Weaving Home: A Song Beyond Words by Star Livingstone

Sitting in church watching the organist use hands and feet and head, indeed, her whole body to weave the sounds of the organ into the music of the anthem.

Not so different from my friend, the weaver, sitting on the bench at her eight harness loom using her feet to raise and lower the warp threads and shooting the strands of weft through the spaces with a shuttle, then both hands to snug them tight.  Her whole focus absorbed in the pattern she is making, executing the plan that was so many steps in the making.  My husband and I volunteered to remove a fallen maple tree from the library grounds this winter.  Now, in spring, the small branches are woven into a hedge of support in the pea rows, the larger limbs, intertwined to make gates for all the gardens. Patterns suggested by the branches themselves, evolving through selection and finished when finished.  The large limbs are being planned into a bench for a meditation garden and the trunk pieces will warm us as we sit by the home fire next winter.  So many weavings:  of usefulness, beauty, community, harmony.  How many ways to weave home.

March Means More Snow

Even though spring starts this month, there is still a lot of winter left for the Adirondacks. We sometimes get our biggest dumps of snow in March. But the days are getting longer, the sun’s rays are getting stronger, and with the lengthening of the days there is hope for more warmth to come. In our Interspiritual Meditation course we have been covering the 7 steps of meditation and the second step is: May I (we) be grateful. A lot has been written about gratitude. Brother David Stiendl-Rast said: “The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” He is an expert on gratitude, so maybe I can smile and look at the falling, blowing, blindingly white snow outside my window and be joyful. It is beautiful, right? Blanketing the ground, doing what snow does, it is not good or bad, it just is. Gratitude contrasts with all these thoughts of judgment that humans often have about one thing being good and another thing being bad. Judging takes away our joy, because it is difficult to be grateful for something we don’t approve of.

This week we celebrated Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We took the palms we’d been saving all year, the ones that we were handed on Palm Sunday when we heard the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and we burnt them (let them cool) and wear them on our foreheads as a reminder of many things. Some people remember how they were not true to their calling, others remember their unworthiness and some remember their mortality. We hear the words you are but dust and to dust you shall return. (Oh did you see the joke on the internet ‘you are butt dust?’ Sorry, couldn’t help myself). Anyway, some people make commitments for Lent, to do something, or to give up something. I used to try to give up chocolate, but that never worked, then I heard about fair trade chocolate, and I try, as much as possible, to make sure that my baking chocolate is fair trade. That is a commitment that I try to make all year. I was at one church recently where they handed out garbage bags and were asking their congregants to put one item a day into the bag to give to charity. I’ve also heard of doing the same thing with putting a food item in the bag each day.

Some people support a charitable organization for Lent. Others make commitments to mediate, spend more time in prayer, etc. I was thinking it would be a good practice to just say no to those styrofoam takeout containers. So many businesses already have gone to biodegradable packages, so when you’re at a restaurant you can ask for what kind of containers they have before you ask for a box, or bring your own. That would help in many ways. There are so many opportunities to do good, to raise consciousness, to bring more light and joy into the world.

At Weaving Home, we are celebrating Lent by participating in movement and meditation, reading the book “The Wisdom Jesus” by Cynthia Bourgeault and practicing Interspiritual Meditation. We are also supporting earth care initiatives. We have post cards from Interfaith Power and Light calling for legislation to make the planet a safe and healthy place for everyone. If you'd like one, let us know. Please check out the many links to each care organizations on the website. I am very grateful to all these organizations for their good works.

The Seeds of New Beginnings

I don't know about you, but we started getting seed catalogues in December, usually they don’t arrive until January along with all the bills. It is such a nice relief to sit and dream about a garden and let the  the gloom and grayness of winter fade for a while.  We look and ask: ‘oh, would that grow here? what would happen if we planted that?’ Even though these thoughts can take us away from the present moment, it is good to dream and to have a vision. While you are dreaming of your garden, Star has some important information to share. A garden can give us wonderful nourishing food. and it’s important to get your seeds from companies that are involved with care of the earth. Many big corporate companies also deal in pesticides and herbicides  and we don’t want to support those practices. An example of a company you might want to support is Turtle Tree Seed in Copake, New York.https://www.turtletreeseed.org

Organic, Biodynamic Seeds | Turtle Tree Seed Initiative

We are a small seed company, an integrated part of Camphill Village, offering a wide selection of certified organic and biodynamic, 100% open-pollinated seeds, for farms and gardens of all sizes, which are grown, selected, cleaned and sent to you with great care.

  Not only is the seed bio-dynamically grown but the seed house employs differently abled people from Camphill Village where it is located. Bio-dynamics is a system of earth health that encompasses, not just the land, but works with cosmic rhythms and social ethics as well. 

 Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri, has a mission to preserve heirloom seed varieties globally. They preserve the seeds so they are not lost because of war and displacement of people. They have a very strong anti GMO bias. Nature modifies genes all the time.  However, humans are doing it to allow for an agriculture based on herbicide and pesticide controls that have devastating consequences both for the soil and the eaters of residual poisons. 

Rare Heirloom Seeds | Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds


Buy Heirloom Garden Seeds online. Over 1800 varieties of Vegetables, Rare Flowers & Herbs. 100% Non-GMO open pollinated seeds. Free heirloom seed catalog!

Fedco in Maine is the main organic growers cooperative. They grow many local varieties that would do well in the Adirondacks. Their catalogue is a storehouse of information on all aspects of gardening. And their catalogue identifies the size of the seed house their seed comes from and the practices of those houses.  They don’t sell seeds from companies that are involved in pesticide and herbicide production, but they do sell seeds that have been genetically modified, they identify the practices in their catalogue so you can choose. 

Fedco -Co-op Seeds, Gardening Supplies, Trees, Potatoes, Bulbs


Fedco is a cooperative seed and garden supply company. Its divisions, Fedco Seeds, Organic Growers Supply, Fedco Trees, Potatoes, Onions and Exotics, and Fedco Bulbs, offer untreated vegetable, herb and flower seed; soil amendments, cover crops, garden tools, organic growing supplies, gardening books, seed potatoes, onion sets, fruit trees, berry bushes, ornamentals, …

Fruition Seed in Canandaigua, NY (www.fruitionseeds.com), High Mowing in Vermont(wwwhighmowingseeds.com) and the Seed Saver Exchange(wwwseedsavers.org) are also good companies that are worth investigating.


