Archive for August, 2014

Generations on the path Giving my thanks and love to Tom who has carefully and faithfully groomed our backyard labyrinth since we first put it in under his design and direction. This circular walking prayer path is a delight to have in place. In all seasons, it gives me pause for quiet prayer just from the window, enjoyment as I watch birds gather around and on it and memories of other labyrinth walks Tom and I have shared on Mackinac Island, San Francisco Grace Cathedral, and Chartres Cathedral in France, plus many other places. I am in the midst of planning a “Peace in Every Step” Labyrinth Walk in September to introduce it to the neighbors and my friends.  We will walk with the intention of planting more peace in our own lives and giving seed to more peace in our world and neighborhoods which are greatly in need of the growth of peace.

Greening of the LabyrinthGreening of the Labyrinth

IMG_4441Change of mind for the pathway; next year bent grass (like the golf course green) will be planted.

Deck blossems holding onto summerDeck blossoms holding onto summer

IMG_4284The path emerging from winter

Bird on the archFaithful bird watch on the newly added arch…

Birds do the walk…while companions walk the path

Bird reaching the center…and reach the center

IMG_5286In metaphysics, the crow is a reminder of “Follow-up” do not leave your work and play unfinished, ” and I take this message to heart.

Cosmic Connection vibrationsOn the walk, the pattern is entrancing and engaging.

Confusion clouds but path remainsChange and change of direction, like in life so many times.

Road is LongBut my eyes and heart see only what is in front of me…

Autumn Equinox  Sat. Night -even in the dark

IMG_0480My loving partner, husband, friend.


IMG_0896IMG_0848And it all came together…I cannot imagine our backyard without our completed labyrinth.

Bringing in bricks

Cairn watching over the building

Blue Sky1

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It is time for another short communication with Christine Whitelaw, as I am missing her. This is a blog to which she responded three years ago. It shows just one of the “common things” we shared, wrote about, took photographs of, or values we shared.

Where is the balance? I hope Rita Marie Johnson’s work and influence is taking a deeper root in our society than we hear via the news on our states of conflict seemingly everywhere.

For myself, I continue to watch for sparks of violence in my daily actions, intents, words or thoughts and weed them out. That is my own grass-root level effort, and it feels like it is growing increasingly peaceful. May it be so, one day in the world.

“Here we are, God — a planet at prayer. Attune our spirits that we may hear your harmonies and bow before your creative power that we may face our violent discords and join with your Energy to make heard in every heart your hymn of peace.” Joan Metzner, Earth Prayers From Around The World

I am reading Non-Violent Communication right now, part of my course work for Biodynamic Craniosacral therapy, it is wonderful, so clear and practical, but take it bit by bit! What an inspiring story, thank you.


Conflict or Peace – Can we choose Peace?
March 19, 2011 by napkinwriter
Costa Rican children taught Be Peace in Daily Lives
Apparently, we can choose peace over conflict. One woman, over the past seventeen years, Rita Marie Johnson has taken this simple, but not easy to practice belief, created a high vision for it to occur, wrapped ambitious goals around the vision, and has produced a system that is taught in the Costa Rican school system. It is now being instituted in the United States. Her vision is buoyed up by foundation training courses for teachers to get it off the ground and into the children’s daily lives.

She is starting with the children — but she has her sights set on presidents and leaders of nations — to “vacation” at her Costa Rica training grounds and learn the fundamentals of her program, BePeace.

BePeace was developed by Rita Marie Johnson, in 2002, after moving to Costa Rica from Texas, where she strengthened its peace model. She was surprised to learn that Costa Rica did not have an army. She was also inspired by a poem that tells of a teacher, Rasur, who comes to a village and awakens the children to the wisdom and compassion in their hearts.

In 2000, Johnson wrote a story about The Return of Rasur, a story that holds the answer to education in our time. She went on to write and produce a musical entitled Rasur that got noticed by the President of Costa Rica.

A key element that gives life to its vision is they believe that to become more peaceful nations we must begin within ourselves and that teaching our children is the logical first step to shifting generational violence into lasting peace.
Here in our United States education system, we deal daily with the bullying problems that cause deaths of young students and much silent suffering from those who “just take it.”

