The Best I Am Capable Of Being

“I will soothe you and heal you,
I will bring you roses.
I too have been covered with thorns.”
~ Rumi

I first read the poems of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī in college. Poems of love. Just authentic, unadulterated love. The kind of love the Greeks spoke of. All six kinds…..eros (sexual passion), philia (deep friendhsip), ludus (playful love), agape (love for everyone), pragma (longstanding love) and  philautia (love of self, two kinds)

I have come to drag you out of yourself, and take you in my heart.
I have come to bring out the beauty you never knew you had
and lift you like a prayer to the sky.”


Baby Mourning Dove. This is one of the babies from a pair that nested in the sandbox rafter. S/he is unafraid of the children who sing and coo to him/her. Mourning Doves mate for life.

love, love, love

It also seems I have always loved Rainer Maria Rilke. I do not even know when I first discovered him. There are very few of his words that do not penetrate my heart and cause it, and my thoughts, to soar.

“Everything in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it. It is also good to love — love being difficult. Love is perhaps the most difficult task given us, the most extreme, the final proof and text, for which all other work is only preparation.~Rilke

The classic existential conundrum: why are we here?

“But because life here compels us, and because everything here
seems to need us, all this fleetingness
that strangely entreats us. Us, the most fleeting…
Once for each thing, only once. Once and no more. And we, too,
only once. Never again. But to have been
once, even though only once:
this having been earthly seems lasting, beyond repeal.
~Rilke, The Ninth Elegy

True? Because everything needs us? What needs us? The trees, the air, the Earth, the universe? Someone? Or, is it not so much about things needing us, being needed, but rather about having been here at all?

Knowing that our time, and the time of everything, is fleeting, what compels you to be the “best” you can be? For me, I am not sure I really know what the “best” me would be. I’d like to believe it would include being compassionate. I do know what, albeit in a certain context, I want to be here for. Living in and with and sharing the love the Greeks referred to as agape: selfless love. A love that is shared with all things on Earth and extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. To all. Even the “Other”, those I may dislike, fear, misunderstand, judge, condemn, turn from, ignore.

And it is not easy. As Rilke says, love is the most difficult task given us. I cannot do it without effort. I fail often. I feel whatever the opposite of love is…hate? I think hate is probably not the right word because truly it more of an anger/fear or an unknowing.

Discovering the best I am capable of includes making the time to look, to go within.

“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”
~ Rumi

Many folk consider this kind of “love for all” to be a cornerstone of human behavior. Lately however, I wonder. It is a difficult time we live in. And while there is certainly the case to be made that this is not the first time this may have been believed, we are so aware of all the suffering and violence that permeates our world, it does seem to indeed be a dark time.

When I have the presence of mind to “seek and find all the barriers within” that I have built against love, I find they are in fact there. There is Fear. Of many things. Especially fear of the unknown. There is Hurt. Anger. Mistrust. Clinging. Comparison. Disappointment. Sense of Entitlement. Lack of Knowledge. Misunderstanding. Assumption. Protection and Defensiveness. Confusion. Doubt. Separation.

And when I allow myself to see those things in myself, then I am able to work towards becoming the best I am capable of being. I cannot do it without the self-realization of what the barriers I have built are.

My parents, with their sense of service and care for others and the people they brought into my life built a certain foundation. All the traveling I did and living in other countries, my friends, my husband, my children and my career choice, my own faith and melded spirituality, have helped me open the door and look in and face these barriers of mine. Each day I own up to them and chip away at them, with the hope that one day they will be gone. Because that is the best I am capable of….

….breaking down all my barriers against the love called agape.

Agape, the evolving love that I know is inside of me for the sole purpose of being extended to all people the world over. The best I am capable of is allowing and sustaining the agape inside of me at all costs and against all opposition.

Pearls for the New Year

Sometimes we call inspiring and impactful words “pearls of wisdom.” They may challenge or uplift us. Perhaps they become the impetus for us to challenge or change ourselves. Maybe they kindle or revive some thought, feeling or hope that had become obscured or lost.

As the wheel turns and a new year roles into place I thought I would share some pearls of wisdom that reverberate in my thoughts, feelings and heart. Words that make me pause and think. Words that become a map for my life. Words that bring into questions ideas and beliefs. Words that change, inspire, even worry me. Words that uplift me and spark something into life in me. Sometimes they sound like an echo coming back to me….something that floated away and now is finding it’s way back to me. Dreams and thoughts, wishes and hopes I had sent out into the world in good will, but then seemed to have forgotten about, come softly back and nudge me.

