Natural World Category

Hope Too

Hope Too

I had almost given up hope …

I am not a morning person, never have been. When I was a preteen, I was gifted a night shirt which was embossed with an image of the Disney dwarf, Grumpy, along with the words, “I don’t like mornings,” or some such phrase.

Because I am a slow riser, I do not like to do anything that breaks the morning stillness and quiet, like talking. I do, however, enjoy the sounds of nature as I arise and begin my day.

Ever since Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of six more weeks of winter this year—2022—I have been eagerly anticipating the returning birds’ tweets, twitters, and chirps.

I was really concerned that the avifauna population had taken a hit due to dining on pesticide poisoned cicadas last year. When Polly and I took our morning walks, the bird song chorus did not seem as robust as in past years.

This morning, that changed.

Dawn was just breaking and the full moon was setting as we set out. Immediately I could tell the difference. The air was reverberant with the sing-song chorus of birds galore and I was overjoyed to experience their choral performance.

Have you been feeling overwhelmed lately? I have.

I had my thyroid removed in January due to cancer and have been enduring some long-term detrimental side effects of the antibiotics I was given during and after surgery. My gut health, or lack thereof, is wreaking havoc with my bodily functions. Between that and my body’s response to processing the synthetic thyroid hormones, I am not sure what ‘normal’ is anymore.

Not only is my body under assault but so is my mind and heart when I watch the news and see the images coming out of Ukraine, or read about the Republicans’ eleven-point plan to rescue America. Both are equally despicable!

The Republican party appears to desire the United States to return to pre-WWI isolationism by denying that we are an interconnected, interdependent world where isolationism simply will not work without detrimental results to its citizens – i.e. China, Russia.

They glorify the misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic Americana of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s where might was white, women “knew their place,” and no one other than white, cisgender, heterosexual males had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

They promote a religion that has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus and propagate policies that stand in direct contrast to the God they claim to love.

They idolize the man who thinks Putin is smart and savvy, as well as Putin himself.

Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy … Tucker Carlson’s lies … Ted Cruz’s infantile egomania …


But I digress …

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow nor reap nor store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

In the context of the Sermon on the Mount from which this verse is taken, Jesus is talking about worrying. He continues by telling his listeners to “see how the flowers of the field grow.”

Worrying aside, I love that Jesus tells us to look at the birds and to see the flowers. Many of his stories and parables include examples of nature. It is like he is saying the earth itself is where we should turn whenever we are overwhelmed with cares and trauma. The feminine incarnate grounds us and sets us aright.

“Have you not seen
that God
created the heavens and Earth
in truth?
He created all things through His
adorned them through His knowledge,
and governed them
through His wisdom.
Thus, the one who contemplates
the Creator
through the creation,
the wonders of the creation
will become apparent.
But to the one
who contemplates the creation
through the Creator,
the traces of His omnipotence,
the lights of His wisdom
and the extent and profundity
of His workmanship
… will be unveiled. “
– Sahl al- Tustari

By marveling at creation, we can take comfort in the knowledge that everything serves a greater purpose.

 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” John 16:33

Lessons from a Dog

Lessons from a Dog

Two weeks ago, I adopted a dog.

Ten-years-old, she is a tri-color Tree Hound/Beagle mix. Found as a stray in Lewisburg, WV, she was brought to Hagerstown, MD, by an organization called For Otis Sake. The adoption agency felt she would have a better chance of finding a permanent home farther north where hounds are not “a dime a dozen.”

It has been over forty years since I owned a dog, Dolly, and seven plus years since I last had a pet—Mooch, a 26-pound ginger tabby cat, love blob. Both easily stole my heart and left me a broken mess when they made the journey across the ‘rainbow bridge.’

Polly is her name or at least the name given to her by her foster parents. I have asked Polly what her true name is—the one given to her at birth–but she has yet to confide in me.

She is super sweet, very gentle, a real cuddle bug; and oh, my goodness, she has the softest ears!

