Show Your Soul

Show Your Soul  is an online journal of writings and artworks from the members and friends of all ages of White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church.

BALANCE: the practice of grace

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments


Like the famous landmark, Balance Rock, in Arches National Park in southern Utah, we all need to have balance and to be able to withstand all kinds of assaults to that balance (wind, rain, hot, cold, etc). And if we can keep grounded – if even on a pillar of rock – we can keep balanced and be an inspiration to others.
- Ken Stewart

Grace by Don Lifto
To save or be saved?
Healing balm, salvation’s grace
(It’s not about me!)


The Haiku above contains two emotive and spiritual words –generally understood, but uttered infrequently in every-day conversation:  grace and balm.  In referencing the Merriam-Online Dictionary, it is interesting that it is the second meanings for both words, not the primary definitions, which speak to us from the seventeen beats of the Haiku.  The technical definition of balm is an oily, pleasant smelling substance from specific tropical trees used to heal or protect the skin.  The literal meaning of grace, on the other hand, describes the elegance of movement as in a beautiful dance.

The secondary meaning of balm speaks to the powerful soul medicine of comfort, soothing, relief, succor and the salve of soul healing for a troubled spirt (whether your’ s or someone else’s).  The alternate meaning of grace, on the other hand, embodies the generous, free and underserved good will and favor of God. (or spirit)  In combination, balm and grace are the building blocks and mortar of a spiritual soul grith – always possible to give and receive, albeit sometimes just out of reach like a dessert mirage or shrouded and unrecognizable through the lenses of life’s circumstances.

The parenthetical reference in the third line of the Haiku (It’s not about me!) is a reference to a comment by Kate Christopher, who was a member of what I affectionately coined my “UU Kumbaya Group” at the White Bear Lake Unitarian Universalist Church where we attend.  The Sharing Circles model, which I was a part of in 2013, is small groups that get together monthly to explore spiritual themes within the context of the church’s principles in general, and more particularly the monthly themes throughout the year.  Kate’s (It’s not about me!) reflection was her reminder that to be the source of balm and grace one must focus on the needs of others rather than how particular situations or behaviors are affecting (or inconveniencing) us.

The antonyms for balm and absence of grace include such words as grief, desperation, exacerbation and misery.  The reservoir to provide balm and grace is only limited by the capacity (and regeneration) of our hearts and courage.  The capacity to accept these salves of soul healing requires a willingness to break one’s heart open in order to make space for love.  Or as Dar Williams reminds us in his song, “Every time you love just a little/Take one step closer to solving a riddle/It echoes all over the world.”

May it be so.

The Epitome of Grace by Peggy Ludtke

I looked up at the fast rolling clouds hoping to catch at least a glimpse of the solar eclipse and was graced instead with a raindrop landing on my forehead. My expectations for the once in the lifetime event  were literally called on account of rain; Instead of witnessing an astrological phenomenon, I got grace. Grace, in this case rain, is what happens when I go after what I think I want but get something else. Grace is the consolation prize.

I have come to understand  that grace needs hurt, disappointment or at the very least something unexpected before it arrives and then only if I am  broken open enough to receive it. More poetically put, grace is the light that shines through the brokenness whether it’s a matter of a broken spirit, a broken dream, or a broken heart. Put one more way in a baby boomer context, it is like the chorus in that Rolling Stone song, You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find, you get what you need. (Aka, grace.)

Broken in spirit since the November election, and searching for something to counter or fill in at least a crack or two,  I started volunteering at Valley Outreach, the food shelf in Stillwater. I am a front desk volunteer which means for a couple of hours each week, I answer the phone, process food and clothing donations,  occasionally call homebound clients to remind them a food delivery will be coming to them later in the week.

When I am not there, other volunteers do this same front desk gig, and when there isn’t a volunteer, one of the paid staff sits at the desk and does these tasks as well as their other duties. In other words, the front desk is always filled whether I am there or not.

Am I making a difference? It is difficult to argue that I am since the good work Valley Outreach does goes on whether I volunteer or not.  I am not sure why I picked such an obtuse way to take to task and fight against the current mean political climate.  It is definitely a roundabout way to combat a government bent against rather than for all the people. I won’t try to explain my actions, although I have heard volunteering and donating are way up since November.  I will say that what I’ve witnessed in the process of my volunteering is the epitome of grace.

