huge agricultural conglomerates and oil.  The myth, perpetuated by some of our leaders, is that somehow poverty is a choice.  I would really like to see where Paul Ryan wound up had he been born into the inner city of Philadelphia as opposed to his privileged home. Moreover, I don’t believe that any innocent child chooses to go to bed hungry. Most people who are hungry are experiencing embarrassment and not glee in applying for Federal Assistance like food stamps. We can bail out the banks, cut taxes and award money to big corporations but we cannot fund a decent program that keeps children from starving in this wealthy nation of ours?  There is something criminal about that.

“A Seat At the Table” both angered and inspired me.  It angered me because I see that so many of our problems, including this one, are easily fixable if we would just get the big money out of politics and force our leaders to be the public servants that they were intended to be instead of whores who jump into bed with whatever corporation is holding out the biggest check for their re-election.  Imagine a Washington where the leaders were responsible to the American people, addressed the problems of those people and not the almighty American corporation. Imagine a pool of political candidates reliant upon their wits and wisdom instead of the lobby whose money will get them elected or re-elected.

“A Seat At the Table” inspired me as I began to wonder what I as one person might do to alleviate the hunger of children.  I know that I can make donations to my local food bank, but I think that there may be other ways for me to advocate that food is a “right” for all people. You can live without a lot of things in life, but you cannot live without food.  No mother should ever have to send her child to bed hungry at night!

There are two tiers of food consumption in this country:  people who have the least are relegated to a steady diet of packaged, processed, junk food because it is the cheapest.  Calories are cheap and nutritious foods cost, thus the link between hunger and obesity.  There is not a “choice” to eat healthy when you are eating on $3.00 a day. The second tier is made up of those who have so much of a choice that they are the largest consumers of diet books, trying to put all that abundance into some sort of perspective.

I have never had to deal with not being able to concentrate or focus because I was hungry, the way that fifth-grader Rosie did in “A Seat At the Table.”  I don’t worry about food lasting throughout the week because I am able to shop for more if I need to.  Any challenge of my life that seemed harsh or insurmountable up until now seems greatly diminished in its importance after seeing this film.

Poverty is tied to education, is tied to food, is tied to the health of a nation.  There are simple things that we can do now to assure that children get enough nutrition to assure a chance at a getting an education; that they get enough nutrition to assure a life of good health that in turn assures opportunity for improvement of their lot.  It’s not rocket science to think that instead of giving farm subsidies to corporations like Monsanto we fund food programs for these struggling people. The cost of not doing anything to alleviate hunger in our own country  will not help to balance the budget and it is certain to bankrupt us morally and spiritually.  It is time to acknowledge the problem of hunger right here in the good ol’ US of A and ask ourselves if we want a class system that delineates the haves from the have-nots by virtue of who is rich enough to feed their family.  If the ramifications of that are too frightening to consider, then what one action can each of us take that cumulatively can make a difference?

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

More of the “Sad” Same

spirituality

New Pope. It was the big world news yesterday. For me, it was curious and sad. Even though I was raised a Catholic, I want nothing to do with institutions that exclude women, or anyone for that matter. An all male church that worships an all male God cannot ever be in balance. Period. And the argument that Jesus didn’t have any women disciples is not necessarily accurate or true. But supposing for a minute that he didn’t, do we really take the message of love and twist it into a “no girls allowed” story? Shouldn’t the spiritual path be one of growth and evolution that serves all of humanity?

I like to read the mystics– St John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart. They speak to a connection with the Divine, devoid of ritual and dogma. They speak to the potential of a personal experience and direct connection to the Divine in all human beings — not just the chosen, the straight, or the exclusively male. This is where I feel comfortable—in the inclusion of human diversity, not the exclusion of it. This is where the Christ consciousness resonates for me, in a sense of oneness. It’s the “oneness” that I view as “holy.”

