what takes your breath away?

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

A few weeks ago, as I was making a routine journey back and forth along the busy street I traverse several times a day, I couldn’t help but hear the leaves.  I heard them.  Yes.  That’s what I wrote.  I  h e a r d  them.

They were the deepest, most crimson red they’d ever be this year.  Saturated with beauty and singing their highest notes.  An opera for my ears, a crescendo of color.  Have you ever noticed that?  How autumn leaves are this most vivid, crisp color just before they begin to fade and fall to the ground?

There are so many things like this that take my breath away.

Yesterday marked the winter solstice, the darkest night of the year, and at a time in which we find our world community tempted toward anxiety and despair, when I know so many of us are caught up in the tumult of life, it’s these moments of awe and wonder that fill me with gratitude and propel me forward in hope.  There are kind strangers holding open doors for you.  There are clerks smiling behind cash registers.  There are even drivers nodding and letting you in to jammed city streets, waving back at you, you’re welcome.

There are so many things . . . just listen.

By now the rains have come, and those beautiful leaves have fallen at our feet, a small sacrifice for the springtime flowers to come.  But it has me singing, welcoming the coming light into the world and wondering, what takes  y o u r  breath away?



Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things




MERRY CHRISTMAS, from two or three little birds.


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moving through summer


I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through.  ~ Hafiz

Summer is an exciting time. A season of travel, movement, being. We have been programmed to think of summer as a time fit for slowing down, a time of rest and relaxation, but my isn’t it one of the busiest seasons of all. I don’t know about you, but each year as the month of June approaches, I long for those lazy days. I recall the summers I spent as a child, swimming in our backyard pool, playing cards on the living room floor with my brothers, riding a bicycle to the drugstore for a scoop of ice cream or a pack of bubblegum. I have so many fond memories of days spent doing nothing more than waking, eating, playing and sleeping.

For many years my family lived in a five bedroom split-level house tucked into a suburban cul-de-sac in a neighborhood full of children. It was an idyllic backdrop for childhood adventures. Furnished by a single father, our decor was sparse and indestructible. The front room was originally designed to be a formal living room, with elaborate faux-landscape wallpaper, white shag carpet, and a grand window with sheer drapery meant to be drawn back dramatically and pooled on the floor. You know, the kind of room your parents kept meticulously clean but never allowed you to enter else you die. Well, once we moved in it became our play room. Along the faux-landscaped wall sat a lone geometric print black, red, and gold crushed velvet couch. The only other piece of furniture was a tall maple cabinet that housed our beloved Sony Trinitron color television, replete with a dozen silver push button channels with green glowing backlit numbers, and our pong and Atari video game consoles. What more did we need? My father preferred the family room off the kitchen and set it up with a tower bookcase holding his elaborate component stereo system, two custom-built speakers, and another equally funky tweed couch and that was it. In our formal dining room? A weight bench. God bless my dad for providing us with such a wonderful place to call home, with good schools, winding streets lined with leafy trees for climbing, neighborhood friends for moonlit hide and seek games, a pantry full of healthy cereal and boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. When I wander through this house in my mind, I don’t see all the missing furniture but only feel the sunshine and laughter of summer.

While those days of simply waking, eating, playing and sleeping are long gone, we can still make time for summer. In many respects, the slowness of summer is a state of mind, because let’s face it, it’s already August and we have jobs and family and obligations and places to go people to see. Reality is racing all around us — it doesn’t stop for an iced tea in a patch of shade. That new movie you’ve got to see. The restaurant you’re dying to try. The friends who just called to let you know they’ll be in town, tomorrow, with all their kids AND the drooling dog. That calendar fills up, even if you’re retired or perhaps a teacher like me with summer spread out before you. But what if we were more deliberate in our leave taking? What if we set aside one section of our day and moved more slowly through it. What would that kind of summer look like for you?

I’d enjoy long stretches of morning and spend as much time as I could in my pajamas, reading or just listening to the breeze through open windows, to water trickling from a backyard fountain. I’d never pass up an invitation to travel, I’d linger longer over conversations with strangers — grateful for good fortune when it brings me to kind people who like to talk and tell stories as much as I do — and I’d savor the extra time I have to experiment in the kitchen, making jam and baking bread. It’s in these moments, those moments in between meetings and parties and appointments and classes, in between weekend trips and laundry loads, where my movement, my being, is filled with summer.

 One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.

~ Jeannette Walls

What if we set aside one section of our day and moved more slowly through it. What would that kind of summer look like for you?


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lenten readalong update

Choosing a book for a readalong is no easy task, especially when one discovers she’d rather read novels than hefty theological tomes.  After visiting three bookshops hoping to hold the Rolheiser in my hand, I finally found it and decided it just weighed too much — in more ways than one.  Rolheiser is out for sure, but I do look forward to reading excerpts.

I’m still intrigued by Fr. James Martin’s Jesus but worry that may not be the best choice for a “retreat” type book, either.  He’s got another book called Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, which again would be perfect if it were shorter or more snippety.  I sense most want a little reflection and not a lot of heavy chapter-length prose, even if it leads us to joy and laughter.

Traveling Your Road to Joy is another promising read I’ve ordered and should have in hand for more thorough browsing tomorrow.  This is a short 8 session Merton study, and I think it could be a great book to lead us into Pope Francis’s The Joy of the GospelWith session titles like “Living Joyfully in the Present Moment” and “A Joy that Tastes God,” brief reflections upon scripture and passages from Merton’s writings, and I presume some reflection questions for contemplative dialogue, this could be an interesting perfect read for my Lent Party!  The jury is out until I see the entire book.

Others have expressed an interest in the Lent and Easter Wisdom books for Merton and St. Therese, so either of these could be the ticket.

Do you still have some thoughts or a comment about the book(s) you like to read during Lent?  You can email me directly through the contact page or leave a comment to this post.

If you’re looking for a novel to read during Lent, may I recommend these?  I’ve read Gilead and have had Death Comes for the Archbishop on my TBR shelf for almost a year.  Dying to read it!


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