From the front desk, I  watch need and generosity intersect. Anyone who walks in and says they need food, will be given an emergency bag of groceries no questions asked, no proof of necessity or citizenship required. Perhaps because of the name Outreach, or simply the reputation it has, people come in asking for help finding housing or paying their bills too. Always they are met with respect, and either helped with what they need or directed to another service.

Then there is the other side of the graceful equation: generosity. During my two hour shift,  a fairly constant stream of people back up their cars to unload garden produce, can goods,non perishables and clothing. The front bins are always full and the back rooms overflow with benevolence. There are hundreds of volunteers that come here to help out with sorting and organizing this too. I know because I alphabetize their name tags when I am not busy with other meet and greet tasks at the front desk.

From the front desk, I witness this dance of goodwill, and even though this is not what I expected to get out of volunteering at Valley Outreach, this is the symmetry, the grace that goes on here.  V.O. is a good place resisting the meanness that is going on in the world. Looking expectantly for something else, I suppose a chance to make a difference, it is the splash of a raindrop reminding me the world needs this too.

Grace will take you places hustling can’t.– Elizabeth Gilbert


This tree has been precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff - for decades or maybe centuries - pummeled and graced with the forces of nature. This brings to mind a conversation in which these words were shared: 'Grace is a gift and an invitation into the unexpected. We give up all control of balance and in the giving up, in allowing one's self to surrender, we find balance.'

This tree has been precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff – for decades or maybe centuries – pummeled and graced with the forces of nature. This brings to mind a conversation in which these words were shared: ‘Grace is a gift and an invitation into the unexpected. We give up all control of balance and in the giving up, in allowing one’s self to surrender, we find balance.’
-Laurie Kigner



Balanced Rocks
Who stacked these rocks?
How did they do it?
Joyfully placed
Imperfect stones
Did they know that tree branches break?
Or that deer run these woods?
“Quick!” they holler,
Take a picture.
-Jennifer Miller


A marsh wren in delicate balance. - Ellen Lowery

A marsh wren in delicate balance.
- Ellen Lowery

Balance: A Deaf Perspective by Tehya Daniels

I am going to tell you a story. This is a story about an identity crisis that I had last year. As I have explored what it means to be balanced, I have realized that this crisis was caused by an imbalance of sorts. Before I begin, you have to understand something about me- I am Deaf, and use a cochlear implant on my left ear to hear. Without the implant, I cannot hear anything. I was born hearing, but I have a genetic disorder that caused my hearing to progressively go down. My parents, knowingly, started to teach me American Sign Language (ASL) as a baby. I knew over 60 signs before I could talk. As my speech developed, I started to use ASL less and less. When my hearing dropped for the first time when I was two, my speech skills were already flourishing. By the time I was four, most of my hearing had been lost, and I was implanted.

For the rest of my childhood, ASL became the language I knew little about, and it became the culture I could be a part of, but never was. The extent of our ASL use became the small signs here and there that we used when I was swimming, and had to take my implant off.

When I started high school last year, I enrolled in the ASL One class for my language credit. My teacher, who taught hearing students, was Deaf. In this class, I learned so much about Deaf culture, and what it meant to be Deaf. I started to have feelings of resentment towards my parents for not completely exposing me to this new world in the Deaf culture.

At this time, I was also the “new kid” at school. Before ninth grade, I had gone to a private school. For high school, I had to start over, and make new friends. Because I am shy, I struggled to connect with people. I blamed my inability to connect with people on my hearing: I struggled to hear people, so THAT was why I felt so alone. I started to question my role in the “hearing world.” I sought comfort and friendship in the Deaf world.

The first time I went to an all Deaf event, I was extremely nervous. People were signing everywhere. Because I was still an ASL beginner, I felt lost. I felt alone in a crowd of people who were very similar to me. I was extremely upset. In the hearing world, I struggled to hear. In the silent world, I struggled to sign. I could not win. At this moment, I vowed to become fluent in ASL. If there was nothing to do about my hearing ability, at least I could improve my ability to sign, and be able to easily communicate in at least one world.

