Archive for January, 2011

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?  “Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh.  After careful thought, Piglet was comforted by this.”

— A.A. Milne

We have had a lot of snow this winter.  Our average around here is 14.4 inches for the season, and with the whole month of February ahead of us, our area already has had nearly 30 inches of snow.  Today’s morning news predicts a two-day winter storm that will begin with more snow and wrap up with a half inch of ice.  The precipitation will begin tonight; but already the grocery stores are crowded with desperate people who have a primal urge to purchase bread and milk.  I’ve often thought that a study should be launched to determine whether the purchase of bread and milk might actually be the trigger that causes snow to fall.  We know there is a correlation, but it would be interesting to see whether there is also a cause/effect relationship.

Not a flake of snow has fallen.  Not a drop of freezing rain has hit the pavement.  There is a whole day ahead of us that is predicted to be dry, but all of our thoughts turn to the dread of the coming storm.  What if we’re snowed in.  What if school is closed again.  What if the midterm exams that were supposed to be done last Wednesday now stretch out through Thursday morning.  What if the school year has to be extended into summer and foul vacation plans.  What if.

How much time do you suppose we spend dreading the things that might happen.  How much time do you suppose we spend indulging our fear of possible negative events that might occur in the future.  How much time do you suppose we miss of today as we worry about tomorrow?  I have no problem with the idea of an extra loaf of bread and a little bit of milk.  That’s just good planning; and whether the snow arrives or not, we will need to eat.  Let’s buy that bread and milk, put it away, and get on with living the day we are given today.  Snow and ice will come tomorrow — if they come at all.  Let’s not allow today to be buried in thoughts of snow that are not yet our reality.

Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, and we were underneath it.

Suppose it didn’t.

“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”

— Orville Wright

Orville Wright and his brother were crazy.  From the time their father bought them a toy helicopter with paper blades when they were children, they began to experiment with building ways for men to take flight.  Everyone knew they must be a bit odd.  If God had meant for men to fly, he would have given them wings.  But Orville and Wilbur refused to believe that what was accepted as true really was true; and in 1903, they made the historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina that changed our view of aviation.

Ironically, Orville also is quoted as saying that no airplane would ever fly from New York to Paris — no engine could ever maintain the required performance for four days without stopping.  The Wright brothers were visionaries in their time; but even visionaries sometimes lose sight of the endless potential for growth that exists beyond their accepted opinion of the truth.  Only twenty-four years after that first short flight at Kitty Hawk, Charles Lindbergh logged the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.  Orville Wright lived to see his dream of flying grow far beyond the limits placed on it — not only by others, but by himself.

We cease to grow and learn and change when we become complacent and place limits on our exploration of the truth that lies beyond today.  It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what is true is true, and it will not change.  Certainly this is the case; but when we begin to think that we have harnessed and defined Truth and we draw a line around it in our minds, we lose sight of the fact that the Truth that does not change is far more expansive than the limits of our thinking.  We must strive each day to grow our understanding of Truth.  We must not limit its beauty by deciding that it will fit only within the boundaries of our own limitations.

I believe that Truth calls out to us every minute of every day.  Will we answer its call and venture into the unknown realm that lies beyond our own self-imposed limitations?  Will we continue our lifelong journey down the path that leads to greater wisdom, or will we sit down on a rock and be satisfied that we have arrived and there is no further need for exploration.  Throughout history, there have been visionaries who have seen through the mist of accepted truth and ventured beyond its limits.  Do not be content with today’s version of Truth.  Step beyond what you have learned and into the things your heart already can sense.  Who knows?  Maybe you will learn to fly.

“Always fall in with what you’re asked to accept.  Take what is given, and make it over your way.  My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever’s going.  Not against:  with.”

— Robert Frost

Always fall in.

I was reading last night about the energy of waves — about ripples created when pebbles are dropped into the water.  When a pebble falls, its energy is transferred to the water, and ripples spread outward from the point of impact and move the water.  If two or more pebbles are dropped at the same time in the same location, their energies combine and make the waves stronger as they create ever-widening circles away from their origin.  When energies combine in this way, we call it harmonic resonance.  When pebbles are dropped into water at different times or in different locations, they send out ripples from their points of impact that collide at some point in the water and interfere with each other’s progress.  If two waves of equal energy collide in this way, both are brought to a standstill.

