Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Quiet Mystery

It has been a wild few months...endless unpacking, lengthy lists of minutiae, too many new experiences to count.  Truthfully, there have been times when I wasn't sure I'd make it to the next day.  But here we are, happily, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Although I have tried to continue my contemplative practice each morning, I confess to taking shortcuts at times.  That hasn't done me any good.  My spinning mind just whirls ever faster and the day gets off to a frantic start.

The photo above is from a nearby walking trail near our house.  It's a perk we didn't know about when we bought this place.  Since I've yet to get a piano studio together I try to take this walk several afternoons a week.  It has become a touchstone for me and I call it my River Monastery.

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; caps and bells.

                   And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng's clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

"Primary Wonder" by Denise Levertov

Friday, October 23, 2015

Leaving Maine

Exactly one month ago we said goodbye to our beloved Maine and began our trek to Maryland, slightly over 700 miles away. For several weeks we'd been packing non-stop.  Oodles of trips to Goodwill, the dump and Home Depot for boxes, wrapping paper and tape. We couldn't have done it without Pamela and Sarah, who packed the never-ending kitchen, and Debbie, who adeptly crated up the prints and paintings.

A couple of days previously my dear friend Christie flew to Maine from Connecticut in order to drive my car, loaded with plants, garden statuary, booze and anything else we couldn't put on the truck. What a gift!  It meant that Bill and I didn't have to drive the 700 miles in tandem. She stopped for a few days in her home of Stamford, then brought the car on to Maryland.  

I've had my piano moved many, many times and I honestly don't want to count them.  Even though it strikes fear in my heart, it is actually an interesting process.  The 3 legs are carefully removed as the piano is turned on its side.  The piano is then wrapped in blankets and strapped to a special piano board.  These movers also put shrink wrap around it as an extra measure of protection.  Above you'll see the piano coming out the front door and down the steps.  The three guys were straining, grunting and huffing, to be sure.

After the movers left we walked around the house one last time, picking up a few forgotten things and saying goodbye.  I think we were suffering from a mild case of shock...bone tired and emotionally worn out, we sat on the front steps and took this photo.

As we were leaving, a friend that we hadn't seen for years dropped by, having no idea of our plans. He walked into the empty, echoing house, and all I could manage was Paul, you have caught us at a very odd time. I hope he forgave my lack of hospitality and inability to make small talk.

We are in Centreville now, reversing the packing process.  All in all we are doing well and longing to feel settled.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Boundary Days

I feel neither here nor there… as if I’m crossing from one life to another.

This is my last week at St. Saviour’s and it’s a hard one. So many goodbyes, so many “lasts.”  Last choir rehearsal, last Sunday service, last contemplative prayer group, last time to play the instrument that I know so well, and on and on.

In the midst of these boundary days we took a short trip to Grand Manan, a Canadian island in New Brunswick.  It was a chance to rest, be quiet and gather our wits before the final farewells and packing.  Coming back into Maine, at the border crossing, I just fell apart when the guard said “Welcome home.”

In two short weeks we will be on our way to Maryland and a new life.  We have a new house and I have already begun to choose music for my new job.  I wonder what it will feel like on that side where it’s too late to turn back.

Grandson Zev visited recently, with his parents, and it was a confirmation of our plans to move closer to them.  Thank you, Spirit.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Looking Down on Life

Yesterday I saw my life from the window of an airplane.

For a couple of months now Bill and I have been in the throes of an agonizing decision.…in the fall we are moving to the Eastern Shore of Maryland in order to be closer to Emily and her family.

Last week I was in Tennessee for a church musician’s conference, the one I attend every summer, and my return flight included a transfer at Washington-Reagan airport.  I have flown into and out of this airport so many times that I know exactly where to sit for the best views.  I was in that very seat yesterday, 7F, and watched the usual landmarks pass by - the Capital, National Cathedral, Georgetown University and such.  As we got to the outskirts of the city I returned to reading my book until a few minutes later I looked out the window again and we were crossing the sparkling Chesapeake Bay and its scary bridge. My eyes followed the highway across Kent Island until it turned north towards Centreville, where I will begin work in October. I was seeing my future.

Perhaps I’ve just never noticed, but I don’t remember flying that particular route before. I truly had a bird’s eye view of our new hometown and the surrounding area of farms, fields and woods. It felt like serendipity, seeing where we are moving from that vantage point, and it gave me a tremendous sense of confidence and a feeling that all would be well.

And then…as is customary the plane flew along the coast of Maine, up to Damariscotta before turning inland across the central part of the state.  I have lived here for many years and know the geography well…I recognized Popham Beach, the famous bridge over the Penobscot River at Bucksport and the road I traveled for many an organ lesson.  As we made our way north towards Bangor I could see the paradise of Mount Desert Island in the far distance, a scene of indescribable beauty. My life of the past 22 years passed before me and I both grieved and rejoiced… the passage of time was staring me in the face, yet my heart was filled with joy at the memory of friends, music and natural beauty.

