Monday, December 11, 2017

Joy Journal

How it came about, I am not even sure. Meeting with a special friend, talking about Godly things and the idea was there. Picking up a notebook at Goodwill with a brilliant yellow cover was part of this.Yellow and white flowers, so unusual,  it whispered, "you must take me home."Perhaps that was the first step.

On the inside cover, I put a card from the same friend , a thank you card that stated that in my honor a tree would be planted in a National Forest.The card reminded her of a story that I wrote that was shared in our writing group. That card was the second step. And now, here I am reporting to my journal every day about the joy that comes my way.

I want to give you an example of how profound this is: I have occasionally seen a young girl at Mass and she has a smile that lights up Georgia.The other Sunday, she sat next to me and after Mass I asked her name and then told her this: "Mary Ann, your smile gives me joy and I want you to know that I keep a Joy Journal and today, you will appear on it's pages."She lit up, we hugged and the experience deepened into one I will never forget.

If you look for joy and identify what is giving you joy, you will just become more aware of it in your life.Small things like the bouquets of flowers that Sprouts was giving away because they were passed their dates although still beautiful."Joy".Then I gave one to a friend. Joy spreading.

The happiness when someone I knew in High School appreciates my humble stories and tells me to write a book. A message from a far-away friend that let's me know he is thinking of me.When you recognize these joyful moments, stop and savor them and smile because you know they will be written down and kept. My notebook seems to glow while it sits on my desk;  it is so full of good things.We are meant for this. It's our soul's food. In five years, when I have forgotten the joys of November-December 2017, reading in my journal , I will feel the joy again.What a profound gift to ourselves.

Isaiah knew a thing or two about all this:

The desert and the parched land shall exult; 
the steppe will rejoice and bloom
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
And rejoice with joyful song....
Say to those whose hearts are frightened
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God"...Is 35:1-10 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

the black lion

The day seemed quite ordinary for what was about to happen.

It was a bright summer morning in 2008, when I took my journal down the hill to the brook in the mountains of upstate New York. I had a few moments alone and planned to write haiku in order to savor the wildness around me. As I approach the rocks, I saw a small white feather swaying back and forth in the breeze.It was on a flat rock and seemed attached. My first thought shocked me: "There must be an angel around."

I must tell you that I don't think that way. I don't collect angels or draw them or think much about them although 6 months earlier I did have the thought to ask my angel her name.The answer came back: "Ariel." That was it.

An inchworm and several butterflies were brought to life in my poems during that hour or so of solitary bliss. As I made my way back to the path, I saw that the tiny feather was there although it was still quite windy.That in itself seem remarkable to me so I scooped it up and returned to the house.That night I had a dream that was so vivid, I wish I could paint and bring it to life in color.

"My dog Cooper and I were going down the path to the brook to sit on a flat rock and watch the sunlight dance on the water. As we approached the brook, I saw large grey slimy serpents on the other side, slithering and undulating along the steep bank. For some reason, I was not afraid.We sat down and immediately from up the stream, I saw a huge black lion headed our way.This made me quite afraid. I bent over to whisper in Cooper's ear; "Don't move.".Even in the dream I chuckled because my poor old dog was as deaf as a stone. He stayed still and the lion passed by and the dream ended.How odd and how real it seemed.

The next day, a niece came to visit and brought with her a book about angels and casually I leafed through wondering what it would say about Ariel. First, it said that angels are spiritual beings appointed by God to guide, protect and help us.O.K. Then what I read next caused me to sit down hard in my chair.:

Ariel is an Archangel closely related to nature .She is particularly helpful for teachers, healers and assists with psychic development .This archangel may be associated with the wind .Water is sacred to Ariel; she is the protector of waters. If a lion appears, you know Archangel Ariel is near.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Art by Jan Oliver Schultz-Trail of the Ancestors

They are still with us; they care about us. I know, I have seen them.

