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A friend and I were talking about this the other day. A person who is Directionally Challenged is a person whose Inner Compass is out of whack for some reason. Some people are born this way and it is sometimes first detected in young children who just can’t seem to figure out their right from their left without some visual aid. Later it is apparent in people who have trouble with directions, reading maps, etc. These are the people who seem unable to find their way out of a ‘paper bag with both sides open’, or that can turned around in a parking lot.

Other people have this onset later in life and it is sometimes seen as a sign of failing health, memory, dementia, etc.

This has suddenly started happening with my blind dog Gizmo. He’s been doing really well with smelling his way around or following someone’s voice or a sound. Now when he is called or hears a sound he will turn around quickly and go in the opposite direction.

It means a bit of stumbling around, everyone having to watch that they don’t trip over him and we are getting more lessons in what it means to be patient with those who are having a difficult time but still able to enjoy if not pushed to do more than they can do quickly.


While going over material for what I refer to as the ‘Wednesdays at the monastery’ group or Moth (monastery of the heart) group, I got to thinking about the difference between what is urgent and what is important.

Preparing a meal is important. The phone that rings while I’m preparing that meal is urgent, but not necessarily important.

Reading a book, or studying, being creative, playing, praying, is important. Constantly checking email or texting, rushing around to do more, acquire more, be more … all urgent.

There are times when things are both important and urgent. Stopping whatever you are doing to provide loving care, for the crying infant, the neighbor who comes knocking at your door with a need, the old blind dog confused because someone moved the furniture…

So how do I measure what is important and not just urgent? Beauty…

I’m reminded of a conversation with my 11 year old granddaughter regarding criteria for things we bring into our new home which is about 1/4 the size of our last home. We decided that something had to be beautiful. As a gardener and artist I often see beauty in a different way than others might, so something also has to serve some purpose to come into our small home and not just be another thing that we continue to pay for over and over again in terms of time and space. That purpose is sometimes just to remind us to smile and play.

It is easy for me to use beauty as a measure for what is important because it is something my Mom taught me early in life. We understood that she meant beauty to describe what we did, how something made us feel, would it be pleasing to God. She’d often remind us that… God doesn’t like ugly. And so I passed what Mom taught me on to my granddaughter so she would learn to see beauty in a different way. And have some way of measuring what is Important and what is Urgent.

Photo is of the Guava pastries and Tres Leches cakes served at the Sunday dinner during retreat weekend at Mt Saviour Monastery. Traditionally the monks and monastery guests join us for this meal. The theme for this year.. Cuban fiesta. Breaking bread with others… Important…

Was too busy enjoying the great hospitality, food, and fellowship to remember I had a camera nearby. Thus only a few photos..

I helped someone master the art of spinning on a Great Wheel also known as a Walking Wheel. If you see this being used in person you quickly understand why both names are appropriate.

And I helped someone get started with weaving … here is a bit of her weaving using yarn leftover from other projects. Not bad at all for a first project.

One of the things I like about teaching is when my students pass along what they know to others. The spinner in the first photo helped someone else get started on a more traditional wheel later in the day.

And lastly, a ‘thank you’ gift from someone I’d connected with a couple of years ago at an earlier retreat. She brought along an old wheel this time. We tweaked it and I gave her a good push down the slippery slope that is fiber arts! These warm and comfortable felted wool slippers made from recycled sweaters are almost too pretty too wear…. but wearing them I am, grateful for the thoughtfulness of others.

Epiphany, which we celebrate as Three Kings Day.

I’ve just returned from listening to beautiful singing in celebration at Vespers at the monastery.

Epiphany is a Christian holiday on celebrating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus, a sudden realization of great truth, a manifestation of the sacred.

This year instead of a lot of decorations, I chose to have a small table top Christmas tree with very simple decorations. On the upstairs mantle a creche. Above the downstairs fireplace I placed a large wreath to fill the room with the scent of evergreens. Then on either side of the mantle added a few more candles to the ones already there. I love the simplicity of lighted candles. Tomorrow I’ll remove the wreath, the candles will all stay as a reminder to look for the ‘light’.

Feels like winter has arrived. We are now seeing the first ice on the river. I went out and took a photo of the water with my phone before heading out to the monastery. Temps started out in the single digits and there is usually a stiff breeze up on the hill so I wore knee high boots and the coat I decided to buy after reading the description that it was made for ‘walking in Canada’s winters". I like to walk. I was cozy dressed as I was.

