We’re all hurtling through our lives, and the planet is hurtling through space without a seat belt. We have to discover successively more freedom inside the terrible things that have happened and the terrible things that certainly will happen, and the whole of it is also a mysterious splendor, full of kindness, welcome and cups of tea. – John Tarrant

as dawn broke on this day, i awoke with the same feeling of deep sadness with which i had fallen into that fitful sleep. my dreams had only reinforced my feelings of failure. you know how that can be with dreams. as the morning unfolded, my tears were so near to the surface that silence fell over me like a blanket to keep them undercover.

after spending some time with myself in my journal, some of which i also shared here, i texted my friend, to see how she was feeling today. she has been experiencing her own measure of sorrows lately. we soon made a date for afternoon tea.

that time spent with her, mutually revealing and receiving our fears and flaws, remorses and regrets, struggles and sorrows was to share a communion more healing than any sacramental bread and wine.  being held by a true friend in an empathy that understands, not from an intellectual assertion, but from the mutual experience of being human is truly redemptive.

its not always easy to be vulnerable with another human being like that, but when we find that place of true belonging, acceptance, and love, where we are free to be all of who we are without shame, the saving of our souls from despair is so real. i don’t know how often that happens. i have the feeling i am blessed to have a small circle – a circle that is growing – of women in my life with whom i can get naked like this. i am suspicious that it is my willingness to get naked at last that is making that so.

three mornings a week, after we have finished our morning water aerobic class, i shower in the university locker room with a group of women.  standing naked with all of those fearfully and wonderfully shaped women has helped me to love my own body in ways that i could not have imagined i could ever do. i no longer measure myself against some illusory standard that isn’t even real. that’s what getting naked can do. strip the illusion of perfection we use to hate ourselves and cover over our beauty.

it’s a brave thing to do. get naked. there are still places out there where we will be laughed at or ridiculed, shamed or rejected, judged as unworthy. we do have to learn where it is safe to take off our clothes, but more and more i realize that there are others out there who look just like me, hurting and lonely and doubting and longing and messing up and feeling life deeply.

that blogger i’ve recently discovered, Dr. Kelly Flanagan, whom I’ve mentioned here previously sums it up perfectly.

Vulnerability is a beautiful thing. And it sucks. It gets a little easier over time, but not much. Because vulnerability is always a door thrown wide open for pain. So, why keep doing it? Because it is also the doorway to grace and worthiness and connection and belonging and passion and purpose. And joy of every surprising kind.

i realize that i also do this here, with you. get naked. sometimes it is scary. i wake up and wonder what i have done! like a woman the morning after taking off her clothes the first time with a new lover. then i take a deep look in the mirror, rereading my words, and realize i’m not so mishapen at all. i look just like everyone else. 

i hope that my vulnerability is likewise a gift to you. a mirror. a sip of tea. a lump of bread. a moment of connection and grace. a place to be human. a place of belonging.

as we hurtle together through this terrible, beautiful life without a seat belt.


there is a situation in my life that causes me deep pain, has been causing me deep pain for a very long time. i have gotten caught in the trap that if i just could fix this, i would be free at last to be happy. i could finally let go my frustrations, my longings, my weariness, my fear.

perhaps my deeper wisdom has known that this is not true, but i can’t seem to live in and from that deep place as much as I’ve thought that i could.  of course, my love is tangled up in that pain. it seems that is always the case. again, my deeper wisdom knows a deeper Love that can hold it without getting hooked into the spiraling chaos.

i slept fitfully last night, after having gone to bed early to get away from it for a while. my dreams were plagued by starving children and unforgiving adults. there is no escaping it, i suppose.  so, here i am with my journal, seeking the wisdom she so often reveals – beneath it.

i see that i need to stop hooking my happiness upon others, whether it is upon their happiness or their understanding. likewise, stop blaming them. look to myself for it. not in a self-centered, armored kind of way, as in ‘i’m going to take care of myself from now on’. but in a looking within- to how it is that i contribute to my own despair. how is my own behavior – thoughts or actions- harmful to myself and to others. what unskillful patterns have i taken on as model ones. it is hard to see myself clearly, both in the somewhat impossible way-from within the blindness of my conditioning, and in the painfully difficult way when i do finally glimpse the truth.

