discipline, and the lack of it


Running makes all the difference. Running, for me, is not merely exercise, it is meditation, restoration, prayer, and creative inspiration. All that is not to mention fresh air, community, goals, and accomplishments. Nothing but good things come to me from running, aside from the occasional sore knee.

And just imagine if I was a fast runner, because fast I definitely am not.

So why is it that I periodically fall away from it? I’m going along, keeping track of my times and miles, maybe with a 5K in mind somewhere. And then one day, poof! I just stop. And I have no idea why.

veru9_17_18aOf course, once stopped, it’s a bear to get going again – even if it’s just been a few days. I might have a false start, or several of them, as I attempt to get back in gear.

I feel guilty when I’m in one of these spells. I’m embarrassed even though no one knows or cares. I feel ashamed of myself for not having enough discipline.

I cast around thinking maybe a new pair of shoes would do it, or that I seriously need to find myself a coach – one with the express purpose of kicking my butt out the door.

I study the calendar, and figure if I just set up a schedule, maybe that would do it.

veru9_17_18dMeantime, it’s easily observable that whilst my running regime languishes, everything else does, too. Creativity goes into sleep mode. Anxiety soars. Even eating becomes problematic – too much or not enough. Everything is just off, out-of-kilter.

I just lately saw this happen. As I type these words, I am laced up in my running shoes. Procrastinating. Almost scared. Why? Why? Why?

Is this a simple matter of discipline? Or does it have to do with the planets? Or is it the result of a triggering experience that is suppressing and exacerbating things of which the lack of running just happens to be the most obvious symptom?

I am inclined, actually, to think it’s the latter. My inability to get myself out the door and down the road during these times reflects an unrecognized emotional reaction. Having the complicated wiring we humans do, the very best thing I could do for myself in the case of said reaction would be to get some miles under my feet. But, you know, self-sabotage.

Sometimes it is very difficult to be good to myself.

Nevertheless, it has to happen. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. It’s essential to my well-being, on every level. It is a matter of self-compassion, taking good loving care of myself.

OK now, one foot in front of the other.

let go


In that mystical pre-dawn time, I lay wakeful. The cat slumbers, loosely pressed into the bend of my knees, feeling warm and present.

My eyes are open to the dark. I slowly see more and more as they adjust to the filmy night in my room.

Nothing happens. Nothing holds me. I am alert to my own being.

Most days, I can easily generate enough worries and what-ifs to occupy an entire crowd of me’s, but this peaceful darkness has the jump on my ego-mind.


In this empty time-space, I let go of all the background noise. I am able to feel the simple gratitude and love that fills me when the endless, worried chatter in my head is finally tamped down, packaged up, and allowed to drift away.

I feel the amazing gifts in my life – each one defined in the simplest of terms. I feel, no, I am, love – complete, unconditional, no questions asked. It just is. And it is beautiful. It is whole.

Oh, to walk through the day this way!

It takes a lot of letting go. A practice of letting go.

In the clarity of the early dark, I am able to see all the letting go.  My ego-mind wants to lament and second-guess all the letting go’s that led to this day. In this moment though, there is no pain and no regret. The lessons of those letting go’s left me sometimes feeling broken for a time, but ultimately standing with only one thing, the best thing. Love.

I’ll take that. I’ll hold on to that. Actually, there’s no letting go of that, there could be no letting go of that – because it just is. It’s being.

So as the sun rises and the chatter begins to ramp up in my mind and in my environment, I can remind myself.

veru9_16_18eLet go.

My ego-mind struggles to dominate and control every last facet of my perceived world, but my early morning self knows I control exactly nothing. Life is. Love is. It’s a gift.

Let go.

My ego-mind wants to know the details, be prepared, defend, secure, prevent, solve, find safety, control for every possibility.

Let go.

I have to consciously see it and hear it. One by one, I must unclench the fingers of my ego-mind, relax the frenzied grip, and just let go.

Only to discover the world is still turning.

No more frantic maneuverings in my mind to make sure of this and manage that. To be somehow more something. To fix the past and secure the future. To become something else, someone else.

I am okay just like this. It’s safe to let go.

