Taking the Slow Path

***This is a re-purposed blog post from May of 2010, as relevant today as it was then. In one way or another, this “chaotic time” has been going on for a while. We should have become used to it, but we aren’t. Here’s the good news: You’re still around four years later, and still reading; I’m still writing. That’s something.


Last week, a student snuffled at the next desk. He muffled a couple of coughs in his elbow as kids are taught these days. “Go home,” I said to him. “You’re sick.” He nodded. “Are you speaking tonight?” He nodded again, muffling another cough. “Then leave after your speech,” I said. He shook his head. “I can’t. I can’t let my group down.”

That’s what I get for teaching a focus on community in Public Speaking.

I could have moved desks to observe and evaluate the speeches, but I didn’t. I handed him tissues and admired his dedication. At the beginning of each semester, I put an emphasis on responsibility to their small group as well as to the larger class as a whole. Maybe that’s what he was thinking by isolating at the back of the room. What could I say?

I hadn’t been sick all semester and thought nothing more except to hand him a tissue from time to time. By Friday, my soft palette was achy and I began the regimen of Emergen-C and Air Borne. By Saturday, my throat felt like a marching army in dirty socks. More Air Borne, more Emergen-C. Sunday morning I felt okay so went to church. Cliff said stay home, but I didn’t. And by Sunday afternoon, I was bona fidely sick.

The past few weeks have been pretty chaotic. For us all. Too much going on and too much to do and too many sudden changes in direction. Not much down time other than an evening stroll into the yard before dinner to cut asparagus, see how the flowers are doing.

“Behold the lilies of the field;

they neither sweat nor toil.”

Most spiritual traditions say the same in one way or another: Slow down. See beauty. Take time with your life. Or else (there’s always an “or else”) you get struck down in one way or another – this time with a cold, another time with a heart attack, another time with a broken leg. Take time. That’s exactly why I walk into the garden in the evenings, to take time – but one fifteen minute stroll in the evening doesn’t solve the challenges of the other hours.

No matter how many times we read or hear the same message, we get caught in the whirl. It’s even possible to be conscious we’re in a whirl and still be caught.

So, if being conscious of the whirl isn’t enough to stop, what is? I’m reminded of the play, Stop the World I Want to Get Off, first produced in London in 1961. It isn’t as if this particular time has the dibs on chaos. It’s been around; it will come back. So, is stopping when we are caught in chaos the answer?

In reality, being conscious of chaos doesn’t necessarily allow us to sidestep; the task is learn to live with it. To stop being afraid (I wasn’t afraid, just unwise) or in my case, cranky because my head filled with gunk and my chest hurt.

In modern-day vernacular, that’s some of what the Buddha said: suffering is part of the human condition, but you can choose how to live with suffering.

Today, I’ll take the slow, winding path, watch the sunlight, be at peace. Come sit with me. Well, I’m contagious, so do it in your imagination. You won’t hear my sniffling.


Songs I Never Sing

Three favorite songs? That’s not as easy as it sounds. I’m not a sound person. I have no auditory memory. So sounds get in my way more than they help. My writing room is silent. I’ve practiced writing to music, but alas, it never works for more than fifteen minutes. Songs. What songs stay with me? Well, this morning, when I saw it was a friend’s birthday, a friend who exceeds me in age by not so much, I wrote, “If I’d ‘a known it was your birthday, I’d have backed a cake” because the old song, If I’d known you were coming I’d’ve baked a cake; baked a cake; baked a cake…” I hoped my friend was old enough to catch the pun from a song my mother sang years ago. I remember those songs. Another that came to me just a few days ago was “June is bustin’ out all over, all over the meadows and the hills….” It always comes when June comes. Mom sang that too. My older sister has a great voice and sings. Me, not so much. When I lived in New York and part of the acting world, I took singing lessons. Voice lessons vital for New York actors. I studied with a reputable teacher but he decided I was a soprano. Not. I didn’t know it at the time and I worked hard to be a soprano, but I should have remembered my mother was an alto. I am too. He didn’t seem to recognize that or perhaps my voice was stronger in those days. I could almost sing bass these days. But I’m getting off track. Favorite songs. Favorite songs. Beatles? Oh, maybe. John Fogerty? Yeah, I like his work. Probably my favorite songs come from old blues singers. “I got a man, crazy for me. He’s funny that way….” Billie Holiday sang. No one could phrase like she did. Yeah. Several of hers are favorites. And Willie Nelson. “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys….” But I did. Both of them. Abet 20th Century cowboys whatever that means. But what other favorite songs? What I like about the two I mentioned was the story in each of them. I like songs with stories. The rest? Oh, I can listen to classical music and soar with the sound, but it doesn’t stick. Words stick. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” Mother sang. Me, I write words. Remember words. Stacks and stacks of words line up and layer around my writing space. And now I’m about out of words for remembering any songs and free writing is still demanded for a few more minutes. I can free write. That’s words. Songs? I only sing snatches of songs or listen for snatches and then I smile and remember the story and go on with whatever I’m doing. I don’t sing when I’m cooking or driving or walking. I think words. You’d think that having a mother who sang would have rubbed off on me some way or another. Songs for morning or afternoon, songs for dinner, songs for….well, anytime like this when asked what’s your three favorite songs. Duh. Not. Well, maybe if I can dredge some up. Oh, yeah, Mom’s songs. So that’s what I can do with the prompt today. But my fingers are warmed up for writing words…..Oh. Here’s one more….. “She’ll be comin’ around the mountain when she comes….” Yep. That’s me. On the road again… and that’s another Willie tune. I made a movie with Willie once long time ago. He kissed me as I left the set. One of many kissed he bestowed on various ladies. My friend Jessica says I should get a button made: I got kissed by Willie Nelson. But I haven’t.



