Category Archives: Meditations on Nature


Tonight I let my dog Brownie take me on a walk. I held onto the leash while she pulled me along.

My beloved hound led me to all her favorite haunts along the winding alleyway. She stopped to munch on bark and tall grass, sniff the dirt by the dumpster and generally browse at her own leisurely pace. Brownie decided which direction we would go when we left the house, which fork in the alley we would take and how long we would spend on our stroll.

How thrilling it was to allow another creature to take the lead; how amazing to let go of control, not grasp and tug on the leash anxiously nor fret about what she was rolling in, eating and sniffing. What a relief to unclench my brain and ramble in the fragrant fall night with my canine in charge. It was blissful to relinquish the anxiety of running things.

Lately I’ve been making a habit of letting Brownie take the lead whenever we go out. I want to practice releasing control, allowing other creatures, other spirits to show me where to go.

An existence that unfolds without me forcing, pushing, manipulating, or insisting is a revelation. I discover that life’s loveliness is a gift that is given the moment my hands and brain stop grasping for it.

Sometimes when Brownie and I are out walking up the broad empty alley on these early fall evenings, listening to the last of the summer crickets and inhaling the scent of dry leaves and sweet clematis, I close my eyes for a moment and allow the Universe to lead both of us.

The feeling is amazing:

Faith. Trust. Surrender. Bliss.

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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Creatures, Meditations on Nature


Fog Horn

Two hundred miles south of Newfoundland, we sail into a fog bank and the captain sounds the ship’s horn. It is a beautiful, low bass tone, sounding every few seconds as we move through the fog.

Looking over the railing at the melded gray expanse of water and sky, listening to the hypnotic resonance of the ocean liner’s horn, I consider how civilized it is for a powerful nautical behemoth to warn smaller weaker ships when it is moving around in the fog.

I think of all the times I have collided with unfortunate experiences when my senses and perceptions-—or someone else’s–were compromised. I think of all the times I have drifted around in a mist of my own vaporous emotions, stumbling into one negative relationship after another.

If only all of life’s dangerous entities came with warnings—bells, whistles, horns, sirens, beeps. If only we humans were honest enough to alert each other with as much grace as oceangoing vessels.

If only we could know our own dimensions, our own strength and potential to harm, and be able to say to one another, when necessary and true: You had better stay back, change course, let me go, sail away with all of your strength into open seas and fairer skies.




This morning finds me walking the wide deck of the grand ocean liner Queen Mary. I am sailing in the North Atlantic somewhere just east of Nova Scotia on the second day of a seven day journey to Southampton, England.

The weathered teak deck is spotless. The varnished steamer chairs face the ocean in perfect lines. I look past the rails to the pale wash of blue sky streaked with soft clouds, the cobalt waves dotted with flashes of white foam.

Strong pure nature invites me to find my own strength. I am grateful for the buffeting of the chilly six a.m. wind, the serenity of the deck, the graceful intelligence of the ship’s design.

A gentleman in a yellow rain suit aims his power washer at the painted white rails and the large plate glass windows facing on the deck. I wonder if he would agree to scrub me as well. I could use a good washing.

Already I have fallen off the wagon and, sullied and ashamed, climbed back on again. The temptations on board were too much for my fragile recovery: a half dozen saloons, cigar lounge, champagne bar, casino. One mojito at the outdoor Sail Away Party and three months of sobriety disappeared into the famous Atlantic fog. Then came wine, menthol cigarettes (ugggh), quarter slots and hopeless flirting with an indifferent Englishman.

Relapse is shameful and depressing. One drink and my year of sobering up seemed to have evaporated more rapidly than the wash water on the deck.

The early morning, however, brings a new and welcome perspective. Though sheepish and suffused with self-contempt, I am grateful that i did not drink on the second night and have started my recovery anew. I am thankful for my Higher Power who led me away from my self-annilation onto this lovely promenade and the embrace of a pure bright bracing blue day.

I breathe in the sea and feel love, feel hope.


Posted by on June 13, 2011 in At Sea, Meditations on Nature


Small World

A friend asked me once, “Do you ever do anything or go anywhere other than walk your dog around the block?” The answer was and is, “Yes of course.”