I feel the sleeping cat, warm and trusting, pressed up to me.


I allow the boundless love I hold to simply be.


on september 11


It is a day that cannot come and go without reflection. Some of it takes me by surprise, as I go about the business of the day. Snippets of memories, sadness, wistfulness capture and take hold. Just writing the date down disturbs.

Maybe, though, we should write that date down every day purposely just to feel that terrible disturbance for a moment: a reminder of what happened, the souls we lost, and all that we lost in the wake of that day – and continue to lose. As if at a blackboard in the old schoolhouse, maybe just writing it over and over would finally bring home the lesson. Because we have assuredly not learned it.

I would like to think that we really did learn something. I would like to think that our spirit as a nation grew as a result of that horrific day.

But look at us at now, as the President double fist pumps his way to a memorial ceremony and Nike makes bank on a protest. And just look at that trail of wreckage between then and now.

If we did anything, we shrank. We shrank as a people in fear and otherness and militarism, all the while waving that flag around a whole lot and checking the stock market.

Since that time, kids have grown up to the cusp of adulthood – living their daily lives out in Patriot Act schools, never knowing any other way. Right along with their reading and writing and ’rithmetic, they learned fear, surveillance as a way of life, constraints, restraints, no expectation of privacy, active shooter drills. It’s normal.

Military-corporate dominance subsumes every aspect of our culture at the expense of the compassion, peace, justice, equality, and tolerance that would demonstrate we are thriving – all of us. And it’s just normal.

Normal doesn’t mean it’s okay. And normal can be changed.

Change does not come with a tsk-tsk as we watch the news and absorb the latest tweet. We need to honor the peaceful, loving wisdom of our better inner selves and act on that.

In the matter of what’s right and just and honorable, there are no leaders to whom to look – we are the leaders. We must be cognizant of that, and act accordingly for a better world built on love and respect, instead of the almighty dollar and all its weaponry.


Woolly Bear on the move


You know Mother Nature is at work when you go to place your foot on the trail and there, poised unwittingly directly in the path of your oncoming sole, you find a Woolly Bear caterpillar inching its way along.

The Woolly Bear caterpillar is the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth. It’s not an uncommon sight as autumn comes on. The caterpillar is on a mission.

veru9_11_18cThe Woolly Bears are out and about this time of year for the same reason so many creatures in Michigan begin to get a move on. The caterpillars are locating their overwintering spot, likely in the shelter of leaves, rocks, or wood.

My first Woolly Bear of the season took me by surprise by sporting an entirely rust-colored coat. I’m accustomed to seeing them banded at each end with black.

There’s lore about the coloration of these little dudes. The more ‘rust’ coloration they have, the milder the winter will be – so goes the thought. If that’s the case, this little Woolly Bear I chanced upon suggests a mild winter indeed. 

Folklore aside, the solid rust coloration is actually the result of multiple moltings. According to Peterson Field Guides Eastern Moths by Charles V. Covell, Jr.:

Colors change as caterpillars molt to successive instars, becoming less black and more reddish as they age.  Thus differences in color merely reflect age difference among larvae as they prepare to overwinter and are not a reliable indicator of the severity of the winter to come.

It’s pretty amazing when you think about it that these little guys will find their spot and manage to weather a Michigan winter. 

Then, come spring, they’ll spin their cocoon. Ultimately, voila, we have the Isabella Tiger Moth for a brief soujourn.

Who needs football or Netflix when you have this kind of magic around to observe?

peace on the plate


So, apparently, just a few weeks ago was about the time the little turkeys were born who will be featured on plates across the USA come the holidays.

Personally, I do not want to see another feeling being with whom I share the earth slaughtered for my plate. I know that in many minds that seems like an extreme position, but it’s really not at all – unless one considers compassion extreme.

I get it. I really do. Like pretty much everyone else, meat-eating was an unquestioned way of life for me for literally decades. The turkey and all of the accoutrements defined the Thanksgiving holiday.

veru9_9_18bOne Thanksgiving when I was a little girl, my father excitedly told us that he had brought the turkey home and it was in the trunk of the car. He convinced us that the turkey was alive. My brother and I were enlisted to stand at the ready, weapons in hand, as my father opened the trunk. Our job was to subdue and kill the turkey for the family table.

