A little family of birds…

thOregon junco

This morning, my husband and I walked to the corner to get a cup of coffee while work continues in our house. The weather has been cold for the Bay Area, and this morning as we walked, a few drops of rain actually fell to earth. Yes! A small offering in a time of drought.

We climbed the last hill to reach our place, where we walked alongside a lovely garden – the garden of the columbarium that is a landmark in our neighborhood. As we walked, we were joined by a hopping Oregon junco, who stayed just a few feet ahead of us. Then, we saw her dart into the vines that cover the wall of the city garden.

We walked along, commenting on how she did not seem to be afraid of us. Her brashness in the face of these giants surprised us! As we continued, she left the vines and flew up into the tree. Did she have babies in those vines? Was she protecting them?

We walked back a few steps and leaned over to peer into the vines. Yes, two tiny, tiny – tiny – baby Oregon juncos were hidden there. She had revealed their home to us! We thought we might hear her squawk, surely when we leaned over. But she flitted away to find food for the little ones.

What trust!
I suppose today is like any other day. I had several important meetings on my calendar,and my time with my husband this morning was a little gift in the day. I am so grateful that he is the kind of guy who thinks to notice a little bird, the kind of guy who wants to see into the nest, and the kind of guy who, after holding his breath for a few moments, suggests we move on, so as not to alarm babies or mother.

And I am grateful, also, for that holy moment, a moment when we were invited to gaze into another world – that small and frail and vulnerable world hidden beneath the vines. I am grateful to be alive today, to have seen that small gift – tiny, breathing, shaking baby birds.

No other moment today has been as rich as that moment. Thank you, Universe! Thank you, God! Thank you, All That Is! Thank you, thank you, thank you.


You are in my heart… e.e. cummings


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings


Sometimes I wonder about the ancestors.


Sometimes I think about the ones who came before me, without whose lives I would not be here.  Like many of you, I have spent hours on ancestry.com, looking for clues.  What were the names of those who went before me?  Where are they buried?  Who has followed in their lineage?  As the generations spread out beyond one another, so do the increasing numbers of cousins and second cousins and “once removed” relations.

Google it!  I have googled to learn the difference between a cousin  once-removed and a second cousin.  There is a difference!  I have googled my own last name, and the first and last names of my parents and grandparents, looking for clues.

But finding the facts is not the reason I wonder about the ancestors.  Of course, the facts are important.  The facts reveal where they lived and how they made their living.  The facts reveal that they left the land of their birth at some time to immigrate to another land.  The facts reveal that one died of cancer, another of a heart attack, another in an accident.

Still, discovering the facts is not the reason I wonder about the ancestors.  I am looking for something else.  I am looking for answers to why I am here, why I lived my life the way I did – and did not live my life in other ways.  I am looking for answers to connect myself to history, to my own personal history, and, in another way, to the history of the world.

I am turning the pages of personal history, looking at pictures and thinking about dates, to find something of myself in that personal history.  Why am I here at all?  Whose dream is it that I am here?  What stroke of history has brought me to this place?  What is the larger reason for my being here?

I am turning the pages of personal history, also, to discover my own part, my own culpability  in issues of the day.  I am searching for the reasons for my own hesitations, worries, choices.

From Family Systems Theory I know that patterns repeat themselves in families.  For example, one child is abused as a child, and in the next generation, another child, through remarkably similar conditions, is also abused.  In one generation, the eldest son goes to war, and never returns to the family.  In the next generation, or the generation after, the eldest son goes to war and never returns to the family.  In one generation, one child receives an education, and the others do not.  And it is eerily true in the next generation.

Shame runs through families, also.  Shame runs through the generations.  The shame may be based on different things, but there it is, seen in the eyes and the choices of the children.  Shame, it seems, comes to us when someone else tries to rid themselves of their shame.   They throw their shame onto us, and then it is ours.

Patterns, also, are part of who we are.  In my own searching, I look for those patterns to discover myself.  I turn the facts of history over and over, piecing them together like a patchwork fabric, looking at the parts that are beautiful and at those parts that are discordant.  I see how I fit into the pattern, and sometimes, although I am looking, I do not see.  I cannot see.  I am lost in my own searching.


Sometimes, over the years, something I have known forever becomes, in a particular moment, completely clear.  The truth – or my truth – about that event or person was always present, but it was not clear in my sight.  Then, I knew.