For the first few months of school, as I learned more about the Deaf community, I planned to grow up, become fluent in sign language, take my implant off forever, and never speak or hear again. I had so much anger trapped inside me. Anger against my parents, anger against myself, anger at the universe for making me have to deal with my situation. I felt as though I had to chose between the hearing world and the silent world. I made a pro-con list: How would my life be affected if I were to take off my implant for good? I realized that my life is based on my interactions with the hearing world. All my friends are hearing. I listen to music, I love movie sound effects, I love the sound of the ocean waves lapping on the shore. I love the sound of leaves in the fall, the silence of winter, the humming mosquitoes in summer. I realized I need sound in my life. Sound is present in all of my memories. There was only one thing I was forgetting; I am Deaf. I can’t hear song lyrics, I can’t hear the ocean while I am swimming in it, I can’t hear people when they turn away from me. I am Deaf. I realized, that although I needed the hearing world, I needed something else too- something only the Deaf world could provide. A common bond with the Deaf community- we all struggle to hear in a LOUD environment.

Last year, all of these thoughts were constantly running through my head. Now, looking back, I have come to the conclusion that I need to have a balance. A balance of both worlds; I can be a part of the hearing world, but I can also be a part of the silent.


Take cupsful of light
Sifting off a blue jay’s wing
Toss briefly with morning coffee,
Then remove yourself
To the measured sounds of traffic, and
Winter crisping beneath
Your boots, add
Children’s voices,
And liquid smells—
Exhaust from buses,
Dirty hair
Chicken for lunch.
Words flow everywhere–liters–gallons
So much to choose from–
Rhymes of hat and bat and cat.
First grade things…
Numbers adding up to cookies.
Stories in books, on shelves,
The disarray from 500 bodies
Using 1000 hands to choose or reject.
Didn’t their mothers teach them anything
But conflict?
If I could I would feed them all a poem.
Fearless life in 200 words or less–
No angry streets, no guns, no absent parents.
But Mark says,
“I’m throwing it away. Teacher, look at me.
I’m throwing it away.”
Can I save him?
He’s only seven.

Fold him in gently, try again.
Words can heal,
Love can mend,
Giving up is not an option.

Thank God for bird feeders, sunshine
And coffee in the morning.
-Jean Doolittle

Gratitude for a Man of Grace
For Tim Stoddart

It’s easy to take Tim’s generosity for granted.
His approachable nature draws us in; his broad
life connections weave us one to another.
Tim is a man of water, a man of movement.
He has spent hundreds of hours kayaking lakes and
rivers; he has made meals for the hungry and the hopeful.
We cannot know what it feels like to have these things
taken away too early and face such a challenge.
We can only hope to model his courage and his grace.
-Bill McCarthy


CELEBRATION: the practice of naming

Posted by on Oct 2, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments


After picking a handful of wildflowers
later -
Shutting my eyes their beauty is
Still in my head
—Gail Diez
That Day

Is he alone who has courage on his right hand and faith on his left hand?
Charles Lindbergh

That day is waiting,
In the wings,
When the mathematics change—
When a given is taken away.

Perhaps they all wanted a nickname,
A moniker, a distinctive sobriquet,
Those changing, giddy adolescent girls
Who gathered at the lunch table
In that small town high school cafeteria.

She wore hers with a jaunty aspect.
Carol became Charlie,
Charlie Lindberg,
The flying ace,
The intrepid adventurer.

Who else would have
A skunk named Artemis?
Who else could twirl the perfect DQ cone,
Or make you laugh just to hear her giggle?
Her face was made for happiness.

But she was more grounded than aloft,
With love of home and church and family;
Chose to be Carol again and never fly
Too far away from roots
Sunk deep in small town soil.

Giddiness fades and high school ends;
Promises of forever are made.
Ties of friendship stretch and fray,
But do not break.

Busy with jobs and homes and children
Arthritis and gray hair can approach Unheeded.
Where, you ask, did fifty years go?

I still dream of missing the bus and
Making the honor roll, and
Wondering, will there be a place for me
At the lunch table?
The smell of fish sticks conjures memories.