It is difficult to believe in this time and age that we still have such a big list of who God likes and who he doesn’t. It reminds me more of life in Junior high school than it does something spiritual. Separating out people who the church is afraid of or judging of, just perpetuates a mean message…and no one is as mean as someone who is mean in the name of Jesus.  Once again, it reminds me of Junior High.

There’s an old joke that has something to do with the hard-of-hearing priest kneeling in prayer while God tries to emphasize the message of “celebrate” and the priest hears it as “celibate.”  It’s a good joke–we should be celebrating life!  The exclusion of different groups and the secretive and ritual abuse of children is hardly celebration though, is it?

The exclusion of women in the Catholic Church has led to an infection of perversion that has wrought unspeakable harm to children. Until that mess is cleaned up and the source of it addressed, the problem will perpetuate itself as it has for centuries. With the  albatross of child molestation around its neck, how is this church in a position to condemn anyone?

For me, I don’t believe that Jesus would have excluded anyone from the table. I believe that the message of Divine love is so large and encompassing, that all are welcome. There is a big difference between the politics of church-ianity and the message of the Christ—a big difference between the message of unconditional love and  self-righteous exclusion. So, this new Pope is a big disappointment for me, just more of the same. And more of the same lost step a long time ago.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Details

 

SNOW GEESE

Why should it matter that wet, March snow makes your boots create a squeaking sound when you walk around the lake in the early morning hours? Why should the carrion of geese make you lift your gaze to the sky and smile? It is the observance of the small details that fill my heart with appreciation. I love this. I belong to this and it belongs to me. We are each other sings the sound of snow boots and wintering geese, muddy paths from the quick melt, promising spring.

 

 

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

For the Love of Sunday and Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday is the best day of the week. It stretches before me without schedule or obligation. It makes no demands. I pour a mug of hot black tea with honey and return to bed, sitting among pillows and comforter with my books and my laptop, the accessories of Sunday morning.

A spring snow fell most of the day yesterday, a heavy grey shawl that wrapped itself around the house and closed us in, leaving my husband to work at his desk and me to finish the chores of a weekend; laundry that filled the kitchen with the sound of churning machines and the clean smell of soap; groceries—my only outside venture of the day—that were organized in fridge and pantry; a prayer of gratitude for such things. Clean laundry and food in the fridge always make me feel secure and happy.

This morning, the sky is a brilliant blue, the way that only a Colorado sky can be, stretching infinitely beyond snow-capped mountains to places wild, beckoning me from this reprieve of leisure to get out and walk before the trails get slushy and muddy. Church happens for me walking in nature, the wide vision of wonderment filling the empty places in my heart and healing the wounds of exhaustion that the workweek wrought with her incessancy.

I read the next chapter in Brother Steindl-Rast’s book, “Gratefulness the Heart of Prayer,” and then read a few pages from “Letters to a Young Poet,” by Rainer Maria Rilke. From Steindl-Rast’s book, I came away with thoughts that I will allow to pecolate during my upcoming hike; thoughts of purpose and meaning, vision and action and contemplation as an entering into the temple of one’s own heart in order to sit in the light of praise, thanksgiving and gratitude. It is precisely this grateful attitude that Rilke writes about to the young poet, pointing out that gratitude can inform a life and strengthen its wholeness; can make the moments of darkness more fruitful in their contribution—the gift within the gift.

Rilke has helped me to see the value of such life-passages without judgment. A decision made long ago influences me now—a vow to live the examined life has remained a constant, sometimes throwing me into chaos when those around me were having a party. I have remained faithful to that, uncomfortable or not. The examined life retreats to its depths and is born again. Retreating and birth again and again, opening and closing to itself ,all to become more aware, to see with a keener eye, to expand in heart and mind to a greater understanding of self and its place in the story of the human condition.

Sundays are the best day; ripe for contemplations and ponderings; for time in nature; for play and leisure that balance out a life so tightly woven with responsibility. A hike and back into the jammies—not a moment of Sunday given to anything but the quiet appreciation and rest that allows the heart to fill and the journey to continue.