BePeace, a program within the Rasur Foundation International, focuses on three things: feeling peace; speaking peace; and then teaching peace.

Their vision is a world where every child practices peace and passes this gift to the next generation. Their mission is attracting, training and supporting natural peace teachers to evoke the wisdom and compassion in children through the practice of BePeace. Their motto is: “Before directing the lightning in the sky, we must first harness the storms in our own hearts.”

The key word here is practice. Is this some lofty goal, where you keep a simple smile on your face all day and turn away from conflict in your path? No, it is a program of training in life skills, psychology, the worth of each person, and the willingness to learn and apply behavior patterns that are scientifically proven to establish calmness within a person which then gives the person some options of learned behaviors to apply to the stressful situation at hand.

Eliminating the “knee-jerk” defensive behaviors, deeply engrained in most of us, probably gets us half-way down the path anyway. But my own life experience in changing, modifying, bettering my own behavior has taught me that to change means to practice — over and over again.

The Rasur Foundation International and BePeace program makes sure their students get the chance to practice. They have set up a foundations course for individual study, teachers and group coordinators, where the heart of the program is explained, demonstrated, conversed about, and taken into individual practice. The students, in turn, will: be peace, speak peace and then naturally teach peace.
BePeace synergistically combines the intelligence of the heart and compassionate communication for a peaceful, compassionate speaking into a daily practice for creative, peaceful living. This practice evolved from the work of the Institute of Heart Math and the work of Marshall B. Rosenberg at the Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Rita Marie Johnson, realized the powerful synergy between these two methods and developed th practice of BePeace to combine coherence through appreciation and connection to universal needs through empathy and honesty.

This is real work! Based on scientific testing and results, the work done to “feel peace” develops a physiological change within the body, called “coherence”. More than just a slowed down heart-rate, it evens out the beating of the heart and produces communication between the heart and the brain.
For those who like the scientific talk, this is the book to check out.
During the foundation course, participants will become skilled in how to “feel peace” and enhance intelligence through the practice of physiological coherence betwen the heart and the brain.

The second part then comes where they learn the steps of compassionate communication, that is “speaking peace.” Here is where, with the best of intentions, I fall down so often. I need more practice in whatever it is they learn to do here. Good intentions, for me, just don’t get the job done. The foundation teaching course says that “speaking peace” is connecting more consciously with our own feelings and needs, and of those around us.

Is that a win-win? A phrase so highly touted but so often fallen short of? I’d say so. In negotiations, someone gives up “something”. And they feel that. If speaking peace is what they say it is, then there is a respect and recognition of all needs on the table and somehow a peaceful outcome for all is a result.
The high prize! One I’d like to try for.

This is the other resourse the practice of BePeace is founded upon.

I am all for learning any method and truth that helps me MODEL, and as their organization says, be peace. That has been my life quest and I am having success…as long as I don’t push it or crowd myself. I like the Heart Math side of it and I have life experiences that cause me to know that what they report in this book is true in my own case. I’ve studied and learned many methods to the ends of eliminating violent or hurtful communication on my part — again, some success.

Somehow, the alarming feeling is that it doesn’t come naturally. A look around the world and our neighborhoods would seem to support that. I have to take the time and initiative to learn…and maybe in learning, I’ll actually see that it is remembering what I have forgotten that is most important. As an individual and as part of a mass society, in the forgetting, I became focused on the ego and protection of “little me”.

Maybe, I can hope, that it is more realistically a matter of REMEMBERING who I really am and being peace, speaking peace and teaching peace will radiate from my center.

To find out more, here is the link:
founder, Rita Marie Johnson


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My Life as Tree

Today, in my spiritual exercise with St. Ignatius, where I am encouraged to let God’s word take root in my life (and it is), I was invited to reflect on my life as the life of a tree and then journal about it. The following is what I wrote:

Contemplation of Me As A Tree

I am a strong, tall, mighty oak now in my seventies. I’ve lived a hearty life, survived many hardships and yet kept growing, reaching tall to the sky, always finding the light.

I was planted in a small forest, which continually grew larger throughout my life, yet I am set somewhat apart from the other trees. Mostly, I am enveloped among my family member trees, some of them I know, some I do not. It seems I live and move and have my being among my family trees. This is where my life and my work is. Yes, I am a family-tree worker.

