Thursday, June 20, 2024

Summer Solstice

 We Westerners don't seem to pay much attention to solstices and equinoxes, and I think we lose something when we forget to note the changing of the seasons. Yes, there is much sorrow and wreckage in the world, and dreadful heat. Fire season holds our attention much more than the solstice. Yet, today, if possible, we can remember that seasons always change.   

I keep coming across books that I feel I need to read. Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire was just added to the list. I remember him as an essayist who did not mince words. Let us learn again to pay attention to our beloved earth, and to our own seasons. Even just looking out a window can reveal much.  Let us be brave and learn to see. 
"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

image: San Leandro, June 2024

Saturday, June 8, 2024


Yesterday,  I decided to walk away from my frustrations. Trying to stare them down was doing me no good. I picked up my flute and went into the backyard. As I let the notes rise, I looked up and saw this iris blooming in the sun. I was so touched by the simplicity of the moment, and even through the sound of many comings and goings was all around me, I remember only silence. When I play outside, I often get a deep sense of belonging to and in this life, and I fall in love with God once more. 

"You’ll always reach the end of how you thought your life would go. You’ll reach it many, many times. What looks like the low point is also the high point. What looks like the end is always the beginning.
Finding faith may seem impossible in your darkest times, but like the earth’s eternal orbit and the sun’s ceaseless shine, impossible things happen all the time.
You may be lost right now, but after days, months, even years in the wilderness, you will be found alive. Completely, joyously, miraculously alive."

~ Karen Maezen Miller-- 



Saturday, June 1, 2024

A Vision for This Time

 A couple of weeks ago, I came across an old copy of the hymn, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence". Since then, I  have been practicing the hymn's tune, Picardy, a French carol, on my flute. The words are credited to the Liturgy of St. James, 4th century, and are pretty somber. However, I will say that I once heard a recording of some nuns singing the hymn in French and it was quite ethereal. Their voices blended so beautifully that I forgot they were singing a capella. I had no need to know what words they were singing. I was just listening to beautiful music.  

 A few days ago, I realized that at the top left of this copy (but not in the two hymnals I primarily use) there is a reference to Habakkuk 2:20: "But the Lord is in the holy temple. Let all the earth be silent." However, what really caught my attention was Habakkuk 2:2-3, with the instructions to "Write a vision, and make it plain upon a tablet so that a runner can read it." Also about this time, I had a very simple melody running through my head. With Tyler's help, I was able to put some of the words from Habakkuk to the melody I was hearing. What surfaced was a simple chant that I find very encouraging: 
"There is a vision for this time; 
It does not deceive.
If it delays, wait for it. 
It will not be late." 
Habakkuk 2:2-3, abridged   
This morning as I was walking through the neighborhood, I again found myself reflecting upon these words. It was a beautiful morning for a walk, but I was somewhat distracted by my concern about the upcoming heatwave, and the serious implications of climate change. Suddenly, my attention was drawn to a large camellia bush directly in front of me. This blossom seemed to be saying, "Do not worry. We are here." 
Surely a vision for our time.  

image: June, 2024 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Art of the Short Pilgrimage, Part 2

 Every once in a while Tyler needs to visit just a few of his customers on a holiday, and when that happens, I sometimes go with him. Yesterday was such a day. He was headed to San Francisco and I decided to go with him. It was windy, chilly, and grey, but as the sun became known, I grew more comfortable. Our first stop was to a small corner store that I find fascinating. The small store is packed with many items, including some nice produce and gourmet items. I enjoy watching the people and seeing what they choose to buy. A loaf of good bread. A head of lettuce. A good can of beer. Shaving cream. That small store does seem to serve the neighborhood well, including the dogs who love to come visit and get a treat.  

We then went on to the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Parking was not easy to come by, but Tyler said he did not mind parking further away for this was one of his favorite walks. We parked, and walked through the Aids Memorial Grove. In contrast to much of the park, it was almost silent, and only a few people walked along the well maintained path through redwoods and many California native plants. We could not help but stop and ponder the flowers blooming. 
We then entered through the business entrance of the academy. It was abuzz with children who seemed to believe they had finally been forever set free, and their young parents who had the monumental task of trying to keep them in some kind of order. Tyler concluded his business conversation and we did not linger long, but on our way out, we did see Claude the albino alligator, who is now 24 years old. He floated in the moat, silent and still, with his limbs suspended in the water as if he was on vacation. A large turtle rested on a nearby rock. Although we were standing on the level about the moat where the noise seemed to grow with a life of its own, those two seemed quite unconcerned. I had a sense they had lost interest in such comings and goings quite some time ago.   
When we returned to the car, Tyler needed to make a phone call. I sat and continued to read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, first published in 1969. I think this is my first time to read one of her books. At first I was completely confused. She dropped me onto a strange planet with no warning. (I guess one should expect that when reading science fiction. I think I am out of practice with the genre.) However, I am settling in. Even the protagonist seems to be somewhat settling in. Yet, this planet that he knows as Winter does not seem to be particularly cozy, and he is continually baffled by a society populated by ones who have no fixed sex. In addition, even the weather changes often. Snow is not uncommon.   
Tyler's conversation continued, so I decided to step out of the car and take off my jacket. While the car was warm, it was still windy outside, so I did not feel like lingering, even though the sun was shining. As I was preparing to step back into the car, a young couple walked by pushing a stroller that carried  a very young child. She was happily munching on a snack that she held in her two small hands, reminding me of a charming little otter. She noticed me, and gave me the most miraculous smile I have received in quite some time. She was absolute light. Even though I still had the car door open, and Tyler was still on the phone, I gasped out loud and said in amazement, "What a beautiful smile!" The parents also smiled, and nodded their heads. I was humbled for I knew I was witnessing love. I smiled in return, but probably a bow would have been in order had I not been halfway into the car.  
Our day in the city concluded with a beautiful lunch in a small French bistro. It was a perfect day for a rich French onion soup. Tyler enjoyed a bowl of mussels. We were content. Perhaps this is the contentment of Claude and his turtle companion, and maybe even of a young child whose journey is just beginning.  Sometimes, you really do not have to travel far to find something that can deeply sustain you. I am grateful to know love is still guiding us through our own confusing and changing world.  
I know this post is longish, but I really must include this lovely poem written by James Wright that I received through First Sip. It speaks deeply of a Spirit of Place. We need these reminders to look around in gratitude and take in the grace. 
A Blessing 
Just off the Highway to Rochester, Minnesota
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom. 