It is important for us to research the policies, sources and values of a seed company, so that we can buy seed responsibly.  

Saving seed yourself is a rewarding thing to do even if you are keeping only one or two varieties of plants you particularly love.  If you save your seed the plant variety will adapt more and more strongly to your soil and growing conditions and over time you will see better and better results in your harvests.

If this is a subject you would like to pursue or if seed saving is something you would like to know more about, there are many books about both philosophy and technique. 

One suggestion. Will Bonsall is a seedsman and homesteader and his book, Will Bonsall's Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening  will be an eye opener. I recommend it, not so much as something any of us will imitate closely but as an education in all the issues surrounding our food and our way of living with the earth.  For example, Will has specialized for years in biennial plant seeds such as lettuce and has initiated something he calls copyleft.  Copyleft means that the seed he sells may never be owned or patented and may forever be freely grown by anyone.  This is his personal response to the corporate patenting of seed currently going on with the goal that there will one day there will be corporate ownership of all seed so that everyone must buy if they wish to grow anything without punishment for copyright infringement. 

The book is wide ranging and is the fruit of decades of mindful living in cooperation with the land.

Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth, 2002, Seed Savers Exchange, is a resource for the details of saving seed from specific varieties.

What better way to spend the long north country winter evenings than preparing to join in the great birthing of spring.

Monarch Summer

For years we’ve only seen one or two monarchs float by in the summer. There were swallow tails and  sulphurs, but very few monarchs. We heard about their habitat being ruined by a big frost in Mexico, and then their  major flight route in the Midwest  was ruined because  the milkweeds were all mowed down or poisoned by the weedkiller Roundup, It’s funny how one species needs another to survive, isn’t it. 

The Monarch’s life cycle is not easy. The ones who are born here go south in one long trip, but it takes 3 generations for them to travel back up to the Adirondacks. They winter over in the south, lay eggs in the spring and die, two more generations must be born for them to travel to the north.  The generations coming north must have milkweed for the caterpillars to feed on. People planting milkweed in gardens and in vacant lots and elsewhere away from the herbicide tide are a main reason for their rebound.  My neighbor stopped mowing  the milk weeds on the side of his house a couple of years ago. They are big and messy, but he left them up in hopes for the future.  

So year we began to see Monarchs early, I think it was June when we saw the first one. My husband said, that can’t be a monarch it’s too small, it must be a viceroy. But we kept seeing them. Then in August there were bunches of very hungry caterpillars everywhere, Monarch caterpillars. Star said to get a few and put them in a gallon jar so that my grandsons could watch their transformation. 

We found three caterpillars  and put them in a container. If you follow Weaving Home on Facebook you can see the two that survived and were hanging on the cover of our gallon jug. Every day we checked the caterpillars. The caterpillars attached themselves to something with a magic kind of glue,  their bodies contorted into the the shape of the the letter ‘j’  and then the chrysalis formed. It is not an easy process, the caterpillar seems to be struggling  in the throws of death. But the chrysalis is beautiful, light green with golden specks around the top. 

We waited and watched and while we were waiting more chrysalis appeared on our porch. We lost count after twelve. One attached to  Lucas’ bicycle tire, so he couldn’t ride for a couple of weeks. The shining green capsules holding a hidden life then become darker, and almost translucent so that you could see a wing through its skin.  Now I never watched this process so closely. Some schools have butterflies in the classroom so that the kids can watch this amazing transformation up close, but I’m glad I got to watch it with my grandsons, it is such a gift. We worried and hovered, but the butterflies were born in their own time, struggled out of their tomb, practiced and stretched their wings and then took off, first to get some nourishment at the hydrangea bush and then off to places south.  Star says that the Wild Center in Tupper Lake had a lecture on how to tag a butterfly so you can see how far it travels. That must be amazing.

The life process of the monarch is so complex, and you can see why butterflies are  used as religious metaphor. The chrysalis - the tomb, the emerging butterfly - the resurrection. Scientists have studied this process of metamorphosis for centuries, and naturalist Bernd Heinrich asks “can a butterfly be an amalgam of two very different organisms that fused in antiquity, each providing a separate set of genes that resulted from selection of different lines?” That is an interesting  thought too, butterflies never cease to give us something to consider. He goes on to say: “In this case, one organism could arguably be considered a symbiosis between an older organism and the resurrection of another within it.” However you look at this process, it’s awesome. He concludes by saying: “Regardless of the mechanism of transformation, for a caterpillar to transition to a butterfly, different sets of genetic instructions must act consecutively: one set to dissolve its body into constituent parts, the other to reassemble it into something else.” (Natural History, 06-16)

Not even considering the complexity of the genetics that result in a monarch, what strikes me is the difficulty of this life process. at any stage there is danger, and risk. The caterpillar is food for the birds, there are fungi that attack the caterpillar. The chrysalis is vulnerable to the weather and elements, totally unable to protect itself. And even if the butterfly emerges there is no guarantee that it will get to where it needs to go. We saw monarch on the side of the road, hit by cars, captured by a cat, unable to get out of the fence around my garden.  The miracle is that some butterflies do make it, and go to Mexico. Just think, some of the butterflies that hatched on our porch are on their way to places warm and sunny! 