Here they are, in no particular order.


“Fashion your life as a garland of beautiful deeds.” 
— Buddha

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
~The Dalai Lama

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion”.~Simone de Beauvoir

“The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love, and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive–it has nothing to do with time. It happens on its own when a human being questions, wonders, inquires, listens, and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure, and pain. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.”~ Toni Packer

“Only a life lived for others is worth living.”
~ Albert Einstein

“Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.”
~ Rumi

we will walk

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
~Kurt Vonnegaut

“Questioner: How are we to treat others? Ramana Maharshi: There are no others.”

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Talk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” – Rabbi Tarfon

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” 
– Eric Hoffer

“Kindness … loving people more than they deserve.” — Joseph Joubert

“The highest wisdom is loving kindness.” ~The Talmud

seneca kindness


“To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” ~Howard Zinn

mo pnd

“Any persons whom you have ever met, even if you have just exchanged a glance on a bus, have become part of your being and consequently you are, in some sense, responsible for them. You carry them in your heart.” ~Native American saying in Grace In Action by Richard Rohr

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” ~Matthew 5.9

This kinship with the suffering of others, this inability to continue to regard it from afar, is the discovery of our soft spot, the discovery of bodhichitta. Bodhichittais a Sanskrit word that means “noble or awakened heart.” It is said to be present in all beings. Just as butter is inherent in milk and oil is inherent in a sesame seed, this soft spot is inherent in you and me.“~ Pema Chodron

“When we bless others, we offer them refuge from an indifferent world.”
— Rachel Naomi Remen

“In the expectation of wonderful things to happen in the future,
one doesn’t hear the sound of the wind and rain,
the breath and heartbeat this instant.”
~Toni Packer


“As a mother with her own life guards the life of her own child, let all-embracing embracing thoughts for all that lives be thine.” ~ Metta Sutta

“There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god.
And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.” 
~ Mary Oliver

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

“Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness.” Qur’an

rumi quiet

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Men do not mirror themselves in running water–
they mirror themselves in still water.
Only what is still can still the stillness of other things.
” ~Taoism

Dig a big hole in the garden of your thoughts and put into it all your disillusions, disappointments, regrets, worries, troubles, doubts, and fears. Cover well with the earth of fruitfulness. Water it from the well of contentment. Sow on top the seeds of hope, courage, strength, patience, and love. Then when the time for gathering comes, may your harvest be a rich and fruitful one.”~ Anonymous

“An ocean, a rainforest, the human body, are all co-operatives. The redwood tree doesn’t take all the soil and nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn’t kill every gazelle, just one. We have a term for something in the body when it takes more than its share, we call it: cancer.” ~ Tom Shadyac

If people could see that Change comes about as a result of millions of tiny acts that seem totally insignificant, well then they wouldn’t hesitate to take those tiny acts.” – Howard Zinn

And finally, I love this story:

Digging A Hole Big Enough to Sit In, by Twylah Nitsch

“I must have been under five when I spent one whole summer day digging a hole with a large spoon in the side of a bank near our house. I had to dig and dig because the ground was so full of roots and my goal was to make a hole big enough to sit in – like a cave. And that took a lot of hard work. Digging through all those roots was tough.

What I remember most about the experience is something my grandmother said. “When you take the dirt out, make sure you have a place for it,” she cautioned me, “because the dirt is used to being in that particular place, and it is at home there. Don’t take anything that is part of something and just scatter it around. Remember you are disturbing the home of the worms and the insects. You are moving them out of the place where they have been living, and you need to make sure that they are happy about where you are taking them.” So I would scoop the dirt into a little basket I had and take it around to various spots. “Is this where you would like to be?” I’d ask. And if the answer was yes, I would leave it. Otherwise, I’d pick up my basket, go to another spot, and ask again.

When I had finally made the hold deep enough to sit in, I would crawl in there and listen. I could hear the earth talking.”

There are many more! This is just a sampling!!!

Perhaps you’d care to share you favorite quotes or words of inspiration….

Happy New Year to each of you!!  Thanks for stopping by!