Dutifully, I stood there, shaking and tearful, holding some bludgeoning tool from out of my father’s toolbox. Of course, after much build-up, he finally opened the trunk, revealing the turkey’s carcass.

My father and the rest of the assembled family and relatives had a great laugh over the prank, but the moment rests darkly in my memory – both for the odd personal cruelty of it, and for the way it made me look at the turkey. I finally got it that the food on my plate was once a living, breathing, feeling being that didn’t want to die.

Although I glimpsed that sentiment as a young girl, it would be many, many years before I seriously processed the significance of the food that I eat through the lens of compassion. At long last, I am committed to a vegan lifestyle, albeit still occasionally an imperfect one.

Veganism is a journey. It’s not a matter of flipping a switch, and, voila, you’re done. No, it’s an unfolding, enlightening exploration of food, what it really is, and the suffering involved on the path to your plate.

Once you open your eyes to it, you can’t just unsee it. It pervades every aspect of your life, and calls you to be something more – and less.

It turns out that veganism is really just part of a much larger expedition about what it means to be the human that you are, sharing this planet with other life. It is an odyssey toward compassion, peace, and justice – something I believe to be a worthwhile journey indeed, especially during these days of ever-increasing harsh rhetoric and actions in our society.


I could not celebrate a dead turkey on the table, with an inkling of how it arrived there, an understanding of how it impacts our shared earth to eat this way, and even a consideration of its impact on individual health both physical and mental. There are just so many reasons.

So, like I said, I get it that veganism is a difficult concept for most people in a culture so thoroughly steeped and invested in animal agriculture. I don’t judge people for the way they eat, even though, oddly, it doesn’t always work the other way around.

Still, you might want to think about it.

lions and tigers and bears, oh my


The mission was to try out a new trail. I headed out to a large wooded area with trails, just on the edge of town.

It looked beautiful. The trail cut through a hilly area covered in trees. I trotted along, anxious to explore this new spot. The foliage grew dense overhead making everything look a little dark.

It wasn’t long before I came to a barricade notifying me that the trail there was closed. I looked beyond the sign, down towards where a creek ran through. 


Fortunately, there was another branch of the trail that remained open. So, I veered left and headed along that one. For a little while, it paralleled the creek way down below me. Then, the trail took another turn and I was back into the silent, dark woods.

It was right about here that I could feel my hackles going up.

Every now and then, this happens to me. I am out on a trail alone, and fear just takes over.

Not so long ago, I was out on the Pacific Crest Trail day-hiking alone. When I started out, I was pretty scared, but I forced myself to push through the fear. After all, there are quite a few souls out there who do much more than day-hike sections of the PCT by themselves. It was worth it – I ended up truly enjoying the solitary hiking out there. I met several thru-hikers, too, out there doing their thing, and there was nothing scary about it.

I know I’m not the only one who feels fear out on a trail, though.

Heck, I remember a hike I took with a friend in Florida. Both of us were unfamiliar with Florida’s flora and fauna. We were also keenly aware of the existence of alligators and snakes.

We both bravely made our way along the trail, neither of us admitting our discomfort. We got pretty far into the place, all the while with a heightening sense of fear and remoteness. The idle chitchat disappeared, as we gravely traversed the terrain.

Then came the alligator warning sign topped off with one of those massive orb-weaver spiders hanging in a web that stretched across the path in front of us. We came to a halt, looking at each other. We both confessed the immense fear and discomfort we were feeling. We decided to head back, much relieved.

The return trip, however, only seemed to grow our terror. The buzzing beehives up in the trees spurred us to hurry along the trail. We dashed along the trail, panting toward the safety of the parking lot.

When we reached the trailhead, sweaty and out of breath, we became acutely aware of just how normal everything around us actually was. We looked at each other and simply burst out laughing.

I hiked Florida trails after that both with company and without, and never felt that level of fear again – although alligators do make me very careful.

Usually, the fear I feel on a trail is not, however, from the environment. It is people that cause wariness out there when I’m alone. This is despite the fact that people I meet on trails are generally pleasant, friendly lovers of the outdoors just like me.

