On job security

So, one day a few years ago I was walking across campus early in the Fall Semester. One of the maintenance guys was in the quad raking leaves. Now, the quad had quite a few trees in it, so raking leaves was a pretty monumental job, and he was out there on his own tackling it.

I stopped, said hello to him, and went on to say something about what an arduous, thankless job raking the leave was. I looked around at all the trees, and said something about how many leaves were still up there, and how interminable it must feel to him.

He smiled at me, looked up at the same trees and leaves and said, “Oh no, Miss. That there is job security.”

It’s all how you see it. I’ve never looked at raking in quite the same way.

That brief conversation helped to nudge me to see more of life and the world around me as a gift – if only I have the eyes for seeing!

Thinking about John ODonohue and Beauty

I am now of an age where any day, every day that I wake up and find that I am still breathing is a wonderful day. And, yet, some days are indeed just a bit more wonderful, more full of wonder than other days.  For my money, there are few people who speak to this better than John O’Donohue.  Here are some lines from his book: Beauty: the Invisible Embrace.  See what you think!

“We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. At birth we were awakened and emerged to become visible in the world. At death we will surrender again to the dark to become invisible. Awakening and surrender: they frame each day and each life; between them the journey where anything can happen, the beauty and the frailty. . . .

The human soul is hungry for beauty… When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. Some of our most wonderful memories are beautiful places where we felt immediately at home. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul. For a while the strains of struggle and endurance are relieved and our frailty is illuminated by a different light in which we come to glimpse behind the shudder of appearances and sure form of things. In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act. Beauty brings a sense of completion and sureness. Without any of the usual calculation, we can slip into the Beautiful with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water; something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us.”


The human soul is hungry for beauty! Ain’t it just so.  I remember back in graduate school, reading about some research that Abraham Maslow did where he found that people learn better and thrive more in circumstances of beauty.  So, here’s what I think. Let’s each of us go out today and do some one thing to make the world a little more beautiful for someone else. And, let’s each of us go out today, look around at the world we are living in and appreciate, really appreciate one little thing that is just beautiful somewhere nearby – maybe look at the ocean, or a tree or flower, or look into someone’s eyes. Take a deep breath, and say ‘thank you.’ Just a moment to notice and remember. For me, I will be appreciating the beauty of John O’Donohue’s (1956 – 2008) thoughts and words.

The donkey and the load of salt

There is a story about a rich merchant and his donkey who went to the seaside markets to buy salt. On the way home they had to cross a river. There were no bridges across the river, so the merchant drove the donkey across the river. This donkey was not as sure footed as his breed is reputed to be, and so he lost his footing on the rocks and accidentally fell in the river. Very quickly he got back on his feet, and noticed that his burdens were considerably lighter as the water melted and dissolved the salt.

The merchant noticed that the packs on the donkey’s back were hanging with more slack, and so he turned the donkey around, when back to the seaside, bought more salt, and reloaded the donkey.  Then they turned home ward again.  When they came to the river, the donkey (who was more wily than sure footed) once again slipped on the rocks, pulling his packs under the water and once again melted most of the salt. As he rose to his feet the donkey shook his head and brayed in triumph. The merchant suspected what the donkey had done, but thought to bide his time, in dealing with his delinquent donkey. They continued on their way home and the merchant did the best that he could selling the bits of salt that remained.

A short time later the merchant and the donkey returned to the seaside markets. This time however the merchant bought a large load of sponges rather than salt.  On the way home the donkey recognized the place on the trail leading up to the river, and as he entered the river, once again the donkey intentionally lost his footing, slipped into the river and soaked the packs on his back. But this time the salt did not dissolve, rather the sponges absorbed great quantities of the river water, doubling the weight of the donkey’s load!

And the moral of the story? Just cause it worked once, doesn’t mean a strategy will work every time.  Don’t be a donkey! Stay awake to the details of the situation!

whose got issues?

Back at the cloister of the good Sisters of Mary Magdalene life proceeds apace. But what exactly is apace? About three feet? Well that depends on how long your legs are really. But no, when you scope out the dictionary, apace means to travel fast enough to keep up with the momentum around you. That being the case, life for the good sisters definitely did not proceed apace. The good sisters in face remain intentionally out of step with the momentum around them, taking their good old sweet time to pray and meditate and to savor the sweetness of the world around them, to bask in awe of what is and what could be when we but find our place at one met with what is.