You Are Sitting On A Pot of Gold

Ahhhh, the ego.  You know Ego… very self-centered, arrogant, self important. Ego finds things like power, control, authority and position as motivating triggers. Ego drapes us in false-pride. Ego is forever judging. Ego believes itself to always be right and everything else as wrong. The length it goes to in order to convince you of this is impressive.

Dr. Wayne Dyer says “No one has ever seen the face of ego. It is like a ghost that we accept as a controlling influence in our lives. I look upon the ego as nothing more than an idea that each of us has about ourselves. The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self. Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life.”

And, “The ego-idea has been with us ever since we began to think. It sends us false messages about our true nature. It leads us to make assumptions about what will make us happy and we end up frustrated. It pushes us to promote our self-importance while we yearn for a deeper and richer life experience. It causes us to fall into the void of self-absorption again and again, not knowing that we need only shed the false idea of who we are.”

Sogyal Rinpoche in The Tibetan Book of the Dead writes by way of describing ego : “Two people have been living in you all of your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to.”

This ego self has a driving purpose to be seen in a positive light. Always. This ego self will work endlessly to disavow itself of any responsibility it has for any negative outcome. Ego is not responsible. Ever.

As an alternative and a means of balance, there is the idea of the quiet ego.

This is the idea that says our sense of well being is about transcending, not enhancing the self. This is the path to contentment and that elusive sense of inner peace we all longingly search for. This is the way to a lasting happiness.

Jack Bauer, Heidi Wayment, and Kateryna Sylaska are researching the idea of the quiet ego. “The volume of the ego is turned down so that it might listen to others as well as the self in an effort to approach life more humanely and compassionately.”

According to the above researchers “quiet ego consists of four interconnected facets: detached awareness, inclusive identity, perspective-taking, and personal growth. These four characteristics all contribute to having a general stance of balance and growth toward the self and others.”

I want balance and growth towards the self and OTHERS. How about you?

So, what does this mean?

“Detached Awareness” is when the quiet ego speaks up and reminds us to be mindful and aware of what we are doing, of what is happening around us. The person with a quiet ego is focused on the present moment with no judgment or preconceived ideas of how things should be. We put this quality to the test when we rush through activities, do things automatically without paying much attention to them.

“Inclusive Identity” presents itself in a person with a quiet ego as being cooperative and compassionate. They possess a strong connection with all living things, all people…strangers, people of other ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, there is no “other” to a person with a quiet ego. The other end of this spectrum would be doing things only for yourslef, the “what’s in it for me?” thought process.

“Perspective Taking” is about the proverbial “put yourself in the other person’s shoes and walk a mile.” It’s about imagining yourself going through what the other person is going through. It is about listening to and hearing the other side of the story with no judgment. For some this is difficult. It is their perspective that matters and the other person’s views are “wrong”, “not of significance” or “irrelevant”.

“Personal Growth” is about allowing and working towards life being about learning, changing and growing. It is about new experiences that challenge what we think about ourselves and the world. It is about stepping outside of what we are familiar and comfortable with. It is about the fluid experience and not about the value judgement of the end result.

When we experience quiet ego we have healthy self esteem because we acknowledge our limitations. There is no need to be defensive about who we are. Our well being is balanced through having contributing traits like humility, authenticity, open thinking, valuing the present moment, resilience, self compassion, satisfaction with our life.

Listen to your quiet ego…see the world as a whole. Learn to see the oneness, the inter-connectedness that is everywhere. We are all human. We all share the same emotions, struggles, life events. We will all die. If our thoughts are rooted in love and compassion rather than pride, power or attachment, our true self is thriving and not ego.

“But I’ll tell you what hermits realize.
If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet,
you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.”
~ Alan Watts

As Dr. Dyer says, we don’t have to accept the ghost called ego to be the controlling force in our life.  We don’t have to perpetuate the idea that ego is something that rules us and is difficult to quiet.  It is possible to quiet ego so that, as Sogyal Rinpoche teaches, we can hear the still voice of wisdom instead.

rainbow(Ithaca NY)

Each and every day, all day long we are offered true gifts and are capable of offering our true self to others. This is our treasure. Treasure to both receive and give. The challenge for many of us is to open the door for quiet ego to come in to our lives and guide us so we have the presence of mind and awareness of how rich and blessed we are.