I’ve grown sturdy, deep-seeking roots from the feeble, shallow ones at my birth, cut away early from my fallen mother tree’s death. My roots contained the wisdom and the grace to discover and honor my true heritage and ancestors. I brought them into the family-fold and grandchildren line after years and seasons of secrecy.

My tender bark, bruised and nicked, still grew tough coated and beautifully craggy in unique patterns of creativity. A tough coat that learned how to protect myself,  yet accept touch and repel what I needed to establish in both my boundaries and my presence. This, it seemed, took ages and I grew somewhat crooked during some of the stretching periods. Now that crookedness gives way to my total beauty and expression as God’s creation on this earth.

My tree now is in a constant flux of all seasons, like they are all happening simultaneously rather than sequentially. Spring, bringing forth newness every day; summer, a flow of gratitude and love of life; winter, a slowing and reflective time of essence.

But mostly, autumn – a giving way, a surrender to the transformations of aging, a sighting of a grand new perspective of the glory of it all, the grace of my tree on earth, my time of giving.

My tree breathes in, it breathes out. Like a willow and an oak. Ahhhh.



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Robin Williams  Artist Joe Petruccio

Art by Joe Petruccio

I’m not much about Hollywood these days. I have not seen a movie in a very long time, enjoying crunchy popcorn and a “timeout” from the other “real things”  capturing my attention at the moment.

The act of writing is what makes you a writer. Someone, somewhere, said and wrote that down. The death of Robin Williams has brought a need for me to write. But I don’t want to experience the difficulty of making the words that appear on paper match the experience of some kind of presence within me that needs expression.

This will be hard. I know that. I don’t like to do hard. But I am going to do this.

I don’t need to write about Williams, but he is one human who turns the “one” into the universal. I’ve needed laughter in my life and he and his gigantic talent have provided that from the days of Mork and Mindy through Patch Adams and beyond.

I’ve needed truth in my life and his dramatic performance and dialogue lines, delivered with heart-felt sincerity touched strange truths in my own heart.

In many ways, the mission of his acting career steamrolled both the hilarity and prickly insufficiencies in our humanness with dead-on aim, absolutely no pun intended.

But, perhaps, it is the fact that he had two tougher-than-life opponents to navigate his life with that touches the deep, sad places in me.  Mental illness in the form of clinical depression and addiction.  And he waged battle with both.

I know a little about both and I, too, live my life knowing no truer lines in the Big Book of AA are spoken than,  “we deal with alcohol, cunning, baffling and powerful.”  I’m not sure to what degree a counselor would note depression on my chart but I know more true words follow that statement on page 59 in Chapter 5, How It Works:

“without help, it is too much for us.”

Those words are read at every AA meeting around the world  and it doesn’t matter how long it has been since our sobriety date, how deeply we are connected to the fellowship or how we are continuing to work the steps in our lives…….we are still only one drink away….

Recovery can sometimes seem like that two layer cake….everything fine on the outside,  fire below on the inside.  It must have seemed that way for Robin Williams and on any given day it can look like that for me too.

You can’t tell for sure.

I am not afraid of that. I just have enormous respect for that and now much, much more compassion for myself and others who live their lives in a 12 step program because that is ONE of the places where they can receive help.

Nobody gets a pass on this one. From accounts published or reported, it sounds like Robin Williams was seeking this help. In a mention of his checking into a treatment facility in Minnesota, I make a guess that it was Hazelton, the grandaddy of all 12 Step Recovery Program facilities. I’m sure he received the best there was to offer. We never have a guarantee that it is enough, but we can hope.

Robin Williams wanted to be well. To share his talents over the top was part of being well for him. To seek help, he opened himself.

He, like all of us, also can relate to the Big Book line: “who among us wants to admit to complete defeat?” …ah, probably nobody?  But all of us in recovery from addiction have been willing (in whatever fashion we can be) to do this humbling act, and then……..ask for help.

We owe this day — the day we are living —  to the fact that we did that and continue to do it. We owe our gratitude to those who were there for us with their help.

They could not save us, but they could teach us.

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From early in my Napkinwriter blogging. I still look to that eternal spring of living water within me as Christine Whitelaw points out in her comment.  Select the underlined Napkinwriter link  or the view original  link  to see the full blog and poem  and comments.