Robert Frost’s advice about falling in connects my thoughts about pebbles with my thoughts about how we fall into life.  Wherever I fall into life, I bring energy with me.  My ripples spread outward from my point of impact.  They combine with the energies of other people, either in ways that make all of us more powerful or in ways that sometimes collide and bring us to a standstill.  The energy that pebbles bring to the water’s surface is a kinetic sort of energy bestowed upon them by the force of gravity as they fall through the air.  When I think of falling into life, I don’t think of bracing myself for impact and sending out waves through the water.  I think of the sort of subtle energy that I want to contribute to the world.

Suppose I fall into an angry situation.  If I am going to take what I am given and make it over my way, I must not be transformed by the anger so that I add to its energy.  I must know the sort of energy that I want to contribute.  If I fall in, harmonically, with an angry situation and add the energies of love and peace, the stronger wave that goes forward from my point of entry will contain new elements that transform the situation even as the energy is increased.  If my energy collides with that of another person and we are brought to a standstill for a time, I would want my message to be one of Light, so that even as we stand still for a time we will not stand in darkness.

We will fall into all sorts of situations today.  What choice will we make about these opportunities?  Will we fall in and accept our place and make others stronger through the addition of our own energies?  Will we bring something worth giving at the points of standstill where we stop and consider the energies that have collided?  Be very conscious of the sort of energy you bring to life.  Little by little, the positive energies we contribute can change the world.  As the ripples spread, be sure to fall in and contribute healing to all who are washed by the waves.

The Crows of Winter

The crows of winter

Herald their own arrival

Calling loudly

As they materialize

Out of mist and cloud

And send their shadows

Flying across

The colorless sky.


In summer they perch

On treetop and rooftop

And set a perimeter,

Circling their world –

Announcing, “intruder,”

As I pass by,

Sending the message

From one to another,


Where do they roost,

The crows of winter?

The treetops are bare,

The earth is frozen.

From cloud to sky

And back again,

The crows of winter

Seem never to rest.


They call out their message,

Emerge from the mist,

Flying with purpose

To places unseen.

Do they nest in the world

Beyond clouds, in the heavens

And bring us reminders

Of warm days to come?


The crows of winter

Herald their own arrival

Calling loudly

As they materialize

Out of mist and cloud

And send their shadows

Flying across

The colorless sky.

©Pamela Stead Jones 2011

“Kindness is like snow.  It beautifies everything it covers.”

— Anonymous

You may need to check for typos today, because I’ve just spent two hours blowing and shoveling a foot of snow, and my fingers still want to curl around the handle of a shovel.  SNOW!  That much requires all caps!  SNOW!

Oh, my goodness!  I’ve said it again!  I can’t help myself.  When I first awoke to a very early call from the school district saying there would be no classes today, I looked out the window and saw SNOW — the kind that requires all caps — lying silent and white over the entire world.    Bill Watterson, the artist who gave us Calvin and Hobbes once wrote, “Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.”  I’m with Bill.  Small amounts of snow are simply an aggravation.  We still need to scrape them from the sidewalks, but their beauty does not cover all the blemishes of the winter world.  Give me a foot of snow, and I’ll wrestle my sweetheart for the chance to run the snowblower.

The sky was just beginning to brighten with the promise of a sunrise half an hour away.  I pulled on my stocking cap — the one that says JONES across the front, grabbed my thick working gloves and shoveled my way to the shed.  There it was — the wondrous machine that would save my back from breaking.  I primed the starter, pulled the cord, and it burst to life.  For the next hour, I followed wherever it led me as we cleared the parking area at the back end of our yard.  We worked in dusky pre-dawn light until the sky began to glow a vibrant blue that just shouted, “the storm is over,” as it overtook the lingering clouds that raced on to their next destination.  A pale white moon still hung amid the clouds, its silhouette barely visible against the sky blue backdrop.  Daylight revealed two-inch think clumps of snow clinging to every branch of every tree.  When my walk with the blower took me to the front sidewalk, I could have sworn for a moment that the ornamental pear trees lining the street were in full bloom; but today’s flowers were made of snow, not of fragrant springtime petals.