image: Petaluma, 2024 

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Learning the Art of a Short Pilgrimage

 Tyler and I spent last weekend at a KOA campground in Petaluma. We are not KOA campers, but two good friends were passing through in their motorhome, and it had been a few years since we had seen them. We decided to pack our camper and meet them there. The weekend proved to have some surprises for me. The campground is beautifully landscaped with pollinator friendly plants, and many of the tall redwoods and other trees still stand throughout the grounds. Everything was immaculately maintained. This property is owned by a fourth generation family, and it seems that they have learned their lessons well. I was stunned at how large some of the motorhomes were, and almost every one of them had a car or motorcycle in tow. Our little camper looked to be something that had gated in from some archaic planet, but we did have a few of our temporary neighbors stop by to inquire about our curious mode of travel. We even got a couple of thumbs up.  I did not expect to see much wildlife in such an environment, but in the early mornings and evenings, we were graced by the sound of two owls calling back and forth. On Saturday evening, I saw one take to the sky as the neighborhood crows adamantly  voiced their absolute disdain of them. Yet, my biggest surprise came on an early morning walk to the restroom when beautiful fox crossed the path ahead of me. Despite my mission, I instinctively stopped and stood very still. The fox took a moment to look at me cautiously, and then continued on. I felt honored to see this beautiful creature so close, and that moment still comes to mind. More than likely it was a California grey fox, but I have too little knowledge of these beautiful creatures to say for sure. 

On this short trip I began reading a book that a cousin recommended to me: the Cascadia Field Guide edited by Bradfield, Fuhrman, and Sheffield. The book is filled with information about the flora and fauna of Cascadia as well as lovely drawn illustrations and poetry. In the book all life that is found in Cascadia is referred to as beings, giving me hope that as dire as things often seem to be, we humans are making some incremental shifts in how we relate to the life around us.   
Tyler and I do not live in the vast area known as Cascadia. A drawn map included in the book shows that Cascadia stretches from southern Alaska, through western Canada, along the western side of the Rocky Mountains into Washington, Idaho, some of Oregon and part of northern California. I had never heard the term Cascadia, and I am grateful for the introduction.  
This trip was our third "practice" of the art of camping. We are settling into the rhythm of the packing and unpacking. Our hope is to take a longer trip in the fall. My thanks to our friends who invited us to join them for this weekend of pilgrimage, inspiration, and much laughter.       

"This book is for fellow beings - for those who leap, flap, walk, root, crawl, swim, and slither.  It is for a region we love and would love to love more fully." 
introduction to Cascadia Field Guide. May this be a mantra for us all. 

image: Tyler, surrounded by largeness. Photograph taken by a small phone.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2024


 Despite the fact that yesterday morning was grey and a little chilly and that I was congested and sniffly, I spent some time in both our front and back gardens - doing some watering, trimming, and pulling weeds. Again, I was reminded that there is healing to be found in a garden. As I walked in and between these fairly small spaces I greeted the bees and blossoms. As I did so, calmness began to take root in me. I forgot I was kind of cold and was pulling out a tissue out of my pocket every few minutes. Just before I came back inside I paused and realized that while yes, I know there are incredibly beautiful places in the world, and yes, I do want to do a little more traveling in the future, I am not sure I will find a place that offers me more peace than where I am right now. Such contentment has been long in coming. I think I have always feared contentment, confusing it with complacency. Today, I am not willing to sacrifice the peace of this moment for the restlessness of thinking there may be something more "out there". There surely is. I may even experience some of it. Yet, today, I have enough.

I pray that the seemingly unrelenting hunger and greed of the world's aggressors be abated by their realization that when everyone is allowed the chance to savor enough, there can be peace. We will then be able to hear the earth's song of love and wisdom once more. 


image: the peaks and valleys of a neighbor's rose.  April 2024

Thursday, May 9, 2024

There Are Days (in case you have not noticed)

 I needed to see this today. I may not be the only one.  

"Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself.
You may not be perfect, but you are all you've got to work with.
The process of becoming who you will be
begins first with the total acceptance of who you are."

~ Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
With gratitude to Claudia Cummins, who understands sometimes a poem  or meditation is needed.


The photograph was taken a few years ago. Nasturtiums are blooming again.  Spring continues.