New Year’s Encounters

Just 10 feet ahead of us, it swooped over the road, rising gently from the field on our right. The eagle landed just above our heads in a tall scraggly pine to our left. Tall, majestic, certain of its perch. She watched us watching her — or maybe we were watching her watching us. Her white head and dark body contrasted with the bright blue sky all around so we were able to notice the loft of her feathers, the strength of her features, the tail that seemed shorter from the front than it does in flight. I am sorry you can’t see the face in this picture; I was particularly drawn to the vibrant yellow beak and the clear, straight gaze, inviting us to be with her. 

When we finally began to detach ourselves, we waved good-bye and continued down the road. I paused to take a picture and, in doing so, dropped my mitten. The big bird took off, startled by the movement or sound, or maybe simply preferring not to have her picture taken.

The next day, while running the same route, I saw her again. At least, I think it was her. Again, she flew low over a field and just past me, like she was intentionally revealing herself to me. Her presence feels like a reminder to keep my eyes open to gifts and surprises – not because there are so few but because they are always here if only I would pay attention enough to notice them.

Twenty years ago, we lived in the Chilkat River Valley, the valley of the eagles. Bald eagles lived in the valley year round but, each fall and winter during the salmon runs, they were ubiquitous and bountiful. Though common, we never failed to notice the majestic presence of the individual birds and the power in their massive congregation. We knew how lucky we were to live in their presence. The landscape belonged to the eagles and the salmon, the mountains and the rivers. We were grateful and humble visitors to their home.

By contrast, greeting the single eagle on the road two days in a row, I felt like a host. I wonder (and worry) if she is finding enough food and if there is an adequate nesting spot here. In this neighborhood dotted by patches of forest, field and marsh, is there enough space? In this forest interrupted by farm fields and houses and barns and cows, is there enough wilderness? Is she one of the three eagles we spotted feeding on a deer carcass that was thawing out of the snow and ice at the marsh edge a week ago? Is she a winter visitor or a resident? When can I see her again?

As my question, concerns, and longing turn over and over in my head, I sense that something is out of balance. There is too much of me, too much of my expectations and assumptions, of my care and concern. In the lopsided encounter, there is not enough of us and that sacred, open space between us where we meet as autonomous beings – each with something beautiful and tangible to give the other, the greatest gift we have to offer – our presence. 

If I become too attached to the role of guest or host, I miss the ability to be fully present. Currently, I fancy myself to be a host in my home and in my community but feel like I am clearly a guest in the wider world. My cultural training nudges me to embrace the role of host more fully. As host, I can prove competence and self-reliance, independence and generosity. These are the assets that are rewarded both subtly and overtly in the world around us. As a guest, I get to practice humility and vulnerability, interdependence and graciousness.

When I recognize that I am always both guest and host, I open to the complexity of being human – fallible, invincible, capable, fumbling, awkward, graceful…Honoring my own complexity, and that of the world around me, is ever-present in my work as a program director at a small interfaith seminary, as a parent, as a wife, as a member of a small, rural community, and as a cohabitant of a diverse ecological landscape. Maintaining balance is a little like standing on a balance board. There is constant motion – a continual giving and receiving of energy, tension, intention, intelligence, and care. Attending to the balance and the reciprocity supports each member of the community in retaining their autonomy and integrity while acknowledging that none are truly separate from the whole.

Recently, I have been feeling challenged to release the expectations and hopes I have for myself and for the people around me — especially those that I hold for my children. Now I am reminded to meet their unflinching gaze and broad wings in the same way that I meet the eagle, with a simple presence that honors theirs. Where will the gifts, the surprise reminders of our interconnectedness, come from next?

Late Summer Morning – A Haiku Series

6 am

A soft mist is rising

To meet the warmth of the sun

As my feet sprout roots,

Reaching down beyond

Twig, acorn, grass and soil

In a morning prayer.


8 am

This melon sweetness

Startles and soothes every sense,

Instigates delight.

I want to linger

In this joy… May I? Should I?

Yes ~ In thanksgiving.


10 am

I tend the garden

As a breeze begins to blow

Change is coming in.

The air is cooler

And full of dragonflies, sign

Of transformation.


12 noon

Teenagers wake up

To eat both breakfast and lunch,

Looking at the news.

The too familiar 

Stories of fear and violence

Spark conversation.

Yet still, their blue eyes

sparkle like dragonfly wings,

Light and love in flight.


I am standing

On the edge


Yet again

That I am


At the threshold.


To move from here

To there

Does not require

a movement of miles.

Just a movement of thought

Or heart

A barely perceptible


through the veil

At each threshold


As thought

becomes action,

I sail

Toward the world

On the other side

Where infinite

Possibilities await.

Only I find myself


at yet another threshold.





Right action

Is always

An option.

The past is not yet complete

The future will never arrive.

There is only the




Of this present moment.

Realm of the Pink Rhinoceros

The fog hangs low between me and the distant horizon. The tree line feels further away than usual. The dense opaque white mist hangs between us like a sheet. But I know it is penetrable, simply water molecules suspended in mid-air. This water vapor is not a solid veil, it is permeable and gentle. It lingers over the marsh below, creating a mixing place for the tidal waters and the cool air above. It is a mixing place for my imagination too.

When the boys were little and we woke to foggy mornings that were so dense we could not see the trees across the field, I used to joke that it was the kind of morning when you expected to see a pink rhinoceros emerge. As the boys got older, they rolled their eyes at the “mom-ism” but, still embraced in the wonder of childhood, I knew that they approached their days with open curiosity and a clear sense that everything was possible.

