It was just a splash of red against the gray asphalt. It was like a marker at the crossroads of a busy intersection. Like all those traveling north, south, east and west, my foot was to the metal and my eyes only took a single moment to see that this scarlet spot was not an abandoned candy wrapper or a soda can flattened in the surrounding haste. Instead, laying on the ground was a fully formed male cardinal, its exquisite life cut short by a wind that took it off course or a car whose speed matched the velocity of its outstretched wings…just so. I wondered if the driver even saw the impact and was now feeling the sadness I felt at witnessing its dead body. I breathed a sigh…a sort of prayer.
This moment in a summer day is still traveling with me. It has now been more than six weeks if not longer and I can still see the fallen bird, its brilliant red shining forth one last time. I have thought about this winged one more often than I would like to admit. Its beauty. Its vulnerability. Its untimely ending, an ending I glimpsed in just a second of my own beautiful and vulnerable life. In the briefest and yet deepest of ways, I felt connection to that bird whose flight was cut short as it headed for food or its nest or wherever it is cardinals fly to in an ordinary day that turned out to be not so ordinary.

Summer now gone, this is the season when birds and people are changing their patterns. Some are heading south and others are turning inward in anticipation of the winter to come. It is a time of great beauty…colors are turning in tree and plant…some animals are storing up food and growing warmer fur or feathers…some people are preparing their homes for colder days and storing up projects for longer nights. The summer days are past and autumn, the time for letting go and preparing for the journey of winter is upon us. 

An attention to these seasonal patterns can be a great connector, I have found. As humans we can often believe we are the center of it all, the wiser of all the creatures. But all we need do is observe the squirrel carrying multiple nuts as big as its head up a tree at lightning speed, jumping between precarious limbs, and we know the same feat would be impossible for us. Their winter prep makes ours look quite feeble and it engenders awe in me. I am blessed to watch their work and to feel a strange connection to knowing we will both go into the winter and, hopefully, will emerge intact when spring arrives again.

This attention to the connection and the patterns of ordinary days turned extraordinary is holy work. It is, at least for me, the recognition of a deeper Source that runs through all life…that holds us all…and for some reason I feel it more acutely this fall. Perhaps it is because fall so tenderly holds the beauty and the vulnerability. Perhaps it is because the image of the cardinal is still shimmers in the recesses of memory.

I am not sure when the sight of the dead cardinal will leave me. When it does it is likely to be replaced by another reminder of connection with Creation, the joys and the loss that are the waves we all ride. At least I hope that is the case. In being a steward of the red bird’s memory, I was reminded of how singer/songwriter Peter Mayer writes about his experience of seeing a red-winged bird. He describes it as “shining like a burning bush” and “singing like a scripture verse”. He goes on to say the sight makes him want to bow his head because everything is holy now. 

Beauty. Vulnerability. Connection. Ordinary. Holy. A bowed head seems just right for this autumn day.

Strong Rope


There are books that seem to call me back. Books I have read more than once…some several times. Since I am a dedicated underliner, I find phrases that have meant something at one time, their words sitting atop a red, blue, black or even green line reinforcing their meaning., giving weight to the various letters that have come together to forge their identity in the world and in the sentence. Sometimes I understand what the phrase meant to me when my pen put its signature under it. Other times, I furrow my brow with the ‘what was I thinking?’look.
Over the last days I picked up again A Hidden Wholeness:The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker Palmer. I must have read this book, or at least parts of it, at least three times. My underlining got started early with the his first short quote from Leonard Cohen that begins the Prelude to the book: “The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and it has overturned the order of the soul.” I had not simply underlined this sentence but created a box around it with blue ink.

I do not know what was happening in my world or the wider world that caused me to box this collection of words. I cannot remember the year or the time in my life. But as I reread the Prelude to this book of invitation to wholeness, I was drawn in again to the lure of their beauty and truth. The blizzard of the world…even in these summer days…crossing the threshold…piling up wind and storm…overturning the order of the soul. Have you ever had this experience? 