of course, the trick is always how to go there without slipping into self-hatred or self-condemnation, with the resultant popping back out of that place with a determination to atone my humanity. humility is needed to simply acknowledge my self- my blindness, my striving, my clinging, my fear, my flaws – and stop trying so hard to be perfect, or frantically fix what i perceive to be broken.

this going within is one kind of way, of course, to separate myself from the drama. move into the eye of the storm. sometimes that feels like escape, like running away, like not addressing the problem that keeps spinning out of control. i have learned, however, that i am quite small and powerless in the force of that storm, and i am learning what is not mine to fix. i need to step away from that.

of course, sweet companions of mine (we who eat of the same bread), you know that stepping out of the fray is also what i experience when i escape in another way into the woods and the water of the wilderness.  i hold dear to my heart an explanation given by a psychotherapist on the process of individuation, those passages in our lives when we are shedding old roles and ways of relating and growing a new way of expressing and being our selves. clearly, she said, there is a necessary break away that is a part of that becoming in order for the new self to emerge, outside of the tugs, pulls, hooks, that dismantle one’s identity before it can fully take shape. i see a caterpillar inside it cocoon here, hidden and protected from the beaks that would consume it before it had wings.

the classic example of this is a young adult leaving home for college. but I’ve often been taken by the Hindu life stage referred to as ‘the forest dweller’, which honors this need in the older adult as well, as she moves away from the householder stage. separation is a valid way to transform oneself and one’s way of relating with the world. we have similar stories in our culture, most often something like Cheryl Strayed’s experience on the Pacific Crest Trail.

the test of whether the change goes deeper than the surface, or whether it is also simply escape, can be when one returns to one’s ‘ordinary’ life. just as daily prayer or meditation practices, which invite one to access a deeper wisdom within from which to live, can so easily erode over time, so can the sense of deeper identity one finds out there.

metamorphosis cannot be hurried. wings cannot be forced open, or the butterfly perishes before it becomes.

time. deep time. i need.

in order to see who i am.






The door closes behind her. It is finished. The great task of her life complete. 

It was a world into which she had been thrust 30 years prior, as if plucked from her life and cast into that cell for walking down the wrong street, her old self gone in an instant. In shock, at first, she was resilient. Quickly she learned to survive, to make herself skilled in what was needed to do so. Love not only made that possible, but necessary.  Thriving was required of her if the children were going to flourish.

But now.

She’d heard the song for some time, coming from outside those cold walls. For years, she’d known it was there awaiting her release. Honestly, at times it drove her to madness during those years when that heavy door was locked. Mostly, it gave her hope.

Standing here, now, on the other side, the song calls from over the distant ridge. Across these winter white barrens, it beckons.

The part of herself she lost.

It is not so unlike the last time she was thrust from all that she’d known, except that walled existence was so full, there was no time to feel lost, it was all she could do to keep up.

But this.

Vast emptiness is more frightening, in so many ways. It’s tempting to turn back, knock on that door, see if she can make herself fit again –except for the terrible heaviness she’s felt when she’s tried.

The song beckons her come. It sounds like Life. Like resurrection. Yes, the stone rolled away from that tomb!

Why is it so hard to reach the source of that elusive voice?

The stone, of course, tied round her ankles.  

Impossible to fly, she’s walked all this way. No wonder

She’s weary.

holy – Wherein vicki realizes that Weariness makes her Irritable and Sunshine brings her Life.

There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,


But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

-Mary Oliver

I’ve been reading a 1909 novel, wherein each chapter is titled thusly, eg “Wherein Mrs. Comstock Dances in the Moonlight, and Elnora Makes a Confession” and “Wherein Philip Ammon Kneels to the Queen of Love and Chicago Comes to the Limberlost”. Those titles make me smile each time the page turns to a new chapter.