 For me, the mystery and potential in those thick foggy days was an opportunity to remember what I had forgotten in the process of growing up. As I wondered about the pink rhinoceros that was just out of sight, I wondered about what other fantastical beings or events were just beyond my sight. I wondered about the mysteries of creation. I wondered about Mystery and Creation. 

Eventually, out of the dense fog of my wondering, the pink rhinoceros emerged to welcome me back into the chorus of all life, one among many. With possibility penetrating and surrounding us, we walked together, back into the cloud of Love and Light that lingers on the horizon.

Blessings All

Years ago, I found this little slip of paper while I was cleaning out my desk. I recognized it as a note included with the calendar that my grandfather sent every year around Thanksgiving. This homemade calendar included birthdays and anniversaries for my grandparents’ children and their spouses, their grandchildren and their spouses and all of the great grandchildren born to date. Despite long distances, philosophical differences, and ordinary family dysfunction, the calendar literally tethered 50 people and 100 years of lives and relationships. Each year when I received it, I was reminded that my grandparents provided a centripetal focus for all of our orbits. Through them, we each remained in some form of relationship with one another and vitally connected both to our ancestry and also to our legacy.

Our memory of the past defines our hope for the future.

Something about the note must have resonated with me at the time, because I tucked it in a drawer to be discovered and considered another day. When it emerged during my desk cleaning, my Dad was declining with dementia. At the time, we were working hard to hold together the pieces of a life that was determined to unravel. Despite our attentive and creative efforts, the world continued to become more and more unfamiliar and confusing every day. On some days, the note seemed to taunt me, demanding that I figure out how to retain enough memories (for me and for Dad) that we could also both find hope in this very hopeless situation. On other days, the message simply seemed mis-guided. Dad did not have memories to rely on at all and did not seem to forecast towards the future. I noticed, though, that he fully lived the present moments that arrived throughout each day. Each new moment was greeted with openness and curiosity. Unhinged from expectation, a certain freedom emerged. I learned to follow his lead and soon found myself somewhat released from past and future too.

Our memory of the past defines our hope for the future.

Eventually I reconciled with the note. Memory of the past and hope for the future can be important tethers, like the calendar. They connect us to an ancient future and a distant past that keep us grounded in awareness and responsibility. They hold us in relationship with the rest of creation over all time and place, and remind us that we are a part of the whole. But neither memory nor hope can shape our relationships or our actions. Those are best tended in each moment.

Blessings All

The slip of paper still sits on my desk where I can see it often. It still makes me think of my grandfather and his calendar. It also makes me think of my Dad and the love and good living that we shared when we released past and future and, instead, walked purposefully into each present moment of his last few years. It reminds me to appreciate memories and hope while giving my care and attention to those who are with me and the work that is at hand now.

The note no longer teases or frustrates me. It strengthens my resolve to contribute to healing and wholeness. It focuses my attention on the world that my children are inheriting. Their hope for the future is in the words and actions of the young people and adults around them who speak and act with compassion for others and for the living earth now. Their hope hinges on what we do today. For today, I will honor each arising moment with memory and hope — and with an open heart, a clear mind, honest words and actions, and good intentions.

Morning night, morning light

I enjoy the darkness of the early morning. It has a nurturing softness. In the still-dark house, I move slowly and intentionally through my morning routine. Before too much movement or thought shakes the dreamy sleep from my head, I turn on the coffee pot and roll out my yoga mat in the living room for 20 minutes of gentle yoga and stretching. This quiet, prayer-full moving meditation invites my breath to slowly and gently waken my muscles and my mind. In the still dark morning, the monkey mind is still sleeping and the demands of the day have not yet arrived. I am not only surrounded by silence and stillness, I am filled with it as I fill my lungs with each breath. I set my intentions for the day during this quiet interlude between night and day, sleep and wakefulness.

With a bow to the rising sun that is still not yet peeking over the horizon, I roll up my mat and move to the kitchen. The coffee is ready. As I pour a cup, I notice the light coming from the chicken coop. I just put a light in there a few days ago. Chickens lay eggs when there are 12 hours of daylight or more. In our region, on this side of the equinox, 12 “daytime” hours is achieved with an artificial light on a timer.  I can only smile as I stand in my dark, quiet kitchen, looking through the dark, still yard to that beam of light. The coop is probably bright and noisy as the hens and rooster shake off the night in their own way. They will be stretching their wings, chattering and mingling about. I wonder if they are noticing that one of their friends spent the night outside. (We couldn’t find her when we closed up last night.) I will let the chickens out to explore the yard after it has gotten a little lighter. The rooster will crow to let me know when it is time.

Still moving gently through the dark, I take a shower and get dressed. Coming out of the bathroom, I hear my son stirring upstairs, heading to his shower. That is my cue that the day is arriving. It is time for me to move out of the transition zone and into the morning too. This time, I turn on the light as I enter the kitchen. I will make breakfast and pack lunch boxes. By the time I am done, there will be enough light outside to take the dog for a walk and let the chickens out of the coop so they can spend the day grazing. The day has arrived and I am ready to step gladly into the light.

Throughout the day, I will touch back into the morning’s stillness that is stored in the muscle memory of my body, mind and heart. It remains closer and clearer on some days more than others. I appreciate it when it is close, but the outcome is not the point. I just get to tend the practice with care and love each morning and strive to cultivate the same degree of intentionality throughout the day… And I get to share it all with you. May my morning reflection invite you to pause and embrace the dark and light of your own rising day. May we join together in stillness, gladness and gratitude for a new day.