house with plant

Blessings of wind be upon me. May my sails billow wide, May I breathe deeply the gift of inspiration…

This spring I’m using Christine Valters Paintner’s book Water, Wind, Earth & Fire, as my morning reading and lectio. In the first chapter “Wind,” She writes: Begin each day by intentionally setting aside your plans and offering a prayer asking for direction from the flow of the Spirit present in the wind.

There is warm sunshine in Bellingham, Washington. I sat outside with my coffee, facing East toward the rising sun. There was a slight breeze rustling the ready to burst buds on the apple trees.

The ground in my backyard is squishy when I walk across it. The foster dog comes in and out with muddy paws so often I’ve given up wiping the kitchen floor with more than a quick swipe with a dog towel; it is dirt colored anyway.

My next door neighbor and I looked at the water pooled in holes where there was pampas grass along our shared fence. She exclaimed laughing, “you could grow Koi.” This year will be dedicated to figuring out where the water flows and dumping dirt and stones in the yard to create a water garden – gardening in a wet backyard with thirsty plants. 

My studies of permaculture have encouraged me to create a bit of a “woodland garden” in the area already blessed with 2 apple trees. I will add fruit bearing bushes, and an array of plants that love shade and dappled sunlight and that draw bees and birds and butterflies.  

The idea of not having “lawn” in my back yard seems not loony but a lovely, sensible idea. The noise of mowers has already begun in my little neighborhood. I added to it with the electric “weed wacker” earlier this week. That noise multiplied by the dozen houses on my street will be a part of every weekend from now until at least October!  But I rant. 

The term “wilding” or “rewilding” has recently come to my attention.  I’m reading Rambunctious Garden, Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World by Emma Marris.

Wilding : a plant growing uncultivated in the wild either as a native or an escape; especially : a wild apple or crab apple. b : the fruit of a wilding ~ Merriam Webster.

At one time a “wilding” was a child “run wild.” Clearly I and my brothers grew-up wildings.  We played in the near-by woods and at the edge of Loon Lake – forbidden areas – unbeknownst to our mother who every summer morning admonished us “get outside!” We were free until the porch lights came on at dusk.

In her new book From the Forest a Search for the Hidden Roots of Our Fairy Tales, Sara Maitland, bereft that the language of computer games is our children’s magic,  quotes Robert Macfarlane:

A basic language-literacy of nature is falling from us. And what is being lost along with this literacy is something perhaps even more valuable: a kind of language magic, the power that certain words possess to enchant our imaginative relations with nature and landscape. 

I am a most fortunate realist. I live in an older neighborhood that used to be an orchard so old fruit trees abound. I also live very close to an ocean and a block away from the interurban trail that leads to a “wild” area within the boundaries of a sprawling “park.” My grandchildren here, and in Oregon, live in neighborhoods considered “safe” with some parental restrictions on their wandering/wilding. 

I don’t have answers to any of the current issues of our Earth environment. I just like Emma Marris’s ideas about keeping/creating some wild areas in neighborhoods and leaving more wild spaces in our backyards as well as all over our one small planet.

Paradise is in our minds and hearts. Mine is seeing my grandchildren and the kids in my neighborhood “running a little wild” with trees to climb and birds and bees and butterflies fluttering around them. In the larger world my paradise is kids not worrying about land mines when they play, or not spending their days picking through my garbage or not being poisoned by the elements in my cell phone. But, again I rant.

Chilten Pearce believes our hearts are electromagnetically enmeshed with the energy of the universe. If so, we can access the universe through our hearts. We can feel our oneness with the earth as Meister Eckhart did when he wrote: “If I put my cheek against the earth’s body, (or maybe a tree trunk) I feel the pulse of God.”

moving 008

I have no plans for this beautiful day except to go where the breezes take me…

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P1090931 at the American Visionary Museum

They (fools, the clowns, the tricksters) are constantly in the throes of metanoia, disturbing the undisturbed, comforting the uncomfortable and freeing the unfree.*

Return to me with your whole heart *

As the days lengthen we return to thawed ground and new growth.  The Abrahamic religions all have rites of repentance and returning in preparation for spring festivals – Easter in Christianity, Passover in Judaism, and Ramadan for Muslims. 

