Inspire. October.

Standard

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

St. Francis of Assisi

I was happy to find the above quotation in my collection for today since today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. He is well known for his love of animals; in fact, many churches do blessings of animals during this weekend of his feast including my own parish. He is the patron of animals, merchants, and ecology and is known to have set up the first live nativity scene around the year 1220.

I would recommend reading the English translation of Canticle of the Sun, which Francis composed and by the same token I’d highly recommend reading Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si as well as the book based on that encyclical, Our Common Home by my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath.

In devotion to our common home and its care as well as his concern for the poor, Pope Francis took that name as his Papal name in 2013. It is the first time a Pope has been called Francis, and truly speaks to the heart of our current pope and brings on much inspiration to do for others in many ways.


Labyrinth at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Public Library.
(c)2021

The above photo is of my most recent labyrinth walk. Located behind the library in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada, it is placed in serene, pastoral setting, surrounded by grass, trees, and a farm in the distance. There was the opportunity to walk it, pray the walk, and then to sit just taking in the space around me. There was a vegetable garden, a gazebo, and a court for lawn bowling. If my family wasn’t waiting for me in the car, I could have stayed there at least an additonal hour. I may plan on them dropping me off for a bit longer the next time we’re in the area.

It was a very hot day, but once I settled onto the marble bench after my walk, I was able to feel the breeze, letting it cool me off while I contemplated the bucolic area. Despite sitting relatively still, I felt energized and inspired, and all I wanted to do was to sit and write for a bit. That is one of the reasons that I always carry pen and paper, although in this case, I left it in the car bringing only my mask and my phone camera.

When I first saw the shape of this labyrinth online about two years ago it seemed an unusual shape. Upon seeing it in person, I realized that the shape itself wasn’t unusual or the design, but the way the turns were so sharp with acute angles. For me, it created the feeling of looking inside a keyhole or walking through the inside of a keyhole like a miniature person, Elves and the Shoemaker style.

As I said in yesterday’s reflection, I like falling headfirst into the photos and letting myself be inspired as if I had returned to the original place of the photo.


What inspires you?


Library Gardens. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Public Library.
(c)2021
I could have sat all day here, writing and looking out of the window.
(c)2021

Inspire. September.

Standard

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.  

Maya Angelou

New Writing Space for the next six weeks. (c)2021

Vacation’s over. School’s begun. The Jewish Holidays have come and gone without nary a new goal or resolution in sight. First therapy session of the new season is in the books. And what do I have to show for it?

It’s not nothing, but I honestly don’t know.

The monthly greeting: How are you doing always feels like a trick question. If I’m fine, am I fine? If I’m okay, why am I here in the first place? Will I actually say what’s really on my mind?

*shrug*

I don’t know. Somehow, I muddle through another session, sometimes wondering why I still come. I’m not suicidal. My anxiety is under control. It is more than the familiarity and routine of it. Part of it, I know, is that having it on my calendar gives me something positive to look forward to. If I have moments of struggle or lows, I see the appointment on the calendar and it gets me through; I know it will be okay until the next time. It gives me something to strive for. Could I get through the month without this one hour? Maybe. But why risk it?

It’s a safe place. We all need them. Big, small, in public or private, look around for yours.

The fall is the beginning of my year. Will it remain so when my kids are entirely finished with school? That day is sadly growing closer, and I both dread it (for me) and relish it (for them). I also have so many ideas. So much to write about. Places I’ve traveled that I want to share about, both as reflections and travel advisories, advice, and photos. I have ideas for new series, new columns, new book ideas. I have ideas to expand my Facebook page for those of you on FB. I even have a list of prayers to write.

My six week memoir class has begun again. The library is sponsoring it, and even though they won’t let us in the library (a change since we registered), they have found us a pavilion in a local park that really gives off a super creative writing vibe. We’re gathering with some people who we haven’t seen in two years. We’re missing a long time friend who died last year (not Covid related). Hopefully, it remains warm enough for the six weeks we’ll be outside, but cool enough to keep the mosquitoes dormant. For those of us who’ve been meeting in the park for the last year, this weather is a piece of cake. The library provided clipboards and the teacher brought cushions for the picnic tables. I brought my own chair but I may swipe one of those cushions next week.

Our ongoing park-meeting group has a new inside place to meet – the local fire house!

I’m hoping all of these writing groups with assignments will inspire me for the rest of the fall and into the new year to come.

Back to School Resources

Standard

I saved the following quotation from Stephen King for a future writing post, but I think it’s also quite appropriate for Back to School as well.

The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.

Stephen King

The very first resource I would recommend is Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style . I have the e-book on my Kindle and it is worth every penny whichever way you choose to purchase it. I’m waiting with bated breath for the next edition from Benjamin Dreyer. I have gotten through this year by daily tearing off the pages of his Day-to-Day Calendar.

Hat tip to Mr. Dreyer himself for most of these recommendations. The first two are my own.

