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The Journey to Ireland and Back to Maine            

Serendipity

Today the temperatures rose to 32 degrees and there was very little wind. We've been in the 20's and big winds. I was very happy at the prospect of going on a walk. I've been recovering from pneumonia and so have to be careful not to get too cold, or into too much wind.

After parking my car in the small medical center's lot on Herrick Road, I began my stroll down a winding pathway through the woods. Smells of pine and spruce. Chipmunks chirping. Chickadees calling.

The trail ends up near the Causeway tidal river bridge, one of my favorite nature spots. The tide had recently changed, flowing out to sea. The sky was blue with a light haze. Water below me a crystal clear green, with seaweed moving with the tide. Suddenly a duck with white chest emerged from the water's depths. Then disappeared again. I stood for a short while with my back turned against the breeze, freezing cold, too cold to stay there long.

Back at the parking lot, when I tried to back my car up, it wouldn't budge. Turns out one of the back wheels was frozen. It was a Sunday morning and so not much traffic on Herrick Road, which is a side road to begin with. So I started to walk home. I don't have a cell phone. Then a truck came along and I flagged him down. Turns out he lived right where I was standing, across the street and down some from my car. He let me use his phone in his real estate office. That was the first serendipitous moment.

Twenty minutes later a bright red truck turned into the medical center. Trouble was, the AAA relay person neglected to tell him I had a frozen wheel. He could not tow it with the truck he had. He had to go back and get his flatbed. I only lived a few blocks away and so he took me home. While we rode I found out he's an auto mechanic. I've been inactively seeking a new mechanic, unhappy with mine for quite a long time. I asked the AAA man if he would tow my car to his shop. I looks like I might have a new mechanic. That was the second serendipitous moment.

As we were exchanging addresses and phone numbers, he told me that just yesterday he'd towed a woman's Prius who was also unhappy with the same mechanic. The owner of the Prius turns out to be good friend of mine. She also decided to let the AAA man fix her car. That was the third serendipity. All in the space of an hour.

I'm not sure this is serendipity, but I decided not to purchase a Prius as my next car. Because when I called my friend to let her know my AAA experience, she said the same man has towed her car many times in the 10 years she's owned her Prius. This was the first time I've ever had my Honda towed, and I've had it since 2001.


We have but slumbered here while these visions did appear, no more yielding than a dream. --Shakespeare
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Merry Christmas & Peace on Earth

Children were running around our local library with armfuls of books for the holidays, when I arrived to browse. Our library is a warm and friendly place, alive and joyful, a community gathering venue for people of all ages and interests.

I chanced upon a friend, Sarah. She and I talked briefly. We spoke first about the Syrian exodus (of Biblical proportions), and all the ways different countries are responding. The violence in San Bernardino had just happened, resulting in wide-spread fears among Americans. "Don't let the Muslims in." As if millions of the peace-loving followers of Islam in our country must somehow bear the burden of two jihadists.

Then Sarah and I commented on a short film we'd both seen in the library recently, about Ellis island. I'd said, "We are a country built with immigrants. Look at how open-hearted the people of Lesbos are in the face of thousands of Syrian refugees landing on their small island. And look at how Germany has opened their arms to help. Many countries are offering relief. I don't see how we can close our doors."

Sarah said, "The world is round."

I burst into laughter. Such a simple observation that summed it all up.

Round has no borders.

No separation.


And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
--Luke 2:8-14 Read More 
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A Volunteer Psychotherapist Does PTSD Therapy in the Prison Visiting Room

Under Amma's guidance, I've been compiling a Circle of Love Inside prison outreach book. The chapters are written by Amma's prison outreach Circle of Love Inside letter-writers, mostly laypeople who write to support one or more inmates along their spiritual and personal growth paths while behind bars.

For one of the chapters I interviewed Deborah Welborn, a psychotherapist inspired by Amma’s limitless love and compassion to offer her services as a volunteer for Circle of Love Inside. Over a four-year period Deborah exchanged weekly letters with Joel Williams (author of A House Burning). She also conducted monthly therapy sessions with him in the visiting room where he was incarcerated (after 24 years in prison Joel was recently released on parole).