It’s April – and we are glad it’s so

I apologize for being so absent for so long with these blog posts. Like many of you, the first three months were pretty rocky around here. I’m grateful for the hopeful earth that continues to push up green shoots even in the troublesome times.

At the beginning of Lent, I began a daily series of inspirational posts at my other site, Community of the Incarnation. They were mostly related to the season of Lent, but I’ve decided to continue with less of an emphasis on the church year and more of an emphasis on simply living with a conscious intent.

The posts are short, less than two hundred words, and focused on one idea.

One of the things that happened to me in March was landing in the hospital for two days with something called Transient Global Amnesia, an interesting title and an interesting experience. In short, I’m fine, my brain is fine (well, sometimes that debatable) as is my heart. I simply shorted out.

So I’m in catch-up mode. And careful mode. And really focusing on what’s important. In other words, simplifying.

I’ll still post on this site, but less often, and probably more related to my writing projects. Or something.

Life, as is so often said, is a process.

I hope you’ll find me on the Incarnation site and join me for a few moments each day sitting still and re-collecting. I certainly need it. Maybe we all do.




The Journey to Light

journeyAdvent begins tomorrow. This season brings a certain peace if we’re willing to remember and define a peace for ourselves. We always have a choice: bemoan the hustle and bustle and commercialism, get caught up in the turmoil of finding the right gift or impressive holiday decorations or the fabulous party outfit or the best sale, or we can turn within to wait for rebirth.

The value of having a spiritual life, regardless of the religion or the lack of religion, is remembering and celebrating rebirth.

There’s no doubt it’s been a stressful and chaotic year—from wars and rebellion to drought to flood to an acrimonious election season that seemed never-ending. And it’s not just the external out-there world in chaos: families have grieved a death or divorce, children have been hurt, adults suffered. We’ve each had our share of aches and hurt.

A long year of endless change and turmoil, re-doing, re-evaluating, reviewing, and nothing ever seemed done-done. There was always another detail, another “hanging chad” to reckon with. The to-do lists have grown, the marking off of the to-dos has become elusive.

And yet. It’s Advent.

Each December we have four weeks to watch and wait: for Solstice, Hanukah, Christmas, Bodhi Day, the New Year. Regardless of our tradition, every year we have four weeks to reflect and welcome the rebirth of light. Every year, we have an invitation to open ourselves to the faith-filled journey that we, and the world, will renew, that we will go on.

In our house, we celebrate Christmas, but we also celebrate Solstice. The earth tips, even if we don’t notice, and begins its journey back to summer. We all have a chance to be rebirthed in light.

The pause in the earth’s tipping has been a sacred time of reckoning for people since ancient times, and in our family for a very long time. Perhaps it comes from being people of the land, attached to farm and sky and earth.

I remember my mother marking the place in the middle of the winter-bare lilac bush, lonely at the far corner of the yard. It was her yardstick in the march of seasons. As December progressed, she’d look out the west window to see the sun set, to watch its glow as it passed through the far edge of the twiggy bush toward the center. And then the earth paused, and she watched as the sun began its journey north again, out of the lilac bush and into open sky.

Dad, and those of us kids who worked outside (and all of us did at one time or another) watched the gathering stars as we trudged back to the house after evening chores. I don’t know which bright star we followed (Venus setting that year? Jupiter on the horizon? Sirius?) but we all learned to follow a star, our star, in one way or another.

Will you remind yourself to take time to enjoy these four short weeks? If the earth can pause, so can we.

Which star will you follow this season of December? Which journey will you make?