Love Is Always the Answer


Today… an older gentleman walked in.

Carla asks if he has any questions, to which he responds:

“I have all the answers.”

So I ask him what the meaning of life is.

He says, “Love.”

He continues:

“All faiths have one goal.
To establish YOU in love.
Today, tomorrow and forever.
An establishment of love forever into eternity.
You will be loved forever and ever and ever.

All faiths pursue the same ideal.

The trouble is, you don’t get there too well sometimes.
Love is a difficult thing to maintain.”

Yes, love is difficult— but anything worthwhile is.
Yes, you will be loved forever and ever and ever.
Yes, love is the answer. 

Have faith. Love is always the answer. Sufey Chen

Thank you, Sufey.  I follow your blog and keep track of you on Facebook. Your radiant happiness and joy for life amazes me. I am grateful for the days when reading what you shared has taken an ordinary day and made it better.

To be yourself in a world
that is constantly trying
to make you something else
is the greatest accomplishment.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Year’s Last, Loveliest Smile

The first day of fall was a week ago, but until today the weather was still very much summer like. Today is the first ‘fall like” day we’ve had. It’s overcast, rainy and cool. The following originally posted almost a year ago on October 8, 2012 shows a true ove of autumn. 

The first chill of fall has hung around for three days now and there is change in the air. Lawns and bushes are still holding their green, but leaves are coming down. The time of autumn’s grand display is not far away when frost turns most everything into bright yellow, vibrant orange and brilliant red.

The seasons have long suited me in a different manner than is typical where Spring is the first season, Summer comes after, Fall arrives third and Winter comes at the end. Autumn is the season I love best and comes first in line for me. Fall to me is the awakening; a new beginning. Winter comes afterward as a time of growth, study and reflection. Spring growth comes with a general bursting forward followed by Summer which is just Spring in old clothes; over-grown. After all a season with two names, Fall and Autumn, must be special!

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale. Lauren DeStefano

Squeeze your eyes closed, as tight as you can, and think of all your favorite autumns, crisp and perfect, all bound up together like a stack of cards. That is what it is like… the wonderful brightness of Fairy colors. Catherynne M. Valente

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. George Eliot

Use what you have, use what the world gives you. Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness; harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire. Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce, roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself. The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before the black and white silence of winter. Shauna Niequist

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. Albert Camus

Gratitude overflows on these cool days and chilly nights of Autumn. Feeling the fresh air of Fall on my skin and seeing the landscape unfold in an abundance of color is truly one of my favorite things. It is some of God’s greatest art.

Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.
William Cullen Bryant

Even the Best of Things


Halfway home, the sky goes from dark gray to almost black and a loud thunder snap accompanies the first few raindrops that fall. Heavy, warm, big drops, they drench me in seconds, like an overturned bucket from the sky dumping just on my head. I reach my hands up and out, as if that can stop my getting wetter, and open my mouth, trying to swallow the downpour, till it finally hits me how funny it is, my trying to stop the rain.

This is so funny to me, I laugh and laugh, as loud and free as I want. Instead of hurrying to higher ground, I jump lower, down off the curb, splashing through the puddles, playing and laughing all the way home. In all my life till now, rain has meant staying inside and not being able to go out to play. But now for the first time I realize that rain doesn’t have to be bad. And what’s more, I understand, sadness doesn’t have to be bad, either. Come to think of it, I figure you need sadness, just as you need the rain.

Thoughts and ideas pour through my awareness. It feels to me that happiness is almost scary, like how I imagine being drunk might feel – real silly and not caring what anybody else says. Plus, that happy feeling always leaves so fast, and you know it’s going to go before it even does. Sadness lasts longer, making it more familiar, and more comfortable. But maybe, I wonder, there’s a way to find some happiness in the sadness. After all, it’s like the rain, something you can’t avoid. And so, it seems to me, if you’re caught in it, you might as well try to make the best of it.