Here is an excerpt from the conclusion of our interview, a view of the prison visiting room:

Savitri: Would you tell me a little about how you changed during your time working with Joel?

Deborah: Work with Joel brought about a stillness and respect for the difficulties and perceived limitation of life inside prison. Life inside is a reality based on living and acting as if you are not affected by the anger, the tensions, the hatred held by inmates. Witnessing this fear-based life of the possibility of someone profoundly harming you or who could take your life was cause for an internal pause. The letter-writing and face-to-face sessions opened my heart to seeing with humility the humanity of men and women who lived behind the wall.

I think my change was a much deeper appreciation for what men and women in prison lived with, living so isolated, with none of the freedom that I thought they had, and where contact with family or being able to use—in my own naivety I thought they would somehow be able to use the internet, that there would be certain restrictions on how to use it, but there was none of that. They had television programs; they could watch the news; they could see what was going on. I began to have an appreciation for their limited access to the world and what was happening.

In the beginning, when I stood in the prison visiting room with 100 to 150 visitors and inmates, I found it to be a dry and disheartening experience. But over the years, seeing all the children there, who come to see their fathers, their uncles, and their entire families, I found their happiness to see one another to be infectious, and as a result my perception of the reality of the situation changed.

The families would come in with a grandparent and parent, and children and sit around a table and everybody brings this huge bag of quarters so they can buy food from the vending machines. The children play games, fathers laughing with their children, and playing a game and then you can see some parents that are very old, maybe grandparents, and you can see the sadness while they are trying to carry on a conversation with their sons. And there are all these relationships that come into this room. Some came every weekend, Saturday and Sunday and that’s the only contact they had.

The children would grow up knowing their father or their uncle in the blue denim shirt and the blue jean pants and they came in at a certain time and guards standing around the room. I was just sitting there and seeing that and feeling that, that this scene is so normal for these people. And what a huge difference this was from my own my normal walking life and waking life. This was something I did not know on that level. And some of these people I saw year after year, and the children running and playing. It was their life.

That effect on me was that when the inmates come into the visiting room they change. They see their lovers or their wives, or family, and it means so much to them. And when they go behind that wall, they change 100 percent. They come through a door that a guard opens and locks.

Savitri: Could you tell a bit more about how your experience in the visiting room expanded you?

Deborah: It is multi-level. One is the question of what karma is this? Why is it that this whole, as I see the essence of karma, has this particular person being born into this life, to this deviant behavior that’s going to lock them up forever?

And so I was feeling sadness, and then just watching it all, and that this is just the leela, the stage play of life—that this is just the way life is—I don’t know about karma really, but this is how their life is playing out, and I think of God as manifested in everyone and everything.

That this is the way consciousness is being manifested in this life and it’s very hard, and sometimes and it seems impossible that a person can see that they can change behind walls. But they can and there is no time like now.

Savitri : What an amazing and powerful story. Thank you.


Amma wishes that all her children will be able to love, forgive and accommodate others…mere words of sympathy are not what the world needs. What the world needs are hands that are ready to serve selflessly. Seeing the extent of the pervading darkness, one should not withdraw, thinking, ‘What possible change can my efforts make in this situation?’ If we can light the lamp of faith and love in our hearts and walk forward together, then we definitely can bring about a change in society.

--Amma
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Full Moon Day last week

On the brilliant bright blue of midday of the Full Moon, I was drawn to walk Wonderland Trail. It was a Super Moon which means the moon was very close to the Earth, and it's magnetic pull stronger than usual. Meaning there would be super high tides.

Synchronicity had it that I arrived at the end of the trail at the peak of the high tide, with calm ocean swells sloshing up onto the pink granite slabs, close to the boulder where I often sit. I sat on another one of those rounded soft boulders, further back, close to the pathway.

There I reveled in the sound of the water gurgling through crevasses, waves gently splashing, washing in and out, and of the view of the near and far islands. The deep dark blue of the ocean.

After a while I wandered around the loop of the trail to the other side of the small peninsula, and then turned off down a short narrow pathway to the lagoon, and a view to Great Cranberry Island.