There is much talk of Heaven
And of hope,
Of faith and coming glory
And God willing, that may be,
No lunch table girl had yet crossed;

Exit stage left.
Second act, perhaps.

That day,
Came too soon.

Jean Doolittle
In honor of classmate and friend
Carol Lindberg Braaten, 1950-2016

This summer I had the privilege of recording the stories of young people who are experiencing homelessness. Ten youth, aged 16-24, and two case workers, barely older than these youth, came into a make-shift recording studio and spoke the truth of their lives. It was a project of Oasis for Youth, a Bloomington-based organization providing services to youth in southwest Hennepin county who are experiencing homelessness.

Among the youth and staff, ten identify as African American, one Caucasian and one Hispanic. I, a 66-year old white woman from a typical Midwest background, have nothing obvious in common with these young people. Yet, they came with astonishing courage and honesty to give voice to their experience. To name it. That they were willing to do so in my presence is a gift I will treasure always.

They responded to questions such as …
“How did you find out about Oasis?”
“What was happening in your life?”
“What is your greatest worry?”
“What is your greatest joy?”
“How has Oasis helped you?”

Their answers are both completely the same as yours and mine might be, and completely different.

“I was riding the bus and saw the Oasis sign. I wondered what it was, so one day I got off the bus, went in and checked it out.”

“A friend who had been coming to Oasis told me about it. I needed food.”

“For me the biggest thing was housing. When I wasn’t staying with my mom, I was couch-hopping. One time I slept in a park, one night. That was a bad situation. At the end of the day, you never want to worry about where you will sleep. It’s scary.”

“My greatest worry is me flat-lining someday, out on the streets.”

“I often worry about my young guys. I worry that a young person I have been working with will be on the news, being shot.”

“My greatest joy is family.”

“My greatest joy is to be respected, that someone actually cares.”

“I found Oasis, and Oasis lifted me up.”

These youth voices were shared with a generous community who contributed a record amount of money to support Oasis. And, as a community, we celebrated.
—Margo Berg


A number of years ago, as I was wandering along an evolving path of spiritual discovery and understanding, I began thinking about spiritual traditions and holidays. I grew up in family that observed typical Christian traditions (not that we went to church), and had acknowledged and celebrated such holidays all my life. But I had to admit to myself that Christmas and Easter no longer had any real spiritual meaning for me. I had to admit that I didn’t, in fact, have a true spiritual holiday at all. So I decided to create one. No, that’s not quite right. I decided to try to figure out if there was a day or an event in the year that was significantly spiritual for me. I was going to try to find my spiritual holiday… if I had one.

I began thinking about the year… my annual calendar… the events that happen… but nothing stuck. There was no day or moment that fit. So I starting thinking about when I feel spiritual and if there is a time of year when I feel more so. Then it hit me with great clarity. In the autumn, when the leaves are changing and the air is crisp and smells of… whatever that indescribable fall smell is, and the angle of the sun seems more intense, and the colors of the leave! Oh, the colors! I feel more alive, more connected, more grateful for just existing and being outside. It physically changes me in ways I’ve never been able to explain. It is mysterious, and beautiful. And it is sacred to me… deeply spiritual.

I now celebrate this more deliberately each year. I take time off work. We adorn our house with leaves. We take extended pilgrimages into the woods to worship the leave and breath deep the fall air. I needed a name for it. I tried on several names for size. The one that stuck, and lives with me today as my most sacred time of year is “The Holy Month of October”. Happy Holy Month of October everyone!
— Mark Kotz


TRUTH: the practice of diving and divining

Posted by on Sep 1, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments









Photos by Ken Stewart
For Henry 2012 from Grandma Nancy

with enough pepper

and after the sandals fall apart
some actual boots

then maybe
the mountain becomes climbable
never mind the coyotes
(they’re  cowardly)
jungle drums will fade
and the blare of sun
will slowly blend
into velvet dark

the purple sax
blues an invitation
to the Yes
that comes
venturing up
over the horizon
from the edge of the world
out of the surf
tall cool and ready
—Rev Nancy Holden