“We are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold,
begging for pennies from every passerby,
unaware that his fortune was right under him the whole time.

Your treasure—your perfection–is within you already.
But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind
and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”
Elizabeth Gilbert





Weaving A Tapestry

“We don’t accomplish anything in this life alone…
and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry
of one’s life and all the weavings of individual
threads from one to another
that creates something.”
Sandra Day O’Connor

Ideas for blog posts usually begin when I hear a phrase, story, idea or see something on the street or a picture in a book. This week my idea comes from a phrase heard on a NPR show:

…..”a tapestry of voices spoke out…”

That short thread of words just sounded so beautiful. So full of possibility, unity, hope, beauty.


(Comet Halley, Bayeux Tapestry, Wikimedia Commons)

Somewhere in the Bayeux Tapestry  is an ancestor of mine. On a piece of paper, somewhere in this house, I have the name of that person. Though I do not know his name at this moment, and cannot, right now, place him in the tapestry, I am because of him. Without knowing where he is in the tapestry I can view this video, or gaze at photographs of the tapestry, or maybe someday see it in person, and see what came before him as well as after him. People and events before him allowed him to be who he was. His participation in these events and survival allowed for me to be here. We are a tapestry, the intertwined threads of people, experiences, connections all creating a woven wonder that tells a story not only of our world’s history, our country’s history, our town’s history, our family’s history, but our individual history.

“Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry
in which every thread is guided by an unspeakable tender hand,
placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

The other day I was cleaning out my study. I found envelopes and boxes holding forgotten treasures. Reminders of people and experiences, stories and places from a long time ago. I have written elsewhere on this blog about defining moments in my life, but these were fresh, newly found, joyful with a hint of melancholy. Pictures from Northeast Elementary School, High School, and college. A journal from India, a card from Japan, a trinket from Greece and a bracelet from Denmark. There was a love letter from my husband and a poem from a long ago boyfriend. Tied with a ribbon were the letters I sent my mother when I lived in Greece.

Who I am now is a person woven out of the threads of love and pain, people and places, experiences and dreams. I am woven with the love of Rosalie who I haven’t seen in 35 years. She would visit me once a week in Japan when I was very sick and massage my tired body. She would check my eyes and skin color and help me sip fenugreek tea. I contain a ribbon of Rick who laughed and cried and took pictures of everything. He gave me a copy of Gurdjieff’s Meetings With Remarkable Men and wrote inside “To my remarkable friend”. There is a strand of Elise who I have known since I was three. We have millions of shared memories and stories. There is a strong sparkling thread from AnaLisa who I love so dearly. Everywhere in my tapestry are ribbons from my husband, siblings, parents, my children, the children I teach, family, friends, mentors….people who gave me a piece of this thread and that yarn, to add to the development of me. And there are also threads from people who contributed dark colored threads that run and stain threads near them. People who brought hurt and sorrow. There are bright white strands for the shimmering Taj Mahal and the snows of the Himalayas. Yarns of blue and green for oceans and rivers, lake and ponds. Interspersed are patches of floral tones for the daisies in my wedding, the lilies in my garden, the funeral flowers of my parents, the bougainvillea of my in-laws, the Impatiens and lavender of my grandmother, the jasmine from Betsy, the lilacs from Holley. Musical threads might be glittery or soft. There are the breathtaking braids of Adagio and Allegro by Boccherini and the harp playing the lilting notes of Pachabel’s Cannon, each weaving and caressing the warp of my tapestry. These warp threads are strong to hold the tension of the weaving together the spun fibers of the memories of being a child, of falling in love, getting married, of giving birth and becoming a mother, of loosing parents, of laughter and tears. Millions of threads in all sizes and colors, soft and coarse, many supple, some inflexible. Some break and are tied with a knot. A bump that never goes away.

We are woven from the sounds of voices that talk of love and hate, that sing of joy and sorrow, that chant of defiance and resoluteness. Woven from the sounds of a baby’s gurgle and a parent’s cry of fear. We are woven from the voice that orders a bomb to fall and the command of a doctor who calls for the tools to rebuild broken bodies. We are woven with the words of priests, ministers, clerics, Lamas, Rinpoches, Gurus, Rishis, Ayatollahs, Imans, Mullahs and Rabbis, to live a life according to divine doctrine.

