Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The trip to Iona

involved cars, 
2 planes, 
2 buses 
2 ferries

According to ancient ritual,
a pilgrimage,
 by definition, 
involves hardships 
and discomfort.

Going over to Scotland,
mine included
a migraine and accompanying nausea
not helped by
the usual humiliation of US Customs,
inedible tofu curry plane food,
and terrible turbulence
over the Atlantic 
that had us within seconds of donning 
life preservers.

Coming back was easier
despite extra pounds of
contraband -
Iona marble and greenstone, 
smuggled bottles of whisky and mead,
souvenirs and books,
I was traveling lighter.

I left my troubles,
accumulated sadness
of the past two years
and part of my heart
on this odd, isolated,
magical island.
It was a wonderful trip;
maybe even a life changer.

Still processing all that occurred;
am back, for the most part,
and headed into work today.

The next several posts
will retrace my footsteps,
if you're not up for a travelog,
check back in a few days!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The destination

Iona is a 3.4 square mile island 
in the Inner Hebrides, 
with a population of 125.
More beaches
and another island to explore
in my beloved Atlantic Ocean.

A friend and I were laughing
this past weekend 
given Hurricane Sandy 
my family's tradition
of being cremated and 
having their ashes scattered
on Long Beach Island, 
they will probably have arrived 
at Iona 
far before 
I do!

They won't be the only specters
or ghosts there...
from what I've read,
faeries and spirits are all over the island.

St Columba, a political and spiritual refugee
from Ireland, made Iona his home.
His missionary work brought Celtic Christianity 
to Scotland and the United Kingdom.

He and his monks began work on an illustrated manuscript
which the community brought back with them to Kells, Ireland
after a Viking raid (in the early 9th century) 
killed a sizable portion of their group. 

We know the manuscript today as The Book of Kells.
In 1200, a Benedictine abbey and nunnery were established on the island
and it is these now restored buildings that survive today.

Grave markers, original crosses with Norse runes on them, 
from the 10th and 11th centuries,
are part of the islands landscape,
both emotional and physical.

Hardly the destination of choice 
for those with a Las Vegas 
or Disneyland 

but perfect for me!
Be back early next month!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I won't deny it.

There's something about a yellow star magnolia 
that just makes my heart sing...

the exquisite color, 
the form, 
the scent
... breath taking.
Folks at the tennis courts nearby 
must have thought I'd lost my mind 
as I walked around the tree for a half hour, 
admiring it! :)

There WAS other beauty in the park

this wins!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Almost departure time...

The only journey is the one within. 
 Rainer Maria Rilke

I feel as if I've been on a journey
all my life.

To discover who I am,
whose I am 
what it is 
I was created for.

I don't believe
our existence is a mistake
or mere happenstance.

I believe each person
has a purpose; 
a reason for being here
on this earth
at this time
if their paths cross mine,
there's a reason for that as well.
Did you know labyrinths were created
by, and for, Christians 
who wanted to make a pilgrimage
because of life circumstance, 
or illness
were unable to travel 
to the Holy Lands,
Spain (The Camino de Santiago), 
or Rome?

Labyrinths are not mazes.
There are no dead ends,
blind alleys
or 'surprise' exits.

There's one way in 
one way out...
all you need 
to do is walk the path
that you're on.

I've walked numerous labyrinths,
both inside and outside,
despite the same basic design,
the experience is always different.

In some, 
it was merely a nice walk;
in two others -
New Harmony (IN)
and Chartres Cathedral (France) -
I had life altering,
profoundly spiritual
and totally unexpected
experiences - 
from which I've not fully recovered.
I love that you can never predict 
where or how 
insight, faith and revelation
will find you.

Can you tell I'm looking forward
to my trip -
and what may be found -
or what may find me -
on this next stage 
of my journey?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekend prayer

May your weekend be filled with people - 
the kind you love and the kind who love you. 
May you be brave in conversation, 
humble as you listen, 
lighthearted as you refuse to take yourself 
too seriously. 

And if you spend a little time 
with someone who is hurting, 
may you be willing to offer your company 
without saying any words at all. 

And may you remember that really, 
everyone is hurting. 
Be slow to take offense. 

Enjoy your weekend 
my friends. 

Emily Freeman

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I was saddened yesterday to hear about the death of Jonathan Winters – comedian, actor and artist.

While I grew up seeing him on a variety of shows, I had no idea he was an artist until a recent trip to KC to see Art Boy, who has a book of his paintings.
I was surprised to see the range of his talent.

I took a picture of one of my favorites –
something about the balance, simplicity and color of it appealed to me.
Such a Renaissance man.

Speaking of talented men, I have to brag for a minute about  Art Boy – and an award he was recently given. (Here’s a link if you’re interested in more details).

For someone whose art clearly doesn’t match the sofa and doesn’t fit in with the sensibilities of most families (hell, even I don’t ‘get it’ most of the time), I was delighted, for him, that he received this recognition.