Is today a holiday? It could be National Cheeseburger Day. Find out here: National Day Archives

What’s another word for…? Synonyms would be the bane of my existence without this site: Thesaurus

When was the sunrise on September 15, 1938? Was that a Saturday? Find out here: Time and Date

Mr. Dreyer’s Go-To Dictionary: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary

M-W Online

@MerriamWebster on Twitter

The Free Dictionary (online)

Election Connection Special Edition:

Standard

The Texas Abortion Ban

The Conservative Justices’ Reasoning in the Texas Abortion Case is Legal Mansplaining

This brilliant piece by Slate writer, Dahlia Lithwick is a must read by everyone who calls themselves pro-choice and those who don’t. The idea that the people crying ‘our body, our choice’ over masks are the same ones brutally stomping on the bodies of pregnant people. Stomping is not an exaggeration.

This law is unconstitutional, but somewhat more importantly it is unconscionable. We should be protecting women, transmen, and CHILDREN who find themselves pregnant and unready, for whatever reason, and not forcing them to give birth.

We must remember these draconian laws and constant attempts at controlling our reproduction and our bodies at every election moving forward. GET OUT THE VOTE. Each and every election.

Read the entire article, but this quote from Lithwick really brought it home for me.

The inevitable answer is chilling: This isn’t about guns or speech or money or war. It’s about women, their lives and their bodies and their autonomy. That’s what allows you to do shoddy work, with careless disregard, because who’s going to stop you? You only do the thing in the dead of night, without care or effort, because you believe women are so used to being gaslit that you expect them to just tolerate it. You only do the thing in the dead of night without care or effort because you genuinely believe that they’re only women, and they deserve what they get.

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

Inspire. August.

Standard

August can be a tough month. Summer is both at its peak and winding down. Back to School is far off, and yet just around the corner. It’s too hot for home maintenance especially in the garage and basement as my husband wants to focus on. For our family, it’s time to get ready for our annual vacation as we stress about covid – getting it and not getting it but having our vacation canceled as so many others are having happen. There is also GISH. The annual, Guinness Book of World Record-holding scavenger hunt is about a third of the way complete, and while I can’t share actual items, I have four things that you can do at your own home that are inspirational and GISH-adjacent. But first:

“Education must, then, be not only a transmission of culture but also a provider of alternative views of the world and a strengthener of the will to explore them.”

Jerome S. Bruner

This photo will be added to my post about my recent visit to a labyrinth. I went back and found these newly painted rocks as well as a new plant, a rainbow flag, a fallen tree branch, and a basket of bubbles.

It is a good reminder to revisit places because even in the shortest times, they will change; some for the better (new rocks) and some not so much (a bit of overgrowth).

However there is always something new to see if you just open your eyes, your heart, and observe the world around you.


Those four things I mentioned above:

1. Find a cloud in the sky that you like. What does it look like to you? Take a photo. Or draw it. Whatever you do, enjoy it.

2. Write a poem. Any topic.

3. What direction do you want to travel in today? Draw a compass and make a map, like a treasure map, but all your own. What (and where) is your buried treasure?

4. Do some good. Donate time or treasure. One good organization is Random Acts and a second is the ACLU.

Make good choices. Do good. Be kind. Create.

Inspire. Surprise.

Standard

The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

The kids will be out of school soon. Things are winding down just as the world is winding back up. People are talking about the return of Broadway, In The Heights is in theatres, and I’m considering going…TO…A…THEATRE. (Practice for Black Widow, which I’ve been informed we WILL see in theatres in a few weeks.) Vacations are being planned, and we may actually see our cousins for Thanksgiving.

With all that taken into consideration, I decided to give myself a morning. Take a short drive and visit one of our local labyrinths. The temperature was a perfect seventy-six degrees.

The labyrinth itself is nestled in a quiet park on a quiet street in a sleepy Victorian former Methodist camp village. The roads are narrow and people drive a little too fast going from one end of town to the other. There is small parking area and the park is a field of grass with several trees that houses the birds and squirrels. It’s very Disney Princess-y.

My plan was to walk the labyrinth, pray parts of it, and sit on one of the benches for a few minutes in the quiet; give myself a little time and space before the summer heat makes that less possible.

When I arrived I could see from a distance that something was slightly different. Some of the rocks that form the labyrinth looked odd, larger, shinier; they really stood out from a distance. The closer I got, the more my eyes widened with surprise at what I found. Much of the labyrinth’s rocks had been replaced, repositioned, new soil beneath them, and some of the rocks making the path had been painted with a variety of things – a Scripture verse, a saying, a bumper sticker sounding Love Wins, all matter of animals and insects, Celtic knots, flowers, and symbols. One rock even had a photograph of two men attached to it. There was a pinwheel and new, bursting with color potted plants.

I walked through, marveling at the changes, at the brightness of the painted rocks, and I took several pictures. Once I reached the center of the labyrinth, I stepped out and spent ten minutes on the bench facing the labyrinth (even though my eyes were closed most of the time) letting myself attempt centering prayer with rocks for my mind’s focus.

There were still a few more left to rejuvenate and I look forward to returning in a couple of weeks to find what other surprises are in store.


The Labyrinth that is Full of Surprises. One.
(c)2021
The Labyrinth that is Full of Surprises. Two.
(c)2021
The Labyrinth that is Full of Surprises. Three.
(c)2021

Inspire. April.