Each of these practices include periods of introspection and consideration of actions that require metanoia, which is not translated as repentance but literally means to go “beyond the mind,” or “into the larger mind.”*

During Lent Christians reenact the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying. The desert journey is one where our comforts are stripped away so we can see more clearly.* During Ramadan, also a period of fasting, repentance is a period of return to a state of renewal – metanoiaIt means moving into the nondual knowingness of the heart which can see and live from the perspective of wholeness. Cynthia Bourgeault. 

Passover is retelling the story of leaving mitzrayim, the narrow place. We all have places within us that are narrow. These are the places where our self-judgment lives and where our judgments of others thrive. Our narrow places are the spots where our fixed beliefs rest.

I just read and watched an article and film *The Path of the Sacred Clown and thought about my grandkids as tricksters and sacred clowns, full of life energy – eros – pushing me to rethink, not from the mind but from the heart about the narrow places where I am stuck.

In his book Falling Upward, Richard Rohr says transformation is more about unlearning than learning. These practices during the transformation from darkness to light are all meant for transformation of consciousness – the seed deep in the soil transforming into the plant – a resurrection, a returning to our immaculate, new born, lighter-hearted selves/souls.

The italics indicate places where I used, and abbreviated quotes, or combined overlapping ideas from Christine Valters Painter, Abbey of the; Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life; and The Wisdom Jesus, by Cynthia Bourgeault. Their work, thinking and writing are infiltrating my heart and my mind.

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keeping it real

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You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

I’m trying to think of an example of when my mother would say that. Maybe mending. Maybe about someone I wanted to change. Maybe it was the day Dad painted the old refrigerator pink.

I’m sitting in my tiny living room looking at the beautiful new baby blue tile backsplash in my kitchen. The bamboo faced cupboards are installed beneath the red counter top. The walls are painted a delicious yellow. It is beautiful.

Now my contractor/friend is bugging me and the landlord to replace the older white stove with a sleek, shiny stainless steel stove to match the other and only new appliance – an under the counter refrigerator. This morning I looked at the offender that boiled the water for my morning coffee and thought “Baby, you are keeping it real.”

I’ve been labeling the bumpy old walls which no amount of sanding and painting will disguise, Wabi-Sabi. I know very little about this Japanese concept which has been taken by Westerners to mean many things – often to sell something. The following quotes are taken from a discussion of the concept by architect Tadao Ando. “Putting the two words and concepts together translates something like the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all.

“Wabi-sabi is not a decorating “style” but rather a mind-set. Creating a wabi-sabi home is the direct result of developing our wabigokoro, or wabi mind and heart: living modestly, learning to be satisfied with life as it can be once we strip away the unnecessary, living in the moment. ~ Tadao Ando*

Mr. Ando’s detailed description of this old and newly-blended concept has not convinced me that the old stove has to stay. But, for now, “It is enough if the house does not leak and the food keeps hunger away. This is the teaching of the Buddha-the true meaning of chado.” (Rikyu’s sacred tea text, Nanporoku.)*

Keeping it real, Baby!

* Mr. Ando suggests “reading the wonderful book this description comes from: the wabi-sabi house,the Japanese art of imperfect beauty” by Robyn Griggs Lawrence. Robyn’s book puts it in perspective, using evocative descriptions of modern designs using salvaged materials and (local?) artisan wares.”

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Laying awake in the middle of the night I decided to write about heart. I wasn’t sure where I was going with the idea.