Oh, I have tried to teach her a few commands, but at 70 some in human years, she is pretty set in her ways—the quintessential “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” dog. In fact, I think I am learning way more from her than she is from me.

A heightened sense of smell makes life an adventure for her. As soon as we step outside for a walk, her nose immediately goes to ground, sniffing away. Tail wagging, butt waddling, she meanders back and forth across my path as we walk. Stubbornly stopping from time to time to do a nasal appraisal of what must be an intoxicating odor or determinedly tugging me forward because her snout caught a delicious distant scent; she is the walker and I the walkee.

I thought I lived in a relatively quiet neighborhood … that is until Polly moved in. Due to her keen hearing, I am now regularly alerted to apparent sounds and activities to which I either did not pay attention, took for granted or simply did not hear.

These notifications come in the form of howling, barking and baying. With hair literally standing on edge, head back, nose up, and craning neck, her warbles send me into hysterical fits of laughter. Once the perceived “danger” has passed, she puts her paws on my lap or at my waist and I tell her what a good girl she is as I gently and calmly stroke her ears and sides. Her wagging tail lets me know she is happy she protected me. She seized the moment—carpe diem!

Some of my favorite moments are when she is seated in my lap and leans back exposing her belly for a rub; or when I am crying, she is patiently and peacefully present with me. She is utter awareness.

What have I learned from her?

“… for in him we live and move and have our being …“ Acts 17:28

Of this mindfulness, she is my daily reminder

Whatever I do, wherever I go, all that I am, is IN awareness. At least I do the best I can to remain mindful of this most important precept because it is where everything begins and ends. There is no separation, only belief that I could be separate; that we could be separate.

Spending time with family or friends or in solitude; reading a book, baking cookies, doing chores; walking the dog, exercising, practicing yoga; watching the news, staying abreast of politics, social media; caring for the least, the last, the lost and the lonely; church activities, work, hobbies/sports; traveling, conversing, writing, praying, meditating … there isn’t anything we do that isn’t IN the Divine.

“Lo, I am with you always.”

Hope Too


The word du jour is unfathomable.

As defined by Oxford Languages, unfathomable means “incapable of being fully explored or understood; (of water or a natural feature) impossible to measure the extent of.”

“Impossible to measure the extent of” …

The number of dead due to COVID-19 is unfathomable, as is the number of those infected with the virus.  Those numbers do not include the innumerable grieving family members nor the completely exhausted front-line workers–utterly unfathomable.  Mr. Trump’s stupidity, sheer volume of lies, and depths of degrading debauchery is unfathomable, as is the fact that there are still individuals willing to vote for him.

Is the election only two weeks away? This also seems unfathomable considering it was just eight months ago that this pandemic began and four years ago that he was first elected.

I was still teaching at the time and I distinctly remember sitting in a curriculum meeting with my fellow Social Studies teachers commiserating over the election results—the majority of us having voted for Mrs. Clinton. In her shock, a colleague noticed how calm I was and asked how I could be so “Zen.” Naively, I said, “we made it through eight years of Bush.” In retrospect, my lack of awareness and understanding of the consequences of what had just occurred is unfathomable.

I could not then fully imagine the extent of the complete desecration and destruction the US and the world would endure in every respect —globally to individually, microscopically to cosmically, in all conceivable ways–under Mr. Trump’s presidency. Our circumstances appear unrecoverable.

Yet …

I went outside very early this morning hoping to catch a glimpse of the Orionid meteor shower. As I watched the sky turn from deep shades of royal blue to aqua to turquoise, I noticed the darkened silhouette of a bird on the ridge of my neighbor’s roof. He was majestically facing east, honoring the sunrise. Then in one swift moment, he elegantly and decisively dove off the roof like a breathtaking cliff diver and flew out of sight.

I was undone by the unfathomable beauty of creation and wept from complete joy.