Came home with the idea of making comfort food.. Decided on a Cottage Pie, similar to a Shepherd’s Pie which is made with lamb.
I washed, peeled and put potatoes on to cook. Then cooked onions, meat, sweet peppers …. normally I’d add a little stock and tomato paste and veggies, etc., but I had small amounts of leftovers I’d frozen. So in went a small container of sauce with peppers and onions, another container of picadillo filling leftover from pasteles, the remaining frozen peas in a bag. The sauce and the filling had so much flavor I didn’t add any other seasoning to the mix except for a bay leaf.

While the filling was simmering I mashed potatoes, added butter and a few other things. Poured the filling into a pie pan and topped it with the potatoes, popped it all into the oven. The Italian sauce and the Latin picadillo worked perfectly together. A neighbor stopped by and although he’d had supper, I didn’t have to twist his arm (a glass of wine helped) to have him try a piece. He gave it 2 thumbs up. This neighbor has been trying to gain weight for years. Since we’ve moved in across the street from him, he’s gained a few pounds.

Back to the pie, the only problem I had with it is that I didn’t have a large pie dish to make it in. Mine was on loan and so the filling bubbled over the sides…. a little messy but good! And the nice thing about Cottage Pie is that each one is unique. Change the crust or filling ingredients and it works and is a great way to use up little bits of this and that.

I’m clearing out piles of papers on my desk and came across a list I’ve been keeping of animals I’ve seen from the windows or deck here in the last year…. This list isn’t complete but close enough…

Herons, Canada Geese, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Belted King Fishers, Sandpipers, variety of Ducks (one with ducklings resting on its back as it floated down river), Crows and other blackbirds, Turkey vulture, Numerous Deer (sometimes seen crossing the river), Fisher or Mink ?, Woodchucks, Robins and many common yard birds, variety of Woodpeckers, Red Fox, Red Neck Grebe, Mangausers, Loon, a very old Beaver, cowbirds, orioles, mourning warbler, mourning dove …. and more… many birds I can’t identify because they are too far.

I’ve been taking photos and will eventually set up a page for them.

Today while working on updating this blog and one for the guild I watched from my desk (which faces a window) while Crows harassed an Eagle allowing the ducks to get away. There is a lesson to be learned from the crows… when a situation is too big to handle on your own, get some help!

Just in from letting dogs out and it feels like winter has arrived.

Up to now we have had mostly rain and mild temps, causing gardeners like myself to be concerned for all growing things. We have learned over time that for everything there is a season. And in this area it is time for things to rest under a blanket of snow.

Today there is a dusting of snow on the deck, more predicted to come. When you breathe you can feel the sharpness of the frigid air. Krystal our 12 year old dog knew it was cold and fresh before she went out. Shortly after waking she danced around in circles waking Gizmo, our 14 year old dog. She’d run up to him and nudge him, turn in a few circles and then nudge him again. Eventually he tired of her nudging and eased himself out of his bed.

I let them out, keeping an eye on Gizzy. Whereas the snow and cold is fun for Krystal, it isn’t so much for him. In order to find his way around the yard he needs to be able to smell his way or listen to where she is. Yesterday in the rain he got turned around and heading back to the sunroom door ran into the metal wood rack so hard that it made a gonging noise. I ran over and scooped him up and carried him back indoors. Today he did a little better, trusting my voice to guide him.

While watching them and breathing in the fresh air, I thought about my ‘Word’ for this year… Courage… I’m not sure if I picked it or if it picked me. When I think of courage I think of .. faith, obedience, honesty, perseverance, trust, fortitude, justice, and so much more. It means not shrinking away from or avoiding things that I think I know will turn out badly. And to open a door and step through it when I’m called to.

Back inside with the dogs, I sat on the floor where Gizzy quickly found me and crawled into my lap, safe and secure, content. As I sat drinking my coffee, petting the little old dog, I got to thinking that Gizzy has it right. What I need is ‘ordinary courage’. I don’t need to tackle big huge problems or face an army on my own. I need to listen … and be … and do … the little things asked of me. To allow myself to respond to that inner impulse, turn towards God.

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