My father always gave my mother fancy, flowery romantic Valentines. Then she would have him frame them for her. When she died we found them with her things – some still hung on the wall of their assisted living home. One hung on the wall of Dad’s apartment until he died years after Mother. Dad was the romantic. He’d walk in after a long day in his TV repair shop and dip mom back and give her a big smooch. She’d respond “Glenn, not in front of the children.”  Of course we loved it.

My dad died just a year ago. At 95 he confessed to me his sorrow that before mom died he laid down beside her on her hospital bed and held her. She told him how sad she was that he hadn’t held her for a very long time.

This is a Valentine to my parents whose love for each other supported me and my brothers and sister and cousins. It is also a reminder to all of us that we need to be told that we are loved. We need cards and candy, homemade or storebought. And we need to be hugged and held, tickled and danced, tucked in with stories and kisses, and greeted with a smile in the morning.  Today and tomorrow and forever.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Beginning again

Always we begin again. ~St Benedict


As a child of my culture the New Year beckons. It is a  beacon illuminating the past and the future.

The past few days I’ve been questioning what is my purpose? I’ve completed my doctoral dissertation, completed my wandering across the country exploring ideas about shared housing, chosen to live near some of my family, and I’ve reached a plateau in my journey with heart disease. I have a foster dog living with me and I’m working on the remodel of my kitchen; now what?

Sunday evening I took myself to see Philomena in part because Judy Dench is the lead actress and partly as practice for going to the movies by myself. When I returned home I read a little about Dame Judy and discovered that her vision is limited by macular degeneration. And yet she takes on new acting roles and still paints.

There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force which really changes our lives from within. And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves.  ~Thomas Merton

This morning I’m beginning the book the Artist’s Rule for the second or third time but this time with a promise to myself that I would participate in the exercises instead of just reading the book. Clicking through author Christine Valters Painter’s website I came to

I read:

The heart of the contemplative life is never about escaping the world, but plunging ourselves fully into the heart of messiness and mystery.

As we deepen on the contemplative journey, our aim is to release our attempts at controlling our lives and surrendering into a far greater Mystery than our egos can contain. There are no step-by-step plans, only daily practice and immersion in the messiness of life as it comes. We live into the questions, as the poet Rilke so wisely wrote, rather than trying to find the answers. We practice being uncomfortable. We move more deeply into unknowing. ~ Christine and John Valters Painter 

Hmm, that sounds like me in my response to my friend Nancy in her blog Clearing the Space, about my messy spirituality.  So, I begin again going deeper, moving out of my comfort zone onto the pilgrim’s path. Stay tuned…

marian on scooter

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Night Vision

I slept late this morning but when I got up it was still so dark I couldn’t see my foster dog Brody in the back yard. Finally I saw his eyes lit by my flashlight.

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As a grey light enters my room, my contemplative reading is When Women Were Birds, by Terry Tempest Williams. Her mother and grandmothers died within months of each other from cancer. At one place she writes:

The courage to continue in the face of despair is the recognition that in those eyes of darkness we find our own night vision.

This waiting through the darkness of winter requires finding our own night vision – our faith in ourselves, our family and friends, our community, the World and even Something Bigger. Hanukah, the celebration of enough oil to light the lamps in the darkness, has just ended. This is the Christian season of Advent – we are following a faraway star because we are promised The Light. It is a time of anticipation.

Tempest Williams reveals that she has a hemangioma (a tangle of vessels) in the “eloquent area of her brain, the home of language comprehension, where metaphor and the patterned mind live.” She lives with the knowledge that she could have a stroke at any time. Feeling frozen, she wonders how does she live with that diagnoses.

I woke up wondering how will I feel if the results of tomorrow’s echocardiogram show my ejection fraction has bettered to the point, an edge of numbers, that I do not need a defibrillator implant. Or, what if I need one?

