Category Archives: welcome

Poem about last night

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They arrived in the dark.
I’d lit candles all around the house,
except on the big table. Waiting.

Wrapped in colorful coats, holding
purses and journals and expectations,
they alighted on my doorstep.

Bird by bird.

I embraced them all,
even the strangers.

They circled around the kitchen
counter, got their drinks, and
pecked at the snacks.

Names were exchanged,
connections were made,
compliments were shared.

No one questioned why I had
a Jane Austen ball gown hanging
on my pantry door. (until later)

Then we gathered in the circle,
and breathed our collective breath.

Inhale.
Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.

The pens, and one pencil, emerged.
Some timidly, some boldly,
to scribe their words.

They were heard.
Names were dropped into the circle, like seeds.
Words, intentions, hopes and dreams were shared.
The candle flickered, and held their secrets.

They left in a flurry of jangling car keys,
re-wrapped grace scarves and last-minute questions,
and returned to the darkness from which they came.

But perhaps each carried, in their
hearts, the lit candle, a bit of warmth,
a sip of the sacred.

I cleaned up the kitchen,
went to bed, and closed my eyes.
When I opened them again, this time really opened them,
there they were, the birds, on the feeder.
Waiting for more.

Here.
In the garden.

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The Happiness Project, Revisited

As I await winter solstice, the nights are long, and the days are short.  This is a variation of Gretchen Rubin’s truism: “The days are long, but the years are short.”

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I will remember these years, of getting the children off to school.  These high school years, when I did it on my own.  Anchored by my chair, and my journal, I have been present for them, preparing breakfast, helping to find socks, watching the time; all the while, they grew up.

I’ve been waiting to see if Matt would get up, without me reminding him again. Waiting to see if Camille made it out on time, so I wouldn’t have to threaten to drive her to school myself the next day. Waiting to see if the birds would come to rest at the bird feeder in line of sight from my chair; I pause to check them out as I write.

This morning, three cardinals came to rest on the iron table under the feeder — a bright red male, a juvenile in dull browns, and a female. How long will they stay?  I wait to see.

Sitting in this circle of light, I am glad to have been Here, Now, available to my children, and my own self, as we each face the day.

Seasons pass.
Years pass.
Eras pass.

Soon, I will not have any children left to rouse, and the mornings will be different.  But today, I’ll be grateful, for the flash of red, for the circle of light, for the honey toast crusts left on the Matthew’s plate.  All the joys, the simple joys, of being Here, Now, in this moment, in winter’s light.

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground, ” says Rumi.

Here.
In the garden.

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The Chapel

Thank you, Divine Mother, for my beautiful chapel, for my red bench pew, for my pine tree altar, as I am attended by the soul birds around me.  (Is it an accident that angels are depicted with wings?)

Sitting on my red pew, drinking my rich brown, morning coffee in the flowered chalice offered by my daughter, I am at one with the Divine, the Good Earth, the way of peace.

IMG_1557The tiny kinglet darts back and forth above my head, playing in the dusty green leaves of Florida’s fall.  The red-capped chipping sparrow eats peacefully at the feeders, unperturbed by my presence.  And far off, the winter-brown bluebird sings, his voice, at least, not camouflaged by the long nights and short days before winter solstice.

Back inside, I light the candle on the piano altar, and two other candles around the room, warming this “inside chapel” of my living room with spirit light.  Gently, my fingers touch the two feathers next to the Tibetan bell, a tiny bluebird feather, a richly colored cardinal feather.

And I smile with the joy of waking up, waking up to the pleasures of the spiritual life, of the clarion call, of the golden circle, of the blank pages of the day.

To love morning.
This is to be alive.

Here.
In the garden.

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Women Writing for (a) Change: Why Here, Why Now

IMG_1188Tonight at dinner, when I mentioned the Divine Mother during a prayer, my son said, wryly, “So, it’s all about female gods for you now, is it?”

We then proceeded to have a very interesting conversation about Greek mythology — which he loves — and the origins of the female goddesses, then the shift to patriarchal models. He thought that perhaps this evolution was due to men’s superior physical strength.

I explained that the first figures worshipped and represented in cave drawings were women, because of their mysterious capacity to create new life. We then traced the evolution of that worship (for various reasons) from woman as Goddess to woman as property, given the right to vote in the United States just a short time ago.

“Did you know,” he said, rather seriously, “that in some countries today it’s forbidden for women to even speak in the presence of men?”

As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.

A few years back, I started a blog called “One Brave Voice.” I wanted to express my feelings about politics at that time. The blog was short-lived; it quickly devolved into an argument with one particular person.

Maybe, my sister said to me afterward (a bit thoughtfully), maybe the blog was just your own still, small voice, trying to get your attention.

Hmmm.

After my marriage dissolved, I found my voice in the pages of my journal. I wrote, constantly, and the clean white pages were a container for my grief as well as my growth. Over time, the pages changed from dark lines of dense black ink to colorful, looping letters inside journals covered with birds, flowers, and butterflies. Each page was an opening into my own soul, my interior acre, my spiritual garden.