My work is done; and as I sit at my desk and look out the window, I see that the sun is now high enough to light up the snowscape and make its crystals sparkle.  Soon the trees’ snow flowers will begin to fall, just as the springtime flowers take flight and blow like flurries on the breeze.  I can’t help but feel on days like these that the melting begins when our hearts fill with warmth as they take in the beauty of snow.  Not just a 10-cent lottery win, but SNOW!!!  I must go now, there’s a spot out back that’s just waiting for a snow angel.  I think that would be me!

“Be content with what you are, and wish not change; nor dread your last day, nor long for it.”

— Marcus Aurelius

When I read this today, I thought, ‘and be content with where you are, too.”

It’s in the air today.  If you take a breath with your mouth open, you can taste the snow.  It’s coming.  As the parent of a child still in school, I feel mixed emotions about the storm that will soon begin.  With two snow days planned for in the school calendar and four already used, another storm has me wondering if our kids will be in school until July.  For my ninth-grader, this is the first time she has comprehensive midterm exams.  They begin today, although they were scheduled to start on Monday — the snow has postponed them twice.  As I look at the gray-white sky and feel the snow beginning to form high in the clouds, all I can think of is another disruption to exams.  It really disturbs the studying schedule when the timeline keeps changing.  Another cancellation tomorrow will move the final day of testing to Monday, meaning that the dread of Math will linger through the weekend we thought would be a celebration of completion.  Between driving laps from home to school and back for exams and basketball practice, I will be venturing out on potentially slick roads.  This is not my idea of fun.  I turn and glance out the window once again, and a feeling of dread overtakes me.  Snow.

It’s in the air today.  If you take a breath with your mouth open, you can taste the snow.  It’s coming.  As the sun rises, veiled by the heavy clouds, I can see that the sky is already the color of snow.  I wonder, if I could fly, would I find it swirling right now in the gray and white clouds, just waiting for them to overflow and spill it to the earth?  Last week’s snow still coats the earth, preserved by the arctic chill that blew through town.  The neatly-shoveled paths criss-cross on the sidewalks and the streets.  I love the feeling I get when the shoveling is done and I know we won’t be snowbound.  I love to walk the paths through snow and let the cold and colorless world push me inward.  Walking in winter is great for deep thinking once the paths have been relieved of the depth of snow that makes walking a challenge.  This morning, the paths are lined with piles of snow that have taken on a tinge of gray as traffic has stirred up dust and cinders.  I look to the sky and anticipate the fresh, white flakes that soon will bury the gray and turn my world a glistening white.  Every footprint will be filled.  Every trace of animal tracks will disappear.  I love the way the whole world turns fresh and clean and new when snow falls.  I love the way it calls me away from living in town to memories of my rural childhood.  When soft snow muffles the sounds of the street, I can wander in memory to days when the fields were white and silent all around.  There is something magical in the anticipation of a snowstorm.

I wanted to write today about snow because its impending arrival made me aware of the impact that our attitude can have on the way we live our lives.  Today I have a choice.  I can live in dread of the snow or I can anticipate its arrival.  I am sure there will be times today for both feelings to creep into my mind.  Since I cannot wish the snow away, I think I will choose to enjoy its arrival and take in all the beauty it brings to my world.  Why would anyone want to waste a day of magic on feelings of dread?

“Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past.  Rather, it is a spirit that bears things — with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.”

— Corazon Aquino

How fitting that “Corazon” would be the name of a woman who speaks from her “heart.”

How on earth could we make it through the day without Faith?  Relax.  I’m not going to try to recruit you for some new religion or sermonize about the perils of having too little faith.  Rather, I think about the way that every step we take requires faith that the ground will not fall away under our feet.  Life is an adventure through unknown territory.  We like to think that we can predict outcomes as we make decisions; but if you think about the process of making a choice, you will see that in addition to our logic and intellect there is a component of faith — in our judgment, in the validity of our logic — that allows us to take the next step into the future.

“Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past.”  How true.  Patience that passively suffers sounds more like fear than faith.  It stops us in our tracks, sends us scurrying to hide under the bed, and leaves us cowering until the storm is over.  When I was a child, thunder and lightning would send me running in the middle of the night to crawl into my parents’ bed.  I was afraid; and no amount of reason could convince me to stand with courage in the face of a storm.  I’m not sure which came first — a step of courage or a step of faith; but gradually, as I grew older my faith in the reliability of the laws of the universe allowed me to step out in courage to test the waters.  With each exercise of faith, my courage grew; and with the growth of courage and faith, my life became a journey of hope.  Faith begets courage as we step forward and trust that the earth will not swallow us up.  Courage leads us on paths where we discover that we have the choice to bring change to the world.  When we see the world move toward kindness and light, hope becomes our banner as we move ahead.

Let’s not hide under the bed and cower when the storms come.  Let us have the faith to learn about the storm and to stand in the midst of its power, knowing that the world will not end.  Above all, let us live each day in hope — “blazing, serene hope.”

“Death must be so beautiful.  To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence.  To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow.  To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.

— Oscar Wilde

Ninety-two years.  Just think about it.  Take a minute to reflect on it and then realize that if you live to be ninety-two you will have had 48,355,200 minutes to stop and think, to laugh, to love, to work, to play, and to be the person you were born to be.

The last communication I received last night was from my friend, Mary.  Her dad, Luther, completed his ninety-two years on Earth at 6:15PM on January 23, 2011.  Although I’ve never actually met Mary or her dad, our online friendship has included me in their story.  Today I find myself pausing and reflecting on the life of a man who is very real to me by way of his daughter’s love for her father.

I know it seems cliché to say that the moment we are born we begin to die, but it is true.  What is also true is that that moment we are born, we begin to live.  And so we spend our years — our months, our days, our minutes — living and dying.  We know that our time lies strung between a beginning and an ending.  We learn the dance by watching the cycles and seasons of life loop through winter to spring, to summer, to fall, and back again to winter.  Life, death, and rebirth become apparent to us as we dance through our minutes; and as our steps begin to slow, we find comfort in the knowledge that spring always follows the silent winter.

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

— Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was a remarkable woman, a shining beacon in a world that sometimes seems over-run with darkness.  With her example to light the way, I would like to take a little time to pay tribute to the role of the feminine — mothers, grandmothers, daughters — in our dance through life.  I mean no disrespect to the many caring, loving men I know who do similar work; but today we are talking about a daughter’s love for her dad, and that will be my focus.  It is no coincidence that Teresa was given the title, “mother.”  The first time our eyes blink open to see the world, we find ourselves gazing into our mother’s eyes.  It is the mother whose arms enfold the tiny baby and keep him safe and warm.  It is the mother who nurtures and nourishes the small child and sees him through his journey to adulthood.  It is the mother who touches our hearts and opens them to loving another person.  For most boys, it is their mother who is their first true love.  For girls, it is their mother who shows them by example the depth of the divine feminine ability to love and care and nurture.  From mother to daughter to granddaughter, on and on the circle goes; and often it falls to the women to be the guides along the path of life.

Mary, my friend, you have brought Mother Teresa’s words to life.  You have learned well to care and love and nurture, just as your mother did it — and her mother before her.  You have carried the generations of love with you through your own childhood and your own adulthood and mothering days and finally brought the full fruits of patience, love, and compassion to the latest minutes of your own father’s life.  It is a beautiful thing — a holy thing — to be the stopping place, the hospice for another human being.  It is beyond beautiful to be able to share that space wit your own parent.  You and your family have succeeded.  You have surrounded your father with the generations of loving that are your family’s heritage.  May that heritage live on today as you embrace one another and comfort one another and acknowledge the love you have offered that now returns to you.

Yesterday was a busy day, a fulfilling day, and a day of contrasts.  I spent a day with other students learning healing techniques and practicing them on one another.  That is what I would like to be remembered for — being a healer.  For some, this might imply that I have plans to attend medical school or to become a nurse; but neither of those is in my plans.  I have filled many roles in my lifetime so far – I have been a daughter, a student, a spouse, a mother, a grandmother, a worker, a writer, a friend.  As time goes on, I am sure the list will grow; but within each of those roles, I have tried to be someone who brings healing and peace to my world.  Some healers do study medicine; but they do not become healers by going to school.  I think healers are born.  Being a doctor is something I could learn to do.  Being a healer is who I am.