The monetary award isn’t bad either – and, as soon as he gets back from a camping trip to Big Sur, I’m sure he’ll decide how to spend some of it… I’ve already forbidden him to do anything practical with it… like he’d listen to me anyway… I suspect a trip overseas to obscure museums in Prague, Russia and Ireland will be at the top of his list.

Just a heads up.
While I’ll be posting up until the middle of next week, I’ve decided NOT to take an ipad, iphone or any other ‘device’ with me overseas - other than an e-reader (for the overnight plane ride) and my camera. Going old school and taking a pen and a small journal with me – for notes!
I want to remember what it’s like to actually experience something and not be constantly thinking about how to document or word it!
Like I said - old school.

Oh, and for those of you looking for a fascinating – and totally compelling-  read, you can’t go wrong with Life After Life.

It was going to be one of my trip ‘options’ – but I started it and couldn’t stop.

Don’t want to have a spoiler alert but if you’ve ever spent time pondering about how your life would have been different if you’d just________ (fill in the blank)  instead of_________(fill in another blank) then you’ll love this too.

So many ways for lives to be lived (and ended); so many ways in which different decisions or actions change the course of what those lives contain.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring beauty

Look - it's everywhere!
No explanation needed!

Insert smile here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Jumping up on my soapbox this morning to rail against the news media and the part they play in turning us into a nation of quivering Chicken Littles.

You remember the character from your nursery school days, right? - 
the sky is falling, the sky is falling... 
calamitous events at every turn.

Think of her whenever you watch the news!

It's not an economic correction - its the worst recession since the Great Depression!
It's not a teenage dictator, eager to play with his latest weapons - its the start of a nuclear holocaust!
It's not a handful of people dying from the flu - its an pandemic!
It's not a winter snowstorm - it's the storm of the century!
It's not a routine thunderstorm in the Midwest in spring  - its an impending tornado!

OMG, people - Chill the f*ck out!!

Do terrible things happen? Yes
Do 'weather events' impact and sometimes end lives? Of course.

But advising us to scurry in to hiddy holes every time the sky darkens and instilling fear into the marrow of our bones is NOT helpful. (Not to mention what it's doing to the psyche of the kids watching this drivel!)

It's not a good sign that I'm ticked already - and tornado season hasn't even hit top gear here in the middle of the country. (Can you tell we had storms last night - with all the media frenzy that goes along with it?)
Turn off the news, 
put down the devices with 'storm trackers' -

look out your doors, 
see what's happening 
go about your lives!!

The plus side of having been a single parent for decades - with no partner to turn to for reality checks when you were uncertain or scared - is that it tends to make you more comfortable with trusting your own instincts.

If I had allowed my life to come to a screeching halt every-time I was afraid, I'd have been in a catatonic ball in a corner of my house - and how would that have solved anything!?

You could always go buy cute baby clothes like I did... 
a good storm really clears extra shoppers out the stores!

You can't be a baby in our family without 'bibbers'!

And look on the bright side...

you can always use 
downed tree branches
for a centerpiece.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Definitions -

Invasive weeds?
Or a lovely bouquet of spring flowers?
Who decides?

I loved the ‘reality check’ of it all…

A friends comment to me 
after a recent post 
where I declared that 
“I am a pilgrim”. 

She laughingly said that was true 
whether I had, 
or used, 
a passport or not – 
 that one of her favorite things about me 
was my ability to
always see 
the sacred 
in the ordinary. 

Another friend 
described me 
(and the work I do) 
"There isn't a tougher job 
in the whole hospital 
and she manages to do it 
day after day 
with compassion 
and fury 
and humor". 

I'm sure some folks
on the receiving end 
of some of that fury
would NOT share 
the love
that went into
either of 
those descriptions.

Getting glimpses of how others see us 
can be scary  
and wonderful
and quite unlike
how we see ourselves.

One's destination is never a place 
but rather 
a new way of looking at things
 Henry Miller

I had plenty of time 
to have my mind wander
while driving back 
from court yesterday.

Monday, April 8, 2013

"Unforeseen circumstances

has led to our being unable to do your taxes this year. Please come pick up your information and take it immediately to some other tax preparer".

Not exactly the message you want on your voicemail from your accountant's office - 10 days before we're required to render unto Caesar what is Caesars, you know what I mean?
It's not like I just dropped them off either - she's had all my 'stuff' since early March.
Not only my tax 'stuff', but my mothers and my mothers Trust account as well - she's been doing our taxes for, oh I don't know, the past 2 decades!

Arriving, panic stricken to her office this weekend, I was met by a 'team' of federal agents and had to sign a receipt to get my information back. And when I queried one of them about what was going on, he only cryptically replied, "She's not able to do taxes anymore".

OKAY then...

Luckily the CPA on the floor above hers posted a sign on the door saying he still had openings.
For good or for ill, we're going with him. (Me and about 25 other tax refugees from downstairs!)

If I get indicted for tax fraud, I swear I'm not smart enough to have orchestrated anything!
(I know it can't be money laundering, I don't have enough - clean or dirty - to pass along to anyone else!)

Two more things: 

A) orange is SO not my color 
B) if they're really old fashioned jumpsuits, 
are the stripes horizontal or vertical?