What does the butterfly teach you about life?  Does it give you insight into the resurrection, or new life, or the strength of life itself? Does it inspire you to keep on striving for wholeness  in spite of all that life has thrown at  you?  My time with the monarchs has reminded that I am not in charge of life, some monarchs hatch and some don’t and I couldn’t do anything to change that. They have inspired me to think about the spirit part of me, that may feel encumbered by a body that sometimes does not behave the way I want. And most importantly they have taught me to see beauty in a wonderful miraculous creation that inspires awe. In his book Beauty, John O’Donohue says: “in the Phaedrus, Plato has that remarkable passage where he describes how the soul awakens in the presence of beauty and recovers and grows her eternal wings; gravity and finitude can no longer contain her.” (page 224) 

Maple Syrup and Change

Star told me this story: “Star and Jeff visited their favorite sugar bush on Monday to pick up a gallon of fresh-made maple syrup.  One team of horses drawing a tank wagon was just leaving to go back into the woods for another load of sap as we arrived.  The two wood-fired evaporators were filling the sugar house with a solid cloud of steam that smelled for all the world like a delicious pancake breakfast.  We soon found the syrup master at his station next to the final trough of the new evaporator.  He opened the conversation by declaring that he had just discovered something new about the evaporator they had owned now for a year and a half.  A persisting problem was to get the syrup to thicken properly in the last stage.  For some reason, the fire did not seem to be as hot at that edge and he had puzzled endlessly over the cause.  This day he had figured it out.  The fires were fed through doors at the end of the devices under the maze of troughs.  Open the doors, toss in the four-foot split logs, several at a time and close the doors.  This has always worked perfectly.  Except... the new evaporator doors begin and end a foot in from the edge of the firebox unlike the old model where the hinges are at the edges of the walls.  Throwing the logs straight in the new firebox keeps the hottest fire only in the middle.  Everyone had just continued the habit of feeding the fire seen when the doors were open and up to the present had never realized that the wood must be thrown to the sides in the new model in order to produce even heat in the throughs above.”  

    Sometimes having new equipment requires us to change our ways of doing things. Isn’t it interesting how these new things - machines, computers, worship communities -  challenge our old habits?  New things make us stop and think: why are we doing this, is it just because we’ve always done it that way? It was so convenient when we didn’t have to figure things out, and everything ran smoothly. 

    Thinking about the past as running smoothly is usually only an illusion. Think of the church, it has always been changing. Ideas that we think have been around forever are sometimes new and from within our lifetime. For example, there were many ways to follow Jesus’ teaching before Constantine, but after 312 C.E. only one way of being a church was accepted by the state. 
    When we think of God now, our ideas are often very different from when we were young. The great superhero out there who punished the wicked and rewarded the good just doesn’t make sense anymore.  It just doesn’t work to believe in a few tenets and think that that is enough. 

    Belief, mental assent, is not the answer for me anymore. I have to agree with Paul R. Smith, who wrote the book Integral Christianity, when he says:  we see “God as powerful - but it is a different kind of God with a different kind of power, [now we see a God with] the power of creative intelligence, evolutionary impulse, all-encompassing love, healing energy, and transforming compassion.”  

We experience God anywhere and everywhere; in the smile of parents lovingly looking at their child, in the wind blowing the tree branches in a great dance, in the hand someone gives to help us up.  It is good that things change and we can pay more attention to the new in our lives. 


March Mud & Wind

March began with a nice snow storm. I’m glad because (selfishly) I didn’t have to go anywhere and because the yard and driveway were getting way too muddy. I can’t stand the dirt between winter and spring, there is muck in the dog’s feet which she tracks all over the floor, slime on boots which dries into a rocky dust on the floor is you don’t mop it up right away. You just can’t get muck out of the carpet unless you pull out that disgusting rug cleaner from the basement.  The mud has a lot of things in it, like deer droppings, and who knows who else’s dropping, beside all the debris that collects over the winter, rocks, crewed up bird seed, branches, just plain disgusting dirt. What can I do with all this mud? 

Kirkridge printed this wonderful poem by Parker Palmer: 

"I will wax romantic about spring and its splendors

in a moment, but first there is a hard truth to be told:

before spring becomes beautiful,

it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck.

 I have walked in the early spring through fields

that will suck your boots off, a world so wet

and woeful it makes you yearn for

the return of ice. But in that muddy mess,

 the conditions for rebirth are being created." 

There are many things hidden in the mud that hold the seeds of rebirth. Think of the spring peepers waiting until their world thaws out a little before they get to sing their beckoning song. Yes, there is hope in the mud, but I can’t wait until it’s gone. The wind is helpful in drying up the mud. When the mud is overwhelming and we have a few days of a nice steady wind, the mud tends to dry faster, and when it dries all those disgusting things that are part of the mud tend to disappear - not the life, but the mess.  What a blessing a little breeze can be. There are so many songs that talk about the wind, but what is more important is to pay attention to the the wind that blows through our lives. What change is it beckoning us toward, what opportunity is knocking at the door? What is is calling us to clean up? Is it bringing healing or helping push us forward when we’d rather stay stuck?  As Cat Stevens reminded us, listen to the wind of your soul.

St. Brigid & Imbolc

This week a group of us celebrated the feast of St. Brigid, which falls on February 1st. We had rich scones with Star’s homemade black currant jam. What a feast. St. Brigid was someone who stood on the threshold between the pagan and Christian worlds, she was also known as a healer. She was said to be a time traveler because there are stories that she was Mary's midwife at the birth of Jesus. She traveled with a white cow that gave milk at anytime to those in need. You can read more about her on Wikipedia or in the book Illuminating the Way by Christine Valters Paintner.

Another reason why February 1st is so special is that it is a threshold day, the half way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The Celts call it Imbolc. Of course, in the Adirondacks it is not the half way point until real spring, but we have already noticed the longer light. Imbolc means ‘in the belly,’ it is in the belly of the earth that new life is waiting to arise. As winter loses ground to spring, we are invited to look faithfully at the bareness--the frozen earth, the lifeless trees--and see or imagine to see new beginnings. Resurrection energy is trying to rise in the soul.

Star and I learned about Brigid at the School for Celtic Consciousness last summer. It was the first year of a three year program lead by John Philip Newell. This we year we hope to go again and this time John Muir will be one of the Celtic ‘saints’ we learn about. Happy half-way to spring!