This morning’s gospel reading was the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. Our parish priest loves this story and spends time on many of the insights into Jesus and what he tells us about himself and about ourselves in this story.

The largest image of the story is this wonderful eternal spring of fresh water within each of us that we can return to time after time in the quiet of our heart and soul and be refreshed with grace, energy, wisdom, consolation, and any need we may have at the time.

The woman feels such a release from this encounter at the well that she tells Jesus to stay there and she runs off to get her friends to listen to him for the next two days. They came because she wanted them to, but they stayed because they wanted to.

I have had the grace to have people in my…

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DADIRRIDREAMING DIALOGUES –– On August 25, 2011 dadirri7 reblogged this poem I had written on her blog. Angels in the Doorway. I posted this after Tom, during an early recovery from a trio of skin cancer surgeries, got up in the middle of the night because he heard voices, looked down the hallway into a space between kitchen area and open living area, and saw two light beings engaged in discussion. Christine Whitelaw was not surprised at this.

In reblogging my poem, Christine said:

“A beautiful message from Angels, written by my blogging friend Napkinwriter …pay attention to the space between where you are now and where you are going”

Click on “Read More….”  to read my poem. There is a note of related stories at the bottom.  “I Have Something To Tell You”,  is my blog of Tom’s account of the light beings in our home.  You can select that to read the account.


A beautiful message from Angels, written by my blogging friend Napkinwriter …pay attention to the space between where you are now and where you are going …

Angels in a Doorway

In an open doorway, there is a space. It is the space between where you are and where you are going. Pay attention to what comes to you when you open this door with the space between you and your future. We are in that spac … Read More

via Napkinwriter

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unfurlingPhotography by Christine Whitelaw (c)

This is the last photo of Christine’s I plan to publish on my blog. Her photos belong to her and her family and to however they give them to the world. However, I shall continue the conversation between us through an occasional posting in Napkinwriter under the newly added category of dadirridreaming dialogues.

The energy is still there between us. I shall revisit my beginning blogs and pluck out her comments to the subject at hand and have a new discussion. I shall hear her voice in some of my quiet time reflections because she is all about essence and I can hear her in the Truth of All that Is.

I heard her today in my early morning reflective reading in Unity’s Daily Word for Friday, August 1, 2014.

The subject listed at the top of the page is AGELESS.

The affirmation (and challenge for today for me is)  I honor my ageless nature by living with enthusiasm and gratitude.

The reflection words I read  sounded like they came from her voice (and I have never heard her speak).

“The essence of my being is ageless. The spark of divinity, of God, within me, is everlasting. It was there before my birth and will continue beyond my physical body….No matter my chronological age, my spirit is as new as a budding leaf

“Their leaves will not wither….but they will bear fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary.”  Ezekiel 47:12

Thank you, Christine, for this dialogue today.

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Australian bird of the sea
Photography by Christine Whitelaw (c)

From the words of Sue, Napkinwriter:

It has been three days now since I’ve learned of Christine’s passing. I am alone in grief. The tears of my heart have now reached the windows of my eyes and I let them flow. I, too, as Christine instructed Stuart, will not blubber. I walk in the consciousness that an enormously large “footprint” of light on earth has passed beyond time and space. I know in my heartspace that Christine’s light remains and I will immerse myself in it in the days to come. Her grace-giving smile is ever ready to bring into my view.

This is my beautiful friend, Christine Whitelaw. Everyone is graced to know her, if only through her photographic images — the ones OF her and the ones she lived her life taking and posting on


Her son, Toby, created a most gracious collage of points of light in her life that can be viewed on her website under Christine’s Service.

My dreams of you, Christine, continue.

Christine and StuartChristine Whitelaw Photography (c)


From the words of Stuart, husband, lover, companion on the journey…at Christine’s service:

“The morning before the service, I walked with Mitchell and Casey on the beach. As we reached the northern end, we saw a white faced heron fly from shag rock across the water straight towards us. It landed very close and did not take off as we walked back. As we reached the southern end on the way home, the white breasted sea eagle flew over us, really low.

And the legacy is called love.

That is what she gave, and that is what she has left us all.

