Tag Archives: insight

It Happens



In all the recent rain and after a week away, my lawn had turned into a meadow.  With a few hours in the afternoon to mow before the next rainstorm came in and in a hurry to get the job done before teaching my class at 6, I filled up the tank, started the engine, backed out of the garage, and made a few turns around the yard.  I don’t mind the task; having a riding mower it’s kind of nice to go back and forth across the lawn with nothing but engine noise and the smell of grass for an hour and a half.  But something was wrong. . . .I looked, and…a flat tire.  Shoot.

No problem, I had time to get to the store and buy that air compressor I’d been meaning to get anyway.  Was back in 45 minutes, opened it up, read the directions, pumped up the tire, and was ready to go. Another turn around the yard, and something was still not right.  I shut down the engine and looked again.

Sure enough, a copper wire was lodged in the tire.  Without thinking, I pulled it out. A hiss, and there went the tire, flat.  Again.  I called Louie, at Cold Spring Lawn and Tractor (Bless him).  “Well, you can buy a new one,” he said, “or if you pop it off and bring it here I’ll put a tube in it and save you some money.”

“Uh, take the tire off?”

“Sure!” he said, like it was easy.  “You’ll have to jack the mower up, and then you just take off the hubcap, take a screwdriver and pop off the c- clip, remove the washers and it should just slide right off.”   He took my silence for a yes. “I’ll be here, just bring it down.”

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll see you in a bit.”

I put some blocks of wood under the axle, banged them in with a hammer to lift up the mower, and then the trouble began.  There were various attempts with an assortment of tools.  Some choice words.  A little stress.  Fifteen minutes later, I called him back.  “Hi Louie, it’s Leslie again.  I can’t get it off.”

“The tire?”

“The hubcap!!”  The pliers won’t fit, and the wrench slides off the plastic!”  Can I cut it?”

“Sure, I’ve got a bunch, I’ll give you one.”

“Okay, I’ll probably call you back.”


What’s underneath the plastic hubcap was unrecognizable, covered in what looked like tar. I didn’t see a clip, or washers.  Back to the phone.


“Hey,” he says, “How’s it going?”

“I don’t know what it is, and it’s covered in tar.”

“Oh, that’s just grease.  I like grease.  Just wipe it off and then you can take a picture of it and send it to my wife’s phone.  You have a smart phone?  Then I’ll run upstairs from the shop and look at it and tell you what it is.”

Now there were dirty paper towels scattered among the hammer, screwdrivers, exacto knife, pliers and two wrenches.  I sent the picture; he texted back.  “It’s a C-clip.”

Another 10 minutes with three different screwdrivers.  The clip finally popped off, went flying.  There was some swearing at this point.  I pulled the washers off.  I pulled the tire, sitting in the driveway with a foot braced on either side. It did not move. I switched positions, leaned back. Tried again.  I tried for a while.  I checked my watch. I kicked the tire.



“I don’t get it- everything’s off! It’s not moving!”

“Well, sometimes, you just gotta bang it.”

“Bang it?”

“With a hammer.  Bang it with a hammer.”

With pleasure.  I banged it, and talked to it at the same time.  “WHY won’t YOU come OFF?”

And then it moved, a little.  I pulled, and finally the tire was on the ground.  I raised my fists and make a victory sound like a yeti:  “Uuuuuuuuuuaaaaaaaagggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh.”

Twenty minutes and twenty dollars later, I was back with a pumped up tire, only this time I needed the car jack to get the mower high enough to slide the tire back on.  When I was done, I gave another victory salute and pick up the tools.

And what was my reward for all this work?  I got to mow the lawn.

As I was relating this story to my brother, complete with sound effects, I said, “And after all that, I just get to do what I am supposed to do anyway.”  Zen Master Doug replies, “Of course.  It’s all about the process.”

Yes.  Yes it is.  Can I relate most things in life to the spiritual journey?  Yes. Yes I can.  And most of the time I can go with it.  Most of the time, I feel that I am on a path in the company of Spirit, doing the things that I discern the Divine has called me to do.  Except.  Except for when I get busy, or when I’ve got more than one agenda, or am in a hurry, or don’t know what to do, or feel dumb and have to ask for help, or try really hard and nothing seems like it’s moving.  You know, like how life happens.

But here’s what did happen.  I learned to concentrate on one thing, one step at a time. (Again.)  I remembered to slow down. (Again.) I asked for help and got it. (Again.)  I tried really hard and nothing moved . . .at first.  (Again.) And then it did.

You know, like how life happens.

And so, for you and for me, here’s hoping that our struggles small and large teach us again of how life happens, and how God happens.  May the process (Because it’s all about the process) of grace, and love, gratitude, and peace, happen, even if we do sound like a yeti occasionally.





Buzzed by joy

Buzzed by joy

I got buzzed by a hummingbird yesterday.  Not for the first time.  They routinely chase each other way from the feeder, and if I happen to be standing or sitting nearby, they swerve around me at high speed, chittering away at each other. It’s startling, their fierce flying.   One male likes to perch on the begonia plant, like a sentry, keeping an eye to the sky and driving away all comers.  They get their turn, eventually, dive bombing his head a few times. I love them.  And as long as I keep the food coming, they seem to like hanging around me too.

