I Love Bears!!!!

Live ones, acrylic ones, ones made of fake fur. There is something about a bear — grizzly, black, polar — that says “I am almost as smart as you and a lot stronger and faster.”

Herewith a sample of bear photos.

Hmmm. I think she’s got the wrong fStop.


A Happy Place

We all have our happy place or places. A room, a street, a place in the woods or on the beach, where we breathe a little easier, where the smile of joy comes quickly, where the burdens of life how ever heavy seem to lift. On Saturday, after a week of sadness and many tears, I found a new happy place. It is called “A Good Yarn.”

As you can tell by its name, A Good Yarn is a store devoted to the craft and art of knitting and crocheting. Come to think of it, that’s a great name for a booktore.) It is filled with color and texture and people doing what they love, creating beautiful things.

Seven days before I walked into that shop I was on my way to a funeral in upstate New York. Dear cousin Tom Campbell had died five days before. He fell down a flight of stairs on his way to do the laundry and suffered a massive and mortal head injury.

As it said on the bulletin for his service, Tom was “gentle, quiet and dryly humorous. Wise and compassionate.” He loved fishing. At the funeral a fishing buddy said that Tom had the most elegant of casts. Didn’t necessarily mean he caught more fish, he added, but he did it beautifully.

Tom’s wife, and a good friend, is an avid knitter, creating sweaters and scarves for children and grandchildren. His sister’s daughter quilts and embroiders as well as knits. Among the 18 of us at dinner Saturday night there was also two actresses and a visual artist. Tom, by the way, made the most beautiful furniture.  A copy of Fine Woodworking was always by his chair.

Creativity was in that place along with the inspiration to pick up my needles and complete three projects. They were like gremlins lurking in my closet. I actually brought them South with me. People laugh when I say I have a PH.D. in needlework. Projects Half Done. They then nod and say, “Me too.”

A Good Yarn is the only yarn store in Sarasota and a substantial distance from home. I walked in and was transported. Not only do they sell yarn and supplies, they have classes. In a back room a circle of women was spinning wool into yarn. At two tables, were a random group of people knitting, weaving, crocheting. Some had brought their lunch. Others were ordering in.

Covering the top of a cabinet at A Good Yarn is a reef of knitted and crocheted creatures. Whimsy beneath the sea.

I asked the man at the table if it were a class. “No, we’re just here to knit.” He showed me a gorgeous dropped stitch scarf he had made.

A kind young woman fixed the mess of one of my projects and explained how to tackle its final rows. Another person talked about what she would cover in her knitting class. Both of them said, come back and sit and knit. A happy place for them and now, perhaps, with time, one of my happy places.

“When you are ready, the teacher will come,” said some Buddhist once, somewhere. Perhaps it took Tom’s death and the reunion of those who loved him to get me to a new happy place. Or as my definitely not Buddhist mother liked to say, “The Good Lord works in mysterious ways.”

Amen to that. Tom Campbell, may you rest in peace and rise in glory, and may light perpetual shine up on you. May you have been greeted by Abby your wonderful Black Lab.

A Dancing Monk in the World

The Abbey of the Arts is a virtual global online monastery offering pilgrimages, online classes and retreats, reflections, and resources which integrate contemplative spiritual practice and creative expression with monastic spirituality. The Abbey supports people in becoming a monk in the world and an artist in everyday life. Christine Valters Paintner and John Valters Painter, are the people behind the Abbey. Its real strength, of course, are those who belong to its open and affirming community. Learn more about the Abbey and the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks

Several years ago I tripped over links to the Abbey. I find in the daily emails meditations and questions that spark reflection. Last fall I responded to their call for guest posts with the following…

Monk in the World Guest Post: Beverly Dame

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Beverly Dame’s reflection on living by and leaving the river.

Winter on the Massawippi River

For five years, I lived on the bank of a small Canadian river.  For someone who had always been a city-dweller even as a child, it was rather like being at camp twelve months a year. The river’s calm waters led us to name our cottage “Stillwaters” because like the psalmist God had led us to them.

The seasons were read on the face of the river. On the coldest days, it froze from bank to bank. In the spring, the snow melt and rain meant rushing to put rocks on the dock so it would not float away. There were the annual comings and goings of geese, the first sighting of their goslings, and then the flocks loudly heading south.

During those years I began a daily ritual. Soon after dawn I would take my camera to the water’s edge to capture the light and color of the moment. Sometimes it was the pinks and violets and golds of the sunrise. At others, it was the shades of white as a fog danced on the surface.  It was art and meditation, a spiritual exercise as well as a creative outlet.