My journal listened to my inner voice, cultivated it, and nurtured it.

IMG_0670Last spring, I went on a field trip with my daughter. She’s an intelligent, lovely person and a budding biologist. As we ate lunch, I overheard the woman next to me, a biology teacher, talking about how, on another school field trip, she had directed two young girls to read some scripture out loud. She went on to say that her son had gotten up and walked away, and, when she had asked him where he was going, he reminded her that their church teaches that women cannot be spiritual leaders.

“What? I asked, incredulously.

“Oh, yes,” she said, blithely. “It’s true. It says that in the Bible. In Timothy.”

I could not believe my ears. Here was this woman, a teacher herself, actually defending this position, in today’s day and age. The message for me was, my daughter was not the equal of her son. That her voice was not as valuable as his.

I was outraged.


This summer, I studied Conscious Feminine leadership at the Women Writing for (a) Change school, founded in Cincinnati 20 years ago www.WomenWriting.org. After three weeks, I knew that opening an affiliate site in Jacksonville was my next step.

I don’t want to argue about politics.
I don’t want to argue about religion.

What I do want to do is create a space in Jacksonville for any woman, young or old, to feel welcome, honored and listened to, through the medium of writing and creative self-expression. It will be women writing for (a) change. And someone will be listening.

I live my life by several quotes these days. One is:

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when?” (Hillel)

The other is,

“I will do what I can,
where I am,
with what I have.”
(Theodore Roosevelt)


wwfc-logo-box-final2Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, is simply the place where I am called. It’s where my “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” as Frederick Buechner said.

Please join me in the WWf(a)C mission: To nurture and celebrate the individual voice by facilitating supportive writing circles and by encouraging people to craft more conscious lives through the art of writing and the practices of community.

You can support this community in several ways: 1) SIGN UP today for the sampler series starting Oct. 9 at Re-Threaded; 2) HOLD THE SPACE if you can’t attend but would like to sponsor another woman from Re-Threaded’s staff to attend in your place; or 3) FORWARD this email to someone you know who would value this experience.

This event is a fund-raiser for Re-Threaded, which provides safe, viable, and dignity-giving work to survivors of the sex trade: www.rethreaded.com. I share the values of this organization, and want to support it as best I can. My goal is to raise $1,000 with this effort.

All the details are on my website: www.WomenWritingJacksonville.com. Thank you for listening and for your support. Even if all you do is simply hold the space for this dream to come to fruition, I would be most grateful.

Here.
In the garden called, Women Writing for (a) Change.

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The bluebirds are back!

Daddy and Mama Bluebird survey their new domain.

The other day, my son Matthew woke up not feeling well, and complained that his throat was hoarse and swollen.  As I glanced at his nearby iPad, I wondered briefly if he was just overtired, and felt the tug of guilt.  Was he not getting enough rest because I was letting him use his electronics too much? Was he up late on his iPad?  Did he just not feel like going to school today?

But sometimes I need to just believe him. So, I did,  And, in fact, when he woke up later, I could tell he was genuinely quite sick. However, by mid-afternoon, he was feeling better, and happened to be standing in my office with me when we noticed the bluebirds flying around the nest box.

“Mom!’ he said.  “We have to set up the camera in the nest box!”  Forgetting he was not well, he wanted to go out immediately and hook up the wires.  I know from experience that if my kids want to do something with me, especially in the garden, I better hop to it pronto! So I said, “Yes.”

Blue back, red breast, on the alert.

We looked around for the power cord after setting everything up, but it could not be found.  Impatient to know what to do, Matthew called the bird place himself, and found out that I could pick up a power cord the next day. “Mom, you gotta make sure you go tomorrow!” he stressed.  “It’s free, too!” he assured me.

But the next day he was still sick, so he asked if we could go together to get the cord.  He took the lead, going into the store first and talking to the guy.  By the time I followed, he had already gotten what we needed. “He’s a very mature young man,” said the store owner, smiling at me.

Of course, we fixed up the power cord at home, fussed with the focus, and finally, voila!  There was the mama bluebird!  She had already started building, and we could watch as she brought bits and pieces of pine straw, leaves, grass and moss inside the box to fill the nest, using her body to press and “schootch” them into place.

The mama scooches down into the nest with her belly, making a snug hollow for the eggs.

I’ve been sitting out on the front bench most mornings since, feeding the bluebirds and watching them go in and out of the nest box.  I’ve taken photos and had little conversations with them, to make sure they are comfortable with me sitting out there.  The show has been terrific.  The other day, the male bird “saluted” me!  And I’ve had fun posting photos on instagram.

Salute!

As we’ve watched on the monitor for these past few days, the nest has gotten much thicker and much softer. No light shines through the bottom anymore, and the surface looks soft and fine, not just pine straw as it was before.