We are woven from millions of threads. Threads of all kinds, all colors, all fibers. We are a tapestry of star dust, songs, stories, love, hate, experiences, interactions, dependency, self reliance….

We are a woven tapestry of a medley of things, people, thoughts, experiences….

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry,
and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry
are equal in value no matter what their color.”
Maya Angelou

We cannot always remove a thread when we decide we don’t like. It may compromise the whole tapestry. We may have knots where broken threads have been fixed, leaving an unwanted bump. We may have to use a certain color to brighten another, or a finer fiber to soften a coarser strand.

Mistakes and all. Designed or impromptu. Thick or thin. Recycled or new. Dark or light. Bright or dull. Tangled or smooth.  Sometimes we get to pick and choose the thread. Other times it is what is given to us and we use it whether we like it or not to keep going.

Each thread of the warp and weft is what holds together the tapestry of who we are. We are each a vibrant, diverse tapestry that is still unfinished. And our threads, yarns and ribbons we share with others become a part of the tapestry of who they are.

“We are all woven together in the great web of humanity,
and whatever we can do to benefit and uplift others
will reflect in blessings upon ourselves.”
Ellen G. White





The Delectation of Childhood

Delectation: pleasure and delight.

I grew up with a small woods in my back yard. If you took a quick walk through these woods you might not notice much color. The blue of the sky above. The brown of the ground and tree trunks. The green of leaves and plants. But, when you were 6 and pretending to be a scout , moving slowly with deliberate steps so as to not make one sound, you paused automatically to look around. To listen. There wasn’t one shade of green but dozens: new green, dying green, bright green, dark green, leaf green, moss green, etc. The tree trunks were not brown. They were sable and black, taupe and gray. Ochre and ecru were colors I didn’t even know then. There was a hint of white or cream, and rust and doe brown and soil brown. Dry soil brown and damp soil brown. Little dollops of red from berries and the dots on mushrooms punctuated the greens and browns like exclamation points. The sky was blue, but the shades were infinite. The blue was different if you looked east or south. Even the brightness or drabness of the light in the woods was uncontrollable, unpredicatable. Some days brilliant sun rays jabbed at the ground. Other days it looked like a dull yellow veil had been draped over everything. Birds sang joy filled songs and cried out dire warnings. Chipmunks called to each other and repeated clicks and clucks in an endless alert to imminent danger. Leaves on trees danced and sang as the wind softly blew. Decaying leaves rustled as snakes slithered by.


 (photo by me)

The side yard held a swamp. Here there were different colors and light. The sounds were muddled by peat moss and water. Insects chirped and twittered. With wings whirling and buzzing, they landed, kerplunk, on over sized swamp leaves. In the swamp the wetness galumphed and gurgled.  Summer heat felt different here. The swamp smelled of life that was both in fullness and in decay.


 (Photo by me)

My sandbox didn’t interest me so I pulled wild plants up and planted them, turning the sandbox into a garden. Wild roses opened their pale pink petals that smelled like spice. Somehow wild forget-me-nots found the sand hospitable. Violets reappeared each spring. A scraggly maple sapling sent roots deep through the sand and gravel to find the nourishment it needed. I tried everything. The things that grew were incorrigible, totally disinterested in planting guide recommendations. (Now, I am not so lucky with my gardening!!)

These were my favorite places as a child. I saw, smelled, heard, tasted and felt things that mattered to me. Things that moved something deep inside of me. The comfort of Nature enveloped me and nurtured me. There was nothing ordinary or mundane in these environments. Everything was extraordinary and worthy of notice and appreciation, of understanding and protection.

In my woods there were five particular trees that formed an almost square.  I would, at age 6 or 7, traipse to the edge of the swamp and collect cattail leaves. Long, sharp, dark green sword shaped leaves and carry them to “my trees”. I would wander the woods collecting slender branches and sticks. Sometimes my dad would come out and help as I somehow tied or rested the branches around the perimeter of the five trees and bent the cattail leaves over them, making walls to what would become my “fort”. At least one of these trees was a pine tree. It’s broken and living branches provided the perfect spacing of  ladder rungs for me to climb and survey my surroundings, watching for friend or foe. Pine needles carpeted the floor. I can close my eyes and smell the pungent pine scent.