The chance to be in the bubble of love that enveloped the two of us in our last 24 hours together. Christine is an intensely spiritual being, but her beliefs didn’t fit into any tidy box. She visited cathedrals but was disillusioned with organized religion.

She believed (along with many physicists) that everything is vibration. She made vibrational essences at special places and usually gave them away.

She is beautiful, gentle and wise — a poet, a yogi, an intuitive healer, a Doctor of Philosophy, a writer and a wonderful photographer of wildlife and the natural world. Her gentle voice was healing by itself. ‘

We walked on the beach before breakfast last Tuesday and experienced dadirri together. And we talked about how lucky we are to be in this place with this amazing community.

We went to the farmers market in the afternoon and she was greeted and hugged by so many people.

We talked about how lucky we are to have three wonderful sons and daughters in law, and four grandkids who will one day save the world.

They have all been my rocks for the past week, but I have to especially thank Toby who beat the second ambulance to our place and helped with the terror of that morning only a week ago.

Last Tuesday, I said to Christine, ‘I hope you are having the life you want because I am. I am where I want to be and with the person I want to be with.’

She said, ‘me too’.

We didn’t always say those things. We could have just as easily been squabbling over some silly thing — usually about me cooking too much food.

We had 45 extraordinary and beautiful years together. Who can be sad at that?

One of the people who had been outside during the service (we could only fit 200 inside) told me that the whole time that the service was in progress, that the sea eagle had hovered far overhead.

When I arrived home from the wake, a neighbor rushed up to me and said,

‘did you see it, did you see it?’

When the cars left the chapel, the sea eagle swooped down and led us out, and up the road’.”


Photos are property of Christine Whitelaw (c)




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full blownPhotography by Christine Whitelaw (c)

I was introduced to the poems of Hafiz by my writing companion/mentor/friend, Janet Conner in Writing Down your Soul, in her books and e courses and her on-fire essence of purpose and intention in your personal life.   http://www.janetconner.com

Christine, too, quoted Hafiz on occation and the poem she selected below gives us a glimpse of her acceptance of the “impermanence of the body”.

She posted these words on March 20, 2014 by dadirri7 — Christine completed her travels of this mysterious existence quite abruptly on July 2, 2014.

She wrote:

“More on life and death from Hafiz: do you like the idea of being simply “a midair flight of golden wine”? 

Deepening the Wonder  by Hafiz

Death is a favor to us,
But our scales have lost their balance.

The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes

Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks

And as the Master poured, I would be reminded
That all I know of life and myself is that

We are just a midair flight of golden wine
Between His Pitcher and His Cup.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,
I would buy freely for everyone in this world

Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty
Of time and space cannot endure very long.

Death is a favor to us,
But our minds have lost their balance.

The miraculous existence and impermanence of Form
Always makes the illuminated ones
Laugh and Sing.

(from The Subject Tonight Is Love, poems of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky)


My last words on Napkinwriter from Christine were posted on June 28, 2014,  five days before she passed in response to my post on our 3 day family vacation on Mackinac Island in early June.

Just for the Family Record, June 28, 2014 archives

what a fabulous holiday Sue, I loved the butterfly house, and the pic of you three in rain gear … truly such fun and love to remember!


We entered into our friendship through words…blogging…..and our hearts met across time and space, her in Australia, me in Michigan;

Through the permanence of words, we now transcend the impermanence of the body.

I remember the fun and love of our friendship.

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Tom and Karen Brenner have responded to my post two years ago about the Montessori Method for use with the elderly in dementia. I am reposting this with their note on their newly published book, “You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello.”



I am currently looking into the work of Karen and Tom Brenner of Brenner Pathways. I am inviting you to visit their website  www.brennerpathways.org  and view the amazing video “Montessori Stepping Stones – Brenner Pathways.  As I am a devoted enthusiast of Montessori for the young, their work in employing Montessori Sensorial learning with dementia and Alzheimers patients has really caught my attention and interest.

I share below a writing from Karen’s website blog with a good reminder for us (who can) “remember” not to use the word remember with our afflicted loved ones. This is precious to learn.  I decided not to paraphrase or describe what she has said here, for she says it only too well.

From the writing of Karen Brenner MA

“Did you know that there are different memory systems at work in our brains?  One of those systems is the declarative memory system. This is…

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