Ignite 2018

Give yourself the opportunity of silence and begin to develop your listening in order to hear, deep within yourself, the music of your own spirit.” -- John O'Donohue in Anam Caŗa

Have you listened to the music of your own spirit lately? Do you have a special word that you want to explore during the coming year? At our “Give Me a Word” workshop, many of us came up with words to inspire, to remind, to comfort. We spent time in silence, listened to chants and did some sacred reading. I was struck by all the words that had ‘light’ in them: illuminate, luminous, so my word for 2018 is ‘ignite.’  I know that rest is needed in winter, but it is also a time for building, for deep growth that will be ready to bloom in spring.

After a time of listening, we created a sign or card to remind us of our word. It is always so fascinating to see the varieties of art that people create. Being in a group is eye opening—it is delightful to rejoice in what others create. Being creative allows us the time to be present, to fully concentrate on what we are making, to let the creation take the shape that it wants.

After the ‘word’ workshop, we joined a solstice celebration at Camp Benjamin. Small lights lit the path to the bonfire burning at the center of the lawn. Creating the bonfire was a lot of work because of all the snow that had fallen, but once Ben got it going it burned for hours. He used small fire starters made out of wax, they are small but very powerful. Something very small can make a difference, it can ignite and catch others on fire. “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” -Mother Teresa

Inner Light

patches of snow

lit up by moonlight


the darkest part of the year

There is a Star Trek Next Generation episode called "Inner Light" and in it Captain Picard lives a whole lifetime in a span of 25 minutes. He becomes the husband, father, grandfather to a family on a planet that has been extinct for 1000 years. He holds the memory of the planet,  this inner light, within him so that he can tell the rest of the galaxy that they lived and loved. You'll want to listen to the song “Inner Light” from the STNG episode called Lessons (it's on Youtube), it's really beautiful.

During December we need inner light, oh I know that we light up our houses for Christmas, use all sorts of decorations, but the light has to also come from within. Where do you find your inner light?

On Saturday, Mary and I attended a mediation retreat at Lotus Heart Zen Abbey. It was difficult to sit for 25 minutes at a time, we alternated sitting and walking mediation, and practiced for about two hours took a break and then practiced some more.  Group meditation is good and gives us insight into how we can make our personal practice more meaningful.  The Ven. Do'an Prajna Sabunim gave us many helpful tips to enhance our personal mediation. The best illustration was about the river, thoughts are like a river, they can take us places we don’t need to go, they, like the chaos of Christmas time,  tell us we need to do this or that, feel this way about that person, but when we can take a step back and watch those thoughts from a place of indifference, we are able to make space for that inner light to shine in. May you have space this December to experience the inner light.


    Star and I traveled to Lotus Heart Zen Center in Oneida recently to learn about Ahimsa - it literally means ‘no harm.’ There is this big initiative on non-violence going on called Campaign Nonviolence and many organizations are involved. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “our goal is to create a beloved community. This will require a qualitative charge in our souls, as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” 
    This sounds impossible at first, but as we become more and more aware of our own thoughts and actions, we are able to make small changes in our lives that will eventually lead to   (hopefully) the qualitative and quantitative changes King is talking about to create a beloved community. 
    Ven. Do'an Prajna, our teacher, was saying the that in Buddhist tradition ahimsa is the highest goal, even before love, because, as we all know, love can be harmful. Even if we have the best  intentions, but are not grounded in this ideal of doing no harm to anyone, even love can hurt. We all know that from experience. 
    Violence can be emotional, verbal, physical, institutional, cultural and exists  in the very structure of society. We have all experienced violence and we have all been perpetrators of violence. Sometimes we are not aware of what we are doing, an innocent action on our part can cause harm to others, to ourselves, and to the earth.  If we think of the clothing industry for example we know that much of the clothing we wear comes from countries where there are no labor laws, where people are mistreated and underpaid, yet we keep buying clothing. I guess it would be embarrassing if we stopped wearing clothes and cold too in our climate, but as we practice ahimsa we are invited to be more aware of what our choices mean.
    Do’an was saying that some very devout Jainists don’t even wear clothing. They sweep the path in front of them so they don’t inadvertently walk on something living and hardly eat at all. That is of course the extreme. We realize that we all cause harm in some way or another, we can’t live on earth without causing harm. Even vegans who eat plants are killing the vegetables. 
    Susan Simard from a British Columbian University, has been studying forests for many years. In a TED talk Simard talks about the relationship of trees in a forest, and there is communication of a sort going on through the micro-rhizzi in the root system. (You can read one of her recent interviews on NPR:http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=509350471)
    All living things are interconnected, so the harm we cause to another we are causing to ourselves as well. Do’an told a great story of being at a meeting where someone noticed that a bee was stuck between the window panes, one person rose and began working to free the bee. In a few minutes the whole gathering was working on freeing the bee. That might be construed by some as a waste of time.  But in reality the small things we do make a difference in changing the quality of our souls, as Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out. Doing harm to another starts with a thought. Most of our actions start with a thought.  When we realize that violence starts with a thought, then we can catch that thought and change it or remind ourselves that this thought can cause harm, and move on to other things. Paul said it so well in Philippians 4:8-9 “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.  Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.”         
    As we become more aware of our thoughts and actions, here is a list of what we can do from the Campaign for Nonviolence:

  • Educate yourself on the explicit and implicit forms of violence in society. Learn to recognize how violent solutions, while they may obtain desired objectives in the short term, inevitably do more harm than good over the long run.
  • Focus on forms of entertainment that promote a culture of peace rather than a culture of violence.
  • Get training in active nonviolence 
  • Attend rallies and events in support of a culture of peace.
  • Support organizations working to create a culture of peace.
  • Seek employment in jobs that support a culture of peace rather than a culture of violence.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge those who promote a culture of violence.
  • Strive to foster a culture of peace in your own life. Honor, courage, commitment, nonviolence, generosity.

    We can only do our best, try to do the least amount of harm to each other, ourselves, our neighbors, our planet, and to walk gently through the land to know that what we do to another we do to ourselves. 
    At the end of our lecture on Ahimsa, Do’an gave us each a thread, a blue string to tie around each other’s wrists to remind us to do no harm. He said wear it until it falls off by itself, then you will have learned to practice ahimsa, or I would say to be more aware of when our actions are causing harm and to consider changing. It is hard work to build a culture of peace but it starts in our minds and in our hearts.  