Well, for the most part that is how this are. But then there is Sister Honora. You will remember Sister Honora – she is somewhere around 90 years old, and has some visual and auditory challenges (some would say she is blind as a bat and deaf as a stone, but don’t let her hear you say that or she will lasso you with her rosary beads and give you what for but good!). So, just the other day Sister Beatrix, one of the postulants caring for the older sisters in the cloister took it as her mission to convince Sister Honora that she really should be wearing her hearing aid.

Now, Sister Beatrix is humble if she is nothing else, and she is many other things. But her humility is one of her virtues of which she is most proud. So, she humble approached Reverend Mother and asked her how she might approach this issue with Sister Honora. The good Reverend Mother suggested that she stand about 40 feet from Sister Honora and talk to her in a conversational voice to see if she hears you. If not, then move in to about 30 feet, then to 20 feet, and to keep moving closer until she got a response.

So, the very next day Sister Beatrix was near the back of the in the refectory just outside of Sister Honora’s room, and she thought that they must be about 40 feet apart, so she called out to Sister Honora, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?” She heard no response.

So Sister Beatrix walked down the refectory a bit closer to Sister Honora’s room, about 30 feet from it, and asked, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?” And she heard no response.

Sister Beatrix smiled to herself as she gathered this proof positive of Sister Honora’s need to wear her hearing aid, she walked further through the refectory so that she was now about 20 feet from Sister Honor’s room and asked again, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?” And still no response.

She put her head into Sister Honora’s room so that the two of them were about 10 feet about and one more time she asked, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?” Still no response!

Finally she walked right up to Sister Honora, looked her square in the face, smiled and said, “Sister Honora, what is the scripture meditation for vespers today?”

And Sister Honora also smiled and said, “Sister Beatrix, for the fifth time I’ve said ‘it is Luke 6:42, How can you offer to take the speck out of your sister’s eye with that log in your own eye.’ Dear, would you like to borrow my hearing aid?” And Sister Honora reached up to her ear to remove the hearing aid to offer it to our dear Sister Beatrix.



With thanks to Philip Chircop, this is an adapted version of his THE DEAF WIFE AND THE CONCERNED HUSBAND  https://philipchircop.wordpress.com/ which he found in Cathy L. Wray, The Perfect Blend Devotional (WestBow Press, 2014) pages 147-148

Philip reminds us to remember this: The problem may not be with the other one as we always think. It could be very much within us. We sometimes tend to look to heal in others problems or issues that are actually ours.


Seeking the Harmony of Wisdom

There is a story that my grandmother said her grandmother told to her grandmother when she was a child living in the Tatra Mountains in the south of Poland. The story has it that at one point my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother’s father was having what we would call a midlife crisis. So, he went off in search of wisdom and the truth. Well, my family are not great adventurers by nature, so, Dziadek (grandfather) Janush walked over to the church and asked the priest where he could find wisdom. The good Father stroked his beard, and told Dziadek Janush to go up into the mountains where he would find a cave with a well near the back of it.

Dziadek came home, packed himself a lunch and set off to find the cave. Late in the afternoon as the shadows were beginning to lengthen, Dziadek found the very cave the good Father at the church had described. So, he went in, found the well, and after walking around the well three times in a clockwise direction, he bowed to the east and poured out the troubles of his heart and asked his question. From the very depths of the well came the answer, “Go down the other side of the mountain to the village crossroads. There you will find what you are seeking.”

With renewed hope and vigor, my Dziadek walked through the mountain pass to the other side of the mountain. He walked down the mountain to a little village he had never been to before, and on to the crossroads at the heart of the tiny village.  There he found three shops. They looked very poor and ramshackle to him. One was selling bits of metal, the second sold wood, and the third sold thin wire. It made no sense to him. What did this detritus have to do with wisdom or truth?

Sad and dejected, Dziadek walked back up the mountain, over the pass and back home again, this time feeling that the parish priest had played some kind of joke on him, and feeling rather foolish. He set out seeking wisdom and had been made a fool of instead. As he walked he cursed the priest. Without thinking he spat out words he had never said before in his life. Then, realizing what he had said, he set off to the Church, found the priest and asked the Father to hear his confession. Dziadek told the good Father all that had happened to him, and how he had been so disheartened and disappointed that he had cursed the priest without even thinking. The priest heard his confession, gave him penance and absolution, and said to my Dziadek, “Be patient my son. You will understand in the future.”