Morning on the Massawippi

It was at the nearby Abbey of St. Benoit du Lac that I became interested in formally observing the hours of the monastic day, to combine prayer with work and the rest of life. It was a routine that seemed to offer something more than the pattern of my childhood Protestantism. For the monks at the Abbey prayer and worship. They were knit into each day, not confined to Sunday morning.

This was not my first introduction to the monastic life. As with many women of my generation, I had been captivated by the struggles of Audrey Hepburn’s character in “A Nun’s Story.”  In college, I had been fascinated by the lives of the desert mothers, by St. Francis, and by Thomas Merton’s “Seven Story Mountain.” I met my husband at a silent retreat at the convent of All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville, Maryland.

As an introvert, the idea of the monastic life has always had great appeal.  In a romantic haze it is easy to forget that for monks and nuns taking the habit means living in community not isolation.  The challenge is to combine a spiritual life with a temporal one; contemplation with action, to be in one place while growing.

In our years on the river I added to the discipline of my morning photography session with 20 minutes of centering prayer. Frequently my husband and I would drive to the Abbey for vespers or the noon mass. On line I discovered the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks and the daily meditations of Fr. Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Contemplation and Action.

A Blue Heron outside our new home in Sarasota, Florida.

That life ended in early 2016 when my husband was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). He tried to adjust but after three months of a northern winter he found it difficult to breathe indoors or out so we put our riverside home on the market. The fact that it sold in three weeks affirmed our decision to move South.

Between the decision and the actual move, chaos reigned. Each item we touched from plates to paintings, from a lawn mower to my knitting stash required a decision: keep, pitch, donate. The routine of photography/prayer/meditation too often slipped from habit into a good intention.

In the eighteen months since our move to the Gulf Coast of Florida I have often felt like one of the cattails from our riverbank, yanked by my roots and planted in a very different place. Not only am I not beside the river, but the world seems upside down. Summer is the time you stay indoors to escape the heat and humidity not as in the north country where you are outside as much as possible. Winter is the gentle climate not the season of snow and ice  Geese and ducks have been replaced by ibis and herons, pelicans and seagulls; maples by palm trees; wool socks and boots by sandals; our family of muskrats by an alligator named Elvis.

Slowly I am bringing back the rhythm of my spiritual life. While I sometimes skip my twenty minutes of meditation, I am anchored in the worldwide community of the Internet. My morning begins with thoughts from the Abbey of the Arts and Fr. Richard Rohr’s meditation. Sometimes I dip into a daily devotional from the United Church of Christ and listen to Morning Prayer from the Mission of Saint Clare.  Emails and Facebook posts from friends still on my patch of river keep me updated on their lives.  Winter brings the Canadian snowbirds and cans of maple syrup. The discipline of writing, including this meditation, is returning.

And, I am finding a new group of people on the path. Our church has a contemplative prayer group, more than 100 individual opportunities for service as well as daily celebrations of Holy Eucharist.

To borrow the cliché, life is definitely a journey, and not a guided tour. What the past few years have taught me is that the journey can be informed by a framework of prayer and meditation, exploration and discipline, wonder and acceptance. I can be a nun but a nun in the world.

Hanging with the Hoff – Hoffman’s Two-toed Sloth

Big fan of sloths, two- and three-toed. Especially the babies. World needs a species that can survive in the lowest gear.

Incidental Naturalist

My skin wore the morning air like a warm, damp cloak, as I stood squelched into the trail mud of the Panamanian paradise island of Bastimentos. Silhouettes of Antbirds rustled through the dank undergrowth as they monitored the military march of a column of Army ants. I looked up at the wiry green bundle that hung above my head. The bundle in question was the rear end of a sleeping Three-toed sloth. I pulled a heavy shoe from the sucking mud, and the indigenous guide and I carried on walking along the Salt Creek community trail. I asked him about the chances of seeing the Two-toed Sloth that had, up to this point, evaded me. He explained that in this area the Two-toed sloth is much less comfortable around people, preferring to spend its time high in the canopy. Our chances of seeing one were slim.

We made our…

View original post 772 more words

Hoppy and Me

The Original Man in Black

Hopalong Cassidy was my first love. At the age of five or six or seven it would have been hard to tell if it was Hoppy or William Boyd, the actor who portrayed him, that had captured my imagination and my affections.