Sacred Walk

The Sacred Walk on Sunday, August 20th was a climb up Maple Ridge from the school parking lot to the picnic table overlooking McCauley.  Walking in the woods is always a sacred experience, but becomes more so when it is an intentional walk. The reading for reflection was from Daily Nourishment from Abbey of the Arts

"You can start to really feel the shortening of the days in August in Ireland {or in the Adirondacks}. There is a subtle shift in the light and the air that leans towards autumn’s crispness and cooler days.  The energy in the world is changing.” Questions to ponder: Can you feel the shift of energy moving through you? Are you a little relieved now that the year is beginning its slow turning towards the comfort of darkness? What does the deepening light and shortening days invite you to embrace?—Christine Valters Paintner, PhD A Community Online Retreat ~ Sacred Seasons: A Yearlong Journey through the Celtic Wheel of the Year

The air has been cooler lately, and I could smell the beginning of autumn. I don’t know how todescribe it, maybe it’s the beginning of decaying vegetation, or maybe the earth has soaked in all the summer it can take so it is exuding a fullness or ripeness that invites change.  The path was wet from last night’s rain, and the leaves from last fall are still decomposing into the soil, fragments littering the trail here and there. Ahead of me, where the sun filtered through the leaves, were groups of dancing gnats. Everywhere there were sunbeams and the gnats would be in groups dancing, celebrating the light. Perhaps there is so much to celebrate because the light is diminishing and the gnats, aware of that fact, are embracing the shortening of day as they dance.  People have been saying how fast summer has gone, and how they are now cramming in boat rides or sitting outside on a warm evening.  If we don’t savor the small things, life just passes by in a blur.  So we, like the gnats, can still dance in the light. 

Farther up the trail, there was a large broken branch. That the branch—though dead with no hope of life—was being cradled by the nearby trees caught my attention. Perhaps the trees were its children? Or maybe just a community of trees holding that dead weight. The branch was suspended in the liminal space between the earth and the sky.  Reminds me of a lecture I heard by John Philip Newell in January. He was talking about the Irish Saint Brigid. She was said to have been born in the threshold of the house, the liminal space between inside and outside. The legends of her life are a melding of the pre-Christian and Ireland of the church. They celebrate her on Iona at the well of eternal youth at midsummer in the twilight - the pace between the day and the night, the space of imagination, in the twilight there are glimpses of those who have gone before, twilight where lovers meet, twilight that invites us to open ourselves to the imagination. Don’t you just love those stories that invite us out of our common every day world and ask more of us? That ask us to dare and dream? To put the old behind us and move into unknown realms. Behind the branch is an old rusted logging vehicle. Its parts are also decomposing, the metal turning to flakes of rust. Another symbol that life and death go together. “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…a time to be born and a time to die.” What am I being invited to let go of? What is no longer serving me or us? What is no longer serving the community of faith? And how do we let it go gently with dignity and honor the past while we embrace the future? There are many, many books written on this, but it seems that in our lives and in the life of the church, each person and community must decide what life is giving and what is not. 

At the top of a clearing, the destination, a table and chair await. Sit, relax, and let the woods speak. But then the wind stopped and the mosquitos came in, and with them another reminder of our minds when we sit down to meditate, how those pesky thoughts return like mosquitos buzzing around our ears, taking us down paths where we don’t need to go.  Keeping us from the silence. Sometimes the destination is not the objective, it’s fine to get somewhere, but the pathhas really been the teacher. The path, leading up or leading down, tripping us up on roots, or surprising us with unexpected delights. A tiny Indian Pipe sitting quietly by an downed log. My foot almost crushed  a tiny  mushroom, but its red caught my eye before my foot fell.  It was so bright, sittingthere in the mud, a new thing, birthed in the rainy night. Not something expected, but something delightful. 

A thing hidden becomes clear, a thought that was amorphous takes form and invites us to a new way. Or not, it may just be an experiment. A new way or a return of something that is inevitable. Turn, turn, turn until we come round right. Richard Rohr said: “union with God is really about awareness and realignment.” May we continue towalk and make it so.  




A Visit to New Hampshire

One Sunday in May, Star and I traveled to New Hampshire to visit the Church of the Woods. It is 100 acres of land near Canterbury Center in the middle of the state, perhaps best described as in the foothills of the White Mountains. There we met the founding priest Steve Blackmer and enjoyed an outdoor worship experience. First it was a little uncomfortable because there were swarms of black flies, but after a liberal dose of bug spray I felt that I could give my attention to the worship time. Being Episcopalian, Steve did have an order of worship that followed the lectionary yet each passage was brought to life in this sanctuary of the earth. The Acts passage said: “In God we live and move and have our being.” After the readings and a song or two, we headed out into the woods opening ourselves to what the gifts of the earth would bring us. We walked, and sat, and looked an listened. 

Here is Star’s reflection: “As I lay on the great maple log and looked up into the new green of the trees above tied together with gossamer rainbows made of spider silk and light, I felt conscious of the shade and swarms of insects around me.  The longer I gazed into the leaves, some of which were white with sunlight, the less I was aware of the level where my body was and the more I felt lifted into the brightness above me.  

I loved that the songs of birds were just as loud as our voices raised in song.  And for me, one of the most meaningful moments was when Rev. Steve offered the first piece of bread to the earth and then poured out the remaining wine beside it.  That act reminded me that all of God's creation is precious, all, sacred, all, good and I am a part of that.  As Rev. Steve pointed out, we give blood to the biting insects; the birds eat them; we become bird.  Of course, for the ones that succeed in reproducing, we also become black fly and mosquito.  That should teach us humility if nothing else.  To share in the worship of the Creator with the trees, birds, insects, water and the very earth itself was an incredibly moving experience for me.  I saw that the earth never ceases to give praise to the Lord.  May I learn to do likewise.” 

The sound of a noisy gong, or was it a cow bell brought us back together and we talked about our experiences. Each person brought back a token of their 20 minute alone time in the woods and explained how it spoke to them.  After sharing our offering experiences to each other, we shared a simple Eucharist and visited for hours. The black flies that completely had my attention at the beginning were still there, but unnoticed. That reminds me of our times of meditation, sometimes I try and sit and the thoughts just keep buzzing around like a bunch of mad black flies, but when the focus of peace is clear, those thoughts just disappear. 