Since I had just had cataract surgery the world has become miraculously bright. Even the water in the sink while I'm washing dishes looks like a miracle to me. So here, at the lagoon, no open ocean waves, I was captivated by the water lapping over the scores of dark gray snail shells, and flowing though a curve in the rocks, like the chamber of a conch shell, into a shallow pool .

Not a soul was in site for the entire time, and so I decided it would be okay to pee right there, in the coarse sand next to the browning reeds and grasses. Fir trees lining the path meant my chosen spot was hidden from the main pathway. As soon as I was finished and had pulled up my pants, an old man appeared from around the bend, picking his way over the rocks that line the shore. I was grateful for God's timing.

The loop of the pathway continues through a deep and shadowy forest of firs. There you can feel the tree beings nodding and the fairy folk peeking out from behind slender black tree trunks.

Then the walkway opens onto the wild rose bushes, laden with rose hips and a few roses still clinging to the branches. I put a couple of petals behind my ears, under my woolen hat.


A land not mine, still
forever memorable,
the waters of its ocean
chill and fresh...
I cannot tell if the day
is ending, or the world, or if
the secret of secrets is inside me again.

--Anna Akhmativa
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Dr. Timber Gorman's Cataract Symphony

At Mt. Desert Island hospital I'm lying on the operating table on my back. The operating room orchestra starts out like this: bing bing bing bing--a regular beat. Pretty loud. Like something you might hear at a gambling casino. That's my own heart beating.

But to back up a bit, while the orchestra is warming up, I overhear in the pre-op space next to mine, on the other side of a curtain, a nurse explaining about colonoscopy. A lot more information than I needed to know. After she explains about the polyps and the gas (which is normal, says the nurse), I ask my nurse to take me for a little walk.

Then I'm rolled into the operating room. Rachel is my guide across the River Styx, which means she's the anesthesiologist. She knows me quite well and so she will give me zero to minimal dosages of anesthesia, for the most part. She knows I can calm myself with yoga breathing.

I'm a little surprised when Rachel says, in her Virginia accent, "Savitri, I'm going to put you to sleep for about 2 minutes." I found out later that this blank-out moment was because Dr. Timber Gorman needed to give me a shot that I probably would not have wanted to be aware of for the time being.

Rachel says, "Okay, Savitri now it's time to do your yoga breathing." Then Rachel holds my hand, while Dr. Timber Gorman begins the surgery.

Soft background music is a bit like Nat King Cole, but it's not. Dr. Gorman says to the male nurse, a few times, "Go easy on the irrigation." The man giving the irrigation coughs once. I can almost see Dr. Gorman giving him a look. Not that coughing is a bad thing, but maybe it is in the operating room.

A robot speaks now and then, giving directions. It's a female voice. Similar to Hal's in "Space Odyssey," only I don't think this one has designs to take over.

Now and then I hear a sort of rumbling gurgling, like a horse bubbling its lips. I have no idea what it is.

There's an airbag wrapped around my arm that swells and shrinks, with soft breaths. That's the blood pressure machine.

All the while there is an intense white light shining into my eye, and some activity going on there. I know Dr. Gorman is sucking out my old lens.

After a bit, Dr. Gorman asks in her gentle, calming voice, "How are you doing?" "Fine, but I need to clear my throat, is that okay (I'd been told not to move)?" "Yes, that's fine." I clear my throat. Dr. Gorman says, "Okay. Moving on."

Bing bing bing, bubble lips, Nat King Cole, robot woman, BP air bag, Dr. Timber Gorman 2 more times asking how I am and then "moving on."

After the third "How are you doing?" I ask "How much longer?" "Not long. I am about to put in the new lens."

Then it's over. Bright light off. Dr. Gorman smiling. I say, "Rachel holding my hand is better than any anesthesia." And then I say "Thank you," to Rachel, to Dr. Gorman and the two nurses, one male and one female.

With bandage over my eye, I'm rolled into the same room as the pre-op room only now I'm post-op. There I'm given melon and pineapple to eat, and orange juice, and a hot gluten free blueberry muffin. I'm quite hungry.

My neighbor drives me home to sound of Simon and Garfunkle.