Time went by as time is wont to do. Days turned to weeks. Weeks became months. Months grew into years. And Dziadek settled into his routines and life took on a softness for him and his family. Then one evening Dziadek was walking by the Church rectory where the priest lived and he heard the sound of sweet music coming from the porch.  The music was sweet and haunting and quite wonderful. Dziadek stood there in rapt attention watching the priest play the suka, a Polish fiddle like instrument. The Father’s fingers danced on the strings, he played with masterful concentration and ease. Then Dziadek began to notice the suka itself. It was made of beautiful carved wood, with the strings attached to it with metal pieces. And standing there in the moonlight, watching the good Father play and listening to the music, the light dawned on Dziadek, the suka was made with wood, metal and wire, just like those sold in the stores which he thought were bits of scrap and junk.

Finally he understood the message from the well. We are all always already given everything that we need. Our responsibility is to see the relationships and connections among the elements, to assemble the parts of our lives and use them in the best way possible. Nothing is meaningful when we see only the disparate parts in isolation. But once we put the parts together, we discover the alchemy of synthesis and harmony, a whole new creation comes into being that we could not have foreseen by looking only at each part independently. We must find the synergistic alchemy and interdependence of all of the elements of our lives if we are to live well, if we are to live in harmony with each other and with our environment.

And with that realization fresh in his heart, Dziadek went home to share his thoughts and insights with his dear wife. Anastasia listened thoughtfully to her husband, smiled and said. “Indeed, my dear heart. It is good to know that a tomato is a fruit. It is wise to know that it does not belong in a fruit salad. Even as we learn the nature of each, we must also understand the relationship of one to another and to all. And that my dear is the heart of true alchemy.”

And they did indeed live happily ever after.


The inspiration for this story came from Roger Darlinton’s blog, http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/

Reality, art or

Back in Europe in the late 1950’s a woman was riding in the first class cabin of a train in Spain. She was chanting to herself, “the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.” She rode along chanting that line over and over trying to remember where she had heard it before.

As she chanted, the gentleman who was sharing the cabin with her looked up and said, “My fair lady, May I ask what you are singing?”

At that the woman burst out laughing, because of course she was chanting a line from a song from the very musical, “My Fair Lady.” After she regained her composure she explained her laughter and the song to the gentleman. As she was speaking to him, the woman looked more carefully at the gentleman and realized that she was speaking to Pablo Picasso the great artist.  The woman gathered up her courage and said to the great master, “Senior Picasso, I know that you are a great artist, so perhaps you can help me to understand a bit about modern art. Why is your art so distorted? Why don’t you just paint reality as it is rather than distorting it so?”

Senior Picasso hesitated for a few moments and then asked her, Madame, may I ask, what do you think reality looks like?”

The woman took out her wallet and pulled out a picture of her husband. “Senior, I believe that reality looks much like this. This is my dear husband.”

Senior Picasso took the photograph, looked at it, and smiled. “Really? He is so very small. And flat, too.”

Adapted from Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (New York Penguin, 2010) page 2. By way of Wisdom Stories to Live by

So then, what is reality? What is art? In the play, “the search for signs of intelligent life in the universe” Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner invite the audience to distinguish between art and soup, by holding up a can of Campbell’s tomato soup and an Andy Warhol painting of a can of Campbell’s tomato soup. Reality surly must mean more than a simple two-dimensional snapshot of the world, even though the snapshot may be true. And yet, how often do we live our lives basing our understanding of reality on snapshots of life that we hold in our mind. And so, in the spirit of Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, let us all remember, that reality is nothing but a collective hunch and it is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.  In the spirit of good mental health may our connection with reality be light and light hearted.

The wandering woman wizard, the inn and happy trails

Once upon a time in a place of magic and truthfulness, a place far away from today’s world and very near to our hearts, a wandering woman wizard of great girth and grit knocked with great gusto on the doors of the local palace.  The woman entered the palace, and marched right into the throne room where the king and queen were seated in their weekly audience with the town’s people.

The queen looked at the woman and asked her, “what is it that you want, woman?”

And the wandering woman wizard answered, “A place to sleep in this inn.”

The queen responded, “This is no inn, this is our palace.”

“Your Queenship, may I ask who owned this place before you?”

And the queen replied, “My mother. She is dead.”

And who owned this place before her?”

And the queen replied, “My grandmother. She is dead as well.”

The wandering woman wizard replied, “so, you describe this palace as a place where people lodge for a brief while and move on – is that not an inn?”

With thanks to Anthony de Mello and Paul Brian Campbell.