Adirondack April



bird song 

chirps, honks, ….


morning ice turns to afternoon mud

melting dirty snow

muddy snow

torrential rain

more new snow

ponds on the rod

deep driveway ruts


buds pushing off crackling oak leaves

fallen branches litter lawns 

half under snow 

half on wet, brown earth



transitions take time

can there be spring without mud?

the crocus doesn’t care

she pushes up through the mire and muck.

She, the beacon of spring hope

Is she also a healer? 


Star and I heard a great lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Church about caring for creation.  They have made a resolution to actionafter learning about the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s projected effects of climate change. It is a sad document, but the fact the people care and want to help care for creation is hopeful. . We can make changes in our lives, small changes can mean a lot in the long run.  It seems that when we live out of our values, out of what we love and want to preserve, then the earth and all creation has a chance to be healed. Here is a blessing we heard at the meeting:

Climate Blessing 

We hold the Earth. We hold brothers and sisters who suffer from storms and droughts intensified by climate change. We hold all species who suffer. We hold world leaders delegated to make decisions for life. We pray that the web of life may be mended throughcourageous actions to limit carbon emissions. We pray for right actions for adaptation and mitigation to help our already suffering earth community. We pray that love and wisdom might inspire my actions and our actions as communities so that we may, with integrity, look into the eyes of brothers and sisters and all Beings and truthfully say we are doing our part to care for them and the future of our children. May love transform us and our world with new steps toward life.” (From Interfaith Power and Light) 

There is a lot of information on the New York Interfaith Power and Light website. (http://www.newyorkipl.org)


Glitter Snow

One night while I was driving home, the falling snow made me feel as though I were driving into hyperspace. You know, like being in a space ship in Star Wars, where reality distorts as they jump into a speed faster than light, accelerating into another weave of space. Anyway, the snow was coming at me, but it was not blinding. It was the soft, fluffy lake effect snow that comes from Lake Ontario. But since I was driving into it, it came straight into my windshield. As the snow approached, stretching out into long points of white, I noticed sparkles, glittering diamonds lighting up the road ahead of me. There was one, then four, then ten like I was driving through the glitter on a child's Valentine's card. It's so hard to express the beauty of this feeling, of being in the midst of all this brilliance! I wanted to stop the car and just sit--be immersed in the points of light, but then a snow plow approached from the other direction and the tiny lights vanished. 

    Wouldn't it be wonderful to give this kind of gift of light to another person, to offer beauty when the grayness of winter is expected? To bring awe while driving through a snow storm?

For Lent this year, I'm reflecting on light. (If you want to receive these daily emails, just let me know.) John Philip Newell has a whole chapter on light in his book The Rebirthing of God. He says: “To be bearers of Light— which is pure gift and not of our own doing— means that we are made to shine. But when we truly shine, and when we work for the true shining of every child, woman, man, and creature, we find that sometimes we create discomfort in the people around us and in the holders of power in our communities and our world. Not only do they feel uncomfortable; sometimes they feel threatened. This is as true in our personal relationships and workplaces as it is in the great struggles of communities and nations. Those who cling to power for their own sake, or for the sake only of their chosen communities and their special interest groups, do not want everyone to shine. The shadow side of power is a determination that only some should shine, and that only some should be considered worthy.” (Newell, John Philip (2014-06-06). The Rebirthing of God: Christianity's Struggle for New Beginnings (pp. 55-56). Turner Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.) 

    Newell reminds us that being light bearers is not all glitz and glitter. Working for peace and justice is part of our calling. We are called to sit and contemplate the beauty around us, and we are also called to action, to work for justice. May be find the balance that is needed. 



“Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.” is a line from Christina Rosetti’s poem/song In the Bleak Midwinter. I don’t know if it’s bleak, it’s really white and when the sun is up, there is a light above the lake effect snow band that is hopeful. Lake effect snow bands are so interesting, they flow and travel where they will, and you might drive out of one in a few miles and when you do the sun is blindingly brilliant, illuminating crystals that dazzle your eyes. In a lake effect snow band, the snow may be so heavy you can’t see three feet in front of you, or it may be soft and gentle. The snow may fall in bunched up flakes, or in tiny needles like rain, it all depends on the temperature and the wind. The wind blows the snow one way and the next minute in another way, it dances and swirls. One of the best things about winter is staying inside on a cold day and just watching the snow.  Here is an excerpt from Weaving Home’s e-course last year:

In The Rebirthing of God by John Philip Newell, he talks about our being created in the image of God and our deep yearning to reconnect with the earth as part of the creation and part of ourselves. That’s why being present, even with snow is an enlightening experience. Newell says, we have a “desire to move back into relationships with everything else that is of God. It means choosing to move in harmony with the universe again, knowing the rising of the sun and the whiteness of the moon as part of us, seeing the beauty and wildness of the creatures as expressions of what is also within us, the unnamable and untamable presence of the Divine in all things. It means growing in awareness of earth’s sacredness, knowing that its moist greenness issues forth directive from the ever-fresh fecundity of God.”  

    That reconnection invites us to not make enemies out of what is out there, but to welcome it as we welcome what is within ourselves. This means getting in touch with the snow, that cold, white frozen water, can be a sacred experience.  

    Snow creates a protective layer over the plants below providing a time for dormancy, for things to rest and renew. Winter is a time of slowing down and watching.  