Well, sh*t... that's not gonna work for me either!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tourist -

it's easier to say than pilgrim.

Not linguistically 
but conversationally.
How to explain that my trip to Iona 
in reality, 
part of my pilgrimage... 
without sounding 
like a total religious 
whack job!

A pilgrim and a tourist
might have the same itinerary
but the pilgrim is on
a sacred journey
in which God is encountered
through places,
and situations.

A tourist 
sees sights, 
discovers new places,
learns interesting facts,
takes photographs
and accumulates souvenirs.

A pilgrim
gains insights
and discerns new truths
about oneself.

A pilgrim
travels with the expectation
that the one who returns
is not the same person
who set out.

A pilgrim
sets out 
open to the possibility
of having identity and faith

A pilgrim 
allows time 
for holy idleness.

The outcome of a pilgrimage
is the transformation 
that takes place 
inside the person;
with impressions imprinted
on the soul,
not just the memory 
of a digital camera.

I am a pilgrim.

(Although I do expect 
to have plenty of images
on my camera when I return)

Saturday, April 6, 2013


The day the Lord created hope 
was probably the same day 
he created Spring. 
Bern Williams 

The news came to us
within the last two weeks. 
It took my breath away. 

My youngest nephew and his lady 
are having a baby this summer. 
The feelings flooded in –
as the shock subsided. 

There’s nothing conventional about this event; 
not their ages: 
his, 36, hers, 45;
their relationship: 
but not legally binding;
their lifestyle: 
connected to’ the mainstream’ 
for jobs/salaries only 
but otherwise 
as far ‘off the grid’ 
as someone can get 
these days. 

For years, 
those of us who love them 
haven’t been able to figure out
‘the how and the why’ 
of why and how
they work. 

It’s amazingly surreal 
to think that from the rich stew
of all they are, 
and together, 
a new life
has been

It feels right that we should find out in spring – 
when every sign of re-creation
is glorious
and stunningly
beautiful – 
and seems to exist
for no other reason 
than to give pleasure
through its existence. 

Clearly God decided 
this sometimes
drab and dreary world 
whatever this little one 
is destined 
to add to our family.

This should be interesting.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Life poetry

I'm reading a marvelous book
How the Light Gets In
by Patricia Schneider.
It's about writing as a spiritual practice;
thankfully it's on my Kindle and will accompany me
easily on planes, ferries 
and across the seas.

I borrowed her words
this morning
while playing with my camera 
to create an image that speaks to all
 I could hope to accomplish -
Hope she won't mind.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Countdown to Iona

2 weeks from today - 
I'll be here!

Much to do-
more to anticipate
before that happens!


Did you hear folks report on the Today show yesterday – with gnashing of teeth and rendering of garments – how upset some people are who might have to give up their ’prestigious’ area codes… 202 (Washington, DC), 310 (Beverly Hills),  212 (NYC) for example …?

I can’t even remember the reason WHY things might change… but it seems to be a big deal for some sad souls.

 I was too busy thinking that if you need an area code to derive your sense of worth, I hope your cell phone (whatever the area code) has GPS, ‘cause honey, you are seriously lost!

Another school yard bully, this time masquerading as a basketball couch at a large university… another cover up by officials and administrators who seem to have placed their sports program above the lives of the students they’re supposed to be educating, another subordinate who exposed this abuse getting fired and … another example of just how entrenched the ‘boys will be boys’ testosterone laden mentality exists in our country.

BTW - Why is that behavior only reprehensible when tapes go public?

The only thing that stops bad guys with a gun are good guys with a gun” – remember that memorable quote from NRA henchmen (Wayne LaPierre) – bet Kaufman County (Texas) Prosecutor and his wife would disagree, both of whom were armed when they were gunned down by unknown perpetrators.

Good thing Texas still believes in, and utilizes the death penalty, isn’t it? That obviously acted as a strong deterrent, right?

Someone remind me WHY I watch any news at all?! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

When worlds collide

In some worlds, holidays are times of renewal - times to sink deeply into familial traditions and customs, surrounding yourself with people you love, foods as rich in memories as they are in calories, and stories of the past that take root in, and spring from, your heart.

Times that inform and define who you are despite the mild irritation, failed recipes and a sometimes suffocating sense of being entrapped by the very people who love you the most.

In other worlds, holidays are times when chaos reigns. When large gatherings of family and friends merely dilute responsibility for the most vulnerable of the group, when drugs and other mind altering substances are pooled and shared and adult desires are perverted and misdirected.

Times when believing that’ a village’ is watching your children actually means no one is, times that will also inform and define who a child is for life – in a myriad of painful and negative ways.

In my world, these realities collide, resulting in ‘holiday aftermath’ - unending hours of bearing witness to a seemingly endless parade of new abuse victims in the days following any major celebration.

Easter was no exception –to which the back to back to back to back sexual abuse cases will attest.

I’m not sure what world I was living in when I’d hoped it would be different this spring.

Certainly not this one; certainly not mine.

I heard the phrase “out of this world” this morning while driving to work … to which I could only exclaim – Oh, yes, please!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013