Dear, dear Maine…I will miss you. And Maryland?  I think we will get along very well.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wearing a Cross

For my recent 60th birthday I wanted something more than the usual sweater or blouse from my mother. I wanted a keepsake, something to treasure, from her. And so I decided on a cross pendant.  While in Texas last month to celebrate the big day, she and I went to the James Avery store and had a wonderful time looking at the many possibilities, trying a few on, and ultimately choosing what’s called the Serenity Cross.  It is very simple and lovely, with a tiny dove in the middle.

If you’ve been reading this blog for long you’ll know that I am a Christian, but not the born-again, salvation thru Jesus’ death, all others go to hell kind.  I call myself a Christian because I try to use Christ as a model for compassion and love, an ideal of which I fall far short.

When I was at my Shalem residency in March several of the other students and I began a conversation about wearing a cross.  It began with my admiring one that a friend was wearing and her confession that she usually felt awkward doing so.  I admitted the same and then our rationales began:  people will think we’re evangelicals or theologically conservative (not that there’s anything wrong with that; only in our minds); it might be misinterpreted as a fashion statement (yes! remember Madonna’s huge crosses draping her scantily clad body?); or, my faith is private, I don’t need to parade it.

These rationales left us both feeling empty and we began instead to talk about why we might wear a cross: to remind us of our guide, to ground us, to not be ashamed of our faith, to open conversations.  So at that point Pattie and I made a pact to wear a cross at least once a week.  Over the next few days two other women joined us in this agreement and now a therapist, a general in the Army, a former editor and a church musician are all wearing a cross every week.

I have a pretty gold Celtic cross that I bought in Ireland a few years ago, as well as a couple of others given to me as gifts.  But as a way of honoring this commitment as well as my significant birthday I wanted a new one, bought just for these occasions.  And I have my keepsake and treasure, from my dear mother.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Early yesterday morning, as I walked outside with Prudy, I was greeted by a trio of birds enthusiastically singing a birthday greeting. Only a few hours before I had become sixty years old.

Like most people who make the turn into this new decade I cannot believe it's so.  How did we get so old?  My friends and I laugh and commiserate over the rapid passage of time, shaking our heads and insisting there must be some mistake.

But amidst the celebrations, cards, gifts and even jokes, I have noticed something lurking deep inside. It took me awhile to figure it out- I really wasn't feeling over-the-hill, in fact I feel pretty darn good, so why a bit of darkness, of anxiety?

The answer is that I sense, for the first time, the finiteness of life. Yes, of course we all know that we will die, but something about turning sixty has convinced me that my life really is finite. That's the idea that is causing me some problems, not the gray hair or occasional memory slips.  There's going to be an end.

My choices of how to make the most of my years are beckoning and weighing my heart down.  And now I must dig deeply into the accumulated wisdom from sixty years of my wonderful life.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


It is a quiet day; I am on a weekend silent retreat in the midst of the final residency for my contemplative prayer class.  The hours of silence are a gift-a gift of rest, of breath, of prayer, of the awareness of Being.

In the midst of this gift I struggle to say no to the ever-present to-do list which lurks around the edges of my consciousness.  NO.


Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an ax to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone
suddenly born into color.
Do it now.

You're covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you have died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.

The speechless full moon
comes out now.


Friday, January 30, 2015


As you might have gathered from my previous post, we are having a lot of snow in Maine.  A LOT. So this morning, tired of fighting the slippery roads into work, I decided to give myself a day off. After breakfast I said to Bill want to go snowshoeing today? He cleared his throat, hemmed and hawed a bit, and finally out came I was afraid you might say that.

Coming from Texas, I have not been a natural at winter sports.  Downhill skiing was hardly possible since I fell at the top of the chair lift every time.  Cross-country skiing wasn't much better-I still fell and those long skis became tangled and I could not get up.  Both embarrassing situations that I was not eager to repeat very often. But snowshoeing...that's a different story. First of all, I don't fall. The shoes are wide and sturdy and they grip the snow just right.  Years ago I was absolutely thrilled to find that here is a winter sport that I can manage and enjoy.

When we first moved to Maine over 20 years ago Bill bought a set of 1930's era snowshoes for me at an antique store.  He had to do a lot of work to make them usable and they were a treasured gift. Most people now use more modern snowshoes made out of aluminum, but these are truly beautiful, make a pretty track and work very well for me. I have cherished them for years.

Living on the coast our snow totals are often not what they are in interior Maine and there have been some years I did not snowshoe.  But this year?  Just perfect.  So what was the problem?  Bill had given away my snowshoes to a neighbor boy down the street who helps us mow our yard. I bet you can imagine my response to that...and now you see the result in the photo above...reunited with my snowshoes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Surviving the Blizzard

Smart cat, our Toulouse, sitting on the radiator while the snow piles up on the window behind him. Actually, we are taking his lead, although our radiator is a cozy woodstove.