Getting caught in the warm, wet deluge that particular day in that terrible summer full of wars and fires that made no sense was a wonderful thing to have happen. It taught me to understand rain, not to dread it. There were going to be days, I knew, when it would pour without warning, days when I’d find myself without an umbrella. But my understanding would act as my all-purpose slicker and rubber boots. It was preparing me for stormy weather, arming me with the knowledge that no matter how hard it seemed, it couldn’t rain forever. At some point, I knew, it would come to an end. From “Finding Fish: A Memoir” by Antwone Quenton Fisher

Since childhood the rain has been one of my absolute favorite things. It soothes and calms me like few things can. Quite by accident I discovered a word for people like me who love the rain: pluviophile. It’s borrowed from the science of biology where it means “thriving in conditions of abundant rainfall”.

Enduring the flooding that followed a category four hurricane on a Caribbean island makes me sympathetic to those enduring the aftermath of flooding right now. In spite of the twelve to fourteen feet of flood water that came with my Hurricane Ivan experience in 2004, my affinity for rain remains unaffected. I’m grateful to grasp that even the best of things can be bad in excess.

I don’t just wish you rain…
I wish you the beauty of storms…
John Geddes

Nothing Is Holier


For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves.

Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” From “Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte” by Hermann Hesse

WOW! I will never look at a tree the same again. I am grateful to Mr. Hesse for widening my view.

Love the trees until their leaves fall off,
then encourage them to try again next year.
Chad Sugg

The Ultimate Virtue


Wanting to love someone is not the same as loving someone.
Knowledge of how to build something will not build anything.
Needing to get in better shape does not make me healthier.
Aspiring to make a difference does not make a difference.
Wishing to be kinder does not make me more kind.
Knowing what is right is not doing what is right.
Realizing what I should do is not the doing of it.
Craving a relationship does not put me in one.
Desiring to apologize is not an apology.
Yearning to finish a book is not writing.
Wanting to travel is not traveling.
Longing for love is not love.

Knowing is a small thing.
Using what I know is a big thing.

Almost two hundred years after he lived Johan Wolfgang von Goethe is remembered as many things: poet, playwright, dramatist, novelist, scientist. But it’s what the man left behind as a philosopher that has taken root within. Sometimes when I kind of lose my way, I frequently find something ‘good ole Wolfgang’ wrote will nudge me out of “thinking” and into “doing”. Here are four examples:

Doubt can only be removed by action.

As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.

With the gift of lots of time on my hands it’s not easy some days to direct myself toward something, even if my desired ‘something’ is screwing off. That too can be done well. Wasting time is not performed to its full potential if the voice inside is saying I should get busy being productive. Today I make the commitment to ‘screw off and waste time’ to my fullest potential. I smiled as I typed that because I am humbly grateful for a Tuesday that is mine, all mine.

Knowledge without application
is simply knowledge.
Applying the knowledge
to one’s life is wisdom,
and that is the ultimate virtue.
Kasi Kaye Ilopouloa

The Space I Have


I had a little talk with myself.

I asked, “If nothing was holding you back and you could live anywhere, where would you be?”

I quickly answered, “Right here where I am” but knew the answer was far more than location. Yet I had no better quick answer.

I asked, “Why don’t you know for sure exactly where you’d like to be”.

I answered, “That’s a good question. I think it is more a state of being, than a physical place. My happiness is not about being some where, it is about how I fill the space where I am.

“Please explain” I said to myself.

I answered, “It’s peace I want most; to wish to be nowhere else living any other life”. I found a description that hints at that:

I am at peace and comfortable with and with in my self.
I am not always happy with what I do in a certain moment
but I accept it as “what I have done” and go on;
maybe to learn from it and to change in the future and maybe not.
I don’t fret too much over the flawed person I am.
I do my very best to pass this same understanding
and acceptance on towards others as well.
For, giving them the benefit of the doubt
(till such a time as they prove undeserving of it)
I trust that their intentions are for the best
even as I believe mine are.

I heard myself ask, “How do you find peace?”

I answered, “You don’t find it.  It finds you. Staying present and accepting life as it really is invites peace. I am grateful be reminded that peacefulness is not about being any particular place. It comes from how well I fill the space I have.

Acceptance is not liking
or agreeing with,
it’s not submitting.
It’s not fighting with or resisting.
It’s not giving in or strategizing,
it’s not even a step towards resolution.
Acceptance is letting go of all judgments,
opinions, positions and prejudices.
Acceptance is accepting everything
about what is and isn’t so
about any given situation.
If you want to find peace
first you must find acceptance.

