Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

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The courage to relinquish certainties

Gleanings found here and there:

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Painting, “Movement”, Diane Kirkup

Relinquish what is without. Cultivate what is within. Live for your centre, not your senses.

~ Tao te Ching, Lao Tzu

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Painting, “Movement”, Diane Kirkup / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns


Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.

~ Erich Fromm

There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”   ~ Carl Jung


A useful kind of going astray

During the weeks I spent in Europe last spring, I got reacquainted with the power of the natural world to quiet my mind in order that my heart will be able to hear at all. For the voices that assist and guide it are soft and subtle, and are drowned out by the din of life and the world.

Because of the wide-open nature of so many European settings, the sky is a constantly-changing panorama I found myself stopping to watch like a movie, and there was always something on the horizon that I would set out on a long walk simply to see up close.

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Photo: Kathy Gilman

Ironically, more often than not I never made it there because I was waylaid by something magnificent along the way.

It could be the slant of the light on a field; the shape of a lone tree in the midst of hectares of rolling hills; one small, stunning blossom on a branch that brushed me as I walked past, like a woods creature trying to get my attention.

Diedenbergen_signs“To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience,” wrote Saint Teresa of Avila

Astray from what? I wonder.

My preconceived notions? Insistent, certain ideas or opinions?

When I leave room for wonder or miracles, it leads me back to something Pema Chödrön has summarized beautifully in her book,

Practicing Peace in Times of War:

“If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it.

We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility.


Photo: David Campbell. http://gbctours.com

That’s the true practice of peace.”

And Pema has also captured the very fulcrum of living:

“Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.”


A girl, a bat, and how caring becomes courage


Illustration: Leona Herzig Hosack

Life delivered a very sweet gift recently from artist Leona Herzig Hosack, when she told me that her illustrations for my forthcoming children’s book from Bellwood Press are nearing completion. Better, yet, she’s letting folks have a peek.

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Illustration: Leona Herzig Hosack

Jamila Does Not Want A Bat in her House is the story of a little girl frightened by the bat swooping around inside her house, especially when her parents can’t get it outside. It flies out of their reach, over their heads, and disappears where they can’t see it. Jamila does not like this game of hide-and-seek at all.


Illustration: Leona Herzig Hosack

When she finally sees the bat up close, she discovers that it’s very small, and that it might be as scared as she is. That’s when she finds the compassion, and the courage, to help the bat, her family, and herself. Along the way, she learns about perseverance, cooperation, and the real power of prayer to help us meet the challenges that can arrive in our lives like unwelcome visitors.

Bats have visited my family’s Victorian house regularly through the years. Over time, as our family solved the challenge of freeing them, we learned a lot, as Jamila does, about the value of empathy, and of working together for the benefit of all (including the bat).

Find more illustrations and learn about Leona’s artistic process at her blog: http://leonaartsandmusic.blogspot.com/2015/02/finally-here-are-final-sketches-for.html


The treasures in the moments

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Image: Judy Hughey Wright


You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.

~ Thomas Merton

The Universe does not know whether the vibration that you’re offering is because of something you’re observing or something you’re remembering or something that you are imagining. It just receives the vibration and answers it with things that match it.

~ Abraham-Hicks

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Image: Judy Hughey Wright

Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world. 

~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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Image: Judy Hughey Wright

O God
Whenever I listen
to the voice of anything you have made —
The rustling of the trees
The trickling of water
The cries of the birds
The flickering of shadow
The roar of the wind
The song of the thunder,
I hear it saying:
God is One!
Nothing can be compared with God!

~ Rabi’a  717–801, Sufi saint, woman mystic


“In times of war and deprivation …”

As scenes, and themes, of hunger envelop my current novel-in-progress, this writer’s Guest Post is a glimpse of history – and hunger – from the branches of our own family tree: th

The measure of a moral compass

By Tracey Edgerly Meloni

Nana’s last ration book, bilious green and brittle, is pasted to the inside cover of her journal. Rationing in the UK continued until 1954 – July 4 – and defined three generations of my family, for better or for worse. Now, it seems the hand of “democratic deprivation” touches – teaches? – six-year-old me.