In his Good News narrative, Luke writes about the encounter between Mary and the angel Gabriel, where He explains to her that she will be supernaturally impregnated with a son and that her relative, Elizabeth, is also pregnant. Elizabeth is described as an “old woman” who appears to be reproductively challenged and well beyond normative child bearing years. After telling Mary this, Gabriel’s last statement is, “For with God, nothing is impossible.” Luke 1:37

Nothing is impossible because I Am is … unfathomable.

The following poem seems to sum up what I am trying to express today.

Before being born into the world of time,
The silence of pre-existence was all absorbing.
The transition from eternity to time
Is full of sufferings, fears, and little deaths.
But, in the transition from death
To eternal life,
The silence of pre-existence
Bursts into boundless joy.
All that can be manifested emerges
From the endless creativity of
That Which Is.
The Secret Embrace
The Source of all creation
Infinite Transcendence
Never be revealed.

—Thomas Keating, “The Secret Embrace”



The desk where I sit to read my Bible in the mornings is situated near a window that overlooks my backyard. Easily seen from this window is the birdfeeder built by my grandfather hanging from a black metal pole and the bird bath that once belonged to my grandmother.

I was reading from the Torah book of Leviticus when I became distracted by the antics of a squirrel at the hopper. As much as I tried to concentrate on God’s laws and festivals that Moses was describing, I just could not stay focused due to the hilarious activities outside my window.

Squirrels are amazing creatures. Because they can rotate their ankles 180 degrees, they can point their hind paws backwards which enables them to climb down trees head first. This ability also comes in handy for hanging off feeder ridges upside down while eating with their front paws, which is what my little friend was doing.

While the feeder gently swung back and forth ever so slightly, my furry suspended friend nibbled away. Something must have startled him because he did this monumental swirling acrobatic flip from the feeder into the nearby Crepe Myrtle bush. As I watched him fly and then tumble through the limbs of the bush, I was scared he would become impaled on one of the branches. Thankfully he landed safely and after a brief second to make sure the coast was clear, he excitedly scurried across the ground, easily scaling the thin iron pole to the nirvana-inducing smorgasbord.

I went back to reading about the year of Jubilee, the day of Atonement, and other sacred offerings when I was struck by God’s holiness. As I tried to reconcile the awe-rendering holiness of God in the Torah to the warmth and all-encompassing love of Jesus, the grayish-brown circus rodent continued his stunts.

He was once again draped topsy-turvy on the feeder when a huge Blue Jay swooped down like the Red Barron attacking Snoopy landing on the platform edge. This action immediately caused Squirrelly to frantically bail and retreat. I laughed out loud.

The juxtaposition of my trying to read what seems like a serious book in the Bible to the bushy-tailed escapades occurring outside my window appeared to mirror my inner musings of trying to resolve seemingly contrasting ideas about God.

Squirrelly was just too entertaining, so I closed my Bible and enjoyed the divine circus unfolding before my eyes. Several Cardinals came and went as well as my first ever sighting of a Carolina Chickadee. I was pleasantly surprised to see a remaining Robin mixing with the troop of Sparrows that socialize in the close-at-hand Spirea Bush. The Blue Jay had departed and Squirrelly, now earth bound, was feasting on the fallen seeds.

Have you ever noticed that squirrels look like they are praying when they eat? By using both their front paws to hold food to their mouth, they maintain a sacred posture of gratitude and peace.

I never did come to any mind bending conclusions about God and Her holiness.  What is there to reconcile when a praying squirrel inspires as much awe as any sacred writing? Sometimes you just have to stop and watch the squirrels.



“We are human beings not human doings.” Dalai Lama

Had it not been for the pandemic, I might not have taken the opportunity to genuinely watch and listen to the seasons change. Living on the east coast of the United States, I have been observant of and awed by the distinct seasonal shifts over time. However, the noticing is more subtle and acute.

For much of the last 40+ years, I have been preoccupied with consumerism—doing and consuming, rather than mindful contemplation. Careers, materialism, raising a family, clubs, volunteering, church, school, sports—none of which are wrong in and of themselves, but can be when we allow any or all to become all-consuming.