Indeed, what is it that we all want but a safe place to lay our heads and find some rest when we are tired? We are all looking for a safe have, a safe home, a place where we are known and loved.

Every now and again, I think it is a good idea to remember that we are all strangers in a strange land, pilgrims who may or may not be making progress.  What a grace and joy it is when we find a special someone to travel with for a while.

And, with Nell Morton, let us all remember that the journey is indeed our home. There is no particular there that we should be getting to, no grand goal to be attained. There is here and now, this moment, this very precious moment as we all travel along on our journeys.

So, as we all travel along, at the end of each day’s journey may we each find a warm and welcoming inn. May we each travel in the company of someone who knows and cherished us even with our tatters, someone who we know and cherish as well. May we all travel paths that lead us to places of wisdom and compassion.

To one and all,

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.

And, since I am in the mood and am remembering Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, here are the Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules:

  1. Be neat and clean.
  2. Be courteous and polite.
  3. Always obey your parents.
  4. Protect the weak and help them.
  5. Be brave but never take chances.
  6. Study hard and learn all you can.
  7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.
  8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
  9. Love deeply and take time to feel awe in nature.
  10. Always respect all cultures and wisdom traditions.

(ok, so I tweaked a few of them, by and large they are still pretty good rules for traveling buckaroos.)


We are so lucky

We have all made it through the crazy hecticness of the holidays. We’ve started a new year.  Life is sweet. Or at least it should be. But then many folks are back to work with too many demands pulling in too many directions.  Sometimes we just need to be reminded to take a deep breath, to inhale, exhale … and repeat as necessary.  I found this story. It invited me to smile.  It invited me to take a deep breath, to inhale, exhale and repeat even as I smiled. Because if we are still breathing, we are so lucky.


“Honey, would you drop the kids off at school this morning? I’ve got a lot of shopping to do and errands to run.”

“Well, dear, I’ve got a pretty hectic day myself (sigh) …  OK I’ll do it.  But hurry, up kids!”

So Dad and his children jump into the car and they’re off. The busy father glances at his watch. “Why is traffic so slow this morning? Certainly people should drive safely, not speed, but this little old man in front of us must be sight-seeing! I’ll pass him as soon as I can… take a short cut maybe … Oh, no!!”

Wouldn’t you know it! The car approaches a railroad crossing just as the lights begin to flash and the safety gate comes down. Dad’s first thought: “Darn it! We’re going to be held up by a train and be late.”

So, as Dad is fuming in the front seat, anxiously tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, reviewing, in his mind, how to make up some time … a sweet, childish voice calls out from the backseat: “Daddy, Daddy, we’re so lucky! We get to watch the train go by!”

Source | Based on a story told by Jerry Braza, Moment by Moment
(Tuttle Publishing,1997) page 3


Awareness of the present moment is always a wonderful reminder to stop and enjoy what the journey has to offer along the way. Often the “now”, called by some “the sacrament of the present moment” or “the Sacrament of the blessed present”, is filled with many gifts if we have the eyes to see, the ears to really listen.

From Philip Chircop’s Wisdom Stories to Live by



I am NOT a morning person. I am just not. I need several hours of quiet to get myself awake and oriented to the day. Then I can usually be civil to people. Well, at least most days I can. So, when I found these two poems each of which celebrates morning in its own way, for some odd, ironic reason they profoundly resonated with me. They called me out to find my own sense of dignity a bit more expeditiously. So, I thought I would share them with you. Hope you enjoy!


Morning From Deng Ming-Dao’s 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

 All we need is the morning. As long as there is sunrise we can face all our misfortunes, celebrate our blessings, and live all our endeavors. Acknowledge the mystery of night and the glory of morn­ing. Life begins with dawn, that is blessing enough. All else is fullness immeasurable.

 Greet the dawn. This is your miracle to witness. This is the ultimate beauty. This is sacredness. This is your gift from heaven. This is your omen of prophesy. This is knowledge that life is not futile. This is enlightenment. This is the meaning of life. This is your directive. This is your comfort. This is the solemnity of duty. This is inspiration for compassion. This is the light of the ultimate.

 I arise, facing East by Mary Austin

 I arise, facing East,

I am asking toward the light;

I am asking that the day

Shall be beautiful with light.

I am asking that the place

Where my feet are shall be bright,

That as far as I can see

I shall follow it aright.

I am asking for the courage

To go forward through the shadow,

I am asking toward the light!