In the decade I have lived in my semi-urban Washington DC neighborhood and enjoyed the company of my shaggy canine, I have traveled to many places and enjoyed epic visuals: blueblack Norwegian fjords flanked by soft green mountains, Bob Marley’s wildflower gardens high in the Jamaican hills, the pastel palaces of St. Petersburg.

I have not been deprived of soul-stirring sights.

There is a singular magic, however, to exploring the same city block almost every day in every season. As you round the familiar corners, you see nature unfold like a visual symphony, a time lapse photograph, the frames of God’s grand animated design.

Each day there is a new wonder as the trees and wildlife on my block cycle through the seasons. This evening, for instance, I inhaled spring’s first fragrance: the sweet lemon-rose scent of my neighbor’s honeysuckle. Each day more birds arrive. They are livelier and noisier as they swoop through my small stand of bamboo and the neighboring maples and evergreens. The dogwood, which until today was tightly furled, is now showing tiny edges of unfolding pink petals. The white cherry blossoms, undaunted by chilly days and rain, are blooming exquisitely on silver branches.

Every day, every season, reveals itself on my square block. Unlike the vast ungraspable vistas one views from a car, boat, train or plane, my tiny world can be touched, smelled, felt with fingers. It is nature simple, palpable, attainable, comprehensible. It is a wise and gentle tale, a proverb from God, a koan. It is all I need and I am so very grateful.



Everywhere I see visions of life rising: Buds thrusting defiantly into the chilly air, shrubs growing greener with each day. I yearn to merge with the happily blooming world, but my faith in the possibilities of personal renewal is fragile.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about whether love and intimacy can return in the second half of life–after divorce, the emptying of the nest, the abrasion of body and spirit. I chide myself for wanting to revive these youthful joys in my sixth decade. How can I hope to experience such stirrings again? Have I not already used up all my chances to create life with another?

The longing to awaken my heart is achingly present on these March days. The light shines with illuminating clarity, unveiling the winter-shuttered rooms of my home and the fallen branches in my abandoned garden. Gently, like a lover pushing aside a lock of hair to gaze at his beloved and tell her what he sees, spring pulls back the curtain covering my winter weary soul and speaks to me.



It is six pm on March 1. Evening has fallen at a perfect moment. Nature’s light is dimming and indoor lamps glowing in time for homecoming, for supper.

In the pale sky overhead, silver airplanes trace their remarkable geometry as they descend: an equilateral triangle, a perfect X. Below, where I walk, I see green lines of daffodils, small squares of bright grass, spherical buds emerging bravely into a cold dry world.

Some people say the daffodil is the flower of hope because it is the first one to bloom in the spring.

Between man’s aerial artwork and nature’s botanical display, the birds swoop and dive, their high sweet voices strong and excited. Evensong bells peal their faith in Lent, in Easter, in suffering and rebirth.


Winter Still

The sound of birds and a glimpse of cornflower sky in my window pulled me out of the house this February morning, dog on the leash, limping on a broken ankle. I envisioned a brief hobble, the dog obedient on her mission, deep breaths of clear air, a few rays of light settling on my face.

A cutting wind greeted us with an unwelcome hug as I labored down the steps. The dog tugged on her leash repeatedly, almost pulling me over, then decided to pass the time eating twigs, ignoring the purpose of the trip. The landscape looked pretty desolate in spite of the pale yellow wash of light that lay over it. Dry broken twigs were scattered everywhere, snow lay in dirty patches amidst the brown grass, mud and dead leaves. What a weary scene! Winter was still a lion roaring into March.

A few days earlier life had worn a different hue. I was buoyantly convinced that Spring, just this once, was coming early. I felt lighter and stronger than I had in a long time as I strolled to lunch with my handsome teenage son. We were having so much fun.

Alas I was stepping a little too lightly and quickly for early February. My boots were too new. I fell on an icy patch of mud.

Now, three days later, I was dragging my leg, wearing high water sweatpants and a big orthopedic shoe, as the dog and I headed home through the pummeling weather.

Rounding the corner,  I was doused suddenly with a wave of morning light. It flooded my face and lingered there until I felt much warmer. Sweet hope rose in my heart.

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Posted by on February 8, 2011 in Meditations on Nature, Winter