The next morning very early, still a bit dark out, with my glasses propped over the patch, I drive myself to Dr. Timber Gorman's office, which is no where near the hospital. As soon the nurse Cathy removes the patch I see very clearly. The world has turned quite bright, and even brighter after the second eye is done. I feel profoundly grateful. And I'm lucky because it is fall season. Colors are brilliant and splendid.


I marveled
at that light,
and grasped it,
and brought it up to the sun.
I laid hold upon it,
and will not let it go.

--Makeda, Queen of Sheeba

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Fall Has Arrived

A cool crisp walk along Eagle Lake. The beginnings of Fall. An arrow of geese overhead. Water lapping.


Gamble everything for love,
if you're a true human being...
Half-heartedness doesn't reach
into majesty.

--Rumi
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Circle of Love Inside Prison Outreach

My absence since my last post is due to the fact that Amma has given me an enthusiastic thumbs up to assemble and edit a collaborative book about Amma's prison outreach program, Circle of Love Inside. Riveting accounts of volunteers' experiences will be featured, along with inmate poetry and art.

The letter-writers' stories will reveal information about prison conditions, inhumane and racial. Quotes from inmates will give life to the authors' narratives. The Circle of Love Inside book will present a vital message to the world about those living in the shadows of our society, and about inmates' lives before and during incarceration. Tales of redemption are found in the ways spirituality helps prisoners find peace behind bars.

One of the inmates I write to has this to say about receiving mail:

Next to visits, mail is gold in prison. You should see the men who wait with expectancy to receive something, only to receive nothing from no one. It breaks my heart daily to see the reality of the abandonment of priceless human souls that just needed someone, anybody, in their corner.
—Apollo, Inmate in a California prison

The Circle of Love Inside personal accounts will show how writing letters to prisoners can be life changing for both inmate and person on the outside.


Don't be discouraged by your incapacity to dispel darkness from the world. Light your candle and step forward.
—Amma



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Flamingo Day in Maine

July is the season. We here in Southwest Harbor, Maine, pretty close to Canada, very definitely North Atlantic, we pretend we're in the tropics. For one day. Villagers get all decked out in pink clothes, many gardens are strewn with plastic flamingos, and then our parade. A celebration of warmth and just plain old goofy fun.

All the ones in the parade throw candies out for the children...or for anyone who likes candy.

Yesterday while I was riding my bike home from the library, I heard a band practicing. "When the Saints Come Marching In." I watched them march down one of the side roads. And now today, there they were dancing down the street, their horns loud and wonderfully out of tune, marching in the Flamingo Day Parade.

"You that come to birth and bring the mysteries,
your voice-thunder makes us very happy.
Roar, lion of the heart,
and tear me open!"
--Rumi Read More 
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Gold Finch

Gold finches and chickadees populate my balcony, their main interest being my bird feeder. Every once in a while a larger bird such as a cardinal tries to perch at the feeder, but usually fails to gain purchase. Instead the cardinals crouch down in the white pot, eating the seeds the gold finches have thrown away.

Anyway, the little golden fellow in the photo seemed to want his picture taken, posing on the top of a piece of driftwood. He is surrounded by pansies and red flowers (I didn't ask what they were called when I bought them as my main interest was attracting hummingbirds). The finch's piece of driftwood sticks out of a large white pot with dill, parsley, and climbing peas.


"O friend, understand: the body
is like the ocean,
rich with hidden treasures.
Open your inmost chamber and light its lamp."

--Mirabai
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The Day After the Full Moon

Spirittapestries.com has come to a close. I've transferred everything that was important on that site over to pathofthemother.com.

One thing dies and another is reborn.

Life is constantly changing.

Summer has finally arrived in Maine after a troubled start. Dense, cold fog yesterday. Today, warm. That means the veggie garden will be very happy.

A mother duck led her 7 or 8 ducklings into Norwood Cover waters. They all sort of spilled into the water, a bundle of downy feathers. The osprey was no longer cheeping and soaring overhead. Those brave ducklings followed their equally brave mother in one single file, down the center of the cove until they disappeared from sight (too small for my eyes to see).


"All night I could not sleep
because of the moonlight on my bed.
I kept on hearing a voice calling:
Out of Nowhere. Nothing answered 'yes.'"
---Zi Ye (From Jane Hirshfield's Women in Praise of the Sacred
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