This piece includes text from the song “Lao Rahal Soti” by the musician Samih Shqer. The song discusses the fleetingness of the singer juxtaposed to the eternalness of the song within the context of the Palestinian diaspora.As we come together once again this Autumn in the spirit of unity and togetherness, it is essential to remember those who cannot return home. In light of the current refugee crises throughout the world, we must recognize the privilege of returning.
—Hope Safford
Diving takes us head first into the




We hold our breath against the





Divining we find






—Margo Berg


Spirit: the practice of inhaling and exhaling

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments


Artwork by Tehya Daniels 


Too Small

Imagine a proton. Desperately watching the electrons orbit them.
Imagine an atom, buzzing amongst the others.
Imagine an element, trying to make a difference in the world.
Imagine a cell trying to create and preserve life.
Imagine an organ, working with other organs to keep somebody alive.
Imagine a human, working to keep a job.
Imagine a family, trying to comfort each other in the dark of night.
Imagine a village trying to flee the raiders.
Imagine a country trying to flee the raiders.
Imagine a continent trying to get the chaos to cease.
Imagine Earth trying to live, but there are too many opinions.
Imagine Earth, orbiting the sun, stuck on an endless loop.
Imagine the Sun, a small speck of a star, moving through space, with little planets clung to it, holding life.
Imagine the Milky way, controlled by a black hole, where eventually everything will go.
Imagine all the galaxies, destined to someday collide.
Imagine all the universes, and other dimensions, trying desperately to convince themselves they are real.
Imagine the unknown, trying so hard to be found.
Imagine the trillions of unsaid thoughts and ideas floating in space.
Imagine the oh so small humans, trying to find their place.
Imagine the humans that are imagining something bigger.
Imagine a human child, where the littlest thing could be a trigger.
Imagine a teen, trying to be seen,
When really, they are quite small,
With almost no value at all,
Compared to the Sun, and stars.
Whose light shines too bright
For anyone to match.




Mother Moon

I love the moon
I want to cover it all up with frosting and eat it like it was cake
I love her
and I will give you a piece.
- Delilah Rose, WBUUC R.E. second-grader





Chalice Reading: Julian Schwendeman

Leon Logothetis, is a man who decided to take an awe inspiring journey across the world with only a yellow motor bike, no money, relying on the kindness of others for food and shelter. He said:

“From a distance the world probably seems like a big bad scary place, if you listen to the news or even ask the person next to you they will likely talk about war, poverty, corruption and hate. And they are right – from a distance. But I believe that up close, there is enough good, enough love and enough pure kindess to make the world go round and that is what inspired my journey.”

This month’s theme is power, and I thought this was a perfect example of how power is being used for good. So I light the chalice today for the power of love and kindness.






Submission: the practice of claiming power

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

I was reflecting on the May theme SUBMISSION: The Pract ice of claiming power, and one of the photos I contributed to the art show came into my mind and became a wonderful metaphor for me to think about this theme.

The glacier slowly moves toward the sea and eventually calve s enormous chunks of ice into it. So… is the glacier submitting to the sea and claiming power, or is the see claiming power and submitting to the glacier? Does it matter if the glacier is retreating, as most glaciers are, or advancing, as this one currently is? Where are there parallels to the metaphor in my life?
—Mark Kotz


How to Handle the Sacred

1) Torahs, Qur´ans, and Bibles

As everyone is gathered and watching,
make sure no one drops the weighted body of books.
Take care that scrolls, for example, can walk
on their two rolling pin legs, in the palms and fists
of 13-year-old girls and boys, or anyone
allowed to examine the language
for hidden illness, and make repairs
as one would to newborn skin.

2) Socks

Buy them in the food co-op with your bags of rice and sugar gingers.
One size up so the cold-water label can be ignored, and they can be washed
in warm water. If you are the creative type with cloth, consider composting
the old cold cottons or making animals out of them. Allow yourself
to spend $15 a pair, made by somebody named Maggie.
Someone you would curl your feet into.

3) Breasts
Warm your hands by them. One at a time, slide under the cloth
and diagonally across the chest. Hold one, then the other, until the heat of each
starts a conversation about the history of your hands.