Some of the most exciting years of my life were spent tracking down those elusive people who came before me. Looking for headstones in an old Vermont cemetery which required hoisting my sister over a chain linked fence and crawling up and over myself. Hunting headstones with precious dates. Finding the burial spot of Prindle Rising,  a Union soldier mentioned in a letter from my Civil War great grandfather dated 1863. Hooray.

There is something spiritual about trying to connect with these long dead folks.I felt that deeply as I worked. It started with the death certificate of my grandmother with the names and dates of her parents and where they had been born.It was like pulling a colorful thread that slowly unwinds, gifting precious knowledge.

I am sure of this: their grit stiffens by backbone.Try to imagine coming to Plymouth in the winter of 1638 with a husband and 4 children under the age of ten.You did that Abigail, oh woman of courage.The colony there was barely settled, a few homes carved out of the wilderness.You left everything behind."Oh, beautiful for spacious skies," it called you.

Amanda, my great aunt, I have your picture, in tight bonnet and long skirt.You moved from Vermont and raised a family in Minnesota. In the 1880's a tornado blew through Duluth and a baby was ripped from your arms.She was never found and yet, you lived.You went on. I have proof , a letter you wrote in 1900 telling of hearing William Jennings Bryan speak.You kept in touch with your family back east in Vermont.We will meet some day.

Catherine,  how did you leave beautiful Ireland with four teen-agers in 1848 and arrive here with nothing ?You were tenant farmers and when the only crop, the sorrowful potato, got blight, your life was over.The English government would have fed you if you gave up your faith.Not you,Catherine, you sailed to an unknown place where signs appeared in shop windows that said :"Irish need not apply".You lived and your children became Americans. I am one of yours.

Johnann, my Scottish grandmother, had a third grade education and never drove a car. Always a sweet smile on your face, such busy hands knitting and tatting.Your life was limited to travel to from NY to New Jersey, and no vacations that I ever heard about.I never appreciated how limited your life was. I am telling you that I am sorry.

Strong women, were you all in that vision of six years ago?

I was on a bench in the woods behind our house when I saw you. My eyes were closed as I prayed for my unborn granddaughter.There was bleeding and a safe delivery was not guaranteed. In the quiet, I saw two lines of ancestors on either side of my beautiful, pregnant daughter-in-law. Each person would stop, place a hand on her womb and pass on.The lines were long and from many different parts of this earth; all with one desire, that Maddie be born. It was all so clear, their intention and concern.Then a bell softly rang and they were gone.

She is here, Catherine, Amanda, Johnann, Mary, Abigail,.At the age of five, you will be happy to know,  she loves to pray.My love for her is beyond telling.Thank you.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

the writing group

The richness, the joy of it all. Writing in a group; using art to poke around in the roots of who we are.

I wish I had starting writing sooner.What a balm to a soul with so many secrets , so much turmoil. But I must put that aside and be grateful for the beginning. It started, my journal, as a bare bones running log.Weather, sights, ease or hardship, with or without dogs.That was the beginning in the 1980s. This has morphed into a writing group with individuals as unique as five colorful birds on a branch.

There was the time that I took a piece of art, Sisley I believe, and wrote a story that pulled all of me into it. More stories and then for at least seven years, I wondered how I could share this with others and how would that start? And now it has been almost three years of stories and deep connecting.

Writing is a joy; that's all I want anyone to know. And using art deepens the experience profoundly.So, a member of the class goes to Las Vegas and sees a purse with a Van Gogh art print and she and we are transformed by the thought of it. Amid the glitz and glamour, she found timeless beauty. A poem by a Native American is read and the author reaches through the page to bestow an image of great comfort to those on the fourth hill of life.We are not alone, we stand with courage,and the bald eagle as celebrate that we made it this far.

A postcard of an old abandoned tractor in a Nebraska wheat field in winter recalls the warmth of being held there on a similar machine by a father before it all changed. Family members here and gone are recalled in beautiful language and they become ours. Lovely sunsets are captured and held by a haiku of gentleness and colors that please. Long ago childhoods are recalled, some beautiful enough to envy. Risks are taken in poetry form with extraordinary colors of red. Stories of lives so different from others enrich our experience; music on a bus that taught a new language and a kind word on a playground. Someone new joins and, in a flash, has us all soaring like fireflies above a pond in the magical night air.. Delightful.