Fools or the Wisdom of the Innocent

The Sioux people tell the story of a woman and her husband who had one daughter. The mother and daughter were deeply attached to one another with the love that comes from shared work and stories and the open hearted love of innocence. When the daughter died the mother was inconsolable. She cut off her hair, cut gashes in her cheeks and sat before the corpse with her robe drawn over her head, mourning for her dead daughter in the traditional way. In the depth of her grief, the mother would let no one touch the body to take it to a burying scaffold. She had a knife in her hand, and if anyone offered to come near the body the mother would wail:

“I am weary of life. I do not care to live. I will stab myself with this knife and join my daughter in the land of spirits.”

Her husband and relatives tried to get the knife from her, but could not. They feared to use force lest she kill herself. They came together to see what they could do.

“We must get the knife away from her,” they said.

After a time, a young boy of the village came to the tent of the grieving woman. He was an orphan and very poor, and was regarded as a bit of a fool by others. His moccasins were out at the sole and he was dressed in wei-zi (coarse buffalo skin, smoked). He said to her close relatives, “I will go into the tent and get the knife away from her.”

The others did not believe that he could accomplish this, but they were at a loss and did not know what else to try, so they gave him their permission to enter the tent to see what he might do.

The boy went to the tent and sat down at the door as if waiting to be given something. The corpse lay in the place of honor where the dead girl had slept in life. The body was wrapped in a rich robe and wrapped about with ropes. Friends had covered it with rich offerings out of respect to the dead.

As the mother sat on the ground with her head covered she did not at first see the boy, who sat silent. But when his reserve had worn away a little he began at first lightly, then more heavily, to drum on the floor with his hands. After a while he began to sing a comic song. Louder and louder he sang until carried away with his own singing he sprang up and began to dance, at the same time gesturing and making all manner of contortions with his body, still singing the comic song. As he approached the corpse he waved his hands over it in blessing. The mother put her head out of the blanket and when she saw the poor simpleton with his strange grimaces trying to do honor to the corpse by his solemn waving, and at the same time keeping up his comic song, she watched for a while, and then after some time she burst out laughing. She laughed until she began to cry. Then she reached over and handed her knife to the simpleton.

“Take this knife,” she said. “You have taught me to forget my grief. If while I mourn for the dead I can still be mirthful, there is no reason for me to despair. I no longer care to die. I will live for my husband.”

The simpleton left the tepee and brought the knife to the astonished husband and relatives.

“How did you get it? Did you force it away from her, or did you steal it?” they said.

“She gave it to me. How could I force it from her or steal it when she held it in her hand, blade uppermost. I sang and danced for her and she burst out laughing. Then she gave it to me,” he answered.

When the old men of the village heard the orphan’s story they were very silent. It was a strange thing for a lad to dance in a tepee where there was mourning. It was stranger that a mother should laugh in a tepee before the corpse of her dead daughter. The old men gathered at last in a council. They sat a long time without saying anything, for they did not want to decide hastily. The pipe was filled and passed many times. At last an old man spoke.

“We have a hard question. A mother has laughed before the corpse of her daughter, and many think she has done foolishly, but I think the woman did wisely. The lad was simple and of no training, and we cannot expect him to know how to do as well as one with good home and parents to teach him. Besides, he did the best that he knew. He danced to make the mother forget her grief, and he tried to honor the corpse by waving over it his hands.”

“The mother did right to laugh, for when one does try to do us good, even if what he does causes us discomfort, we should always remember the motive rather than the deed. And besides, the boy’s dancing saved the woman’s life, for she gave up her knife. In this, too, she did well, for it is always better to live for the living than to die for the dead. It is good to honor the dead, it is necessary to live on for the living.”


From McLaughlin, Marie L. (1916) who shared this story in honor of her mother Mary Graham Buisson from whom she first heard this story.


I like this story for so many reasons:

When I first read it through, inevitably I find myself smiling. And then as I breathe I find myself remembering the lesson to remember to see the good wishes that are so often nestled within the actions of others.

And then I remember the teaching that everyone is our teacher, and when the student is ready the teacher will be there which reminds me that even if the other person might not have had the friendliest of motives, there is still a good lesson in all of life’s encounters – if only I will pause long enough to find it and learn.

And then I remember the importance of honoring the dead and of living for the living – Ah, remember the Mother Jones quote, “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” And so in love and laughter, let’s all go forward to live our lives like there will be no tomorrow, like there is eternity in the joy of now.