Cranberry Beans

"And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ëWhat may this be?í And it was answered generally thus, ëIt is all that is made.í I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God....In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it."  - Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
    During our semi-silent retreat, I spent some time sitting around a campfire shelling beans. Yes, that's right, they were beans that Star had grown in her garden and let dry on the vine. She harvested them and let them dry some more in baskets so that the bean seeds hardened into those wonderful dry beans that you make baked beans with. But these beans weren't the red kidney beans or white navy beans or the black beans you find in a store. No, these beans were speckled.  A delightfully spotted bean, smooth and plump, called cranberry beans. You can read about them on the internet, they are an Italian bean (borlotti bean) and can be used in a variety of recipes.
    Sitting with feet warming near the fire, picking up bean after bean,  breaking apart the crisp shell and watching the beans pop out in the wicker bowl was a calming experience. The magenta and black spots on the cream colored beans caught my imagination - was there a pattern there? A picture? Some secret message? Perhaps the message was just in their being, as Julian of Norwich observes in her hazelnut. 
    But all the beans weren't perfect. In fact, some were soft and moldy and had to be thrown into the fire.  Some were diseased and couldn't be stored with the others. But that is how farming is, not all that is grown can be used, some has to be let go so that others aren't ruined.  And then I began thinking, why are some lost? Does that make them worse than the others? We can get into a big theological discussion about the brokenness of the world and why there is so much dualism in the New Testament (sheep go to heaven and goats go to hell.) 
    The more you think about the dualist nature of the world, the more you see it. Pema Chodron tells a story about walking down the street and noticing how many things are a delight to you, and how many things are an aversion. Like you walk and see a beautiful flower, and you're drawn to it, the next second you step in something that was left by a dog. Disgusting!  We are people who make distinctions, that is in our nature. Chodron tells us instead of trying to change that, it's better to simply notice and be aware that we are judging and making distinctions. Don't be down on yourself for doing it, but be aware.
    In studying Cynthia Bourgeault's teaching about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the reawakening of the ideas of  the marriage of science and religion, she quotes: "To take on Teilhard requires a lot of hard work -- and the willingness to let go of more than a few sacred cows. And that capacity ultimately lies -- for us, as it did for Teilhard -- in a vigorous reawakening of contemplative vision: the ability to stop thinking and simply see." 
    So on that quiet Saturday afternoon, I finally did stop thinking and simply shelled the beans, and there were the three properties that Julian noted above: "God made it, God loves it, God keeps it."

Autumn Leaves

    A line of cars crawls up Route 28. No, it isn’t ice or snow that slows their pace, it’s the foliage. October is the time of year when the trees inspire people to stop and look. The drivers watch in awe as mountains of color - red, yellow, orange, gold, peach, brown, and green - mix together to offer a glimpse of heaven. The leaves are ablaze and they leave us breathless - even as they beg the question: why such a display when they are only going to fall off next week?

    I was filled with gratitude for the colors and the warmth, the blaze of glory that autumn provided for us. And I wasn’t the only one. I saw people driving with their mouths open. A friend told me that she became so absorbed and aware in the life all around her that she had to stop her car and pull over and simply stare at the colors. She couldn’t even take a picture.

    One morning when there was no fog and the leaves were awash in a vivid orange, the sun rose behind a faint cloud cover and the trees seemed to color the air, every drop of moisture tinged brilliance. This is an easy time to be grateful, an easy time to be filled with gratitude for all of creation. 

    When the leaves are flaming the whole color of the world changes. The light is different: warmer, brighter, inviting us to stop and look and perhaps even dance. Do you ever wonder whether the burning bush that Moses saw in Exodus chapter 3 was really burning or just bedecked in its autumn plumage? Whatever he saw, it invited him to turn aside, to stop and take a breath. And so he stopped, like the cars on the side of the road, and then he heard a voice that said, ‘take off your shoes you’re standing on holy ground.’ 

    The colors change so fast - red today, gone tomorrow. Are they going out in a blaze of glory? Is it only at the end of  their lives when they shine with all their true colors? Do they know that one gust of strong wind or one heavy rainfall with knock them all to the ground? Do they care?

    One of my favorite hymns says “we blossom and flourish like leaves on a tree, then wither and perish but naught changeth thee.” It sometimes seems that life is like that. But if I were writing the hymn I might have some additions to make, like in dying the leaves fulfill their purpose to provide nutrients to the soil to promote growth again. (Really I’ll have to work on that, it doesn’t fit the hymn meter at all.) The old leaves on the forest floor are not perfect like they were in the spring. They are chewed up, moths and bugs have driven holes into them and they look a bit like swiss cheese. Another purpose for their life is to provide food and shelter for the insects who also are providing something (I’m really not sure what - bugs aren’t my favorite thing.) Maybe the bugs become what they eat. Which takes me to the whole idea of communion - the great thanksgiving - we say when we eat the bread - ‘the bread of life, the body of Christ, become what you eat.”

    Do we also become what we watch or gaze at? Watching the autumn unfold before us, watching the geese fly in long v’s across the sky, feeling the breeze turn chilly when it has been warm and comforting. While we stop in awe, we are also being mindful, present, fully alive in the Presence of nature.

- Edited by BJ Kelly

Reflections on Mindfulness in the Garden Retreat

As evening fell and the soft sounds of night rolled in
We had been blessed with:
crunchy oats and French toast
Farm to table
    leeks, celeriac, onions, zucchini, carrots & cabbage, calendula flowers,
cocoa balls, baked bread, goat cheese, 
muscle stretches
spirit stretches
welcoming beds of deep rest
duck mummers
sideways glance of geese
orange cat visitations
red cushions
red spotted beans
heart opening
smoke rising to the sky
smoke rising to the eyes
cool breezes - warm stove
recorder notes floating in the air
no words spoken,  wide smiles
new friends drawn together from silence
close to each other in the great dance of three. 

The Gifts of the Earth

Last week, I was walking our dog early in the morning and I heard a strange sound. At first, I thought it was the low and haunting cry of a loon - a family of loons has been living on the pond all summer, their ancient wails welcoming the morning and eulogizing the sunset. Yet the distinct noise couldn’t have been a loon, as it was a more high pitched noise, - maybe it wasa dog, I thought, a small dog, yipping. No not one dog, I decided as the sound carried on, coyotes, yes, that was it, a pack of coyotes joining voices and howling into the morning. I thought they only howled at night, but my husband assured me that they howl whenever they get together. A celebration!  Nature has so much to teach us—that is one of the reasons I started Weaving Home: to look at this vast world around us and notice how it can point us toward love and community. 