The fear got the better of me on this week’s little outing, though. I couldn’t shake it. I pressed on, anxiously looking both ahead and behind me in the quiet woods. The trail, thankfully, turned out to be a relatively short one.

There was a car sitting there in the parking lot when I emerged, with an individual sitting in it. I practically bolted to my car, hopped in, and fled.

I know. It’s ridiculous. I felt safer out in the wild mountains of California than I did here on this trail in close proximity to a bustling town. And that, right there, I think is precisely why I felt the anxiety. I felt alone, maybe just not quite alone enough.

walking buddies


Flora bounds out the door, and flies as fast as her little feet can carry her out across the grass. I trot behind her, letting her lead the way. She zooms along like there’s no tomorrow until all of the sudden, wham, she stops on a dime. I know this is coming, so I manage not to run over her.

veru9_4_18dShe looks shyly up at me without moving her head in my direction. I reach down and pick her up, we walk slowly for a few paces while I give her ears a gentle rub and scratch underneath her collar. Then, I set her down, and off she goes again to the races – until the next abrupt stop, where we reprise with more cuddling.

It’s my morning to walk dogs at the animal shelter – always an adventure. I usually walk about four of them in a session. The shelter is lucky to have a beautiful trail out behind it dedicated to the activities of walking and socializing the resident canines.

veru9_4_18cI never know who I’m walking until a staff person brings them around the corner amidst the din of barking and howls from the assembly in the shelter. Some of the dogs I have, sadly, walked many times. There are always newcomers, too.

The dogs run the gamut from the little ones, like Flora, to the bigger ones, like Bailey.

It took me awhile to figure Bailey out just a little. He’s very aloof, seems very uninterested in relating. Then, I discovered that he loves ear rubs. He leans into them, hard. After that, I saw the first flicker of recognition in his eyes – as if he was finally seeing me.

Shasta’s a flipper – he gets so excited to be out and running that he just flips around in circles in the air. Danny loves to bring his bone with him and eventually finds a spot to bury it.

They are all investigators of one sort another. Some are sniffers, meticulously making their way along the edges of the trail to see exactly who’s been here before them. Others don’t seem to care so much about scents, but they are visually very alert.

I’m always both sad and happy when I’m walking the dogs. They’ve each come to the shelter with a history of which I know nothing. It’s easy to see the fear in some of them, the lostness. Others seem impervious to it all. I like to think that they were well-loved before this chapter in their lives, but sometimes it’s hard to convince myself of that.


Then there’s a dog like Frank, a real character I walked quite a few times. I was delighted when I arrived one day and learned he had been adopted. About a week later, he was back. Thankfully, he did eventually go home to new adopters.

The dogs are all mysteries, carrying whatever baggage they’ve accrued, but they are open and trusting, even if sometimes rather tentative about it. Sentient beings indeed.

We have a lot in common.

I love my dog walks. I love getting outside in the fresh air with them, roaming around the woods on the trail. We see butterflies and snakes, hear the birds calling, feel the sunshine and wind without a fence around. I talk a lot with the dogs, and give them plenty of pets.

I am always so grateful for this time with them. I really hope it helps them and makes them happy, at least for a bit. I know they do that for me.

something beautiful


It is easy to lope along the path and not really see anything in particular. Eyes focused on the ground ahead, everything else is peripheral.

Whole days pass in similar fashion. You stay focused on what needs to happen, where you need to go, and lots of things remain out there, virtually unseen in the periphery.

Every now and then, though, something captures your attention for a moment before you press on with the agenda. A stranger smiles at you as you pass, or says something nice to you. A friendly dog makes you laugh. A rainbow emerges. You just never know.

Except you do. There’s something beautiful out there each and every day if you’re paying attention.

A lot of our attention thveru9_3_18c.jpgese days gets sucked up by pretty depressing media. It can frame our days with anxiety, fear,  and disappointment. We suffer with it collectively.

The headlines and the tweets seem unavoidable, but there, out there in the blur of life is a bright red cardinal poised on a branch. It’s a gift from the universe, if we can but notice it. Or maybe it’s the wind in the trees, or a purring cat, or a star in the night sky, or a gentle, spoken word.