The novel tells the story of a young woman who also finds her solace and salvation in the woods and wetlands surrounding her home, her daily forays an escape from an unhappy childhood and a bitter mother. I came upon the title on a list of nature books written by women. Gene Stratton Porter set her novel in her beloved Limberlost swamp of northeast Illinois, writing at the time that those habitat rich wetlands of the Midwest were being dredged and drilled. Her words describing those forested swamps ooze with detail and delight. (The fact that they were soon thereafter devastated by human folly fills me with sorrow. )

I reread an old post of my own, which came up as a memory for me today. My own journal entry, penned by headlamp in the shelter of a tent, struck me likewise by its exquisite tenderness.

A sensuous paddle ensued as we intimately explored Bonnechere Lake from her chin to her toes, teasing our way down both of her arms, stopping to more intimately investigate a few sites along the way and discovering the charming and hidden, Cradle Lake, where we lingered a while on a slip of land between the two bodies of water. I was rather enchanted by that site, with its natural boulder fireplace and foot trails leading up to lichen and moss covered overlooks, and hope to land there again one day…”

I mean, who writes that way about a body of water?

Someone in Love. You know how it is when you fall in love. The pain of your life falls away, at least for a time, in the arms of that lover. That’s how it is, I suppose, for those of us who find the beloved deep in the natural world. There we can escape and release, forget and forgive, linger in love and be filled with delight.

I wanted to add to that list, ‘be healed and made whole’ but I’m still not certain how to carry that deep peace back into my ‘house’, so sometimes I wonder if that healing is entirely true. Perhaps I require a stronger dose, a continuous drip, an infusion of Love.

This afternoon I took a long walk in the brisk sunshine.



i almost didn’t write tonight, as i got good and lost for a time, watching videos of canoe trips.
sometimes a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.

for me, that means entering the pages of a book, which chronicles the experiences of a couple who spent twelve months canoeing in the wilderness, and dwelling with them in the vast silence of November;

or paging through a photo album of a favorite memory and feeling the dampness of the air upon my skin, the tingle of excitement when the cow moose with a calf at her heels steps from the edge of the woods, the stretch of the smile across my face at the frolicking of the otters.

or reading an account in a paddling journal, enduring the last mile of a portage in my weary legs, inhaling the ripeness of the earth as my boot sinks into the muck, heeding the electric hum of 100’s of mosquitos,and luxuriating in the comfort of an inflatable pillow in the tent beneath my head;

or pouring over a map and envisioning the sweep of water from a particular vantage, the endless meandering of an alder thicket, the bloom of cotton grass in the marsh;

or basking in a stranger’s video of familiar lakes and rivers, immersing myself in those intimate spaces where my heart sings and sighs.

my memory is the doorway,

my imagination the welcome

my heart the hearth
and i am at home.
as i said, sometimes a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.

i‘ve got nothing else to say tonight. i’m going back to enter more deeply into those words and those images. Let more of that goodness enter into my bones.


I spent some time this afternoon preparing a document for a quartet of women who will be paddling and portaging with me in Algonquin this summer. The document included a tentative itinerary, info regarding basic protocols (drinking water, campfires, use of soap, ‘toilet’ facilities, and food prep) as well as essential gear lists for each woman to consider when packing. This year, I included a weight threshold. I’m trying to be clearer about what is expected and required.

I’m learning, at long last, that real empowerment (for myself and for those with whom I am in relationship) requires me to state clearly what it is I am NOT willing to carry for someone else. Empowerment is not at all about taking more and more onto my self, even if I can, but entrusting the other to carry their own weight.

It sounds so very old-fashioned, not terribly compassionate, a bit individualistic and even somewhat surly.  If I am honest, it can be difficult for me to say it out loud, even here.  After all, not isolated beings are we but interdependent ones. We are called to hold one another up, right? Yes, love is a verb and we are not always equally gifted or yoked. 

I’ve been learning about the secret life of trees, the amazing ways that they support one another. It seems that a forest is not a group of individuals but an interconnected organism. Canopy trees take in nutrients and feed it to understory trees. Conifers tend to deciduous trees throughout the long winter. And immunity to disease and infestation, even dna adaptations, are transferred from specimen to specimen through vast underground networks that resemble brains, with nodes and axons of transmission.  Forests are healthier when they contain diverse species, each one contributing something unique that is nurturing and protective to the whole.

Okay, so I’ve just about talked myself out of my empowerment ideas.



