Saturday, October 31, 2015


Behind the mask of summer sun,
the green rush of spring,
the peace of winter’s silence,
and autumn’s fiery crown
there are only moments strung together.

Beads on a chain,
each as valued as the next;
a necklace fashioned
of attention to this day.
What is gone
and what will be
are links fingered lightly
while we chant
the only word we know:
the glue
of our daily round,
the shining center
from where we came,
to which we shall return.
Arlene Gay Levine

Monday, October 26, 2015

And then this happened ...

 Right around the time I convince myself 
it will be a dismal,
colorless fall - 
the result of it being too dry,
the lack of a hard frost ...
all the 'factors' that mean the leaves 
will simply turn brown and drop,

 I look up
and am suddenly enveloped
by multihued layers of colors

and abstract designs of nature 
that take my breath away.
It was a singularly gorgeous weekend.

Hope you found yourself outside
right in the thick of things.

Friday, October 23, 2015


No more hiding in the 
shadow of your brokenness;
                                                           even the shards reveal flickering bits of your soul. 

Align with light."
LaShaun Middlebrooks Collier
During every retreat, 
I try to find some image
 that encapsulates
the thoughts and feelings of the experience;
a visual that will serve as a prompt 
to bring back the memories
in the days or weeks 
after 'retreat glow' has dissipated.

Since Riverwoods is such a stunningly beautiful place,
there was no end to the options
from which I could choose.

Yet as I came home and reviewed the photos I had taken,
it wasn't even a close contest.

While walking the fence line of the property,
immediately adjacent to a country highway,
I spotted a cars side mirror;
unclaimed detritus from an accident 
along a busy road.

For once,
 the Trauma Social Worker in me 
didn't dwell on what the details of the accident 
might have been.
(I can't tell you what progress that is!)

I thought instead of the reality 
that no matter how broken we are -  
and Spoiler alert, 
we all are! - 
we are still capable of reflecting Gods glory;
still capable of reflecting the beauty that's in the world around us.

No matter how broken,
and unclaimed,

a sliver of light
 is still there.
Perhaps my favorite series of images
for reflection

(pun intended)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Whistlers Mom

I've been an artists mom long enough to know there are questions you never ask an artist - 
"What were you thinking when you were creating this piece?" 
"What were you trying to convey?"

I've been reprimanded too many times,
instructed that it doesn't matter 
what the artist was thinking 
or what meaning a piece had 
for the one who created it ...

a work of arts 'meaning' is truly 
in the eyes of the beholder ...

What does it evoke in you?
What images, phrases and concepts do you see in the piece? 
what resonants with your soul?

On retreat this weekend, 
there were many lovely pieces of art on display;
homespun linen,
to name just a few.

Several pieces 'spoke' to me,
drawing me into deeper thought 
and conversation with God
a piece of polished Mississippi River driftwood,
named "Mother and Child";
NOT named by the artist
but the buyer.

 A lovely sampler
and sentiment.
You know what a soft spot I have for the domestic arts!

My favorite though was a piece which would have been easy to overlook,
blending as it did into its surroundings;
its placement behind a desk in the study;
it felt intimate -
and though we had been given consent to 'explore',
there was a sense of intrusion as I stood looking at it,
yet I was compelled to do just that.

While it stands completely on its own,
it also seemed to echo things I'd observed outside -

 the individual stroke marks 
made by a craftsman in the 1800's 
as he harvested and prepared wood planks
for a home;
 the wispy strands of fall grass,
and 'silhouettes' etched into stone
by years of water, wear and friction.

I'm NOT enough of an artists mom 
to know what the 'process' was for creating this piece ...
 but it speaks
 to me 
of Life and Death -
there's one way in 
and one way out;
We're surrounded by others,
some named and known,
some known intimately and dearly loved,
others merely wisps 
passing by momentarily
and barely noticed
 all of us making our 'marks' - 
on each other 
and the world at large -

for good or for ill.

Now for my confession,
despite being on retreat,
I broke the 10th Commandment!
I DID covet this piece!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fleeting thoughts

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, 
through which God speaks to us every hour, if we only will tune in."
 George Washington Carver

I won’t speak for anyone else
but I usually seem to have several ‘channels’ of communication 
going on at once – 
the crazy monkeys of opinions and judgements
driving around the clown car
in my head, 
music or TV in the background, 
the sound of planes above, 
leaf blowers from the neighbors yard several houses down, 
my phone pinging new messages and posts, 
my dogs playing,
tousling and demanding attention
from each other if not from me,

 I suspect I design my time and awareness that way … 
heaven forbid I ‘be still’
and acknowledge how overwhelmed
(and frequently unhappy) I feel at work, 
how much I miss my sons and the phase of life
when I was a more active player in their lives; 
how different I thought my life would be at this age …

you know …
all those thoughts that instantly turn me into Scarlett O’Hara, 
declaring defiantly,
 “I’ll think about it tomorrow at Tara!”

Riverwoods wasn’t Tara and, 
while I didn’t dwell on the backlog of issues I probably should have,
the time spent there was enough time
to entertain thoughts I give short shrift to
during my 'regular' life.

There is a way that nature speaks,
 that land speaks - 
in silence and stillness - 
which paradoxically shouts for your attention 
while allowing the space for silence -
space to sink back in
to more natural rhythms
of being and moving.

I repeatedly allow myself to forget how much
I need “boots on the ground”; 
to re-connect,
in figurative and literal ways,
to the earth
and creation;

to feel ‘grounded’.

Walking with intention in nature 
is one way for me to achieve the connection again

and worship is the other …
the combination of both in one setting was very potent!

(I especially loved finding these natural 'crosses' which appeared momentarily on my path -
only to be blown apart with the next gust of wind),
Wonderful reminders of what’s timeless and enduring
and what is fleeting.

The chapel at Riverwoods is tangible evidence of the power of being re-claimed; 
its logs ‘de-constructed’ on one site, 
transported and reassembled for a new purpose
on its present site.

The works of artisans represented inside 
speak to the innate creative spark dwelling in all of us 
but given expression by select 'talented' ones
in exquisite fashion. 

Their beauty enhanced, 
not marred,
by imperfections
and the aging process.

This weekend,
surrounded by things that are dying, 
there were still signs of new life

and seeds of hope for a future.

Fuel for thought which will sustain and inform me
in the weeks ahead.
A successful retreat indeed.