4) Books
When you sleep put one in front of a pillow beside you.
As you read before sleeping, translate words foreign in your mouth.
With a pencil, draw a kite string from the word to the meaning
you jotted down in the margin. So by the time you finish,
the pages are flying in the sky, inside your head of sleep.
—Elissa Cottle


Peach Orb

As I drove home from work, late
Going east
The moon was huge on the horizon
Soft glowing ~~ peachy color
Such a beauty!
It was a risin’
On the horizon.
It glowed and rose, higher and higher.
Soon I could see it more clearly
But . . .
I saw not the face in the moon of a man,
More like the symbol for yin and yang.

Driving north, the moon followed me,
No longer hiding behind large city buildings.
Out of the city, it would leap between the occasional
Building by the roadside.
Then peek at me through leafless tree limbs, as it was a cold, dark late winter’s eve.

It looked mystical, magical, mysterious!
It did look round.
Yes, I’m sure it is round, as it looks like a circle,
Which is round.

Let me stay in my reverie this night
The beauty of that orb in the sky
So lovely

Looking on us with love
In spite of ourselves.
May we linger in our mindfulness
May we gather her energy
May our intention be for wisdom
In this dark hour.
—Diane Markel


Docket #377 by MJ LaVigne

Today, on April 27, 2017 a young man named Sergio, who has lived in the United States since he was 6 months old, will present Homeland Security with a check for $743.76, and board the deportation plane for Mexico. From afar the immigration debate seems complex. If you get closer the system’s injustice is hard to miss.

An out-of-sight lock clanged closed as #337 entered the courtroom last week. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, his wrists cuffed, ankles hobbled by shackles, he looked like the teen lead singer in a Christian rock band.

He had pled guilty in North Dakota to possession of marihuana paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor. He received a warning. Then North Dakota authorities turned him over to ICE.

Her voice soften by kindness or exhaustion, Judge Kristin Olemanson speaks so low people on the rear benches had to lean in to hear. They have not come for Sergio, and neither have I. But he is the one whose story sticks with me.

Sergio’s innocence is not assumed. Sergio can’t defend himself because he’s not being accused of a crime. This is an administrative court. Sergio can’t be released on bond because the North Dakota incident is categorized as a drug offense. He could be held indefinitely in the private prison system.

He emerged from his mother’s womb in the wrong place. Like skin pigment, gender, and inherited wealth, the geography of your nativity is out of your control.

I was born in Indiana. My parents, grandparents, and an older sister where all born in Minnesota. What if I were forced to return to South Bend? We left there when I was three years old. I pass as a native Minnesotan. But I have this secret status.

What if corporation were required to stay in the state and city where they emerged? Imagine that.

At the end of the hearing Judge Olemanson wished the young man ‘good luck.’ Her puny, but heartfelt encouragement embarrassed me. My chin itched terribly. I was scratching it as Sergio was led back out the door, and the lock clanged. It’s been itching today as I watch the planes take-off from Minneapolis.



Walking in Tamarack Park I came across wild Marsh Marigolds that bloom in we t swampy areas in early Spring. My husband Don and I discovered them many years ago in O’Brien State Park. Brought back many warm memories. Take a q uiet walk in your special place? What comes up for you?
—Gail Diez



Immanence: the practice of blessing the world

Posted by on Apr 1, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

I see these flowers as rising up to bless the hard earth. —Ellen Lowery

I see these flowers as rising up to bless the hard earth. —Ellen Lowery


You are old, maybe wise enough to know
what you must resist courageously,
where you need to persist wholeheartedly.

Isn’t it obvious when you wake grateful
for this sweet body that carries you,
blessed by this tender earth that holds you?

Really it couldn’t be more straightforward:
your sole purpose is love, and that is
all it has been or ever will be.