I know that if I carry for another what they ‘should’ be carrying for themselves, I make them dependent in ways that are not healthy for them or for me. Carrying weight makes us stronger – our bones, our muscles, our hearts, our minds, our confidence, our resilience, our sense of self worth.  Carrying too much (or inappropriate) weight wears us down—the weight of the world, as they say? Yes, I have felt the weight of that. On the other hand, not carrying what we are capable of carrying weakens us. Give me a chair lift and soon enough my legs cannot push my butt up from the seat cushion.

There is something about a wilderness trip, where I must take only what I can carry and must carry what I take, that is deeply instructive. I learn a lot about myself. I learn about my fears of not having what I’ll need, but then I learn how creative I am when I don’t have what I thought I needed to carry.  I learn how to set things down, leave them behind. I learn about how the what-ifs can paralyze me, until I just push off from the shore and trust that I am enough. I learn that simplicity is true freedom. I learn that less is easier than more. I learn to pay attention and keep track of where I put things. I learn to rely upon my resourcefulness, but also to get out of my fear-laden self-sufficiency and pay attention to the vast support network that surrounds me.

In beauty we walk, in beauty we walk. With beauty before us, we walk. With beauty behind us, we walk. With beauty above us, we walk. With beauty about us, we walk.

I learn that I am much stronger than I believe myself to be.

I will trust that these are the gifts that I offer to my sisters –my daughters, my mothers-  when I suggest to them that they also must carry what they need and carry only what is theirs to take. I will trust that this expectation and confidence in both their wisdom and strength is yet another way that my love for them becomes a verb, transmitting to them the strength they will need to stand rooted and resilient and strong.





The date on the calendar indicates that it is spring, as does the location in its orbit round the sun of the earth in its tilted plane, as does the fact that the number of daylight hours now exceeds the number of night time hours in the northern hemisphere. Where I live, we begin to look for trout rising and frog eggs floating, for skunk cabbage and fiddleheads emerging, to listen for wood frogs quacking and wood thrush trilling, for peepers peeping and cardinals courting – the songs of the awakening earth.

But the first day of spring this year brought a foot of fresh snow, and I spent the day treading in snowshoes looking for evidence of life in the subtler tracks of fox, rabbit and deer (and perhaps a trailing coyote too).

I am reminded that life is not a command performance and that sometimes I must look for other, less coveted, signs that something is moving atop this frozen terrain, while underneath seeds await the thaw. I shall trust that the earth knows what she needs now, that there is wisdom in her ‘not yet’.

This evening I read these words “you need to stop listening to people who are in vastly different life circumstances and life stages than you tell you that you’re just not doing or being enough.” I wonder if that is something like telling the earth that she is not blossoming in the way and the time that we want her to, when we can’t possibly understand the deeper wisdom of her unfolding. As if we know better what is needed – to suit our own preferences. As if our wisdom is in any possible way more perfect than her own .

I want to allow my spirit to unfold as it will, to trust in the goodness of this season.

Last evening, curled up next to the fire, I came to a sudden realization that I am quite simply tired of the drama, weary of everything needing to be an outrage, a crisis, or something broken (or wrong) needing fixing. The noise of that spirals around me like a whirling nor-easter – in family and community, in news and technology- and threatens to drown out the song of this awakening spring. And so this blanket enfolds, quite wisely protecting the seed that has gone underground, until it is time, until those storms cease.

Because I am weary of the drama above does not mean I am weary of life here below though. At this season I simply want to be in love, not in turmoil. I want to revel in wonder, not in chaos. And I will emerge when the wisdom within me knows it is time, like a fiddlehead or a flower unfurling, and I will simply delight.

Because the earth needs quiet beauty more than it needs clashing cymbals.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.


What would life on earth look like if there was not hunger? If there was not this gnawing-in-our-gut drive that compels us to find food. Perhaps then the lion could lie down with the lamb, as the prophet dreamt, but the reality here is that we must eat in order to survive, demanding of us participation in these endless cycles of life-death-life.

I wonder if the same holds true for our spiritual lives, if they too can never be fully and finally satisfied, if our recurrent hungers are simply an essential component of life here on earth.  If so, that makes me wonder why? What deeper purpose does this hunger serve? 