My Close Relationship with Melody and Rhythm

-------------------040ede0eFrom the time I can remember, music has been around me. My young parents were music fans who had a radio on most of the time. My youngest formative years were spent with Elvis, Hank Sr. and Patsy Cline.

By grammar school it was “Top 40” of the 60’s that was a soundtrack for my life. Today to sort out roughly what year a song came out all I have to do is think about what memories the tune brings up. From what I recall I can tell you where I lived and what was going on with me around the time the song was a big hit.

Lacking good examples of healthy emotions from my family of origin, many of my deepest feelings were developed through music. Every meaningful relationship I have ever had is associated musically in my memory.

During my brooding late teens/early twenties of the 70’s, lyrics like James Taylor’s influenced me (I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend…).

Early memories of falling in love are associated with songs like Chicago’s “Beginnings” (When I’m with you, it doesn’t matter where we are, or what we’re doing. I’m with you, that’s all that matters…)

By the 80’s such feelings were better described by George Michael (If you are the desert, I’ll be the sea, If you ever hunger, hunger for me, whatever you ask for that’s what I’ll be…)

REM spoke about the type confusion I felt in the 90’s when success turned out to be mostly an empty achievement (That’s me in the corner, That’s me in the spotlight, Losing my religion…). Collective Soul’s “Shine” was another song for my quandaries then (Teach me how to speak, Teach me how to share, Teach me where to go, Tell me love will be there…).

In more recent times lyrics like Ha ha ha, bless your soul, You really think you’re in control? Well, I think you’re crazy… from Knarles Barkley or Confusion never stops, Closing walls and ticking clocks from Coldplay suggested change. Forgiveness and renewal had begun within me when Linkin Park’s words hit home (For what I’ve done, I start again, And whatever pain may come, Today this ends, I’m forgiving what I’ve done…).

Music exists in every culture, and infants have excellent musical abilities that cannot be explained by learning. Mothers everywhere sing to their infants because babies understand it. …certain cells in the right hemisphere respond more to melody than to language. Evidence suggests that long-term musical involvement reaps cognitive rewards–in language skills, reasoning and creativity–and boosts social adjustment. Music exercises the brain. Norman M. Weinberger

There is equipment that plays music in just about every room in my home. I can’t imagine life without it. Music has been companion, solace, teacher, compatriot, consoler and more. Whether they bring up a happy thought, a sad memory, a painful recollection or a delightful remembrance I am profoundly grateful for my close relationship with melody and rhythm. Music has been a friend that has never forsaken me.

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words
and that which cannot remain silent.
Victor Hugo

Living Too Long With a Single Dream

the-great-gaatsby edit

A lot can be packed into forty-four years. F. Scott Fitzgerald proved it. In more than one or two ways his life paralleled those of one of his characters, James Gatz or Jay Gatsby. Both suffered from the ill effects of wealth and a decadent lifestyle, their own ego and overt self-confidence, and alcoholism.

Take away the drinking and I too, have a little in common with Fitzgerald, but to a greater degree with his Gatsby character. Money things corrupted me as it did him. Growing up poor I too wrongly thought material wealth was the key to happiness. I have loved women who were not good for me just as Gatsby’s “Daisy” was for him. Just as she did to him, more than once my heart was given wholly and completely to one who professed love for me, only to be ultimately left behind.

Having never read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald nor having seen the movie version made in my time I did not know what to expect when I headed out to take in the movie yesterday. It was a film I was determined to see on the big screen but almost missed out. My last chance was at a nearby “cheapie movie” theater. It is the writer’s use of language and ability to pant vivid images in my mind I will long remember. Here are a few quotes particularly memorable to me.

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promise of life… it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.

His dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.

It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four of five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on YOU with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

He looked at her the way all women want to be looked at by a man.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in 1896 and died of a heart attack in 1940. He is generally thought of as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century and specifically remembered for his vivid descriptions of the “Jazz Age”, a name he coined. “Gatsby” has been frequently referred to as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream. In spite of how Fitzgerald is viewed today, he died believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten.