Would we know any of this about each other without writing? We are awash in unforgettable tales.

Our writing has turned us into watchers, listeners, drifters, people of the finger counting. We travel about with an invisible net ready to snare any wisp of a story, any beauty that can be etched on a page.We are no longer cleaners, scrubbers, helpers; oh, we are that, but we are also this: artists. Long may we be.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

haiku 10-11-17

                                                                        amidst the roses
                                                                 the sound of bird calls far away
                                                                         an orange leaf falls

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Kevin....always proud of you.

When we found out that there would be a third child coming to the family, I was thrilled.We had the cutest three and one year olds and I couldn't wait .I also prayed for a good person, a happy baby, because three children under the age of 4 would be a circus. He was and is.

I could have posted one of his running pictures because without a doubt he was one of the best high school/college runners in Georgia but he is so much more.There is a goodness to this man, this second son, that shines like a sunrise.

At his 20th high school reunion, he was so aware of those standing around with no one to talk with.In my mind I can see him drifting here and there, including., listening , paying attention.Kevin still weighs under 160 pounds but 100 of that is heart.I will never forget the banquet where he was to be honored for his running career with the retiring of his high school singlet. His track coach was also be honored as he moved on to a different school and no one had thought to get him a card. Kevin left and missed being  honored because his coach mean that much.

Who else would stop a run in mid stride to help a senior break sticks in her driveway, a stranger. And the dark night that I called sobbing at the airport because I was alone and my car wouldn't start, he arrived all smiles, driving through a terrific storm.

Where this kind man came from puzzles me but I used to sing this to him: "Kevin, Kevin, straight from heaven." Surrounded by Honduran children on a mission trip, he is in his happy place.Making them laugh, dancing with the old folks at a senior center, I can see it now.

Happy birthday to one of the best people that I know.Tears and love. Here they come.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

musings on the Rhine

Each time John stumbled, a person, usually a man, came forward to help push his little wheeled walker. Strangers in a strange land. Once, our enemies.

We recently went on a cruise up the Rhine river. I wish there was some way to avoid jet lag because it seems we had just recovered when the Captain was saying good-bye.The Black Forest, that deep, dark hinterland that I have longed to explore.We walked its path in the rain. Heidelberg, Cologne, magical sounding names, safe and enchanting.

The castles were stunning, the river itself, busy, quiet and clean. But what I remember now that I am home is the goodness of people.We went with a couple that we have known forever and his sister and brother-in-law.The brother-in-law, the man with the walker, has had a stroke and yet, there he was smiling and toddling along. His wife, ever attentive, ever caring and my friend Elaine, offering help despite her own desires to do this or that.

I can see my husband taking the arm of a fellow passenger , a woman struggling up a hill. More than once.

I am not a care taker but this role may fall to each of us. I hope I have the loving patience shown by these new and old friends and by a random German here and there who jumped in.

The theme for me of this cruise beyond the beauty was summed up in a small statue in a park in Cologne.We had the most delightful college-aged guide, Danielle, and the way she explained the statute to us led me to believe that it stirs her as it did me. It is a small statue on a tall pedestal and it depicts this: St.Martin of Tours  riding on a huge horse and below him is a thin naked man. Martin splits his cloak in half with his sword and gives half to the man and rides away.That night, he has a dream in which he sees Christ wearing the cloak of the beggar.Isn't that just like Christ to pop up in a dream to show us such a profound truth. Martin's life was never the same after that. "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers".......1700 years have gone by and Martin's act still speaks.

On the last day, at the Cologne Cathedral, I bought a white rosary for John's wife and wrote her a note. .I hoped she would meet with Mary in those moments when she needed space and an oasis. I got very emotional for some reason and I am now. Mary Queen of the Angels , pray for us.