Sample_UK_Childs_Ration_Book_WW2Holding it, feeling it, I am engulfed in memories that are not mine, but are as deeply embedded as if they were. All my short life I have heard about the evacuees from London and Birmingham that filled The Chantry, the Victorian Gothic-horror house where eventually I was born in England’s Lake District. Retold stories of GranNana “tsking” over the poor quality of coal available to heat the house while she supervised the hanging of “ill-fitting” blackout drapes, lamenting in her ladylike way the conversion of nearby Shap Wells resort into a POW camp for upper echelon German officers. I recall Nana joining the chorus: “We managed on one egg a week while the best provisions sailed past bound for ‘Those Germans’.”

My mother took up shooting rabbits for meat – “I’m not eating another revolting mouthful of bloody whale, and you’ll not convince me SPAM is meant to be eaten by humans. I’d rather wait for horsemeat.” 1601418_894304997248646_7548890421444550389_n

The “Land girls” made sure they – I can’t help but think “we” – had plenty of vegetables and developed recipes to make them palatable in the absence of butter and onions. Most treasured, and missed, were bacon, butter, cream and whole milk. Till the day they died, my forebear-women would not tolerate margarine, powdered milk or the dreaded peanut butter (used as a less-than-successful shortening in wartime baked goods).

Sharing the shortages was a red badge of courage. Rationing was good for all.


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Photo: Kathy Gilman

All the women spoke gleefully of the alligator shoes, a size too small, my mother found for 100 pounds (!!) on the black market. No one chastised Mr. Dixon-Hunter for siphoning petrol from unwitting hotel visitors. The tale of Rodney, the ill-gotten pig, hidden and slaughtered for a village Guy Fawkes Day feast, is still cheerfully ballyhooed.

Uncle Willie, my Godfather, who fought in a ghastly conflict no one mentions, sees my untutored ethical struggle. He smells of Pear’s soap and Players cigarettes and ginger. I love him very much.

tracey_edgerly_meloni“In time of war and deprivation,” he says earnestly, looking into my eyes, “our moral compasses may venture off true north.”

Years will pass before I grasp his meaning, but the words remained as indelibly etched as the brittle feel of the ration book.


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Every true gift has eternity in it


United Baptist Church, Lakeport, NH

My friend, Carol, gave me a wonderful surprise at about the last place I’d have expected it — her funeral.

She received the devastating news about her cancer the same day her employer told her that she would soon be out of a job.

Things happened even faster for Carol, after that – fast especially for someone who, like most of us at this stage of life, was never looking to include life-threatening illness in her life experience. By early September, she’d been given three months to live. Her goal was to make it through all three of them, which, God willing, would be just enough time to see her first grandchild.

I made a trip to see Carol that week and brought a small CD player I’d picked up. She’d been feeling so terrible that even reading and watching TV were impossible, but she could still enjoy listening to music. However, her own CD player had broken.

CD playerThere was so much I couldn’t do for her. This, at least, seemed like one small thing I could offer. Knowing how weak she was, I searched for a little machine that was lightweight and, hopefully, something she’d be able to move herself.

The day I saw her, despite the fact that she was essentially drifting between worlds, she, as always, received my gift graciously.

But my heart was saddened by two things that were clear from the moment I watched the home-health nurse call for an ambulance to take her to the hospital: Carol was never going to use that CD player, and she wasn’t going to live to see her grandchild born.

A week later, I sat in a small Victorian church whose beautiful stained-glass windows flooded its pews with rosy light. Waiting for Carol’s funeral service to begin, I was thinking about her life, and all of the things that would never be, when I noticed that among the vases of cut flowers and the pretty candles that had been set out on a small table up front, there was something familiar.

Read the rest at BoomerCafe, kind enough to include my thoughts about Carol this week:




Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details:




On our way home


Photo: D. Kirkup Designs

Gleanings found here and there:

Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what’s going on.  ~ Pema Chödron

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.  ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Doorway to the Past

Photo: Kathy Gilman

No matter how far you are from yourself, no matter how exiled you feel from your contribution to the rest of the world; as a human being all you have to do is enumerate exactly the way you don’t feel at home in the world, say exactly how you don’t belong, and the moment you’ve uttered the exact dimensionality of your exile, you’re already taking the path back to the way – back to the place – you should be.

You’re already on your way home.  ~ David Whyte