And last night, on the Spring Equinox, I saw something else.  “Quick,” I called out to Matthew and Camille. “Come see!” They both came running. I’d seen something new in the nest box: two sky-blue eggs.

Sky blue.

So. Spring has sprung.  The potential of the world is captured in two eggs, a snug nest, and a full heart.  Happiness is available to us, despite the sadness in the world.  Here.  In the garden.

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Feng Shui

My February intentions collage, for The Happiness Project.

So. For my February “Happiness Project” work, I thought I would spend some time de-cluttering. In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen talks about various forms of clutter that drain your energy, like household clutter, closet clutter, “freebee” clutter (hand-me-downs) and “nostalgia” clutter (relics of the past that you’ve been holding on to.) Of course, it’s just like weeding a garden; a necessary step so that healthy plants can thrive. And I do want to thrive.

The nostalgia clutter in my house right now is thick.  My house is full of reminders of a life, an era, a person that is gone.  Oh, I’ve moved some things out and other things around, but there is so much left over. So many reminders of the past.

My sister came to stay with the kids last fall for a week, and she said she felt like there was a lot of negative energy in the house. Maybe it’s because she sat in the red chair in the living room and stared at the photos on the piano (also my altar), which still include a photo of The Four Of Us from another era, back when I was more aware of “Looking Good” than “Feeling Good.” Sigh. (I noticed when I came back that she had moved the photos around, so that particular picture would not keep staring at her.)

I mentioned this problem to a friend of mine, and she suggested that I call in a Feng Shui expert.  Someone who could help me assess my situation and shift around that negative household energy. That intrigued me. So, I found an expert who said she not only could do some household blessings but also make recommendations for how to improve the energy “flow” in our house. Good.  A bit hurriedly, I hired her. Let’s do this thing.

When she came, we sat and talked, and then we did the blessings, mixing rice and liquor and Cinnabar powder in a bowl and tossing it in nine special areas of the property.  We chanted the chants, we reviewed the bagua she drew, we walked through the house and she made recommendations to keep this and throw away that. She looked at me searchingly, and said, “You know, you don’t have to keep something, just because somebody gave it to you.”

The effect was not quite what I expected.

After she was gone, I looked at my house with my new “Feng Shui eyes,” and I was sad.  Overwhelmed.  I thought about how each piece of furniture in my house tells a story, either because it came from my grandmother, my aunt, my mother, my mother-in-law, or from the early days of setting up our married household.

Which of these things is not authentically me? Which is just baggage, cluttering up my life and draining my energy?  Which is somebody else’s story, masquerading as mine? Which is an old story, that I don’t want to read anymore because it’s too sad?

For my collage, I had found a Georgia O’Keefe quote that said, “I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.” I knew I needed to look, for myself, at what I had been “taught,” and decide what to keep and what to let go of.

As I lay on the gold couch in the living room one Sunday afternoon (from my parents’ living room 50 years ago, and also the preferred spot for my occasional Sunday naps), Camille came in to lie down with me, just for a few moments, as only a teen-ager who has once been a little girl will sometimes do.  She let me wrap my arm around her as she surveyed the house from that vantage point.

At my daughter’s birthday party this month. She is almost an adult!

“Do you think we’ll always remember this?” she said. “The way the pictures look on the piano?  The way the books on that shelf look over the TV?  The art on the walls?” I thought I heard a message: “These things are important to me, Mom.  I find comfort in these everyday household objects.  They tell me I am Home.”

I learned in a support group that I can “Keep what I like, and leave the rest.” I don’t have to take anything wholesale. A wise friend further clarified: “Here’s the test. When you look at an object in your home, does it bring you comfort, or pain? What is comfortable to you?  What story does each object tell in the present?”  If, when I look at an object, it brings a smile to my face, no matter what its past history is, no matter whose it was, then I can keep it. And if it brings me pain, I can let it go.

Or, as that infamous photo on my piano reminds me, “Does it merely LOOK good, or does it FEEL good?” If it just looks good, but feels bad…I need to let it go.

What a concept!  What a test for life!  What empowering freedom! Am I comfortable with this thing, whatever it is…a household object, a personal situation, a business decision? I must learn to notice how it makes me feel. And I need to STOP doing — or holding on to — what DOESN’T feel comfortable to me. Even if it might displease someone else. And guess what else? I don’t have to decide all  these things at once.  It’s a discovery process. And it’s going to take some time to sort it all out. I can do that.

I know.  This might not seem too revolutionary to some people.  (Duh!  Of course, Jennifer!) But for me, this is a challenge.  Frankly, I have a hard time even thinning radishes!  Can you believe, I feel sorry for the little radishes that won’t grow? Sigh.

I guess, in retrospect, it’s not so surprising that in high school I was named, “Most Sentimental.” Back then I couldn’t imagine what they were talking about. But perhaps they were right, after all. And maybe that’s something, of myself, that I will hold on to.

Here. In the garden.

Beautiful things are blooming in the garden, including this lime tree.

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