Our lives can often become divided by any manner of things. Our work. Our health. Our life circumstances. The workings of the world around us. The pain and pull of others both near and far. Some days it is simply easier to create little compartments where one part of ourself goes…worry, here…pain, there…joy, in this box…grief, in this slot in the back. We divide ourselves into little squares of emotion and thought, mind and spirit, creating hard edges that threaten to crack and peel at the least appearance of vulnerability. It can be a difficult balancing act to maintain.

Parker Palmer uses these words of Cohen to tell the story of how, at the threat of an impending storm, the farmers of days gone by who lived on the Midwest plains would run a rope from the house to the barn. This rope became the lifeline that kept the farmers connected between the shelter of their home and the shelter they were providing for the animals they cared for and that brought them their livelihood. This way, when the winds blew, the snow fell and their vision became obscured by all that swirled around them, they held onto the rope and found their way between their responsibilities and their home. The rope became a way of not getting lost in the storms of the world.

These days we have many stormy words and sentiments flying around us. Our political climate and the rhetoric filling our airwaves can become overwhelming. What to believe? How to think? What to say…when to remain silent? For me, this can be upending to the order of my soul. And so I have been tying my rope from home to the places that help me maintain a soul order… beautiful words that don’t mean to harm or coerce…listening to the chattery sound of the morning birdsong…observing the particular color and shapes of the evening, autumn sky… spending time with the people whose hearts are kind and gentle…and embracing the gift of silence. These are the knots along the rope that, I hope, will carry me through the storm that is likely to be the next two months. 

Whatever storm is crossing your threshold, may the rope you tie be strong and sure.



Sometimes it is good to take a break even from the things you love. Sometimes it is good to know when to be silent, when to be still, when to listen more than speak, when to step back from the things that pull at your heart. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the wisdom writer says it well…”to everything there is a season”. The last several months have found me in a season of withdrawal from this world of words I so dearly love.
Instead, I have found myself in a season of silence. It has been a season that has taken me to places of deep listening. It is a season that has also taken me to places of letting go and simply being. Without the need to interpret or make meaning. Without the need to share musings with anyone other than my most inward self. In many ways it has been a season of confusion even numbness. But it is a season I can feel is ending or at least changing. As someone who puts the world together and makes sense of its experiences through the gift of words this feels like a homecoming.

This past week I saw the first flock of geese headed to their next season. I was driving by the airport hoping for the experience I so love of having a plane fly directly over my car as I drive by. Feeling the sheer weight of one of those massive machines fly over your toy-sized vehicle, hearing the pounding power of it as it makes its way up into the air or back to Earth again, always thrills me. I try to time my driving with the plane’s take off or landing, so I am situated in a connecting tunnel of energy not only with the flying machine but also with those who are doing their own travel. It is a quirky little thing I do.

But that morning it was not a plane that rose off the runway. Instead it was six amazing geese making their own kind of energy, their own kind of flight. As they approached their take-off to fly directly over the road, I watched them and something shifted in me. And I knew a season was changing…for the winged ones…for me…for the landscape and place I call home. I smiled at the noticing and its promise.

Our lives are made of so many seasons. There are the life stages that define our living. There are seasons that create the space for our work, our learning, our playing. There are the seasons of creativity and fallowness. There are the seasons of being a child, being a caregiver and the way those seasons seem to fall back into themselves over the years. They are seasons in our relationships. There are the seasons of the year, their gifts and challenges, the beauty they offer and the sometimes boredom they lay at our doorstep. So many seasons…

The season I have been in has been a season of silence and suspension above some of the creative acts that bring me life. But just like the geese who have been pecking at the earth, filling their bellies with food-fuel that will allow them to do the hard work of getting to the home of their next season, I, too, have been storing up. It is something we all must do at times. Because life is filled with many seasons. 

Of course, in seeing those geese rise into the clear blue sky of the impending autumn I immediately thought of my soul-teacher Mary Oliver’s words:

“Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.”

Whatever season you are in, may you rest gently in its wisdom. May you listen and learn its lessons. And may we all rise up and hear the call, announcing our place in the family of things.