There are those who claim that the human predicament of hunger- that something must die in order for us to live- is at the root of all religious impulse.  We long to make sense of it, for there to be some meaning in it that redeems the suffering.

There is the Ideal of growth. That we are here to grow in Love has been a deep hope that has rooted me here for some time. In this world of separate beings, each encounter and experience that challenges me to receive something ‘other’ into my body, or into my heart, encourages and enables me to grow.  

Our physical growth eventually subsists. Yet, our hunger persists, intimating that we need food not simply for growth, but for maintenance too, for regeneration and repair, for fuel. Is that also why these spiritual hungers never cease? To keep us from stagnancy and decay (or in that cycle of life does that decay then serve to feed the hunger?)

I search and search for that which will satisfy at last, but perhaps that is a vain attempt, an erroneous way to measure my maturity, an elusive and unattainable goal I use to shame myself, to judge myself as broken or unworthy.  What if the alternative to hunger, even spiritual hunger, is death? ­Could it be, conversely to what I have been led to believe, that when I am NOT hungry I am merely dead inside?  

Perhaps it is time to redeem my hunger. Bless it. Re-member that it is vital to being human. Let it remind me that I am blissfully alive.


Late last evening, I read an article posted by clinical psychologist, Kelly Flanagan, discussing the terms of endearment in a marriage. I’ve just come upon this author recently and, so far, I’ve appreciated what he has to say, from his thoughts on redemptive living (“a life in which the pain, brokenness, and mess of being human are not brushed under the rug but rather invited into the light”) to his willingness to be transparent with his own human struggles. I am grateful that there is a kindred voice for this kind of open and vulnerable honesty out there, that I am not alone in my willingness to speak aloud of such human emotions as pain and sorrow, loss and grief, confusion and fear. My feelings of shame and unworthiness, raw and exposed, revealed as they are right alongside my longings for belonging, joy, tenderness, compassion, delight, adventure, and vitality, are validated, humanized, and re’deemed’ by his normalizing voice.

It seems that sometimes even our emotional lives are deemed by our culture to be worthy or not, measured against some scale of the perfect ‘happy’ human, the same as our bodies are measured against a similar scale of a perfectly beautiful size and shape. Then, there are the fix-its for our normal human feelings the same as there is a new diet or exercise plan to make our normally shaped human bodies conform to some surface image we are told is the perfect way to be. We are no longer able to see that the whole spectrum of human feeling is beautiful, tender, lovable, necessary, sacred. So, we stuff them into clothes that don’t fit, trying to hide those perceived flaws.

Never mind hunger.

This afternoon, I came across a CBS news video feature of a young man who started a school club, now grown to 100 or more chapters across the country, called, We Dine Together. The club is about making sure that no student is stuck sitting alone in a lunchroom, without a companion, isolated from the community. Their purpose is welcome, empathy, and belonging. Their message is ‘Nobody should have to dine alone”. This evening, I learned that the word ‘companion’ translates roughly as ‘messmate’, literally ‘with whom one eats bread’. (com- with, pan-bread)

That’s rather how it feels to find an author like the one I’ve mentioned above. Or a friend who sits with me and says, without judgment or fear, “Yes, I taste that too”. The feeling of being alien is healed, the bread of life is shared. Hunger is fed.

all who eat this bread shall know that we are one

So, I thought I was sitting this evening to write about what this author/blogger had to say about the companionship of marriage, but it seems my fingers have gone in another direction. Still, I think I will bring this back to his words that marriage ‘asks of us a mutual surrender’, not to each other, but to our shared humanity, with ever deepening awareness and honesty about who we are, ‘flaws’ (beauty) and all.

Two people, stumbling their way toward happiness, by becoming more human, together. More aware of their arrogance. More aware of the subtle and not-so-subtle violence they perpetuate in their search for peace. More aware of how they long to be seen and yet hide themselves away. More aware of their anger and fear and shame.

Then, one day, ultimately, more aware of the light that lies beyond all that darkness. The light that is not the exception to our humanity, but the very source of it. The light at the center of each one of us. Surrendering, together, until the light within one comes so close to the light within another that they are no longer certain where one light ends and the other begins.