So stop worrying and get on with it.
—Peggy Ludtke


Light has always signified the presence of the holy.  But, really, it could be just two people holding hands. Ken Stewart

Light has always signified the presence of the holy. But, really, it could be just two people holding hands. —Ken Stewart

sys-dividerI’ve been trying to imagine archetypal figures to fight the battles of our times. Daily now there are threats to the rights of common people. People flee from famine, corruption and failed states and live for year in limbo of makeshift camps and uncertain futures. Long-held protections of our air and water, the very finite resources of our lives, are being put at risk because of an ever-increasing population and sometimes for the sake of corporate greed. In the face of climate change and global warming, some politicians are putting their self-interest first and a blind eye to its reality and the human suffering that has already begun. The earth feels victimized. A concerned Mother Earth is watching. —Judy Fawcett



Simplicity: the practice of living by heart

Posted by on Mar 1, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments


Photo by Ken Stewart


Morning Run in April, Interrupted by a Sudden Sound. . .
Three geese,
dipping tails into
a pond of pigment,
and with broad strokes
paint sky where there had been none.
More join the canvas
Adding clouds
and trees–
budding and expectant.

I forget to watch my feet.

Two robins,
Draw a solid stripe across my path
And settle on the grass,
Green, without a doubt,
Their shadows.
Jean Doolittle


Photo by Ken Stewart

Photo by Ken Stewart




Prayer: the practice of staying awake

Posted by on Feb 6, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments


Singing can be a kind of prayer. —Ross Grotbeck


Ode to the Moon
Something about you,
Full moon on a clear night,
Something about you
Pulls me to the window.

I bask in your radiance,
Stare up at you and the stars,
Bright lights through
The skeleton trees.

You brighten these
Darkest of nights,
In the cold mid-winter,
Illuminating the sparkling snow.

I bathe in your glow,
A milky wash over my weary soul.
You make me pure anew,
Fill me with Love’s light reflected.
—Joanna Coyle




Grief Walk
I carry my grief around with me like a lump of clay.

At times, it is a mangled, warped mass, beleaguering me as I slip into a dark hole of fear and anxiety. It weighs me down until I am a crumpled mass, tossed to the floor, with tears flowing uncontrollably.

At other times, I realize the clay is still fresh, and I can shape it how I like. I can make it smooth and round, like a ball, and use it as an invitation to a game of catch. I can toss it back and forth this way, with a new acquaintance or a trusted friend, in a conversation that inevitably brings more healing.

My grief feels solid and eternal, though I know, in time, it – like me – will return to the Mother, and be enveloped in her embrace, becoming something entirely different in the never-ending cycle of renewal.

The clay is a medium. It can be worked, transformed into a beautiful piece of art, a Creation, an expression of the Divine.
—Joanna Coyle




Ice Palace Stillwater
Look up!
Is it mountains?
Is it water, the ocean?
Is it clouds, the sky?
Bluer than your eyes
seeking the truth

Or is it a cold heart
Waiting to be melted by hope?
Waiting, waiting – Will the waiting end in change?
It will take a while but
On a sunny day this too shall pass.
-Gail Diez





Salvation: the practice of healing

Posted by on Jan 1, 2017 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments


Ode to the bog in winter

i see you as you are
dry golden stalks
broken, tattered
blowing wildly in the icy wind
the water at your base still flows
but it is frozen in patches
dark and foreboding
the footprints of creatures crisscross the snowy path
crows and owls hover in desolate trees
the only evidence that life is active on the bog now
darkness descends and for the time being
you are laid open with nothing covering you
in the frigid grip of winter

i see you as you have been
you were — not that long ago — green, pliant and alive with activity
birds singing around you and settling on your branches
calla lilies, cinnamon ferns, marsh marigolds bursting with color
while your spring-fed waters meandered toward the mighty Mississippi.
along the edges, in the woods, trillium unfurled as anemones fluttered into bloom
on the marsh, turtleheads took their sweet time to show off those funky white blossoms
and duckweed provided food for shy turtles, paddling waterfowl and other visitors
on hot, sunny days, snakes basked lazily on the wooden boardwalk
kids and dogs toggled between curious and scared, despite their being harmless and shy
by the time that dragonflies ushered in the late summer
you felt as full to bursting as a new mother’s breasts,
mushrooms populated the forest at the edge of your marsh
jewelweed blossomed in bright eye-popping shades of yellow and orange
leaves turned golden — even those on the tamarack trees — and fell to earth
the season turned

i see you as you will be
in March, when the pussywillows bravely reveal their plush, silvery buds
in April when tender fiddleheads arise from the crispy, matted undergrowth of dead cattails
in May, when red-winged blackbirds and migrating songbirds declare their arrival
and cheerful yellow marigolds make a bold statement that the flowers are back too
in June, when warmth returns enough for the snakes to take their places out in the open
and native plants — like mad-dog skullcap — offer their healing powers

who bears you up through the dark times?
what gives you the strength to withstand this harsh moment?
do the roots of each plant grow stronger by connecting to one another?
what happens beneath the surface that provides you with energy and direction?

