Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Message and the Messenger

I, like so many others, have been caught up in the excitement of Pope Francis' visit to the US. The media frenzy surrounding him has provided a rare opportunity for a moral compass and voice of conscience to take center stage where these values generally take a back seat to politics, rhetoric, and division. The Francis effect is more than religious zealotry. The mostly universal respect felt by the crowds of Catholics and non-Catholics for the Pontiff is rooted in the recognition that he is an authentic spiritual leader who is in touch with the people and the times. Pope Francis is the real thing. His message on the environment, immigration, and the poor call us all to consciousness. His example is as Christ-like as I have ever seen in my lifetime.  He is radical and revolutionary.  The complexity of modern society and the divide between the haves and have nots has cast many adrift without a lifeline.  Francis is making it cool to care. He is reminding us that we have a responsibility to each other and to the planet. He is calling us to be better human beings.
He is challenging us to take a moral gut check.
Forgiveness, Charity, Humility, Compassion, and the "Golden Rule" are points on his compass.  Francis is giving us the vocabulary once again to speak from a deeper place in a spiritual language that is grounded in the human experience.
While I yearn for women to have a greater role in the Church and am constantly frustrated by my own second-class status in a patriarchal system, I am also encouraged by the shift in tone on many other issues affecting the Church.  This is a refreshing change.
It feels so good to love this Pope. It was utterly thrilling to hear him speak of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton while addressing the Congress. In Catholic circles, these names are familiar. To hear them being discussed on CNN was stunning. This week, mysticism and sainthood became newsworthy and relevant.
The conversation has changed. Words like dialogue and encounter are once again in our vocabulary thanks to Pope Francis.
His down to earth and direct style is reaching people in a way that makes the Papacy relatable. Perhaps we have Benedict to thank for this. By contrast, he seemed authoritarian, removed, and privileged. in his Prada slippers.  Pope Francis is the opposite.  His Jesuit training and spirituality inform his every action.
Earlier in the summer, I read the Pope's Encyclical, "On Care For Our Common Home."
I will admit, it is the first Encyclical I have ever read.  It is extremely readable and full of thought provoking ideas particularly on the impact of technology.
I highly recommend it.
We have in Pope Francis, a scholar and teacher whose wisdom and spirituality are a gift to us.
I am grateful to have lived to experience his message and I continue to process what this means to me in my own life.  Francis has awakened me from a dullness of heart and stirred my inner spiritual calling which has been dormant for some time.  He walks his talk.  I am reminded of the quote by St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach the Gospel, if necessary, use words." A mighty challenge for us all.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hobie and Lido - In Memoriam

You came to us in 2007
Two furry, white bundles of joy.
Too tiny to make it up or down the stairs on your own
You won our hearts and became ambassadors of the neighborhood.
Greeters - flopping on your back on the sidewalk and curling up
on our laps  -
Snuggling and spooning in bed- you instantly became  part of our family.

You were from a litter of 13 pure white kitties
so tiny you sucked on each other's ears for comfort.
We adopted you together because you were
Lido's shocking, violent death
by a speeding, careless driver two years ago.
Heart breaking and horrifying
there on the side of the road a loyal sentinel sat by the side of his brother.
 Hobie, left alone for the first time, mourned and adapted to his strange, solo life.

As you floated off today in my arms
I stroked you behind your ears
and thanked you
for bringing us so much happiness.
A far gentler death than your brother's
you passed peacefully, released from your misery.
Lido and Hobie together in "Kitty Heaven."

Savona will never be the same without you.

It is an empty house tonight.

Rest in Peace, Hobie.

Monday, August 17, 2015


There are some dates that pierce the soul. August 17th is one of those for me. On August 17th, 1981 I had just gotten out of the shower.  I heard the front door open. I heard hushed voices. It was eight o'clock Monday morning.
There at the end of the hall were my brother and  Peggy.
Peggy lunged toward me. Arms open.
"Oh Amy, your father...."
With those words, everything changed forever.
I was twenty-two. He was sixty-four.

Today, thirty-four years later, the memory of that shocking day still has the power to pierce me. Every detail as vivid as if it were yesterday.

August 17th has hung over me today like a shroud.
I am not sure why I felt grief again so many years later except for the fact that so many people I know and love are facing terrible health challenges and loss. The specter of death is all around me.
Breast Cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer.

Terrible suffering.

My father's sudden death thirty-four years ago seems like a blessing.
No suffering. No hospital bed. No chemo. No radiation. No dementia.
Just a tanned, trim, sixty-four year-old body with clogged arteries that dropped dead after jogging to work that Monday morning.
 What a way to go.
On August 17th, 1981, my father's heart stopped.
And mine broke.

Perhaps my grief today was not really about my father.
August 17th simply reminded me of my friends and family whose hearts will break like mine did thirty-four years ago on a date that will pierce their soul.

My friend who tragically lost her fifteen-year-old son when he was struck in a crosswalk on his scooter on the way to gym said it best when she said,
"You never know what you're gonna get."