As my friend, Di, likes to say, ‘Not just for children, folks’, here I’ll say, ‘Not just for marriages, folks’. This is the way we companion one another in healing our inappropriate shame at ‘being human’. This is the way we companion one another out of hiding and into belonging. This is the way we companion one another into the fullness of human life. We break open that bread of life, and we taste it, together.

My hero, Fred Rogers, said it this way, “Won’t you be my neighbor”. I’ll say it another, “Let me be your companion”

Take this. Eat.


Ok, my friends, I’m hanging in there with this list of words, but one of the things I’m starting to notice is an inertia/quietude in them. There’s not a lot of vitality. Not a speck of passion. Not much movement at all. Perhaps that is more a reflection of me than of the words, however, did I not want there to be ‘delight’ in my ‘refuge’? Where is the word delight on this list, or passion, or joy, or dance, or even beauty and wonder?

So here is today’s word, ‘Journey’, which at least has SOME movement in it, although if I am honest, that word conjures up images of a slow unfolding more so than a dance of delight. Again, perhaps my response to the word is a really a reflection of me, as a journey can certainly be filled with wonder and mystery and joy. Perhaps I am merely impatient at the speed at which it occurs. I will admit, there has been a sense of urgency in me at this cusp in my life, the feeling that THIS is the time to LIVE. (tell me, what is it YOU plan to do with your one wild and precious life). My father and all four of his brothers, his father and mother, were dead by age 65. Of those, 3 in their 50’s. My own heart has beckoned me, ‘now!’

But, I have been working this winter at practicing deep acceptance, letting go of resistance (and the anger, bitterness, and resentment that were a part of that), and seeking to find joy right where I live. I’ve been practicing gratitude, loving ‘what is’, releasing dissatisfaction. I have been looking for beauty in my own back yard, reminding myself that I can choose to ‘bloom where I am planted’ (need i go on?) And there has been a softening in me.

But if i am honest again, there is another surrender in me that feels incidental and inadvertent to that letting go. The longing and anger are gone, but what I am noticing is that passion seems to have left me too. This surrender feels more like giving up. My once beckoning heart feels the sadness of that. The softening feels like a puddle.

I wonder how it is that the vow that I made to nurture the untended and dried seed of my own Belovedness, which I discovered within me on winter solstice, has by Spring Equinox become pacification. Pacifiers do not nurture, they merely silence that hunger.

Maybe the anger had to leave in order to thaw the soil around that seed. Yet, in the place where that deep yearning dwelt within me for all of these years, there is a void. That makes me question myself, do I need to feel discontent in order to feel alive? I don’t think so, but I do think I need to feel joy. I do think I need to feel passion.

I have been trying to fill that void, wondering if this workshop or that one might fill it. Perhaps some time alone in a cabin somewhere. Or this writing again. I have confessed to a friend that it feels like I am trying to plug something in to my self that might make me feel whole.

But every now and then, something Real within me does get uncovered. It washes up over me like a wave on the beach, uncovering a long lost jewel. It often comes unexpected and seemingly unprecipitated, during a conversation with a friend, an exercise class, or a visit with a grandchild. It feels like the sadness of a body going through the motions.
Perhaps it is grief.

I don’t know what this reflection has to do with the word of the day. All I can say is that this is the place where I stand today on the journey, holding this unexpected gemstone of grief in my hands. Tomorrow, no doubt, I’ll get up and walk that shoreline once more. Perhaps the setting from whence that jewel has come loose will wash ashore, and I’ll pick it up.

And it will fit.

Wild, Wild – Mary Oliver

This is what love is:

The dry rose bush the gardener, in his pruning, missed

Suddenly bursts into bloom.

A madness of delight; an obsession.

A holy gift, certainly,

But often, alas, improbable.

Why couldn’t Romeo have settled for someone else?

Why couldn’t Tristan and Isolde have refused

The shining cup

Which would have left peaceful the whole kingdom?

Wild sings the bird of the heart in the forests

Of our lives.

Over and over Faust, standing in the garden, doesn’t know

Anything that’s going to happen, he only sees

The face of Marguerite, which is irresistible.

And wild, wild sings the bird.

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