Thursday Re-View — That Well of Depression

That well of depression…

That place of complete and utter darkness;
that place where no one hears your cries;

that cylinder in the earth that was your prison,
struggling to get out

until your fingernails were bleeding…

That core of the earth…that plug…

Exhausted, you slipped along its slimy walls to the bottom,
where you collapsed, covered in sweat and blood and grime,
unable to move,
blinded by tears of frustration and abandonment…

But what if…

That well of depression was actually a birth canal…a tunnel…
a waystation…an airlock from here to there…
a bridge…

What if…

That well of depression became a wellspring,
a place of healing waters,
a baptism of graces,
a flowing giver of life…

“There is a river.”

What if…

That well of depression that became a birth canal
that became a wellspring
brought forth a beacon of light –
a way through the fog,
a welcome for the lost,
a respite for the lonely,
a shelter for the homeless,
a place to break bread for the hungry?

What if…

That well of depression that became a birth canal
that became a wellspring
that brought forth a beacon of light
duplicated its length
from the ground below to that above
and became a lighthouse?

You are their Light.

As the water bubbles up from the wellspring –
the core – the Source –
it is transformed into light;
particles of gold that pierce the heavens
in a terrible beauty.

Bringing light to the furthest reaches of darkness;
a light so strong that you cannot look upon it,
yet so gentle as to diffuse itself
into soft folds of protection (wings?).

Light that heals as it bathes its molten fluid
of serenity and peace and love.

You are back to where you started…
at a beginning rather than an end.

You are running toward
rather than running from.

You are Home.


Echoes of Memory

He lumbered.

He was tall, rangy, with huge hands, a well-tended beard, piercing blue eyes, with lips that could smirk on a moment’s notice. And he lumbered from side to side when he walked, dropping his feet purposely with each step. His white habit and black wool scapular, tied with a leather cincture, swayed back and forth like a pendulum released.


He was a monk. A Trappist monk. He was Brother Steven. And I miss him, even though he’s still alive.

I met him long ago while on retreat in Virginia, a time of emotional upheaval as I went through my divorce. The first divorce in my family. It was a true retreat from the world, and a time of respite for mind, body and spirit. Each day was silent, a time of prayer, reflection, discernment, and attending their hours of Divine Office. Meals were provided, attended to in silence, but help was encouraged in the clean up after each night’s dinner.

Each monk’s day was spent in Divine Office, private prayer, manual labor, and study or reading, with idle talk strongly discouraged.

So of course, each night when I helped with the dishes, Brother Steven didn’t stop talking, and whenever I could jump in, neither did I.

He was a maverick of sorts, and chose to live in the retreat house as Guest Master because he didn’t always get along with the other monks in their residence. He believed in the importance of hospitality to travelers, and reveled in his position.

Trappists I

I heard so many stories…

Like the younger Brother Steven, who when he first arrived at the farm that became the monastery, would climb all the way up the side of the grain silo each morning to sit and wait for the sunrise above the Shenandoah River.

Like the middle-aged Brother Steven, who when they buried one of their brothers in a linen shroud, stopped the burial so that he might take the man’s polished leather shoes. After all, he could put them to good use.

Practical. A maverick of sorts…

A man who fit the stereotype of the older woman who lived alone with 30 cats, Brother Steven only had about ten of them. Much to the chagrin of his brothers, he allowed them to live in the closed entryway at the front of the retreat house, for all who crossed the threshold to meet, allergies or no.

This same man with the acerbic wit and leveling gaze told me once of his favorite elderly cat, Mabel, and how he weaned her from a little kitten, watched her grow up and catch mice and become a good mother, all the while living off kitchen scraps lovingly placed outside each night, regardless of the weather. And how she slowed down and stayed away more often and ate less and less, until one day, Brother Steven knew. When she slowly came up to him to be held one last time, then slowly walked across the field and into the trees that lined the near-by river, he knew that she had come to say good-bye to her faithful keeper. With tears in his eyes, he told me he never saw Mabel again.

And I knew a part of him died with Mabel.

And when he heard about my divorce and saw my own tears, he held me in his arms and let me cry, the scratchy wool a comfort as it softened with my tears. His sarcasm gone, this giant of a man was gentle as a father would be with his daughter. When at last I was spent, he squeezed my arms and let me go, never to speak of it again.

Sacred ground. One soul reaching out to another with compassion and understanding.

Through the years, whenever I returned on retreat, I would know I was home as soon as I saw Brother Steven, and we would catch up on my problems, along with the world’s, each night when we did clean up. Until one year, I saw that he was different. He was often preoccupied, searching for words, more confused. He no longer read to us at dinner time, and when we cleaned up, he concentrated on his work, rather than talking.

That’s when I knew I was losing my friend, and that this time would likely be the real good-bye.

And it was. When I returned, there was a new Guest Master, and a lay person doing the clean up. Brother Steven was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s.

Now the young man who climbed a silo each morning to watch the sunrise sat tied in a wheelchair, looking out a window at a landscape that only he could see. He failed to recognize anyone, his body frail. The strong shoulders that I had leaned on so very long ago were now stooped with age. I looked at his worn shoes and smiled, wondering if they were the ones he so conveniently “borrowed” from his brother who no longer needed them. Brother Steven’s hand rested on the house cat curled comfortably in his lap, and I hoped he was thinking of Mabel and their love for each other.

wheelchair I

I choked back tears as I leaned down to give him a hug, then a kiss on the top of his head. The head whose brain possessed a wit unmatched when in its prime, now atrophied and unrecognizable. Brother Steven was gone, buried some place deep within, with another Brother Steven in his place.