If you grew up around 1950, you are likely to remember Hoppy. He was the tall, good looking cowboy who wore black clothes (with white trim) and rode a white horse. You watched him on television and badgered your mother to buy whatever brand of bread (Sunbeam) or ice cream (Dixie or Coble depending on where you lived) bore his likeness. Before “Star Wars” and My Little Pony there was Hopalong Cassidy. He practically invented the tie-in. I still have my Hopalong Cassidy watch (the band is frayed) and my two-gun leather holster set.

There was something about Hoppy that set him apart from other television cowboys like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry. He didn’t sing. He didn’t have a Jeep. What real cowboy had a fancy Jeep?

In my little girl’s mind Hoppy combined all the qualities of the gentleman and father who did not exist in my real life.

He was fine featured. He had very thin lips. Seeking my own Hoppy I later fell for a cad who also had thin lips.

My favorite cowboy and first love didn’t smoke, drink or swear as did real cowboys or the men who populated my childhood. Hoppy captured the villains but never shot them. In fact, I don’t remember him ever killing anybody or anything.  My grandfather and his friends regularly brought home squirrels and rabbits for my grandmother to cook. Hoppy wouldn’t deign to kill a squirrel. Will have to watch one of the 106 Hoppy television shows to see what he actually ate.

Hoppy was and still is a gentleman. He was always clean shaven. Hair perfectly coiffed. His black suit was spotless. No sweat stains, no dust on his boots. You can watch him on You Tube and see him in all his immaculate glory.

Unsullied by the realities of life in the West he was my white knight if not in shining armor at least on a white horse named Topper. As the New York Times said in his 1972 obituary, he was “a ‘good guy’ who wore a black hat but was a paragon of virtue.”

He was my guy, my adopted father figure as my therapist said.

I was an only child. My parents had been married for 14 years when mother became pregnant.  My father left (or was thrown out) about the time I was born. He drank way too much and had trouble keeping any kind of blue collar job. Being deaf in one ear from birth was an actual handicap.  He used it as an excuse.

For much of early childhood we lived with my father’s mother and her second husband. Yes, there was divorce in the 1930s. My grandfather was kind, gentle but he too had a problem with liquor and struggled. White collar and comfortably middle-class we were not.

Then Hoppy rode into my life. He was neat, clean, loyal, honest and successful.

I bet my grandfather and his friends who worked in construction, drove trucks or cabs, and did other kinds of dirty, sweaty jobs didn’t know they were in a competition for my heart, and soul. Would they, could they have tried harder if they had known.

The thing about William Boyd, the actor, was that he really did try harder. Boyd had been a leading man in silent movies; a playboy who had gone through a series of marriages, had a Hollywood mansion and the good life until disaster struck.

As the Times reported, “(In 1932) A Broadway actor named William Boyd, now dead, was arrested at a drinking and gambling party. In the morning papers, in Hollywood, Mr. Boyd’s picture was published in error. An apology was printed later, but his career plunged downhill.”

Three years later he “was a has‐been …. when a Paramount producer offered to star him in a series of cowboy films. Mr. Boyd asked for a few changes in his role, then made the first ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ movie. “

The role transformed Boyd as much as he changed the original character. He supported children’s hospitals and homes. He worked hard at being as good a guy as Hoppy. He created Hoppy’s Troopers.  As a Trooper I was to be, ”kind to birds and animals, to always be truthful and fair, to keep myself clean and neat, to always be courteous, to be careful when crossing streets, to avoid bad habits, to study and always learn my lessons, to obey my parents.”

It can sound hokey. (Does anyone even use hokey these days.) I’ll take Hoppy’s maxims any day over the anything goes attitude that has seemed to creep into public life. Imagine a movie/television actor of today trying to be William Boyd. I am sure there are admirable men and women who could fill that role. Who could be the next Fred Rogers or William Boyd?

In my adult wanderings I actually met two Hoppy/Boyd lookalikes. One was the cad with the movie star good looks, the trappings of a gentleman and lovely thin lips. The other had the Hoppy/Boyd smile but was totally uninterested in me.

Lucky me did find a therapist who helped explore all those father figure issues. Twenty years ago I met an educated, clean-shaven gentleman who while not a knight in shining armor shares Boyd’s wish to embody all those virtues. He doesn’t always make it. He tries.

My first Hoppy outfit

I suppose every girl (or boy) has a hero who embodies what they miss in their lives. Some even have secret romances with them. Hoppy was mine.