“The beauty and grandeur of nature touches each one of us. From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuous revelation of the divine.” - Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

    Don’t you feel part of this great creation?  The glow of the rising sun fills the dawn sky, bringing color and light, calling the birds to sing in joy, glinting off of their wings. Warming, rising fingers of light stretching over the land, catching a branch and turning it red for just one incomparable moment. It has been captured in song, in poetry, in paintings and in photographs - all reflections of the gift of the sun. We accept the gift of the sun with gratitude because from it, we receive gifts from the Earth. The earth absorbs the energy and creates life. 

    The warm, moist earth nurtures the seeds that grow into grasses, flowers, trees, vegetables; feeding us, giving us oxygen, providing shelter.  One of my earliest memories is sitting on the edge of the garden, my father toiling away, my bare legs on the warm clay soil, my fingers breaking up clumps, watching it turn to grains of dirt -  the stuff of the earth.  Gardening is still a revitalizing activity. Every year I can’t wait until I can get in and dig in the dirt - mostly with a shovel, but sometimes with my hands. 

    When I am in the forest or by a stream or on a hill overlooking a meadow, I feel like I am part of the vastness of the earth. It is home, it is belonging. A gust of wind will take my attention and I can feel the earth breathing with me. I am in awe and at the same time a part of the awe. A drop of dew on a flower petal holds my reflection and the mystery of all reflections. 

Sometimes when we get older we decide to stay clean and don’t take our shoes off anymore to walk on the earth. I can’t remember the last time I walked barefoot over the earth until I started yoga. I love outdoor yoga when we take our shoes off and ground our toes, heel, whole foot intothe earth. And that reminds me of what it was like to be a child running barefoot on the earth, sending my energy down into the ground, as it feeds its life force back up to me.

    In Christine Valter Paintner’s book, Water, Wind, Earth and Fire, she talks about the element of the earth. In ancient traditions the earth element was associated with the direction of north and the season of winter. And she offers this quote:

    “If we think of ourselves as coming out of the earth, rather than having been thrown in here from somewhere else, we see that we are the earth, we are the consciousness of the earth. These are the eyes of the earth. And this is the voice of the earth.” Joseph Campbell

    Often we fail to live in this kind of connective relationship, but if we take the time to think that what I do to the earth, or to the creatures, I’m doing to myself. 

    Last year, I decided to move my rose bush from the back of my garden to the front. I dug so much it felt as if I had bored all the way to the center of the earth, and while I got most of it, and the rose bushes did leaf out this year, there were no roses. I guess there was too much trauma in moving them, because my husband reminded me that the soil around the roots of the rose bush contains things like microbes, bugs, and nutrients that are unique to the rose bush and that dirt, so when I move them I disturb the balance.  The connections are so strong. It is amazing how we are dependent on each other, and on the earth, how where we live and what we see everyday gets imprinted on us, so that while we like to see different things, there is one place we know as home. It might be a place, it could be a person, so when you’re not in the place or with the person, we are lost and out of touch, or we grieve and search so that we can find home again. 

    We seek connection among all that goes on that distracts us—that lures us away from where we need to be. I find connection with the Source of all by being in nature, by walking, by listening, and when I’m with people by trying to spread light and love instead of darkness and fear.  Where do you find connection? How do you celebrate the gifts of the earth? 

(Thanks to BJ Kelly for his photo and editing.)

A Grass Prayer Bowl

“Bono queries, “Why do we need art? Why do we need the lyric poetry of sounds? Because the only way we can approach God is, if we are honest, though metaphor, through symbol. So art becomes essential, not decorative.” (from SDI newsletter, The Psalms with Bono and Eugene Peterson )

Krista Tippet interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert recently on On Being. They were talking about curiosity and creativity. At one point they said that creativity is hard work and mostly boring, you just have to keep slogging though a project, but then there is a moment, like magic, when you get it, you understand what all the mundane work was for and you have a new creation. That is what we found when we wove our prayer bowls, we complained, ‘I can’t do this,’  but we kept going. The starting of any project takes time, and if the start doesn’t go well, we’re invited to begin again. There is a Buddhist teaching about having a beginner’s mind - not having any preconceptions of what something is supposed to be, being open to whatever happens.  The Psalms talk about God’s faithfulness which is new every morning.   Relaxing into the beginning opened the way for creativity to enter. The beginning leads to the middle where we found we got into a rhythm, our fingers had learned their task and beganto have a will of their own as they deftly twisted and sewed the sheaves of grass coaxing it into a bowl shape. 

We learned it’s OK to take breaks, to step away, to let things settle. There are fallow times in our lives when we stop and walk away. It gives us time to get fresh perspective, time to reflect and say, ahah I see where I’m going. A time totake stock, and realize the need to stop. When all this happens without judgment we can experience resting in the space between. 

Finishing a project is rewarding. We have the results for our effort.  Endings invite us to celebrate the product, and they also invite us to think what is next? How can this be better? How can I begin again?  

“God isn’t “out there, “remote from us, but rather “at the tip of my pen, my shovel, my paint brush, my sewing needle…my heart and thoughts,” as Teilhard says.”  - (Gabrielle Stoner, a reflection on Teilhard de Chardin in the Mendicant CAC)



What is a prayer bowl used for? Well, it can be a receptacle for those things that are weighing on your heart. Write them down and put them in the bowl and forget them. A prayer bowl can also be used at your prayer time as a focus to hold in your hands as you symbolically placethe desires of your heart within.  You can keep the bowl on your home altar to remind you of prayer, contemplation and the day you created it.  Even if the bowl doesn’t have a useful purpose, just taking the time to make it, helps us connect with the Eternal, by being present and mindful. 

“Presence is experienced in a participative way, not by thinking about it. The mind, by nature, is intent on judging, controlling, and analyzing instead of seeing, tasting, and loving. This is exactly why the mind cannot be present or live in the naked now. The mind wants a job and believes that its job is to process things by its own criteria. The key to stopping this obsessive game is, quite simply, peace, silence, or stillness. Silence is God’s primary language; “everything else is a poor translation,” as Fr. Thomas Keating wisely observes.” - Richard Rohr