Sometimes, over the years, I shift blame from someone to someone else, as a way to make sense of my own history.  Sometimes, I shift blame from someone else to myself, and then I face a new story, a new reality.  How, then, do I live?


The ancestors are a source of interest to me, but the ancestors are so much more.  They are the reason for my being here, and they are the ones who unconsciously, brought me here.  I am their future.  They are my past.  We are connected, through blood and story and family and time.

I have learned that the ancestors will answer you, if you speak to them.  You will hear their voices again, you will see the expression on their faces.  You will see these things in the mirror, or you will hear their voice in your own.  They will tell you their story, if you speak to them, and then, if you listen.




“Will the circle be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by…” words by Carter A.P.

IMG_0646Verbena (verbena x hybrida)


Life as circles…

Have you observed how life seems to circle around? Maybe it does for you, maybe it doesn’t. I’m trying to wrap my mind around this way of looking at things as I get older.

As people grow older, they experience more and more loss. That is a fact of life. And when we experience a loss, we experience the circle of our lives seeming to grow smaller and smaller. At the same time, our memories of those we have lost, those we will never see again, circle into our minds from time to time. We see them again in our mind’s eye, and sometimes – if we are honest – we talk to them. Maybe we say the same things to them, things that have been circling around in our minds.

One day, the phone may ring and someone you have not spoken to in years will be calling. Our minds circle around to someone we have not thought about in years. We remember conversations, we remember feelings, and we experience those feelings again. The feelings circle around, they circle back to us. Like the ring on a merry-go-round, we are free to feel those feelings once again.

Several years ago, an important mentor of mine, the Rev. Harvey Stower, died. Harvey had listened, gently and patiently, to my growing awareness of an inner movement, a spiritual awakening. He listened and he encouraged me to leave my work in federal service to go to seminary – a dream I had held inside of me for a long time. He introduced me to Jesus, gently and without judgement: “If you can just think of Jesus as your friend,” as we stood under a night filled with stars in northern Wisconsin. Those simple words became a guide for me.

I had met Harvey when I was a lonely young woman in my 20’s, drifting through life, thrown about by the winds of social change and my own inner complexity and uncertainty. I was looking for a community, although I did not know it then. And so I searched. I began with books. I read about religions, not only Christianity, but other faiths. I rarely spoke to others about this search, but it continued, in spite of my ordinary outer life. Then, I began to go to church! I went to many churches one time. When I was not acknowledged, when I saw that my life space was different from the people I saw there, I did not return.

Then, because of the kindness of one “older” woman (Verdell, I am sure you were the age I am now!), I was gently invited to meet Harvey.

When Harvey died, I debated for days about whether to return to the Midwest for his funeral. Finally, encouraged by my husband, I made plane reservations, found someone to cover for me in my work, and made the trip to western Wisconsin just in time for the funeral. I sat in a row of people I did not know, strangers, that day as a whole community came out to remember and to grieve Harvey’s loss. He was a loss to many communities, outside the church and inside the church.

For a moment, as I remembered Harvey, as music was played and the gathered people sang together, a feeling came to me. I can’t name the feeling, but I knew it. The feeling I had during Harvey’s funeral was the same feeling I had when I was a younger woman, searching, lonely, looking for a place, my place in the world.  When I finally made my way to my own community, where I would meet Harvey, who was so important to my life, that was the feeling I had felt.  There it was! It had circled back again, to me, into my experience. Then, it was gone again.

“Will the circle be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by…”

I trust that your circles will come circling back to you, today or tomorrow. I trust that mine will, also.


“Notice,” by Steve Kowit


This evening, the sturdy Levi’s
I wore every day for over a year
& which seemed to the end
in perfect condition,
suddenly tore.
How or why I don’t know,
but there it was: a big rip at the crotch.
A month ago my friend Nick
walked off a racquetball court,
got into this street clothes,
& halfway home collapsed & died.
Take heed, you who read this,
& drop to your knees now & again
like the poet Christopher Smart,
& kiss the earth & be joyful,
& make much of your time,
& be kindly to everyone,
even to those who do not deserve it.
For although you may not believe
it will happen,
you too will one day be gone,
I, whose Levi’s ripped at the crotch
for no reason,
assure you that such is the case.
Pass it on.

Steve Kowit (1938-2015), The Dumbbell Nebula