Enkindling Kindness

“Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato I have started tracking kindness – noticing her as she gently touches the ordinary of my day. I see her at the bus stop as the first grade big sister greets the eager-to-have-her-home little brother. I see kindness in the neighbor who mows two lawns beyond her own. I see her in the gentle touch of the care-givers at the senior housing when residents gather for weekly prayer. Kindness can be simple and fleeting – a quick recognition, a knowing smile, a gentle touch. Kindness can also be robust … Continue reading

Bookshelves

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Cicero I resist joining the e-book fascination. I like my page turners with real pages, my underlines with real pencils and my coffee spills with real stains. I like the touch, the heft, the physicality of a book. Besides, books aren’t just to read. Some hide dried auburn maple leaves, a birthday horoscope from years past, a Chinese fortune too good to let go. Like my garden, my books multiply and grow, expanding into whatever space I give them. Unfortunately, I am in my thinning years–thinning my … Continue reading

Keep on Learning

 “We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson Fall is heralded as the season of new learning–time to put on the mantle of student for the return to school. While I love taking classes, trying new things and enhancing my skills, I am not limited to the school year. Summer offers rich learning opportunities, too. The natural world is a wonderful teacher. I walk through the woods noticing nature recycling, replenishing and renewing itself. The downed decaying tree becomes a “nurse log” full of spiders and insects that provide food for birds … Continue reading

Retreat: Regaining Perspective

When I visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art I always stroll through the Impressionism Gallery. I love the spontaneity and movement of impressionist art. It piques my curiosity as to how it is put together. What is the magical technique? I pick a composition and view it from various angles. First I look from the center of the gallery, scanning from left to right, top to bottom, taking in the whole impression. Then I step in to focus on a particular detail or interaction or slice of the scene. Finally I retire to the back wall and view it from … Continue reading

Color me Alive

“I prefer living in color.” —David Hockney We just finished a simple bathroom fix, nothing so daring as ripping out and starting afresh. The swirly tan plastic tiles that cover the bottom half of three walls stayed – I have taken to thinking of them as vintage. The wall paper had to go, vintage or not. Vintage tile, vinyl floor, painted walls. Since sparkling ceramic tile, heated floors and giant tubs were out of our project scope, we opted for color. The built-in vanity was sturdy enough to accommodate the new oval sink and a fresh counter top. Its former … Continue reading

A Long Life. Living in The Blue Zone has its rewards

A long healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits.” — Dan Beuttner A favorite aunt of mine turns 100 in February. She was born in 1917– the same year the U.S. entered World War I, women suffragettes fought for the vote and a first class stamp cost three cents. She’s lived through a lot, including the roaring 20s, the Great Depression, World War II, the moon landing, the turning of the millennium – times of trial and times of celebration. She remembers it all clearly. My aunt is still in … Continue reading

How was Your Harvest?

The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny. James Allen Late autumn has me in the garden bringing in the last of the vegetable harvest, clearing out the profligate remains of annuals and the overflowing growth from perennials. I reap several garden carts of dried stalks, soggy leaves and sprawling roots. The tiny seedlings I planted became full spheres of blossoms and now return to the soil via my compost bin. This is … Continue reading

On Finding Forgiveness

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Bernard Meltzer Why is it so hard to forgive? We can carry our hurts and injuries like precious gems in a velvet pouch, admiring their many facets, their high cost, how they refract the light of what once was. We recall their origins, their rarity, how durable they are. How could I ever manage without them? Who would I be? Over time these gems take on a life of their own. As we protect them, they grow in power and value. We … Continue reading

Restoring Resilience

“Resilience is our essential nature, woven into our being as a natural capacity to restore and recover so that we can experience the joy and well being that are our birthright.” Dr. Henry Emmons, MD What is resilience? Is it strength, persistence, courage? Do you think about your resilience or another’s? Is resilience acquired or innate? “Resiliency is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity,” according to Richard Davidson, founder of The Center for Healthy Minds at UW-Madison. It is a learnable skill. By strengthening that skill we can recover from adversity more quickly. We cannot, however, avoid it. … Continue reading

Is it Time to Retreat?

Retreat. Withdraw. Pull back. When armies retreat they fall back, de-escalate, leave the frontline for a place of safety and rest. Me, too. I go on retreat to regroup, refresh, rejuvenate. Our frenetic lives leave us fewer and fewer quiet places to retreat into. Electronic devices have marched into every room of the house. They ride with us, walk with us, sleep with us. News is broadcast all day. Phones ring, beep, vibrate incessantly. Even out-of-doors, too often machines swallow the stillness. It takes much more effort to retreat. And we need it more than ever. I contacted several retreat … Continue reading

Virtue Revisited

“Freedom works only in a culture already committed to virtue; it cannot work otherwise.” Aristotle Freedom is a word we Americans like to bandy about. Freedom to carry guns, to practice our faith, to speak, to assemble, to pursue happiness. Our freedoms are many; any attempts to limit them are met with strong resistance. While we are committed to our freedoms, I wonder if we are committed to our virtues. Even the word virtue has a quaintness about it, smelling a bit like rosewater as it sits upright on a straight backed chair, drinking tea from a hand-painted cup nested … Continue reading

Change? Me?

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are going.” Lao Tzu “Everybody wants it to be different but nobody wants to change.” The pastor referenced the tension in the congregation. Few were happy; most could name someone or something that needed to change. Status quo held tight. Many years later I recall his words as I think about the changes I would like in my life. Do I really want it to be different? How much am I willing to invest to make it so? I like to take stock of my life as the … Continue reading

Enough is Enough!

“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” Lao Tzu I am bracing myself for the onslaught of excess and scarcity. It is so easy to move from a sense of wonder at autumn’s abundant and bountiful harvest to feelings of inadequacy and deprivation. I speak of the advertising barrage that begins before Thanksgiving, pulling me toward the worst of consumerism. Black Friday’s shopping spree claws into Thanksgiving’s lavish feast–even before the leftovers are packed away. Like vultures, big-box merchants strip the meat off the carcass of Thanksgiving’s holiday. We leave gratitude in the rear view mirror … Continue reading

Tell Me A Story

“The story – from Rumplestiltskin to War and Peace – is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” – — Ursula K. Le Guin I have always loved stories. I remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror that fronted the medicine cabinet holding all the medical supplies for our one bathroom family while my mom “set” my hair. She took a small hank of hair, dampened it with her … Continue reading

Cultivating Compassion

I recently visited Louisville, Kentucky, on the wide and muddy Ohio River, six miles from where slaves once swam to the free state of Ohio. The river’s navigation was interrupted here by the Falls of the Ohio, forcing early travelers to portage and offering creative entrepreneurs a site for budding commerce. Gradually a small settlement grew into an elegant city–home of the Kentucky Derby and the Louisville Slugger, an active center for interfaith dialogue and the title Compassionate City. As a Compassionate City, Louisville is committed to champion and nurture the growth of compassion. Louisville is working on several initiatives … Continue reading

Entering Silence

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” Marcus Aurelius Where do you go when life gets to be too much? When your days overflow with tasks and decisions? When resentments simmer and bubble while violins sing woeful laments? Where do you go? Life ebbs and flows. As tasks overcrowd my hours, the elasticity of a day stretches only so far before it snaps back. Some days everything goes according to my plan and I confidently step out on the ledge of arrogance thinking, “I’ve got it licked now! I can manage my … Continue reading