For all the cancer patients
For all the wheel-chair bound
For all those with memory loss
For all those confined to a bed
For all the hospice workers
For all the caregivers
For all who suffer
For all the broken hearted

I bind my heart to yours on August 17th.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Art Lesson

The other night, the sunset was magnificent. With each passing moment, the color of the sky changed as I  stood transfixed watching an invisible artist's brush sweep across a vast canvas. The palette transformed from a bluish, shimmering gray with a bright shining sun sinking behind the silhouette of the rolling hills to a solid orange popsicle sky. Then, with swirling strokes, a  pattern of clouds appeared. The sunlight, reflecting the bottom edge of the clouds, highlighted them against a darkening backdrop.  As the painted sky continued to transform, patches of bright blue appeared looking like deep pools of clear water. The picture was disorienting at times. I was gazing heavenward but  I felt as if I was looking out across a landscape of mountains or prairie. The sky, the land, the water merged into one endless and dazzling masterpiece. Suddenly, I felt as if I understood the elements of design.  Color, light, contrast, line, pattern, composition, form were all visible and I imagined the earliest painters using nature as the ultimate art teacher, imitating the sun's varying degrees of intensity with the passing moments - painting the sky, the ocean, the mountains, the trees, the desert in awe of their beauty with each stroke.

 In order to create, one must pause long enough to look up and see.  It requires a patient stillness.  I was captivated, watching, waiting, studying  the sky in prayerful meditation. It enveloped me and I was in union with God and nature and mankind. I was connected through all of time before books were written or classes were taught on color or light or theory. I was part of the painting. In those moments of splendor, everything, everything had meaning. I touched eternity.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Morning Song. The Labyrinth of My Life.

I awoke this morning and remembered.

I remembered where I came from.
I remembered my mother.
I remembered my life.
I remembered the people who have shaped me.
I remembered the lessons each relationship has taught me.
I remembered my sorrows.
I remembered my joys.
I remembered truths I'd buried.
I remembered moments - vividly.
I remembered friendship.
I remembered childhood.
I remembered the deathbed.

The walk of life is a labyrinth.
I'd forgotten that.

I'd forgotten that we are here to learn.
I'd forgotten that we are here to give.
I'd forgotten that each experience is a lesson.

I remembered that we are each walking our own labyrinth.

I learned the lesson of loss early in life.
I learned there is no quota.

 I am no longer young.
My life has been rich and deep and soulful and blessed.

I awoke this morning
   an elder.

I am filled with gratitude for each twist and turn of the labyrinth.
We have companions for the journey
 each who walk with us for certain period of time.

My walk.

Survivor. Strong. Tough. Fierce.

My core. He lives in me still.  No distance between us.
Everything I am today is because of him.

Honesty. Independence. Love. Joy. Pride.  Letting Go.


Each has been a teacher.
Some have been guides.
Others angels.
A few soul mates.

From my friends I have learned

Marriage is its own labyrinth.
It begins with youthful exuberance and ripens with each turn.
Marriage is a difficult path and the greatest teacher.
Along the labyrinth of marriage we are faced with many
We face the mirror.
 Forced to look at ourselves.
Whether we are deserving or not.
It is often said that the only truly unconditional love is that between a mother and child.
I don't believe that.
A mother's unconditional love is instinctual.
Love in marriage is unconditional by choice.

The marriage vows are the most important words one will ever utter.
For better. For worse.
For richer. For poorer.
In good times and in bad
In sickness and health.
A Vow is a promise. Renewed every day.
Marriage is commitment.

Work is necessary.
Meaningful work is a gift.

Work is an expression of self.

My work is an artistic chore.

Place is where are.
It is the landscape. The vista. The horizon. The spot.
It is sacred.

My place is the beach.
Constant. Surf.

Home is

The center of the  labyrinth.

This morning, I awoke and  remembered who I am.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses.
Deliver us from evil.
Thy will be done.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


My fingers touch the keys and instantly I am connected to self, to soul, to that part of my being that has remained silent for nearly a year.  I have fasted from writing, journaling, and blogging.
I used to say that I write to process what I'm feeling. It follows, then, that my abstinence from writing may also have been an escape from feeling. It therefore is not coincidental that my return to a writing  practice coincides with my return home.

As my odyssey continued for nearly three years, I became stubbornly determined to make my way back home - fiercely fighting to hold on tight to my dream - refusing to let go.
I don't know yet whether that fight will have been worth the cost of my labor.
I just know that I have been home sick for a very long time.

The other day, I was getting on to the freeway and I saw a homeless man in his makeshift campsite underneath the overpass.  He was clearly visible, isolated on a desolate island of concrete and rock, surrounded by speeding cars and exhaust fumes. I found myself wondering what it was that drew him to that particular place. He was laying on a sleeping bag. Next to him was a grocery cart filled with stuff. He was so alone and yet so public.

I felt ashamed and guilty.

I have never in my life slept under a freeway overpass.
Hardship comes in a variety of forms.
My yearning for home has been with me constantly and now that I am almost there, I am questioning what it all has meant.

 My shame and guilt swelled within me as I passed the homeless man under the freeway.  All of a sudden, I was faced with an existential crisis. All I could think of was what the philosopher and theologian,  Paul Tillich referred to as "Ground of Being."
 I began to weep.

 Has this sojourn been a spiritual exile disguised in the physical notion of home?  The mystery of our very existence dwells within the invisible walls of our human psyche.  Isn't the home for which we yearn  really our union with the Divine?

That homeless man forced me to look at something far deeper in my experience.
Home is a physical place but it is also a mental and spiritual place.
The essence of home is the "Ground of Being. "

My fast has provided an empty dwelling where my spiritual self may now take root.
At home,
I am.