Since moving in with my father towards the end of winter, I have been keenly aware of the sights and sounds of cyclical variations. The relative silence of winter beautifully contrasts the birdsongs of Spring. Have you noticed how loud tweeting birds are as they sing to attract their mates? Then as Spring gave way to Summer, the chirping of grasshoppers, crickets and cicadas picked up the melody. What will the sounds of fall be, I wonder?

My mother loved flowers and I would not be surprised if the following was by design on her part–since spring there is always some plant blooming. First to erupt were Hyacinths and Irises; yellow, lavender, and purple blossoms bursting forth. Some of the purple Irises were so dark, they looked iridescently black—absolutely gorgeous.

After the Irises faded pink Cora Bells, White Lilacs, Peonies and various lilies cascaded through her flower beds. As they began to pass, Snapdragons and Resurrection Lilies flowered and have now given way here in late summer to the flowering Butterfly and Crepe Myrtle bushes.

The family of Robins that nested under the porch have flown the coop as well as two broods of cute Carolina Wrens. Delighted by their antics, I miss their winged presence. But I now find myself keeping company with graceful Monarch Butterflies and hovering Dragonflies that frequent the yard.

Gone for four years, my mother left a true living legacy for me and others to enjoy.

“The quote, “Stop and smell the roses,” is often attributed to golfer Walter Hagen in the 1956 book “The Walter Hagen Story” but he didn’t mention roses. The quote: “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.

In these days and times, there is much that one could worry about. Perhaps the idea of stopping to smell the roses is not just about “being” but about receiving a gift, whatever the gift may be.

Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose … Romans 8:28

“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry.  And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

Open your heart.  Receive.  Be.

Photography Hobby

Photography Hobby

When I am feeling down in the dumps, one of the things that brings me great peace and calm is photography. I picked up this hobby after my mother died four years ago. Hospice of the Panhandle offered a course called Grief Through the Lens of Love. This class was just what I needed to process my grief and move forward in that ongoing journey.

I am not very good photographer, just lucky. I have read a few books on the subject, but for me it is not about the end result, it is about the process. I enjoy the quiet solitude of looking, observing, and waiting–the meditative watchfulness.

This morning I was sitting on my back porch looking at the birds, when a beautiful American Goldfinch landed on one of my 15 sunflowers. I was so excited, I moved too quickly and scared him away, much to my dismay. Not a minute later a dainty hummingbird paid a visit to the same sunflower. I missed that shot too.

I did, however, get some delightful close ups of several bees pollinating my sunflowers. I was completely fascinated and enthralled with one bee in particular as he slowly and meticulously crawled around the disc florets. My patience paid off when I actually got a picture of one bee in flight—it was so cool!

Later my attention was drawn to the sparrows and Brown-headed Cowbirds gathered in the birdbath. I took a bunch of snap shots of them bathing—it was hilarious. Those images do not look like much, but I thoroughly enjoyed viewing them bathe and found myself giggling out loud at their antics.

These are difficult times in which we are living and maybe it is okay, if not absolutely necessary, for us to slow down and take pleasure in God’s creation in order to restore our heart and soul.

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. Her book Devotions sits on my desk with many pages dog-eared and verses underlined which have deeply touched my inner being. I conclude this post with her poem entitled “Invitation.”

Oh do you have time
      to linger
          for just a little while
               out of your busy

and very important day
      for the goldfinches
          that have gathered
                in the field of thistles

for a musical battle,
      to see who can sing
           the highest note,
                or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
      or the most tender?
           Their strong, blunt beaks
                drink the air

as they strive
           not for your sake
                and not for mine

and nor for the sake of winning
      but for sheer delight and gratitude—
           believe us, they say,
                it is a serious thing

. . .

just to be alive
      on this fresh morning
           in this broken world.
                I beg of you,

do not walk by
      without pausing
           to attend to this
                rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
      It could mean everything.
           It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.