even without these answers
seeing how you withstand winter’s threatening hand
and knowing that you will once again — as always — surge boldly to life
it is enough to believe that renewal is part of our universal nature
that hope is real
and that a larger force of Goodness is at work
— Dana Boyle


 Afternoon at the Mound
By M J LaVigne

There’s Indian mound near the freeway exit, a conical earthen structure, three stories tall and centuries old. It stands on the high ground between the Mississippi and the Saint Croix Rivers. At its foot there’s a natural fountain, a spring that even flows in cold weather.

It’s the last day of the year, my birthday. I tie a skirt over my snow pants, pat the tobacco pouch to make sure it’s around my neck, slip cleats on my Uggs, take off my glasses, put them in my ski coat, get the dog out of the car, and crunch off toward the mound over the ice-rutted parking lot.

When I was here earlier this week I could see a hole like a raw grave half-way up the side of the mound. I do not walk on mounds, so I dared not get too close. But I have come back today with the things I need to offer a proper prayer.

When you are in ceremony you take off your glasses so that the spirits are not repelled by reflections from your lens. The tobacco is an offering, the skirt a gesture of respect. This place is passed by thousands every week, but protected by that obliviousness which tends to descend on auto-encased humans.

This is Dakota homeland, in particular the Mdewakaŋtoŋwaŋ the Spirit Lake People. At the center of Minnesota’s state flag, an Indian horseman rides off to the west. This is our foundational fiction. The Dakota have not gone. Nor have we leveled all of their landmarks, or yet felled every ancient oak. They stand in our midst, protected by our not noticing.

The dog and I stop at the springhead. Without my glasses the tor looms larger in the muted midwinter light. I strike a match to sweet grass and smug my head, my hands, my feet, and the dog. I put some tobacco in the open water, which burbles from the breast of the earth, as it surely came forth when this mound was built. Pidamaya ye. I say thank you. I call the land aloud by its rightful name “Mdewakaŋtoŋ makoce,” Spirit Lake homeland.

Now I walk toward the mound. The hole yawns darker against the dusting of snow.  The dog does not follow, but waits at the foot of the hill. I do not go up all the way. I do not look down in to the hole. That seems too bald an act, or perhaps I not brave enough to see what’s there.

Doubtless, those who dug in to this mound told them selves they were salvaging. I can understand the desire to dig. I want to know what lies below too. I want to salvage. But it does not need my salvation. The land has protections I don’t understand.  I am here mostly for the diggers, for those of us who trifle with places old and holy. We do need prayer.

I string the prayer bundles along two dried and sturdy weeds a little ways below the wounded hole and say aloud, “I’m sorry.” I say it in English because I do not know how to apologizes in Dakota.




Peace: the practice of spreading light

Posted by on Dec 1, 2016 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

How will I help create Peace? I will find one thing that resonates and I will do that. Then I will find another. These will combine with what others are doing. Each one of us makes a difference. Together we “Give light, give peace, give hope, and the people will find a way…”
-Laurie Kigner



One Night

One night when the wind scattered the stars
Some wakened and soared like birds;
Elated in flight, they carried new light
That brightened the dreams of all sleeping
-Ellen Lowery



Gold’s radiance lightens sorrow’s darkness
Though despair there summoned winter’s longest shadows.
White had covered all with forgetfulness of snows, but
Might yet yield its blanket to reflect the brilliant concert:

All our colors, a choir singing forth the spectrum:
Rejoicing for red birds, rejoicing for brown stones,
Rejoicing the smallest yellow flower in creation’s reach
That we may find at last
Eternal spring, luminous message of peace.
-Ellen Lowery