Seeing “The Great Gatsby” yesterday opened my awareness up to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his work. Now I have several novels to read and three old movies to see; one from 1949, another from 1974 and a TV movie from 2000. There was a silent version from 1926 made in Fitzgerald’s time I would dearly enjoy seeing but sadly it is a famous example of a lost film. A trailer is all that is known to exist.

For a man who loves skillfully written books, good stories and well done movies, I am delighted to have something new come on to my path. I am grateful to have discovered Fitzgerald and Gatsby.

…he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world,
paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.
He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky…
A new world, material without being real,
where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air,
drifted fortuitously about…
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Home Sweet Home


There are stories from the American Civil War before a battle when the soldiers of one side would begin to sing and the opposing arm would then join in from the distance. Singing “Home Sweet Home” in unison was said by many who fought to be one of the few good memories of the great conflict.

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there’s no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.

I gaze on the moon as I tread the drear wild
And feel that my mother now thinks of her child
As she looks on the moon from our own cottage door
Through the woodbine whose fragrance shall cheer me no more.

An exile from home splendor dazzles in vain
Oh, give me my low, thatched cottage again,
The birds singing gaily that come at my call,
Give me them with that peace of mind, dearer than all.

How sweet ’tis to sit ‘neath a fond father’s smile,
And the cares of a mother to soothe and beguile.
Let others delight ‘mid new pleasures to roam,
But give me, oh give me the pleasures of home.

To thee I’ll return overburdened with care,
The hearts dearest solace will smile on me there
No more from that cottage again will I roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

Home! Home! sweet, sweet Home!
There’s no place like Home!
by John Howard Payne, 1823

Dearly I love to travel, but even more  I love coming home after a satisfying journey! I was just away on for a long weekend filled with more fun and joy than I have experienced in a long time exceeded only by the good felt walking through my front door last night. I am grateful to be able to travel and even more to have a home to come home to that I enjoy so much .

How often have I lain beneath
rain on a strange roof,
thinking of home.
William Faulkner

Photo credit: Denis Collette…!!! / / CC BY-NC-ND

The Well of the Spirit

well-w-bucketWhat if you had died in your sleep last night? Would you be wishing you’d done yesterday what you didn’t do? Words that you regret not saying? Gratitude left unexpressed? Love left unspoken?

While the scenario is humanly impossible, it’s just the sort of exercise I throw at myself once in a while to see how well I lived the previous day as compared to my intentions. There’s a line of thinking that goes “when you die there should be plenty left to do in your “in-box”. To follow through on this morning’s exercise, I have to put away most of the things on “my to-do list” choosing instead what I mean to get around to more but never seem to even get on that list.

I should…

…call my son more often and travel to see him more.

…touch base at least once per week with my dearest friends.

…remember to congratulate loved one’s birthdays/anniversaries & on the correct date.

…pay attention and observe the world more closely when I am walking or driving.

…listen closer to what others say getting less caught up in my thoughts as they speak.

…notice more things to be thankful for. There are many more than I acknowledge.

…slow down when I eat and enjoy my food instead of making it just a necessary task.

…notice the sunrise, the sunset and the sky in between.

…communicate more with my brother who is the only close blood relative I have.

…say I love you more to a broader group of people than I usually keep it to.

…daydream more and actually do the things I dream up and really want to do.

…be less afraid of my feelings and openly expressing them.

…be kinder, more forgiving and less hard on myself.

…be quicker with apologies and forgiveness.

…read more.

It’s interesting how fast that list came. I barely had time to type one before I was on to the next. Sometimes they came so fast I lost one or two before I could get them written. What that shows is the abundance of  “should-dos” I am missing out on; a gentle wake up call.

The inspiration to write this came from the infinite source beyond me that I readily acknowledge. When I am truly ready to receive, inspiration always shows up. Often it does not come in the form I was hoping for, but rarely is it anything but what I needed. I am grateful for the well of the spirit from where understanding and insight flow to me.

Life is not lost by dying;
life is lost minute by minute,
day by dragging day,
in all the thousand
small uncaring ways.
Stephen Vincent Benét