In some native American and wisdom traditions, the hummingbird symbolizes joy. In Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals, Jamie Sams and David Carson say that, for many people, “the hummingbird is the creature that opens the heart.”  I know that I am happy when they’re in the neighborhood.

I even had a dream about a hummingbird recently: It was perched in the palm of my hand.  And it may have been injured, or just young.  But it was staying there in my hand quite contentedly.  I was excited; some other people were there, too and I showed them, and asked a person (the one who is always shooting photos) to take a picture of this rare and wonderful thing.  But she didn’t have her camera.  She left to go get it, and I waited.  And waited.  And waited. She didn’t come back.  So I carried the bird to my red pick up truck, tucking it into the console where I made a nest for it, and drove back to my house to see what was taking so long.  When I got there, this person was sitting at my desk, playing on my computer.  She had forgotten me.  I was furious; this was not the first time she’d blown me off.  She made a weak excuse, and the vehemence of my reply woke me up.

The Talmud says,  ” An unexamined dream is like an unopened letter from God.”  So I examined it.  If you’ve read a little Jung, you know that everybody has their own typology and symbols, but a few seem to be universal: a house generally represents the self; a car, the body or the ego.  (Hmmmm. Bright red pickup truck!?) If you pay attention to your dreams, your own symbols in time will become clear.  I didn’t need to do much digging, in this case.  What was clear to me is that my joy is present, and it doesn’t really matter if anyone notices it or not.  It rests contentedly in the palm of my hand. It may be young or vulnerable in some way.  I want someone to notice it because I think it is a rare and fleeting thing, and the person I want to notice, especially, doesn’t.  But here’s the thing-I have built a nest for it and it is riding in the console of my truck, staying with me, nestled in the space I have created to protect and care for it.

Joy may be a rare and fleeting thing for some of us.  I think our task is to notice it when it buzzes by. Maybe even feeding it a little something sweet and letting it take a rest stop in our souls.  Maybe our task is to build a nest in our hearts for joy to roost, so that we can take note of it and pause for a moment, enjoying its company.  And I think when we notice our joy, we get better at noticing, and celebrating, the joy of others, too.

I hope joy stops by for you.  I hope it buzzes by and startles you with its small fierceness. And I hope it hangs around awhile, settling into your open and beautiful heart.


It’s not too late to begin.

It’s not too late to begin.

Let me just say it- I hate being a beginner.  I know that I try to cultivate a “beginner’s mind,”  and I can do that, most of the time.  In Zen Buddhism, “beginner’s mind” is an attitude of openness, curiosity, and a lack of preconceptions about whatever topic/task/learning into which you are entering.    And at the same time, I want to know it, already.  I realize that this does not speak well for me.  A friend of mine called herself “the original ten minute expert.”  Yep.  Me too.

I don’t mind being a beginner, but I don’t want to LOOK like a beginner.   My golf swing and whiffing on the tee with a group behind you, waiting?  Ugh.  First time in front of the classroom and forgetting your sequence?   Yikes.  New neighborhood and getting lost on your way home? Crap.  New relationship, and not quite sure about sharing the personal details?  Oy.  This is ego, and is all tied up with outward appearance.

But today what arose out of the morning pages and the to-do lists for the day was an affirmation.  And it was a simple one- so I put aside the judgmental side of my brain that said it was TOO simple, and too easy, and-wasn’t-going-to-accomplish-anything-and-why-was-I-even-trying part of my brain  and just wrote:  “It is not too late to begin.”

In affirmations it is helpful to write your response to the affirmation, too.  So, each time I wrote “It’s not too late to begin,” I wrote the response, which was something like, “But I’m so far behind already!”  Or, “I’m too old for this, really.” Write your affirmation down in the first person(Leslie, it’s not too late to begin), the second person, (Leslie, it’s not too late for you to begin), and the third person (It’s not to late for Leslie to begin).  This helps your brain hear and overhear these words in a new way.

Your deepest objections (read this as fear) will come up.  Just write them down.  And here’s the thing, you can watch them change on the page.  Because once you name and claim the objections, that pesky inner (ego) voice has a way of shutting up too.  I ended up with responses like, “Look out; here it comes!”  Silly, right?  But so much better than the inner Debbie Downer that keeps me immobilized.  Anything that quiets her down is gold.  So I hope you try it- and see what happens.  I’ll be cheering you on, if you do.

And full, disclosure, this is my first blog post.  My friend who helped me set up my page wrote the “first” one with me to get  started.  Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.”  I hope your kind, affirming words to yourself will allow you to come home to the beautiful creation you are.


Books…how wonderful they are!

Books…how wonderful they are!

I love to read- do you? I’ve put together a first reading list to share with you, here are some of my favorites:

The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope

Grace, Eventually by Anne LaMott

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

When God is Silent & The Luminous Web by Barbara Brown Taylor

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kinsolver

Gift of the Red Bird by Paula D’Arcy

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Falling Upward by RIchard Rohr

Let Your Life Speak by Parker J Palmer

The Great Divorce by CS Lewis

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

These are the books I go back to time and time again. I hope you enjoy one of more of these titles. And I hope the Spirit will speak to you through the writing of others.