It was wonderful during my workshop time yesterday to be in the company of other healers.  There was an energy in the room that just lifted us all as we learned to use Energy Medicine to balance each other’s wellness.  There is nothing quite like having the chance to share times like these with other people who mirror my own passion for healing.  I floated home on clouds of joy at the end of our time together, carrying with me some new knowledge and a renewed sense of purpose.

Just as we were ready to sit down for dinner, the telephone rang; and so began the contrast.  The person on the other end of the call wanted trouble.  She wanted to make herself feel better by attacking me.  My experience with people who choose this way to live is that their attacks generally don’t satisfy their need to justify their choices.  As I sat and listened to this woman defend herself and heard her accusations against a multitude of other people, including me, my first impulse was to fight back.  When someone is desperate enough to blame the whole world for the sadness and pain she has chosen, I think it would be a fairly easy thing to attack her and to win.  As I listened and felt a knot start to form in the pit of my stomach, I was drawn to the contrast between that knot and the free-flowing joy that had been mine only minutes earlier.  In that moment of contrasts, I knew what I had to do.

I am a healer.  I choose to bring healing to the world around me.  I held onto my joy and resisted the impulse to attack.  I listened with my heart; and although I knew that the things this person said were not true, I looked for the wounded part of her that would lead her to make such a choice.  I did my best to build on the things that needed to be strengthened.  I refused to be anything but love in my response to her attack.  In the end, she ran out of steam.  In the end we did not need to declare a winner or a loser.  Do I think that this short conversation healed all the anger and sadness and confusion of the woman who called?  Of course not.  But I am a healer — it is who I am and it is what I do — and for a few minutes I was able to share some healing compassion with someone who was lost.

Contrasts are good teachers.  They show us the good and the bad, the joyful and the sad, the light and the darkness.  We must not let the contrasts we see around us change who we are.  We must learn to be love when our love is received and we must learn to be love when our love is thrown away.  I am a healer.  That is what I do.

“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?”

— Rose F. Kennedy

Have you ever huddled inside while a wild storm blew and felt the smallness of being unable to do anything to change its outcome?  As the windows rattle, beaten by the wind, and branches crack and fall from the trees, it can feel as though the end of the world might be very near.  Power lines fall; and although you sit behind protective walls, you might swear that the flame of the candle that burns to light the darkness dances in the wind as it cuts through even our best attempts at shelter.

We all have storms that blow through our lives.  Some are weather, and some are simply the pieces of life that challenge us and force us to step outside of our complacency and embrace change.  We learn about this sort of change as we watch the trees.  The winds howl and challenge them to bend with the storm.  Those that are most flexible lose a few leaves and twigs; those whose ability to bend and adapt sometimes find themselves broken, their branches lying strewn beneath them on the ground.

In a funny way, I like a good storm.  There is something exciting about the unbridled energy that defies our predictions of outcomes.  There is something inspirational in the realization that there are forces far greater than we are that exist in the world.  We can learn how to get through storms.  We can tie down the porch rocker, ready the candles, and sometimes even board the windows until the wind has passed.

Have you ever walked outside after a storm has passed and seen the way things have changed?  We gather the fallen branches and look at the trees that are forever changed by the pruning wind.  We survey the damage to property and make repairs.  We grieve the damage that has left our world suddenly different and unfamiliar.  The birds begin to sing, and our eyes follow their song to the fresh, clean green that shines from the grass.  We look once again at the shapes of the trees whose limbs now are firewood.  We take in their new appearance and begin to notice that their battle has left them strong and tall, perhaps with a scar or two to add character.

Like the birds, whose nature it is to sing when the storm has ended, we can learn to stand again when the storm is over.  We can cry over fallen limbs or we can celebrate the trees that still stand.  There is delight beyond the storm.  Sometimes, like the branches we gather, we simply need to pick it up and get on with living.