Last night I was urging my Bellingham grandkids to get ready for bed. They were decorating small trees in their bedrooms. Phoebe confidently decorated hers’ with glittery snow flakes, bulbs and bows and ribbons.  Zeb, 7, was piling the little Christmas tree in his bedroom with stuffed animals.  He was tossing older stuffies out of a box at the end of his bed when he called out “Wolfie, my beloved!” Then with his face all lit up he placed this worn, dirty, wolf by his tree.

There is no end to this story. It is a Mystery.

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How small, how insignificant the intentions or the acts of one individual person seem – and how huge, how global, the acts of one individual person can be. We are not often given the gift of knowing the effect of our acts. ~ Pat Schneider

This is a month of celebrations. My daughter Kay and her two children are here for the Thanksgiving holiday. Her husband will join us late today. Her sister and brother and the rest of our family celebrate their presence. They enrich our lives. Laughter abounds.

2012-11-25 001 2012-11-25 005 Grand daughters Phoebe and Lillian

This morning I’m reading in How the Light Gets In by Pat Schneider. She writes

Everyone wants a better world. If I am educated, it is painful to know that the world has an enormous number of people who have limited or no formal education. If I am fed, it hurts to know there are those who are hungry. If some are denied justice …it hurts to see broken bodies and tormented minds… But other than writing a check as a donation to some invisible charity, most of us don’t know how to make the world better.

Two groups that know how to make the world better, started by one person who had a vision, are celebrating anniversaries. Both organizations allowed me to practice becoming the person I am today.


Little Artshram is celebrating 20 years of service. I have written before about my friend Penny Krebiehl. I lived with her summer-before-last in Traverse City, Michigan working in a permaculture garden and helping out a bit with an outdoor program for kids. I met Penny just about 20 years ago through one of those circuitous ways that can hardly be explained except by the Big Hook in the Sky. That’s another story for another day.

The result – I was looking for studio space – she had studio space over an auto parts store on the other side of the tracks. Putting our great brains together resulted in North Town Art Center where kids came to learn to see – to not shut out, but celebrate what was around them.  And celebrate we did and continue to do! 

For over twenty years Penny and her stick-to-it-ness shows up in so many ways through the organization she now calls Little ArtShram, From her I’ve learned to accept and celebrate “the Gift Economy.”  She helps me remember we can’t go it alone; that there is no shame in asking for and accepting help – sometimes crying behind a paper mache mask and changing course, but spreading gardens of joy, and important information and practices along the way.

Oasis Ministries, celebrating 25 years of service: Again the Big Hook in the Sky swooped down and caught me like a fish, I spent two years in the Spiritual Direction for Spiritual Guides program and then many years on the board of directors. I found friendships and spiritual practices that have served me for almost 20 years.

Kent Groff, founding mentor, while serving as my spiritual director a couple years ago, suggested that, “reversed, a hook becomes a question mark.” This is a continuing theme in my life, as it was when I discovered Oasis just in time. I needed community and contemplative time-out to ask the question and wait for  answers. Oasis Ministries is water in a desert, led by some delicious human water bearers.

I’ve been served by and have served many other organizations. On this particular Thanksgiving week, I am grateful for the people who overcame and continue to overcome the shadow that falls between our intention and our act (that) frequently takes the form of an overwhelm of inadequacy so great we stop trying, (Pat Schneider, How the Light Gets In).  Amen, and amen.


Lunching at Penn State’s
Hershey Medical Center in 1988,
two forties ministers shared
their disappointments and their
dreams—small drops of hope in
desert time.
One said he hoped
to find a way to join the active
and contemplative life, a way
of living free while loving God.
“How would you find such a way,”
the other asked.
“Oh, it could
never be alone, only in community.”
“And where would you find such
a community?”
“Ah, most likely
it would not mean finding—rather
founding such a fluid group
as would enrich all communities.”
“And what would you call it?”
“Oasis!” the answer flowed
without a pause. Then, in holy
awe, both paused…
and have
been pausing ever since…
between their words…
and deeds.
Kent Ira Groff
November 19, 2010

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