Standard

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.

– NIDO QUBEIN

As I contemplated this month’s Inspire post I began with the discovery of this quotation, which led me to the three photos that appear below.

I think this quotation is perfect for this time of year, especially in this second year of pandemic as things are slowly returning to some semblance of normal. Some of us have been lost in a fog of uncertainty and some of us remain in that fog as we await our turns for vaccines, for the return of jobs, the new rules for openings, community gatherings as it becomes safer, and yet, we still wear masks (as we should), we still wash our hands frequently and use hand sanitizer (as we absolutely should), we continue to maintain our distance (as we should), and we’re in a space of feeling the year is passing us by (again).

We need to look at our present circumstances, and then start.

The Easter season is upon us, spring is springing up all around us, Ramadan begins this evening. It’s as if a new year is dawning, and there’s no reason not to treat this time as a new year, setting goals, making choices, smelling the flowers on a few new paths.

The photos below are three places I never expected to be. Having taken the photos is proof that I was actually in those places, but to me it still remains extraordinary that I was actually, physically there. Gazing at these three photos show me the magic that can happen and the magic that is inherently in a place.

The first photo is of Glenariff Falls in Northern Ireland. We found it quite by accident while looking for a place to eat – there is a restaurant behind where I was standing to take the photo. What was remarkable is that our cousins had given us directions to this very place, only we hadn’t realized it until after we’d eaten and went to look for the falls they’d recommended. These woods have a fairy feel and there are reminders of fairies throughout them including in the falls themselves. It was very peaceful and soothing just standing and watching the water fall from the top.

Northern Ireland.
(c)2017-2021

This second photo is just a road sign; however I was glad to get it when we couldn’t get to the town. We were running late to get to our hotel, still about an hour or more away, and it was raining, and at the beginning of a trip we always think there is more time to return than there really is. The sign depicts the longest town name, shortened for the sign as: Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll; also known as LlanfairPG, but known in its full glory as:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrnwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Small town, long name.

Ynys Mon, North Wales.
(c)2017-2021

This last photo is of the Menai Suspension Bridge. We drove across it from the island of Angelsey (known as Ynys Mon in Welsh) to get to mainland Wales and on to our destination. When I traveled alone to Wales in 2009 this bridge was the source of my greatest anxiety. I had truly wanted to go to Angelsey; I had heard of its beauty and there was an ancient cairn that I wanted to visit, but I could not make myself drive over this bridge. I could see it from my hostel along the Menai Strait, and I thought about for the entire three days I stayed there. I’d walk out to the Promenade and stare at the water below the stone wall, and then stare down the strait at this bridge. Every time I thought I might I didn’t. I just couldn’t do it.

As with the ferry that got me to Wales in 2017, this bridge got me to the mainland where I could complete my pilgrimage. I wasn’t driving, but it was still a monumental achievement and it’s part of one of the places that I started.

This mid-April is another new starting point.

Menai Suspension Bridge, Ynys Mon to Bangor.
(c)2017-2021

Inspire. March.

Standard

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

— John Milton, English philosopher

Original. (c)2021
Inspired by the following art:
Ruth the Gleaner, Suzanne Moore, Copyright 2010, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA. 

I was too sick last week to publish this month’s Inspire post. I didn’t have anything come to me for inspiration, which to be honest, is usually how it goes. Either a quotation or a picture – something starts the post off in my mind, but not this time.

As I kept staring at the continually postponed space in the planner, nothing came, and as I recovered a few days later, I spent time catching up on everything I’d missed.

And still, the idea of gratefulness kept returning to mind. Lent has a way of turning thoughts inward. More praying, more meditating, more contemplation, and yes, more gratitude. It is a quieter few weeks as we think on the journey to Easter and the Resurrection, and in the quiet, we are able to be with our thoughts and see the blessings and the gratitude that we often miss along the way in our cluttered minds.

Was it not doom-scrolling on Twitter, checking each morning that the world was still intact? I was certainly grateful for that.

Was it the covid relief money that our family received this weekend? I am very grateful for that. I paid all of my bills on Sunday. We’re even considering a home improvement, although that will take more discussion.

Was it teacher friends getting their vaccines?

Was it new Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, a brilliant, direct, honest representative of the Biden Admnistration? Watch her daily briefings and see what I mean.

Was it just the very idea of the Biden Administration being in charge? Waking up this morning to a quiet Twitter, the President visiting with his grandchildren at his family home and attending Sunday Mass? It’s certainly different.

This week, I’m filled with gratitude. For the researchers, the scientists, the doctors, the ongoing competence with the vaccine roll-out, and on a personal note for everyone I will encounter tomorrow at the vaccine site where I will be receiving my first dose!

With credit to the gratitude I feel to those who have gone before me, I will publish pictures and a listing of side effects (if any) that I encounter.

I feel very strongly that everyone who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated, and I also feel that everyone should have all of the information available to them. Side effects are individual and not everyone gets them. Knowing what you may expect before you go is the first step in moving past the pandemic year. It may sound cliche, but knowledge is power. I hope to add to your knowledge and I’d be grateful for your good thoughts and prayers.