Then he looked up at me, and just for a moment – a very brief moment – I thought I saw a spark of recognition flare in his eyes, and we were back at the monastery, both of us younger, both of us friends. Then it disappeared. And I was reminded that the soul never fades away, that it lives within, a shining light that no one, or no thing, can extinguish.

Be well, Brother Steven. I will remember for you.  God bless you. And thank you for the treasure that is you…


Thursday Re-View — “Thoughts for My Son”

Call Mom.
Pick your battles.
Be kind.
Thoughts matter.
Count to five before you speak.
Look beyond what you see.
Don’t judge.
Rescue an animal.
Keep your word.
Give back.
Be present.
Give thanks.
Choose your words with care.
Dance to your own music.
Character matters.
Listen with your heart.
Honor your family.
Respect your elders.
Play fair.
Be honest.
Remember where you came from.
Root for the underdog.
Be charitable.
Keep the faith.
Look people in the eye.
Mean what you say.
Follow through.
Be a good example.
Color outside the lines.
Purple glitter makes everything better.
Feed the birds.
Remember that squirrels like birdseed, too.
Be compassionate.
Enjoy thunderstorms.
Talk to animals.
Be true to yourself.
Visit other countries.
Try your best.
Put in an honest day’s work.
Hold fast to your beliefs.
Patience really is a virtue.
Nothing is random.
Follow your moral compass.
Never give up.
Ask for advice.
Reach out to others.
We’re all in this together.
Admit when you’re wrong.
Offer a firm handshake.
Laugh with gusto.
All things in moderation.
Good will always triumph over evil.
Life isn’t fair, but that’s okay.
Give good hugs.
Don’t lose hope.
Be passionate.
Seek the truth.
Look within.
There is meaning in suffering.
Listen to the birds each morning.
Don’t forget the sunsets.
Go sailing.
Surround yourself with color.
Hunt the Northern Lights.
Water your flowers.
Plant a tree.
It will be okay.
Every ending is another beginning.
Write real thank you notes.
It’s okay to say no.
Sing to babies.
Remember those who have gone before you.
Take your hat off inside.
Offer your help.
Say thank you.
Don’t take it personally.
There are many levels of love.
Don’t hold grudges.
Be a gentleman and a gentle man.
Avoid toxic people.
Tip well.
Look to the stars.
Lose yourself in the clouds.
Stop for all rainbows.
Take the road less travelled.
Be well.
Remember that Mom loves you.

You are my greatest blessing.


Here We Are

Here We Are
by Nancy L. Bieber

Here We Are, Loving One, Creator God
half-awake to this astounding world,
half-awake to our own mysterious lives,
absorbing only drops of this richly layered life.

We want to notice more, to be alive
to who we are within,
to the stories and the dreams,
to the person we have been
and the one we can become.

To know what is real
we are ready to surrender
illusion, that painted comfort
which has been our friend.

We want to see what is true, what is real,
to hold as much as heart and mind can hold
of the world we live in
and whom we can become.

We want to be awake, God, to your opening of paths,
to create and participate
in this shaping of the way.

Here we are, Loving One, ready to begin.


Monday Meeting — That Cranky Old Man

When an old man died in a nursing home, nurses found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed them, it was spread throughout the nursing home and afar. The old man’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in magazines for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his poem. And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this ‘anonymous’ poem winging across the Internet.


Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses?
What do you see?
What are you thinking…
When you are looking at me?

A cranky old man,
Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit
With faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food
And makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice…
“I do wish you’d try!”

Who seems not to notice…
The things that you do.
And forever is losing…
A sock or a shoe?

Who, resting or not…
Let’s you do as you will,
While bathing and feeding…
The long day to fill?

Is that what you’re thinking?
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse…
You’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am…
As I sit here so still,
As I do all your bidding,
As I eat your will.

I’m a small child of Ten…
With a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters…
Who love one another.

A young boy of sixteen…
With wings on his feet,
Dreaming that soon now…
A lover he’ll meet.

A groom at twenty…
My heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows…
That I promised to keep.

At twenty-five, now…
I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide…
And a secure happy home.

A man of thirty…
My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other…
With ties that will last.

At forty, my young sons…
Have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me….
To see I don’t mourn.

At fifty, once more,
Babies play ‘round my knee,
Again, we know children…
My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me…
My wife is now dead.
I look to the future…
I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing…
Young of their own.
And I think of the years…
And the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old man…
And nature is cruel.
It’s jest to make old age…
Look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles…
Grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone…
Where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass…
A young man still dwells,
And now and again…
My battered heart swells.

I remember the joys…
I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living…
Life over again.

I think of the years,
All too few…gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact…
That nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people…
Open and see.
Not a cranky old man…
Look closer…see…ME!

cranky old man I

Source: Good Time Stories

Today’s Quote

flower XX

Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life,
and when it comes, hold your head high,
look it squarely in the eye and say,
“I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.”
Then repeat to yourself the most comforting words of all:
“This, too, will pass.’”

~ Ann Landers ~