I have decided to be on the lookout for these beautiful things. I am noticing with intention.

So, among other things, I stopped today to really look at the cardinal I caught out of the corner of my eye. I discovered two woodpeckers and a talkative chipmunk on scene as well as a pretty fantastic berried tree that I really need to look up.

The more I think about this business of beautiful moments in our lives, large and small, it seems like the thing to do is also to actively bring beauty to this party – in whatever form that might take.

In truth, I am not sure what that means for me exactly: to find ways to bring beautiful moments to the world – to other people, to other animals, to the earth, the universe. But what a delightful little adventure.

I do not advocate ignoring the pressing issues of our times to soothe our souls. I can’t help but think that a collective practice of bringing beauty, and taking it in, would have the power ultimately to impact the negative framework and indeed, the entire narrative.




The rain clears, and I am out the door.

veru9_2_18bMy feet carry me along the city streets. It’s a sleepy place this morning, but it’s still too much city for me.

“The world is too much with us,” I hear Wordsworth in my head.

And it really is.

I am unsettled, impatient, searching for that groove in my soul. But today, my locomotion fails to answer.

I go from block to block, watching where my feet are taking me. I notice a few pine cones, fallen leaves. I glance up onto manicured lawns, landscaped houses. It makes me tired.

I remember a house that gave their front yard over to a vegetable garden. I head that way, but find it, unsurprisingly, in an end-of-season riot of weeds and tired plants.

I scan the treetops along the streets. With the sun full out, I see the beginnings of autumn in them. A few leaves going yellow here, rusty-red there.

I keep going, searching, searching for that meditative stride – the fix. The world pushes in at me, though. I see cement, asphalt, bricks, blocks, and a whole lot of plastic. Plastic benches, plastic fencing, planters… flamingos and frogs. I am careful at the corners as cars lurch past.

An hour later, I am still searching but arrive back at my place anyway, heralded by the big silver maple.

And then I see them.


The monarch butterflies are staying over at the silver maple today. I see one first. As I approach, it flutters up along with several others. I realize I am seeing monarch butterflies all over the tree.

They rest among the leaves for awhile, and then they flit upward, almost sparkling in the sunshine, before settling down on another branch.

If I look long enough at any area of the tree, I see them. Sometimes they are perched in a little group together along a branch.

And then the next thing you know, surprise, up they go and everyone trades places to settle down somewhere else on the same tree.

I stand outside wandering beneath the tree, looking up into its branches, like a child.

My impatience with the world evaporates up through the leaves, and I stretch my wings with the butterflies.


you are here

veru9_1_18aToday, it’s raining.

It’s one of those light, steady rains that’s not going away.

Having recently reached an agreement with myself to get outside and walk or run every day, I pull on my windbreaker and head out.

The river that runs through the park flows swiftly in places, roiling over the hidden rocks. Eddies churn in the various corners of the route. Other spots are flat and still, quietly dotted with raindrops.

Along the edges, everything looks so dark and so green. It makes me realize how close we are coming to the change of seasons.


People blast music out from under the protection of the park’s pavilion. The smoke of barbecue wafts through the air. Snippets of laughter and chatter bite the atmosphere, eerily crisp and distinct.


On the other side of the wide expanse, another pavilion is draped with white. A crowd gathers there for a wedding, folks struggling hastily with their dressy attire in the rain.

I silently skitter along the path, noticing the cabbage butterfly flitting among the viney greens, the pair of ducks nestled against the far shore of the river.

Thunder rumbles.

veru9_1_18bA small boy rides his bicycle up and down, up down through the empty skate park. He halts and looks warily at me as I pass.

“Looks like fun,” I smile at him.

He suddenly brightens all over and smiles back.

“Thank you!” His little voice sounds surprised and hopeful and suddenly proud.

No, today, I didn’t bother worrying about pace or posture, I just made sure I got outside and moved. And I knew why it is so worth it. It’s the magic of that gentle, affirming connection with what’s out there – the earth, the sky, the air.  And the occasional soul.