My dad showed me what the wintergreen plant looked like and how to chew the leaves for a refreshing uplift when the summer heat became tiring. I think perhaps that led me to discover identification books…for plants, trees, flowers, animals, mushroom, insects….whatever I could get my hands on. I don’t know how I came by these books: if we had them in the house (my memory is that we had a least a million books) or if somehow I asked for them.

I learned where the animals lived. Some underground, some in trees. After a rain or a light snow, using field guides, I learned how to identify their tracks….and discovered their trails to food and water sources.

I learned how to identify the swamp and forest plants. Marsh marigolds and stinky skunk cabbage. Spongy peat moss fascinated me with it’s drippiness and damp, musty scent. Forest moss was my favorite with its tiny forest of sporophytes holding up seed capsules. I wondered if fairies lived in these miniature forests.

Mushrooms seemed like cartoons. Someone was very careful in teaching me about mushrooms…I never touched or picked any. But I loved the frills and spots, the pores and the musty smell. Mysterious fairy rings would sometimes grow in our yard, supporting the notion that fairies lived in the moss forests.

I learned about popping jewel weed buds and that often it grew near poison ivy. Poison ivy just so happened to grow at the edge of the woods by my yard. I also discovered, much to my mother’s dismay, that I was not allergic to poison ivy….but she was. I learned why Milkweed was called Milkweed.

Yet, the most vivid memories are of finding Indian Pipes, Monotropa uniflora and Jack-in-the-Pulpits. Arisaema triphyllum. These two plants were not always easily found. Finding either one was like receiving a gift from the woods….something special.

The Indian Pipes were devoid of color, a ghostly, translucent white. Even with the gentle curve of it’s Shepard’s hook stalk , fragile bell shaped flower and delicate frills and ruffles, they looked sickly. They grew at the base of trees and lived symbiotically with the tree roots, feeding on a fungi that grew on them. They did not need sunlight. If you touched one it was possible to believe it would just dissolve into slime on your hand. Jack-in–the Pulpits were shy, hiding in darker corners behind tree trunks. The mysterious little Jack (spadix) was always hiding under cover of a slightly striped hood (spathe). In the fall “Jack” sent up a spike filled with plump red berries.


 (photo by me)

These two plants in particular represent childhood and the wonder of nature to me. They signify finding awe, miracles and mystery in nature. And as I grew older, they became increasingly more difficult to find and see….

When my kids were little I remember walking with them through a wildflower preserve here in town. The bulletin board at the entrance mentioned that Jack-in-the Pulpits were in bloom. A pang of excitement surged through me! I could show my young children these special little gifts from Nature, memories from my childhood. We walked and walked. I looked and looked. Nothing. I couldn’t find them. I felt heart broken. Disappointed. Worried…why couldn’t I find them? We left.

I returned. I couldn’t stand it. Where were they? Other people had seen them, why couldn’t I? I felt a little silly, but this was bothering me. I walked through the garden again, looking and looking. Nothing. Finally I stopped. Stopped moving. Stopped thinking. Stopped worrying. Just like that 6 year old child pretending to be s a scout. I had the conscious thought that when I opened my eyes, everything would be special; miraculous…nothing would be mundane, ordinary or average. I would stop looking for something I thought was special and allow everything to be special. I open my eyes and walked. Seeing, hearing, smelling, sensing. Everything sang of beauty, wonder. And there, at the base of a slender tree was a Jack-in-the-pulpit. Right there next to the path.

When I allowed myself to see and experience everything as unique and wondrous, everything appeared….A reminder that everything is miraculous. A reminder to see things as such. Nothing is ordinary. It is all a miracle.

“There are only two ways to live your life. 
One is as though nothing is a miracle,
the other is as though everything is a miracle.”
-Albert Einstein

**Photographs by me.

I Surrender

“Change is the essence of life;
be willing to surrender what you are
for what you could become.”

Reinhold Niebuhr

sweet surrender

(photograph by me)

Trying to always have control of things and situations in this life is exhausting. Yet it’s something we all do. There is comfort in planning, knowing what to expect, knowing what and how to prepare. There is a sense of security and control in trying to keep the past locked up, contained, guarded. During the last few years I have been trying very hard to surrender to “not knowing” in the most conscious and unwavering way possible. I have changed my life course a bit. I’m at a place, a fork in the road that I have only been able to get to by going down various paths, through the previous experiences in my life. My traveling companions were anxiety, worry, fear, self doubt, mistrust, anger, resentment. I refueled myself as often as I could with love, support, trust, patience and hope. Road signs along the way began to indicate there was a new destination ahead. I took that little curve at the fork.

