The universe hears your heart


Earthways Art Shadow KissWhen I backpacked in South America years ago with my friend Susan, I never worried. We got warnings from the US State Department about traveling in Peru, landed in Lima to a reception of armed soldiers, and were two gringas wandering alone in a country besieged by guerrilla warfare.

People thought I was nuts. But I wasn’t listening to them. Instead, I was guided by my heart.  I know It sounds like a corny New Age mantra. Yet it was one of the first times in my life that I walked the Earth in a way that I felt connected to something greater.

With no itinerary, we climbed into the clouds on the Andes, trekked the lush jungle, roamed tiny inland villages, then headed for the coast. When we happened upon a wild-animal rescue center and archeological dig, we spent days sifting for Incan pottery shards and feeding droppers of milk to an abandoned baby ocelot in return for a room, running water and meals. Oh sure, we had bug bites, stomach woes and our share of grumpiness. But not once in all those miles did we feel fear. Every stranger we met showered us with kindness – from the young man who shared his cuy so Susan could try this roasted delicacy [yes, it’s guinea pig], to the shaman who blessed my surprise pregnancy.

It was as if the universe laid lanterns for our safe passage.

I’d love to report that my “walking the Earth” connection stayed with me when I returned to my life in New Jersey. Truth is, I lost it quickly after I started changing diapers and swirling in the pressures of motherhood, money and moods. I tried to wish it back. I tried to meditate on it. I tried to forget about it.

Yet that taste, that touch of being in sync with my heart, would fill me like a burst of sunshine when I least expected:  while body surfing with my kids; while doing my digital art; while walking the beach with my old lab, Scout; while talking about Peace Pilgrim.

And it just happened again, on this full moon Valentine’s Day.

Normally when I run, I listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers or an audio book. But today I was mulling, once again, over what I’m doing with my life, and for some reason I instead hit “shuffle.” Suddenly Loggins & Messina’s Peace of Mind burst through my earbuds. I smiled, thinking “this is cool,” and started to jog. No sooner had it ended when the notes began for the Eagle’s Peaceful Easy Feeling. Wow! Now I was paying attention. My music library has over 1,000 songs. Funny to get two in a row about my most passionate topic, peace, especially as I’m wondering whether my efforts on behalf of Peace Pilgrim are making any difference.

When the next song shuffled on, i could hardly contain my joy. I can’t remember the last time I heard Peace Train by Cat Stevens, who isn’t even Cat Stevens anymore. But I rode that train all the way back to the knowing I had in South America: that the universe hears our hearts. And even when we’re too busy, distracted or unsure, it paves the way with lanterns.

Happy Valentine’s day!

They are our sonshines!


2013SeanBdayCollage My youngest turns 17 today.
Well before he fell in love with his first shin guards (I adored the purple socks), his smiles lit continents, his giggles shook treetops, his hugs melted my moods. (And yes, his beanie babies filled my bed.) From Lincoln Logs to driver’s license, he’s been a star in my universe and I’m filled with gratitude at the young man he’s becoming. LIke inner peace to our souls are sons to our hearts. Happy Birthday ShawnieBee!

If you’re hungry enough, break into the fridge

scoutporch  So we have NO idea how he does it. But Scout opens the fridge and helps himself. To left-over pizza. Pints of Ben & Jerry’s. Pounds of turkey and cheese. No carrots or celery for him.

We come back home to remnants of his binges strewn across the living room floor — shards of foil, ripped ice cream containers and scattered mounds of drool. He puts his tail between his legs before we even start to yell and slinks into his crate. Of course, it’s usually only five minutes after we pick up the mess when we start to hear him retch. There goes the feast! He wags happily as we come in for the next round of cleaning.

Between our profanity and “if-I-eat-another-bite-Monty Python” references, we marvel again at his canine prowess. How in the world does a 12-year-old yellow Lab open the refrigerator? It’s not even a normal model with easy access. To fit into a cramped space with stairways on either side and a counter just a foot in front, we had to get a side-by-side with sleek, curved handles that I can barely maneuver my tiny hands into. Does he use his paws? His snout? A combo? Each time we swear we’ll set up our Flip cam.

But, you know what? I don’t even really want to find out. Because Scout’s break-ins are legend now. And they’re also inspiration. My big old dog wants something bad enough, and he goes for it.

I’ve finally published my first book, but now the scary work begins. The marketing. The outreach. The social media platform. The black hole of countless hours  trying to figure out book bloggers and permalinks and tags. But I want to share my story of Peace Pilgrim as much as Scout salivates for fried chicken. I crave community as an author like he drools for donuts (preferably chocolate covered.)

So I’m going to do as my dog and break into my dreams whenever I have the chance.

Celebrate Peace (…or happy Women’s History Month!)


Peace  March is Women’s History Month and there’s no better time for everybody to know Peace. Peace Pilgrim that is!
Meet Mildred Norman Ryder, the amazing New Jersey farm girl and former flapper who was the first woman to walk the Appalachian Trail in one season. Then at age 45, when most women stayed home to cook, clean and help raise grandchildren, Mildred gave up everything she owned (including her name) and started walking across the country to promote peace. Over the next 28 years, Peace Pilgrim crossed the U.S. on foot seven times. With only the clothes on her back and no money, she reached tens of thousands of people, one joyous step at a time.
So, as blogs and clips and media reports bemoan the lack of female role models during Women’s History Month, we all should celebrate Peace Pilgrim — and Peace!

“I have walked 25,000 miles as a penniless pilgrim.  I own only what I wear and what I carry in my small pockets.  I belong to no organization.  I have said that I will walk until given shelter and fast until given food, remaining a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace.” 


YOU — in six words


SNOWSHADOW…little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own…              from The Journey by Mary Oliver

So how do you hear your own voice? Allow your own voice? Write your own voice? Try a six-word memoir! It’s an amazingly simple-hard-fun way to capture YOU. And it’s worth every ounce of thought you throw into it.

Walking across the country for decades, Peace Pilgrim wore this “memoir” on her back of her navy blue tunic, “25,000 MILES ON FOOT FOR PEACE.” No one had to guess her story, and I imagine these words served as her North Star in times of fatigue, frustration, boredom.

A few years back, on the hair-pulling edge of adolescent schedules, stupidity and hormones (theirs and mine), I taped my mini-memoir to my desk:  HAVING FUN IS MY NEW BLACK! Last spring, when I realized I really wanted to finish my Peace Pilgrim book, I changed it to:  FINALLY TIME FOR MY DREAMS TO LIVE! (I know, it’s seven words, but I’m ok with that.) Anyway, it works. For a reminder. For a smile. For a quick grounding.

I’ve seen funny (Still fit my high school earrings), moving (Car totaled. Everyone safe. Forever grateful.), angst (Fat thighs, school sucks, what now?)

No matter. Pick whatever seems right for the you who you are now!

What are your six?