Along the way, a type of leaning in to the present moment began to develop. The sweet surrender of allowing the past to be the past, the future to have bits be unknown, and the present to be lived in the here and now, began to ripen into something that could thrive and flourish without me having to be in control of everything. I began to travel this road with a gentle belief there was a destination ahead, yet at the same time I was OK with not knowing exactly what the destination was or when it would be reached. I began to enjoy the moment, enjoy the scenery. Enjoy the journey.

I am an evolving piece of creation. As that, I am also a tiny speck in the universe that is of little significance. As I come to see myself as such, the peace of mind that comes with that realization is liberating. I do not need an overly inflated ego to tell me I am anything different. I do not need to be in control of everything. It is not even possible. And with this acceptance and understanding comes a quiet peace.

So, I wave the white flag with courage and spirit knowing that change is the essence of life. I surrender to let go of what I am in order to become what I might be.


‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse.
‘You become.
It takes a long time.
That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily,
or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off,
and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all,
because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.”

― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit


(from Wikipedia)


Being real. What does that mean as a person?

Most of us have incredibly fond memories of Margery Williams’ tender story The Velveteen Rabbit. It captured our childhood imagination and still tugs at our adult heart strings. The power of love is transformative. I have read comments from others, including David Foster Wallace, who found this to be a very sad story, but I disagree. I think it is a story full of great lessons, inspiring things to ponder, and not to mention, magical.

The Skin Horse knew the secret, the magic to becoming real. Time is one part of it.  Real happens when your fluff and finery, your costume and mask have been removed, worn away…like the Skin Horse. Your hair has been loved off, your “eye drops out” and you get all loose and shabby. The glitz and novelty is gone and what is left is what is real.  Those who become real don’t break easily, or have sharp edges or require a lot of upkeep.

When this “real” becomes, all those things no longer matter because once you are real, you cannot be ugly.

Of course there is a difference in the story of a well loved stuffed animal and a spattering of nursery magic and the process of a human being “becoming real”.

Becoming real in a world and life that is full of challenges, heartache, effort, work, disillusionment, as well as love, joy, fulfillment and tenderness, is a painstakingly slow process. In this country we are bombarded with ideas of beauty, power, desire, want, need, entitlement, dreaming. Being real may have gotten lost in the endless rattling off of a list of things that will make us beautiful, happy, worth something, important, successful, memorable, loved.

Perhaps this is the lesson elders in past societies and in some current cultures understood. Perhaps this is where the idea of respect of elders and the unselfish care of elders originated. As human beings they had become “real” people. They had attained wisdom.

How do we become real? Well, the Velveteen Rabbit became real by giving unconditional love. By being patient and tolerant. By being forgotten and left behind. By facing fears and feeling threatened. By enduring ridicule and judgment. By caring for the little boy more than he cared for himself. He became real because he loved, completely, the little boy. He became real because of the complete love of a little boy.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”  The Velveteen Rabbit became real because he loved and was loved.

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

As a person it may not be healthy for us to be forgotten, left behind, offer unconditional love in an unhealthy relationship. No one should feel threatened or be subjected to ridicule and judgement. And, as a person, we have to have respect for and take care of ourselves on many levels. Overcoming deep hurt is difficult.

Perhaps we can begin the transformation towards becoming real when we let go of the ideas of “good enough”, “beautiful”, “new”, “current”, all the “stuff” that got loved off the Skin Horse and the Velveteen Rabbit. All that was left was what was real. There was no ugly.

Becoming real can hurt because it means you become vulnerable.  But while you may be vulnerable to opinion, judgment, comparison, ridicule, expectation, rejection, the strength of being real allows you to have those things come at you, and then they disappear. Being hurt doesn’t matter because it is fleeting. Being real HAPPENS to you when your life fills with patience, empathy, compassion, courage, presence, and acceptance.

As the Skin Horse reminds us, when you become real you cannot be “ugly”, except to those who do not understand. You may get “hurt”, but you don’t mind.

Being “real” happens after a long time. When it happened for the Velveteen Rabbit, he kicked up his legs, wiggled his tale and became free. Love was a catalyst. “Real” became.